Triple USB Port Car Charger

May 9, 2015

My family goes on at least two long road trips a year, and my three kids occupy themselves by using their iPhones, iPads, and Kindle readers. To keep their devices charged up, I have a 2-port USB charger that inserted into the car’s cigarette lighter port. One port could output 1 Amp of power, while the 2nd port would output 2 Amps. With the high power requirements of devices these days, It seemed that the 1 Amp port wasn’t good enough to charge the iPhones or iPads. So, my kids often fought over who got to use the 2 Amp port.

To resolve this issue for my upcoming road trips for this year, I did a little research on Amazon.com and decided to order the TROND 3 port USB charger. This device seemed to be of high quality construction, advertised to have 2.4 Amps of power for all three ports simultaneously.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.45.58 AM

 

I tested it the other day by attaching two completely drained Android tablets and my Samsung S6 smartphone attached to a wireless charging pad. After driving around for 2 hours, both tablets were fully charged as well as my phone. So, this charger appears to work as advertised and only cost me $9.99 USD.


Magnetic Car Mount for my Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

May 9, 2015

Normally when I’m driving in my car, I have my Samsung S6 smartphone connected via Bluetooth to the Ford Sync system and I’m listening to music streaming through the Pandora app or a podcast from the Pocketcasts app. My phone is either sitting in a center console cup holder or resting flat on a wireless charging pad on the front passenger seat. But, there are times when I wish I had my smartphone mounted up near the top of the dash so I can use it for navigation maps or seeing if I have any urgent notifications.

There are quite a few car mount options available, ranging from spring loaded holders with suction cups to attach to your car, or vent mounted devices. After reviewing several of them on Amazon.com, I decided to try the magnetic cell phone holder made by DAFQCO.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 10.02.03 AM

This holder mounts to your car dash using a 3M self sticky pad. There is a metal ball attached to the mount, and on top of that is a magnetic base which can be swiveled around on the ball for different angles. You then place a small metal disk on the back of your phone, and you can then magnetically attach your phone to the car mount. What’s nice about this, is that you can place the holder base at any convenient location in your car, and your smartphone can be attached and detached very quickly with one hand.

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I’ve used this holder for two days now, and here’s my short review of the product. First, the 3M sticky pad does a very good job securing the holder base to my car dash (see below). I have no worries that it will fall off.

ball_1

Since I have a tight-fit rubber case for my S6, I didn’t want to adhere the small metal disk to the back of my case. So instead, I place the disk in between my S6 phone and the case. Even through the rubber case, the magnet holder was strong enough to securely hold my S6 upright on the base. Note, that since my S6 has a wireless charging coil built-in near the center of the back of the phone, I place the metal disk near the bottom of my phone to not interfere with the wireless charging operation. I’m actually quite pleased so far with this product, and below you can see some photos of my previous HTC One attached to the mount in my 2013 Ford Explorer.

htc_2

htc_1

 

Here’s a photo of my Samsung S6 on the mount (you can see I placed the magnetic disk near the bottom of my phone).

s6_1

 

I have to say that even though the magnetic base is pretty strong, the phone case I’m using does reduce the magnetic hold considerably. So far, my phone has stayed attached to the base while I’ve been driving on the local surface streets and on the highway, but could see running over a big pothole in the street and having my phone fall off the mount. Everything has been good for the last two days, but time will tell. I do know that having my phone mounted near my main console has been great for using Google Maps navigation and checking for incoming notifications. Extremely convenient, and doesn’t require me to hold my phone in my right hand when using Google Maps.


Wireless Chargers for the Samsung Galaxy S6

April 25, 2015

I love wireless chargers. The first time I used one was with my old Palm Pixi Smartphone, where I’d just place the Pixi on the angled charger which held it by a magnet. No muss, no fuss, just convenient charging. Flash forward a few years and I’m doing it again with Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone.

Now, you can buy the official Samsung Wireless Charger for $49.99 US, which is kinda steep.

Samsung Wireless Charging Pad

Or, you can buy any generic Qi-standard charging pad or a PMA-compatible charging pad for the Samsung S6. There are several available on Amazon.com, which run from $12 to $40 US. I purchased three different charging pads, which I’ll discuss below.

First, I bought the Duracell Powermat from Amazon.com for $9.99, because it was so drastically reduced in price from the $99 list. Now, this charging pad uses the PMA-standard, but that will still work with my Samsung S6. Below is a picture of my Samsung S6 next to the Duracell Charging Pad.

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The Duracell charger is roughly the same size as my S6, but it is designed to charge two devices simultaneously. The picture below shows how you would position the S6 on the charger. The one bad thing about this charger, is that you need to hit the “sweet spot” when you place the S6 on it, otherwise it won’t charge. Also, this charger makes a strange tone sound when I place and remove the S6 from it. This can be an issue if you have the charging pad on a nightstand and you don’t want to disturb your sleeping spouse! But for $9.99, it was still a good deal for a wireless charging pad.

Duracell Powermat with Samsung S6

Duracell Powermat with Samsung S6

Next up, is the CHOE Stadium Wireless charging pad. I bought this from Amazon.com for $28 (list price $70). This charging pad has 3 coils, which supposedly makes it easier to make a charging connection (no worries about hitting the sweet spot).

CHOE Stadium Charging Pad

CHOE Stadium Charging Pad

This charging pad is slightly smaller than the S6 in height, and it works flawlessly with making a charging connection. Below is a picture of my S6 on the CHOE charger. There’s a small blue light on the charger that turns on when my S6 is charging, and the charger is silent (no sounds when you connect or disconnect the S6).

Samsung S6 charging on the CHOE Stadium Charging Pad

Samsung S6 charging on the CHOE Stadium Charging Pad

I use the CHOE Charging Pad on my home office desk to charge my S6 during the evenings and overnight.

I also wanted to get a wireless charger for my Ford Explorer Car, so I bought the PowerBot from Amazon for $15.00 US. As you can see below, the PowerBot is a round pad roughly the same width as my S6.

PowerBot Charging Pad

PowerBot Charging Pad

What I like about the PowerBot, is that is lightweight and had a rubber ring around the top surface. This helps to keep my S6 “stuck” to the charger while I drive around in my car. The input to the charger is a standard USB port, so I connect it to a Qualcomm-compatible Quick Charge 12V Auto Lighter for power. Below is a picture of my S6 on the PowerBot Charger.

S6 on the PowerBot Charging Pad

S6 on the PowerBot Charging Pad

The PowerBot has a green LED light that changes to Blue when the S6 is charging. Also, the PowerBot doesn’t make any sound or tones when you connect or disconnect the charging device.

I suppose my favorite of the three chargers is the PowerBot. I love the compactness, and I simply need to place the middle of the S6 on the PowerBot to initiate charging. In my car, I have the PowerBot resting on the passenger seat between the horizontal and vertical part of the seat.

One thing to note, is that the Duracell Powermat uses it’s own AC charger to power the charger. The CHOE and PowerBot chargers use a standard USB port, so they don’t come with an AC charger. In this case, you need to make sure you are supplying at least 2 Amps of power to the USB port otherwise the charger won’t work properly. In my case, I have a 5 port USB powered hub which outputs 5V at 2.4 Amps for each port.

Also, from the pictures you’ll see that I have a maroon colored case for my Samsung S6. Even with the case attached, all three chargers work fine to charge my S6.

Wireless charging is great, as it makes it easier for me since I don’t need to connect and disconnect USB cables. Also, it saves on the wear-and-tear of the USB port on my S6, which I certainly don’t want to break!

