The Gionee S5.5 to get Kitkat Update Soon

[highlight_orange]Updated[/highlight_orange] The OTA update is already out, so head over to your phone Settings > System Updates and download it.


For those of you who are using the Slim and Sleek Gionnee Elife S5.5 phone, here’s some good news for you. I just heard that the latest Android Kitkat update will be rolling out to your phones later today. Apart from the upgrade to Kitkit you’ll see a few more changes around the phone like a new layout for the phone and updates to the bundled apps.

Here’s a full list of what you can expect from this update for the S5.5:

  1. Android upgrade to Kit Kat
  2. New Desktop layout
  3. Removed the world cricket champion
  4. Added Du speed booster for faster operations
  5. Updated Amigo Paper with a brand new UI interface design
  6. Updated Game Zone with a new UI interface design
  7. Updated GioneeXender for optimized performance and further improved the linking success rate
  8. Updated UC browser, with optimized UI interface and page loading effects
  9. Updated NQ Mobile Security for better protection of your phone
  10. Updated Kingsoft WPS for more efficient work and study related operations
  11. Updated map with only one entrance into the main menu
    12.Theme and wallpaper will be reset to default after the system update, but data will not be lost. Simply re-apply chosen theme and wallpaper

If you find anything else which has changed after you update your phone, let us know by leaving a comment below.

Motorola’s Moto E Launched in India at Rs. 6999

After all the leaks and the teasing the Moto E is finally Official. The phone was launched in India in partnership with Flipkart at a price of Rs 6,999.

The Moto E is a direct competitor to the Nokia X and comes packed with a 4.3″ screen with a qHD display (540 x 960 pixels) and a pixel density of 256 ppi. The phone measures 124.8 x 64.8 x 12.33 mm in dimensions and weighs 140g. Powering the phone is a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor with Adreno 302 GPU. Memory includes a 1 GB RAM and 4 GB internal memory expandable up to 32 GB through a micro SD card.

moto e front and back

On the Camera front, the Moto E features a 5 MP rear camera with touch focus, without autofocus unfortunately, and 480p capture at 30fps. Unfortunately there is no flash nor a front facing camera. The phone runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box and a 1980mAh Li-On battery holds the charge.

moto e colors

The phone comes in White,  Black, Turquoise and Lemon color options. Flipkart is offering 50% on Moto E Covers and 50% off on 8GB Transcend Memory Card and Rs. 1000 worth preselected eBooks only for today. Head over To Flipkart if you can’t wait to get your hands on the Moto E.

Moto E Specifications

[table th=”0″]
Processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 200 with 1.2GHz dual-core A7 CPU Adreno 302 400MHz single-core GPU
Display, 4.3 inches 540 x 960 qHD with a pixel density of 256ppi
OS, Android Kitkat 4.4
Dimensions, 124.8 x 64.8 x 12.3mm weighing 142 grams
Camera, 5 Megapixel rear camera capable of recording video at a resolution of 854×480 at 30 fps
Battery, Built in 1980mAh battery capable of 24 hours mixed usage
Connectivity, “Bluetooth 4.0 LE, WiFi – 802.11 b/g/n, 2.4GHz, 3G network Connectivity, MicroUSB with USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM Radio, GPS – Glosnas”
[/table]

Google Camera Updated!!

Google has recently updated its native Camera app with a couple of nifty new features. Also, the Camera app will be available on Google Play to all devices running Android KitKat 4.4 and above.

As we all know the Google Camera app comes with the very creative modes like the very much appreciated Photosphere and Panorama.

Up until now Photosphere used to capture 360 degree Panoramas at 8 megapixels, which was really great. Photosphere product manager Evan Rapoport recently announced on Google+ that through this update users will be able to capture 360 degree Panos at a whopping 50 megapixels!!

The already awesome Photosphere just got better.

The new update also brings a new feature, Lens Blur, which as the name suggests allows users to focus on a particular object while blurring out the background resulting in a nice creamy bokeh effect. One can also change the focus subject after taking the shot, just like Nokia Refocus and it works really well.

Apart from this, the View Finder has been improved to eliminate Dropped Pixels, which means what you see on the screen is what you get in the image. The Panorama mode has also been updated to offer more resolution and detail.

There are a couple of drawbacks though. For instance, the camera shoots only in 4:3 aspect ratio, the timer option is gone and so is the white balance settings. But going by Google’s reputation these options should be back soon.

As mentioned, the new Google Camera will be available on Google Play and is compatible with all phones and tablets running Android KitKat 4.4 or above. So head over to Google Play and start clicking!!

Google Camera
Google Camera
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

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 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.