Google Opinion Rewards: On Play store
[NEW STUFF] By chance came across Google Opinion Rewards app in Play store; I have earned quite a few vouchers from online surveys, so I had to give it a try.

What is the Google Opinion Rewards Android app does is it asks you a few questions from time to time and rewards you with Google Play credits when you are done.

The survey questions are short, for example, some questions I can remember "Have you used any of the following Google products in the last months?", "How likely are you to recommend the product to others?".

So the questions are pretty straightforward, probably takes less than a minute per survey. Google Play credit with minimal effort.

With free credits, I am sure you will be happy to purchase the app or game that you have been eyeing but aren't sure if you really want it. Case in point, I installed the App for around 2 months, I have gotten S$5+ already!
Refurbished Apple iPad Mini 2: Delivered!
[GADGET DEALS] My requirements for a tablet are simple; 8-inch display, a minimum pixel density of 300, at least 2GB of ram, a recent mid-range processor, and decent build quality. I wanted to have it to be a living room tablet and the occasional outing. Honestly, the pixel density requirement largely excludes my choices.

Here is my shortlist candidates; Samsung Tab S2 8.0, Nvidia Shield, Xiaomi MiPad 2 or 3, Apple iPad Mini 2 or 4.

Only one in the six are released in 2017! That speaks volumes about how little manufacturers care about tablets these days.

Samsung Tab S2 8.0 is probably an excellent choice because, at $470 (Kaisa Mobile), it comes with LTE. Nvidia Shield has gotten rave reviews but it is only available in export sets without warranty. For about $270 on Qoo10, the value is pretty good and near stock Android experience is a major plus.

Xiaomi Mipad shares the same woes as Nvidia Shield where only exports set are available. Worst, they are come up to around the same price. Without Micro SD card slot and possibly Google Play store, it's not attractive.

Finally, the usual suspects and the manufacturer that sold the most tablets ever in human history, Apple and ultimately my choice, a Refurbished Apple iPad Mini 2 32GB Wifi.

Refurbished Apple iPad Mini 2: Looks absolutely new
In case you didn't know, Apple test and certify all Apple refurbished products and include a 1-year warranty (extended Applecare also optional). All refurbished iPad models also include a brand new battery and outer shell.

For a Refurbished iPad Mini 2 Wifi, the cost savings is S$60 based on the last known retail price but that said the iPad Mini 2 has been discontinued, it is only available as a refurbished set.

That's right I bought a refurbished set from Apple because of cost savings and the device meets my requirement to be a living room Tablet. It is the cheapest tablet in my shortlist and to me, the best build quality too.

Of course being a 2013 device, the iPad Mini 2 gives a slower performance and comes without Touch ID. However, 4 years later, it still has the same display as the iPad Mini 4! Very happy with my purchase!
Mediacorp Online Service: What an adventure
[USER EXPERIENCE] Lately I was called upon to help a friend replace his SingTel router as they just renew the contract and gotten a new router. This should have been a routine job except Toggle app on LG TV is not cooperative.

LG SMART TV's Toggle app doesn't load after the replacement of the router and doesn't show any messages. It's a grey screen and nothing more.

Some closing/opening later it is still as dead as it is. The option of uninstalling the app is as baffling as it can get, because I didn't manage to do it. A factory reset on the TV is the only solution in the end and thankfully it works. Having to perform a factory reset on the TV after a router replacement is such an overkill.

My friend, a big fan of LG TV, have another LG TV with a Toggle that doesn't allow login of the mediacorp account. The error message is "This device cannot be registered.". This has nothing to do with the router replacement since the problem has been there before.

If you get this message, it is might be due to the fact that one mediacorp account limits up to 5 devices to be login at the same time. It took 5 minutes of Google to find out, though I am pretty sure the error message could have mention it.

To fix the limit, one has to login to Toggle.sg on the browser, find the "My Account" link and the list of registered devices are shown there. One will be able to remove the older devices to make space for the new one according to preferences.

One last baffling complication; The TV which was factory reset appeared twice on under the account! I suppose each time a device login, it must be accompanied by a logout.

All-in-all, Toggle app does need more efforts be more robust, especially being the online service of our national TV!
Plantronics BackBest Sense
[USER EXPERIENCE] I am hardly into audio like an audiophile, that said, I have seen the wonders of today's audio equipment gave all consumers better music on-the-go. So I am happy that recently, a kind vendor from work loaned me a on-ear wireless headphone, Plantronics BackBeat Sense.

Head Cushion: Extreme comfort! 
Plantronics Extreme Comfort

Plantronics is best known for monaural headsets of the wireless and business/call center. Not many I asked heard of the brand, though we have been using their headsets in the office for a long time. The audio quality of those were impressive, so I wanted to try their consumer headphone too.

When I put on Plantronics BackBest Sense, I was pleasantly surprised by its comfort. I have a relatively big head; I could not fit in any of the helmets in the driving school and need to buy a size L helmet outside.

It's lightweight and have 10 levels of marks to extend the size of the headband. This mobile friendly on-ear Bluetooth headphone comes with memory foam earpads with the left/right indicators on it. Chic design and importantly I feel no stress from prolong period of usage. I had it on usually on my bus ride home, an hour long journey.

The Sense comes with a contemporary canvas case for storage, a 3.5mm audio cable (for wired connection), a USB cable for charging.

Plantronics logo on top
Features and Connectivity

Plantronics BackBeat Sense comes with some fun features. It has a sensor that would pause your music when you have them off and intelligently resumes playback from the same position when you put it back on. It's an amazingly convenient that I am puzzled why this haven't been more commonly deployed.

It also has a red button on the left that would pause the music and allow you to listen to your surrounding in at amplified level via the dual microphone. It's kinda fun and convenient to talk to someone with the headset on. Also people around you may think you are listening to music when in fact you are listening to their conversation, loud and clear!

As well you can pick up calls on the connected mobile phone, again without removing the headphones.

Other buttons includes a call answer/end button on the outside of the right earpad and a pause/play button along with track back/advance buttons on the outside of the left earpad. Volume is adjustable using a ring control on the left earpad.

On-Ear Cushion with Left/Right indicators
The Sense works on Bluetooth v4.0. It is capable of simultaneously connecting two Bluetooth source devices and switching between them. I have great experience by first switching bluetooth on my mobile phone then subsequently the Sense. Upon connection, the headset will notify via a robot voice that the headset has been connected to "Phone 1" and/or "Phone 2", the names for the Bluetooth source.

The Sense claims extended wireless range up to 100m instead of the standard 33 feet/10m with a common Bluetooth device although I experienced interference from to time to time on the road causing the audio to be intermittent.

Battery life is rated at 18 hours of music playback, for a daily 2 hours of usage, it last much more than a week before the next charge.

Highly recommended!
Sound Quality

Plantronics BackBeat Sense does not come with noise cancellation, a rather popular feature in the market, yet that's how I like it to be because I prefer to be more aware of my surroundings while on the road especially in public transport.

For someone who is in a regular company of audiophile, among them my father, cousin and friends, I like a balance of comfort and sound quality for a headphone that I would use for my daily commute.

The Sense is exactly that. It is a well-balanced headphone with decent bass and rather good clarity. For the time I have it with me, I played LalaLand OST nearly daily. It was a spectacle of audio performance given that it doesn't support noise cancellation.

I like the crisp piano notes, soundstage that reminds me of the movie and clarity of all the musical instruments playing at the same time, my top favourite is Credits track (track number 40). Someone in the Crowd, track 4, by Emma Stone, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno & Jessica Rothe is also incredibly decent experience.

If I have to be picky, I would say that I have to play at near highest volume as the Sense is seemingly rather soft even when compared the original earphones from my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. As well, at a recommended retail price of S$279, the Sense is pricey.

Besides these, I would highly recommend the Plantronics BackBeat Sense to anyone, except audiophiles, looking for a great sounding and comfortable wireless Bluetooth headphone. However, please note that Plantronics is releasing an updated version of the Sense, you might get this at a better price later or you might simply like the updated version better!
The ever popular Bugis Junction: Home of Challenger New Flagship Store (Photo from Capitaland web)
[NEW STORE] From the publicity agency today is Challenger's new flagship store at Bugis Junction! The new store at the basement of the ever popular shopping mall will span a whopping 14,000 square feet. A Olypmic Swimming pool is approxmiately 13,500 square feet, go figure!

