Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ainol Novo 7 Flame Android Jelly Bean Tablet

Ainol has released a continuos stream of low cost tablets, with each generation offering more up-market offerings. Ainol's newest flagship is the Ainol Novo Flame. For the asking price of Php9,999 the Flame has decent specifications:

OS: Android 4.02 out of the box with a Android 4.1 Jelly Bean update available
Display: 7 inch IPS screen, 1280*800 pixel
Storage: 16GB

MicroSD card slot: Yes

CPU:. 1.5GHz
 dual core AMLogic AML8726-M6 

GPU: Dual Core Mali40

Camera:  5.0 Megapixel Auto Foucus with LED Flash
Secondary (Front) Camera: 5.0 Megapixel
Connectivity: WiFi
Ports: 3.5 mm earphone jack, Mini USB and HDMI out
Battery: 5000 mAh

The Ainol Novo 7 Flame has a steel case back, giving it a more premium look than other similarly priced offerings.

The tablet is a reasonable 10.6mm
 thin and weighs in a just 336g.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sony is now rolling out Ice Cream Sandwich updates for the Xperia Go, U and Sola.

In terms of software updates, I think Sony is now the top Android manufacturer in this regard. Sony does not just take care of its top of the line phones, but even humble offerings like the Sony Live with Walkman got upgraded to Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich").

Sony is now rolling out Ice Cream Sandwich updates for it mid-to-entry level range 2012 phones, the Xperia Go, U and Sola.

Hello everyone,
Today we’re starting our software rollout for Xperia go, Xperia U and Xperia sola including Ice Cream Sandwich Android 4.0 upgrade and new unique media applications. The rollout will continue over the next few weeks in markets globally.
Some of the cool features and functionality you can look forward to include:
  • New ways to experience your tunes, images, videos and films with Sony’s media applications – “WALKMAN”, “Album” and “Movies”
  • Extended standby mode, increasing standby time by up to four times (depending on user-profile and data consumption)
  • Lock screen with improved functionality
  • Resizable widgets for improved personalization
  • Improved control of your mobile data consumption
  • Recent Apps button for a clear overview of your applications
I’m also excited to tell you about “Glove Mode” – a sweet feature in the software upgrade for Xperia sola (known as Xperia sole in some markets). It’s an extension of our “floating touch” technology that makes it possible to use your Xperia sola in the cold whilst wearing gloves… just in time for the winter months. My colleagues at Developer World have taken a closer look – head on over to check it out!
We’re kicking-off the rollout today, and ramping it up over the weekend – from mid next week you’ll be able to see software kits as they’re released (customized specific to your operator and handset) on our support community. Please check-back then for the direct link and continue to do so, as the list will be updated when new kits become available.
It’s worth noting that in order to upgrade, you will need to connect to a PC or Mac – please visit and follow the instructions.
Thanks for all your questions so far and as always, feel free to drop a comment or question below.
*The availability and scheduling of this software upgrade and specific models upgradeable to Android 4.0 will vary by market and carrier requirements

Source: Quote and Image from the Sony Xperia Product Blog

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Google Play Hits 25 Billion Downloads! US$0.25 App Promo as a Thank You.

Google Play Hits 25 Billion Downloads a few hours ago. In celebration, apps will be sold at a discounted price of US$0.25 over the next five days. 

So far I noticed Gameloft's Asphalt 7, Rovio's Angry Birds Space Premium, Kemco's Symphony of EternityGranny SmithDraw Something and NFL Kicker 13  are all selling at just Php10.44 as part of the promotional sale.

On the non-gaming apps we have OfficeSuite Pro 6 +, Tasks and Ocean HD at just Php10.44.

I already bought Tasks a few months back. Great app. But I did pick up OfficeSuite Pro 6 + and Symphony of Eternity. 

I might not see some apps on sale, as I have bought several already. If you find anything else on sale, please do share it in the comments section.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apple iPhone 4S free at Plan 1500 from Smart

I do not have many details on Smart's Switch Madness promo, to be held at EDSA Shangri-la Mall on September 28-29, 2012. One thing that caught my eye in the teaser was that the Apple iPhone 4S would be offered free at Plan 1500, presumably to switchers from other networks.

Click for a larger image

If you have been wanting an iPhone, this might be a good time to get one.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S Advance and Galaxy Ace 2 to get Jelly Bean

Samsung has had two pieces of very interesting hardware I have been ignoring in my buyers guides, because they did not have commitments for Ice Cream Sandwich updates, the Samsung Galaxy S Advance and Galaxy Ace 2 to get Jelly Bean.

Well now they are lined up for a Jelly Bean update!  

The Galaxy S III, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Chat, Galaxy Beam, Galaxy Ace Plus, Galaxy Mini 2, and Galaxy S Duos and four tablets: the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and  Galaxy Note 10.1 are all also confirmed by Samsung for Jelly Bean updates.

Source: The Verge

Monday, September 24, 2012

Where in the World is Mary Grace? (Or, why Apple Maps makes the iPhone and iPad dumb devices in the Philippines)

Smartphones are wonderful, if sometimes creepy things. They are aware of where we are and that allows them to give us information relevant to us. The most useful of these features is maps and locations. Last Saturday night I tried to search for the nearest Mary Grace Cafe branch, and Apple Maps proved to be rather useless. 

This something that everyone else gets right. An Android phone using Google Maps has no problem finding every single branch for you. A simple "mary grace" search, gives you the cafe and other places similarly named, with the cafe, being the most prominent Mary Grace in the Philippines, being highlighted in the results. 

Clicking the results list allows you to scroll through all the hits.

Google Maps or Locations (whichever app you decide to use) will also give me directions.

Windows Phone

When Windows Phone joined the fray, it biggest disadvantage in the Philippines was Bing Maps. With Nokia Maps, a Windows Phone can not compete with Google Maps and Locations. Not always having a Windows Phone device to I asked @levine of TipidCP to help me out.

As you can see, Windows Phone 7.5 will find the closest relevant entry to you, show you other relevant hits and give you driving directions.

As you can see, the Nokia Maps and results are not as polished as Googles. On the other hand Nokia does give you offline voice guided turn by turn navigation. Google will not give you voice guidance and you cannot do it offline.

Apple iPhone and iPad

Before iOS 6, Apple iPhones and iPad used the same excellent Google Maps service. Since iOS 6, they  use Apple maps.

What does the iPhone do when I search for Mary Grace. It wants me to buy a ticket, fly to the United States and visit a Catholic Church there.

Over time Apple can populate the missing info. The problem is, before they do that they have to fix the maps they are using.

Compare Apple map info (left) to Google maps info (right).

Basically, Apple smart iPhone and iPads have are not so smart in the Philippines. How long before this is corrected? I do not know.

Siri was pretty useless in the Philippines in 2011 except in answering questions relating to information about other countries or general information. A year later it still is. But Siri was an optional feature easy to ignore. Maps and locations.... well lets put it this way, would buy a phone without GPS and where people cannot sent you the location of your appointments to your address book?

Until Google or Nokia release an iPhone app, buying a new iPhone means giving up smartphone core functionality in the Philippines. If you already own one, do yourself a favor and stick with iOS 5.1.1. Or you could buy third party navigation software from the iOS store. This won't correct all the issues, but it is better than nothing.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apple Maps versus Google Maps at the University of the Philippines

Apple on the left, Google on the right. Click for a larger image.

No commentary necessary.

The worst thing about the Apple iPhone 5 is that it comes with iOS6

Trying to search for the nearest branch of a cafe last night on a Apple iPhone 4, updated to iOS 6 is that the Maps application is virtually useless in the Philippines. I have read complaints from users abroad saying that it takes them to the wrong place. No similar problems in the Philippines. It won't know the place exists in the first place. 

Google Maps finds every branch in the country, and even some obscure places with the same name I did not know existed.

The problem would be a poor database. For places in the database, trial and error will be needed to find out if they are in the correct place.  Another issue, could be typographical errors so the Map will not identify the place you are looking for. A friend of mine on her iPad 3 tweeted "check out UPD map. Kalayaan residence hall typed as 'Kalayaan Schoolicidence' haha!." A simple spell check should have detected that. 

Over time that will probably be corrected. But this habit of Apple launching beta software is getting tiring. Last year, it launched Siri, as a beta, but from Apple advertisements you would not think it was beta software. But, it was not a big deal. It was an additional feature which you could simply ignore.

Mapping and locations software is one of the key features what makes a smartphone a smartphone. Apple's iOS5 had a very good map and locations software, in Google Maps and Places. iOS6, well it uses Apple Maps, which should not even be called Apple Maps Beta. It should be considered an Alpha release. 

So while Apple wows us with supposedly better 3D views and features, basically, iOS6 throws all the nice hardware in the iPhone 5 back to the stone age.

Apple, please fix Maps. In the meantime, give users back Google Maps.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Lenovo IdeaPad S300 and S400

Lenovo has released two new slim notebooks, the Lenovo IdeaPad S300 and the S400. Both models are impressively thin a 0.8 inches at the thickest point and weighs in a just 4 pounds. This makes it lighter than a MacBook Pro, and almost as light as premium laptops like the Sony Vaio S.

Both the S300 and S400 come with the all the connectivity options which you would expect in a current laptop like USB 3.0, HDMI out, Bluetooth, WiFi and a card reader. Both laptops come with 500 GB hard drives.

The S300 is the lower end model priced at just Php21,995 (without an OS). It comes with a 13.3-inch HD (1366 x 766) display with 1.6 GHz with an Intel Pentium 997 processor, Intel HD 2000 graphcis, and 2 GB of RAM.

More interesting is the S400, which costs a bit more at Php24,995. The S400 has a larger 14-inch HD (1366 x 766) display and slightly larger as the S300. The S400 also comes with a faster 1.4 GHz with an Intel Core i3 2365-M processor, faster Intel HD 3000 graphics, and double the RAM at 4 GB of RAM.

Both laptops come in silver grey, with the S400 also being available in crimson red, and the S300 also coming in pink.

Friday, September 21, 2012

HTC Windows Phone 8S

In addition to the new HTC Windows Phone flagship, the 8X, HTC has announced a new mid-level offering, the HTC Windows Phone 8S. Before going into the specifications, I would like to talk about the design. Like the HTC Windows Phone 8X, the 8S does not look like a HTC. It also look like it is designed with younger users in mind coming in a variety of bright colors. Well, I will say it. It looks like a Nokia.

