Skip to content


Spotify review by Hanna Silver

I’m going to go ahead and start with a TL;DR (“too long, didn’t read” for anyone not down with the lingo type speak). Because I have one clear message I’d like to send out about Spotify.

Spotify is great (provided you are not an audiophile who can’t stand mp3s), but you should choose to not use it. Artists are paid fractions of peanuts for listens.

I’m a musician, so this issue is close to my heart. I had to ask myself, if I’m comfortable streaming tv and film, why am I uncomfortable streaming music? It’s because when I watch tv and film, I usually only watch it once, and never again (or not for another 10 years). Plus, in tv and film, production companies pay their cast and crew respectfully for their hours of work, before distribution.

But with music, the revenue generated from sales is an important part of the artist’s income. I tend to seek out music that I love and then listen to it over and over and over again. Then put it away, pull it out a few months later, listen again, and so on it goes.

If you find someone’s music on Spotify that you like and you listen to it, they are getting less than between 0.6 and 0.84 OF A CENT per track play. Spotify says this is what they pay rights holders – so in most cases, the record label gets this money, takes a cut, and gives what’s left to the artist.

You just need to ask yourself, do I love this artist? Do I wish they would make more music? If the answer is yes, THEN GO AND BUY THEIR MUSIC. Musicians need to eat and pay the bills. Translate your love and appreciation into financial support for the artist, not a fat CEO. How much do you pay for a drink at the bar? If you were able to meet an artist or band you love, would you feel honoured buying them a round of drinks?

To conclude my rant and really start the review, here are some links that further discuss Spotify’s payment system:

Ok, so, what does Spotify have to offer? It breaks my heart that they don’t pay artists enough, because their platform is SO GOOD. I can’t deny that for many people, streaming is the future, and Spotify do it so well.

You can either pay for Spotify Premium ($10 in the USA, $12 in Australia per month. There’s even a $5 US student discount), or use Spotify for free, with some differences in service. The biggest differences are the ads you’ll hear on Spotify free, and that it only plays in shuffle mode in Free. Spotify offers a 30 day free trial of the premium service.

You can build “your own music library” – save artists, albums and tracks that you love, so you can find them quickly. If you have Spotify Premium, you can make playlists available offline for yourself on your device (seriously, how is this legal??). You can listen to Spotify either on your mobile with the app, or on your computer through the app.

spotify pic

The streaming quality is not great, so if you prefer to not listen to mp3s, give Spotify a miss and stick with your wav files, CDs and vinyl. (mmmmm, vinyl….) From their website:

“Spotify uses 3 quality ratings for streaming, all in the Ogg Vorbis format.

  • ~96 kbps
    • Normal quality on mobile.
  • ~160 kbps
    • Desktop and web player standard quality.
    • High quality on mobile.
  • ~320 kbps (only available to Premium subscribers)
    • Desktop high quality.
    • Extreme quality on mobile.”

You can log in with your Facebook login, or with a new username. If you login with Facebook, sure, Facebook has more information to use and sell about you. But you’ll get to see what all your friends are listening to! And they can see what you’re listening to! 😀

There’s also plenty of suggestions from Spotify of what you might like. Particularly as you do searches and add things to your “library”, it makes suggestions: “Because you like this guy, you might like that guy.” You can also listen to pre-prepared playlists, for example, music playlists designed to help you sleep, study or exercise.


And you can make your own radio station based on an artist you like.


As you listen to a radio station, you can “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” tracks played, so Spotify improves the station based on what you like.


I don’t know about PC or Android, but I can tell you that with Mac and iOS, the music controls are integrated with your iPhone and Mac. So on iPhone, you can swipe up the control centre and control Spotify playback from there. On Mac, you can use the music control buttons on F7, F8 and F9.

You can follow artists or playlists, and then see what they have been listening to.

Those are the main functions that you want out of a service like this. There’s more, but I won’t go on about them.

So try Spotify if you want, but let a feeling of guilt follow you as you listen to tracks on the service. Because, what’s the one thing Spotify provides you with? And WHO gets the millions…???


