HTC launches the HTC One M8 In India – Hitting the Stores in May

HTC launched their much awaited flagship the HTC One M8, here in India today. They’ve priced the M8 at Rs. 49,900 and the phones should hit the retail shelves in the first week of May. The M8, which is the successor of the HTC One which launched last year, see a few upgrades from the predecessor.
HTC One M8 Front and Back
Let’s start with the specs of the HTC One M8:


  • Body Finish: The HTC One M8’s features a brushed metal body for a premium feel on the phone.
  • Dimensions: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35mm weighing at 180 grams
  • Display: 5.0 inches, Full HD 1080p with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 2.5GHz Quad-core processor
  • Operating System: Android 4.4 with HTC Sense 6.0
  • Memory & Storage: 2GB RAM & 16 GB onboard storage. According to HTC, you may get only around 10GB usable storage. You can opt to use an additional microSD card for more space on the phone.
  • Camera: The Rear Camera is a HTC UltraPixel™ camera, BSI sensor, pixel sensor size 1/3”, f/2.0, 28mm lens. They have a secondary rear camera which is used to capture depth information. The front facing camera is a 5 Megapixel shooter capable of capturing HD video
  • SIM: Nano Sim. If you don’t have one yet, you’ll have to as your telecom operator for a new SIM to use this phone.
  • Connectivity: 3.5mm Headphone Jack, NFC, WiFi, 4G LTE, 3G,MicroUSB & DLNA for wirelessly streaming media to compatible devices
  • Battery: 2600mAh battery rated for up to 20 hours of 3G talk time.
  • Colors & Finishes: Gunmetal Gray & Glacial Silver available during launch and the Amber Gold version will follow after the initial launch.

HTC is pushing hard with the imaging capabilities of the M8, with a dual camera & dual flash setup for the rear camera. With the secondary camera used for depth capturing, the HTC One M8 can take pictures like the Nokia Re-Focus app, which HTC calls UFocus. Ufocus snaps can be re-focused after you’ve taken your snap. The HTC one also offers Panorama modes, an “Always Smile” mode, and Video effects to help you capture the best of your moments.

Regarding the LTC capabilities of the HTC One M8, there are some reports that HTC will be selling the LTE version in India, which should get Indian LTE support after a software upgrade.

In the pricing section, HTC seems to have priced this flagship product below the Rs. 50k mark, bringing in a price war with Samsung’s flagship the Galaxy S5. There are reports already that Samsung has reduced their pricing already in response to this.

Let’s see how this competiton turns out in the market. I just hope that HTC learns from their past mistakes and makes this phone available properly through their retail networks.

Gionee E7 Mini on Sale in India – with 13 Megapixel Swivel Camera

Just a few days back, Gionee launched the Gionee E7 Mini, a compact version of their flagship Elife E7, here in India. In competition with the Oppo N1, the E7 Mini features a camera which flips around so that you can take a high-resolution selfie. Also the Elife E7 mini camera lens Blue Glass Filter which effectively filters infrared and gives more natural and clearer images during the daytime.

Here are some quick specs of the Gionee Elife E7 Mini:

  • Display: 4.7 inch IGZO Display with a resolution of 1280*720
  • Processor: Mediatek 1.7 Ghz Octa-core Cortex A7 processor
  • Memory & Storage:: 1GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage
  • Camera: 13.0 MegaPixel 180º rotating Camera with LED flash
  • Dimensions: 139.8 ,m×66.2 and 8.6mm thick (or as Gionee calls it, thin)
  • Connectivity: 3G, Wifi,Bluetooth 4.0, FM Radio
  • Battery: 2200 mAH battery
  • Colors: Purple, Blue, Graphite Black and White

Gionne-E7-Mini-in-various-colors

With the focus on the swivel camera, Gionee has packed in a few camera features to enhance camera use:

  • Auto Beauty to smooth out skin tones for a better picture of people
  • Eraser mode to remove objects from the picture
  • Panorama Mode
  • Gesture Mode and more

 

The Gionee E7 Mini is already out in store and available online for prices between Rs. 17,000 and 1,8000. You can look for good deals on the Elife E7 Mini at mySmartPrice. For more information about the product you can check out the product page on Gionee’s site.

