Exclusive: Motorola Moto X Software Update Cures Its Wired Headset Headaches

Moto X lead small

The affordable, yet sophisticated Motorola Moto X succeeds in making life with a smartphone as simple, colorful and touch-free as possible, but until recently it stumbled with one of the most basic of all cell phone accessories: wired headsets with microphones.

Fortunately, a new Moto X system software update cleans up the glitch, allowing these headsets to work as they should. The free update is now being pushed out to AT&T and T-Mobile handsets. Moto X owners can wait for the notification screen to pop up or scroll through the phone’s settings to the “About Phone” section, where they can manually initiate the update.

When a Moto X with the original system software was tested with apps such as Skype and voice recorders, it often failed to recognize wired headsets with built-in mics. The earpieces would go silent and the mics wouldn’t transmit audio.

To see if your Moto X still has the original system software, download Skype and try this: Plug a wired headset with a mic to your Moto X and make a voice call to the “Echo/Sound Test Service” entry that’s preinstalled as a contact in Skype. Once connected, try to listen to the automated recording and try to record your voice when prompted.

If you have the original system software, you won’t hear and thing and won’t be able to make the recording. Try the call again without the headset–Skype should work fine. Skype and Motorola public relations representatives were contacted for comment about the wired headset problems; neither responded.

Screenshot_2013-10-04-17-49-17

A Moto X which once failed the Skype test now works perfectly after the five-minute software, which also cures other Moto X issues, was installed.

The wired headsets used for testing included Audiofly AF45 and Lenovo 57Y4488 earbuds and a Native Union Pop Phone handset. The above problems were limited to wired headsets with mics–they did not occur with wired headsets without mics or with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

The wired headset problems were ironic since the Moto X, which has three built-in microphones, actually works very well with voice-activated apps such as Google Now since one of the mics is used for noise cancellation. With the new software update, the Moto X becomes an even better value.

Moto X headset 1

Overall, the Moto X is a remarkable smartphone with good looks–which can be customized–and quality high-end features like a sharp, 4.7-inch display and a 10-megapixel camera. (Click here for full review).

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

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Motorola Moto X: Fun, Friendly & Fast Enough

Motorola Moto X

Motorola Moto X

Motorola’s Moto X smartphone is an admirable balance of style and usability. It doesn’t try to outdo Samsung, Apple and others in the race to squeeze in as many high-tech features as possible but instead aims to please with its hand-shaped curves, cool voice-activated features and touch-friendly camera.

The Moto X succeeds as a sophisticated mainstream smartphone but is no speed demon. Its user-friendliness and simplicity are apparent from the start: Instead of a cluttered home screen, the Moto X offers pretty much a plain vanilla Android home screen that allows the new owner do the customizing. And that’s not surprising since Motorola Mobility is now a division of Google, the maker of Android software.

To start the camera, you pick up the phone and twist your wrist twice–that’s it; the Moto X immediately switches to camera mode. To take a photo you can touch any part of the screen–there’s no need to hunt for a shutter button. The Moto X’s 10-megapixel camera uses Motorola’s ClearPixel technology, which allows each sensor to gather 75 percent more light, thus making it possible to get clear photos even in low-light situations. according to Motorola.

The Moto X can be customized with numerous color combinations for its keys and shell (including an all wood case available later this year) by ordering the unit via the Moto X website, which only offers AT&T units at the moment. Since the Moto X is manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas instead of somewhere overseas, online buyers can expect to see their new phones–already initialized with their Google accounts–in four days or less, according to Motorola.

Motorola's Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

Motorola’s Moto X can be ordered in a variety of color combinations.

“We think this represents a very interesting future,” said Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for product development at Motorola during a press event in New York. He said the Moto X is aimed at “the mainstream user,” not the feature-frenzied geek.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

Rear of Motorola Moto X.

The Moto X uses what computing power it has fairly efficiently. It runs Android version 4.2.2 and has a dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon processor. Other top-shelf smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 have quad-core processors, but they also have more sensors and higher-resolution screens, making the additional processor muscle necessary.

Moto X Active Display

The low-power Active Display mode on Motorola’s Moto X.

The Moto X is built with what’s called the Motorola X8 computing system. It’s a set of eight processor cores assigned to different tasks. Why is this important? By using different cores for different tasks, the entire processor doesn’t have to be awake all the time–each core wakes up as it’s needed. This design extends the life of the Moto X’s 2200 mAH battery to a full day of average use, according to Motorola.

Two of the processor cores are used for basic application processing (this is what makes the Moto X a “dual-core” smartphone) and four are used for graphics processing, thus speeding up video and photo functions. The other two cores take care of voice commands and sensors like the accelerometer and the ambient light sensor and help the Moto X detect how fast you’re moving and what you’re doing with the phone.

When tested with voice commands, the Moto X worked very well and was able to verbally answer questions about the time, the weather, directions, baseball scores and many other queries. The quality of the speech detection is aided by the phone’s three microphones, which work together to cancel stray noises and enhance voices.

A useful Active Display shows notifications in a simple, low-power mode, thus letting you know if you have incoming e-mail, text messages or other items even when the phone is in standby mode.

