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The most influential smartphones of all time

Posted by wicked December - 19 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

Google LG Nexus 4 aa 1600

The speed and scale of the smartphone revolution has been nothing short of incredible. The dream of equipping every human on the planet with a direct conduit to our collective knowledge in the shape of the Internet is being realized. It’s a tool for communication, for accessing information, for entertainment, for navigation, and for recording our own lives and experiences to share. The potential for smartphones to enrich lives is unsurpassed.

According to Flurry research from 2012, adoption of the leading smartphone platforms, Android and iOS, has been ten times faster than the PC revolution, two times faster than the Internet boom, and three times faster than social network adoption. By the end of next year there will be more than 2 billion smartphone users. More than half of all Americans and Europeans own a smartphone, and that figure is much higher in countries like South Korea.

What are the devices that shaped this trend? How did we go from the first cell phone to hit the stores in 1984 (the brick-like Motorola DynaTAC) to global annual sales of one billion smartphones? Which phones led the way and exerted most influence on the design, features, and functionality of what was to come? These are the most inluential smartphones of all time.

IBM Simon

03-ibmsimon

The term smartphone wasn’t used until a few years later, but the IBM Simon is widely recognized as the first. A prototype was shown off in 1992. It combined a cell phone and a PDA. It had a touchscreen. It could make calls, send emails, and (showing its age) faxes and pages. It also had some apps including a calendar, calculator, and a notepad. You could even add third-party apps to it, though only one was ever developed.

It was released in 1994. It was discontinued after being on sale for six months, during which time IBM managed to sell 50,000 units, despite the $1099 off-contract price tag. It had a 16MHz processor, a 4.5-inch monochrome display with a 640 x 200 pixel resolution, 1MB of RAM, and 1MB of storage.The IBM Simon weighed 510g and had its own charging base.

The idea was ahead of its time. The technology to make something like this really popular simply wasn’t there yet. To give it some scale, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer didn’t come out until the following year. What it did do was set out a vision for what a smartphone could be. The team that worked on it clearly saw the potential.

AT&T EO 440 Personal Communicator

eo440

It would be a stretch to call this the first phablet, but it was being worked on around the same time as the IBM Simon and it combined a lot of the same functionality. It was effectively a phone attached to a tablet size PDA. It was also know as the PhoneWriter. AT&T was trying to create a common user interface and platform for use with these kinds of products. The term “smart phone” was apparently first used in 1995 by Pamela Savage in an article from AT&T entitled Designing a GUI for business telephone users.

Nokia 9000 Communicator

nokia-comm-9000 Textlad (via Flickr)

Released in 1996, the Nokia’s 9000Communicator showed real progress. It had a 24MHz processor, 8MB of storage, and it weighed 397g. It still looked like a brick, but you could flip it open to reveal a larger screen and a full physical keyboard. When closed it could used be a phone, when opened it was a PDA — it was effectively a phone attached to a PDA with a hinge. This kind of clamshell design, albeit in a refined form, remained popular for years.

It was part of Nokia’s “office in the pocket” vision and very much aimed at the business world. It added text-based web browsing to the list of features and boasted more personal organizer-style apps running on the GEOS platform. The Nokia 9000 Communicator is often credited as the first smartphone and it certainly helped the market take off.

Ericsson R380

The first device that was actually marketed as a “smartphone” was Ericsson’s R380. It looked like a typical cell phone from the time, but if you flipped down the keypad it revealed a large touchscreen. It ran the EPOC operating system supporting a load of apps, syncing with Microsoft Office, and offering compatibility with PDAs. It was also capable of web browsing, text and email support, and even voice controls. It even had a game on it.

It was still very expensive, with a 1,000 euro RRP (around $900 at the time). You also couldn’t load any new apps on to it or expand the memory. It was released in 2000 and the PDA hardware and software developers were beginning to see the sense in merging with phone functionality.

BlackBerry 5810

blackberry

RIM’s design, with a small screen and keyboard beneath had already been established and its two-way pager devices began with the 850, but it was a few years before the company released a real smartphone. The BlackBerry 957 was the first to actually look like a recognizable BlackBerry, but it was still just a messaging device for texting and emails, in fact Palm was perceived as the stronger platform for PDAs at the time.

The 5810 landed in 2002 and it was the first BlackBerry to merge in phone functions, although it required you to wear a headset to make and receive calls. RIM was popularizing push email through the BlackBerry line and it adopted a distinct design language, with the keyboard style giving the brand its name.

Treo 600

treo Jay Tamboli

Released the same year that Treo merged with Palm, the 600 was an evolution of the phone and PDA marriage. It boasted a 144MHz processor, 32MB of RAM, and it had a color touchscreen with a 160 x 160 pixel resolution. You could expand the storage, it supported MP3 playback, and it had a digital VGA camera built-in.

It also ran the Palm OS with support for web browsing, email, calendar, and contacts. It allowed you dial directly from the contacts list and check your calendar during a call.

BlackBerry Curve 8300

blackberry-fam Dan_H

Improvements to the BlackBerry line led to better screens, the track wheel was ditched for a trackball, and the OS was improved. The brand was popular enough that the term “CrackBerry” was coined in 2006, but it was slow to move from the business world to the wider consumer market. The Curve 8300 was launched in May 2007 and it built on the increasing consumer focus.

It was a popular line, though the first model lacked Wi-Fi and GPS, both were added in follow-up variants. The Curve had everything else you’d expect to find in a modern smartphone and there was a definite shift toward multimedia support. BlackBerry would hit the 10 million subscriber mark by October of 2007.

LG Prada

LG-prada

Although it wasn’t released until May 2007, images of the Prada had popped up online by the end of 2006 and it had already won a design award. It had a large capacitive touchscreen, 3 inches with a 240 x 400 pixel resolution. It had a 2MP camera, 8MB of storage (expandable to 2GB with a microSD card), and a bunch of handy apps, but it lacked 3G and Wi-Fi.

It was a fashion phone, a collaboration between LG and the Prada fashion house, and it was widely praised. It sold over 1 million units in 18 months, but another phone was about to steal its thunder. LG would later claim Apple copied the design, but it was never argued in court. Capacitive touchscreens soon became common and the candybar form factor dominates to this day.

iPhone

1st-gen-iphone

It was January 9 2007 when Jobs introduced his “three revolutionary new products” in one. The iPhone was “An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator”. Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, even took to the stage to discuss Google’s involvement (Google search was built in to the Safari browser and Google Maps was there). It was released at the end of June and Apple sold 1 million of them within 74 days.

The 3.5-inch multi-touch touchscreen with a 320 x 480 pixel resolution won plenty of plaudits. It also had a 2MP camera and came in 4, 8, or 16GB storage varieties (the 4GB model was soon discontinued). There were concerns about the lack of 3G as Apple partnered with AT&T and some features, like third-party app support and MMS, didn’t come until later. But, whatever way you slice it, the iPhone was hugely influential.

BlackBerry Bold 9000

blackberry-bold Dimitri Robert

It’s easy to forget that RIM was still on the up when it released the Bold in the summer of 2008. The 2.6-inch screen impressed with its 480 x 320 pixel resolution, there was a 624MHz processor inside and it had a premium finish that appealed to the business world. It had the best physical keyboard on the smartphone market and it also supported Wi-Fi, HSDPA, and GPS.

Heading into 2009 the BlackBerry brand was riding high with 50 million subscribers. The fact that series like the Bold were so well-received may have encouraged RIM to stick with a form factor that would soon prove to be an evolutionary dead end. It took too long to make the transition to a touchscreen OS and encourage third-party apps.

HTC Dream

HTC_Dream

Also known as the T-Mobile G1, HTC’s Dream was the first Android smartphone and it landed in October 2008. It was long-awaited after Google formed the Open Handset Alliance and promised mobile innovation with Android almost a whole year before. The iPhone had sent designers back to the drawing board, though there were still serious doubts about relying on the touchscreen for typing, which is why the HTC Dream slid open to reveal a physical keyboard.