Find Hanna in these places:

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review

Sony has been making some pretty decent phones, following the trend of big and massive devices. But now, they threw that idea aside and tried another way: a smaller phone, but specifications like a real hero. Can they pack all this high-tech hardware in a little smartphone? Sony thinks they can, and we’ve checked if they got it all right.

Xperia Z1 Compact Review

The Xperia Z1 Compact promises big things in smaller dimensions. It has a 720p 4.3 inch screen. It doesn’t have the 1080p on its specs list, but who needs Full HD anyway on a phone, right? If you put them next to each other, you’ll probably notice the difference, but it’s so little, you shouldn’t be put off just because of this. It still is really crisp, and it has this fine technology called an IPS screen, which gives better viewing angles than other used displays. The compact device delivers in performance too with its Snapdragon 800. This is a first in a small phone, and this alone makes it clear Sony really doesn’t want to make compromises. It does everything you throw at it smoothly. 1080p videos are displayed smoothly, you don’t surf the web, you fly over it, and gaming is handled with the best graphics. They packed NFC and 4G in there too. It’s really impressive for this little device. The camera might be a selling point too. It packs a huge amount of megapixels, 20.7MP to be exact. Photos snapped are beautiful, it’s their best camera yet and somehow they packed it this small chassis. It’s great in low light; pictures are almost always clean, balanced and detailed. People who use their phone as their always-on-hands camera won’t be disappointed.

Xperia Z1 Compact Review

With all this power, we of course already hear everyone asking: what about the battery life? The Z1 Compact houses a 2300mAh battery, which is considerably smaller than its big brother’s. To our surprise, even in this department the device excels. Battery life is amazing; it outperforms a few of the biggest phones out there from HTC, Apple and Samsung. Sony has something under their sleeve here, and they call it Stamina Mode, which will shut down data whenever your screen isn’t on. With this feature, it will give your phone a whole day of juice. Besides these features, what I liked most is that the Xperia Z1 Compact is waterproof and comes in a range of colours. It’d be difficult for me to chose between the black and silver, while I wouldn’t mind keeping the keeping the pink one with me  as well. Let’s take a look at the spec quickly:

  • 720p, 4.3 inch Screen
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
  • 2GB RAM
  • 20.7MP Camera, 1080p Video Capture
  • 16GB Internal Storage, up to 64GB with microSD
  • NFC Enabled
  • 4G Enabled
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2300mAh Battery
  • Android 4.3 (upgradeable to KitKat in future)

Xperia Z1 Compact Review

The Sony Xperia Z1 Compact doesn’t have the best screen out there, but it’s a fine display nonetheless. Hence the name, it’s a compact device, but it packs the best specs of today; a processor that performs like it should, a camera with a lot of megapixels that shoots pictures the way you want them to look, and a battery life that won’t disappoint, even for the heavier users out there. In short: this is a small smartphone that really deserves the title ‘smart’. Sony promised a small, powerful device, we say they delivered one.

Stay tuned for more tech reviews from Brad and Me. And, as always, special thanks to Kevin for his support.

Amaya, Gifu, Japan

HTC One Max Review

The HTC One Max is HTC’s jump to the giant Smartphone market. The One Max takes all the good things from the HTC One, but carries a few extra features, which we’ll discuss later on. Of course, a bigger phone means heavier and bulkier. Is the HTC One Max worth its price? Let’s find out together.

HTC One Max Review

Let’s first talk about the design. The HTC One Max is actually large and pretty heavy, compared to other devices. It has a 5.9 inch screen and weighs 7.65 ounces (or 217g). The build quality has some issues; I like the HTC One much more because it had a singular, amazingly crafted block of aluminum. Its bigger brother replaces this with a white polycarbonate band that keeps parts together. The result just isn’t as pretty. The size of the phone isn’t really well-designed either; other phone try to compensate with the tiniest bezels, but the HTC One Max doesn’t do this at all, it just proudly emphasizes its big front speakers on the top and bottom.

The first of its extra features that I mentioned is the fingerprint scanner. It’s not like ‘that other phone’s scanner’, but thankfully it also works. It’s not always accurate, but if you swipe in the right way it should detect if it’s actually you or not. The worst thing about it is that you don’t really know where to swipe to use the scanner. You can’t feel its presence, so if change your grip, you’ll have to search for it again. A neat feature here is that you can use different fingers for other functions. For example, you could use your middle finger to open a specific app, another finger to unlock and so on.