 


My Must Have Android Apps

April 25, 2015

When I upgrades smartphones from the HTC One M7 to the Samsung Galaxy S6, I decided to pare down the apps I’ve installed over the year to just the essentials for my use. Below is a list of installed apps which I find indispensable:

  • Android Central Forum
  • AccuWeather
  • Yahoo Weather
  • Agent
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Android Central
  • AudioGuru
  • AudioGuru Key
  • Authentaticator
  • AutoVoice
  • Barcode Scanner
  • BECU
  • Tasker
  • Chrome Browser
  • Concur
  • Google Drive
  • Dolphin Browser
  • Dropbox
  • Engadget
  • ES File Explorer
  • Evernote
  • Feedly
  • News Republic
  • Gmail
  • Great Clips
  • GSam Battery Monitor
  • Greenify
  • go41c
  • Hulu
  • JetBlue Airlines
  • Keep
  • Magnifier
  • MailClean
  • Maps
  • Out of Milk
  • Pandora
  • Plex
  • Play Music
  • Play Newstand
  • Pocket Casts
  • Power Toggles
  • QuickOffice
  • Remote Desktop
  • Roku
  • SafeinCloud
  • SD Maid Pro
  • SoundHound
  • Speedtest
  • Starbucks
  • Tasker
  • The Weather Channel
  • TripAdvisor
  • TripCase
  • Twitter
  • Wifi Analyzer
  • WiFi File Explorer Pro

Read the rest of this entry »


Upgraded to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

April 25, 2015

images-1I’ve been using an HTC One M7 phone for the last two years on the AT&T network, and I just loved it. The phone’s build quality was great, as well as the vibrant screen and fast CPU. The only thing I didn’t like about the HTC One M7 was the terrible camera, which always produced blurry pictures for me. But just like anything, after two years technology can become obsolete. In addition, the lithium ion battery in smartphone seem to lose their charging ability after the two year mark, and as such most people will upgrade to the next greatest thing.

For me, I’m no different. However, my next phone would have to have substantial improvements over my HTC One M7 to warrant an upgrade. I originally intended to upgrade to the HTC One M9, since I liked my M7 so much. However, when HTC presented the M9 I was very underwhelmed. The M9 did have a larger screen than my M7, but it didn’t have many of the features that was presented in the new Samsung Galaxy S6. The M9 had a higher pixel camera, but online reviews stated the camera still took poor pictures. Also, there were reports of the M9 having heat issues, so HTC supposedly throttled the CPU of the phone to resolve it (and thus slowed it down).

The Samsung S6, had a slew of new features when compared to my HTC M7:

  • Wireless Charging
  • AMOLED Hi-Res 5.1″ Screen
  • Fingerprint Sensor
  • Heart Monitor Sensor
  • Camera which took excellent pictures
  • Metal and glass design
  • Thin and lightweight

The logical choice for me was to upgrade to the Samsung S6 over the HTC One M9. After trying out both devices at the AT&T store, that choice was firmly reinforced. So on April 10th, 2015 (launch day) I stopped by my local AT&T store and added the Samsung S6 to my Family Plan using the NEXT upgrade program.

I’ve had the S6 for two weeks now, and I love it. The screen is gorgeous, and I love the fingerprint sensor for unlocking the phone. The wireless charging is great for my home office and in my car. And now I can take good quality pictures with my smartphone. Hallelujah!


The Evils of Rooting your Phone

April 25, 2015

imagesSome people love to “root” their phones, which allows them to access restricted areas of the Android OS and install special apps and possibly custom ROMs. I normally don’t like to mess with my phone, but I have rooted my last two phones for different reasons.

The first phone I rooted was the Samsung EVO LTE, and I did so because I was having a lot of issues with the the radios and battery life. I ended up installing a custom ROM created by some developers which tweaked the OS to add some needed improvements, and that seemed to help my situation. Of course, when you root your phone you will no longer get over-the-air updates from the cell carrier. In the case of the EVO LTE phone, that was fine because Sprint wasn’t releasing any updates for it.

