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Category Archives for Featured

Google’s Home to Compete w/Amazon’s Echo

Today marked the start of Google’s I/O developer conference. One of the many announcements included the introduction of Google Home. Their wi-fi speaker/AI built to compete with devices like Amzaon’s Echo & Echo Dot. These speaker assistants can do various things from playing music to updating you on the weather, traffic, and so on. The ability to connect to smart devices also allow you to control certain devices from lighting to a coffeemaker depending on your setup.

Google Home will be the first big hardware competitor to Alexa Amazon’s assistant. The Home sports a much more compact & playful design. Options available to replace the speaker grill to a color of your choice. All of course powered by the search engine that is Google.

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The Home will connect via wi-fi to your network & allow you to stream music via a variety of services & apps. All while offering the ability to trigger the assistant with the “Okay Google” keyword. Aside from having advanced voice recognition technology Google’s Home also has the ability to understand context something Alexa is still improving on. Asking a question & following it up with something relevant to what was last asked is where the Home shined in the demo.

Now this product was only announced at I/O in order to get developers to start working on various apps & connections that can be made. No official word on release date other than later in the year & pricing. However it’s no question that this will directly compete with Amazon’s Echo. Just like the Echo the Home interconnects with various devices around your house from Google. You can easily stream audio from the Home across to your Chrome cast connected devices either at your choosing or all at once.

The device looks promising however Amazon has definitely been pushing out updates over time to keep the Echo relevant over time & more and more smart devices are supporting it. We’re expected to see this sometime in fall in regards to pricing & more solid details in it’s capabilities.

Chance the Rapper third mixtape “Coloring Book” available for streaming

Coloring Book is artists Chance the Rapper’s third official mixtape that has been highly anticipated for 2016. The mixtape can now be streamed as of now officially exclusively on Apple Music. Time will tell if it will be released across other platforms such as Spotify. Coloring Book features a wide arrange of features from Lil Wayne, Kanye West, and Future to Justin Bieber, T-Pain, and many other artists. Spanning across 14 tracks the Hip-Hop/Rap mixtape is certainly one that’ll be on peoples streaming rotation for the weeks to come.

In initial listening the album has a very gospel like vibe similar to that one of Chance’s idols Kanye. With two tracks both named “Blessings” it’s not necessarily hard to tell. Further the Chicago based rappers performance on “The Tonight Show” had the choir in full effect for the song.

Stream the mixtape now via Apple Music & if you aren’t a member keep in mind there’s a free 3-month free trial & 50% off plans for students so take advantage while you can!

Amazon’s Leaked Kindle Oasis

The upcoming Kindle that was announced by CEO Jeff Bezos a couple weeks back has now leaked to the net before official launch. Speculated to be called Kindle “Oasis” the popular e-reader looks to provide a better one handed experience with its new design.

The design which features an interesting take on the Kindle. Essentially adding a big handle to the it, this is meant to make one handed use much easier & convenient but as they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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The supposed Oasis has a side profile similar to that of a trackpad from Apple or Logitech while the actual specs are said to be a screen of 300ppi & improved battery life. There is no set word on pricing & full specs just yet but from the looks of it we’ll see a better screen, new hinge like design to accommodate easier reading with one hand, and two physical buttons to navigate through pages & the Kindle interface.

What are your thoughts on the rumored Oasis? We’re likely to see an official release this month however as of now Amazon has declined to comment on any rumors/speculation related leaks.

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Review

For the last 7+ years I’ve been an iPhone user. My unboxing going as far back as the iPhone 3G still exist on my personal Youtube channel if you dig deep enough. That all said I haven’t had an opportunity to really experience & review a flagship Android phone until now.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge is one of their new phones in the flagship lineup & while it offers incremental improvements over last years S6 it’s one of the best phones in 2016 thus far.

I’ve spent the last couple weeks testing out the S7 Edge while trying to use it predominantly over my 6S Plus. However thats for another story. Rather lets go ahead & focus on the S7 Edge & how it fared.

Video Review:

The Hardware:

To examine the S7 Edge we need to begin by looking at all the new hardware changes over the S6.

Display: 

The S7 Edge sports a bigger screen than the S7 coming in at 5.5 inches. A super AMOLED display that is covered in Gorilla Glass 4. Samsung’s display technology excels in the phone as it offers amazing edge to edge clarity. The saturation, contrast, and overall brightness really makes colors pop. Text is clear when reading web pages & you get that immersive experience as the screen spills out to the edge.

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Screen Resolution- 1440×2560

Dimensions: 5.5 inches

Type: SUPER AMOLED

Another new aspect of the display is the Always On technology. While this is new for Samsung it’s something we’ve seen before in HTC’s phone. The idea is that it illuminates certain pixels while the screen is in sleep mode to display either a clock, calendar, or image. Constantly shifting the image in order to prevent image burn & save battery life. While the feature is nice, it isn’t something I decided to keep turned on.

Being that it is the “Edge” model you do get the dual edged screen. Which provides a much more immersive experience when it comes to viewing content then I thought. The edge of the screen can also be used to quickly access certain features on the phone. Think of it as shortcut panel allowing access to quickly open apps, see what contact is calling when the phone is faced down by a color array, and other quick shortcuts/tasks. While this is very customizable & can be useful in some instances I didn’t find myself swiping to use them that often. However in the end I’d rather have the edge model with it’s features & bigger battery/screen than not have it.

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CPU, RAM & Graphic Processors:

Processor wise the S7 Edge is powered by a Snapdragon 820 Quad-core CPU in the US edition. It’s clocked at 2.15ghz & provides the phone with a lot of processing power.

Geek bench wise the S7 Edge benched as of this post:

Single-core: 2347

Multi-core: 5180

The S7 Edge is packed with 4 GB of RAM to help run everything smoothly. As far as graphics goes an Adreno 530 chip powers all GPU needs & performs quite exceptionally.

Scoring a BaseMark X (Medium Settings) bench of: 40833

How do all of these numbers & specs translate into real life performance? Well in my experience the phone performed exceptionally throughout my test. Be it casual or intense usage of the device. Multi-tasking always ran smoothly & without any hiccups. Occasional 3rd party app-crashes but that can’t be entirely blamed on the S7 Edge itself. Overall the S7 Edge performed in all areas I needed to on a day to day basis. Never showing sluggish performance or noticeable dropped frames. While gaming isn’t something I do to much of on my mobile devices the S7 Edge did handle intense FPS, racing, and various other titles without any problems. So all in all performance was solid & something you’d expect out of a 2016 flagship phone.

Battery:

Now all the performance in the world doesn’t matter if the battery doesn’t last. This is the one area the S7 Edge goes above & beyond and makes it well worth buying over the normal S7 model. The edge packs a 3600 mAh battery that will surely last you throughout the day. In my tests normal usage without any power savings easily got me through the day with 5-6+ hours of screen on time. Furthermore if I did enable the power saving features then I wouldn’t have to charge the phone at all by the end of the night. If I found myself in a position where I was lower than 10% the S7 Edge’s fast charging easily brought the phone up to 50%+ within 30 minutes. So if your looking for a phone that’s power is equally matched by its longevity than the S7 Edge is an obvious choice.

Expandable Storage:

The S7 Edge brings a nice needed feature with expandable storage. For those limited to the 32GB model in the US have no fear as you can easily pop out the sim card slot to gain access to a micro-sd tray for your storage needs. So you can easily & economically add more storage to the S7 Edge without any problems.

Camera:

Nowadays the most important feature arguably in smartphone is the camera. It can quite literally be a deal breaker for buyers & the S7 Edge doesn’t disappoint. I’d even go as far as dubbing it the best smartphone camera as of current in terms of both video & photos.

Spec wise the S7 Edge packs:

12 megapixel sensor 

f /1.7 Aperture

4K Video Support

60 FPS Recording

Again while these numbers don’t tell the full story the experience of using said camera really blew me away. While they lowered the pixels from the previous S6 the pixels are bigger allowing for better low light shots & amazing auto-focus technology.

S7 Edge’s camera is quick to access, point, focus, and shoot. It excels in natural lighting conditions & does decent in low light indoors. Outdoor low light shots tend to be a bit noisy but still bearable. The real advancement in the camera comes in the auto-focus. Focusing right away & making it easy to pull focus from objects in the foreground & background make it a all around great smartphone shooter.

Sample Photos (Unedited):

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Be sure to check out the video review up above to get some sample video shots of the S7 Edge in action. I can’t understate enough how phenomenal the rear camera performed be it photography or videography. However I can’t forget the front facing camera which comes in at 5 megapixels  & performs just as great. The wider lens allows on the front facing cameras make selfies or front facing video a breeze. Samsung throws in some filters to spruce up the photos in typical fashion however these can be tweaked. Standard photos come out with a boost of saturation, contrast, and overall color which to the naked eye may make for better photos. In most blind tests I constantly had people choose the S7 Edge photos versus the 6S Plus.

All in all this is the camera to beat in the smartphone market as of now.

Form Factor:

The S7 Edge comes in slightly smaller than the iPhone 6S Plus which I typically use on a day to day basis. Despite the 5.5 inch screen the phone still comes in at a great size be it in hand or pocket. The slimmer bezels & curved back make for a good fit overall despite how much fingerprints the back attracts.

Another feature that drew a lot of attention as far as build goes is the IP68 certification the phone has. The S7 Edge is essentially dust & water resistant which is definitely convenient & makes for a great party trick. You can completely submerge this phone & pull it out working without any hiccups. Saving you future troubles from any toilets, spilled drinks, or other water sources. However it does come at a cost. The built in speakers simply suck. They’re tiny sounding & distort at high volumes due to the sealing of the hardware for the waterproofing. Aside from that the S7 Edge is sleek & main focus comes in at the display & it’s quite a sight to look at. I’d advise a skin or case for those who phone is too slippery or fingerprint stained but other than that you have the solid base of the S6 improved upon in ways that make it more comfortable to hold & operate. All the buttons & external hardware feeling solid & built to last.

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Software:

Being new to Android I had to stumble around a bit to get use to Marshmallow 6.0 however for the most part everything was easy to navigate around just different habits to get used to. The OS performed in line with the hardware & one aspect thats foreign to me coming from iOS was the customization aspect.

If I didn’t like the launcher, settings panel look & feel, or what have you I could easily toggle & personalize it to my liking.

The biggest drawback in my opinion with the S7 Edge had to be the Touch-Wiz UI samsung pre-loads it with. It just seemed clunky in my opinion & while the new hardware carries the animations very well there was still things I found unnecessary & better suited with a 3rd party launcher.

Setting panels were easy to navigate & access at a swipe. Toggling features on/off as needed. The biggest convenience came in Samsung’s pay technology which pretty much work anywhere credit/debit cards are accepted. New features like Game Launcher make it easy to access all your games in one organized app & provides an overlay option when playing games to make it easy to disable features that hinder your gaming experience. Again while I don’t game that often on my mobile devices it was a nice addition.

The greatest aspect of software when it comes to Android devices is your freedom to really put what you prefer on your device. Root it, go with 3rd party solutions, disable/enable what you like it really is up to you & that’s something that is a nice change of pace from iOS.

Pros/Cons:

Breaking down simply lets take a look at what I felt were the pros & cons of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Pros-

  • Amazing Camera (Best as of current)
  • Incredible all day battery life
  • Expandable storage option
  • Solid build
  • Great edge to edge display 

Cons-

  • Touch Wiz UI
  • Fingerprint reader while fast wasn’t always accurate
  • Built-In Speaker

In the end the cons that did exist aren’t enough to dissuade me from re-buying the phone if it came down to it. The S7 Edge is an all around solid phone that took the S6 strengths & really built on them with newer hardware & slight improvements. Yes it lacks USB C & no IR support but they’re not lacking features that’ll break the deal you get with the S7 Edge. If your looking for a consistent quality shooter in a phone, powerhouse device that’ll last you the day, and immersive display than this phone is for you.

Now if your on the S6 keep in mind your phone is still great & by no means should you be rushing to upgrade. If your cycle is upcoming then by all means. If your in the market for a new phone then the S7 Edge should definitely be on your consideration list.

At DigitalDojos I try to answer the question of whether the product at hand in my reviews are worth the purchase rather simply slapping a rating on it. In this case without a doubt the S7 Edge gets my seal of approval & two thumbs way up.

Again if you are looking into the S7 lineup of phones spend the extra bucks & go with the Edge model if anything for the bigger battery you won’t regret it. In a land of smartphones Samsung takes a great phone & adds just enough to make it that much more powerful & current. Sporting the best camera in the smartphone game right now you can’t go wrong getting this current gen flagship device that’ll definitely be one of the definitive phones of the year.

 

If you are ready to pull the trigger help support DigitalDojos by purchasing it through our link & enjoy your new S7 Edge!

Recap: Apple’s March 21st iPhone SE & iPad Pro Event

Here’s a look at everything that went down at Apple’s March 21st even that’s main focus was primarily on the iPhone SE & iPad Pro 9.7 inch announcement. This event ran shorter than typical Apple events at 1 hour & was hosted at Apple’s own campus.

The event opened with Tim Cook taking the stage to address some Apple’s ongoing news from sales to the current government case.

 

Apple vs FBI:

Tim Cook opened said event addressing one of the major news stories as of late the Apple vs FBI case in the San Bernardino court case. In short the FBI wants Apple to create a backdoor into the iPhone allowing them to try to bypass the iPhone passcode attempts.

Tim Cook stated:

We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government,” he continued, “but we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy.

This underlines how important privacy & security is for Apple. Reinforcing their stance on this topic and the importance of protecting their customer base as a whole.

 

Apple & the Environment:

Apple’s VP of Environment Lisa Jackson then took the stage to announce that Apple Inc facilities now runs on 93% renewable energy this is a move towards their goal every 2 years to get closer to a 100% renewable energy based company. Apple takes environmental concerns very seriously from their products to their facilities & they took a good portion of the opening keynote to address this.

CareKit:

CareKit is based off Apple’s ResarchKit and will allow people to develop their own health based apps. As Apple’s hardware begins to integrate more health based solutions it only makes sense they allow 3rd party developers to create similar apps. The framework is continuing on Apple’s trend of OpenSource based software. Apple COO Jeff Williams took the stage with the announcement & showcased apps that have been developed thus far on CareKit.

iOS 9.3 & TV OS:

Software wise Apple announced two updates ahead of WWDC that are being released today.

iOS 9.3 brings the following features/changes:

Night Shift Mode (F.Lux for the iPhone auto-adjusting screen tone/color)

Touch ID security for Notes app

-News App updates 

-Apple Music updates

CarPlay Support Improvement 

and much more the full release can be viewed here.

TVOS 9.2 Updates:

The Apple TV got some major updates today as well.

Siri Dictation Support

Siri App-Store Search Support

Bluetooth Keyboard Support

-App-Folders

and other slight improvements to the UI & performance of the OS. This version address some major gripes from the Apple TV’s release & allow for much easier navigating with the Siri based remote.

 

Apple Watch Bands/Price Drop:

The first new hardware announcement came with the Apple Watch. As Tim Cook on staged announced that it was the #1 selling smartwatch in the world.

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He went on to talk about the love for customizing the Apple Watch with bands & the all new ones that are coming this Spring.

These include:

-Nylon weave bands $50

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Leather Bands (Teal/Red)  $150

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Sport Bands (Yellow) $50Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 1.35.24 PMBlack Milanese Loop $150

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Along with the announcement of new bands the Watch now starts at only $299 so a $50 price cut. These new bands are meant to give users more options & probably make way for the future gen 2 announcement possibly late in the year.

iPhone SE:

The announcement that everyone was waiting for could be considered a step back literally when you look at it. The iPhone SE announcement is Apple’s take on second take on the 4-inch phone. It’s essentially the same 5S body with the addition of the new rose gold color & internal specs.

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Spec wise your getting everything from the current 6S model such as:

A9 Chip/M9 Co-Processor

12 megapixel camera w/4K Video

16/32GB Models

Price starts at $400 ($500 for 32Gb)

This is a phone thats 2x as fast as the 5S & all of it in the same 4-inch body. Apple claims that this is for the market that still prefers the smaller size iPhone & saves them overall in certain costs. They confirmed after the event that all 5S cases should support the SE model of phones. In a world of larger smartphone Apple is taking a step back & updating an older generation phone.

iPad Pro (9.7 inch):

It’s not being called the iPad Pro by any means rather it’s adopting the Macbook Pro model of names. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch & 12.9 inch models. Rather than the iPad Air 3rd gen Apple is rebranding it as the iPad Pro & adding all pro level specs to match.

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-32,64, 256GB models

Improved Retina Display (Tru-tone, Anti-Reflective, Wide color display)

A9X & M9 Chips

-12 megapixel camera

4 Speaker Audio

Price: Starts at $599

The iPad Pro 9.7 inch introduces the first Rose Gold color option for the tablet line as well. It also features the all new improved camera for photos/videos (If your into that) but also brings the infamous camera bump to the iPad.  This iPad also features Apple’s all new display tech “True tone”. Sensors in the iPad Pro detect ambient light in your environment & adjust the screen tone as such to produce a more natural & easier on the eye experience. The most powerful iPad yet in a smaller form factor than it’s bigger sibling the iPad Pro 12.9 inch. So in the end it comes down to the screen size you prefer much like the iPhones.

 

All in all it was small scale event & one that’ll be the last time we hear of a product release from Apple’s town hall as their new campus is set to be ready by 2017.

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These product announcements while new are all iterations of existing hardware in smaller form factors. The iPad Pro essentially being shrunk down to the 9.7 inch version & iPhone 6S specs meeting the 5S body results in the SE.  While this event wasn’t meant to be a major event for the company it’s their first big announcement in 2016 & is meant to set the pace for the upcoming products throughout the year such as the iPhone 7 & mac line upgrades.

For more information & to rematch the keynote head over to Apple’s official page.

House of Cards Season 4 Review

When I’m not working or hell even when I am I’m most likely consuming some form of content. TV shows & movies being a primary source of the content I consume. That being said it’s no surprise I started writing about said consumption & my thoughts around the many forms of entertainment we have nowadays. The last 24 hours has been filled with a binge of Netflix’s popular original House of Cards. As Season 4 made it’s way into the streaming platforms library the next several hours of my life cleared up. It goes without saying if you haven’t watched the season or show already well SPOILERS AHEAD. You’ve been warned.

Right off the bat Season 4 has been my favorite season thus far. House of Cards is centered on one thing, power. The concept of power & everything that surrounds it. The journey for power, sacrifices that come along with it, and those who lie in your path for the pursuit of it. House of Cards started out as a journey for revenge & ultimately one of the most powerful positions in the world, President of the United States.

Season 4 “52 Pickup”

When I was younger I used to always play that annoying game with people 52 pickup. You’d ask an unsuspecting person if they’d want to play & when they said yes you’d simply throw the deck of cards on the floor & tell them to “pick it up”. Wasn’t so much a game rather a joke but honest in it’s approach. This season is a representation of that. The pursuit of power & ultimate crumbling of the metaphorical “House” of cards. Left to pickup the remaining pieces & either rebuild or remain down.

Season 4 picks up after Frank Underwoods first years as President & the rocky scenario Season 3 left us at. The dynamic between Claire & Frank as she states “I’m leaving you“.  Introducing the new season we get a glimpse of a cell with an erotic narration from no other than Lucas Goodwin to his bunkmate in a prison cell. Whom we later learn is working with the FBI & being placed in the witness protection program. This begins the multiple storylines that all in House of Cards fashion tend to intersect.

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To briefly summarize the hours worth of binge watching here’s a couple things I took away from each chapter. Focusing mainly on the Underwood storyline but of course not leaving behind the other sub-plots that eventually make up the whole season. Those will be addressed afterwards. As I’m sure those who have watched the season don’t need every detail & plot reiterated to them.

Chapter 40: 

The introduction into HOC shows us for the first time a opponent that is equally on Frank’s level even if we don’t first realize it. Claire. It’s Underwood versus Underwood as Claire makes her way to Texas to see her mother Elizabeth Hale who we see for the first time (played by Ellen Burstyn). Claire wanders the seemingly empty mansion as we get a glimpse of why she has such a cold demeanor when we meet the mother. A long estrange relationship rekindled as Claire begins to plot what she truly wants. Frank scurries to ensure the secret service & Doug stay on top of Claire & her every movement. We’re also introduce to the new HOC member Leann Harvey (Scream’s Neve Campbell) who’ll play an essential role as Claire’s right hand. The rest of the season focuses on Claire’s ambition’s for the Texas Senatorship. However this plays really as stepping stone for her true ambitions.

Chapter 41:

Despite the resistance from not only the Congresswoman & her daughter but obviously Frank Claire pushes forward in her plan for Texas Senator. The real takeaway of this episode however being the first time we see Frank & Claire finally back in the White House together. As he promises he’ll stay out of her plans on the exception that she attends the State of the Union address. This is Frank Underwood in full effect as he delivers an empowering speech & the final blow choosing to fund Doris Jones clinic & endorsing her daughter Celia as she stands directly next to Claire. The tit for tat between the Underwood begins.

Chapter 42:

Claire will not let the snag of the senatorship go unnoticed as she employees Leann to dig up long lost dirt on Frank. We see Leann enter a safety deposit box room to grab a photo of what we learn is Calvin Underwood (Frank’s Father) & a KKK member. Only leaving behind a box of earrings that Frank gave her in the previous episode as a sort of “Fuck You”. The press leak cycle begins & amidst pressure from Frank & Doug, Seth points his suspicion towards everyone’s favorite Secret Service Agent Meechum.

Chapter 43: 

Claire begins to steal the episode as she’s threatens Frank from Texas with a hand delivered letter from Leann to Frank that threatens to expose their marriage to the public & announce divorce. As Frank scrambles to get on top of the situation the season has it’s first pivotal moment when Lucas shoots Frank in an assassination attempt during one of Franks events. Frank barely survives while we learn the body left behind is Meechum. The famed friend & loyal agent takes a fatal bullet for Frank while also succeeding in taking out Lucas.

Chapter 44:

Frank’s critical condition throw us into a series of hallucinations. We begin to see what Frank fears. A more integral look at his conscious & things that begin to worry him. As he lays dormant in need of a liver transplant. Meanwhile while we think this will finally unite him & Claire she takes advantage of Donald Blythe as acting president and begins to align herself while Frank’s literally powerless. Not a state we’re used to seeing him in. While Doug like a puppy without his owner begins to panic & does whatever possible to ensure Frank gets a liver even if it means donating his own or bumping down the other applicants, which plays into his own guilt later in the season.

Chapter 45:

Frank recovers & all is well…for now at least. Amidst his hallucinations he comes to learn that in death like most characters in TV shows his thinking is misaligned. That Claire isn’t his enemy as the previous episodes have played out but his one & only partner. That he exists because of her. She admits that she doesn’t want to just do this as husband & wife but as “partners”. Her real ambitions are revealed for the Vice President spot. The other storyline follows Heather Dunbar Frank’s main opponent in the election admitting to a meeting with Lucas earlier in the season which virtually kills her chances in the race after his assassination attempt.

Chapter 46:

This episode finally brings the breaking of the 4th wall that we all love HOC for into full view. We’re also introduce to the Underwoods new opponents & a real look at where the season starts. The Conway’s are this shining example of the modern american family. Young & great looking, kids, and a love for the spotlight. We see a glimpse of how much they’re into themselves as the opening sequence shows them having sex while staring at themselves in the mirror before being interrupted. The episode ends with the Underwoods finally united in true fashion to take on the Conway’s.

Frank: “We’re going to destroy them.”
Claire: “Yes we are.”

Chapter 47:

The Underwoods are back to their scheming ways as they plan to find a way to set Claire in place for the VP. By of course first setting up others as potential VP candidates. This chapter also brings back the Underwoods favorite writer Thomas Yates who has had chemistry with both Claire & Frank that is further explored this season. However there’s another writer whose important to the season & whose existence throughout the season is downplayed until the latter half. Tom Hammerschmidt former chief editor of the Washington Herald. The “Hammer” Barnes referred to him as in the earlier seasons. Tom has been running in his own investigation into Underwood & the aftermath of Barnes, Goodwin, and Janine Skorsky’s dirt against him.

Chapter 48:

Obviously this chapter has a lot going on as the battle between Frank & Conway rages on, wiretapping & global surveillance is being used by the White House, and the threat of ICO (the ISIS of the Cards land). However the scene that stuck with me most was the Agar.io plug in HOC. House of Cards is no stranger to pop culture & integrating it sometimes subtly & not so much into the show. From PSP’s to Call of Duty Frank’s obsession with games has become common place in the show. Always of course having some bigger meaning. In this case Conway showcases the popular mini clip game to Frank. The game which consists of you playing a blob that eats other smaller blobs allowing you to increase in size. The game really being a metaphor for the show in itself. Starting out small & gradually becoming bigger & bigger. The bigger you get the slower you & more exposed you can become. If eaten starting all over as the small blob.

Chapter 49:

The battle for VP continues. Cathy Durant upset over Frank’s betrayal guns for the Presidency with strong support but later shut down by Frank’s marvelous scene in the Oval office. Openly admitting to the murders of Russo & Barnes even if in a joking fashion. We see the dynamic of Frank change from serious to joking & then back to the serious threatening  President Underwood. Damn near killing Cathy in the Oval office with his letter opener. All while Claire finally closes the chapter of her & the mother. Putting her out of her misery while also in some part making a political move. Turning the death into a sympathy move to announce her VP race. The death of her mother also opens up Claire to Yates something that was hinted at the last couple of episodes. This is the Underwoods at their best. United as one.

Chapter 50:

This episode showcases the threads starting to tear apart at the seams for the Underwoods. As Claire’s affair with Yates shows her longing for someone & dependency we haven’t seen since Adam. However this time around Frank understands the importance of Claire & Yates relationship & reassures Claire that if its what she wants that she should keep him around. That he can give her what he can’t. All the while we see other hints of Frank’s facade revealed. The way old faces like Freddy see straight through his act & kindness and sees him for who he is. All the while the actual election is ongoing & Conways support from the former General add to his momentum.

Chapter 51:

The battle of Underwoods & Conways is still at the forefront of the show however it’s mixed in with the actual agenda of the government & this chapter focuses on that of terrorism. One that’s been at the head of the season ICO. As a family is taken hostage by ICO supporters in demand for their leader this in typical HOC fashion plays into a plot point for the Underwoods. Using Conway as a spokesperson for the negotiations ends up as sleepover at the most respectable address in the country, the White House. This leads to a great standoff scene in Frank’s own kitchen as he & Conway trade shots ultimately ending with Frank getting the better of Conway. Outlining what the presidency means & what it requires & how Conway while is great at running for president even if he was to achieve it his true character would show. Note however that Frank isn’t underestimating or doubting his ability to win, rather if he does he wouldn’t last. Meanwhile Hammerschmidt meets up with former president Walker supposedly to discuss the story against Frank.

Chapter 52:

The final chapter ensues & everything starts to come full circle. With the ongoing terrorist situation Claire goes on a secret visit to a Virginia safe house to negotiate with ICO leader Yusuf al Ahmadi to try to convince him to release the remaining hostages. Frank takes over the negotiations at this point to spite Conway. As if thats not enough he deals another blow by informing Conway of the congressman of House Intelligence Committee outing Conway for his intervention in the Russia vote. This forces Conway to lay low & we for the first time see the cool calming demeanor breakdown in the motorcade as he gets upset with the family. Being the closing episode a lot of things re in play. Hammerschmidt requests a meeting with Frank & informs him of the story about to air & requests for comment out of respect for the “truth”. A word so deeply buried in this show. The real drama goes down in the situation room as the ICO leader betrays Claire on call with the terrorists demanding them to release the video & kill the hostage if he’s not released. Everything at this point begins to take a turn for the worst. The story airs, Seth hides in fear of the press, the Underwoods sit seemingly defeated. About the only two parties who are happy as a result are Jackie & Remmy who can finally leave all the bullshit behind & the Conways who see the story as their ticket into the White House.

However as the Underwood sit in their chairs reflecting upon the days events they hatch a plan in a way only they could. Setting aside the politics of appealing to the public & everyone else. Using the element of fear. Frank hosts a televised address to the world & specifically using the phrase “we are at war” in an effort to bring this concern to the forefront & downplay everything else ongoing. The scene finally cuts to the situation room as they witness the killing of the last remaining hostage televised to the world. Center stage is the Underwoods staring straight at the screen & camera. Tightening the shot as for the first time ever we see both Frank & Claire break the fourth wall.

We don’t submit to terror.

We make the terror.

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Season 4 comes to a dramatic close in a way that only HOC can do. That all said of course there are many underlying storylines & characters to address. Aside from the Underwoods storyline Season 4 is about multiple plots that ultimately come to focus on the Underwoods. It’s layered with multiple stories & people working their way up to address their own agendas. Sometimes the plots are more obvious while other times we only get a glimpse to simply be reminded that this agenda is still ongoing.

Some of those plots being:

Tom “the Hammer” Hammerschmidt

Throughout S4 we see Tom as a bystander to everything ongoing in the Cards world. Whether it’s watching from his couch while the news roles on or in talks with people still interested in the story. As the Goodwin plot plays out & finally snaps because no one will listen we see Tom finally reprise his role. Investigating in the shadows & retracing the earlier seasons happenings. He visits Barnes apartment, Freddies BBQ, and even interacts with characters who are sick of Underwood like Remmy Danton. Piecing together the whereabouts of not just Frank but his trusty secret service agent Meechum. Ultimately concluding that much of the documents & reports were falsified & that Frank was the source of Zoey Barnes. That the previous allegations towards the acting President could be true. Tom represents the outlier in House of Cards one of the few characters who seeks the absolute truth. While many other characters are doing their best to bury that he seeks it.

New Additions Worth Mentioning:

The Conway’s-

The fresh new family that proves to be the second battle for the Underwoods aside from themselves. Young, open, and just as tactical as the Underwoods. They play upon the fact that their a shining example of the American family. They have kids, they look great on camera, and take advantage of the social media age to promote their agenda as a wholesome family. Everything they do from the first time they’re presented on camera filming the husband trying to shave the son & wife hair are all a future play. Everything is a political move with them. We do however at times see the wife’s humane side seeing beyond the politics. Yet she can’t be counted out for one second.

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Leann Harvey-

Claire’s Doug proves to be a resourceful ally in this season. Initially threatened by Frank she shows throughout the season where her loyalty lies in the first lady. Moving pieces into play effectively to ensure that the Claire’s agenda plays out. Despite her constant doubt by Doug, Frank, and others her presence this season showcases that whatever the future may hold she will have some role in it.

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Overall S4 excelled in amplifying the drama while strengthening it’s cast. Claire (Robin Wright) had an incredible performance throughout the season showcasing her ability to transition from a cold to sympathetic demeanor. Showing that she can hold her own & be just as effective as Frank. Showing that she makes up for more than just half of the Underwoods. However this isn’t to downplay Spacey’s amazing performance. Daunting & threatening as ever as President Underwood. The earlier chapters focus less on Frank breaking the fourth wall to address us the viewers & shines a light on his internal struggles. The things he doesn’t quite address. His fears & conscious from the killing of Zoey Barnes & Pete Russo to the constant civil war soldier figure in his life. The supporting casts also plays an integral role in the season. Doug Stamper continues to do whatever is in his power to push Frank’s agenda along all the while facing his own demons. We see this more than ever in his decision to bump the #1 donor for a liver. His play to save Frank’s life ends up costing the life of a father of a family. One that he later finds the memoriam page for & proceeds to donate to. This donation triggers contact from the recently widowed wife who Doug then begins a contact with. While we can see he his attraction to her be it sexually or as a mother figure in his time of need no actual relationship begins. Rather we see them meeting in private or for coffee but never committing. Thomas Yates the famed author & now speech writer also proves to be integral to the story. Ensuring that the words of the Underwoods are always powerful & meaningful to the public. Seeing them for who they are. Whether or not his relationship lasts with Claire is yet to be determined. However one thing we’re sure about is that Underwoods are together for the long run politically speaking & they’ll stop at nothing to maintain that power.

In the face of everything ongoing from the story breaking, the Conway’s, and of course the american people they stay on course. If you feared their power before then by the end of this season you’ll be absolutely terrified (or enthusiastic, that’s your call). Keeping in mind throughout the season that a deck consists of 52 cards no more no less. Season 4 ends at chapter 52 & while season 5 has been confirmed you can’t ignore that number. A house of cards built on 52 individual cards. A house that is as only strong as it’s base, however one single card that’s misplaced or fallen over leads to the ultimate crumbling of the whole house. This show has always been about the dynamic of power. Building from the ground up to what we left off with. The ultimate crumbling of the Underwoods yet rather than a mess being left behind we see them rise from the ashes. Taking the collapse in stride & rebuilding from it. This time stronger, better, and without fear of others. Rather this time using that very fear to destroy everyone in their path for power. In this case that means retaining the presidency & getting Claire as VP.

There’s a lot of questions as the season & binge watching ends. Leaving that inevitable void when one of your favorite shows seasons ends & your left waiting. Will the act of war actually work? Who’ll remain by the Underwoods? Who’ll betray them? How does this play out for the Conway’s? and many other questions. All which will be answered in 2017 with S5. Though this season did a amazing job of playing out the storyline while reinforcing their cast. Crafting a story in a binge worthy way that only HOC can. While left with some plot holes & downright jarring scenarios like the world wide surveillance plot. You can’t help but think after all is said & done as far fetched as some of these ideas may be they without a doubt mirror our current state in the world & the politics of it.

The House may have fallen but it’s far from over.

Rating: 8/10

My favorite season thus far & it’s cast does an amazing job from the reoccurring to the new faces. Packed with it’s powerful scenes & tremendous performances House of Cards Season 4 doesn’t upset. While the fourth wall isn’t broken as much, when it is it’s powerful. The subtle humor & metaphors placed in subtly & sometimes not so much all play into the Cards world. Everyone has an agenda and no season better exemplifies that this one. Cinematography wise the season is shot in true HOC form with tight focus on characters & it’s common breaking the 4th wall technique. Aside from that we see a reoccurring style in which the scenes transitions from the past & future particularly when the main characters or practicing for a speech. This shows the timeline advancing while also seeing the behind the scenes of major events in the show. A mesh of storylines both in the fore & background that all add up to the S4 finale while also setting in motion the pieces for the upcoming season. If your reading this review then I can only imagine you’ve already spent your time binge watching it however for some reason you haven’t then close the window now & get busy.

 

The Music Streaming Service Battle

There’s no shortage of music streaming services nowadays. Spotify as one of the leading services, perhaps your on Apple Music if you came from Beats or are an Apple exclusive user, Amazon Prime members may enjoy Amazon Music platform, & then there’s other services like Jay-Z’s Tidal with it’s high quality audio.

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Point being music streaming services are all over & aren’t going anywhere. Some offer certain incentives to get you to use their platform be it exclusives, bundling into other services, or quality.  The landscape however may be changing. As of now the big competitors consist of Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google, and Tidal.

Apple Music being the latest to join the game with the acquisition of Beats. While Apple has ways to go it has established itself as a competitor offering the service to their user base on iDevices. It comes down to a number of elements nowadays with each service offering relatively similar libraries. Factors such as price, quality, exclusives, and extras/add-ons. Amazon for example includes their music streaming service within Prime which gives you faster shipping options, savings, video streaming access, and much more.

That all said the competitive field opens the door to possible mergers & acquisitions in order to gain an upper hand. It was recently announced by both Google & Spotify that Spotify would be moving their core infrastructure (backend) to Google’s cloud platform to help increase quality, service, and of course pricing for their streaming platform. This is a big announcement for both companies & one that raise a lot of questions in terms of a possible acquisition down the line for Google to help it’s standing in the space. At 75 million active users there’s no better option than Spotify currently & given that Google made an offer in 2014 for the company it’s not completely far fetched. As of now Spotify says the move will take some time but with its growth it was necessary to continue to provide a seamless experience for its users.

This talk has also sparked up other conversations with companies such as Samsung which is now rumored to be in discussions with Jay Z’s company Tidal which he acquired only 16 months ago. Tidal being the service that focuses on quality & exclusives from Jay Z’s fellow artists such as Kanye West recent album “The Life of Pablo” which skyrocketed Tidal’s subscription & download numbers to #1 in the app-store briefly. The company which had a rocky start with lawsuits, shuffling through CEO’s and other issues this would be a buyout that would help save the company. Samsung has already done a deal in the past with business mogul Jay Z securing his album for an exclusive release for $5 million. All in an effort to gain an advantage in this streaming space that is crowded by great companies.
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This could possibly mean with the mergers we’d see a Google/Spotify versus Tidal/Samsung, Apple Music/Beats, and Amazon battle. Acquiring not just the talent & subscriber base but software. All of this is of course just speculation & whispers at this point but nothing is too far off given the past negotiations & the way the industry in particular is heading. While artists like Swift & Adele may still hold out from the streaming space initially it’s becoming a force that can’t be ignored this day in age. Positioning yourself as a corporation with the best team, resources, and name is a wise decision.

Whether the deals happen or not there’s no evidence that the growth of such services will slow down the question only remains who’ll be left remaining when all is said & done.

Apple’s iPhone SE

It’s been rumored that Apple has been set to update the iPhone 5S to a newer model in the 4-inch display space. This would be a phone for those who preferred the smaller footprint phone while still getting all the new specs. It was reported that this phone would be labeled the iPhone 5SE.

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Credit: MacRumors

Until recent new revealed Apple will be dropping “5” and be calling it the iPhone SE. That being said here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s upcoming iPhone SE.

What is it?

As noted the iPhone SE will be an upgrade of Apple’s 2013 iPhone 5S. Rather than going with an iPhone 6C this year Apple will release the SE to cater to the crowd that prefers the smaller screen size devices, despite the move to bigger screens across smartphones. The SE will feature upgrades & support for current generation hardware such as the A9 processor,  M9 Chip, upgraded 8 megapixel camera and more.

What will it look like?

There have been many renderings & concept pieces of what the SE will look like. More than likely it’ll be identical to the 5S with some curved additions to the screen & edges. Some reports say that the new SE may even be able to share certain accessories with it’s previous 5S model. It’s also said to receive the new Rose Gold color limited to that of the 6S.

Where it Lacks:

The SE isn’t meant to be spec for spec with the newer 6S devices rather and upgraded generation of an already “S” based device thus the SE title. That said it’ll most likely only come in 16GB & 64GB variations and limited to 1GB of memory/RAM. This may however make it a more cost affordable options for those looking to get an iPhone for family members or for those who just prefer the 4-inch form factor.

Apple made a similar move with the iPhone 5C at first release it was a phone featuring a plastic body to appeal to a certain user base. Given the move to bigger screen sizes however both on iOS & Android devices this is an unlikely move. Only sales numbers will determine the reaction to said device. Until then we have to await the announcement of the SE at Apple’s March 15th event that will also feature other hardware releases/upgrades.

Apple vs. FBI & The Need for Encryption

Tim Cook released a letter publicly via the Apple website today titled “A Message to Our Customers”. In it Cook goes into detail regarding the US Government request for Apple to essentially create a backdoor to obtain information from an iPhone from a suspect in the terrible terrorist attack in San Bernardino last December.

This is major & important news regardless if you understand every minute detail of the request. Hell in all honesty even I don’t understand every technical aspect. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand it’s importance however. In essence our devices iPhones, iPads, iPod’s are protected so that our data be it messages, photos, or what have you are unavailable to unwanted eyes. As with any company customer protection is of utmost importance. Even more so with that of technology companies, Apple in this case is no exception & have stood firm on their encryption stance.

Thus far Apple has provided help to the authorities that are within their limits. However the FBI now wants them to circumvent the very security they setup in order to get more information from the suspects device. This is where the backlash on Apple’s end begins & in turn Tim Cook’s letter.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The bigger argument here being if Apple was forced to succumb to such requests that this wouldn’t be a one off thing. No matter how much the government or others will try to convince you. Once this backdoor is created there is no stopping the use of it in the future. It compromises the very principles of encryption.

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

Now of course the other half argues in defense of said request. That it’s for the greater good & at times for the overall safety we have to break some rules. There’s no denying that the act in which led to such requests was a violent & inhumane one. An act of terrorism that no one including Apple stands by or supports. However in this case it’s a company standing for it’s principles & more importantly customers against a government that despite it’s best intentions are asking Apple to do something that they technologically cannot even do currently.

You can play the ignorant card certainly in a situation like this. As your data isn’t the one currently at stake. I say currently as in many cases like these it isn’t & won’t be the first. Until something like this happens to you be i the iCloud leaks or a government order it’s something that can’t be simply ignored. Because if a company like Apple is forced into such acts our rights & data is at stake if not now in the future.

Caudabe Veil XT iPhone 6/6S & 6/6S Plus Case Review

Caudabe’s Veil XT is an iPhone case that focuses on simplicity & minimalism. One of the thinnest case in the market coming in at just 0.35 mm. The idea behind it is it’s a case for those who don’t necessarily want a case & appreciate the original form & function of the iPhone. This is what made it personally stand out to me. The Veil XT compared to the Veil model offers full coverage around all edges of the phone with exception of the front screen. Veil XT’s purpose is to protect the phone from scratches & minor falls. This isn’t your average case with reinforced material or shock protection again it’s purpose is to maintain the naked feel of the iPhone.

Veil Price: $13 USD (Affiliate)

Veil XT Price:$21 USD

The case is made for a variety of phones however in this review I’ll be examining the 6S & 6S Plus models.

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Video Review:

Design:

Again the design on this case is minimal. A very light & thin plastic like material with a matte like finish. Personally I like the feel of the case however I could see it being prone to slipping for some. The Veil XT covers all of the iPhone’s edges neatly. All port cutouts are precise & flush. I had no issue accessing the volume rockers, sleep/wake button, or mute switch. Additionally the bottom ports which are covered in the XT model were all easily accessed as well. All 3.5 mm AUX/headphone connectors worked without any issue. The slim design of the case made it easy to plug in any cord without exception in my testing where as other cases tend to be a bit to thick for certain angled connectors. The lighting port & speaker grills are also aligned perfectly as to cause no issues.

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Beyond that the branding on the case is kept to a minimal aspect as well with Caudabe logo subtly on the back. Personalization wise the case is offered in a variety of colors that add a great customization aspect to the case.

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Further testing the case accommodated for what I’d call design oversights on the iPhone 6 models. The protruding camera lens for example is solved by a very thin lip added to the Veil XT evening out the phone. This comes at not detriment to the flash on the iPhone. All of this accomplished without adding more than 0.35mm to your iPhone.

Installation:

Installation was fairly simple however it’s worth noting that case is very fragile. Taking your time is important & not using excessive force as it can lead to breaking the case. I noticed in my testing that the iPhone 6 models for some reason were much more difficult to take off compared to the bigger 6S Plus models of which there are no difference other than size. Other than that you simply slide the phone in starting from the bottom as recommended & snap your phone gently into place.

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Pros/Cons:

Pros:

Affordable $21

Minimal Design

Customization

Precsicse cutouts

Cons:

Fragile (Not meant for hot swapping)

Doesn’t offer front or full protection


 

Overall the Veil XT is a case that isn’t for everyone that much is certain. However Caudabe from what I’ve seen in their PR doesn’t shy away from this rather they own up to it. That’s something I personally respect, the case is meant for those who want the simplicity & original design on the iPhone while still getting minor protection against everyday damage. In my opinion a case should be unobtrusive in it’s design not hindering me from accessing my phone in anyway while also being protective to a certain level. The Veil XT in my case achieves all of that while being affordable & stylish in it’s simplicity.

I’d reccomend it to those who want to add some level of case/protection to their phone. A skin meets case design that can be added & forgot. For more information head over to Caudabe website or purchase the Veil XT or Veil case.