Moto G: A Few Months Later

The first phone that Motorola Mobility had launched as a Google company, the Moto X, proved that you don’t need top end specs to provide a good user experience. It didn’t have the latest processor, highest resolution screen and the features it did add, for the most part, were lauded by reviewers all over. The limited availability (it was US and Canada only for the first 6 months and only recently launched in Europe) and relatively high launch price aside, it proved that for a phone, it’s the whole, integrated package that counts. The second Motorola phone under Google ownership though, aimed for the stars, by going low. By all accounts, it’s been one of the best sellers that Motorola has ever created. We’re talking about the Moto G of course. Now, just as with the Note 3 review, this is a write-up of how the phone has been after months of usage.

The Specs:

  • Display: 4.5” 720p IPS LCD
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Memory: 8/16 GB (No Micro SD slot), 1 GB RAM
  • Imaging: 5 MP Rear Camera, 1.3 MP Front Facing Camera, 720p Video Recording + Slow motion recording
  • Battery: 2070 mAh, Non Removable
  • Connectivity: GSM 850/900/1800/1900, HSPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100. Single & Dual SIM Variants (available in different regions), WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, Micro USB 2.0
  • OS: Android 4.4.2 (came with Android 4.3 and was updated)

Before we continue, we’re talking about the single SIM variant. There might be small differences in the dual SIM variant (especially related to Battery Life, etc)

What’s in the box:

The Box contents vary by country. For some reason, certain countries do not receive a charger in the box, some countries do not get a headphone in the box, while others get everything. The Moto G sold in France comes with a charger and a pair of headphones, which unfortunately are not the in-ear type. I have not used the provided headphones so I have no idea as to the quality, but I’m sure it is more than passable for recreational uses and most people will use another headset in any case.

Moto-G-What's-in-the-Box

How does it stack up to other devices:

The Moto G is actually a little taller and thicker than the Moto X, but it still feels perfectly sized in the hand, and the dimple at the back somehow feels just right. Here are some comparisons to the Oppo N1, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 5 and the Moto G on the far right.

MotoG-Size-Comparision-With-Oppo-N1-Note-3-and-Nexus-5

The Good:

The thing that everyone will say about the Moto G is that it is astonishingly good value for the price. It retails for €169 for the 8GB variant and €199 for the 16 GB variant across Europe. In India, the Dual SIM variant retails for ₹12500 for the 8 GB and ₹14000 for the 16 GB. Unlike most of the other phones in that price range though, you get solid build quality and a phone that is actually usable. In normal usage, it actually feels as smooth as most flagship phones, although switching between apps, etc, is a tad bit slower. Having said that, most of the Mediatek powered phones just aren’t in the same league.

Battery Life: This is one of the standout points of the Moto G. On standby, it’s a battery sipper. It almost flatlines over long periods if left aside. In use, while listening to podcasts, walking around shooting some photos and videos, with auto brightness on, the phone lasted about 12 hours, which is really good. Check out some of the battery life screenshots below, which were on low to moderate use.

Moto-G-Battery-Stats

The “Skin” (or lack thereof): The Moto G follows in the Moto X’s footsteps. It’s more or less what most people call “Stock Android”, with some minor Motorola additions. Unlike the Moto X though, you don’t get the active display for notifications (it doesn’t make sense to have that on a LCD screen anyway) or the always listening feature (which is hardware dependent). You do get Motorola Assist, which lets you do certain actions using preset rules: turn the phone to silent mode if there are meetings on your calendar, do not disturb at night, etc. You also get the Motorola Camera app, which is way better than the stock android camera app (that’s one of the areas in which stock android is really, really, really, really, really pathetic). Motorola has also dissociated sections of the OS and has made those parts available via the play store, so they can be updated without requiring a full firmware update. The Gallery, the boot sequence, Assist, the camera app has all been getting updates with improvements and added features.

