Posts by Joe Levi

Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.

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    We all want fast devices, but RAM, CPU, and GPU are all just lines on a spec sheet. That's where benchmarking comes in, but they can be gamed, and even cheated. Today we're going hands on with GameBench, a new app that aims to change that and give us information that's useful and accurate. With so many components inside our devices, and complex interrelations between them, it's all but impossible for us to gauge "how fast" something is just by looking at its specifications. Additional cores have an impact. How fast those cores are clocked play into the equation as well. Why type of ...

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    For many of us who have gotten a taste of wireless charging, there's no possible way we can picture ourselves going back to old-fashioned wired charging. Sure, I still plug my phone in while I'm in the car, but that's simply because I haven't found a wireless charger that satisfies my needs (not yet, anyway). Wireless charging is tremendously convenient. In the wireless charging world, we don't see charging as a distinct act. It's not something we physically do. Instead, charging simply "happens" when we set our phones or tablets on our desk or nightstand. It's automatic. It's casual. ...

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    Back in "the day", telephones were made up of a round speaker connected to a round microphone via a handle. To call someone, you picked up the "handset" from the "receiver" and "dialed" the number. The reason we still use that term today is because the apparatus for inputting our contact's phone number was a round dial. You'd stick your finger in the hole that represented the number you wanted, rotate the dial until it stopped, pull out your finger, and wait while it returned back to the starting position. This wasn't such a chore when only four digits were required to call someone. Then ...

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    My mother-in-law isn't exactly what you'd call "technologically savvy", but that doesn't stop her from upgrading to the latest and greatest Android-powered smartphones every chance she gets. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, but I'll give you three guesses who gets to support those devices. It wouldn't be such an issue except at her age -- how can I put this lightly -- she's a bit "set in her ways". Don't get me wrong, she can whip out her phone and call anyone in her extremely wide social network faster than you can say "mint chocolate chip ice cream". She's got friends and relatives ...

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    Have you even noticed how fast and smooth a brand new desktop or laptop computer runs when you first take it out of the box? Other than the obligatory bloat, nothing is pre-loaded. Very few processes run in the background. Both the RAM and CPU are ready for whatever you throw at them. Such is the case with a brand new smartphone or tablet -- with a catch. When you get your first phone or tablet, you haven't setup your accounts. You haven't downloaded and installed any apps. You don't have any services pushing data to your device, or apps pulling data from web services at regular ...

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    Here at Pocketnow, we see a lot of phones. Some are terrible, some are "okay", and others are amazing pieces of technology that excel in every way -- except a couple. It seems that even now, do device is perfect. But what is "perfect", anyway? What do we want in our dream phone? That's what we asked the Pocketnow Team, but instead of limiting ourselves to which of today's phones we'd really love to have in our pockets, we asked what tech we want in a phone right now. Is it a curved screen? An even better AMOLED display? Knock to unlock on even more devices? Frickin' lasers? Here's what ...

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    Job got you down? Has your love life lost its spark? Are you sick and tired of real reality? Lucky for you, all of that can change thanks to the modern miracle of virtual reality! Okay, that sounds a little cheesy, right? Okay fine, it's a lot cheesy. Virtual reality, however, is much less so and has the potential to revolutionize, well, everything! We've been trying to put virtual reality to use in more and more applications over the years, and now it's poised to go beyond expensive simulators and make its bold entrance into our living rooms, and even our pockets! In the past, virtual ...

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    With each passing generation of smartphone and tablet, we're promised an even stronger screen, more resistant to scratches, and made out of increasingly exotic materials. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself if these screens are so scratch-resistant, why do manufacturers continue to ship them to us with a protective film covering the screen? Think about it. Manufacturers assemble these devices in very clean environments, then place their products into clean boxes that hold them securely in place and protect them while they're shipped across the globe. Why would they need a protective ...

