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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.


Great AT&T Cell Service Coverage

April 25, 2015

imagesAlmost exactly two years ago, I upload a posting about switching from Sprint to AT&T Service. I’ve been using AT&T for my cell phone and iPad data service since then, and I’m still very happy with the LTE coverage. I live in the Seattle area, and get great fast data service. I’ve also driven on I-90 East towards Idaho, and for most of the way I get excellent LTE coverage. I’ve also been on two West Coast road trips where my family has driven down I-405 from Seattle all the way to San Diego and for the majority of the way we’ve had excellent cell service.

My son has an iPad with AT&T cellular service, and he used it for most of the road trip to San Diego watching YouTube videos and playing online games, and he rarely complained about losing service. That alone, is a huge testament to the excellent coverage that AT&T has for the West Coast.

Strangely, the only place where my AT&T coverage was poor or weak, was at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. From my last visit a few years ago, my cell phone connectivity was very sporadic. Maybe that was done by design by Disney to keep their visitors focused on spending money rather than checking email or text messages on their cell phones.

So in summary, I’m extremely satisfied with my AT&T service. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on where you live and work, but I’m definitely glad my family switched off of Sprint!


Disneyland Wait Times App

April 14, 2013

imagesMy family was at Disneyland this past week, and I was able to use the Android app called, “Disneyland Wait Times” on my HTC EVO phone. It relies on users to input the current wait times as they stand in line, and I found it to be pretty good! I was able to quickly check the wait times for all of the rides in the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks very easily, and it gave me some gauge to whether to head down to a specific ride. Highly recommended if you’re traveling to Disneyland soon!


EVO 4g LTE + Ford Sync = Goodness!

June 9, 2012

On the same day as when I picked up my new Sprint EVO 4G LTE smartphone, I also bought a new Ford Explorer car with the Ford Sync system. Ford Sync is a feature which allows me to connect my phone to my car’s system via Bluetooth so I can use my EVO for hands-free phone calling. It also has other features such as automatically call 911 (through my phone) if I get into a car accident and the airbags deploy, or I can access weather and traffic reports, etc. Really cool system.

Another feature is the ability to stream audio via a Bluetooth connection from my phone to my car’s stereo system. So, I can wirelessly have music from Pandora or audio from my pod cast app (Podkicker) playing from my car speakers. What’s really nice, is that I can skip songs or advance my podcast by tapping a “Seek” button on my steering wheel. Since I drive for one hour each way to and from work, this is a great feature to have. So instead of using my ear buds in the car, I can use Ford Sync to stream my Bluetooth audio to the car’s stereo system.


Bought a smartphone… bought a car too!

June 3, 2012

Saturday morning I stopped by my local Sprint Store to upgrade my phone from a Samsung Nexus S 4G smartphone to the new HTC EVO LTE smartphone. It was the launch day for the EVO LTE, so I was one of the lucky ones who was able to get one. It’s a really nice phone– it has a very large screen, the phone is super thin, and the battery life is fantastic. I’m very happy to have upgraded, and expect to be even more happier when Sprint activates their LTE network later this year in the Seattle area.

Later in the afternoon, I decided it was time to also upgrade my 10 year old car. I had been casually looking for a new car for the last year or so, but it felt like the time was right with my wife’s car payments ending next month. So, I visited my local Ford dealership and did the whole bit– checked out new and used cars, did some test driving, and finally began talking numbers.  After about 6 hours I drove off the lot with a new Ford Explorer complete with Ford’s Sync Touch option. If you’re not familiar with Ford Sync, it’s the hands-off voice control system (created my Microsoft) which Ford has been using for a number of years. I was able to easily pair my new EVO LTE smartphone with the Ford Sync system, after which I can make hands-free calls by simply pushing a button on my steering wheel and saying, “call home”, or “call 213-111-4455″. There are lots and lots of other voice commands and features that went along with Ford Sync, but the most interesting feature was the ability to control certain apps on my smartphone with this system.

A perfect example that got me really excited was the ability to listen to Pandora and my podcasts with Ford Sync via a Bluetooth connection. So instead of using earbuds with my Smartphone to listen to Pandora while I drive to and from work every day, I just start up Pandora on my smartphone and then tap the Ford Sync button. I then say,”Bluetooth Audio” and Ford Sync responds with, “what command?”. I then say, “Play”, and I then can hear my Pandora song playing though my Explorer’s speaker system! If I want to skip a song, I just tap the “Seek” button on my steering wheel and the Pandora app running on my smartphone skips to the next song. Really cool, and much better than wearing earbuds and having to skip songs by messing with my Smartphone directly. The same goes for my Podcast app (Podkicker). I can skip forward by several seconds by tapping the “Seek” button on my steering wheel and hear the audio from my stereo system.

