There was surprisingly little fanfare surrounding the announcement of Amazon’s latest Fire tablets. Where last year’s unveiling involved renting out an airplane hangar at the Santa Monica airport, the new tablet trio was quietly shown off to a small gathering of journalists at the company’s Seattle headquarters. Asked why Amazon opted for something so low-key, a rep answered, that CEO Jeff Bezos “just likes to mix things up.” (Those wacky billionaires.) Indeed, there was little rhyme or reason to the scaling back. After all, the new HDX tablets, available in 7- and 9-inch sizes, bring a number of key upgrades to the Kindle Fire line on both the hardware and software fronts.
And that’s a good thing: between the Nexus 7, iPad mini and a seemingly endless parade of pocket-sized tablets, Amazon has more competition to contend with than ever. But while the company’s acknowledged that its tablets are basically just content delivery vessels, it’s chosen to compete on specs as well, with a 1,920 x 1,200, 323-ppi display, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and new software features that include baked-in video customer support and a “Second Screen” TV feature. So is that enough to keep the Kindle Fire competitive?
WatchON is Samsung’s attempt to make the Galaxy S4 into the remote that controls your whole home, and given the power of the infrared (IR) blaster on the top of the phone, it makes a decent fist of it for the most part.
The application comes with a number of other elements too, but let’s focus on the remote part first, as it’s still a novelty to those that haven’t got a modern tablet or tried the likes of the HTC One or LG Optimus G Pro.
You can set rooms up, enabling you to take the phone with you and still have it as a remote. When first setting the device up, you can tell WatchON how you get your channels (through the TV, set top box or cable) and it can then set up the controller to work in the correct way by asking a few channel-based questions.
It works well, and we found it was really swift at getting the right codes for our devices so we could start controlling the volume etc without having to reach for the main remote. However, it wasn’t as strong as the HTC One here, as some of our gadgets passed the set-up test, but then not all the functions worked, so we needed to reset the codes, which was annoying.
There are also fewer buttons on the Galaxy S4 interface, which was irritating when even swiping down to the lower level, which is supposed to give more complex functions, didn’t yield the options we needed. It’s a good app, just not the best out there.
One thing we did miss on the HTC One, and enjoyed on the Optimus G Pro, was the ability to have the remote control pervade in the notifications menu or on the lock screen, and it’s great that the Galaxy S4 could do both of these things easily.
It’s a good remote control, if a little unwieldy, and it’s a real upgrade to have the option on there.
The other element of the WatchON app is the ability to have programmes chosen for you, with a simple tap on the thumbnail keying in the right sequence to open the channel on your set top box and have it working simply. We noted that although the genres were all over the place (not looking for content coming up, just suggesting basketball when asking for sports etc) when you keyed in your favourite channels and shows the WatchON app was good at suggesting the right content.
It’s a step forward from the HTC One option, and we liked the open and easy to use interface from the Galaxy S4. Also, unlike the One, there’s a lot more to choose from when it comes to On Demand video, with the Video Hub getting its own zone within the app rather than feeling tacked on with the HTC offering.
We’re can’t see a time when you’d use it as such, as the really annoying thing about the Galaxy S4 is you can’t stream bought movies wirelessly - only to a TV with a wired connection and screen mirroring enabled. Come on Samsung, don’t make a big deal about such a function then not let us watch things we bought from you.
Samsung made a big deal about S Health with the launch of the Galaxy S4, and it’s clear to see the intent: it wanted to get a slice of the lucrative fitness market, and wanted to leverage the technology contained within the smartphone already.
It’s a novel idea to have it so entrenched within the phone itself, but it does have some good ideas on how to use your phone to improve one’s fitness. For instance, once you’ve entered all your weight, height and exercise details, the phone can tell you an idea weight to aim for, and how many calories per day you should ingest to achieve it.
On top of that, you get a guide to exercise levels each day, in a way that mimics the likes of Nike’s FuelBand, which uses points to tell you how to get more active.
Samsung is clearly aware of this, as it’s even got an S Band accessory to achieve the same thing if you don’t have the phone with you - although we can see a scenario that when you use the phone and S Band together you’ll be getting twice the exercise for the same activity, which renders the whole process a little moot.
While we like the sentiment behind the S Health app, and the fact it works so much better than other similar apps, there’s still a lot to wonder about in there.
You’ll be set a ‘steps per day’ goal, and these are divided into Running, Walking and Up/Down (whatever that last one is). While on the days we did take the Galaxy S4 running it did have a larger uptick in the percentage of running steps, it was far from accurate.
Even on sedentary days, the S4 was congratulating on running for a portion of it. Seems a bit unfair to all those people that were out sweating and pounding the streets, but we took the kudos.
Perhaps we’re being a little hard on this app, as it works well - just too simplistically. You can track your weight here nicely (and even more effectively if you purchase Samsung’s Bluetooth scales) enter the food you’ve eaten to keep an eye on calories, and if you’re organised enough, track all your exercise in one place.
But there’s so much more to be done; what if you had running app capabilities within S Health, so it can monitor your runs in a similar way to Nike+, Adidas MiCoach or Endomondo? Samsung is missing a trick here - plus it needs to make the pedometer more accurate.
Anyone who wants to save more money on groceries can make good use of coupons, it’s just a matter of doing it. Try to think of them as cash and you might be a little more motivated to use them on a regular basis. When you purchase an item that you regularly buy and could have used a coupon for (but didn’t), it really is just like throwing money away. Do this over and over again and we’re talking hundreds of dollars each year. As soon as you start looking at coupons as cash it should be a lot easier to make more time for them.
Tip # 1 - When items are on a buy-2 for one-price sale, such as 2 boxes of cereal for $4.00, it is usually not necessary to buy two to get the sale price. If you use the item regularly and will need to buy more before they go on sale again (possibly in just a few weeks) go ahead and buy as many as you need. And save even more by matching the sale with a coupon! But if you only need one box of cereal, or whatever the item is, then just buy one. The money you save by not purchasing that second item (just because it’s on sale) may be needed for something else that you might need more, such as milk, bread, produce, chicken, fish or meat.
Tip # 2 - When matching sales with coupons, the same rule applies; sometimes it’s better to just buy one sale item instead of the two or more the store is hoping you’ll pick up. And if you have two coupons it’s okay to use both on a buy-2 for one-price sale, because you are purchasing two items! It might even be worth purchasing an extra Sunday newspaper to get a duplicate set of coupons; if a certain week has a lot of great coupons for products that you use often!
Tip # 3 - Double coupon offers are great but in our local area we currently have only one store that offers double coupons—and only up to 65 cents—and, they are also one of the more expensive grocery stores. The double coupons are nice, but then when you buy grocery items that generally do not have coupons (such as milk, bread, meat, produce, etc…) you will more than pay for that double coupon savings. So, if your “double coupon” store is similar to ours (i.e. on the high-end) use the coupons on their sale items when you have time and purchase everything else at a lower priced store of your choice.
Tip # 4 - One of the best ways to save more money with grocery coupons is to match them with items that are already on sale. Look through your weekly grocery store sale flyers (they are often first published in the Wednesday newspaper and are also available at the front of the store for free) to find matching items that you’d like to purchase. If you don’t have time to look through the weekly sale flyers just clip your coupons from the Sunday paper and match as you go!
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