Leap Motion Demo 2

Leap Motion Demo 2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Leap Motion gesture control technology hands-on

By posted May 25th 2012 8:00AM

Leap Motion gesture control technology hands-on

Leap Motion unveiled its new gesture control technology earlier this week, along with videos showing the system tracking ten fingers with ease and a single digit slicing and dicing a grocery store’s worth of produce in Fruit Ninja. Still, doubts persisted as to the veracity of the claim that the Leap is 200 times more accurate than existing tech. So, we decided to head up to San Francisco to talk with the men behind Leap, David Holz and Michael Buckwald, and see it for ourselves. Join us after the break to learn a bit more about Leap, our impressions of the technology, and a video of the thing in action.

Before diving into the more technical details of the device he created, Holz told us about the genesis of his idea to create a better way for humans to interact with their computational devices. The idea to do so came during his days acquiring a Phd in mathematics from UNC and while working in fluid mechanics. You see, there’s a problem with creating and manipulating 3D models using a mouse and keyboard –it’s a needlessly complicated operation involving clicks and drop down menus. Holz wanted a way to make “molding virtual clay as easy as molding clay in the real world.” After four years of research and many iterations of hardware, the Leap was finally finished.

 

We asked both Holz, and Buckwald about the underlying technology that enables such high-fidelity controls, and were told that it’s an optical system that tracks your fingers with infrared LEDs and cameras in a way unlike any other motion control tech. This new method of motion sensing is why the Leap can be made so cheaply and come in such a small package. It can track hundreds of thousands of points at a time (note: point tracking isn’t how it functions), and because its precision scales up or down according to the hardware it’s connected to, it only uses one to two percent of a CPU’s capabilities to work. To protect all of the IP inside the Leap, the firm has a slew of patent applications in the pipeline, which is why, despite our efforts, we couldn’t extract more info about the hardware and its workings.

Image

In practice, the Leap is impressive. As anyone who’s waved at Kinect or held a Wiimote in hand can attest, mass market motion controls are far from precise… Leap Motion’s technology isn’t. We tested it out using one of the company’s prototype units, which is a bit larger than the final version, but Holz assured us that the user experience with each is identical. Using the Leap is easy, simply wave your hand in the space above the sensor, and it starts tracking any finger pointing at the screen. Whether we were slicing watermelons in a Fruit Ninja demo or drawing minuscule curlicues in a 3D-drawing app, the Leap followed our phalanges’ every move on all three axes with nary a hiccup. The company touts the system’s incredibly low latency — faster than a monitor’s refresh rate and below the threshold of a human’s ability to sense it — and we can confirm that there was zero perceptible lag during our demo. Because Leap works with any machine that has touch drivers onboard (whether for trackpads or touchscreens) using it is quite intuitive, and means that the technology is backwards compatible with existing apps. Naturally, Holz and Buckwald are keen to see developers create custom applications to take full advantage of the technology, and we gotta say, so are we.

What’s next for Leap Motion? Well, Holz and Buckwald told us that while the technology is initially available in peripheral form, the plan is to get it baked into laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets, too. Because the hardware is so small, it can easily be stuffed into such devices. And, it’ll work even better when embedded because there’s greater flexibility in the placement of the hardware relative to the user’s hands, and multiple sensors can be included to create a larger virtual workspace. We asked when we could expect to see Leap-enabled laptops, and were told that the company is in talks with several big hardware manufacturers to do just that. So, in the not-so-distant future, it seems we may all be waving our hands in front of screens instead of swiping and tapping on them.

 

Posted on by aqeelferdowsi | Leave a comment

HTC One X vs. One S

HTC One X vs. One S: which phone is The One for you?

By   posted Apr 5th 2012 2:00PM
HTC One X vs One S: which phone is The One for you?

Jet Li starred in a 2001 movie called “The One.” In it, his character traveled to parallel universes and grew stronger as he killed alternate versions of himself. This continued on until there was only one other copy left, with the movie culminating in an epic battle between the two. We won’t spoil the ending, but we were reminded of this movie when thinking about the One X and the One S: both are incredibly powerful phones that we’d be proud to use as our daily drivers, but the vast majority of us are only able to choose one One. (The One V is also a possible option but for the purposes of this feature we’re laser-focused on HTC’s two higher-end models.)

How can we make a sound decision? The two phones are considered premium devices with top-notch components and relatively few flaws. The major difference, however, is going to be the price. Naturally, the cost will vary depending on where you live and which carrier you choose, but make no mistake: the S is going to be less expensive. Is it worth spending the extra money to go with the top-shelf model, or will the little guy be plenty? Now that the two devices are officially on sale in Europe, it’s time to pick a side. We can’t decide for you, but our goal is to present each phone’s pros and cons, going round by round. Which one is right for you? Read on to find out.

Hardware
Image

Particularly since they were released in tandem, it’s obvious these two phones share more than a little DNA. The One X is not only high-end, it’s swinging for the fences in its attempt to be the best smartphone money can buy. But the One S is by no means a weakling; in fact, HTC is positioning both handsets as premium devices, though it considers the X to be the more lavish of the two.

So let’s get the basics out of the way, because these details alone may be enough to cement your decision. First, the X sports a 4.7-inch display, compared with a 4.3-inch one on the S. While such a gargantuan screen would have been met with skepticism a year ago, 4.7 inches is about par for the course in 2012 (if you need proof, look no further than the popular 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note and 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus). Then again, the success of competing devices means little when your hands are small.

Thanks to some wise design decisions, like that thin, concave form shape, the X actually feels perfectly at home in-hand, so much so that even a certain phone reviewer with medium-sized hands can hold it without any difficulty. That said, the S is noticeably more compact and easier to grip, so if 4.7 inches of real estate is just a little too much for you, you’ve already found your winner.

Image

Another bit that could potentially make or break your decision is the matter of available storage space: the One X carries 32GB of internal memory (AT&T’s version will only come with 16GB), while its sibling’s storage is capped at 16GB. More importantly, neither device has expandable storage. Since the vast majority of Android phones let you add external memory via a microSD slot, this wasn’t a commonplace issue with Android phones until just a few months ago. What we’re seeing now, however, is a shift in phone design; manufacturers are much more concerned with keeping their devices thin and sleek, and the microSD card slot is on the chopping block. We believe the popularity of the cloud is also partly to blame for this change of heart. Indeed, knowing that its decision to kill the microSD would cheese off a few hardcore fans, HTC is trying to sweeten the pot with free 25GB of Dropbox storage. But if you’re on a capped data plan, good luck trying this out without incurring some steep overage charges.

As for industrial design, HTC didn’t skimp on build quality. The debate about which one is the most durable will likely rage on for a long time, but suffice to say they’re worthy opponents: in one corner you have the One X’s high impact-resisting polycarbonate, and in the other sits the One S’s aircraft-grade aluminum shell, which has been treated through micro-arc oxidation, in which the metal is zapped with 10,000 volts of electricity to become five times stronger. And though we’re not certain which material is ultimately more resilient, we’d be very surprised to learn there’s much of a difference; both have a reassuring solidity about them. And in case it’s the front of the phones you’re worried about, fear not — they’re both coated in Gorilla Glass.

Image

The X and S are both thin, coming in at 8.9mm and 7.8mm, respectively. They’re also light: 4.59 ounces (130g) for the X and 4.22 ounces (120g) for the S. And though the X is technically thicker and heavier, it’s a marginal difference that feels commensurate with its larger screen and sprawling dimensions.

If you’re a fan of Near Field Communication, you’ll have no choice but to go with the One X, as this feature is completely absent on the One S. Additionally, Sense 4 includes support for Android Beam and Google Wallet. Of course, though, whether you can actually use Wallet depends on several factors, such as whether or not your carrier actually allows its use on their network.

Another key difference is the type of processor used. The One X is the first phone with NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip, offering four cores running at 1.5GHz and an additional “PLUS-1” core that functions at reduced clock speeds in an effort to preserve battery life. The S, meanwhile, is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core 28nm Snapdragon S4 chip. It doesn’t sound as good given that it has half the cores, but as you’ll see in the performance section, it’s not the number of cores that’s important; it’s how efficiently each one is used.

Now we’ll turn to the radios. For the international versions, you can expect to find quadband GSM / EDGE (that’s 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100), which means you’ll have no problem getting at least some kind of signal as you travel the world. When the need for speed is pressing, you’ll find one more UMTS / HSPA + band on the X. Specifically, you’ll be able to enjoy 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100, while the S sports all but the 1900MHz radio. T-Mobile AWS (US only) isn’t included on either device, so you’re stuck with enjoying either blazing-fast 2G downloads or waiting a few weeks for T-Mo’s One S to arrive with 900 / 1700 / 2100MHz bands. AT&T users, you should look over your coverage with a fine-tooth comb before you pull the trigger — if most of your time is spent in a 1900MHz zone, it won’t be wise to go with the One S.

Crave more nitty gritty details? We’ve compiled a handy spec sheet showing off what each phone’s packing. As we see it, both devices can talk the talk and walk the walk, but the X just happens to have a tad more spring in its step than its smaller sibling.

HTC One X HTC One S
Dimensions 5.29 x 2.75 x 0.35 inches
(134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9mm)
5.15 x 2.56 x 0.31 inches
(130.9 x 65 x 7.8 mm)
Weight 4.59 oz (130g) 4.22 oz (120g)
Screen size 4.7 inches 4.3 inches
Screen resolution 1280 x 720 HD (312ppi) 960 x 540 qHD (256ppi)
Screen type S-LCD 2 Super AMOLED
Battery 1,800mAh 1,650mAh
Internal storage 32GB 16GB
External storage None None
Rear camera 8MP, f/2.0 8 MP, f/2.0
Front-facing camera 1.3MP VGA
Video capture 1080p HD 1080p
NFC Yes No
Radios Quadband GSM / EDGE; HSPA+ 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 Quadband GSM / EDGE; HSPA+ 850 / 900 / 2100
Network speeds DC HSPA+ 42Mbps DC HSPA+ 42Mbps
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
RAM 1GB DDR2 1GB DDR2
MHL Yes Yes
WiFi a/b/g/n (dual-band) a/b/g/n (dual-band)

Winner: One X

Display
Image

After viewing the gorgeous non-PenTile 720p HD display on the One X for a few days, we realized just how difficult it was to revert to the S’s qHD Super AMOLED panel. Let’s put it this way: it’s nearly the same screen as on the Droid RAZR, which comes as a tremendous disappointment to us. While we admit that the colors on the AMOLED display are a bit more saturated, that’s all it has going for it. The pixelation is still easily noticeable — in fact, it was the very first thing that stood out when we turned the S on for the first time. In contrast, the X’s S-LCD 2 is definitely one of the nicest screens you can get right now, and there’s no doubt it trumps the One S.

That said, this might not play a critical role in your decision if you’re stepping up from a phone with a lower-res display. If that’s the case, the qHD resolution might well suit you fine, especially if it means spending less on the phone hardware. But we’ll warn you not to spend much time playing around with the X. Once you go 720p, it’s hard to go back.

Winner: One X

Performance
Image

It’s a debate techies have been having for months. Which is better: NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4? The One series gives us the first real idea of how both processors work on high-end smartphones, and the good news is that both handsets are amazing. Absolutely incredible. With very few exceptions, you’ll be completely giddy using either device as your daily driver, as both the One X and One S offer some of the most buttery smooth performance we’ve had the privilege to experience on a smartphone.

