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One Billion Android smartphones shipped globally in 2014

Posted by wicked January - 30 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

2014 was a big year for Android devices according to research firm Strategy Analytics. The company tracks smartphone shipments around the world and its data shows that a billion Android smartphones shipped globally in 2014. According to the metrics, global smartphone shipments grew 30% during the year reaching a total of 1.3 billion units.

Android smartphones made up 81% of all smartphones shipped during the year and 2014 marked the first time in history that Android units shipped over a billion devices. In 2013 global smartphone shipments reached 1 billion total. For 2014 Android shipped as many units as the entire smartphone market did the previous year.

The closest operating system to Android for 2014 was iOS with Apple shipping 192.7 million iOS smartphones globally making it a distant second place. iOS had a 15% share of the smartphone market for 2014.

Microsoft shipped 38.8 million smartphones to grab 3% of the global smartphone market. All other smartphone OS’ accounted for 9.3 million devices shipped, giving all other operating systems a scant 0.7% of the market.

SOURCE: StrategyAnalytics

Elephone P6000 review

Posted by wicked January - 29 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off




Never autoplay videos

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Great value for the money
  • