Tuesday

Best Phones of 2018 - Samsung S8 and iPhone X

I finally retired my Moto X (Gen 1), which is hands down the best mobile phone I have ever owned. I've had a number of different Nexus phones and Motorola phones, but the original Moto X is one I'll remember as incredibly well designed with a minimal but customized take on the Android OS's behavior. It was the best Android phone of 2013 and likely 2014 with the 2nd and 3rd Gen phones. My Moto X still works great but I had an itch to scratch...

First came the Samsung S8 and S8+. Right now I think it's the phone in the perfect price point. It has a great screen at 5.8" edge to edge screen, wonderful technology like iris, face, and fingerprint recognition, heart rate monitor, great camera, and did I mention the screen? It is also at a good price point of $620 on Amazon. It comes with 64MB RAM, Qualcomm 835, 4GB RAM, and expanded memory slot up to 256GB. How far ahead is Samsung? Google Pixel 2 just released with the same specs but without a micro USB storage, without headphone jack, AND only a 5-inch screen using a Samsung OLED available to $749.

If you want the bigger Samsung S8+ with the same, it's only $723 on Amazon. The Google Pixel 2 XL is $849 for the 6" model. WTF??!?

Samsung S8's large screen, minimal bezel, and Samsung's OLED are really tough to beat. Samsung wins hands down in the design category as well. It has elegant and user friendly design, edge to edge curved screen, minimal bezel on the bottom and slim one on top. I have no idea why people complain about the fingerprint scanner location, because I think it's perfect. The location of the fingerprint scanner is great, perfect for when I'm reading or watching the screen and need to unlock it constantly. I use it combination with the Iris Recognition unlock feature and it works great. The S8s also have a heart beat monitor on the back (next to the camera lens) and health software to keep you on your toes and guess what, the GPS will work overseas as well since it not only supports North America positioning satellites but Asia's as well. Also, bloatware is minimal, but I also think they can all be useful. I thought I was going to disable most of them but I've kept them around since I'm new to Samsung's ecosystem. They also have themes, selfie masks, customized icons and background themes, and lots more.




Then comes in the iPhone X... A phone I would have considered if I bought into the Apple ecosystem. Don't get me wrong, I love the hardware but I personally feel iOS (and Android for that matter) are just OK. It's not very customizable or open for creativeness when it comes to adding personality to your phone. Don't get me wrong, I think the iPhone X is the best phone that Apple has ever made and it's the only iPhone that I have considered. I think as Android (specifically custom versions from from Samsung, LG, and OnePlus) and iOS start to diverge on features and UX design behaviors, it'll be easier to switch between the two but for now, the price point of the iPhone X is astronomical even if it has the biggest design change in years and captivated the iPhone audience. It is one cool and beautiful phone.

I'm not going to even link to the other contenders this year because these two phone make the other phones seem boring. If not considering a Samsung S8 or Apple iPhone X, try Motorola. Their Z series phones are modular, adding some gimmicks and additional usefulness, such as a projector,  JBL speaker, battery case, and 360 camera.

Google Pixel 2 - like the others in this final list are dated looking. The tech features or gimmicks are not as fun, there's OS originality but no personality. No fun.
LG V30 -  which has an amplified headphone jack for you audiophiles is a big draw on top of the excellent version of Android.
OnePlus 5 - with the Oxygen Android OS is better than stock Android, which is releasing in a few weeks according to rumors and at a fair price point, delivering spec that are sometimes better than the big players at lower prices.

Thursday

Best of 2017 Compact Car- Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid - Save tons in gas money (and help out the environment too)

If you are considering a new compact car, you should take a close look at the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. The world is running out of reasons to only sell and supply hybrid and EV vehicles as cars like the Ioniq come along that are better than most hybrids and regular compact cars such as the Corolla, Elantra, Civic, and Focus.  With the Hyundai Iconiq, now anyone can buy a reasonably priced, fuel efficient compact car. Please note, I do not own any of these cars but have driven all of them, I currently drive an Audi.

