Archive for ZTE

Review: Rogers Smart Drive

Posted in Products with tags , on October 10, 2017 by itnerd

In the era of the Internet of Things, cars being connected to the Internet is something that has been around for a while. Examples of this include GM’s OnStar and Hyundai’s BlueLink. Both of these services allow you to do everything from track the location of  your car, discover potential problems with your car, and even in the case of OnStar serve up Internet access. That’s great if you buy a new car with one of those services installed. But what if you already own a car and want some or all of these features? If that’s you, then Rogers would like to Introduce you to Rogers Smart Drive:

IMG_0859

The device itself is made by smartphone company ZTE and it plugs into your car’s OBD II port to not only power itself, but to pull diagnostics and other information off the car’s computer system. More on that in a second.

IMG_0861

There are two indicators that show that the device is being powered and it is connected to cellular service. Also, ZTE doesn’t hide the fact that they make the device.

IMG_0860

On the side you get a slot for a SIM card as well as recessed reset button and a restart button should you need it.

Installation is trivially easy. Assuming that you are above ground and someplace that you can get a cell signal, here’s what you do:

  • Download either the iOS or Android version of the Smart Drive app
  • Set up an account for yourself using your mobile phone number with Vancouver based Mojio who provides the backend services for this device and writes the Smart Drive apps on behalf of ZTE and Rogers.
  • Install the SIM card into the device and enter the IMEI that is not only on the device itself, but on a card that is included in the package into the app. The app does have the ability to scan the barcode related to the IMEI using your smartphone’s camera, But that didn’t work for me on my iPhone 7 Plus. Thus I typed it in by hand.
  • Plug the device into your ODB II port in your car which is usually on the drivers side underneath the steering wheel.
  • Go for a 10 minute drive to finish setting up the device and leave it plugged in for at least a day so that the backup battery inside the device can charge.
  • Done. Declare victory and have a beer.

As an aside, this device can be used in multiple cars. That way you can use it while you travel, or if you have more than one car.

Once it’s installed, here’s what the device can do for you. The app will collect information from the device and track your car’s location in almost real time using the built in GPS sensor and monitor your driving habits. So if you have a habit of braking hard, accelerating hard from a stoplight, or exceeding the speed limit, this device will keep track of that.

IMG_0863.PNG

I can see how this could be useful. For example, if you have teens who just got their license, you can monitor their driving habits to make sure that they don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. And if they do try to take the device out of the car to cover up their activities, you will get a notification that it was removed and the location that the removal of the device took place. Another use case is if you need to track your driving so that you can your business can pay for it, Smart Drive will take care of that by allowing you to export some or all of your driving history to an spreadsheet or to a PDF. Or you can simply use it to see if you can improve your driving. As you can see, I tend to be a bit of an aggressive driver and I should likely do something about that because my wife who also has the Smart Drive app installed can see these results and that’s going to get me into trouble sooner or later.

You can ensure that your car stays where you parked it. Or, you can find it if you “forgot” where you parked.

IMG_0862.PNG

One handy feature is that you can use the app to create a geofence around a specific area so that if it moves the car out of that area, you get an alert. So using the example of having a teenager at home who’s a new driver, you can create a geofence around your home so that if the car moves because your teen decides to have some fun with it, you get an alert and he or she is busted.

The device will capture diagnostic info from your car so you can make sure your car stays in good shape. These include anything that would cause a light such as a check engine light to pop up on your dash. If you look at the picture above, you can see that it is pulling info about how much gas I have in the tank, my battery status, and if I have any issues with the car. If I did have issues, I could click on that bar and get more detailed info about whatever issue the car has. Another handy feature is that the device has an accelerometer in it so that if someone shakes the car because they are trying to break into it, you’ll get an alert.

Finally, Smart Drive turns your car into a WiFi hotspot and connect up to 5 WiFi-capable devices. The device connects to the Internet via LTE. The device serves up a 802.11 b/g/n connection and apparently has Bluetooth as well. That way on long road trips, the kids can use their phones and tablets and not have to ask “are we there yet?” During my tests from the passenger seat of the car (because distracted driving isn’t cool), I had no issues using this feature in and around the Greater Toronto Area.

Now, during my testing all of this worked perfectly on the Android platform. However, on iOS there were some oddities that I noted. Here’s a few examples:

  • You have the ability inside the Smart Drive app to change the color of the car and the shape of the car. But trying to do that consistently crashed the iOS app. It however worked fine on Android.
  • The odometer reading inside the Smart Drive app would get erased from time to time from the iOS app. This did not happen on the Android platform.
  • The Android version of Smart Drive is the ability to pull up a maintenance schedule. That way you can look at the mileage of the vehicle and see what maintenance is due and schedule it accordingly. Plus there’s warranty information for the vehicle as well. The former is missing from the iOS version.

But here’s the good news. I reported these issues along with a few others to ZTE and they passed them along to the Mojio team. Via some back end changes and an upcoming iOS app update, a lot of these issues will be addressed shortly or have already been addressed. That tells me that both ZTE and Mojio are really trying to make sure the user experience is top shelf which inspires confidence.

While they’re at it, another thing that they could fix on both the iOS and Android version of Smart Drive is the fact that I got warnings that I exceeded the speed limit even though that notification was turned off. To fix that, I had to turn the notification on and set the threshold to 130 KM/h (as it’s pretty much impossible to drive a highway in the Toronto area at anything less than 120 KM/h in clear traffic. This despite the fact that the speed limit is typically 100 KM/h). That’s counter intuitive.

Another thing that I noted is that the device when plugged into the ODB II port isn’t exactly small and discreet. Here’s a picture of what it looks like inside my car:

IMG_0844 (1)

The reason why I am pointing this out is because the possibility for you to accidentally hit the device with your leg while driving exists. Especially if you drive a manual transmission and your left leg is working the clutch. That can get expensive as it might break the device or the ODB II port that it is plugged into. Plus it’s noticeable which means that it could be swiped or thrown out a window by a car thief who wouldn’t want this device tracking the location of the car he just stole (though I will again point out that it will generate an alert if the device is unplugged and show a location on a map to tell you where it was unplugged). Not to mention that it doesn’t exactly look like it belongs there. Perhaps ZTE might want to look at making the next version smaller and less noticeable so that it flies under the radar a bit more.

Back to the good stuff. I noted something that would be of interest if you live somewhere that has underground parking which cuts the device off from the cellular network. I noted that Smart Drive gracefully handled that situation by not only storing the details of the most recent drive and any events on the device, but it uploads it to the Smart Drive app within a minute or two after the device came back online. That was pretty cool.

Finally in terms of privacy and other concerns that you might have such as compatibility with your car. Rogers has provided an FAQ and a compatibility list for your perusal. The FAQ specifically provides a fair amount of information that should answer any questions that you might have. The FAQ is detailed and should address any privacy related questions that you might have.

Smart Drive from Rogers goes for $99 CAD on a two year term, or $200 CAD outright for the device, and it’s $15 a month to add to your Share Everything plan which is required to used the device. As an inducement, Rogers is offering 1GB of bonus data on top of whatever you have with your Share Everything plan for 12 months. I should note that ZTE has also partnered with Telus to bring this device and related backend services to their network under the Drive+ name with the same monthly pricing, 1GB inducement, and requirement for you to have a sharable data plan. But the device is $0 on a 2 year term. Either way, if you want to make your car one of those “things” on the Internet in the era of the Internet of Things, this is worth a look. From what I see here, there’s a lot of potential for this device to make your driving experience a whole lot better than it is right now without having to buy a new car to do it.

Advertisements

ZTE becomes PGA TOUR’s first ‘Official Smartphone’

Posted in Commentary with tags on October 4, 2017 by itnerd

The PGA TOUR has announced that ZTE has signed a three-year marketing agreement to become the TOUR’s first-ever Official Smartphone.

The deal, which includes global rights through 2020, was officially signed today by PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan and ZTE Mobile Devices CEO Lixin Cheng. The signing ceremony took place at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California, where the Safeway Open begins the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Season.

ZTE already has a presence on the TOUR. As a hospitality partner at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open, ZTE brought its interactive “ZTE Experience Tour Truck” on-site, where fans could test a variety of its products. ZTE also recently became the Official Smartphone of the RBC Canadian Open and partners with Danny Lee, a PGA TOUR member, as its ZTE Axon global brand ambassador.

Beyond having an on-site presence at select tournaments, ZTE will promote and activate around the new relationship in a variety of ways. In addition to utilizing the PGA TOUR’s online digital assets, select ZTE smartphones will be pre-loaded with PGA TOUR LIVE, the TOUR’s Over-The-Top subscription service that features exclusive early-round coverage of featured groups. ZTE smartphone users will receive a free 30-day trial of the service.

ZTE ZFive 2 LTE Smartphone Now Available At Freedom Mobile

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 24, 2017 by itnerd

ZTE has announced the ZFive 2 LTE is now available in stores at Freedom Mobile for $170.00 MSRP.  The ZFive 2 is the most affordable LTE device on Freedom Mobile and, with Wi-Fi calling capabilities, ensures consumers can stay connected almost wherever they may be.

image007.png

For $170.00, the ZTE ZFive 2 LTE provides:

Wi-Fi Calling

Stay connected no matter where you are. In addition to taking advantage of Freedom’s new LTE network, with the ZFive 2 you can also make or receive phone calls or text messages from anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection.

Compact Size

With a 5-inch screen and weighing less than 6 ounces, the ZFive 2 can fit almost anywhere including a purse, bag or pants pocket.

Long-Lasting Battery

The long-lasting 2,800 mAh battery provides up to 18 hours of talk time, keeping you on the move rather than tethered to a power outlet.

For full list of phone specifications and features visit here.

 

ZTE Smacked By US Feds To The Tune Of $1.19 Billion

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 8, 2017 by itnerd

The news surfaced today that Chinese smartphone vendor ZTE is $1.19 billion lighter in the wallet today. Apparently they reached a settlement with the US Government because they got caught breaking sanctions and selling electronics to Iran and North Korea:

Starting no later than January 2010 and continuing through April 2016, ZTE conspired to evade the long-standing and widely known U.S. embargo against Iran in order to obtain contracts with and related sales from Iranian entities, including entities affiliated with the Iranian Government, to supply, build, operate, and/or service large-scale telecommunications networks in Iran, the backbone of which would be U.S.-origin equipment and software. 

As a result of the conspiracy, ZTE was able to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with and sales from such Iranian entities.  Additionally, ZTE undertook other actions involving 283 shipments of controlled items to North Korea with knowledge that such shipments violated the EAR.

Shipped items included routers, microprocessors, and servers controlled under the EAR for national security, encryption, regional security, and/or anti-terrorism reasons.  In addition, ZTE engaged in evasive conduct designed to prevent the U.S. government from detecting its violations. 

Oh. I should also note that when the feds started looking into this, ZTE apparently lied to them. That never ends well. I’m pretty sure that this is also going to put a dent in ZTE’s attempts to get a bigger share of the smartphone market in the US as these optics will really suck. Here’s hoping that ZTE keeps their nose clean going forward because ticking off the US is likely not a good idea in this current political climate.

ZTE Unveils Forward-looking “5uper Generation” Smartphone

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 27, 2017 by itnerd

ZTE today at Mobile World Congress unveiled the Gigabit Phone, the world’s first smartphone with download speeds reaching up to 1Gbps. Thanks to ZTE’s independently developed Pre5G Giga+ MBB solution and smart devices, onsite visitors witnessed a successful test of download speeds reaching up to 1Gbps on the Gigabit Phone, an indicator of ZTE’s technology strength in the upcoming “5uper Generation”.

The ZTE Gigabit Phone, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform with an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem, utilizes a combination of carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO antenna technology, and 256-QAM modulation to achieve LTE download speeds that are up to 10x faster than first generation LTE devices.

Thanks to ZTE’s technology strength in 5G and Pre5G Giga+ MBB solutions, the ZTE Gigabit Phone is three times as powerful at improving data processing capability in the current network. It is the cornerstone of ZTE introducing 5G to 4G networks and providing worldwide carriers with Pre 5G solutions.

In the future, with download speeds up to 1Gbps as a standard and ZTE’s technology strength in 5G systems and networks, the mobile experience on smart devices will be enhanced to an unimaginable level.

The Gigabit phone will challenge world limits and transform the ultimate pursuit of human senses. The unimaginable speed of up to 1Gbps will improve users’ lifestyles by allowing for 360° panoramic VR video, instant cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies, and instant APP, which removes the need for download or installation of applications.

The introduction of ZTE’s Gigabit-class mobile phone marks an important cornerstone for the 5G mobile era. This phone is not only revolutionizing communication, but also revolutionizing human connectivity with a new standard of speed, bringing a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience.

If you are at Mobile World Congress, you can visit the ZTE booth The ZTE booth at 3F30, Hall 3, Fira Gran Via, Barcelona.

Review: ZTE Grand X 4

Posted in Products with tags on February 16, 2017 by itnerd

ZTE has proven that they can make a phone for a low price that packs a lot of value. Their latest effort is the ZTE Grand X 4. Let me get to the price right off the bat. If you’re on Freedom Mobile, you can get it for $99 on a two year plan if the plan is $45 or more. What do you get for that price? A lot actually. Here’s the specs:

  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow

  • 5.5-inch 1280×720 LCD

  • 1.4 GHz quad-core processor

  • 2 GB RAM

  • 16 GB Storage

  • microSD slot

  • 13MP rear camera

  • 5MP front camera

  • USB-C

  • Bluetooth 4.2 LE

  • 4G LTE

  • 802.11b/g/n WiFi

Those aren’t lightweight specs.

The ZTE Grand X 4 is not a small phone. That said, the curved edges, textured back and a solid in-hand feel make the phone much easier to handle than you might expect. It’s also light. I used it all day to shoot pictures and video at the Canadian International Auto Show media day and I never found it to be bulky and heavy. It also feels solid and well constructed. 

Some features stand out to me. First is the fingerprint scanner. A smartphone with a fingerprint scanner isn’t common at this price point. This this is a plus. The second is the screen. Okay, you will notice the pixels on it. But colors were vibrant and images seemed bright to me. I seriously doubt that anyone who sees it will complain. Fingerprints on the screen are a bit of a problem though.

Performance is pretty good. Apps open quickly and I never noticed any significant lag or real slow-downs during casual usage. I have no complaints on this front. But what’s missing is NFC which is understandable as you have to cut costs somewhere to hit this price point. For the record, another area that ZTE saved a few bucks on is WiFi. It only has 802.11b/g/n WiFi in an age where 802.11ac is common. The software is pretty much stock Android with some slight (yet helpful) additions. The most obvious difference will be on the notification area, which does look rather unique.

The camera on the Grand X 4 is pretty decent. I used it to shoot this 1080p video at the Canadian International Auto Show. Set it to 1080p and full screen to see what I mean:

Sound quality is a bit tinny. You’ll also note the fact that it constatly tried to autofocus. To be fair, you can turn that off if it bothers you which is a good thing. In terms of stills, they were decent. Here were a few examples:

IMG_20170216_131810.jpg

IMG_-rmhck9.jpg

img_kmxflgimg_lh79z9

There is some pixelation. However, these pictures are decent. Considering that this is a $99 phone, that’s to be expected.

Battery life was great. I started using it at 7:10 AM to tweet, take photos and videos almost non stop, and upload a video to YouTube and got to 3PM with 46% of the battery left. That’s pretty impressive as I was hammering the phone pretty hard. That means that battery life under normal usage will be in the two day range. Pretty impressive from a $99 phone.

The bottom line? If you want a phone at this price point, the ZTE Grand X 4 is hard to beat. Sure it’s not perfect, but this phone has a lot going for it. Enough that you should put it on your shopping list.

Android Nougat & Daydream By Google Available Now For The ZTE Axon 7

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 7, 2017 by itnerd

ZTE USA today announced that both Android Nougat and Daydream are available now for its award-winning Axon 7 smartphone.  With these updates, the ZTE Axon 7 continues to deliver the best value of any flagship smartphone on the market today. 

The release of Android N provides Axon 7 users with the ability to personalize the device like never before. With added capabilities at their fingertips such as the ability to run two apps side by side, save battery power while on the go, and express themselves through added emojis, Axon 7 continues to provide a flagship experience at a price that is unbeatable. 

As one of the first companies to support Daydream, Google’s platform for high quality, mobile virtual reality, the Axon 7 is now Daydream-ready. With its powerful audio and visual capabilities, the Axon 7 provides an immersive VR experience and is the most affordable Daydream-ready phone in the US. 

Since the Axon 7 launched in the US in July 2016, members of Z-Community have helped provide insight into what consumers want to see updated in the device. For a full list of phone specifications and features visit www.zteusa.com/Axon7.