Monday, December 31, 2012

Running Balance in Smart Unlimited Data Plans

Question from a reader:

Hi,i am subscribed to unli data plan 2000. When i checked my bill via sms, it says current balance 0.00, previous balance 0.00, running balance 431.02, credit limit 8000. What is runnning balance? Is this an additional charge? Thanks

The running balance is not an additional charge. It is a computation of your monthly usage, and it included in the running balance the free SMS and minutes.

For example, with your plan, Smart Unli Data Plan 2000. The plan comes with:

- 150 minutes of calls to all networks
- 200 minutes of SMS to all networks

For usage beyond these limits you will be charged as follows:

- For calls beyond 150 minutes, Php5.09 for calls within the Smart network and Php6.11 for calls to other networks
- Php0.51 for SMS exceed 200.
- MMS and IDD charges

If in the current month you used 

100 minutes of calls, 50 minutes to Smart and 50 minutes to other networks and sent out 300 SMS you running balance would look like this:

-50 minutes x Php5.09 = Php254.5
-50 minutes x Php6.11 = Php306
- 300 SMS x 0.51 = Php156

TOTAL ("running balance") = Php716.5

You will only pay a portion of this:

-100 minutes of calls LESS 150 free minutes = Php0
-300 SMS - 200 SMS = 100 SMS. 100 SMS x Php0.51 per SMS = Php51

So in this example:

- Running balance = Php716.5
- Charges over free usage = Php51
- Monthly bill = Php2051

I hope this helps. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cherry Mobile Blaze

Cherry Mobile has launched yet another Android handset, the Blaze. The Cherry Mobile Blaze has a 4.7-inch FWVGA (480 x 854) display and is powered by a dual core 1 GHz processor on a Mediatek chipset.  It specifications are typical of other devices in its class with 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage, dual sim capability and comes out of the box with Android 4.0.4. It differentiates itself from the other phones in its class with a 8 MP camera. The battery is reportedly a 1500 mAh unit, but I still have to confirm this.  

The Cherry Mobile Blaze is priced at Php6,499.

Initially, I have one gripe. The phones design looks suspiciously like a Samsung Galaxy S III, and the attempts made at emulating Samsung's design is apparent. The generic Android phone specification calls three or four capacitative, with a home button being marked by a home icon. Samsung has consistently maintained a central large unmarked home button with a physical of capacitative button on each side. The Cherry Mobile Blaze has a Samsung like button design.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What is the correct screen size for a smartphone display?

Four inches is the wrong size?
Last year I read an article in Gizmodo entitled  "This Is Why the iPhone's Screen Will Always Be 3.5-Inches" which tries to explain why 3.5-inches is the perfect size. The statement was premised on how far your thumb can reach across the screen. The obviously flaw in the premise is that the article seems to assume the people all have the same sized of hands. 

There is no perfect screen size.
1. Bigger is better. Larger screens are more comfortable to read and manipulate. That is why we have tablets, and why tablets are popular. In the end, tablets are really just super sized smartphones. If there was no need for larger screens tablets would not be immensely popular. 
2. Bigger is better is relative. What is "big" is relative to how you use it. The iPhone screen always felt cramp to me. Coming from a QWERTY, I type with the phone in portrait mode. So I like my phones a bit wide. At the same time, I like to be able to make calls one handed, so I like to be able to read the top of the screen with my thumb. I used one thumb to select the users name on the number pad, and select the suggestions at the top of the screen with the same thumb. Larger 4.7 to 5-inch phones are a bit of a reach for me. People with larger hands, could manipulate a 5-inch phone as comfortably as I manipulate my 4.3-inch phone.
In my previous buyers guides, price was the basis for classifying phones. Phones today comes is a wider variety of sized than ever before. When I started this blog, a 3-inch touchscreen smartphone was small, and 4.3-inches was considered to be stretching the limits or ergonomics. Since than, size have grown even to a smaller 2.8-inches and grown to as big as 5.5-inches. Starting 2013, I will use size, compact (4-inches or less), mid-sized (over 4-inches but not over 4.5-inches), large (over 4.5-inches to 5 inches) and phone tablets (over 5 inches) as the bases for classifying phones. I think that size is becoming a more and more important consideration, as out favorite toys get super-sized. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Google Ten Best Apps of the Year - One more should be added to the list

Google had named its ten best apps of the year. You will find the list at this link (will take you to Google Play). There is one app I think should be on the list, Tasks by Team Tasks. 

Ironically, Android does not have a native app for its tasks list which is part of Google Calendar. I use tasks a lot, and when I got an Android the first thing I tried to do was find a great tasks app, which synced with Google Tasks. After over a year of jumping from one app to another, most of which I found too busy, I found Tasks by Team Tasks. It is a well designed app that does not overcomplicate the function of maintaining a task lists and really feels like a native Android app.  It brings 100% of the functionality of Google Tasks to your phone with a a nice Holo themed user interface. It even has a option for a tablet optimized interface. I think Google should have placed this on their best ten apps list.

Anyway, give it a look yourself. Tasks by Team Task has a ten day demo, and the full version costs just a bit more than a dollar. Task users have give this app a 4.7 out of 5 rating.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Huawei Ascend D quad XL

Huawei has announced the price of its Huawei Ascend D quad XL. Announced in February 2012, it has taken some time for this phone to hit the market, and I still do have to wait for reviews to find out just how good it is. 

But in terms of specifications and price, it is my favorite right now. First, price. The suggested retail price for this is just Php18,900. Basically, it competes head to head with the 5-inch quad core powered Lenovo K860. 

Huawei Ascend D quad XL has a 1.4 GHz quad core processor on a, designed by 
Huawei, K3V2 chipset. The fact that is has a in-house designed chipset is pretty impressive, since only two smartphone manufacturers design their chipsets in-house: Apple and Samsung. In terms of performance it is right up there with Samsung quad core Exynos chipset. Basically, its a fast as you need, and performs really well in the graphics intensive tasks. 

It comes with a 
4.5″ IPS+ LCD display with a HD (720×1280) resolution. This makes for a sharp  326ppi. And as a pet peeve, well is my favorite size. I am a fairly big person at six feet in height, but sometimes I feel like some of the new phones are getting a bit big. Smartphones with 4.5 inch HD aspect ratio displays are big enough, and small enough for me to manipulate comfortable with one hand. In more quantifiable terms, this phone is all of 64 mm wide, as compared to the 68-70 mm girth of its 4.7 and 4.8-inch rivals. 

The other thing I really like is that it comes with a 2600 mAh battery and still comes in at a reasonable 150 grams in weight. Unless the 
Huawei K3V2 is a battery hog, this should make for good battery life. The battery is user replaceable.

Internal storage is just 8 GB, bit you do have a microSD card slot so that it not an issues. It has a 8 MP primary camera and a 1.3 MP camera. The primary camera can capture 1080p video, and the secondary camera is good for 720p video. By all accounts the camera image quality and video capture is just average, but really I do expect more at this price. The only spoiler in the package is the absence of LTE, but again, at this price you don't expect to get that.

The phone runs Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, but I have run Jelly Bean, and really don't find it all much better. The Huawei Ascend D quad XL does come with its own custom UI, which I have no had a chance to try, but if you don't like it, it is no big deal. You have the option to revert to a pretty much vanilla Android interface. 

A reasonably large and sharp HD display in a narrow case, a large user replaceable battery and quad core power at a mid-level price. 

The Huawei Ascend D quad XL closes competitor is the Lenovo K860 which has similar specifications. The 5-inch Lenovo K860 is a massive phone, a bit too big for a primary phone for me.

Competition is also provided by the the Google Nexus 4. In terms of SRP, the Huawei Ascend D quad XL is 6K cheaper. In street price the difference is about 5K. The Huawei Ascend D quad XL does come with less internal storage, but it is user expandable. It also comes with a user replaceable battery, which is important for me since I keep phones for two years. I replaced the battery of my current phone after 15 months. It is cheaper and has features which I wise the Nexus 4 had. 

It would be really nice to be able to try one, but just comparing the Huawei Ascend D quad XL and Google Nexus 4 side by side, I love the more compact dimensions of the Huawei Ascend D quad XL. It is all of 4.9 mm shorter and 4.7 mm narrower. 

Me, I am inclined to wait for my retention to come up and pick up a LTE phone on retention from Smart, but that is six months away. If my phone died tomorrow, I think I would pick up a Huawei Ascend D quad XL. Right size and nicely priced. 

The Google Nexus 4 versus the HTC One X 16 GB

I already did a comparison between the Google Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S III, and each offers good value for money. The HTC One X has been playing second fiddle to the Galaxy S III all year, but a newly released 16 GB model made it a good value for money proposition at Php21,590. Now, it faces a direct challenger with the Google Nexus 4 priced just a few hundred pesos more at Php22,240. 

The Google Nexus 4 and HTC One X 16 GB are easier to compare. Both are priced at the same level, both have 16 GB of non-expandable storage and both do not have user replaceable batteries.

Display. The Google Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch HD IPS Plus LCD screen with a WXGA (768 x 1280) resolution. The HTC One X uses a 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD2 display with a HD (720 x 1280) resolution. Both are fine displays user similar technology, but the Nexus 4 is a bit sharper. So I have to give it to the Nexus 4 by a hair.

Winner: Nexus 4 by a hair

Power. Behind the display, the Google Nexus 4 uses a Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset with a quad core Krait, which is what I like to call a "second generation" quad core processor. The Nexus 4 also has the new generation Adreno 320 GPU.  Backing up the CPU and the GPU is 2 GB of RAM.

The HTC One X users a Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset with a quad core processor  based on the older ARM Cortex-A9 architecture, has ULP GeForce graphics and 1 GB of RAM. 

The Google Nexus 4 is the more powerful of the two. Looking at benchmarks will show a rather different picture. The Nexus 4 either performs exceptionally well, or exceptionally bad. This really is more an issue of the Android Jelly Bean operating system not being optimized yet for the new Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. 

In the real world, both are fast enough but the Google Nexus 4 but HTC Sense UI really pushes the 1 GB of RAM on the HTC One X to the limit, and multitasking suffers.

Winner: Nexus 4

Endurance. Battery life. Well I will let the comparison speak for itself:

Talk time

  • Google Nexus 4 - 14 hours 17 minutes
  • HTC One X -  9 hours 57 minutes

Web browsing

  • Google Nexus 4 - 4 hours 34 minutes
  • HTC One X - 4 hours 18 minutes

Video playback

  • HTC One X - 5 hours 45 minutes
  • Google Nexus 4 - 4 hours 55 minutes

Source: GSM Arena

The Google Nexus 4 has much better talk time and slightly better web browsing time. The HTC One X will give you 50 more minutes on video playback. 

The Google Nexus 4 has a 2100 mAh battery, and should do better. An operating system update, should give it a boost in battery life. The HTC One X does pretty well considering in only has a 1750 mAh battery.

Winner: Nexus 4 on the chance it will improve with an OS update

Camera.  Okay, the Nexus 4 has a decent camera, the HTC One X camera captures detail a bit better and with a F2.0 lens should do better in low light. I will give it to the HTC One X, but many will disagree. Best you decide for yourself too. You can compare shots using GSM Arena's photo compare tool.

Winner: HTC One X, but its debatable.

Software updates. The Google Nexus 4 is already at Android 4.2 or 4.2.1 depending on your region and will be updated till 2014 most likely. Given HTC's recent track record on updates, it is likely that the HTC One X will get its last update sometime middle of 2013, to Android 4.2 or 4.2.1.

Winner: Nexus 4

Verdict. If you look at the win/loss column is looks close. But where the HTC One X does better, it does so slightly. The 2 GB of RAM, Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset and a longer life before the Google Nexus 4 stops getting updates means it will be "relevant" for a longer period of time. Basically, you will be happy with it longer. For me it is a no brainer. I would pick the Google Nexus 4.

The Google Nexus 4 versus the Samsung Galaxy S III

In the Android world, the phone to beat is the Samsung Galaxy S III. The measure of how good the new Google Nexus 4 is, really depends on how well is compares with Samsung's flagship.

Display. The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch HD IPS Plus LCD screen with a WXGA (768 x 1280) resolution. The Galaxy S III uses a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen with a HD (720 x 1280) resolution on a PenTile matrix. The Nexus 4 screen is sharp and bright. The Super AMOLED screen has nice contrast and is a bit bigger. They both look fine to me.

Winner: Draw

Power. Behind the display, the Google Nexus 4 uses a Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset with a quad core Krait, which is what I like to call a "second generation" quad core processor. The Nexus 4 also has the new generation Adreno 320 GPU.  Backing up the CPU and the GPU is 2 GB of RAM. The Samsung Galaxy S III uses a quad core processor  based on the older ARM Cortex-A9 processor cores, has Mali-400 graphics and 1 GB of RAM. 

The Google Nexus 4 is undoubtably the more powerful of the two. Looking at benchmarks will show a rather different picture. The Nexus 4 either performs exceptionally well, or exceptionally bad. This really is more an issue of the Android Jelly Bean operating system not being optimized yet for the new Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. Still in the AnTuTu benchmark, the Nexus 4 is 25% faster than the Samsung Galaxy S III

In the real world, both are fast enough but the Google Nexus 4 is running next years chipset, while the Samsung is running what used to be the top of the line.

Winner: Nexus 4

Endurance. Battery life. Well I will let the comparison speak for itself:

Talk time

  • LG Optimus G - 15 hours 30 minutes
  • Google Nexus 4 - 14 hours 17 minutes
  • Galaxy S III (JB) -  10 hours 15 minutes

Web browsing

  • Galaxy S III (JB) -  6 hours 27 minutes
  • LG Optimus G - 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Google Nexus 4 - 4 hours 34 minutes

Video playback

  • Galaxy S III (JB) -  9 hours 27 minutes
  • LG Optimus G - 7 hours 16 minutes
  • Google Nexus 4 - 4 hours 55 minutes 
Source: GSM Arena

The Google Nexus 4 has better talk time, but given these are smartphones, screen on time really matters more, and the Galaxy S III really winds that round. I included the LG Optimus G in the comparison. The Optimus G is the Nexus 4's sister phone, both made by LG and running similar hardware. The main difference is that The Optimus G runs on Ice Cream Sandwich. The Optimus G performance would seem to show that Android Jelly Bean optimized yet for the new Qualcomm APQ 8064 Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, and the Nexus 4 battery life should improve with a operating system update.  But even when a updated operating system arrives, the Samsung Galaxy S III will best the Nexus 4 in battery life. 

As the phones get older, the Samsung Galaxy S III's battery can be easily replaced giving it a new lease on life. The Google Nexus 4 has a build in battery.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Camera.  Okay, I wont waste your time here. The Samsung Galaxy S III has the best camera in the Android world, and the Google Nexus 4 has a decent 8 MP shooter. Only the Apple iPhone 5 really rivals the Galaxy S III camera among the locally available phones. You can compare shots using GSM Arena's photo compare tool.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Storage. Again, little to compare here. The Google Nexus 4 has 16 GB of internal storage. The Samsung Galaxy S III 16 GB of internal storage expandable via a MicroSD Card slot.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S III

Software updates. The Samsung Galaxy S III is likely to be updated with the next versions of Android which will be released in 2013. The Google Nexus 4 will be supported well into 2014. That is what makes a Nexus phone and Nexus phone after all.

Winner: Nexus 4

Price. The lowest price I could find for the Samsung Galaxy S III, with an official warranty is Php27,700. The Google Nexus 4 is available for Php22,240. That is a 5K difference in price.

Winner: Nexus 4

Verdict. There are other areas to compare. I selected those which I find most important, so other users may have other considerations. The Google Nexus 4 gives you more power but less battery life. Over time new apps and games may make the Google Nexus 4 the more compelling choice. For now, the Samsung Galaxy S III will allow you to run your apps and games longer. The user replaceable battery is will make it easier to keep the  the Samsung Galaxy S III running well longer. The Samsung Galaxy S III has a better camera. 

On the other hand the Nexus 4 will get software updates faster, and is significantly cheaper. 

So which is best depends on the user. If your on a budget. Pick up the Nexus 4, it is a very good value for money option. For the money, you will not likely regret your purchase. If you are a techie who wants to always have the latest version of the Android operating system, get the Nexus 4.

If budget is not an issue, the Samsung Galaxy S III will serve you better. More time in between recharges and it will give you nicer pictures to upload to Facebook. Once the 16 GB of internal storage feels cramp, you can alway pop in a 16, 32 or 64 GB Micro SDCard.

Ultimately, both are good choices for the asking price, with the Google Nexus 4 offering great value and the Samsung Galaxy S III offering enough more to justify it higher price tag.

Smartphone Tech in 2013: Processing Power Starts to Take a Backstage

Two years ago, when I chose my current smartphone my two main considerations were screen size and power. After looking at a few 3.2 to 3.7-inch models, I decided I wanted something larger. The smaller screens where great for calls and SMS, but given that I planned to use the web browser and photo editing apps, a larger display is more comfortable to use. 

After trying several models, I found performance of many lower cost models to also be a bit sluggish. The HTC Desire's, Samsung Galaxy S and Apple iPhone 4 with their 1 GHz processors and 512 MB or more of RAM were the way to go. Two years later, the 1 GHz processor and 768 MB of RAM on my HTC Desire HD still runs every app I use adequately. What I did have to do was root the HTC Desire HD so that it could run Ice Cream Sandwich, later Jelly Bean. What made the device less relevant was not the 1 GHz processor but the end HTC deciding not to upgrade the phone past Gingerbread.

Today, even low cost smartphones powered by a dual core processor on a Qualcomm S4 play or Mediatek chipset will satisfy the needs of most users. It is really only the hard core gamer who will miss not having a quad core processor. 

I remember back in the late 90's when I would upgrade my processor of my desktop every year, and the performance benefits merited the expenditure. Today, I keep laptops for 3-5 years. Not being a gamer I do not feel the improvements of newer and faster processors. 

With smartphones, I really do not feel compelled to upgrade because of processor speed. With a HTC Desire HD, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III and Apple iPhone 5 on hand, used by different members of my family, the additional speed has not impressed me all that much. But than again, none of us game much on the phone. The additional processing power is most evident in photo editing apps. 

What has been more impressive are the gains in the battery life (Samsung Galaxy S III and Apple iPhone 5) and improved displays (Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III and Apple iPhone 5). When it comes time to upgrade, where I really want more speed is in terms of data. LTE for my next phone is a much have for me.

The Sony Xperia V won't beat the Google Nexus 4 in benchmarks,
but it does have a better camera and internet connectivity. 

Newer smartphones do need more power, but that is really in terms of GPU power to run the higher resolution displays which we are seeing in upcoming handsets

Dual core and quad core processing are nice marketing tools. For most of 2012, manufacturers showed off benchmarks,  but did not highlight new productive apps which take advantage of the additional speed. Really all this power adds very little to in terms of actual productivity. Display quality, battery life, software support, the quality of the camera and connectivity features will be more relevant to the buyer in 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Globe Telecom offers the Apple iPad 4 WiFi + Cellular at a subsidized price

Globe Telecom is offering the Apple iPad 4 "Cellular" model at carrier subsidized prizes:

  • 16 GB - Php21,300
  • 32 GB - Php25,290
  • 64 GB - Php29,990 

The prices are Php8,690 to Php10.000 less than the Apple suggested retail price. 

To avail of the subsidized prices you have to obtain the device bundled with a "Plan 999", unlimited data plan with a two year contract. While this represents a 24K investment over two years. if you factor in the discount on the device, it is like getting an unlimited data plan for about Php636 a month or less. If you are planning to get the HSPA/LTE version of the iPad mini, this is probably the best way to go. Please note, the Tatoo Plan 999 is not an LTE plan.

Globe Telecom offers the Apple iPad mini WiFi + Cellular at a subsidized price

Globe Telecom is offering the Apple iPad mini "Cellular" model at carrier subsidized prizes:

  • 16 GB - Php13,990
  • 32 GB - Php18,790
  • 64 GB - Php23,590 

The prices are Php8,000 to Php8.400 less than the Apple suggested retail price. 

To avail of the subsidized prices you have to obtain the device bundled with a "Plan 999", unlimited data plan with a two year contract. While this represents a 24K investment over two years. if you factor in the discount on the device, it is like getting an unlimited data plan for about Php665 a month. If you are planning to get the HSPA/LTE version of the iPad mini, this is probably the best way to go. Please note, the Tatoo Plan 999 is not an LTE plan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Smartphone Tech in 2013: HD War

With the year ending in a week, and the Consumer Electronics Show and the Mobile World Congress coming in the next two months, it is a good time to reflect on what is coming in the next few months. The main consideration is to reflect whether it is a good time to buy your next mobile device or whether you may want to hold on a bit longer and wait for the next generation of mobile devices. 

Sharps 5-inch 1080p smartphone

One of the biggest innovations you will see coming to smartphones in 2013 is sharper screen resolutions. Smartphones with 1080p resolutions already exist. HTC is already selling its Droid DNA in the US, Oppo is already selling its Find 5 in China and Sharp is selling its Aquous Phone SH920W in Russia. What all these three phones have in common is a 5-inch 1080p (1080 x 1920) display. Rumors abound about the ZTE Z573 and the Sony Xperia Z which, are all but confirmed, as having 5-inch 1080p displays. It wont be long before we will start seeing Full HD smartphones from Samsung and  LG. The only real question is when and what will be the first 1080p smartphone to hit Philippine shores. With Samsung lording over the Android smartphone market, the other players will likely release their offerings early to head of the Samsung Galaxy S IV.

This would also mean that you will see HD (720p - 720 x 1280) displays migrating to the mid-level smartphones. qHD (540 x 960) displays are already available in several entry level smartphones today. 
By the middle of 2013, you can expect to see 7-inch tablets migrate to 1080p displays, and 720p displays will migrate to lower cost tablets.

As for the 10-inch tablets, the Google Nexus 10 is already at 2560 x 1600, so I expect to see more of that in larger Android tablets. 

Apple will follow with it own non-standard high resolution aspect ratios. The iPad mini is already being rumored to be released in a 2048 x 1536 version and we might even see the next iPhone jump to 2272 x 1280. Apple has fewer resolutions to select since the iOS does not scale to multiple resolutions.

I am not sure how much these ultra sharp displays will improve the user experience, but if you want them, you won't have long to wait. The good thing, is at some point the resolutions will stop bumping up. It really does not make much sense to keep pushing up display resolutions beyond 1080p. So your 2013 purchase is not likely feel like the old model too soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

O+ 8.12 - 4.5-inch qHD smartphone with 1 GB of RAM

Looking to do some last minute Christmas smartphone shopping. O+ (Oplus) has a new interesting offering.  You probably have seen the O+ adds on TV, but I have not featured their phones on this blog, as after taking a look at the specifications O+'s offerings were outdated in terms of software (Gingerbread) or hardware (single core processors). O+'s latest offering is interesting though: the O+ 8.12. 

The O+ 8.12 is a 4.5-inch Android smartphone with a  4.5-inch qHD display (540 x 960). It comes with a 1GHz dual core processor on a Mediatek MT6577 chipset. Priced at Php11,995 the O+ 8.12 is on the expensive side given that you can get a phone with 4.5-inch qHD or a  Mediatek MT6577 for almost half the price of the O+ 8.12. What the O+ 8.12 adds to the equation is that it comes with 1 GB of RAM while its less expensive competition comes with 512 MB to 768 MB of RAM.

While the O+ 8.12 comes with Android 4.04 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box. it is upgradeable to 4.1 Jelly Bean, giving it another leg up over most of its lower cost competition.

The other specifications are typical of what you get in the lower cost Androids from Cherry Mobile, Cloudfone and ZTE. You get Dual SIM capability, 4GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot, a 8-megapixel autofocus rear camera with LED flash, a front camera and a 1850mAh battery.

The O+ 8.12 also features Air Shuffle (similar to Sony's floating touch) which allows you to manipulate the FM radio, gallery, camera and music player without actually touching the display. I really do not see any practical use of this kind of technology on a smartphone.

Looking at its direct competition, the O+ 8.12 at Php11,995 is not a bang for the buck deal. You have the Cherry Mobile Flame coming in at Php6,299, Cloudfone Thrill 430x at Php7,777 and the ZTE Grand X V970M at Php9,995. Still this is the only one among the three with 1 GB of RAM. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Closer Look at the Windows Phone 8X by HTC

Microsoft is placing a lot of its hopes on Windows Phone 8, and the phone that they are expecting to take the Windows Phone platform to new heights is the HTC Windows Phone 8X.  With a suggested retail price of Php26,550, and a street price of Php24,150 it competes directly with the newly launched Google Nexus 4. On the Smart network, the HTC Windows Phone 8X also has to compete with the Apple iPhone 5 and the LTE enabled Sony Xperia V, both of which will actually cost a subscriber less on Data Plan 2000.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X specifications are the same as the the Sony Xperia V in two key aspects. Both of which have a 4.3-inch HD (720 x 1280), a dual core Qualcomm Krait processor and 1 GB of RAM. The other specifications are typical for the class with 16 GB of non-expandable storage, a 8 MP camera, 1800 mAh battery.

The specifications of the HTC Windows Phone 8X indicate that it has an LTE chip, however, the version carried by Smart is not marketed as an LTE phone. It would seem that he local versions of the HTC WIndows Phone 8X either does not have an LTE chip or does not have an LTE chip compatible  with the Smart network. This aspect is where it is overshadowed by the Sony Xperia V which is sold as a LTE enabled phone.

This also make it less desirable than the Apple iPhone 5, which while it does not come with LTE enabled, phones already in the market are likely to get LTE enabled once Apple accredits the local networks.

Compared to the Google Nexus 4, the Windows Phone 8X has a smaller display and a less powerful processor. The Google Nexus 4 comes with a 4.7-inch HD display and a quad core qualcomm krait processor.

Appearance wise, the bezel seems a bit larger than it should be, and it is actually a few millimeters wider and taller than other HTC Phones with a 4.3-inch display. and at 10.1 mm is not particularly thin. All-in all, in terms of hardware, the HTC Windows Phone 8X does not stand out from the Android phones in the market and the iPhone.

HTC Windows Phone 8X does not have the hardware to influence Android and iOS users to switch to the Windows Phone platform and is not priced low enough to make that a consideration for migration.  So what will have to sell the HTC Windows Phone 8X is Windows, and local marketing for Windows Phone 8 seems non-existant.

This is a bit of a shane since Filipino's are heavy Facebook users, and the Windows Phone 8 platform has the best Facebook integration of any mobile operating platform. HTC Philippines and smart should have marketed this as "the" Facebook phone. Instead, as it is right now, it looks like it is left to the Nokia Lumia 920 to generate some buzz around the Windows Phone platform.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Smarts Smartphone Line-up


Smart Communications lowest cost LTE phone is the ZTE T82. The ZTE T82 is an Android phone with a 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960) display.
  • LTE Plan 1500 - Free 

Sony Xperia V

Smart higher end LTE offering is the Sony Xperia V. This Android powered phone features a 4.3-inch HD  (720 x 1280) display, which has the highest pixel density of any phone in the Philippines, and a 13 MP camera.  

  • LTE Plan 1500 - Php6500 with  24 month contract (but free at LTE Plan 1500 on promo until January 15, 2013)
  • LTE Plan 2000 - Free with a 24 month contract

LG Nexus 4

    The LG Nexus 4 is the most powerful phone on the smart line-up with a quad core Krait processor and 2 GB of RAM. The Android powered Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch HD (720 x 1280) display with 16 Gb of storage.

    • Data Plan 1500 - Free with a 30 month contract or Php4,000 with a a 24 month contact 
    • Data Plan 2000 - Free with a with a 24 month contract

    Windows Phone 8X

    Smart Communications has added the HTC Windows Phone 8X to its line-up of smartphones. The HTC Windows Phone 8X has a 4.3-inch HD (720 x 800) display and 16 GB of internal storage.

    • Data Plan 1500 - Php8,000 cash out with a 24 month contract 
    • Data Plan 2000 - Free with a 30 month contract or Php4,000 cash out with a 24 month contract
    • Data Plan 3000 - Free with a 24 month contract

    Samsung Galaxy Note II

    The Samsung Galaxy Note II replaces the Samsung Galaxy S III on the Smart Communications line-up. The Galaxy Note II is a Android powered phone tablet with a 5.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) with a quad core processor and 16 GB of storage.
    • Data Plan 2000 - Free with a 30 month contract or Php4,000 cash out with a 24 month contract 
    • Data Plan 3000 - Free with a 24 month contract

    Friday, December 21, 2012

    Chaos Rings, Chrono Trigger, Crystal Defenders and Final Fantasy on sale at Google Play

    Chaos Rings
    Square Enix is offering its three of its games at up to 70% off until January 3, 2013.

    Chaos Rings - From US$12.99 to US$3.99
    Chaos Rings Q - From US$12.99 to US$3.99
    Chrono Trigger - US$9.99 to US$6.99
    Crystal Defenders - US$7.63 to US$3.99
    Final Fantasy - US$6.99 to US$4.99

    At these prices Chaos Rings and Chaos Rings are must buys for the RPG gamer. 

    Chaos Rings Q

    Unfortunately, Final Fantasy III is not being offered as part of the Square Enix sale.

    Apple iPad mini the Google Nexus 7 Compared

    Pricing. The Apple iPad mini is finally officially here, so it can be purchased at much more reasonable prices. Compared to the Google Nexus 7, pricing still favors the Nexus 7. 

    The Nexus 7 is offered in only two models, a 32 GB WiFi only model and a 32 GB 3G model. 

    The 32 GB WiFi only Nexus 7 is priced at Php14,490, or 1.5K below the price of the Apple iPad mini 16 GB. If you compare the 32 GB model of the iPad mini priced at Php20,990 with the Nexus 7, the price difference grows to 6.5K.

    The 3G model of the Nexus 7 is priced at Php17,350. The entry level Cellular model of the the Apple iPad mini starts at 21,990. This makes it 4.6K more expensive. If you compare the 32 GB model of the iPad mini Cellular priced priced at Php26,990with the Nexus 7, the price difference grows to 9.5K.

    Nexus 7 has the advantage in screen resolution and power. The Nexus 7 has a higher resolution display, with a 7-inch HD (1280 x 800) display which has a 216 ppi pixel density. The iPad mini has a 1024 x 768 display with a lower 162 ppi pixel density. 

    The Nexus 7 also has a quad core Tegra 3 and 1 GB of RAM, which is still cutting edge technology. The Apple iPad mini has 2011 tech, with the same A5 chip and PowerVR SGX543MP2 GPU from the iPad 2. The model on the iPad mini is probably the more power efficient 32 nm model.

    The iPad Mini provides more screen real estate in a lighter package. The iPad mini has a  larger 7.9-inch display compare to the Nexus 7. This does mean it is a bigger, and it all of 1.5 mm taller and 14.7 mm wider. But the iPad mini is 3.3 mm thinner and 10% lighter than the Nexus 7. Overall, I would say it provides more screen real estate and is just as handy as the Nexus 7.

    The Nexus 7 has multiuser support. With Android 4.2 installed the Nexus 7 has multiuser support. Meaning it can have several different user accounts which different users can log into. Network settings and app permissions are shared among all users on the tablet. Wallpapers, home screen and lock screen layouts, PINs, screen brightness, and individual app settings are unique to each user. This makes the Nexus 7 better if you plan to share the device among several users.

    The iPad mini has better cameras. The iPad mini has a 5MP primary camera, which can capture 1080p video, and a 1.2 MP front camera which can shoot 720p video. The Nexus 7 only comes with one camera, a 1.2 MP front camera which is primarily for video calls, but can capture 720p video. 

    The Nexus 7 is better for HD playback. When playing HD video, the Nexus 7 uses almost the entire display and plays 720 videos at its native resolution. The iPad mini has a SD ratio display (4:3) which means it does not play HD video (16:9) optimally and has to scale down 720 video from 1280 x 720 to 1024 x 624,

    Only the iPad mini has a 64 GB model. The iPad mini has a 64  GB model. The Nexus 7 does not, and does not come with a MicroSD card slot. 

    The iPad mini will eventually have LTE. The iPad mini is not sold as an LTE device, but it does have an LTE radio. When that happens depends on when the local carriers LTE networks are accredited by Apple, at which time Apple will enable LTE in its devices in the Philippines. I have no idea of when this might happen.

    It's a though choice between the two. The Nexus 7 is the value money option. The iPad mini has its own set of advantages with the biggest one being a larger display and future LTE support.

    The Apple iPad mini and iPad 4 are here.

    Just in time for Christmas. I received an email this morning with the cheerful message "iPad mini is here".

    The Apple iPad mini is a 7.9-inch tablet which is priced as follows:

    WiFi Only

    16 GB - Php15,990
    32 GB - Php20.990
    64 GB - Php25.990

    WiFi + Cellular

    16 GB - Php21,990
    32 GB - Php26.990
    64 GB - Php31.990

    While browsing over at the Apple site contemplating a mini purchase, I notice the iPad 4 is now also being offered in the Philippines. The iPad 4 is a substantial upgrade of the iPad 3, with the main feature being the cooler running twice as powerful A6 chip being on board. The iPad 4 also comes with the new Thunderbolt port.

    The Apple iPad 4 is priced as follows:

    WiFi Only

    16 GB - Php23,990
    32 GB - Php28.990
    64 GB - Php33.990

    WiFi + Cellular

    16 GB - Php29,990
    32 GB - Php34.990
    64 GB - Php39.990

    Thursday, December 20, 2012

    Silly Question: Apple iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy Note II

    I was asked a question today, which seemed to me to be rather odd. My advice was sought on whether it would be better to get a Apple iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy Note II. My response was, well do you want a big phone or a small one. I mean, if you like one, you should positively dislike the other.

    I have seen a lot of comparisons online between the Samsung Galaxy S III, Google Nexus 4, and even the Samsung Galaxy Note II, against the Apple iPhone 5. I find those comparisons rather odd. It like comparing a 11.6-inch laptop with a 15-inch laptop. When I buy a laptop, I first decide on the size I like best (in my case its between 13 to 14-inches), than I see what is available in the size I want. 

    When I got my got my current Android two years ago, I chose an HTC Desire HD. Someone asked me why I did not get the iPhone 4. My answer, I liked the 4.3-inch screen. Shouldn't screen size be the determinative factor in what smartphone you want?

    All of todays smartphones work, and the more you spend the better they work. Android, iOS and Windows Phone both have more apps available than I would even use. Roughly, I have 50 apps on my phone right now, plus a few games I uninstalled since I don't play them anymore.  I have one game installed on my phone at a time for when I get really bored. So basically, an app store with 100,000 apps is as useful as one with 650,000 apps.

    The HTC Desire HD, was the perfect size for me two years ago, it is still as big as I want a phone to be today.

    Now, I liked a phone with a 4.3-inch display two years ago. Being all of 68 mm wide and 123 mm tall, it could still fit nicely into a belt pouch and hide discretely enough under my coat.  If I were to replace it now with say a HTC One X+, the question is am I happy with the larger wider 70 mm girth and the taller 134 mm height? Sure, I could keep in in the pockets of a loose fitting pair of jeans but not my finely tailored suit. The HTC One S would be almost perfect, but it means accepting a downgrade in screen resolution, and the local version has a circa 2011 tech Qualcomm S3 chipset. And next years top of the line HTC phone is something I do not find interesting at all. As tempting as a 1080p display and a quad core Qualcomm S4 is, I won't be buying a phone which is all of 140 mm tall, and over 70 mm wide.

    Consider this a rant, but it would be nice if Android manufacturers would give us high end phones, in different sizes.  Luckily, with all the Android manufacturers around I can eventually find something I can live with like Sony's reasonable sized Xperia T and V, which are both a fair bit taller with my current phone. That is something we have to live with, with the move to HD aspect ratio displays. But I fear this might be a dying breed.

    Apple has a one size fits all policy, and that is why I did not get an iPhone. Android manufactures are pretty much doing the same thing. The higher the specifications, the bigger the phone is. In a year, I might find myself with a deluge of giant Droids, smaller ones without features I want like LTE and a good camera, and Apple iPhone might look more and more tempting, even if I have to give up a swipe type keyboard.  

    Acer TravelMate B113-M-323a2G50akk

    The Acer TravelMate B113-M is a low cost 11.6-inch ultraportable. The TravelMate denotes Acer's line of business laptops, and one of the Acer TravelMate B113-M comes with a matte black finnish which makes it a low cost but decent looking unit to carry around during business meetings. While it might seem trivial, it is hard to find a low cost laptop that looks "business" like. 

    Specifications wise the Acer TravelMate B113-M is decent for the price. The Acer TravelMate B113-M is a tad over 0.8 inches thick and weighs in just a bit over 3 pounds. The 11.6-inch display has the standard 1366 x 768 screen resolution. The laptop is powered by a older generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core i3-2377M processor and 2 GB of RAM.  Storage is provided by a conventional 500 GB hard drive. It has the other things you expect in a laptop these days, including USB 3.0, a card reader and HDMI. The biggest weakness of the package is the 4-cell battery which will give you just 3.5 hours of battery life in real world use. Still, all-in-all not bad for the Php23,999 asking price.

    While the Acer TravelMate B113-M comes in both Windows 7 and Windows 8 models, the models currently shipping are equipped with Windows 7. Given that the Acer TravelMate B113-M is not a touchscreen device, it does not matter much either way.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012

    Starmobile Engage 7HD

    There are so many low cost tablets that I don't bother to write about most. But when I see a low cost tablet with a HD display, I do take notice.

    The Starmobile Engage 7HD has is a 7-inch Android tablet with a 800 x 1280 resolution, priced at an affordable Php7,990. So it this a more affordable alternative to a Google Nexus 7. The lower price means you don't get quad core power. Instead the Starmobile Engage 7HD comes with a dual core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor on the AML8726-MX chipset. I am not too familiar with this AMLogic designed chipset, bit a little web search reveals that it comes with Mali-400 MP graphics processing unit, like the ones you find on Samsung devices. Backed up by 1 GB of RAM, this is no Nexus 7 killer, but you do get a reasonably powerful package for the money, at nearly half the price of a Google Nexus 7. Expect performance somewhere a bit below the level of an iPad 2.

    Internal storage is only 8 GB, but it does come with a MicroSD card slow. The Starmobile Engage 7HD is a WiFi only device but it does support USB modems. The battery is a 4000 mAh unit, which is about right for a 7-inch tablet. For those of you who care about camera on tablets, it does come with a 8 MP primary camera, but at this price range, don't expect too much. It also comes with a secondary VGA camera which should be sufficient for video calls. The operating system is Android 4.0, which is fine for this class of device. 

    The tablet has a brushed metal finish which looks nice enough. And at 11 mm's thick and 342 grams in weight, it is reasonably thin and light. 

    All-in-all, not a bad option for someone looking for a low cost Android tablet. 

    Cherry Mobile's Terrible Trio

    The Cherry Mobile Flare

    I have been pretty impressed with Cherry Mobile's current offerings. Something just wanting a functional smartphone has little reason to look beyond Cherry Mobile Terrible Trio: the Flare, the Flame and the Titan.

    Price. What makes this three so "terrible" insofar as the competition is concerned is the price. The Flame will set you back just Php3,999, the Flame is priced substantially higher at Php6,299 which in turn gives you a larger higher resolution screen and the Titan, is priced just a bit higher, at Php6,499, gives users a low cost monster phone option.

    Operating System. None of the three phones run the latest version of Android, which is Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Instead all three phones run Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. I have devices that run on Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, and I really don't miss Jelly Bean when on a Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean's most innovative feature is Google Now, a voice assistant is not all that useful in the Philippines. Running on Ice Cream Sandwich does mean you can run all the apps on Google Play, which I think for most users is good enough. A note, Google Now can actually run on Ice Cream Sandwich, it is just that Google has restricted its use to Jelly Bean phones.

    Performance. The Flare, Flame and Titan all run on lower cost dual core chipsets. The Flare and Flame run on Qualcomm chipsets. The Titan on a MediaTek chipset. Low cost, does not mean poor performance. The three phones can score upwards of 6,700 points on AnTuTu benchmarks. Basically, it means that they can blow away anything built in 2010 in terms of performance, and are faster than most 2011 models, except for the dual core flagship phones. With a one year warranty, they are a better deal than looking for a one year old or two year old phone on the second hand market. These three will wreck havoc on the second hand market, attracting all except for brand conscious buyers.

    These phones are fast enough except for the hardcore gamer, who really wont be satisfied with any of the options under 20K. 

    Size options. With three sizes with the Flare at 4-inches, the Flame at 4.5-inches and the Titan at 5-inches, you should find one that meets your needs.  Cherry Mobile has also equipped the units with batteries that should make up for the increased consumption with the larger displays. The Flare has a 1500 mAh battery, the Flame a larger 1800 mAh battery and the Titan comes with a 2350 mAh battery. 

    What you don't get. What do you loose by getting a low cost smartphone these days. When I think about it, the biggest feature you loose is a good camera. Getting a smartphone with a good camera will cost you 15K, and getting one with a great camera, about 25K. You also won't get LTE connectivity, but really there are only three smartphones officially launched in the country which currently support LTE, and those start at 21K.

    For me the biggest problem with these phones is trying to get my hands on a Titan. I have not even seen one despite numerous visits to Cherry Mobile stores. But that does mean they are selling pretty well.

    Now this is not a paid post by Cherry Mobile. This is a small blog. I don't get demo phones from any manufacturer and I have no control over the advertisements you see on this blog, so that does not influence my writing. I have for been a fan of low cost technology. Basically, it means more Filipino's can have low cost access to communications and access to information. Having this brought to us by a Filipino company is a bonus, and evokes a certain sense of pride. 

    Google Nexus 4 - Not a Flagship but a Great Value for Money Proposition

    The Google Nexus 4 is not designed to compete with the 2012 Android flagship phones like the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III. Instead, the Nexus 4 is designed to be the best mid-level Android for 2013. I think I should explain.

    The Google Nexus 4 has a 8 MP camera, which can best be described as adequate. It is not as good as the 8 MP camera on the HTC One X, both of which fall far behind the 8 MP shooters on the Samsung Galaxy S III and Note II. The Google Nexus 4 is has 16 GB of non-expandable internal storage. There are no 32 GB and 64 GB models, and no way to expand the internal memory via a MicroSD card. The Google Nexus 4 does not have LTE on board. The Nexus 4 also did not launch with the cutting edge in screen technology, 1080p displays, which you are now seeing in phones released by HTC, Oppo and Sharp.

    So basically, if you are looking for a great camera phone, gobs of local storage and the fastest internet connectivity there are better options or the cutting edge in technology.

    What Google has designed is what is pretty much mid-level phone specifications come May-June 2013, but packing top end power to make sure that it will be powerful enough for two years of updates. The quad core Krait Processor with 2 GB of RAM will be able to keep up with Samsung's latest Exynos and the next release of Nvidia's Tegra. 

    Priced at Php24,990 suggested retail price (Php22,240 cash) is 8K lower than the price point of most new flagship phones. Google strategy with the Nexus line seems quite clear. The Nexus 4, like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S are targeted at the mid-level market. The last Nexus phone which embodied all the cutting edge technologies of the time was the Nexus One (though that one had limited internal storage). In Q1 and Q2 every year, its OEM partners will release their new phones. At the end of the year Google will release a phone that will be current for the year following its release. This keeps something fresh in the Android line-up all year round.  

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    HTC Windows 8 Phone One Day Sale

    HTC is having a one day sale on its latest Windows Phone handsets today December 18. Offered at steeply discounted prices are the Windows Phone 8S and the 8X, at its HTC Concept Store in SM North EDSA. The sale is limited to the first 88 buyers of each handset, with each buyer only allowed to buy one phone.

    Cherry Mobile SkyFire

    The Cherry Mobile SkyFire is now available at Cherry Mobile stores. The SkyFire is a 4.7-inch Android phone with Android 4.0.4 on board. 

    I am having a hard time figuring out where this one sits in the Cherry Mobile line-up. After all you already have the 4-inch Flare at Php3,999, the 4.5-inch Flame at Php6,299, and last, the 5-inch Titan at Php6,499. The SkyFire comes in at Php5,999 which is rather close to the Flame and the Titan, and is in between the two in screen size. Notably, the similarly sized and priced Flame has a higher resolution qHD (540 x 960) display,

    The specifications of the Flame are almost identical to the Titan except in terms of screen size and battery capacity:
    OS: Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
    Type: Dual SIM/Dual Standby
    Display: 4.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800)
    Memory: 512MB of RAM
    Storage: 4GB of internal storage, exandable via microSD card (32GB officially supported)
    Processor: 1GHz dual-core MT6577 processor
    GPU: PowerVR SGX53
    Primary Camera: 5MP autofocus camera with LED flash
    Secondary Camera: VGA front camera
    Connectivity: HSPA, WiFi, Bluetooth
    Features: GPS, FM Radio
    Battery:1500 mAh (I need to reverify this)
    While options are good, I would pick-up either the Flame or Titan instead (well the Titan really, if I could find one anyway).

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