Okay, but which one is better? From what we could tell in real-life usage, the two are neck-and-neck; the quad-core Tegra 3 doesn’t offer any substantially significant improvement over the dual-core Snapdragon S4. Sure, the more cores the merrier, but there’s certainly more to the performance of the processor than a simple number. We meant serious business in searching for a definitive answer to this puzzling query — well, as definitive as we can actually get with benchmark scores — and performed 17 tests. The true comparison of the two chipsets will come when we get our hands on AT&T’s version of the One X, because it features nearly the same specs as its global counterpart but uses an S4 instead of Tegra 3. For now, though, this is the closest we’ll get.

Here’s what we found:

HTC One X HTC One S
Quadrant 4,906 5,053
Linpack (multi-thread) 150.54 222.22
NenaMark2 (fps) 47.6 61.0
Neocore 58.2 60.1
Vellamo 1,617 2,452
SunSpider 9.1 (ms, lower is better) 1,772.5 1,742.5
Moonbat (ms, lower is better) 2,676 2,751
GLBenchmark 2.1 Egypt 51fps 60fps
GL Benchmark 2.1 Pro 54fps 61fps
GL Benchmark Egypt offscreen 63fps 57fps
GL Benchmark Pro offscreen 89fps 98fps
AndEBench (Native / Java) 9,223 / 279 5,866 / 189
AnTuTu 11,030 7,067
SmartBench 2012 (Productivity) 4,731 3,028
SmartBench 2012 (Gaming) 2,632 3,383
HTML5 test 364 343
CF-Bench (Overall) 13,233 9,547

Of the 17 tests shown here, 10 came out in favor of the S. But let’s break down some of the benchmarks. Of the four that measure browser performance, the two phones split evenly. One of the tests the S won was Vellamo, a Qualcomm-made tool, so take that score with a grain of salt. Still, a swing of 840 is rather sizable, even if there’s a possibility the S may have had a slight home-court advantage.

We were able to get a good glimpse of GPU performance by using GLBenchmark, a suite of 28 various tests that measure the phones’ OpenGL ES 2.0 (and GLBenchmark 1.0, in the case of the Pro scores). Of the 28, the X nabbed one and tied with the S in another. With that said, the single test in which the S was bested was the Egypt offscreen benchmark, which renders both loads at the same resolution of 720p.

Quadrant, which seems to be the gold standard of benchmark tests, also gave the S a slight advantage. Take into consideration, though, the fact that this test is run at the device’s native resolution, which typically lends to a better score for lower-res displays. How much of an effect this has on the overall score is hard to say.

There were a handful of tests that the X won by a country mile. AndEBench, AnTuTu and CF-Bench, for example, are all multi-threaded tests that played up Tegra 3’s strengths. The X creamed the S in productivity in SmartBench 2012 but fell short in gaming, which could be explained by the difference in resolution. The S won decisively in Linpack and Nenamark 2, but some of its other victories were thanks to slim margins.

The S conquered more benchmarks, but the tests favoring the X were essentially no-contest affairs. Can we crown a champion yet? We want to, but it’s not going to happen right now, not with so many outlying variables (e.g., screen size and resolution). Both are remarkably powerful and our experience using both was nothing short of mind-blowing. To put it another way, it’s kind of like trying to compare Magic Johnson with Larry Bird: both were legendary players in their day, one not necessarily better than the other, considering their various strengths and weaknesses. (Lakers and Celtics fans, just go with this analogy, okay?). It’s the same with Tegra 3 and Snapdragon S4; both are champions in the league, and until AT&T’s version of the One X comes out to play ball, this game will just have to go into overtime.

Winner: Neither

Battery life

There’s one design choice we didn’t mention earlier, and it’s enough of a doozy that it could potentially swing your decision: neither phone has a user-accessible battery. Sure, both handsets are thinner as a result, but we imagine there will be more than a handful of power users who would happily accept a little extra heft if it meant they could swap in a larger juicepack. And let’s face it: with the amount of normal use we’re getting out of our phones these days, who isn’t turning into a power user?

When it comes to runtime, the advantage clearly goes to the One S. But before we get into specific results, there are few variables to consider: first, the X comes with a 1,800mAh pack compared to the S’s 1,650, but it also needs to service a larger, higher-res LCD display — a big potential drain on any phone’s battery life.

HTC One X HTC One S
Video rundown time 6 hours 8.5 hours
Regular-use time 12.5 hours 13.5 hours

As you can see, the screen in this case does indeed has an impact on runtime. In our standard video rundown test, which consists of looping movies with the brightness fixed at 50 percent brightness, the S led the X by two and a half hours. Still, the S only lasted marginally longer with regular use, which included checking email, web browsing, Twitter, Facebook, downloading apps, some light photo / video recording and other miscellany. When we left both phones on standby, only occasionally checking email, taking a photo or placing a call, the One X actually outlasted the S.

This simply confirmed to us what we already knew: the continually backlit LCD display and larger screen size are going to be a significant drain on the battery, especially compared to the AMOLED display on the S. But another aspect that didn’t get a lot of love in this department was graphics performance. In fact, after pushing the Tegra 3’s GPU through the full gamut of GLBenchmark tests for 20 minutes, the X’s battery slipped 17 percent. And how did the S do when faced with the same task? It only experienced a nine percent drop.

Naturally this is going to be a concern to hardcore gamers, but casual smartphone users won’t feel the heat quite as much. Getting 12.5 hours in normal use, as our tests indicated, should get you through the better part of a full day, but you may need to plug in your new beauty just after dinnertime. The One S wins a slight advantage in overall battery life, but the chasm between the two sets of scores isn’t as wide as you might think.

Winner: One S

Camera
Image

HTC has been putting a lot of marketing muscle behind its ImageSense technology, and we put its performance through its paces in our review of the One X. Its quick start-up time, machine gun-like continuous shooting and ability to record stills and video simultaneously help make the experience a delightful one. But how different are the cameras on these two phones?

The One S is technically a lower-end device than the X, so it must have a cheaper camera, right? Well, not when it comes to the main, rear-facing camera or its video capture capabilities. Let’s break it down: both phones use the same 8-megapixel sensor in back and offer all of the essential components to make ImageSense work as well as it does. Video capture is set at 1080p in both cases. The only difference is the front-facing camera. You’ll notice the X delivers a 1.3-megapixel sensor with 720p HD video capture, but the designers in Taiwan weren’t as charitable to the S, which makes do with a VGA cam and video capture fixed at 640 x 480 resolution.

But not all is roses and sunshine for the One S when looking at some of the images. Taking shots side-by-side, it’s clear that the S produces images that are just a smidgeon overexposed when compared to the One X. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean the photos are worthless junk — they still turn out great, but the bigger brother is just a tad better in this department. At least, for now. It’s highly likely that this slight variation in the cameras’ performance is software-related, since every other component is identical between the two devices. We’re hoping this will be easily fixed in a future update, but it’s important to note for the time being.

Winner: One X

Firmware
Image

With so many factors to consider, there’s at least one that won’t have any bearing on your decision: the firmware. Both devices come loaded with Sense 4, the latest version of HTC’s custom Android skin running atop Ice Cream Sandwich, and it’s virtually identical on both devices, the only exceptions being hardware-related (no Android Beam on the S, for instance). As for the question of whether or not the new Sense is right for you, we’ll steer you to our extensive review. Suffice to say, though, if you have your heart set on an HTC device, you won’t have a choice when it comes to out-of-the-box firmware.

Winner: Neither

Carriers
Image

If you live in the US, your experience with either phone might vary depending on which carrier you choose. For instance, as mentioned earlier, both phones will work on AT&T’s HSPA+ / UMTS / EDGE networks, though the S will only get the latter in 850MHz coverage. T-Mobile users, on the other hand, are left with only EDGE speeds since neither One offers the requisite AWS radios.

That’s for the unbranded global models. However, three of the four major carriers in the US will get a new HTC device to call its own, and each will be “optimized” to work on its respective network: AT&T will stock the LTE version of the One X, which adds in 700 / AWS LTE bands, reduces the storage to 16GB and uses a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 chipset. T-Mobile opted for the One S with AWS included, to ensure its customers can enjoy 42Mbps HSPA+. Sprint will feature the EVO 4G LTE, a device that’s similar to the AT&T One X internally but brings a few radical design choices (read: a kickstand) and bows to a few other carrier whims. Verizon hasn’t announced anything, though an Incredible 4G has been rumored for quite some time, and it’s uncertain as to whether or not Big Red will decide to offer any additional selections from HTC this spring or summer.

Wrap-up
Image

Have you chosen a team yet? These two offer a unique litany of temptations: the One X with the more convincing spec sheet and the One S with slightly better battery life. We know this might not be what you want to hear, but we think it’s safe to say you can’t go wrong either way. It really comes down to whether or not each phone fits comfortably in your hand and gives you the combination of features you want. (It wouldn’t hurt if it fell inside your price range, too.) Heck, perhaps it even convinced you to wait for the mystical Samsung Galaxy S III. Regardless of what you choose, we hope our guide has soothed your troubled soul somewhat.

Mat Smith and Myriam Joire contributed to this post.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HTC One S review

HTC One S review

By   posted Apr 2nd 2012 3:01AM
HTC One S review

In some alternate universe, the One S would be HTC’s flagship phone. There’s the new, forged-for-space body, a uniform 7.8mm thickness and a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED display — normally enough to qualify for the top slot. However, HTC decided to make this its (upper) middleweight contender, putting the quad-core One X right above it — and launching it at the same time. We’ve got the HSPA+ global edition, but aside from the radio differences, this is the same hardware you can expect to see from T-Mobile a little further down the line, and it’s powered by a Snapdragon S4 processor similar to the one that will run inside the US version of the One X. Can the dual-core Snapdragon Krait possibly hold its own against Tegra 3? If you’re in the market for a new Android device, why would you go for what is possibly HTC’s second best? Perhaps — dare we say — it’s not allabout the cores and display size. Read on to see what the One series’ mid-tier option has to offer.

Hardware

The One S has an aluminum shell, but there’s a difference between this and its unibody predecessors: this one’s been treated to micro-arc oxidation. Throwing 10,000 volts at that body, what we’re left with is a finish more akin to ceramic and stone than the usual matte metallic seen in HTC’s past offerings. The company’s gone on record saying that it toughens up the surface of the phone. While it certainly feels tougher, don’t expect it to behave as flawlessly as Gorilla Glass — we did notice some light scratches on the matte surface, though we at least didn’t uncover any metal. Both the top and bottom segments are coated in a soft-finish plastic which doesn’t disguise wear-and-tear as well.

The top part lifts off to show access to the micro-SIM, but that’s all you can get to. Like the HTC Radarthere’s no access to the battery or microSD storage, but it’s probably this hardware lock-down that’s helped HTC slim this dual-core phone down to this 0.3-inch profile and it fitted our hand great. If the One X borders on the bulky, the 4.3-inch screen here feels just right. We’ve come a long way.

