Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sharp SH631

The is a new player in the Philippine smartphone market, and it has a pair of very interesting offerings. The new player is Sharp, and the more interesting offering is the Sharp SH631.

The Sharp SH631 has a large 4.5-inch display, with a decent qHD (540 x 960) resolution. The phone runs on Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with a Sharp Feel UX UI. Like a Nexus phone is has soft keys on the display rather than dedicated buttons. However, it does not follow the standard Android 4 three key format, and instead displays four keys. The large screen is fitted in a trim 127.6x 66 x 9.5 mm package which weighs in at 117 grams. 

The phone is not speed demon, coming with a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, on a MTKMT6577 chipset, and PowerVR SXG531T graphics processing unit. lower end The PowerVR card probably being it bottleneck. Also, the phone comes with 512 MB of RAM, which is the minimum required to run Android 4.x.

Internal storage is only 4 GB, but it does come with a MicroSD card slot. The battery is a decent sized 1650 mAh unit. You also get a 8MP primary camera which can record HD video, and a VGA front camera. All the other expected functionalities are there, with HSPA, A-GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.

All in all not terrible exciting, but also not bad for the Php14,990 asking price. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Google Nexus 10 - The first "retina" tablet

Google has launched it first 10-inch tablet. The Google Nexus 10 is built by Samsung. The Google Nexus 10 is built around a 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 display giving it a 300ppi "retina" pixel density. Inside is the next generation dual core ARM Cortex A15 processor clocked at a blazing 1.7 GHz. To power the high resolution display you have the new Mali-T604 graphics and 2 GB of RAM to hold large textures. Only a WiFi version is being offered right now.

Two models are available, a 16 GB model at US$399 and the 32 GB model is selling for US$499. 

The Nexus 10 is just 8.9 mm thick, but at 1.3 pounds in weight, it is really best used, as Google says a "perfect couch or coffee table companion." In those situations, I would just pull out my MacBook Air.

For a tablet, the Google Nexus 7 or Apple iPad mini are much more interesting to me.

Google Nexus 4 price at just US$299

Google has officially announced the  LG built Nexus 4.   The Nexus 4 is built around a 4.7 screen has a 1280×768 resolution at 320ppi, the same display used in LG’s skinned Optimus G.  It also has the Optimus’s Krait-based Snapdragon S4Pro SoC.  Like the Optimus G, it comes with 2GB of system memory and a 2100mAh battery. It has an 8MP primary camera and a 1.3 MP secondary camera. It comes out of the box with Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean).

Despite all this, it is not a high end phone. The Google Nexus 4 is not designed to compete with the LG Optimus G or even the Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X. Google dropped LTE support and priced it is a mid-level phone. You also have to a choice between 8 GB or 16GB of storage, without a MicroSD slot. 

While that is a bit disappointing, the price of US$299 for the 8 GB model and US$349 for the 16 GB model easily make up for the absence of LTE. Google is leaving LTE and the high end to its OEM partners. If LTE is a must, the LG Optimus G is the LTE version of the Google Nexus 4.

I won't complain though. I expect to see this phone hit the local markets at below 18K. Not bad for a quad core 4.7-inch HD phone. With local carriers LTE coverage being limited and no phone LTE plans being offered in the Philippines, the Google Nexus 4 is tailor fitted for the Philippine market.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Acer Aspire S3-391-33214G52add - Are Ultrabooks now "consumer" priced for the Philippine market?

Ultrabooks have gone from over 50K, to 40K, and not down to 35K, or more specifically Php34,990. Has the Ultrabook pricing gone down enough for it to be a typical consumer grade product in the Philippines?

You  can get very decent portable laptops with sufficient power for 18K to 28K these days. The 14-inch, 4 pound, Asus X401 series, and Lenovo S300/400/405 series come to mind.  Is the Acer Aspire S3-391 worth the money? 

  • Your additional 10-17K will get a lighter slimmer package. The Acer Aspire S3-391 weighs in at 3.1 pounds and is just 0.68 inches thick. This makes it almost a point lighter and substantially slimmer than the lower cost Asus X401. 
  • Also instead of the lower end AMD or Intel B Series processor, you get a Sandy Bridge Intel Core i3-3217U processor. Now this is one of the slowest Sandy Bridge processors available, but more users wont really need anything faster. This efficient processor will also get you 4 to 5 hours of real world battery life from the smaller than average 3280 mAh battery found inside the Acer Aspire S3-391. 
  • If you are the type to keep your laptop on all the time and keep it on sleep mode when not in use, the 20 GB SSD companion drive in the Acer Aspire S3-391 will allow for instant resumes from sleep.  

Basically, this are the best reasons to spend 35K on a Ultrabook, like the Acer Aspire S3-391, and not spend less on a regular laptop. 

Other than that the Acer Aspire S3-391 does not really offer more than a lower cost unit. But the Acer Aspire S3-391 is well equipped with Windows 8, 4 GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, 2 USB ports and multimedia features (HDMI out, Dolby Sound... etc). 

In the new conditions now where a laptop is no longer a status symbol, I do not think the Acer Aspire S3-391 will be a success. Most buyers would probably prefer to but a cheaper laptop for home use and occasional carry, and the 10K to 17K saved could be used to buy a very decent smartphone or tablet.

On the other hand, the lower prices meant whereas I would spend 65K to 85K for a new laptop two years ago. I will probably only be willing to spend 35K to 50K for my next one. Yes, the cheaper options are good enough for me. And yes, I would rather compromise a bit on the laptop and get the best smartphone in the market. 

