Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tablet Sales Rise, Apple's Share Slips

While tablet sales grew at an amazing 75.3% in Quarter 4 2012, compared to the same quarter in 2011, Apple's share in the growing market it sliding. Despite the release of the Apple iPad mini, a new iPad 4 and the availability of the iPad 2 at lower costs, Apple's share in the tablet market dropped to 43.6% in Q4 2012, from 51.7% in Q4 2011. The reason is while the market grew 75.3% during the quarter, Apple's growth during that period was a more modest 48.1%.

Click for a larger image

Source: IDC 

The year 2012 saw access to iPad's becoming more feasible than ever with the entry level price going down from US$499, to US$399 with the repriced iPad 2 16 GB. Later in the year, the iPad mini brought down the entry fee into the iPad world down to US$349.

The problem is the tablet has become the cheapest computing platform ever built, with the cheapest models coming in at a bit less than US$100. If Netbooks brought cheaper computing to the consuming public, tablets are bringing it down to a fraction of the price of a Netbook. Relative to processing power and operating system, the cheapest tablets are cheaper than the cheapest equivalent smartphones. Cheaper US$199-249 tablets from Amazon, Asus and Samsung account for a big portion of the sales increase. This has resulted in some calling Apple's US$349 mini expensive. I don't agree with that proposition. I ironically, Apple seems to be in a better position to compete in a world awash with cheap tablets, than it is in a world awash with cheap smartphones.

Technology, Apple's iPad mini has solid design edge. It seems to me, to be priced well enough for what it offers. You just have to go past the processor specifications and look at the fact that Apple created a tablet that gives 0.9-inches more display area than it competitors, while offering it in a package 10-15% lighter than its 7-inch competition. 

Unlike the smartphone wars in which four or five Android's are sold per Apple iPhone, the number of Android apps equals Apple apps, and Apple seems to be falling further and further behind in terms of hardware, Apple's dominant position in the market is unlikely to be lost anytime soon. I actually think Apple might be able to get back to a majority share.

In Q4 2012, Apple's iPad mini sale were hobbled by lack of supply. If the Apple iPad 5 adopts the more size and weight efficient design of the iPad mini that should give it an edge over the Android and Windows tablets I have seen coming down the pipeline. The new offering would boost sales.

A US$399 Apple iPad 4, with its high resolution display would give BlackBerry, Android and Windows RT manufacturers a lot of headaches. If Apple continues to sell the current iPad mini at a reduced US$299 price after the release of the iPad mini 2, that will be even more problematic for the competition. Even if Apple's margins are affected by a maintaining lower priced iPad 4's and mini's it probably would be worth it to stop Asus, Samsung and Microsoft OEM's from gaining traction. 

Apple's shares have taken a beating, and the future of its iPhone and MacBook's looks a bit problematic, but I think Apple has a solid hold on tablets and it has the money to fight a war of attrition. Apple is best off fighting the battle for consumers dollars than waging war in the courts. 

BlackBerry 10 OS and the Z10 Arrive

RIM, now officially renamed BlackBerry has launched its BlackBerry 10 operating system. It also announced two new phones that run it, the Z10 and the Q10. It seems BlackBerry has got a lot of things right with its new operating system. The user interface is gesture driven. No physical buttons. BlackBerry 10 has full multitasking capabilities. The Z10 comes with a software keyboard that learns your vocabulary, similar to SwiftKeys award winning Android keyboard. Email, SMS, BBM and messages from Social Networking sites and other noticications are all displayed in one integrated hub. Integration with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare is backed into the operating system. Also integrated into the operating system is an Remember, similar to Evernote. More importantly Remember syncs to Evernote. BBM has been expanded to include VOIP video calls and a nifty feature call Screen Share, which allows you to show another BlackBerry 10 user what is displayed on your home screen. At launch, BlackBerry 10 will have 70,000 apps. Thats a lot for a new operating system. 

All in all, BlackBerry 10 should give iOS and Android plenty of reason to feel uncomfortable. It looks like cloud service will have to come from a third party and there was no mention reference to chatty virtual assistants. Still, BBM is still the killer app for a BlackBerry user. 

The first phone to launch will be the Z10, and well that right now in the UK, and February 5 in Canada. Now that is the way to launch a phone. 

Hardware wise, the first available phone, the BlackBerry Z10 has a 4.2-inch HD display (768 x 1280).  Inside is a dual core Qualcomm Krait  processor, 2 GB of RAM. The phone has two cameras. An 8 MP shooter in the back and a 2 MP upfront. The phone has 16 GB of internal storage and a MicroSd card slot. Bucking current trends, the phone has a user replaceable battery.

The Z10's first job will be to keep users of the higher end BlackBerry phones within the BlackBerry fold. It will be a fairly expensive device, so it will be a comfortable move, price wise, for users of the Torch and the Bold. The next job of the Z10 would be to woo back users from iOS, and get some users of high end Android handsets to switch.

In this regard, it looks like the new Z10 is well equipped to try to convince iPhone buyers to make the switch. For Apple buyers, the Z10 actually has a larger and sharper display. It allows them to expand storage and replace the battery. It comes with features not found on the iPhone, like wireless charging. As compared to Android phones, the Z10 is a high end handset which has the specifications of a what is now a mid-level device.

Is this all enough for BlackBerry? I would not want to venture a guess. I can only speak for myself. I am due for an upgrade in 5 months, so I will certainly give the Z10 a look. This is something I would not have bothered to do in the past two years. In that sense, BlackBerry 10 is a success. It looks like a viable option. In the end, a BlackBerry devices success is tied to carriers pricing and packages. If BlackBerry plans are priced low enough to give them an edge over regular data and LTE plans, I think BlackBerry has a fair shot at a comeback.

I have no word on when we will see the Z10 in the Philippines.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lenovo IdeaPad S300 with Windows 8

A new variant of the Lenovo IdeaPad S300, a slim 13.3-inch Ultaportable laptop has been released in the Philippines.  It is one of the better value for money options in the market priced at just Php19,999. It comes with a 13.3-inch (1366 x 768) display, an Intel Celeron Processor 887, 2 GB's of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. For an operating system it uses Window 8 (Single Language). It is not locking in ports and connectivity options with a USB 3.0 port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out and a 2-in-1 card reader. At just under 0.9 inches thick and 4 pounds in weight at makes a nice carry laptop. All in all not a bad package for under Php20K.

What it does lack is a touchscreen.  Asus' 11.6-inch Windows 8 touch enabled VivoBook 202e is just a few hundred more. Those who want a touchscreen and are okay with a smaller display may want to look at that instead. 

The 128 GB Apple iPad Was Inevitable But I Was Surprised By the Pricing

Apple announced a new variant of its popular 9.7-inch Apple iPad, with the new addition coming with 128 GB of storage. I felt this was inevitable since it migrated to the new 2048 x 1536 display, from the older 1024 x 768 display last March 2012. The new display meant that apps had to be adapted to look better at the higher resolution mainly by enlarging the graphics elements. This resulted in the install size some apps growing marginally, while others double in size. With apps and games breaching the 2 GB mark, 16 GB pre-iPad 3 was not 16 GB anymore.

I thought that Apple would phase out the 16 GB iPad's sooner or later, and replace it with a 32 GB model, and do the same down the line with a 128 GB model replacing the 64 GB model. The launch of a 128 GB Apple iPad priced US$100 more than the 64 GB iPad caught me a bit by surprise. When the new 128 GB iPad lands in the Philippines, it will cost Php38,990 for the basic model and Php44,990 for the Cellular version.

Apple is notorious for charging a lot for extra storage, charging you Php5,000, for the 16 GB increase from 16 GB to 32 GB, the same for the increase from 32 GB to 64 GB, and will do the same for the increase from 64 GB to 128 GB. All in all, the move from a 16 GB model to a 128 GB model means an "upgrade" cost of Php15,000.  That is a lot considering that a Class 10 64 GB MicroSD card costs less than Php4,000 and a 120 GB SSD drive only costs about Php4,500.

Still, having another option never hurts. 

Asus Taichi21-CW001H

Asus Taichi21 is a Php85,990 Windows 8 11.6-inch laptop. At that price these is little reason to focus on the specifications. For that price you get a Core i7 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD drive and a Full HD (1080 x 1920) display. But none of those specifications will make you decide to buy the Asus Taichi. This draw of this laptop is all about the dual screen. See, the Asus Taichi comes with two Full HD displays on its lid.

Close the lid and you can use it like a tablet. Open the lid, and you can use it like a laptop. The second display could also be used to show other people what you are working on, which could be useful for small group presentations. But the most amazing thing, is both screens can function independently. You can be typing a report on one side, while some plays angry birds on the other.

In terms of design and construction, what is even more amazing is that Asus manage to place to screens and keep thickness down to just 0.68-inches and weight to just 2.75 pounds.

Given the high price, the Asus Taichi is not going to be a big seller in the Philippines. For 86K, you can buy a tablet and a decent laptop, and have cash to spare. Still, if you are looking for a device that will turn heads, this is it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

With the Arrival of LTE on the iPhone 5, the LTE Era Has Began

LTE arrives on the iPhone. With Apple making LTE available for iPhone 5's in the Philippines, I think it is safe to say that the LTE age has arrived. Getting LTE on your postpaid smart iPhone is as easy as applying the latest iOS 6.1 update. Your unlimited data plan, become a unlimited LTE data plan. No word from Globe, but I was told during Globe iPhone launch that Globe iPhone data plans would also automatically become LTE data plans.

With the Apple iPhone now having LTE, this now gives you a wider choice on LTE handsets since you now have both iOS and Android options. The Apple iPhone 5 joins the Huawei Ascent P1, Sony Ericsson Xperia V and  ZTE T82 as the Philippines first LTE capable phones.

Why place so much emphasize on LTE support for the iPhone 5? When it comes down to the mobile handsets that have the consumers mind share, it really comes down to three models: the Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II. For so long as all three handsets in the Philippines did not have LTE, phones with LTE were largely ignored.

Now that the Apple iPhone 5 has LTE active, it truly becomes a cutting edge handset, which will have an incremental upgrade later this year. No matter how much you like the large beautiful Super AMOLED displays and quad core processors on the Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II, they feel like last years handsets soon to be replaced by a LTE capable model, or by a whole new model all-together.

0.4-inches from greatness. The other beneficiary of LTE arriving on the is the Sony Xperia V, which is an excellent smartphone. The problem with the Xperia V is that it came with a 4.3-inch display when the Android standard for a flagship phone was a 4.7-inch or larger screen. With the Apple iPhone 5 toting LTE, the Sony Xperia V becomes its only equivalent competitor. LTE will allow the Sony Xperia V to arise from the large shadow cast by Samsung's Galaxy's.

Carrier wars. The Apple iPhone 5 will bring greater public awareness of what LTE is, than all of the marketing that Smart and Globe have poured in for the past one and a half years. With greater public awareness, the fight for which is the best network will focus on which network has the wider LTE coverage.

  • Manila Golf and Country Club, Forbes Park
  • The Residences, Greenbelt 1
  • Rockwell Nestle; Palanan Avenue; Rockwell Condominiums
  • Along Ayala Ave. Ext. going to Kamagong St., Along Ayala Ave. Ext. going to Gil Puyat Ave.
  • Towards Ayala Ave. going to Buendia; towards Ayala Avenue going to Edsa; towards Dela Rosa
  • EDSA; South Luzon Expressway (SLEx); A. Arnaiz Ave.; Bangkal
  • Jupiter St.; Kalayaan; Bel-Air 1 Village; Bel-Air 2 Village
  • Gil Puyat Ave.; Bel-Air 2 Village; Salcedo Village
  • Pasong Tamo Extension; Dasmarinas Village
  • H.V. dela Costa St.; Valero St.; Salcedo Village
  • Indoor coverage - Manila Peninsula Hotel, Makati
  • McKinley Road; Forbes Park; Dasmarinas Village
  • Indoor coverage - Makati Medical Center

Smart LTE is now available in eleven cities. Displaying a list would be too long, and it would be easier to simply display them on maps.

With the LTE era having began, it looks like Globe and Samsung are caught playing catchup. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Ainol Novo 7 Venus - Nexus Like

No, that is not a Google Nexus 7 in the picture above. It's a Novo 7, more particularly Ainol Novo 7 Venus. Similarities to the Google Nexux 7 are more than skin deep. This 7-inch Ainol tablet has a IPS LCD HD (800 x 1280) display and a quad core ARM Cortex A9 processor and 1 GB of RAM, just like the Nexus 7.  The quad-core processor in the Ainol Novo 7 Venus is not of the Nvidia/Tegra variety, but a rather built on a Actions ATM7029 with Vivante GC1000 graphics processing unit. But given will cost about half the price of a Google Nexus 7, I don't think anyone will be all that disappointed.

The Ainol Novo 7 Venus does not disappoint in other respects. It comes with Android 4.1.1 JellyBean, not the latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean that you can update your Nexus 7 too, but close enough. The battery on the Ainol Novo 7 Venus is a 4000 mAh unit, again a bit smaller than the 4325 mAh unit on the Google Nexus 7. You also loose Bluetooth and GPS.

In some ways the Ainol Novo 7 Venus has better specifications. While you get only 16 GB of internal storage, you get a MicroSD card slot, so you can expand storage beyond the 32 GB of the Google Nexus 7. You also get a mini HDMI port which supports 1080p output. Instead of the one camera on the Google Nexus 7, you get two, a 2 MP primary camera and VGA front camera. While no 3G model is offered, you can plug it to a 3G dongle 

The biggest problem is, you can buy the Google Nexus 7 32 GB locally (Php14,400), while you have to order the Ainol Novo 7 Venus online, which will cost you about US$165, shipped with insurance. Still I would not be surprised if you see this selling on local shelves in the next few weeks for around Php7-8K.

Sharp SH631 now @ just Php10,490

The competition in the mobile sector is fierce. One example of just how fierce the competition is the price cut in Sharp's SH631. Just three months ago this phone with a "large" 4.5-inch display with a decent qHD (540 x 960) resolution sold for Php14,490. It did not seem like a great deal back than, but it was decently enough priced. What a difference three months makes. 

With a flurry of low cost 4.5-inch qHD phones selling for Php6-9K, and a quad core phone landing at Php15K, the price of the Sharp SH631 is now down to just Php10,490. 

The phone comes with a dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor (MTKMT6577 chipset), PowerVR SXG531T graphics,  512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage (expandable via a MicroSD) card slot, a 8MP primary camera, VGA front camera and a 1650 mAh unit.

Even at the lower price of Php10.490, it is one of the most expensive phone in its class. Still, the lower price makes it a more viable option, and its Nexus like soft key system, it is worth a look.  

Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A-C4027H - Touch Ultrabook

The 13.3-inch Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A-C4027H is a fairly expensive option at Php76,990. The high price is mainly because of the 256 GB SSD drive and Core i7 processor. At Php77K, is cost as much as a 13-inch Macbook Air with a 256 GB SSD and Core i7 processor. But the Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A-C4027H does come with two tricks up its sleeve to woo potential MacBook Air buyers. It comes with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display, which has a much higher resolution than the 1440 x 900 display you find on 13-inch Macbook Air's. The other trick? Well, its a true Windows 8 device, so it comes with a touchscreen.

Whether you like them or not, it is just a matter of a few weeks when pretty much all Windows PC's, except the lowest cost models, will be touchscreen devices. Go shopping for a laptop now and you will  find excellent deal on mid-level and high end non touchscreen laptops. Asus low cost VivoBook touchscreen series of laptops covers the entry level portables. For hose looking for something with higher specifications, Asus has the Zenbook line, with all new models now coming with touchscreen.

The Asus Zenbook Touch UX31A-C4027H is an ultrabook, so as expected it is a thin 0.7 inches, weighs in at just about 3 pounds. A 6840 mAh battery promises long battery life. It comes with all the bells and whistles you expect from an Ultrabook at this price, including a 4 GB of RAM, USB 3.0 and HDMI out.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Smartphone Wars: The Fight to a Billion Users

Global smartphone shipments increased in 2012 by 43% over the previous year, accounting for 653 million of the 1.6 billion mobile phone shipped.  This figure is a large decrease from the rate of smartphone shipment growth in 2011, which was 64%.

You can buy seven of these for the price of one Samsung Galaxy S III or Apple iPhone 5

The main reason for this is overall though the mobile phone market is flat. Total mobile phones shipments in 2012 being only 2% higher than 2011.  Basically, the market for mobile phones in general is not growing substantially, and increase in the sales of smartphones centers more and more on convincing feature phone owners to move to smartphones. Basically, you are looking at 900+ million  sized market, mainly consisting of prepaid subscribers, looking to buy mobile phones priced at less than US$100 unsubsidized. 

In this type of market you will see the second and third tier manufacturers grow substantially in terms of market share with their low cost offerings. Notably, Huawei which combines a long history of telecommunications know how and low or lower cost handsets. Huawei increased it sales year-on-year in the 4th quarter of 2012 to become the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Another second tier smartphone manufacturer with a long history in the telecommunications business, ZTE sits in 5th place.

Even with conservative estimates, smartphone shipments will reach more than 1 billion handsets in than two years, but in order for a manufacturer to get it smartphone into users hands they will have to build cheaper smartphones. Outside of the big manufacturers, there are plenty of smaller ODM manufacturers whose phones are marketed in different names and in different countries. For the big boys, like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Sony, ZTE, HTC and LG, their future is dependent on maintaining buyer loyalty and switchers from existing smartphone owners.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Cherry Mobile Omega - Titan Killer

The glory days of Cherry Mobile's Titan appear to be over. As impressive as the Titan was, Cherry Mobile's Omega, looks like it will be a the better choice. It seems to match the specifications of the Titan, and comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Titan comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. The Omega only costs Php6,699, which is just Php200 more than the Titan.

Now I really don't know more about the Cherry Mobile Omega than what is in the picture above. But actually it is not too hard to guess based on what is not advertised. What we know for sure is:

  • 5.2-inch display
  • Dual SIM
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS
  • 1 GHz dual core processor
  • 2300 mAh battery
  • Php6,699 retail price

Other than what is in the picture, I do know it comes in black and in white.

Now, what are the other specifications. The price is a lot cheaper than expected so expect what is not advertised to be on the lower end of the spectrum. I am willing to be they look like this:

  • WVGA (480 x 800) display
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 4 GB storage
  • Mediatek Chipset with PowerVR SGX531 graphics
  • 5 MP camera
  • HSPA, WiFi and Bluetooth

Still, at Php6,699, really there is not much to complain about.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Globe Samsung Galaxy S III mini @ Plan999

Globe Telecom is offering the Samsung Galaxy S III mini at Plan 999. You have two plan options:

  • My Super Plan 999 is a consumable plan, with 50MB data for mobile surfing, and two call and text freebies
  • Unli Surf Plan 999 comes with unlimited mobile surfing and one call and text freebie changeable monthly

Given that the Samsung Galaxy S III mini retails for Php14,500 or higher, Globe offer is a very good deal.  Your first 15-16 monthly plan payments pretty much just pay for the phone.

The Samsung Galaxy S III mini is a pretty good Android device. It really is not as small as it name would indicate. The Galaxy S III mini has a 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) Super AMOLED display.  The Galaxy S III mini is powered by a dual core 1.5  1 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, has 8 GB of internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot and a 5 MP camera and a secondary camera. The comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean installed. 

No Bigger Apple iPhone - iOS Shows its Limitations

Apple CEO Tim Cook said during Apple's earning call yesterday that "the company believes the iPhone 5 has the 'right' screen size." This does not mean that we will not see an iPhone with a larger display in the future, but that it is not going to be in 2013. And there are several practical technological reasons for that. Unlike Android, iOS and the apps built for it do not automatically scale to different resolutions. 

A larger display will require a higher resolution. Apple could place is current 640 x 1136 pixel resolution display in a 4.3-inch display, which would be marginally larger than its current model. This would not really challenge the larger Android's a larger iPhone would be targeting, but simply divide its current market into two groups. This would also result in pitting the a 4.3-inch iPhone with 4.3-inch Android with higher 720 x 1280 resolution displays. 

Placing the current 640 x 1136 pixel display on a 4.5-inch or larger display would be even a worse idea. It would destroy the "retina" marketing tool Apple has been using to push the iPhone. And it would pit the iPhone against 4.7 to 5-inch Androids with 1080 x 1920 pixel displays and 4.5-inch Androids with 720 x 1280 pixel resolution displays. 

The net effect of a larger display with the current 640 x 1136 pixel resolution will be to make the big iPhone look like a technologically inferior product.

A second area of concern is the developers. With the release of the Apple iPhone 5, with the new 640 x 1136 pixel resolution, app developers are still porting their apps to accommodate the new taller screens. Older apps, designed for the 640 x 960 pixel display, will display black boundaries on the top and bottom, or left and right edges, of the display. 

A higher resolution iPhone, to keep app compatibility in check would have to have a whopping 1280 x 2272 pixel resolution. This would mean that app developers, who would have just finished porting their apps for the iPhone 5, would have to again port their apps for the newer larger iPhone. 

I have no doubt that we will see a bigger iPhone one day, but before that we are likely to see a newer version of iOS which would have better support for multiple resolutions.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Facebook Spamming Your Friends with Articles You Never "Liked"

When you like an article with Facebook, this fast is shared to your friend who will see "Jane Doe likes Hallo Hallo Mall." From this article in Forbes I learned that:

Facebook is now recycling users Likes and using them to promote “Related Posts” in the news feeds of the user’s friends. And one more thing, the users themselves have possibly never seen the story, liked the story or even know that it is being promoted in their name.

Basically, if you click the Like button for something once, it is license for Facebook to post Likes in your name for other posts from the same source. Even if you never Liked a particular post, or even if you never saw it. Basically, Facebook is now posting for you, without you knowing it.

I have a Facebook account I use to share things with friend, though I actually open it and check what is going on there anymore. Still, to be nice to my Facebook Friends I went to Profile Page, and edited my likes by removing them all. I decided I should be nice and not spam my Facebook Friend.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

All of a Sudden, the Chromebook is a Perfect Fit

When Google released it first Chromebook in December 2010, it did not look like it had a bright future. I mean, it looked like an internet only Netbook, and at that time Netbooks were on the death spiral already. The tablet was here. 

Less than US$250, shipped

Now two years later, it does seem like the perfect tertiary device for many users. Looks at you daily routine. Email and social networking is mostly handled by your smartphone. When you want to do some web browsing, you reach over for you tablet. Your gaming habit is more and more moving from your PC, to your iPad or Nexus 7. Hell, games are much cheaper on Android and iOS than on any other platform, and getting better each year. You edit pictures to upload to the web, which you took with the camera on your smartphone. Why not edit it directly on your mobile device and upload it? Cut out the middle man.

Your laptop, which was your pride and joy in the previous decade, well, you now power it up less and less each day. There are the power users who need a powerful laptop or desktop. But in these days when people are more and more spending more on smartphones than ever before and are gravitating to the tablet, who want to spend US$1,000 on a laptop they will use to compose long emails, write a report or record their monthly expenses.

Chromebooks, come in at US$200-US$400. The right price for a tertiary device. Once you factor in the software, it even gets cheaper. No need to buy and Office Suite or Photo Editing app. No need to pay for OS updates on a yearly basis.

I could never give up a laptop and its keyboard. I type too much. But I don't feel like replacing my MacBook Air with another one. For the past two weeks, I have tested just using the Chrome Bowser and web apps, and am doing fine.  I am thinking more in terms of an iPad mini or Nexus 7, and a Chromebook come replacement time. The pair would cost just over half the price of the Cheapest Macbook Air. Hell, the pair would cost as much as a entry level laptop.

All of a sudden, the Chromebook is a perfect fit.

HTC Butterfly - Samsung Galaxy S III Killer?

The HTC Butterfly has now been officially released in the Philippines, with a retail price of Php30,990.    The HTC Butterfly comes equipped with a 5-inch 1080p display (1080 x 1920), making it the second 1080p phone to hit Philippine shores, Inside you have the same Qualcomm S4 Pro chipset and 2 GB of RAM which powers the Google Nexus 4. The phone comes with Android 4.1 out of the box, but it is upgradeable to Google's latest and greatest Android 4.2.

Update: Everything sounds good, except for one thing, the Philippine version apparently does not have LTE enabled.  

As for the other specifications, the HTC Butterfly comes with the same 8MP camera used in the high end 2012 HTC phones, and comes with a 2.1 MP front camera. HTC has gone back to providing expandable storage in their phones, and this one comes with 16 GB of storage with a MicroSD card slot, so there should be no complaints there.

The Butterfly is actually a late 2012 model which has been on sale in Japan, while a similar model, the HTC Droid DNA has been on sale in the US, since late last year. The HTC Butterfly will not be the companies top of the line offering for 2013. What the HTC Butterfly is design to do is take back some serious sales number from the Samsung Galaxy S III, and even the Note II, until the next round of new Android phone released coming this summer.

Does the HTC Butterfly succeed? It does, but not completely. It is certainly the best smartphone available in the Philippine market today for those who don't care about LTE. The 5-inch displays is a "super-retina" display with 441 pixels per inch. It's like having an Full HD TV in your hand. Still many might not notice the difference between this and 4.7 or 4.8-inch phones with 720p displays.

Despite the large, high resolution screen, the battery life matches the Samsung Galaxy S III. It has enough power to make it relevant for the next two years or so you would normally keep a smartphone. The LTE tech inside, makes sure it won't feel obsolete anytime soon.

Still the Samsung Galaxy S III still has some advantages. The Samsung Galaxy S III still has a better camera. The Samsung Galaxy S III has a user replaceable battery. Finally, the Samsung Galaxy S III's price has gone steadily over the past 9 months since its release, down to just a bit over 25K.

LTE would have made the HTC Butterfly a clear winner. Without LTE, the HTC Butterfly, like the Samsung Galaxy S III will feel obsolete in a matter of a few months. Hold on to what you got, or buy something cheap in the interim.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cherry Mobile Cruize - Perplexing Dilema

Cherry Mobile has launched a new Android phone, which really would make the prospective buyer take pause and weigh the pros and cons. It has a lot of both.

Pro.  It's a 5.2-inch Android smartphone, not many of those around.

Con. It has a 1 GHz single core Broadcom processor. The Cherry Mobile Flare give you a dual core phone for less money.

Pro. It has a large 2500 mAh battery.

Con. The WVGA (480 x 800) display is not one anyone would call sharp.

Pro. It has dual SIM suppot.

Con. It still runs Android 4.0.4... where is that 6-inch Jelly Bean powered Omega you have been teasing us with.

Pro. It is priced at just Php4,499.

... And it really comes down to that. 

Some people will like this phone, and others will not. Many would advice adding 2K and  picking-up the Cherry Mobile Titan instead. For others, they really don't need the dual core power of the Titan, and the Cruize is a better value for money option. A lot of people spend twice as much money on a 3.5-inch phone with a 800 MHz processor. A 1 GHz processor is enough for many people. Like it or hate it, it is a good value for money options.

Pro. Options are good. Basically, it is nice to have more choices. 

Con. Walk into a Cherry Mobile store and you will have a hard time choosing. Too many attractive choices. 

More Low Cost Windows 8 Touch Laptops Hit the Market: Acer Aspire V5-431P-10074G50MAss and V5-431P-997B4G50MAss

Acer has released a pair of low cost touch screen Windows 8 laptops in the Philippine market. Both laptops are 14-inch laptops with 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB hard drives. The lower cost of the two is priced at Php24,900 and is powered by an Intel Celeron 1007U processor.  The more expensive of the pair is powered by a Intel Pentium 997 processor and priced at Php27,900. I suspect we will be seeing Intel Core i3 and i5 versions shortly.

These laptops weigh in at about 4.8 pounds, and would fall under the category of thin-and-light laptops.

I  suspect in a matter of a year or so, all Windows laptops, except maybe the cheapest entry models, will be touch screen units.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Smart LTE Plan 1299

In an effort to add more users to its LTE mobile broadband network, Smart Communications has added a new LTE Plan. Smart LTE Plan 1299 gives users a 42 Mbps mobile connection with a 5 GB per month data cap. This is in addition to its two existing plans:

  • Smart LTE Plan 1749 - Plan 1749 gives you speeds of up to 42 Mbps with a 10 GB cap
  • Smart LTE Plan 3500 - Plan 3500 comes gives speeds of up to 42 Mbps with a 21 GB cap

Smart LTE Plan 1299 comes with a free USB dongle. You can upgrade this to a pocket WiFi device for just Php2,000. The plan comes with a two year contract.

Now you should make sure to select the correct plan, as usage over your monthly allotment is charged at the rate of Php450 per gigabyte. 

HTC One SV - More Desire X than One S

The HTC One SV is going to be released in the Philippines. The HTC One SV is a LTE phone with the Asia model supporting the 1800 MHz and 2600 MHz frequencies. This should mean that it should be compatible with Globe and Smart's LTE networks, though it will not support all of Smarts frequencies, which also include 850 MHz and 2100 MHz. As far as the HTC One SV is concerned, that is the good news.

The bad news. If you were expecting a supped up HTC One S, the HTC One SV is not what you were expecting. The two phones don't even look alike. Instead of a the slim 7.9 mm aluminum frame of the HTC One S. You get a thicker 9.3 mm polycarbonate frame. And the difference don't end there. The HTC One SV is really more of an upgraded HTC Desire X than an updated HTC One S. I will stop comparing it with the HTC One S, even if they have similar names.

Before going into the rest of the details, I should mention that the HTC One SV is reportedly to be sold for a price of over Php20,000. I am hoping this estimate is wrong, because the phones specifications do not justify this price.

The HTC One SV with a 4.3-inch display with a low WVGA (480 x 800) resolution. On the flip side, you find a 5 MP camera. For over 20K, you would expect at least a HD display and an 8 MP or better camera these days.  

The phone run Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich. Inside you will find a dual core Qualcomm Krait processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage, which is expandable via a Micro SD card slot. The battery is a 1800 mAh unit. Nothing justifies a over 20K asking price either.  

Lets hope it has a lower selling price, somewhere south of Php20,000. If not, skip this and take a look at Sony Xperia V instead.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Cherry Mobile Fusion Tablet

It may sound a bit strange, but the first Android tablets were not manufactured by Samsung or Asus, but by unknown manufacturers, and were sold in the market as Apads and ePads. These devices were not too well built and underpowered, but were priced  below Php4,000. These tablets could be found in stalls in Green Hills, and covered by short service warranties. 

More that two years later, Cherry Mobile has brought out a table price for less than Php4,000. The Cherry Mobile Fusion is priced a Php3,699. The tablet has a 7-inch display with a low 800 x 600 resolution.

No dual core processors here. The Cherry Mobile Fusion is powered by a 1 GHz single core processor and 512 MB of RAM. It has a WiFi and a VGA front camera, but no Bluetooth. The battery is a 3200 mAh unit, a bit smaller than what you normally expect from a 7-inch tablet.

You can only expect so much for the Php3,699. That is the perspective from the glass, half empty.

Looking at it differently, the Cherry Mobile Fusion does come with Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, out of the box. The 1 GHz processor has just enough processing power to make the Cherry Mobile Fusion a relevant device for the next year or so. The Cherry Mobile Fusion is also backed by a one year warranty. That is not a bad deal for just Php3,699. 

The Cherry Mobile Fusion, is a unremarkable, but interesting device. With its low price, it will give people who could never afford one before, access to a computer decent computer supported by a manufacturers warranty. The Cherry Mobile Fusion won't appeal to the techie or the long time Android user. But I suspect a lot of these things will be sold, and for thousands of people the Internet and the wealth of information on it. That is the perspective from the glass half full.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Apple does not need an iPhone mini, it needs magic.

How much are we will to pay for devices? I remember when I bought laptop. The cheapest laptop you could find would set you back about Php90,000. That was the price of portability over a decade ago. Back than, we were talking north of five pounds and two hours of battery life. 

But prices started to drop. Three years ago, I would have been willing to spend Php70,000 to get something with a longer battery life and less weight. Today I could spend less than Php30,000 and meet approximate what would have cost me more than twice that much just a short three years ago. That is one steep drop.

While Intel cranks out faster chips for more powerful hardware, they have gotten to the point that they far exceed most peoples requirements. Thin and light is no longer such a premium item too. So from 90K, to 70K and a quick drop down to 30K. I think I am not the only person who feels that a laptop is something that we would not to spend to much on. 

On other devices, the trend is the same. Just a few weeks ago, I got a SLT (a new twist on the DSLR), for twenty percent less than what a ProSumer camera cost me six years ago. A massive upgrade in specifications, for less money.  

With smartphones, the trend has been different. I was pretty happy with whatever phone my carrier gave me. If I did not like the phones available, I would gave my handset to my wife, and got myself something I did like. If it had a physical QWERTY keyboard, it was good enough. Still, I never spent more than Php14,000 on a smartphone. With the advent of the iPhone and Android, things changed. In early 2011, I gave my carrier issued device to my wife, and got myself a new shiny Android phone for Php26,000. In a few months when my carrier issues me a new device, if it is not the one I like I can still see myself picking up something in about the same price range, though a lot of the options at less than 20K look interesting, and really, the phones priced at less than Php10,000 fit my needs. Smartphones are still the new cool "status symbol" thing to have, hence I think many of us are willing to spend more than we have to, 

So what does all this have to do with Apple? Basically, when it comes to electronics, the trend seems to be, things get cheaper over time. Lower end models become more and more acceptable, so that we do need to spend more. But as prices go down, a larger market it reached, and what you cannot make up in term of large profit margins, you can try to approximate by selling in volume.   

Bucking this trend is Apple. Still Apple is conceding little by little. MacBooks and iPods are cheaper than ever. 

Apple revenues, almost 70% come from iOS. The iPhone and the iPad.The iPhone really won't survive without carrier subsidies. The iPad which looked like a bargain when it came out in 2010, is looking more and more expensive with each passing year. 

This year, 2013 is a year I feel relevant innovation will stop on the mobile. More and more power will start to become superfluous, and is there really a need to go beyond 1080 x 1920 pixels on a smartphone and 2560 x 1600 on a tablet.  The smartphone and tablet will go the way of the laptop and the digital camera. And in every analyst mind, is how does Apple deal with this with its iPhone and iPad lines. The answer, the "mini". A "mini" would be a stop gap at best. Reviewers comment at how expensive the iPad mini is.

Apple really does not need a iPhone mini. It won't win a race to the bottom. What Apple needs is something new and innovative. The iPod was released in 2001, the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. March marks the third year since the iPad release. Apple needs something new and innovative, in the next two or three years, and I am not talking about a better iPhone or iPad. It needs something "magical" if it is to continue its incredible run.

Sony Xperia SL - The Second Coming

The Sony Xperia S was updated last quarter, and the new version, the Xperia SL is now available at local retailers. The Xperia SL is a minor upgrade of the Xperia S which was released in Quarter 1 of 2012. The Xperia S was not a cutting edge phone when it was released and the SL falls even further behind the curve, but with its price going down to the mid-level, it might be an interesting option. 

The Sony Xperia SL gets a bump in processor speed to 1.7 GHz, from 1.5 GHz, but the chip is still the same old circa 2011 Qualcomm S3, which we first saw in HTC's Sensation. The Xperia SL now also comes with Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, out of the box, rather than Gingerbread. The OS update also available for the Xperia S. Even the case was only been revised slightly, with three capacitative buttons, instead of four, and has a new color option: pink. But it does come at a much lower price, being available for as low as Php17,600, with an official warranty.

Overall, the phone is current enough with a nice sharp 4.3-inch HD display (720 x 1280) and 32 GB of internal storage. It comes with interesting features like USB-on-the-go and HDMI out. However, it does find itself priced in between two more powerful quad core phones. The ZTE Grand Era U895 is priced about Php2K cheaper. The Huawei Ascend D quad XL costs just a few hundred more. 

This refreshed version of an old dual core phone could have a place at the mid-level. Boasting a 12 MP camera with a dedicated camera button, and photo oriented connectivity options, the 12 MP credentials, at a low price, it will attract some buyers.

The problem is the camera. Sony Xperia SL has a decent camera. Not as good as the excellent 8MP shooters on the new Samsung Galaxy phones or the Apple iPhone 4S and 5. Ironically, the 12 MP camera on the Xperia SL does not perform as well as the 8 MP camera on the lower end Xperia P. Disappointingly, it is also not as good as Huawei's 8 MP camera.  Check out the GSMArena camera comparison tool.  

Ultimately, the Sony Xperia SL is a hard phone to recommend. With a better camera, it could be a contender. It biggest contribution to the Sony line-up is to make the price of the Sony Xperia P cheaper, and that is a good thing.

Cherry Mobile Releases a Software Update for its Flare

Cherry Mobile has released a software update for its popular 4-inch Android powered Flare. The main purpose of the update is to correct some accelerometer issues and will allow the stock SMS app to be used in landscape mode.

Lenovo Ideapad Yuga 13

A second Lenovo Ideapad Yoga Window laptop is now available in the Philippines, the 13-inch Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 joining its little brother. 

The Yoga is Lenovo's line of laptops which feature a lid that can fold all the way over to the back, allowing it to be used as a tablet. Exactly who would want a 13-inch, 3.4 pound, tablet I do now know.  Most people looking a a Yoga 13 will probably look at it more as a touchscreen Ultrabook.

The Lenovo Ideapad Yuga 13 being just 0.67-inches thin, weighing in at just over 3 pounds, with a 128 GB of SSD storage, and up to 8 hours of battery life, qualifies as an Ultrabook.  Priced at Php60,990,  The Yuga 13 comes with Windows 8, an Intel Core i5 3317U processor and 4 GB of RAM. The price is a bit on the steep side for the Philippine marker, but that is the typical price for laptops with these kind of specifications. The SSD drive is what drives up the price, but is well worth it.  You can get it at 12-months deferred payment at this price, and can negotiate a lower price if you pay cash or straight payment on your credit card.

The Lenovo Ideapad Yuga 13 is well worth the asking price, but an alternative option would be Asus VivoBook S400CA which is priced at a lower Php35,990. The Asus VivoBook S400CA is cheaper, but is both thicker, heavier and comes with a hybrid storage rather than SSD storage.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Smartphone Market Crunch

There is a lot to like in the Huawei Ascend D quad XL. It is my favorite phone in the local market. 

The smartphone landscape will transform a lot in 2013. The entry level market, with phones priced at 10K or less, will start more and more to be taken over by local companies bringing in ODM (Original Design Manufacturer) phones. Cherry Mobile, Cloudfone, MyPhone, Star Mobile, Torque Mobile and newer players like Kata offer you phones what for the major manufacturers are mid-level phones, at an entry level price. HTC Desire X, has the same specifications as Cherry Mobile's Flame, which is a third of the cost.

Than you have Huawei, Lenovo, Sharp and ZTE offering mid-levels phones which are almost as good as flagship phones from  Apple, HTC, LG, Nokia Samsung and Sony at a mid-level price point. The 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) dual core Galaxy S III mini, looks interesting enough at its price, until you compare it with ZTE's 4.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) quad core offering, the ZTE Grand Era U895. Actually, it is more app to compare the ZTE Grand Era U895 with the Google Nexus 4, remembering that the Nexus 4 will cost you 50% more.

I think the major manufacturers will have to ceed the entry level market to the ODM designs in 2013. Margins are thin at this level. They are going to try to have to hold the line in the mid-level phones. Let Huawei or ZTE get to much mindshare and it could be the next Samsung. 

As one reader put it:

1080p at sub 20k and the 720p ZTE Grand Era at sub 15k. The big boys better offer something more interesting than this.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Symphony of the Origin

It's been over a decade since I called myself a gamer, but in the past four months I have been adventuring through one role playing game or another. Collectively, I have put about 90 hours in the past four months exploring dungeons in Symphony of Eternity (KEMCO), dueling to the death in Chaos Rings (Square Enix) and going on a quest to stop a robopocalypse in Eve of Genesis (KEMCO).  Having just completed the third final battle in Eve of Genesis, and still considering Symphony of Eternity the Gold Standard of classic JRPG's, I could not resist picking up KEMCO's latest release, Symphony of the Origin

Symphony of the Origin is KEMCO's first game made specifically for modern smartphones. Symphony or Eternity and Eve of Genesis were ports from handheld gaming platforms. While being excellent ports, Symphony of the Origin is a step up in terms of interface and graphics quality.

While the gameplay overcame the retro style graphics of Symphony or Eternity and Eve of Genesis, I don't think anyone will be disappointed with graphics of Symphony of the Origin. It is current looking enough, but not so heavy as to require state of the art hardware. This game runs smoothly on my circa 2010 HTC Desire HD.

Having gone through the early part of the game, I am very satisfied with my purchase. The gameplay follows the elements of Symphony or Eternity, mixing in the faster battle system of Eve and changes the system of mana points and upgrades.

According to feedback at Google Play, the game has about US$5 of optional in-app purchases. Two hours into the game I still have not encountered any.

Symphony of the Origin is only available for Android right now, but it is coming soon to iOS.

Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W - First 1080p Smartphone in the Philippines

The Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W which sports a large 5-inch Full HD display with a 1080 x 1920 pixel resolution is now available in the Philippines. The Sharp IGZO display has an amazing 441 pixel per inch resolution. 

The phone runs on a Qualcomm 8260A chipset with a 1.5GHz dual core Krait, backed by 2 GB of RAM. This will mean that the Sharp Aquos Phone SH930W will do a great job at traditional smartphone tasks like communications and multimedia consumption. The Qualcomm 8260A chipset unfortunately has the Adreno 225 graphics chips, which when mated to a qHD (540 x 960) or HD (720 x 1280) display does a decent job of staying within range of Samsung Mali 400 and Nvidia's ULP graphics. Mated to a Full HD display, you can expect 3D performance to drop. Best to wait for GSMArena's benchmarks, but I would not run out and pick up one of these  if I was a hardcore gamer.

The phone comes Android 4.1, Jelly Bean out of the box. The rest of the specs include 32GB internal storage, 8 MP primary camera, a 2 MP front camera, and a 2100 mAh battery. 

The price. The price is a surprisingly reasonable Php19,200. 

MSI S20 Slider Touch Ultrabook

MSI has released it own take on what the new touch enable PC form factor should be, with its Windows 8 powered MSI S20 Slider. This is similar to the design of the Sony Vaio Duo 11 Slider PC. The slider design allows for devices to be used as a laptop or tablet.

MSI also calls its Slider an Ultrabook, and it does qualify as one. This 11.6-inch tablet PC is just 0.8-inches thick and weighs in at just 2.6 pounds. 

It is a bit expensive at Php49,900, but its specifications justify the price. It comes with an 11.6-inch Full HD IPS display. Yup, it has as 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. Muscle is provided by an Intel Core i5-i3317U processor and 4GB of RAM. That is what you would expect from a Ultrabook price at this level. Storage is 128 GB using a SSD drive. A 2-in-1 memory card slot can be used to increase this. It also comes with WiFi, HDMI out and Bluetooth 4.0.

Php49,900 is a steep price, but the MSI S260 Slider justifies its asking price well with its specifications. Compared to a 11.6-inch MacBook Air for the same price, you get the same amount of processing power with double the storage. You also get a higher resolution display and touch functionality.

Given its price, I don't see it becoming a volume seller. But if you are looking to spend about 50K on a new laptop, you should definitely give this one a look.

Low Cost Laptop Processors Compared

Buying a new low cost Windows 7 or 8 laptop. In selecting your laptop it is to go to a retailer, look at several, try the keyboards and trackpads and see which one feels most comfortable to you. What you will not be able to test is how fast they are. To find out which are good deals, ask about the innards. What processor does it have?

Using Passmarks benchmarks we can compare the performance of processors you will find in low end units. As a baseline, the fastest netbooks were powered by Intel Atom N2800 processors, which score a decent 723 points in Passmarks CPU benchmarks, but fall short in terms of video performance. We will be looking for devices which are faster than a netbook.

AMD E-1800 APU - 856 points

A good place to start will be with AMD's E-1800 APU. You will find this in the lowest cost laptops like the 14-inch Asus  X401u, priced at Php18,990, or the 11.6-inch HP DM1-4304AU, at Php19,900. This will provide performance marginally faster than a netbook in most tasks, but will be much faster in 3D applications. I would probably recommend you avoid lower power units with the AMD E-1200 or C60 APU.

Intel Celeron 847 - 1043 points 
Intel Celeron 857 - 1135 points
Intel Celeron 877 - 1368 points

The Celeron is back, and unlike what you may remember from a decade ago, the new Celeron are pretty good. These are found in the touchscreen 11.6-inch Asus ViVobook 202e or the 14-inch Acer Aspire V5-431-887B2G50Ma, both priced at Php20,990.

AMD A6-4455M - 1296
AMD A6-4400M - 1643

AMD's A6 is their equivalent for Intel's Celeron. This is found in the HP Probook 4445s or Samsung Slimbook which will set you back Php23,000 to Php28,000.

Intel Pentium 997 - 1548 points

The Intel Pentium 997 is a more powerful processor than  but you will only find it in larger 13 to 14-inch laptops since it generates for heat than the Celeron series. This is found in the 13-inch Lenovo ideapad S300 which sells for just Php18,500.

Intel Core i3-2367M - 1764 points
Intel Core i3-2365M - 1807 points
Intel Core i3-2377M - 1851 points
Intel Core i3-2328M - 2615 points

The Core i3 is probably powerful enough for the typical consumer. Even these older Sandy Bridge based processors give good performance. This is what are found in 14-inch Lenovo's ideapad S400, or the 11.6-inch Acer TravelMate B113-M, both of which retails for just under Php24,000.

Intel Core i3-3217U - 2226 points
Intel Core i3-3110M - 2921 points

The newer Ivy Bridge based Intel Core i3 are a step up from their Sandy Bridge counterparts. You will find this in the new 14-inch HP Sleekbooks and higher end more of the 11.6-inch Asus ViVobook 202e which will set you back about Php27,000. 

AMD A8-4555M - 2596 points
AMD A8-4500M - 2706 points

AMD's A8 is their equivalent for Intel's Core i3. This is found in the HP Probook 4445s or Samsung Slimbook which will set you back Php23,000 to Php28,000.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Smart Communications Tops NTC Network Quality Tests Again

Smart Communications has again top the National Telecommunications network quality test, besting Globe Telecom in all five categories.  The NTC tests the following:

  1. Blocked Calls or Grade of Service (GoS)—percentage of calls that were not given access by the network.
  2. Dropped Call Rate (DCR)—percentage of on-going calls that were involuntarily terminated.
  3. Average Receive Signal Level—signal strength that was being provided by the serving cellsite to the mobile handset of the subscriber while a conversation is on-going.
  4. Average Signal Quality—the quality of voice transmission while a subscriber is using his mobile phone. The closer to “0”, the fewer errors in transmission.
  5. Call Set-Up Time—time required for the network to activate the called party

Smart also topped Globe in the two previous tests conducted by the NTC, outscoring Globe 5-0 and 4-1 in two tests conducted in 2012.  

Asus Memo Pad - US$149 tablet

Following the US$150 Acer Iconia B1 tablet which is priced to penetrate a new segments of the market, Asus has also announced its own low cost tablet which will sell for US$149.

The Asus MeMo Pad will come with a 7-inch, 1024 x 600 resolution display, 1GHz Cortex A9 processor  on a VIA WM8950 chipset (now that a blast from the past). The tablet features a Mali-400 graphics chip, 1GB of RAM and 8 GB internal storage with microSD card slot and WiFi connectivity. The operating system is Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. 

Don't expect to see this soon though. The MeMo Pad is expected to ship in the second quarter of this year.

Sony Vaio E11126CV - 11.6-inch ultraportable

Sony has upgraded its low cost 11.6-inch ultraportable, the Sony Vaio E11115EG with the E11126CV. The updates are more RAM which is now at 4 GB, a larger 500 GB hard drive and the operarting system is now Windows 8.

Priced at Php23,990 the 11.6-inch Sony Viao E is powered by a E2-1800 Accelerated Processor Unit. The AMD E2-1800 Accelerated Processing Unit  has a dual core 1.7 GHz processor and AMD Radeon HD 7340. It is good enough for basic office work, like typing documents and preparing spreadsheets and presentations, and web browsing. It will play full HD video, and even a bit of 3D gaming. 

Despite the upgrades, it might be though going. The 11.6-inch Sony Viao E's main competition is the thinner and lighter 11.6-inch Acer TravelMate B133 which comes with a three year warranty, and the touchscreen 11.6-inch Asus VivoBook X202E.

ZTE Grand Era U895 - Game Changer

Seven months ago a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 smartphone with a 720p display was a top of the line handset. Today, you can get one for just Php14,999, the ZTE Grand Era U895.

The ZTE Grand Era U895 has a 4.5-inch 720p (720 x 1280) display, a 1.5 GHz quad core processor on a Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset with ULP GeForce Graphics and 1 GB of RAM. Keeping all this running is a 1800 mAh battery. The ZTE Grand Era U895 also pack a 8 MP primary camera which can record 1080p video, a 1.3 MP front camera. ZTE kept the cost down by equipping the phone with only 4 GB of internal storage, so this is not much of an issue. 

The the ZTE Grand Era U895 is also just 8.6 mm thin at its thickest part. Thats just as thick as a Samsung Galaxy S III. But in hand, the phone is actually thinner, being just 7.9 mm around the part where you hold the phone. The phone is also all of just 110 grams in weight.  Another nice touch is that the ZTE Grand Era U895 has Nexus style on screen buttons. 

The only downer is the phone runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, rather than Jelly Bean, but nothing is perfect. If you look at all its competition at its price point, I think you will agree that this one blows a all of them out of the water. 

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