The Holiday 2015 Fixya Smartphone Report covers common issues and their solutions of popular holiday gifts like the GoPro Hero4, Apple iPhone 6, Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 tablet, and Sony Playstation 4. Despite the fact that each of these popular holiday gifts are not similar devices and provide vastly different experiences to consumers, our report discovered consistent problems across all the devices with their battery life.
With the holidays just around the corner, people from all walks of life will be purchasing and receiving a wide variety of gifts. Our report provides an extensive breakdown of some of 2014's most popular gadgets and electronics that people will be using in the coming weeks, and offers step-by-step troubleshooting information to solve the most common issues that have frustrated people who already own the device. The holiday season is stressful enough without having to deal with any issues with gifts both given and received.
Which is where we come in.
Drawing from our unique and proprietary data found on Fixya, as well as the Fixya Fixboard which provides unique actionable insight on today's top brands, we will cover some of the the most common issues and solutions that each device has and give you the tools to find a solution.
Let's get started
Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 Tablet
The Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 is the second-generation tablet under the HDX 8.9 name. Released during the 2014 holiday season, this version of Amazon's tablet dropped the “Kindle” in the name and tweaked some notable features to improve the user experience and help users get more bang for the buck, taking aim at becoming the premier tablet in the electronics space.
At its core the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, like its predecessors before it, is still is a tablet for Amazon power users. In other words, the heavy integration with Prime, ability to one-click shop on Amazon, and a UI that's designed to deliver the Amazon experience to the user makes it appealing for users who use those services daily. The ability for members to effortlessly stream their entertainment content to the device makes the tablet a must for digital media lovers, and e-book aficionados will also enjoy the integration with digital books as well. In addition, Amazon's “Mayday” feature that connects you almost instantaneously with an Amazon customer service rep over video chat with the flick of the wrist rounds out the experience.
This is the market Amazon is focusing on with their tablets right now, and Amazon addicts should rejoice.
However, the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 still has its issues, especially for users who may not utilize Prime or be as invested in the Amazon ecosystem. We tackle all those issues below.
Common Problems & Solutions
Firefly Issues - One of Amazon's newest features for this version of the Fire HDX, Firefly is a tool users can utilize in an attempt to identify any type object or media they encounter. Using the device's built in camera and microphones, users open Firefly and either snap a picture or use the microphone to pull information on the object they wish to identify. This feature is extremely useful when executed properly, and gives the user the option to find the object they're looking for on Amazon to purchase if it is available in the store.
However, despite the novelty and effectiveness of Firefly, the tool does still have its share of issues. Users are sometimes unable to locate the object they are looking to identify, leading to some minor frustrations with the tool. While this is expected considering there is a wide variety of factors going into the implementation of Firefly (availability of the object/audio online, quality and angle of the picture that was taken, among others), as well as the fact Firefly is still in its infancy stages and only recently released, there are some ways to ensure you're getting the most out of it.
- Ensure that the whole item is visible on the screen
- Try not to move when taking a picture, as any blurry output will effect the device's ability to identify the object
- Try to take pictures right in front of the object and not at an angle
- Ensure that the product is well-lit
- Attempt to scan a barcode if the item is not registering
Battery Issues - In no uncertain terms, issues with battery life are a widespread complaint amongst the vast majority of high-powered electronics in the smartphone and tablet market, and the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 is no different. With a gorgeous HD screen, and an emphasis on using Prime (which has a ton of entertainment options available to stream), the Fire has a tendency to heavily tax its battery life and uses a significant amount of power to run optimally. That's really the double-edged sword with high-powered electronics—although you're getting superior performance and high-level specs, those need a lot of battery life to successfully implement. And while battery capabilities are constantly being improved upon with each release, they often have issues keeping up with the features being implemented with each release.
- Turn down screen brightness
- Set the device to auto-sleep when it is not in use for a short period of time (please not this will not effect the device when you are watching video, so your viewing will not be interrupted)
- Close any apps that you are not currently using and may be running in the background, slowly draining your battery
- Turn off Wi-Fi when not in use
- When streaming video via Prime or using the internet, try to use Wi-Fi instead of the tablet's internet connectivity as much as possible
- Ensure you're using the Amazon cable to charge your phone, and not a third-party option
- Ensure that your Amazon Fire is up to date with the most recent version of software
App Support - As we've seen with other companies attempting to break into either the smartphone or tablet market with a brand-new operating system, there is going to be issues with app selection at the outset of the products launch. This is no different with the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, whose app selection (while greatly improving with time) still falls short in the face of impressive app selections from Apple and Android. The issues are no different for Amazon, as even with all of the marketing and financial power of the company, onboarding developers who will create apps for the device is going to take time and an increased user base. In addition, although the phone is heavily integrated with Amazon Prime and could be appealing for users who rely heavily on that service for their entertainment and shopping needs, services such as Google Play are not available in the store.
Amazon's decision to exclude Google Play from its services is a reasonable one considering Google is a direct and noteworthy competitor to Prime and the two companies are clearly shooting to get as much market share as possible. Still, the lack of Google Play services is a definite downside to the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9, and will turn some users off.
- Unfortunately for users, this issue cannot be resolved with anything other than time. Amazon Prime users will enjoy the service's full integration with this device (which is expected considering the phone is coming from Amazon), but until more time has passed and companies begin to put more and more resources into developing Amazon-based apps, this issue will remain. Additionally, unless either strategic or competitive changes occur, it is unlikely Google Play will be made available for the device.
Apple iPhone 6 and 6+
Apple has had a pretty firm grip on the smartphone market over the years due to their first mover advantage, innovation and incredible brand power. The iPhone has had an excellent user interface, making it a simple transition for consumers who have never owned a smartphone. This perception has had its share of bumps along the road, like antenna gate and battery gate, but by and large there's no debating that Apple understands how to make a product that appeals to the masses.
Apple underscored those notions with the iPhone 6 and 6+. Although it struggled a bit out of the gate (which is a relative term, as Apple's sales figures are always among the industry leaders, if not the leader outright), supply is meeting demand this holiday season for the iPhone 6 and 6+.
So how does the iPhone 6 and 6+ stack up according to users who own the device? Let's take a look at some common problems.
Common Problems & Solutions
Random Reboots - Similar to other smartphones, the iPhone 6 and 6+ were prone to randomly rebooting. While inopportune and clearly an annoyance, the vast majority of the reason for this is that the phone is either swamped with an overwhelming number of open applications and programs it is running at the time, is overheating due to significant use, or cannot handle the load of a specific app or game. All of these issues, whether working in concert or separately, cause the device to reboot and shut down the phone before restarting.
- Ensure that your iOS is updated to the current system. You can do this by going into your settings menu and downloading the most recent software update.
- Perform a factory reset on your device to wipe it of anything that may be causing the issue.
- Avoid playing a graphical game or watching videos for an extended period of time
- Be cognizant of the heat of your device; if it is constantly running hot due to overuse, let the device “breathe” for a moment and do not use.
- Delete any apps where this problem occurs most frequently.
Battery Life - Similar to issues with the iPhone 5s, both the iPhone 6 and 6+ experience notable problems with the battery life of the device on a fairly consistent basis. The biggest drains on battery life are the most common suspects—graphics driven games, location services (especially when using the device as a GPS on a trip), and consistently using your phone. While the urge is always going to be there to use your smartphone constantly, especially with how well Apple delivers on numerous aspects of this device, constantly running the smartphone and using it will cause the battery life issue to become more and more pronounced as the minutes drag on.
These battery issues aren't a new thing for Apple users, who underwent some pretty significant battery drain problems with the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. While it hasn't hurt the company yet, especially because most cutting-edge smartphones have similar issues, this issue may turn off some consumers who are looking for a smartphone that has a more reliable battery life.
- Turn off automatic fetching for your email services, instead opting to manual fetch your emails
- Ensure that location services are only being used when needed and not constantly left on
- Turn off push notifications and background app refresh, which refreshes your apps even when you are not currently using them
- Limit the time you spend watching videos and playing games, as these are the most data invasive uses of your phone.
- Be cognizant of any apps you download that may be heavy battery drainers
Camera Issues - The iPhone's camera is one of the best, if not the best, amongst all new smartphones, which makes the occasional issue taking pictures and retrieving photos all the more frustrating for users who wish to take advantage of the device's ability to take excellent photos. The primary issue for users who have problems with the iPhone's camera is that upon booting up the camera to use, a black screen appears instead of the camera. Although this is not a device-breaking issue (most users are able to exit out of the camera option and attempt to take a picture again), it does significantly slow down the process of taking a photo, which can be especially frustrating when the picture in question is time-sensitive.
- Reset all settings on your phone to reboot everything (including your camera).
- Perform a factory reset on your phone.
- Ensure that you are not using an old backup file from a previous phone or version of iOS.
- Make sure you have enough memory available on your phone to take a picture and save it.
- Close down all other applications when using the camera function.
As the market leader in high-definition personal cameras, GoPro's success in the market has been nothing short of impressive. The company is essentially synonymous with extreme sports, with numerous athletes ranging from surfers to skydivers to everyone in between taking advantage of the relatively cheap and easy to use footage that can be captured by mounting the camera to an object and letting the recording fly. This ease of use and price point has expanded far beyond the extreme sport landscape as of late however—with the company recently going public, a greater focus has been placed on marketing and developing the camera for everyday use by everyday folks, making it a top holiday seller this season.
The Hero4 does a lot of things right, and almost exclusively does them well. With excellent resolution, an easy to setup interface, and great video capturing interface, anyone from the average Joe to professional extreme sports athletes will find something to like and enjoy about the camera. However, the device does pose some notable issues that will affect each type of user in extremely similar ways—below you'll find those issues and how to fix them.
Common Problems & Solutions
Battery Problems - The first issue with the GoPro Hero4 battery is that it comes in a new and updated version compared to all other GoPro cameras. What that means is that users who own a previous edition of a GoPro camera will need to purchase different batteries if they want more than the single one that comes with the device. While that may not be a big issue at face value, it becomes a larger problem when we examine the second issue with the GoPro Hero4 camera—its battery life.
With all of its specs and high-resolution video, the GoPro Hero 4 struggles with meeting battery life expectations in the field. As we've covered almost endlessly throughout our Fixya Reports throughout the years, this type of issue isn't exclusive to just GoPro or even the high-definition market—in this report alone, almost every popular holiday product that isn't plugged into a wall socket and runs on an in-house battery deals with similar issues to varying degrees. It doesn't make the problem any less frustrating, but it does provide some context for the issues GoPro faces.
Speaking of these battery issues, let's get to the fix.
- Make sure your Wi-Fi is off to conserve battery life.
- Be cognizant of what and when you are recording, by making sure your device is only turned on when you want to record.
- If quality isn't your highest concern, shooting at a lower resolution will slightly improve battery life.
- Purchase an extra battery or two to avoid losing the ability to record when you want to.
- You can also purchase a BacPac accessory from GoPro that attaches to the camera and provides elongated battery life.
Image Stabilization - We've covered the impressive specs that come along with the GoPro Hero4, as well as the ability for the camera to record excellent high-definition video from a wide variety of locations, be it in water or on land. However, one issue that does crop up with the Hero4 is its image stabilization capabilities (or lack thereof). With many people using the camera to capture highly dynamic and in-motion video, it's a peculiar feature to leave off the table. Depending on what you're using it for, video captured by the camera can oftentimes become shaky and jittery. Considering the camera is usually attached to an object (meaning it is hands free and prone to move in abrupt directions with the object its placed on), this can leave your videos feeling a little bumpy and less professional than one would like.
- If you plan on using the camera for dynamic purposes, attach it to a surface that will move the least amount.
- If shooting video via a stick or holding the camera in your hands, try to move as little as possible to get a smoother shot.
- If you are going through a post-editing process with your videos, a large part of these issues can be fixed with the right software to improve the smoothness of your videos and reduce shakes and jitters that make the video look chunky.
Overheating - Similar to the battery life issues that cause problems with the device, some GoPro cameras have also experienced issues with overheating. With so many specs and features working at the same time to deliver high-quality video, the device has a tendency to tax the battery and run hot from time to time, occasionally getting so hot that the camera automatically shuts off as a fail-safe to preserve the hardware inside.
In addition to generally running hot with the normal battery installed, the GoPro Hero4 also can run hot when a battery pack called the BacPac made by GoPro is attached. This battery pack allows for users to extend their battery life by a significant margin to nullify the issue of general battery life, but it appears that the addition of the BacPac add-on has a tendency to increase the temperature of the device even more for users who just experience overheating with their normal battery.
- Shoot video at a lower resolution, which will decrease the chance the device will overheat.
- Attempt to capture shorter video clips instead of leaving the camera running for extended periods of time.
- Turn off Protune audio.
- Make sure you have enough airflow around the camera to help cool the device.
- Turn off Wi-Fi and do not use the camera in conjunction with the GoPro app.
Sony Playstation 4
With a second holiday season under its belt, the Sony Playstation 4 has established itself as the most popular next generation video game console on the market. Boasting impressive specs, a wide variety of video game consoles for gaming aficionados, and an even larger variety of entertainment options for the whole family that come in the form of apps in its online marketplace, the PS4's ability to serve as a home entertainment console for a wide variety of users had made it a hot-seller during the 2014 holiday season. The device has sold over 13.5 million units as of September, with those totals on the rise this holiday season.
Along with games, the PS4 offers numerous other ways for users to take advantage of the device—it has music and entertainment options, a built-in browser that users can use to browse the web, the ability to live broadcast your gaming achievements at the click of a button, and voice control which allows users to dictate menu selections and other decisions hands-free. Its primary competitor the Xbox One also possesses many of these features as well.
So what are the issues with the Playstation 4? We examine them below.
Common Problems & Solutions
No Audio/Video - It would make sense that audio and video are the most important things to have when booting up the Playstation 4, but unfortunately some users have reported issues with the audio or video with their PlayStation 4. The frustration associated with this problem cannot be understated, as it renders the Playstation 4 unable to provide any sort of worthwhile experience for the user—without audio or video functionality, the device simply does not work. These issues run the gamut from only audio issues, only video issues, and issues with both audio and video both not working at the same time.
Thankfully this issue can be relatively easy to solve if the right steps are taken. Here's how to tackle the issue.
- Check if your PlayStation 4 is experiencing a blinking red or blue indicator light. If it is, please run through the troubleshooting steps for that issue (found above in this report).
- Via the settings menu on your PlayStation 4 home screen, ensure that all of the audio and video options for your PlayStation 4 are up to date and what you need for your specific purposes and television.
- A short-term fix for any audio issues can be to use headphones to listen to any audio—sometimes audio can still be heard through headphones though not your television.
- Examine your HDMI cable and/or the HDMI ports on your television for any issues, as sometimes the PlayStation 4 will not display audio or video despite the issue not being a result of the console malfunctioning.
- Replace your HDMI cable to check to see if the issue is with your HDMI cable and that the issue is not with your console or television.
- Update your PlayStation 4's firmware and software via any available online updates.
Console Turning Off - The PlayStation 4 can turn off unexpectedly when using the device, and in more rare cases, will not turn on at all when the power button is hit. When the Playstation 4 is working it will display a white indicator light, but when it's not, either a blinking blue or blinking red light will pop up. Whether you have a blue or red light that is blinking, the console is unable to be used and may require being sent into Sony for repairs or replacement in order to get it working properly again.
However, there are some steps users can take before reaching out to Sony. And we have them right here.
- Reset your PlayStation 4 by turning it off, unplugging all of the cords associated with the device, and then plugging it back in.
- Before plugging it back in, users can also carefully open the hard drive to see if there is any issues with the disc drive that are causing the problem.
- Examine your HDMI cable and/or the HDMI ports on your television for any issues, as sometimes the PlayStation 4 will show an error result despite the issue not being a result of the console malfunctioning.
- Put the system in a more open area with proper ventilation.
- Place a fan next to the system in order to reduce heat.
- Ensure that the internal fan is running properly – you should hear it while the console is running.
Freezing - As we've seen with the overheating issues of the GoPro4, users of any electronic device have inevitably had to deal with their device freezing and requiring a reboot. Some PlayStation 4 users have encountered a trend of their console freezing at inopportune times, specifically when updating their device via the PlayStation Network and using their device to play games or consume media.
Obviously freezing can be a huge inconvenience, but thankfully it appears to be one of the more manageable issues compared to other maladies with the PlayStation 4. For issues with your PlayStation 4 freezing, users can go through the following steps.
- Download any software or firmware updates via the PlayStation Network, which can be accessed from your console's home screen.
- If your console is freezing while accessing the PlayStation Network to download any updates, visit the Sony Support site and download the updates to your computer there, then transfer them via a USB connection that plugs directly into your console.
- Reset your PlayStation 4 by turning it off for two minutes, unplugging all of the cords associated with the device, and then plugging it back in.
- Put the system in a more open area with proper ventilation, place a fan next to the system in order to reduce heat, and ensure that the internal fan is running properly—you should hear it while the console is running. If your console is overheating, make sure to let it rest for at least two hours before trying to boot it up again.