A Truly Smart TV

Last year, I wrote about Switching to 4K video and how reluctant I was at the prospect. I figured I’d hold out longer but was also starting to warm to the idea because I’d love to play games in 4K. Well, guess what? We upgraded!

After being content with our 40” HDTV for the past 9 years, we finally bought at 4K TV at 55”. There were only two things we we’re wanting: the bigger screen (for more immersive/expansive entertainment) and the higher resolution (for more stunning life-like imagery). To our surprise and delight though, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

I don’t keep up with TV tech trends; I’ve always treated my TV like a computer monitor, just a simple “dumb” display. Our previous HDTV had the Nintendo Switch, a Bluray player, and a Roku connected. The latter stick was our portal to online streaming content like YouTube and AppleTV.

Now our new UHD TV is smart in many ways. It totally eliminated the need for our Roku. Every streaming service you would want is built-in and runs great: Prime video, Netflix, and Disney+ to name a few. I can even AirPlay stuff from my iPhone to it with ease.

The shiny new rectangle (not curved, by the way) also has more HDMI ports than our former polygonal movie portal, and one of them has the ARC capability as does our existing soundbar. So now we can connect all our devices directly to the TV, removing the need for the janky cable splitter while also minimizing cables.

Things are also simpler since we’re now able to control our soundbar with the TV remote rather than a separate remote. Also cool, the new TV is smart enough to detect when a connected device powers on, which auto-switches to the correct input. Another bonus, the TV has Bluetooth, so now I can enjoy stuff on the big screen using my wireless headphones so I don’t disturb those in slumber.

There is one minor downside to our new set-up, but it’s not the TV’s fault. Our DSL internet is, by definition, not broadband (it pains me to even say it). So it’s simply not fast enough to stream 4K content. I sampled 4K HDR videos on YouTube and have been able to watch only a few. I tried selecting the full 4K setting on some videos but they collapsed inside a buffering black-hole. The next resolution down (1440p I think) is something like 3K or 2.5K and we’re able to stream that, so at least we have improved over 1080p full-HD (or what you might consider 2K).

If we want to watch full-4K videos, we’ll need to buy a 4K disc player, but those are still very expensive. Frankly, this gives me pause as I consider no longer buying physical media for movie watching and instead may rely on streaming. Hopefully, in the next year or two, our local service providers will finally roll out fiber optic internet to our house (we live in a rural area).

Playing Switch games in HD upscaled to “4K” on the bigger screen is awesome for the improved immersion in 3D environments. Overall quality looks better too. Part of that is due to the smoother motion thanks to a simulated (or interpolated) refresh rate of 120Hz (true native is 60Hz). When Nintendo unveils a 4K Switch, I’ll certainly want to upgrade my gaming. Glad I have a TV ready for it. That said, I’m more inclined now to also buy a PS5. One thing at a time.

I resisted the march of progress for more pixels until now. The cool thing is we got more than that. We have a truly Smart TV that meets our entertainment desires with less effort and greater efficacy than ever. Looks like a smart move to me.

Switching To 4K Video

Are you already aboard the 4K train? You know, Ultra High Definition (UHD). Despite being a tech-nerd, I’m dragging my feet, content to live with HD quality videos. Why? Because, for goodness sake, it looks great already!

Maybe it’s because I come from a time when the best we had was VHS, which I think displayed something like 320×240 (or 640×480?) resolution on an interlaced TV. It was yuck! Yet it was color TV!

Then we evolved to the awesome DVD format. And today I live with 720p or 1080p HD. It’s superb!

My family was late to the HD party by several years. The advantage: by then, HD was ubiquitous and easy to adopt. And it had dropped in price, becoming affordable.

That’s basically where I stand now with 4K. Sure, it looks stellar. But the costs are also sky high. Well, they are coming down I think.

The trouble is once you’ve invested in a blu-ray player, a new HDTV, and movies on blu-ray, you kind of want technology to stand still long enough to enjoy your investment.

Oh, and let me interject: the 3D movie fad…yeah, I never even considered it.

The next thing you know, marketers are telling you that you might as well be rubbing sandpaper on your eyeballs if you’re not watching glorious 4K stuff.

Now all of the sudden, you’ve got to buy another new TV. And a new movie playback machine. And new more expensive movies.

This is where things get more tricky than usual! Besides contemplating an upgrade to 4K, you must decide whether you’re gonna stick with physical discs or just go all digital. Either way, you’re gonna spend more money.

So I’ve resisted 4K for a few years now. I might hold out at least one more. 


Switch To 4K

I recently realized a new factor. I enjoy video gaming on my Nintendo Switch. There are rumors that Nintendo is planning an upgrade for the Switch to play games in 4K! And, okay, I admit: I am much more interested in jumping on the 4K bandwagon with that prospect.

Just think about it! Mario, Zelda, Metroid, new RPGs…in 4K!!

My digital wallet is starting to feel lighter already.

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Motorola Updates Upgrade Promise

A Promising Response

You and I both know that smartphones don’t last forever. But shouldn’t they last more than a year? I wrote about this recently in relation to a Computer World article that singled out Motorola for not playing nice with phone updates on its new $1,000 phone. Then another article appeared, this time on Android Central, calling out Motorola again on this issue. And you know what? The next day, Motorola responded in the positive!

Moto On The Move

Motorola has announced that their new Edge+ phone will get not one but two OS upgrades in addition to years of security updates. This is a nice change from the company that has shown it truly cares about clean Android software, as Joe Maring pointed out in his related opinion piece.

Moto has been on a roll lately, releasing bold and budget phones. With the premium Razr, the flagship Edge+, and the mid-range Moto G Power and Stylus, Motorola has shown it cares about hardware. And now with the promise of an extra OS upgrade for the Edge+, they’re reaffirming that software is just as important to them.

These are positive signs coming from one of the stalwarts in the mobile phone industry. Despite Apple and Samsung dominating much of the smartphone market, Lenovo owned Motorola isn’t anywhere near giving up the fight. If nothing else, their G line of affordable phones has offered incredible value for years, making them the go-to Android phones for buyers on a budget.

Like author Joe Maring, I too am fond of Moto’s brand. As mentioned, the company’s respect for stock Android software is a standout feature, not to mention the nice user-friendly touches they add, like opening the camera by twisting the phone as you pull it out of your pocket. About the time you lift it to eye-level, you’re ready to snap the photo.

Moto Memories

If you’ll allow me to reminisce a bit, I recall Motorola first grabbing mindshare in the late 90’s when their StarTAC flip phone made waves. I was on my college campus where a classmate showed us how cool it was! Years later when the original Razr was everywhere, I didn’t own one myself but I helped my brother buy one – because it was the Razr!

My first phone from the company was the Moto Q – I still like that thing! That was a “feature” phone sporting Windows Mobile, a physical keyboard, and buttons! Tactile feedback is very underrated. Much later, I got the first Moto X with custom wood back and orange accents.

Next, I bought an unlocked Moto G4, the Amazon variant. Guess what, although it no longer gets updates, it is still in use today by my Dad! And now, I’ve been enjoying the new Moto G Power for a month.

Besides being nostalgic, I say all that to underscore how good it is to hear that Motorola is serious about making great phones and pleasing their customers. Saying their new flagship phone only gets one OS upgrade but then improving on that later, albeit just meeting the standard, does quality service for their phone buyers, especially the loyal nerds like myself.

Meeting The Standard

Having said that, I want to call on Motorola to continue their winning streak by extending their OS upgrade promise to not just the fancy phones at the top, but to the huge installed base of fantastic mid-range phones – the G series!

As of now, Joe Maring points out,

“The new Moto G Stylus and G Power are excellent mid-range handsets, but you aren’t promised any big software updates beyond Android 11.”

One of the big selling points of Apple’s iPhones is their several years’ worth of reliable OS upgrades. The bar is set, and I believe Motorola is able to rise to the high standard. The Android market would benefit greatly from a company with a reputation of phone support for a great length of time. And that company would, in turn, reap the rewards. Nokia and Google are frontrunners in this regard, but Motorola has the mojo to standout as a leader.

What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Smartphone Expiration Date

Short Shelf Life

When you buy meat at the grocery store, you check the expiration or “best used by” date. Nobody wants something that will go bad too soon; that’s a rotten deal. Likewise, technology has an “expiration date.” At some point, your tech becomes obsolete. Smartphones in particular have a “best used by” date. This problem needs a fresh solution.

Refresh Rate

Tech company Motorola has been on a roll lately, launching one smartphone after another. A few months ago, it was the new Razr smart-flip-phone. Last month it was the Moto G Stylus and Power. Then Moto announced their re-entrance into the traditional “flagship” market with the Moto Edge+. It’s the newest 4-figure phone you can go into debt for.

But the real cost of living on the Edge, according to JR Raphael at Computerworld, is more than those mere 4-figures. In a recent Android Intelligence article, he astutely decries the new $1,000 Edge+ for what it lacks: sufficient updates. The fancy new moto phone has one and only one update after you buy it! Like expensive sirloin that’s starting to turn gray, the Edge+ has a “best used by” date on it.

Overall, I agree with JR’s sensible position. Android phones should have several years’ worth of software updates, especially these days when phone hardware prices are sky-high and quality is so good. These phones can last a long time. But without adequate life support via software, smartphones are subject to premature demise.

Upgrade Ultimatum

The Android smartphone market has suffered the early expiration issue for years. But there has been effort to correct this: Android One. In defense of Motorola, it has been part of the solution by participating in the Android One program with their Motorola One phones. As of this writing, the motorolaone and the motorolaoneACTION phones are still receiving up to 3 years of OS updates or security patches.

But this does beg the question, why can’t the new Motorola Edge+ for $1,000 also be guaranteed to receive at least 3 years of software support? Motorola should not be singled out here either; the question applies to all Android manufacturers and should apply to all Android smartphones regardless of selling price.

