Thursday, May 30, 2013

How much have you spent on Google Play? A look at ecosystem loyalty.

I got by cheap. It is now two years since Google made paid apps available in the Philippines. I figured it is a good time to figure out how much I have spent there. In order of acquisition:

(In US Dollars)

1. Screen Lock and Off (Donate) by Kateca - $0.99
2. X-Plane by Laminar Research (plus one in-app purchase) - $5.99
3. SwiftKey by TouchType - $1.99
4. Photo Enhance Pro by Mark Wheadon - $0.99*
5. Robo Defense from Lupis Laps - $2.99
6. Sketchbook Mobile from Autodesk  - $0.10*
7. Soundhound - $0.10*
8. Read-It-Later (now Pocket) - $0.10*
9. Pano by Debacle Software - $0.10*
10. Sim City Deluxe by EA - $0.10*
11. Edomondo Sports Tracker Pro - $0.10*
12. FlightTrack by Mobiata - $0.10*
13. ezPDF Reader by Unidocs - $0.10*
14. Sentinel 3: Homeworld by Origin - $0.10*
15. Picsay Pro - US$1.99*
16. Dead Space by EA - US$0.49*
17. Tasks by Team Task - $0.99
18. Root Explorer - $3.99
19. Titanium Backup - $5.99
20. OfficeSuite Pro 6+ from Mobile Systems, Inc - $0.25*
21. Nova Launcher Prime - $0.25*
22. Symphony of Eternity by KEMCO - $0.25*
23. XDA Premium - $0.99*
23. Chaos Ring by Square Enix - $3.99*
24. Eve of Genesis by KEMCO - $0.99*
25. Symphony of the Origin by KEMCO - $4.49
26. Final Fantasy Dimensions by Square Enix - $8.99*
27. 1Weather Pro - $1.99
28. Silver Nornir - $0.99*
29. Final Fantasy III - $7.49*

Total - $57.97

I have managed to get by pretty cheap with three major Google Play sales in the past two years.  A full two-thirds of my purchases were bought on sale.

  • Apps bought at full price - 9
  • Apps bought on sale - 20

On the apps on sale, well I do tend to "waste" money. I have never used, except to look at, 40% of the apps I have purchased during a sale. 

  • Apps bought at full price I have not used - 0
  • Apps bought on sale I have not used - 8

Still this is not bad. The eight apps I got on sale that I do not use cost me all o $3.12. So basically, only 5% of the money I spend on Google Play can be considered as "wasted".

Ecosystem loyalty. One thing mentioned often mention in apps, is ecosystem loyalty. That my previous purchases on Android, or iOS or other platform would keep me on the platform.  How many apps would I replace if I moved to a different platform. It comes to bout to 6 to 8, since some platforms like Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 bundle apps I would normally be willing to pay for.

The others apps, well they are been there and done that. Mostly these are games. One I have gone through it, I don't think I will be playing it again. Well I think I will play it one day in the future again. So far, I have now. 

Interesting thing about games, I am not a big gamer, but gamer but more than a third of my total app purchases. If you at my last ten purchases, seven are games. Basically, one you have your core of productivity apps, what else is there to buy?

Looking at the past two years, I have not spent much, and what I have purchased would not be enough a significant factor i staying on Android or not. Free apps like Google Drive & Docs and Maps are more more significant factors in keeping me in the Android ecosystem.

Retention woes

Retention, when a subscriber renews his contract is always a problem. Back in 2003, I was a Globe subscriber. Back than phones were expensive, and Globe Telecom did not give away phones on a regular basis. I had my 5 or 6 year old Nokia 2110, on its 4th battery, and the phone was starting to fall apart. The plastic around the antenna had cracked a year before crack was now spreading to the case. I tried to apply for a new phone, but only spending Php1,200 to Php1,500 a month I did not qualify for a free phone. On my way out of the Globe Business Center in Shangri-La EDSA, a Smart Communications asked me if I was applying for a line. He got me a new phone, a HTC Tanager and a new line in 30-minutes. 

When I applied for 2009 retention with Smart Communications applied for retention the phone I signed up for was not in stock and actually never arrived. Eventually, after waiting two or three months, I just accepted a different model and added Php7,000 some cash, since the available model was a higher end unit. The bad part is that my new 24-month contract did not start when my first one ended, but it started after the delivery of my new unit. So instead of being locked in 48 months on two contracts, I was locked in 51 months or so.

2011 was different. Smart had impulse based retention allowing a subscriber to retain up to six months prior to the termination of the current contract. This was called impulse based retention. So I went from my second contract to my third contract without any gap. Now in 2013, it is back to the old system. You can only apply from retention after your contract expires. I am hoping that there is no delay in the delivery of the new unit each time. 

In fairness, I had similar problems with my Plan 1000 line with Sun. I applied for retention, but they also were not able to deliver the phone I selected from their catalog. Eventually, I downgraded to Plan 350 contract free. Later on, when my wife available of retention, I also applied for phones. Neither of us got out units, and after two months I decided, we just decided to terminate our lines.

I think impulse base retention was a very subscriber friendly policy. It could even be shortened to one month before your contract expires. Hopefully, Smart Communications will bring back this policy. Right now, I feel like carriers are really just interested in getting new applications and hoping that your affinity for your phone number will keep you from switching.

What I would do with Smart a Flexibundle Plan

Being on a Smart Unlimited Data Plan for the past two and a half years, I have always envied the users on All-In Plans. The All-In Plan allow you to mix and match services that Smart calls Flexibundles.

When I look at my usage for the past two and a half years, this would be the best fit for me. Five hundred minutes of calls to Smart, Sun, TNT and PLDT plus another eighty minutes for Globe Telecom, means that I might only exceed, in calls made to the Globe network occasionally. Two thousand SMS is six to seven times more than I ever need, but since it comes with five hundred minutes of calls too, for Php400, why not.

While I have been on a Unli Data service, I really use it mainly for email, Twitter, maps, instant messaging, updating smaller apps and occasional web browsing. Monitoring my usage since I went to Ice Cream Sandwich, shows that I usually use 600-900 MB a month, so the 1.15 GB a month I allocated above should be enough.

This totals to just Php1,150.

If I do exceed the 1.15 GB allocation I configured above, Smart Anti-Bill Shock policy will limit my additional data fees to just another Php500 a month which would bring up my bill to Php1,650. 

Head over to Smart's online Flexibundle configuration page, and make your own Flexibundle. I think you will be equally impressed.

Globe Telecom offers the BlackBerry Q10 for pre-order

If you have been waiting for modern smartphone with a physical QWERTY keyboard, you do not have long to wait. Globe Telecom is now offering the BlackBerry Q10 for pre-order.

The BlackBerry Q10 runs on BlackBerry touch optimized BB10 operating system on a sharp 3.1-inch 720 x 720 display. What will be of interest to most will be battery life. The Q10 has a 2100 mAh battery which when combined with a 3.1-inch display should result in excellent battery life.

It looks like a really good deal at Php1,499 a month (Plan 999 + Php500 a month for the phone for 24 monthw) or Plan 1799 with just Php2000 cash out (24-month contract).

Follow this link to go to the Globe Telecom pre-order page.

Cherry Mobile to update the Flare to JellyBean

The Cherry Mobile Flare wii be getting an update to JellyBean. I am impressed. Given with how "premium" brands  handle updates, I never expected a low cost phone like this would receive a software update.

The announcement was posted on Cherry Mobile's Facebook Page:

Yes, the JB Update of FLARE is available starting June 1 via Cherry Mobile Centers NATIONWIDE! Present your warranty card and official receipt to validate your purchase. 
Just remember to BACK UP all of your data before having the update. Cherry Mobile is not responsible for the loss of data of the owner.

A big thumbs up to CM.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Some interesting postpaid options from Globe, Smart and Sun

Since my postpaid contract is up for renewal I have been looking at my options and made some interesting finds I want to share.

Sun Samsung Galaxy S4. If you can live without LTE and SMS is important to you, Sun Cellular may have the best offer on the Samsung Galaxy S4. At Plan 1599 (Php999 service fee + Php600 for the phone) you get a Galaxy S4 on a 24-month contract, with the following services:
  • Unlimited internet (subject to Sun Cellulars fair use policy)
  • 5 minutes of Sun-to-Sun calls
By comparison, you can also get a Samsung Galaxy S4 from Globe at Plan 1599 a month, with unlimited LTE data and 125 SMS to all networks.

Globe Blackberry Z10. If you want a BlackBerry Z10, than you want it from Globe Telecom. Globe's BlackBerry Z10 is the Qualcomm powered LTE version. The ones offered by Smart, Sun Cellular and found from official BlackBerry retailers are the Ti OMAP HSPA+ versions. Now, I know it will cost you as much as a Samsung Galaxy S4 or Apple iPhone 5 from Globe Telecom. I too felt that it was not worth the money. But give the demo unit a try, and you might fall in love with the user interface (I did).

Php1,999 a month is a good option for getting a BlackBerry Z10. Go with Plan 1799 and spread over the Php4,800 cash out over 24 months.

Any phone at Smart All-In Plan 800/1200/1800/2500. At all in Plan 2500, you can have pretty much anything you want. A Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 or Sony Xperia Z. The Nokia Lumia 920 and Sony Xperia V look interesting at All-In Plan 1800. At All-Plan 1200 the Huawei Ascend D1 and Apple iPhone 4S (8GB), with Php4,500 cash out, are nice options. Even at All-In Plan 800, you get a very decent phone in the ZTE T82 with Php4,500 cash out.

It's not about the phone, its the Tri Net Plus 400 Flexibundle. For Php400 you get:
  • 500 mins to SMART, Sun, Talk 'N Text and PLDT Landline
  • 2,000 texts to ALL NETWORKS
  • 150MB worth of mobile browsing for 30 days

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 unboxes the Starmobile K has unboxed Starmobiles latest entry into the local smartphone wars which is designed to compete with the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 and the MyPhone A919i Duo. Starmobiles flagship is the new Starmobile K. The Starmobile K is reportedly a variant of the i-mobile IQX.

Looking at the  i-mobile IQX, the phone has similar specifications to the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 and the MyPhone A919i in that all three phones are based on the MediaTek MT6589 quad core processor. It differs though in some key respects. 

Image Source

The Starmobile K boasts a 18 MP primary camera and 8 MP secondary camera. More mega pixels don't excite me all that much so I will wait for image quality tests. More interesting is the 4.7-inch 720p display as against the 5-inchers you have on the Omega HD and A919i Duo. This makes the phone a nice slim 66.7 mm wide as against the 70+ mm girth of the 5-inch phones. The Starmbile K will also be reportedly all of just 7.5 mm thick. That is thinner than an Apple iPhone 5.

This one looks like something to look forward too. I am guessing it will be priced somewhere around Php12,000 though.

Huawei Ascend G510

Ever since the Huawei Ascend Y300 has been my favorite entry level smartphone since it hit the market late last March 2013. While price a fair bit higher than the other 4-inch dual core Android phone based on the Qualcomm S4 Play processor like the lower cost Cherry Mobile Flare and Burst, it did offer enough to justify the higher price tag. Unlike its lower cost competition which still run on Android 4.0 (Ice Cram Sandwich), the Ascend Y300 comes out of the box with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). Given that you do not expect a software upgrade for these low end phones, a newer version of Android out-of-the-bos is a big deal.

The Ascend Y300 also comes with a 1730 mAh battery, larger than the 1500 mAh battery you will find in its competition. The Ascend Y300's 4-inch display also is protected by scratch resistant Gorilla Glass, something you do not see on phones at this price range.

For the past two months, the Ascend Y300 has been on my buyers guides. It crown is now being challenged by another Huawei phone, the newly released Ascend G510.

Price. The Ascend Y300 is priced at Php5,490 while the Ascend G510 is priced at Php5,990.

Commons specifications. Both the Ascend Y300 and G510 run on Android 4.1, Both have the same internals with a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm S4 processor, 512 MB of RAM and a 4 GB of internal storage expandable to 32 GB. Both have 5 MP primary cameras with VGA secondary cameras.

Display. The Ascend Y300 has a four inch WVGA (480 x 800) display which has a 233 pixels per inch (ppi). The Ascend G510 has a larger 4.5-inch display with a higher resolution FWVGA (480 x 854), but being spread out on a larger  display means it has a lower 217 ppi pixel density. A 217 ppi pixel density is still sharp enough being the same as the pixel density on phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II and Nokia Lumia 720, 800 and 820.  

I do like the larger display on the G510, and 4.5-inches is my favorite size for a phone display. It makes for a large screen which is still small enough for one handed use (this is relative of course to the user). On the minus side, the G510 does not appear to come with Gorilla Glass.

Battery. The Ascend Y300 comes with a 1730 mAh battery. The Ascend G510 comes with either a 1700 or 1750 mAh battery (different websites have different figures on this). With a substantially larger screen to power, you can expect the larger Huawei Ascend G510 to have about 20% battery life when the screen is on as compared to  

Style. The Ascend Y300 is a chunky unit being 11.2 mm thick. The Ascend G510 looks more stylish at a trimmer 9.9 mm, and given the phone is much larger it looks much slimmer to the eye.

Verdict. I would go for the Huawei Ascend G510. I like the larger display. However, I really cannot say that is is a better choice than the Ascend Y300 with the smaller phone providing longer battery life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 - The Empire Strikes Back

Yugatech has confirmed the existence of the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0.

Two  months ago, Cherry Mobile released the Cherry Mobile HD in the Philippine market. Priced at Php7,999 with a 5-inch HD (720 x 1280) display and packing a 12 MP camera with a back-lit sensor, it was one pretty impressive handset. The only fly in the ointment was the MediaTek MT6577 processor with a dual core processor and PowerVR SGX531 graphics. The aging PowerVR SGX531 is really pushed to its limit pushing pixels to the HD display. This resulted in some choppiness in 720p video playback and a bit of lag in 3D intensive games. Still, how much do you expect for Php7,999? It was a pretty awesome package for the money and was the next step in Cherry Mobile march to domination of the Philippine market.

But MyPhone fired a shot across Cherry Mobile's bow with its own 5-inch HD handset. The MyPhone Duo A919i Duo was powered by the new quad-core MediaTek MT6589 sporting a PowerVR SGX544MP graphics chip. The new chipset made the MyPhone Duo A919i twice as fast as the Cherry Mobile HD, at a higher sticker price of Php9,590.

Apparently, this did not sit well with Cherry Mobile which has launched a upgraded version of the  Omega HD, called the Omega HD 2.0.

Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 quick specs:
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
  • 5-inch IPS HD display (720 x 1280)
  • Dual SIM 
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core processor
  • PowerVR SGX544MP graphics
  • 12 MP BSI primary camera, autofocus with flash
  • 2 MP BSI  front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 2100 mAh battery

The Cherry Omega HD 2.0 is as powerful as the the MyPhone A919i Duo while undercutting it in price, with a retail price of Php8,999. It also steps ahead of the MyPhone A919i Duo with a newer version of Android (4.2), a higher megapixel camera and a slightly larger battery,

Four interesting smartphones that won't make it to out June 2013 Buyers Guide

There are several smartphones that are very interesting, but rather hard to recommend. With the June Guide coming out in a few days, I thought is might be worthwhile taking a look at the rather interesting phones that just won't make the list, the for one reason of another won't make it on my final list.

Google Nexus 4. A Nexus phone is always a good choice, getting software support directly from Google and getting the latest software updates earliest. The current Nexus phone, the Nexus 4 is a bitter hard to swallow. It lacks the latest radio technology, LTE, which is okay in countries where it is sold for US$299 to US$349 on Google Play. But in the Philippines it is still priced at Php21,250 for the 16 GB model, and that is after a more than 3K price reduction. A bit to expensive for mid-level hardware. In other words, we do not get the same deal from Google in the Philippines as in other countries.

While getting a Nexus 4 from an official retailer is a rather expensive proposition, you can get the from Widget City with a service only warranty for a much more reasonable Php14,990 for the 8 GB model or Php16,799 for the 16 GB model.

Alcatel One Toucb Idol Ultra. Alcatel's new Android smartphone is fairly impressive with a 4.65-inch HD (720 x 1280) AMOLED display mated to a super slim 6.5 mm case. That is a fair bit thinner than the 7.6 mm Apple iPhone 5 or the 7.9 mm Samsung Galaxy S4.

Still, as one reader pointed out, Php14,990 (now Php13,990) is a bit too much to pay for a phone powered by a Mediatek1.2 GHz dual core processor with PowerVR SGX531T graphics. This combo is barely enough to power the HD display when palying 720p video. I have to agree. 

BlackBerry Z10. The BlackBerry Z10 is a nice piece of hardware with a 4.2-inch HD display and a 1.5 GHz dual core Krait processor. It is by far the most advance smartphone BlackBerry has ever built and is competitive in terms of hardware with the Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III. 

The problem is it tries to compete to closely. Priced at Php29,900 it is priced a bit too close to the Apple iPhone 5 (16GB) and the newly released Samsung Galaxy S 4. On a postpaid plan, it will cost you as much as an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S 4.

