Sunday, 22 October 2017

Moto G (2013 First Generation) ... Is It Any Good In 2017?

Motorola have always produced good hardware. In 2013, Motorola released a new range of budget, mid and high end Android smartphones. The Moto G was a mid-level handset, but how could this handset hold up almost 5 years after release, in a world where technology is so fast paced.

First of all, let us look at the specs. It has a 1.2ghz quad core 3G device with 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage (although a 16GB model is available), 4.5” screen with rather high 329ppi, 5mpx camera with flash, 1.3mp front ‘selfie’ camera and a 2070mAh battery.

It doesn’t however feature a MicroSD slot for extra storage, although various revisions were subsequently released with the addition of 4G and a MicroSD slot. 

My son was in an urgent need for a phone recently and I picked him up a Moto G very cheap. Our entire household has newer Moto G handsets so I knew they were good, reliable, built to last and offer excellent bang for your buck.

The Moto G features similar hardware to the Moto G2 (same processor, same GPU and same RAM), but packed in to a smaller shell. It shipped with Android 4.3 ‘Jelly Bean’ and was upgraded to Android 5.1.1 ‘Lollipop’.

So how does this aging handset handle in 2017. Moto G handsets have always performed way above others in the same price bracket and this goes in their favour for longevity. 

My son has been using his for about a week and has actually fallen in love with the ‘little’ handset. The small screen size may put some off, and compared to the 5.5” on my Moto G4 this sure does seem tiny, but it is perfectly useable for every days tasks.

Besides screen size, does this phone have enough grunt to keep up. The short answer is yes. It is never going to play massive games, but the lack of SD slot for storing apps or media is going to limit the app/game collection anyway.

It is running Lollipop which runs smooth, fast and stutter free and is a joy to navigate around. Apps load and run quick. Testing average apps such as FaceBook, Messenger, Astro File Manager, Chrome and GMail all opened virtually the same time as my G4 with the G being less than a second behind. Playing Carmageddon on both, the G was a few seconds behind on loading screens, but game play was exactly the same speed and smoothness.

A side point. The G tops at Lollipop and although the G2 has almost identical hardware received Marshmallow. The G on Lollipop runs smoother than the G2 on Marshmallow.

As a phone it is as expected. Good signal strength with excellent call quality, and the 2070mAh battery even though I suspect is the original still holds up superbly and lasts just as long as newer phones. My son easily gets a day and a half out of it, which he could push to two if used lightly.

One area that struggles today is the camera quality. The 5 megapixel shooter is a touch focus and lags behinds todays 12+ megapixel beasts but in 2013 it was pretty decent, especially for a mid-range handset. The front camera is an ok 1.3 megapixel for selfies and video calling.

The lack of SD card slot could be an issue if you like storing a lot of music. One work around which works in Lollipop but is broken in Marshmallow and up is USB OTG. Plug in a USB device with music stored and you can access these in Play Music, but in Marshmallow and upwards they seemed to revoked this access to Play Music and any third party app - so are only playable file by file in the built in file manager (not even third party file managers).

It all comes down to what your needs are. But the average person doesn’t use all the modern new gimmicky features or will only use them a handful of novel times and then go back to using the same basic functions of a handset.

The Moto G despite its age is still a great handset, capable of keeping up in 2017 and capable of keeping a teenager happy. Its small size, tiny price tag - of under £30 - and amazing build quality still makes it a great choice as long as you know its limitations. 

A comparison of the Moto G1, G2, G3 and G4

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Is it worth buying a secondhand Nexus 6P?

So I was looking for a suitable replacement for my Moto X Play, which although a fairly decent device, I was always bumping up against the end of its 16GB internal storage. SD card storage is fine for music and stuff but not for apps. It is too slow and unreliable for that and many apps just will not move to SD. I also missed other little things like having a gyroscope for Photosphere photos. With my limited budget, I considered an LG V10 (and the V20 was way out of my league) but they are just too expensive for a no longer update device. LG also have a bad reputation for bootloops these days. I decided to try get a Nexus 6P and hope that I could get one without the dreaded early shutdown battery issue. Could I find one?