For those that are familiar with Bugis Junction will probably remember an existing Challenger store on higher levels. Not sure it will continue to operate though the new Challenger store will be taking space not in basement leading to the MRT station but over at the space where the old Arcade is.

The new flagship store will feature 15 concept zones such as "Fitness Station" showcasing the fitness gadgets; essentially the typical splitting up the store to much organised shopping and try-out experiences.

I will look forward to some very interesting happenings like Samsung showcasing the Galaxy Plus VRcade, allowing shoppers to experience a truly immersive gaming experience with the ergonomically designed Gear VR with Controller. And as well DJI and Parrot, unveils its first-ever experiential counters in Singapore.

With this expansion, Challenger will now have 40 stores island-wide consisting of 1 flagship, 25 superstores and 14 small-format stores. As well to complement the physical stores, Challenger has a online store call Hachi.tech (which i never understand why it is never call "Challenger Online", a straightforward and relatable name!).
DBS PayLah!: Receiving payment with QR code

[NEW SERVICE]  This one is coming from a DBS media alert for a new consumer payment solution service adding an arsenal of mobile payment methods in Singapore.

QR CODE PAYMENT: HOW DOES IT WORK

Kudos to DBS for being the first bank in Singapore to introduce QR code payments locally! Though QR code payment is already widespread in China with WeChat Pay as I witnessed it firsthand on my work trips to Shanghai.

QR code payment is extremely easy to use and incredibly fuss-free (with the exception of Samsung Pay, which I will come to later).

To receive, just show the permanent QR code embedded in PayLah! app to the payer. Vice versa when you need to pay, whip out PayLah! app and scan the OR code for the payee.

DBS PayLah!: Making payment with QR code

QR CODE PAYMENT: CHALLENGES

It is really easy to use QR code to pay/receive but the biggest challenge here is surely the adoption rate of PayLah! DBS claims in the media alert that the user base is now 500,000, roughly 1/10 of our population. Truth is there really aren't many around me that uses PayLah!.

The love of cold hard cash is still strong, DBS said more 80% of the transactions in small shops are completed with cash, regardless the definition of "small shops", that really means none of the existing cashless payment products has captured the market.

Existing cashless payment products have fairly obvious weakness. Credit/Debit cards are not accepted everywhere and not everyone can own one especially the young. Standard Chartered-SingTel Dash made a huge push in marketing but it's not a mass solution. For the same reason why Apple Pay is never going to capture the mass market; NFC terminals.

The most common cashless is probably NETS, so any merchants to adopt the likes of Dash and Apply Pay mostly have to deploy additional devices.

There is also Samsung Pay, my favourite cashless payment at the moment. When there is paywave or paypass terminal, Samsung Pay is acceptable, there is no deployment required. But it too isn't common because then it is only limited to Samsung phones users, and only S7 and above are compatible with paywave and paypass.

All said. I see DBS PayLah! having advantages over all the above with their compatibility with NET terminals (if it is really all the NET terminals as claimed, they will have Singapore covered instantly without deployment of additional device), big customer base (safe to say most will have an account) and ease of payment (QR code will be easy and trustable).
Wavecom Digital Indoor TV Antenna ANT-T25: Razor thin antenna!
[EXPERIENCE] Mediacorp doesn't seemed to impress many around me these days, so I question my decision making ability a little (I thought Channel News Asia is not too bad) when I wanted a Digital TV Antenna in my room. Here are 2 things about this amazingly decent product!

GETTING IT IN

I got it off the back of first, good pricing and second, decent reviews on Qoo10. I happened to have spare Qoo10 coupon so I bought Wavecom Digital Indoor TV Antenna, ANT-T25 for around S$22 bucks. It is originally listed at S$35 (excluding shipping).