At these prices, it will really only appeal to current BlackBerry owners who are existing BlackBerry owners, and even those may be looking to move to Android and iOS which have much richer application ecosystems.

It is a shame though, the new BlackBerry 10 software has the new Messaging Hub which integrates all you communication, whether they be email, SMS, MMS, instant messages and even missed calls in one place and allows you to reply to those messages from a the central. This is something which you won't find on Android, iOS or Windows Phone. 

Price lower, this might convinced people to try or go back to a BlackBerry. But going head to head with an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4 is a difficult proposition for any phone. Given that the Z10 launches new OS, it makes the task even more daunting.

Apple iPhone 5. The Apple iPhone 5 is a nicely built and handy phone with a nice easy to use OS
and a large ecosystem of apps. The problem I have with iPhone's is the price does not go down for a whole year. So while the Php32,900 price was already expensive, when compared to a Samsung Galaxy S III and HTC One X when the iPhone 5 first was released, it really looks to be overpriced right now when comparing it to a Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and Sony Xperia Z.

My advice, get an iPhone as soon as it is released. This gets you the most bang for your buck. Right now, I would be to wait for the next one. 

How much does it cost to repair a damaged smartphone?

Repairing smartphones can get rather expensive. Here are several examples of repairs friends of mine have made:

Apple iPhone 4

Problem: Unresponsive Home Button
Cause: Ware and tear cause 18 months of use
Cost: About Php6,250 + Local Tax

Apple does not repair iPhone's in the traditional way by replacing the broken parts. Instead when a phone is repaired it is replaced by a refurbished unit. Cost of repair: US$149 (Tax Note Included) at the Apple Store of Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, USA.

The phone does come with a new one year warranty.

This one was repaired during a trip to the USA. It can be done through Globe Telecom (for Globe iPhones) for about Php10,000.

Samsung Galaxy S II
Problem: Cracked glass, LCD still working
Cause: Phone was sat on
Cost: Php7,000

Gorilla Glass is strong but not unbreakable. Sitting on your phone can bet rather expensive, A warranty is provided for only the parts replaced.

Samsung Galaxy S III
Problem: Cracked camera LEN's
Cause: Phone was dropped onto concrete from around 1.5 meters 
Cost: About Php4,500

The phone was not in a protective case. Amazingly enough the case is not scratched.  A warranty is provided for only the parts replaced.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Final Fantasy Dimension for Android and iOS

After nearly three months, I have completed Final Fantasy Dimensions after over 84 hours of playing time (not counting retries). Square Enix roles playing game is not cheap, at US$19.99 at Google Play and on iTunes. Still it is worth every cent. 

The 2-D pixel art is not state of the art 3-D, but after awhile, you get used to it. One you do, it does not really detract from game play. The game runs nicely on an old device with a 1 GHz single core processor and 768 MB of RAM.

What makes the game compelling is a decent enough storyline and very interesting jobs system. In terms of storyline, I think it is the first one which matches Symphony of Eternity.

The jobs system will probably ensure that you will want to play this game at least twice. The trick here is probably to have each character master just two jobs, and have a good combination of jobs across your eight characters.

The game is well balanced. Your party will be vanquished from time to time, but it is not so difficult as to become frustrating. I actually, have two more RPG's which I still have no got around to playing, Final Fantasy III and Kemco's Silver Nornir. Most likely I will give Final Fantasy Dimension and second go before moving on. 

If you like playing JRPG's on your mobile, this is a much have. 

x x x 

How do I rank them?

Final Fantasy Dimensions - The best I tried so far.

Symphony of the Eternity - This game is the standard for many, as to what makes a good mobile JRPG. I would rank Final Fantasy Dimension a few notches higher.

Symphony of the Origin - Not as deep as Symphony of Eternity or Final Fantasy Dimensions. But this makes the best choice for those new to JRPG's with its simpler battle system and the more modern graphics makes it more pleasing to the eye. Final Fantasy Dimension has more substance to please the more avid JRPG gamer and will give you four to five time more playing time. 

Chaos Rings - This game has much nicer graphics and four parallel story lines. After completing two I lost interest. Still in terms of cost versus hours of enjoyment I got my moneys worth. Not as good in my opinion as Eternity, Origin or Dimensions.

Eve of Genesis - Decent enough, but I guess it comes out as my least favorite. Still well worth what I paid. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD - How does it stack up against the other low cost 5-inch 720p smartphones?

Alcatel has released its own 5-inch 720p phone. These large 5-inch Android handsets with their sharp 720 x 1280 displays being offered at a low cost these days are very compelling. 

Picking the diamonds in the rough. Now we have two generations of these phones in the market right now. The earlier releases were the Cherry Mobile Omega HD and the Starmobile Diamond. These are pretty impressive phones for the asking price, with the Omega HD being the cheaper of the two at Php7,999. 

The Omega HD and Diamond are powered by the MediaTek MT6577 chipset with combines a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a PowerVR SGX531 graphics chip. This is enough to run the high resolution 720 displays smoothly, but 720p video playback will lag a bit and this may not be  3D game performance is not too good.

The second generation of these new 5-inch 720p phones are represented by the MyPhone A919i Duo, the O+ 8.15 and the Alcatel Scribe One Touch HD. These phones use the more powerful MediaTek MT6589 chipset which combines a quad core ARM Cortex A7 processor with PowerVR SGX544 graphics. This chipset is twice as powerful as the MediaTek MT6577 chipset, and has enough power to run the 720p display without any hick-ups.

The Cherry Omega HD priced at Php7,999, is still a nice deal. Still,  I would recommend at getting one of these newer MediaTek MT6589 based phones. 

These newer MediaTek MT6589 do cost more. The MyPhone A919i Duo will set you back Php9,590. That is 1.6K more the the Omega HD. The O+ 8.15 is the most expensive at Php12,990. The additional price gives you more internal storage and a sleeker and slimmer 8.4 mm case as against the thicker 10.7 mm case of the A919i Duo. Between these two, the A919i is the bang for the buck choice. The O+ 8.15 is the more premium offering.

Now comes the Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD. Priced at Php12,550, this one is more of a competitor to the O+ 8.15.

The Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD are nearly identical in specifications. The main advantage of the O+ 8.15 has 8 GB of internal storage as against the 4 GB in the Scribe HD. The Scribe HD on the other hand has a larger 2500 mAh battery as against the 2000 mAh battery in the O+ 8.15.

Too big? The Omega HD is a nice and handy size for a 5-inch phone at 143.5 x 70.8 x 8.8 mm. The O+ 8.15 is the next at 142.5 x 72.9 x 8.4 mm.  The Scribe HD is larger at 144 x 75 x 8.5 mm. The bulkiest is the A919i at 144 x 10.7 mm and weighs in at a hefty 156 grams. 

In list form for easier comparison: 

Omega HD - 143.5 x 70.8 x 8.8 mm
O+ 8.15 - 142.5 x 72.9 x 8.4 mm
Scribe HD - 144 x 75 x 8.5 mm
A919i - 144 x 74 x 10.7 mm

So, all things considered, the Alcatel One Touch Scribe HD hits a crowded market and offers the largest battery in the field. With little to distinguish it and the O+ 8.15 that alone may be enough to make it the favored choice among the two. 

The MyPhone A919i Duo is still the "bang-for-the-buck" choice. The Cherry Mobile Omega HD still it the cheapest 5-inch 720p phone in the local market.

Alcatel One Touch Idol - Every Super Hero needs an Iron Patriot (a.k.a. Sidekick)

Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra is its Iron Man watch. The phone is featured in Iron Man 3. Every Super Hero has it side kick. Iron Man, well he has Iron Patriot. Alcatel created a lower end version of its Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra, the Alcatel One Touch Idol. 

Other than dropping Ultra from the name, there are a few other specifications trimmed in the Alcatel One Touch Idol. 

The non-Ultra Alcatel One Touch Idol gets downgraded to 4.65-inch qHD (540 x 960) display, and you get IPS unit instead of an AMOLED one. The phone is still thin at 7.9 mm, but not as thin as the 6.5 mm slim Ultra. RAM has been cut down from 1 GB to 512 MB and internal storage has been reduced from 16 GB to 4 GB. The processor is clocked down a bit too.

Quick specs:
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 4.65-inch HD display (720 x 1280) 
  • 4 GB internal storage, not expandable
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1 GHz dual core Mediatek processor 
  • PowerVR SGX531 GPU
  • 8 MP primary camera, autofocus with LED flash
  • 1.3 MP front camera
  • HSPA
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 1800 mAh battery
With the cuts made in design and specifications, the Alcatel One Touch Idol is selling at Php11,200 with an official warranty. This is 2.7K lower than the Php13,990 asking price Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra, from the same seller.

Given all the changes in specifications, it would seem to be better to spend the extra cash and get the Super Hero, rather than the sidekick.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guess who is not on Philippine Standard Time?

Republic Act No. 10535 requires television and radio stations to synchronize their clocks with Philippine Standard Time. Unfortunately, the law forgot to include telecommunications providers. By default your mobile phone gets it time from your carriers network. Setting my phone to get time from Smart Communications network, I found that it was 11 minutes and 18 seconds behind Philippine Standard Time (give or take a second to account for latency). 

Despite not being covered by the law, I hope Telco's do sync with Philippine Standard Time. These days, most people rely on their mobile phones to tell the time.

If your computer or mobile is already sync to some other online atomic clock time server, there is no need to worry. Comparing Philippine Standard Time to other online atomics clocks,  Philippine Standard Time is in sync with the various atomic clocks around the world.

Samsung Galaxy Win i8552 - This "S" lookalike will be a win for Samsung

Samsung has released a new handset in the Philippine market, the Samsung Galaxy Win i8552. The new offering is a mid-level dial SIM Android which I found selling for as low as Php14690 with an official warranty.

Quick specifications:
  • Dual SIM
  • Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
  • 4.7-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display
  • 8 GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core Qualcomm S200
  • Adreno 203 graphics
  • 5 MP autofocus primary camera with LED Flash
  • VGA front camera
  • HSPA
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 2000 mAh battery

The new offering is interesting enough. It is powered by Qualcomm's entry level quad core chipset, the S200. This humble chipset will be enough to push past 10000 AnTuTu benchmark points. Basically, fast enough for most people. The main issue for some will be that the Qualcomm S200 limits video capture to 720p.  For the money, it would have been nice to at least have a higher resolution qHD display. 

At almost 15K, this phone faces some stiff competition.

In terms of power, quickly coming to mind are the O+ 8.15 and the MyPhone A919i Duo. The O+ 8.15 which offers a 5-inch HD display (720 x 1280) and a more powerful quad core processor and also has dual sim capability for a lower Php12,990. The O+ 8.15 beats the Galaxy Win in every category at a lower price. The MyPhone A919i Duo which has similar internals to the O+ 8.15 but with less built in storage.

The closest direct competition for the Galaxy Win is probably the Php7,990 Cherry Mobile Skyfire 2.0 which has a 4.5-inch qHD (540 x 960) display and the same Qualcomm internals as the Galaxy Win.

For those looking for a ultra stylish handset at the price. the 6.5 mm thin Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra sports a sharp 4.65-inch AMOLED HD (720 x 1280) display. This is certainly the most stylish phone available for P13,990.