It was early days for Android, accelerometer support for automatically rotating the screen, along with widgets and third-party keyboards, didn’t arrive until Android 1.5 Cupcake in April 2009. The hardware was solid. The HTC Dream had a 528MHz processor, 192MB of RAM, a 3.15MP camera, and a 3.2-inch screen with a 320 x 480 pixel resolution. It was definitely capable of matching the iPhone on paper, but the reviews were mixed.

Motorola Droid

motorola-droid Barb Dybwad

Verizon got together with Motorola to back the Android platform in a big way with the Droid Does campaign. Here was an Android smartphone that could outperform the iPhone. It was a huge hit and it sold more than a million units in the first 74 days to beat the original iPhone’s record. It had a 5MP camera, a 3.7-inch display with a resolution of 854 x 480 pixels, and it came with a 16GB microSDHC card.

It ran Android 2.0 Eclair which offered all sorts of new camera features and other bits and pieces. It boasted turn-by-turn navigation integrated with Google Maps for free. It also had a physical keyboard, a feature that was soon to become rare.

Nexus One

htc-google-nexus-one

Released in January 2010, the Nexus One was not the Google phone that people had been waiting for. What was really unusual about it was the fact that Google sold it directly SIM-free as an unlocked device. It also had an unlockable bootloader, making it ideal for developers. It’s not really clear exactly what Google expected to achieve with the Nexus One, so it’s hard to judge, but it certainly influenced the market.

The hardware was solid. It didn’t have a physical keyboard, but it did have a trackball. HTC actually improved the design with the much more commercially popular HTC Desire adding a trackpad, physical buttons, and FM radio support. The establishment of the Nexus line also gave Google a conduit to create hardware to run its Android software.

iPhone 4

iphone-4 Anthony Sigalas

Launched the same month as the Palm Pre, in June 2009, the iPhone 3GS had sold 1 million over its first weekend. Apple introduced third-party apps with iOS 2 in 2008, iOS 3 brought copy and paste, Spotlight search, and a host of other features. The iPhone 3G had brought 3G support and GPS, the 3GS was faster, with a better camera, and voice controls. There had been a steady improvement, but the iPhone 4 represented a redesign. It landed in summer 2010.

There was a 3.5-inch 960 x 640 resolution display, which Apple called “Retina”, the A4 chip, a 5MP camera, and iOS 4 which brought multitasking and FaceTime. The iPhone 4 was also the first iPhone to have a front-facing camera, it introduced a gyroscope to complement the accelerometer, and it had a second microphone for noise cancellation.

The slim, premium design, with its stainless steel frame and glass back, was widely praised, despite antennagate, and Apple managed to sell 1.7 million of them in the first three days. It was also significant because it marked the end of AT&T exclusivity in the States.

Samsung Galaxy S

galaxy-i9000-android-4.0.4-banner-120404

It was with the Galaxy S line that Samsung kicked off a real race to produce the best hardware. This was a device with a 1GHz processor and a 4-inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. It also had a 5MP camera and excellent multimedia support, it was the first DivX HD certified Android phone.

Samsung bent over backwards to satisfy the carriers, producing more than 24 variants of the original Galaxy S. It would go on to sell more than 25 million units and spawn the most successful Android smartphone series so far. Apple would later claim that Samsung had copied its design.

Motorola Atrix

It was a flop commercially, but the Motorola Atrix was an important smartphone for a number of reasons. Released in early 2011, it boasted a 4-inch qHD display with a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels. It also had a massive (at the time) 1930mAh battery, not to mention the 5MP camera and 16GB of storage.

The reason the Atrix made the headlines was its innovative Webtop platform which allowed it to act as the brain for a laptop dock accessory, an HD multimedia dock, and a vehicle dock. It was an interesting idea, but it wasn’t brilliantly executed and the accessories were far too expensive. People forget that the Atrix also had a fingerprint scanner. It even supported 4G (HSPA+). It was an impressively forward-thinking device that didn’t quite hit the mark.

Samsung Galaxy Note

banner-galaxy-note-n7000-anidroid-120719

Although the 5.3-inch display of the original Note no longer sounds all that big, it was considered huge at the time (October 2011). Samsung’s first phablet spawned a whole new category of smartphones and it surprised everyone by selling more than 10 million Notes in the first year. A phone/tablet hybrid with a stylus was apparently the device lots of people had been waiting for.

Samsung kept this market almost to itself with the Note’s sequels for a number of years. LG tried a couple of phablet devices and so did HTC, but the iPhone 6 Plus and the Nexus 6 look like its first serious competition. The wider trend of larger screens continues unabated.

Samsung Galaxy S3

Samsung-Galaxy-S3-Hands-On-1

The Samsung Galaxy S2 was a really impressive release that boasted awesome hardware specs and brought MHL and NFC to the party, but the Galaxy S3 was Samsung’s most successful smartphone ever. It would sell more than 50 million units. It was slim, with a beautiful rounded design that marked a real departure for Samsung.

It had a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM (2GB in some markets), 16, 32 or 64GB of storage with a microSD card slot to expand, an 8MP camera with a 1.9MP front-facing camera, a gorgeous 4.8-inch Super AMOLED with a 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, and support for everything under the sun.

It was the first Android smartphone to consistently outrank the iPhone in polls at the time. It also had genuinely innovative software features from Samsung like eye-tracking and support for various gestures. The Galaxy S3 was Samsung’s high point and everybody had to raise their game after that.

Nexus 4

LG Nexus 4

The product of a partnership between LG and Google, the Nexus 4 delivered a premium glass-backed design with great specs including a 1.5GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, an 8MP camera, and a 4.7-inch display with a 1280 x 768 pixel resolution. Despite impressive build quality and flagship specs, the Nexus 4 went on sale for just $299.

You would expect to pay nearer $600 for a device like this, so it really stirred up the market and introduced more pressure on prices. It was released in November 2012 and less than a year later Google dropped another $100 off the price. The Nexus 4 ushered in the possibility of flagship phones at affordable prices and allowed people to bypass the carriers and their two-year contract subsidies.

What’s next?

The Moto X introduced the idea of an always listening smartphone, ready to respond to its master voice. Sony’s Xperia Z has made waterproofing mainstream. The iPhone 5S introduced a refined fingerprint system in Touch ID. The Moto G and OnePlus One have redefined expectations for prices in their respective categories. The Galaxy Edge may be about to usher in a whole new world of interesting designs with flexible displays.

We’ll have to wait and see about the influence of the last couple of years worth of phones. What do you predict will join the list? Is there anything missing? Post a comment and tell us.

Best Android smartphones (December 2014)

Posted by wicked December - 18 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

With Android thoroughly dominating the mobile industry, picking the best Android smartphones is almost synonymous with choosing the best smartphones, period. But while Android phones have few real opponents on other platforms, internal competition is incredibly fierce.

From sleek devices that impress with premium design, to powerhouses brimming with features, to all-around great devices, and affordable phones that punch above their weight, the Android ecosystem is populated by a staggering variety of attractive phones.

But “greatness” is subjective, and sometimes spec sheets and feature lists are not enough to make an idea of how good a phone really is. In this roundup, we’re looking at the absolute best – the Android phones you can’t go wrong with.

Editor’s note: we’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch.


Moto X (2014)

With the original Moto X, Motorola proved you don’t need to have the latest specs to get a great user experience. With the second generation, the Lenovo-owned company took no chances and double-downed on the spec side as well, packing the new Moto X (2014) with a dense 5.2-inch AMOLED screen, a beefy processor, and a capable 13MP camera.

The Moto X (2014) is well equipped on the inside, but it’s the customizable skin that really sets it apart from other top Android phones out there. Motorola lets you choose your own combination of colors and materials, including the yet to be matched leather and natural wood options. The ability to harmonize its appearance to different styles makes the Moto a great gift for someone dear this holiday season. Other big selling points are the near-stock interface and Motorola’s proven commitment to bringing fast updates to it. If you’re looking for a balanced, stylish, and capable device, the Moto X (2014) should be high up your list.

Specs

  • 5.2-inch AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage (no microSD slot)
  • 13MP rear cam, 2MP front camera
  • Non-removable 2300 mAh battery
  • 140.8 x 72.4 x 10 mm, 144g
  • Customizable via Moto Maker
  • Water resistant
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming very soon)

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $659


Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Years after Samsung gambled on the original Note, the concept is still the phone to beat when it comes to large devices. While some competitors are offering larger screens, none of them can match the Note 4’s productivity-boosting stylus. The S Pen can truly enhance the way you interact with your phone, with a strong focus on doing actual work, from basic research, to composing a quick message, to multi-tasking. But it’s not just work: basically anything that requires precision and speed can be done better with a stylus.

While Samsung’s TouchWiz Android implementation has a bad reputation, nobody can deny that the Note 4’s feature set is compelling. You can make the most of that 5.7-inch screen with the new and improved multi-tasking tools, and that’s something you simply don’t get on other high-end Android phones. And, with the latest iteration of the series, the Note looks as good as it works, thanks to a finely chamfered aluminum frame. If you’re looking for the ultimate device for getting things done, the Note 4 is probably your best choice.

Specs

  • 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16MP rear cam, 3.7MP front cam
  • Removable 3220 mAh battery
  • 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm, 176g
  • Frosted White, Charcoal Black, Bronze Gold, or Blossom Pink
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $799


Nexus 6

The Nexus 6 is a staple on any list of top Android handsets of the moment, looming large both literally and through what it represents – Google’s vision of what Android software should be like and what hardware that software needs in order to truly shine. That’s always been the case with Nexus devices, but the Motorola-made Nexus 6 is nothing like the understated Nexus 5, which almost vanished in the background to let Android shine through. The Nexus 6 is big and powerful; it makes a statement about its user and it turns heads.

The biggest drawback of the Nexus 6 is the one that makes it stand out – with its six inches display, the Nexus 6 will never be a good choice for everyone. However, if you’re fine with the size, there’s a lot to like about this phone – the screen is amazing, the processing package is top-notch, the camera is powerful, and build quality is as good as any. Plus, even if Motorola and other phonemakers are upping their updates game, Nexus is still the way to go if you like your phones up to date.

Specs

  • 5.96-inch Super AMOLED display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB of on-board storage, non-expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • Non-removable 3220 mAh battery
  • 159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm, 184g
  • Midnight Blue, Cloud White
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

Read more

Buy unlocked from Play Store for $649


Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

The other entries on our list of best Android smartphones all feature displays that are larger than five inches. If you love expansive screens, you’ve never been more spoiled with choice. But what if you like your smartphones smaller? The 4.6-inch Xperia Z3 Compact is probably your best choice. In a landscape of underpowered “Mini” phones, Sony’s Xperia Z3 Compact stands out as a smaller phone that doesn’t require many compromises. Perhaps the only feature that may turn you off from the Z3 Compact is the 720 x 1280 screen, which is a perfectly decent 319 ppi, but clearly lags behind the other phones on this list.

Everything else is at the high end of the scale, including the processing package and especially the 21MP camera, identical to the shooter on the bigger Xperia Z3. The Android implementation is relatively close to stock and doesn’t indulge in any visual excesses, though you will have to deal with a fair amount of bloatware. Plus, you get Sony’s iconic design in a lightweight package that may feel refreshing after having to handle some bigger phones.

Specs

  • 4.6-inch LCD display with 720 x 1280 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 20.7MP rear cam, 2.2MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2,600 mAh battery
  • 127.3 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm, 129 g
  • Green, Orange, White, Black
  • Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Water resistant – IP68

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $499


LG G3

Pick up the LG G3 and you will instantly see and feel what makes it special: the display is incredibly crisp and the thin bezels around it allowed LG to keep this device compact and lightweight – or at least more compact than other devices in its size class. Not only is the G3 small for its screen size, the placement of the power and volume buttons on the rear will make it even easier to operate this device.

The G3 doesn’t feature a metal construction like other contestants in our Android flagships roundup, and that thin design may make it more exposed to accidents. On the inside, there’s little to complain about, and you even get a removable battery, something that only the Note 4 offers from the other devices on this list. LG also made some big strides with the Android overlay running on the G3, which includes a few unique features that may prove very helpful.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LCD display with 1440 x 2560 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2/3GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 2.1MP front cam
  • Removable 3,000 mAh battery
  • 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm, 149 g
  • Metallic Black, Moon Violet, Silk White, Shine Gold, Burgundy Red
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $448


Best bang for the buck: OnePlus One

OnePlus came out of nowhere to get everyone talking about its “flagship killer.” Of course, OnePlus couldn’t hold all its bold promises, but the Chinese startup didn’t disappoint in one crucial area – the price. There’s simply no competitor delivering what the OnePlus One delivers at $300. And the One isn’t just a great affordable phone; it’s a great phone it its own.

With solid specs, unique features, and the clean CyanogenMod running on it, the OnePlus One is a great proposition for just about any user. All that considered, the device sells for half the price of similar devices, so it can’t miss from our list of best Android smartphones of 2014.

Specs

  • 5.5-inch LCD display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 16/64GB of on-board storage, non-expandable
  • 13MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 3,100 mAh battery
  • 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 162 g
  • Silk White, Sandstone Black
  • Android 4.4 KitKat/CyanogenMod 11

Read more

Buy unlocked from OnePlus for $299


Special mention: HTC One (M8)

Dozens of good Android phones came out this year, across budgets and niches. At the top, where competition is fiercest, we were spoiled with more choices than ever. One device that we couldn’t fit into our top five, but still deserves a shoutout is HTC’s One (M8). With killer looks, a premium build, and HTC’s unique additions to the Android game, the M8 is definitely worth of your attention.

However, one limitation prevented it from ranking higher: its camera, which isn’t for everyone. The 4MP camera with its secondary depth sensor simply doesn’t live up to expectations.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, and if you value premium look and feel above everything, the One (M8) remains an excellent choice.

Specs

  • 5-inch Super LCD3 display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, expandable
  • 4MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2,600 mAh battery
  • 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm, 160 g
  • gray, silver, gold
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $527


There you have it – our picks from the best Android has to offer right now. Missed anything? Tell us in the comments!

Micromax and Cyanogen launch Yureka: 5.5-inch, 64-bit, selling for $140

Posted by wicked December - 18 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

micromax yu yureka

Micromax’ first phone released under the Yu brand launched today in India, bringing solid specs and Cyanogen at a price tag of approximately $140.

Called Yureka, the 5.5-inch smartphone will go against other budget-minded devices available in India, including phones from Xiaomi and OnePlus, as well as the Google-sponsored Android One. Yureka is the first device besides the OnePlus One to run Cyanogen OS, over which Micromax secured exclusive rights in India, preventing OnePlus to continue sales in the fast growing market.

Yureka features an HD LCD display (for a pixel density of 267 ppi) with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The device is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 615 with eight cores, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable storage. The dual SIM slots allow the use of 3G and Cat. 4 LTE cards, for download speeds of up to 150Mbps.

Other notable specs include a 13MP Sony Exmor sensor, as well as a 2,500-mAh battery, fitted into a 154.8 x 78 x 8.8 mm body.

micromax yu yureka

Cyanogen OS 11 is based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat, with an update to Lollipop promised for the close future. Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster said during the launch event that his company tries to combat the “stagnation in the smartphone market,” and acknowledged the importance of the booming Indian market: “There’s a battle being fought in India, and Cyanogen+Yu, we intend to win that battle.”

Cyanogen used the occasion to officially introduce its new Themes app, which allows users to quickly change the appearance of the phone’s UI. Two free themes will be pre-loaded on the Yureka. Another big piece of functionality is Nextbit Baton, a feature that syncs the state of various apps across devices.

The Micromax Yureka will sell for Rs. 8,999, the equivalent of $142, exclusively online through Amazon. Pre-registrations will open tomorrow at 2PM IST, with the device set to begin shipping in the second week of January. First buyers will receive a free leather back cover worth Rs. 999.

The arrival of Yureka further complicates the battlefield in a market that still has huge growth potential, as opposed to the saturated Western world. Only about a tenth of India’s 900 million phone users have smartphones, and large players are already duking it out for a slice of the market. Contenders include local players like Micromax or Karbonn, Chinese upstarts like OnePlus and Xiaomi, and global powerhouses like Samsung or Motorola.

Are you impressed by the Micromax Yureka?

Elephone P3000 review

Posted by wicked December - 16 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off




The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Exceptional value for the money
  • Excellent battery life
  • 4G LTE is a nice addition for a phone of this price/category
  • Good to see microSD and dual-SIM here
CONS
  • Fingerprint reader is hard to use
7.7

For the price this is a very interesting phone. It has a good 720p display, good battery life and more than adequate performance. Unfortunately, the built-in fingerprint reader is hard to use.


Buy now for $156.65

Fingerprints scanners are becoming a popular addition to smartphones, but generally they are only found on flagship models, well not any more! The Elephone P3000 is a quad-core, 5 inch device with a built-in fingerprint reader. If you haven’t heard of Elephone, it is a rapidly growing Asian OEM based in Hong Kong.

Elephone P3000 (2)

Specs

In short, the Elephone P3000 is powered by a quad-core Cortex-A7 based processor, has a 5 inch, 720p display, and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Here are the full specs:

Display 5” 720p HD IPS 720 x 1280 pixels
Processor 1.3 GHz, quad-core MediaTek MT6582, Cortex-A7
RAM 1GB
Storage 8GB, microSD card slot, up to 64GB
Camera 13 Megapixel Rear Camera, 5MP Front Camera
Battery 3150 mAh
Connectivity GPS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth
Networks GSM, 3G, 4G LTE
Software Android 4.4 with Google Play
Dimensions 145 x 87.8 x 8.99 mm, 146g
SIM slots Dual-SIM: 1x SIM, 1xMicro SIM

Design

The first thing that struck me about this device was its weight. It only weighs 149 grams, which is quite light. When I first picked it up, I actually had to check if it had a battery in it or not. In terms of design language, the theme here is a bold black and silver. The body is black plastic all the way around, peppered with silver for the buttons and the logos. The only other color is the red edge around the section for the camera, flash, and fingerprint reader.

Elephone P3000 (16)

On the front is the 5 inch, 720p display with a set of silver capacitive keys towards the bottom, and a silver earpiece towards the top. There is also the front facing camera and a 4G logo. I have mixed feelings about the prominence of the 4G logo, I guess it is there for those who want to brag about having a phone with 4G LTE connectivity. Honestly, I think the logo should have been placed on the back of the phone, or discarded altogether.

Down the right-hand side is the power button, while on the left is the volume rocker. Both are easily accessible when held in your left hand. On the top you will find the micro-USB port and the 3.5mm headphone jack.

Flipping the phone over, you will see the prominent Elephone logo and a slightly protruding circle for the camera, flash and fingerprint reader. The back cover is made of a matte plastic, almost rubber type material, that does a very good job of repelling fingerprints.

Although the phone is light, it is quite thick. According to my measurement the phone is over 10mm thick. Elephone claim it is just 8.9mm. Either way, it isn’t overly thick, however it does give the phone a slightly dated look.

Display

Elephone P3000 (18)
The 5 inch display on the P3000 is quite good considering the price point of this device. The IPS display comes from JDI and has a resolution of 1280 by 720. That works out to 293 dpi. Overall the color reproduction is good and the definition is great, as are the viewing angles. Some people like full HD displays for 5 inch devices, however I think that for a budget device, 720p is more than adequate.

Performance

At the heart of the P3000 is the MediaTek MTK6582. It has a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor which is coupled with a Mali-400 MP4. These are common specs for low- and mid-range devices coming out of China. The A7 is one of ARM’s most power efficient core designs, however it won’t break any performance records. The same can be said for the Mali-400 GPU.

p3000-gamebench-riptide

My experience of using P3000 is that the processor package is more than capable of running the UI without any lag or delays, also everything but the most intense 3D gaming works without any problems. The same can be said for watching locally stored video or video streamed from YouTube.

In terms of benchmarks, the P3000 scored 17,782 on AnTuTu and managed to chalk up 48.4 frames per second on Epic Citadel. According to GameBench, the P3000 can run Riptide GP at 49 fps.

Hardware

Elephone P3000 (4)
The phone comes with a 3150 mAh battery, which is very impressive for a device with only a quad-core A7 processor and a 720p display. My testing confirms that the battery life is good. I ran my customary set of tests. On one charge you will be able to play intensive 3D games for at least 3 hours. GameBench shows that Riptide GP will run for almost 5 hours. For those into multimedia, you can get about 5.5 hours of YouTube streaming from this device, or around 8 hours of watching locally stored video.

p3000-battery-graphs

The P3000 is a dual SIM phone that offers quad-band GSM, which means 2G will work just about anywhere in the world; quad-band 3G, on 850/900/1900 and 2100 MHz; and quad-band 4G LTE on 800/1800/2100 and 2600MHz. The 3G and 4G will work in lots of countries around the world especially in Europe and Asia. The GPS performance of the P3000 is very middle-of-the-road. It can’t get a signal indoors, but outside it seems to work well enough.

The device comes with 8GB of on-board storage and has a micro-SD card slot which can accept cards up to 64GB. The internal storage on the P3000 is divided in two. The first part is called INTERNAL STORAGE and is 2GB in size. The second part is called PHONE STORAGE and is 4GB. Apps are installed into the 2GB portion and the rest is used for media. If you install a big game like Modern Combat, then the app itself is installed on the 2GB partition but all the data, which is well over 1GB, is installed onto the bigger partition. What this means is that the 2GB will become a limiting factor if you install lots of apps, but it shouldn’t stop you from installing big apps.

Fingerprint Reader

Elephone P3000 (14)
One of the key selling points of this phone is the inclusion of a fingerprint reader. The reader is located on the back of the device below the camera lens. The idea is that you can swipe your finger across the sensor using just one hand.

To use the fingerprint reader you need to register your fingerprint by swiping your finger several times over the sensor. You are also required to set up an alternative password as a way to bypass the fingerprint access. Once the fingerprint has been recorded it can be used to lock the phone. There is also a FingerAppLock app, and a way to use the fingerprint reader as a kind of scroll-wheel to scroll up and down on web pages. The FingerAppLock lets you protect certain apps and only grants access when unlocked via the fingerprint reader.

p3000-fingerprint-reader

 

Unfortunately the fingerprint reader is actually quite hard to use. Registering the fingerprint took loads of swipes of my finger and the process often reset with an error about too many failed attempts to register the fingerprint. The same is also true of using the reader once a fingerprint has been recorded. It would often take several swipes to unlock the phone. If I couldn’t manage it after several attempts I was forced to use the alternative password. All of this became annoying very quickly, and if I was using this phone as my daily driver I guess I wouldn’t use the fingerprint reader.

Camera

This phone has a 13MP rear facing camera and a 5MP front facing camera. The pictures aren’t bad for a device at this price point. The color reproduction is generally good, however in low-light conditions, the colors can be a bit washed out.

The included camera app offers a few interesting features including HDR and Panorama. In the settings you can change things like the exposure level, the scene, the white balance, face detection and so on. Overall it is a fairly comprehensive app but without any advanced modes or filters.

Here are some sample shots, judge for yourself:

Software

The P3000 runs stock Android 4.4.2 and uses a lightly skinned launcher with its own icons for standard apps like Settings, Camera, Clock and so on. Interestingly, the device is rooted by default and comes with Chainfire’s SuperSU pre-installed.

As well as the section for the fingerprint reader, the Settings also has a section for controlling the notification LED. By default the LED will flash blue for missed calls, red for new messages and green for other notifications.

p3000-software

Price and Wrap up

To sum up, the P3000 is a 4G LTE enabled smartphone, with a 720p HD display and a quad-core CPU. The performance is good for this price point, and the camera is better than average for a budget device. However, don’t expect too much from the fingerprint reader. You can pick up an Elephone P3000 for around $150, which when you consider the overall specification of the device, is a great price.

Buy now for $156.65

 

Meizu MX4 review

Posted by wicked December - 13 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

PROS
  • Attractive, premium design without breaking the bank
  • Feels rather good in your hands
  • Excellent display
CONS
  • Design is a bit slippery
  • lag and hiccups abound especially on intense games and apps
  • lots of bugs and stability issues with the phone’s software
  • camera’s image quality is inconsistent
7.0

The MX4, with its brilliant display and alluring design is one of the most beautiful devices Meizu has made yet, but is marred by an inconsistent experience.

