Windows 10 Creators Update

Five days before the new Windows 10 officially rolls out to end-users, I managed to install it using Microsoft’s Windows 10 Update Assistant. The result is a neat version after about 2 gigabytes of download and four restarts.

Right after installation, this welcome screen on the updated Edge browser will greet you.

Windows 10 welcome

There is no easily recognizable change between the previous Anniversary Update (version 1607) and the Creators Update (version 1703). Interestingly, the Windows Settings app has been expanded from 9 menus to 11.

It now includes dedicated menus for managing installed apps and for gaming. Windows 10 gaming settings.png

Borrowing from Android, users are now given a choice whether to allow installation of apps from “trusted” sources (i.e. Windows Store) or from somewhere else. Windows 10 install source.png

To top it all, our IT friends can take more rest with the comprehensive self-help tools for troubleshooting. Windows 10 troubleshooting.png

Learning its lessons well, Microsoft has made Windows become appealing once again.

Up next… 3D smileys created from the new Microsoft Paint app ūüėČ

Browsing On-the-Go and On the Cheap

As the cost of internet service gets cheaper year after year, it is now unwise to bind ourselves to a long lock-in period with any telecom provider. Take for instance the cost of mobile internet. Our postpaid plans used to come bundled with measly one-tenth of a gigabyte’s worth of internet allocation. With the consumers’ demand leaning toward higher utilization of data than of basic SMS and voice services, telcos now provide tons of choices to customize both postpaid plans and prepaid buckets.

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Looking at Globe’s SIM-only plan offering, your Php799.00 can get you 11GB of mobile internet. But if you don’t mind the hassle of repeatedly registering for GoSURF50 every three days, your Php500.00 can already provide you with roughly 13GB of mobile internet for 30 days. That would suffice for an average consumer doing daily browsing, social media updates and a reasonable amount of video streaming.

The same is true if you are on the other side of the fence. Smart’s GigaSurf 50 has the same 13GB of prepaid data for the same price as Globe. Compare that with Smart’s postpaid SIM-only plans which offer lower data allocations.

Smart SIM-only plan.png

So if you are dead set at maximizing your load allowance, your best option is to actually get two lines:

  • Postpaid plan for your voice & SMS needs (so that you won’t need to worry about not having prepaid load during emergencies)
  • Prepaid SIM for mobile data

For instance, if you frequently send text messages to friends on different networks, make a few minutes of calls a day and need to access the internet a few hours daily, you will just need to shell out Php750.00 per month for Smart (Postpaid Plan 250 plus continuous registration to GigaSurf 50 on a separate prepaid SIM).

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SMS scheduler in Textra app for Android

TIP: If you tend to forget when to re-register for prepaid promos, automate it by using an SMS scheduler. Just key in the registration keyword, set the date and send it. Of course, make sure you have sufficient prepaid load during those scheduled registrations.

A Phone Without A PIN

How many times do you unlock your smartphone everyday? 20 times? 50 times? A hundred? That is also how many times you have to input your PIN or password.

A four-digit PIN used to unlock a phone a hundred times in a day means 400 taps! So you’re taking the burden of inputting the same code over and over to prevent that slim chance of another person accessing your phone without your consent.
I chose not to use any PIN, pattern lock or password to secure my phones so that I can use them with a single swipe. Here are the reasons why:

  1. If my phone gets lost or stolen, I can easily lock it remotely using any other device that has Internet access. I can use my desktop, laptop or a friend’s phone and tag my phone as lost, set a PIN and enable an onscreen alert with my contact details (in case somebody wants to return it).
  2. All information that I have on my phone are synced to the cloud (contacts, mails, calendars, notes, photos, health data, clippings, etc.). I can freely wipe my phone data anytime without worrying losing any data at all.
  3. Most apps now have two-factor authentication so I can easily unauthorize those apps installed in a stolen device.
  4. All other critical apps (e.g. mobile banking apps, personal finance apps like Wally & Ahorro) require their own passwords every time they will be used, so it’s safe from unauthorized use.

At any rate, the key fallback measure is to be able to access the Internet immediately after you lose your phone. Without it, don’t dare leaving a PIN-less phone lying around.

Cubix Cube Lite Review

Five days after Lazada delivered my Cubix Cube Lite, I can say that this phone is well worth its price. The specs are reasonably sufficient for general use. It looks like an enlarged Xperia Go with its bright display, textured back panel, rubber slot covers for SIM & microSD, and its light weight. It takes a while to figure out how to uncover the SIM slot at first.

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Performance-wise, the experience is smooth for most of the tasks but it sometimes lag when several background apps start to pile up. Obviously, its not designed to be a gaming phone.

The internal speakers and the bundled headset are nothing to be desired. But when I plugged in an Apple Earpods, the Cube Lite was able to pump out acceptably good music with ample bass.

Photographs produced by front and back cameras cannot compare to those from mid-range phones in the market but will be acceptable to those who are just starting with smartphone photography.When manually focusing objects on the camera. Ther

Battery lasts more than 2 days with light use (like 1 hour of music, 1 hour of FM radio, occasional social network checks via wifi and a few dozen texts per day) but can easily get consumed up in less than a day with heavy use.

Out-of-the-box configuration isn’t very polished so I installed Microsoft’s locker and launcher and disabled a few pre-installed apps that I don’t use (Kakao Talk, Talkback, TouchPal, live wallpapers, etc.). The end-result is a satisfactorily usable smartphone that is light in the pocket both literally and figuratively.

RIPD

I am juggling between watching the movie “R.I.P.D.” and writing this blog post when it struck me that I should adopt the same title here.

Rest in Peace, Devices!

Just two weeks after Microsoft announced its acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services business, Research in Motion is writing down almost a billion dollars for its smartphones that lost charisma among consumers. Almost everywhere, RIM is considered “unofficially” dead.

Their epitaph reads:

Nokia and Blackberry: the two biggest brands before the iPhone era.  Taught fingers how to do the talking. Left the world with a million fingers talking about them.

Nokia and RIM could have survived if not for being too self-consumed by their own respective “mobile phone world.” Apple went out, proved to be, and remains to be the differentiator.

RIM panicked in 2007 after the first iPhone was launched but was too confident that Blackberry’s business users would stick to the email-focused device with an exclusive messaging service. It was too late for RIM to realize that sales would be driven more by apps than by hardware features. Before it decided to let go of the physical QWERTY keypad and make the BBM application available to iOS and Android users as well, RIM’s market share has sunk to unrecoverable depth.

Nokia was too confused which way to go. It got rid of Symbian OS in favor of Meego. After creating one great Meego phone, it went for Windows while the rest of the non-iOS world moved to Android.

Unfortunately, these wrong moves were lethal for Nokia and RIM.

Those who are afraid to die have been keenly looking at Apple.¬†Google bought Motorola.¬†Microsoft got Nokia.¬†Apple made them realize that it wins by taking full control of the hardware and the OS.¬†Now, Samsung is reported to be porting all its future devices to its own operating system, Tizen. It’s arguably built out of fear as Google has started creating smartphones with a proprietary version of Android.

Each of these tech giants are not myopic about innovation. All of them have made their marketing teams a lot of things to brag about. But the primary success factor in the mobile device industry in the last few years has been consumer-conscious innovation. It is delivering new ways that enhances how consumers use their devices, not just new technologies to bluff about which in the end do not get utilized at all.

The competition keeps getting more exciting. Two down, and more to go.

Hey Samsung, how’s Tizen doing so far? Make sure it’s not a re-branded Bada or else you’ll be next in the RIPD list.

In The Red

For two weeks now, I’ve been hearing (and reading about) the¬†decommissioning¬†of Red Mobile. Its subscriber base of around 900,000 (was 1.4 million in 2011) is now being migrated into Smart’s mobile network. It’s sad to see that this is how the story of my preferred mobile network brand ends.

From an ambitious startup as CURE in 2001, it was one of the first 3G network service providers in the Philippines.¬†It was supposed to run as an ad-supported mobile platform (see my related post here)¬†but this non-traditional strategy did not work. Rebranded as ¬†√ľmobile,¬†it was acquired by Smart Communications in 2008 with the latter’s plans of expanding its 3G network. It was later relaunched as¬†Red Mobile with very affordable call and text messaging rates.

I am using a Red Mobile SIM since mid-2009. I even got a 3G Motorola phone at half the price when Red Mobile had a promotional sale in Davao City then. Its prepaid services and rates have always been better than Smart or Globe whether postpaid or prepaid. That was until its conversion into a 2G-only network that resulted to end of support for data services including mobile internet and video calling.

Now, Smart has stopped selling new Red Mobile SIM cards and Red Mobile’s 3G frequency franchise will be turned over to the government. It is apparent that Red will face the same fate as Addict Mobile had a few years back.

Well, that’s the way business ventures work. If it won’t generate revenue, it won’t attract any business interest. PLDT and Smart’s focus now is on Sun Cellular. But I won’t mind it much.¬†Whatever happens to my Red Mobile number, I’m sure to get better mobile services in the years to come.

Beneath the Surface

I woke up this morning with Microsoft splattered all over my news feeds. They all glorify the upcoming Surface, a Windows 8 tablet for which the hardware is also created by Microsoft.

Digging deeper though, it’s all publicity and media hype for now. Surface is being positioned as a direct competitor to Apple iPad. Unfortunately, it was announced when Microsoft cannot even tell when it will become available, how much it will cost, what it can actually do, and how it will behave while running applications. Nothing was said about detailed technical specifications, battery life, readily-available apps, and everything else that matters to tablet owners and prospective customers. That’s completely contradictory to Apple’s strategy of keeping it secret until it comes up with a finished product that is ready for delivery.

Microsoft describes the Surface as a “tablet that works and plays the way you want.” Well, that is if you’ll have the applications that will let you do so. Remember that Apple does not win by device and OS alone; it has the best apps store! One advantage that Microsoft has is that they did not make Office apps available for the iPad. They can make Office exclusive for Windows tablets but that may not be a significant leverage nowadays.

I went to the Surface page in Microsoft.com and all it says is¬†“Welcome to Microsoft Surface. Coming Soon.”

Promising to deliver: Is that all Microsoft can do now from all those years of leaving Apple take away their market share? Good luck!

Here’s a teaser video by Microsoft. See if it will buy you in.