Can iPad Mini sideline Android based tablets?

Apple has rolled out the new iPad Mini and it is the time to assess its impact on the current generation tablet ecosystem. As per analysts’ view, there is no threat for the cheap tablets that are placed in the market. However, iPad Mini is likely to affect the premium tablet segment.

Let us check how iPad Mini will affect the prospects of other tablets.

No threat for Entry Level Tablets

As the price of iPad Mini ranges from $329 onwards it is far away to get into the eyes of customers who are used to low priced tablets. It is also likely that iPad Mini many not attract customers who would like to go for Amazon Kindle Fire or Google Nexus 7. The same logic applies here because of the significant price gap. However, there are other set of analysts who strongly argue that the price difference will not affect the prospects of iPad Mini. In this case, there should be a reason to worry by Amazon and Google.

If customers are required to choose between iPad Mini and Android based tablet (at the same price range), iPad Mini will be the customers’ choice. It is due to the innumerable number of quality, premium and versatile iOS based applications available from the App Store.

Threat to iPad Mini from Low Priced Tablets

Low priced tablets such as Nook Simple Touch were sold at a very thin margin or without any margin at all. Such kinds of tablets’ manufacturers are gearing to make profit by selling various services and products (books, music, and videos). Low priced tablets have a great opportunity to offer an attractive alternative to iPad Mini if they can offer applications that enhance customers’ experience or can include entertaining applications. Such kinds of tablets will certainly be a definite bet against iPad Mini. Even though these tablets may not offer great graphic capability, high quality camera and premium apps, they can challenge iPad Mini.

Challenge to iPad Mini by Premium Tablets

Considering the fact that Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 offers a premium hardware platform, it has the capability to challenge iPad Mini. On the other hand, even though these tablets are offering great features at a very less price, you will not get matching applications from Android segment. For example, Kindle Fire is more tuned for Amazon by which you can access Amazon’s services in a better way. You will not have any applications that have the worth to enhance your entertainment. There will be a significant tradeoff between iPad Mini and other tablets.

Conclusion

In spite of the cost factor, it is expected that iPad Mini will certainly be able to capture the middle range tablets’ market in the coming days. It is likely that iPad Mini will receive the same kind of applause as its counterpart iPad had received before (by purchasing more than 3 million units within one week). The craze for Apple products will not come down even though there is a great difference in the pricing side. However, iPad Mini will have little impact in the enterprise environment. iPad Mini has to overcome drawbacks like lack of Retina Display, screen size and high price factor.

The Blackberry Playbook a year later with a Blackberry fan

Playbook, at it’s debut, opened to widespread negative reviews. The overwhelming perception was that Research in Motion (RIM) was a sinking ship, with a battered stock and the wizards from Canada had taken a first shot at scaling up a brand new Operating System (OS). It didn’t conform to the crowd and leading lights of tech web sites who have dubious standards when it concerns “conflict of interests”.

Despite the hoopla, RIM has probably managed to garner about 3% of worldwide tablet market share. It could be better or worse, if someone decides to contest this claim, but there is a huge difference between what is “shipped” and actual sales. Something that Apple and Samsung are adept in “make believe” and cost accounting practises to charm the press about “millions” of sold inventory.

The electronics industry strongly believes in refreshing their brands; most of the users are probably unaware that the present day hardware is good enough to run the “latest” software. Most of them are also unaware that high prices being paid for the product are way beyond the actual costs of production and moving in to market after taxes. Invariably, early adopters are only paying for the advertising costs. That’s why the “price cuts” once the brand recall becomes easier.

With this humbling back ground, I got a brand new 64 GB Playbook, once it’s prices were slashed. I have owned a Blackberry for over two years now; a curve 3G followed by Bold 9790 which is arguably the best phone I have ever used. I was naturally tempted to look at the offering from RIM with it’s promise of Blackberry Bridge (more on that later) and looked forward to see how best it could be integrated in my daily work flow.

The new Blackberry (BB) operating system (OS) is based on QNX, which is highly resilient and secure embeddable system with it’s own custom user interface (UI). It is here that it wins the contest hands down. Traditional marketing of Playbook has not focused on the cores of processor, the build quality or it’s display. To me, it doesn’t matter. Because the present day quad cores would not caress your hands (or ears) while using the instrument; it’s more of a marketing gimmick and it’s bound to be resource hungry when at the most you’d be using your phone to either make calls, text or play occassional Angry Birds. Quad core for Angry Birds? Seriously?

It’s the 7 inch screen and the form factor that’s the icing on the cake. It’s big enough to be held in hands, a bright screen display that can be easily read in direct sunlight and slides in my jeans back pocket. For those coming from Android or Apple world, it would be a little confusing to see a physical volume and power button. Rest of the tablet is entirely gesture based. It’s here where RIM holds it’s trump card. It’s deceptively simple without making it overtly complex.

The OS boots up in about a minute and a half during the time it displays wonderful fractals. If you have password locked the device (which is a good security practise), once you boot in the main screen, you are good to go. I have the basic Wifi model (the 4G LTE isn’t launched in India as yet) which has been discussed here.

The fun starts with Blackberry Bridge which is connection to your existing Blackberry Mobile through encrypted Bluetooth. With a huge OS update recently, it’s easy to access the text messages (in addition to emails, contacts, memo pad, Blackberry Messenger and Calendar). At times, when I need to access the Internet, I don’t have to tether it but rather use the “Bridge Browser” (the browser on the phone) through Playboook with the added advantage of bigger screen. This avoids the extra charges of Internet tethering. Further, bridge allows me to access files on Blackberry and Blackberry Messenger. The predictive text input is so far the best I have seen on the touch screens (though personally I prefer the physical keyboard on my Bold 9790).

The front and rear camera shoots in high definition beauty; stills as well as video. However, the human eye is sufficiently adept in distinguishing the “fine lines” of high definition. If you are serious about photography, buy a camera instead! The sound output comes from its reasonably good speakers; the standard mic output (3.5 mm jack) when routed through my headphones (I recommend Denon), sounds fabalous. The inbuilt player plays most of the video and music formats with a loud sound output that can be enjoyed with a group of people huddled around it. Needless to say, Flash is in-built for web (how fast we move towards HTML 5 and flash agnostic world is anyone’s guess) and there is a dedicated You Tube app that plays HD videos flawlessly (depends on your connection speed). Oh yes, you can copy and paste too!

Despite the intense multi tasking (I open up multiple apps/screens/browser instances), I haven’t seen my tablet lag or go belly up. The only time I had to forcibly reboot is when I had sideloaded Android applications in developmental mode, when it “mis-behaved”.

There is a standard micro-HDMI slot, a charging port (that uses micro-USB plug) interchangeable through the Blackberry handsets and a connector dock for the keyboard. I haven’t been able to get this accessory, so I wouldn’t be able to comment on it.

Why do the platforms crow about “thousands”/million apps? Some of the apps are mere “launchers” for the browser to interact while some are clones of each other. How many Twitter apps would you need to do the same thing on your tablet? That’s why I am amused at the sheer number. While Apple restricts you on it’s ecosystem (and so does Bllackberry, in a way), RIM has decided to run encrypted apps in future update. I would be happy for the developer who ought to get suitably rewarded for the efforts made. More so, with newer developments in the way apps can be coded for RIM, it has become easier to translate your idea into a product (as testified by numerous “jam sessions” held by RIM across the world). Android has a lot of piracy, the market is full of malware and is inherently insecure. Although the updates promise to rectify this, it is a huge fragmented market. Apple (and to that effect RIM) ensures uniformity for updates and product lines but app for app, it’s far more profitable to develop for Blackberry.

I primarily use my tablet as a reading device (I use Instafetch) since there is no native application like Instapaper for Playbook. It gets my work done with fairly simple settings. I have an epub reader (which also reads chm files) which does the good job of reading e-books.

Native pdf support comes from Adobe Acrobat which is insipid. I prefer to use Quopa’s PDF Reader with some degree of pdf manipulation like highlighting across text which is preserved across platforms. I paid after using it for trial and it’s worth it. I read a lot of journal articles in pdf which translates in true value for money.

Apart from these two, I haven’t found anything else to increase the utility of my tablet. Lack of Skype support is a problem but I find my laptop reliable to be used for it. There is Video Chat built in, but you would need another Playbook to interact with it. I am told that the next Blackberry Messenger update would come with Video Chat support as well. It’s not that I am carrying an elephant or iPad magically makes me look good on the cam in any manner whatsoever. I have sideloaded Flipboard (which sets up a pretty interface for RSS feeds) but it’s just an interface. That adds nothing to my daily workflow and I have found it’s support pathetic. (The queries sent to their developers for native Playbook app remains unanswered even after 1 week). I access my feeds through browser on Newsblur which is what a RSS reader ought to be.

Apps or hardware specifications is a pissing contest; more like a rat race where the principal protagonists are just rats. Death of personal computing is highly exaggarated by journalists looking to stir a hornet’s nest, garner more eyeballs on their pithy web sites while acquiring a cult status promoting the new tablet as the next best thing to sliced bread. A tablet cannot be a replacement for a PC, as yet. It is as best, a supplement.

That’s where Playbook cuts through the flotsam and the fluff. It is what it takes a real tablet with adequate form factor and hardware specifications to shine through. Highly recommended.

 


Author Bio:

Dr. Berry, the pseudonym of a real life doc by profession, but a technophile in heart. He spends his free time dwelving in the world of technology. Loves BBM, but hates that some of his friends have to be reached through Whatsapp instead.

The Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone Review

Thanks to the good folks at Nokia & Nokia Connects, we got our hands on the Nokia Lumia 900 to take it out for a spin quite a while back. We have to apologize for not getting this review out to you sooner, but we just got held up with a lot of other things which have been keeping us busy. Here’s our much delayed review of the phone.

The White Lumia 900 is quite a looker, and feels quite sleek. Having used the Nokia Lumia 800  which also has a polycarbonate body, but the White Lumia 900’s body feels much more slicker that the 800’s.

The Lumia 900 is the third phone in the Lumia series after the 710 and the 800. All 3 phones come with the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system. We have had the opportunity to use all 3 phones extensively. The Lumia 900 is Nokia’s flagship device and will be launched in India in Q3 2012. Let’s get a quick look at the specs before heading out in to the review.

Nokia Lumia 900 Specifications

  • 4.3″ AMOLED Clear Black Gorilla Glass Display
  • Display resolution – 800 x 480 px
  • 8 Megapixel rear camera, with Carl Zeiss Optics and a 1 Megapixel front facing camera
  • Video Capture at 720p
  • Dual LED Flash
  • 3G / WiFi / DLNA / Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity
  • 3.5 mm Audio connection & MicroUSB wired connection
  • FM Radio
  • Windows Phone 7.5, upgradable to 7.8

Hardware

The Nokia Lumia 900The Lumia 900 stays true to the Nokia’s of old and has excellent build quality and a solid polycarbonate shell. There were absolutely no creaks or deflections during our time with it. We put it through some rough use and there wasn’t a single mark of our abuse at the end. It is one of the most solidly built devices I’ve ever used. All this solidity has a downside which is weight. It weighs in at 160 grams which is by today’s standards, quite a bit. Just for the sake of comparison, both the new Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X weigh 130 grams. Its 11.5mm thick compared to S III and the One X’s 8.6mm and 8.9mm respectively.

It has a Qualcomm APQ8055 Snapdragon chipset with a 1.4 GHz Scorpion CPU which is the same clock speed as the Lumia 800 and the Samsung Omnia W. The 710 has 16 Gb of internal storage with 512 Mb of ram and an Adreno 205 GPU. I

t comes with the usual array of sensors and A-GPS with GLONASS. Being a windows phone based device has the usual 3 buttons at the bottom which are the back button on the extreme left, the home key in the centre and the search key on the right. There is no micro SD slot (like other WP phones) which could be a problem for some. The display is a 4.3” capacitive Nokia ClearBlack unit protected by Corning Gorilla glass.

The Lumia has around ~217 ppi. The 3.5mm headphone jack, noise cancellation mic, micro USB slot for charging/data sync, and the micro sim slot are at the top of the phone. The right hand side has the volume up/down buttons, a, power button and dedicated camera shutter button. The back has an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with Carl Zeiss lens and dual LED flash. There are no buttons on the left hand side of the phone. The bottom has the speaker grille that’s beautifully drilled through the polycarbonate.

Interface

The Lumia 900 uses the Windows Phone Mango operating system which pretty much says it all but we’ll elaborate as much as possible on the interface and its advantages and disadvantages.

After slotting in the micro SIM card and the device is switched ON for the first time, you need to enter or create a Live ID. Without a live id, you cant download apps through the marketplace. After that’s done, you can go ahead and setup as many Email IDs as you like from the usual options like Gmail, Yahoo mail, MS Exchange and so on. Facebook and Twitter are fully integrated into WP and also can be added during the initial setup. Contacts can also be synced through your online accounts or from your PC using the  Zune software which is freely downloadable.

Windows Phone has a user interface called Metro. There is never a want for more processing power or memory. The response is extremely fluid and I was never left waiting for anything. It basically replaces the icons found in android and IOS with live square tiles. Just like you would add a shortcut icon in android phones, you can add tiles of your most commonly used apps, contacts etc. Live tiles are really easy to use and visually pleasing especially if you’re used to the boring icons in other operating systems. You can create live tiles for apps or for particular contacts. That live tile will then display that contact’s profile picture and any Facebook and twitter updates. You could have individual live tiles for each of your email ID’s or you could link all of them to create one linked inbox. The email in all WP phones is really good and I didn’t see the grouping errors seen previously on the other WP phones.

All windows phones have universal volume and you cannot change volume for specific apps or events. For example, you cannot change media volume without also affecting the ringer volume. I really liked this change because it meant I could reduce volume before music or videos started.

Windows phone has the PEOPLE live tile which can be use to access your People hub which has Phone contacts, your contacts’ Facebook and twitter updates on one page and live tiles of your frequently used contacts. There is also a ME live tile which can be used to update your Facebook and twitter status, view any notifications and updates.

Messaging on WP phones is integrated with Facebook messaging. Provided you are logged into Facebook, you will receive all your Facebook messages and phone messages in the same inbox which is a nice touch. Windows marketplace is quite good and is growing everyday. There are thousands of apps that can be downloaded. The marketplace is still not as evolved as IOS and Android but it’ll get there eventually. The quality of apps is still not up there. There are some inherent flaws in the WP operating system. For example, new mails and missed calls show up on the lock screen but any other notification from any application will not show up on the lock screen. This will only show up on a live tile. So, if you don’t have a live tile for that application, seconds after it goes bleep bleep, there is no further notification. This is a problem with apps like Whatsapp, Meedoh (twitter app) and so on. The other problem is the only way you can receive mails instantly is through MS Exchange. If you set up the email account as well standard account, you’ll have to set it to poll for email at predefined intervals. All in all, i do not think these are major problems, but they are problems none the less.

Screen

As stated earlier, the Lumia 900’s display is a 4.3” capacitive Nokia ClearBlack unit protected by Corning Gorilla glass with ~217 ppi. This is quite low because all 3 Lumia series phones have the same 480 x 800 resolution and the same number of pixels have been stretched to fit this screen. If you compare this to the S3 and the One X which have 720 x 1280 pixels side by side, you can definitely make out the lower resolution. The iPhone 4S which was released last October has a resolution of 640 x 960 (on a smaller screen) just as a comparison. But, although the ppi count is low, the pixels are not that easily visible, so it’s not that much a problem during everyday use. It has decent sunlight viewing ability and extremely good touch response.

Telephony

All aspects with respect to the telephony on the phone were subpar. Most voices were muddled and it was difficult to comprehend many sentences. I also found it quite uncomfortable to hold at my ear and during a long call and i ended up with really warm ears after some reasonably long calls. The in-call volume is also quite low. The signal also suddenly dropped to zero from 3-4 bars many times and it gets back the signal in 5-10 seconds. The volume on speaker is also compartively lower.

Camera

Lumia 900 on the left and the Samsung Galaxy S3 on the right

In our camera tests, we did notice a pink or purplish hue on some of the day-time snaps which we took on the Lumia 900. As you can see above, the snap on the left is from the Lumia 900 and the right from a Galaxy S3. Notice the difference?

Apart from the stock camera app on the phone, you can also now use Camera Extras app from the Windows Marketplace, which extends your phone’s camera to take Panorama photos and the Smart Group shot feature. In the Smart Group shot feature, you can take up to 5 photos of your group and choose the best poses of your friends across these photos and create a single “Perfect” shot!

Here’s a video of the Camera Extras available for the Lumia phones:

Wifi HotSpot

The Nokia Lumia 900 was the first of the Lumia range of phones to get the Wifi Hotspot feature. You can turn you phone’s 3G connection into a Wifi access point, and allow other devices to  use your phone’s Internet connection. This is a useful feature for people travelling around with a lot of Wifi gadgets, but just one 3G connection on their phone.

Nokia Music & Nokia Mix Radio

Mix Radio on the Lumia 900Nokia Music and Mix Radio allow people using the Lumia 900 to get access to ‘free’ legal music from Nokia. Nokia Music subscription service in India is free for the first few months, with DRM music downloads, which is yours to keep even after the subscription period ends.

If you don’t feel like searching for new music to listen to, Mix Radio is just what you need. Select a music genre on Mix Radio, and you get streaming music based on that genre of music. You can also take the your Mix music on the move, by downloading them for offline use. Of course, tracks on Mix Radio cannot be copied off the device. For that, there’s Nokia Music.

Nokia specific Apps

As with other Lumia phones, the Lumia 900 comes with your favorite Nokia apps as well like Nokia Drive, Maps and Contact transfers among others. The list is becoming bigger as time progresses.

What do we think?

The phone is generally good. We did face some issues with call and signal drops, but the device being a review piece this could be attributed to the pre-release quirks of the device. The camera’s pink splotches need a firmware fix to fix that. Apart from these quirks, we just loved the large screen on this phone. Nokia should make more devices with larger screens like this. It makes using the phone and apps so much more enjoyable. The build quality has the usual Nokia goodness, and is quite the looker!

Number one on the list is the late introduction of the Lumia 900 in India. Q3 is way too late in the game to release a phone like this in the Indian market, especially in the light of Microsoft’s latest announcement that the current Lumia range wouldn’t get a bump up to Windows Phone 8, but rather an intermediate 7.8 only. This should have been out in the market months back!

For more information about the Nokia Lumia 900, head out to Nokia’s Lumia 900 product page.

 

Vinu Thomas contributed to this review.

The Lumia 900 Photo Gallery

The Nokia Asha 311 Hands on – Swipe, Pull and Pinch!

The Nokia Asha 311

Last week, we covered the release of Nokia’s latest range of Asha phones. Luckily, while I was attending Nokia’s Strategy Sharing Summit in Chennai last week, I got a sneek peek at the Asha 311 in action, with some hands on time with the phone.  I wasn’t expecting this kind of performance out of an Asha phone! The new revamped UI of the phone is smooooooth! More on this later.

Quick Specs

Let’s start with a quick overview of the phone specifications. The Asha 311 is a 3G enabled phone, with a 3″ touch screen display. Unlike the earlier Asha phones which were also 3G enabled, the 311 also features WiFi connectivity. The phone is estimated to retail around 92 Euros ( approximately Rs. 6500), before taxes, when it hits the stores.

Display: 3.0 inch Capacitive Touch Screen with a resolution of 400 x 24o
Processor: 1Ghz
Camera: 3.2 MP Camera
Storage: 256MB, Expandable via Micro SD upto 32GB
Connectivity: Quad Band (850, 900, 1800, 1900) GSM/EDGE, Pentaband (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100) HSPA, Bluetooth 2.1, Micro USB for data and charging, WiFi 802.11 b/g
Bundled Software: Pre-installed Nokia Maps, 15 Levels of Angry Birds and the Nokia Social Client which allows users to access Facebook and Twitter.

The upgraded S40 UI

As I mentioned earlier I wasn’t prepared for the new update to the S40 interface. Since the Asha 311 is a full screen touch device and has no hardware buttons for typing, Nokia has upgraded the S40 UI to a full touch interface. Even though I’ve reviewed earlier Asha phones with 1Ghz processors, this phone really takes the cake! Nokia’s done a lot of optimizations in the S40 systems to speed up interactions on the phone.

Most of the home screen interfaces are now swipe enabled, so all you need to do is swipe across screens. The latest version also features a notification bar on the top of the screen, for events requiring your attention. Even the volume display in the media player doesn’t just show you the volume level bars, but nice new animation! And did I mention that everything is so smooth? Since there’s not much more I can write about it which would do justice, check out the video to take a look for yourselves.

A video of the Nokia Asha 311 in action

Photos of the Asha 311

For more information about the Asha 311, you can check out Nokia’s product page. Thanks to the Nokia India folks for letting us have some hands on time with the device and a demo for the video.

Nokia Lumia 800 vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Today we have a new comparison for you all; in one corner we have Nokia’s Windows Phone, the Nokia Lumia 800 and in the other corner the Galaxy S II Android Smartphone from Samsung. Both of these phones are top of the line handsets, they have some similarities but many differences, so let’s see who comes out on top shall we?

The main sections I will be covering today are:

  • CPU and RAM
  • Storage
  • Display
  • Camera
  • Dimensions and Weight
  • Battery Life
  • Operating System and UI
  • Connectivity
  • Social Integration
  • Music
  • Included Accessories

CPU and RAM

The Nokia Lumia 800 sports a sweet 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM 8255 single core processor bundled with 512MB of RAM. Compare this with the Galaxy S II which has its Samsung Exynos 1.2 GHz dual-core powerhouse and a whopping 1GB of RAM it feels like the Nokia is lacking, but don’t be tricked by this, the Lumia 800 still feels smooth as butter no matter what you throw at it.

However I have to say that the Galaxy S II  wins here, the pure power can’t be matched and the 1GB of RAM allows for massive amounts of multitasking.

Storage

The Lumia comes with 16GB internal memory, but no microSD slot or means to expand its storage. The Galaxy S II on the other hand comes in either 16GB or 32GB sizes, each capable of being expanded another 32GB via a microSD slot. The Galaxy also features On-The-Go (OTG) technology so that you can plug in a USB flash drive or externally powered USB Hard drive.

The obvious winner here is the Samsung Galaxy S II, with its choice in sizes and expandability.

Display

The display on a smartphone can be a deciding factor for some people these days, it can be the difference between a phone being good or being great. A smartphone with clear and colourful screen can be seen as some as a representation of the inner workings of the phone.

The Lumia 800 has a 3.7 inch AMOLED ClearBlack curved capacitive touch screen. Display is seamlessly integrated into a one piece body. Now, the Galaxy S II has a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus display to provide better web browsing. Both devices have a 480×800 pixel resolution, however due to the smaller size of the Lumia images can appear clearer at times. This is because it has a pixel density of 252ppi compared to the Galaxy’s 217ppi. The greater the pixel density, the crisper the image appears.

Now, one handset has AMOLED with curved screen that provides the user with better touch feel and the other has Super AMOLED with bigger screen. For this section I recommend you to judge the handsets from the point of view of your liking. Both these displays are good.

Camera

Smartphones these days are starting to replace the traditional point and click camera, due to ease of use and availability, so having a decent camera is a big plus on a phone. The Lumia 800 has an 8 MP auto focus rear camera with Zeiss Optics and dual-LED Flash; the camera can also record 720p HD videos. But one thing is pretty shocking and that is that it has no front camera. Now the Galaxy S II, it has an 8MP auto focus camera with LED flash as well as a 2MP camera on the front side to enable video chat. Similarly the rear camera can also capture HD video; however it records at 1080p instead of 720p.

Both of these devices have decent cameras that I would happily use for everyday shots, however one thing apparent with the Lumia 800 is that it has been focused towards macro photography. By default when entering the camera, the focus mode is set to macro (later software updates change this default to normal focus) and when shooting, boy does it not disappoint with macro shots. But when comparing normal shots with the Galaxy S II it gets let down. Pictures appear grainier and often the colours are slightly off. So this can be a blessing or a curse depending on how much macro photography you plan on doing with your phone.

Another advantage of the Nokia Lumia 800 is the dedicated camera hardware button. Holding the camera button when the screen is off and locked will open the phone straight into the camera for a quick shot.

While the Lumia’s dedicated camera button and superior macro shooting capabilities make it a great camera, due to the lack of a front facing camera I find myself leaning once again towards the Galaxy S II.

Nokia Lumia 800 Samples

Samsung Galaxy S II Samples

Dimensions and Weight

The Lumia 800 has dimensions of 116.5×61.2×12.1mm and as far as the weight of the Lumia 800 is concerned, it weighs 142g. A lot of this weight comes from the sturdy metal body. On the other hand the Galaxy S II has dimensions of 125.3×66.1×8.49mm and in spite of being a relatively big size of the handset, the Galaxy S II is only 116g.

Now, we see that the Galaxy is a bigger handset than the Lumia 800 but it is still lighter and thinner than the Lumia, so the winner is the Galaxy S II.

Battery Life

The Lumia 800 has a 1450mAh 3.7V battery which gives a standby time of 265h and a talk time of 13h on 2G. Whereas the Galaxy S II has a 1650mAh Li-ion battery that gives standby time up to 710h on 2G and 610h on 3G and talk time of up to 18h and 20m on 2G and 8h and 40m on 3G. On standard usage I got 2 days life with the Galaxy S II and 1 day under heavy usage. With the Lumia on standard usage I got about 1.5 days battery life and 12 hours under heavy usage, so you could comfortably use either of these phones all day and then just charge them overnight.

The Lumia 800’s battery life was significantly increased by a software update that saw the idle battery drain drop from 180mA to 80mA.

The bigger battery makes the Galaxy S II clear winner when it comes to battery life.

Operating system and UI

Well where to start? The basically, the Nokia Lumia 800 is running Windows Phone 7.5 and the Samsung Galaxy S II is running Android Gingerbread 2.3 (upgradable to 4.0 ICS). But that’s only where the differences begin! The Galaxy’s UI is based on Samsung’s TouchWiz with the basic 4 static apps along a bottom bar with multiple dynamic homescreens capable of holding folders, application shortcuts, live widgets, custom and live wall papers and then a pull down notification bar which shows you information about missed calls, unread messages and many other application specific information as well as 5 static toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Sound and Rotation. Then there is an app draw containing all your installed applications in a 4×4 grid. All this can be changed with many other available launchers in the Google Play Store. The Nokia Lumia 800 on the other hand has a tile homescreen interface, 2 tiles side by side descending down the screen which are scrollable. Instead of a wallpaper for the background there is a single solid colour, selectable from a list of colours in the settings menu. The tiles likewise are a solid colour also selectable through the settings menu. The tiles can be anything from pinned applications to live tiles displaying weather, however there is no folder options. There is no dropdown notification area to be found though, just a basic battery meter, signal indicators and clock. At the touch of a button you can view all installed applications in a list in contrast to the Galaxy’s grid of icons.

Multitasking on smartphones is becoming more and more important and is present in both of these devices. On the Lumia, a hold of the windows soft key will bring up a horizontal gallery of snapshots of open applications, so that you can just browse to the open application you wish to resume. The Galaxy’s multitasking interface differs depending on the Android version you are running. If you are on the stock 2.3 Gingerbread version, then holding the home button will bring up a popup window with a 2×4 grid of icons representing the recently opened applications. However, if you are on the latest Ice-Cream Sandwich it’s a different story. Holding the home button will instead bring up a vertical display of snapshots of open applications that can be swiped away to close them or clicked to resume.

Something missing some the Lumia is a file browser of any sort. There is no way to sort through the internal file system. Sure you can view all the pictures and videos and music in their respective applications but nothing more than that. The Galaxy has a full-fledged file browser for viewing and organising both the internal memory and any external media attached. Also you will notice that unlike most other mobile operating systems, including Nokia’s own Symbian OS, there is no notification area at all. While the “live tiles” on the Lumia do update to show if you have a message or email, that is all you will get. Android and even Apple’s iOS have notification areas for all unread emails, messages, Facebook statuses and all things like that. This is a much needed feature in Windows Phone OS.

Even though the UI of Windows Phone on the Lumia is very easy to learn your way round, the winner of this section still goes to Android on the Galaxy simply due to the massive amount of customisation available and the file browser.

Connectivity

Both these devices tick all the usual boxes when it comes to connectivity, GPRS, EDGE, 3G, Wi-Fi 802.11N, Bluetooth, MicroUSB, however there are still some slight differences. The Lumia 800 is capable of 3G speeds of 14.4 Mbps download and 5.76 Mbps Upload and has Bluetooth v2.1. Compare this with the Galaxy S II which is capable of 3G speeds of 21Mbps download and 5.76 upload and has Bluetooth v3.0 you see these differences. Also the Galaxy S II is capable of becoming a Wi-Fi hotspot for your other portable devices.

One key thing disappointing about the Lumia 800 when it comes to connectivity however is that the Bluetooth functionality is almost completely non-existent when it comes to data transfer. It can be used to transfer your old contacts from another device but that is where it stops. There is no file transfer options, you can’t share media with other Bluetooth enabled devices or even send a contact to a friend. This I feel is a key feature in the smartphone world these days. The Galaxy is more than capable of these things and will share anything from a contact to a photo or application via Bluetooth.

Another thing that frustrated me, was that on the Lumia 800, every time I locked the screen or it timed out, the Wi-Fi connection turned off too. So if I was chatting to someone on Windows Live or Facebook and the screen timed out or i turned it off to put it in my pocket, I stopped receiving messages because the Wi-Fi was off. In Wi-Fi settings, there was no option anywhere to adjust this to my liking. While the Samsung Galaxy S II can also disable Wi-Fi when the screen is off, this is adjustable between 3 profiles, never disable Wi-Fi, always disable Wi-Fi and don’t disable while charging.

The clear winner here is the Galaxy S II, the ability to take full advantage of its Bluetooth and the ability to create a Wi-Fi hotspot are the main reasons for it winning here.

Social Integration

The Nokia Lumia 800 has some really good features in the social integration section. It has Gmail, Yahoo! mail, Nokia mail, Hotmail, Exchange and there is IM, MMS, and SMS. In the people hub section it has Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn. The People Hub is capable of showing the latest status updates from all your friends and twitter feeds that you follow, as well as displaying all your contacts. The Me Hub allows you to see mentions of you in all social networks as well as update your status feeds simultaneously. The messaging Hub is great because it can show you everyone that is online on Facebook chat and Windows Live. You can start a conversation with one of your friends on Facebook and then in the same thread when they go off Facebook switch to texting their mobile or Windows Live ID without opening a different application or chat thread.

Now the Galaxy S II, it has got Gmail and Active Sync Email, then it has SMS, MMS, and as far as the hubs are concerned it has four: Music Hub, Social Hub, Readers Hub, and Game Hub. You can connect your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts here too. However the whole interface doesn’t come together as nicely on the Galaxy.

The winner here is the Lumia 800, for the way it brings all the social networks together flawlessly.

Music

No one can underestimate the role of music in any phone, smart phone or otherwise. The Nokia Lumia has music features such as FM Radio, Music Player, Audio Streaming, Bluetooth Stereo, Active Noise Cancellation. As far as the format goes it supports AAC, M4B, MP3, WMA, AAC+,EVRC, MP4z QCELP.

The Galaxy S II supports MP3, OGG, AAC,AAC+, eAAC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WMA, WAV, MID, AC3, IMY, FLAC, XM. It, like the Lumia 800, also features an FM Radio and Music Player.

Talking volume levels, the Galaxy S II is louder, providing 66.6dB music volume, 70dB call volume and 75.7dB ringer volume compared to the Lumia’s 59dB music, 60.9dB call and 61.7dB ringer volumes.

Both are solid music players, playing a massive range of audio formats and both featuring FM Radio.

Included Accessories

So what do you get these days when you buy a new smartphone? Well if you are buying the Galaxy you’ll get the standard 3.5mm headphones with mic, a USB cable and wall charger. If you buy  a Lumia 800 however, you will get all the standard things as well as a nice rubber case to protect your new smartphone with.

Winner is the Lumia for the free case!

The Verdict!

So how do we sum up all that’s been discussed here? Well we’ve found that both devices have decent hardware with the Galaxy S II having a powerful dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM and the Lumia 800 with its crisp display and great camera. But what about the short comings? Well the social integration on Galaxy leaves much to be desired without third-party apps, and the UI while being very customisable can become too complex for users new to smartphones. The Lumia 800 may bring great social integration and a simplistic and beautiful UI to the game, but while these have been polished I can’t help feeling like I need more from the device. The limitations on the changes that can be made to the homescreen and interface, the inability to take advantage of the Bluetooth included to transfer files and media are 2 big things that it just can’t shake. The lack of a MicroSD slot leaving the user unable to expand past the limited 16GB of storage too only brings more issues with it too, especially when shooting 720p HD video on the phone. The solid build of hardware is let down greatly by its Windows Phone limitations. One other thing that bugged me was without the included case on the Lumia I found myself constantly bumping the camera button due to its placement.

So what would I recommend? At the end of the day, it’s the Galaxy S II from Samsung that takes this cake. Its raw power, screen size, expandable memory, connectivity and customisation makes it the king of this round up. However for users new to smartphones, the Lumia is a winner with its great hardware and simple easy to learn interface.

Until next time, check out the photos of these great phones in the gallery below!

HTC One X: One Month Later

The HTC One X is HTC’s Flagship device for this year, and (along with the One S and the One V), is a device that HTC is betting quite a bit on. HTC hasn’t been the premier Android OEM for a while now; Samsung currently holds that spot, and with that, hasn’t had a very good couple of years, financially that is.

We’ve been using the Device for a little over 3 weeks now and here are our impressions of the device.
Before we move on, here’s a roundup of the Specs:
Processor: 1.5 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 (International Version)
Display: 4.7″ 720p (1280×720) SLCD2
Storage: 32GB (~26GB available), No Expansion Slots, 1GB RAM
Connectivity: WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC,  Quadband GSM, Quadband HSPA, DLNA, WiFi Direct
Software: Android 4.0 with Sense 4
Imaging: 8MP Camera, 1080p Video Recording
Battery: 1800 mAh, Non Removable.

What’s in the Box?

The box contains the basics; A USB wall wart, data cable and a pair of ear buds. The cable of the ear buds seem to be durable and they’re flat, but the buds themselves aren’t the in-ear type! It’s such a shame HTC didn’t bother bundling proper in-ear headphones (and no, Beats Headphones do not count).

First Impressions

The device is made out of machined polycarbonate, just like the Lumia 800 & 900. What does that mean? The build is absolutely solid. The screen, which is slightly curved outwards in all directions, is crisp, with good colour reproduction and is really sharp all around. The device itself doesn’t feel big, and I’ve had a couple of people ask me if this was the same display size as the Samsung Galaxy SII. The one area of concern was the Camera, with protrudes from the rear, with the lens flush against the metallic ring.

Hardware

The build of the One X is top-notch. The front is dominated by the curved Gorilla Glass that protects the huge display and the three capacitive buttons. Unlike the previous generation devices, these buttons map to the Ice Cream Sandwich softkeys: Back, Home and the Multitasking Key. On the Galaxy Nexus, these are on-screen keys, which has both advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages faced by HTC’s decision is about software, which we’ll discuss in the next area. The front also has a 1.3MP camera, which was okay for Skype and Hangouts (or Tango).

The top houses the Power Button, the 3.5mm Headphone jack, a secondary noise cancellation microphone and the tray for the Micro-Sim. The bottom has the primary microphone. The left side just has one slot for the Micro-USB port, which thankfully support MHL (which means you can use an MHL adapter for HDMI output). The right side has the volume rocker, which is just slightly raised from the body itself, and that’s a bit of an issue because it’s hard to distinguish the buttons. The phone feels like a HTC device, just better.

Software

The device runs Android 4.0 with HTC’s Sense 4 on top (and deep inside). It isn’t a “Vanilla” Android Ice Cream Sandwich device, which led a lot of people to scream “Blasphemy”. Honestly though, which Ice Cream Sandwich has done a lot towards “beautifying” the stock Android Experience, this time, Sense does make sense. I have not been a fan of HTC Sense; Sense 2 added a lot of features that were sort of missing from Android at that time, but Sense 3 and 3.5 just got bloated, with over the top animations and effects that didn’t add anything to the experience. Sense 4 is slimmed down, and honestly, this is the first time I haven’t used a launcher to remove the stock feel (like I have done with TouchWiz before). There are no “3D Carousel” effects, which honestly was headache inducing.

Even the app drawer has an almost stock ICS feel (without the transition effects); you have access to the Play Store on the top right corner, the drawer is horizontal and not vertical like in earlier HTC devices, and the tabs at the bottom which provide shortcuts to the whole tray, favourites and downloaded apps can be edited and removed. A few things that Sense does add include Skydrive, Dropbox and Flickr integration, which is a nice touch. You also get 25GB of Dropbox Storage for 2 Years, which is a really nice touch.

Among all the bundled apps, the ones I found most useful were the Tasks & Notes apps; the Tasks app works perfectly with Google Tasks, and the Notes apps syncs with Evernote. The new HTC keyboard has pretty decent autocorrect, which helps, because I managed to type this segment using the keyboard on the Notes app. You can also use the voice dictation service directly from the keyboard; just tap the mic icon.

The accuracy of text input via voice is going to vary from person to person of course; it worked about 50% of the time when I tried using it. Sense 4 also has a different approach to the multitasking list; instead of a vertical overlay, where you can dismiss apps with a swipe to the side on stock ICS, you get a different screen with a Horizontal list, and you need to flick apps upwards to get rid of them. It isn’t that much of a difference in general use though.

The overall experience is only marred by the three small dots that pop up for apps that aren’t optimized for ICS; this is the legacy menu button for old apps, which, in stock ICS on the Galaxy Nexus, would pop up along with the on-screen soft-control keys. HTC has had to tack this on (and it does feel like it was tacked on), and it does detract from the overall experience in apps that haven’t been updated.

We tested the device on Software versions 1.26 and 1.28. There should be an update rolling out now to version 1.29, which should make your general experience snappier.

Battery Life 

The phone has an 1800 mAh battery, which is non removable. Couple this with the fact that it has a quad-core processor and a huge, high-resolution LCD display, and you’d expect pretty pathetic battery life. With normal (Moderately Heavy) use though, we were pleasantly surprised as it almost managed to make it through a day. Check out the screen shots below. This was with Sync on for 2 Gmail Accounts, an Exchange account, Twitter, and many more services running in the background. With really heavy use, it managed to get to half this time before it died out, which is not bad at all.

Comparing the One X against the HTC Sensation, their previous flagship device, here are a few of the differences.

  • Screen Size/Display – As you can see in the image below, the One X, while having a bigger display, is just a tad taller than the Sensation.  There’s pretty much no comparison here; the 720p SLCD2 display on the One X is miles ahead of the qHD SLCD display on the Sensation.
  • Processor/Memory – The Sensation had an 1.2 GHz dual core Snapdragon and 768 MB of RAM, which was a snappy setup that was completely destroyed by the heavy Sense 3 Framework (Skin). The one upside though, was the expandable Micro SD slot. The One X’s Tegra 3 processor, along with the relatively light Sense 4, makes a huge difference, although I would attribute it more to the software than the hardware on the One X.
HTC have come a long way from the Previous Generation devices, with much better build, and more importantly, improved software.
Now, a fair comparison in terms of screen size would be against the Samsung Galaxy Note (Read our review here).
  • Screen Size/Display: The 5.3″ 1280×800 Super Amoled Display is quite brilliant, with really vibrant colours. The 4.7″ 720p display on the One X on the other hand, has much better colour reproduction (and higher pixel density).
  • Phone Overall: After using the Note for an extended period, pretty much every other device feels small. The Note does have the S-Pen which does provide a pretty decent On screen writing/drawing experience, thanks to the Wacom Digitizer, and this still is a standout feature, apart from the overall size that is.
  • Battery: Here’s another place where the Note managed to do really well, the battery life is quite good AND you can replace the battery, which is a HUGE plus.
  • Processor/Memory: The 1.4 GHz Exynos processor (pretty much the same one used in the Galaxy S2) along with the software optimizations done made for a really smooth experience while using the Note. The One X though, is on a different level in terms of smoothness though. It’s much better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imaging 

HTC has been pushing the Imaging capabilities of the One X (and the One Series in general), and there’s a lot of talk about their Image Sense. There are a few add ons to the camera that are quite good, including the ability to take HDR shots, and having access to effects while shooting. The biggest add-ons though, are the Burst Mode; just hold down the shot key, and you’ll capture full frame images at upto 4 fps, and it’ll keep capturing up to 99 photos at a stretch, and the ability to take photos while taking videos; all you have to do is tap the photo capture key while shooting a video. There’s no mode shifting, etc; you have access to everything on the main screen. Here are a few screenshots of the camera interface.
HTC has also added some editing capabilities from the gallery, including adding filters, and tweaking the colours, sharpness, contrast and more. Here are a couple of examples:
Normal Shot

 

With Filters and Additonal Tweaks
HDR Shot
HDR Shot with Filter and Additional Tweaks

Final Impressions

Is the One X the “One” for you? Well, that depends on your budget.For the price, you get brilliant build quality, a really good screen, a good (if not exactly great) camera, and decent battery life. This is, by far, the Best Android device I’ve used so far! There is the looming specter of the Samsung Galaxy S3 of course.

A Date with Asha – The Nokia Asha 300

When I got the news that we were going to get a Nokia Asha phone for review, I thought that it was a good time to try out a back to basics feature phone. I didn’t know what the expect from the phone, since when ever I did see the phone at Nokia World and MWC, it was for a few minutes of hands-on time. Not enough to experience the phone. Now’s the chance to take the phone for a full “test drive”.

A Quick Overview of the Asha 300

Nokia Asha 300
The Nokia Asha 300 runs on Nokia’s Series 40 OS. Even though this phone is categorized as a “Feature Phone”, the Asha 300 sports a 1Ghz processor with a resistive touch screen. In terms of Network connectivity, it is a Quad band phone which can with 3G support which supports speeds up to 10Mbps though HSDPA. There’s a 5MP camera to take snaps when you’re on the go. This phone also supports USB OTG, so you can connect your thumb drives to this phone to transfer data in or out of the phone. Bluetooth capabilities is also available. One feature I missed seeing on this phone is WiFi connectivity.

The phone comes with 128MB onboard memory, but you can expand that additional memory cards.

The phone also has a regular telephone keypad. This was going to be a challenge for me, since the it’s been some time since I used a phone (on a daily basis) with this keypad. Ever since the Nokia E61i came out in India, I’ve either been using a QWERTY keypad or a touchscreen phone as my primary phone, so getting back to the basics and re-learning T9 typing could be a challenge here for me.

Design & Build

Even though this phone is priced at around INR 6200, the phone certainly doen’t look cheap at all. The phone is quite sleek and weighs just 85 grams, which is not too heavy. Even though the body is mostly plastic, the Call, Messaging  and the End Buttons on the front of the phone have a Chrome finish. This is one area where Nokia certainly has an edge over their competitors. They’re really good in the design section, making this phone look good. The phone comes in two colors – Graphite (Grey) and Red.

Screen, UI &  Input

The Asha 300 sports a Transmissive LCD display with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels, which is also a resistive touchscreen. The screen is bright enough for regular use and is also quite usable in sunlight. You don’t have to squint to checkout the screen when you’re out in the day time.

The UI is the standard Series 40 touch interface which features a homescreen where you can place your favorite widgets as Shortcuts for frequent tasks. Here’s where the resistive touchscreen acts up at times. Sometimes which sliding my finger across the screen to scroll, the phone ends up clicking on an item and opening it instead of scrolling. This didn’t happen too many times, but the one offs were a tad bit irritating.

After a few days of using it, my tying speeds did increase considerably. This could be because of my earlier T9 typing days. I guess it comes back after some practice. I don’t have any complains on the keypad. It worked like a charm after getting some practice.

I had quickly relearnt the old shortcut keys. Long press the # to toggle the phone beween silent mode and back, and a long press on the * key to toggle bluetooth.

Connectivity

The 3G connectivity on this phone is great. I just dropped in my Airtel card into the phone and was up and running on 3G speeds in a few minutes (the amount of time it takes to get the settings on the phone through SMS).

Even if you are on a slower EDGE connection, if you use the bundled Nokia Browser to surf the web, you get a slightly faster experience. Nokia Browser works on a proxy technology, where when you surf the web, the data is actually routed through Nokia’s servers which compresses the data and send it to your phone. This increases your browsing speed, even on slower connections, and save your bandwidth since you receive only compressed data.

The Asha 300 comes with a Micro-USB connector which you can use to hook the phone up to the computer to charge and transfer files. If you do get a micro-USB OTG cable (you’ll have to buy one separately), you can even connect your flash thumb-drives to the phone. If you’re trying to hook up your harddrive to your phone, you can forget that. Most of the phones, the Asha 300 included, don’t support filesystems other than FAT32, so bigger drives may not be accessible since they may not have FAT32 partitions.

You can also use Bluetooth to transfer files in and out of the phone, and connect to bluetooth accessories as well.  So apart from the missing WiFi, this phone cover most other connectivity options.

Camera, Multimedia & Apps

The 5MP camera on this device is not the best of breed. Nokia’s been a pioneer in mobile phone camera technologes, but that hasn’t really come out on this device. The still photos taken on the phone may look good on the phone screen, but doesn’t look that great when you transfer it and view it on the desktop. I know the argument for this would be that the Asha is not a smartphone with Carl Ziess optics, it’s a sub Rs. 10000 phone. But then I’ve seen some other phones in this price segment with better camera output. The phone’s video recording is at 640 x 480 at 30 frames per second. Not too great spec wise.

The Asha 300 does have a loud speaker, if you’re listening to music on the phone, you can share you music among your buddies by using the phone’s built-in speakers instead of the headphones. The phone also supports most major audio codecs, so you just need to transfer your music across and you’re set.

A few apps and games, notably Angry Birds, comes bundled along with the Asha 300, but you’re not limited to what comes with the phone. You can head out to the Nokia Store to get more apps for your phone.

Battery Life

This is one place the phone really shines. This phone lasts a long time on one charge. The Asha 300 is a perfect travel companion, since it’s not a power hogger, and you can depend on it to last for more than a day. So when my smartphone is on it’s last legs 5 hours into the day, the Asha 300 comes to the rescue.

Wrap Up

If you’re looking to upgrade from a basic phone, the Asha 300 is a phone to checkout. The phone retails on the Nokia Online Store for around Rs. 6300. If the Asha 300 came with WiFi and a better camera, this would have been a real killer phone in it’s price range.

Nokia Lumia 710 review

A bit late to the party, but we did finally manage to get our hands on the Nokia Lumia 710, courtesy of the folks at Nokia; and now having spent some time with the device, here’s a quick roundup of some of its key features:

  • 3.7″ 16M-color ‘ClearBlack’ LCD capacitive touchscreen with WVGA resolution
  • Scratch resistant Gorilla glass display cover
  • 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, 720p video recording
  • Windows Phone 7.5 OS (Mango)
  • 1.4GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 chipset, 512MB of RAM
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • GPS receiver with A-GPS support and free lifetime voice-guided navigation
  • Digital compass
  • 8GB on-board storage
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • Built-in accelerometer and proximity sensor
  • Standard 3.5 mm audio jack; FM Radio with RDS
  • microUSB port
  • Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP and EDR

Straight off the bat, this is by no means Nokia’s flagship device – this is the other Lumia. The one that’s designed to be an inexpensive,  mid-range, yet reliable smartphone; but hey, that’s the point.. sometimes people don’t want something that fancy or  pricey and that’s precisely what the Espoo-based manufacturer is targeting with this offering.

Build & Design quality

With Nokia, what you see is usually what you get and what you see here is a delectable looking device with oddly-tapered rectangular edges and that unfailing Windows interface that we’ve come to err.. love? Weighing in at just under 130 grams, the 710 manages to hold its ground in terms of design – from the ‘feely’ rocker buttons on the front to the refreshing colours of the soft-coating plastic that cover the entirety of its back, Nokia still manages to look different in a world where generic designs are becoming more and more common (yes, you know who you are).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’re also bound to see (and very clearly I might add) is Lumia’s 3.7-inch 800×400 LCD screen which boasts Nokia’s ‘ClearBlack’ display. With a pixel density of 252ppi, the display is as good as it gets on a Windows Phone handset. The brightness does take a bit of bumping up when viewing in direct sunlight but contrast and viewing angles are better than most typical LCD units we’ve come across.

As previously mentioned, it’s also quite refreshing to see a phone that does not include capacitive buttons at the bottom of the screen. This can be quite annoying when playing a game you accidentally touch a capacitive navigation button and exit out of the game. The Lumia 710 includes a clear plastic rocker button at the bottom with icons for back, “Windows”, and search. The buttons have a good tactile feel to them and much less prone to accidental activation. As with every Windows Phone, there’s a two stage shutter key on the right side. 

Processor & Memory

Still, let not its endearing looks fool you – for below its exterior, the Lumia pack’eth substantial muscle in the form of its single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 processor with 512MB of RAM, which is more than adequate to present us with a likable performance. As expected, it moves, reacts, and executes just like any other Windows Phone before it, which gives the platform a very uniform approach. One sore point we’d like to bring up here is its limited on-board memory (boo!). With no way of expanding its 8 GB of internal storage capacity, you’ll need to contemplate what things stay and go on the handset.

Camera

The camera on the 710 seems to’ve been much talked about (atleast from some of the initial launch reviews) but for me, it was quite an enjoyable affair. Agreed, it doesn’t come with any software-related camera customizations similar to what Samsung and HTC have done to their most recent devices; neither will you find any panoramic or burst shot or high dynamic range modes. But, having said all that, the macro mode on this 5MP snapper was a revelation to say the least. It holds up well in low lighting conditions and pictures appeared crisp (more or less). Flick through some of these unedited samples and decide for yourself. Furthermore, as a video camera, the Lumia 710 is capable of recording upto 720p HD video with continuous autofocus with little loss in frame rate.

 

 

  

Software & Interface

Say what you like about the Windows OS, but I’ve actually found myself becoming quite a fan of this simplistic interface. One might say it is starting to become quite boring by now, but on the contrary I am quite fascinated by its straightforward approach, dynamic live tiles and Metro-like UI. Software customizations from Nokia include the exclusive ESPN app, Nokia Drive, contacts transfer, “We care”, and app highlights. The App Highlights program has some listings of different apps that Nokia recommends along with a “Surprise Me” button where you shake the phone to highlight something randomly. There’s also a “Nokia Collections” section of the Windows Phone Marketplace where you’ll find all the special Nokia-made apps.

Having said all of that, there are however times when personalization leaves a lot to be desired –  which is reserved to things like rearranging the home tiles, changing the accent and/or background colour. Another gripe, which isn’t a minor one though, is notifications (or lack thereof?). You need to have a live tile on your home screen and you need to get there to see if there’re any waiting notifications; only the stock, built in apps like Email, Phone and Messaging can display notifications on the lockscreen (That’s a Windows Phone thing in general though).

A nice Windows Phone feature is the ability to turn on a “Battery Saver Mode” which disables background tasks and push email (you could set it up to be enabled whenever the battery level is low, or until the next time you charge your phone). A word of warning though; you won’t get push notifications from other services like Whatsapp or Kik Messenger if you turn this on. You’ll have to manually go in to the app to check if you have any waiting messages. Another minor issue is with the Live Tiles themselves, at least with some apps (Taking twitter apps as an example); sometimes they show info on the tile, sometimes they don’t.

Battery life as such is great in Standby (another heads up – if you rely on WiFi alone as a connection means, do note that WiFi disconnects after you turn off the screen and that you can’t change that). In use though, it’s like most other smartphones. Of course, as with most devices, I assume it’s the screen that will draw the most power when it’s powered on and there’s nothing that can be done about it. With heavy use, it needed to be charged halfway through the day, but with light usage, it easily made it through the day (and then some).

The Final word..

As the second lovechild of the Nokia-Microsoft affair, the Lumia 710 had its work cut out for it – to entice first time smartphone buyers while keeping its nearest competitors (Samsung & HTC) in sights. As always, there will be a few that whinge on about how it could’ve had the polycarbonate unibody or a better camera from it’s nearest cousin, and in some respects this might be true with the lack of expandable memory, a front-facing camera, wi-fi tethering (which is supposedly coming in a future software update), yada yada yada.. but let’s face it, this was never going to be that device and the sooner you come to terms with this fact (not to mention that inexpensive price tag) and look beyond the same, what you get is a a device that packs a lot of great features into a sturdy, attractive, fast, and yet functional smartphone.

Heck, I would buy this thing simply for the price  and feature-rich people-centric UI. So the Lumia gets a resounding 7/10  from us, in celebration of the amazing everyday (cheesy, no?).

The New iPad Review

 

So it’s finally here, and surprisingly there isn’t a suffixed number to remind you which iPad it actually is. Since the iPad 2 came out in March last year, there were murmurings of a hi-res iPad that was in the works behind the iron walls at Cupertino. The iPad 3 or iPad HD were  the early favourite monikers, but Apple threw caution to the wind and just called it…the iPad. Gasp. A lot has been made about the nomenclature and numbering of these iDevices, but fast forward to 2020 and try imagining what the iPad XI or 11 will look like. Exacly, sounds stupid doesn’t it? Just like every new MacBook or iMac is called exactly that, Apple appear to be doing away with the numbers and just calling it as it sees it….the new iPad. Now that that is out of the way, and we have had the time to give the new iPad a run around the block, head past the break to read our full review.

Continue reading The New iPad Review

[Photos] The Nokia 808 Pure View

The phone which really blew me away during MWC 2012 was the Nokia 808 PureView with its 41 Mega Pixel sensor! The first monster camera phone announced in Nokia’s new PureView range of phones.

The 808 with its massive image sensor and Carl Zeiss optics is it self capable of taking great snaps. Nokia has also added their PureView software on top of this bundle so that pictures you take at 5 and 8 megapixel come out crisp and clear, even in low light conditions. This is done using technology called Pixel Oversampling where the information from many pixels (or dots in the image) are used to calculate one single pixel. This greatly improves the end quality of the image removing those white grains you see when you take pictures in low light. To read more about this technology, check this White Paper from Nokia explaining the PureView technology.

If you are wondering how big the Image Sensor on the Nokia 808 really is, check out the image on the right. As you’ve probably guessed, the one on the lower left side of the image is the sensor powering the 808’s camera. The one in the middle is a standard 8 Megapixel sensor. So the bigger the sensor, the more information about the photo it’s able to capture.

Apart from the Sensor and PixelView technology, the Nokia 808 is quite fast in switching to the Camera mode and clicking a snap. From the Lock screen, clicking on the Camera button got me to the camera in just a second and just over another second to click a snap. So in just over two seconds, your phone can go from the Lockscreen to actually taking a photo. I’m impressed.

The pictures and videos from the Nokia 808 were quite good for a camera phone. The phone excelled in the night shots pretty well. If you haven’t seen the sample pics and videos taken on the 808, head over to our previous post with the samples. Of course the folks from Nokia had stated that the phones we had to play around with were prototypes and not the actual devices slated for release, so they’d be tweaking the camera software a lot more before it’s launch around May.

The phone itself looks pretty good, check out the gallery here with the Nokia 808 posing for us.

What are your thoughts about the 808? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.