HTC One Max Review

Some of the specifications of the HTC One Max are rather impressive, like the 3.300mAh battery it stocks. It easily gives you a full day of heavy use, which can’t be said of a lot of devices, so that might be something to think about. The Power Saver clocks down the CPU, turns off data connection while the screen is turned off, reduces brightness and turns off the vibration. Naturally, it has a 1080p screen, which is still the best in its class for sure. The Boomspeakers really do deliver the best sound, perfect for watching your favorite video content. The camera captures pictures in 4MP and 1080p videos. 4MP might sound a bit low resolution, but HTC has its UltraPixel technology. The basic idea tells us that less pixels on the sensor gives better performance in low light environments. The stills it takes aren’t bad, but it could be better. It’s just a mediocre camera, and we think HTC should have tried to make it something special here. The front shooter is 2.1MP, and also 1080p for video. The device supports NFC and the battery efficient Bluetooth 4.0. It has plenty of RAM, 2GB to be specific, and is equipped with the Snapdragon 600 CPU. This means the One Max is just an addition to HTC’s devices, not a new flagship device. The Snapdragon 600 isn’t the best there is, but we can’t really complain, it does its job rather well.

The HTC One Max has a massive, but great, 1080p display. It houses pretty decent specs, but not the best of the best. The camera could have had some extra work, but it’s really fast and packs a whole lot of features. The speakers are amazing! Battery life is the best. Unfortunately the device is a bit heavy, and the fingerprint scanner isn’t as easy to use as it should.

HTC One Max Review

So for the most part, it’s not really a big upgrade over the HTC One, but it does have some pretty great features that might be enough to get you over to a store and get yourself into the giant phone hype of today.

As usual, many thanks to Kevin for all his support, and to you all for reading. Stay tuned for more tech reviews from Brad and me.  Until next time, happy new year to you all. Let’s hope we all can give this world a better 2014.

Amaya Ai,
Gifu, Japan

Noteworthy Nexus 5

By Kim F

When I made the transition from iPhone to my old Galaxy Nexus I was pretty excited about the flexibility I had with the phone. The numerous ways I could customise it, tweak it, change it, play around with it. Little did I know that I would become a big fan of the Nexus range to the point of now actually finding myself reviewing the new Nexus 5.

A little background for you might be required as you will find this isn’t a very ‘technical’ blog or one written by a hard core geek, designer or programmer. In fact, I’m just like you – a curious every day user. This is my second Android phone and while I’m passionate about technology, I’m not someone who can rave about their standings in the technology industry. So I’m writing this post for the every day user who is looking at the Nexus 5. If there is something that I miss that you might be interested in, let me know as I’d be happy to have a play around and see if I can find you an answer. The other thing is, I’m not going to root it, or change from the stock software this time around. For the non-technical person, rooting your phone can be a messy, confusing and continuous process that can often leave you concerned that you’ve busted your phone once and for all. (Side note: for all the Australians out there, yes, that is indeed the term they use for the Android phones).

As this is my first review of something like this, please hang in there with me. Hopefully I will be answering as many of those initial questions you might have before considering the purchase of the Nexus 5.

The Size:
The size is quite similar and insignificant to note when it comes to comparing it with previous phones (such as my Galaxy Nexus) or an iPhone.

What does make a difference, is the slightly more square build of it, that it tends to sit comfortably in your hand without slipping with the slightest of movements or gestures you might make. The matt back of the phone supports this as well, and the phone feels a lot safer and easier to hold on a whole. In the pocket, again, it really doesn’t stand out as too big or too bulky. If you’re use to the average size of smartphones in your pocket these days, then you won’t have a problem adjusting to the Nexus 5.

There isn’t a “lip” on the edge of the phone so if you placed it face down you may find that it could scratch – but with the new Gorilla glass that is the screen, this tends to be a somewhat small chance of happening as sand is rumoured to be the only thing that would damage it. That being said, the moment you add a reasonable cover on it you will find this becomes irrelevant.