The Camera App: It’s very simplistic. You tap on the screen to focus and shoot, tap on the little camcorder button to record video. Swipe from the left to access a scrollable wheel of the settings, which include tap to set focus and exposure, slow motion video, Auto HDR (which I do not recommend), Panorama, and more. Swipe from the right to access the gallery. Simple, easy and well implemented. Check some of the sample photos below, along with a slow motion recording.

Photo Samples:

If you can’t view the Flickr Gallery here, you can check this Flikr set for the photos taken with the Moto G.

The Bad:

After months of usage, there are really just two things that bugs me and one of them is the camera. Sure, for the price and considering all the other bits (the performance and the build, etc), there had to be some corners cut. It’s not the low resolution that’s the issue, but the actual quality of the images taken. The auto HDR mode somehow never seems to work properly, so you’re better off toggling the HDR setting manually. Colours are muted, details are so-so. The camera has gotten better with various updates, but it’s got a long way to go.

The other issue is the lack of LTE support. A very minor quibble, considering that it’s a budget phone, with majority of it’s sales in non- LTE markets (and the fact that the SOC doesn’t have LTE support currently).

Final Thoughts:

So, after using the Moto G for a while, it’s really hard NOT to recommend this phone, be it as a backup device or as a phone for a person who doesn’t have really have high expectations when it comes to performance or the camera. It has brilliant battery life, solid build quality and a really good screen for the price. Would I still recommend it now? Absolutely. And I am really looking forward to what Motorola can do with the next iteration of the Moto G that might probably come out later in the year.

The Gionee Elife S5.5 the Slimmest Smartphone at a Great Price Launched

On Monday, Gionee India Launched the latest smart phone the Elife S5.5 at a launch event in Goa. The S5.5 is the slimmest smart phone in the market right now. That doesn’t mean that the phone misses out on any of the features – it features a Octacore processor, 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage. This is powered by a 2300mAh battery. More on the specs a little later. With all this, the Elife S5.5 will be reasonably sold for Rs. 22,999 when it hits the stores on the 27 of April.

Gionee is a force to be reckoned with

Gionee has been around in India for just about a year, and are already proving that they’re a force to recon with. In the first year of operations in India, Arvind Vora (Gionee India Head) announced that they have already reached a turn over of Rs. 500 Crores. 90% of these sales have been from their smart phone line and India contributes to 20% of Gionee’s worldwide handset business. They currently have a 2% market share in India.

This year, they have an ambitious plan of boosting their service center numbers to 750 and be present in 25,000 retail counters around India. They also plan to spend 150 crores in branding to take over 5% of the Indian Market share this year.

Introducing the Gionee Elife S5.5

This beautifully designed phone features a Magnesium Alloy metal unibody on which the phone is mounted and covered on both sides with Gorilla Glass 3. Even the colors of the phone are nice subtle ones which are not in your face. The display units which I played around with during the launch were also quite good and didn’t show much lags. Of course, I’ll wait till I check out the review devices for a full workout before giving my final verdict on that.

Gionee-Elife-S5.5-Phone

Quick Specs of the Elife S5.5

  • Dimensions: 145.1 x 70.2 x 5.55mm
  • The display is a 5.0” Super AMOLED Plus screen
  • It is powered by a Mediatek Octa- Core 1.7GHz CPU
  • The phone comes with 2 GB onboard memory and 16GB storage.
  • The phone comes with a 13.0 Megapixel rear camera and a 5.0 Megapixel front camera which has a 95 Degree Ultra-Wide Angle view for full bodied selfies
  • The Operating system on the S5.5 is AMIGO OS 2.0 which is based on based on Android 4.2
  • Battery: Non-removable 2300mAh Battery
  • The S5.5 also comes with USB OTG so you can connect your USB thumb drives to the phone to transfer data if you get the required cables.
  • Available Colors: Black, White, Blue, Pink, and Purple

Making of the S5.5 Unibody

During the Lauch presentation, Oliver Sha took us through an interesting presentation which went over the actual manufacturing process which went into the making of the metal body and the glass which covers the phone on the front and back. Take a peek to see how it’s made.

Making OF the Gorilla Glass 3 Screen for the S5.5

One tidbit here is that the Gorilla Glass 3 screen on the S5.5 is just as thick as 4 A4 size sheets stacked on each other. Here’s the manufacturing process which goes into the making of these.