The One S also packs HTC’s new imaging tech: a dedicated ImageChip combined with a f/2.0 lens. The primary 8-megapixel camera gets a red trim on the black micro-arc oxidized version, while it’s blue on the grey anodized variant. The module doesn’t protrude as much as on One X, but we’d still have preferred a recessed lens. When we rest the phone down, you’re resting it on the camera — we can hear and feel the lens land on the surface. Aside from this flash of color on the camera, it’s a relatively understated phone, with smaller Beats Audio branding at the base of the device, while the loudspeaker and ear piece grills are actually minute holes made into the body. Hidden behind the ear piece is a subtle notification light that glows from behind those holes to illustrate when the phones charging, charged and if there’s some email or social networking nugget waiting for you.

Image

A front-facing camera lies to the right of this, with the Super AMOLED screen dominating the rest of the front. While HTC’s interpretation of Ice Cream Sandwich has been coupled with three capacitive buttons (no on-screen substitutes), it’s replicated the original Android 4.0 phone by including a multitask button — there’s no menu or search buttons here. Protected by that plasma-bathed coating, you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Krait dual-core processor, ticking away at 1.5GHz, while 1GB of memory accompanies 12GB of available storage. A recent HTC-Dropbox deal means you’ll also net an extra 25GB of storage for two years once you log in to the cloud storage service — and yes, it’s in addition to your existing cap.

Display
Image

Which do you want first: the good news or the bad news? Well, the good bit is that HTC has married a 540 x 960 qHD resolution with Super AMOLED. The bad news is that it’s missing a “Plus” at the end of that moniker. Yes, we’re dealing with a PenTile screen, and while there are still plenty willing to overlook that graininess, after seeing it side-by-side against the high-definition beauty on the One X, we’re going to rule in favor of the latter. While Super AMOLED wins with the blacker blacks, whites are just a bit too off. Comparing the resolution on the two One series devices, differences in sharpness will only be apparent in native apps and on the web — unless games and video content are ready for 720p, there’s no difference in graphical polish, aside from those color palette issues.

Camera
Image

This, along with the One X, is possibly the best Android cameraphone we’ve seen yet.

HTC’s been pushing its new camera chops ever since Barcelonaand we finally got a chance to try it out. And it works. Really well. This, along with the One X, is possibly the best Android cameraphone we’ve seen yet. Specification-wise, it’s an eight-megapixel autofocus camera capable of 1080p video capture, with an LED flash and a tempting f/2.0 lens. In use, it’s responsive, can capture video and stills concurrently and add several playful filters you might actually use. There’s all the stable camera options to tweak inside the menus, including white balance, ISO and exposure, but if you’re simply looking for an easy point-and-shoot, you’ll never see them. The UI is an understated simple setup, with a big camera button matched by a similarly-sized video icon, while effects are located in a glass orb in the top right corner and a preview of the last still or video is in the lower right corner. Settings for flash, scenes, and the aforementioned technical options are all on the right side. Thanks to the f/2.0 lens, even shots in low-light turn out well, burst photography was especially impressive.

Video capture at 1080p is generally well-focused with a good balance of color and light adjustment. The takeaway here is that the One series have superb cameras; hardware and software both ensure good-quality images were taken quickly and easily.

Performance and battery life
HTC One S HTC One X Galaxy Note
Quadrant 5,053 4,906 3,998
Linpack (single-thread) 103.88 48.54 64.3
Linpack (multi-thread) 222.22 150.54 95.66
NenaMark2 (fps) 61.0 47.6 32.8
NenaMark1 (fps) 60.8 59.5 56.6
Vellamo 2,452 1,617 901
SunSpider 9.1 (ms, lower numbers are better) 1,742.5 1,772.5 2,902

HTC’s introduced us to a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 (MSM8260A) paired with 1GB of memory. The One S never shirked from what we asked of it. Attempting to make the browser stutter proved fruitless and tiling a complete non-issue. Provided your 3G or WiFi connection can keep up, you’ll sail through the internet. Loading times on meatier apps was short, and it generally coped well with the likes of Shadowgun and GTA 3, although the audio didn’t match the video on the venerable console title.

According to these benchmarks, the dual-core One S manages to trump its quad-core contemporary. Admittedly, tests like these can’t be directly compared side-by-side, since the One X has a larger screen with much higher resolution, and takes advantage of a quad-core chip. Irrespective of this, the phone smoked its dual-core competition, leaving the likes of the Exynos-powered Galaxy Note choking on its exhaust.

Image

The One S comes with a very middling 1,650mAh battery but performance betrayed those numbers. We hit just over eight and a half hours of constant video playback during our typical rundown test — 2.5 hours more than its sibling, the HTC One X. This was at 50 percent brightness, with WiFi on (but not connected), and email and Twitter set to fetch updates at regular intervals. This pegs it at around the same lifespan as the iPhone 4S when it comes to video playback, although it doesn’t quite match the bigger-screened Galaxy Note. Then again, it doesn’t have the same 2,200mAh battery store to draw on. In more standard use, the phone lasted through our daily grind, including emails, web browsing sessions every two hours or so, some Spotify playback and a handful of voice calls and text messages. Charging the One S was still a daily ritual.

Call reception was good, with the extra mic located at the top performing noise-cancellation duties. Data speeds were as expected on both O2’s HSPA+ and Three’s HSPA service. On HSPA+, we reached speeds of around 2.5Mbps down and just under 1.5Mbps up, while HSPA circled around 1Mbps up and 1Mbps down — all pretty similar to results on our other handsets. On the other side of the pond, AT&T’s HSPA+ nabbed us average speeds of around 4.5Mbps down and 1.1Mbps up. This global version features quad-band EDGE and tri-band HSPA+ 42Mbps (2100 / 900 / 850MHz) support — an AWS-capable model is coming to T-Mobile in the US.

Software
Image

HTC’s latest skin catches up with its corresponding Android version, at least number-wise. Sense 4 aims to cut the excess while offering up an experience that remains familiar to HTC fans in the past. A very difficult trick to pull off, but it’s a definitive move forward. While it isn’t stock, it certainly holds on to more Android riffs. Several widgets are also now available in both HTC and stock flavors.

Sporting a thinner and lighter design, the One S doesn’t deserve to be hidden in the shadow of its pricier brother.

Something worth noting is the new Sense keyboard. We’ve been testing both the One S and the One X and found key spacing was a bit tighter than on HTC’s polycarbonate number. Fortunately, it’s held on to some of its better keyboard ideas — you’ll still be able to slide between numbers, accented letters and more obscure punctuation by holding down a letter and sliding across.

Don’t forget to check out our full Sense 4 review.

Wrap-up
Image

Sporting a thinner and lighter design, the One S doesn’t deserve to be hidden in the shadow of its pricier brother. With the latest dual-core Snapdragon S4 and noticeable improvements to HTC’s Sense UI, as well as Android 4.0 and a potent camera, this phone is likely to play a large part of the manufacturer’s renewed efforts after a shaky 2011. With a tactile finish and enough power to go toe-to-toe with HTC’s quad-core entrant, it comes down to whether you’re willing to trade a technically weaker screen for a noticeable price difference and better battery life. It’s a decision we’d prefer not to make.

Myriam Joire and Brad Molen contributed to this review.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

HTC One X review

 Cellphones

HTC One X review

By   posted Apr 2nd 2012 3:00AM
HTC One X review

It’s been a difficult year for HTC. After several successful quarters, things have started looking less rosy in recent months with the company facing stiff competition and suffering from apparent brand dilution — the results of launching too many handsets with forgettable names, making too many compromises for the carriers, continuing to rely on Sense, and lacking an iconic flagship to take on Samsung’s mighty Galaxy S II. We knew something important was coming forMobile World Congress after HTC timidly revealed the Titan II at CES — after all, the company has a long history of innovation.

A few days before flying to Barcelona and after being sworn to secrecy, we were quietly whisked into a San Francisco conference room with clear instructions: no pictures or video. There, in the middle of the table, was a white phone that instantly caught our eye — the HTC One X. To write that we came away impressed after briefly using it is a massive understatement. This was obviously a halo device made for geeks like us, something designed to take on the Galaxy Nexuses of the world, something with the mother of all spec sheets, something running Ice Cream Sandwich with a significantly thinner and lighter version of Sense. Better yet, there were two other handsets with the same impeccable attention to detail — the One S and the One V. HTC was finally showing some vision again with strong branding, gorgeous design and a polished user experience. While first impressions go a long way, there’s a lot to be learned about a product by living with it for a few days. So is the One X truly HTC’s comeback device? Are we still delighted? Is this the Engadget phone? Hit the break for our full review.

Hardware

HTC went back to the drawing board. While many of its products from 2011 blended together in an amorphous, Sensation-esque blur, the company’s drawn a line in the sand — this is its flagship and it’s a beauty. The phone is housed in a polycarbonate unibody that’s matte on the back and glossy at the sides. This polycarbonate material means the body shouldn’t interfere with the phone’s signal, while incidental scratches will reveal yet more brilliant white. Some considered contours along the body of the phone mean that despite its 8.9mm (0.35 inch) profile — and a 4.7-inch display — it always felt safe in our grasp. Although its size may be borderline for some people’s palms, it’s nowhere near as monstrous as the Galaxy Note. Compared to the likes of the Rezound and Sensation, it’s also around 30 grams (1.1 ounces) lighter — presumably due to the new materials being put to use on HTC’s great white hope.

Image

Touring the body, the device is refreshingly unencumbered by complications — the earpiece speaker is even integrated into the polycarbonate shell. The staple volume rocker is a white bar on the right side, while the micro-SIM tray is now hewn into the unibody (you’ll need a metal pin to access it at the top of the back). On the left edge there’s the MHL-capable micro-USB port, while the headphone socket and power button are both found on the top. Again, HTC’s placement of this key, which also wakes the screen, makes less sense than if it was placed along the right edge, but the buttons are solid and responsive, coated in the same polycarbonate white as the unit — no easily-chipped silver paint. The camera noticeably protrudes from the center of the phone, accented by a metallic circle — this is a phone that’s proud of its camera and we’ve dedicated a section to this below. There’s also a five-pin connector along the right side, ready for those inevitable docks and in-car holsters.

The speaker grill, made from 84 individually-drilled holes, belts out plenty of noise. If you’re looking to use it to broadcast your music, you’ll want to have the device face down — a built-in Sense feature does exactly that when you flip the device over during calls. It still suffers from the same lack of bass found in most phones, although the One X is one of HTC’s first devices to bring Beats Audio enhancements acrossall apps, removing one of our complaints with the tie-up. If you’re looking for more detail on this Beats Audio offering, check the write-up we gave it in our Sensation XE review.

Behind the polycarbonate gloss, the phone arrives with 32GB of memory, with 26GB of this accessible to the user. This is further augmented by a new Dropbox deal offering an extra 25GB to anyone that registers a device from the One series. It’s all running on NVIDIA’s quad-core (plus one) Tegra 3, clocked at 1.5GHz and different from its incoming LTE variant set to arrive with Qualcomm’s dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4. The processor is teamed up with 1GB of RAM, while HTC’s joined the NFCparty, adding Android Beam functionality — where ICS apps allow it. We were able to ping some email addresses and websites between the One X and the Galaxy Nexus.

Display
Image
The One X’s 720p display under a USB microscope at about 230x magnification.

The One X matches the Rezound’s 720p resolution, but houses it in a new Super LCD 2 panel and gifts it with 4.7 inches to play with, which translates to a pixel density of 316ppi. At this resolution, it embarrasses the rest of its similarly-sized cousins (e.g., the 4.7-inch HTC Sensation XL) when compared side by side. And while we’re not sure whether it’s the pseudo-concave design of the display, that drops ever-so slightly on both edges or the thinner Gorilla Glass, the high definition pixel matrix seems to skim across the face of the phone — viewing angles are great, especially if the brightness is cranked up. Super AMOLED Plus aficionados, this is what your rival looks like. On the non-PenTile One X, colors seemed more natural and the whites were whiter than on AMOLED devices like the Galaxy Nexus. When outdoors, we had to max out brightness, but once we did, the screen was both navigable and readable.

Camera

There are two basic ways manufacturers implement cameras on higher-end phones. One approach is to build a no-compromise imaging-centric device geared towards photography buffs, as popularized by Nokia with the N8 and the recently announced 808 PureView. The alternative is to take a competent shooter and make it simple and bulletproof for anyone to enjoy, something Apple and (to a lesser extent) Samsung have achieved with the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S II (and derivatives).

While HTC has aimed — and mostly succeeded — at pleasing both the shutterbug and the layperson with handsets like the myTouch 4G SlideAmaze 4G and upcoming Titan II, it has usually favored the ease-of-use approach. The One X continues this trend by delivering one of the best all-round imaging experiences we’ve come across without sacrificing quality — thanks to an 8-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor, an incredibly wide aperture f/2.0 autofocus lens (vs. f/2.2 on the Amaze 4G, f/2.4 on the iPhone 4S, f/2.65 on the Galaxy S II and f/2.8 on the N8) and an extra processor called the ImageChip.

It’s also the quickest cameraphone we’ve ever reviewed, the 0.7-second startup time and 0.2-second delay between shots beating even the speedy Galaxy Nexus. A single LED flash capable of five different intensity levels completes the package. While the hardware is generally state-of-the-art, there are a few omissions that prevent this shooter from hitting the bull’s eye. Most disappointing is the lack of a dedicated two-stage camera button — we’ll make do without the mechanical shutter, xenon flash and autofocus-assist light common to devices like the N8, but we’ll take a proper mechanical shutter key over a basic on-screen button anytime. We’re also concerned with the long-term durability of the glass covering the optics which is exposed to fingerprints and scratches by protruding from the phone’s body.

Image

Just like the rest of the One X, the camera specs only tell half of the story. The software — called ImageSense, naturally — plays a big part in the handset’s imaging mojo. It packs serious processing chops and supports a smorgasbord of features like real-time filters, HDR, panorama, burst and slow-motion video (to name a few). Instead of unraveling every minute UI detail, let’s focus (pardon the pun) on the shooter’s functionality. First, there’s no more distinction between photo and video modes — you’re welcome to take still or moving pictures anytime by tapping the appropriate on-screen shutter key. This means you’re able to capture 8-megapixel widescreen images (3264 x 1840 pixels) while recording video! Better yet, it’s even possible to grab HD frames (1920 x 1088 pixels) from an existing video during playback.

Second, there’s a full set of Instagram-like filters — including tweakable vignette and depth of field effects — which can be applied to photos in real-time or after the fact. Both the camera and gallery apps provide a plethora of adjustments available before shooting and later while editing, such as contrast, saturation and sharpness. There’s also an array of manual settings to chose from, such as exposure level, white balance and ISO. We have a few niggles though — conspicuously absent is any kind metering option (center-weighted, spot or average) and while touch-to-focus also offers some control over EV there’s no way to lock focus and exposure before reframing. Most shooters enable this either by half pressing the dedicated two-stage camera button (N8), tapping and holding any part of the viewfinder until the lock indicator appears (iPhone 4S) or — our favorite for lack of a proper mechanical shutter key — tapping and holding the on-screen camera button (Galaxy S II). Hopefully this is something HTC can fix in a future update.

Now let’s talk about image quality. We pitted the One X against the current cream of the crop — the N8, Amaze 4G, iPhone 4S and Galaxy Note (which uses the same module as the Galaxy S II) plus Canon’s S95compact point-and-shoot. The camera landed somewhere in the middle of this star-studded pack, marginally beating the Galaxy Note and iPhone 4S while almost matching the Amaze 4G. Sure, it’s not in the same league as the N8 (which rivals the S95 in some cases), but this is one stellar camera, especially when you consider that HTC is not positioning this phone as an imaging-centric device like the Amaze 4G.

Low-light performance is particularly impressive thanks to the fast f/2.0 lens and backside-illuminated sensor, which combine to gather a huge amount of light. HDR night shots are truly magical — no mushrooms required. Still, the software relies on a little too much noise reduction in extreme low-light which results in a noticeable loss of detail, and since there’s no assist light, the autofocus often struggles in the dark and requires a few touch-to-focus attempts before getting a lock. Pictures taken in most conditions look fantastic, but looking closely we’re longing for a sensor with a wider dynamic range and higher quality lens (yes, the N8’s Carl Zeiss optics are hard to beat).

Yes, the proof is in the pudding — people who care little about aperture and shutter settings will take great photos with the One X.

While color balance is generally top-notch we noticed some issues with the white balance being off at times right after launching the camera — it rights itself after a few seconds, but it’s a problem if you’re trying to catch that fleeting moment. Metering is usually accurate, but the lack of exposure lock means that in some instances (like sunsets) we resorted to fiddling with the EV to avoid washing out parts of the shot. Of course, we’re being picky here and none of this takes into account ease-of-use, which rivals the experience on the iPhone 4S (and beats it, in terms of speed). Yes, the proof is in the pudding — people who care little about aperture and shutter settings will take great photos with the One X.

The One X captures 1080p video at a silky smooth 30fps with continuous autofocus and stereo audio. Results mostly look sharp and sound clear — we noticed some faint video compression artifacts (bitrate is 10Mbps) and the automatic gain control reacted a little too quickly to wind noise, but this is nothing to be concerned about in most situations. In contrast with how quickly the camera handles stills, there’s about a four-second (!) delay between tapping the on-screen video capture button and the actual start of the recording which means you’re likely to miss some firsts if you’re not prepared. There’s one more neat trick worth mentioning, and that’s slow motion. Yes, this shooter is able to record 480p widescreen video (768 x 432 pixels, to be exact) at 60fps for playback at about 24fps — check out our sample video below.

Performance and battery life
Image

Quad-core phones have arrived. While we’ve already seen the NVIDIA tech on one of our favorite Android tablets, the One X is our first Tegra 3 smartphone to arrive for testing and it doesn’t disappoint. We tried to push the hardware as much as we could and it handled nearly all of our tasks effortlessly.GTA3 loaded effortlessly — and was fast. Even task-switching couldn’t sink the phone, although it doespause to think when you jump between heavier tasks like video and gaming. Browser performance is a revelation too. We couldn’t spot any tiling issues as we scrolled at high-speed through the front page of Engadget — none — pictures were there before we even got to them.

This triumphant real-world performance is backed up by some understandably jaw-dropping benchmark scores, besting even the Transformer Prime in Quadrant and Vellamo performance tests and thrashing the Galaxy Note — our previous smartphone heavy-lifter — across the board.

HTC One X HTC One S ASUS Transformer Prime Galaxy Note(int’l)
Quadrant (v2) 4,906 5,053 4,018 3,854
Linpack single-thread (MFLOPS) 48.54 103.88 43.35 64.3
Linpack multi-thread (MFLOPS) 150.54 222.22 67.05 95.66
NenaMark2 (fps) 47.6 61.0 46.07 32.8
NenaMark1 (fps) 59.5 60.8 60.07 56.6
Vellamo 1,617 2,452 953 901
SunSpider 9.1 (ms, lower numbers are better) 1,772.5 1,742.5 1,861 2,902

While an AT&T-branded One X is set to arrive carrying LTE (and a SnapDragon S4), this global model features both quad-band EDGE and HSPA+ 42Mbps (2100 / 1900 / 900 / 850MHz). Speed tests on AT&T in the US reached about 6Mbps down and 1.2 Mbps up on HSPA+, and Three and O2 in the UK averaged around 2.2Mbps down and just under 1Mbps up on HSPA. Call quality is good, with the noise-cancelling second mic helping to focus on the voice, although some background static remained on our test calls on several networks.

Battery life, however, looks likely to pay the price for this. With brightness set to 50 percent, WiFi on but not connected, the One X’s 1,800mAh juicepack managed six hours of continuous video playback — that’s two hours short of its sibling, the One S. Obviously, this sort of activity is likely to use the phone’s multiple cores, but we found that Tegra 3’s 4-PLUS-1 setup still continues to slurp the battery on very light use — we didn’t notice that extra companion core taking any sort of burden off the phone’s power consumption. Checking our battery status, it seems like HTC’s Super LCD 2 screen — perhaps unsurprisingly– was also to blame for a life span that didn’t last a full workday.

Update: To clarify, we got 12-plus hours of moderate use out of the One X (that’s checking, email and social networks, making a few calls, sending some messages, taking a few pictures, downloading a few apps); your mileage will vary. Keep in mind there are differences between the One X and One S beyond the processor, such as like the radio chipset and the display (4.7-inch vs. 4.3, 720p vs qHD, LCD vs. AMOLED).

Software
Image

The latest version of HTC’s proprietary skin, Sense 4, comes on top of Android 4.0.3. But this isn’t your father’s old version of Sense. In fact, it’s a much more refreshing take on a skin that used to be incredibly bogged down by nonsense animations and unnecessary UI elements. Is it stock Ice Cream Sandwich? No, not by a long shot. But what you’ll get with the One X’s user experience is a pleasant mix of ICS and Sense, both halves somehow finding a way to live together in harmony.

That’s not to say Sense 4 is a complete and perfect Android skin. But it does a much better job figuring out the spirit of stock Android and truly striving to emulate the OS, instead of throwing Google’s designs and inspiration out the window. HTC’s goal was to make the new Sense much lighter and less burdensome to the rest of the platform, and we’d say it has largely succeeded.

There is so much to discuss in the new Sense that our overview of it became too large to include with the rest of our impressions on the One X. To get the full scoop complete with screenshots and video, visit our incredibly comprehensive Sense 4 review.

Wrap-up
Image

There’s absolutely no doubt that the One X is a masterpiece of an Android device: it obliterates pretty much all of its competitors by giving even the mighty Galaxy Nexus a run for its money. HTC’s really crafted something special here, with a brilliant combination of branding, industrial design and user experience. This handset looks and feels stunning, with top-notch materials and build quality, the most gorgeous display we’ve ever stared at on a phone, a fantastic camera that’s fast and easy to use and a laundry list of every possible spec under the sun. Sense 4 is thin and light enough to enhance — not detract from — stock Ice Cream Sandwich. Pinch us, ’cause frankly, we’re smitten.

Ultimately, buying a One X is a lot like getting a unicorn — it’s wild, fast, white, beautiful, expensive and fickle.

Still it’s not all rainbows and glitter. While it’s incredibly quick and smooth in actual use, we’re surprised that the quad-core Tegra 3 in the One X performed slightly worse in our benchmarks than the dual-core Snapdragon S4 in the One S. Battery life is by far our biggest concern and we really hope that HTC addresses this head-on with future software updates. It’ll be interesting to see how its LTE equipped twin (which is also Snapdragon S4-based) fares in those areas when it launches in the next few weeks — let’s just hope AT&T keeps the firmware as unadulterated as possible. Ultimately, buying a One X is a lot like getting a unicorn — it’s wild, fast, white, beautiful, expensive and fickle. Time will tell if dressage school tames this power hungry beast.

Mat Smith, Brad Molen and Richard Lai contributed to this review.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Future Of Bada

Spillikins №169. BADABOOM: The Future of Bada

Man proposes but God disposes – this is what has been happening to me last week. The British embassy made it impossible for me to attend the Galaxy S3 announcement in London due to a large number of requests on the eve of the London Olympics. It’s too bad that I am not going to see many of my friends and colleagues there but I will still have all the news delivered to you. It’s just feels wrong to be spending May in Moscow.

My plans kept getting messed up with a few new phones that I got my hands on and need to review. I finally bought another PS Vita (a third one) to finish my review of it and add pictures and screenshots. I actually planned to write a totally different issue of Spillikins and discuss some social aspects of the mobile phone like when it is used to avoid unwanted conversations. Mu plans changed again after I twitted my thoughts on the future of Bada and had a storm of comments – i just had to raise this issue in these Spillikins. Unfortunately there is no way I can jam everything I have to say into just one article so I have to cherry-pick my topics.

Another topic I would like to discuss but don’t have the time right now is the problem of mobile phones layout for display in stores. I think this matter is interesting for both buyers and vendors as I’ll cover most common mistakes. Also, I have been using the MixBag for almost two weeks and would like to review it. I have mixed feeling about it so far but it certainly deserves a few lines in upcoming Spillikins.

I also plan to write an article for which I have been collecting info for several weeks on how blind people use mobile phones and other gadgets.

I wanted to dedicate a part of these Spillikins to Instagram but decided that it deserves a separate article. I want to discuss this app from the angle of what new experience it gives to users and why it made it big while many of more advanced photo editors did not. I hope it will be helpful for developers planning on making a photo app and give regular users a new perspective at this app.

Too bad I don’t have the time to enjoy the spring but work has its own pleasures in interesting meetings, news and discussions. Last week I posted my interview of a blind person who explained how visually challenged people use the PC and tweet. The podcast received many favorable responses and tens of thousands of people have downloaded it. Check it out.

Contents:

  1. The Future of Samsung’s Bada
  2. RIM Wants to Be Purchased by Apple
  3. Oracle Against Google and Android: What It Means for the Platform?
  4. Google Attacks: Galaxy Nexus for $399

The Future of Samsung’s Bada

The reason Samsung created the Bada platform (yes it is a platform not an OS) was Samsung’s poor results on the smartphone market. In 2012 it sounds weird as Samsung has become the biggest smartphone manufacturers taking over even Apple with their ‘gold standard’ iPhone. However, back in 2009 Samsung looked very bleak on the fast growing smartphone market. Samsung needed to make a decisive move and secure the results on this market while still making profit.

Samsung came up with a nice trick they called Bada which they positioned as a smartphone platform. Since touchscreen phones were becoming very popular they immediately got huge ‘smartphones’ sales. The real sales were good but not that spectacular. Samsung copied a trick Apple used with the first 2007 iPhone which was not a smartphone but became one thanks to Apple’s PR department who wanted to show the success in terms of the smartphone market. As a matter of fact the modern criteria of a manufacturer’s success based on its share of the smartphone market we owe to Apple. In 2009 Samsung joined in this game and introduced Bada. You can get more info on those events in my 2010 article on Bada:

Bada – Samsung’s strategy in the new market

In 2010 Samsung believe in a bright future for Bada and create two very similar phones Wave and Galaxy S – one runs Bada the other one Android, one has a plastic chassis and the other has a metal body, one has lots of apps and the other only a handful. The idea of Bada and the first Wave came with Samsung Jet, Samsung’s first attempt to show that regular phones can be smarter than smartphones.

However, in 2009 Samsung failed to change the trend so they chose a different strategy. From this point the future of Bada depended on the following factors:

  • Popularity of Bada phones
  • High sales that could attract developers
  • The number of apps that could allow Bada to compete with Android, or at least make it look less bleak as compared to Android

As of 2012 Samsung failed to achieve any of those. The first Wave became the most popular Bada phone. Its successors Wave II and Wave III were getting less and less popular and losing competition to Samsung’s Android smartphones. Wave III had the worst price to quality ratio which inevitably led to poor sales.

Samsung has always been reassessing budgets of all their new products and solutions based on the initial reception. So the company is very quick to boost a product’s budget or abandon it like they ditched their phones on Symbian, LiMo and other OS. It is a slightly different story with Bada though. The first gen Bada devices were backed by a big ad campaign that went on helping the second gen in sales so a dramatic budget cut would not be reasonable and in 2011 funding of Bada continued – Samsung was getting everything they could out of it. But for users every new generation of Bada devices was getting less and less attractive as compared to Samsung’s own Android smartphones. Subsequently, Bada phones have been far behind Android smartphones in terms of sales although doing better still than Windows phone products.

Secondly, investments into third party app development, UI and services development require a lot of time. Samsung has not been creating just a smartphone platform but an entire ecosystem and it was Samsung’s first such experience. It was during Bada development when Samsung got their own app store even though it had not been planned. The idea of an own app store came from the regular phone development inside Samsung and Samsung Club. The early app store was later developed into Samsung Apps.

Samsung never expected instant success of Bada they reasonably chose to steadily enrich the platform.

The explosive growth of Android sales however was a heavy blow on Bada. Every manufacturer has to work in extremely pressing circumstances and use their resources in the most efficient way. So for Samsung it was an obvious choice between Android and Bada when it came to budget drawing in 2011. It is in 2011 when Bada phone series starts to lose competition even to older generation Android phones. Take a look at the phenomenal success of Galaxy Note, if Samsung were to release Note on Bada it would fail and become an interesting but unpopular toy. The market has chosen Android over Bada.

There is only one country in the world where the Bada ecosystem managed to survive and continues to prosper – Russia. Here Bada is profitable both in terms of the sold phones and apps. Samsung managed to saturate the Russian market with enough Bada phones to make app sales profitable here. Unlike in other countries where Samsung regional offices lowered the order quota for Bada phones because they could not sell them. However, Samsung Russian department remains pretty small so when Bada 2.0 update was released Russian users could not get it because there were not enough developers for localization as the priority had been set for Android devices.

Anyway, now Bada is in no-win situation. On the one hand, it is only possible to boost Bada sales by slashing prices (like Samsung did in early 2011). On the other hand, prices for Android smartphones are falling even faster due to extreme competition and Samsung cannot possibly keep up with them. The result is lower sales which make Bada less attractive for developers who switch to iOS and Android. Paying developers will also make Bada unprofitable.

As always, in this situation Samsung is going to reassess their priorities and give most of their resources to Android.

However, there won’t be any announcements of Bada discontinuation either: unlike Nokia Samsung never hurry to destroy their own sales. The market share of Bada phones will simply steadily decrease and about in a year they will be gone from sale. They will continue to support the developers and products as planned at least for 2012. The end of Bada is natural and draws from the following facts:

  • Samsung no longer fights to become Number One smartphone manufacturer – it has become it
  • They don’t need Bada sales because they have soaring Android sales
  • Samsung does not release smartphone sales data – we can only get third party’s assessments
  • Samsung has recently adopted a new 10 year strategy that sets different goal from that Bada was meant to achieve
  • A Linux OS for Bada never happened in 2011, instead we have Tizen with unclear release dates and perspectives (I have no expectations for Tizen at all)

In the end, it is just a big part of Samsung resources bound to the Bada project that goes nowhere. It is only natural that Samsung wishes to put those resources to a better use. It is simple business not rocket science.

If we look back at the history of Samsung we will see that one of the first big objectives the company had was to beat Sony. I recommend the book ‘Sony vs. Samsung’ – a nice illustration of that era. Back then, Samsung was distributing a corporate document called ‘How to beat Sony’. And when they did beat Sony the name changed to ‘How to beat Motorola’. About five years ago the goal was set to ‘How to beat Nokia’ (I remember it had a firing tank on the cover). Now Samsung employees read ‘How to beat Apple’.

Apple’s strongest and Samsung’s weakest side is the software. Not services (Apple has no advantages in services and iTunes is an app that is turning into a service yet) but software design and apps. Samsung understands it perfectly and is trying to remedy the situation, hiring new experts and creating new software departments. This process will take years and requires some fundamental changes inside Samsung. But changes are a part of Samsung DNA and I am sure they can do it. But back to Bada: the Bada platform will not be gone completely. It will leave a rich legacy in many other projects: the UI, the app store etc. So in the end, Bada was not a waste it gave Samsung invaluable experience but it does not mean it should be kept alive artificially. It is time to pull the plug. Samsung might claim that Bada is going to transform into Tizen but it won’t be true. It does not really matter what words Samsung is going to say in regard to the death of Bada which is going to take about a year. Bada did played its part and is ready to leave the stage. Nothing to worry about, all Bada products will receive timely updates and support. The future of the Bada platform is best described by Mila Jovovich in her private conversation with Bruce Willis:

Back to the table of contents >>>

RIM Wants to Be Purchased by Apple

On April 22 near the Apple branded store in Australia stopped a black van with the Wake Up logo. People in black shirts went out and started shouting the same slogan targeted at the store employees. “By chance” Blunty video blogger happened to be near and recorded the entire event. Rumors had it that it was Samsung, which wanted to launch Galaxy S3 this way, but the Korean company clearly had nothing to do with it. The code of the website referred to by the promotional pages led to Blackberry (RIM). Its representatives said they did not pay bloggers to cover the event and the script was not prepared by them. Anyway, watch the original video.

The main beneficiary of the video is Samsung always suspected of being aggressive to Apple. As far as the recent legal decision binds Apple and Samsung to find a compromise such an action would have meant continuing the war, which is not typical of Samsung.

The “experimental” video prepared by the Australian office of RIM is a direct reference to Apple: wake up and purchase us. The company, which is losing market share every day decided to laugh at the expense of Apple, which receives 80% of all revenues in the mobile phones market. It shows that RIM is going slightly mad and can compete with Nokia for the worst PR and marketing event of 2012. I think both manufacturers can even vie for the same title of the decade. Just remember the idea of Nokia to promote its phones by sending spam SMS to iPhone owners. When the companies are going down their actions become utterly insane.

Additional reading:

Back to the table of contents >>>

Oracle Against Google and Android: What It Means for the Platform?

It is well documented that Google used Java and its open API for the development of Android. Google never denied the fact and their cooperation with SUN was business like although not exactly friendly. During various functions SUN underlined how much Google did for Java, but everything changed when Oracle bought Sun and their lawyers found patent infringement in Google actions. In the August of 2010 Oracle went to the court to ban the use of their technologies and receive monetary compensation. Lawyers were adamant that Google used a free Java technology to create a free product Java creators couldn’t compete. Later on Oracle dropped this accusation as damaging their company image, but still wants Google to pay one billion dollars and sign licence agreements, which will make Android not a free platform even if someone else will pay for it.

It is a serious issue we cannot cover extensively in the Spillikins. I waited for the trial to start and then publish a large article in two sections. The fight is deadly serious. On one side we have a “good” company supporting the free nature of its OS, while the other side is taken by a classical corporation, which believes that even its free technologies are not completely free. There is a surprising number of intriguing details in the case. For example, Google presented documents describing Android prior to its factual launch. They contain images of phones and planned tariff plans.

How do you like this Google handset? The concept never went to production and the same applies to the next one.

During the proceedings we saw the proposed Android in its initial incarnation, which never happened though.

 

Source: TheVerge

Home screen

Dialer

Contacts

Calendar

Gmail

Email

Messaging

Web browser

Media player

Maps

Google Talk

Camera and video

YouTube

Time

Notes

Calculator

Settings

I think if we offer a brief description of the case we will not give it justice. A thorough research is required here. The trial results may change the mobile phones universe. We cannot rule out such dramatic consequences. I hope the first section of the article will appear this week.

Additional reading:

Back to the table of contents >>>

Google Attacks: Galaxy Nexus for $399

Google sells Galaxy Nexus now for 399 dollars plus tax in the US and also gives 10 dollars in Google Wallet. It is not a promotion campaign, but a regular price, which will soon be replaced as an Android flagship by Galaxy S3.

In terms of market trends the depreciation of Android devices is both positive and negative. Those who got Galaxy Nexus as soon as possible had to pay for being able to enjoy Android 4 early on, but others can now snap up an excellent phone for the right price.

In other countries prices can be different. Anyway, Google is ready to pressurize their partners (first of all, HTC) to have a price consistency across the Android range. Google aspires to regulate the prices and this particular approach is quite useful for the fortunes of Android. It is not clear who and when will be able to rival the platform, which is going from strength to strength.

Additional reading:

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Related links

Spillikins №166. Nokia Loses The Crown to Samsung, The New Number One
Spillikins №167: Gadgets vs. Gravity
Spillikins №168. Re: Stop Calling Me!

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
 Twitter
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 05 May 2012

http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=h/articles/2012/ttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.mobile-review.com%2Farticles%2F2012%2Fbirulki-169-en.shtml&layout=standard&show_faces=true&width=450&action=like&colorscheme=light&height=80

Have something to add?! Write us… eldar@mobile-review.com

 

SpyLOG Rambler's Top100 HotLog
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sony ST21i Tapioca

First look. Sony ST21i Tapioca

Contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Design , Size , Controls
  3. Screen
  4. Battery
  5. Connectivity
  6. Memory, Platform
  7. Camera
  8. Software
  9. Colnclusion

Introduction

Just when the phones borrowing the design of the XPeria S were starting to be more than they should be, Sony created a different device, at least design wise, and we are presented with the ST21i. After the appearence of the Xperia S in the market, Sony faced an unusual situation where they had only one new device to offer and an expensive one on top of that. The other three variations of the same concept will hit the market shortly, and the ST21i will follow soon, after a few months.

This device is quite different in appearance and size, and targets the lower price range, in a way trying to replace the Xperia mini and Xperia mini pro, even though it is a much inferior device in features, hardware and materials used. Based on a two year old hardware platform, with a cheap small screen of just acceptable performance, yet coming with Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box the ST21i is Sony’s logical attempt to atract customers in the lower price range.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Design , Size , Controls

Finally, Sony decided to present us with a phone that doesn’t look like another cut-down version of the Xperia S. The design is simple, without any special features, except the small step under the touch sensitive keys below the display. The phone size can be considered small for most people and will definatelly fit in any pocket without any problem. ST21’s weight is just right between being too light and leave a cheap feeling, and unreasonably heavy. As for the materials used, the back battery cover is made from a plastic soft in touch and thick enough to leave a quality feel when holding the device. The only thing that gives away the ST21’s positioning as a low end device is the touch screen’s plastic which is on the cheap side and the screen it self with it’s resolution and picture quality.

Overall, the phone leaves a much better impression that the Xperia U, for example, even though it will be priced substantially lower.

On the front of the device, apart from the Sony Ericsson logo to be changed when the phone hits the market, the screen takes up most of the space. Right under the screen we find the three usual touch sensitive buttons used in all Sony Ericsson and Sony phones so far. Even though the phone will make it to the market running on Android ICS, Sony decided to leave the physical keys, because the screen’s resolution is way to small to be able to accommodate the on-screen buttons. The front side also has the proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor, both of them are well hidden under the black plastic.

On the left side of the device there is only a microUSB port used for charging and connecting the phone to the computer.

On the right side we find the volume keys and a small opening for a wrist band.

The Power/Lock key is placed on the top of the ST21i along with a 3.5mm jack for the stereo headphones. On the bottom there is a small slot used to open the back cover and access a battery and a SIM holder.

On the back of the phone there are a 3 MPx camera and a loudspeaker.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Screen

With the ST21i being a low end device or just above that, there is not much to be expected from the phone’s screen and that’s exactly what we get. A simple HVGA screen of 320×480 pixels resolution with an acceptable color reproduction that has a blue hue. One note should be made here though: Sony is still making the transition in ICS and so far only some older phones have received the new Android version as an update. On ST21i there is still some work to be done , since the screen’s resolution is not used in any of the devices updated so far and some elements of teh UI are drawn incorrectly. As for the responsiveness of the touch layer of the screen it could be better, but is the same in most phones of this category.

Although there is an ambient light sensor present on the phone’s hardware side , the display lacks an automatic brightness setting. Probably it will be added by the time the ST21i comes to the market.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Battery

The phone uses a well known BA-700 battery module with a capacity of 1450mAh. Since the ST21i is still in its development, there is no point it measuring the phone’s stand-by time. As an educated guess however, based on the hardware used and the phone’s screen, there shouldn’t be a problem to get around two days of stand-by with average usage.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Connectivity

All the usual connectivity options are available.

Bluetooth. The 2.1 version of bluetooth is supported which is to be expected in a phone of this kind.

Stereo music playback is supported along with all the profiles needed for everyday use like Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer and Object Push.

Wi-Fi. A simple 802.11 b/g module is used with no problems in connection. Average speed is at around 20Mbps and there is an option for a wireless hotspot creation.

USB. The microUSB port is used for connecting the phone to a computer and, at least at this point, only the MTP protocol is supported with no option for a mass storage mode.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Memory, Platform

ST21i comes with 512MB of RAM memory and almost 3GBs of onboard storage. Interestignly, unlike most of it’s bigger “brothers” the ST21i has a memory card slot available and so the available memory can be expanded further.

Qualcomm’s MSM7227 is the chipset used in the ST21 with a 800 MHz ARM 11 CPU and the quite old Adreno 200 GPU. This hardware should be enough for running almost all of the phone’s pre installed applications. It’s only when you try to run some more recent games like Angry Birds Space for example or try to open a heavy web page in the ICS default browser that you realize it’s a weak device designed just to be able to run the Android ICS acceptably.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Camera

The ST21i packs a mediocre 3.0MPx camera lacking autofocus. The picture quality is just acceptable to be used in multimedia messages and social media like Facebook or Twitter, but in no case is good enough to be transfered to the computer to be viewed and archived.

There is an option for recording video, but at a maximum of just VGA 640×480 resolution it produces the same poor results as the still camera.

The interface of the camera is the same as used in all Sony and Sony Ericsson phones, but with most advanced options missing since they are not supported by the ST21i camera module anyway.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Software

ST21i is the first example of Sony’s new line up of devices based on Android ICS. However, since the phone is still in it’s developement stage there is not much point in describing the OS’s features because many things will improve and some may change completely. The only thing of note is that the ICS version of Android seems to run acceptably well in the two year old hardware used in ST21i. With the exception of some “heavy” applications like the phone browser, most applications run smooth enough for easy everyday use.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Colnclusion

The ST21i has no reception issues and the earphone’s volume is good enough for all enviroments. The loudspeaker is quite loud, more than it’s needed in some cases, esspecially when set to maximum volume with some sound distortion present.

The ST21i comes to play more than one role in Sony’s line up. First of all, it’s the first phone that breaks away from the design philosophy of the Xperia S. With that said, it’s almost like Sony choose to do so because there were more than enough phones based on it so far and probably because they could not produce another device designed the same way, but in an even lower price range than Xperia U.

Secondly, it’s Sony’s first attempt to capitalize on the fact they are using Asian and mostly Chinese factories to build their devices, where even with higher quality standards used, a lower production cost is still achieved. Even though Chinese companies like ZTE still do not enjoy a respected place in most consumers minds because of the sheer fact they are Chinese, Sony Ericsson and now Sony enjoys that brand advantage, even though they have nothing more to offer to a user than most ZTE and Huawei phones quality wise. Actually many Sony Ericsson phones in the past proved to be more than just of poor built quality both in materials and durability.

Since Sony inherited a software department from Sony Ericsson capable of designing better UI optimizations for Android phones that look more sofisticated than the default stock Android used in most Chinese designed phones, they can capitalize on that and sell devices for more money , with the same or even lower production costs.

Last, but not least, it’s the first Sony phone that will come to the market with Android ICS onboard instead of receiving it with a firmware upgrade a while after the start of sales like Xperia S did , and Xperia P , Xperia U and Xperia Sole will. That is if Sony’s developers are able to provide the updates for all these devices by the time the ST21i makes it to the stores, as they are already way above their heads with providing stable Gingerbread releases for those phones, while at the same time providing the ICS upgrades for the phones on the market since the last year.

For a phone priced at about €200 at launch, it will probably still be too expensive for most users. For quite less than €200 anyone can get a phone like Samsung’s Galaxy Ace, based on the same hardware for the most part, but with a better, bigger screen and quality materials used. Sony is betting on being the first to provide a cheap phone running ICS and is planning to capitalize financially on that trick as much as possible. It remains to be seen if this will come true or if someone else will come up with a same device sooner, or a better one at the same price range at the same time the ST21i is made available to consumers.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Martin Elm (martin.elm@mobile-review.com)
Published — 10 May 2012

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Fall Of RIM

Blackberry World 2012: The Fall of RIM

Orlando, FL can offer a number of choices for a family vacation like the alligator farm with a great lake fancied by birds, or the Disney World and many other attractions. It is also the home of the annual Blackberry World RIM is using to gather hundreds of developers, partners and clients to unveil their plans.

The first tablet by RIM became the most single important thing for the company in 2011 and as they conveyed in innumerable ads. They were trying to tell us that Blackberry is back with a killer tablet. Last year they even gave every visitor of the Playbook event a sample tablet – mine is still collecting dust in a table drawer because it is completely unusable. The price for Playbook has been steadily lowered from the initial $499 to the current $199 but plenty of them are still unsold. The failure of Playbook cost RIM $465 million in 2011 alone. A loss this big is not deadly for a company the size of RIM but also is not as painless as they tried to convince us. Unfortunately, the Playbook experience has taught RIM nothing and they are about to fall into the same trap once again only this time it might hurt badly.

Blackberry World 2012 Main Announcements: Prototypes Unleashed

Every manufacturer going through some hard times is switching from announcing real products to demonstrating prototypes, something that may or may not ever be released. Anyway, they show us something don’t have now and in 2012 RIM adopts this practice at Blackberry World. Last year they showed us something they actually had even though it was a very crude product, rather a beta than a release version. Today they demonstrate a product they are yet to develop.

Thorsten Heins, CEO of RIM, said how much he is loving something in Blackberry about 40 times as if he were a walking McDonalds ad. The pomp of the presentation was the same as old CEOs used but they ditched 3D effects and added some disturbing ambient music. Frankly I was waiting for ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ to come out of the speakers in the end and it would be appropriate to the pomp when he was citing statistics. According to Mr. Heins 22% of smartphone users in general and 34% of Blackberry users download apps every day. Amazing, I wonder who are those people who need a fresh app every single day. Also, I am not sure what does that tell us about iPhone users? They don’t download as many apps but there are a whole lot more of them. Clearly they cherry picked the right statistics to make Blackberry look good but no one cared about such anythings anyway. People waited for something else but figures.

More amusing statistics from RIM: 63% of people use social media on their phones (don’t ask me what that is I have no idea but I am sure they included news and weather apps into this figure). Naturally, Blackberry users are a lot more progressive – 97% use ‘social media’.

All those statistics left me with an unpleasant aftertaste as if RIM’s CEO was trying to sell me something I did not want. You don’t need any figures in presentations anyway – just look at Apple. If you don’t have anything real to boast of then just don’t. Otherwise some ghastly journalist is going to write some nasty things about you.

Blackberry has great expectations for their upcoming OS Blackberry 10 (based on QNX like Playbook OS). The release date has not been changed – late 2012. They gave out the first BB10 device prototypes: it looks a lot like Playbook, the screen is 4.2” 1280×768, 16GB of storage on board, no memory card slot and 1GB of RAM. Thorsten Heins said that its main feature is real multitasking and it allows you to switch between active apps by swiping between them.

Deja vu is the right word for what I was feeling. Maemo and then MeeGo presentations showed us the very same thing over a year ago. Even the words they used promising a new paradigm of user experience and a never before seen UI. And unlike the Blackberry solution MeeGo actually exists even though it is not popular. I could not see any new ideas in the gesture controls or in the integration of the Playbook solutions. It looks slightly different but the concept in general is the same. BB10 Blackberry sees as the last best hope is only an alpha version right now.

Another thing that caught my attention was the BB10 touch keyboard. Blackberry’s best experience and expertise lie in hard key pads and their early attempt to enter the touchscreen market with Storm failed miserably. There was no iPhone killer because Blackberry ditched their main market advantage – physical key pads. Blackberry is now concerned with improving touch key pads and the way we type. The key feature of their keyboard is the word prompt popping up that can be sent to the entry form by flicking, the key pad remembers your choices and improves prediction.

It looks nice and it might even be useful in practice but it is not a replacement for a physical key pad, not by a long shot. Besides, it is not a copy proof feature so should it become popular it will be immediately copied by other manufacturers and RIM will not be able to do anything about it. But it’s not even a big deal – it might be a nice little feature but not something that will sell.

There were also speeches about how important multimedia is for RIM. They presented a photo feature that allows you to select the best shot out of a series of images. The interface looks nice and it reminded me of the burst shot in Sony Ericsson K790/K800 that allowed the user to pick one out of 9 pictures made in one second and discard all the others. Time goes on but the old features are merely given an comb-over.

There was not much more said. Mr. Heins also mentioned that RIM is going to develop car navigation and onboard computer systems. He stressed the fact that 30% of such systems are based on QNX. It is an interesting fact but it does not automatically mean that RIM has got any advantages and as this market develops very fast I am sure that Android is going to have a say in this matter. He also said something about security of information and encryption but we should disregard this as the usual afterword of any Blackberry presentation.

Here is a video on BB10 features:

What We Wanted to Hear at Blackberry World 2012

Unfortunately, except for the fact that RIM’s CEO apparently loves McDonalds and new Blackberry technologies there is nothing really to report. We saw an alpha OS on a prototype that even if released will look completely different. There are reviews of this device available on the web but to review it is like meditating on how good a device is going to be looking at a heap of its hardware parts. It tells us nothing about the release version, although Rim might get as desperate as to release that unfinished mini-tablet.

The company should have answered our questions about its future instead:

  • What RIM is going to do about their users switching to iPhone and Android?
  • What are RIM’s perspectives on new markets and how can they comment leaving the Russian and a number of other markets?
  • What is the company’s OS development strategy in regard to iOS and Android?
  • What RIM is going to do with the falling sales and what new services are they going to offer?
  • What they are going to do about the brand value in regard to all the critique over the last two years?

I heard no answers to these questions. RIM reminds me of a sinking ship on board of which people instead of trying to save it are discussing what they should have for breakfast tomorrow. After all, dying hungry is no way to go.

This Blackberry event showed me one important thing – the company does not have the resources to save itself from the now inevitable death. In December 2011 I wrote that RIM had 6-8 months to come up with a comeback strategy. But as I see, they chose a pompous funeral over continuing the struggle. Well, if a terminal patient won’t take his medicine there is only way it can end. Blackberry is now a walking dead and the last Blackberry World was its obituary.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Related links

RIM in Hot Water: No More Ideas
Blackberry World 2011 – Main Events

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
 Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Samsung Galaxy S3

First Look at Samsung Galaxy S3 as a 2012 Flagship

ATTENTION. This article is not a detailed review, but a first, albeit a very meticulous look at the phone and its capabilities. We are planning to publish a full review within a week. Sections of he article will expand courtesy of new photos, comparisons and so on. Stay tuned and check out Mobile-Review.com regularly.

Contents:

  1. In the box
  2. Positioning
  3. Design, Dimensions and Controls
  4. Screen
  5. Battery
  6. Connectivity
  7. Storage and Memory
  8. Performance
  9. Camera
  10. Android 4.0
  11. Bottom Line

In the box:

  • Phone
  • 2100 mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Wired stereo headset
  • USB cable
  • Charger

Positioning

The Galaxy lineup from Samsung is a story of never-ending success when every popular model is followed by even a better one. The first flagship in the range was a benchmark in terms of screen, processor and overall capabilities for one year. Even today Galaxy S sells well 3 years after its initial launch. The solution, which hit the shelves in June of 2010, stays attractive today and offers excellent value for money. In the smartphone market you can’t find many models with a life cycle exceeding two years. There are only several contenders – Apple iPhone and Galaxy flagships.

Galaxy S2 followed suit and became a cult for Android fans and its record sales confirm its status as the best Android handset to date. Its life cycle promises to be long as well, which testifies to the original potential. The emergence of Galaxy S3, unveiled on May 3, 2012 in London heralds the drop in price of the previous incarnation, which will trigger a boost in sales. The same happened with Galaxy S2 when it improved the sales of the original model. Every next model is a successful sequel and it attracts attention of consumers, who then are happy to purchase the new product. Apple and Samsung follow this successful strategy, while HTC could not do the same. Every year they come up with a phone on par with Galaxy, but they change the model’s name thus confusing customers. Galaxy S2 had HTC Sensation as a rival, while in 2012 Galaxy S3 will come up against a very competitive HTC One X. Nevertheless, we don’t see the tradition here, which makes the promotion of models more complicated.

The positioning of Galaxy S3 is no different from its predecessors. A flagship is offered to those seeking expensive and feature rich solutions. The secondary target audience is represented by the techies with consumers looking for a phone to last several years following this lead. Unlike one year ago Galaxy S3 has a home rival in the face of Galaxy Note, which offers a bigger screen and a stylus for text input or drawing. The model is different and costs slightly less than Galaxy S3 and this attracts buyers. Samsung even intentionally delayed the Android 4 ICS update for the model not to make it to good and steal the thunder of Galaxy S3. I am sure that customers will not be stopped and will choose Note for its screen and unique capabilities and not only for its lower price.

It is crucial that Galaxy S3 will appear in stores 2-3 weeks after its unveiling on the majority of markets. On May 4 all international carriers started taking pre-orders for the phone, which means it attracts many companies and they will bank on it. Initial sales are limited by Samsung manufacturing capabilities and we have a deficit on our hands. Pre-orders surpassed those for Galaxy S2 by 400%. It is partially explained by its future availability on higher number of markets, but the surge in popularity cannot be denied too. The true test will come when we get first and second quarter sales figures, but I firmly believe it will seriously exceed those for Galaxy S2. You cannot compare this model with Apple iPhone, because Samsung has many solutions in their lineup and no single model can beat iPhone in head to head sales competition. In other words Galaxy S3 is one of the strongest 2012 smartphones competing with the next iPhone and HTC One X (its sales have to be lower due to a different market position of HTC).It is a genuine flagship, which will stay attractive for a long time.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Design, Dimensions and Controls

To my mind it is worth looking at the phone’s design before we concentrate on its features. There are several colors offered complemented by a thin body, which fits the hand well. It reminds me of Galaxy Note with one key difference. Note is difficult to use even with such big hands as mine, while here we have quite an improvement. Its dimensions are 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm and it weighs 133 g. Compare it with rivals: HTC One X – 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm, 130 g; Galaxy S2 – 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm, 116 g. As you can judge it is slightly bigger than Galaxy S2, but stays in the same category. The size increase is influenced by the screen.

Initially only two colors will be available – Marble White and Pebble Blue. Later on the lineup will be expanded and we will get a black phone among others.

Another controversial point is the use of particular materials. When in February of 2012 partners were shown the prototypes in Barcelona Galaxy S3 had the back cover and sides made of ceramics, but the cost turned to be prohibitive and this plan was scrapped. The position that expensive phones should not use plastic remains not popular, which is proved by impressive sales of plastic Galaxy flagships. Low performance of Galaxy R made of metal shows that consumers prefer plastic. That is why we will not dwell too much on the materials used. You can complain about plastic only if you have to prove that Galaxy S3 is bad. The lion’s share of phone owners do not care and are happy with modern plastic. Otherwise Samsung would have easily used metal or another alternative as they have no problems with different materials.

The build here is on par with Galaxy S2 without any gaps between sides, while the back cover is firmly fixed. The cover is thin, but do not expect problems similar to those of Galaxy S2 or Galaxy Nexus. It is glossy, which throws us back to the original Galaxy S, but the key point if it is scratched or not. You will see some scratches, but it is not too bad. My Galaxy S did not get that scratched during its one year use. In broad daylight you can see minor scratches and bald patches, but the phone still looks good. The same can be said about Galaxy Note, though I have been using it only during 4 months. The blue Galaxy S 3 has metal feel on its sides, but it is still plastic. At the top we have a 3.5 mm jack with the microUSB at the bottom. The right side features an on/off button, while the left hosts a volume rocker.

The front has a hardware central key and two sensor buttons on its sides, which is no different from the previous model. Above the screen there is a frontal camera together with light and proximity sensors.

Samsung Galaxy S3 vs HTC One X:

Back to the table of contents >>>

Screen

A 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED screen boasts 1280х720 resolution with 16 million colors. The capacitive screen supports up to 10 simultaneous touches. The screen quality is excellent and can easily compete with Retina from Apple iPhone (bigger size makes it more attractive). The same screen is used in Galaxy Nexus and generates no complaints apart from those, who are aware of PenTile technology. In this case every pixel is formed with lower number of subpixels, which can be allegedly seen with the naked eye. In real life you need a microscope to see the difference. Some claim they can tell PenTile the moment they see the screen. I played around by confusing such “experts”, who complained about eye irritation if I claimed the PenTile was there and felt happy, when I said it was not used, though it was otherwise.

To my mind PenTile is a good example how fobias are born. If you can see subpixels feel free to buy phones, which have more of them. I can only envy that you see the world differently from the majority of people. A word of caution though – modern day TVs have comparable or even lower screen resolution that that of Galaxy S 3. People who can spot PenTile must suffer every time they switch on TV. The placebo effect is as strong in the world of technology as in other areas of life.

Automatic brightness is more aggressive here than in Galaxy S2, that’s why I set the brightness manually to the level convenient for me. At the same time it wastes power more. One of the new technologies is called Smart Stay, when the frontal camera catches the way you look at the screen and changes the brightness, when you read for example. I think it is a mere additional feature, which does not work too well now and I am sceptical about its necessity, but it is there.

To my mind the screen quality is comparable with that of Galaxy Nexus, features slightly different brightness, has better fonts details in the browser, but you cannot see it in pictures. The good quality display is clearly above the average, so there can’t be many complaints about it.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Battery

The phone sports a 2100 mAh Li-Ion battery (Galaxy S2 has 1650 mAh). The manufacturer claims up to 9.5 hours of talktime and 290 hours on standby. In real life the battery is enough to run the whole day (similarly to Galaxy Nexus) and the improvement over Galaxy S2 is clear if you play with energy consumption settings, which are quite detailed. Full charging requires 3 hours.

Время полной зарядки аккумулятора – около 3 часов.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Connectivity

Bluetooth. Version 4.0 (LE). If the paired device also supports this standard then file transfer operates through Wi-Fi 802.11 n at a speed of up to 24 Mb/s. I tested it with a 1 GB file and the average speed was 12 Mb/s at a range of three meters (10 ft.).

The phone supports the following profiles: Headset, Handsfree, Serial Port, Dial Up Networking, File Transfer, Object Push, Basic Printing, SIM Access, A2DP. Work with paired BT headsets is flawless.

USB. For some reason Android 4 no longer features the USB Mass Storage mode and only has MTP and PTP modes left.

USB version 2.0, file transfer rate 25 Mb/s.

The phone cannot have a Bluetooth and a USB connection simultaneously. When the phone s connected to a PC via USB it prompts you to turn off BT disregarding whether the phone is synced with PC or there is an ongoing file transfer which is really a downer. The battery is charging when the phone is connected via USB.

The microUSB port supports the MHL standard which means that it can be connected to a TV’s HDMI-in. This solution is a lot more convenient than a separate miniHDMI slot on the phone.

The phone also supports EDGE class 12 in GSM networks.

Wi-Fi. Supported standards: 802.11 a/b/g/n and the connectivity menu is very much like the one used for Bluetooth. The phone can remember and automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. It features a one touch connection: you need to press the key button on the router and the phone to automatically connect to a network (WPA SecureEasySetup).

The 802.11 n standard also supports the HT40 technology that doubles the Wi-Fi transfer rate (the other device must also support this technology).

Wi-Fi Direct. This new protocol aims to replace Bluetooth and now competes with BT 3.0 (which uses Wi-Fi n for transferring large files). Select the device you wish to pair your phone with from the Wi-Fi Direct menu – the file manager allows you to browse files on another device and transfer files between the devices. You can also browse all the devices connected to your router and push files to them (the other device must also have the Wi-Fi Direct feature).

NFC. The NFC module allows you to use the phone with the apps that support this feature.

S Beam. Samsung’s own proprietary technology that allows quick transfer of large files between two devices. So far only Galaxy S3 has this feature. S Beam combines NFC and Wi-Fi Direct. NFC is used to pair to devices while Wi-Fi Direct is responsible for file transfer. This feature’s main advantage is that it is incredibly easy to use – a lot simpler than pairing and browsing for files. S Beam will only be available on Samsung devices.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Storage and Memory

S3 is available with 16 and 32 GB of storage (the 64 GB version will be available a bit later). The 16 GB one comes with 14 GB of free space out-of-box. The phone also supports microSD card of up to 64 GB.

The phone packs 1 GB of system memory and has about 800 MB free after boot. It is plenty for any app but I think a bigger memory would be more appropriate in 2012. Of course, there is no point in growing system memory unless the OS supports larger memory.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Performance

This is Samsung’s first devices that uses the quad core Exynos processor with each core operating at up to 1.4 GHz (pretty sure that overclocking enthusiasts will get it much higher like they did with the previous Galaxy phones).

In all synthetic tests Galaxy S3 is faster than any other phone on the market except for HTC One X the US version (which uses a dual core Qualcomm chipset). It is considerably faster than Tegra 3. In real life the performance is excellent as you can see in our videos. If you prefer objective measurements here are a few of them:

Quadrant Standart

Antutu

Vellamo

Smartbench 2012

Back to the table of contents >>>

Camera

S3 uses a Samsung own 8 MPix camera module (the same resolution as in S2). However, the camera itself has changed a lot and now boasts of the BIS technology that according to Samsung improves picture quality in low light conditions. Taking into account that S2 camera is still one of the best on the market we had expected nothing less from the successor. Look at the sample photos taken with S3, S2 and HTC One X. Camera received a new mode called Burst Shot that takes up to 20 shots per second. The Best Photo mode allows you to select the best among 8 pictures taken in a row. This is how the camera interface looks like:

The camera now boasts of zero lag – it takes picture in almost no time after you press the shutter. It also features the HDR but I find that its effects are insignificant (at least with this early firmware). Here are the photo samples – I would like to read your comments on the photo quality:

HDR:

Standard HDR

Zoom:

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S2:

Galaxy S2 Galaxy S3

Video. The maximum video recording resolution is 1920×1080 (1080p) at 30 fps. It uses a fixed focus but you can always change it whenever you like. The video quality is on a par or better than similar solutions on the market. See for yourself.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Android 4.0

We have already reviewed the main Android 4.0 features in a separate article so now I will only be talking about its differences on S3.

Review of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Interface and Control. Part I
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Standard Applications

In S2 I was disappointed with the voice features being assigned to the Home button with no way to change it. The quality of the voice functions was mediocre and I never used them. S3 features S Voice that reminded me of the Total Recall app. It allows you to quickly set the alarm clock, leave memos and so on. It is not an Android standard app but taking into account that in a year since S2 voice recognition has gotten a lot better it works fine. There are no more accidental Home button presses, you can record up to six your own voice functions (in any language). The latter is not too reliable but it works. Anyway, it is not the main feature of S3.

There is a new video playback feature called Pop up Play which allows you to play videos while working with other apps. I thought that it was a ridiculous idea right until I tried it. The thing is you can easily text or browse the web while watching a video and it’s really cool. You can drag the video window wherever you want but you cannot scale it.

Another cool feature called Direct Call concerns texting – imagine that you are typing a message and decide to call the person rather than text him. With S3 you can simply put the phone to your ear and it will automatically dial the number of the person you were texting to.

The Smart Alert feature notifies you of missed calls or other events by vibrating when you take the phone into your hand. The number of settings for all sorts of notifications is humongous and makes S3 really stand out from the competition.

As always there is support for uPnP only now it also supports SmrtTV so you can stream video, images and other files. GroupCast allows you to create a group with a single Wi-Fi network to collaborate on documents simultaneously. This feature looks very promising for small offices and presentations which can be streamed directly from the phone.

Other interesting features: face recognition in the gallery, automatically send all pictures with a contact to him, receive tags for images, slide show of selected contacts.

An interesting feature – vibration alert editor that allows you to create your own vibration ‘tones’. It is a very absorbing process and a lot of fun.

S3 has got the S-Memo app the very same as in Galaxy Note. It allows you to draw and write with a stylus only S3 hasn’t got one. But not to worry it works so well you can even draw with your nail or use any stylus on sale and still get the same quality as on Note.

I love the new calendar – it looks great and is really convenient. Another hallmark feature of S3 is the total integration with popular online services – you type in your account data and get everything in one place.

As I said, this is not a full review but merely a first look so I am not going to enumerate everything new. But I want to mention some multimedia features that drew my attention. Firstly, just like its predecessors, S3 is packing all possible codecs out-of-box and can play practically any media file you feed it including nonconverted video and FLAC music. The video player’s main menu has been retouched and now tells you how many times you have played each file and has animated thumbnails – a sort of preview without sound. The player has the chapter selection feature and you can skip to a particular part of a video of any video file.

Now about its music capabilities beginning with the FM Radio. Now the radio app can record broadcasts (will not be available in some countries) and recognize tags (if embedded by the channel). As for the rest it is pretty much the same S2 radio with a higher reception quality.

In terms of music SGS3 is a giant leap forward for the market. Firstly, it has a formidable sound volume margin and you will probably never listen to your music on max. The player has got about 20 equalizers with tons of parameters to adjust. And in the whole, S3 sounds very nice.

The player also has filters that determine what you see in the player menu. S3 is the first Samsung device to get the Music Square: visually it is a square with different ‘moods’ and years displayed on its sides. You select the moods and the years you wish and you get a suggested playlist. Sony Ericsson had a similar feature called Sense but it required PC sync while S3 does all the analysis itself. It is a great little feature but not a big deal.

Playback through the loudspeaker surprised with very decent quality and clarity of sound even at high volume levels.

I think it is the time I drew a bottom line otherwise I will go ranting forever describing tiniest details which I intend to do in the full review of Galaxy S3.

Screenshots:

Back to the table of contents >>>

Bottom Line

The call quality is very good – I have not noticed any flaws and the ringtone volume is quite sufficient. The vibration alert is similar to Galaxy S2 and is rather smooth.

The price of €550 for Galaxy S3 at the release is comparable to release prices of Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Nexus. S3 is certainly a very well built phone and is a direct competitor of HTC One X which has got a solid body generally seen as an advantage. The displays of these two phones are comparable too as well as their performance (the slightly higher results of S3 are not really relevant). Just as HTC Sensation and Galaxy S2 these two are very similar but as you may remember last time Samsung squashed HTC in sales and S2 became a best-seller. I believe it will be the same story in 2012 as HTC cannot really take on Samsung.

Is it a successful phone? Undeniably yes. I have been using Galaxy S2 as my main phone and I did not switch to Galaxy Nexus because I was really disappointed with its mediocre 5 MPix camera even though I liked the rest of the phone. S3 offers you all you missed in previous phones. A better screen, a bigger battery and a ton of software features well worth switching to it if you like me find Galaxy note just a little bit too big.

The two most important events on the mobile phone market in 2012 is the release of galaxy S3 and the next Apple iPhone which is supposedly going to be released in October. Samsung’s flagship has already been sold in record quantities. It is the most functional device on Android today and even though you will never use a great lot of those features it is still one of the best phones on sale. And judging by all the comments it causes on the web I am sure it will be very popular. I have already switched to S3 from S2 and I must say that I am loving it.

In a week or so I will post a full review of Samsung Galaxy S3. Till then check out flagships comparison that will be released a bit earlier. Good luck and don’t forget to push those little button below to share this article. Thanks!

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion be known to the author and everybody else.

Back to the table of contents >>>

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
 Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SoundWave Using the Doppler Effect to Sense Gestures

Gesture is becoming an increasingly popular means of interacting with computers. However, it is still relatively costly to deploy robust gesture recognition sensors in existing mobile platforms. We present SoundWave, a technique that leverages the speaker and microphone already embedded in most commodity devices to sense in-air gestures around the device. To do this, we generate an inaudible tone, which gets frequency-shifted when it reflects off moving objects like the hand. We measure this shift with the microphone to infer various gestures. In this note, we describe the phenomena and detection algorithm, demonstrate a variety of gestures, and present an informal evaluation on the robustness of this approach across different devices and people.

Sidhant Gupta:http://www.sidhantgupta.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK_u8-UQmOs

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment