Ian wants to know how safe VPNs are. Leo says that VPNs will create an encrypted tunnel for the internet, but only to the VPN network you use. Sooner or later the data still has to run out into the public internet. And you have to trust that VPN company with your sensitive data.
Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 7 this week. When the first Note came out, it was ridiculed for being way too big, but now it's common. It's popular for the bigger screens and for the improved battery life over smaller phones. People were surprised at the Samsung announcement because they expected the battery in the Note 7 to be smaller, when it actually will be bigger. While the original Note had a removable battery, the previous Note 5 did not. It also did not have an SD card slot for memory expansion.
Terri has an old Razor flip phone and it's about to be disabled by AT&T. Leo says that if AT&T is doing that for network reasons, then they should give her a free phone to replace it. She should be able to get another flip phone if she wants. If Terri wants a smart phone, then she'll have to remember it will cost a lot more with the data plan. If she's ready for that, she'll be able to do a lot more with it. Leo recommends having her son take her to the AT&T store and see what the options are. She could go pay as she goes, or get a 2 year data plan.
HTC has hit its stride again with its newest smartphone, the HTC 10. It has an aluminum body, much like the previous HTC phones, which is nice as opposed to the glass backs of the Galaxy phones from Samsung. The HTC 10 will be a little more robust because of that. It has an LCD screen, not OLED, but it is very nice. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, which is a big improvement over the lackluster Snapdragon 810 processor in last year's Android handsets. It's fast, cool, and energy efficient.
President Obama at SXSW on Friday said that smartphones can't be allowed to be black boxes, inaccessible to government. He said you can't take an absolutist view on this. "So if your bargain is strong encryption, no matter what, that we can and should in fact create 'black boxes,' then that I think does not strike the kind of balance that we have lived with for 200, 300 years, and it's fetishizing our phones above every other value."
The problem with this is that the math is done -- cryptography exists. And there's nothing anyone can do to stop that.
Nextbit is a company founded by a former designer of the HTC One along with a couple of ex Google Android developers. They raised money from venture capitalists and then went to Kickstarter and raised a few million more for a new Android phone called the Robin. It comes in two colors: Mint and Midnight Blue. It's made of soft plastic, not metal. It has hard, square edges. Like the HTC One, it has front-facing stereo speakers. The fingerprint reader is the power button on the side of the phone.
Ginger is ready to buy her first smartphone. She's with Sprint, but she's thinking of moving to Verizon. Leo says it depends on her location for what carrier is best. One service that Leo uses is Google Fi. It uses Sprint, T-Mobile or Wi-Fi.
Leo suggests going to fi.google.com to request an invitation. The service is limited to phones to Google's pure Nexus line. But for the first smartphone, Leo usually recommends an iPhone. Leo suggests choosing her carrier and then deciding which phone from there.
Mike needs a new phone and is looking at the latest Samsung Galaxy Note or Galaxy S6. He wants one with a replaceable battery. Mike found an unlocked international Samsung phone at an electronics store, and they said it doesn't have the extra software on it. Leo says it'll most certainly have the Samsung software installed, but since it's an unlocked international phone, it won't have any carrier software on it.
Leo got the BlackBerry Priv this week, which he says has to be the worst name for a phone ever. It's supposed to mean "Privileged" and "Private." Leo says that since BlackBerry has dropped their own OS in favor of Android, that the Priv is a very good mobile phone. There are some old things that make it a BlackBerry, like the physical keyboard. It brought back memories, but Leo says it was a difficult experience to use to type, leaving Leo to think that this kind of design is an anachronism. It's a feature whose time is over, and we've moved on.
Sam wants to buy an unlocked smartphone. He's heard Leo talk about the Motorola Moto G, but he's also looking at the Huawei P8 lite, and the Alcatel Idol 3. Leo says that the benefit of owning an unlocked phone is that he can take it to just about any carrier. It gives him flexibility, but it also means he'll have to pay for the phone completely up front.