Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

How Android N will save you money on your monthly data plan

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
Image by Gord Webster  used under creative commons license

Image by Gord Webster  used under creative commons license

Android N (Nougat) has a handful of new very useful features but nothing catches my attention like a feature that can save you cold hard cash. This witchcraft is a result of a feature called Data Saver. 

One thing most mobile carriers are good at is charging you top dollar for any data overage you incur. This is true whether you are at home and especially abroad. It is true whether you are in Canada, the US or Hong Kong.

Most of the time users don't realize they busted their data cap until it's too late. Overage can happen because of excessive streaming (music or movies) but it can also happen because some apps aggressively update data in the background without you realizing it....

Google wants to help you tame the data monster intelligently. Instead of just reporting on data usage or cutting off data at a certain threshold, Data Saver can prevent background processes from downloading data when on a metered connection. 

Data Saver is a feature that users will have to enable but luckily it isn't an all or nothing option. By turning it on, it prevents almost all background apps from consuming metered data but you can add apps to a whitelist if you want.

There are some apps, by their very design, that must connect in the background to function (think of instant messaging apps, VOIP, etc). For these special cases, developers will be able to ask the user to be added to the whitelist during installation. 

Hopefully developers will make these Android N (Nougat) changes intelligently and modify the operation of their apps to minimize background data usage when they detect Data Saver is enabled but they are granted a slot on the coveted whitelist. Unfortunately we'll see some lazy developers just ask for the permission then continue as usual and hopefully users will uninstall those apps sending a strong signal to the developers.

As a Canadian, I am envious of my american friends on one of those beautiful Sprint or T-Mobile unlimited plans. They can ignore this new feature and continue guzzling huge amounts of glorious data.  For the rest of us, we should turn this feature on immediately. 

My main phone has been an iPhone since the iPhone 3G days (even though I always have other phones available). Until recently, IOS was still superior to Android but not anymore. With the latest changes introduced by Google in Android N (Nougat), I truly feel Android has become a more cutting edge platform and Data Saver is a clear example of that. Hopefully most of you are on devices that will eventually receive Android N. 

I can already see the emails flying in asking what devices will be upgraded. We won't know for sure until a manufacturer publishes a statement but here is my bet:

  • Samsung - Expect most devices since the Samsung Note5/Galaxy S6 to eventually get updated.
  • LG - LG G5 is probably the only one
  • Motorola - All 2016 devices will get upgrade and probably the 2015 Moto G
  • OnePlus - Expect the OnePlus 3 to eventually get updated but don't expect it soon. My guess is sometime mid next year.Don't expect other OnePlus devices to receive Android N
  • ZTE - The ZTE Axon 7 seems to be a huge hit (I'm trying to get one to review). I expect it to receive an Android N update but like the OnePlus 3, I wouldn't expect it soon

 

You can pickup a Blackberry PRIV for $299

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Blackberry is one of the few Android devices where users are receiving regular security updates. You can pickup an unlocked AT&T version of the Blackberry PRIV for $US299 on eBay.

This is a fantastic price for this device. It is the same price as the new DTEK50 but offers a larger screen and a physical keyboard. Great medium performance phone with a physical keyboard.

Source : eBay

Samsung Note 7 to come bundled with McAfee security

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Itell Security (formerly McAfee) announced that the Samsung Note 7 will come bundled with McAfee VirusScan mobile security. The press release claims "Samsung customers can enjoy better protection from more diverse and sophisticated threats in mobile world."

Truth be told, I do not advocate using an antivirus on Android smartphones but you have to ensure you don't break any of the built in security features (like side loading apps). To me, this looks like the kind of bundling cash grab we see in the PC space (manufacturers get $1-$5 to bundle an app in the base image helping make the device a bit more profitable). What's surprising is that Samsung would do this kind of bundling deal on its premium $800+ flagship smartphone.

Intel Security to expand mobile security technology to Samsung Galaxy Note7 and Tizen OS based Samsung Z2

- Samsung’s latest Galaxy Note and Tizen OS based Z2 smartphone will come pre-installed with McAfee® VirusScan® mobile security and anti-malware technology
- New ransomware grew 24 per cent quarter-over-quarter in Q1 2016 in Intel Security McAfee Labs Threats Report – June 2016
- Samsung agreed to expand protection from new Samsung Galaxy Note7 to Tizen OS based Samsung Z2

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Aug. 23, 2016 – Intel Security announced that Samsung’s latest smartphone, Galaxy Note7 and Tizen OS based Z2 will come pre-installed with McAfee® VirusScan® mobile security. McAfee VirusScan Mobile is an anti-malware technology solution that is already helping to provide a more secure mobile experience to millions of Samsung Galaxy users globally. With this collaboration, Samsung customers can enjoy better protection from more diverse and sophisticated threats in mobile world.

According to Intel Security’s McAfee Labs Threats Report – June 2016, there are 305 new threats every minute, or more than five every second. New mobile malware grew 17 per cent quarter over quarter in Q1 2016. Total mobile malware grew 23 per cent quarter over quarter in Q1 2016 and 113 per cent over the last four quarters. In particular, new ransomware rose 24 per cent in Q1 2016 due to the continued entry of relatively low-skilled criminals into the ransomware cybercrime community. This report showcases the need for security against a growing volume of mobile malware and expanding attack surface.

“Mobile threats continue to grow and be more sophisticated as we become increasingly connected. Now mobile devices are the tip of the spear for new hacking methods,” said John Giamatteo, corporate vice president at Intel Security. “Intel Security is combatting these growing mobile threats by collaborating with mobile device manufacturer Samsung to keep customers’ mobile devices, data and privacy safe from vulnerabilities.”

”New customers of Samsung Galaxy Note7 and Samsung Z2 now can enjoy mobile experiences securely with the latest anti-malware solution that Samsung offers,” said Henry Lee, vice president of Mobile Security Technologies of Samsung Mobile. “Security and privacy are at the core of what we do and what we think about every day. It is very important to provide a high level of protection at all times to our customers.”

About Intel Security

Intel Security, with its McAfee product line, is dedicated to making the digital world safer and more secure for everyone. Intel Security is a division of Intel Corporation. Learn more at www.intelsecurity.com.
— Intel Security

Review of JLAB Epic 2 bluetooth sport headphones

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Introduction

We are a couple of weeks away (probably) from the announcement of the next iPhone and rumors are swirling about the headphone jack being ejected. This means you will have to buy Lightning port headphones or Bluetooth (my vote is Bluetooth for everyday use). Who wants wired headphones that get tangled and caught on things?

What attracted me to the JLAB Epic 2 was the promise of 12 hour battery life and a secure fit. Until this review, the most secure fitting headphones I have ever tried are the Jaybird ones (Sprint and X2).

Sound Signature

The JLab Epic 2 in an in-ear style exercise Bluetooth headphone and the sound signature is clearly aligned with that target market. The sound is tuned to enhance bass (not as much as Monster or Beats headphones) to keep you pumped during your exercise session. If you are looking for a more neutral / balanced sound then this is not for you.

Design

The Epic 2 can be stealth (black version) or very flashy (blue/grey or teal). I opted for the blue/grey. 

You expect sports headphones to be able to handle a much higher level of abuse and the JLAB Epic 2 doesn't disappoint. The product is certified IPX5 which means you can rinse it off after a workout and it can handle sweat and light rain. Just make sure you leave it out to dry otherwise you will shorten the devices useful life.

IPX5 means it can handle water being sprayed on the product from any direction. It does not mean you can wash it with a pressure washer (won't protect from strong jets of water) and you can't dunk it (it is water resistant not water proof). No other major brand can come close to the protection offered by JLAB (not even the venerable Jaybird which labels its products only as sweat resistant).

The material directly around the headphone (aka the part that goes behind your ear) is more rigid which means it will hold a hook shape and stay in place. Couple this with 8 different types of eartips in different shapes & sizes and you are sure to get a very secure fit. 

The JLAB Epic 2 has a small control box that houses the battery, a flap covered USB charging port, a microphone and the usual buttons. Pressing the up/down arrow adjusts the volume. Pressing and holding them skip's or rewinds the song. Pressing and holding the middle multi function button turns the device on/off. Pressing and releasing the middle multi function button pauses the music. 

The antenna

JLAB has spend a lit of marketing space promoting their "RADICAL SKIP-FREE SOUND WITH BEACON™ SIGNAL TECHNOLOGY". I compared reception (or lack thereof) to different Bluetooth headphones from Jaybird, Monoprice, MPOW, Motorola and Beats. I tested it by holding the phone in different places:

  • In my left/right hands
  • In my left/right/back pants pockets
  • In my dress shirt pocket
  • In my shoulder laptop bag

Each test was performed with an iPhones 6s Plus and a Motorola Moto G (Android). I walked outside at least 5 minutes with each pair of headphones in each location. Does the JLAB Beacon signal technology make a difference? Not really. It worked perfectly where the others worked perfectly and it skipped where other products also skipped. 

JLab’s Beacon Signal Technology failed to impress me during my tests.

Performance

I tested the audio quality with on device AAC high powered bass heavy songs and with FitRadio steamed mixes. The first thing I noticed was that the JLAB Epic 2 can get very loud, and that's a good thing. Even with a high bass songs (AAC & streamed) at maximum volume, I didn't notice any distortion. Testing music at more reasonable levels, the bass still stays strong. 

Using the song Africa by Toto (don't judge my music selection), you can hearthe bass enhanced tuning of the Epic 2 (compared to the other Bluetooth headphones). The only other pair with more extreme bass was the Beats (which has a sound signature I dislike).

Using opera, you can again hear how much it emphasizes the bass. This gave me an idea. I love listening to talk radio, podcasts and audiobooks. I realized the enhanced bass also enhances male voices, which made listening to these types of content very enjoyable. 

At no point during my testing did the music sound muddy, garbled or sub-par.

The Jaybird Sprint, Jaybird X2, MPow and Monoprice bluetooth headphones deliver a more neutral sound signature. 

Comparing the Jlab Epic to the Jlab Epic 2

If you already own the JLAB Epic, what does v2 bring to the table? It brings improved water resistance (IPX4 to IPX5). The circuit board in the control unit is now coated to protect the headphoneseven if moisture enters from the USB charging port through the flap. 

JLab also says the antenna is greatly improved but in my tests, I didn't notice it. 

The button arrangement is a little different (not good or bad just different).

The cable (connecting both ear buds) is coated in a matte feeling material JLAB says will minimize tangling and less rubbing sounds when you are working out. I can confirm that these statements are accurate. 

Jlab now includes 2 more tips in the original kit which could help if you had issues in the past. My ears are "normal" sized and I have never bought a pair of headphones that didn't fit.

The flaws

All Bluetooth headphones suffer from the fact that they add one more device you have to remember to charge. If you are forgetful, maybe opt for something with wires instead. JLab's EPIC 2 regularly delivered close to 12 hours of use per charge, which means it is much less likely to die during a workout [than most of its competitors] (Beats got less than 6 hours; Jaybird X2 got about 8 hours, MPow got less than 3).   

If you have large outer ears and deep ear canals, getting a tight fit might be difficult with the wrap behind ear design, but for most "normal" people, this isn't an issue. 

And that's it. I really had to think hard in order to find some flaws. This thing is well designed. 

Summary

Pro

  • Light set of Bluetooth headphones that regularly get 11+ hours of play time per charge
  • Water resistant design (aka rinsable to get the funk out) 
  • Good audio volume with enhanced bass response
  • Works with iPhone and Adnroid devices

Con

  • Even for Bluetooth headphones, the sound quality could be improved (particularly clarity and mids/highs).

Conclusion

Jlab has produced something very impressive with the Epic 2. They are priced much more competitively than other high end sport headphones and the waterproofing/battery life is excellent. 

I just can't recommend these headphones enough. I love them and they have become my daily use headphones while commuting.