The Moto X lists for $199 (16GB of user memory) or $249 (32GB) with a two-year plan and is sold by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular and major retailers.

Do you have a Moto X? How do you like it so far? Comment or vote:

Text and photos Copyright 2013, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Samsung’s Mysterious Bluetooth S Pen: Talk to the Hand… Really

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen was silently introduced to the press after the Aug. 15 New York launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet.

James Bond would be proud. While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen HM5100 doesn’t contain poison or shoot bullets, the handheld unit, like many of 007’s toys, isn’t as simple as it looks. While this new tablet accessory looks like a mild-mannered stylus, it’s actually a wireless Bluetooth handset you can make calls with.

As Samsung’s glitzy launch event for its new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet wound down on Aug. 15, members of the press were sent packing with a press kit which included the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen. Most recipients seemed unimpressed at the seemingly mundane going-away gift and quietly packed them away. It was only upon closer inspection later that many realized what the BT S Pen actually was.

The front of the box does little to describe its capabilities other than to mention that it’s “compatible with Galaxy Note series” and one side of the box simply reminds you that it can “Enhance your mobile smart life.”

However, the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen is basically a pen-shaped Bluetooth handset with a stylus that’s compatible with the magnetic resonance circuitry built into the display of the  Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. When the BT S Pen is used with the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, the tablet can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure. This means you can draw a thick line by pushing down harder on the screen with the S Pen and a thinner line by easing up on the pressure.

The BT S Pen has the same side button that comes on the S Pen styli packed with Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone and Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet plus a rocker switch to control volume and a power button that’s also used to pick up and disconnect calls. The BT S Pen pairs with any compatible Bluetooth device by holding down the power button for three seconds. The unit’s built-in battery can be recharged via a standard microUSB slot hidden below a cap at the top of the device.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen: It looks like a stylus, but it’s actually a Bluetooth handset you can speak into.

 So how does it sound? Surprisingly good. Since it’s easy to hold the tiny speaker grill close to your ear canal, volume is not a real problem. A small microphone is embedded in the middle of the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen, which can be set to vibrate when a call comes in.

The unit has an indicator light, but no display and doesn’t call out the number of the incoming call. The biggest disadvantage of the S Pen, however, might be the perplexed glances you might get from people who spot you chatting with a pen.

So when can you purchase the Galaxy Note 10.1 BT S Pen? Good question. (UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.) The product doesn’t exist on Samsung’s US website and the box itself doesn’t even have a UPC code printed on it. Since the current Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is a WiFi-only device, the BT S Pen may–or may not–debut with a future version of the tablet with built-in cellular data capabilities.

So if you spot someone with a pen nestled in his ear who seems to be talking to himself, don’t take pity on him. Ask him where he got that pen.

UPDATE: The BT S Pen is now available for purchase.

Text and images © Copyright 2012
Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features
info@paperpc.net

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1: Potent Pen-Powered Tablet Challenges iPad

Travis Merrill, director of marketing for Samsung Electronics America’s Galaxy tablet division helps introduce the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android 4.0 tablet at an Aug. 15 launch event in New York.

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet isn’t an iPad, and that’s the point.

Samsung has designed the Galaxy Note 10.1 to be not just a device for Web surfing, email reading and other forms of what it calls “consumption,” but as a creative device which, according to Samsung, will change the way users learn, draw, share and otherwise interact with their mobile electronic companions.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with S Pen

At $499 for a unit with 16GB of storage and $549 for a 32GB version, Samsung has the difficult task of convincing the public why they should spend 500-or-so dollars on a Galaxy Note 10.1 instead of an Apple iPad. The answer, according to Samsung representatives at a splashy Aug. 15 launch event in New York, is the S Pen.

The S Pen, which stores neatly in a slot in the back of the Galaxy Note 10.1, can detect more than a thousand levels of pen pressure when combined with the specially designed screen on the tablet. This means that you can draw on the screen as if you had a real pen or brush: A light pressure for a thin pen line or feathery brush stroke or more pressure for a thick line or a heavy coat of virtual paint.

Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, unveils the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet at New York press conference.

“Make no mistake…this is not a [run-of-the-mill] stylus,” said Travis Merrill, director of marketing for Samsung Electronics America’s Galaxy tablet division. He noted that unlike other tablets which can only detect whether a stylus has made contact with its screen or not, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 can, via electromagnetic resonance, detect the S Pen as it approaches the screen. All necessary power is generated by the tablet–no battery power is needed for the S Pen, he noted.

The combination of the pressure-sensitive screen and high-resolution digitizer built into the Galaxy Note 10.1 means that tasks like painting, document annotation and handwriting recognition are enhanced, he said.

“For the first time, freehand writing on a tablet makes sense,” said Merrill.

Award-winning film director Baz Luhrmann explains what he likes about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 at Aug. 15 product launch event in New York.

During the press conference, award-winning film director Baz Luhrmann said that after a few days with the Galaxy Note 10.1, he found it easy to share and edit storyboards and other information vital to his upcoming  movies.

