Monday, April 30, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note and Tabs from Globe Telecom

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
Globe Telecom is offering three Samsung tablets, with phone functionality, at subsidized prices on their unlimited data SuperSurf Plans:

1. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus  @Plan 999 + Php10,800 cash out. The payment of Php10,800 can be deferred over two years, for a total month fee of Php1,449.  
  • The Galaxy Tab 7.0 is a 7-inch (600 x 1024) dual core Android tablet with 16 GB of storage expandable via MicroSD card.  The Galaxy Tab 7.0 is a GSM device with support for calls, SMS and MMS.
  • Plan 999 is a unlimited data plan.

2. Samsung Galaxy Note @ Plan 1799 + Php4,800 cash out. The payment of Php4,800 can be deferred over two years, for a total month fee of Php1,999.
  • The Galaxy Note is Android phone/tablet with a 5.3-inch (800 x 1280) Super AMOLED HD display, dual core processor with 16 GB of storage expandable via MicroSD card.  The Galaxy Tab 7.0 is a GSM device with support for calls, SMS and MMS.
  • The Galaxy Note is supplied with a stylus and apps designed to be used with the stylus.  
  • Plan 1,799 is a unlimited data plan with Php800 credit for calls, SMS and other services. The plan also comes with three user selected Globe Freebies.

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 @ Plan 1799 + Php1,200 cash out. The payment of Php12,000 can be deferred over two years, for a total month fee of Php2,299.
  • The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is Android tablet with a 7.7-inch (800 x 1280) Super AMOLED Plus display, dual core processor with 16 GB of storage expandable via MicroSD card.  The Galaxy Tab 7.7 is a GSM device with support for calls, SMS and MMS.the ability to make GSM calls and send and recieved SMS.  
  • The  Galaxy Tab 7.7 is just 7.9 mm thick.
  • Plan 1,799 is a unlimited data plan with Php800 credit for calls, SMS and other services. The plan also comes with three user selected Globe Freebies. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Which smartphone have the best battery life?

GSMArena has been doing comprehensive tests of smartphone battery life. Removing units not officially available in the Philippines, we looked at the top 5 in each category. We did keep one unit not yet available in the Philippines, the HTC One S so that you could compare the performance of Qualcomm's S4 which its processor built using the 28 nm process, and we do expect it to be coming soon.
Talk Time - Top 5 smartphones
  1. Samsung Galaxy Note - 12:14
  2. Samsung Wave 3 S8600 - 11:07
  3. HTC One V - 10:00
  4. HTC One X - 9:57
  5. HTC One S - 9:42
The Note has a massive 2500 mAh battery, so I am not surprised to see it top the list. The One X does very well too, which is the effect of having a low powered companion core (500 MHz fifth core) which does the work when quad core power is not needed. HTC One S with its 32 nm process shows its efficiency. The two popular phones of 2011, the Samsung Galaxy S II (8:35) and Apple iPhone 4S (7:41) did not fare well, with the Galaxy S II giving one hour less talk time than the HTC One S. The iPhone 4S gave two hours talk time less. The Galaxy S II and iPhone 4S have processors built on the 45 nm process.

Web Browsing - Top 5 smartphones
  1. HTC Radar - 7:17
  2. Apple iPhone 4S - 6:56
  3. HTC One V - 6:40
  4. BlackBerry Curve 9380 - 6:40
  5. Samsung Wave 3 S8600 - 5:34
Notably, all the phones that made the top five list have 3.7-inch displays or smaller, except for the 4-inch Super AMOLED equipped Samsung Wave 3 S8600. 

SD Video Playback - 
  1. HTC One S -  9:28
  2. Apple iPhone 4S - 9:24
  3. Nokia N9 - 8:40
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note - 8:25
  5. Samsung Galaxy S II - 8:00
Four of the top phones in SD video playback use AMOLED displays. The Apple iPhone 4S which was second on the list has a substantially smaller 3.5-inch display than the next smallest phone on the list, the Nokia N9 with its 3.9-inch display. Notably, the Samsung Wave 3 S8600 would be sixth on the list, at 7:52.

Overall, the Samsung Wave 3 did a good all around job in terms of battery life.

Dark Meadow: The Pack - Nvidia leverages its Tegra 3

Dark Meadow is Phosper Games new horror mystery game, with plenty of monster killing in between. Two version of the game have been released this month. The first is Dark Meadow for iOS which is available for sale at US$5.99. The second version is Dark Meadow: The Pack for Android Tegra 3 devices which is available for free on Google Play. A third version is expected to be released next month, Dark Meadow for non Tegra 3 Android devices. I am guessing the standard version for Android will be a paid app.

The Dark Meadow: The Pack is the ultimate version of the game which adds graphics effects, shadowing and textures which are not available on the iOS version and the coming with the standard version for Android. The take advantage of the 12-core ULP GeForce graphics processing unit on the Nvidia Tegra 3 which is the closest you can get to console gaming on a mobile phone or tablet. 

So, if it is slow weekend and you have a HTC One X or Asus Transformer Prime on hand and are wondering what all the Tegra 3 is all about, download Dark Meadow: The Pack. Owners of Apple and other Android devices will get to play this game too... but they will get the slightly watered down version. This should make you feel a little smug and happy about choosing a Tegra 3 device.

Dark Meadow standard for Android (coming soon).

AfterFocus - Simulates how aperture settings blurs backgrounds

AfterFocus by is a app which simulates the ability of DSLR and other high end camera's aperture settings to blur backgrounds. It is available for Android and iOS. Achieving this is simple enough. Once you select a picture to edit, you can select the item in the picture you want to keep in sharp focus, the background and even identify objects between the foreground and the background, allowing you to have three different levels of focus on the same image. Picture edited with after focus can be uploaded and shared on different photo hosting and social networking sites.

Here is a photo I edited with AfterFocus. On top is the original picture, and below is the modified picture.


I edited the picture in a phone with a 4.3-inch display outlining the foreground and background with my finger. Despite the large display my finger proved to be a bit large to outline the borders between foreground and background accurately. So while I achieved good results with the app, it would be much better with a device equipped with a stylus.