After the EVO LTE, I switch to AT&T and got an HTC One phone which I loved. I used this phone for about one year as-is with the stock setup, and eventually decided to root it because of battery life issues. This time, I only rooted it and installed some battery-saving apps (one called “Greenify”), and I didn’t install a custom ROM. This helped tremendously, as the Greenify app automatically put apps running in the background in “hibernation” mode which reduced the battery drain. Again, the big issue with rooting is that you won’t receive OTA updates, and AT&T was about to send out a major update for the new Lollipop OS upgrade. As such, I wanted to unroot my phone, which turned out to be a giant hassle.

Eventually, I was able to unroot my HTC One phone and get it back to stock condition, and that allowed me to get the OTA update for Lollipop. The only thing I was unable to do, was remove the “TAMPERED” notice on the boot recovery screen. This is an indication that I’ve unlocked the bootloader at one time in the past, and most likely voids my warranty.

A few weeks ago I upgraded to the new Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone, and I have no intentions of rooting it. The phone works very well as-is in the stock configuration, and I don’t have an immediate need for rooting. Also, Samsung phones have something called “KNOX” which is a mechanical fuse that will be tripped if you root your phone. Once the KNOX fuse has been tripped, there is no way you can reset it via software. And a tripped KNOX fuse means you’ve voided your warranty.

So in summary:

  • Rooting your phone isn’t always easy, and it can be very hard to unroot it in some cases.
  • If you root your phone, you will probably not receive any OTA updates from your cell carrier.
  • Rooting gives you full access to the Android OS, allowing apps to do much more and give you more capabilities.
  • Rooted phones can install custom ROMs which have been enhanced and tweaked by developers.
  • Rooting your phone often means you’ve voided your manufacturer warranty.

My advice, is that you don’t root your phone if you’re an average Joe user. Leave the rooting for those who like to live on the edge and have lots of time to mess around with their phones!


Resucitating a 1st-Gen Kindle Fire Tablet

July 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 10.53.39 AMWhen Amazon first released the Kindle Fire Tablet back in 2011, I purchased one since it was such a great deal. Amazon was apparently selling these tablets at a loss, hoping to make it up with owners making additional purchases with special offers, Amazon Prime subscriptions, etc. The only bad thing, is that it ran a forked version of the Android OS called “FireOS” which was severely handcuffed from the regular Google-Android world. For example, you could only officially install apps that were on the Amazon app store, and not from the Google Play Store.

Over the course of a few years, I ended purchasing a Google Nexus 7 tablet (I actually got it for free with a special iPod Touch trade-in offer at GameStop) which had the full Android OS experience. As such, my Kindle Fire tablet became a dust collector sitting on my bookcase shelf for the next few years.

Fast forwarding to 2014, my Nexus 7 tablet is having some very common issues with the audio output through the headphone jack. I’ve tried the different remedies posted on the web, but I’m still having issues. I often have to twist the body of the Nexus 7 to get both headphone channels working at normal volumes. Really annoying.

So, I decided to resurrect my Kindle Fire and see if I can install a custom ROM to make it useful again. The least I could do is use it as a backup tablet if my Nexus 7 does finally crap out, or if the battery runs down and I need a substitute tablet. So, I spend a good half day researching the web to find that I could install the latest version of CyanogenMod 11 (Android Kitkat 4.4.2) on my Kindle Fire. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but do-able.

You’ll first need to root your Kindle Fire, then install a custom bootloader. After that, you can download the CyanogenMod OS installation and install it on the Kindle Fire. With a little luck, you’ll have a custom Android ROM running on your old Kindle Fire and have it as spare or primary tablet with the latest Android OS!

Note, that when I went through this procedure I did get some locked screens and had to do some researching on the web to resolve those issues. So don’t be surprised if you “brick” your tablet along the way and have to jump through some hoops to fix it. And remember, Google is a wonderful thing to help fix all issues! 🙂