In 2017 the Hyundai Iconiq Hybrid, Chevy Volt, and Toyota Prius are the top hybrids, but, with a tip of the hat to Hyundai to produce the first hybrid to feel and drive like a real car, it is also one of the best compact cars on the market as well. A similarly equipped Elantra or Focus is only $1000-$1500 less than the Ioniq Blue (base model) which starts at $22,200. You can save about $1500 a year in gas so your investment will return positive value in 2 years!

Hyundai Ioniq (hybrid) has been touted as a Prius killer at 58 MPG combined city/highway with a total range of 690 miles in the Blue model all at $22,200. The Chevy Volt (plugin/hybrid) claims up to a 420 mile range and 42 MPG combined but starts at a hefty $34,095. The Chevy EV Bolt gets 238 miles to the full charge! So there are lots of choices out there as automobiles are switching over to electric tech. The Ioniq also comes with Android Auto support, now with Waze integrated into Android Auto. The only car more affordable than these two hybrid is Toyota's Prius C at $20,630.

The Ioniq feels and drives like a car using a dual clutch transmission instead of a CVT, it's the first hybrid to look and feel like a regular car since the Chevy Volt approach. They've also perfected the combustion engine to electric engine transitions, they are seamless and quiet, you cannot tell when they switch. The Ioniq also has decent combined horsepower at 138hp combined, only the Volt has more at 149hp combined.

Hyundai also has a full EV car though not as advanced as the Chevy Bolt EV or Testla Model 3 EV. Hyundai is also bringing a plug-in hybrid in September 2017 to rival the Chevy Volt (plugin/hybrid) with battery capacity for 26 mile range just running on electric.

However...
For 2017, there are a lot of 2nd placers and they range up and down the price scale. Mostly reaching 40/45 MPG in the sedans and SUVs returning around 30MPG combined mileage.

Ford Fusion Hybrid 
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
Honda Accord Hybrid
Audi eTron
Acura MDX Hybrid
Lexus GS Hybrid
Porsche Cayenne Hybrid

Coming Soon:
Toyota Corolla Hybrid
Testla Model 3


Spirit Airlines vs. United Airlines - economy seating legroom: Spirit Airlines wins

I am not tall by any mean, 5'6" so typically legroom isn't an issue as is the seat size but had two varying experiences on a budget airline and one of the big name airline.


United Airlines - Economy - 737 Boeing
Cons: Last October, I took a direct flight on United Airlines flight from LAX to BOS on a 737 and squeezed into the economy seats.  On both the outbound and return flights my knees nearly touched the front seat and the poor fellow next to me was at least 6'3" in the middle seat who put on a contortion act for us. Even worst, United allows these seats to recline just the slightest creating even less space between the seat in front.

Pros: United had LCD entertainment monitors with content you can purchase during the 3-4 hour flight

Spirit Airlines - Economy - A320 Airbus
Cons: Just last week I took a direct flight on Spirit Airlines from LAX to LAS on an A320 Airbus. The only downside I can think of is that their seats did not have any entertainment centers in the seats. Being a very short flight it wasn't necessary.

Pros: I had ample legroom, at least 2 to 3 inches compared to the longer flight to Boston on United Airlines. The price of the ticket more than reasonable while the seats were wide enough and had ample leg room even at rows 27 outbound and 20 inbound.


Conclusion: 
I thought I would hate flying on a budget airline such as Spirit Airlines. However, Spirit Airline has really keyed in their product with a young fleet of jets and exceptional pricing for the bare flight. For short flights I would absolutely use them again. I have a hard time saying the same about United Airlines economy. One thing they do have in common is that it's easy to add on extras such as booking larger seats (cheaper on Spirit typically) and paying for carryons or checked luggage as well as snacks on both flights.

For budget economy legroom and pricing, Spirit Airlines tops United budget economy.