Hands in, foot down, and connecting with the 2013 Tesla Model S

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(Originally published on http://globalnews.ca/)

On a snowy, seemingly unassuming Tuesday in December, my mind was blown because I had the opportunity to test drive a Tesla Model S. The fully electric wonder-child of billionaire investor Elon Musk (think PayPal) is as gorgeous inside as it is out. From conversations with car / technology enthusiasts, the general scepticism comes from performance around an engine-less car – a car that relies on a few hours at a power station to keep it purring. Regardless of price tag, potential buyers want to know that the next car that they’re going to be investing in is an idea that will be widely adopted, not just be yesterday’s afterthought in a few years.

While I empathize with where they’re coming from, I also love seeing disruption, especially in an industry that desperately needs to be shaken up a bit.

Let’s take a look at the 2014 Tesla Model S after 24 hours of driving it.

First impressions:

For those who love their cars, appearance is everything; it’s almost as important as the drive itself. It’s that idea (among others) that has helped sell Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche over the years, and it’s the first detail you experience when you walk up to the car. From that moment, key in hand, when the door handles slide out from the door, you know you’re in for something special.

Sitting in the car, aside from being very spacious, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the massive 17-inch touch screen display (which makes up the entire centre console). Like a mini-computer, it offers full 3G connectivity (embedded Tesla-covered SIM card, roaming in North America is included, for now), Google maps-powered navigation with traffic notifications, web browsing, music streaming (Slacker radio and A2DP), full HD back-up camera, and of course, phone calls.

Getting going, the drive and charging:

Gone are the days of the push-to-start feature; it’s simply too many steps. In the Model S, once pressure is put onto the driver’s seat, and the key is detected, the high-resolution dashboard activates and you immediately are made aware of energy, kilometre range, and other relevant stats. The centre console gives you immediate access to everything you’re looking for control-wise, and is very intuitive to navigate.

The Bluetooth, Internet, sound and navigation integration makes it feel like you have a personal assistant sitting in the passenger seat. That, combined with rear wheel drive (which I was pleasantly surprised how well it handled in the snow), ensure you’re secure and confident on the road.

As for the biggest question, the battery power: the top-tier (the model I was outfitted with) 85-kWh lithium-ion battery pack advertises a range of  482 KMS, but the lighter, less-expensive 40-kWh and 60-kWh packs respectively, will come later, offering claimed ranges of up to 257 KMS and 386 kilometres, respectively. The Model S comes standard with an onboard 10-kW charger, while a 20-kW unit can be purchased initially or retrofitted for $1,600. It will cut recharge time on the mega 85-kWh pack from eight hours to about four, depending on the amp and voltage ratings of the outlet being used.

Overall:

If this is an example of what cars are going to be like in the future, I am thoroughly excited at what the future holds. Despite the price tag and charging limitations in Toronto, the Tesla proves that there is life after petrol, and more importantly, that technology, if implemented right, can make driving an interactive experience.

Although I only had a short time with the Model S, I am left wanting more, and that’s exactly what Tesla is looking for. The Tesla Model S starts at $69,900 USD. / $77,800 CAN.

Learn more about Telsa’s cars here

Do you own a Model S? Do you plan on buying one? Sound off below!

The pros and cons of: Adding a roaming plan to your phone

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(Originally published on http://globalnews.ca/)

With just over a week until Christmas, work is winding down and minds are shifting to vacation mode. However, there are still a few minor details to think about before we shut down for another year: one being deciding the “how fast can we exile snow-laden Canada” last-minute vacation spot, the other – and this is the kicker – is the ever-daunting conundrum of “to get, or not get a roaming plan” for said vacation.

A recent study conducted by Rogers Wireless shows that 60 per cent of Canadians consider access to maps important when travelling – ranking it above checking email, the weather and social media. From a crowd-sourced perspective (I asked 10 people as I walked around the city), the clear, convenient choice is adding a roaming package; some of which start as low as $7.99 per day for 50mb of data access. For others, who are more techno-literate, unlocking their device seemed to be the clear choice. That decision allows for use of a prepaid SIM card anywhere, at any time. Despite these options, many are unable to confidently say that they knew what to do when it came to the topic of travel and connectivity.

Being the generous technophile that I am, I figured as my holiday gift to my loyal readers, I would explain a few pros and cons of investing in a carrier-specific roaming plan. Hopefully it clears the air a bit!

Pros:

  • One number to be reached on
  • Extensive and consistent coverage – chances are your carrier has roaming agreements with carriers around the world, benefiting you with the fastest speeds possible
  • Keep tabs on spending with one bill that includes roaming charges
  • Use your own device

Cons:

  • Remembering to ensure package is removed when not in use otherwise you’ll get billed the following month
  • Often not available ‘a-la-carte’, meaning you must pay for a month for only a week’s worth of usage

The purchase of prepaid roaming SIM cards is a cost-effective solution for those comfortable with the process of unlocking their device and changing the SIM when need arises. It also means you will have to memorize a second phone number and track your spending on both the card and your monthly bill. If you’re cringing at the thought of what I just wrote, a roaming package is probably your best option.

Which category do you fall in? Are you a frequent-travelling SIM changer? Or do you appreciate the benefits of roaming plans? Sound off below!

The pros and cons of: Getting an iPhone or Android-based smartphone this holiday season

Samsung's new Galaxy S4 is seen during its unveiling in this March 14, 2013 file photo at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

(Originally published on http://globalnews.ca/)

Our recent piece on tablets had a lot of readers asking about what smart phone they should buy as presents this holiday season. This is why, after  last week’s discussion about connected watches, we’ve decided to revisit ye ol’ battle of the operating system and help you, our loyal reader, narrow down which is most worthy of your time.

After speaking with several authorized phone dealers around the city, I discovered that the unanimous decision from the consumer perspective this holiday season is between Apple’s iPhone 5s and Samsung’s Galaxy S4. So, for this week’s pros and cons, let’s look at both devices and help you figure out which is best suited to your needs.

Apple’s iPhone 5s

Not only was the late great Steve Jobs a visionary, but he also single-handedly changed the way we look at our smartphones with the introduction of the iPhone. Now on their seventh iteration iPhone, the 5s, Apple shows that despite nay-sayers, they still have what it takes to not only move product, but also own almost every mobile tech segment. Being said, it can’t be all peaches and cream owning an iPhone, can it? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of joining the iClan:

Pros:

  • The most popular mobile camera on the market and for good reason
  • Works seamlessly with all of your Apple products
  • There is quite literally an app for everything
  • New A7 chip means zero lag multi-tasking between apps
  • Convenient new finger print censor allows for easy ownership access and purchasing of apps

Cons:

  • Battery life has only been marginally improved, iPhone to iPhone
  • Still one of the highest price points for a phone off contract
  • Must upgrade device for more memory (pictures, video, music)

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 

A company once known for its cameras, TVs, and other home appliances, is now more commonly known for its Android-powered devices. In fact, the Android platform dominates the Canadian market and Samsung is almost synonymously used as a term for comparing iOS and Android (think about the question “should I get an iPhone or Samsung”). Once a year, akin to Apple, Samsung releases a new flagship phone bearing the “Galaxy S” name. So why all the popularity? Does the phone produce gold for its owner? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of owning the Samsung Galaxy S4:

Pros

  • Powered by Samsung’s version of Android entitled “TouchWiz”, considered a fan favourite for its forward-thinking features
  • Removable battery
  • Multi-window: my favourite feature of TouchWiz allows the user to view two apps at once
  • Capability for wireless charging (with applicable battery cover)
  • Expandable memory up to 64 GB

Cons:

  • Carries the highest price tag of any Android device, which is off-putting considering the plastic-y build and feel
  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing Android device on the market

Overall, the answer is a lot simpler than one would think, so you can look at it like this: if you’re someone who doesn’t care about customization, wants a device that will work seamlessly with little learning curve and is ready to go out of box, go iOS with the iPhone. However, if you’re someone who likes to make a device their own and doesn’t mind getting a bit dirty with the freedom of customization and “openness” (can change everything about the look and feel of the device), go Android.

Are you an Android or iPhone user? Sound off below letting me know what the catalyst was in making your decision!

The pros and cons of: Buying a connected smart watch this holiday season

Casio's GB-6900 Bluetooth-enabled G Shock watch

(Originally published on http://globalnews.ca/)

Many of you have no idea who Chester Gould is. If you’re wondering why I am mentioning his name in this post, it’s because I have a very good reason. On a seemingly unassuming day back in October of 1931, Mr. Gould created the comic strip, Dick Tracy, and subsequently changed the way we looked at our wrists. Rather than just looking at watches as a mere tool to tell the time, he pioneered the idea that they could become a productive extension of our daily lives. Back then, the idea was that hard-hitting Detective Dick Tracy could use his wrist-laden tool as a two-way walkie talkie to communicate back with the station, a technology / idea way ahead of its time for early October 1931. This notion, however, didn’t stop eager young boys from mimicking the fad and role-playing as Mr. Tracy just so that they could see themselves talking directly to their wrists.

Eighty years later, those young day-dreaming boys turned into forward-thinking men, and those men had children of their own. The idea of communicating with your wrist has evolved into an all-out fever pitch and it seems like every brand is throwing their hat into the ring, wanting to release what they believe is the best and most deserving of your hard-earned buck. So how do you, my hard-working technophile, discern between them all? Well, that’s why I’m here.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more popular smart watches on the market and decide which one is potentially the right one for you.

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch: Roughly $329.99 

Samsung’s play in the smart watch industry has been met with mixed reviews; most notably the fact that at launch it only worked with the Galaxy Note 3. Since then, updates have rolled-out and the device is supported by most of Samsung’s current devices. The Gear is the first watch to mimic most of the features seen in Dick Tracey’s iconic watch such as placing/receiving calls on its built-in speakerphone, camera functionality, and a gorgeous 1.63-inch touch-friendly display. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of buying it:

Pros:

– Works beautifully with your Samsung smartphone

– Built-in 1.9-MP camera actually takes great pictures, records video in HD

– Speakerphone is loud and clear

– Charging case uses the same charger as your phone, so no need to carry around more cables

Cons:

– Only works with Samsung devices, thus the device is useless to anyone with an iPhone or other Android-based smartphone

– Battery life barely lasts a full day

– Not many Gear-specific apps available for download

– High price-point for average consumers, only early-adopters will be inclined to buy.

Casio G-Shock Bluetooth Watch: $200 from Watchit.ca

Pros:

–  Casio has a great reputation making watches that are tough, long-lasting, and cost-effective

– It’s a watch first. Fully water-resistant up to 200 meters, no need to take off for workouts, showers or swimming.

– No need to remember a charging cable. Casio has one year of battery life with regular Bluetooth usage

– Get notified of calls, texts, and emails; also if the watch loses connection to your phone

Cons:

– Currently only works with iOS 5, 6 & 7 via free downloadable app – no Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone 8 support

– Replacing battery more often because of Bluetooth usage

– Made for casual wear only, plastic build restricts formal use

Pebble smart watch: $149.99 from Best Buy

Pros:

– Works with Android and iOS devices via free downloadable app

– Notifies of calls (ignore or accept), text, emails, etc. and allows user to control music and other features

– E-paper display allows for easy viewing

– Great price-point for a smart watch

– Waterproof design allows for use while showering, swimming, or washing dishes

Cons:

– No support for BlackBerry or Windows Phone devices

– On-screen text is small, so users may not find it useful for reading messages and/or notifcations

– Battery life isn’t very impressive, one to three days tops

Overall:

The big question that anyone interested really wants answered is why? Why does someone ‘need’ a smart watch? And the answer is simple: for convenience, that’s it. While regularly using a connected watch does optimize the experience of using a phone, owning a smart watch enables its device-addicted owner to actually put their smartphone down and focus on what’s going on around them, without the fear of missing out on what’s happening online. They’re also a really cool, fairly cost-effective gift idea for the early-adopting techy at home.  As for my preferences, I’ve used all three watches, and find myself leaning towards the Casio G-Shock Bluetooth watch, solely because you’re getting a great, cost-effective watch that has the optional Bluetooth connectivity built-in, rather than a mini phone-dependant computer that can also tell time. Despite its the lack of Android support, which is said to be coming soon, Casio has a great reputation for making watches, and the added Bluetooth feature works great when paired to your iPhone.

Have you hopped the Smart Watch bandwagon? Do you plan to this season? Sound off below and let me know what you’re looking at getting and why!

 

WATCH: Corey talks about tech gifts for Christmas on The Morning Show