Image Gallery

Initial Verdict

I found that the Elife S5.5 lives up to the hype they created when they announce the phone at MWC this year. The world’s slimmest phone also boasts up a respectable hardware spec, while keeping the pricing at a comfortable sub 25K level. The build of the phone is exceptional and it feels much costlier than the price tag suggests. We’ll follow up with a full review once we get a hold of a review unit from Gionee. Do drop in a comment and tell us what you think.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo Flash drive for PCs and Phones

There are flash drives and there’s the Kingston DataTraveler microDuo. With the usual flash drives in the market, you can use it back up or transfer data between your PCs and Laptops.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo_64GB_cap openTransferring data between your phones or tablets and laptops generally mean hooking them up via cable. Kingston wants to ease this for you – via the DataTraveler microDuo flash drive. Instead of having only one standard USB interface, this little wonder comes with a micro-USB one as well.

This means that if you have a USB-OTG (USB on the Go) phone or tablet, you can hook up this drive to your device and access your files, music or media from the flash drive. This is the perfect solution to my media problems when I have to travel. I don’t have to fill up my phone’s internal memory with my movie and music collection. Instead I just need to fill the microDuo with all my stuff and plug it into the phone when I need it. Another upside is that I no longer need to get the higher capacity model and save there.

Specifications

  • 2-in-1 connectivity: microUSB and USB 2.0 connectors for easy transfer of files between smart phones, tablets, and computers
  • Available Capacities: 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Dimensions: 27.63mm x 16.46mm x 8.56mm
  • Warranty &support: 5-year warranty with free technical support
  • Pricing: Rs. 1200 for the 16gb and Rs 2200 for the 32gb drive.

You can find out more about this from Kingston’s site.

Nokia X Launched in India for Rs. 8599

Yesterday, Nokia launched their first Android powered phone, the Nokia X in India. The phones on sale already in the major cities in India priced at Rs. 8599. We covered the basic specs of the phone in our previous write-up about the Nokia X phones and platform. The bigger brothers of the phone the Nokia X+ and XL will be launched in India over the next 60 days.

To recap-here are the specs for the device:

Operating System Nokia X Software Platform (based on Android 4.1.2)
Dimension 115.5 x 63 x 10.4mm
Weight 128.66g
Camera 3MP Fixed Focus Rear Camera: No Front Facing Camera
Display LCD WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) capacitive touch 4” display
Processor 1Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core Processor
Memory & Storage 512MB RAM + 4GB Storage
Battery 1500MAH battery with 10.3 hour talk time on 3G and standby time on 3G of up to 22 days
ColorsGreen, Red, Cyan, Yellow, Black and White

Here are a few more points about the Nokia X which we didn’t cover in our previous writeup

  • For the launch, Nokia has an offer where you get 10GB of space on Microsoft’s One Drive.

  • Nokia is looking at the Nokia X platform not to be a true Android experience, but defines it as  Nokia  Experiences + Microsoft Services.

  • Nokia is looking at The Nokia X range of phones to be a bridge between their Asha Range of Phones and the Lumia range. Since the Nokia X comes with the Microsoft services bundled, Nokia is looking at the Nokia X phones to be the starting point for users who’d later graduate to the higher priced Lumia range of devices

  • As we said earlier, Google Play is not available on the Nokia X, but you can get your apps from the Nokia Store, or any of the other third party app stores like Amazon Apps, Yandex, Mobango or more. In fact, if you don’t find an app on the Nokia Store, they’ll give you suggestions on where you can get that app from

  • There are quite a few preloaded apps and games on the phone, some of which include – Vine, BBM Messenger, Skype, Facebook, Monopoly, Fruit Ninja, Viber, SimCity and more.

If you are looking for the best price for the Nokia X online, check out MySmartPrice.com.

All You Need to Know about the Nokia X Phones and Platform

Just a few days back, Nokia announced their  foray into building Android phones, with the announcement of the Nokia X family of phones. They launched the Nokia X, X+ and XL which range in cost from €89 (≈ Rs. 7600) to €109 (≈ Rs. 9300).