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    Remember back in the days of Android Gingerbread when ambitious OEMs started pumping out Android-powered tablets in an attempt to compete with Apple's iPad? Google pulled out all the stops to get Android Honeycomb released, and even partnered with Motorola to create the XOOM to show us all how a tablet "should be made". Honeycomb didn't last that long, but prior to Honeycomb, Google's message to OEMs was very clear: don't make a tablet powered by Android just yet. In retrospect, it's obvious why Google wanted its partners to wait: Android wasn't ready for tablets back then. It took some ...

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    Whether you're using Android, iOS, or Windows phone, there's one thing that unites us all: phone chargers. This week, Natalie and Kristin want to know why some chargers charge phones faster than others. Kristin bought a brand new phone charger that charges her phone about twice as fast as Natalie's in-wall charger. What gives? To answer that, first we have to talk a little bit about electricity. We'll dig into that, get into some Ohm's Law, and talk about rectifiers and inverters on this episode of the Pocketnow Power User. AC/DC The power inside our walls is AC (alternating current). The ...

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    While users may not have always responded favorably, the ability of OEMs to deliver wildly divergent looks for their Android UIs could be seen as big success story for the sort of openness and flexibility that only Android offers. In the very early days of Android, everything looked the same. Manufacturers kept the stock OS intact and focused on deploying hardware -- that's where the real creativity was exercised back then. That approach didn't last long. Shortly after HTC built the G1 for T-Mobile, it created other phones with interfaces that began to refine the somewhat basic look and ...

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    It's the first smartphone designed by Amazon, and it marks a day that many of us said would never come. The Fire Phone has landed, and you can buy it now! It's got this cool new pseudo-3D tilty thing called "dynamic perspective" (which actually sounds kind of cool), and some fairly decent specifications. The CPU powering the Fire Phone is a 2.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, and it's loaded with 2GB of RAM. Both of those are good, but neither are top-of-the-line. If anything, those are last year's specs. On the graphics side, there's an Adreno 330 GPU, but it's only powering a ...

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    Contrary to what others in the industry (and even others on the Pocketnow team) may say, the Nokia X was a great little phone. It felt durable, performed well, and once you got rid of that custom launcher and put the Play Store and the Google Now launcher on it, it was a neat little piece of hardware that I thoroughly enjoyed using as my daily driver -- albeit for too short a time. Sure, those aren't things that most people will do, but the fact that you could was what made it remarkable. Yes, we all hated the launcher. Yes, we all hated the singular "back" button, too. But the concept -- ...

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    I've used Google Voice since the days when it was Grand Central. It's an amazing product and one that I don't know what I'd do without. For those of you who don't know, Google Voice is an interesting combination of telephone services. First, and foremost, Google Voice is to voicemail what Gmail is to email. When someone calls you, if you don't answer (or if you have a rule set up) they go to voicemail. After they leave a message it's transcribed (sometimes with ridiculous results). From there you can peek at what the message was (or what Google thinks it was), and call them back or send ...

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    We all have the ability to send text messages to one another, but today the manner in which we do so varies greatly. What methods are available, and what are the benefits of going back to "the oldest in the book"? SMS in its current form was born back in 1985 with the GSM series of standards. Essentially, the SMS standard enabled GSM customers to send messages of up to 160 characters to each other via the wireless network. On this episode of the Pocketnow Power User we'll find out if SMS is still relevant. Why 160 characters? GSM was designed for voice communications, and routing those ...

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    Out of the box Android wear can do a lot of amazing things (although, as we mentioned in our review, it's still somewhat buggy and inconsistent). We've all seen the commercials showing you how Android Wear can set a reminder or even hail a cab. While those are certainly noteworthy, there are some even cooler things that your Android-powered wristwatch can do today. There are a few ways you can add features and functionality to your Android Wear smartwatch, regardless of who makes it. Both methods start with grabbing some apps from the Play Store, and one is super-charged through an ...

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    It seems that every time we hear about "augmented reality" (AR) it's from someone who has a new product they're trying to peddle, which usually takes the form of some hideous looking piece of headwear. Recently, however, consumers are turning to smartwatches rather than eyewear. This is evidenced by the number of available apps for Android Wear compared to Google Glass, especially considering the latter has been available for so much longer. That's what one company is banking on: an augmented reality smartwatch. According to most definitions, "augmented reality" is a technology that ...

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    There are many reasons why you'd want to root your phone, but  an LG G Watch root via a custom ROM? Yup. And it's awesome! Smartwatches powered by Google's Android Wear operating system are starting to show up on wrists across the world. Right now people are starting to get used to the idea of notifications showing up on their watch, and beginning to see the utility of talking back to it to get things done -- even though it still looks a little weird. With a relatively limited number of apps in the Play Store, Power Users everywhere are itching to see what the hardware can do. As such, ...

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    On the Pocketnow Power User so far this season we've talked mainly about hardware. What is the hardware abstraction layer, and why should you care? The Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) bridges the gap between hardware and software. Be warned, this topic is very, very geeky! To begin with, the HAL isn't a concept that's unique only to smartphones and tablets. It's been around for a quite a while, but it's implemented differently depending on the environment that you're talking about. Hardware abstraction on an MS-DOS system is very different from that on a Mac, and from a technical ...

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    We were introduced to Project Volta at Google I/O this year. There it was described as a set of new tools and APIs which developers could use to help their apps "run efficiently and conserve power". To save power, we must first understand what's using that power. To that end, Battery Historian was developed. It's a new tool in Android L that lets you "visualize power events over time" to help you understand how apps are using your battery. As developers come to a better understanding of how their apps use power, they can utilize a new job scheduler API to help that app know when tasks and ...

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    "OK Google" is a pretty neat tool. It lets you search for virtually anything -- as long as you're on your homescreen. A recent update to Google Search unlocked that limitation and allowed users to enable OK Google everywhere, even on the lock screen! The update requires Android 4.3+ (or 4.4+, depending on who you ask), it also needs the latest version of the Google Search app and the latest update to Play Services. Head out to the Play Store and make sure you've got all the latest updates installed before you continue. Next, from your homescreen, simply say "OK Google" to bring up the ...

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    In software development there are many different stages of release. Working backwards, most customers use a "final release". As bugs are found in this version of the app, they're patched. When a significant amount of patches are issued, they're usually rolled up into a "Service Pack". Before that version is released to the public, it's run through various different test releases. At each stage, features are completed, bugs are fixed, and performance and stability are improved upon. A "milestone" version is released each time a set of bugs are fixed or features are completed. These are ...

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    In our last episode we talked about the glass that covers our smartphone screens. Today we're diving into the types of displays under that glass, the pros and cons of both types, and which you'll want in your next smartphone or tablet. Touch Screens Screens recognize touch by one of two technologies: resistive or capacitive. Resistive touch screens all but require a stylus or similar device be used to register accurate touches. These are the types of screens that we had back in the Palm, Newton, and Windows Mobile days. They're not terribly expensive to manufacture, but they aren't that ...

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    Project Tango is an undertaking by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), formerly a division of Motorola, with the "goal of giving mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion". On the surface that sounds academic and boring, but start to peel away the layers and start looking at potential applications. and some amazing things come to mind. Currently Project Tango is just that, an internal project being worked on by a group inside Google. It doesn't stop there. According to Google's Johnny Lee, the ATAP-Project Tango Team has been working with ...

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    Android L is still a Developer Preview, nothing is set in stone, and who knows what might change before we see a final release later this Fall. In the meantime we're seeing some interesting tidbits surface regarding how the new OS will function, and some pretty significant changes that might be coming. Currently, when you go to the Play Store to download an app, you're presented with a laundry list of permissions an app may ask for. Based on most people we've talked to, the consensus is that users will typically accept everything just to continue past the screen and get on with the ...

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