The phone has a 4-inch display, a decent size. Three years ago, 4-inch was considered big. Today is is decidedly mid-sized and I do expect that the 4-inch display will be the new standard size from mid-level smartphones, a slight move up from the older 3.7 to 4-inch displays. The 4-inch display has a 480 x 800 resolution, 4 GB of storage expandable via a MicroSD card, a 5 MP camera, a 1 GHz dual core 28 nm Qualcom krait processor and 512 MB of RAM, HSDPA connectivity and of course, Beats Audio.

Nothing exciting for the enthusiast, although this phone is not targeted at them. I expect this phone to come out at the Php15,000 or so price range, which basically means it will have no direct competitor in the Windows Phone 8 line-up, and looks like it will be the cheapest Windows Phone 8 handset, for now at least.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

HTC Windows Phone 8X

HTC has announced two Windows Phone 8 devices, the HTC Windows Phone 8X and 8S. The 8X is the higher end model. The HTC 8X has a 4.3-inch HD (720 x 1280) display, a 1.5 GHz dual core Qualcomm processor and Adreno 225 graphics, 1 GB of RAM and LTE connectivity like the other top of the line Windows Phone offering from Nokia and Samsung.

How does the HTC Windows Phone 8X distinguish itself from the other new Windows Phone 8 offerings? The HTC Windows Phone 8X also looks to have the same improved 8 MP f/2.0 camera in other HTC models released this year, but it is not likely that it will match the Pureview camera with Carl Zeiss optics on the Nokia Lumia 920. It also does not have the USB-on-the-Go support that you have on the Lumia model, and it comes with 16 GB of internal storage, less than the 32 GB found in the Nokia Lumia 920.

On the other hand the HTC Windows Phone 8X does come with a MicroSD card slot. It is a also slightly trimmer and much lighter phone. It comes in a light 130 grams, compared to the near brick like (for a phone) 185 grams of the Lumia 920.  The HTC Windows Phone 8X does have a smaller 4.3-inch display compared to the 4.5-inch display found on the Nokia Lumia 920. Of course, it support Beats Audio which is bolstered by a dedicated audio amplifier.

So I think it would be fair to say that while the Nokia Lumia 920 will be the premier Windows Phone 8 camera phone, HTC plans to sell you on its sounds. 

Compare to the Samsung ATIV S, while both phones are also similar specifications wise the Samsung offering is much larger coming in with a 4.8-inch display. But that Samsung is a lot thinner, at 8.7 mm, than the HTC Windows Phone 8X and Nokia Lumia 920.

Strangely and fortunately each of the new Windows Phone 8 flagships is similar but offering a distinct size of feature set from the others. Decidedly, the HTC looks like it is the lowest end model among the three.

I am a bit disappointed with the design. I was hoping for something more along the lines of the sleek HTC One S.  The HTC Windows Phone 8X looks more like a Nokia than an HTC. It comes in tons of colors too.

So which Windows Phone 8 device is for you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Speculating on the Google Galaxy Nexus II - Part 2

In the first part of this article, I wrote about what Google where Google should be conservative with its Google Nexus S II. But there are several areas where the new Nexus should step up.

5 MP camera to 8 MP. When the Google Nexus One came out it had a 5 MP camera, big for its day. While not a great shooter, the specs sheet looked right. Two versions later, the Nexus phone is still on a 5 MP camera. When the Galaxy Nexus launched last year, it was the only "flagship" grade phone with a 5 MP camera, everyone else having moved on to 8 MP or larger camera. Google should rectify that this year. 

Micro SDCard slot.  The last two Nexus phones, drop the MicroSD card. This year HTC and Sony followed suit with most of their phones. Samsung, the top selling Android manufacturer, keeps a MicroSD card on its phones. This is a feature Android users who already have 32 GB, 64 GB and even 128 GB MicroSD cards on their phone want.

Bigger battery. Increases in processing power will be felt only the gamers, and with Android 4.1.1, every phone fortunate enough to get it will run faster. But longer battery life is someone everyone can benefit from. It is also the weakest spot of Android top competitor, the Apple iPhone 5. 

If Motorola can put a 2530 mAh battery in its 8.4 mm Motorola DROID RAZR HD, and keep the weight down to a reasonable 146 grams, Google should consider doing the same with its Galaxy Nexus S II. This alone will make this phone a compelling option in the sea of Androids. 

Super AMOLED Plus Display? Another thing the Galaxy Nexus was scored for was the 720p Super AMOLED PenTile matrix display. I have no issues with the 720p display on the Galaxy Nexus, putting a Super AMOLED Plus display will keep the purist quite, and would give the phone more of a wow factor. Still, I am fine with the current display.

So, will a Galaxy Nexus, with a faster processor, upgraded camera,  MicroSD card slot and bigger battery be enough for you to make a buy decision on a Nexus phone?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Speculating on the Google Galaxy Nexus II - Part 1

Rumor is Google will be building three Nexus phones this year, which should be on sale be the end of the year. One Nexus, to be built by Sony, is rumored to be focus on the camera. A second Nexus, to be built by LG is said to be a waterproof and dust proof Nexus phone. The the third, well it would be the successor of the Google Galaxy Nexus, and is rumored to be built by Samsung.

Windows Phone 8 devices now match the specifications of high end Android phones. The new 4-inch Apple iPhone 5 basically matches the specifications of what a high end 4-inch Android would be like (if high end 4-inch Android phones were still constructed, the smallest high end Android phones these days are 4.3-inches). What should Google do with its next Galaxy Nexus S?

Where Google should maintain the status quo.

4.65-inch display. The 4.65 inch display of the Google Galaxy Nexus, with the onscreen keys is about the equivalent of a 4.4-inch display with dedicated hardware buttons. It is not a monster phone anymore by current Android standards These days, 4.7 to 4.8 inch displays with dedicated hardware buttons are the new Android monster phones. Google could come out with a 5-inch phone with dedicates software keys. This would essentially be a Samsung Galaxy S III with on-screen keys. But I think Google should leave the monster smartphone clash to its OEM's. The large a phone gets, the more it serves a niche market. 

Instead Google should focus on building a slightly smaller frame around its current 4.65-inch display. Cut 1-2 mm from the width, and 2-4 mm from the height, and give the same sized display in a smaller package. 

1GB of RAM. The Google Galaxy Nexus already has 1 GB of RAM. It could go to 2 GB's just to upstage the Apple iPhone 5 and it Windows Phone rivals. To me this would make little sense. A Nexus phone runs vanilla Android. Much lighter than the OEM versions with TouchWiz, Sense or other interface which eat more RAM. 

The Android OS should not evolve to something that needs more than 512 GB of RAM for at least the next version (Key Lime Pie) and not more than 1 GB of RAM for the 2014 version of Android. Google should keep its next Nexus to just 1 GB of RAM. Google should leave the 2 GB frontier to its OEM partners.

The processor. While you now have quad core Kraits and ARM Cortex-A15's being available, for the same reason that Google's Galaxy Nexus need not have 2 GB of RAM, it also does not have to come with the most spectacular processor. The Qualcomm's S4 with its dual core Kraits in would be a fine option. If Samsung or Nvidia can get an on-chip LTE solution in their chipsets on time, a Exynos quad or quad core Tegra 3, a quad core chip would be a strong marketing point, though not necessarily better than an Qualcomm S4.

The cheap feeling case. Whether you make a case from aluminum or plastic or some other premium quality material, if you want to remove the last trace of creak in a case, it is easy remove the battery cover. But Android owners expect a user replaceable battery, and a bit of creak is worth having the option to replace batteries or replace it with an extended battery.

So basically, what I am describing here so far is a Google Galaxy Nexus with an updated processor in a trimmed down package. But there are some area where Google should make substantial changes, to one up the competition.

Part 2 of this article is here.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lenovo S880 - Dual SIM Galaxy Note Challenger

Samsung's Galaxy Note, the phone that straddles the line of being a tablet, is a smashing success. With more than 10 million units sold, other manufacturers are entering into the "Phablet" arena.  Lenovo is fielding a low end entry into this arena, the 5-inch Lenovo S880.

The Lenovo S880 has a 5-inch capacitive touchscreen with a WVGA (800 x 480) resolution. If you like sharp displays, this is not the one for you. A WVGA resolution is still decent at 5-inches. This is a larger device, measuring 142.0 x 78.0 x 9.9 milimeters.

Inside is the 1GHz MediaTek MT6575 processor we see in most dual SIM phones these days. And, yes this Phablet is a dual SIM device. Supporting the 1 GHz processor is 512MB RAM. Not exactly a powerhouse device, but it will get you by. Internal storage 4 GB of which 1.85 GB is user available.  A MicroSD card slot is provided so you can expand memory.  The 2250 mAh battery will be sufficient to get you for a day.

The other specifications are as expected. Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, as an operating system. HSPA connectivity, with WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. The cameras are nothing spectacular, a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with no flash, and a VGA front camera.

Suggested retail price of all this isPhp14,999, and it is available in the market for a low as Php14,000 with an official warranty. I think the price come a bit close to a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.0 P3100  a 7-inch tablet with full voice, SMS and HSPA functionality which can now be had for as low as Php15,990. It has 1024 x 600 display, a dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage.

Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges. There is a big difference in size between a 5-inch device and a 7-inch device. The comparison illustrates that the Lenovo S880 is not a great value for money option, on the other hand it really has no direct competition.    

Friday, September 14, 2012

Underwhelmed by the Apple iPhone 5 - Why?

Looking at the local forums and around the web, some sectors are underwhelmed by the Apple iPhone 5, including owners of the iPhone 4S, and I really cannot fathom why. The Apple iPhone 4S was disappointing, but exactly what it wrong with the iPhone 5. Lets gets two things out of the way:

I am not likely to buy an iPhone, but it is more of a personal preference. I got used to Windows Mobile and Nokia's Symbian OS which allowed me to display my next appointment on my home screen, and the calendar and tasks is one of the key uses for me of a smartphone. I have five home screens on my Android phone, four of which are devoted to calendars (next appointment/agenda/calendar/tasks). Windows Phone 8 would be a viable alternative to me. But these are subjective preferences, so lets get that out of the way, I want to find out what current Apple iPhone owners think,

  • NFC.  we don't have any kind of significant NFC implementation in the Philippines, so this is a non-issue.
  • LTE. It is not certain whether the Apple iPhone 5 will support out local LTE networks (but it looks to be compatible), but at present LTE is not being offered as a package for mobile phones, so it is too early to comment on this issue.  
  • Battery life. I will wait for GSMArena's battery life tests before commenting on this.
  • Stock Apple features. Lets not talk about stock Apple features like non-user replaceable batteries, absence of a MicoSD slot or Bluetooth file transfer. I am writing this more for iPhone users, how long ago decided these were unnecessary.