The Galaxy Win is a nice enough phone. But in my opinion you do pay a premium price for the Samsung branding. Still, I think this phone will be a "Win" for Samsung. It will sell well. It looks like a Galaxy S III or S 4, has dual SIM capability and most importantly, for the typical consumer has Samsung branding.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nokia Lumia 720 and 520 available from Sun Cellular

The Nokia Lumia 720 is being offered for free at Sun Cellulars Plan 999 on a 24-month contract. This 4.3-inch Windows Phone 8 device is being offered with unlimited data, unlimited Sun-to-Sun text and four hours of Sun-to-Sun calls.

Sun Cellular is also offering the Nokia Lumia 520, free at Plan 600 on a 24-month contract. The Lumia 520 is Nokia entry level Windows Phone 8 device. Sporting a sharp WVGA 4-inch display, it really does not feel or look like a low cost device.

Plan 600 comes with unlimited calls and text within the Sun Network, 350 SMS to other networks and Php250 consumable. 

You can read more about the Nokia Lumia 720 and 520 at this link

Will the absence of carrier support doom the HTC One

In the news lately is the departure of several high level executives from HTC. It seems to highlight a problem with HTC. Last year, when HTC released its flagship One X, none of the countries three mobile carriers offered the HTC One X upon release. The two largest carriers, Smart Communications and Globe Telecom carried the Samsung Galaxy S III and later the iPhone 5 from the local release date. The third carrier, Sun Cellular would carry the Samsung Galaxy S III a few months after release. The HTC One X. Smart Communications eventually offered the HTC One X as part of its line-up several months after its release. 

These year, it is a repeat of last years story. The countries two largest carriers, Smart Communications and Globe Telecom offered the Samsung Galaxy S4 for pre-order. Both held special activities on the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch date. In the month since it release, 10 million Galaxy S4 phones have been shipped, with a small fraction of that success being due to support from Smart Communications and Globe Telecom. 

The HTC One? Well, it is reportedly coming to Globe Telecom something in the future. 

Without local carrier support, the HTC One will not get the elite status needed to make it a success. If you look at the billboards on the streets, you see giant advertisements for the Apple iPhone 5, the BlackBerry Z10 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. The HTC One. Except for the hardcore HTC fan or techie, I don't think the regular consumer is aware of this phone. 

In terms of status, only two brands are mentioned these days. To be cool, you need to have an iPhone or a Samsung. BlackBerry caters to a small niche market, but ownership comes with the respect that you a serious user. HTC has fallen a long way since the heady days of the HTC Wildfire, Desire and Desire HD. Back than owning an HTC was cool. Now owning a HTC One will be like a certificate of geekdom. 

I know a fair number of people eagerly awaiting the HTC One. HTC still makes great hardware. But without carrier support, it will loose a fair amount of sales. More disastrous, is that  it hits the market quietly. Worse, HTC did not tap much of the local bloggers to cover its launch. A few bloggers got an early hands on last April, and a few were invited to HTC launch event two days ago. But really this is quiet launch with what looks to be a make or break phone for HTC. 

HTC needs to learn, that it can no longer be Quietly Brilliant.

If you have read the article all the way here, take the time to give the HTC One a look. It is a very nice phone.

HTC One coming to Globe Telecom

TechPinas has an interesting piece of news. The HTC One will be coming to Globe Telecom. No specific information of when this is going to happen, but it was revealed that the HTC One will be available for free at Plan 2499.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Once upon a time, there was only Windows and Office

Once upon a time, if you wanted a low cost laptop there was only Windows. A few laptops with a Linux based operating system would also be sold, or the more techie buyers could buy a laptop with DOS on board, and install their favorite Linux distribution. But for the most part, if you wanted a low cost laptop, you had only Windows. 

Things have changed a lot in the past four years.

iOS. Most laptop buyers really did not need a laptop. Roughly half of a laptops bulk is due to the keyboard. So Apple yanked out the keyboard, used the smartphone operating system and came out with the iPad. Those in the past who would buy a netbook, which were decidedly poor in terms of build quality can get a very nice Apple iPad with a premium aluminum and glass finish starting at Php15,990.

Some would argue that a netbook is better, since it has a keyboard and can run Windows apps.

Anyone who used the keyboard a lot would eventually buy a real laptop. Typing on those small low quality keyboards netbooks came with was never very comfortable. I know. I owned two, replacing the first with a second model which promised a better keyboard, than I junked the netbook altogether realizing that that frame was simply to small to create a great keyboard. In addition, Apple iPad's, can also be equipped with keyboards. 

As for Windows software. Most people wont miss it with over 300,000 iPad apps... which cost less than Windows apps.

Android. Google has followed Apple into the tablet arena, and these days you can find fast tablets with HD displays starting at Php3,990. 

Mac OS X. Many of us still need a laptop. While all Macbook's are premium products, Macbook's are cheaper than ever. The 11.6-inch Macbook Air starts at Php46,990. That is the lowest price for a Macbook ever. However instead of a white plastic MacBook that screams entry level, the cheapest MacBook today is a the most portable MacBook Air, which many would select even if they had a larger budget.

While looking at making the transition from Windows to Mac OS X, you may want to take a look at iWorks too. It is a lot cheaper than MS Office.

Chrome OS. Chrome OS devices have yet to land in the Philippines, so it is not a good choice for the consumer. But if you are one of the growing number of companies or entities migrating to Google Apps, importing a large number of these low cost laptops, starting at US$199 might be worth the effort.

Microsoft, and its Windows and Office products, are still a force to be reckoned with, but it is no longer the near monopoly it used to be. What is nice is that the new order was not created by EU restrictions or anti-monopoly laws, but by innovation, smart supply chain management (here is one to you, Tim Cook) and the free market.

New Services Added to Smart's All-In Plans

There is a war raging between the countries top two telecom companies. Globe had just unveiled its My Best Ever Super Plan which allows you to tailor fit your plan more than ever before. Smart on the other hand has added some very interesting services to its own configurable All-In Plan.

The most interesting new offering is the Php999 Unli Call & Text Combo which gives you unlimited calls and text with the Smart, TNT and Sun networks with 1 GB worth of mobile browsing for 30 days.

Another interesting new option is the Php400 Tri Net 400 option which gives you 500 minutes of Smart, TNT, Sun and PLDT Landline calls, 2000 SMS to all networks and 150 MB of mobile browsing for 30 days.

One new offering that does not seem to be worth it is the Php300 Tri Talk 300 which gives you 300 minutes of Smart, TNT, Sun and PLDT Landline calls. It would seem to make more sense to add Php100 and get Tri-Net 400.

These All-In Plans come bundled with mobile phones. The most interesting phones offered are as follows:

All-In Plan 1200 - Huawei Ascend D1
All-In Plan 1800 - HTC 8X and Sony Xperia V
All-In Plan 2500 - Sony Xperia Z

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pre-Order your HTC One and get it on May 24, 2013

The HTC One, HTC's flagship Android phone is now available for pre-order at a price of Php32,990. The online pre-order page appears to be inoperative, so it would be best to make your place your order through the HTC Concept Store in Megamall. The phone number for the HTC Concept Store in Megamall is (02) 6361589 and (02) 6361593.

Q1 2013: Android and Windows Phone up, iPhone and BlackBerry down

Three out of four smartphones sold last quarter was an Android phone. Android's share in the smartphone market was 75%, up from 59.1% on the same quarter in the previous year. This is pretty impressive given that the new Android's don't start showing up till the second and third quarter of the year.

Apple sold more more iPhone in the first quarter of 2013, as compared to the same quarter in the previous year, but its market share took a sharp dip, from 23% to 17.3%. Without a new iPhone planned till the September 2013, its numbers will probably continue to fall this quarter. This probably also explains all the iPhone promos we are seeing in the Philippine market today.

Windows Phone has managed to get 3.2% of the smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2013. While this is much higher than the 2% market share it obtained in the same quarter in the previous year, the market share obtained so far is too small for the platform to have a significant impact. Windows Mobile, Microsoft previous mobile operating system had 23% percent of smartphone sales in 2004, and held 14% of the market in 2008, until Microsoft announced that it was coming out with a new operating system in 2009.

Still with new low cost offerings like the Nokia Lumia 520 and the Huawei Ascend W1, there seems to be the possibility that Windows Phone will have a major breakout this quarter.

BlackBerry market share in Q1 of 2013, dropped to 2.9%. With this BlackBerry relinquishes the third spot to Windows Phone. We have to wait another quarter to see whether the new BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 will change the fortunes of this former premier smartphone maker.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Get a discounted on an Apple iPad with Retina Display with a Smart Data Plan

Smart Communications is offering Apple iPad's and iPad's mini's discounted when bundled with a data plan. Bundled with Data Plan 999 you get a Php8,000 discount on a 3G/LTE iPad with Retina Display.

Bundled with Plan 499, you get a Php1,000 discount and deferred payment over a period of 24 months.

Plan 499 falls under Smart Anti Bill Shock plan, so even if you exceed your 65 hour allocation, you will never go beyond Php999.

Get a discounted on an Apple iPad mini with a Smart Data Plan

Smart Communications is offering Apple iPad's and iPad's mini's discounted when bundled with a data plan. Bundled with Data Plan 999 you get a Php8,000 discount on a 3G/LTE iPad mini.

Bundled with Plan 499, you get a Php1,000 discount and deferred payment over a period of 24 months.

Plan 499 falls under Smart Anti Bill Shock plan, so even if you exceed your 65 hour allocation, you will never go beyond Php999.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cloudfone Thrill 430x now upgraded to Jelly Bean

The Cloudfone Thrill 430x is undoubtably the most successful phone from the company. With a reasonably sharp 4.3-inch qHD display and a reasonably fast dual core Qualcom S4 Play processor it is still a good phone for the money half a year from the time it was released. The real jewel in the Cloudfone offering is the large 4160 mAh battery. The large battery gives the Cloudfone Thrill 430x two to three times the battery life of other entry level smartphones.

The only thing that made the phone feel dated as of late is that it ran Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich. That is the thing of the past. The Cloudfone Thrill 430x now ships out of the box with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

Olders of existing units can have their phone updated at the Cloudfone service center at Paseo de Magallanes.

Quick specifications:
  • Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
  • 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960) display
  • Dual sim support
  • 4 GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot
  • 768 MB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor
  • 8 MP autofocus primary camera with LED Flash
  • 0.3 MP front camera
  • HSPA
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 4160 mAh battery

In search of the best mid-sized compact LTE smartphone

Looking at the best LTE smartphones in the market, the Samsung Galaxy S4, it feels just a bit too big. It feels great in hand. The size of the display is not a problem. But at nearly 137 mm tall and 70 mm wide, I will have a hard time keeping it in a belt pouch or my pocket when wearing my suits and the slim jeans I am fond off. 

The Sony Xperia Z is a lovely phone, but that is even taller and wider, and with its blocky body, feels much larger than that Galaxy S4 in hand. The HTC One is narrower than the Galaxy S4, Xperia Z or Xperia ZL, but is a tall 137.4 mm. 

One step below the flagships you have the Xperia ZL. The Xperia ZL is shorter 131.6 mm length, so it does fit a bit better in a belt pouch. The plastic case also feels better in the hand than the glass case of the Xperia Z. Overall, at 131.6 x 69.3 x 9.8 mm, the Xperia ZL is looking like one a good option for a 5-inch smartphone. LG's Optimus G is just about the same size as the Xperia ZL.

Scaling down in size does not really result in a more compact smartphone. The Xperia ZL really is not all that much bigger than the 4.6-inch Xperia ZR and the Xperia SP. The 4.3-inch Xperia V is much narrower at 65 mm, as compared to the Xperia ZL, but only a bit shorter at 129 mm. The length really bothers me more than the width.