The Screen:
The screen is clear and crisp, with a slight shadowing on the top and bottom from the software. And of course, Kit Kat is extremely responsive. No lag (sorry Galaxy Nexus but you’re time is up). Google Now has moved to the far left screen and loads seamlessly. No more having to hold the home button (although you can do this too from the lock screen).

Screenshot_2013-11-06-17-23-24   Screenshot_2013-11-06-17-23-12

IMG_20131106_161846I’m initially a little hesitant in regards to the integrated Hangouts/SMS feature…
The reason for this that Hangouts, while one of my favourite Google+ features, is still extremely messy with “conversations” happening multiple times over. Add this to all my SMS conversations and BOOM – things are going to be missed. However, over the last couple of days I’ve been warming to the idea. While it does require me to keep myself organised, hey, that’s what technology is for, right? In this case, all my conversations are in one place and I never have to go searching for the multiple different places someone could have said something to me. Keep in mind though, this is an opt-in feature at this time. So if you feel it might be too much to handle straight away, you can say no.

It comes as a pretty basic setup in regards to the box. You get your phone, the USB cord and wall adapter as well as a small pin to pop out the SIM card tray. While it feels a little flimsy at first (I freaked out thinking I was going to lose the tray), once you’ve placed your Micro SIM in there, you’ll forget all about it and never have to worry again.
The only thing I feel is missing is headphones and a new ringtone… but then, I shouldn’t be lazy and find one myself.

IMG_20131106_155840 IMG_20131106_155636

I’m running 4G, WiFi, location services, syncing (including Gmail, Google+, Foursquare, Instagram and Facebook), I’ve received 4 phone calls of roughly 1.5 hours of call time and as at 2:07pm today I am on 77%. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty happy with that. On an average day I’ve managed to get into bed at around 10:30-11pm and it will be looking low enough for me to put it on charge for the night. But do you know what? I haven’t had to charge it during the day! So to me, I couldn’t be happier. So those concerned about the battery life of their #nexus5? I can honestly say I am having more trouble trying to prove the battery is bad, when it is, in fact, the opposite for me.

So while I’m a little concerned that Google jumped on a brand name here – the operating system is great. It’s super smooth and much clearer and clearer than the last (Jelly Bean). The only confusion I get occasionally is which app to use for editing my pictures. You have the option of now using the new Google+ Pictures or using the original gallery.  The new updated inbuilt gallery editor is pretty cool – so I usually stick to that and then head over to Pixlr when I want to achieve something special. I think with time the Google+ pictures with outweigh this and probably become stock, but until then, I use the gallery for consistency.

The Camera:
In comparison with my Galaxy Nexus, the camera is gorgeous. (My Galaxy Nexus was the pictures of the Nexus 5 being unboxed above). You could find things to pick out about it, such as that it’s still not great in low light, but frankly, you’re looking for an argument. If you like everything else about the phone, then you’ll be happy with the camera.
Here are a few photos I’ve taken on it so far:

I might also add that apparently there are voices floating around saying that the camera taking multiple pictures takes longer than the original Galaxy Nexus. I ran a couple of tests and found this wasn’t the case either. The camera was happy to keep shooting (in focus) while the previous picture was still flying to the top right gallery. This is Buzz Lightyear faster than my GN.

Lastly, there has been a few complaints floating around about it not being a hardcore Nexus phone anymore. Take it or leave it really. It is a beautiful phone that is easy to use and has pleased me endlessly. I think there are always going to be complaints from someone about something such as the camera (it’s not a DSLR folks!) or the battery (won’t be great until someone invents a smart battery for smart phones) so you just have to find something that suits you. 

That’s me. Over and out.

In case you’re curious you can find me here

GooglePlus-Logo-02 About.me_icon

Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 Review

It seems that the time of the mega phones isn’t over yet. Samsung even got it right in the name this time, it’s the new Galaxy Mega 6.3. The new mobile phone is really big, it’s actually huge, but that isn’t automatically a bad thing. This phone is actually pretty likable, so let’s see why.