The new 4-inch display?  I think Apple's new 4-inch display with is a big move in the right direction. The move to 16:9 aspect ratio, from a 3:2 aspect ratio makes the iPhone 5 more industry standard compliant. 

While I personally find the 4-inch display smaller than I would like, having considered the 4.3-inch display the "correct" size since HTC's HD2, the longer 4-inch display was a great choice for Apple. Over 200 million iPhones have been sold, so many owners like the current size. The iPhone 5 has a larger screen while maintaining the width of the current iPhone. It is also much lighter. 

The millions of iPhone users will not find the iPhone 5 uncomfortably large. It may not impress the Android crowd. but I do not think Apple should make monster sized phones unless they make it in more than one size. Not everyone wants a larger device.

The unknown processor? No is sure what processor and graphics processing unit combo is in the iPhone 5, but we are told it is twice as fast as the previous iPhone. How it stacks up to the rest of the world is irrelevant. Apple and its developers will be building around the Apple iPad 3, which really is not faster than the Apple iPad 2 (all the iPad 3 additional graphics power and RAM is needed to keep its higher resolution display of the iPad 3 running at the same speed as the iPad 2). 

Basically, for the next two years all iOS apps will run with a dual core A9 processor, PowerVR SGX543MP2 and 512 MB of RAM will be all that is needed for iOS apps to run well. The additional power provided by the iPhone 5 is more for future proofing in its third year of use.

The 8MP camera? The only worthwhile feature, in my opinion of the iPhone 4S was the camera. I really see little room for improvement, and the iPhone 5 brings incremental improvements in this regard. Many are pointing to Nokia Lumia 920 as the standard setter in this regard. For me, improvement in camera performance is not worth it if it means having to create a 185 gram brick. It is still a smarphone first. To put the Nokia Lumia 920's weight in perspective, the Samsung Galaxy S III weighs in at  133 grams and Apple iPhone 5 weighs in at 112 grams.

My only gripes. My only gripe would be ergonomics and the physical home button. Something with the curved back of the older iPhone 3GS would be much more comfortable in hand.  But in fairness the iPhone 4/4S/5 is more pleasing to the eye than the 3GS.

As for the physical home button, they break, They break on the iPhone and on all other phones (I am looking at you Samsung). So why not just go with a capacitative one or on screen buttons?

That is it for me. And both my gripes are rather subjective. I like this phone more than any previous iPhone, I am just like to tinker too much and Android @root is impossible to beat in that respect, its open source.

So you tell me. What is not to like in the new iPhone 5?

Smartphones by the Numbers

500 million. Android No. 500 million was activated earlier this month somewhere in the world, with 1.3 million being activated by the day. At hat rate, you could expect to see Android No. 1 Billion activated before this time next year.

400 million. Apple has sold over 400 million iOS (iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch) devices in the past five years. You can expect them go past 500 million by middle of next year.

0. The number of BlackBerry's sold by some retailers last month (Source: techradar)

5952 Quadrant Points - HTC, smarting from the drubbing its One X received at the hands of tweaked Android 4.04 to maximize the performance of its Tegra 3 chipset resulting in almost 6000 points in the quadrant benchmarks, leaving the Galaxy S III at a far second place with 5395 (Source: GSM Arena)

342 ppi. With the new iPhone 5 being launched with a display with 326 pixels per inch, and the Nokia Lumia with a 332 pixel per in display, Sony can hold on to the sharpest smartphone display in the world title with the 342 ppi displays on their Xperia S and Xperia acro S.

6.68 mm. While Apple claimed at its Apple iPhone 5 launch that it was the thinnest smartphone in the world at 7.6 mm, they seem to have forgotten about the 7.1 mm thin Motorola RAZR's and the world thinnest smartphone, or 6.7 mm Huawei Ascend P1s.   

32,000. The number of Chinese students forced to work in Foxconn plants to build Apple iPhones (Source: New York Times)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Apple iPhone 5 - What the iPhone 4S should have been

Apple has just announced the new iPhone 5. Unlike last years launched where all the rumors were wrong, this time around, all the rumors were dead on:

4-inch, 640 x 1136 display resolution - The new iPhone has a larger 4-inch display which migrates to the 16:9 aspect ration, the same as aspect ration as HD (720 x 1280) and Full HD (1080 x 1920), which makes the new iPhone display more optimized for playing video content. 

The display is a sharp 326 ppi, altough Apple did not focus on this too much as it is not as sharp as the 4.3-inch 720p (720 x 1280) display with a 354 ppi on the Sony Xperia S. But I doubt anyone can tell which of the two is sharper. 

Apple has confirmed that App will have to be updated to run on the new display, and we are pretty confident that App Developers will do so shortly. This result in all older versions of the iPhone as obsolete. 

7.6 mm thin and 112 grams in weight - Following current trends the new iPhone is thinner, at 7.6 mm, which is pretty impressive being 0.2 mm thinner than the HTC One S. While the iPhone 5 is a lot thinner than the 9.3 mm iPhone 4S, I do not think users will notice that much.

The really welcome change is in the weight now at just 112 grams. The older iPhone 4 and 4S were heavy for their size at 140 grams. The iPhone 5 now has a larger display at a much lighter weight. 

The appearance is similar to the iPhone 4/4S, but the phone is now taller with an aluminum back instead of glass. 

HSPDA+ 21.1 Mbps, DC-HSDPA and LTE.  One area where the iPhone 4S disappointed was the 14.4 Mbps radio. This was fine is the US where no US carriers were running faster than HSDPA 14.4 and LTE. Philippine carriers do use HSDPA+ 21.1 towers.

LTE has also finally come to the iPhone. No surprises, but no disappointments either.

1 GB of RAM and new A6 chip. The 1 GB of RAM is double of the 512 MB of the iPhone 4/4S. Not too many details on the new processor but is has migrated to the 28 nm or 32 nm process as expected, which should result in improved battery life. Apple specifications place the battery life at the same level as the iPhone 4S. The processor is supposed to be twice as fast as that one found on the iPhone 4S.

Improved faster 8MP camera - The new 8 MP camera has a faster f/2.4 lens and also focuses and takes shots faster. Best to wait for the comparisons, but it does now add new features like Panorama mode.        

Well, that is what I know of the new hardware for now. Nothing earth shattering but nothing disappointing. Whatever version of iPhone you current own, the iPhone 5 is a worthwhile upgrade. Once App's are ported over to the iPhone 5, they probably won't be optimized for the older 2:3 displays on the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4/4S.

Android owners will see nothing innovative in the Apple iPhone 5. Like I said, it is what the 4S should have been,    

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The FBI was not the Source of the Leaked UDID's. It was Apple's fault.

Last week, the news circulated that the hacker group Anonymous had stolen 12 million Apple device identifiers from an FBI laptop.

The truth, it now turns out was that it was Apple's fault. NBC news discovered that the unique device identifiers (UDIDs) came instead from one of the hundreds of companies that Apple’s app model has allowed to track and identify the company’s devices. This is part of an extensive data-sharing network.

The leaked data to a small Florida app publisher called Blue Toad. Blue Toad has confirmed that it was the source of the breach.

UDIDs are identifiers, linked to iPads, iPhones and iPod's, are designed to allow ad networks and app makers to track devices.  Apparently, these UDID's are not data that Apple keeps secure, but instead are widely available to hundred of app developers. Apple’s lax privacy model has resulted in a situation where  ad firms, developers and parties like Blue Toad  can amass large amounts of user data. The worse part is, users whose UDID's were leaked from Blue Toad do not know the company. They have never transacted with Blue Toad or downloaded an app from them. Blue Toad provides services to app developers and not directly to customers.

Apple has started to phase out the UDID's.

Personalized Birthday Google Doodle's

When I opened my web browser this morning, I was surprised to see a birthday doodle on the Google search page.

I wondered who shared birthdays with me. When I moved the cursor over the doodle to check it, I saw a birthday greeting for me pop-up.

Thanks Google. It did make my morining. Now lets just hope that you live by your "Do no evil" credo. Now, if they got the number of candles right that would really be impressive (and scarier) :)

Acer Aspire V5-431-887B2G50Ma - V stands for Value

Laptop manufacturers are facing something of a crisis. There was a time my wife and I would buy a new laptop every year. Now, I am happy with a nearly two year old laptop and do not see myself replacing it for another two years. A new smartphone interest me more than a new laptop. My wife's laptop is in its fifth year, but she splits computing time between a laptop, tablet and smartphone, and I think the nearly two year old tablet may get replaced before the five year old laptop. Yes, she still needs her laptops, but these days it has been relegated to being a word processor. 

Intel's response to this is the Ultrabook. Microsofts response, Windows 8 which is designed to create a new generation of hybrid devices. Laptop OEM manufacturers, well they want to entice you to part with your money by giving you more value for your money. A good example of this is the entry level Acer V5.

The Acer V5 is a 14-inch laptop with an eye popping sticker price of Php17,900. For the bargain price you get a pretty capable laptop. The entry level Acer V5 is powered by an Intel 877 dual core processor has as much power as a top of the line processor just four years ago. And that is still pretty fast even by todays standards. If your laptop is used for typing documents, preparing spreadsheets and presentations, watching HD video on YouTube, this is more than enough. The budget price also yield you a large 500 GB hard drive, a DVD writer, USB 3.0 port and HDMI out.

But what makes the Acer V5 really interesting is the case. This budget laptop is just 0.9 inches thick. This makes is a hair thinner than the smaller Sony Vaio S and 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro. At 4.6 pounds in weight, it weighs just as much as the smaller MacBook Pro.

The main part of the weight reduction is the small 2500 mAh battery. But paired with the power efficient Intel 877 dual core processor, the combo is good for more than 4.5 hours of real world use. The weakest point of the package is the keyboard, which is not the best I have tried, but it does work. All  in all not bad for your Php17,900.

This price comes with Linux installed, rather than Windows. So for many buyers, this laptop will cost you another 1.5-2K. On the other hand, if like me, Linux is your operating system of choice, it is nice to be able to buy a laptop without having to pay the "Windows Tax". 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Android 4.1.1, Jelly Bean Update Now Out Smart Communications Issued Samsung Galaxy Nexus Phones

The Android 4.1.1, Jelly Bean update is now rolling out over for Smart Communications issued Samsung Galaxy Nexus phones. The 160 MB update quietly came in over-the-air over the phones 3G connection.

What's new in Jelly Bean (Scource:

Android Beam

  • With Android Beam, you can now easily share your photos and videos.
  • Instantly pair your phone or tablet to Bluetooth® devices like headsets or speakers that support the Simple Secure Pairing standard by just tapping them together.

Audio Accessories

  • Support for USB audio docks, shipping later this year.

Browser Browser and WebView

  • Browser has improved performance, CPU and memory efficiency. With better performance for animations and HTML5 canvases and an updated JavaScript Engine (V8), pages load faster and feel smoother.
  • Browser now has better HTML5 video support, and has a new user experience. Just touch the video to play and pause, and smoothly transition into and out of fullscreen mode.
  • Browser now supports the updated HTML5 Media Capture specification on input elements.
  • WebView now supports vertical text, including Ruby Text and other vertical text glyphs.

Calendar Calendar

  • Calendar is more buttery. Content fades in, animations are sprinkled throughout, and swiping/paging between days is smoother.
  • Calendar will now display event colors if you've given your event a color on your PC.
  • The 'Today' button on the action bar now shows the current day. When viewing an event's details, you can now email all the guests with a single tap.
  • Notifications for upcoming events now display more of the event description to let you quickly see relevant details without having to open the app.
  • Notifications for upcoming events now let you email all the guests without opening the app, and you can choose a quick response such as "Be there in 10 minutes" or type your own.
  • A new option in Calendar settings lets you create your own default quick responses for emailing guests.
  • You can now snooze an upcoming event reminder right from the notification.
  • Calendar has a new 7" tablet layout that is optimized for the form factor.
  • When viewing Calendar in portrait orientation on tablets, you can hide or expand controls to give you complete control over how you view your Calendar space.
  • Calendar will now remember whether you've chosen to hide or expand controls so you have a consistent experience viewing Calendar whenever you open it.

Camera and Gallery Camera and Gallery

  • You can now swipe from the camera viewfinder to quickly review photos you've taken without having to leave the camera app. You can swipe back to the camera viewfinder to start snapping photos again.
  • When viewing photos in Gallery, you can pinch to zoom out to enter "filmstrip mode" and rapidly review photos. When viewing photos in filmstrip mode, you can swipe up or down to delete an individual photo. You can also undo the delete with a single tap.
  • When taking a photo, a new animation sweeps your photo off the screen. There is now a new paging animation when swiping between photos.
  • Camera features a new animation for switching between the front-facing and back cameras.
  • When focusing on an object in Camera, a new animation gives you visual feedback on your focus state.
  • Gallery features a new animation when selecting a photo from within the album view and back.

Data Usage

  • You can now dismiss a data usage warning without changing the data threshold set for warning notifications.
  • Disable background data usage on certain Wi-Fi SSIDs by designating them as mobile hotspots.
  • Android now automatically detects when one Jelly Bean device is tethered to another's Wi-Fi hotspot, and intelligently enables or disables background data usage on the SSID.

Face Unlock

  • Face Unlock is now faster and more accurate, and startup is smoother with a new animation.
  • You can improve face matching accuracy by calibrating your face in different conditions and with different accessories (e.g. hat, glasses).
  • Face Unlock can now optionally require a 'blink' to verify that a live person is unlocking the device rather than a photo.


  • Jelly Bean adds support for bidirectional text and more input languages to make the platform accessible to more people around the world.
  • There is improved support for Arabic and Hebrew, including a new Arabic font, in the platform.
  • You can now enter text in one of 18 new input languages, including Persian, Hindi and Thai. Additional Indic languages Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam are now supported by the platform.
  • Emoji from Unicode 6.0 will now render when received or viewed.
  • If the system language is set to Japanese, Japanese specific versions of glyphs will now be properly rendered.


  • The platform's dictionaries are now more accurate and more relevant.
  • The language model in Jelly Bean adapts over time, and the keyboard features bigram prediction and correction.
  • You can now switch languages quickly with the dedicated language selector key on keyboard.
  • You can use custom keyboard input styles for more than 20 languages, with keymaps for QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, and PC styles.
  • You can choose the input styles that you want to use for each keyboard, and use a hotkey to switch between them while typing.

Messaging and Talk Messaging and Talk

  • New notifications display the full text of incoming SMS messages. When receiving an MMS, you can view the full photo in a notification.
  • When entering recipients for an SMS or MMS, a new UI collects recipients as chips, making it easier to compose messages.
  • Talk features a new notification style.


  • You can now take action on notifications directly from the redesigned notifications shade.
  • Notifications from the same application are grouped together, and the first item is automatically expanded. You can also pinch notifications to expand or collapse them.
  • You now get an image preview in notifications after taking a screenshot. You can quickly share the screenshot directly from the notification.
  • You can lock automatic display rotation from the notifications shade on 7" tablets.
  • For Wi-Fi only devices, quickly see the SSID of the access point you're connected to from the notifications shade.
  • You can now touch-hold a notification to identify the application that created it and turn off notifications from that application if needed, as well as uninstall the application.