Speaking of price, buying a low cost Android smartphone is a way around the early expiration problem. These days, despite being low in cost, Android phones are high in quality and have most of the features that most people need. Being so affordable, by the time they’ve passed their “best used by” date, it is feasible to upgrade the hardware in order to get the latest software and avoid obsolescence.

Along those lines, Matt Hanson at Tech Radar said it this way:

“If you are looking for a new smartphone, and you’re concerned about getting a bad deal, there are at least some things you can do. There are some brilliant mid-range phone deals out there – so if your phone is only going to last you a few years at least you won’t have spent a fortune on it”

Matt Hanson

Fresh Future

This is the route I’ve taken. Switching from iPhone to Android, in April I bought a great phone at the frugal price of $249! And it’s from none other than Motorola. I figure that I will want to get a new phone in about 2 years, so I won’t miss out on the newest operating system and my security won’t be out of date. Besides, I’ve used older phones that no longer were updated and you know what? They were fine. “Expired,” technically, yet they kept working well enough.

In fact, while it may not be the best course of action, “no updates” can be a feature and not necessarily a problem, from a certain point of view. It means your smartphone would be more like an appliance. The benefit of lacking updates is avoiding change, because change is hard. And the saying holds true: if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Some folks prefer their smartphone to work the same as when they first became accustomed to it. Even iPhone lovers get upset when Apple decides to move the usual location of an icon.

Some smartphones get a longer software life than others, so it’s worth your time and money to consider those first and foremost. But if the exorbitant price tags are a sour deal, then a low-cost Android phone is frugal, feasible, and maybe the freshest solution on the table.

What’s your take? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Two Must Have iPhone Features

You might have noticed that new iPhones these days are not as groundbreaking as they were in the first few years. Smartphones have been iterated to ideal form. But is there room for improvement? You bet; more zoom and more room please!

Optical Zoom

The latest iPhones have two lenses: one for wide shots and one for telephoto1. The latter one means it has a 2x zoom. And it’s real zoom, not fake. Optically, it’s like you’re twice as close to the subject. In contrast, digital zoom is like cropping the photo, which makes it look fuzzier.

This 2x zoom is better than nothing. More, of course, would be better. But what I really want in an iPhone is a true optical zoom lens like what’s found on point-n-shoot cameras. It’s a single lens that changes barrel length and the distance between the glass and the sensor.

You’d think the iPhone is too thin to house space for this kind of lens. You’d be right. That thinness is an issue, but more on that later.

Another company has already solved this dilemma. They use a periscope arrangement so that the physical change in space happens along the length or width of the phone instead of the narrow depth. It creates a 5x optical zoom! If someone else can do it, surely Apple can optimize it.

If Apple adopts this approach to adding optical zoom to the iPhone camera instead of peppering the backside with a bug’s eye array of multiple lenses, then I would be stoked! And I’d be ready to upgrade sooner than later.

Optimal Room

So, about that thinness issue. Thin is good. Lightweight is good. But I’m not talking about making the iPhone as thick as a deck of cards or heavy as a brick. Just add a few more millimeters to it – more depth, more room. This would make the iPhone better in two ways.

More Grippy

First, the phone would just be easier to hold. Why do you think so many people add pop sockets to the back of their phone? It’s like a bar of soap that costs around $1,000 and shatters on contact with the sidewalk. It might as well have a lanyard like the 5th gen. iPod touch! Actually, I would consider that, now that I think about it; an iPhone with a built-in lanyard point.

What good is super sleek and elegant iPhone design if, in order to function practically, you must encase the phone in an ugly plastic box and add a protruding accessory out the back? Seriously. Just make the iPhone a bit less thin (which does not mean thick).

Being easier to hold, the iPhone could function better as a point-n-shoot camera too! Turn the phone sideways for landscape shots, and you’ve got the volume buttons acting as the shutter (or to operate the optical zoom feature mentioned above), and the increased non-sliver-thinness of the phone would make gripping it far more manageable without ungainly accessories. Except maybe an official Apple lanyard, of course. Bonus: the camera bump, even with an optical zoom lens, could be replaced with the flush camera of past iPhones!

More Battery

Second, the phone could last longer between charges! Add some depth and increase space for a bit more battery. And it doesn’t have to be so much more that the phone overheats or feels like an anchor is dragging down your pocket. I’m sure Apple’s engineers can make this just work.

This would alleviate low-power anxiety. A whole day on one charge is a baseline, but it would be better if the iPhone could last two whole days with moderate use! That would be a true selling point, something most smartphones have been missing for years.

Even though smartphones have basically plateaued in pizzazz, the iPhone can still attract with just two simple features: optical zoom and optimal room.

The current iPhone 2x zoom is nice, but farther reach would further its allure. Yet adding more lenses isn’t as attractive as showcasing one elegant optical zoom lens.

And the iPhone’s thinness seems too thin for thinness’ sake. With a bit more depth, it would both feel better and last longer.

These two practical features would make the iPhone more winsome, and then it would win some more of my money.

What features do you want to see smartphones add to make you upgrade? Comment below or message me. Thanks for your time!

  1. Funny how that sounds like, “telephono.” As in telephone. Which is now also your camera. Telephonophoto?