Going on the other extreme, the 4-inch iPhone has a display 10% smaller than what I have been using for the last three years. Still, it is a nice compact 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm.

On the Windows side of things, the 4.3-inch Nokia Lumia 820 looks nice at 123.8 x 68.5 x 9.9 mm, although I am not sure I want a phone with a WVGA resolution. 

From RIM... the 4.2-inch BlackBerry Z10 is all 130 mm tall. 

Did I miss out anything? 

Sitting in between the tall 137 mm Android's and the 123.8 mm, the 131.6 mm Xperia Z is looking like the best all around choice. Would appreciate any input before forking out my hard earned money.

Globe's My Best Ever Super Plan Options Compared

Globe Telecom's new plan allow you to unbundle the plan from a "free" device. The reality is that we actually play for the free device we get from out carriers in out monthly bill.

To compare how this works, I used Globe's online My Super Plan creator to compute what it would cost me to get a Samsung Galaxy S4 at Plan 1799.

The plan I put together comes out as follows:

  • Device - Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Cash out - Php4,800
  • Unlimited Data
  • Consumable for calls and text - Php1,101

Now I created another Plan 999, without a bundles phone.

  • Device - None
  • Cash out - 0
  • Unlimited Data
  • Consumable for calls and text - Php701

If you use about Php1,000-Php1200 of calls and text a month:

You would pay Php800 less a month, but would get Php400 less consumable. So assuming that I used the Php1,101 consumable a month I would save Php400 a month. This would make Plan 999 at total of Php14,400 cheaper over two years, without a bundled device.

Given that a Samsung Galaxy S4 will cost you twice that much, it is still worthwhile getting a phone with your Globe Plan, comparing these two plans.

If you use about Php600-800 of calls and text a month:

The entire point of a data plan is to use less calls and SMS. If you font used the Php1,101 consumable at Plan 1799, the comparison would be different,  This would make Plan 999 at total of Php24,000 cheaper over two years, without a bundled device.

Samsung Galaxy S 4 Plans: Globe Telecom at Plan 1799 versus Smart Data Plan 2000

Globe Telecom will give you a Galaxy S 4 at Plan 1799 for a 24 month lock-in and Php4,800 cash. Bundle in Unlimited Data and you will have Php1,101 a month consumable for calls and SMS.

The closest Plan from Smart is Data Plan 2000. At this plan you can get a Samsung Galaxy S 4 with a 24 month contract for Php4,000.

Total commitment under the contact: 

Globe - Php47,976

Smart - Php52,000


Globe - Php1,101. Globe to Globe calls @Php6.50 per minute, and other local calls @Php7.50 per minute. SMS a Php1.00.  The consumable can be converted to other bundles like unlimited call and test with the Globe network.

Smart - 150 minutes of calls and 200 SMS to all networks. Calls in excess of 150 minutes at @Php5.09 per minute or Smart to Smart calls, and other local calls @Php6.11 per minute. SMS a Php1.00. 

Unli Data:

Globe - LTE

Smart - LTE until June 30, 2013. Not certain if there will be an additional charge after that.

All-in-all total cost is cheaper with Globe, the consumable aspect of the plan is more flexible and can be converted to thing like unlimited calls and text or other bundles and LTE is a certainty. Smart offers lower per minute and SMS rates.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Smart LTE Question

Undoubtably, between Smart Communications and Globe Telecom, the former has a fair lead in the deployment of LTE technology. The problem is, they do not have a clear LTE policy yet. If you got a new Apple iPhone 5 last year, you had free LTE until April 30, 2013. The LTE "promo" has been extended to June 30, 2013.

If you are planning to get one of those nice new LTE handsets, like a Samsung Galaxy S 4 or Sony Xperia Z, you also get LTE connectivity till June 30, 2013, after which time what Smart does next is not clear. 

Notice the fine print "Until June 30, 2013"

In the case of Globe Telecom its regular data plans are also LTE plans. 

Basically, if you are like me, you are a Smart Subscriber about to renew his contract, it is pretty confusing at Smart right now. It feels like Smart is not sure what it wants to do with its LTE plans, and unfortunately they are leaving their customers uncertain of whether they will have to spend more in the future to maintain LTE connectivity. The uncertainty about plan pricing, minor data billing issues plus changes in retention policy makes Globe Telecom suddenly look a lot more inviting.

If you want to be sure that you get a Smart plan with LTE, without having to pay more in the future, you can avail of the Sony Xperia V or ZTE T82 which come with LTE Plans. The  Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S 4 and Sony Xpreria Z come with 3G Unli Data Plan with free LTE until June 30, 2013.

When the promo ends, it looks like you will have to pay Php1,000 over and above your current plan to maintain LTE connectivity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sony Xperia ZR will be coming to the Philippines

CNET has been able to confirm that the Sony Xperia ZR will be coming to the Philippines, as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. 

The Sony Xperia Z is my favorite of the current crop of handsets, mainly because it has a 4.55-inch display. I belong to the camp that feels that 5-inches is just a little too big. The Xperia ZR will me a upper mid-level handset, packing the same processor as the Google Nexus 4 rather than the newer more powerful Qualcom S600 or S800 processors. Still, I think it packs enough power to be your electronic companion for the next two years. There are three versions of the Xperia XR including an LTE version.

The Sony Xperia Z will not be coming to other parts of the region like Singapore and Australia, indicating that the Xperia ZR will not be release widely. This may be of concern to those who like to root their phones and install custom ROM's,

I expect the Sony Xperia ZR to hit Philippine shores by June or July 2013.

Sony Xperia Z software update improves picture quality

Sony has released a software update for its Xperia Z flagship. The new update is supposed to improve image quality. Thanks to pbatacan of TipidCP, we have a set of comparison shots. To the left are the pictures before the update, and to the right, the images taken after the update.

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