Nokia X Platform

Xtraordinarily_xcellent__the_Nokia_X_family_-_Nokia_ConversationsThese devices run on a forked version of Android Jellybean 4.1.2. Even though this phone runs on Android, it’s not Google certified, which means that you won’t get any of the services from Google, including the Play Store. Instead Nokia provides their own App Store to get your apps, and they integrate with Microsoft’s services to get you going. This is not a surprising move, considering that Nokia is in the process of merging with Microsoft.

Even the interface of the phone resembles a mashup between Windows Phone and Nokia’s Asha. The home screen contains tiled icons similar to Windows Phones and the Nokia X also has a Fast Lane interface like Asha has.

But why a mashup of Android, Nokia and Microsoft services?

One of the reasons could be that the Windows Phone platform is still lacking a lot of apps which are available for Android, Nokia can now release a low-end phone which can run most apps which people expect to run on a phone.

The other reason could be because the Windows Phone eco-system requires manufacturers to adhere to some standards while building the phone. This prevents the cost of the phone from going lower than it is currently. It’s only last week that Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows Phone allows lower spec devices to join the Windows Phone family.

There were also rumors floating around Microsoft was planning on providing Android app compatilibity in their next version of Windows Phones. This ties in well with the Nokia X platform.

Why forgo Google Services? Nokia & Microsoft still want people to upgrade to their premium Lumia or other Windows Phones. Giving users an Android phone which integrates Microsoft Servies could reduce the upgrade friction and at the same time pulls bring new users to the Microsoft services fold.

Nokia X Phone Family Specs

The three devices are powered by Qualcomm MSM8225 Snapdragon S4 Play chipset. Nokia X and X+ dont have a front facing camera, while the XL comes with one. X & XL+ feature a 4 inch IPS LED screen, while the XL comes with a bigger 5 inch screen. The phones are Dual-SIM devices (with Single SIM models in some regions).

Here’s a table showing the specs of the the devices:

via Nokia Conversations
via Nokia Conversations

Apps

Nokia X comes with Nokia’s services like Here Maps and Mix Radio, and also features Microsoft services like OneDrive and Skype.

Nokia X also comes with a range of third-party apps preinstalled like BBM, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Viber, Vine and Twitter. You also get the Swiftkey Keyboard for free. You can find more apps from the Nokia Store or from third-party stores like Amazon App Store, GetJar, Slide Me and more. If you have the  apk files for apps handy, you can side load those as well.

Not all apps from the Google Play store will work on Nokia X, especially ones which integrate with Google APIs to work. Nokia estimates that around 75% of the apps on the Play Store should work on this platform and that most of the remaining ones would require minor modifications to run on the Nokia X devices.

Nokia X Platform for developers

Apps which require Maps, Notifications and in-app purchases are the those which won’t work straight from the Google Play store. Apps which don’t use these features should work without any change and the developers can upload the apk files directly to the Nokia Store.

For these developers will have to port to use Nokia services via the Nokia X Platform SDK. The Nokia X platform provides alternates to like Here Maps, Nokia Notifications and Nokia in-app payments for apps to use these features. When developers complete porting apps over to this platform,  they can Nokia’s Remote Device Access service to test the app out on actual handsets.

Nokia also offers a tool for developers to check for App compatibility. All the developer (or a power user) has to do is to head to the Nokia X App Compatilbity page and upload the application’s apk file, and the tool tells you whether the app will work on Nokia X devices.

Nokia X Video

The Samsung Galaxy Note 3: A Few Months Later

The Samsung Galaxy Note, when it was first announced back in late 2011, was pretty much mocked by the Tech Press in general. Surprisingly, it did reasonably well. Well enough, that when the Note 2 was launched in 2012, the Tech Press actually paid more attention to the device. There’s something about a phone with a massive screen (what most would call a Phablet) that is close to carrying a small screened tablet, in your pocket. You can add in all the “Gimmicks” that Samsung has chucked in there, including the S Pen, and some of it actually turns out to be useful. Samsung’s new Note 3 went on sale a couple of months ago and both Vinu and I have been using it since then. How has it held up? Was it worth the money spent on it (and it was quite a bit)? Let’s find out.