Back of the box: Notice it says the antenna should sticked on the wall
Having previously shop around for the Akira Digital Setup Box HDVB-T2A1 (Link), I am clear that no matter how decent the antenna is, an amplifier always give the connection a real boost. So this Wavecom fits the bill perfectly with an external amplifier.

Contents: With exception of two 3M velcro pads and antenna base
Out of the box, I find relatively solid quality parts especially surprised with the 3M velcro pads to sticking the antenna to the wall or window. While the antenna is really razor thin, as advertised, its a firm piece.

The antenna cable is a decent 3 metres long. The USB cable for amplifier and its coaxial cable running to the TV is both around 1.2m.

PERFORMANCE

The Wavecom ANT-T25 impresses me greatly, especially compared to my existing Akira. Here is my case. I have the Akira set hooked up to the living room Plasma TV and the Wavecom antenna connected to my Sony Bravia LED TV in my study room.

External Amplifier: Key component
While in different rooms, the antenna are placed in same rows of windows. Now, the Akira antenna has to be sticked on the highest area of the window in order to get maximum signal strength and intensity. The wavecom, on the other hand, works just by place the antenna near the window on the table! Though to get the Channel 8, the antenna has to be really need the window.

Antenna hold up by the base
I can also report that the Wavecom set works so well because of the external amplifier, compared to Akira's internal amplifier. When i turn off the external amplifier, the signal is almost instantly lost.

I highly recommend the Wavecom ANT-T25 if you have a DVB-T2 compatible TV else, this antenna should also work well with generic DVB-T2 tuner.
Samsung A5 @ Sunget Sungei Kadut Megastore
[NEW GADGET] Samsung is having a rough time now. Not only they are having problems with the phones , the Samsung Group CEO is getting into trouble with the law. Unfortunately, consumer electronics advances rapidly and it would not wait for Samsung to sort out their problems.

Samsung's 2017 latest A Series, Galaxy A5 and A7, gave the impression that Samsung knew that and they do still have plenty of technology in them. Here are a few things about the Samsung Galaxy A5 2017.

Samsung call this pink, Peach Ocean 
Solid and safe

Samsung's best bet is to stick to test and tried methods and create products with incremental updates and keep the features that has been proven to be crowd favorites.

This is what Samsung A5 is all about. Starting with the minimalism outlook with excellent grip made possible by the rear 3D glass. The available colours are rather muted too. In their fancy names, Black Sky, Gold Sand and Peach Cloud. Besides this outlook, the rest of the phone is probably a carbon copy of it's bigger brother, S7 Edge.

Starting with the IP68 rating, offering reliable protection against liquid and dust and as well allowing a bath for the phone when it's dirty. Yep, that's what I do, I wash my S7 Edge occasionally!

Then there is the Always On Display, a feature that is again only limited to the S7 Edge in 2016 albeit in a 1080p five inch display (7 inch for A7). Another of my favourite feature to be able to look at the time discreetly in a meeting!

The biggest feature from S7 Edge is the Samsung Pay over MST terminals, allowing Samsung Pay to be compatible nearly everywhere.

Powered by a 3,000mAh battery (3,600 mAh for A7) and equipped with the latest USB Type-C port and microSD slot for up to 256GB expansion rounds up an excellent mid-range Android phone.

Speaking of mid-range, up till this point, with the exception of the 1080p display, the rest are really flagship stuff. But Samsung A5 will be a mid-range more because it is running on Exynos 7880 chipset equivalent to a Snapdragon 600 series processor typically found in mid-range to low end phones today.

The front and rear cameras are both 16MP and offers excellent image quality as I tested albeit in a nicely lighted gallery.

Ocean Cloud, probably the prettiest pink smartphone around
Worthy Competitor!

The Samsung A5 2016, from last year, costs exactly the same as its successor here and that means the 2017 version is more competitive in the market. If you would like the top features of a Samsung Flagship but not the price, Samsung Galaxy A5 is an excellent choice.

The best $500ish phone at the moment goes to OnePlus 3T and the A5 is not far behind, only it's mid-range processor holding it back. Though there are just so many great phones out at the moment, even moving down the price range, there are excellent sets like ASUS Zenfone 3 or even Samsung J7 Prime is a very decent option.

A decent price at $548

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