Moving On Part 2: The Nexus 4 and the Magenta Giant [T-Mobile]

By now I’m sure you’re up to speed on my Sprint and Samsung debacle. If not, go do that. I’ll wait. OK, good.

After my return from the weekend getaway that was anything but relaxing (for more reasons than just my shitty phone service, but I don’t know you well enough to tell that story), plans were set in motion to escape Sprint’s big yellow prison. The LG Nexus 4 had been release only a few weeks prior and it was getting rave reviews, and subsequently was impossible to get thanks to high demand on the Google Play store. T-Mobile had partnered with Google once again to offer the phone through their stores/website. I immediately pursued this option, but hit a brick wall when T-Mo wanted a $200 deposit before I could sign a contract. Hell naw.

Flash forward to the week before New Year’s. A Craigslist search showed multiple people in the Atlanta area selling unused Nexus 4s at a markup that was less of a screw than any in the state of Alabama. As it turned out, a friend and I had been considering the idea of ringing in New Year’s at some Atlanta hot spots. The fact that I could come back unshackled by Sprint cemented the idea.

nexus 4

The entire day seemed to be a work of serendipity. We checked into the Georgia Tech Hotel, walked across the street to the Barnes and Noble where the seller suggested we meet and, after the exchange and a very pleasant conversation with the Craigslist dude, sauntered across the opposite street corner and into the T-Mobile store, where I walked out with my new Nexus happily alive on a $30 a month prepaid plan with all the data and text I could devour. And for those who say that the Nexus 4 is crippled by lack of LTE support, let me tell you that my data speeds were topping out at just over 20Mbps, quite a bit faster than what my friend was getting on Verizon’s LTE at the same time. Yes, I agree that LTE is the future of cellular technology, but it’s still in the early stages of life, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything by not having it, especially since Verizon is the only carrier so far to have major deployment.

The phone itself is a gorgeous piece of work by LG, trumping anything Samsung has tossed out to the public in…EVER. I’m not going to go in-depth on the actual hardware; there are plenty of reviews out there that do a better job than I ever could. Just know that the phone definitely lives up to the hype.

On New Year’s Day we decided to spend a few hours at IKEA, inside which I had a full, super fast signal the whole time. I was even able to fire up Google Maps and use their indoor mapping feature because, you know, IKEA is one huge rat maze of awesome. That’s something I would have NEVER been able to do, not just with my Galaxy Nexus, but on the Sprint network in general.

It’s been nearly 2 months since I made the switch, and it’s like I’m living in another world. One where I’m unhindered by contracts and shit cell service. I suddenly find myself able to actually use my phone in the ways it was meant to be used. And amazingly enough, my friends say I’m much less frustrated all the time. It’s amazing what changing your mobile provider can do for your attitude. Though I guess that’s another point for the side that says smartphones are the new detriment of society. But screw it! Mobile data is my Prozac, man. And besides, Google Glass isn’t that far off.

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Moving On Part 1: The Sprint and Samsung Fustercluck

Sprint_Galaxy_Nexus

Several months ago, driven by the love of Android 4.1+, I switched from my EVO 3D to the Sprint version of the Galaxy Nexus. I craved the latest Android OS to exist not just my wonderful Nexus 7 tablet but my phone as well. So I hopped on eBay, found the cheapest listing ($300) and a few days later my new Nexus was at my door.

The first few days were a mad love story. It was so thin! The unfettered Android experience was better than ever and the improvements in android 4.1 were a joy. Then after a week, the romance started to wane. I would unplug the device in the morning, go to work and 5 hours later my battery would be screaming for a recharge. What’s worse, the issues I had with Sprint’s services before were amplified. Having lived a year and a half with weak signals and slow data, the hardware in the Galaxy Nexus picked up cell signals even worse than they already were, killing the battery even faster as the phone desperately heated up while trying to capture a clear signal. What’s more, the WiFi antenna had a tendency to drop signal mere feet from any router. As it turned out, the GNex suffered from the exact same issues as the Nexus S (read: Samsung’s shitty build quality), something I’ve already documented some time ago.

How could this be possible? Had a year and a half really taught Samsung nothing about proper quality control? Obviously not.

The Galaxy Nexus’s battery issues are already well documented, and the inclusion of LTE on the Verizon and Sprint versions exacerbated the issue immensely. Sprint even went so far as to give free extended batteries to anyone who registered their GNex on their Sprint account. Guess what I did. And guess how much that fixed the issue (not at all).

For weeks I dealt with the issues, all to have the latest OS in my pocket, even going so far as to buy one of those Mophie travel battery chargers to give my Nexus a daily I.V. of extra life. My frustration grew in the face of Sprint’s horrifyingly slow data speeds. Months of speed tests in various locations in my region showed that I was lucky to ever net a download speed of 1Mbps, usually netting an average speed of 300kbps. That is egregiously BAD, Sprint, and inexcusable in the current mobile market.

The final nail in the coffin came after an impromptu trip to Atlanta for a weekend getaway. I was excited to finally experience an LTE service area, thinking that the experience would be so much better than my 3G woes that I would be given a boost of confidence big enough to wait out Sprint’s LTE rollout. I was so, so wrong.

At first, my phone connected to the LTE network just fine. I ran a quick speed test and averaged 3.4Mbps. Not at all the fastest when it comes to LTE carriers, but leagues better than what I was experiencing (for reference, I was with someone connected to Verizon’s LTE network, which has an average down speed of 14Mbps). Then the crap hit the fan. Not only did my phone drop it’s 4G signal, but it lost data altogether. Multiple times. Sometimes it would flat out drop all signal, both data and voice. For the rest of the weekend, my phone would latch on to a 4G signal for all of 30 seconds then revert to 3G and no amount of hard resets alleviated the issue. In short, my phone was rendered practically unusable and my battery averaged 3 hours per charge.

By the time we were headed back to Alabama that Sunday, Sprint and Samsung’s phones were dead to me forever more. I’ve given both companies more than their fair share of chances and been burned badly every time.

Where did all this lead me? Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out.

The Nexus 4 or How Google Wised Up and Dropped Samsung

If you’re a Android fanatic like I am, then you’re probably aware that Monday was the long-awaited announcement of the new line of Nexus devices from Google, namely the LG Nexus 4 (though other Nexus devices were announced).

For the past 2 years, if you wanted the newest Nexus phone you had to suffer with one of Samsung’s toddler-grade products. It’s no secret that I despised the Nexus S and got rid of it after 2 weeks. And though I haven’t chronicled it as much, I have a bipolar love/hate relationship with the Galaxy Nexus (read shitty Wifi/cell antennas). But it looks like that might change once the Nexus 4 is released.

Featuring a nice bump in specs (view the full rundown here) and first to run Android 4.2, the 4 will first be available in the Google Play store in 8 and 16 gigabyte flavors starting November 13. For geeks like me, that’s a little disappointing since the Galaxy Nexus features a robust 32GB of space, which is easy enough to fill with your Spotify or Google Music downloads. But I guess that’s what the cloud is for…if you’re not on Sprint’s painfully slow 3G network.

As of right now, the only announced carrier that will offer the phone on contract is T-Mobile, though it’s possible Verizon or at least Sprint will get a variant for their CDMA/LTE networks. If you’re an AT&T prisoner subscriber then you can pick one up off-contract in the Play store, which is a good way to go since it won’t cost that much more than contract price and you won’t have to lock yourself in for another 2 years.

Me? I might consider jumping the Sprint ship for T-Mo, but that’s another post.

Customers Receiving Botched Nexus 7s (And I’m One of Them)

Ah, there’s nothing like the sting of disappointment, is there? You spend a few weeks getting yourself all psyched up about something, then reality makes you its bitch. Thus began my Tuesday afternoon.

In a grand bout of First World Problems, I came home to find my brand new Nexus 7 on the doorstep. I ripped open the box, fired it up and, oh wait, what’s this? The left side of the screen seems to be detached. Lovely! And would you look at that. When I hold it, the thing makes a sticky popping sound and the screen distorts. How brilliant.

Yes, it seems Google isn’t having such a smooth launch of its first Nexus tablet. Hundreds of buyers are reporting that their screens are equally borked, resulting in a high number of replacement requests. Sad news, considering a fair chunk of preorders have yet to be filled and the ASUS-made device is already on backorder.

The good news is that Google has a 15 day replacement policy, however, just how soon ASUS is able to get those units out the door remains to be seen.

But let’s not dive into a panic just yet. This is a new and highly in demand product and is bound to have its share of launch issues. And before any of you Apple loving jerks say anything, just remember this: Antennagate.

If you’re the adventurous type, a quick (but not necessarily permanent) fix has been discovered over on XDA. Apparently it’s as simple as popping off the back and tightening some screws, but fair warning: you run the risk of breaking your tablet or voiding your warranty, meaning you’ll be stuck with your hack job of a repair if you F it up.

Otherwise let’s just sit back, relax and cradle our warranty cards for a while longer as we wait for our replacements to arrive.

Hello Nexus 7, Goodbye Galaxy Tab 10.1!

It’s summer, and you know what that means. I mean, aside from temperatures hotter than Satan’s spandex-clad taint. That’s right, last week was Google’s annual I/O developer’s conference. A.K.A. Christmas in summer for geeks.

The big news (that we all saw coming) was the announcement of Android 4.1 Jellybean and the reveal of their newest Nexus device, the Nexus 7 tablet from ASUS. But leak or no leak, Google still managed to impress.

Continue reading

Dear Samsung, Do Better [Galaxy Tab 10.1]

Just over a year ago, I posted about my very unhappy time with the Samsung Nexus S. It was plagued with wifi and cellular connection issues and had about as much build quality as a dollar store Barbie doll knockoff. Because of that unpleasant experience with the Nexus and two Samsung phones I had owned previously (the Sync and the Eternity), I forswore buying another Sammy product, lest I should live through that aggravation again.

Then I went a little crazy and bought the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Cheap plastic parts aside (I know it LOOKS like metal, but trust me, it ain’t), I didn’t have that much buyer’s remorse afterward. Hell, I would say it was the first Samsung product I actually liked. That is, until Samsung decided to be tight-assed about updating the damn thing. Continue reading

Virtual [Pet] Insanity

I’d like to start off by thanking Stevo for his inaugural guest post here on Geekery Converged. That was born from a conversation about his recent resurge of interest in the world of Tamagotchis. In fact, it got me feeling nostalgic, so I dug through my closet and found a few of my old friends.

I was a lonely child.

Yep, that is what is left of my old virtual pet collection. Over the years about 4 or 5 have gone missing, some of which I was very fond of, including the Buzz Lightyear 3-in-1 virtual pet. I’m still hoping might turn up one day. You can see a video of it here.

The green and blue Tamas on the top right are the most recent additions, having been purchased around ’06/’07 when I worked at Toys R Us. They are Tamagotchi Connections v1 and v3, and the two that I decided to put new batteries in. However, the green one only lived for about a day because I realized how crappy the v1 Connections were and yanked the battery. The v3 was a vast improvement, so I decided to raise it exclusively. And today I was made the proud parent of an adult Pyonkotchi.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why the hell did you need so many virtual pets?” Well, I was a generally unhappy kid and my family tended to reward my good behavior and grades with whatever crap I was into at the time. Granted, a number of these were my brother’s, but the majority were mine. Hell, I have 3 versions of the cat, including: original, 2nd gen and KFC (yes, as in chicken) special edition.

But the one I obsessed over most of all was this:

Sabrina was one of my few girl crushes.

Yes, Salem the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I LIVED for TGIF (unhappy kid, remember?) and Sabrina was not to be missed in my house. So when they turned Salem into a Giga Pet, I couldn’t rest until it was mine. Actually, it’s pretty amazing just how many Sabrina toys I had, none of which were meant for boys.

At some point I’m sure I’ll buy those damn button batteries and resurrect him for a week, but until then I’ll be seeing how long I can keep my Tamagotchi alive.