Google Project Fi is a Potentially Awesome Mobile Alternative

Earlier this week, Google announced the upcoming Project Fi mobile service. A unique take on how consumers are charged for wireless connectivity, Project Fi is potentially awesome for some consumers and a novelty for others. Launching exclusively for Google Nexus 6 phones, there are a number of features that make the service stand out. Let’s take a look at them and see if Project Fi is right for you.

Billing — The aspect of Project Fi that seems to be getting the most attention is its costs and cost structure. The price is split into two parts. The mandatory basics cost $20, which includes unlimited domestic calls, unlimited texts (international included), inexpensive international rates, WiFi tethering, and coverage in 120+ countries. After that, customers select their data packages, which cost $10 per GB. The cool part is that the cost of unused data is credited to the customer’s account after each billing cycle. So if I have a 3GB plan and only use 2GB, my next bill will have a credit of $10. Overages are billed at the same $10 per GB rate, pro-rated, so a 350MB overage would cost $3.50. Project Fi plans do not require contracts and, as expected, the usual taxes and fees will be charged.

Network — Domestically, Project Fi will use a combination of the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. Between the two, consumers in large cities should have ample LTE coverage. Phones on Project Fi will automatically select the network with the best coverage at the given time. For those in rural areas, the use of these two networks could be a deal breaker. It all depends on how strong coverage is where you live, work, and play. For me, T-Mobile coverage is very strong in Los Angeles, while Sprint pretty much blows. In many rural areas, these networks are very weak compared to AT&T and Verizon.

WiFi — Project Fi will rely heavily on WiFi connectivity to complement LTE coverage. Calls can be made over WiFi, with Google promising seamless handoffs of calls transitioning from WiFi to LTE and vice versa. I’m curious to see how the software solution works, as current WiFi calling handoffs work well, but not quite great. Consumers can choose to receive their Project Fi calls on their phones (duh), computers, or tablets.

International Coverage — Google claims that Project Fi users will have coverage in 120+ countries. There are a few caveats though. Data rates are “limited to 256kbps (3G)” and call costs could add up if users aren’t careful. International data usage in countries where Google has roaming agreements is deducted from the user’s monthly bucket. For business users that need to reachable 24/7, the international roaming is potentially awesome and much cheaper than what the incumbents charge. Personally, I’d rather use a local SIM card so that I can have 4G data, but understand that some people need their phone number active at all times.

My Take — While I’m greatly intrigued by Project Fi, it’s not something that I care to try straight away. First off, I’m not high on the Nexus 6 — at all. I expect the service to be limited to Nexus phones for the next year or so (at least) and am more interested in the rumored Nexus 5 v2. As far as network coverage goes, most of the places I travel to domestically are covered nicely by T-Mobile, while having Sprint as a backup is nice a nice feature to have. The international coverage isn’t for me, since data is more important for my needs than having my domestic number reachable. I always go with a local 4G SIM when I travel abroad.

Even though Project Fi isn’t right for me at this time, I absolutely love what Google is trying to do with this service. Most American telecommunication companies suck. The prices (for single-line plans) are expensive for what’s delivered. Project Fi’s relatively inexpensive and easy-to-understand pricing is refreshing to see. Between T-Mobile’s aggressive initiatives and services like Project Fi, I hope the American mobile market gets the shakeup that it sorely needs.

Oh yeah, for people on family plans, Project Fi isn’t nearly as compelling. There are some great family deals out there and they make Google’s pricing seem banal.

While I’ll be watching Project Fi with great interest, I’m content with my iPhone 6 Plus on Verizon for personal/work use and my Nexus 5 on T-Mobile ($30 plan!) for Android work projects. What do you guys and gals think about Google’s service? Any of you thinking of requesting an invite? Do you think Project Fi will change the American mobile telecom market? Or is it another pie-in-the-sky initiative from Google? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).

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Better Than Batman vs. Superman Trailer (Dawn of Justice)

As some of you know from the RPadTV Google Hangout, I wasn’t a fan of the recently released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer. It did absolutely nothing for me. It didn’t show me anything new (control your photo leaks, Warners!) and it didn’t get me more excited for the movie. It was two minutes of banality. Thankfully, the crews from How it Should Have Ended and Screen Junkies have whipped up videos that are far more entertaining. Continue reading “Better Than Batman vs. Superman Trailer (Dawn of Justice)”

Vaping Diaries #295: Smiley E-Liquid Stephen James Interview

An atypical Southern California juice company, Smiley E-Liquid stands out with its easy-to-follow menu and straightforward juices. While many SoCal juice companies use complex formulas and ornate names (that sometimes have nothing to do with the actual juice flavor), Smiley’s offerings are easy to understand. Jolly Apple tastes like an apple Jolly Rancher candy, Vanilla Dream tastes like vanilla, Morning Espresso tastes like coffee, etc.

While many vapers enjoy Smiley’s straightforward approach, these juices were made with mixing in mind. The company offers something called the Juice Bag, which includes a 15ml bottle of Vanilla Dream, six smaller bottles of Smiley’s other flavors, two mixing bottles, and a recipe card. The card has a number of recipes that were concocted by Smiley employees and fans of its juices. While you can enjoy a single Smiley flavor on its own, the Juice Bag allows vapers to craft more complex juices. Adding a social twist, vapers that come up with unique blends can email their recipes to Smiley and have their formulas included in upcoming cards.

I’ve had a number of Smiley juices on their own and played around with my own mixes (for the record, most of my blends sucked). While I generally enjoy complex and layered e-liquids, I completely understand and appreciate the company’s approach. At two of the vape shops that I frequent, these juices are wildly popular. At one store, Smiley’s savory flavors (Vanilla Dream, Morning Espresso) are very popular. At Vape Star LA, where the interview below was filmed, Smiley’s candy flavors fly off the shelves.

Check out my chat with Smiley vice president Stephen James to learn more about the company’s approach to juices, learn how the company got started, hear descriptions of some of its flavors, hear about upcoming seasonal releases, and learn about the Juice Bag product.

Vaping Diaries #294: Vicious Ant JC Reyes Interview (VapeCon Manila)

It was a pleasure checking out Vicious Ant’s new products at VapeCon Manila 2015. Vicious Ant has been one of the most popular Filipino vaping companies in America for quite some time. With products like the Prodigy atomizer, VariAnt box mod, and Goliath RDA. It’s easy to understand why.

First up, JC showed me the Prodigy, which is a hybrid atomizer specifically designed for the Phenom mod. In addition to its distinct looks, the Prodigy has a swiveling top cap, that allows for easy dripping. Instead of taking off a top cap or drip tip to refill, a simple swivel will do. This is particularly useful in crowded situations where you might lose a top cap or drip tip (i.e. being drunk in a busy bar). As a vaper that’s clumsy, I thought the Prodigy’s top cap design was brilliant, though I wish the atomizer came with standard 510 threading.

For vapers that like insane power, the VariAnt is one of the best box mods around. This bad boy can hit up to 350 watts. While I rarely venture beyond 40 watts, several of minds cloud-blowing friends love hitting triple-digit wattages. The VariAnt is perfect for fogging up a room.

An ideal complement to the VariaAnt or any 26650 mod is the Goliath RDA. This large atomizer accommodates up to eight coils, allowing vapers to create some insane builds. It looks perfect on the VariAnt, but also looks great on 26650 tube mods.

During the interview, JC mentioned the possibility of a DNA40 add-on for the Phenom. That product has been released since the interview and is called the Phenom Evolution. You can learn more about it, as well as the Prodigy, VariAnt, and Goliath in the VapeCon Manila 2015 video interview below.

Coffee Talk #652: Random Thoughts on Daredevil (Netflix)

After a trio of binge-watching sessions, I finally got around to finishing Daredevil on Netflix. The first of several direct-to-Netflix series of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), all 13 episodes of Daredevil were released on the streaming service on April 10, 2015. A few of you RPadholics and many of my friends binge-watched the show over the release weekend, but I spaced out my viewing sessions (partially to savor it and partially due to other commitments). After finishing Daredevil and thinking about it for a day, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really, really enjoyed the series, but absolutely love what it does for the MCU. I’ll break down my likes and dislikes below, but first a bit on why I love what Daredevil means for the future of the MCU.

As I mentioned, Daredevil is the first of several Marvel series coming to Netflix. For various reasons, the company chose Netflix to highlight its “street level” superheroes. Following Daredevil, Netflix will have shows starring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron First. While the Avengers combat alien invasions, Captain America battles giant Nazi organizations, and Thor faces off against demigods, the street level heroes fight everyday crime. Daredevil beats on muggers, Luke Cage fights gangs, Jessica Jones has a private investigation firm, and Iron First has girly yellow slippers. I love that this facet of Marvel is being explored. While these heroes aren’t as powerful as a Norse god or a man in billion-dollar armor, they’re easier to relate to and arguably more interesting because of their vulnerabilities. The street level heroes are a brilliant contrast to the Avengers and help diversify the MCU.

I also love that all 13 episodes were released at once on Netflix. Yeah, you don’t have the weekly water-cooler chats about the show, but I love that I can watch as much Daredevil as I please whenever I please. People love to binge-watch these days and being able to binge-watch a brand new show is very, very cool.

Now let’s move on to some random thoughts (binary style!) about Daredevil. I know that many of you have finished the show already and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Please share them in the comments section. Now activating binary mode. (Activate your spoiler shields!)

Daredevil Netflix red costume

Good: I’m sure some parents’ and/or Christian groups will be appalled that I’m celebrating Daredevil’s violence, but that aspect of the show was unique compared to the violence in the MCU movies. Sure, Cap, Thor, and the gang take their fair share of punches, but the violence in Daredevil is far more bone-crunching. There are several episodes where you think the hero’s powers aren’t enhanced senses, but the ability to absorb a decade’s worth of ass-kicking in 30 minutes or less. Daredevil takes several beatings throughout the 13 episodes and unlike a Norse god getting smacked by a frost giant, you can imagine what those beatings were like.

Daredevil gives as good as he gets too (otherwise, he’d be dead after two episodes). The beatings Daredevil doles out are straight-up nasty and Kingpin’s use of a car door makes me a little bit scared of my Ford Focus Electric. Appropriately, the street level heroes face street level violence.

Bad: Television shows have a certain rhythm, usually planned around commercial breaks. Since direct-to-Netflix shows don’t have such annoyances, the directors are liberated. In some cases, the unusual pacing can be pleasantly surprising. In others, there are dull stretches. While I liked Daredevil’s lack of predictable beats, there were several episodes that could have been better with more traditional pacing. Sometimes giving directors and editors freedom isn’t the best.

Good: Kingpin absolutely ruled. Between Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance and the material he had to work with, this version of Kingpin is my favorite live-action portrayal of a comic-book villain ever. I’ve never watched a villain so nuanced and layered. D’Onofrio’s Kingpin was powerful, gentle, ruthless, caring, maniacal, child like, romantic, and sadistic. Sure, he had 13 episodes to develop the character, but his performance was flat-out impressive no matter how you slice it. It’s awesome how you can find be terrified of Kingpin in one scene and feel sorry him in a scene where he’s on an awkward date.

Daredevil Netflix Kingpin

Bad: While Kingpin owned and the supporting cast was strong, I found Charlie Cox a little bland. In the comics, I enjoy reading as much about Matt Murdock as I do his alter ego. In the show, I couldn’t wait for Murdock to put on his costume and kick some ass. Part of it has to do with Cox’s stupid grin, which is just asking to be smacked. It’s not that he was bad; I just found the rest of the cast more entertaining.

Good: As I mentioned in the last paragraph, the supporting cast was strong. My favorite episode was probably the seventh, which featured Daredevil’s trainer Stick. I love this character in the comics and was thrilled to see him on television. Scott Glenn’s interpretation of stick was lots of fun.

A close second was the tenth episode, “Nelson vs. Murdock.” In the previous episodes, I enjoyed Elden Henson’s version of Foggy Nelson, but he killed it in this one. It would have been easy and lazy to rely on Foggy purely as comic relief. Having him challenge Matt — questioning his existence as Daredevil and their decades-long friendship — made for a powerful episode.

Good: There were lots of cute nods to fans of the comics. I loved the crack about Vanessa dating a guy that wore white suits with purple cravats (Kingpin’s traditional outfit in the comics). Mentions of the Greek girl Matt dated in college set the ground for a future appearance by Elektra. While Karen Page was victimized throughout the series, the use of heroin in the show made me worry that the writers will follow the books and make her an addict in the future. While they were forgettable asides for people new to Daredevil, they were also nice bits for longtime fans of the character to hear.

Daredevil Netflix Matt Karen

Bad: As expected, Daredevil took a few episodes to come together. The first few episodes ranged from decent to good. It wasn’t until the fifth episode that Daredevil really took off.

Good: Rosario Dawson is amazingly sexy.

Bad: Poor Ben Urich. I was hoping to see him in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot, but his MCU version is no more. (Note to RPadholic Smartguy: Why aren’t you complaining about Daredevil Ben Urich being black?!? :p)

Good: I loved the way that the first season ended. Ultimately, it was about Wilson Fisk throwing away his altruistic (though misguided) side and truly becoming the Kingpin, just as much as it was about Matt Murdock finding his way (and an honest tailor) and fully becoming Daredevil. It was a great build that left me wanting more. On a side note, I’ve always wondered why other superheroes never messed with Daredevil on April 1, replacing his red costume with a turquoise and fuchsia getup…but perhaps that’s just me.

Good: While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Daredevil is the best part of the MCU (which some others have proclaimed), I very much enjoyed the show and love that it laid the groundwork for future street level exploits. Bring on Jewel Jessica Jones!

Vaping Diaries #293: VapeHead Origins Chinen Aguna Interview (VapeCon Manila)

VapeHead Origins had a pair of awesome products on display at VapeCon Manila 2015 — the VHO Quad Box Mod and Mini Haze atomizer. In the interview below, VapeHead Origins’ Chinen Aguna walked me through both products. First, let’s talk about the Quad Box, which is one of the slickest box mods I’ve ever seen. Available in black and silver, the Quad is made from hard aluminum and features copper contacts. Compared to most box mods on the market, VHO’s device is svelte and sleek. On paper, the materials the Quad is made from should translate to fantastic performance if the workmanship is point. I’m anxious to get one in my hands so that I can find out for myself.

On the atomizer side, VapeHead Origins was showing off the Mini Haze RDA. The original Haze was prized by cloud blowers. The newer and smaller model offers better flavor, but can still produce some sizable clouds. VapeHead Origins also implemented some improvements from the original, which Chinen detailed in the interview. Also available in black and silver, the Mini Haze comes with a standard cap for flavor chasers and a competition cap for cloud blowers.

Looking back at my VapeCon Manila 2015 experience, the VapeHead Origins booth was the first one I hit up. I was excited to see the Quad Box and Mini Haze in person. After checking them out, I was sold. Unfortunately, I got so busy with interviews that I became really tired and forgot to pick these products up. I’m still kicking myself for not taking advantage of the great prices at VapeCon Manila.

Anyway, check out my chat with Chinen to learn more about these sweet VapeHead Origins products.

New Fantastic Four Trailer is Surprisingly Cool

I know that many of you are down on the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, but the latest trailer just might get you interested. It’s very cool — surprisingly so. The tone seems correct, the special effects look great, Kate Mara (the sugar mama of my dreams) is hot, and Dr. Doom looks bad-ass. Yes, it’s only a trailer and Fox has botched this franchise before, but the latest Fantastic Four trailer has me slightly hopeful.

For me, the movie hinges on Dr. Doom. I absolutely hated how he was portrayed in the previous movies. Dr. Doom is absolutely not an evil businessman, as played by Julian McMahon. The comics have him as a really unique mix of science and sorcery (and mommy issues). Even though the trailer was better than I was expecting, I was dismayed to find out that the upcoming Dr. Doom is Victor Domashev, an evil programmer, rather than Victor Von Doom, the megalomaniacal scientist/sorcerer we’ve known and loved for decades.

That said, my expectations for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie were so low that the new trailer was a pleasant surprise. Perhaps that’s the best way to approach the movie — expect mediocrity (or worse) and be happy if the movie is above average (or better). Yeah…that’s probably the way to go.

If you missed the first trailer, give it a look here. After you’ve watched the new trailer, kindly share your thoughts on it in the comments section. Are you hopeful that the third time will be a charm for the Fantastic Four? Or do you think it’ll be another hot mess from Fox?