The Android market is dominated by major manufacturers like Samsung, LG and HTC. The U.S. market is now beginning to see some up-and-coming device manufacturers from the Chinese market like Oppo, Xiaomi and Meizu. These manufacturers have shown us that it’s possible to make a high-end device for a fraction of the cost of the flagships we see today.

One such device that does a great job at offering high-end specs and hardware at a low price is the Meizu MX4. As the successor to last year’s MX3, the MX4 features a slew of hardware and software upgrades, and shows users, yet again, that high-end specs don’t have to come at such a premium price. With that said, can the MX4 compete with the likes of Samsung, LG and HTC? We find this out, and more, in our full comprehensive review of the Meizu MX4.

Design

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Meizu has a reputation for making premium devices, and the MX4 is no exception. At first glance, the phone looks sleek, high quality and durable. It offers a full glass front panel, a chassis made of aluminium alloy, and a smooth plastic back plate. The in-hand feel of the device is extremely premium, thanks to the slightly heavy aluminum body. The buttons are also made of aluminum and feel clicky and responsive… especially the volume rocker. When it comes to the power button, though, it tends to blend in with the frame. At least on our review unit, it felt significantly less-clicky than the other buttons. What’s more, the power button is placed on the top of the device, rather than the standard side mount that many of us have grown accustomed to. Now, this is a pretty big phone, so reaching up top to put the device to sleep can get a little annoying sometimes. To help with that problem, Meizu added a few features that might help out with your power button problems (we’ll talk more about that in Software).

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Around back, the device has a slight curve to it, and it fits in our hands perfectly. While the plastic back feels smooth and almost satin-like, it may be a little too slippery. In our time testing the device, we almost had a few drop accidents when pulling the phone from a pocket. The back creeks a little more than we would like it to, but nonetheless, the phone doesn’t feel bad by any means. A small Meizu logo takes up the bottom portion of the back plate, and the camera is placed towards the top. When it comes to design, the camera module is unobtrusive and is covered by a glass enclosure.

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The back plate is removable, exposing the non-removable 3100mAh battery and Micro SIM slot. No expandable storage is available, though the unit comes in either 16, 32, or 64GB variants.

Display

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The display on the MX4 is 5.36-inches with 1920 x 1152 resolution and a pixel density of 418 ppi. The display pops, thanks to the .2mm of bezel on each side of the display. Images are sharp, text is clear and honestly, we don’t really have any other gripes when it comes to the display quality.

The front of the device features a capacitive touch circular home button, while the other soft keys are present at the bottom of the display. That makes us wonder about Meizu’s design language, though. The MX4 already has to take up space for the softkeys, so why did they need to create a capacitive home button rather than a softkey? It must just be part of the design. It doesn’t look bad, it’s just different. The display can get very bright, which is great for outdoor visibility, as long as the auto brightness works properly. We did experience a few glitches, so you might be better off adjusting the brightness manually.

Spec Sheet

Display 5.36-inch IPS LCD
1920 x 1152 resolution, 418 ppi
Processor 2.2 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6595
PowerVR G6200 MP4 GPU
RAM 2 GB
Storage 16/32/64 GB, no microSD expansion
Camera 20.7 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
2 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity HSPA, LTE Cat4 150/50 Mbps
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.0, GPRS
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Battery 3,100 mAh
Dimensions 144 x 75.2 x 8.9 mm
147 grams

Performance

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Starting up the device is fast and lag-free. We didn’t really experience any lag when switching between home screens, switching apps, or scrolling through text. That’s all thanks to the MX4’s quad-core 2.2GHz Cortex-A17 and quad-core 1.7GHz Cortex-A7 processors backed by 2GB of RAM. Though it doesn’t seem like the best processor out there, Meizu’s software is light, allowing for quick animations, fluid movements through screens and fast multitasking. But these quick animations usually only take place when moving around the UI. We experienced our fair share of hiccups when it came to playing games. Lag and hiccups would happen more than we would have liked, and the device tends to heat up quickly when playing graphic-intensive games.

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Next to the Micro USB input on the bottom sits a single speaker. It’s loud and clear, and definitely good enough to watch a quick YouTube video or listen to music around the house. While the external speaker is loud, the earpiece speaker is very quiet, even when turned up to the maximum setting. Call quality is very solid on this device, and the people we spoke with told us we sounded very clear.

When it comes to connectivity, though, U.S. customers will be out of luck in terms of LTE. The MX4 has LTE bands, but they’re only compatible with Chinese networks.

Camera

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The camera that comes on the MX4 is a 20.7MP Sony Exmor unit with a dual-LED flash, along with a 2MP front facing camera. The camera software is extremely easy to use and comes with tons of shooting options. Swiping left and right filters through the different settings, which is very intuitive. As for image quality, the majority of our indoor and outdoor photos are sharp, but are overall very bright. Colors are slightly dull and lack the vibrant pop and saturation we see on other comparable cameras on the market.

With that said, low light photos are where this device stutters the most. It often struggles to focus and most of our low light photos lack any amount of vibrance whatsoever. Auto Focus mode is good when it works, but oftentimes struggles to lock on to the subject of the photo. This is true in both well-lit and low light areas.

Around front, the 2MP front-facing shooter is decent, if all you’re planning to do is post photos to social media. Other than that, the front camera struggles in low light, and also has a problem focusing on the subject.

In terms of camera options, the MX4 comes with many to choose from. Panorama, Refocus, 120fps Slow Motion, Facebeauty, Night Mode, and plenty of other modes are included in this camera. They all work well, and we don’t really have many complaints when it comes to camera options. In all, the camera performs well in most well-lit areas. If you’re heading inside to snap some photos, though, you may want to make sure your subject is under a good light source.

Battery

When it comes to battery stats, the MX4 lasts us about a day with moderate to heavy use. With a 3100mAh battery, this is a slight letdown. We had the impression that having such a big battery would yield some great results, but that just isn’t the case with the MX4.

Software

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The MX4 is running Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Meizu’s custom Flyme 4.0 on top. Flyme is bright, bubbly, and crisp. Most of the stock icons are flat, and blend in well with the overall UI.

One of the first things we noticed about the software was the absence of an app drawer, a familiar feature in Meizu’s devices. Some users won’t be too fond of this feature, as one of the most prominent ways Android’s home screens differentiate from iOS is the ability to hide unused applications. It feels like Meizu is trying to go for a “less is more” concept in terms of UI, though it seems as though the Android experience is slightly crippled because of it.

Since the screen is on the larger side of the spectrum, there are some disadvantages when it comes to moving around the device. Pulling down the notification bar up top can be strenuous, as well as hitting the top of the phone to reach the power button. Meizu did include some gestures to sidestep those grips though. Double tapping the locked screen will wake the device, and you can also swipe up to unlock it, swipe down to view notifications, or swipe left to open the camera. Swiping right is actually programmable, so you can set it to open any app you desire.

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Overall, the MX4’s software could use some work. The Settings menu was a bit confusing, and we found ourselves finding options in places where we wouldn’t expect to see them. Through countless apps force closing, the inability to download custom launchers and skewed English translations throughout the OS, we had a difficult time getting this device to work properly. One bug that we found kind of odd was that the volume rockers wouldn’t control the ringing volume… it only controlled media volume. Many pre-installed apps, including the OS, aren’t optimized for the 5:3 aspect ratio, which has made our software experience extra difficult.

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Our device came with no Google apps installed, so we were forced to use the Flyme app store to download Google Play Services. Setting up Google apps through the Flyme store was difficult, and most of the apps didn’t want to start up right away. The device was supposed to receive an update to overhaul the UI and pre-install Google services, but we never got the update. We’re sure the update is on its way, but the lack of Google services really hindered our experience.

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

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The Meizu MX4 is usually sold for around $450 unlocked on Amazon. Since this is a phone that’s predominately for the Chinese market, we won’t be seeing many around the States, and the lack of LTE in the U.S. will surely be one of the biggest negatives with this device among users.

With the MX4, it seems like a tantalizing deal. A beautifully crafted device with a huge 1080p display, all for under $450? That sounds like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the OS is filled with bugs, the battery life is a huge let down, and the camera struggles to take acceptable photos in anything but ideal lighting conditions. If you can get past those main compromises, though, you’ll have a phone with great screen, super powerful processor and awesome build quality. For around $400, you could do much worse than the MX4.

Buy Now

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge now available in the UK on Vodafone

Posted by wicked December - 12 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

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As 2014 gradually edges itself out, another Edge is coming in for the taking. Assuming you have the cash to spare, of course. Having already released in Japan, South Korea, and the United States, Samsung’s Galaxy Note Edge is now available in the UK, exclusively on Vodafone.

Pricing-wise, there are an incredible amount of options, with the device starting as low as £49 (about $77), all the way up to £329 (about $517). There are 18 different contract plans that can be selected, which will of course raise the cost of things. The device can also be had SIM-Free for a mere £795 (about $1,248) which would make it by far the most expensive of all off-contract prices the device has been sold for to date.

The Galaxy Note Edge is, spec-wise, comparable to the Galaxy Note 4, however the addition of a curved Edge display allows for greater functionality and a slightly modified form-factor. Vodafone itself seems quite enamored with the device, the company’s official blog, Vodafone Social, stating that:

“Samsung has always been pushing the limits of what we can do with phone screens. It was one of the first manufacturers to really get behind big phone displays, and isn’t shy about showing off future concepts. And that innovative attitude to screens is exactly the thinking behind company’s latest handset: the Galaxy Note Edge…”

Check Vodafone’s blog for full details, and make sure to read our comprehensive review and coverage.

HTC Desire Eye review

Posted by wicked December - 12 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Design is attractively simple, almost a throwback in its symmetrical shape
  • 5.2-inch doesn't detract from handling experience
  • Snapdragon 801 processor is still great
  • BoomSound speakers
  • IP certification
  • HTC Sense is easy to use, functional
  • Split Capture and Photo Booth fun and practical camera features
CONS
  • Many of the other camera features are gimmicky at best
  • Buttons are squishy, especially the dedicated camera shutter button
  • Picture quality is uneven, at its worst even in medium light situations
  • Battery life average, helped mainly by quick charging
  • AT&T exclusivity in the US means only one color available
8.2

The HTC Desire Eye is a great, solid smartphone, that unfortunately doesn’t succeed as well in what it was originally intended to do.

Whether you’re a fan or not, the “selfie” revolution is upon us. Countless device manufacturers are trying to find new ways to make your self-portraits even clearer, even if that means copying the rear-facing camera and pasting it on the front. This sounds like a great idea, but how does it work in real life situations? HTC thinks they have the answer with their new “selfie” phone.

HTC has certainly experienced quite a bit of scrutiny over the years for their use of UltraPixel technology in their cameras. Trying to prove themselves in the field, HTC has taken a step forward in camera technology, as well as software and hardware advancements with their most recent handsets. In their most recent foray into new camera technology, the HTC Desire Eye aims to fix all of your low-quality selfie problems.

Can HTC’s handset deliver the quality hardware, software, and camera technology that you’re looking for? Find out this, and more, in our comprehensive review of the HTC Desire Eye!

Design

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It’s apparent that HTC wants to maintain a consistent design language across its Desire series of smartphones, and there’s no denying that these devices look good. Though the Desire series is technically considered mid-range, or “premium” mid-range as HTC likes to describe it, it certainly doesn’t feel that way when it comes to build quality. The plastic construction feels sturdy and the device is plenty heavy, allowing for a premium look and feel.

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A new dual color motif is the calling card of the current crop of Desire smartphones, and that makes its way to the Desire Eye as well. Since this review unit is the AT&T version, the carrier orange and white colors are what you get in this case. This will be the version that will commonly be available in the US, but a blue and gray edition was also showcased at the launch event.

HTC DESIRE EYE UNBOXING AA (6 of 24)

HTC’s signature BoomSound speakers are also available with the Desire Eye, this time almost ingeniously tucked between the screen and the bezels at the top and bottom, to make way for the front camera setup. All the buttons are found on the right side of the device, including a dedicated camera shutter button. These buttons are made from the same plastic material and can be quite squishy, which is a let down, especially with regards to the camera shutter button which you will end up using often. The 13 MP camera units with a dual LED flash on the front and back adorn identical positions up top. It is certainly odd to see this optical package above the display, but does justify the “Eye” moniker of this smartphone.

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The shape of the phone is best described as simplistic, but effective. Subtle curves around the sides and corners add to the attractive aesthetic, and with an accessible 5.2-inch display, the handling experience is one of the best you’ll get with any smartphone. Since HTC likes to keep their devices narrow, grip isn’t an issue, and the smooth plastic keeps things from getting smudgy, while allowing safe feel in the hand. The best part of course is the fact that the Desire Eye is waterproof.

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It almost makes you wonder why other device manufacturers don’t experiment much with the looks of their phones, like the Desire Eye does with colors, even while returning to a more classical shape. HTC once again knocks it out of the park in the design department with the Desire Eye, creating a phone that looks and feels great.

Display

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The HTC Desire Eye features a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. This display size keeps the device from getting big, which might be better choice compared to its earlier brethren, the Desire 820.

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Quad HD may be the future, but these specifications allow for plenty of sharpness, with the IPS LCD display bringing the great brightness and viewing angles it is known for. This display is a good performer even in direct sunlight, and HTC’s penchant for darker interface elements works well on this screen that solidly handles contrast.

Watching movies or playing games on this display will be an enjoyable experience, though the front-facing BoomSound speakers do deserve some of the credit in this regard as well.

Performance

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Despite falling into the mid-range segment of HTC’s smartphone portfolio, the specifications are anything but, with the Desire Eye packing a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, along with the Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. While I didn’t play any extremely processor-intensive games but it should handle most with minimal lag, and the ones I did play went off without a hitch.

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Going around the elements of the user interface is fast and smooth, in part due to the simpler and sleeker current iteration of HTC Sense. It may be quite a different take from the classic Android experience, but is still highly accessible and intuitive. The grid design in the Recent Apps screen allows for easy switching between up to nine applications, which should be more than enough to satisfy the multitasking needs of most. As HTC has managed to get right over the last couple of years, their interface keeps things simple, allowing for the Snapdragon 801 to keep things fast.

Hardware

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Discussing the hardware of any current HTC smartphone always starts of on the same positive note, as it has to do  with the front-facing BoomSound speakers. Given the new placement that is almost out of plain sight, HTC continues to be a pioneer for a feature that many other OEMs seem to ignore with their own devices. Sound from these speakers is definitely vastly better than any rear or side-mounted speakers you might come across, even if does lack the punch of its flagship sibling, the HTC One (M8).

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Call quality is as you would want it to be, with no drops on either end, and little issue with hearing the other party clearly. Of course, the BoomSound speakers also allow for a great experience if you decide to make calls using the speakerphone. Another very useful addition that consumers will appreciate with the HTC Desire Eye is its IP certification for resistance against dust and water, a feature that a lot of flagships, including HTC’s own, could have used.

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The same sensor suite that helped the HTC One (M8) in the usability department makes its way over to the Desire Eye, allowing for easy access to the interface via some simple swipes or taps. While it isn’t difficult to trigger these gestures by accident, at least all they open is the just the homescreen, and nothing that could be troublesome. A slew of connectivity options are also available with the Desire Eye, with the AT&T network providing fast and reliable internet.

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When it comes to the battery, the Desire Eye packs a 2,400 mAh unit, which is a little smaller than what you may expect from a phone of this size and caliber. Thankfully, you still get at least a full day’s worth of use out of the device, with a lot of different power saving features allowing you to push the battery to life to close to two full days. Of course, that does involve using the super power saving mode, that strips the phone usage down to only the bare essentials. As is the trend nowadays, the Desire Eye also comes with some form of fast charging, that lets you get back up to half of that battery life with just a half hour of charge. It is certainly a nice feature to have, that increasingly seems to be becoming the norm.