The App also has a feature called double photo, but I have not able to try this yet, as it is available only on the pro version of the app. The version of AfterFocus on the Android market is a free add supported version which does not included the double photo feature. The pro version will be out in the Android Market sometime in may according to the developer.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nokia Lumia 610

The two most important phones in Nokia's line-up now are the Lumia 900 and the Lumia 610. The Lumia 900 is targeted at betting back its share in the European market and establishing a beach head in the US market. 

The Lumia 610 is designed to stopped the loss of market share in the developing market. Android smartphones have been cutting into Nokia's smartphone sales in developing countries in a big way. The Lumia 610 has a suggested retail price of Php10,998 and you can probably get it for a few hundred less for cash sales.

Nokia Lumia 610 quick specs:

  • Windows 7.5 
  • 3.7-inch display, 480 x 800 pixels, 65K colors
  • Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 8 GB of storage (about 4.5 GB user available out of the box)
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 800 MHz processor
  • 5 MP auto focus camera with LED flash
  • No secondary camera
  • 720p video recording
  • HSDPA 7.6 Mbps
  • 1300 mAh battery
The new offering is well priced. Looking at the Android phones which are available at the same price range, we have the Sony Live with Walkman, which has a smaller, 3.2-inch screen with a 320 x 480 pixel resolution display. Because of this, we do not consider the Sony Live as a true competitor to the Nokia Lumia 610. Another, Sony offering, the Xperia Neo V, which will cost you a about 1K more is a better competitor. 

Sony Ericsson Neo V quick specs:

  • Android 2.3 with a promised upgrade to Android 4.0 
  • 3.7-inch display, 480 x 854 pixels, 16M colors
  • Scratch resistant glass
  • 320 MB of user available storage, expandable to up to 32 GB via Micro SD card
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 1 GHz processor
  • 5 MP auto focus camera with LED flash
  • VGA
  • 720p video recording
  • HSDPA 7.6 Mbps
  • 1500 mAh battery

If you look at the specifications, the Sony Neo V has a better display with its 16 million color disply versus the 65,536 color display on the Nokia Lumia 610. The Neo V also has a secondary camera and the Micro SD card slot allows for much more storage. The Lumia 610 also has a slower processor and less RAM than the Xperia Neo V, but Windows Phone 7.5 runs fine on these specifications. Some Windows Market place apps may need more power, but the same can be said of the Xperia Neo V.

The Nokia Lumia 610 has some a few software tricks up its sleeve which make up for the less than stellar hardware. Its messaging app and contact apps are integrated into Facebook, which should be important to a lot of Filipino users. Also the Lumia 610 has Nokia NDrive which is the free best voice turn-by-turn navigation system for the Philippines. Google Maps offers turn-by-turn Navigation for the Xperia Neo V, but voice guidance is not available in the Philippines yet.

The Windows Marketplace has over 70,000 apps now so you can find a official or third party app for most everything. Where you will feel deficient as against the Android app market, Google Play, is in terms with games. 

Basically, the Nokia Lumia 610 is not a Android killer. But if you have been wanting to try Windows Phone 7 or want a good low cost Nokia phone, the Lumia 610 is a excellent choice.

Nokia Lumia 800 and 610 now available unlocked at Nokia stores

Nokia Lumia 800

The Nokia Lumia 800 and 610 are starting to show up at retail stores. The suggested retail price for the Lumia 800 is Php23,500 while the Lumia 610 is Php10,980 for the Lumia 610.  Checking with authorized resellers, we found the Nokia Lumia 800 at Php21,500, although at the time of this writing, the phone was listed as "coming soon".

Friday, April 27, 2012

Samsung's new Exynos 4 Quad

Prior to the official announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S III on May 3 in London, Samsung has released details on the processor and chipset which will be powering the new Samsung flagship phone. 

Samsung's new Exynos 4 Quad has four Cortex A9 cores clocked at 1.4GHz. Samsung claims to have 20-percent lower power consumption than last years dual core Exynos system due to a die shrink from the 45 nm process to 32 nm, quad-core efficiency and the ability to power down cores and adjust the voltage of each core depending on the the current workload of the device. 

In contrast, the Exynos 4's competition, the Nvidia Tegra 3 uses a quad core processor with a fifth low speed (500 MHz) companion core. For non-intensive tasks the Tegra 3 uses just the fifth core. The Tegra 3 is built on older 40 nm technology, though most ARM processors now are still built on the 45 nm process.  

No word on what graphics processing unit (GPU) is being paired with the Exynos 4 is, but Samsung has a video showing the new chipset powering a 2560 x 1600 display, which indicates that the new Exynos 4 will have a powerful GPU. 

There is also no confirmation on whether or not the Exynos 4 will have a LTE chip embedded into it. We should find out the answer to these remaining questions when Samsung unveils the Galaxy S III next week. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ubuntu 12.04 released

The final version of Ubuntu 12.04 is now available for download. This is the third version of Ubuntu which uses the controversial Unity desktop. The new desktop is something new Ubuntu adopters will appreciate. It is intuitive and easy to use. It ruffled some feathers with the existing users who preferred the older Gnome 2 interface. If you have never tried Linux before, or if tried it and felt it was not yet ready from mainstream use, give Ubuntu 12.04 a try. You can also take a look at the Ubuntu online tour here, which will actually to manipulate a mock Ubuntu desktop on your browser.

Ubuntu 12.04 is also the first Ubuntu release with the Unity desktop which is a long term support release (LTS). It will be supported with updates for a period of five (5) years. If you are looking at the possibility of deploying one for institutional or business organizations, this is the one ideal one to evaluate for that purpose.

