Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keep your tablets and phones 16-inches from your face

I was talking to my optometrist today, and she was telling me books, mobile phones, tablets and pretty much anything you read should be kept at least 16 inches from your face. This is, the proper reading distance. Anything closer will cause you headaches.

So it looks like, in addition to our posture, we have to adjust reading distance, for our health.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 32GB with Dock

Villmans has listed the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 32GB with Dock as being available for a price of Php32,995. While this is a reasonable price it is a bit higher than we were expecting, still it is fairly reasonable

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 32GB is an Android powered tablet which comes with a detachable keyboard which allows it to be used both as a tablet and a laptop.

The keyboard dock has a separate battery extending battery life and a separate MicroSD card slot. This means you can expand the 32 GB internal storage to 64 GB via the slot on the tablet, and up to 96 GB via the slot on the dock.

Quick Specifications:   

Operating System Android 3.2 upgradeable to 4.x
10.1" LED Backlight WXGA (1280x800) Screen
10 finger multi-touch support
Corning Gorilla Glass
CPU NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-core CPU
Memory 1GB
Storage 32GB SSD + 8G life time ASUS Webstorage space
Wireless Data Network
WLAN 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth V2.1+EDR
1.2 MP front camera
8 MP autofocus F2.4 rear camera
with flash

Stereo Speakers
High Quality Mic
1 x 2-in-1 Audio Jack (Headphone / Mic-in)
1 x micro HDMI
1 x Micro SD Card Reader (up to 32 GB)
Mobile Dock:
1 x USB2.0 port
1 x SD Card Reader (up to 32 GB)
G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-compass
ASUS launcher
@Vibe Music
Asus Webstorage
File manager
ASUS sync
App Locker
App Backup
12 hours; 25Wh Li-polymer Battery
18 hours pad with dock; 25Wh(pad) + 22Wh(dock) Li-polymer Battery
263 x 180.8 x 8.3 mm
586 g
Mobile Dock
Dock only:
Dimensions: 263 x 180.8 x 8~10.4mm
Weight: 537g
Pad with dock:
Dimensions: 263 x 180.8 x 17~19.4mm
Weight: 1123g

LG Optimus Black P970 finally gets Gingerbread - ICS up next (year?)

Android's Gingerbread update, version 2.3.4, has finally made its way to the LG Optimus Black P970. It started rolling out last week, and Philippines users started getting it this week. Given that it has taken almost a year, the wait has been frustrating. Still, Optimus Black buyers have been given their promised Gingerbread update, and they have more to look forward to since, LG has promised to bring Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, to this phone. The question is when. Hopefully, much faster than the GB update.

At Php14,700 this is the cheapest phone in the market with a promised ICS update. 

Globe Tattoo Superstick

One thing we have not covered much in this blog are USB 3G dongles and portable WiFi devices. In part, maybe it is because I have had little use for those things. My SmartBro USB dongle is sitting in a drawer waiting for some occasion be used again. But is has been sitting there for twelve months now.  In a way this tells you how much of my mobile computing is now done on a mobile phone. Still, in the past twelve months that I have not been paying attention to these devices, they have improved in leaps and bounds. 

I do not get the point of the "Resistance" add campaign. But who cares. What is important is that the Globe Tattoo Superstick now gives you HSDPA+ speeds of up to 21.1 Mbps. 

The basic  Globe Tattoo Postpaid Plan 999, you pay a monthly service fee of Php999 a month for unlimited internet with a maximum speed of 7.2 Mbps. This is a postpaid plan with a 24 month lock-in.

You can upgrade your speed to 12Mbps, by adding Php100 per month. If you want to upgrade your speed to 15Mbps, you have to add Php150 per month. To get the maximum potential speed of 21Mbps is a Php200 per month upgrade. You can also upgrade the device from a USB dongle to a portable WiFI device for Php150 a month. 

A speed of 21.1 Mbps for Php1,199 per month is very good deal. Remember, just five months ago, Globe Telecom was offering its Tatoo Tonino Lamborghini promising 10Mbps for Php2,199 a month.

Caveat. Remember that wireless connection are wireless connections. They are based on Near-Line-of-Sight technology. Moving a few feet to a different location (going from one room to another) can have pretty dramatic effects on speed. Basically, you mileage may vary.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E125

About nine months ago, we lamented the absence of choices of AMD Fusion based platforms. Today, every major manufacturer has one, and many even place the chip on full sized laptops. Now, another one is available on local store shelves, the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E125.

It specifications are nothing new, with a AMD E-450 processor, AMD Radeon HD6320 Graphics, 2GB of RAM, a 500 GB hard drive and a 6-cell battery. Priced at about Php21,500 without an operating system, its price is typical for an E-450 based unit, but we would not call it would not be the bang for the buck option.  

The Lenovo is a thin 0.93 inches, and light at 3.1 pounds, which is better than most. It also does bring, what in our opinion, is the best in class keyboard. Give it a look, this might be the E-450 for you.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Plus P6800

Samsung has brought as tablets in a variety of sizes. From the ordinal 7-inch Galaxy Tab, now updated to a dual core version, to a 5-inch media player, a 5.3-inch "Note" and  8.9 and 10.1-inch tablets. CMKCellphones now list another Samsung Tablet in their inventory, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Plus P6800. 

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Plus P6800, like its name indicates has a 7.7-inch screen. For those wondering why a 7.7-inch model is needed since Samsung already has a 7-inch and 8.9-inch tablet available, the draw of the 7.7-inch model is not the display size but the fact that the 7.7-inch screen is a Super AMOLED screen.

With full phone functionality, a 800 x 1280 resolution screen, 1GB of RAM, a dual core 1.4 GHz processor, Mali-400 graphics, MicroSD card slot with support for up to 64GB MicroSD cards, and HSDPA+ 21.1 support, internally it is identical to the 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note. 

The other notable feature of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 Plus P6800 is that it is only 7.9 mm thin and 0.75 pounds in weights while packing a large 5100 mAh battery. Notably, the 7-inch Galaxy Tab, is 9.9 mm thick and weighs nearly the same with a smaller 4000 mAh battery.

Unlike the Note, it does not come bunlded with a stylus. But with the 16 GB model listed Php30,300 it is also cheaper than the Note. So, if you wanted a bigger Note or a supercharged 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, well here it is.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Asus UX21e-RY009v

The Asus UX21e-RY009v Ultrabook is not available locally. Retail price is Php53,900. It's main competitor is the 11.6-inch MacBook Air which has a starting price of Php49,900 for the 64GB version with 2GB of RAM.  The Asus UX21e-RY009v comes with a 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM, so it is more comparable to the Php59,900 11.6-inch MacBook Air.

Quick specifications
Processor: Intel Core i5-2557M 1.7 GHz
Operating System: WIndows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
Display: 11.6-inch 1366 x 768
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Storage: 128 GB SSD
Ports (notable only): USB 3.0 and HDMI Out
Weight: 2.4 pounds 

Whats missing? Back-lit keyboard

Whats interesting? Steel keys, so no need for a keyboard protector.

Smart Netphone 701 now at just Php4,999

@SMARTCares on Twitter just announced that the price of the Smart Netphone 701 has been reduced to just Php4,999. The Smart Netphone 701 is an aging 2010 Android powered phone which was originally priced at Php9,999. But with a 3.5-inch high resolution 480 x 800 screen it still is a very compelling option, and price reductions have kept it competitive. At its current price a non-brainer for buyers on a budget. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why you should not buy a tablet (and not spend too much time on your smartphone)

Ever since electronic devices became a near addition. Television sets were bad for our eyes, audio music players detrimental to our hearing, keyboards and mice were the hair bringers of repetitive strain syndrome, and heavy laptops brought painful shoulders because of the big bag syndrome. Now tablets have a more ambitious target: Your vertebra.

A study for the National Institute of Health was done by Harvard's medical and public health schools, with input from a Microsoft researcher, that examines how healthy is our posture when we use a tablet, compared to the more traditional desktop or laptop computers.

Needless to say, after examining the stooped, wrinkled posture of 15 tablet users in four different usage scenarios, the researchers concluded that slates are the worst for your back, neck, and so on, compared to a desktop kit, and even to a laptop computer. The four usage scenarios were: a tablet in the users' hands, on the lap in a case, on a table in a case, and on a table in a case, but at a higher angle, suitable for watching movies.

x x x 
he final recommendation is actually not a very typical way of utilizing your slate - at eye level and in a case that will keep it propped up to avoid unusual neck position...

It is going to be though keeping your 10-inch slate at eye level.

The same can be said for smartphones. Stooping over our hand helds for hours a day is equally harmful. Hold your device higher and keep as close to eye level as possible. Next time I get a phone, weight will be more of an issue. Lighter devices are easier to keep at eye level.

Spend on a light laptop, moderate mobile phone web browsing and using apps and spend more time in the real world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bang for the buck ultraportable - Samsung NP350U2B

While Intel is focused on its new Ultrabook, Samsung has released the Samsung NP350U2B, which shows that a well designed laptop can bring some of the benefits of Ultrabooks at a lower price. The Samsung NP350U2B A01PH sports a 12.5-inch screen but weighs in at a light 3.1 pounds. This is the weight of most 11.6-inch laptops as is within 0.1 pounds of the target weight of an ultrabook. The laptop is also fairly thin at 0.98-inches. Samsung promises 6-hours of battery life, though we have no means to verify this claim. But it is pretty safe to assume that this 3.1 pound laptop can give at least 4 hours of real world endurance. The Samsung NP350U2B A01PH, comes with a conventional 500 GB and not an SSD so don't expect quick boot and quick resume.

Basically, the Samsung NP350U2B is not an ultrabook, but it is thin, light, powered by a reasonably powerful Intel Core i5-2410M backed up by 4GB of RAM. It comes with Windows 7 Home Premium pre-installed. The only spoiler in the package is the absence of USB 3.0. All this can be had for just Php36,500. We need to give this laptop a closer look and get some hands on time. As it stands right now, it looks like it could be our favorite budget ultraportable.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Smart Communications gives you free 25MB of data every Mondsy

Smart Communications has launched it Manic Mondays promotions. Every Monday every Smart pre-paid and postpaid user gets 25mb of mobile internet for FREE. That’s enough to send a thousand tweets, FB posts or emails. All you have to do to avail of the promo is text FREE 25MB to 2200 every Monday.

While I did not see it in the promo page, I am pretty sure the 25MB is only good for use on the same day and will not carry over to the next day. 
Don't worry if you get addicted to having mobile internet. Smart has plenty of low cost data options to keep you online 24/7. For those not on a data plan, you can always add-on an Always On plan to your existing plan.

Update: The 25MB of data is good for 24 hours from time you availed of it. The promo will continue until February 27, 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Nexus now available for pre-order from Smart

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is now available for pre-order from Smart Communications. Pre-order period is from January 21, 2012 to January 28, 2012. Pick up date is January 28, 2012. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

HP Folio 13-1001TU: The best Ultrabook to date?

The Ultrabook is Intel's name for a new set of laptop standards:

    Thin – less than 21 mm (0.8 inch) thickness
    Lightweight – less than 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds)
    Long battery life – 5 to 8+ hours
    Mainstream pricing – around $1,000 USD
    May use flash-based SSDs
    Use CULV (17 W TDP) Intel Sandy Bridge mobile processors
        Core i5-2467M (1.6 GHz)
        Core i5-2557M (1.7 GHz)
        Core i7-2637M (1.7 GHz)
        Core i7-2677M (1.8 GHz)
    Use Intel's graphics sub-system HD Graphics 3000

Source: Wikipedia

HP Folio 13-1001TU

The 13.3-inch HP Folio 13-1001TU has an Intel Core i5-2467M processor, a healthy 4GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD for storage. The price is US$899, which is the same price as Acers S3 Ultrabook, but the HP Folio 13-1001TU cuts less corners. It has a SSD drive rather than using hybrid (SSD + Regular hard drive) for storage. It has a back lit keyboard.

Reviewers confirm it has an excellent keyboard and trackpad, and report no serious issues. It battery life has been tested at a real world 7 hours, a tad bit longer than the 13-inch MacBook Air.

The Downside - Not exactly up to specs. The HP Folio 13-1001TU is 22 mm thick and weighs in at 1.49 kgs. Meaning it is 1 mm thicker and 0.09 kgs heavier than Ultrabook standards. Our view. We really do not care. It is still terribly thin and reasonably light.

The Downside - Local pricing is high. The US$899 Acer S3 is sold locally for about Php44,990. The US$899 HP Folio 13-1001TU retails locally for Php55,990. 

Basically, it is overpriced in the Philippines at 56K price. Still it is 10K lower than 13.3-inch MacBook Air (128GB) at Php65,990.

At below 50K the HP Folio 13-1001TU could become a very popular product fro HP. At 56K, it is still a good choice, but there is that nagging feeling that you are still paying more than you should.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review @Unbox

Unbox has a review of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Don't waste your time gawking at this page. Click this link and head over to Unbox to read the review and view the pictures.

Can Globe Telecom's BlackBerry Plans save the BlackBerry

In the United States and Europe, BlackBerry market share is being eroded by Android, iOS and to a smaller degree Windows Phone devices. 

In other Asia and the Philippines, BlackBerry has a very small market share, but it is actually on the rise. The BlackBerry OS is clearly outdated as compared to Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and even the latest BlackBerry hardware barely catches up to the lower end Windows Phone devices. 

But Globe Telecom is giving BlackBerry an ace in the sleeve. Globe BBMax is a Php599 a month all-unlimited data plan for BlackBerry devices. This data plan offers unlimited surfing, IM, email, social networking (on the BB APN) plus downloading and streaming (on the Internet APN) wherever you go. This service is available to both Postpaid and Prepaid subscribers.

Basically this makes it cheaper by Php400 from unlimited data plans from Globe Telecom for other phones, and by Php400-600 for unlimited data plans from Smart. This translates to a savings of at least Php9,600 over two years.

Globe also offers a Php99 for 30 days unlimited access to BlackBerry Messenger for postpaid subscribers.

Personally, if I was not locked into a data plan for my Android phone I would seriously consider Globe BBMax plan. The devices meet my needs, I get access to BBM and save 10K over two years. What do you think? Is this enough to make BlackBerry mainstream in the Philippines?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Smart Samsung Galaxy Note January 19, 2012 promo

If the Samsung Galaxy Note free on Smart Data Plan 2000 (two-year lock-in) was not yet a good deal, if you apply for one tomorrow, January 19, 2012 at the Smart Wireless Center at Power Plant Mall, Rockwell, Makati City, you also get the first month service fee free. Basically, the package got cheaper, but for one day only.

The Samsung Galaxy Note, a 5.3-inch Android powered phone retails for over Php31,000.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Unlimited data plans, time based data or volume data plans?

Smartphones need data plans to be truly smartphones, unless you are happy enough hunting down WiFi hotspots.

Unlimited data plans. Unlimited data plans have gotten less expensive. With Smart, you can get it built in to your All-in-Plan at Php1,000 a month and it cost you roughly Php1,200 on the older Data Plans. It is a bit cheaper with Globe Telecom. Globe will give you unlimited data as an add-on or built-into you plan for the cost of Php999. Sun Cellular can add on unlimited data to you postpaid plan for just Php649 a month. If you have a BlackBerry, you can avail of a BlackBerry MAX Plan for Php599 a month.

If you are okay spending this much, these plans give you maximum flexibility and are a must for the heavy user. 

If these plans don't fit you whether you are better off with volume based or time based plans depends.

Volume Data.
Globe Telecom has very nice volume based data plans. 
  • Php99 for 50 MB for 30 days
  • Php299 for 300 MB for 30 days
  • Php499 for 1 GB for 30 days
The only problem is if you use up your allocation, you cannot avail of another volume based plan for the same period. You fall back to per minute charging. Still it is not so bad, since no matter how much you use, Globe won't charge you more than Php999 a month with their Anti-Bill Shock Feature if you are on a volume data plan.

This plans are also only available to postpaid subscribers.

Smart volume plans are as follows:
  • Php300 for 250 MB for 30 days
  • Php500 for 500 MB for 30 days
  • Php750 for 1 GB for 30 days
  • Php995 for 2GB for 30 days
If you are going to avail of 1 or 2GB, you might as well consider getting a unlimited data plan.

Smart plans cost more, but you can avail of multiple add-ons in a month so you can buy 250MB, and if you consume that buy another 250MB. Also, their volume data plans can be availed of by pre-paid and postpaid subscribers.

The plans that make sense to us are:
  • Globe's Php299 for 300 MB for 30 days
  • Globe's Php499 for 1 GB for 30 days
  • Smart's Php300 for 250 MB for 30 days
  • SMart's Php500 for 500 MB for 30 days
These plans make sense if you use services that need to be connected the whole day but do not use up plenty of data or apps that you use for short periods. These are:
  • eMail
  • Instant Messaging (iMessage, GTalk, Yahoo Messenger)
  • Social Networking (Facebook, Twitter, Google+)
  • Accessing cloud storage (Dropbox, iCloud, Skydrive)
  • Traffic updates (MMDA app)
  • Weather updates
  • News

For this use 250-500MB for 30 days should be fine.

Time based plans. Some activities consume a lot of data in a small period of time. If you browse the web, it is easy to eat 10-20MB in 30 minutes. You can consume 3X or more that streaming video, uploading pictures or downloading files in the same period of time. Basically, you could consume 250MB of data (cost Php300) in 5 hours of less. Five hours time based data only costs Php100.

If you consume a lot of data but only connect to the web with your mobile, this may be the plan for you. A warning though. Leave your device connected by mistake for a few hours, and this could cost you A LOT.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 2012 high end smartphone buyers guide

Where do we start? Lets start at the most expensive.

Apple iPhone 4S. The Apple iPhone 4S is the most expensive smartphone in the country, but good postpaid options make acquisition relatively painless. Given its high price, it specifications are fairly modest with a 3.5-inch (640 x 960 resolution), 512 MB of RAM, a 800 MHz dual core A5 processor, HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity, an excellent 8 MP camera and a VGA secondary camera. The camera can take pictures with almost zero shutter lag. Just 0.5 seconds between shots. Internal storage starts at 16 GB with 32 GB and 64 GB models available.  These modest specifications are enough to run iOS 5 fast. 

iOS 5 is also a much improve operating system, integrating cloud services, Android like notifications and widgets (only two at present) and the SIRI virtual assistant.
Ultimately, whether you like this phone or not depends on how you feel about the 3.5-inch screen. If you prefer this size of phone, it really has no direct competition, Android phone with more or less this screen size being mid-level offerings. The Apple iPhone 4S is the best mid sized smartphone.

Cash price: Php33,200 (Smart)/Php37,690 (Globe) for the 16GB model

Free: At Plan 2499

Recommended plan: 

- Smart at Data Plan 2000 with Php2,500 cash out (this plan comes with unlimited data. Smart Plan 2499 is capped at 1 GB).
- Globe Data Plan 1799 with Php4,800 cash out. If you can spend more, it make more sense to add on services like unlimited calls and SMS within the Globe Network rather than avail of Plan 2,499.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus.  The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is Google current generation reference phone. This phone features two new things, the new Android 4.0 operating system and a large 4.65 inch Super AMOLED HD (720 x 1280) screen. The phone has a button less interface.

The specifications seem impressive enough with 1 GB of RAM, a dual core 1.2 GHz A9 processor on a TI OMAP 4460 chipset, HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity, an excellent 5 MP camera and a 1.3 MP secondary camera (which can do 720 p video recording). The 5 MP camera feautres zero shutter lag and single motion panorama shots. Internal storage starts at 16 GB with a 32 GB model available (but not in the Philippines).

As impressive as this may sound, dual core 1.2 GHz A9 processor on a TI OMAP 4460 chipset is not a fast as the Exynos based system on the seven month old Samsung Galaxy S II.The Galaxy S II has a better 8 MP primary camera and a also comes with a 2 MP secondary camera. For storage, the Galaxy S II has 16 GB of internal storage expandable via MicroSD card. 

In other words, it is not a Galaxy S II killer. The main reason to get this phone is the 4.65-inch screen. In a way also, this is a limiting factor. While the phone is only 8.9 mm thick, it is still 67.9 mm wide so it may not be ideal for persons with smaller hands.

Cash price: NA
Free: At Smart Data 2000 (starting January 21, 2012)

Samsung Galaxy Note. If you are looking for the phone with killer specifications, it is the Samsung Galaxy Note. This phone has a large 5.3-inch Super AMOLED HD (800 x 1280) screen.

This Android phone runs on 1 GB of RAM, a dual core 1.4 GHz A9 processor on a Exynos chipset, HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity, an excellent 8 MP camera and a 2 MP secondary camera Internal storage starts at 16 GB with a 32 GB model available (but not in the Philippines), which is expandable via a MicroSD card. It also comes with a stylus which brings added functionality. Right now it runs on Android 2.3.5, but an Android 4.0 update is guaranteed.
It is a monster phone with monster specifications. It really depends on you want a large almost tablet like device. If you do, this one is probably the best choice.
Cash price: As low as Php31,500 open line with a 1 year official warranty

Free: Free at Smart Data Plan 2000

Samsung Galaxy S II. This seven month old phone is still a great choice. It has a large 4.3-inch Super AMOLED HD (480 x 800) display.

This Android phone runs on 1 GB of RAM, a dual core 1.2 GHz A9 processor on a Exynos chipset, HSDPA+ 21.1 Mbps connectivity, an excellent 8 MP camera and a 2 MP secondary camera Internal storage starts at 16 GB with a 32 GB model available (but not in the Philippines), which is expandable via a MicroSD card. Right now it runs on Android 2.3.5, but an Android 4.0 update is guaranteed. Except for the screen size and resolution, and the operating system, this phone has better specifications than the Galaxy Nexus.

This is also a large phone, but it is a bit slimmer (8.5 mm) and bit narrower (66.1 mm) than the Galaxy Nexus.

Cash price: As low as Php25,950 open line with a 1 year official warranty

Free: At Globe's Plan 2499
BlackBerry Torch 9860. We only recommend this phone if you are a using BlackBerry services and are looking for something to tide you over until the next generation of BlackBerry phones. 

Like the other new BlackBerry phones it comes with O.S. version 7.0, a 1.2GHz processor and 5MP camara. The Torch 9860 actually comes with less internal memory at 4GB compared to the new 9810 Torch and 9790 Bold which had 8GB. It is not that big a deal since storage is expandable via MicroSD card.

We selected this among the new BlackBerry's because it has the largest screen with the highest resolution among the new BlackBerry's at 3.7-inches with a 480 x 800 resolution. This makes is the best choice for a variety of uses like web browsing, document viewing, navigation and the like. You do loose the QWERTY keyboard. 

If you want a BlackBerry with a QWERTY keyboard, you might as well hold on to what you have and wait a few month for the BB 10 phones. If you are not a BlackBerry user, now does not seem to be the time to make a switch to this platform.

Cash price: As low as Php24,900 open line with a 1 year official warranty

Other phones. There are a bunch of other high end phones in the market, like HTC Sensation series (basic, XE and XL), the LG Optimus 2X, 3D smartphones like HTC EVO 3D and LG 3D P920, BlackBerry's new Model 9810 Torch and 9790 Bold and Nokia's MeeGo powered N9. We did not forget this phones. The five above are the best choices in the market today. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Smart launching the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Janaury 28, 2012, free at Data Plan 2000

Smart Communications will be offering the Samsung Galaxy Nexus free, on a two year contract, a Data Plan 2000. You can also get it, on lower plans:

  • Data Plan 1500 - Php12,000 cash out
  • Data Plan 1000 - Php16,000 cash out
  • Data Plan 800 - Php21,000 cash out
  • Data Plan 500 - Php27,000 cash out

Pre-order starts on January 21, 2012.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 2012 mid-level smartphone buyers guide

We define mid-level smartphones to the price range of Php12,000 to Php20,000, and these days, that amount of money can get you a very decent smartphone. For that amount, you should expect a high resolution screen, a decent auto focus camera with a flash, the ability to capture 720p video and a fast processor.

@Php12900 - Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo V - A mid level smartphone that you can easily buy without worrying about not having spent more. The Sony Xperia Neo V is an Android smartphone (currently version 2.3.4) with a 3.7-inch high resolution 480 x 854 screen,  a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a decent 5MP camera with Panorama mode, a secondary camera, HDMI out and pretty much everything you expect from a modern smartphone these days. It has enough power to do the smartphone heavy lifting work as well as play all but a few dozen of the latest games. The weakest point of this handset is the 320MB on internal storage. Though this is expandable to up to 32GB via a MicroSD card, not all apps can be moved to the MicroSD card.

The lowest price we have found on this phone with an official warranty is Php12,900.
If I were to spend more, I would like a larger screen, more internal storage or better camera.

@Php14,800 - LG Optimus Black P970 - Brighter than the sun. If you add another 1.9K to your budget, you can get the bigger screen and more internal storage. The LG Optimus Black is another Android smartphone with a 4-inch high resolution (480 x 800) super bright (700-nit) display and 2GB of internal storage. It also comes with a slim 9.2 mm case giving it a premium high end look.

Out of the box, is runs Android 2.2, but is now upgreadable to Android 2.3.4. LG has also promised to upgrade this phone to ICS. If I was in the market for a phone right now at any price range, I would give this one a very long look.

@Php16,500 - Samsung Galaxy W. If you add another 1.7K to your budget the budget, at Php16,500 you have the Samsung Galaxy W i8150, another Android powered smartphone. It has a decent 3.7-inch high resolution screen (480 x 800).

What the Samsung Galaxy W i8510 offers is a faster 1.4 GHz processor and faster 14.4 Mbps HSDPA connectivity as compared to 1 GHz and  7.2 Mbps connectivity of  Sony Ericsson Neo V and the LG Optimus Black. The weakest part of Samsung Galaxy W i8510 is internal storage, having only 512 MB, expandable up to 32 GB.

Between this and the LG Optimus Black and Sony Ericsson Neo V, the black and Neo look like better deals. 

Update: The Samsung Galaxy W is not available from Globe Telecom, free at Plan 1799.

@Php18,800 - HTC Desire S - You have to love HTC Sense. I am a big fan of the HTC Sense user interface. If you are considering this phone, well it better be because of the Sense UI.

The HTC Desire S is another Android smartphone with a 3.7-inch high resolution screen (480 x 800). This phone does have a decent amount of internal storage a 1 GB, and does have the most RAM of the bunch at 768 MB. Combine with a 1GHz processor and HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity it is fast enough. It also does offer HTC Sense 3.0 with it proprietary widgets and apps and premium build quality with its aluminum unibody case. It does come bundled with a 8GB MicroSD card.

The lowest price we have found for this phone with an official warranty is  Php18,800, placing it on the expensive side. It is no doubt a good phone, the only question is, is it worth 4K more than an LG Optimus Black.

@Php20,000 - Sony Xperia Arc S - Great Camera Phone. At the top end of our budget for mid-level phones you can find the Sony Xperia Arc S. The lowest price we have found for this with an official Sony warranty is Php20,000. This cost all of Php7K more than the Sony Ericsson Nee V, and 5K more than the LG Optimus Black.

It does offer a more for the money. It comes with the largest screen in this category at 4.2-inches. It comes with 1GB of internal memory with a bundled 16 GB MicroSD card. It matches the Samsung Galaxy W with a 1.4GHz processor.  It has an a pretty good 8 MP camera (with Panoramo mode), as against the 5 MP units of the other phones in this comparison. The 8 MP camera on the Arc S (in our opinion) is not as good as the camera on the Nokia N8, Apple iPhone 4S or Galaxy S II, but it is a very decent camera.

Another plus, is this phone is pretty much guaranteed an Android Ice Cream Sandwich update.

@Windows Phone - HTC Radar - Php18,200.

If you are tired of Androids, you can get the HTC Radar at Php18,200. And it is a very good choice for the price. The HTC Radar comes with the latest Windows Phone 7.5 out of the box which is deeply integrated to Windows Skydrive and its 25GB of online storage.

Its specifications are similar to its Android competitors with a 3.8-inch (480 x 800) screen, a 1GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM and HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity.

It comes with 8 GB of internal storage, 6.5 GB of which is user available. It is not expandable, making it a plus and a minus. The 5 MP camera on this phone is the best in this bunch having a F2.2 aperture and a back-lit sensor giving it better low light performance. It is not an excellent camera, but it is as good as you get in this price range unless you are willing to pick-up a Nokia N8.

If you are heavy into Facebook, Windows Phone 7.5 has the best Facebook integration of any smartphone operating system, with Facebook being integrated into the contacts and SMS application.

That being said, the Windows Phone ecosystem with 50,000+ apps is much smaller than the 400,000+ app Android or the 500,000+ app iOS  ecosystems. I have about 54 apps installed on my phone... so how many apps do you really need?

If I was buying a smartphone today, at any budget, I would be tempted to get this one. I love the Windows Phone interface. You can do things faster. The phone is also priced low enough for me not to worry about joining a still maturing ecosystem.

@Postpaid - BlackBerry Curve 9300 - Php999 a month BB Max plan. None of out favourite mid-level phones are avialalble on postpiad plans except for the HTC Desire S at Smart Data Plan 2000. If we were availing of Smart Data Plan 2000 we would pick a better phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note or HTC Sensation XE.

While we think BlackBerry's are really too outdated to consider at the price points, and you will see an all new BlackBerry OS in 2012, Globe Telecom has an interesting ulimited data deal on the BlackBerry Curve 9300.

While the BlackBerry Curve 9300 will still cost you over Php16,000 in the market,  the phone is being offered free for Php999 a month on a two year contract by Globe Telecom. For Php999, you get a BB Max Plan on a two year contract plus Php400 consumable. This plan gives you unlimited access to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry email, Facebook, Twitter and unlimited surfing through the BlackBerry APN and unlimited downloading and streaming through the Internet APN.

This old QWERTY phone is not too interesting hardware wise, but the if you ar on a budget, it might be better to select on of these and be connected 24/7 rather than pick a high end phone relying on WiFi hotspots for connectivity. Without a internet connection, smartphones are not very smart after all.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 2012 entry level Smartphone buyers guide

Where do we start. We our maintaining our previous definition of entry level smartphones as those priced below 12K. In the past two months, we have not seen a drop in the price range of entry level smartphones, and maybe the market has found it bottom.

A few months ago, Globe Telecom offered the Globe Cloudfone Ice at Php4,990 on a pre-paid kit. While that unit is not available now, you can still a decent Smartphone for under 6K.

@Php5,990 - Samsung Galaxy Y - Nothing interesting, but it works. The Samsung Galaxy Y is an Android smartphone with a 3-inch capacitative touchscreen. We look at it as more of a starting point, rather than a recommendation.  

Basically, it will do the job. It has WiFi and HSDPA connectivity. Pair it with a fixed volume or unlimited data plan and it will get you your email, keep you up to date with the news and weather, keep you connected to your social networks and allow you to use you instant messengers, give you access to Google Maps, Navigation and Places. Basically, it will do all the serious smartphone stuff well enough.

The downside is the screen resolution. Its 3-inch screen is small and has a low 240 x 320 resolution. This will result in some compatibility issues with some Android Market apps (mainly games) and overall does not make web browsing on the phone all that much fun. The 2 MP fixed focus main camera really is of little use. 

Still, at Php5,990 it works, and you can get if from the carriers free on a two year Php350 (or less) per month contract. At that price it is hard to complain.

@Php7,490 - Smart Netphone 701 - This is where you should start. The main issue about the Smart Netphone is that it is locked to Smart. If you do not like the Smart network, than this phone is not for you. If you are on a budget, this is the best way to go.

The Smart Netphone 701 is a ZTE Blade. With a 600MHz processor, 512MB or RAM and running Android 2.1 (upgradable to Android 2.2), it is based on circa 2010 technology. The 3.15MP camera is autofocus, but nothing great.

It has one thing going for it, and it is a big one thing. The Smart Netphone 701 has a large iPhone size 3.5-inch screen with a high-end phone like 480 x 800 resolution. 

If your main purpose for a phone is calls, text, email, social networking, instants messaging and web browsing this phone will do all those things fine. 

At Php7,490 this ageing phone is still worth the money, mainly because of the screen. Having dropped Php2,500 in price helps keep it a great choice at this price point and pretty much knocks our a lot of the competition.

You also get one, on a Php500 a month plan on a two year contract from Smart Communications.

@Php10,550 - Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman - 1GHz Snapdragon inside. Late last year, Sony Ericsson (now just Sony) released three low priced Android smartphones. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini, the Mini Pro with a slide out QWERTY keyboard and the Live with Walkman. These three phone have similar specifications, which is much better than you would expect for around 10K. You get a decent 320 x 480 resolution screen, 1 GHz processors, 512 MB of RAM, 320 MB or more of internal storage (expandable via MicroSD card), a 5MP autofocus camera with a flash and the other usual HDSPA, WiFI and Bluetooth connectivity.

Except for the size of the screen, screen resolutions and internal storage these phones have specifications more like mid-level Androids.

Our favorite is the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman since it has the largest screen of the three at 3.2-inches can be found for as low as Php10,550 with a official warranty from Sony.

@BlackBerry - Globe BlackBerry Max 599 with a free BlackBerry 8520 - Dated but if you need to avail of BlackBerry Services. BlackBerry's have always been expensive, and that seems even more true today. At less than Php12,000 the only unit we found that fits is the circa 2009 BlackBerry Curve 8520.

With a 2.5-inch screen, a 2MP camera, and still using GPRS and Edge instead of HSDPA for connectivity, a BlackBerry 8520 will still cost you at least Php9,100.

On the other hand Globe Telecom will give you one free for Php599 a month on a BB Max Plan on a two year contract. This plan gives you unlimited access to BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry email, Facebook, Twitter and unlimited surfing through the BlackBerry APN and unlimited downloading and streaming through the Internet APN.

LG Optimus Net Dual P698
@Dual sim - Lenovo A60 or LG Optimus Net Dual. If you are looking for a dual sim phone, Lenovo has it Android powered A60 for Php7,900 and the LG Optimus Net Dual P698. The LG Optimus Net Dual is easy to recommend based mainly on our experiance with the Optimus One, which proved to be a well built and durable phone. The LG Optimus Net Dual  which has a 3.2-inch (320 x 480 pixel resolution) screen, a 800MHz processor and a 3.2 megapixel camera running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), can be had for as low as Php8,750 with an official warranty.

Not having even seen a Lenovo A60, which has a larger 3.5-inch screen and lower Php7,900 price we are not sure which of these two dual sims phones is better.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Intel is now mobile

Intel is finally in the mobile game. After years of trying to get into the ARM dominated field, Intel is officially in with the Lenovo K800 smartphone. The Lenovo K800 is a Android device with a high resolution 4.5-inch 720p display. Powering the phone is a  1.6GHz Atom processor on a Medfiled chip. This phone is only coming in China so it is of little relevance to the rest of the world. Motorola has signed a multi-year deal with Intel to develop Intel powered smartphones and tablets.

Intel's last attempt at entering the mobile arena was with Nokia, which was supposed to take the form of the Nokia N9 running on MeeGo. The N9 went the Arm route and Nokia went to Windows Phone.  MeeGo which was being developed jointly by Intel and  Nokia partnership basically became an orphan.

With MeeGo going nowhere Intel went the Android route. It will be some time before we see Intel mobile devices on the shelves, but the significant thing is that Intel has a new software partner, and Android has a new hardware manufacturer supporting it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Smart Communications Netphone 701 now @ Php7,490

The Smart Communications had reduced the price of tis Netphone 701 to Php7,490 from its original price of Php9,900. This phone is getting a bit long in the tooth, being a late 2010 design with a 600 MHz processor and running Android 2.2 (Froyo).

Still, with its iPhone sized, high resolution, 3.5-inch (480 x 800) display makes it an excellent choice for a entry level Android. You will have to spend twice as much to get a similar display on another phone.

The more interesting thing about the SMART Netphone on prepid are plans being offered with this phone. For Php999 you get unlimited access to your social networks via Social Stream and unlimited chat through Netphone Messenger and a chat service of your choosing (YM, FB Chat), 1GB of Data for surfing, and 200 minutes of calls and 3500 texts to SMART subscribers. Smart also offers these services in smaller bite sized packages.

Is 2012 the year of the Ultrabook?

Reading the coverage from the Consumer and Electronics Show (CES) is interesting. While many of the products that you see there are not destined for the Philippines Market, most will not be available for several months and a fair never will never actually see the light of day, it is a good place to see where the industry is heading.

HP Folio 13-1001TU: 13.3-inches, 3.3 pounds, Intel Core i5 inside, with 7+ hours of real world battery life for Php55,990.

Intel hopes to make 2012 the year of the Ultrabook. The Ultrabook is a new name for an old concept. Basically Ultrabooks  are thin, light, higgly portable laptops with long battery life. The concept really is nothing new. The Ultrabook moniker is really a set of design standards backed by a US$300,000,000 Intel fund the development of new technology. What Intel really aims to do is bring down the prices of what used to be the design of high end ultraportables to a level that makes it a mainstream computer laptop. How mainstream. By 2015, Intel hopes two of every five laptops sold will be ultrabooks.

Acer Aspire S3-951-2464G34iss: 13.3-inches, 2.89 pounds with an Intel Core i5 processor for Php44,990.
Intel feels this is the best way to combat the threat of tablets with affordable ultra portable laptops. I do not think the Ultrabook will not end the tablet frenzy but it will help hold the line by giving consumers more choices when looking for highly portable computers. 

Asus UX31e-RY009V: 13.3-inches, 1600 x 900 screen resolution, 3 pounds with Intel's Core i5 inside for Php59,990

In a way this is Netbook Part II. Some of you may still remember when the cheapest laptops were 15-inch platforms. You paid more for bigger laptops and for smaller laptops. Laptops with 10 to 12 inch laptops were terribly expensive The Netbook change that, and today, generally smaller is cheaper. The Netbook did mean compromising performance for portability and endurance a lot of sacrifice in terms of performance. The Ultrabook will continue this trend and convert today's Php40,000 to 50,000 four pound laptop into a sleeker one for the same money.  This time around, Intel hope to bring you more portability and endurance, without sacrificing performance.

When Windows 8 launches end of the year, touchscreen Ultrabooks will start appearing, and with this maybe the second coming of the Tablet PC. Basically, 2012 could be the most interesting year for laptops since 2008.

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