Camera

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Of course, the big story with the HTC Desire Eye is with regards to its camera experience. It’s also not only about the 13 MP front-facing shooter, but the software and sharing experience that HTC has added to its bag of tricks.

Holding down the physical camera button can activate the application, which is a nice shortcut to have, but ultimately ended up being the only time I used the button. As mentioned before, the button is simply too squishy to be used to its full potential. While the soft press halfway down to gain focus isn’t too bad, pressing down hard to trigger the shutter almost always makes the hand shake, resulting in a blurry photo. Unfortunately, using this button ended up being more of a frustrating experience that it should have been.

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One of the touted features of the Desire Eye is the ability to shoot using both cameras simultaneously, but using any of the relevant modes seemed to be too much for the phone to handle. I found it hard to get a uniform exposure, and sometimes even focus, on both sides, with only side getting it right most of the time.

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The camera application itself is easy to navigate, which HTC veterans should be familiar with. Simply swiping from the very sides of the viewfinder changes the modes, and the button shows the various ways of using the camera, including the split capture and the Photo Booth feature, that is sure to please social media users. Split capture is a really nice way of using both cameras in unison, especially in video, where you can be talking in one side of the frame and presenting your surroundings in the other, but as mentioned, this is not without its issues. Photo Booth splits a number of sequential shots, making it easy to make a collage on the fly, and is a mode that will likely be used often by general social media users.

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Many modes and manual controls are available, though having to go through the little menu just to activate HDR isn’t an ideal way to access a feature that has become essential for many. Some new ways of capturing photos have been added in, like Auto Capture, which will activate after it detects a smile, or Voice Capture, but neither really changed the game in terms of taking a quick shot. One mode that could prove fun is Crop Me In, that cuts your subject out of one photo and puts it into another one.

Unfortunately, picture quality is hit and miss at best. For a camera setup that is supposed to champion self portraits, it just isn’t practical to use in most situations where you would want to take a picture of yourself. The main issues came up when indoors and in low light, with their being a very distinct fuzz and grain showing up on any pictures that aren’t in broad daylight. While this is somewhat expected, it is still a let down considering the high expectations we had from the Desire Eye.

This was also true for the rear facing camera, and while both cameras benefit from dual LED flashes, their harshness on the subject made for equally unattractive photos. Out in the wild, the cameras fare better, and it is really in those situations that I had a better time, having fun with the extra modes and taking advantage of the HDR in the right environments.

Given everything else that HTC has got right with this phone, it is truly a shame that the camera experience is a little disappointing with the Desire Eye, as it is what this phone is marketed for.

Software

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HTC Sense is once again at the helm here, bringing its version of Android complete with BlinkFeed, the second screen news aggregation experience. For anyone that has used Sense in the past, this will feel exactly like it has in more recent iterations. The app drawer is a vertical list, the recent apps screen is a 3×3 grid of your apps, the homescreens are secondary to the BlinkFeed and vice versa, and the overall operating system takes on HTC’s typical dark motif.

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It’s not hard to get around the elements of the UI, making it one of the more easily accessible versions of Android that I would recommend to new users. Colors take on a very important role in this newer version of the OS, providing cues for where you are in the system, like BlinkFeed or the Gallery. Many of these elements are customizable in a Themes section, though the changes don’t do much to detract from the general aesthetic.

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HTC’s built-in applications also go a long way in making the experience more unique. Blinkfeed is still one of the best second screen experiences available on Android, showing a grid of news stories or social media feeds that are easy on the eyes and full of customization options. In the case of the Gallery, pictures and videos are bundled together in a number of ways, the most useful of which probably being by date. You can also easily trigger the available photo editing tools, or even create a nice highlight Zoe reel of your memories of the day. When it comes to Zoes, the Zoe app is now fully available, and is a place for you to share your custom made memories with the masses, though my only gripe with it is the lack of users currently on that ecosystem.

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Sense has matured a lot since its original iterations, and proves to be one of the better versions of Android available now. HTC has a user interface that can easily be put on any of their devices, be it their flagship offerings, or mid-range smartphones like the Desire Eye.

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The HTC Desire Eye is currently available in the US from AT&T and off-contract full price of the phone is $549. While there are plenty of mid-range offerings that provide much of the same experiences, none have the dual powerful camera setup of the Desire Eye, even if this differentiating factor is a bit of letdown.

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So there you have it – a closer look at the HTC Desire Eye! This smartphone is HTC’s first take on a common problem of front-facing cameras simply not being as powerful as rear facing iterations. HTC believes that they need to be for our self-portrait obsessed generation, and the Desire Eye does succeed in some regards. While  some fun and useful modes to take advantage of its front facing optics are available, their picture quality just isn’t a step forward, in a situation where we hoped it would be a lot more.

Looking at the rest of the phone though, the Desire Eye is a very compelling package of attractive design, great specifications, resistance to the elements, and Boomsound speakers that could make many flagships flinch. Unfortunately, this disparity in quality, especially considering what this phone was supposed to be able to do, is ultimately its Achilles heel.

Vivo X5 Max: new world’s thinnest phone at just 4.75mm

Posted by wicked December - 10 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

vivo x5 max

Some weeks back, we covered a story involving the thinnest phone ever, at least according to the PR offered by Chinese OEM Vivo, who proudly portrayed its petite phone in parallel to the iPhone 5s. A quick glance back will jog the memory of the forgetful, though what’s old (news) is suddenly new again as Vivo has formally announced the see-it-or-not device, which will launch on December 22 at around $486.

vivo thinnest smartphone

Known as the Vivo X5 Max, this phone is an astonishing 3.98mm at its thinnest, and 4.75mm at its thickest. It has thus dethroned the previous world’s record holder, the Oppo R5, which is a positively-obese 0.10mm thicker. Vivo boasts some other morbidly anorexic specs to boot: a 1.77mm thick motherboard, 1,36mm screen assembly, and 2.45mm speaker. It has Android 4.4.4 with the company’s own Funtouch OS 2.0 layered atop.

vivo x5 max (2)

The other specs are equally killer: a 5.5 inch 1080p SAMOLED screen, Snapdragon 615 1.7GHz Octa-Core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB on-board storage, 13 megapixel, 5 megapixel camera combination with Sony IMX214 sensor, a Yamaha YSS-205X sound chip that even allows karaoke, and Hi-Fi 2.0. Oh and it gets even more ridiculous: there is a micro SD card slot, dual SIM slots (one Micro, one Nano), and a 3.5mm headphone jack!

To say this is an incredible feat of engineering prowess would be the understatement of the year, especially given the compromises that Oppo apparently had to make with its own sliver of a product. Suffice to say that Chinese OEMs are finally coming into their own, and with products like this launching every few months, the global smartphone competition is about to majorly heat up.

Stance compact tripod helps your smartphone stand on its own

Posted by wicked December - 9 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

While your smartphone may fit snugly into your hand (well, maybe except for those bigger phablets) for most of your purposes, there are times when you need it to be able to stand on its own. But bringing along a tripod wherever you go is a hassle. Stance compact tripod might just be the solution to that problem.

A tripod that is smaller than a pack of gum? Yep, Stance definitely is, weighing in at just 34 grams and having dimensions of 24 x 12 x 79 mm. But more important than its portability is its actual usability. It mounts directly into your smartphone’s charging port (and they claim they won’t damage the port, so you can breathe easy there) so you can use your device properly, either to take pictures remotely or to watch a video without your arms aching from holding it. It uses MicroMount that is made up of Grilamid, a “durable, resilient composite material” to ensure that it will definitely hold.

Stance has a ball-and-socket joint that makes it easy to manuever your phone into whatever position you would like it to be in whether you’re watching your favorite show’s latest TV episode or taking a picture with a self timer. You can also use it when doing time-lapse videos or long exposure photography. Its base has a premium zinc-alloy, non-slip feet to make it more stable as you go about your business.

The Stance compact tripod is available for only $29.95 on the Kenu website. Oh, and one more thing that it can do? It can open a bottle of beer for you when you’re not using it to prop up your smartphone.