If you have never tried Ubuntu, you can try it without installing it on your hard drive. You can run it of a USB drive or CD and it wont affect the contents of your hard drive.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I stopped using Instagram too - An Android users perspective

Some big names have deleted their Instagram account, namely Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. I too, stopped using Instagram. Why? Well I pride myself on being able to take excellent photos, so I like to show them in the full natural glory, and not masked by filters. No, I am not against enhancing, I use PicSay Pro to improve my pictures when needed. I uploaded most of my pictures in a mobile optimized 480 x 800 resolution, though I have now moved on to 720p. I try to frame my shots, and take advantage of the horizontal space for artistic purpose so being given on the option to crop into squares cramps my style. And I use a dedicated camera as well as a mobile phone to take pictures. I upload pictures to Facebook since that is where my friends are. 

Not every shot is best cropped into a square (Camera: Panasonic DMC-FZ50)

Basically, Instagram is not for me. It is an excellent app. Fast and works well even when my data connection is so so. But I really do not need another social network. I could share my Instagram uploads to Facebook, but I do not see a need for that. I can share a picture directly from my phone camera UI or from PicSay, and going through the Facebook to share allows me to do things like tag friends.

Camera: HTC Desire HD

Maybe if Instagram came to Android earlier, I would have appreciated its ability to make so so shots look better. But high end mobile phones camera are really good this days. I do want a filter getting in the way.

So like Mr. Schiller and Mr. Dorsey, I have stopped using Instagram after a week of use and uninstalled the app from my phone. But I did not delete my account. I did upload five pictures, which I think are worth sharing and who knows, someone on Instagram may appreciate them. I uninstalled the app do I do not have to install updates for a app I do not use, but who knows I may change my mind one day, and it would be nice to have my account waiting for me.

Google Drive launched, sort of

My phone prompted me to update an app, and to my surprise the updated app was named Google Drive. The update was actually for Google Docs, which is not part of Google Drive. After the update the app informed me the Google Drive is not yet available in my area, so right now what I have is a Google Drive icon, launching my Google Docs app, but Google Docs now got its storage bumped up from 1 GB to 5 GB. All a bit confusing? At the same time, to celebrate the launch of Google Drive, Google is increasing storage on GMail to 10 GB's.

I do not want to write about the service till I actually get to try it. But basically, Google Drive will give you 5 GB of free cloud storage with desktop sync. Those needing more storage can upgrade their accounts to a paid premium account.

All-in-all I am not terrible excited. I already have more desktop sync storage with Dropbox, which while starts at just 2GB's, allows you to earn more from referrals. For example, if you sign up with Dropbox at this link, you get 500 MB additional for signing up from a referral, I also get 500 MB more storage. So far, this has resulted in my Dropbox account growing to 8.8 GB of free storage of which I use a bit less than half. The maximum size for a free Dropbox account is 18 GB's. 

Additional Dropbox storage can also be earned from your device. My HTC phone comes with 3 GB of Dropbox storage for one year, so I now have 11.8 GB's of storage. Newer HTC phones come with 25 GB of Dropbox storage for two years. I doubt I will use the time limited storage, because once the period is up upgrading the plan will cost a minimum of US$9.99 a month, that is for 50 GB of storage a month.

The lack of an incentive to update comes from the fact that I have a 50 GB account with Box. Box normally gives 5 GB of free storage, but from time to time offers 50 GB's to new users. I signed up during one of those promos. The free box account does not offer desktop sync, but that is fine since I use it to store my 30 GB+ of high resolution (6 MP and 10 MP) photos I have taken over the past few years. 

After that I have 25 GB on Microsoft's SkyDrive. New users get 7 GB on SkyDrive, but old users (those who signed up before April 22, 2012) get to keep the 25 GB which was the original free allocation of the service. I actually do not use this account for any definite purpose. 

So basically, with 83.8 GB of free storage for life, what is another 5 GB? Right now, not much. But this is really beneficial to the Chrome and Android ecosystem.  Apps can integrate with Google Drive allowing developers to make apps that utilize cloud storage without having to provide their own cloud storage space. That is where Google Drive could come to its own.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Next Galaxy - Teaser video

So what does the Samsung teaser site reveal. Well if you answer the question on the site, you are given access to a teaser video. It is uploaded on YouTube so there is no need to jump any hurdles just to watch it. Here is the Samsung teaser video.

So what does it tell us?

Where a galaxy fits perfectly into your hand. This is a clear hint that ergonomics plays a key role in the design of the new Galaxy S III.  Given the excellent ergonomics of the Samsung designed and built Galaxy Nexus, this should not be too much of a surprise.

Your view of the world grown even wider. Everyone expects the new Galaxy S III to come out with a wider display. The question is wider than what? Wider than the older 4.3-inch Galaxy  S II, or wider the the 4.65-inch Galaxy Nexus? Still, we are not expecting the Galaxy S III to have a display smaller than 4.65-inches.

And you gain the power to explore it freely and swiftly. The new Galaxy S III will have a faster processor and graphics processing unit than the previous model. That is a given.

The video close with the blue and white blobs we have previously seen imprinted on the invitation for the May 3, 2012 event in London (and no, we were not invited and have no plans to crash the event either). Is this a hint at a ceramic or liquid metal alloy case? With all the complaints about the aesthetics Samsung plastic cases despite how strong they have proven to be and the fact that they do not interfere with radio signals, I think Samsung will listen to the consumers and give them something with a more premium feel to it.

SkyDrive free storage reduced to 7 GB: How to keep your 25 GB

Microsoft has revised its SkyDrive cloud storage service offering at the same time it released an app for Windows Vista, 7 and 8 as well as Mac OS X Lion. Additional paid storage is now being offered, starting at Php440 per year for an additional 20 GB of storage. At the same time it paired down its free storage offering from 25 GB to 7 GB.

Existing users can retain their 25 GB of storage. Users who had 4 GB or more of files uploaded on SkyDrive as of April 1, 2012 will automatically retain their 25 GB of storage. Existing users of SkyDrive can keep their 25 GB of storage simply by simply availing of the free additional storage option in your SkyDrive account settings.

I am not sure how long existing users have to avail of the free additional 18 GB of storage, so I suggest you avail of it soon.

Nokia Lumia 610 also coming to Globe Telecom and to be sold unlocked at Nokia retailers has some really good news. The Nokia Lumia 610 which has been listed as coming soon on Smart Communications website will not be a Smart exclusive. It will be coming to Globe Telecom too, as well as sold unlocked by local Nokia retailers. The Nokia Lumia 610 has a retail price of Euro189 before sales taxes, or about Php10,630 at the time of this writing. That should mean it can be sold for about Php12,000 after VAT. 

Quick specs:
  • Windows 7.5 
  • 3.7-inch display, 480 x 800 pixels, 65K colors
  • 8 GB of storage
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 800 MHz processor
  • 5 MP auto focus camera with LED flash
  • No secondary camera
  • 720p video recording
  • HSDPA 7.6 Mbps
  • 1300 mAh battery

The lower price though comes at a cost in terms of specifications. The phone displays only 65,000 colors, as against the 16 million colors or 256,000 colors you see in current smartphones, with 65,000 colors being relegated to feature phone these days. The processor and amount of RAM is 20 percent and 50 percent less than Microsoft's original minimum design standards, which means that some Windows Phone 7 apps might not run on the Nokia Lumia 610.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is expected to be available before end of April 2012.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Apple iPhone 4S, HTC One X and Nokia Lumia 900 display comparison

foxfire235 has posted a video comparison of the displays on the Apple iPhone 4S, the HTC One X and the Nokia Lumia 900. A picture was taken with a high end Canon 5D Mark II DSLR and displayed using the three phones. 

The Nokia Lumia 900 uses a ClearBlack AMOLED display. The HTC One X uses a Super IPS LCD2 display. The Apple iPhone 4S uses a IPS display.

The Lumia 900 and One X displays are clearly much better than the iPhone 4S display. In fairness though the iPhone 4S display use two year old technology, and it is fair to expect the next iPhone to have an improved display.

The ultrabook breaks the 40K barrier: The Acer Aspire S3-391-32364G52a

 The Acer Aspire S3 is the companies line of lower cost ultrabooks. In order to cut cost, Acer equipped its S3 with a hybrid drive. A 320 GB hard drive combined with a 20 GB was used in the Acer Aspire S3. On one hand this is more storage than one could expect with a laptop equipped with a SSD drive. Anything larger than 256 GB of SSD storage right now is insanely expensive. Acer has released a newer version of the S3, this time with an Intel Core i3 processor, instead of the more expensive i5's and i7's it was using in its S3. Instead of having Windows 7 Home Premium bundled with the Acer Aspire S3, the new version has Windows 7 Home Basic installed. The hard drive has been upgraded from a 320 GB unit, to a 500 GB unit.  This end result is the cheapest ultrabook we have seen in the Philippine market at a price of Php39,900.

Quick specifications:

Display: 13.3-inch (1366 x 768 pixel) LED back lit LCD
Operating system: Windows 7 Home Basic
Processor: Intel Core i3-2367M (1.30GHz, 3M L3 Cache)
Graphics: Intel HD 3000
Memory: 4 GB
Storage: 500 GB hard drive with a 20 GB SSD as a hibernation partition
Optical drive: None
Card Reader: Yes
 USB 3.0: Yes
HDMI Out: Yes
Battery: 3280 mAh 
Dimensions: 12.59x 8.52 x 0.51/0.68 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds
Update: The Acer Aspire S3 carried locally, the S3-391-32364G52a, does not appear to have a SSD drive. The same model sold in Australia has a SSD companion drive.

One thing to note. The 16 GB SSD is used as a hibernation partition, only helps the the laptop wake up faster. It does not make the operating system boot, shut down or run faster. Still the Acer Aspire S3 gives you a 13.3-inch laptop which weighs just 3.1 pounds and comes with adequate power for the kind of task you would expect an ultraportable to be able to do, at less than 40K. 

The Next Galaxy

A cryptic tweet by Samsung led to the discovery of a Samsung countdown site.

Re-order the letters tgeltaayehxnx and you will get the words: "The Next Galaxy". If you go to you will see the countdown timer.

Samsung has an event in London on May 3, 2012 (May 4 early morning in the Philippines) were we expect Samsung to announce the Samsung Galaxy S III. Any idea about what Samsung mobile site countdown will lead to? Well, we should find out in about seven hours.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Smart launches an Android App Store

Smart Communications has launched a Android App store called AppsMart. Right now it only has free apps. I do now know what plans Smart has for its app store, but maybe it could be a portal for allowing the purchase of paid apps with charges being included as part of your postpaid bill or using pre-paid load. My only concern is that there is no Smart Market app. So it looks like updating apps from the AppsMart will have to be done manually. Lets see how this new service develop.

Friday, April 20, 2012

LG Optimus L3 launching on April 21, 2012 with a special launch hour sale

LG Optimus L3. LG is launching its entry level Optimus L3 this Saturday, April 21, 2012. This entry level phone competes directly with Samsung Galaxy Y. The Optimus L3 has more internal storage than the Samsung Galaxy Y, which is important since not all apps can be installed in the MicroSD card. It also has a better camera and larger battery than the Galaxy Y. The Galaxy Y has faster 3G connectivity. With a suggested retail price of Php5,990 its prize is the same as the Galaxy Y.

Quick specs:
  • Android 2.3 
  • 3.2-inch display, 240 x 320 pixels
  • 1 GB of storage, expandable via MicroSD card
  • 384 MB of RAM
  • 800 MHz processor
  • 3.15 MP auto focus camera
  • No secondary camera
  • VGA video recording
  • HSDPA 3.6 Mbps
  • 1500 mAh battery
  • MSRP: Php5,990
Like the Samsung Galaxy Y it has a low resolution 240 x 320 pixel display. We were hoping that 2011 would see the end of Android phones using this resolution. A fair number of Android apps do not run or do not run optimally under that screen resolution. Android was originally developed to run on displays with a 320 x 480 resolution.

Launch hour sale. From 5 PM to 6 PM on April 21, 2012 LG will be offering the LG Optimus L3 for a discounted price of Php4,990 with a free jelly case at the LG Concept Stores in the Mall of Asia and Megamall. Given problems that have happened in past launch day promo sales, I do not want to make any representations about this one. Those interested can download the full promo mechanics at this link.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Samsung S6500 Galaxy Mini 2

The Samsung S6500 Galaxy Mini 2 is now available in the Philippine market. The Galaxy Mini 2 is a entry level Android phone. We have found it for sale on one of the retailers we use to check prices at Php9,100.

Quick specs:
  • Android 2.3 
  • 3.27-inch display, 320 x 480 pixels
  • 4 GB of storage, expandable via MicroSD card
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • 800 MHz processor
  • Adreno 200 graphics processing unit
  • 3.2 MP camera, LED flash
  • No secondary camera
  • VGA video recording
  • HSDPA 7.2 Mbps
  • 1300 mAh battery, user replaceable

If we compare it to the similarly priced Sony Xperia Live with Walkman released in 2011, the Galaxy Mini 2 specifications are a bit disappointing. The Xperia Live retails as low as Php9,250 and will give you a faster 1 GHz processor and faster Adreno 205 graphics. But what the typical user notice more about the Xperia Live is the 5 MP autofocus camera, front camera and 720p video recording.   

The Galaxy Mini 2 does have some advantages with 4 GB of internal storage (we do not know how much of it is user available at this time) and a slightly larger battery (1300 mAh v. 1200 mAh).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Globe Telecom Nokia Lumia 800 now free at Plan 1799

When we first wrote about Globe Telecom's Nokia Lumia 800 offering last month we were concerned that the handset was priced a bit too high. Being offered free at Plan 2499, it comes head to head with the Apple iPhone 4S which was a bit surprising since we do expect the Lumia 800 with its single core processor to be offered cheaper than the iPhone 4S. Here is the old pricing scheme for the Nokia Lumia 800 from Globe Telecom:

Apparently Globe had reconsidered their pricing offering the phone free at Unli Surf Comb Plan 1799 and My Super Plan 1799.

While the image from Globe on mentions the Unli Surf Combo Plan it also applies to my Super Plan.

You can also get this phone for at Plan 999 or Plan 499 and pay the cash out over 12-month zero interest, Plan 1799 give the most bang for the buck.

Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E320 (1298-2EA)

The Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E320 (1298-2EA) is a low cost 13.3-inch Sandy Bridge powered laptop which is intended for small and medium business owners. While this laptop was released in the middle of 2011, it is only recently that we have seen this unit on Philippine store shelves. Prices vary wildly from Php20,990 to 32,990, with a one year warranty.

Quick Specifications:
  • 13.3" HD (1366x768) LED matte display 
  •  Intel Core i3-2310M Processor (2.10GHz) Processor   
  • Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • 320GB SATA HDD (5400rpm) Hard Disk 3 with Active Protection System
  • Optical Drive: None
  • 4-in-1 media card reader 
  • Wireless-N 1000
  • Bluetooth 3.0 
  • HDMI 1.4, 
  • 3 USB 2.0 ports (1 eSata/USB combo and 1 powered) 
  • Webcam 
  • Dimensions: 322 x 228 x 26.7~30.9 mm
  • Weight: 3.9 lb 
  • 6-cell Li-Ion (62.4WHr) battery
  • No operating system 
This laptop looks like a good deal if you can get it for about 21K. There are a few resellers in TipidPC who carry it at this price. The Intel Core i3-2310M should be more than fast enough for the average user and the Intel HD Graphics 3000 will handle Full HD video with ease. Reviews place the battery life of the six cell battery at more than six hours of real world use on WiFi (NotebookCheck and PC World Australia). The keyboard is good, like most Lenovo laptops. All in all, it looks like a pretty decent package.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The best Android phones: Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Sony Xperia S and the HTC One X

One characteristic more than any other defines what a high end Android smartphone is these days is the high resolution 720p (720 x 1280 pixel) display. In a sense, the new high resolution display does not do all that much to enhance smartphone functionality in terms of a communication or business device. The 720p display improves the smartphone as a multimedia device, greatly enhancing the way the phone presents pictures, video, drawings and games. How important that is to you is something you will have to decide for yourself. But in defining what we consider a top end Android phone for today, we do consider it as an indispensable requirement. 

If you are looking for a top of the line Android phone today, there are three options in the Philippine market: the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Sony Xperia S and HTC One X. Some readers might wonder why we excluded the Samsung Galaxy Note. It is simple really, if the Galaxy Note appeals to you, none of the three we are looking at here is necessarily a good alternative. The 5.3-inch screen of the Galaxy Note may seem only a little bigger the the 4.65-inch display of the Galaxy Nexus, but that is only when you read about it. Compared side by side, the 5.3-inch display is massively larger. The absence of the Galaxy Note in this comparison should not be taken to mean we do not think it is an excellent device, but rather with its large display,  stylus and custom software designed to take advantage of the stylus, it is sui generis. If you want the Galaxy Note, buy it, and do not worry about whether the Galaxy Nexus, Xperia S and One  is better. The Galaxy Note is in a class by itself.

On to our three contenders...

Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Cash price: Php30,000 via a Smart prepaid kit
  • Postpaid options: Free from Smart at Data Plan 2000
Quick specs:
  • Android 4.0 
  • 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display, 720 x 1280 pixels
  • 16 GB of storage, not expandable
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Dual core 1.2 GHz processor, TI OMAP  3 chipset
  • PowerVR SGX540 graphics processing unit
  • 5 MP autofocus camera, LED flash
  • 1.3 MP secondary camera
  • 1080p video recording
  • HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps
  • 1750 mAh battery, user replaceable
For many, the Galaxy Nexus is the only choice. It is after all the Google phone, offering the pure Android experience. This means it gets software updates months ahead of other Android phones and the operating system installed is free from manufacturer customizations and add-ons, which some users consider bloat. 

The Galaxy Nexus was the phone on which Android 4.0, more commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), was launched.  It also introduced a new configuration for Android phones, with soft keys which are part of the display instead the usual dedicated physical or capacitive buttons. These soft buttons minimize when not needed by the app to allow you to maximize the display.  

In this comparison we will use the Galaxy Nexus as the reference point for our comparison.

Sony Xperia S
  • Cash price: Php27,990 MSRP but available at Php25,000 from authorized retailers with official Sony Warranty
  • Postpaid options: None

Quick specs:
  • Android 2.3, to be upgraded to Android 4.0
  • 4.3-inch LCD display, 720 x 1280 pixels
  • 32 GB of storage, not expandable
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Dual core 1.5 GHz processor, Snapdragon chipset
  • Adreno 220
  • 12 MP autofocus camera, LED flash
  • 1.3 MP secondary camera
  • 1080p video recording
  • HSDPA 14.4 Mbps
  • HDMI out
  • 1750 mAh battery, not user replaceable
The first new entry into the Philippine market is the Sony Xperia S. Available at Php25,000 with a Sony Warranty it can be acquired for Php5,000 less than the Galaxy Nexus, and in many respects it specifications are better than the Galaxy Nexus.

Where they are different. One key difference is screen size. The Galaxy Nexus screen is 4.65-inches in size, while the Xperia S has a smaller 4.3-inch display. The Xperia S also retains the dedicated buttons rather than using on screen soft key controls. The smaller display of the Xperia S makes it more compact than the Galaxy Nexus.
  • Galaxy Nexus: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm
  • Xperia S: 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm
The smaller size should make Xperia S feel more comfortable in hand. In my hands, both felt equally comfortable, the more countered design and slimmer profile of the Galaxy Nexus seeming to compensate for the wider girth. Still, it you find the Galaxy Nexus too wide, give the Xperia S a look.

One thing which buyers may find disappointing is that the Xperia S still runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) instead of Android 4.0. But we do expect the Xperia S to be upgraded to Android 4.0 in a month or two, so we do not think it is that big an issue. Hardware is not upgradeable so I will focus on that.

Xperia S advantages. The first key advantage of the Xperia S is internal storage.  The Xperia S offers 32 GB or internal storage as compared to the 16 GB of the Galaxy Nexus. In both cases, the storage is not expandable. If 16 GB (actually a bit 13 GB of usable storage) is not enough for you, the Xperia S is a better choice.

The Xperia S also has a bigger 12 MP camera, as against the 5 MP unit on the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus has a very good 5 MP shooter. Surprisingly the 12 MP shooter of the Xperia S is not necessarily much better than the 5 MP camera on the Galaxy Nexus. You can compare the two using GSMArena's Photo Compare Tool at this link. Still more megapixels does count, especially if you edit and crop pictures. The Xperia S camera also offers features not found in the Galaxy Nexus camera, namely image stabilization and smile detection. Both phones have face detection and panorama mode. The Xperia S also has a dedicated camera button. Sony is a top camera maker, so the rich camera related features are no surprise.

Both of these dual core phones are fast. But each has its own advantages. The Galaxy Nexus is much faster in browser benchmarks. The Android 4.0 update should improve the performance of the Xperia S in this regard. The Xperia S is much faster in graphics benchmarks being able to running the NenaMark2 benchmark at 37.5 frames per second as against 24 frames per second for the Galaxy Nexus. We would think, overall, the Xperia S is the "faster" device.

Another feature I like on the Xperia S is that it comes with a mini HDMI port, something you do not have in the Galaxy Nexus.

Galaxy Nexus Advantages. We already mentioned the larger screen, slimmer profile and the advantages of the pure Android experience. I also prefer the Super AMOLED technology used in the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. If you use black or dark backgrounds it does save a lot of battery life. If you use light colored or white backgrounds, or browse the web a lot (websites mainly have white or light colored backgrounds) the Galaxy Nexus becomes a battery hog. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus radio supports HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps as against the 14.4 Mbps radio in the Xperia S. There is another feature I really appreciate on the Galaxy Nexus, the user replaceable battery. A feature which is disappearing these days and not found on the Xperia S.

  • Cash price: Php32,900 MSRP but available at Php28,500 from authorized retailers with official HTC Warranty
  • Postpaid options: None
Quick specs:
  • Android 4.0 with HTC Sense UI
  • 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD2 display, 720 x 1280 pixels
  • 32 GB of storage, not expandable
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Quad core 1.5 GHz processor, Tegra 3 chipset
  • ULP GeForce graphics processing unit
  • 8 MP autofocus camera, LED flash
  • 1.3 MP secondary camera
  • 1080p video recording
  • HSPDA+ 21.1 Mbps
  • Beats Audio
  • 25 GB of Dropbox storage for two years 
  • 1800 mAh battery, not user replaceable
The other new flagship which hit the Philippine this month is the HTC One X. Available from authorized distributors for as low as Php28,500 with an official warranty it is priced between the Galaxy Nexus and the Xperia S.

It is like a Galaxy Nexus on steroids. The HTC One X has a large 4.7-inch display which is a but bigger than the 4.65-inch display found on the Galaxy Nexus. But compared side by side, the One X screen is much larger since in addition to the large display it uses dedicated capacitive buttons rather than on screen keys, effectively making it more like a 4.9-inch or so display. Remember though, the on screen soft keys in the Galaxy Nexus do minimize when the app deems them not necessary.   

Given that the Galaxy Nexus has a Super AMOLED display and the One X has an IPS display, you might expect the Galaxy Nexus to have a more vibrant display. But this is not the case. The implementation of the Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy Nexus is configured to run dimmer than it does on other Samsung phones like the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note. If you like the brighter displays, the One X wins in this regard. The Super AMOLED display on the Galaxy Nexus is also of the Pentile Matrix variety. Without getting into all the details, if you examine both under the magnifying glass you will notice that the One X display is a bit sharper, even if both devices have 720 x 1280 pixel resolution displays.

The One X also has more storage than the Galaxy Nexus. Like the Xperia  S, the One X also comes with 32 GB of internal storage. HTC has in addition bundled two years of 25 GB of Dropbox storage with their phone. Storage is not user expandable.

The 8 MP camera on the One X camera also compares well with the primary camera's on the Galaxy Nexus and Xperia S. HTC also bundled a smile shutter, HDR, a panorama mode and very fast shot to shot time with an unobtrusive preview box which pops up at the bottom right rather than covering the entire display. It even allows you to take stills while shooting video. 

Ultimately, what most One X buyers are probably interested in is the quad core processor. The Tegra 3 chipset on this phone with its quad core processor and ULP Geforce graphics is beats the Qualcomm chipset on the Xperia S in all the benchmarks ran by GSM Arena by a substantial margin. Similarly, it outruns the Galaxy Nexus, in all but the BrowserMark benchmark. Earlier we mentioned the NenaMark2 benchmark, running the benchmark at 47.5 frames per second it is almost twice as fast as the Galaxy Nexus and 27% faster than the Xperia S. It is also the only phone that can run Shadowgun and Riptide with full visual effects, something that even the iPad 3 and it quad core graphics cannot do.

The One X also does have a fifth companion core, which should save battery, but best to look for battery life tests from thirds parties. We do not get review units of phones, and cannot do battery life test.

In terms of data speeds, the One X also boasts HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity like the Galaxy Nexus, which are both faster than the Xperia S.

So, is the One X the best?

Where the Galaxy Nexus is better. Well it is a short list. The Super AMOLED display can reduce battery consumption if you use wallpaper and user interfaces over a black background, with the drawback that the AMOLED displays consume more power than conventional ones over light colored backgrounds. I also think the the Galaxy Nexus user replaceable battery is a feature most of us would like to have.

Most important to many people who buy Nexus phones is that it is the Google phone. While both the One X and Galaxy Nexus run Android 4.0, operating system updates will be available sooner to the Galaxy Nexus, with the HTC update coming a few months later.

Where the Xperia S is better. The Xperia S has the smallest display making it the more compact unit, with the drawback that it is the thickest (and actually heaviest, but not by much) of the three. 
  • One X: 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm
  • Galaxy Nexus: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm
  • Xperia S: 128 x 64 x 10.6 mm
The Xperia S also does the best job a 1080p video recording with a 14 Mbps bit rate as against the 10 Mbps bit rate  of the One X and the Galaxy Nexus. Another worth while feature is the mini HDMI out port. The One X will have an accessory dongle for wireless HDMI connectivity, but we do not know how much that will cost yet.

Conclusion. So which is the best? If you are looking postpaid, the Galaxy Nexus wins by default. It is the only one on a postpaid plan. If you are buying the phone, the Galaxy Nexus looks a bit expensive. 31K for only 16 GB of storage and a 5 MP camera looked fine a few months ago, but there are newer and cheaper options.

If you are buying cash, the Xperia S and One X are better choices. Which would I buy? The HTC One X. While the Xperia S is a great phone, the One X looks to be the better "two year investment."  The HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity and 4.3-inch display size of the Xperia S makes it look more like a circa 2011 flagship phone. Still, if you like the smaller display it is a good buy at 25K. If 1080p video recording is a very important consideration, the Xperia S does this best.  The One X justifies its 3.5K price premium over the Xperia S with a larger display and bundled cloud storage. The faster performance of its quad core processor and ULP graphics also make it more future proof. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Samsung Galaxy III to be revealed on May 4, 2012 (Philippine time)

Samsung is launching "the next Galaxy" on May 3, 2012 in London at 7 PM British Standard Time.  For us, this means we will get the details early morning on May 4, 2012. From the image on the invitations sent out, it seems clear only one device will be launched on that date, and we are expecting it to be the  Samsung Galaxy S III.

Any opinions on what the picture is hinting about the new phone?

IPS versus OLED: Power consumption and power saving tips

We often write about the power saving nature of OLED displays, like Samsung's Super AMOLED displays, when displaying a primarily black interface. If you like bright colored backgrounds or surf the internet a lot on the web browser, which is primarily white, OLED displays actually consume more power. LG release a comparison of the power consumption of a it IPS display as against a OLED display.

Source: Engadget
On a side note, I was a bit surprised that an all black screen consumes as much power as when it is displaying a 100% white image on IPS display. I was under the assumption that a primarily black display would save some power regardless of the type. From the chart above, it looks like on a IPS display (and probably other types of LCD's too) power savings using a black background is negligible, if any.

Going back to the OLEDs display, having you phones user interface set up to have a primarily black background or darker backgrounds will extend your battery life. 

One area where Super AMOLED phones fair poorly is searching the web, since most websites have a primarily white or light colored backgrounds. Looking at GSM Arena's battery life test shows how poorly the Samsung Galaxy Nexus fares with the web browsing.

In order to save battery life on a phone with AMOLED displays, I would recommend a black or primarily black wallpaper. Many apps also have a black background option. Another option for saving battery life while browsing the web is using Black Google Mobile app or doing a Google search through the Black Google Mobile website (just bookmark this link in your mobile browser). Black Google returns web results in over a black background.


Still when you finally go to the website you are looking for it will display the website in its default colors. So basically it saves battery life only while searching, and not while reading websites. Still, even a little battery savings is worthwhile.

Basically, if you have a OLED display on your phone, learning to love black will help you extend your battery life.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nokia Lumia 900 coming to Smart Communications in May as a Smart Exclusive

I really do not know anymore than what I saw in the tweet.

That is good news for some, and bad for others.

The Tablet Wars and the US$250 Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 P3100

There have been plenty of rumors that a US$199 to US$249 Google Nexus Tablet is in the works. In this blog we have speculated that Asus will manufacture that tablet based on its own Asus MeMo 370t which it displayed in January 2012 to be priced at US$249, which has now gone missing in action. 

Tablet pricing. Cheap Android tablets have been around since the second half of 2010, but not from major manufacturers. With Amazon Kindle Fire released late last year being priced at US$199 and the cheapest Apple iPad 2 having its priced reduced to US$399 in March of 2012, Google Android tablet manufacturers are really under pressure to compete price wise. Part of the success of the iPad is very good pricing. 
iPhone 4S (16GB) - BOM: US$170  ---  Retail Price: US$649 
iPad 2 (16GB WiFi) - BOM: US$320  ---  Retail Price US$499
People expect to pay a bit more for an Apple product, so an Android product which is priced equally seems expensive. With a bot over 60% of the tablet market share, more developers make apps for the iPad than Android tablets.
For Apple's iPhone, Apple relies on carrier subsidies to makes its iPhone affordable. You saw this when both Globe Telecom and Smart Communications launched the iPhone 4S in the Philippines. Effectively, the iPhone 4S became as much as 50% cheaper to acquire on a plan as against the iPhone 4 which had Globe as the exclusive distributor.

For the iPad, Apple simply sells it with much smaller margins, and that is why it is harder for Android manufacturers to build tablets which have lower prices than the iPad. In sum, it seems like Apple's strategy  is to position their iPhone's, Macbook's and iMac's as premium priced products, with the iPad, iPod and Apple TV being targeted at the mass market.

Android manufacturers response. With the very though pricing situation some Android smartphone manufacturers have simply gotten out of or are taking a pause in the tablet game, like HTC. Asus, a notebook manufacturer, has a nice niche market in the tablet space with its Transformer series which combines the features of a tablet and a notebook. Samsung, well it looks like they are determine to compete in this though arena.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. While we were expecting a low priced 7-inch tablet from Google in the next month or two, Samsung is the first to hit that market with its US$250 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 P3100. 

Quick specs:
  • Android 4.0
  • 7-inch, 1024 x 600 pixels
  • 8 GB of storage, expandable via MicroSD cars
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • Dual core 1 GHz processor
  • Power VR SGX 540 graphics processing unit
  • 3.2 MP autofocus primary camera
  • VGA secondary camera
  • WiFi only*
  • 4000 mAh battery
*GSM/3G version also available as the P3110

While priced US$51 more than the Kindle Fire it does have expandable storage and camera's. Also Amazon Kindle Fire does not access the Google apps store but Amazon's own Android apps store which only supports a few countries. Those looking for an international version of the Kindle Fire, well here it is. 

At US$250, this places it US$149 less than the iPad 2. The two do not compete directly because of size, but I think people would find that both the US$399 price for a 9.7 inch tablet with 16 GB storage and the US$250 price for a 7-inch tablet with 8 GB of storage as being "equivalents". Neither one is really a better deal than the other, so you will pick based on the size you want.

As US$250 price should translate to a Php12,500 to Php14,000 price in the Philippine market when it is finally released here.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Have you checked you Mac for the Flashback Trojan already?

The Flashback Trojan infected 670,000 computers worldwide, 98% of them running Apple's Mac OS X. It appears that the number of infected computers is down to 270,000 (PC Mag, quoting Symantec).

Apple is still coming out with a removal tool, but there is no need to wait for that. If you still have not checked your Mac I recommend you:

1. Download and run the Kaspersky Flashfake Removal Tool.

2. If you are running Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard or later) the software update on your Mac and install the Java and other updates. If you are running Mac OS X 10.5, there is apparently no patch on the way so I would recommend disabling Java on your Mac.

Do you part in bringing down the number of infected computers to 0.

Update: The official Apple Flashback Removal Tool is now available. Just update your Max OS X 10.6 or 10.7 and that is that.

HTC One V versus the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V

Sony Xperia neo V

For nearly six (6) months Sony's Xperia neo V has on our list top mobile phones in the country.  Basically, it combined a decently large 3.7-inch screen screen with a high 480 x 854 pixel resolution, a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 5 MP camera and a 1500 mAh battery. All in all, not bad for the price of about Php13K. How does it fair against the newer models? 


HTC recently launch its HTC One , which has a 3.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, a 5 MP camera and a 1500 mAh battery, all for the price of Php13,490. Sounds rather familiar. While both phones have similar specifications, there are areas where they differ.

Internal storage. The biggest issue when buying a budget Android phone is how much internal storage does the phone have. While most Android phones can expand their internal storage via a MicroSD card, not all Android apps can be moved to the SD card. Moving apps to the SD also means not being able to use the widget associated with the app in most cases. 

The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V has 1 GB of internal storage, of which 320 MB is user available. A 2 GB MicroSD card is included in the package.

The HTC One V has 4 GB of internal storage with 1.1 GB being users available. For some reason or other, it appears HTC decided to divide storage for apps, pictures and video. You have 1 GB for apps and 95 MB for pictures and video. The One V does not come with a MicroSD card but comes with 25 GB of Dropbox storage

Front camera. The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V has a front camera, while the HTC One V does not. This also means no Android 4.0 Facial recognition unlock on the One V. 

Case, size and weight. Both phones are similar in size. The One V is wider at 59.7 mm as against the narrower 57 mm of the neo V. On the other hand the One V is thinner and lighter at 9.2 mm and 115 g while the neo V is 13 mm thick and 126 g  in weight. Both phones are small enough that size should not be an issue. I suspect though that manny buyers will like the aluminum case of the One V more than the plastic one on the neo V. 

Operating system. The HTC One V is running Android 4.0 with HTC Sense. The Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V is running Android 2.3.4 with Sony's own user interface. A upgrade to Android 4.0 is available.

Price. We have found the HTC One V for as low as Php13,490 with an official HTC warranty. The same store where we got the price carries the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V at Php12,000 with an official Sony warranty.

Which is a better choice? Using my own sense of priorities I would go with the One V. I am currently using 434 MB of internal storage on my Android phone, so 320 MB wont be enough for me and the apps I use. I also worry a bit, that the 320 MB of the Neo V might actually go down with the Android 4.0 update, but that is just speculation on my part.

I have a data plan and use cloud storage. I currently have 11 GB on Dropbox and 50 GB on Box, so I really do not need the additional free 25 GB for two years on Dropbox, still it would be great to have it. I have never really used the front cam on my phones, and my current Android phone does not have one and I do not miss not having one. I prefer the premium looking aluminum case on the One V.

For others, the front camera may be a deal breaker, and the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V would be the better choice. The neo V is also Php1,490 cheaper, and cheaper is always a good thing.

A front camera would have made the One V a neo V killer. But absent the front camera, the One V makes a nice alternative to the neo V for those who will prioritize storage over the front camera.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...