  • Wi-Fi protected setup is now supported with WPS push button and PIN support.
  • A new setting lets you stay on mobile data and avoid nearby Wi-Fi networks with poor connections.

News News and Weather

  • News and Weather is updated to improve freshness and power consumption.

People People

  • The People app is more buttery with smoother animations and improved search performance.
  • The People app now retrieves high res photos automatically for Google contacts with public Google+ profiles and displays higher res photos (720x720) on certain devices.
  • High res photos set on Google accounts will be backed up and synced across devices.
  • The People app has a new 7" tablet layout that is optimized for the form factor.
  • You can now quickly add your favorite contacts to a home screen, directly from the contact's details page.
  • The People app helps you organize your contacts and reduces duplicates with an Improved auto-joining algorithm.
  • You can now clear the frequently contacted list from the favorites tab in the People app.

Phone Phone

  • When you miss a call, a new notification lets you return the call or reply by SMS with a single touch.
  • Incoming visual voicemails are displayed in a new notification that lets you play the message with a single touch.
  • When a call is ongoing, a new notification lets you hang up the call with one touch.
  • As part of Project Butter, the dial pad is more responsive. Call log scrolling is buttery smooth, and swiping between tabs in Phone is quick and fluid.
  • You can now clear your frequently contacted list in the favorite tab of Phone.
  • You can now add phone numbers from the call log to existing, read-only contacts.

Settings Settings

  • Accounts are now displayed in the primary Settings view so you can easily see all the accounts you're signed into on your device.
  • You can now easily access all Google Privacy Settings in one place by selecting your Google account from Settings.

System System

  • Device encryption is now more reliable, and periodically reminds you to decrypt your device. Now, SMS messages and calls are declined when waiting for decryption.
  • You can long press the 'Power Off' option in the power menu to boot your device to safe mode.
  • A new 'Reset app preferences' button lets you quickly reset default applications for specific activities, background data restrictions, notifications suppressions, and more.
  • A redesigned dialog with larger icons lets you intuitively choose your preferred application for specific activities.
  • Google Apps Device Policy on your device may now override the 'keep screen awake' option from developer settings.


  • Jelly Bean introduces a new conversational text-to-speech voice in US English, available as both a network engine and an embedded engine via the TTS API.

Voice Typing

  • A new embedded speech recognizer lets you use Voice Typing even when you don't have an Internet connection.

Widgets Widgets

  • Jelly Bean makes it easier to personalize your home screen. As you place widgets on the screen, everything else automatically moves to make room.
  • When they're too big, widgets resize on their own. If you choose to resize a widget, apps and widgets will now also move out of the way.
  • You can now quickly remove apps or widgets from any home screen by picking them up and flinging them to the edge of the screen.
  • Launching apps and returning back home are now faster and smoother.

Accessibility Accessibility

  • With Jelly Bean, blind users can use 'Gesture Mode' to reliably navigate the UI using touch and swipe gestures in combination with speech output.
  • With the new accessibility focus feature, you can move a cursor between controls to maintain a target for the next action or a source for the next navigation event. You can double tap anywhere to launch the current item with accessibility focus.
  • Text traversal in accessibility now gives you more control – choose to move between pages, paragraphs, lines, words or characters.
  • TalkBack, a screenreader for Android, now supports gestures to trigger actions, to navigate applications, and traverse text.
  • Get full support for braille accessibility services (download BrailleBack on Google Play).

Android Finally Surpasses Symbian as the Top Mobile Smartphone OS in the Philippines

Last month, Google Android operating system became the top mobile operating system in use in the Philippines, according to statistics gather by StatCounter. Please note, these statistics do not measure sales, but page impressions. 

Click for a larger image

As of end of August Android was at 28.2%, with SymbianOS trailing at 25.8%. But from the chart the trend is pretty clear. Every loss for the Symbian OS, is a gain for the Android OS.

Symbian Series 40 features phone still represent 13.2% of the total, so Nokia phones are still on top in terms of online use, with a total of 39% of page impressions being generated by these phones. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Globe Tattoo Black LTE

Globe is launching its Tattoo Black, Globe LTE mobile broadband service. Globe is offering two plans:

  • Tattoo Black Plan 1799 - Plan 1799 comes with free USB dongle and runs at speeds of up to 28 Mbps with a 12 GB cap.

  • Tattoo Black Elite 2499 - Plan 2499 comes with free USB dongle and runs at speeds of up to 42 Mbps with a 15 GB cap. 

You have the option to upgrade the device to a SuperStick for a minimum additional charge of only P150 a month. The SuperStick is a WiFi capable USB modem which will allow you to share the connection with up to 5 users.

Coverage for now is limited to Makati City.

Smart Communications launched its own LTE Service last month, which is priced at Php3,500 a month for 10 GB of 42 Mbps connectivity. Smart does over wider coverage areas for now covering Makati City and several other locations in Metro Manila. Still, it looks like Smart may have to rework its offering.  

Updated on September 30, 2012.

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