“This is a creative tool… That’s the game changer for me,” said Luhrmann.

The Galaxy Note’s 10.1-inch, 1,280-by-800-pixel display is driven by a quad-core, 1.4GHz processor, the most powerful to date in Samsung’s Android tablet lineup. The unit comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the latest version of Google’s operating system software for mobile devices. An upgrade to the next Android version (Jelly Bean) will be available later this year, according to Samsung.

The tablet is preloaded with Adobe Photoshop Touch, the Barnes & Noble Nook ebook app, the Kno textbook and learning app and a handful of other productivity and entertainment titles. The tablet had a Multiscreen feature which allows users to run two from a select list of apps at the same time on the same screen. For example, you can have an email app and a Web browser window open at the same time.

Unlike the iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a microSD card slot for additional storage on removable memory cards and an infrared port, a feature once prevalent on cell phones and PDAs. The infrared port allows the Galaxy Note 10.1 to be used as an intelligent remote control for your current TV and audio equipment.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet comes in Pearl Gray and Pearl White.

Preinstalled on the tablet is the Peel Smart Remote & TV Listing app, which aids in the process of configuring the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet to work with your electronic gear and provide access to various TV programming guides.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Android tablet can run two apps at the same time on the same screen.

So, will the Galaxy Note 10.1 make a dent in the iPad’s slice of the tablet market? Let the battle begin…and let me know what you think.

Image of Galaxy Note 10.1 with S Pen courtesy of Samsung.
All other images and videos © Copyright 2012 Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features, info@paperpc.net

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New York’s Samsung Experience Closing Dec. 31

The Samsung Experience, Samsung’s glitzy product showcase in New York’s Time Warner Center, will close Dec. 31, an associate at the location confirmed Saturday.

The Samsung Experience, the site of numerous press conferences and other special events, has occupied the 10,000-square-foot space on the third floor of the Time Warner Center at 10 Columbus Circle since 2004, according to TWICE, which first reported the closing Dec. 1.

Many of Samsung’s most popular products, such as the powerful Galaxy Tab tablets, the Galaxy S series smarphones with Samsung’s bright AMOLED displays and the company’s new 830 Series solid state drives, were rolled out to the press at recent events. The departure isn’t good news to the Time Warner Center, which recently lost a large Borders bookstore formerly located on the second floor directly below the Samsung Experience.

The Samsung Experience provides free Wi-Fi, free Internet access and product information at a handful of computer terminals and ready access to roving Samsung specialists for its various product lines but it’s not a store. You can try out the various products–you can even make calls on working cell  phones–but you can’t place an order or make a purchase.

An associate who answered the phone confirmed the Dec. 31 closing date.

Text, video and photos Copyright 2011, Robert S. Anthony, Stadium Circle Features

Whap! Sock! Pow! Batman Adds Punch to Samsung’s Ultrafast 830 Series SATA 3.0 Solid State Drives

Samsung’s new 830 Series SATA 3.0 SSDs are not only twice as fast as their predecessors, but they also come with a free copy of Batman: Arkham City.

It takes a lot to make the jaded technology press crack smiles at a press conference, but there were toothy grins all around Monday when a tall, well-muscled, Batman character suddenly appeared onstage to help Samsung introduce its new 830 Series of ultrafast SATA 3.0 solid state drives.

 Not only are the 830 Series 2.5-inch SSDs slimmer (7mm) and twice as fast than Samsung’s 470 Series SSDs, they come with a code for a free download of the PC version of Batman: Arkham City, a new video game from Warner Bros. The game, which launched last week, usually sells for about $50.

“The game will boot in a flash,” said Reid Sullivan, senior vice president for mobile entertainment for Samsung Electronics America just after the onstage visit from the caped crusader.

Samsung is marketing the drives as affordable upgrade options for performance-hungry gamers as well as anyone who can benefit from the inherent speed advantage of SSDs over standard rotating disk hard drives. One chart displayed at the conference showed that gamers can expect to boot their PCs and get into their games twice as fast with a PC with one of the new SSDs than with a standard hard disk.

The 830 Series SSDs offer read speeds of 520 megabytes per second and write speeds of 400MB/sec and come in 64GB ($130), 128GB ($200), 256GB ($430) and 512GB ($850) versions. They also come with Norton Ghost for duplicating data from one drive to another and Drive Magician for maintaining top performance from the SSDs. 

The 830 Series drives come in a fairly attractive metal casing for an internal drive and will fit in many of today’s new ultrathin notebooks, said Samsung representatives.

“We’re raising the performance bar even higher than ever before,” said Sullivan. “It’s an absolutely beautiful product.” 

All drives come packaged with the cables and drive cages needed for installation in a laptop or a desktop. They also come with USB to SATA cables that essentially turn them into external drives, thus making it possible to copy data to and from a computer before they’re actually installed.

“It’s really not that hard to install. Once you’re inside [your computer] you kind of can’t mess it up,” said N’Gai Croal, founder of consulting firm Hit Detection. Croal was part of a panel discussion of SSDs and video games.

The Samsung Series 830 solid state drives are available now from various vendors, including Amazon.