Last month I broke my Galaxy S8+ in a really embarrassing way

I’ve been an outspoken critic of phone cases for as long as I’ve owned a smartphone. I used an OtterBox for awhile on my first iPhone, but I never liked how bulky it made the phone. As phones got larger and more sleek looking I became even less of a fan of phone cases. They feel wrong in my pockets, and make phones harder to take out or put away. I’ve tried slimmer cases, but it still has never felt right. So starting with my Galaxy S5 I decided to never use a phone case again. People would often say to me “what a stupid thing to do”, yet I loved the naked phone feel. It felt better to hold a naked phone in my hands, it felt better in my pocket and best of all I always found a naked phone to look better. Designers spend so much time coming up with sexy designs for phones, why cover them in plastic and rubber?

Maybe I was just lucky, but I never seemed to drop my phone. It actually seemed like I dropped phones more often with cases on them because they were bulkier and never felt right trying to shove them back in my pocket. Then came early June, about a week before I was set to go on vacation this year. I was using my phone to read some articles on the internet, while….on the toilet (as people do), and when I was…..finished, I put my phone back in my pocket and began to stand up. I had barely even moved when the phone slipped out of the pocket and landed face down on the tile floor. There was hardly an impact, and I left it lying on the floor for a moment. After I washed my hands and picked it back up I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach as I saw the entire top left hand side of the screen was cracked. It spread all across the top of the screen, seemingly originating from the curved edge of the phone. I was astonished that such a low impact fall could do so much damage.

I normally don’t sign up for cell phone insurance, but for whatever reason when I upgraded from the S7E to the S8+ I opted in, despite the cost. Unfortunately, it would still cost $250 to exchange the phone, which was not a pleasant expense the week before a vacation. In retrospect I could have probably waited until after vacation to replace it, but with every passing moment the cracked screen bugged me even more so I bought the bullet and filed a claim with AT&T (Asurion). The process was surprisingly painless as the replacement phone arrived on my doorstep the very next day and I sent the broken phone back in the same box.

Unfortunately, a few days into my vacation I found out that the replacement phone they sent me had touch screen issues. It’s hard to describe, but basically the bottom half of the touch screen was defective. If I were trying to scroll through my Facebook feed with my thumb it would randomly stop registering the swiping motion and instead register “clicks”, resulting in me constantly clicking on links or the like button unwillingly. I called Asurion and described my issue, and they promply sent me another replacement, no questions asked (I really expected it to be a struggle to get anyone to believe me) and so far the replacement has been doing fine.

You’d think after that experience and the dent it made in my bank account I’d finally see the value of having a case on my phone, but you’d be wrong. When I got the replacement I did go out and buy a case, but it only stayed on my phone for about a week. I couldn’t stand how it made it more difficult to get the phone in and out of my pocket, and the extra weight it added. I also love the way the S8+ looks lying on a table. It’s a sexy looking phone, and I’d rather look at that than a chunk of rubber or plastic.

It’s possible that another accident will happen (I’d say it’s probable), but I’ll continue taking that risk in favor of an aesthetically pleasing device. Of all the smart phones I’ve owned I’ve only managed to break one, so maybe I’m due for another six years without dropping one. Let’s hope.


I miss the Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Galaxy Note 7

The week the Note 7 was released I paid off my Galaxy S6 and ordered a Note 7 in blue online through AT&T. Most of the phones I’ve owned have been iPhones, but I ended up switching to Samsung with the S5 in order to try something different. The S5 wasn’t a terrible phone, but it was plastic and didn’t feel very great. That’s why I was more excited for the S6, which felt closer to an iPhone than ever. However, eventually the S6 started to slow down and give me issues, and nothing I did could get it working smoothly again. It would freeze often when typing, and apps would crash all the time. I assume it had something to do with a software update, but once I saw the Note 7 I knew that it was time to get rid of the S6.

The day the Note 7 arrived I was blown away. It was the most premium feeling phone I’ve ever held. It had weight to it and felt great in the hand. The screen blew me away, and I loved using it to watch Netflix at the gym. I upgraded to the new Gear VR so that I could use the Note 7 with it, and it did a lot better than my S6 did. It wouldn’t get hot and temporarily stop working like the S6 always did.

When reports first started coming out about the Note 7 catching fire I thought that I would be fine. Sure it was alarming to hear, but the numbers were so low compared to the amount of phones sold that even after the recall was announced I had intended to hold on to my Note 7. It never got hot, no matter how much I used it, so I wasn’t that concerned. Ultimately, however, Samsung pushed out the update to change the battery color to identify “safe” phones, and announced that they intended to use another software update to stunt the battery on recalled Note 7’s so that customers would have little choice but to stop using them. At this point I decided to return to the AT&T store.

The exchange process for my first Note 7 was not a pleasant process. Initially when I took it in to temporarily swap it out for a S7 until they got replacement phones in stock the AT&T employee told me that I’d be better off keeping the Note 7 until the replacement phones came in because it’d be an easier process. Nevermind that phones were continuing to catch fire, he advised me that it would be fine. He told me to come back next week, and that’s what I did.

Once I was notified that replacement Note 7’s were available I went back to the store, waiting behind four other customers, and was eventually helped. However, it turned out that they didn’t have any blue Note 7’s in stock, and that’s the color I was in love with, so they had to call around and find me a store with the blue phone in stock. I then drove across town, and was finally ready to exchange my faulty Note 7. Would this process go smoothly? Not a chance. When they started the exchange they tried to tell me since I didn’t have the box and everything included with the phone they couldn’t exchange it for a new one! It’s not like I expected to be returning the phone when I bought it! I told them that I talked to customer support and they ensured me I could return the phone without the box, and besides it was a safety issue to keep the phone. He didn’t quite believe me, and went into the back to talk to a manager before coming out and continuing the exchange process.


Once the exchange was completed I spent the next few days restoring my phone, logging into all of my apps and accounts, and getting everything set back up how I wanted it. Less than two weeks later and the Note 7 is back in the news, this time with “safe” phones supposedly bursting into flame. Again, initially I planned to wait it out and see what would come, but with each passing day there was another report of an exploding replacement Note 7. At this point Ars Technica put out their article saying not to buy even a replacement Note 7, and advising everyone to return theirs. I called AT&T and was ensured that if I felt unsafe I could return my replacement Note 7, no questions asked.

The second exchange went smoother than the first, but was still painful. I had wanted to switch to an iPhone 7 Plus at this point, mostly out of frustration with Samsung, however no stores around had any in stock. I decided to settle with the S7 Edge as it was closest in screen size to the Note 7, but when I picked up the phone I was really put off by how cheap the S7E felt compared to the premium feel of the Note 7. Still, I had heard many good things about the S7 Edge, and used the price difference in the phone to justify upgraded my Gear S watch to the Gear S2. I really like the S2, especially since it feels less like a spaceship on my wrist and more like a watch.

As the week has gone on I’ve gotten a little more used to the S7 Edge, but I’m still sad that the Note 7 is gone for good. That phone felt so much better to hold, and even if the screen wasn’t that much larger I can definitely tell the difference with the S7E. At this point, I’m not sure what I’ll get for my next phone. I’ve never liked the design of other Android phones, and the Pixel hasn’t impressed me either. If Samsung can revitalize the Note series (probably under a different brand name) I’d be tempted to give it another try, but I don’t think I’d move on to an S8 or 9.

Have I lost faith in Samsung? Not entirely. I love the Gear S2 that I got last week, it feels like a premium product and performs great. We also got a Samsung 4K TV last month that I absolutely love, so I don’t think the Note 7 debacle has damaged their brand as much as the people making memes want to believe. Hopefully Samsung will thoroughly investigate what happened with the Note 7 and be as open with the public as possible during the coming months. As long as they don’t try to hide anything (and I’m aware of the text message suggesting they may have already tried), I think they’ll move on from the Note 7 disaster hurt, but not broken. I would hope they’ll use this experience to continue on more determined to ever and deliver a great series of phones next year.

The Galaxy Note 7 and the new Gear VR (first impression)


This week I decided to upgrade my Galaxy S6 to the newly released Note 7, and it arrived in the mail last night. So far I’m more in love with it than any phone I’ve had to date. I love the sleek design and the solid weight that it has in the hand. It just feels great! I also love the screen, it seems like a huge improvement over the S6 which I’m really happy with. Beyond that, the curved edges are a nice touch, and I especially love the way that the time and date will display on the curved edge at night, making for the perfect bedside clock.


I haven’t done too much with the phone yet, but one of the first things I did was pick up the new Gear VR which is compatible with the Note 7. I enjoyed using the old Gear VR with the S6, however right out of the box I immediately realized that the new model is greatly improved over the old one. It’s much more comfortable to wear, and at times feels as if it’s not even there (at least compared to the awkward feeling of the old one). Also with the Note 7 I have yet to have the nagging overheating issues I’ve had with the S6, however I also haven’t done anything more taxing than watching a few 360 videos so far.


I’m looking forward to getting to know the Note 7 more intimately, but I can already tell I’m going to love it for a long time.

My Hopper Go fiasco

Hopper Go

So when the Hopper Go was launched earlier this year I was already on board. If you are a DISH customer and haven’t heard of the Hopper Go, essentially it’s a device that lets you take up to 100 hours of content from your DVR on the go with you. You could already transfer recordings to your devices via the Dish Anywhere app, however you were limited by your device’s storage space. With the Hopper Go you can transfer 100 hours of content to the device and stream it to an iPad, iPhone, Android device or Kindle Fire tablet running the Dish Anywhere app.

The Hopper Go creates its own WiFi network that five devices can connect to at once and stream content from the device.

This all sounded incredibly cool, and when the device finally launched earlier this week I immediately called DISH and placed an order for the $99 device. It shipped that same day and arrived earlier today. Unfortunately it would take me several hours to finally get the device working.

Hopper Go

When I initially plugged the device into my Hopper, a message popped up saying the device needed to be formatted. This clashed with the setup guide that stated that I should see a pop up saying “HopperGO Connecting”, however I pushed ‘ok’ figuring it would do its thing and end up working. This did not happen. After the device formatted it showed up as a 5GB external hard drive to my Hopper. I thought for sure that it somehow formatted over the firmware, and pushing the hard reset button on the device didn’t help either. No matter what I did the Hopper only saw the Hopper Go as a 5GB external hard drive.

I contacted DISH support and spent a painfully long time (about two hours) chatting with them. For the first 15 minutes or so they didn’t even seem to know what I was talking about. Then for the next hour and a half they continually had to do “research” and asked a lot of questions that seemed to get me nowhere. Midway through hour two they finally came to the realization that the Hopper Go only works with the latest Hopper software, and for whatever reason my Hopper did not have that software (even though it’s always connected to the internet).

Eventually they pushed an update to my Hopper manually, and it spent a good thirty minutes trying to download and install the update. The process didn’t finish before support told me that they had done all they could do, but their ‘engineers’ would continue to work on the problem and push any necessary updates to me in the future.

Luckily, about twenty minutes after ending the two hour support session my Hopper finally took the update and recognized the Hopper Go. I’m now in the process of transferring a bunch of shows and movies to the device and everything seems to be running smoothly.

I’m traveling tomorrow so that will be the first true test of how useful the Hopper Go can be. If all goes well I’ll be able to stick the Hopper Go in my laptop bag and stream movies and shows to my iPad during my flight and layovers. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to charge the Hopper Go with an external battery pack as I’ve heard the battery only lasts about four hours, but I have yet to determine if that’s an option.

I’ll be sure to post about how the Hopper Go performs after I get settled in on the east coast this weekend. If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m just hoping that other early adopters of the device won’t have the painful experience I just had. Nothing’s worse than being excited about a new gadget only to have to spend hours and hours talking in circles to tech support. I’m just glad it’s working now!

First Listen: urbeats (Beats by Dre)


I’ve needed a new pair of earbuds for awhile. The Samsung earbuds that came with my Galaxy S6 started acting strangely months ago. After about ten minutes of being plugged into my phone they would somehow cause my phone to do things on its own, such as adjust the volume all the way down and back up again over and over, or pause my music or even open apps. I’d often have to unplug and replug them in while running which was quite annoying. They also weren’t very comfortable and would always fall out of my ears.

I was going to pick up a pair of Apple’s EarPods for $29 at the Bx here, however I started looking at the Beats by Dre urbeats, which were priced at $79. Beats headphones tend to have a mixed reputation. Most people who own a pair swear by them, but almost everyone else will tell you that they’re popular only because of their brand. Each position is probably true in some sense, and I’m glad I bought my Bose SoundTrue headphones over a pair of Beats last year, but I’ve never really been opposed to the brand like so many are.