Nope! I bought and took back two secondhand 6Ps from CEX and both had the same battery issue. Early shutdowns and atrocious 4 hour battery life. What tended to happen would be it would drop down from 100% battery down to about 30% in just a few hours then shutdown as if it was flat. Then if you plugged it in for a moment, enough to boot it up, the battery life would now seem to be about 70%. Then you could use it for a few more hours until it shut off around 15 - 7%.

The problems with the 6P are so bad that at one point, for a short time, Google were replacing them with Pixel XLs under warranty for those who bought them from the Play store. Probably because replacement 6ps had the same issues.  There was even a lawsuit filed against Google and Huawei over early shutdown and bootlooping issues. Perhaps I could have kept going and bought more but I think many owners who had the issues probably sold them to CEX for a quick chunk of cash. CEX clearly do not test them properly and I am pretty sure I spotted the first one I bought sitting back on the shelf in their store.

This is such a massive shame, because if they did not have the battery issues they would be such a great phone for the price. The best thing was having the latest Android Oreo installed. It’s an absolutely beautiful OS, buttery smooth and it just looks amazing! The only thing I don’t like the look of in Oreo is the default icons but these are easily changed. I still used Nova Launcher Prime instead of the default Google Launcher, for the excellent customization it offers to the user. The 6P also took very good photos especially in low light.

So sadly, no, I would not recommend getting one unless you want to replace the battery yourself. I just don't have the money and patience for that. I have returned the last device and have now ordered a Moto Z Play to replace it.

Android Is For Me... 8 Months After Leaving iOS

In February, I took a massive step and walked away from being an iPhone user. My family in my house had Motorola Moto handsets and I was getting both impressed and jealous.

At the time of switching I wrote an article 'Goodbye iPhone... Hello Moto' for LowEndMac. 

The past few months have been a fresh of breath air. The move to a non-Apple device has given me a blistering fast, up to date handset for a fraction of the price and a mobile OS that will do what I want and can be tweaked to do more. It has also allowed me to break that Apple tie-in giving me more freedom over my future desktop OS choices.

I have no regrets, the Android world has gained a new fan.

My Moto G4 may now be last years model, but it is still amazingly fast (for it's price range) and has been upgraded to Android 7.0 ‘Nougat.’ And although Motorola recently announced no plans for Android 8.0 ‘Oreo’, that doesn’t matter in the Android world, most apps and Google services run as far back as Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich, which was released in 2011.

The ability to upgrade the storage - via Micro SD card - is superb, although I have yet to fill the 64GB card I have, but if I did I could just buy a bigger one. OK, so SD cards aren’t the best storage method and can be a bit flakey at times, but I have had no issues with mine and it gives you more options. I have recently discovered USB OTG allowing further drives to be attached as well as a whole host of devices, turning my mid-priced handset in to a portable computer.

I do far more on my Android than I ever did on my iPhone. The bigger screen makes watching films and Netflix a joy and the massive battery just keeps on going and going without the need for a power case or portable battery.

I have spent the last few months wondering why I have spent years trapped in the iPhone world, buying older models because that is all I could afford and therefore lagging behind the rest of the iPhone world.

I love my Moto G4. I love the Android operating system and I am loving the whole experience.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Thursday, 14 September 2017

iPhone 8 and X - What is all the fuss about?

It’s that time again, when the Apple reality distortion field is at full force after an iPhone Event, and the mainstream media are gushing over their shiny new toys. So what’s all the fuss about?