Sleeker, slimmer more value price ultrabooks are very tempting, and I do spend a lot of time writing. My MacBook Air might get replaced by one of these cheaper Ultrabooks in a year or two. But I will probably go with something less expensive. Right now it would be the Intel powered Lenovo's S300 or S400 ultraportable, both of which is priced well below 25K (without an OS, but I do run Linux on my PC's anyway). 

What will I do with the money I save? Get the best smartphone money can buy.

If someone who types a lot for a hobby and writes long documents for work, thinks this way, I do not see how Ultrabooks will become a success in the Philippine market. 

More details on the Google Nexus 4

Google has rescheduled its October 29, 2012 event where it is expect to launch several Nexus devices because of Hurricane Sandy. There is little mystery left in one of the devices to be launched, the Google Nexus 4. We already know that it is based on the LG Optimus G. So we are expecting a phone with a large 4.7-inch 768 x 1280 display and a powerful quad core krait inside.

Now the Google Nexus 4 Quick Start Guide has been leaked online givin us even more insight.

In terms of appearance it follows the Google Galaxy Nexus, but the new phone appears to be a bit shorted, but a bit wider.

The curved glass screen we saw on the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus appears to be gone.

The phone will have a MicroSIM.

Unfortunately, internal storage is not expandable and the battery is not user replaceable.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sony ST21i2 Xperia tipo dual and Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562

Sony ST21i Xperia tipo. The Sony ST21i Xperia tipo has been our favorite entry level Android for the past two months. The tipo comes with a 3.2-inch display, a decent 320 x 480 pixel resolution, 2.5 GB of user available internal storage, which expandable via MicroSD card, and a surprisingly large 1500 mAh battery. It's no speed demon with a 800 MHz ARM Cortex A5 processor and 512MB of RAM, but at at less than 8Kit is really an excellent deal.

Now a dual core version of the Sony ST21i Xperia tipo, the ST21i2 is now available, for a bit under 8K. For a few hundred pesos for an extra SIM slot is not a bad deal. 

Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562. Samsung also has a new dual SIM smartphone in the local market. the Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562.  At a bit below 14K this phone costs twice as much as the Xperia tipo dual.

The Samsung Galaxy S Duos S7562 offers a larger, 4-inch display with a higher 480 x 800 resolution. The Galaxy S Duos has a 25% faster processor and 50% more RAM than the Xperia tipo.                                                                                                                                   

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Asus VivoBook X202E

While Windows 8 will make its way to updated version of the laptops you have seen on the shelves for the last few months, Windows 8 is all about being touch friendly. Yugatech has a scoop on the new touch friendly Asus Vivo X202E Windows 8 notebooks which are designed around Windows 8.

The Asus VivoBook X202E is a 11.6-inch laptop with a HD display (1366 x 768), is just 0.85-inches thick and weighs in at a light 2.9 pounds. There are two versions of the Asus VivoBook X202E to be released in the Philippine market. The entry level model is priced at Php20,995. The entry level model is power by an Intel Celeron 847 processor and has 4 GB of RAM. This laptop has a 500 GB hard drive and USB 3.0.

For Php26,995 you get the same laptop upgraded with a Intel Core i3 3217U Ivy Bridge processor and 4 GB of RAM.

So, is a touch laptop for you?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Windows 8 is Here

For better or worse, Microsoft's Windows operating system is making its most radical shift in seventeen years. Windows 8 represents the most significant change in its user interface since the move from Windows 3.x to Windows 95.

Inside the shift is not a ground breaking as the move to the NT base with Windows XP. All your old Windows XP, Vista and 7 software will run fine with Windows 8. The difference is a new interface which looks similar to the Windows Phone interface, and is designed with tablets in mind. 

Microsoft is making sure that the Windows 8 personal computers are available at launch and we have already seen three new Windows 8 equipped laptops in the local market.

The first is the Acer Aspire One AO756-887BS, which is a 11.6-inch ultaportable laptop. With an Intell 877 processor and 4 GB of RAM, this laptop will run Windows 8 well enough. The main drawback is the lack of a USB 3.0 port and short 3.5-4 hour battery life. Still not bad as its Php20,900 asking price.

More interesting is the Lenovo's ideapad S405. This one is a 14-inch laptop which weighs in at just 4 pounds making it light enough to carry around on a daily basis Is is just over an inch thick. Inside is a dual core 2.1 processor AMD A6-4455M 2.1 (up to 2.6 GHz on Turbo mode) and 2 GB of RAM. While 2 GB or RAM is enough to run Windows 8, which actually runs fine on even 1 GB of RAM, and upgrade to 4GB is advisable these days. This laptop has all the bells and whistles, including a USB 3.0 port for its asking price of Php27,990. 

At the top end of the new laptops we have see with Windows 8 onboard, is the HP Spectre XT 13-2106TU ultrabook. This is a fairly expensive laptop at Php58,990. But that price does give you an Intel Core i7-3157U processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD drive. The Spectre XT 13 is just 0.7-inch thick and weighs in at just a hair over 3-pounds.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lenovo K860 - Lenovo enters the super phone wars and brings it to the mid-level

Lenovo has had a string of surprises since it entry into the local market, but nothing compares to its latest offering, the Lenovo L860. The maker of entry level dual SIM Android's has released it first super phone. 

The Lenovo 860 is Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) smartphone packing a 5-inch HD (1280 x 720) display. Behind the display sits 1 GB of RAM, Mali-400MP graphics and a quad core 1.4 GHz processor on a Exynos 4412 chipset. Yes, this is the same hardware in the Samsung Galaxy S III.  At back is an 8MP camera with a 2 MP camera up front. The 8MP camera can shoot 1080p video. This Lenovo is targeting the likes of the Samsung's Galaxy S III, HTC's One X and LG Optimus 4X HD, and it undercuts its high end competitors with a low Php19,999 suggested retail price.

While its 8 MB of storage is less than its competition, it comes with a MicroSD card slow which would allow you to expand the phones storage capacity. It has all the usual smartphone bells and whistles, with HSPA, WiFi, GP-S and the like. Powering all this is a large 2250 mAh battery.   

I still need to get feedback on the camera, and overall performance, but this mid-level priced smartphone looks very promising indeed.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Apple iPad mini - The iPad Right Sized

Steve Job's famously said, "(t)his [7-inch] size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps in our opinion." Steve Job's was not always correct, and now we will find out. 

While the new Apple iPad mini does not have a Retina Display or the new vaunted A6 processor, I think this is the iPad that everyone really wants. 

The 9.7-inch iPad really is a laptop replacement. But using one, it like 10.1-inch Android tablets, feels bulky and cumbersome. Large tablets feel too big for use unless you lay one on a table or are recline on a couch. Mobile devices, they are not.

When I want a bigger screen, I will use my 13-inch MacBook Air. If I am in a coffee shop (where I am typing this) or reclined on a couch my 13-inch MacBook Air is more convenient to use than an iPad. 

The iPad mini's 7.9-inch display is a device I would find use for when pulling out my MacBook is not convenient and the 4.3-inch display of my phone is not satisfying enough to use. For pure content consuming and reading a 7-inch tablet has been our device of choice. The Apple iPad mini weighs less than half the weight of a full sized iPad, and this makes it a truly mobile device.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display - MacBook Pro Done Right

Apple has brought its 2560 x 1600 display to the MacBook Pro. That is enough of a selling for many. Personally, I really don't care for the new high resolution display, nor would I mind having it. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, is a excellent choice for a new laptop even if you do not consider the new display.

For the past two years I have been harping on the weight of the MacBook Pro. It was light when it came out, and as technology moved on, it became relatively heavy compared to its direct competitors like the Sony Vaio S and Intel Ultrabooks. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display does not disappoint in this regard. It weighs in at 3.57 pounds, almost a pound lighter than the non-Retina version.  The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display also has modern SSD drives. 

You do loose the optical drive, but does anyone still use those things these days?

The lighter chassic and SSD drives make the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display a awesome laptop. The Retina display is just a bonus. 

At 0.75-inches thick, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is really now the 13-icnh MacBook Air Pro, with the MacBook Air, now being the cheaper MacBook Air.

Apple iPad 4 - The Apple iPad 3, Fixed

Plenty of Apple news today, with a new an iPad Mini and a new MacBook, but the most controversial is the new Apple iPad 4, or as Apple likes to call it, the "iPad with Retina Display". After less than seven months in the market, and an even shorted period in the Philippine market, the iPad 3 is now out of production. 

While buyers may lament the short life of the Apple iPad 3, this product was problematic from the start. The Apple iPad 3 was built around a 2048 x 1536 display. This has 3,145,728 pixels. That is four time more than the 768,432 pixels of the 1024 x 768 display iPad 2.

The iPad 3 has the same processor as the iPad 2, double the RAM and graphics processing power. Basically, even if you ignore the processor, at best the iPad 3 had double the graphics capability of the iPad 2, but had to power a screen with four time as many pixels. You do the math. Double the power but quad-drouple the load. The iPad 2 has more excess graphics power as compared to the iPad 3. The iPad 2 has half the graphics power but 1/4th the load. The numbers just don't add up to a better product. You pay a little to much for the sharper display.

Built on old 45 nanometer technology, the hard working graphics chip ran much warmer than the iPad 2.

I wrote about my concerns on heat and graphics power of the iPad 3 a few months back. I do not see the need to dwell in the past. The iPad 3 was a lackluster product, and its quick replacement is enough proof of that.

So, now Apple releases the iPad 4. Have they corrected the deficiencies of the iPad 3? The iPad 3 is built on the A6 platform, which is built on 32 nanometer technology. Expect a cooler running iPad. Cooler running also means that the product will have a longer useful life, as heat shorten the life of electronic components. The graphics card is the same as the iPad 3, a PowerVR SGX543MP4 so at first glance it does not appear that the iPad 4 has a more powerful graphics card. But working in tandem with the old PowerVR Graphics is the new A6X chipset. This give twice the processing power. With Intel system on chip solutions (SoC), faster processing power does result in faster graphics. I see no reason why apples SoC solution, with the faster dual core A6X's won't be able to give the PowerVR SGX543MP4 a bit of boost in performance.

The new 8-pin Lighting connector makes it compatible with iPhone 5 peripherals and the HD front camera are nice upgrades.  But ultimately a cooler running iPad 4 with the much more powerful A6X chipset  correct most, if not all of the deficiencies of the iPad 3.

If you bought the Apple iPad 3, the warning signs were pretty clear. If you still have not bought an iPad, don't let the iPad 3 early demise dissuade you. The Apple iPad 4, is what the iPad 3 should have been. While releasing a new Apple iPad 3 so soon will raise complaints among the Apple faithful, it is better for Apple to bring the best technology they can, at the soonest possible time, and not follow arbitrary one year schedules between product releases.

Expect to see the new Apple iPad 4 in hit Philippe Apple stores, just in time for Christmas, at the same price as the iPad 3.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Google Nexus 4 Confirmed

LG has confirmed that is is manufacturing the Google Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 is a 4.7" smartphone with a 720p display (1280 x 768 pixel resolution). Powering the Nexus is is a quad-core CPU with each core clocked at 1.5 GHz (rumored to be a Qualcomm S4 Pro chipset). Whatever the processor finally is, with 2GB of RAM this should be a powerhouse.

The phone will come with 8 GB to 16 GB of storage, and appears to have a microSD card slot. I will see if I can find confirmation of this.

The device will run Android 4.2. The Nexus 4 will be officially announced on Ocrober 29, 2012. It is expected to be out by end of November 2012.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Samsung Chromebook is an ARM-Book

Google unveiled a new Samsung Chromebook, which is priced at $249. While I have little interest in these Chrome OS powered laptops, what is interesting is that this Chromebook is powered by an ARM processor. What I would find more compelling is a ARM powered laptop with a Linux OS or even better, a modified Android OS.

But it is the hardware is interesting to look at. Powering new Samsung ARM-based Chromebook is a dual core ARM Cortex A-15 processor and 2 GB or RAM. Local storage is 16 GB. The specifications sound more like a high end smartphone. But how much processing power does the average person need these days.

The new Samsung ARM-based Chromebook includes an 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display. It weighs in at just 2.5 pounds and is 0.8 inches thin. The Chromebook includes a VGA camera, ports for USB 2.0 and 3.0, and HDMI, dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0. Google promises over 6.5 hours of battery life. 

This makes the new Samsung ARM-based Chromebook as portable and light as the 11-inch Apple MacBook Air, while providing 30% more battery life.

The only spoiler in the package is the Chrome OS. With full offline operating system, ARM-books, with their low price, light weight and long endurance could be very interesting indeed.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sony Xperia S, Xperia acro S, Xperia ion, Xperia P, Xperia go Confirmed for Jelly Bean

Sony has confirmed that its Xperia T and Xperia TX  and Xperia V will begin to receive the upgrade to Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) from mid-Q1 2013. These models are not yet available in the Philippines.

The more significant announcement for Philippine buyers is that the global versions of Xperia S, Xperia acro S, Xperia ion, Xperia P, Xperia go will be also be upgraded to Android 4.1. The Xperia J was also confirmed for a 

2011 Sony Xperia's will not be upgraded beyond Ice Cream Sandwich.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Microsoft's Surface RT Priced

The pricing for Microsoft's Surface RT are now out. The Microsoft Surface RT is a 10.6-inch tablet which can be bundled with a keyboard cover, making it both a tablet and ultraportable laptop. With a quad core processor on a Tegra 3 chipset and 2 GB of RAM, this should be a decently powerful device.

The 32 GB version of the Microsoft Surface RT is priced at US$499, same price as a 16 GB Apple iPad 3. Adding the basic keyboard, brings up the price to US$599, same price as a 32 GB iPad. Upgrading the Type Keyboard which is preferable for those who plan to use the keyboard a lot costs another US$29. Upgrading to the 64 GB version bring up the price by another US$100.

All in all, the Windows Surface RT is priced to take the Apple iPad 3 head-on.

Local pricing may vary depending on the exchange rate used by the distributor. In the past for example, the Asus Transformer was priced well against the Apple iPad abroad, but in the Philippines the Asus Transformer came out at a much higher price than it US$ sticker price would indicate. 


OS | Windows RT
EXTERIOR | Dimensions: 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 in • Weight: Less than 1.5 lbs • Casing: VaporMg • Color: Dark Titanium • Physical buttons: Volume, Power
STORAGE | 32 GB • 64 GB
DISPLAY | Screen: 10.6" ClearType HD Display • Resolution: 1366 x768 • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (widescreen) • Touch: 5-point multi-touch
CPU | Chip: NVIDIA T30 • System memory: 2 GB RAM
WIRELESS | Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n) • Bluetooth 4.0 technology
BATTERY | Up to 8 hours mixed activity • 7-15 days idle life
CAMERAS | Two 720p HD cameras, front and rear-facing
VIDEO | Two microphones
AUDIO | Stereo speakers
PORTS | Full-size USB 2.0 • microSDXC card reader • Headphone jack • HD video out port • Cover port
SENSORS | Ambient light sensor • Accelerometer • Gyroscope • Magnetometer
WARRANTY | 1-year limited hardware warranty
APPS (included) | , Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview2  • Mail • Messaging • Word • Power Point • Excel • OneNote • SkyDrive • Internet Explorer 10 • Bing • Music • Video • Games 

Source: Microsoft

Friday, October 19, 2012

HTC J Butterfly - 5-inch, 1080p display

Apple's iPhone is updated once a year. Windows Phone devices follow the same schedule. Android phones are updated as soon as new technology is available, and this month that new technology is theSnapdragon S4 Pro and a 5-inch 1080p display. HTC has put this hardware in its new HTC J "Butterfly".
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with Sense 4+
  • HSPA/LTE support
  • 16GB of storage, expandable via MicroSD card
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro + MDM9615 modem
  • 8 megapixel primary camera with a f/2.0 lens
  • 2.1 megapixel front camera
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
  • Beats Audio
  • 2020 mAh battery
  • 71 x 143 x 9.1 mm
  • 140g
All of a sudden the Samsung Galaxy S III, Apple's iPhone 5 and HTC own One X are starting to look like "last years phones".

The HTC J Butterfly is also being rumored to be the basis of the Google Nexus 5.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

HTC Desire X

If you read the news, you know that HTC has its back to the wall. Its flagship HTC One X was the best smartphone in the world for one month, until the Samsung Galaxy S III was released. Its mid-level One V, pummeled by a whole gaggle of dual core Sony Xperia handsets,  did not win hearts and minds in its attempt the resurrect the Glory days of the HTC Hero and Legend. 

HTC has a reworked One X, the One X+ to take the fight to the Galaxy S III. But HTC's most successful phone was the HTC Desire, and HTC plans to use this name to win back the mid-level, with the HTC Desire X. 

The HTC Desire X is an excellent handset and is now available for as low a Php13,750 with an official HTC Warranty. Available at about 1K more than the HTC One V, it really is a replacement of the HTC One V. It comes with a larger 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800 display) which, with 50% more RAM at 768 MB, and comes with dual core power 1 GHz processor with Adreno 203 graphics. The battery has also gotten a boost in size, with a 1650 mAh unit crammed into the thin 9.3 mm frame. Thankfully, the battery is user replaceable. Internal storage is the same 4GB, expandable via a MicroSD card.

It comes out of the box with Android 4.0.4 and all the usually bells in whistles in a mid-level phone. The only thing missing from the package is a front camera and HD video capture. Yep, despite the dual core processor, the HTC Desire X only supports 480p video capture (the HTC One V supports 720p). The 5MP camera also supports less features the one found on the One V. Still, overall I like it more than the HTC One V. It also looks like it is good enough to put the pressure on the mid-level Sony Xperia's.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Minimalistic Text

One thing that makes Android unique in the sea or mobile phone and tablet operating systems is the ability to customize the user interface. You can change themes, widgets and launchers. An app called Minimalistic Text by DEVMIL even allows you to create your own custom text widgets. Minimalistic Text is available on Google Play. Both free and donate versions are available.

This app can create some pretty impressive and artistic home screen widgets.

Screenshot from App Developer
Using this app, I have created my own "minimalistic" home screen widgets, though nowhere near as nice as what the App Developer has created. Making a widget can be a bit daunting, and I am still learning how to make nice ones.

Nova Launcher with Minimalist Text Widgets.
I uploaded these files at this link, with instructions on how to use them.

I also tried another variation.

Sense Launcher with two Minimalistic Text Widgets
The second set of widgets can be found at this link.

Make some, and share them :)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note S II Priced

CMK Cellphones has listed the Samsung Galaxy Note S II with a price of Php31,500, and that is covered by an official manufacturers warranty. The unit is still listed as coming soon.

That is 3-4K lower than I expected the price to be. Not bad for a 5.5-inch, quad core, stylus equipped, Android powered phone tablet with a amazingly powerful 3100 mAh battery. 

I suspect we will see Samsung Galaxy S III prices drop soon (actually at CMK, the price of the S III is already 2K less than before).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lenovo P700i - Dual SIM, Dual Core

Lenovo phones have slowly been getting the attention of Filipino consumers. The low cost, but decently spec'ed Lenovo A60 comes to mind. But the breakthrough phone for Lenovo is the P700. Priced at around 10K with a 4-inch high resolution display (800 x 480), dual SIM capability and long battery life thanks to a larger 2500 mAh battery was enough to convince the buyer to make a buy decision.

Lenovo just released an updated version of their P700, the Lenovo P700i. Basically, it has everything you liked in the P700, but replaces the old 1 GHz single core processor, with a 1 GHz dual core processor. 

Suggested retail price remains the same, at Php10,990

Lenovo P700i Quick specs:

Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich
Dual SIM, Dual Standby

  • SIM 1 - 3G/HSDPA 
  • SIM 2 = 2G

4-inch (800x480) IPS display
125.6 x 64. 8x 12.8mm (size)
4GB of internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via microSD card
512MB of RAM
1GHz dual-core MT6577 processor
PowerVR SGX531 GPU
5.0 Megapixel with Auto Focus
Secondary (front) VGA Camera
WiFi with Hot Spot function
GPS with AGPS support, Gravity Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Light Sensor
FM Radio
2500 mAh Battery Capacity

162g (weight)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note II from Globe Telecom

Globe Telecom is offering the Samsung Galaxy Note II at some very interesting plans.

The first is Plan 999, with Php800 monthly install on the Galaxy Note II. This is subject to a 24 month contract. It a good deal, you effectively pay just Php19,200 for you Galaxy Note II.

The second deal is much better, if your credit limit will allow. You get the Galaxy Note II for just Php250 a month for 24 months, at Plan 1799. This plan is enough to get you unlimited data plus a a decent amount of calls and SMS. This is also subject to a 24 month contract.

HTC Desire V Battery Life

A few months ago, we compared two 4-inch dual sim Android phones, the HTC Desire V and the Lenovo P700. The Lenovo was 33% or so cheaper and came with a larger 2500 mAh battery. While this is subjective, the HTC phone has a classier chassis, a more polished Sense user interface and comes with a decent sized 1500 mAh battery.

Battery life is one key deciding factor in smartphone selection. So how well does the HTC Desire V do. Not bad actually, based on GSMArena's battery life tests. The HTC Desire V gives you over 8 hours of talk time, over 6 hours or video playback and just under 6 hours of web browsing time. Good enough!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

HTC One X+ and HTC Windows Phone 8X to be released on the Philippines on November 3, 2012

HTC releases their new Android phones on the second quarter of each year, and an updated flagship phone is released at the last quarter of each year. The HTC One X+ follows HTC's tradition of the HTC Desire HD and HTC Sensation XE, the upgraded models released at the end of 2010 and 2011.

The HTC One X+ is an upgraded One X. It has the same size and shape but comes in a new black (red themed) color scheme as opposed to the grey and white color schemes for the HTC One X. The HTC One X+ weighs 5 grams more mainly due to a larger 2100 mAh battery, which is larger than the 1800 mAh battery on the One X. More room was made for the battery by using thinner Gorilla Glass 2, instead of Gorilla Glass. Other than that, the HTC One X+ comes with a faster 1.7 GHz quad core  processor. This should help it catch up to the Samsung Galaxy S III both in terms of benchmarks and battery life.

I expect the price to be somewhere between Php27,900 to Php32,900.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X is one of the new Windows Phone 8 devices which brings HD displays and multicore processing to Windows Phones. It is also likely to be the first dual core Qualcomm Krait powered device to be officially released in the Philippines. It should be priced at the same price range as the HTC One X+.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Smart LTE Plans

Smart's LTE plan was originally Php3,500 a month for 10 GB of data with a speed of 42 Mbps. 

Globe Telecom launched it LTE services a month later with the following packages:

  • 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.

In response Smart has revised its LTE offerings as follows:

  • Smart LTE Plan 1749 - Plan 1749 gives you 42 Mbps with a 10 GB cap. 
  • Smart LTE Plan 3500 - Plan 3500 comes with free USB dongle and runs at speeds of up to 42 Mbps with a 21 GB cap.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Smart Galaxy Note II now available on pre-order from Smart Communications

Samsung's new phablet, the Android powered Samsung Galaxy Note is now available for pre-order from Smart Communications at this page.

The Samsung Galaxy Note II has a 5.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) display. The Galaxy Note is designed which is designed to be used with a stylus and comes with software optimized for that purpose. With a 1.6 GHz quad core processor and  2 GB of RAM it is also Samsung's most powerful hand held device. A 3100 mAh battery is used to power the large screen and powerful processor and does a good job of that. GSMArena's battery life tests gives it almost 17 hours of talk time, almost 9 hours of web browsing and over 11 hours of video playback.

October 2012 - High End Smartphone Buyers Guide

This first part of this article, covering smartphones priced up to Php15,000, can be found here, while the second part of this article can be found here. Not much has changed since last month. The new iPhone 5 is still not available here and we don't have the new Samsung Galaxy Note II yet either.

8. Sony LT26i Xperia S - Unofficial Nexus (Php22,800 to Php24,990)

The Sony Xperia S is still a good starting point. It is a nice enough Android smartphone. The 4.3-inch HD (720 x 1280) display has the highest pixel resolution of any smartphone in the market. It comes with a good 12 MP camera. Internal storage is a 32 GB, which should be enough for most, even if not user expandable. The battery is a decent size 1750 mAh unit.

But inside, it is more of a great 2011 smartphone, than a 2012 flagship. The HSDPA 14.4 Mbps is radio is a step down from the HSDPA+ found in all of this years top smartphones. The 1.5 GHz dual core processor is a Qualcomm S3, the same one found in last years HTC Sensation XE, and does not compare well with the new Qualcomm S4 and quad core smartphones.

Google's top Android guy, Jean Baptiste Queru, announced that this phone would be getting updates directly from Google, giving it de facto Nexus status. So instead of comparing it against the HTC One X and Samsun Galaxy S III, we are now comparing it against the Google Galaxy Nexus. Compared to the Google Galaxy Nexus, the Sony Xperia S is a very nice alternative indeed for those who want a better camera and more storage.    

9. HTC One X - Second best (Php25,500 to Php27,900)

The higher end Sony offerings are hard to recommend for as they are powered by Qualcomm S3 systems. The LG Optimus 4X HD wins the hardware battle, matching the  HTC One X specifications wise, and offering in addition a MicroSD card slot and a larger user replaceable battery. But the battery life tests of the LG Optimus 4X HD are disappointing (Source: GSM Arena) and LG's record on software updates is deplorable. Right now, in terms of software support, I rate LG at the bottom.

Who supports their devices best?  
1. Google with Nexus devices
2. Sony
3. HTC
4. Samsung (good on flagship phones, deplorable at all other categories)
5. LG 

Overall, the HTC One X gets my recommendation by a hair. It is a very good phone for the asking price with a 4.7-inch HD (720 x 1280) display, a quad core Tegra 3 based processor, 32 GB of internal storage, fast HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity and a good 8 MP camera.

10. Samsung Galaxy S III - The best smartphone ever built (Php29,900 to Php32,990)

This phone has no weak spots. It has a beautiful 4.8-inch HD (720 x 1280) SuperAMOLED display.  The 8 MP camera excellent in terms of quality as well as features. Connectivity is via a fast HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps radio. The Samsung built Exynos Quad is substantially faster than the Tegra 3 found in the HTC One X. It comes with a large user replaceable 2000 mAh battery, which combined with the power efficient Exynos Quad gives it better battery than life the HTC's, LG's and Sony's offerings. It is the best smartphone in the market. The most you can complain about is that it comes with only 16 GB of internal storage, but it is expandable via a Micro SD card slot. 

Drawbacks... well will cost you a lot more than anything else.

Samsung Galaxy Note? I think the Samsung Galaxy Note should still be on this list, and I have seen it for as low as Php25,000 with an official warranty, but with the Galaxy Note II being available in a few days, I guess I would wait and check out the price of the new one.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sony Xperia miro - Sony is leaving no stone unturned

I just finished writing the entry level smartphone buyers guide a few days ago, when the Sony Xperia miro became available in the Philippine market. It really looks like Sony is launching a very serious challenge to Samsung for the in the top smartphone manufacturers crown. While that is a pretty tall mountain to scale, hardware wise I think Sony is winning.

The Sony Xperia tipo is already my favorite entry level smartphone with a suggested retail price of Php7,690, and available as low as Php7,150 with an official warranty. At risk of offending some readers, anything less is not worth the money. Anything cheaper will be running an old version of Android or Symbian.

The Sony Xperia tipo comes out of the box with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. If the Xperia tipo is never updated during its like, Android 4.0 will keep it a viable platform for the next two years or so, in terms of software compatibility. Being a newer phone, and given Sony's track record in updates, it is also a decent chance of getting update an OS update.

The Xperia miro costs more than the Xperia tipo with a suggested retail price of Php10,490, which is much higher than the Xperia tipo. On the shelves, we have seen the new Xperia Miro at just Php9,100 with an official warranty. This makes the price gap less than 2K.

Sony Xperia miro quick specs:
  • Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • 3.5-inch display with a 320 x 480 resolution
  • 800 MHz Qualcomm processor on MSM7225A
  • Adreno 200 graphics 
  • 4GB internal storage (2.5 GB user available)
  • microSD slot up to 32GB
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 5 megapixel camera with LED flash and Auto focus
  • VGA front camera
  • HSDPA 7.2 Mbps
  • WiFi and WiFi Hotspot functionality
  • aGPS
  • USB 2.0, Micro USB, Bluetooth
  • FM Radio
  • 1500 mAh battery
For 2K more the Xperia miro gives you a larger display (3.5 versus 3.2 inches), a better camera (5 MP versus 3.2 MP), and a front camera.  One big difference I think, is instead of the chunk 13 mm thickness of the Xperia tipo, the Xperia miro is a trim 9.9 mm.

I still like the Xperia tipo, but if budget allows, the Xperia miro is work the extra 2K or so.

October 2012 - 15K to 22.5K, Smartphone Buyers Guide

Part one of this article, covering phones priced as Php15,000 or less is found at this link.

5. Google Galaxy Nexus - The Nexus phone is always a good choice (Php16,600 in the Grey Market, Php30,000 from Smart Communications).

The guides I write are usually based on prices from phone with official warranties. The Galaxy Nexus is the exception. At Php30,000 from Smart Communications, there are better phones in the market. At Php16,600 in the gray market, you get a 720p (720 x 1280) Super AMOLED display which measures in at 4.65-inches.

Inside you get 1.2 GHz dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor on a TI OMAP chipset backed by 1 GB of RAM.  It is also the cheapest HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps phone on our list. It is not the fastest smartphone in the market, but it will outrun anything else at this price range in every respect.

Storage is 16 GB with is not user expandable. The battery is a good sized 1750 mAh. All this comes in a frame just 8.9 mm thin. Basically, this is not only the Nexus phone, it is also the least expensive Super phone in the market. It is what I would probably buy, if I were replacing my phone now.

6. Sony LT22i Xperia P - An almost perfect balance (P16,990 to Php19,990)

If you want a warranty, the Sony LT22i Xperia P is a good alternative. It has a 4-inch qHD (540 x 960) display, a dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB or storage (non expandable/13 GB user available) and a very decent 8 MP shooter upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich. Last year this phone would qualify as a companies flagship phone.

The form factor makes it terrible compelling, combining a 4-inch display with a frame just 59.5 mm wide and 10.5 mm thick it is a very handy package while offering excellent functionality. 

The only chink in this phones armor is the small 1305 mAh battery which result in below average battery life. Still I have been living with an HTC Desire HD, with a smaller 1230 mAh battery for 19 months, so it is not a deal breaker.

7. HTC One S - Two versions (Php18,800- Php24,900)

The HTC One S was one of the most anticipated smartphones last summer. But when it finally arrived, instead of getting the version with a 1.5 GHz dual core Krait processor, the Philippines got the version with a 1.7 GHz dual core Scorpion processor. The slower clocked dual core Krait version is the more powerful and being manufactured with the new 28 nm process, it is the more power efficient version.

The version with the 1.7 GHz dual core Scorpion processor is not bad, but with prices starting at 25K, it was a bit expensive. Now, the prices have dropped to Php20,500 with an official manufacturers warranty and at that price it makes a nice alternative to the Google Galaxy Nexus. It comes with a 4.3-inch dHD (540 x 960) Super AMOLED display, 16 GB or storage, 1 GB of RAM, an 8 MP camera and 21.1 Mbps connectivity all in a super slim 7.8 mm package. Overall the Google Galaxy Nexus is a better deal, so this is a good choice only if you want a phone with an official warranty. This is not a good choice for those who plan to root their phone having limited ROM support.

For those who want to root their phones, the more coveted version 1.5 GHz dual core Krait processor is available on the grey market (meaning no manufacturers warranty) for as low as Php18,800. As compared to the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus has a better display while the HTC One S 'Krait' is almost twice as fast and has longer battery life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

HTC One X+

The HTC One X was launched and acclaimed as the best smartphone ever built last May 2012. Unfortunately, it held that title for one short month, until the Samsung Galaxy S III came out and clobbered in sales. 

So what do you do when you get Samsung'ed? Go back to the drawing boards and send something new up the production line. That is the HTC One X+.

The HTC One X+ looks like the HTC One X with a revised color scheme. Since the 1.5 GHz quad core processor on a Tegra 3 chipset fell a bit short of the 1.4 GHz quad core on the Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC upped the ante by putting instead a 1.7 GHz quad core unit on the One X+. 

Another area where the HTC One X fell just a tad bit short of the Samsung Galaxy S III was battery life. HTC decided to replace the 1800 mAh unit on the One X with a larger 2100 mAh unit on the One X+. The One X+ is the same size as the One X, but tips the scales by just 5 grams more. The larger battery was crammed in by using a thinner Gorilla Glass 2 protected display.

You will also see minor tweaks the camera's and a 64 GB variant available. Not forgetting the software front, you have Android 4.1 Jelly Bean out of the box.

This will be released in South East Asia in November 2012.

So what do you do when you get Samsung'ed? Come back with vengeance.

October 2012 - 15K or Lower, Smartphone Buyers Guide

When looking for a budget smartphone these days running a current operating system, which should serve you well for two years, your only real choice are Android phones. The good thing, is that is not a bad choice and there are good offerings available.

All the phones listed here run Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or have updates available now

1. Sony ST21i Xperia tipo - Good enough for smartphone/PDA use (Php7,150 to Php7,690)

There are cheaper smartphones, but really none are worth your money. Sony Sony ST21i Xperia tipo is where you should start your search. 

The Sony ST21i Xperia tipo runs Android 4.03, Ice Cream Sandwich ("ICS"), so you should have no problem with Android app compatibility. It comes with a small but sharp 3.2-inch HVGA (320 x 480). The battery is a good sized 1500 mAh unit which when combined with the frugal power requirements of the small screen will result in excellent battery life. The 2.5 GB user available internal storage is expandable with MicroSD cards up to 32 GB being officially supported.

It is not a terrible fast device with a single core 800 MHz ARM Corter-A5 processor. The 3.2 MP camera is just best used in emergencies. 

If your purpose in getting a smartphone is for the traditional smartphone uses: communication and organization, there really is no reason to spend more. This phone is great for calls, SMS, email, instant messaging and making calls over VoIP, with the only drawback being the absence of a front camera for video calls. It will also keep your calendar and tasks organized and even keep them in sync with other devices or other people.

2. Lenovo P700 - There are more reasons to buy this than it dual SIM capability (Php10,900 to Php10,999)

If we were to spend more than the Php7K price for the Sony ST21i Xperia tipo, we would really like a larger display. The Lenovo P700 gives you that at a bit over Php3K more. 

This Android ICS powered smartphone has the same performance level as the tipo. Your additional 3K will get you a much larger 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, a larger 2500 mAh battery and it also comes with a front camera. In other respects, it is similar to the Xperia tipo with the same 2.5 GB of user expandable storage and a mediocre camera.

The bigger screen is a good enough reason to get this one. By the way, it is a dual SIM phone too.

3. Sony Xperia go - Dual core power (Php12,990 to Php14,990) 

Sony has several excellent mid price dual core offerings, like the Sony Xperia U and Sola. The U is the cheapest, but the absence of a MicroSD card slot to expand the 4 GB internal storage is probably a deal breaker. Enter the Xperia go.

The Sony Xperia go has a decent sized 3.5-inch display, with a HVGA (320 x 480) resolution.  This makes the screen smaller and the resolution lower than the Lenovo P700. HVGA looks fine on a 3.5-inch display, so the real issue is the screen size.

In exchange for the smaller display, you have 1 GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor which is the main reason to get this phone over the Lenovo P700. It also comes with a decent 5 MP autofocus camera with a flash, as well as a secondary camera. The Sony Xperia go also provides more internal user available storage, at 4 GB (expandable via a MicroSD card) and has USB-on-the-Go support allowing you to connect it with USB Flash drives.

The only part I am not to crazy about is the smaller than average 1305 mAh battery, which is the same issue I have with the Sony Xperia U and Sola. An this is where the Sony Xperia go is a better choice than the Sony Xperia U and Sola. These two phone comes with higher resolution WVGA (480 x 800/854) displays combined with small 1320 mAh batteries. Given the small battery I would prefer the Sony Xperia go with its lower resolution display. The lower resolution display will use less power and result in better battery life.

As a bonus, the Xperia go, is IP67 certified to be dust and water resistant, making this a though phone. Despite its though status, this phone is just 9.8 mm thick. 

4. Sony Xperia Sola - Want a higher resolution dual core device? (Php12,990 to Php15,990)

If the HVGA display of the Sony Xperia go puts you off, there is a good alternative with the Xperia sola.

The Xperia sola has a larger 3.7 inch 480 x 854 display, provides the same dual core punch and almost the same specifications as the Xperia go. You do loose a front camera, and the dust and water resistant nature of the Xperia go.

I would recommend a go, but if the display puts you off. Get the sola.

To be continued. 
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