I figured the discounted price (down from $99) was enough to give the urbeats a shot. I’ve put them in a few minutes ago and so far I’m quite impressed. The packaging is wonderfully designed, which is always a plus. Opening the box was enjoyable, and everything was neatly positioned within.

urbeats box

urbeats packaging

Once I selected the best fitting eartips and inserted the earbuds into my ear I found them to fit better than any earbuds I’ve ever owned. They do a great job of isolating outside noise and the sound is much richer than anything I’ve experienced from an earbud. They don’t have the same quality is my Bose SoundTrue headphones, but they seem to have more bass which should make running to a beat more enjoyable. I’m fairly certain they’ll filter out the sound of treadmill quite well, however I won’t know for sure until I put them to the test at the gym tomorrow morning.

I can tell that they’ll stay in my ears better not only while running, but also while listening to music while falling asleep. Every night I’d have to struggle to keep my Samsung earbuds in my ears while lying down, but the urbeats should fix that issue. They not only fit well, but they’re extremely comfortable and it feels as if I don’t even have anything in my ears which is a plus. I’m certainly a fan so far and am glad I made the purchase.


AT&T Galaxy S6 update seemed to fix my signal issues

galaxy s6

Shortly after I upgraded from the Galaxy S5 to the S6 I started having severe problems with the phone. I didn’t necessarily want to stay with Android, I wanted to go back to Apple, however I had purchased a Galaxy Gear watch early this year and I didn’t want it to become useless.

With the S6 I started having problems maintaining a data connection, even if my device said I had full bars and LTE. The internet would simply stop working on the phone for no reason. I would try turning airplane mode on and off and occasionally this would work for a few minutes, but the data connection would slow to a crawl and be entirely useless. This would happen at work and all throughout Boise where previously I had a strong signal everywhere. This issue was so frustrating because I had grown to rely on having an internet connection in my pocket wherever I went and now it felt like I went back to having a flip phone. I would also experience dropped calls even when I had full bars.

I talked to AT&T tech support and they couldn’t come up with any solutions, and in the end they referred me to Samsung tech support. I talked to Samsung who also were no help and denied that this issue even existed despite there being forum posts all over the place from users experiencing the exact same issue.

Yesterday my phone took an OTA update, a 146MB update that changes the build number from OE2 to OF3, and now it seems my phone is functioning normally again (knock on wood!). I hope this was the fix because I was seriously about to just go out and pay full price for an iPhone 6. If you were experiencing the same issues go ahead and update your phone and let me know if the update improves anything. Best of luck!


Trying out Google Wallet

google wallet

This morning I finally figured out how to use Google Wallet on my Galaxy S6 to check out at the gas station. They’ve had signs saying they now accept Google Wallet and Apple Pay for about a month or so, but the few times I’ve tried to use it I couldn’t get it to work and the cashiers didn’t quite know how it was supposed to work.

This morning the older gentleman in front of me was mentioning something about how difficult it was to use the card reader, and the lady mentioned how these days people are just using their phones to check out (this certainly didn’t appeal to the older man). I asked her about it when I got up to pay and she assured me it should work, so sure enough I pulled out my phone, tapped the Google Wallet icon, entered my pin and tapped it to the touchscreen part of the card reader.

The card reader then displayed the transaction amount and asked me to hit yes or no, and that was it. Much faster than pulling out my debit card, swiping it and entering my pin on the card reader (followed by ‘cash back yes/no’ ‘amount ok yes/no’). The transaction also immediately showed in my Google Wallet history and I was on my way.

Google Wallet Galaxy S6


Pretty neat! Unfortunately, not too many places take phone payments, or if they do they’re not advertising it. I feel weird trying to tap my phone on card readers wherever I go, so I haven’t been trying it at many places unless they have signs posted or the tap to pay symbol. Interestingly, this gas station’s card readers don’t display the tap to pay symbol, but tapping your phone on the screen is all you need to do.


Hopefully more stores will open up to Google Wallet and Apple Pay in the near future! I’ve already almost completely stopped using paper money and now I’m ready to ditch the plastic as well!


Changing how we consume music

One of my first experiences involving listening to my own music was with a plastic Sesame Street record player (as seen below).



It’s crazy to think about how the method in which people consume music has changed during the 28 years that I’ve been alive. As I was a little older cassettes became the primary medium on which I listened to music. Every now and then I would be able to browse the music section at Wal-Mart and pick up a new cassette tape (one I particularly enjoyed was Will Smith’s “Big Willie Style”).



I would often find myself listening to the radio and recording my favorite songs onto blank cassette tapes and then using the second tape deck on my stereo to record songs in a particular order, creating a ‘mixtape’ to listen to on my Walkman. If I wanted to listen to a song on repeat I would record the same song over and over again to the second cassette (rewinding the first each time). At one point I had a tape on which one side consisted of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Notorious Thugs” over and over again. Before I had a portable CD player I would record CD’s to cassette to listen to on the school bus or while in the car. Road trips and vacations would often begin with stopping and buying massive packs of AA batteries to last the entire trip.

Eventually I got a portable CD player and before long I was lugging around bulky CD keepers in my bookbag all the time.



Before long the way we acquired music was revolutionized with the advent of music sharing via P2P services such as Napster, Kazaa, Limewire and others. Was it legal? Of course not, but everyone was doing it. We had dial-up internet during this time and it would take twenty to thirty minutes just to download a single song, but it was such a cool thing to be able to do we didn’t’ mind. I would spend entire nights staying up searching for and downloading songs one by one to make the perfect mixes. In high school I had a portable CD player that could play MP3 CD’s and all of a sudden I could have a single CD with 100 or more songs on it which was absolutely incredible!


Around the same time I began using Napster and Kazaa I managed my music with a program called Musicmatch Jukebox, which at the time seemed like the coolest time ever (even as it eventually begin to include all sorts of spyware and bloatware such as the infamous BonziBuddy).



If I wanted to listen to music my TV (or through a surround system) the easiest way to do it was to burn an MP3 CD (or data CD) and play it on a DVD player. At the time it seemed really neat, but compared to just broadcasting via Bluetooth today the method seems terribly archaic.

A few years after all of this I got my first iPod, the iPod Video, which again revolutionized how I consumed music. I could fit thousands of songs onto the 30GB device and even watch movies on it! How cool!


At this time I had a Motorola Razr for a cellphone so the features on the iPod were pretty mind-blowing. I could carry thousands of songs and a movie or two in my pocket, how awesome was that! Another revolution came in the form of iTunes which for the first time made paying for music easier than pirating it. With a click of a button you could download an album from a reliable source and get quality sound files with nothing extra. Unfortunately, I was still on dial-up during this time so I still tended to buy CD’s.

Before long we had the iPhone and at this point you could download music directly to your phone, no computers acting as a middleman. This again changed how people bought, managed and stored their music. Many people never used a computer at all to download or manage their music, and instead just carried their entire libraries in their pockets. No more organizing files, editing tags and keeping track of everything you owned, Apple did it all for you.

For awhile this is how people consumed their music, but today the act of downloading music at all seems silly. Just how CD’s replaced cassettes before being replaced themselves by downloads (first illegally, then legally), the download has all but been replaced by streaming services. MP3 sales are down and continually falling as more and more people simply listen to music rather than purchase or download it. They do so with services such as Pandora, Spotify, Amazon and others (soon to include Apple / Beats).

So much has changed in the music industry, and it’s never been a better time to enjoy music. I use Spotify (Premium) on a daily basis and can’t even imagine a world where such a service didn’t exist. Every Tuesday I check out the new releases page and download albums to my phone to check out on the way to work. I have playlists including my favorite albums or favorite songs that I can access at anytime. It’s so easy to create workout playlists, or to simply download favorite albums to listen to as I please.

Spotify PC

Using Spotify is like having access to almost every album in a record store at the touch of a button. It’s so easy to discover new music by either listening to random albums or throwing the new music Tuesday playlist on shuffle. Find something you like and all you have to do is press a button and save it as a playlist that you can download for offline music should you choose.

I almost never buy albums anymore, and when I do they’re on vinyl (strangely enough). Is the trend toward streaming positive in every way? Possibly not, at least if you ask artists such as Taylor Swift who pulled her music from Spotify after claiming streaming hurts the artist. However, with so many services that make it easy to legally consume music, 2015 is certainly a great improvement over the wild west days of the early 2000’s. The evolution of the music industry has made our lives better and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Strangers to Ourselves vinyl