Well not much really, the iPhone 8 and 8 plus look almost the same as the old ones but include a slightly better camera, slightly faster CPU, have a few more gimmicks, and now have a glass back to accommodate QI wireless charging, which the LG Revolution had in 2011 and many Android devices have had since. It also has Fast Charging, which has also been around for 4 years in the Android world. The glass back also means more money to Apple for all the repairs they will undoubtedly have very soon when owners drop their shiny new toy. I also wonder if new phone cases might appear to allow QI charging to work properly. Of course Apple could try improving the battery life on the iPhone, which is probably the biggest complaint my Apple using friends have these days...There was also something mentioned about being designed for Augmented Reality, which is nothing new either. Other than that, the 8 and 8 Plus are so unexciting that Apple didn’t even live demo them at the event, instead Craig Ferenghi saved that for something ever so slightly more exciting...
Craig Ferenghi
The main highlight of the Apple Event was the iPhone X, for £999 (yes, practically a thousand quid, and that’s the base model) that celebrates ten years of the iPhone. Unlike the 8 and 8 Plus, it features an edge to edge screen much like other recent Android flagships from the likes of LG and Samsung, and the Sharp Aquos had a few years ago. It’s also OLED for the first time on an iPhone, which Apple calls a “Super Retina Display” in their marketing bollocks.

iPhone X

Yet again, Android devices had OLED screens years ago, (2009 on the original Samsung Galaxy), so nothing particularly exciting there either. LG recently switched to an OLED edge to edge screen on their V30 which has a higher PPI than the iPhone X.

The odd looking brow on the X reminds me of the little bump that intrudes on Andy Rubin’s Essential phone, except bigger, and I don’t like it there either, it’s ugly and will likely get in the way. (I don’t like the lack of a headphone jack on the Essential phone either).

Another feature borrowed from Android is Tap To Wake, which first appeared in 2013 on the LG G2 and subsequently incorporated into many other Android devices. Just tap the screen to show the clock and notifications. I first used it on my LG G3, (which they called KnockOn) which was nice, but LG went one step further and incorporated knock to unlock where you could tap out an unlock code. I really think though that Raise to Wake and Active/Ambient Display are much more useful and I got very used to waving my hand over the AMOLED screen on my second gen Moto X to wake it up and see notifications. Raise To Wake is very handy, pick it up and it shows the clock and notifications. Both these features save battery power, particularly on AMOLED screens, perhaps Apple might steal these features for the iPhone...XI? Or will it be the X2? Or the iPhone XS?...

Another major ‘new’ feature of the iPhone X is that the fingerprint sensor has been replaced by FaceID for securely unlocking the phone. This means users will have to point their mug in front of the screen before opening Apple Pay, creating one more step in the payment process. Unlocking the X now means picking it up, swiping up from the bottom of the screen then holding it up to the face to unlock, that’s two more steps than just pressing a digit on a fingerprint reader. All presumably because Apple, like Samsung, could not find a way to put a fingerprint sensor underneath the screen. For me, the best place for a fingerprint reader on any phone, if they must have one, is on the back, where the index finger rests. As any Android user who remembers the Galaxy Nexus back in 2012 will tell you, face unlock really isn’t very convenient, no matter how much it has improved since then. Of course it also might make it easier for a gang of thugs, like the Police, to hold the owner by their arms and unlock the device with their face. It is also meant to work in pitch black darkness but I look forward to seeing how it all works (or doesn’t) in practice once the iPhone X is in the wild.
LG V30
It’s really about time Apple upgraded other components in the iPhone range, like giving them a decent DAC, something as good as the high quality quad DACs in the LG V10/20/30, though I doubt they will since most Apple users likely use Bluetooth earbuds as there is no headphone jack, and the adaptors are too awkward to use, or they just do not know or care about decent audio quality. In fact, instead of the iPhone X, you could probably save a couple of hundred Dollars/Pounds and buy an LG V30 which not only has wireless charging, facial recognition (should you want to use it), fingerprint reader, and Tap to Wake, but also a higher resolution OLED edge to edge screen, aforementioned quad DAC, arguably better camera, expandable storage and a headphone jack. And for the average user who doesn’t need any fancy features could save even more money and buy a year or two old flagship and not notice the difference, there is certainly plenty of other very capable devices around.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

YouTube To MP3 To Android... Using A ChromeBook

Chrome OS might seem a limited browser based OS, but it is capable of far much more. It can now handle USB drives and that also stretches to Android mobile phones. This brief article shows how to download YouTube videos as MP3 files and then copy them to your Android phone - all done on a Chromebook.

