Sony’s Xperia M2 has launched exclusively through Telecom in NZ

Sony had recently refreshed it’s lineup, from the Top of the Line Z2 to the affordable phablet T2. The refresh also included the M2, a good mid-range device that was well priced in it’s previous iteration, the Xperia M. The updated Xperia M2 is available in New Zealand exclusively through Telecom NZ. As a refresher, here’s what you get:

  • Display: 4.8″ 960 x 540 (qHD) TFT LCD
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • Connectivity: Quad Band GSM, HSPA  (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), Dual Band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 8 MP Rear Camera, VGA Front Facing Camera
  • Memory: 8 GB on board, Micro SD card slot (expandable upto 32 GB), 1 GB RAM
  • OS: Android 4.3 (with Android 4.4 out sometime in the near future).

Check the press release below for details on where to get the device.  

Sony Mobile Communications New Zealand is pleased to announce the launch of its latest handset, the Sony Xperia™ M2 exclusively through Telecom NZ. The Xperia M2 is a strong offering in the mid-range price point, providing flagship experiences at an extremely competitive price point.

“The Xperia M2 showcases high quality technology at an affordable price,” says, John Featherstone, Managing Dirctor, Sony Mobile Communications Oceania.

“Incorporating many of Sony’s flagship features including, ultra fast processing speeds and OmniBalance design as found on Sony’s premium smartphone range. Plus unique Xperia camera and music apps which offer stunning entertainment experiences for all Xperia M2 customers”

Xperia M2 users will have the chance to enjoy a range of PlayStation® Mobile games that will be included.

Perfect for capturing all your favourite moments in brilliant quality, the Xperia M2 uses the expertise and technology of Sony’s cyber shot cameras combined with an 8MP camera. The M2 is armed with the latest in camera technology including Exmor RS for mobile, Autoscene Recognition and HDR.

“We’re always on the lookout for devices that give our customers a great experience without burning too much of a hole in their pockets and this smartphone really delivers,” says Jason Paris, Chief Operating Officer at Telecom.

“The Xperia M2 is a great all-rounder and we think it offers another exciting choice, particularly for those people who want a great camera in a sleek looking phone, but don’t have a fortune to spend.”

The Xperia M2 joins the Xperia Z1, Xperia M and Xperia E1, available through Telecom.

The Xperia M2 is available in white colour variant only. Exclusively through Telecom stores nationwide and through Telecom’s website (www.telecom.co.nz). RRP $399 or $0 on a $69 a month plan.


SmartBand from Sony Mobile available now in stores across New Zealand

Sony Mobile Communications New Zealand today has confirmed the local availability of SmartBand SWR10 through Sony online and Sony stores with availability through other major retailers to be confirmed soon. Sony’s SmartWear experience combines the SmartBand and Lifelog to let you effortlessly capture experiences from life – places visited, music listened to, games played, books read – and present it in a beautifully visual interface on your mobile device.

Sony customers can purchase the SmartBand through Sony stores for $169.95 RRP, with online availability through Sony online (http://www.sony.co.nz/product/swr-10) to follow shortly.

Sony’s SmartWear Experience brings users Lifelogging, flexible style and Life tools

The SmartBand is said to be an “innovative life logging wristband that lets people keep track of everything including walking, running and counting calories”. It is a 24/7 wearable device with a completely waterproof core, meaning users can wear it in all conditions. Wearers can also be alerted to calls, messages and other notifications through a vibrating alert. When enjoying music on the move people can play, pause and skip tracks using the SmartBand. Additional software updates will be available in the coming weeks for the Lifelog application allowing users to log routes and times for driving, cycling and train trips.

“SmartBand and its innovative core are extending beyond fitness tracking, to add colourful, fun entertainment experiences to users’ lives,” said John Featherstone, Managing Director, Sony Mobile Communications Oceania. “Users can now simply log special moments and watch your life played back to you on your Sony smartphone or Android device just by wearing it wherever they go.”

We should have a more in-depth look at the Sony Smartband for you in just a few weeks, so watch this space for the full review.