Before we actually get to the device, here’s the background regarding the devices we both came from just before this. I had a Galaxy S4, the Exynos Version, (and a BB 8520 for work), and a Nexus 4 before that. Vinu had a Nexus 4, an iPhone 4S and the Lumia 1020 (and the 920). I currently use the Note 3 and an iPhone 5S everyday (with the iPhone having replaced my work Blackberry) and Vinu uses the Note 3 along with the Lumia 1020 and now has a Oppo N1 CyanogenMod edition also. We’re going to try and talk about what it was like to use everyday, in light of the devices we have, and our different use cases. So, this is more of a report of how the device has been after using it for an extended period of time.

Specs of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Having said that, here’s the specs:

  • Display: 5.7” Super AMOLED 1080p
  • Connectivity: Quad Band GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), HSPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) (For the N900 variant. The N9005, aka the one running the Snapdragon 800 also has LTE support.), WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual Band), Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0 (with a weird plug), IR Blaster
  • Imaging: 13 MP Primary Camera, 2 MP Front Facing camera. 1080p (30 & 60 fps recording) (with 4k aka 2160p on the N9005), Slo Mo Video (just like on the Galaxy S4)
  • Battery: 3200mAh
  • Storage: 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, expandable with a Micro-SD card
  • SOC: Exynos 5420 (aka the Exynos 5 Octa) for the N900. (the N9005 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800)
  • OS/Platform: Android 4.3 (with 4.4 rolling out for the N9005/N900 as we wrote this)

The Software Experience

New Touchwiz – The Touchwiz on the Note 3 is a huge improvement over the previous versions, but for the Google purists, Samsung still lacks. There’s no quick access button for Google Now, and you have to perform multiple clicks to access this feature. On the S4, long pressing the menu button anywhere brought up Google Search (if you weren’t in an app) or the search menu within the app you were using. On the Note 3, this brings up Samsungs S – finder, which, to put it mildly, is absolutely useless. Frankly, I preferred the earlier implementation as in the S4 over the soft key pull up action as in the nexus series, because this lets you bring up in app search apart from google search. The search hot key brings up Samsung’s S Voice, which is not the best of breeds compared to Google’s Voice Search.
How does it compare to “Google’s Vision”? – Touchwiz is far far far away from “stock” Android and the “Google vision”  of what Android must be (take the Nexus 5 and it’s Google Experience launcher as an example). The colours, the menu layout which is tabbed (it even has a search option to find settings!), the toggles. But there are some redeeming features, some of which are now part of stock android. For example: the transparent status bar was a Samsung/HTC introduction, which third party launchers took advantage of, and now Google has added it as a feature on Kitkat. The ability to swipe down from the top in full screen apps to reveal the status bar is another TouchWiz feature that Google has added in Kitkat. The camera application is way better and more feature rich when compared to the stock android camera app. It’s an acquired taste and this is very much a YMMV (your mileage may vary) thing. You either like it or you don’t.

S Pen and Features:

Pen Window – A nice idea, that isn’t really well implemented. You basically have floating apps, of whatever size you want. But there’s a limited number of supported apps and I wish that they didn’t actually take the size and shape that you draw, but rather retained the aspect ratio of the app and sized to within an acceptable tolerance of the drawn window size.
Action Memo – This was one of the features that was actually useful. Pull the S Pen out, tap on Action Memo and quickly jot down a note. For me, having just moved to a new country, it was really useful while hunting for apartments, asking people for places to buy things and so on. Small things that I would have never put on Evernote, but might have written down on a notepad, if I ever carried one.
Scrapbooker – Like Action Memo, I actually used this to put together stuff while apartment hunting – Maps Data, Written notes, Web Pages with important rules and tenancy laws, etc, and then combined them later into S Notes (which can be set to sync to Evernote).
Handwriting Recognition – The Note 3 also comes with Samsung’s Handwriting recognition keyboard, which is a novelty feature, since not many would pull out the stylus and write up stuff on screen instead of typing. That said, I do agree that Samsung’s handwriting recognition works really well, it detects even cursive writing and no you don’t have to change your writing habits to get this to work – works well 90% of the times.

Other Perks that came with the Note 3 included (this may vary by region though):

  • Free Evernote Premium, integrated with S Notes
  • Free Dropbox 50 GB

Other Samsung Applications – There’s a boat load of Samsung applications preinstalled, but not all of it is bloatware. The only app that I appreciate is S-Health, which I use as a pedometer and also to track my weight, etc. You can connect it to a few peripherals and can also track your diet (although the diet portion is a pain to enter and manage, and I have more or less stopped using it).

The Hardware

Display – The 5.7 inch AMOLED display is pretty good, with really wide viewing angles and pretty decent outdoor readability. You also have to option to change the way it displays colours, either having them to a more “natural” tone all the way up to super contrasty and bright. The pentile sub-pixel arrangement is not noticeable (to be honest, I haven’t been able to pick out pentile vs non pentile, so your mileage will vary).
The New Back, non Glossy – The Black version that I have has a nice, non-glossy, faux leather back panel, which is a huge improvement over the Hyper Glaze rear panel on the S4. It still manages to look and feel new. As for the white cover – it’s not too bad, but tends to get a little dirty from time to time if you don’t use the a case.

The New Pen – there’s not much to say here. It’s thinner than the Note 2 S- Pen and it’s more or less symmetrical, so you could put it back into the slot without fiddling around too much. In my opinion, it’s too thin and the button seems to be a little harder to press and activate.

Access to buttons – The side mounted volume and power buttons (volume on the left, power on the right) are placed in typical Samsung fashion, although I wish they took a more Sony like approach and brought the buttons down a little bit for better access.

The IR Blaster – Now this is something that is actually useful. The Samsung WatchON app is useful, if you’re in a region and your cable provider is supported. The app is actually made by Peel, which also makes the HTC remote application, and is updated quite often adding support to a larger array of providers and set top boxes and TVs. But, if you really want to use the IR Blaster to it’s fullest potential, check out our post on the Smart IR Remote. This app is worth every cent because it allows you to control other peripherals as well (Your AC unit as an example).

Durability – The phone shows a few nicks and scratches on the plastic side from being dropped on the road, without a case to protect it. There are some minor scratches on the screen as well, despite being covered by Gorilla Glass 3 (this is where I go ahead and say “it’s scratch resistant, not scratch proof”)

Imaging

Auto Night Mode/Low Light Detection – Works reasonably well, but can be really irritating at times, as you have to toggle it off to use the flash.

Smooth Capture AKA 60fps 1080p Video – Honestly, I have not tried this feature, and since Youtube cannot really render/play 60 fps videos right now, I don’t see much use for this.

Slo-Mo Video Capture – The  Note 3 does some great Slow Motion Video Capture, here is a sample:

Camera UI and Controls – A lot has been said and written about the camera UIs on various OEM skins, but I have have to say that compared to stock android, the Samsung camera interface is much nicer to use, through not necessarily easier. If you see the screenshots below, similar to the Galaxy S4, you have access to slow motion videos (samples of which are posted below), but most people would never be able to find it. On the other hand, I like the fact that it does make use of the available hardware to let you take full sized photos while recording videos, unlike the AOSP camera app and the Sony camera app, that only take 1080p photos while recording videos (essentially capturing a screenshot of the video record).

Camera samples

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The original, full res photo samples are available on Flickr – here.

User Experience

Battery Life

The large 3200 mAh battery really lets you go free from a charger for extended periods, since it gives a really good backup. On the Nexus 4, Vinu had the battery last for 5-7 hours based on his usage, but on the Note 3, he goes for around 12-16 hours on a single charge. I used to get about 8 hours of use on my S4 and around 12 on the Note 3. Of course, your mileage may vary, as evinced by the stats from 3 users of the exynos model, on different firmware versions, on different networks, with different use cases below.

Vikram-Battery-Stats-Note3 Raghu-Battery-Stats-Note3 Deepak-Battery-Stats-Note3

Performance in day to day tasks

The phone performs quite well with day to day tasks of emails, social media and assorted gaming, the 3GB RAM and the  processor  allows multi-tasking without the usual slowdowns which show up on lower spec’d phones. Some people on the Exynos model of the Note 3 complain about freezes on their phones, but we didn’t notice that on our phones.

Summary

A few months later, and a few months closer to the next round of flagship releases, is the Note 3 still worth being considered as device to be purchased? Well, yes and no. The price should drop a bit soon and there’s still quite a ways to go before the next version of the Note series is announced. If you need a big phone with a big screen and the stylus, then yes, the Note 3 is definitely worth it. The IR Blaster is quite handy, especially when you consider all the other apps that can really take advantage of it, check out our previous post on how to do it. It also depends on which device you’re moving from. If you are used to a big phone, like the original Galaxy Note, then the Note 3 is worth a try (also, the original Note needs a rest). If you’re on a Note 2, you could possibly wait for the next one, unless you’re the frequent upgrader. In which case, go for it.

 

As mentioned in the beginning, @vinuthomas contributed to this post.

Moto G launches in India Starting at Rs. 12499

Motorola has finally launched the much awaited Moto G here in India with an exclusive tie up with the online retailer Flipkart to sell the handsets  here. The Moto G cost Rs. 12,499 for the 8GB version and 13,999 for the 16 GB version. The Indian version of the Moto G is a Dual SIM version, unlike the US variants which are single SIM.

Quick Specs

  • 1.2 GHz A7 Quad Core Processor with 1 GB RAM
  • 4.5-inch Touchscreen
  • Dual SIM
  • Internal Memory: 8 GB or 16 GB depending on the variant.
  • 5 MP Primary Camera and 1.3 MP Front Facing Camera.
  • 2070 mAH battery, which Motorola claims should run your phone for an entire day.
  • Launching with Android Jellybean with the promise of upgrade to Kitkat in the coming weeks.
  • Connectivity: 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack

 

Since the phone doesn’t come with expandable storage via microSD card, I’d suggest that you go in for the 16 GB version, since the price difference is not too much. With the Moto G you can also activate 50GB extra storage space on Google Drive for 2 years for backing up some of the data from your phone.

Flipkart Launch Day Offer

Flipkart should start selling  the Moto G from tomorrow (6th Feb) on their site. If you are planning on getting this, make sure you take up their special offer tomorrow. They’re offering 70% off on covers for the phone, Rs. 500 off on ebooks and Rs. 1000 of on clothing. They also have a draw where a lucky winner gets 100% cash back on the purchase (in store credits). Check out the deal and sign up for the notification if you’re interested in picking up the Moto G when it goes on sale tomorrow.

Link to Flipkart’s Moto G Offer Page. Product pages:  8GB and 16 GB.

 

Buxsa launches the Merlin Smart Watch In India

Buxsa.com, an e-store has just launched the Merlin Smart Watch in India. The device is priced at Rs. 8,999 and is availble in India via their online store.

Some of the key features of the watch include the ability to sync with any Android Smartphone, and the option to check phone calls and SMS alerts right from the watch. The watch also comes with a SIM slot, so you can use the watch itself to place and receive calls without having to pair it with another Android device. You can also answer calls from the watch directly using the bundled bluetooth headset or the in-built speakers and microphone. The Merlin Smart Watch can store up to 500 contacts in it’s phone book.

smart_watch-3Specifications

Network : GSM850/1900MHz 900/1800MHz (GPRS) Display : 1.44 inch Touch Screen 128×128 Pixel
Ringtone type : Polyphonic(64 chords)
Vibration : yes
Phonebook : 500
Call records : yes
Card slot : MicroSD (T-Flash), up to 8GB
Connectivity : Bluetooth
Data transfer : USB cable/Bluetooth(voice stereo)
Messaging : SMS, MMS
User profiles : General, Meeting, Outdoor, Indoor, Headset, Bluetooth
Battery : 600mAh Li-ion battery

For more information on the Merlin Smart Watch and how you can get it head over to Buxsa.com since it’s available with them exclusively for the next 30 days.