First off, visit YouTube and find the video you want to convert to a music/audio file and copy the address from the address bar.

There are numerous websites for downloading and converting YouTube videos, for this article I used   as it was simple to use and included ID3 Tags editing.

Paste the YouTube video link in to the box on and click the convert button. Now wait for it to process which should only take a few seconds. It will then ask if the ID3 Tags are ok, if so click continue.

Now you are ready to click download. On todays modern broadband, this should only take a few seconds. This will place the file in your local storage on your Chromebook.

Close your browser and load the app launcher. Click all apps and find files.

Now you are ready to connect your phone. Plug in your Android handset and on the screen it should pop up with USB options - and you need to select transfer files.

This will mount both your phone and your SD card. Close one of them. I wanted the music file on my SD card, so I closed the window for my phones internal storage.

Now simply drag the MP3 from your local drive to your Android phone window. This is a simple process to get YouTube videos, as MP3, onto your Android phone using just a Chromebook. 

The copying options also allow you to manage any phone or USB device - you can copy to and from these devices and your Chromebook - just as you would on Windows, macOS or Linux.

Written by Simon Royal. Follow me at

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

From first gen HP Chromebook 14 to Acer Chromebook 14 (Full HD)

Not long ago, the screen cable on my 2 year old HP Chromebook 14 went flakey, so I decided to get a new Chromebook before attempting to repair the old one. My requirements were 4GB RAM, HD screen and 32GB SSD, and the Acer 14 (CB3-431-C5CQ) fitted the bill. I managed to get one recently when it was on offer. I was immediately impressed by the build quality of the metal body and beautiful Full HD screen. There's no obvious flexing of the body, it feels fairly durable for the price, only time and usage will tell.  And even though the Acer has a metal body it is actually a bit lighter at 1.54kg instead of 1.69kg on the HP 14. The lid actually folds back right flat, I noticed sometimes I accidentally flicked it into that position when picking it up with the lid open, but it does it no harm. One slight feature lacking is there's no SD card slot which is a shame as I used it a lot on my old HP. It has 2 USB 3.0 ports on the left-hand side and the power socket on the right-hand side.        

Setting up Chromebooks is pretty simple and painless. The Acer checked and installed an update as soon as put in my wireless details, though later on, after I had finished setup, it also downloaded yet another update in the background and is now running the latest Chrome OS version. Anyway, I put in my account details and it installed all my add-ons and synced bookmarks, passwords etc

The 14 inch 1080P semi-reflective display is amazing for such a cheap device, and big step up from the 1366x768 display on my old Chromebook. I was a little surprised that it was set to 1536x864 and not already set to 1080P but that was quickly rectified in settings. These days there are far too many 14/15 inch laptops with 1366x768 resolution screens, 1080P should be the minimum. I know some reviews have criticised  it for a lack of brightness but I found it's bright enough for me, and I've kept it at about 50% brightness most of the time.

I then claimed another 100GB free Google Drive storage (for 2 years) on the rewards page.

The Acer 14 feels noticeably quicker than my old HP, not surprisingly with a newer generation quad core 1.6 GHz (up to 2.24 GHz with Turbo Boost) N3160 Celeron CPU compared to the 1.4Ghz 2955U dual core CPU in the old HP 14. It really does feel very snappy, taking on much more than I could ever do with the HP. Battery life from the 3-cell Li-Po 3920 mAh battery is a claimed 12 hours compared to 8 hours on the old HP, despite being thinner. It is hard to measure battery life when I tend to just close the lid and put it down and pick it up all day, but I have been charging it less than the HP. 

And one last thing, the Acer CB3 will officially get Android apps at some point, (the HP is too old to get them) it is possible to get them with some dev mode noodling, but I would rather wait until they arrive for it in the Stable Chrome OS channel, I look forward to trying that out.

Overall this is a great spec Chromebook for the price and a decent upgrade from my old HP Chromebook 14. It's amazing how Chromebooks have improved in a short space of time. The only slight downside is this does not have user-replaceable SSD, and no SD slot, but at least this came with a 32GB in the first place. It is very quick and the screen is so much brighter and more vivid. It feels a bit more solid so hopefully will last me a good while. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

6 Reasons Why I Use Linux

I often get asked on Google Plus or elsewhere "why do you use Linux?" so I thought I would explain my answer here in detail for the next time someone asks me. But first a little background history on my Linux story. I found out about Linux in around 2004 when I picked up some Linux magazines in a charity shop for 10 Pence each while I was on a web design course at college. I was tired of reinstalling Windows XP every 4 months or so I downloaded a few distros, settling on Mepis for a while on my 733Mhz Pentium 3. I went through distro hopping covering Suse, Vectorlinux, Debian etc and settled for a longer time on Xubuntu when I found that it was the first distro I tried that worked with the Ralink wireless drivers on my Toshiba Tecra laptop.

I have mostly used Ubuntu and variants of it since then, on various hardware, upgrading each time, and I am currently using Ubuntu LTS-based version of KDE Neon, which has been the best KDE experience I have ever had. I still check out other distros in Virtualbox occasionally. I also still use (and tolerate) Windows 10 for GTA V and OSX for music production. OK now down to the reasons, I am sure other people might have different reasons for using Linux, but these, in no particular order, are mine:    

1. Freedom. 

One of the best things about Linux is that it is free to use as much as you want, none of that restrictive one copy per machine nonsense or Activation hassle you get with Windows. nor is it restricted to one make of computer or set of hardware like OSX. And of course most distros are also free to use as well. I can, and have, moved Linux installs from one machine to another without any problems many times. Installs can often out last the machines they are running on.

2. The sheer number of (mostly free) applications available

When you install most Linux distros you not only get an OS you usually get some common apps to do general stuff too, and access to thousands of applications available in the repositories just a few clicks away in your package manager of choice! I am kind of surprised there isn't something like the DVD/CD burning app K3B by default in Windows or OSX for example. Although a lot of major games are not available yet, I am sure with time they will be, thanks to Steam on Linux. Literally the only reason I use Windows a little is for GTA V.  

3. Reliability and resilience

Linux is so resilient, it doesn't slowdown over time, rarely crashes and when it does I can find out why and report bugs and get a response usually. I find I can rescue it easier than Windows, and I am dreading reinstalling Windows again since it takes so long to get everything installed again. At least with Linux I can use it while I install and configure it.

4.  Security and control

With Linux I feel I have full control over what it does and the security of the system, both of the OS/apps and over my data. I really don't trust Windows 10 with my data. I've also never had to remove viruses or malware from a Linux machine.

5. Making use of old or obsolete hardware

Another reason I love Linux is that old Dell and HP workstations and business laptops with no longer useful Windows licences (e.g. Vista Business or XP licences) are cheap to buy - no one wants to buy a Windows 7/8.1/10 licence for them - but they run Linux very well, many of them were certified for Linux when they were new which helps. I have also installed Linux for friends on cheap underpowered hardware that performed poorly with Windows even when they were new.

6. Customizability and Flexibility

I can make Linux work and look how I want, using as many or as few resources as I want. For lower end PCs, I use Xubuntu or Lubuntu or even Debian with lightweight desktop environments. For my main desktops that have plenty of resources I prefer KDE, specifically KDE Neon. My main laptop is a Chromebook and my phone runs Android too, both are Linux based. Also Live Linux distros on a USB stick or DVDs are very useful too for rescuing data or removing viruses from Windows PCs etc.

This is not an exhaustive list but I hope this answers the question of why I use Linux satisfactorily.