 

NVIDIA Project SHIELD – A Handheld Android Gaming System With a Twist


NVIDIA has just revealed a new handheld gaming system called Project Shield at CES 2013 and they are saying it’s designed for gamers who yearn to play when, where and how they want. This new portable games console packs a few surprises like a brand new NVIDIA Tegra 4 chipset, 5″ 720p display, wireless, mini-HDMI output, Google’s Android Jelly Bean operating system and the ability to play games streamed from a NVIDIA enabled PC.

The Hardware

At the center of NVIDIA’s Project SHIELD is their brand new NVIDIA Tegra 4 mobile processor, which delivers enormous power from its custom 72-core GeForce GPU and the first quad-core application of ARM’s latest generation CPU core, the Cortex-A15. These, combined with its battery-saver core and energy-saving PRISM 2 technology, deliver hours of unparalleled gameplay on a single charge.

Project SHIELD’s integrated 5-inch, 1280×720 HD multi-touch display, with 294 dpi provides brilliant gameplay and video. Plus, Tegra 4 with Direct Touch technology gives it touch responsiveness that is a more consistent, accurate and smooth-flowing touch input experience than a standard touch device.

Deep, rich audio is critical for a great gaming experience. And Project SHIELD brings fidelity and dynamic range unseen before on a portable device, through its custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system – with twice the low-frequency output of high-end laptops.

Gaming

Windows and Android are the world’s most successful computing platforms, with massive ecosystems of system and software developers. While not specifically designed for gaming, both open platforms have drawn gamers by the millions. What will set Project SHIELD apart from any other handheld gaming system is that it is designed to allow them to enjoy Android and Windows games in a new, exciting way. Project SHIELD can instantly download Android games, including Android-optimized titles available on NVIDIA’s TegraZone™ game store, which has already delivered more than 6 million downloads to gamers. It can also be used as a wireless game receiver to a nearby PC equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 GPU or higher.

Project SHIELD flawlessly plays both Android and PC titles. As a pure Android device, it gives access to any game on Google Play. And as a wireless receiver and controller, it can stream games from a PC powered by NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX GPUs, accessing titles on its STEAM game library from anywhere in the home.

And the rest

Project SHIELD can also access Android apps such as Hulu, Netflix and Slacker Radio, so users can enjoy their movies and music anywhere without expensive, clumsy wired or wireless speakers.

NVIDIA is yet to announce a price for getting your hands on Project SHIELD but it is expected to be available in Q2 of this year.

You can see more of Project SHIELD at NVIDIA’s official page or watch the video below.

 

Google I/O 2012 Day 1 Hardware Round-Up

So that time is here again, no it’s not another Apple event or Microsoft revealing a new Tablet, it’s Google I/O 2012! And boy what goodies they bring with them this time.

Nexus 7

For all you tablet and eBook lovers out there, Google has cooked up something special for you all in the form of a 7″ Jelly Bean welding Tablet. Yes I am talking about the long awaited Google Nexus 7, manufactured by none other than ASUS. Most of us had a good feeling that this wee guy would make his first appearance here and what an appearance it was.

Firstly let’s talk about the specs:

  • 7” 1280 x 800 IPS LCD Display
  • 1.2-megapixel Front Camera
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L 1.2GHz Quad-core Processor
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth and NFC
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8/16GB of Storage
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 8 Hours Battery Life (4325mAh)

Interestingly enough it seems our friends at Google have decided to leave out 3G/LTE connectivity, meaning you’ll need to have a Wi-Fi hotspot nearby at all times, as well as a distinct lack of a MicroSD slot for storage expansion. On the plus side though, the IPS display panel is expected to have great viewing angles as well as good brightness and contrast, even in a brightly lit room, making it a real winner.

One thing I’d like to point at is that the Nexus 7 does not include a rear facing camera, something I’m ok with. I have found them in the past to be too awkward to use for photos and more often than not opted to use my phone camera instead. The front facing camera will be more than enough for Skype or Google Talk video calls.

Looking at the performance side of things, they have spared nothing but the best here, loading this small tablet with a hard hitting quad-core that puts it up near the big players like the HTC One X and Samsung Galaxy S III.

What about design? Well it’s only 10.45mm thick and weighs only 340g, making it slightly thinner and lighter than the Amazon Fire. And you don’t need to worry about branding as the tablet is of a simplistic design, with only Nexus and ASUS on the back. You’ll find the standard Power and Volume rockers down the right-hand side and Micro-USB and 3.5mm Headphone jack along the bottom.

But what about the price? Will it break the bank with all the top-notch specs? Google doesn’t believe it should have to, and so have priced the device appropriately so. The 8GB model comes in at only $199USD, while the 16GB model is $249USD.

Nexus Q

What is this? Where did it come from? What does it do? Well the Nexus Q is what Google is calling, a “Social Streaming Device” and is the first real implementation of the [email protected] standard revealed last year. With its space-age styling, this is one category-defying device that will grab your attention.

It seems the whole idea behind this device is that you, your friends and your family can use their Android devices to build up a playlist of music or videos. This should make for a nice easy way to fill your house or office with the tunes you love. You can even connect to multiple Nexus Q devices simultaneously and send separate media to each of them individually.

However each Nexus Q will require its own internet connection as none of the media is pulled from the Android devices themselves, but from the cloud instead. Unfortunately this means that if you have just filled your Nexus 7 up with your favourite TV show (all stored offline to save precious bandwidth) to stream and watch, then the Q is going to download them all again, eating your limited bandwidth or a producing poor viewing experience if you have a bad internet connection.

The Nexus Q features a 25 watt amplifier built in for the who like to go analog, otherwise it comes with a range of digital options too. HDMI and Toslink outputs are available on the back of the device. While the top half is split from it and can be used as a volume knob. Between the two halves is a ring of LEDs that glow during playback.

Finally there is the cost, $299USD. Yes for the most part this ball doesn’t do much more than a $99 Apple TV, but time will tell if people are willing to pay the extra for something a little different.

Project Glass

 

Google’s “Project Glass” has been one of the most hyped and anticipated projects to be revealed at Google I/O this year.  Inside this wearable futuristic computer is the usual components you expect from any mobile device today, a “powerful” processer and “loads” of RAM, however no hard details given. Accompanying this is an accelerometer, gyroscope and wireless radios for all your data needs. There is also a mic for voice commands, a speaker and a camera, all of which can be controlled by a touchpad on the side of this wearable device. Even with all these components sitting on one side of the device, Google claims that it is well balanced and even lighter than some sunglasses. The small heads up display doesn’t sit directly in front of your eye and instead is located slightly above your line of vision as to not interfere with everyday life.

Currently there are 3 prototypes on display – a light blue pair, a black pair and of course a white pair – allowing for some personalization. Google hopes that the project will be the next step in its ultimate goal to make information more quickly and readily accessible to the world. One of the key features of the device is the ability to capture images from a first person perspective.

If you were one of the lucky few at I/O and live in the US, then you can actually pre-order an Explorer Edition of the wearable computer for only $1500USD. These devices will be developer focused units and will be shipping early next year, however these will be a bit rough around the edges and not the mass consumer version.

Keep an eye out for more updates on Google I/O from us!

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!

Galaxy Note ICS upgrade delayed by Samsung till Q2, but with a good reason (video)

Although Samsung Galaxy S II users have been enjoying their Android 4.0 goodness, it seems the Galaxy Note has been slow off the mark. Samsung originally announced the Galaxy Note would be getting Ice Cream Sandwich along the Galaxy S II in the Q1 of 2012, but has since moved this back to Q2 instead. This however, does come with it’s advantages, mainly the fact that is will be arriving worldwide as part of the new “Premium Suite” software upgrade packed with exclusive applications aimed to emphasize the unique abilities of the S-Pen stylus. Such applications include the S Note, which allows you to combine notes and drawings with pictures or even other apps such as Formula match and Shape match which are also new to the scene to assist recognition of hand drawn formulas and geometric shapes. The final app bundled into this upgrade is My Story, designed to help you create personalized e-cards using any type of content including notes, video content, photos, text or voice. And for those looking to be less productive and have a bit more fun, Samsung have provided a treat in the way of an exclusive Galaxy Note level in the new Angry Birds Space game and free access to 30 “Danger Zone” levels available within the 3 month period.

Now don’t worry, like the Galaxy S II upgrade, the Galaxy Note will be receiving new Android 4.0 features such as Face Unlock and Snapshot . The upgrade will also include swipe to dismiss notifications and the ability to terminate recently opened applications by just swiping them away.

So go ahead and watch that video kindly provided by Samsung and get a preview of what is to come for the Galaxy Note and the “Premium Suite”.

Source: Samsung Press Release

And the Ice Cream Sandwich wheels starts rolling…or so we thought (updated)

We’ve all been waiting for it, to see some of our beloved Android 2.3 Gingerbread devices get some tasty updates.

Sense 3.6 OTA update
HTC Sensation Android 4.0 OTA update

It started with HTC secretly rolling out their updates for the Sensation and Sensation XE in Nordic countries, these lucky devices have received the much awaited Sense 3.6 served on top of a slice of Android 4.0. This update was first reported over XDA by some folks taking part in the HTC Elevate program, but later we heard from users there not in the program that they too were receiving the update. The HTC Headquarters soon confirmed “broader availability later this month”.

It wasn’t long after this before another big name jumped on the Ice Cream Sandwich update wagon though.

ICS update for SGS2
Official Android 4.0 update for i9100 announced by Samsung

That’s right, March 10th and the date is set. Samsung have said it will only be a matter of days before Samsung Galaxy S II owners get there well deserved Android 4.0 – TouchWiz UI styled – available through Kies and FOTA, but it’s only going to be ready on the i9100 (international version) for now. Some things to take note of in the release notes is that the update will include Face Unlock (as expected), Android Beam, data usage monitoring, and multitasking and some applications have been improved. We’re sure there are more features not noted, but strangely the site specifies that because of “ICS OS Feature”, Flash and Bluetooth 3.0 HS is not supported.

The update is to come to the many SGSII variants and their individual carriers in due time, but not without plenty of testing on their end first. At least this and HTC’s rollout of Sense 3.6 to the Nordic countries today means that the ICS train is finally gaining some momentum. For readers out there with i9100, check out the link below to Samsung’s site for more information and instructions on the update.

Samsung Update Details

XDA: ICS HTC Sensation Update

UPDATE: Samsung’s official Twitter account has gone back on the words written on its official website. Samsung says that the March 10th date was a mistake posted by its Filipino website and that the actual upgrade date has not yet been established.

OverSkreen, the next best thing in Tablet browsing?

Browser Over Maps
OverSkreen layered over top of Google Maps

The multitasking on Android tablets is pretty good these day, and the browsers are getting closer to their desktop counterparts, OverSkreen is no exception. The developers over at MBFG have got a winner here with this floating browser that sits nicely on top of any other application you want, just like a normal desktop browser. Currently this application retails for $1.49USD on the Android Market.

Unlike other Tablet browsers which use tabs, OverSkreen uses windows, which has the advantage of being able to drag the windows round the screen to arrange them anyway you want. Another advantage of windowed browsing is that you can have two pages open side by side for all your multitasking needs (see gallery below). OverSkreen is not be the most visually appealing browser, with rounded corners and a basic design, it seems to stick out from the rest of the Android OS. Those with bigger fingers may have issues with the close and minimize buttons in the top right corner of each as they rather small, causing them to be difficult to touch at times. At the same time though, the basic design has it’s advantages too – the thin boarder at the top for dragging the windows round and a overlay menu that appears with the touch of  a rectangular grey button make great use of screen real estate. By dragging the bottom right-hand corner you can simply re-size any window and my touching the minimize button, the window disappears down to the status bar, making it easy to bring back up.

Tablets aren’t the only devices to support OverSkreen, but while is can run on phone too, it makes for sense for it to be used on tablets where there is space to place the windows. Adobe Flash is supported, but only on Android 3.0 and higher – use of Flash on Android 2.2 or 2.3 results in the browser crashing apparently. Other than that, OverSkreen runs as well for me as any other mainstream android browser, and there is no noticeable decrease in performance when running windows over top of other applications. While this app might not be for everyone, for those looking to get to multitasking closer to that of a PC, this is a solid full-featured browser that helps to achieve that.

Market Link: OverSkreen
[qr]https://market.android.com/details?id=com.myboyfriendisageek.airbrowser[/qr]