And since the EVO LTE uses the “Beats” audio from Dr. Dre, the bluetooth audio sounds pretty good on my car ‘s audio system. If I could make a wish for improvement, it would be to have the ability to dock my smartphone in a slot in the dash or center console. Now, that would be sweet!

With Ford Sync there’s a subscription service which allows you to get turn-by-turn directions, weather, sports score, latest traffic news, stock prices, etc. The system uses your phone to dial a 1-800 number and somehow pulls down this data to be reported to you via an audible spoken system. I’m not sure if I’ll continue using this service after my trial period ends, but it sure shows the way of the future with smartphones and cars merging their capabilities.

If you ever buy a Ford or other brand car, definitely check out their equivalent systems… you won’t be disappointed!

 


Sprint unfriendly Disneyland?

December 31, 2011

My family recently stayed at the Disney Grand California Hotel (adjacent to the California Adventures Disney Park) and we discovered why Disney only offers their official park app for the iPhone/Android phone on the Verizon network. The Sprint cellular service on the Disney hotel property and their two parks had really horrible coverage. It was so bad my wife and I couldn’t rely on our cell phones (iPhone 4S and Android Nexus S 4G) to make consistent calls or get good data connections. The Sprint coverage was so weak, that our cell phones kept searching for service to the point of draining our batteries dry after about 5 hours. Not very good.

Also, the Grand Calif Hotel had what appeared to be multiple routers with several overlapping signals, and as a result it made it hard for me to get a good, solid WiFi connection with my Android Phone. My wife also has some similar issues with her iPad 2 and her iPhone 4S. I brought along my Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, but it was essentially useless in the hotel since whenever I tried to make a connection the the hotel’s WiFi it would immediately reboot! I figure the problem might be that once you make a connection to the WiFi you need to bring up a browser and select “Accept” on the page that pops up, and that seemed to cause the Kindle Fire to reboot. I tried numerous times, but just couldn’t get it to work.

My next option was to set my Nexus S into “Hotspot mode” and try to connect to it from my Kindle Fire, but that wasn’t a good alternative since the Sprint Cell service was so bad. So in the end, both my Nexus cell phone and Kindle Fire tablet were useless during my trip to Disneyland. 😦


On Vacation with my Kindle Fire

December 26, 2011

I’m headed off to Disneyland for a 1-week family vacation and of course I want to stay connected to the Internet during my travels. I also want to travel somewhat light, so I’ve decided to limit the number of electronic devices that I’m bring. Of all the items I could bring (Dell Laptop, Kindle Fire, Acer Iconia Tablet, Nexus S 4G cell phone, Apple iPod), I’ve decided only bring my Nexus S cell phone and Kindle Fire.

It was a toss up between my Acer Android Tablet and the Kindle Fire. I like the larger 10″ screen of my Acer Tablet for web page browsing, but the smaller Kindle Fire was much more portable for this trip. As such, I’m going with the Kindle Fire to really see if it’s suitable for my week long trip. Read the rest of this entry »


TripAdvisor.com – For frequent travelers

December 4, 2011

In my past job I traveled frequently throughout the US, and finding a good hotel was hit-or-miss. Even when I stuck to chain hotel brands, sometimes I would get a good hotel and other times it would be really bad. As such, I’ve relied on the web site tripadvisor.com to help me sort through different hotel options to increase my chances of finding a good, safe, relaxing hotel to stay during my out-of-town travels.

TripAdvisor.com is a web site that basically has reviews posted by users who have logged into their site. Reviews can be quite extensive, or just a sentence or two. Also, users can upload photos along with their reviews to give some evidence backing up their review claims. I’ve found this site very useful, as there are hundreds of postings for most hotels. In fact, I also am a contributor to this site posting my reviews of various hotels I’ve stayed at over the last few years.

But like anything, you need to take what you read with a grain of salt. You have some people who post great reviews for a particular hotel, and a few that post really negative reviews. The difference can be so great at times, it makes you wonder, “are these reviews all for the same hotel”? For example, my family stayed at the Disney Grand Californian Hotel last year during summer break and we found it to be a great hotel. As such, I wrote a lengthy review expressing my opinions of our stay at that hotel. But if you read some of the hundreds of reviews, you will come across some that are really negative. Of course, you’ll find some people are pretty nit-picky and complain about the smallest thing and will give a negative review, but I did read some recent reviews that just seemed incredible to believe. For example, one person reviewing the GCH complained they had to wait 10 minutes in line to get checked into their room (what, you can’t wait 10 minutes?). Another person complained the valet didn’t bring up their luggage to their room after being asked three times, and another person complained their room was run down with damaged furniture, dented trash cans, and missing TV remote. I find all of this unbelievable, as I stayed at this hotel last year and found the rooms wonderfully decorated and very comfortable. So either Disney has some really bad and really good hotel rooms and we just got lucky, or some people are just big time complainers.

TripAdvisor.com is also good for finding reviews of restaurants and amusement parks in certain cities. Posters will give great tips in their reviews, so it’s definitely worth checking out for your next trip. And best of all, it’s all free!


Netflix – Streaming video from the Internet

April 30, 2011

I’m just amazed at the quality of videos which you can stream from the Internet to your home PC monitor. For a lot of the YouTube Videos you can stream in “HD” mode and have very high resolution videos playing on your large computer monitor. This also works for online TV Shows from the different network web sites.

We currently are signed up on Netflix, which is a video streaming service that allows you to select and watch videos on your home PC. It’s a great service, as you can watch TV Shows and Movies from thousands of titles, with the cost being $7.99 US per month.

In addition to watching videos on a Internet connected computer monitor, you can also  stream videos to other portable devices. For example, I routinely watch videos from Netflix on my iPod Touch and iPhone 4 which is really convenient when I’m traveling on the road or while lying on the couch at night. In the past I did have a few issues with the video stream stalling for 1 or 2 minutes at times before continuing, and some large pixelation, but over the last week the video streaming has improved quite a bit. I’m not sure if the issue was with the Netflix’s servers, my Comcast internet connection, or the speed of my home WiFi router, but in any case the video playback performance has been very good lately.

My son’s Nintendo Gaming system has Netflix capability built-in, so we can stream videos from the Internet (his Wii is WiFi enabled) to our TV set very easily. We often use this option so he can watch children movies/shows on our TV when there’s nothing he likes on the cable channels. This option has worked flawlessly– just like watching a normal cable channel show. So with this setup, our main home TV can be used to watch any video available in the Netflix library.

Currently, I’ve been watching old episodes of the TV Series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The SyFy channel was playing a few of the episodes over the last few weeks on cable and then abruptly stopped. So to continue, I found them on Netflix and have been watching them every night. It’s really cool that I can watch whatever episode I want, whenever I want, and with no commercials!

So, this is definitely a good services if you like watching movies and TV shows and have a relatively fast Internet connection. So if you’re in a hotel, stuck at an airport, or just lying on the couch you can pull out your mobile device and begin watching whatever show suits your fancy!


Watching live TV on my iPhone 4

April 17, 2011

At home, I’ve got an EyeTV HD device connected to a Comcast digital cable box for recording TV shows on my iMac desktop computer. The system is entirely automated, where scheduled shows are recorded, commercial removed, and finally converted to iPhone format and placed in iTunes for syncing. This allows me to watch my favorite shows at my leisure, usually at night on the couch or in bed. A few weeks ago I was on a business trip and I forgot to schedule my EyeTV to record an episode of Stargate: Universe, and it was not playing on any local station in my hotel room. What was I suppose to do?

Luckily, I have an app on my iPhone that allows me to control the EyeTV HD software on my iMac at home and also watch live TV through it via the Internet. So, I decided to give it a try, even though the hotel’s WiFi connect speed was incredible slow and virtually unusable. So instead of trying to use WiFi, I decided to just use my cellular connection via Verizon to stream the Live TV from my iMac at home to my iPhone.

Surprisingly, the video stream worked great! I was able to watch my show with no pausing or dropping of the TV streaming image. On a few occasions the image got a bit grainy (heavy pixels), but for the most part it looked just like watching an mp4 video file on my iPhone.

If I do switch to an Android phone in the near future, this will be one thing that I’ll miss. I don’t use this feature a lot, but when I do it works great.