Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" Flash Support

Adobe does not officially support Flash Player on Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. But actually Adobe Flash can run on Android 4.1. XDA Developers (who else) has a guide on how to install Adobe Flash on your Android 4.1 device.  You can find the instructions and the Flash Player download at this link.

You won't get Flash Player support on the Google Chrome browser, since the Chrome browser no longer support Flash. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Update on the Android Jelly Bean Updates

This is the status of Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, updates as far as we have cobbled together.

Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S have their Jelly Bean rolling out.

Samsung. While it is not official, it looks pretty sure that like the Samsung's 2011 line-up, the Galaxy S II and the Samsung Galaxy Note will be getting Jelly Bean. The Samsung Galaxy S III will also be getting Jelly Bean. Expected time of arrival is by September 2012. I would expect to see at least the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 added to this list.

Samsung really only takes care of their top end devices in terms of updates. But this is an improvement from their Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich updates which did not make it to the Samsung Galaxy S. At least now Samsung is covering their current and previous years top of the line, S series.

HTC. HTC has official confirmed that the HTC One X, XL and One S will be getting updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

HTC did a great job with Gingerbread updates, and used to be regarded as the best OEM for updates. Since Ice Cream Sandwich, they have lost a lot of ground in that regard. Right now it looks like the best OEM in terms of updates is Sony.

Sony. In 2010 to 2011, Sony had a bad rep for updates. All that has changed. Practically, it's entire 2012 line-up, including it lowest end phones are getting or about to received Ice Cream Sandwich. While unofficial the word is, Sony's 2011 phone stay at Ice Cream Sandwich, while all of Sony's 2012 phones are going to get Jelly Bean.

Update: It looks like  Sony's 2011 phones might be seeing Jelly Bean too.

Asus. The Asus Tranformer Pad, Transformer Prime and Transformer Pad Infinity will be getting Jelly Bean.

LG. No word yet. What is certain is that the LG Optimus 2X and LG Optimus Black wont be getting Jelly Bean. To compound the bad news, Ice Cream Sandwich updates for this phone have just been cancelled.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Smart Postpaid Freedom Plan

Smart Communications has introduced a postpaid plan called the Freedom Plan. The Freedom Plan has no fixed monthly fees, you only pay for what you use at the following rates:

  • Calls On-net   -   Php6.50
  • Calls Off-net   -   Php7.5
  • IDD   -   US$0.40
  • Local SMS or MMS   -   Php1.00
  • International SMS   -   Php10.00
  • Web Browsing   -   Php10/30 minutes 

The plan has no lock-in or contract, so you can terminate it on a monthly basis. 

You can also add-on several different packages:

Basically, it is a postpaid plan, which should appeal to pre-paid users, which basically removes the chore of having to buy load.

Android Flexes its Muscles: Instagram Hits 80 Million User

Instagram is a free photo sharing service accessed through a mobile app that was launched in October 2010. Instagram allows users to take a photo, apply a filter, share it on a variety of social networking services, including Instagram's own social network. 

Initially, Instagram was only released for Apple iOS devices. By April 2012, Instagram had garnered 30 million users. In April 2012 an Android version of Instagram was released. This caused some consternation among Apple devices owners who like the service being an Apple only social network. Some prominent Instagram users even announced that they were no longer going to use the service.

In less than four months on Android, Instagram has more than doubled it user base, now with 80 million users (Source: CNET). This case clearly a good move for Instagram and for Google is a demonstration of the reach of the Android ecosystem. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The HTC Desire HD got beaned by Jelly Bean

We wrote about the official cancellation of by HTC of its Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwhich (ICS), update for its 2010 flagship  phone, the HTC Desire HD. The HTC Desire HD was released on October 2010. The official reason given for the cancellation was:

*After extensive testing, we’ve determined that the current version of HTC Sense with Android provides customers with the best experience on the HTC Desire HD. When we consider new versions of software, we weigh a number of factors, but ultimately the customer experience on the product is the deciding factor. We apologize for any confusion this change may have caused our customers. (Source: HTC Blog)

Four month can make a world of difference. HTC was rather vague on why it decided not to update the HTC Desire HD. Looking at the HTC Desire HD this is some of the basic details of the phone:

  • 1GHz Scorpion processor
  • Qualcomm MSM8225 chipset
  • Adreno 205 graphics
  • 768 MB of RAM
  • 1.5 GB ROM
  • Released October 2010

After announcing the cancellation of the ICS update for the HTC Desire HD, HTC started rolling out ICS for the HTC Incredible S.

  • 1GHz Scorpion processor
  • Qualcomm MSM8225 chipset
  • Adreno 205 graphics
  • 768 MB of RAM
  • 1.5 GB ROM
  • Released February  2011

It would seem the main reason for cancelling the HTC Desire HD's update is that it was released four month earlier than the HTC Incredible S.

Beaned by Jelly Bean. HTC started updating its phones to ICS in March 2012, four month after the released of the new operating system. It planned to roll out ICS to several phones between March to August 2012. HTC probably expected the next version of Android to come out on October or November 2012 with the launch of a new Nexus phone.

Than something surprising happened. In the end of June 2012, Google announced its Nexus 7 tablet which shipped with Android 4.1. HTC would need to get Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) on its current phones as soon as possible to help their sales, especially considering HTC sales are down considerably from 2011 figures. HTC announced that the HTC One X, XL and S would be getting updated to Jelly Bean. 

The OTA update for the HTC Incredible S is being rolled out as I write this, and the HTC will probably start rolling out the update for the Desire S in August 2012. It looks like the real reason for the cancellation of the HTC Desire HD update is because HTC has to move on to working on Jelly Bean updates for the HTC One X, XL and S. HTC cannot say that publicly, hence the rather vague and odd reason for the cancellation of the HTC Desire HD ICS update.

Friday, July 27, 2012

+1 to "Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps?"

Phone Arena posted an interesting question on its site. Should Google remove the option to sideload Android apps? The main reason is it makes app piracy a bit too easy. "The solution to all this seems quite simple to us - get rid of the option that allows you to install apps from sources other than the Google Play store."

I think the answer to that question is an easy yes. Most users do not need this feature. Leaving it  poses a security risk. The only app I have ever sideloaded what Gameloft's GTA Racing Motor Academy, which I bought when it was not yet for sale in the Play Store. By removing side loading, the Gameloft will simply be forced to sell their all Android games through Google Play. Actually,  I be mush happier if this was the case. 

Leave it as an option for rooted phones for power users. The option is needed to allow legitimate things like back-up and restore, and for the installation of apps that should not be in Google Play in the first place (apps customized for particular ROM's). This would also allow other companies like Amazon to customize own Android  devices to download apps from their own store. This would also allow SysAds to install custom apps built in-house or for a particular company. In other words, the non-typical user will be able to side load anyway.

The objections are that removing the sideloading option is not needed. Apps can have an authentication system. If this is the what developers have to do, you will get all sorts of complaints as to why the app has to connect to the internet. Developer would have to spend more resources maintain servers to authenticate their apps.

Others, object on the grounds of freedom and openness. If you want freedom, root your phone. 

Yes, you will be closing the marker to a degree. But, it is not like Google Play is vetted or restricted like Apple's App Store. Removing the option to sideload apps will not close the ecosystem.

I really cannot thing of a good reason why this feature is useful to the average Android phone user. Well, that is my 2-cents.

Quarter 3 2012 Budget Ultraportable Laptop Buyers Guide (Php25,000 or below)

It is pretty amazing these days what you can get for Php25,000 or less. Three years ago, all you could expect where either netbooks or big bulk low end laptops. Here are my favorites.

1. Asus Eee PC X101CH - Php11,990 to Php13,990 

These days I would not really recommend a netbook. I am not very fond of these Atom powered devices, not even the newer Cedar Trail platforms. While they were fine a few years ago, they have fallen far behind the power curve. They feel slow by today's standards. HD playback is still iffy.

The 10.1-inch low resolution 1024 x 600 screens, do not help. They feel cramp for web browsing. With the 10.1-inch display comes with a keyboard which is a  bit smaller than standard sized. Still you do get a full function computer at less than 14K, which can run a desktop grade browser and office suite.

My favorite netbook is the Asus Eee PC X101CH. It will set you back Php11,990 to Php13,990,  and if you get it with with Windows 7 or DOS, and depending on where you get it.

While short on power, it is a very handy package to carry around at just about an inch thick and only 2.2 pounds in weight. Still, this is best as a second computer, as a back-up to a desktop or larger laptop.

Quick Specs:

  • OS: DOS or Windows 7 Starter
  • Display: 10.1-inch (1024 x 600 pixel resolution)
  • Processor: Intel Atom N2600 (dual core 1.6 GHz)
  • RAM: 1 GB (not upgradeable)
  • Storage: 320GB hard drive
  • Wireless: WiFi and Bluetooth 3.0
  • Notable Ports: USB 2.0 and HDMI out
  • Card Reader: Yes
  • Webcam: Yes
  • Battery: 3-cell rated at 5 hours (3-4 hours real world use)

More about the Asus Eee PC X101CH at this link.

2. Acer TravelMate B133 - Php15,999 to Php17,999

Going up a few thousand in price, at Php16,999 you have the Acer TravelMate B133. That price is without an operating system. It is a bit hard to find, but you can get one from Asianic. Order it online an you can get it for Php15,999 with Windows 7 Starter.

I could be perfectly happy with this for day to day use. You move up to a larger 11.6-inch display which gets you a HD (1366 x 768) resolution. The larger screen comes with a larger, more comfortable, keyboard. You also get a much more powerful dual core Intel Celeron processor and double the RAM.  The Acer TravelMate B133 is truly a current generation offering with a USB 3.0 port and Bluetooth 4.0. 

A just over an inch thick, and at 3.1 pounds it is light enough to carry around daily.

Quick Specs:

  • OS: Linux or Windows 7 Starter
  • Display: 11.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel resolution)
  • Processor: Intel Celeron B877 (dual core 1.4 GHz)
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 320GB hard drive
  • Wireless: WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Notable Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI out
  • Card Reader: Yes
  • Webcam: Yes
  • Battery: 6-cell (4400 mAh)

More about the Acer TravelMate B133 at this link.

3. Asus X410A - Php20,990 to Php22,990

Not everyone is happy with an 11.6-inch or smaller display. While this is technically not an Ultraportable which means 4 pounds or less. The Asus X401A weighs in a 4.1 pounds, about a pound or more less than other low cost 14-inch laptops. Close enough. This gives you a full sized 14-inch laptop at a reasonable price. This unit as has a USB 3.0 port. 

At Php20,990 you get it with DOS. At Php22,990, you get it with Windows Home Basic. This is a pretty powerful unit with an Intel B970 dual core processor inside. This is by far the most powerful of our four recommendations on this post.

Quick Specs:

  • OS: Windows Home Basic
  • Display: 14-inch (1366 x 768 pixel resolution)
  • Processor: Intel B970 (dual core 2.0 GHz)
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 500GB hard drive
  • Wireless: WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Notable Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI out
  • Card Reader: Yes
  • Webcam: Yes
  • Battery: 6-cell (4400 mAh)

More about the Asus X401A here.

4. 11.6-inch Sony Vaio E (E11115EG)

For the past 17 months we have been AMD E-350 and later, AMD E-450 based systems for those looking for a low cost ultraportable. The AMD E-450 is now being replaced by the AMD E2-1800 accelerated processing unit. In truth, it is not much faster than the AMD E-450, but it does come with one nice bonus, a USB 3.0 port. 

I expect to see more of these AMD E-2 1800's in the market soon. But right now the only ultraportable AMD E-2 1800 available is the 11.6-inch Sony Viao E. It is priced at Php23,990. I suspect in a few weeks or months you will see some HP, Lenovo and Samsung versions prices 2-3K lower. But it is a Sony Vaio after all. 

Quick Specs:

  • OS: Windows Home Basic (64-bit)
  • Display: 11.6-inch (1366 x 768 pixel resolution)
  • Processor: AMD E-2 1800 (dual core 1.7 GHz)RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 320GB hard drive
  • Wireless: WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Notable Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and HDMI out
  • Card Reader: Yes
  • Webcam: Yes
  • Battery: 6-cell (4000 mAh)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Advance Ace Hack Kit has a new home

The Advance Ace Hack Kit or AAHK which is a all-in-one tool for rooting your HTC Desire HD and HTC Inspire has a new home:

Home of the Advance Ace Hack Kit

AAHK makes it easy and safe to root your Android phone. In addition it does the following:

  • Custom AAHK Bootloaders support popular ENG S-OFF functions for both Sense 2 and Sense 3 partition layouts
  • Only ONE menu step – HACK ACE
  • No ROM downgrade required (only radio/kernel) for devices not running Sense 3
  • The original ROM is retained (except when downgrade from Sense3-GB is required)
  • No wiping data for devices not running Sense 3
  • Rom is fully functional (yes, inc wifi)
  • Fully rooted with insecure boot image (supports adb remount for rw system)
  • Busybox manager app installed
  • Radio S-Off, superCid & carrier sim unlock
  • Correct Radio is automagically restored for HSPA+ operation
  • Clockworkmod Recovery included
  • All known Inspire/DHD builds supported
  • Easy return to stock for SOME builds (See the Effen Manual – not all carrier RUUs are available)

Remember, rooting voids your warranty.

HP Envy Ultrabook 4-1054TX and HP Envy Sleekbook 4-1055TX

Before we go into the details of these two laptops, it is worthwhile to note that the two are identical except in one aspect. The HP Envy Ultrabook 4-1054TX has a hybrid drive, which combines a 500 MB conventional hard drive with a 32 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) to act as a cache which helps speed up some aspects of system performance. Intel owns the terms Ultrabook, and in order to qualify to use the name a laptop much have a SSD or a hybrid drive.

The HP Envy Sleekbook 4-1055TX has a conventional 500 GB hard drive only. Hence, not qualified for the Ultrabook moniker. So HP coined its own term, the "Sleekbook".

The HP Envy Ultrabook 4-1054TX is priced at Php44,990. The  HP Envy Sleekbook 4-1055TX has identical specifications minus the 32 GB SSD. This allows for a lower price of Php40,990. 

Quick Specs:

  • Window 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 14-inch HD (1366 x 768) display
  • Intel Core i5-3317UM (1.7 GHz)
  • AMD Radeon 7670M graphics with 2 GB of dedicated RAM
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 500 GB hard drive/500 GB hard drive with 32 GB SSD
  • Card reader
  • USB 3.0 (x2)
  • HDMI Out
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • WiFi
  • Beats Audio (two internal speakers with a subwoofer)
  • Webcam
  • 7-hour battery
  • 3.9 pounds

Now these things are after all called Ultrabooks and Sleekbooks, and as their name indicates they are a slim 0.78-inches thick.

I wont waste your time. These are my favorite 13-14-inch sub-50K ultraportables in the market. While having similar specifications to the  Samsung Series 5 and the 13-inch Sony Vaio T, these pair of HP Envy have discrete AMD Radeon 7670M graphics with 2 GB of dedicated RAM for about the same price as Samsung offering and Sony's Ultrabook. Basically, this is the most powerful off the three. The 14-inch form factor makes them a tad bit heavier than the Samsung Series 5 or the 13-inch Sony Vaio T, but the Samsung and the Sony are 13-inch Ultrabooks, while the HP Envy's are larger 14-inch ones. So the additional weight does give you are larger display.

Build quality is fine. You get an aluminum lid and palm rest. The keyboard is much better than the terribly shallow keys on the Sony Vaio T, and feels a bit nicer than the Samsung Series 5. A bit of flex towards the center, but not enough to bother me. The HP Envy's look professional while being really cool too. A conservative brushed black finished lid and case is mounted on a deep red bottom panel.  HP has hit a home run with this one.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sony Xperia Go - For the Active

The number of new mid-priced Sony Xperia phones is dazzling. We have the Sony Xperia U and Sola. Than the Sony Xperia Neo L, which is an upgraded version of last years Neo V. Now, you have the new Sony Xperia Go. 

The Xperia Go replaced last years Xperia Active in Sony's line-up. As their names indicate, these phones are the choice for the sports minded and outdoor adventurer types. These phones are IP67 certified as dust and waterproof (1 meter for 30 minutes). 

The Sony Xperia Go has a suggested retail price of Php14,490, but can be had for a bit over Php13K with some retailers. It available for as has very decent specifications for the asking price. 

Quick Specifications:

  • Android 2.3, with a announced upgrade to Android 4.0
  • 3.5-inch, 320 x 480 LCD display, scratch resistant glass
  • 8 GB storage (about 6 GB available to the user), expandable via MicroSD card
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Dual core 1 GHz processor, DB8500 graphical processing unit
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with LED flash
  • No front camera
  • 720p video
  • HSDPA 14.4 Mbps
  • 1305 mAh battery

The phone is pretty thin at 9.8 mm. Especially, when you consider last years Sony Xperia Active was 16.5 mm thick.

What might disappoint is the lower resolution 320 x 480 display and the absence of the front camera. Also, the phone still comes with Gingerbread. Although a Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) update is promised, at this point in time we expect ICS out of the box, with a promise of Jelly Bean (Android 4.1).

Still, if you want a phone to take with you while jogging, biking or hiking, this looks like the best one for you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook NP530U3C-A03PH

Samsung has released a third variant of their 13.3-inch Series 5 Ultrabook. Samsung now has this Ultrabook in three variants. The first does not fall within the definition of an Ultrabook. While it uses the same thin and light frame as its siblings, Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C-A01PH is powered by AMD's A6-4455 Accelerated Processing Unit with a dual core processor and Radeon graphics. This unit is the cheapest among the three, priced at just Php29,900. The second is the Samsung Series 5 NP530U3C-A03PH, powered by Intel's new Ivy Bridge processor, with a power Core i5 dual core processor inside. The Intel Core i5 version, will set you back just Php42,900.

Now Samsung has a third variant, the Samsung Series 5 NP503U3C-A02PH. At the outset, we should say this is our least favorite among the three. It is price at Php38,900, which is 4K cheaper than its higher end sibling. Instead of the Ivy Bridge Core i5, you get an older Sandy Bridge Core i3. 

Other than that, it has identical specifications as its higher end sibling with a good amount of RAM at 4GB, a 500 GB hard drive with a 24 GB SSD cache, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI out, WiFi, webcam and a 4-in-1 card reader. Still, for just 4K more I would rather have the more power, and probably more power efficient Core i5 powered  Samsung Series 5 NP503U3C-A03PH. I would suspect though this model was released to undercut the price of Acers' Series 3 Ultrabook at Php39,900. The Samsung Series 5 NP503U3C-A02PH is the better choice than the Acer S3.

If you are looking for a slim (0.69-inch) and light (3.2 pound) laptop, Samsung with a budget of 30-40K, Samsung has all the bases covered. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nokia Lumia 900 now being offered by Smart at Data Plan 2000

Smart Communications is now offering the Nokia Lumia 900, Nokia's top of the line Windows Phone at Data Plan 2000. The Nokia Lumia 900 is approaching obsolesce, as it will not be getting updated to Windows Phone 8 when it comes out in three months.

Hardware wise, while the Nokia Lumia 900 has a nice screen, the WVGA (480 x 800) resolution and single core processor do not match up well against the top of the line Android Smart is offering with HD displays (720 x 1280) and dual or quad core processors.

For these reason we find this offer perplexing. While you can get the Samsung Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus or HTC One X free at Data Plan 2000, you have to add Php3,500 at Data Plan 2000 to get the Nokia Lumia 900. 

Nokia Philippines sales and marketing, seems to be disconnected with reality.

Nokia Lumia 710 now free from Smart at regular Data Plan 1000

Smart Communications is now again offering the Nokia Lumia 710 at Data Plan 1000. This is different from the Limited Edition Data Plan 1000 they offered this phone a few months ago. 

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a Windows Phone 7.5 device with a 3.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800 display), 8GB of storage, a 5 MP auto focus camera with a flash and a front camera.  Software wise, its biggest draw is probably NDrive, Nokia's voice guided turn by turn Navigation app. Something you will spend a few thousand for on an Android phone or iPhone.

It won't be updated to Windows Phone 8, coming in October 2012, but it will be getting one last update to Windows Phone 7.8.

For the Php1,000 a month plan, you get the phone free, 40 minutes of calls to all networks, 100 SMS to all networks and 100 MB of mobile data. 

Unfortunately it is not a great plan, the calls have a value of Php280, the SMS another Php100 and 100 MB of mobile data is worth Php198. This totals to Php578 a month so services. So basically, you are paying Php422 a month for 24 months for the phone, which is just a bit over 10K. So, it is not really a free phone. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Smart Samsung Galaxy SIII featuring Direct Call

Smart Communications has a commercial featuring the direct call feature of the Samsung Galaxy S III.

Improving the Gnome 3 Desktop

The Gnome 3 desktop has been controversial since its release last year, with many Linux users disagreeing with the design decisions of the Gnome Team. Personally, it has been my favorite desktop environment in the past year. I think most people agree that the empty desktop that Gnome 3 boots too is a bit odd.

Rather than being able to do anything productive, you have to click the Windows Key or move your mouse to the top right corner of the screen in which will reveal a quick launch dock, a link to your to other apps and any open Windows.

There are plenty of available Gnome 3 extensions which allow you to customize the Gnome 3 desktop experience, even allowing you to bring it back to something more like Gnome 2.

I like the stock Gnome 3 experience well enough so I just made minor changes which tweak it in a way I like better. I used the Dash to Dock extension so that the quick launch dock would always be visible unless I run an app full screen. So, when I boot into Gnome 3, this is what I see. 

I also reduced the size of the icons on the dock.

There are 156 extensions right now, which can customize Gnome 3 in different ways, with more being added with each passing week. If you are a Gnome 3 user, give the extensions a look.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Devices with confirmed Android 4.1 Jelly Bean Updates

What have Google Android OEM's have said about Jelly Bean updated (please note, only devices officially released in the Philippines are covered in this post).

1. Google's last two Nexus phones, the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S will be getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

2. HTC has confirmed that the HTC One X and One S will be getting updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Source: The Verge). Notably, there is no mention of the HTC One V, and last years HTC flagships, the HTC Sensation, Sensation XE and Sensation XL.

3. Asus Tranformer Pad, Transformer Prime and Transformer Pad Infinity will be getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Source: BGR).

4. While not official yet, the Samsung Galaxy S III will be getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. But it looks like the Galaxy S II will also be getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (Source: Android Authority). If the Galaxy S II gets Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Note will be getting it too.

HTC Desire HD Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Update Cancelled

HTC's blog has confirmed that the Android 4.0 updated for the HTC Desire HD, released in October 2010 is cancelled. Android 4.0 was released twelve months after the HTC Desire HD was launched so following the eighteen month support policy that Google is trying to enforce on its OEM partners, the HTC Desire HD should have gotten an update to ICS.

While HTC says that ICS will not provide customers with the "best experience", this claim is obviously bogus. HTC has Ice Cream Sandwich installed on phones with less powerful hardware than the HTC Desire HD, like the HTC One V and the HTC Desire C.

Strangely enough, HTC did not cancel Ice Cream Sandwich for the Desire S and Incredible S, which run on the same processor and chipset and RAM and storage as the HTC Desire HD. So if performance was the reason, well ICS should have been canned on these two devices too. 

It really looks like HTC is trying to save a few bucks and time in terms of releasing an Ice Cream Sandwich updated for the HTC Desire HD.

So what is a buyer to do? If updated are a big issue, I would not recommend that you jump over to the Samsung. The did not update their Galaxy S to Ice Cream Sandwich, even though it is essentially the same as the Google Nexus S (built by Samsung) which was updated to Ice Cream Sandwich and is now getting Jelly Bean (Android 4.1).

Sony has plenty of 2011 phones that have less RAM than the HTC Desire HD, but run on the same processor and chipset which it has upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich. If Sony could update it Xperia Mini's and Like with Walkman to Ice Cream Sandwich, there is no reason why HTC could not do the same for their Desire S, for that matter, Samsung for their Galaxy S. 

Best advice? For Android phones buy Nexus phones or buy a Sony.

Apple iPhone 3GS 8GB - First Official Unlocked iPhone in the Philippines

Those wanting an iPhone in the Philippines have had only two options. The first option is to get one from a carrier, either on a postpaid or prepaid plan. The second option was to go to the grey market. Apple's iPhone is now being offered unlocked on retail shelves with a full 12-month warranty. However, the model being offered right now is the three year old Apple iPhone 3GS 8GB. The price for the new phone ranges from Php13,990 to Php14,990 depending on the retailer.

If you have been wanting a unlocked low cost iPhone, well now you have one. But unless you are dead set on an iPhone, this is not what we would recommend. While there is nothing particularly wrong with this phone, it is just that it is starting to show its age. The 3.5 inch (320 x 480) display has half as many pixels as you find on similarly priced phones. The picture quality 3.25 MP camera makes you realize why Instagram was so popular with iPhone owners. The 256 MB of RAM, 600 MHz ARM Cortex A-8 processor and HSPA 7.2 Mbps connectivity is no longer up to snuff. On the plus side, it does run the latest version of iOS. It currently runs iOS 5.1 well enough given the hardware. The iPhone 3GS will also be getting the next version of iOS, iOS 6 minus several features. So on the operating system front things do not look so bad.

If you want an iPhone, this is the cheapest one you are going to find with an official warranty. If you are open to other smartphones, the Sony Xperia U, Sony Xperia Neo L and HTC One V are much better choices for the same, or even less money.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Acer TravelMate B113 - Budget Priced Ultraportable

Acer's budget price ultraportable laptop, the Acer TravelMate B133, is now available in the Philippines. Some would call this laptop a netbook. But with an 11.6-inch display with the standard laptop 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, and a dual core Intel Celeron B877 processor inside, which provides twice the processing power of an Intel Atom, we will call this one a laptop.

Priced at Php16,999 this laptop comes with a decent kit. It has  2 GB's of RAM and a 320 GB hard drive. It also comes with some things you won't expect to find at this price range. The Acer TravelMate B133 comes with a USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out and Bluetooth 4.0. You get the usual laptop trimmings like a card reader, webcam and WiFi. The battery is also the typical 4400 mAh unit you would expect to find in a laptop, which should be good for five hours or so of battery life. Weight is a reasonable 3.1 pounds and it is 1.1 inches thick. 

Now, the Acer TravelMate B133 is supposed to come with a Linux operating system, but the display model I saw has Windows 7 Starter installed, which the retailer was willing to throw in for free.

It is a decent laptop.  The keyboard is decent, though with a bit of flex when typing on the middle keys. All in all, nothing much to complain about for the asking price. Right now, it is what I would recommend for 11.6-inch laptops. I do not like it better than Sony's 11.6-inch Vaio E, bit that will cost you 5-7K more. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices to his shelves by September 7, 2012?

Will we be seeing a Nokia Lumia Windows 8 Phone device by September 2012? That is pretty much a certainty as far was we are concerned. Nokia World is set to begin in September 5. So we do expect to see at least three new Nokia Windows Phone 8 devices announced at Nokia World. What we are less sure about is when they get to the market. My Nokia Blog has a very interesting picture taken at a Nokia store in Helsinki, Finland which seems to indicated that we may actually see the actual Nokia Lumia Windows Phone 8 devices on the shelves by September 7, 2012.

Notice the QR code? For more on that, go to My Nokia Blog.

Nokia is hemorrhaging cash. It needs to get Windows Phone 8 devices out in the market as soon as possible. Preferably, before Apple launches its next iPhone and Google launches its next Nexus phone, which two events we expect to happen not later than October or November of this year. Will Nokia be able to head off the new Apple on Google flagship phones? We will find out in a month and a half. But, there is no question that Nokia has to launch its new Windows Phone 8 devices as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Android 2.3, Gingerbread, Will Be Around For A Long Time, And Why It Is Not A Bad Thing

There has been a lot of hubbub on Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, being installed on only 10% of all Android devices with the majority of the devices running on Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread. Fragmentation! Google should take control of its ecosystem! If you look at the industry this will not change any time soon. 

Gingerbread runs on fairly modest hardware, allowing Android phones in 2011 to go below the Php6,000 barrier (about US$140). The best known example of this is the popular Samsung Galaxy Y. In 2012 the Samsung Galaxy Y has been replaced by a similar low cost phone, the Samsung Galaxy Pocket. LG, Huawei and ZTE are also producing sub-US$140 phones. These companies will probably be producing Gingebread only phones till the end of this year or even beyond. There is even news, that some Chinese phone makers will be producing US$50 phones.

Right now the cheapest Android 4.0 phones in the market are still priced at Php10,990 (US$258). It will be some time before the hardware cost go down so that the US$140 phones will be running Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. And much longer till US$50 phones will be running Jelly Bean.

So, you should look at Gingerbread as a long term fork in the Android operating system. Is this a bad thing? If you have the money, get an Android 4.0 phone. On this blog, for a few months now, we recommend only getting phones that run, or have committed upgraded to Android 4.0. We could do that because there are still stocks of Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini's in the market which would cost you just a little more than a Samsung Galaxy Pocket or a LG Optimus L3.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini's are all but gone from the market. There are no new low cost smartphones running Android 4.0, Windows Phone, iOS or BlackBerry OS, at the US$140 price range.  We are left with a decision of recommending only more expensive devices or recommending a phone on a outdated operating system.

There is no shame in not wanting to spend too much on a phone. An Gingerbread powered Android phone is still better than the alternative: a low cost Symbian phone. Also, Gingerbread Android phones do work. 

Gingerbread will be here for a long time. It will make up the majority of the Android phones for a long time to come. Some have been asking Google to clamp down on their manufacturers. Really, this is like telling people, you are not rich enough to afford a smartphone. Having Gingerbread around for some time to come, is not such a bad thing. 

Ainol Novo 7 Mars - A Decent 7-inch Android Tablet for 4.5K

You should consider this tablets if you main use is web browsing, social networking and gaming. They are small and light to carry and have a decent four hours or more of battery life. Some tablets are so inexpensive that it really makes access to mobile computing really inexpensive.  There are plenty of low cost tablets these days from manufacturers like Ainol, Archos, BMorn and Onda to name a few.  These tablets can be found with screen sizes from 7, 8 and 9.7-inch screens. Price ranges starting at Php3,000 to over Php10,000.

On the lower end of the price spectrum is the Ainol Novo 7 Mars at Php4,500. I was able to take a look at one of these in Digitag, while there to buy a hard disk power control module, and was pleasantly surprised at what it offered.

The Ainol Novo 7 Mars is a WiFi tablet with a 7-inch display with a decent 1024 x 600 resolution. Most tablets in this price range have a lower 800 x 480 pixel resolution. Inside is a 1 GHz processor, Mali 400 Graphics, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage and a 3700 mAh battery. Storage is expandable via a MicroSD card, with support for cards of up to 32 GB. The Ainol Novo 7 Mars comes with Android 4.0.3 pre-installed and has access to the Android Market. 

Some other things you might be looking for are not there. The Aino Novo 7 Mars does not have a primary camera, Bluetooth, GPS and HDMI out. Still not bad for the money.

Do we recommend these China tablets? Sure. The hardware not bad for what you pay. Build quality is so so, but they do work. Warranty is only three months. Still, for the asking price it is not a bad deal. 

There are lots of cheap tablet to avoid in this category. Don't buy anything running Android 2.3 or earlier. Do not buy those with 800 x 480 displays. The Ainol Novo 7 Mars is a cheap tablet worth buying.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google's Android Dominates US and European Markets

A Kantar Worldpanel ComTech study of the market share or mobile operating systems in seven countries reveals that Android is now the dominant mobile operating system in several countries. The study covers Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, United States and Spain. The data gathered was for the period of April to June 2012.

Google's Android market share is highest in Spain, where it has corned 84.1% of the market, followed by Germany where it has a 68.5% of the market. Among the seven countries studied, Android lowest market share was in Italy, where Android garnered 49.6% of the market. Android was the dominant operating system in all the seven countries studied. The situation is similar in the Philippines, where an April 2012 study shows that Android captured 82.2% of the local market.

Apple's highest penetration in the seven countries studied is in the United States where it has a 37.4% market share, followed by Australia where iOS has 30.5% of the market. Apple iOS is weakest in Spain where it only has 3.2% of the market. Notably, the market share of Apple's iOS declined in 2012, compared to the same period in 2011 in five of the seven countries.

RIM's fortunes are not looking too good, only capturing a double digit market share in Great Britain at 10.6%, with its lowest market share being in Australia were it accounts for 0.1% of the market.

Microsoft Windows Phone 7, has 5.4% of the market in Germany and 4.8% of the market in Australia. Lowest penetration for Windows Phone 7 is in Spain where is has 1.7% of the market. 

LG Optimus L5 E610 - Low Cost ICS Android Smartphone

LG has released the third of their L series phones in the Philippines, the L5. The LG Optimus L5 E610 is an entry level Android phone which comes with Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. It is a direct competitor to the recently released HTC Desire C, which we are not terrible fond off. With a suggested retail price of Php10,990 with a 4-inch display, this phone initially looks like a great deal. But as much as we like larger displays, we wish this one came with a smaller. The 4-inch display of the  LG Optimus L5 E610 is a HVGA display, which means is has a decent 320 x 480 screen resolution. But on a 4-inch display, a HVGA display looks rather pixelated. 

It has the same processor you find in the LG Optimus L7, but this time clocked at a slower 800 MHz. Basically, the phone will run well enough, but not something we would recommend to a gamer or power user. The phone has a decent amount of internal storage at 4 GB, 2.5 GB of which is user accessible. The internal storage, The phone also comes with a 5MP auto focus camera with a flash, but no secondary camera. The battery is a 1500 mAh unit.  As you can tell, we are terribly bored now. Best we can say for this phone is that it is stylishly thin at 9.5 millimeters.

It is a competitor to the HTC Desire C, which we do not like. And LG has gave us no reason to feel differently about their Optimus L5. If you are looking at this price range, we would recommend that you look instead at the Sony Xperia Neo L, HTC One V or the dual core Sony Xperia U. The Sony Xperia Neo L and HTC One V have single core 1 GHz processors, which are of a newer design and is much faster than the A5 processors they use in the LG Optimus L7 and L5.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Asus X401A - Low Cost Thin & Light

Cheap 14-inch laptops are a dime a dozen these days, but the new Asus X401A is pretty much in a class by itself  because of its light 4.1 pound weight and thickness of over an inch at the thickest point. Achieving this does mean ditching the optical drive. I guess it depends on the user, but I have not used a optical drive in years. So, the Asus X401A is thin, light and as we said earlier cheap. It cost just Php22,990 with Windows Home Basic installed, and can be had for Php20,990 without an operating system for those of you looking for a low cost Linux box or own a retail copy of Windows 7.

It comes reasonably well equipped for the price. The processor is an Intel B970 backed up by 2GB of RAM, and 500 GB hard drive. It has a card reader and the other standard equipment you can expect to find in a laptop these days. The 6-cell battery is rated at 4400 mAh, again what you expect from a laptop in this price range. In addition, it has Altec Lansing speakers, HDMI out and a new fast USB 3.0. The USB 3.0 port is still a rarity in low cost laptops these days.  

This laptop is not targeted at the corporate user. This is clear from the color choice available, which are dark blue and green. Build quality is good, but premium materials are not used. Don't expect to see even faux aluminum. 

Would I recommend it? Yes. If you are looking for a full sized laptop which is easy to carry around, you really won't find anything like this. The typical low cost 14-inch laptop usually weighs in at 5-pounds of more. 

Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V Ultrabook

The Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V is the lower cost variant of the Asus Zenbook line. This 13.3-inch laptop cuts cost by using a lower resolution (1366 x 768) display, a hybrid drive instead of a solid state drive (SSD). A hybrid drive is a conventional mated with a small SSD. The SSD is used to speed up some functions, like resuming from sleep. Some users would probably prefer the larger 500 GB storage of the Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V, as opposed to the 256 GB SSD storage of the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V.

It comes with the Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 4 GB of RAM we see in most Ultrabooks these days. A bit of a surprise is that this Ultrabook comes with discrete graphics, a NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M graphics card, with 1 GB of RAM. 

Being an Ivy Bridge system, you get all the expected ports and slots, with a USB 3.0, HDMI out, Bluetooth 4.0 and a SD card slot. The Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V also sports a back-lit keyboard. 

Physically the Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V is identical to the higher end Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V. Because of the use of a conventional hard drive, the Asus Zenbook UX32 is a bit thicker than the UX31A, but both are still just 0.7-inches thick at the thickest point. The conventional drive also makes the Asus Zenbook UX32 a bit heavier, at 3.2 pounds, compared to the 2.9 pounds of the UX31A.

The cost cutting brings the price of the Asus Zenbook UX32VD-R3001V to Php59,990. That is all 10K cheaper than the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V - Full HD Ultabook

Most Ultrabooks in the local market have ditched the SSD drive in favor or a hybrid (conventional hard drive + SSD cache drive) in the interest of keeping the cost down. Looking at the available options right now, if you want an Ultrabook or Ultrabook like device, you have Apple's MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9 and Asus new Zenbook Prime as your options with an SSD drive installed by default. 

The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V is a fairly expensive notebook, at Php69,900. It is cheaper than Samsung 9 Series Ultrabooks and the Apple MacBook Air with a 256 GB SSD which are priced at Php76,900 and Php72,900, respectively.

 With a 13.3-inch screen the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V is a direct competitor to the 13-inch MacBook Air (256 GB). Between the two, the Asus Zenbook Prime has the edge in hardware.

The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V comes with a Full HD IPS (1920 x 1080) display, as compared to the lower resolution 1440 x 900 display on the 13-inch MacBook Air. If you ask me, a full HD display on a 13.3-inch laptop may be too much of a good thing but I will concede that it does allow for playing Full HD content in its native size and makes pictures look sharper. Please note that some lower priced Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A's come with a 1600 x 900 display, so check the specifications well before you purchase if you want the 1080p display.

The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V also comes with a faster Intel Core 17 processor, a 3157U which is faster than the Core i5 unit you find on the MacBook Air.
The other specifications of the two are nearly identical with similar size and wright, both with  4 GB of RAM, back-lit keyboards, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0. Both have nearly identical battery life. The main differences are in the ports. The MacBook Air has a Thunderbolt port while the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A has HDMI out. The Thunderbolt port is more impressive in terms of technology, but HDMI out is more useful in real world use. Not that many Thunderbolt compatible peripherals in the market. Plugging a MacBook Air to your LCD TV still requires an adapter.

Of course, the other major difference is that the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A-R4003V runs Windows 7 Home Premium, while the MacBook Air runs on Mac OSX.  I think, this will be the major factor in selecting which among these two you prefer. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sony Xperia Ion - Sony's New Flagship

Sony is also launching is Xperia Ion in the Philippines. We are a bit surprised to see this in the Philippine market, since this was originally announced as an LTE device, compatible with US LTE networks. But apparently, a HSPA only version has also been released. Yugatech reports the suggested retail price will be Php29,900.

So, what is the Ion? Essentially it is a larger Sony Xperia S, with a larger 4.55-inch display. Instead of the 32 GB non-expandable internal storage found in the Xperia S, it comes with 16 GB of internal storage, expandable via MicroSD card. The Ion has a larger 1900 mAh battery than the 1750 mAh unit found in the Xperia S, which is good since it has a larger and presumably more power hungry display. It also comes with a faster HSDPA 21.1 Mbps radio, instead of the 14.4 Mbps radio on the Xperia S. In this sense it is more of a match to the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X. 

But we are not too crazy about this offering. Like the Xperia S, the Ion has a Qualcomm S3 processor inside. For a 2012 flagship we would like to see a Qualcomm S4, Tegra 3 or Exynos Quad based system, all of which have more modern power saving features. 

Quick Specs:
  • Operating system: Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich committed
  • Display: 4.55-inch (1280 x 720 pixel resolution) 
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.5GHz on a  Snapdragon MSM8260 chipset
  • Graphics: Adreno 220 GPU
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 16B expandable via a MicroSD card
  • Primary camera: 12-megapixel Exmor-R
  • Secondary camera: 1.3-megapixel secondary
  • Video: 1080p HD recording at 30fps
  • 3G Data: HSDPA, 14.4 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.8 Mbps
  • WiFi: 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: Yes, w/ A2DP
  • HDMI out: Yes
  • GPS: Yes
  • Battery: Li-Ion 1900mAh
  • MSRP: Php29,990
Finally, it still comes with Android 2.3 out of the box.

The iON is a nice phone which lacks those compelling features which scream "BUY ME!"

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sony Xperia Neo L - A nice update but not as market shaking as 2011's Neo V

When Sony Ericsson released its Xperia Neo V in November of last year, we were amazed. Selling for a bit over 13K, is had a 1 GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon inside. This processor was found on more expensive phones like the HTC Desire S and HTC Desire HD, but the Xperia Neo V had a much lower price. Coupled with a high resolution 3.7-inch display, 512 MB of RAM and 320 MB of expandable storage, we said it was phone most buyers could buy, without regretting not buying something more expensive.

Yugatech reports that Sony is releasing a updated version of the the Xperia Neo V, the Xperia Neo L, next week. The suggested retail price of the Xperia Neo L is Php12,490. The Sony Xperia Neo L, is essentially a Xperia Neo V, with a larger 4-inch display in a slightly slimmer case.  

Quick specifications:
  • Android OS (Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • 4-inch (480 x 854) LCD
  • 1 GHz Scorpion processor
  • Adreno 205 GPU
  • Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon
  • 512MB RAM
  • 300MB internal storage expandable up to 32GB via MicroSD card
  • 5MP auto focus 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

Is the new Xperia L as good a deal today as the Xperia Neo V was last year? Surprisingly, it is. It's primary competitors on the market are the HTC One V and the Sony's own Xperia U. 

Versus the Sony Xperia U. The Sony Xperia U, has a suggested retail price of Php13,990, but these days can be bought for less than 12K with an official warranty. It is the cheapest dual core phone in the market, which is the main reason to select this phone. 

The Sony Xperia U has a smaller 3.5-inch display and it does not come with a MicroSD card slot. Overall it is a better package than the Sony Xperia Neo L, but it has 6 GB of user available internal storage (2GB for apps and 4 GB for media, pictures and documents), and that is either enough for you or not. If you want a larger display or need more storage than the Sony Xperia Neo L is the better choice among the two.

Versus the HTC One V. The Sony Xperia Neo L pretty much matches the specifications of the HTC One V at a lower price. The Xperia Neo L actually has a larger 4-inch display versus the 3.7-inch display on the One V. 

On the minus side, the Sony Xperia Neo L has only 300 MB of internal storage, which is less than a third of the internal storage on the HTC One V. The storage is expandable via a MicroSD card, but not all apps can be installed on the MicroSD card.  This is a bit disappointing since even entry level phones like the  Samsung Pocket and LG Optimus L3 have much more internal storage than the Xperia Neo V.

The Xperia Neo L, is slimmer than the last years model, but at 12.2 mm it really is looking chunky this year with newer model being in the 10 mm or less range. The One V is just 9.2 mm thick. Also, it still uses physical buttons rather than the capacitive buttons used in most phones these days.

The HTC One V, can be found in the market now for just Php13,290, or about 1K more than the Sony Xperia Neo L. Overall, I like the HTC One V better.

Our take. At around 12-13K, the Sony Xperia U is still our favorite. Dual core power gives it more longevity in our book. For those wanting expandable storage, the HTC One V is a good choice. Those who want a larger display should take a look at the Sony Xperia Neo L.

Globe Telecom offering the Nokia Lumia 610 Plan 999

The Nokia Lumia 610 is the lowest priced Windows Phone device available. It retails for Php10,990 and offers a decent kit for the price, with a 3.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display and 8 GB of internal storage. It also has Nokia Drive. Nokia's voice guided turn by turn navigation system. It has a decent 5 MP camera, though video recording is limited to VGA quality. On the downside, it wont be upgraded to the next version of the Windows Phone operating system, Windows Phone 8. Still, that is always a tradeoff when buying entry level smartphones.

Globe Telecom is offering the Nokia Lumia 610 at Plan 999. You can get it under a consumable plan with three freebies, although a Data Add-On is required. The cheapest Data Add-On is 50 MB of data at Php99.

So for Php1,098 you can get the Nokia Lumia 610 free with:

  • Php999 consumable
  • 10 minutes free calls within the Globe network*
  • 200 free SMS within the Globe network*
  • 10 minutes free calls to other networks*
  • 50 free SMS to other networks*

*You can pick a different combination of freebies.

The other option is to get it under a data plan. For Php999 you can the Nokia Lumia 610 free, with  one freebie:

  • Unlimited data access
  • 10 minutes free calls within the Globe network
  • 200 free SMS within the Globe network*

*You can pick a different freebie.

Two year lock-in period applies in either case.
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