First of all, its price point isn’t that bad. It’s $480 off contract and you can get it for $150 on contract. Now, this price comes with, well, a price. Its LCD screen is ‘only’ 720p and it isn’t, like most other Samsung phones, a Gorilla Glass. It has a Snapdragon processor, which is pretty much a child of the Snapdragon S4. The camera is exactly the same as the one on the Galaxy S III, an 8MP shooter, which is more than a year old now. Flagship devices have more RAM than the Mega 6.3, which only has 1.5GB. The battery, a 3200mAh one, is just a bit larger than the one in the Galaxy Note II.

Despite all of that sounding pretty negative, it also has some neat features. It has NFC support, a microSD slot, 8GB of internal storage and, which I think is pretty cool, an Infrared (IR) port.

Let’s first check out the specs of this monster phone.


  • Processor: 1.7Ghz Dual-Core Snapdragon 400
  • GPU: Adreno 305
  • OS: Android 4.2.2
  • Connectivity: 3G, LTE, NFC, all WIFI standards
  • Display: 6.3” 720p LCD
  • Memory: 8 GB internal storage (expandable with microSD) / 1.5GB RAM
  • Camera: 8MP rear / 1.9MP front
  • Battery: 3200mAh

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s go a bit deeper.


Explaining the design of the Mega 6.3 can be done very easily; it’s just like the Galaxy S4, but bigger. This means it’s all made plastic, even the volume rocker and the power button (which were metal on the S4). I have to say the build quality is, despite being cheaper, the same as Samsung’s flagship device. The only thing missing here is the wireless charging functionality and with all that in mind, I can only see one significant difference, the lack of Gorilla Glass. The phone’s larger than other devices, which already means that the chance of it getting scratches is higher.


The camera of the Mega 6.3 is an 8MP shooter, not in any way cheap, but we can’t really call it the best thing out there. I’ve said it’s exactly the same one that the Galaxy SIII has, and that’s actually not a bad thing. This camera can hold its ground in pretty much every situation; it just doesn’t excel in anyway. You’ll be happy with the pictures it shoots; just don’t expect top notch material.


The processor in the Galaxy Mega 6.3 is less powerful than the one in higher-end devices, which makes it noticeably slower, but it’s still faster than other mid-range smartphones thanks to the upgraded GPU. With the 1.5GB of RAM, you shouldn’t see any slowdowns or frame drops, but it won’t be able to handle everything at once. New phones should have at least 2GB of RAM to handle the new Android versions and apps.


The display is 6.3 inch, that’s actually really big. When you hold it in your hand, it’s not that bad, it even feels just right. When you turn it on, though, it’s suddenly gigantic. You just can’t believe how big it really is. When playing around with it, it feels and looks more like a tablet than a real phone, and yes, it does look a bit ridiculous when taking a call and holding that big of a phone to your head.

The display itself is pretty good, but again not the best out there. Like the specs already stated, it’s a 720p LCD screen. This LCD screen does seem to work in direct sunlight, which is a great feature to have. I think I’m not the only one always getting frustrated when I can barely see what’s on the screen when I’m outside. The viewing angles are great, and the colors are fairly accurate. Exactly what we expect from a Samsung device.

Battery life:

A 3200mAh battery, that’s what this huge smartphone has at its disposal. Its display is so big, it uses way more battery than you’d expect from a phone, which makes its battery life less than optimal for most of us. It should get you through a whole day without any problems, as long as you’re not the heaviest user. Standby time is really great, which says enough. The device isn’t the one eating away at that precious battery life; it’s the device’s screen for the most part. You should be able to control it by adjusting the brightness all the time though, but that gets annoying really fast.


The Mega 6.3 is obviously not built for everyone. Its display is huge and people might just not like that. Also, if you are that kind of person that always wants the highest specs, the best of the best, the elite of the smartphone business, this one isn’t for you either. Then again, if you want a phone with a ton of features, but at a reasonable price, the Mega might be the one to go for. The specs could have been a lot better, but this phone wasn’t meant for the high-end category. They deliberately got rid of the gimmicks and extra fancy features (which almost no one uses anyway). It’s the best balance of price and value out there. So if you want a monster phone that’s actually pretty good, the Mega 6.3 won’t disappoint.

Special thanks to Kevin for all his support and Alex for the proofread. Signing out from Gifu.

Amaya Ai,
Tech Webcast

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial