Thursday, February 28, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 versus Lenovo S890

Two new mid-priced 5-inch Android phones were recently launched in the Philippines. The Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 versus Lenovo S890. The Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 can be had for Php16,800 while the Lenovo S890 is priced much lower at Php12,800.

At first glance, the lower priced Lenovo S890 actually looks like the better overall choice. The Lenovo S890 has a 5-inch qHD (540 x 960) display which results in a 220 pixel per inch density. The Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 has a lower resolution 5-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display which gives you a 187 pixel per inch density. The Lenovo S890 has a larger 2250 mAh battery, as compared to the 2100 mAh battery of the Samsung. The Lenovo S890 is also a tad bit slimmer and more compact package. 

On closer inspection, the Samsung has its own set of advantage, having 8 GB internal storage as against the 4 GB in the Lenovo S890. Since both phones have MicroSD card slots, this is not a decisive advantage. The Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 has a better front camera, a 2 MP unit, as against the Lenovo's S890 VGA camera. The Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 can also capture 1080p video while the Lenovo S890 is limited to 720p video. Now this is something you should realy consider. Finally, the Samsung Galaxy Grand I9082 has a faster HSPA radio.

Basically, it is a tough between these two, but I would pick the Lenovo S890 because of the sharper screen. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nokia Lumia 920 - Finally Here!

The phone which a lot of you have been waiting for is finally officially here: the Nokia Lumia 920. I am not sure what the suggested retail price is, but the Nokia Lumia 920 can be had for Php25,750. Yup, this is with a full manufacturers warranty.

This Nokia Lumia 920 is the current king of Windows Phones. Putting this phone on the top of the Windows 8 Pack is the combination of a 4.5-inch HD (768 x 1280) PureMotion HD+ display with clear black technology, a 8MP primary camera with Carl Zeiss Optics and optical image stabilization, and finally an LTE chip. 

This is the first smartphone with optical image stabilization. GSMArena explains how all this works. A gyroscope is used to detect the motion of the phone and the whole optical assembly moves in the opposite direction to cancel out the movement. That happens 500 times a second.

If you are still holding on to your Nokia N8 with its revolutionary camera, this really is probably the phone for you. If you the camera on a phone is a major consideration, you should really take a long look at this phone. 

A Second Look at the MyPhone A888 Duo Courtesy of Biggs

One of out readers, Biggs think that the MyPhone A888 Duo is one of the most underrated phones in the Philippine market and is not getting enough attention from local tech sites. I am not sure about that, but looking at the past seven days hits on this blog, the MyPhone A888 Duo post, is the second most popular on this blog at this time.

Biggs asked me to do a review. I really only gather information from third parties, mainly trying to ferret out what tech news is relevant to Philippine readers, so am very happy to post actual user feedback. 

He makes several solid points so I asked permission to repost his comment as a blog post (with some edits):

  • 4.5" IPS + QHD resolution – The size is perfect (not overly large like the 5" and above "phablets") and the DPI is still high enough to have a sharp screen.
8.9 mm thick but still with a 1800 mAh battery – Slim without compromising battery life.

  • 8 MP camera with dual-LED flash – This is the only locally rebranded phone which comes with a dual-LED flash.

Dual-microphone - The noise-cancelling feature makes for good voice calls. This is the only locally rebranded phone to have this feature.

  • Button placement (left side volume keys at right side power key) – This is the correct configuration of buttons, especially for one handed use by right handers.

  • Notification light – This is a really useful hardware-feature. No need to unlock the screen to find out if you got a text or missed call. This is the only locally rebranded phone to have this feature.


TV-out - This is the only locally rebranded phone to have this feature other than the MyPhone A787. Is there another?

  • 5-point multi-touch – The display responsive is great for SMS and gaming.
  • 60 FPS UI – The user interface of this phone is smooth.

So, what do you think, is the MyPhone A888 Duo is the low cost smartphone for you?

Should Google Revive the Lapdock?

Motorola's Lapdock were called Webtops

The Lapdock is a device which is basically a dumb screen and keyboard terminal which mates to your smartphone to create a laptop. Motorola released Lapdocks for its Atrix phone in 2010. These Mototola devices were failures, mainly due to the absence of a proper desktop operating system and high cost of the Lapdock accessory. The Asus Padfone series converts you phone into a tablet, and from tablet it can morph into a laptop.
Asus Padfone

Canonical had a similar concept in mind with its Ubuntu for Android initiative announced in 2012. 

Ubuntu for Android

Tim Bajarin in his article, Will Your Smartphone Be Your Next PC thinks the lapdock may be the future of the PC. I think he is right.

I think Chrome for Android could be a viable Lapdock operating system. Basically, the concept would consist of:

  • 11-inch to 13-inch display, mated to a keyboard.
  • Battery to power the Lapdock and recharge the phone while attached.
  • A docking station or cradle for the smartphone. Maybe the smartphone could even act as the trackpad.

Basically, an Android phone would be converted to a Google Chromebook.

As a counterpoint, Chromebook's are cheap, starting at US$199, and can sync with your Android phone and hence a lapdock may not be all that much cheaper.

There are advantages to the Lapdock. Chromebook's with 3G are a lot more expensive, starting at US$349. A l\Lapdock would use your phone 3G modem. The Lapdock would also serve as a phone charger. Useful on long trips. 

What do you think? As Lapdocks viable next generation computing platforms. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

HP ElitePad 900 Business Tablet WiFi+3G

HP has released its Windows 8 powered ElitePad 900 Business Tablet in the Philippines. At Php39,999 for a 32 GB model with a stylus, it is probably the most expensive 32 GB tablet ever released in the country. Remember, a retina display 64 GB Apple iPad 4 with LTE will set you back Php39,990.

The HP ElitePad 900 Business Tablet is really hard to recommend. The tablet has a 10.1-inch display with a decent 1280 x 800 resolution, but at 40K, I would be expecting a 1920 x 1080 display. Inside you get a Intel Atom Z2760 processor. At this price I would expect an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor. It has a HSPA radio, but the market is moving toward LTE. On the plus side, the HP ElitePad 900 Business Tablet comes with 2 GB of RAM and the 32 GB internal storage is expandable via a MicroSD card.   

Okay, lets not dwell on the HP ElitePad 900 Business Tablet. If you are looking for a good Windows 8 tablet, take a look at the Asus VivoTab Smart instead.

Smart Communications to Launch Firefox Smartphones

Smart Communications announced at the Mobile World Congress 2013 that it will be adding mobile phones powered by Mozilla's new Firefox operating system in the Philippines. A total of eighteen carriers announced that they would be carrying Firefox phones, and three manufacturers: LG, Alcatel and ZTE are building phones for it.

The new operating system won't convince you to switch from your Android or Apple smartphones, but should be priced at the lower price points, targeting the Nokia Asha and higher end feature phones. Firefox OS is a light operating system which runs mainly web apps. This allows for the use older hardware and thus build lower cost smartphones. 

An example of what a Firefox OS phone will be like is the Alcatel One Touch Fire. 

Alcatel One Touch Fire Quick System Specs:

  • 3.5-inch HVGA (320 x 480) display
  • 1 GHz single core processor
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 512 MB of internal storage, with MicroSD card support
  • 3G connectivity

Essentially, the specifications are like an Android or Apple smartphone from 2009. Using these now obsolescent parts will allow for parts manufacturers to use their older production lines, and for LG, Alcatel and ZTE to build some really low cost smartphones. 

While all smartphones are heavily dependent on the Internet for functionality, these low cost Firefox smartphones are more dependent on an active internet connection to be useful. It will be interesting to see how Smart will create plans for these new smartphones.

Samsung Series 5 NP510R5E-S01PH

Samsung has released a very nicely priced thin and light laptop in the Philippines. The Samsung Series 5 NP510R5E-S01PH gives you Intel Core i7 power, Radeon discrete graphics, 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive, wrapped in 15.6-inch laptop case which weighs at just 4.6 pounds, for the surprisingly low asking price of Php44,900. 

Samsung Series 5 NP510R5E-S01PH quick specifications:
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 15.6-inch HD LED Anti-Reflective Display (1366 x 768) 
  • Intel Core i7 Processor 3537U (2.00 GHz up to 3.10 GHz, 4 MB L3 Cache)
  • AMD Radeon HD 8750M Graphics with 2GB DDR3 dedicated memory
  • 8GB DDR3 System Memory at 1600MHz (4GB x 2)
  • 1TB S-ATAⅡ Hard Drive (5400RPM)
  • 3-in-1 (SD, SDHC, SDXC) Multi-media Card Reader
  • 720p HD Web Camera
  • WiFi 802.11 abg/n (up to 300Mbps),
  • Bluetooth v4.0
  • Gigabit Ethernet [10/100/1000]
  • HDMI and VGA port
  • 1 USB3.0 port, 2 USB2.0 port
  • 1 RJ45 (LAN) port
  • 3 Cell (43Wh) battery
  • 2.08Kg (4.59lbs)
  • 376.0 x 248 x 22.9mm (14.80" x 9.76" x 0.90")

While you will find similarly spec'ed laptops from other manufacturers at around the same price, the Samsung Series 5 gives you a much lighter package than its competition which weigh in at 5.7 to 6 pounds. This makes it a very good choice for those who want a large screen laptop which is still light enough to carry around daily.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lenovo S890 - A Really Nice 5-inch Android Phone

Lenovo has released two new Android smartphones in the Philippines, the P770 and the P890. As compared to the new Lenovo offerings released last January, the main features of the two new phones is that they now have Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, installed and have increased the RAM to 1 GB. 

Lenovo S890. The Lenovo S890 is a monster Droid phone with  a 5-inch qHD (540 x 960) display. The Lenovo S890 is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor on a Mediatek chipset and comes with PowerVR SGX graphics.  This makes places the phone in the same category as the Cherry Mobile TitanCherry Mobile Omega and MyPhone A919.  The Lenovo S890 priced at Php12,800, is priced 4-6K more than its competition. 

Now Android 4.1 and 1 GB of RAM are substantial updates, but what really makes the Lenovo S890 worth considering despite the much higher price is the qHD resolution. The Titan, Omega and A919 have 5 to 5.2 inch, WVGA displays with lower WVGA (480 x 800) resolution displays. At 5-inches, the qHD display really makes a noticeable difference in the sharpness of the user interface and image quality.

The other specifications are in line with what you expect from a smartphone at this price with dual SIM capability, 4 GB of internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card, a 8 MP primary camera with a LED flash camera, a VGA secondary camera, a 2250 mAh battery and the other features you expect to find in an Android smartphone these days.

I suspect this phone will be a very successful release for Lenovo.

Lenovo P770 - 4.5-inch Jelly Bean Android with MAXX Like Battery Life

Lenovo has released two new Android smartphones in the Philippines, the P770 and the P890. As compared to the new Lenovo offerings released last January, the main features of the two new phones is that they now have Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, installed and have increased the RAM to 1 GB. 

Lenovo P770. The Lenovo P770 is a mid-sized Android phone with  a 4.5-inch qHD (540 x 960) display. The Lenovo P770 is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor on a Mediatek chipset and comes with PowerVR SGX graphics.  This makes places the phone in the same category as the Cherry Mobile ThunderCherry Mobile Flare, Cloudfone Trill 430X, MyPhone A888 and Starmobile Crystal.  The Lenovo P770 priced at Php11,790, is priced 4-7K more than its competition. 

What the Lenovo P770 offers which could justify the higher price are:

- Android 4.1 out of the box
- 1 GB of RAM, which is double of what you have in the Thunder, Flame, A888 and Crystal
- Processor clocked 200 MHz faster than the Thunder, Flame, Thrill 430x, A888 and Crystal
- a large 3500 mAh battery, again is twice the size of the batteries on the Thunder, Flame, A888 and Crystal

Best to leave each reader to decide whether the Lenovo P770's feature set justifies the higher price. The buyers who will consider the Lenovo P770 will probably be most interested in the large 3500 mAh battery, and this would make the Cloudfone Trill 430X is main competition. 

The other specifications are in line with what you expect from a smartphone at this price with dual SIM capability, 4 GB of internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card, a 5 MP primary camera with a LED flash camera, a VGA secondary camera and the other features you expect to find in an Android smartphone these days.

The Lenovo P770 is solid offering. While I cannot say it is a value for money option, it differentiates itself enough from its direct competition to make it a worthwhile choice.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Post PC World - Auditing My Computing Time

I have been trying to figure out the proportion of activities I do on my two computers, a Android smartphone and a Mac OS X laptop. Traditionally, traditionally I used to use my smartphone mainly as a phone, personal organizer, and email, while my laptop did everything else.

In the past two years, things have change. The smartphone became much more capable and a unlimited and volume based data plans became available. Cloud storage became more substantial, and between Google Drive (work related files), Dropbox (personal files) and Box (pictures) all of my files are available on both of my devices. This has been a big equalizer. Before cloud storage, I would drag my laptop around just to have access to my files.

Breaking it down to what are “personal computer” activities it looks like this:

To-do list and updating my calendar - 100% on the smartphone. I did this on a phone, long before I had a laptop. 

Reading email - 90% on the smartphone. Email gets pushed to my smartphone and I get a notification, so I tend to read it from there, even if my laptop is running. 

Writing email - 80% on the smartphone. I send short emails and respond to most emails on my smartphone. I go to the laptop only when I plan to write a fairly long response, or if I happen to read the email while on using my laptop.

News and Social Networking (Twitter and Google+) - 90% on the smartphone. I check the news on my phone first thing in the morning. I only use my laptop to check Twitter or Google+ if I am doing something else and want to take a short break.

Web browsing - 75% on the laptop. I use both my devices to browse the web, but browsing the web on a 13.3-inch display is more fun, than doing it on 4.3-inches.

Blogging - 99.9% on the laptop. I have posted one blog posts on the smartphone using the Chrome browser, just to see if it could be done.

Photo editing -  50% on the smartphone. I don't edit pictures much When I share a picture on a social network, I edit it on my smartphone since that is the device I use for social networking. When I edit pictures for this blog, I blog on a laptop, so I edit pictures from the laptop.

Writing and editing documents, keeping notes and preparing spreadsheets - 95% on the laptop. While I have pretty good document editing software on my phone, I prefer to use my laptop for this job. I occasionally edit some documents on the smartphone. Pretty much 100% of the documents and spreadsheets I prepare are work related. When I prepare personal notes or record general information for future reference I do it on my mobile using Evernote.

Gaming - 100% on the smartphone. One caveat. I stopped playing computer games a long time ago. The smartphone basically got me back into gaming. Playing games on a smartphone is something I do to pass the time while waiting for a meeting or appointment. Off hand, I average only about 2 hours a week.

In terms of hours, I spend two hours on a smartphone per day, and between four to eight hours on a laptop. That's a lot of time. I need to get a life.

Seriously, most of the time on the laptop is work related, and the next biggest time sink is blogging. On weekends, my smartphone use is about the same, but my time on my laptop is usually down to about two hours. When I am out of town on vacation, I do not bring my laptop with me anymore.

What is the point of this type of exercise, it is to assess my computing needs. The smartphone has truly become a Swiss Army Knife of computing. It can actually take care of all my computing needs, if I had no other device available.

The limitations of a smartphone are screen size and the virtual keyboard which makes the small screen even more cramp. Yes, even a 5.5-inch display would still be small, and I type much faster with a physical keyboard.

If I did not prepare documents for a living (but I am not a writer, I just write a lot), and I did not blog, I would have little need for a physical keyboard, and I could do with just a smartphone and tablet. I think this situation is true for a lot of people, and in that sense, we really are in a Post PC world. PC makers, will really need to get into the tablet game.

Me, I need a laptop, but really these days the cheapest laptops would do. I never paid a premium price for a personal computer for more power or storage. I did pay more for portability. Small 11 to 12 inch ultraportables and light 13-inch laptops used to be available only at a premium price awhile back. Now 11.6-inch laptops are available for cheap, and Sleekbooks or Slimbooks flood the market. Because of the availability of low cost portables, when it comes time to replace my laptop, I will spend about 40-50% of what I would have before. If the Chromebook becomes available locally, I would even spend less than that just 20% of what I used to spend on a laptop. I think my situation is true for a fair number, so not only do PC makers have to deal with competition from tablets, but also a consumer base willing to spend less on their next computer.

Tablets themselves aren't all that expensive, so whether you choose a tablet or a laptop, you will be throwing less money at consumer electronics. With less revenue headed the way PC makers, I think we may see a lot of are old favorite brands fall be the wayside.

Just some random thought on a early Sunday morning. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

HTC's Sense 5 - New and Improved

In addition to new hardware, HTC hopes to revive its flagging fortunes with the new Sense 5. HTC Sense used to be the benchmark for what a manufacturer customized Android ROM should be. But it looks like Samsung, with its TouchWiz Nature UX, has surpassed HTC's efforts. Some features like S-Voice and Pop up play, seem gimmicky. Other features, like Smart Stay and Direct Call, are pretty useful. The new effect of all the new features is to make Samsung user interface feel fresh and innovative. 

With Sense 5, HTC has brought a more minimalistic look to the HTC One and added a few new features. The most significant "innovation" in the look of Sense is BlinkFeed. BlinkFeed puts updates from your Social Networks and RSS feeds on your home screen. With BlinkFeed, the face that HTC uses to advertise its user interface has gone from this:

... to this:

BlinkFeed gives the phones interface a a new dynamic look, which HTC hopes will make its hardware look more cutting edge.

HTC added several other new features. BlinkTV allows you to use the HTC One as a remote control for you TV via Infra Red. There is also the new iTunes friendly sync manager. Yet another change is made with the image gallery. The gallery has been given a new look by a feature called and Zoe camera. Zoe camera takes a three second video whenever you take a picture. The video is used to animate your image gallery so when you view it, you will see a dynamic screen and not a bunch of static images.

So, did HTC do enough with Sense 5, to wow you with the software? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook

It has been some time since Dell laptops have been considered the best in the business, but if the new releases are like the new Inspiron 14z Ultrabook, the Dell brand could again be the choice for many. Rather than follow the pack and try to make the laptop as thin as possible, Dell's Inspiron 14z Ultrabook just does minimum compliance with the Ultrabook standard. This 14-inch laptop is 0.83-inches thick and weighs in a 4.1 pounds, which is a bit thicker and heavier than your typical Ultrabook.

But Dell has achieved a bit of product differentiation with the with the Inspiron 14z Ultrabook. The Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook has a discrete video, card an AMD 7570M graphics chip, and DVD drive. These are two features which you do not see in an Ultrabook.

Priced at Php42,990, with Windows 8 pre-installed the other specifications are good for the asking price. An Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 4 GB of RAM power the Dell Inspiron 14z Ultrabook. Storage is via a 500 GB hard drive with a 32 GB SSD cache.

The direct competitors of the Dell Inspiron 14z are the Acer S3 and Samsung NP530U3C, both of which sell for a bit less than the Dell. The Acer and Samsung have a smaller 13.3-inch displays, and are thinner and lighter. But the Acer and Samsung Ultrabooks do not have discrete graphics or a optical drive. The Asus Zenbook UX32VD Ultrabook has discrete graphics, but cost much more at Php59,900.  HP's Envy Utrabook 4 is comparably priced, offers discrete graphics but has no optical drive.

The Dell Inspiron 14z does a good job of offering a set of features that its competitors do not have. This distinction will make Dell Inspiron 14z the choice for those looking for a powerful Ultrabook with an optical drive.

Are Windows Phone and Windows RT Dead in the Water?

In an interview with Bloomberg Germany, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said Microsoft’s Windows Phone and tablet operating systems will gain “enough critical mass to keep going with their tablets and phones.” By this time, I had expect Windows Phone to have a larger market share, and I am having a hard time sharing Mr. Wozniak's optimism.

Windows Phone. Data from IDC shows that in Quarter 4 of 2012, Windows Phone accounted for just 2.6% of the mobile phones shipped worldwide. Thus is up from 1.5% in the Quarter 4 of 2011. The numbers are not all that encouraging.  

The 2.6% figure for the 4th quarter of 2012 represents 6 million smartphones. Another problematic figure is connect to this modest number. Of the 6 million Windows Phone smartphones shipped in Quarter 4 of 2012, 4.4 million were apparently Nokia Lumia phones.  

With Samsung and HTC having to share in the remaining 1.6 million phones shipped, there seems to be little incentive for them to continue. Still HTC has had a long history as a Microsoft partner, and Samsung is getting bigger in the PC business.

If Windows Phone is going to gain traction, it would have to do so in Quarter 1 of 2013. The current Windows Phone devices are four or five month old designs, which I do not expect to see update for another seven or eight months. By Quarter 2 of this year, you can expect the new Android phones to cause a surge in Android phone sales. Later in the third or fourth quarter of the year, a new iPhone will see a increase in iPhone sales.

Should Quarter 1, 2013 sales of Windows Phones be lackluster, developers will have to decide if Windows Phone is worth it, given that the last quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013 are likely the peak period for Windows sales. 

Windows RT. Windows RT would appear to be in worse shape. Few of Microsoft OEM partners came out with RT devices. Total Windows RT device sales for 2012 appear to be less than 1 million units. 

Worse, Windows RT seems now to be a superflous operating system. Windows RT was designed to run on ARM processors. But Windows RT plus ARM processors do not seem to offer any advantages over full Windows 8 tablets running on Intel Atom processors.

So, rather than trying to rake on iOS and Android in the tablet market, it would seem that Windows RT's number one competition is actually Windows 8. 

So where does it go from here? Between Microsoft and Nokia Windows Phone will continue to exist for foreseeable future. Nokia is actually making money on selling phones again. What would kill Windows Phone quickly, is if Nokia decided to release Android devices. In the longer term, it will be developer support which will keep this platform alive, or end its life.

As for Windows RT, I would not be surprised if we do not see another Windows RT device released ever again. 

Google Chromebook Pixel

Google has launched its own Chromebook, the Chromebook Pixel. The Chromebook Pixel is a 12.85-inch laptop with a sharp 2560 x 1700 touchscreen display. The Chromebook Pixel is powered by a 1.8 GHz dual core Intel Core i5 processor, a 4 GB hard drive and Intel HD 4000 graphics. Two versions are offered, a WiFi only version with a 32 GB of flash storage, at US$1,299, and an LTE version with US$1,449 with 64 GB of flash storage. 

Yup, that is no typo, the Chromebook Pixel starts at US$1,299. That is a big step up, from the prices of the other Acer (US$199), Samsung (US$249), HP (US$330) and Lenovo (US$430) Chromebooks.

The Google Chromebook Pixel comes with 1 TB of Google Drive storage for three years, instead of the 100 GB of storage bundled with the other Chromebooks. It also comes with 100 MB of LTE connectivity for two years. So a lot of services are bundled in with the price.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Sony Xperia Z and ZL Philippine Launched Announced

The Sony Xperia Z, the companies new flagship phone which is built around a large 5-inch 1080p display, a quad core processor and LTE has been officially launched in the Philippines. Suggested retail price is Php32,900.  

Sony Xperia Z quick specs:

Android 4.1.2 Jellybean
5-inch Full HD display (1920×1080 @ 441ppi)
1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait/MDM9215M Snapdragon S4  
Adreno 320 Graphics
16GB internal storage
microSD card with official support up to 64GB
13 MP primary camera with LED flash
2 MP front camera
DC-HSDPA, LTE 100Mbps, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
2330mAh battery
Dustproof and water resistant
139 x 71 x 7.9mm dimensions
146g in weight

Also announced for release was the Sony Xperai ZL which is priced at a lower Php29,900.

Sony Xperia ZL quick specs:

Android 4.1.2 Jellybean
5-inch Full HD display (1920×1080 @ 441ppi)
1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait/MDM9215M Snapdragon S4  
Adreno 320 Graphics
16GB internal storage
microSD card with official support up to 64GB
13 MP primary camera with LED flash
2 MP front camera
DC-HSDPA, LTE 100Mbps, WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
2370mAh battery
131.6 x 69.3 x 9.8mm dimensions
151g in weight 

The ZL is essentially a lower cost Z without the dust and water resistance in a thicker case.

With LTE on board the new Xperia's kills the HTC Butterfly in terms of price and features.

The only problem is the Sony Xperia Z and ZL wont be available for sale till April, at which time we might already have the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S IV in the market.

Antutu Benchmark Scores of Several of the Android 7-inch Tablets.

Updated on March 9, 2013

I compiled a Antutu Benchmark scores of several of the Android 7-inch tablets.

Asus Memo Pad ME172v - Php6,995

- Processor/Chipset: Single core 1 GHz ARM Cortes A9/Via
- Display: 1024 x 600

Antutu Benchmark Score - 4558

Samsung Galaxy Tab P3110 - Php9,990

- Processor/Chipset: Dual Core 1 GHz ARM Cortes A9/TI OMAP
- Display: 1024 x 600

Acer Iconia Tab B1 - Php7,200

- Processor/Chipset: Dual Core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortes A9/MediaTek MTK8317T
- Display: 1024 x 600

Starmobile Engage 7HD - Php7,990

- Processor/Chipset: Dual core 1.2 GHz ARM Cortes A9/AmLogic AML8726-MX
- Display: 1280 x 800

Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt - Php3,999

- Processor: Quad core 1 GHz/Actions ATM7029
- Display: 1280 x 800

Google Nexus 7 - Php14,400

- Processor/Chipset: Quad Core 1.3 GHz/Nvidia Tegra
- Display: 1280 x 800

The Cherry Mobile Thunder versus the Lenovo A800

Earlier this month we put Lenovo's A800 on our recommended list of low cost smartphones. Why? The A800 combined a MediaTek chipset with a PowerVR SGX531 graphics chip with a large 4.5-inch display with a lower FWVGA resolution (480 x 854), instead of the qHD (540 x 960) you find on most of its competition. Why is lower resolution a benefit. While MediaTek chipset with a PowerVR SGX531 is the performance king with the low cost handsets, it is not fast by todays standards. Mating it with a FWVGA display will give it substantially higher 3D performance than if it came in a phone with a qHD display. Basically, a trade off between a sharper image and performance.

The Lenovo A800 was also reasonable priced at Php6,999 and had a bigger battery than most of its competition.

What a difference a few weeks makes. Cherry Mobile launched its Thunder with a MediaTek chipset with a PowerVR SGX531 graphics chip with a large 4.5-inch FWVGA display at a price of Php4,999, which is 2K below the price of the Lenovo A800. 

The two phones have identical specifications, except:

1. The A800 has a 5MP camera with a LED flash. The Thunder has a 5 MP camera too, but no LED flash.

Camera performance of this low cost phones is marginal. Most smartphones, even those with better cameras perform poorly when you use the flash. Basically, it is nice to have the flash, but it is not a deal breaker.

1. The Thunder has a VGA front camera, while the Lenovo A800 has none.

Unless you never do video calls, you will want the front camera. 

2. The A800 has a dual core 1.2 GHz Arm Cortex A9 processor, the Thunder has a dual core 1 GHz Arm Cortez A9 processor.

Faster is better, but it 200 MHz does not justify a 40% difference in price.

3.  The A800 has a 2000 mAh battery, while the Thunder has a 1700 mAh battery.

The Lenovo should give you about 18% more battery life, that could mean 2-4 hours more a day, and that is worth paying more for. 

4. The Thunder is thinner a 9.9 mm, as compared to the 11.5 mm A800.

Thinner is better.

It is a close fight I think, but in next month buyers guide, the Cherry Mobile  Thunder will take the  Lenovo A800's place in my list.

Globe Telecom Expands LTE Coverage

While Globe Telecoms LTE network does not cover as many areas as Smart Communications, the Globe is also expanding its coverage. Globe LTE can now be found in parts of Makati, Pasig, Quezon City, Taguig,  Manila, Muntinlupa, and also Cebu City and Boracay in Malay, Aklan in the Visayas.

Smart LTE Expands Coverage in Metro Manila and Rolls Out to the Provinces

Smart Communications LTE is now available in parts of sixteen cities in Metro Manila and coverage has expanded to 24 provinces, in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. At present Smart LTE coverage covers 46 cities and 69 municipalities nationwide.

You can find out if your area is covered through Smarts LTE Coverage and Locations webpage at this link

Cherry Mobile Burst - The Burst After the Flare

Cherry Mobile has announced a new low cost Android smartphone, the Cherry Mobile Burst. The Burst is a 4-inch Android smartphone, which has specifications almost identical to the popular Cherry Mobile Flare.

Quick Specs:

Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich
4-inch IPS WVGA (800 x 480 resolution) display

1GHz dual-core processor
Adreno 203 graphics processing unit
512 MB of RAM
4 GB of internal storage expandable by a microSD card slot
5-megapixel rear camera
VGA front camera
HSPA, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS
1500mAh battery

The only noticeable difference in the specifications is that the Burst's processor is clocked 200 MHz lower than the Flare. Still, this phone still does a very respectable 6,100+ points in the Antutu Benchmark.

The Burst is more stylish and modern looking than the Flare, and uses the three button Android 4.x format. The Flare uses the older Android 2.x four button format. 

The Burst is also being offered at the same price point as the Flare, at just Php3,999. I am not sure if the Burst will be sold along side the Flare of will replace the Flare. If both are available, 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

SwiftKey adds Flow: The best keyboard for your Android just got better

SwiftKey has released a new version of its popular keyboard on the Google Play Store. The updated version of SwiftKey includes the new Flow feature which has been available as a beta for several months now. SwiftKey Flow allows you enter words by swiping your finger across the screen, like many other similar keyboards. What makes Swiftkey Flow different from the rest is that you can also string together several words or even a complete sentence without lifting your finger.

If you already bought a previous version of SwiftKey, and update to the latest version is free. The update is available for both the smartphone and tablet versions.

If you have not yet bought SwiftKey, you can get it for about Php94, depending on the exchange rate for the day. You can also try a demo.

Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt Performance and Benchmarks

Cherry Mobile has shocked the local tech scene by announcing the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt. Php3,999 for a 7-inch tablet with an 1280 x 800 pixel resolution HD display, quad core processor and 1 GB of RAM almost unbelievable. The specifications sheet reads like a Asus Nexus 7 at less than a third of the price.

The biggest question mark in with the new Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt is the chipset and graphics processing unit (GPU). The Fusion Bolt has a 1GHz quad-core Actions Semiconductor ATM7025 processor paired with a Vivante GC1000+ GPU. How well does this combination perform.

Pinoytech Blog has benchmarked the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt an the tablet and the performance is very good for a Php3,999 tablet, but really is better than dual core tablet but not as good as powerful  than a quad core tablets.

Antutu Benchmarks

Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt - 5665 points

The Samsung Galaxy Tab P3110 uses a dual core processor on a TI OMAP chipset with a PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. The Google Nexus 7, has a quad core Nvidia Tegra 3.                          

Examining a breaking down of three key aspects of the Antutu benchmarks would show they key areas where the ATM7025 processor paired with a Vivante GC1000+ GPU fall short.

Samsung Galaxy Tab P3110

CPU integer - 1358
CPU float point - 1102
3D graphics (1024 x 600) - 1085

Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt

CPU integer - 1313
CPU float point - 901
3D graphics (1280 x 800) - 1513

Google Nexus 7

CPU integer - 3679
CPU float point -2692
3D graphics (1280 x 800) - 2874

The quad core ATM7025 processor really does not perform better than a dual core unit. The dual core 1 GHz TI OMAP on the Samsung Galaxy P3110 is actually one of the slower dual core options on th market.

The Vivante GC1000+ GPU actually fairs pretty well. It does 40% better than the PowerVR SGX540 GPU on the Samsung Galaxy P3110 despite having to push 60% more pixels. Roughly the  Vivante GC1000+ GPU is twice as powerful as the PowerVR SGX540 GPU.

My advice, is don't look a gift horse in the mouth. If you compare the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt to a Google Nexus 7 which costs more the than three time more, the Google Nexus 7 is more than twice as fast. But you should not expect the same performance for a third of the price.

If you compare the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt to a Samsung Galaxy P3110 which will cost you more than twice as much, the Fusion Bolt looks to be a much better value for money option.

Update: Apparently, the Cherry Mobile Fusion benchmarks cited above was the result of pre-production firmware. An independent test score the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt at 12042 points

Asus VivoTab Smart ME400c - A Full Windows PC in a Tablet

Tablets with with full PC versions of Windows are nothing new. They have been around for some time, and for the most part have served a niche market. Windows 7 was not the best tablet operating system, and hence was the choice for a few enterprise clients who had to run full x86 PC software on a tablet form factor. Intel processors were also power hungry, giving this Windows tablets short battery life.

Enter Windows 8 and Intel's new Clover Trail Processors. Windows 8 gives you a user interface and apps which are optimized for tablets. At the same time you can also run your old PC software. The best of both worlds.  Intel's new Clover Trail Processors have enough power to run a full Windows operating system and at the same time provide 8-9 hours of battery life.

While several of these devices have been released in the Philippines, the new Windows 8 powered Asus VivoTab Smart ME400c really make me take notice. This tablet is selling for just Php25,999 with 64 GB of internal storage. This is a really good price for a 64 GB tablet, and given that Windows 8 occupies a fair amount of space a 64 GB tablet is really pretty much compulsory for a tablet with a full PC operating system inside. You can also expand storage via a microSD card slot. Asus also bundles this tablet with 32 GB of Asus Cloud Storage for 36 months.

The Asus VivoTab Smart ME400c has a 10.1-inch display with a HD (1366 x 768 pixel resolution) display. Inside is an Intel Atom Z2760 dual core processor and backed-up by 2 GB of RAM.  For connectivity you have WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, and a MicroUSB port. This tablet also comes with a 8 MP primary camera and a front facing 2 MP camera. Asus promises that you will get up to 9.5 hours of battery life with its new Windows 8 Tab.

Asus VivoTab Smart ME400c is almost as slim as an Apple iPad 4, at 9.7 mm, but the real bonus is that it is a lot lighter at just 1.28 pounds (an iPad 4 weighs in at 1.44 pounds).

A stylus and keyboard are available for the Asus VivoTab Smart ME400c, but I have not seen them yet locally, so I have no word on pricing.

Windows Phone has had a hard time gaining any traction. Windows RT tablets looks like they will get killed off by their full PC OS packing siblings. But I think Windows 8 tablets, might be able to break into the Android-iOS duopoly in a big way.

HTC One - Taking Risks

It is no secret that HTC is not in great shape these days. HTC's market share in 2012 was half of what it was in 2011. It has been a long time since heady days of 2010 and the HTC Nexus One and HTC Desire, when were considered by some sectors to be the best smartphones in the world. What does HTC do when its back is to the wall? Take risks.

HTC Sense was once considered the best Android overlay, and back than, we used to laugh at Samsung's TouchWiz.  Things have changed a lot since than. With the new HTC One, HTC takes a bold step forward with Sense 5, leaving behind the Sense that was its staple since the days of Windows Mobile. In one Sense, the new Sense 5 UI is minimalist. The old Sense clock and colorful weather display is replaced by a more toned down clock and weather display. In another sense, Sense 5 is radical, with BlinkFeed.

BlinkFeed turns your home screen into a Flipboard like interface which can display contentfrom 1,400 HTC media partners. BlinkFeed aggregates the content from different sources all in one place, without the need to switch between multiple applications. BlinkFeed is in a HTC new take on FriendStream. It looks like FriendStream on steroids.

HTC is taking risk in other ways. 

The HTC One has what you expect from a flagship Android phone. a Full HD display, a quad core processor in the form of Qualcomm's new S600 chipset with a 1.7 GHz Krait and 2 GB of RAM. HTC goes back to its roots by building the HTC One with an aluminum unibody case, instead of the polycarbonate used in the HTC One X.     

But that HTC One, throws caution in the wind and truly innovates at the risk of being misunderstood by the average Joe. Instead of engaging in the meaningless megapixel war, the HTC One comes with a modest 4 MP camera. What it does is used larger pixels, or Ultrapixel technology to improve the picture quality, especially in low light conditions.   The Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III have among the best camera's in the smartphone world. These phone sport 1.4 micron pixels. The well regarded camera on the Nokia N8 was equipped with 1.75 micron pixels. The 4 MP "Ultrapixel" technology on the HTC One utilizes 2 micron pixel technology. This is still a far cry from the 4.8 micropixels in a DLSR or SLT, but its the best ever on a smartphone. 

The HTC One also has an odd looking set of grills at the top and bottom ends. This odd look is designed around the new front facing stereo speakers which push out an impressive 93dB of sound.

Unfortunately, HTC has not brought back the microSD card slow and a user replaceable battery. With the HTC One you get 32 GB or 64 GB of storage and a good sized 2300 mAh battery.

HTC seems to have done a good job with its HTC One. In one months time, we should be seeing the Samsung Galaxy S IV. Only than we will find out if HTC did enough with its One phone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Official HTC One render?

French website NWE has leaked what it claims to be an official render of the HTC One, which is set to be officially launched in 5 hours.

Click for a larger image

The HTC One is a Android phone which reportedly will come with a 4.7-inch Full HD display, a quad core processor and a new ultra pixel camera which is made of up of three 4.3 MP cameras.

The latest render is consistent with previous renders leaked by evileaks and The Unwired View.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt

Cherry Mobile has announced that a new tablet is joining it line-up, the Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt with a suggested retail price of Php3,999. And my first reaction here is there must be some kind of mistake. 

The Fusion Bolt is a 7-inch Android tablet which has a IPS HD (800 x 1280) display, a quad core 1 GHz processor and 1 GB of RAM. The quad-core processor is a Actions ATM7029 with Vivante GC1000 graphics processing unit. I have no prior experience with this chipset, so I would not want to venture a guess on how fast it is.   

The Android operating system installed is version 4.1.1 JellyBean. The battery is a 4000 mAh unit. Internal storage is 8 GB, which is expandable via a microSD card slot. You also get a mini HDMI port which supports 1080p output.The Fusion Bold comes with two cameras, a 2 MP primary camera and VGA front camera. While no 3G model is offered, you can plug it to a 3G dongle 

Yes, this is priced a Php3,999. There must be a catch somewhere...

Oh yes, don't get Bluetooth and GPS.

The Cherry Mobile Fusion Bolt is not yet available in the market, but it will apparently be out next month. At Php3,999 expect long lines of people waiting to get one.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why the Year of the Linux Desktop Will Never Come The Way We Think It Will

Linux has been a success, but has not made a significant dent on personal computers and mobile devices. It has nothing to do with Linux itself. It is a very capable operating system and is easy to use. Linux based operating systems like Android are clear proof that Linux could have been a success in all areas of computing.

So, why has it failed so far?

Microsoft has had 90% of the desktop market for as long as I can remember. Apple's Mac OSX has g between 6-7% of the market, and Linux about 1-2%. While a monopoly usually leads to strong competitor as the monopoly becomes too oppressive, Microsoft has managed to run its monopoly  in a manner that did not result in widespread revolt. In sum, the Microsoft tax is not all the bad. Microsoft Windows is available at all segments of the PC market, from fantastically priced hardware to the lowest end computers. 

Even when you go to the camps of the second and third largest segments of the PC market a number split time with Windows. A fair number of Apple users actually also use Windows part of the time, as can be gleaned from the popularity of BootCamp. A fair number of Linux users dual boot. Why bother dual booting? Well really, Microsoft's hold on the Market has been about trivial things, like being compatible with all the major games titles.  Basically, on the desktop, Microsoft still has the best ecosystem, followed by Apple, with Linux being a far third place in this regard.

If you look at the mobile market, Apple was disrupted the market with an innovative. It brought a touch based operating system to the market which made the Nokia's Symbian OS, Microsoft's Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices and operating system obsolescent. Apple's iOS had an uphill fight for a bit, with Symbian, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry having better ecosystems. But new technology, plus Apple's ability to build a large ecosystem in a short span of time killed the old guard. 

Unlike Microsoft, the Apple Tax is fairly steep, hence Android arose. When you create market awareness for a new generation of products, and do not supply the entire market, well you expect this to happen.

If Linux wants to succeed on the desktop, the path to success has already been outline for it by Apple and Google.

  1. Build an operating system which meets a new need. Apple and Android succeeded because of the touchscreen, and the need of operating systems to take advantage of this technology. 
  2. Build a strong app ecosystem. 
Apple built new hardware for iOS. Google got partners to build new hardware for Android. If you had placed iOS or Android in an old touchpad or QWERTY form factor phone, Symbian, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry would still rule today.

Linux efforts have been directed at migrating Microsoft users with the ideals of software freedom, with free software and with a promise of malware free computing. This is not a recipe for success. Software freedom appeals to the idealist, and after nearly two decades of domination no one really believes that Microsoft is an evil empire that will ruin our lives. Microsoft sells software and its main goal is to keep a healthy bottom line. There are no discussions of world domination in Microsofts boardroom, just how to keep Windows on your PC. Free software is cool, until you realize few developers want to give away their work for free. Software developers have to eat too. The result, Linux has some really fine apps, just not all that many. As for threat of malware, user habit dictates as to how much risk you are in.

Linux distributors have built great operating systems. But trying to invade enemy territory is hard. For Linux to succeed it has to find a new hardware niche, a next generation computing platform, and build an operating system around that. The year of the Linux Desktop, as we know it today will not come, because if Linux is to succeed on the desktop, it would have to build a new type of desktop.

Now what this new type of desktop should be, I don't know. If I did, I would put up a hardware design company, patent a design and ship it to China for mass production. There is one new personal computer form factor that is unserved: The USB Dongle PC.

These small devices can convert your LCD or LED TV to a computer or Smart TV. Coming in as low as US$70 these devices are very interesting, but there really is no operating system which is optimized to take advantage of them. You can load Android, which is optimized for the touchscreen (which your TV is not) or Linux, which is optimized for a keyboard and a mouse (which is not all that comfortable to use when lounging on a couch or in bed).

A operating system with a simplified interface, with a few key apps built in, and a new control system could become an overnight sensation. Maybe it could use the smartphone to act as a trackpad, keyboard and game controller. Monetization of this new operating system could be done through app sales.

This is just an example, and it maybe a bad one. I am no Steve Job's or Eric Schmidt. I am not sure how popular these USB PC's will be. But it would take something like this, to push a "new" operating system. Breaking new ground is an easier way to break into the consumer market, If the year of the Linux desktop will comes, it won't be on the the old clunky desktops and laptops we are all so familiar with, but some new an exciting amalgamation of software and hardware.

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