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SOURCE: Kenu

Oppo R5 Review

Posted by wicked December - 7 - 2014 - Sunday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Thin and sleek design
  • Solid build quality
  • Fantastic display
  • Easy of use
CONS
  • Poor battery life
  • Subpar camera
  • Software bugs
7.5

The Oppo R5 is beautifully crafted, elegantly designed, and is one of the thinnest smartphones in the world, but Oppo’s choice of form over function comes with a cost.

Oppo isn’t the most well-known outside of its home market, but things have been changing for the Chinese company over the last year or so. With some fantastic devices on offer that often come with some unique capabilities, Oppo has been pushing the boundaries in terms of design. One such device is the Oppo R5, which is, for now, the thinnest smartphone available, with an extraordinary thickness of just 4.85 mm. Does this design choice lead to compromises that cannot be ignored? We find out, and more, in this comprehensive review of the Oppo R5!

Design

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Oppo devices always come with a solid build quality, and the Oppo R5 is no exception. The R5 is made using very premium materials, with a full glass panel up front, along with metal sides and back, save for plastic inserts on the back cover, which are likely included to alleviate any network connectivity issues. In the hand, the phone feels extremely sleek, but is not too slippery, considering how much metal has been used. The flat sides ensure that the device is easy to hold on to, and grip isn’t a problem with the R5.

Oppo R5-32

The big story with the Oppo R5 is of course its thickness, or rather, lack thereof. At just 4.85 mm thick, this is the thinnest smartphone currently available to consumers. This does result in the camera protruding quite significantly from the body though, which could cause some issues with durability, even if that hasn’t been a problem yet. If you are someone who likes texting while the phone is flat on a table, the back and forth rocking, because of the protruding camera, can get very annoying.

Oppo R5-28

Going around the device, the volume rocker and power button are on the right side, and are easily reachable. The buttons are also made of metal and come with a solid click to them. On the bottom is the microUSB port and a microphone, and the SIM card slot can be found along the lower half of the left side. You may be wondering about the lack of a headphone jack and external speaker, which is the first compromise made to accommodate the ultra-thin design language. This is, of course, a conscious decision on the part of Oppo to go with form over function, but that doesn’t mean that listening to audio isn’t possible.

Oppo R5-13

If you want to listen to music using earphones, you can still do so, but only with the proprietary earbuds that come with the device. These earphones plug directly into the microUSB port, and works and sounds just as if it was plugged into a headphone jack. Of course, the biggest downside here is you can’t use your own headphones with the device, until an adapter is available. While this earphones don’t offer the best audio experience available, it is still better than nothing at all. When it comes to an external speaker, the earpiece actually doubles as one. The quality is pretty average though, and doesn’t get too loud.

Display

Oppo R5-30

When it comes to the display, you get a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 423 ppi. Quad HD may be the future for smartphones, but there is little to complain about with the display of the Oppo R5. Colors are vibrant and saturated, viewing angles are great, and you get the deep blacks that you would with any AMOLED display. The display is capable of getting really bright, which is great for outdoor visibility, but it also gets pretty dim, so you don’t have to strain your eyes when trying to read at night.

Performance

Oppo R5-18

Under the hood, the Oppo R5 packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, along with the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 615 is Qualcomm’s mid-range 64-bit processor, but since the software is still 32-bit, it doesn’t take full advantage of the processor. Regardless, performance is still impressive, with apps opening and closing quickly, smooth animations, and processor-intensive games working without dropped frames or lag.

Oppo R5-3

Multitasking is fine as well, but a little slow, due to the fact that you have to long press the menu button every time you want to access the Recent Apps screen, so this is a case of poor implementation, rather than poor performance. The only real problem with performance is with the keyboard. You cannot use third-party keyboards, as the device reboots every time you try to switch, and while this will likely be fixed with a future software update, it is still quite annoying nonetheless.

Camera

Oppo R5-11

In terrms of the camera, you get a 13 MP rear shooter, with a Sony sensor, and a LED flash. The camera software interface is simple, clean, and intuitive. There isn’t much in terms of manual control, outside of expert mode, so taking photos and videos is relatively straightforward. The camera settings are tucked away in the bottom left corner, and there is a slide out panel on the right side for all your different shooting modes.

The app can get a little cumbersome to use though, especially while shooting in landscape orientation, as not everything on the screen rotates. For example, the camera settings stay locked in portrait, so every time you may want to change the settings, you will either have to read everything sideways, or flip the phone back into portrait orientation. The same occurs when using the beautify mode, where you’ll notice that none of the faces or text rotates to landscape, creating a very inconsistent and frustrating experience.

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On the plus side, the camera does have a pretty fast shutter speed, so it is really easy to rapidly fire off some shots in succession. The picture quality is unfortunately not that impressive though. While 13 MP allows for plenty of detail, there is tendency of over exposure, resulting in a lot of overblown highlights. Indoor shots are certainly better, with a little more color and detail, but it definitely takes a few tries to get the perfect image.

Shooting in normal mode result in some poor looking low light shots, with an increase in noise levels and softer details, which is very surprising for a lens with an f/2.0 aperture. Oppo has included a slow shutter mode, that keeps the shutter open a lot longer to pull in more light, and it actually works quite well. Photos are brighter and sharper, with not as much noise, but you’ll need steady hands to avoid blurry photos.

ULTRA HD mode, that allows you to take 50 MP shots, has been a staple feature with Oppo devices, and makes a return with the R5. It is a neat software trick that stitches a series of images together, but it does work. The images are definitely sharper and with more detail, even if the camera takes a bit of time to process the image. This images are also quite big, so with only 16 GB of on-board storage, and no microSD expansion, you may run out of space.

Battery

Oppo R5-34

As mentioned, there have been some compromises made to allow for the slim form factor of the Oppo R5, and that is seen with the small, 2,000 mAh battery of the device. With the various phones I’ve got to use over the past few years, this is the first instance in which the battery life can unfortunately be described as terrible. I’ve managed to get only 10 to 12 hours of battery life with up to 2 hours of screen-on time, which really makes you wonder whether creating the thinnest smartphone was worth such a big negative.

The good news is that the R5 also comes with Oppo’s VOOC rapid charging technology, which promises a charge of up to 75% in just 30 minutes. I wasn’t able to test it out, as it wasn’t a US charger, but even with regular charging, the charging speed was quite fast.

Software

Oppo R5-25

In terms of software, the R5 is running Oppo’s own ColorOS 2.0, based on Android 4.4 Kitkat. While the latest iteration of the ColorOS hasn’t changed that much in terms of aesthetics, the settings menu has taken on a much darker look, and the gesture panel has been moved to the bottom. The change in placement of the gesture panel is helpful, as you don’t have to worry about it accidentally opening it up while trying to access the notification shade.

oppo r5 first look (12 of 18)

The gesture panel still works like before, with some preset gestures for apps like the camera and flash already available, along with the option to create your own gestures for others. These gestures can also be triggered when the screen is off, allowing quick and easy access to the applications of your choice. As mentioned, the power button is positioned very nicely and is easy to reach, but the built-in tap to wake feature is also very handy.

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Other features include air gestures, that allows you to wave your hand over the phone to scroll through home screens and photos in your gallery. I found this to be extremely sensitive though, so much so that even tilting the phone slightly would trigger it, which means that I ended up keeping this feature turned off.

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The theme app is probably one of my favorite features of the ColorOS. It allows you to change the look of the icons, folders, wallpaper, and lockscreen, so if you don’t like the default look, you can change it. It’s a very well fleshed out app, with a lot of themes to pick from, so you should be able to find at least a few themes that suit your tastes.

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

Oppo hasn’t set an official release date for the US yet, but when it does come out, it will likely cost around $500. Another thing to watch out for is that although the R5 does support 3G and LTE connectivity, there are different versions available that support different bands, so may need to check for the version that works best with your network carrier.

Oppo R5-7

So, there you have it – the Oppo R5!  There is no denying that the R5 is beautiful, very well made, and is one of the thinnest smartphones in the world. There have been a few compromises made along the way though. If you’re willing to excuse the lack a headphone jack and a dedicated external speaker, and can work around the less than desirable battery life, the Oppo R5 will certainly turn heads. Unfortunately for me, the compromises are just too great for the device’s good looks to overcome.

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