Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apple iPhone 4 catches fire in-flight

GSM Arena reports that an Apple iPhone 4 burned on a flight to Sydney, just as the place was about to land. The device has now been turned over to the Australian Transport and Safety Board.

However, earlier this month Apple issued a recall of first-generation iPod nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006 because of the possibility that the battery may overheat. Recalling a product five (5) years after it is no longer in production seems like pretty much a useless gesture. The main concern here is that it was recalled for an overheating battery. 
The question in our head is how many iDevices have overheating batteries, and do we have to wait five years to find out.

Want to try out Windows Phone 7.5 in your Android or iPhone?

Want to find out what the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango experience is like, Microsoft has a easy to use demo for Android and iPhone owners. You can run a Windows Phone 7.5 Mango from your own Android or iPhone without installing any software on it.

Just point your mobile browser to you will be taken to a interactive HTML5 page. The demo puts a  Windows Phone 7.5 interface on your phone ans shows you how things are done in Windows Phone 7.5.

The demo runs smoothly on my HTC Desire HD. I tried the demo on the lower powered Samsung Galaxy Ace, and it works, though it run sluggishly.

It looks like Microsoft has learned a lot from their failed 2010 Windows Phone 7 launch and has spent more time coming up with schemes to push Windows Phone 7.5 this year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

LG confirms Android 4.0 upgrade for Optimus 2X, Optimus 3D, and Optimus Black

The Verge resports that LG has confirmed that an Android 4.0, "Ice Cream Sandwich" (ICS), upgrade for will be rolled out for its Optimus 2X, Optimus 3D, and Optimus Black handsets. Most surprising is the confirmation of Android on the Optimus Black, which runs on 1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor with a PowerVR SGX530 GPU on a TI OMAP 3630 chipset and has 2GB of internal memory. It is great to see ICS being brought to a mid-level handset. 

This should mean it would be possible to update most most 2010 flagship Androids to ICS should be possible. Samsung has confirmed that ICS is coming to their 2010 flagship, the Google Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy S We also know that ICS is not coming to the Google Nexus One and HTC Desire, most likely due to lack of internal phone storage.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Smart Data Plan Speed Tests

I have conducted a few more speed tests of Smart's Data Plan on my mobile phone. The first test was conducted from Starbucks in Greenhills.

The second test was conducted from Resorts World, Newport City... at one of the clubs there :)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Is your iOS or Android device at risk from virus attacks and malware? - Part 2

Part 1 of this article is here.

The primary source of Android Apps is Google Android Market. By default most Android devices can only download apps from the Android Market. However, the settings allow you to download apps from different sources, like Amazons App Store for Android or directly from the publishers of an App, or even to install apps from the SD card. 

Android Market. Google does not pre-screen apps uploaded to the Android Market, so it is not too difficult to upload an app with malicious content. Instead of pre-screening apps, Google relies on its kill switch. If a malicious app is detected, Google removes it from the Android market, and if necessary wipe it from Android devices remotely. Yup, they can erase malicious apps on your Android device. Any security holes will likely be fixed by a patch.

Google has activated the kill switch to remove over 100 apps from users phones and has removed more from the market. With over 500,000 apps released during the life of Android, 100+ apps is not a very large number. Again, go to your favorite Android Forum and try to find the thread of users complaining about security. 
I think pre-screening should be done. In the absence of pre-screening, I would recommend not downloading new apps unless they are from reputable developers. Wait a few weeks before downloading apps from lesser known developers and even than, if no one else has been downloading it, or there is no user feedback, wait a bit longer. 

Other sources. The Amazon App Store for Android does pre-screen apps, so it is probably the safest place to download apps from. As for third party developers, you will have to evaluate if these developers are reputable.

Google maintains an open system. The price of more freedom is a little more responsibility. I do not use a virus or malware scanner on my Android. If you don't download new apps from unknown developers as soon as they are released and only download apps from reputable third parties, there is no need for a virus or malware scanner.

In the end? In the end, no system is completely secure. Given the data we store on mobile devices and the transactions we do on them, a little prudence is needed. I think iOS offers a bit more security, on the front end. Once something malicious gets through it is harder to fix. Android, well they have the kill switch to wipe out anything that gets through.

Is your iOS or Android device at risk from virus attacks and malware? - Part 1

There has been a lot of talk the past few weeks about malware for iOS and Android. A few weeks ago white hat hacker and security expert Charlie Miller successfully uploaded malware into Apple iOS App Store. Google has over the past year used its kill switch to remove about 100 malicious Android apps from user devices. 

You have VirusBarrier iOS in Apple's App Store and over a dozen different anti-virus anti-malware apps in the Android Market and the companies behind them hoping you install or buy their apps. Should you be concerned about virus and malware issues on you iOS or Android device?

How Apple protects you. Apple vets the apps found in the Apple App Store. It checks the app to make sure it does not contain a virus or malware before it is allowed to be posted in the App Store. Okay, one made it in and it was a pretty scary app.
The app Miller introduced in the Apple App Store was Instastock. Once Instastock is installed, the connects with a server in Miller's home and  allows Miller to run commands on the infected iOS device. These commands allows data to be stolen and device settings to be modified without you knowledge.

Exploiting a bug on iPhone is nothing new. That is how a iPhone is jailbroken in the first place. iOS security vulnerabilities have been found and patched in the past, and more will be found and patches in the future.

Is it something I would worry about? No. One app in 500,000 is nothing I would worry about. If another one did get through, Apple will send an over-the-air fix ASAP. No system is perfect, but a 0.000002% failure rate is something I would be happy to live with, and that 0.000002% figure actually is too high. It assume all iOS device users would download each and every app in the App Store.

Go over to you favorite forum and try to find a thread of someone who is complaining about iOS malware on their device. Than decide if you need anti-virus protection on your iOS device.

Does Jail-breaking add to the risk in iOS? Well yes, jailbreak your phone, install apps from unauthorized  sources, and yes, there is a additional risk depending on where you get your apps from. Apple's closed system designed to protect you won't be of much use one you get out of it. In this cases some form of anti-virus and malware protection is advisable.

Part 2 of this article is here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

HP Pavillon DM1 4000AU

The updated version of HP's popular 11.6-inch AMD Fusion laptop, the HP DM1 is here. The newer model the HP Pavillon DM1 4000AU does more than swap out the AMD E-350 processor and 6310 graphics and replace them with the E-450 processor and 6320 graphics. 

There are couple of other small but worthwhile changes thrown into the mix. Instead of the the glossy lid on the first DM1, you now have a matte black lid which is less prone to picking up finger prints. You also have Beats Audio technology thrown in. 

On the downside, the pre-installed Windows has been downgraded to a Starter Edition and there is still no USB 3.0 port. In fairness, the only E-450 ultraportable that we know of which has integrated USB 3.0 technology is Asus Eee PC 1215B, and note, some E-450 Asus Eee PC 1215B's do not come with a USB 3.0 port.

The other specifications are typical for the class with what you would expect with a 1366 x 768 screen resolution, 2 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, card reader, HDMI out, WiFi Bluetooth and so on, and yes, it still has a big six cell battery for good battery life. All for a price of just Php21,990.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Note Pre-order Promo: Lightning strikes twice

Remember the Samsung Galaxy S II pre-order promo a few months back. The device was offered as a pre-order discount, with a free case, for a limited period. After the pre-order period the Samsung Galaxy S II immediately appeared on the store shelves at a below the suggested retail price which basically made only free case as th advantage for getting one on pre-order.

Well, it has happened again, this time with the Samsung Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Note has a suggested retail price of Php35,990, and was offered on a pre-order promo at a discounted price of Php33,990, plus a free flip case an a one months subscription to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Digital Edition valued at Php1,120.

Yesterday, the Galaxy Note showed up at CMK Cellphones at a price of Php31,000 with an official warranty from Samsung Philippines. Basically, from CMK you get the Galaxy Note at Php4,990 less than the suggested retail price, and and Php2,990 less than the pre-order price. 

So is the free flip case an a one months subscription to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Digital Edition worth Php2,990?

Samsung better get their pre-order promotion in order. This is getting tiring.

Can the Nokia Lumia 800 take on the world?

The Nokia Lumia 800 has decent specifications, but does the Windows Phone 7.5 poster girl have what it takes to take on the mobile world?

The Nokia Lumia 800 has the muscle to stare down any BlackBerry phone released to date. The backing by Microsoft should help it in the corporate community too.

As against the flagship Android phones it is a different matter. With with dual 1.2~1.5 GHz processors, 1 GB of RAM and with giant 4.3~4.65 inch 720p (720 x 1280) displays,  the current Android flagships have more brute power and wow factor than the single core 1.4 GHz processor, 512 MB and 480 x 800 display of the Nokia Lumia 800 can muster. Actually, the Lumia 800 does not even fair so well against Android flagship devices released 6-8 months ago like the Motorola Artix, HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II. Androids with their cutting edge hardware and customizability are the choice for the hardware junkie or techie.

What about Apple's iPhone 4S. Apple could have released a revamped iPhone and blown the Nokia Lumia 800 out of the water even before its release. But the evolutionary iPhone 4S give the Lumia 800 a fighting chance, and Nokia the chance to catch up before an iPhone 5 is released.

The iPhone 4S dual core 800 MHz processors and SGX543MP GPU is a much faster combo than 1.4 GHz processor and Adreno 205 graphics of the Lumia 800, but to the typical buyer it would seem close enough. 1.4 GHz sounds fast. While the iPhone 4S boast of a higher resolution 640 x 960 display, the Lumia 800's AMOLED clear black display which the typical user will find better looking. The Lumia 800 3.7-inch screen is also a bit bigger than the iPhone 4S 3.5-inch display. 

The Lumia 800 does not have Apple online virtual assistant Siri, but it does talk to you in a different way with offline voice guided turn-by-turn navigation. The Windows Phone 7.5 App Market is nowhere near as large as the Apple App Store, but the 40,000 available Windows apps is enough for many. The Lumia 800 also integrates both Facebook and Twitter into the OS, while the iPhone 4S only has Twitter integration. Windows Phone 7.5 device owners can expect Skype integartion down the road too.

As for chic appeal, while not true in the USA, in large parts of the world, owning a Nokia is like owning a Mercedes Benz.

In summary, the Nokia Lumia 800 has enough features to bring the fight to the iPhone 4S.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lenovo IdeaPad S205 AMD Fusion E-450 Notebook

Another AMD Fusion E-450 notebook has hit the market. This time in the form of the Lenovo in the form of the IdeaPad S205. Is this the best option in the market? Priced at Php22,500 it is within the price range of the other 11 to 12-inch AMD E-450 offerings, so basically, price will not be the deciding factor. 

The Lenovo IdeaPad S205 has specifications that are typical for this class of laptop with 2GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a 5 hour battery life, HDMI out, a card reader, WiFi, Bluetooth and other connectivity options which are now standard across all laptops. 

It falls shorts in the graphics department. While AMD list the AMD E-450 APU as coming with a AMD 6320 graphics chip running at 508 MHz which can be boosted to 600 MHz on demand, apparently some E-450's still come with the older AMD 6310 as can be seen from the Lenovo website. This means the graphics chip runs at 492 MHz with no turbo boost capability.

We have been able to confirm that all Sony Vaio YB E-450 models come with AMD 6320 graphics, though this unit is priced higher at Php26,990 (suggested retail price) and that the Asus Eee PC 1215B at Php22,000 (at PCHub) we inspected also comes with AMD 6320 graphics, it is best to check the specifications in the box and from the system properties to make sure the unit you are getting has the faster graphics chip.

In terms of high speed data transfer it also is a step behind the Asus. The Lenovo IdeaPad S205 does not come with a USB 3.0 port. The Asus 1215B is the only E-450 laptops that does come with a USB 3.0 port, and some 1215B's don't. Confusing isn't it.

Is there a reason to buy this laptop? Yes it has an excellent keyboard, probably the best in the class. 

So if you are willing to give up some speed for a better keyboard, this one is worth a look.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guestimating the retail price of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

 With Christmas bonuses in a few of you are looking at whether to buy Samsung's Galaxy S II or HTC's Sensation XE, today, or whether to hold on a bit for the next best thing coming around the corner. That next best thing being the monster 4.65-inch 720p Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

The question is, how much will it cost. Rumors online have pegged the price at high US$800, while others at a rather low US$500. Actually, there is a good basis for making an estimate. Samsung Galaxy Note, is actually a Galaxy Nexus on steroids minus Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). 

This much we can tell you. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus will cost less than the Galaxy Note. 

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Note both have 720p screens, with the Nexus having a 4.65-inch screen and the Note having a larger 5.3-inch screen. Given the Nexus has a higher pixel density, producing this screen might cost a bit more. But after that, the Note is the decidedly more expensive product. 

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a smaller 5MP camera than the 8MP unit on the Galaxy Note. It also has a smaller secondary camera. Instead of the dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, Mali-400MP GPU on a Exynos chipset on the Galaxy Note, you get a less expensive dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 CPU on a TI OMAP 4460 chipset for the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus comes with a smaller 1750 mAh battery than the monster 2500 mAh battery on the Galaxy Note. And, yes there is no stylus and stylus customized software on the Galaxy Nexus. 

All in all, I expect the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to be priced at a full 15% lower than the Galaxy Note.With the Galaxy Note being priced at Php35,990, I expect the Galaxy Nexus to hit the shelves at Php29,990. About the Same price at launch of the Galaxy S II.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Around the web: Galaxy Nexus initial impressions

Units of Google Galaxy Nexus have reached reviewers hands, and this is what they have to say, so far.

The Verge: It's one of the best smathpone ever made... and it could be the best ever. Galaxy Nexus Review.

Engadget: The Galaxy Nexus... it's delicious -- just like Ice Cream Sandwich. Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ first impressions.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

November entry level smartphone buyers guide

If you are in the market for a entry level smartphone the offerings are better than ever. How do we define entry level these days. A price of below 12K. There are no iPhones or Windows Mobile devices at this level, so basically you have the option of a Android or Symbian device. Given that the Symbian operating system is on its way to retirement, we would recommend an Android, although these is one nice Symbian offering we think you should consider.

Androids. What should you target in a budget Android. It would be really nice to have a screen of more or less 3.2-inches in size or better. Resolution should be 320 x 480 or higher. Yep. Can't wait to be flamed by the Samsung Galaxy Crowd.

Anyway, lower resolutions lead to a certain degree of app incompatibility like touchscreen controls in games sometimes being "displayed" beyond the bounds of the screen. Don't expect much in terms of internal storage, so it should at least be a Android 2.2 (Froyo) so that you can install some apps to the SD Card.

Globe Telecom has an interesting offering, the Globe Cloudfone Ice which is a Android phone which comes installed with Android 2.1 by default but is upgradeable to Android 2.2. This is actually a Huawei U8500, which is pretty unremarkable Android phone but it does have a 3.2-inch screen with a 320 x 480 resolution at Php4,990. But it is not on stock with Globe Telecom right now, so let us move on to something else.

One of our old favorites, the LG Optimus One, after holding the fort for a year as the top entry level smartphone is disappearing from the market. In it place we have the LG Optimus Net P690. It has a decent set of features with 512MB of RAM, a 800MHz processor (does not support Adobe Flash Plug-in), 150MB or internal storage backed-up by a 2GB MicroSD card, a 3.2 MP autofocus camera and WiFi and HSDPA 3.6 Mbps connectivity. The operating system is Android 2.3.3. Available at Php8,700 it is not a bad way to go.

If you are okay with Smart Communications at Php9,900 which has their Netphone. The Netphone is actually a ZTE Blade which has been widely sold on the Orange network. It has features similar to the LG Optimus Net, but comes with a larger 3.5-inch 480 x 800 resolution screen in exchange a slower 600MHz processor and being limited Android 2.2 (no 2.3 upgrade in sight). If you are okay with Smart and don't mind spending a bit more, I would recommend this as a better option than the  LG Optimus Net. 

Maybe the best option is the Sony Ericsson Xperia mini. The screen is just 3-inches in size, smaller than we would like but the resolution is a decent 320 x 480 and it has a 1GHz Snapdragon breathing inside. It has 320MB of internal storage, which while nothing to crow about, is double of what the other entry level phones offer. The 5MP camera is also as good as it gets at this price range and it does 720p video capture. Not bad at all for Php9,550. If you can live with the small screen, this is the best of the bunch.

If you are willing to add 1K more there is the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman at Php10,650. Essentially the same phone with a different case. For some reason it feels better in hand.

Symbian. If you want one last Nokia Symbian phone, the N500 is not a bad way to go. 

It has a 3.2-inch nHD (360 x 640) capacitative display, 2GB or internal storage, WiFi and HSDPAconnectivity and GPS, all for Php8,750. 

If you are an Android, Bada, BlackBerry, iOS or Windows phone user, it is hard to recommend this phone or any other Symbian Nokia phone for the matter. No point moving to a ecosystem which is about to be phased out soon. On the other hand, if you are a long time Nokia user, and rely on Nokia apps and services, this phone is priced low enough so as not to make you regret not investing in a different ecosystem earlier. It would be the perfect phone for one last dance with Symbian.

Decision. Go with one of the Sony phones.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November high end smartphone buyers guide

If you are looking at a flagship phone these days, there really is only one great choice in the Philippine market right now and all the newer devices announced in the past month are not really here yet.

Apple's iPhone 4S is here, but only through the grey market. Starting at over 45K, with a service only warranty, we really cannot recommend this phone. Once it hits the carriers, and hopefully is offered by the local Apple stores unlocked, you can expect the prices to go down by 20-33%. If you have been holding out for the new iPhone, wait a bit longer.

On the Windows Phone front, HTC's massive 4.7-inch Titan is available in the grey market, but at about 33K, and with just a single core processor, it really looks to expensive and can expect a large price drop one it is launched officially.

For the die hard Nokia fan who hates Microsoft, you have the MeeGo powered Nokia N9  at Php24,995. But the MeeGo OS is really dead. Sure Nokia will update it, but do not accept a thriving app market around it. Maybe Android apps will get ported to it. But if you are buying this phone to run Android apps, its processor and graphics are at the same level as you could find in a Android phone a 60% of the price. If you love the look of this phone or prefer a Nokia because of its build quality and its extensive service support network in the Philippines, you should gust wait for the Windows Phone 7.5 Nokia 800.

Looking at the Android front, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has been announced but not yet released and we are not sure when this phone is coming to the Philippines. We do expect by December this year or January next year. Similarly, Motorola's new RAZR has yet to hit Philippine shores. 

So what we have in this category right now are pretty much the same offerings we have had for the past six months. The good news is that, a dual core smartphone from one of the top manufacturers can be had for as low as Php23,500 in the form of LG Optimus 2x P990. But if you are willing to spend 23.5K on a smartphone, might as well add a few hundred and get the HTC Sensation at Php24,400 with its larger and higher resolution 4.3-inch (540 x 960) screen. Once you decided it is okay to spend 24.4K on a smartphone, than Samsung Galaxy S II at Php25,950 looks like a much better deal.
The Samsung Galaxy S II has 16GB of internal storage, which is twice that of the LG LG Optimus 2x P990 and ten times that of HTC's Sensation. The Sensation comes with a free 8GB MicroSD card but that is still not the same as having more internal storage. The Super AMOLED Plus display of the Samsung Galaxy S II is by far the best display among the three phones. The Samsung Galaxy S II is also the fastest both in term of processor and graphics speed and HSDPA+ connectivity. On top of all that, it is the thinnest of the three.

Basically, for typical smartphone stuff, there really only is one good option at the high end, and that is the Samsung Galaxy S II.
Should you even look at anything else? If you really need 3D video capture on your phone to create content for your 3D TV or laptop, you may want to look at the LG 3D P920 at 26K. There is also another 3G option, the HTC Evo 3G at about the same price, but that LG 3D P920 has superior 3D video capture.

Audiophiles may want to look at the HTC Sensation XE, which is a beefed up Sensation with a faster processor and bigger battery designed to narrow the gap with the Samsung Galaxy S II. The Samsung Galaxy S II is the better choice as a smartphone, but the real draw here is bundled Beats headphones. Beats and other premium quality headphones cost a lot so having a pair basically bundled in for free makes it a very good deal. Music lovers may find that the Php26,300 Sensation XE is the better choice for them.

Our recommendations, the Samsung Galaxy S II, for music lovers the HTC Sensation XE and those who need 3D video capture, the LG 3D P920. Another very good option is to wait a month or two. With the Apple iPhone exclusivity agreement with Globe having expired, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus just on the horizon and Nokia Windows Phone incoming, I expect this category to get very exciting, very soon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Note on pre-order now

Samsung Galaxy Note is available for pre-order starting today. The Samsung Galaxy Note is a 5.29-inch device, which you could look at as the largest smartphone in the planet or as a small tablet. 

Whichever way you look at it, it is the most technologically advanced mobile device to this Philippine shores. The Samsung Galaxy Note has a full 720p (800 x 1280) screen. Inside is a dual-core 1.4GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with Mali-400MP graphics which makes it a bit faster the current speed king, the Samsung Galaxy S II, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and a 2500 mAh battery. The Samsung Galaxy Note also comes with a sytlus.

The price for all this goodness is a pretty steep Php35,990. If you pre-order the device you can avail of a P2,000 discount, get a free flip case as well as a 45-day subscription to Philippine Daily Inquirer Digital Edition valued at P1,120.

The better way to get the Note is to pre-order one and select the option to  avail it under Smart Communications Data Plan 2000. Smart will waive the first month fee and you still get a a free flip case. This means you pay Php46,000 over two years, get unlimited data (subject to some restrictions), and 150 minutes of calls and 200 SMS to all networks per month. This is a much better deal than buying one for cash.

You can pre-order your Samsung Galaxy Note at this link. Online reservation runs until November 18, 2011. Those who pre-order can claim their unit on November 19, 2011.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple iPhone battery life woes and Samsung Galaxy S II's stellar battery life

Apple recently releases iOS 5.01 for its iPhone, iPad and iPod devices. One off the main reasons for the release has been complaints by iPhone 4S owners of short battery life and in general complaints the iOS 5 reduces battery life in older devices. Is the problem fixed? After iOS 5.01 many users report improvements in battery life, while some report no improvement. GSM Arena reports that Apple acknowledges that their are still remaining battery life issues, which it is investigating. 

As iOS 5 incorporates more Android like features like notifications, location services, two widgets and Cloud sync which run in the background, I think a fair number of the complaints are based on users not understanding or refusing to accept that as the phone becomes more capable and does more, its battery life will diminish.

The problem is that it looks like Apple's iPhone 4S may not be the best platform for a multitasking OS. It looks like Android phone manufacturers which have long have to tackle the issue of a configurable operating system which could become very power hungry depending on how it is configured by the user have done much more to address battery life issues. 

PC Mag conducted a battery life test using talk time. Listing the top ten phones, none of Apple's phones made it to the top ten. Topping the list is Samsungs massive and powerful Galaxy S II. That the Samsung Galaxy S II has a better battery life than Apple's iPhone 4S was also confirmed by the in a head-to-head conducted by it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Mid-level Smartphone Buyers Guide

Android greatest gift to mobile is making high quality smartphone really affordable. And it looks like Windows Phone handsets are following Androids lead. How affordable? We have to redefine mid-level smartphones to the price range of Php12,000 to Php20,000. 

At this price range you could look at one of RIM's BlackBerry Curve phones, but unless you really are dependent on BBM we really cannot recommend buying a BlackBerry phone at this time. In a few months time we expect BlackBerry to release its new BBX phones rendering all current BlackBerry phones obsolete. If you heart is set on an iPhone, the only you will be able to buy is a iPhone 3GS, and you will be sourcing a phone from the grey market with a questionable warranty. The iPhone 3GS, with its 320 x 480 resolution screen and poor 3MP camera, it is really looking dated and not something that will keep you happy for the next year or two.

For Php12,000 to Php20,000 these days, you should expect a high resolution screen, a decent auto focus camera with a flash, the ability to capture 720p video and a fast processor.

Now, one could happily spend Php13,400 on a smartphone and not worry about the fact that there are better phones out there. The Sony Xperia neo V with its 3.7-inch high resolution 480 x 854 screen, a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a decent 5MP camera with Panorama mode, a secondary camera, HDMI out and pretty much everything you expect from a smartphone these days is good enough to do the smartphone heavy lifting work as well as play all but a few dozen of the latest games.

Add another 2.6K to the budget, at Php16,000 you have the Samsung Galaxy W i8150 and the LG Optimus Black.

The Samsung Galaxy W i8510 has a faster 1.4GHz processor and faster 14.4 Mbps HSDPA connectivity. The LG Optimus Black with its 4-inch 700 nit display and ultra thin 9.2mm case.

The HTC Desire S sitting at just Php19,000 is looking a bit on the expensive side, but it does offer HTC Sense 3.0, premium build quality with its aluminum unibody case and in our opinion the most likely to see an upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

You won't get a recommendation from us, any of these four offerings is a great deal at the asking price.

If you are tired of Androids, you have the HTC Mozart at Php14,800 and the HTC Radar at Php18,200. The Mozart is upgradeable to Windows Phone 7.5, the Radar comes with Windows Phone 7.5 out of the box. Between a Mozart and a Radar, the Radar has a front camera and a better, though lower megapixel camera.

So there you have it. Six very decent phones with 3.7-inch of larger high resolution displays, 1GHz or more of processing power and decent cameras. These are all very competent smartphones, and anything more is really a optional luxury.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Adobe is ceasing development for the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers

Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers. Adobe is ceasing development for the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers. What does this mean for users?

If you have a Flash enabled Android or BlackBerry device it will continue to work. Adobe today release one more feature update to Abobe Flash Player 11 for mobile, version 11.1. After that Abobe will release  security updates and bug fixes for Abobe Flash Player. When version Flash Player 12 rolls out, there won't be a browser plugin for the mobile browsers.

If you have a device that does not support the Abobe Flash Player 11 for mobile at the present time, well the Flash plugin for the mobile browser is not coming to your device ever.

One day we won't need Flash...

... but for the next 2-3 years or even longer, it is still great to have it.

HTML5. The Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers promised a common web experience between desktop browsing and mobile browsing. A large segment of the community has been against Flash because it is a proprietary format owned by Adobe. Apple banned Flash from its iOS devices. More recently, Microsoft announced that the Windows 8 Metro browser will not be supporting Flash. On the Android camp, many Android devices do not support the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers. HTML5 is the web standard which the opponent of Flash have supported as its replacement. 

Premature departure? HTML5 will probably develop to the point where it could replace Flash.  It  looks like it will be trust to the limelight a year or two early. The strength of Flash was that it was run on a third party plugin from a common source. Whether you run Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera, Flash content was run by the a single common plugin so it operated the same across all browsers.

While the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all support Flash,  each browser interprets things in its own way. Basically, in a way it is like going back a decade. We are going back to the days where sites announced "This Site is Optimized for Internet Explorer".

... or maybe "This Site Does not Run on Internet Explorer. Amazon's HTML5 KIndle Cloud Reader page does not run on IE, iPhone's and Android phones and tablets.

Expect to see a HTML5 standards war for the next year or two. At present, there is still no single common standard for HTML 5. On this matter, IMC Germany writes:
It is important to understand that HTML is (not yet) a medium which can make content available in the same format on all browsers and end devices. The more complex the content becomes (animations, interactions, sound, video etc.), the more complex is the development and quality assurance process to guarantee the correct display in the required browsers and on end devices. It is therefore also important to hold an intensive discussion with the project participators before beginning the project, asking the question: Which features need to be implemented and in which browsers and on which end devices should it then be possible to access the content?

As the HTML5 standard develops, expect web developers to build a safer more conservative web to minimize browser compatibility issues.

There are other features still missing on HTML5. HTML5 still does not support Digital Rights Management protection. So if a video were posted in the web using HTML5, anyone could right click and save the file on their computer. It would appear Flash will still be use for displaying copyright protected work online.

eLearning is another area where HTML5 is not yet ready to tackle. If you build an online exam in HTML5 a student could right click on the browser and view the page source to reveal the answers. Given that low cost mobile devices are important for eLearning, this gap can be bridged by apps instead.

There are many more examples, but basically HTML5 is not ready to replace Flash for all uses.

Dual web? Having killed Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers, I think it would probably better if Flash were killed all together. Adobe is not getting out of Flash altogether. The direction it wants it developers to go is to create Flash apps using Adobe AIR and HTML5 for mobile. One desktops, Adobe plans to use its Flash Player plugin and HTML5.

If Abode succeeds in its now direction, there will never be a common web for mobile and desktop devices and things will continue as they do today with many websites have dedicated mobile and desktop versions.

While a "compromised" version of the web is probably acceptable to most on a mobile phone, tablets with their larger screens should offer a full web experience. Right now it would seem the only way for a tablet to offer a offer a full web experience is not for Flash to come to the tablet browser but for Flash to get out of the web altogether. BlackBerry has announced it will continue to support Flash on its own PlayBooks browser.

Even if Flashed use did stop altogether, it will be a long time before all the Flash content on the web becomes irrelevant.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V - Amazingly good for the money

We are not fond of promoting Sony Ericsson Xperia phones because they are apparently not too fond of bloggers writing about their products, but this one is a bit too good to pass up.
  • Android OS (Android 2.3 Gingerbread)
  • 3.7-inch (480 x 854) LCD
  • 1 GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
  • 512MB RAM
  • 320MB internal storage expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD card
  • 5MP autofocus primary camera with LED flash and 720p video recording
  • VGA secondary camera
  • WiFi/Bluetooth/Micro USB
  • HDMI Out
  • HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • 1500 mAh battery
A little more internal storage would have been good to accommodate operating system upgrades, but at Php13,400 from CMK Cellphones we are not going to complain too much.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V has a slower processor than the Samsung Galaxy W i8150 we looked at two days ago, less internal storage and a slower 3G radio. It is also chubbier and heavier than the the Samsung Galaxy W i8150. Now lets go to the good points.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V has the nice crisp display thanks to the Bravia engine, it has HDMI, a 3D sweep Panorama mode in the camera out and in my opinion a much cooler looking case.  To top it off, it is all of Php2,600 cheaper. 

This is one of those phones that amazes me with how far your peso goes these days.

Get a chance to Win a Mini Cooper from Smart Communcitions

Smart Communications is raffling of a Mini Cooper. All you have to do it avail of their Always On plan and register via the Opera Mini Browser. Promo period is until December 22, 2011. The Mini Cooper will be raffled away on December 23, 2011.

From Smart Communications:

How to join
  1. Install Opera Mini on your phone by going to
  2. Within Opera Mini, click on the Win-a-Mini shortcut.
  3. Register to the promo by filling up details of the required fields.
  4. Subscribe to an Always On data plan.
  5. You will receive an SMS if your Always On subscription is successful.
Note: Promo is available to Smart Prepaid, Postpaid, Infinity, and Talk N Text subscribers. Employees of SMART Communications, Inc. and its advertising agencies, including their relatives up to the 2nd degree of consanguinity or affinity are disqualified.
Promo Period
October 22 to December 22, 2011
Point System
The # of points you’ll earn is equivalent to the price of Always On packages availed (ex. Always On 300 = 300 points).
Grand Prize - MINI COOPER
Consolation prizes - 100 winners of ALWAYS ON 300
Prizes are non-transferable and non-convertible to cash.
For Consolation Prizes
  • Winners of Always On 300 will receive their packages 2 days after the draw. User will receive an SMS once credited.
For Grand Prize
  • Grand prize winner will be notified via registered mail and call out from 7777.
  • Grand prize winner may claim his/her prize personally within 60 days from receipt of registered mail.
  • Grand prize winner must present a Valid ID with complete real name, picture and correct address (i.e. SSS ID, Driver’s License, Passport, etc.) and the registered mail from SMART that he/she won in the raffle.
  • If prize will be claimed through a representative, a valid ID of the representative and an authorization letter from the winner are required.

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime - Notebook killing tablet

Intel is worried about tablets cannibalizing personal computer sales and had pushed Ultrabooks to counter this threat. Many felt tablets do not threaten laptops. Asus now shows you the reasons for Intel apprehensions. Apple iPad will eat into laptop purchases, but is really a complimentary device. Asus Eee Pad Transformer is really a laptop replacement in waiting, and the waiting is now over. 

Asus Eee Pad Transformer featured an detachable keyboard that when integrated converted the tablet into a laptop. The tablet can be folded over a keyboard dock and be carried just like a laptop. Other tablet makers have a desktop type keyboard dock which seem to assume you will only use the keyboard at home or in the office. Other  integrate the keyboard into the carry case which limits your ability to tilt the display. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer keyboard even has a touchpad. In other words it works like a tablet when undocked and a laptop when the keyboard is docked. 

Now you have the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. All the same attributes, in a slimmer more powerful package. 

Power. Inside you have the quad core Tegra 3 which will provide 2-5x more power than the older Tegra 2. At the same time, it is more energy efficient as it uses a single core, two cores or all four cores depending on the needs, each of which runs 1.3GHz. There is actually a fifth, Companion Core which runs at 500MHz which is used to play music, video or while on standby. Still, best to wait for the reviews before commenting too much on performance and battery life but the Tegra 3 is an amazing piece of technology.

However fast the Tegra turns out to be, it is closing the gap with desktop mobile processors.

Endurance.  In tablet mode Asus promises up to 12 hours of battery life, which is extended to up 18 hours in "laptop mode".

Package. With the dock and tablet combined the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is all of 0.74 inches thick and weighs in at 2.48 pounds. A very decent weight for a 10.1-inch ultraportable with an 18 hour battery life. A large portion of the weight is due to the Gorilla Glass protected display.

Storage. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime comes in a 32GB variant and a 64GB variant. In addition it comes with a MicroSD slot in the tablet and a full SD card slot in the dock. This means it can give you 96GB to 128GB or storage. Pretty much what you get from a 11-inch MacBook Air.

Price. All this comes as US$499 for the tablet plus, another US$149 for the dock for the 32GB model. The 64GB model comes in a US$599 for the tablet. At US$648 or US$748, it is very reasonably priced by Utlrabook standards. 

It will be out by December. Intel beware, ARM just got into the laptop business and it has got me thinking that my MacBook Air, might be my last pure laptop. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nokia N9 priced

Yugatech has the official pricing of the Nokia N9. The Meego powered Nokia N9 with 16GB of storage carried a retail price of EURO 480 (approx. Php28K) while the 64GB version was priced a EURO 560 (approx. Php33k). Luckily, we are getting better prices in the Philippines with the 16GB version as Php24,990 and the 64GB version at Php29,940.

N9 Specifications:

  • MeeGo Hartmann
  • 3.9-inch (480 x 854) Clear  BlackAMOLED display 
  • 1 GHz A8 Cortex, PowerVR SGX530
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB or 64GB of storage
  • 8MP autofocus primary camera with a Carl Zeiss lens and LED flash. 720p video recording
  • Front camera
  • WiFi/Bluetooth/Micro USB
  • HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • 1450 mAh battery

Samsung Galaxy W i8150 - New king of the mid-level Android smartphones?

Samsung Galaxy W i8150. The Samsung Galaxy W i8150 has hit Philippine shores and is now available at CMK Cellphones, and its price should put a smile on your face. How much? Php16,000 with a one year Samsung warranty. 

Samsung Galaxy W i8150

  • Android OS (Android 2.3 Gingerbread)
  • 3.7-inch (480 x 800) LCD
  • 1.4 GHz Scorpion processor, Adreno 205 GPU, Qualcomm MSM8255T Snapdragon
  • 512MB RAM
  • 512MB 1GB user available internal storage expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD card
  • 5MP autofocus primary camera with LED flash and 720p video recording
  • VGA secondary camera
  • WiFi/Bluetooth/Micro USB
  • HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps
  • 1500 mAh battery

Is the Samsung Galaxy W i8150 the best mid priced phone in the market?  In terms of pure speed it is. It combines the fast 1.4GHz processor with fast HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity. 

LG Optimus Black

LG Optimus Black. It primary competitor, the Android powered LG Optimus Black has a slower processor/graphic combo under the hood with its 1 GHz Cortex-A8 processor, PowerVR SGX530 GPU and only supports up to HSDPA 7.2 Mbps connectivity. Given both Globe and Smart are rolling out HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps networks the additional speed will be useful in the Philippines.

Still at Php15,990 the LG Optimus Black has a lot to offer despite not being the speed king. It has a larger more vibrant 4-inch (700-nit) 480 x 800 IPS display protected by Gorilla Glass. The LG Optimus Black has double the amount of user available internal storage at 1GB. Physically, the LG Optimus Black has a ultra slim 9.2 mm thin profile. The Samsung Galaxy W i8150 is not a thick phone, but at 11.5 mm it is thicker.

Basically it comes down to the larger screen and slimmer profile versus processor and internet connection speed. I would think the Samsung Galaxy W i8150, being a newer phone would have a better chance of being upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, but don't count on that. With only 512MB of user storage, that might not happen. Still, Samsung was working on the Galaxy Nexus, it would be disappointing if they did not give this phone just enough room for an ICS upgrade. The ROM is actually 2GB, as big as the LG Optimus Black. So keep your fingers crossed.

It is a though call, and the Samsung Galaxy W i8150's processing and internet speed is tempting, but the absence of Gorilla Glass protection and the larger screen of the LG Optimus Black give it enough advantages. Let's call this one a draw. 

HTC Desire S
HTC Desire S. The HTC Desire S price has gone down to Php19,000. The Desire S compares  better in terms of speed as against the Samsung Galaxy W i8150. Both run on Qualcomm scorpion processors and Adreno 205 graphics. The Samsung Galaxy W i8150 has a 40% advantage in clock speed, the HTC Desire S has 50% more RAM. Both phone support HSDPA 14.4 Mbps.

Between the Samsung Galaxy W i8150 and the HTC Desire S, very little separates them specifications wise. The HTC Desire S will Php3,000 cost you more which makes the Samsung Galaxy W i8150. Your Php3,000 will buy you a premium looking and well built aluminum unibody case, Gorilla Glass protected display, HTC Sense which is the best manufacturer built Android user interface and a bundled 8GB SD card.

HTC has not confirmed that the HTC Desire S is getting upgraded to ICS. But among the HTC Desire S, Samsung Galaxy W i8150 and  LG Optimus Black I think the Desire S has the best chance at being upgrated to ICS. Just don't blame me if the HTC Desire S is not updated to ICS, it is my best guess and nothing more than that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

HTC announces the first wave of devices to receive upgrades to Ice Cream Sandwich in early 2012

Official statement from HTC. 

HTC knows how excited our fans are to get their hands on Google's latest version of Android, Ice Cream Sandwich, so we're thrilled today to announce the first wave of HTC phones that will receive upgrades: We can confirm the brand new HTC Vivid, on sale beginning today, is upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich. In addition, Ice Cream Sandwich is coming in early 2012 to a variety of devices including the HTC Sensation, HTC Sensation XL and HTC Sensation XE, as well as the HTC Rezound, HTC EVO 3D, HTC EVO Design 4G and HTC Amaze 4G through close integration with our carrier partners. We're continuing to assess our product portfolio, so stay tuned for more updates on device upgrades, timing and other details about HTC and Ice Cream Sandwich.
For Philippine users, HTC owners of the Sensation, Sensation XE and EVO 3D will be happy to hear their phones are going to get an update to Google Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich ("ICS"). For the other phones, well this is the first wave, so hopefully the other ICS capable devices will be upgraded too.

What other HTC phones can be upgraded to ICS? Given that the Google Nexus S will be getting ICS it would appear that the HTC Desire HD, Desire S and Incredible S can also support an upgrade to ICS. We will have to wait for the second wave to find out if these phones will be getting ICS.

I am a bit surprised that the HTC Desire S was not included in the first wave, given it is a volume seller and is the HTC phone which will take the fight to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.

Want a chance to win an Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook?

Want a chance to win an Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook? HardwareZone Philippines is giving on away. Click on this link to go to the HardwareZone Philippines forums and find out how.

Asus Zenbook UX31

Asus Philippines has announced the official pricing for its Intel Ultrabooks, which Asus calls its Zenbooks.  The 13.3-inch Asus Zenbook UX31 is priced at Php59,995. Only one configuration for the Asus UX31 will be offered in the Philippines. 

Asus Zenbook UX31 specifications:

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
13.3-inch display (1600×900 pixel resolution)
Intel Core i5 2557M (3M cache. 1.70 GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 3000
0.3MP camera
1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x USB 2.0 port,
SD Card Reader
1 x micro-HDMI port, 1 x mini-VGA port
Bluetooth 4.0
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bang and Olufsen ICEpower & ASUS SonicMaster Tech Audio
11.7 x 7.7 x 0.11-0.67-inch dimension
2.86 pounds
7 hours battery life

Specifications as compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air. The Asus UX31 is a bit  lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air but essentially has the same specifications as the entry level version. Since the internals of both machines are made by Intel, it is really no surprise that they carry nearly the same hardware.

The main differences are that with the Asus UX31  you get a mini-HDMI port instead of a Mini Display Port on the MacBook Air, USB 3.0 instead of Thunderbolt and Windows instead of Mac OSX. I would say the Asus UX31 is the more relevant machine to most users as HDMI and USB 3.0 are more useful than a MDP and Thunderbolt. The operating system is a matter of personal preference.

The Asus UX31 has a 1600 x 900 pixel resolution screen, which has a higher resolution than the 1440 x 900 screen on the 13-inch MacBook Air.  The Asus UX31 also sports better speakers and audio. The Asus UX31 does not have a back lit keyboard, but does give you nice aluminum keys which should hold up better to wear and tear than 

Price. At Php59,995 is Php5,995 cheaper than the similarly equipped 13-inch MacBook Air. The UX21 also comes with a free sleeve, maybe another Php800 in value.  All in all, the Asus UX31 is a better bang for the buck option than the 13-inch MacBook Air offerings, with one caveat, the track pad issue below. Still the Asus UX31 is not cheap, and I do not see it being a big seller in the Philippines.

Others. Every review of the Asus UX31, reports a glitch with the track pad which leaves it overly sensitive. Before buying one, make sure this glitch has been resolved.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Asus Zenbook UX21

Asus Philippines has announced the official pricing for the 11.6-inch Asus Zenbook UX21 ultrabook. Only one configuration for the Asus UX21 will be offered in the Philippines. The UX21 is priced at Php53,995. 

Asus Zenbook UX21 specifications:

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
 11.6-inch display (1366×768 pixel resolution)
Intel Core i5 2467M (3M cache. 1.60 GHz)
Intel HD Graphics 3000
0.3MP camera
1 x USB 3.0 port, 1 x USB 2.0 port,
1 x micro-HDMI port, 1 x mini-VGA port
Bluetooth 4.0
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bang and Olufsen ICEpower & ASUS SonicMaster Tech Audio
11.7 x 7.7 x 0.11-0.67-inch dimension
2.43 pounds
5 hours battery life

Specifications as compared to the 11-inch MacBook Air. Compared to the 11.6-inch MacBook Air, the Asus UX21 is a tad bit thinner and lighter, but essentially has the same specifications as a the 11.6-inch MacBook Air with 128GB of storage. Since the internals of both machines are made by Intel, it is really no surprise that they carry nearly the same hardware.

The main differences are that with the UX21  you get a mini-HDMI port instead of a Mini Display Port on the MacBook Air, USB 3.0 instead of Thunderbolt and Windows instead of Mac OSX. I would say the UX21 is the more relevant machine to most users as HDMI and USB 3.0 are more useful than a MDP and Thunderbolt. The operating system is a matter of personal preference.

The UX21 also does not have a back lit keyboard, but does give you nice aluminum keys which should hold up better to wear and tear than Apple's keyboards. You can get keyboard protector for your Mac, but you would be compromising ventilation. The UX21 also sports better speakers and audio.

Price. At Php53,995 is Php5,995 cheaper than the similarly equipped 11.6-inch MacBook Air. The UX21 also comes with a free sleeve, maybe another Php800 in value. The entry level 11.6-inch MacBook Air is actually price cheaper, but it comes with a smaller 64GD SSD drive for storage and 2GB of RAM.

All in all, the UX21 is a better bang for the buck option than the 11.6-inch MacBook Air offerings, with one caveat, the track pad issue below. Still the UX21 is not cheap, and I do not see it being a big seller in the Philippines.

Others. Every review of the Asus UX21, reports a glitch with the track pad which leaves it overly sensitive. Before buying one, make sure this glitch has been resolved. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Another Apple Siri versus Android Speaktoit showdown, this time from the UK

Virtual Assistants are all the rage these days with all the media attention around Apple and Siri. I myself, was not as excited since I have been using Vlingo as a Virtual Assistant, but really do not use it much. Vlingo works fine, I guess I am not the type who like to speak out commands. But, than again I am a bit of an old bloke used to doing things the old way.

Vlingo was my choice because I find to be useful in the only place a use it, while driving in a car. This is because Vlingo has a completely hands free mode. Vlingo works,  but does not have much in terms of "personality." 

After watching the nice people over at HardwareZone in Singapore test Apple's Siri versus Android Speaktoit I gave the app a try. Speaktoit does have a personality. How much personality? My wife commented, "Oh no, geeks are trying to create their own robot girl friends."

Not having an iPhone 4S to compare to Speaktoit, here instead is a YouTube video from someone who does:

Actually, based on my own use, Speaktoit does much more than this short comparison shows, but it does serve the purpose of a head-to-head.

Again, Speaktoit does seem like the better of the two apps. For places and navigation, Siri is still pretty useless outside the USA.

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