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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Apple iPad Review (5th Gen 2017)




A few weeks ago, Apple announced their new iPad line which includes the current iPad mini 4 that now only comes in 128GB and the new iPad. That’s right, its now just called iPad -- not Air, Air 3 or anything else. What’s even more surprising is that it’s even cheaper than the iPad Air 2 and Mini 4. The price was so good that I ended up buying one on impulse.  Let’s see if the new iPad is really worth buying or something that’s too good to be true.

Specs:

9.7 inch Retina Display 264ppi
A9 64bit CPU
32 or 128GB Storage
2GB RAM
Touch ID
8 MP rear and 1.2MP front camera
WIFI and LTE models
Twin Speakers

32GB US$329 (Php 16500) 
128GB US$429 (Php 21500)



Design and Performance:

At first glance, the new iPad looks like the iPad Air 2 when in fact based on the spec sheet, it's actually the same size as the Air 1. The difference is just a few millimeters that you really need to put them side by side to tell the difference. It is also a bit heavier than the Air 2 but again, only by a few grams. I guess these are aspects where Apple had to cut some corners in order to sell it at a lower price point. 








Another apparent and glaring (pun intended) aspect where they had to scale back is the screen. It doesn’t use an anti-reflective coating and laminated display as the older iPads. What does that mean? Well, in a nutshell the screen is more prone to glare specially outdoors or under direct light and also you’ll notice a very small black space or gap between the edges of the LCD screen and the glass screen. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. If no one points this out, it’s pretty hard to notice. 


Small gap between the LCD and the glass



Also, Apple says that the screen is brighter than previous models so it cranks up the brightness to compensate for the lack of anti-reflective coating (at the expense of battery life). Again, it does seem to work as I had no problems viewing the screen outdoors.

So those are the negatives. On the plus side, the new iPad has a faster A9 chip which is about 1.6X faster than the old A8, faster graphics processor and 2GB of RAM. And I have to say that there is noticeable difference in performance from the older iPad models.



Conclusion

Apple may have gone a one step back, two steps forward with the new iPad. It may even feel like they are using left over components from older models. But with the improved performance and great price point, its good enough to overlook some of the negatives, which in reality aren’t really that big of a deal. Apple might just have a winner on their hands. I can see students and businesses buying tons of these. The price is so competitive that if you have an older iPad or Android tablet this might be a great time for an upgrade.

The Good:

Price
Performance

The Bad:

Design and screen quality (compared to iPad Air 2)
Previous generation touch ID sensor



Thursday, March 2, 2017

ChatSim Review



One of the most challenging problems when traveling is keeping in touch with family, friends and colleagues. ChatSim claims to solve this problem. For a one-time annual fee, you can now keep in touch using some of the popular messaging apps. Let’s see if this is for real or just something that’s too good to be true.

What is it?

ChatSim is basically a pre-paid data roaming SIM card to use with your phone. It has a partnered with over 200 Telco operators and works in over 150 countries. You start out by purchasing their SIM card for US$15, plus $15 per year of unlimited chat (including Emoji) messaging. If you want to use it for data or use it for voice call and send photos they also have various plans at an additional cost. Once you get your SIM card, simply insert it into an unlocked phone, make sure data roaming is enabled and start using it.

Caveats (updated)

While you might think ChatSim is the final the solution to all your problems, there are some caveats that you need to be aware of. First of all, not all messaging apps are supported. It works with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Line, WeChat, BBM, Kakao, Telegram, Hike and QQI. Yes, that’s right. It does not support Viber and iMessage.  If you only use the latter then this might not be for you. While you can purchase additional plans so that you can use other apps, they can be a bit confusing. However, I did get an email from ChatSim giving me a sample of their plans. Here it is.

We can help you to understand price dedicated to exchanging multimedia contents with the additional plan.
Our recharges work in credits and we have 3 type of them:
2000 credits
5000 credits
10 000 credits
They are different only for the amount of credits; it depends on how much you want to exchange.

Example.
Country Japan:





With the minimum recharge of 2000 you can exchange untill maximum 200 photos, or 40 videos, or 80 minutes of voip calls. Amount depends on quality of contents and text messages exchanged. This is the idea of what you can do with credits in a specific country.
In Japan 1 MB is 50 credits

At the following link you can select country and amount of recharge and check what you can do with your credits

https://www.chatsim.com/plans

You also need to restrict some other apps from using data in the background by diving deep into the settings of your phone. If you use you phone either intentionally or not for other things that require data other than the supported apps, this could cause your account to be suspended. Therefore, it’s advisable to follow the setup instructions on the ChatSim website very carefully.

Verdict

I’ve been using ChatSim for over a month now. I’ve tried it in the US, Japan, Korea and the Philippines, and so far, it’s been working very well. I only got the unlimited messaging and did not buy additional plans. While I did find ChatSim's additional features plan a little confusing, you need to understand that different countries will have different pricing , that's just how roaming agreements work. So you really need to read it well. but at least it’s nice to know I have the option should I need it.

Another thing you need to consider is how you use the SIM card. Using a second phone dedicated for ChatSim would be most convenient. A dual-SIM phone will work too. That way, you don’t accidentally activate data roaming on your main SIM. It is also easier to disable apps from using data in the background on a separate phone. I’ve been using it with WhatsApp and Line without any problem. My Viber messages will have to wait till I get to a WiFi hotspot.

If you are a frequent traveler and don’t live in a Viber or iMessage world, then ChatSim is a godsend.

For more information visit ChatSim.com.

Update 03/24/2017

The nice folks at ChatSim were kind enough to send me a promo code.  Use promo code TECHAMUNA and it will give 250 FREE credits to the first 25 users. It has to be used during the "ACTIVATION" process



The Good

Price
It works!


The bad

Not all messaging apps are supported
Additional features plans depends on Zones (or countries)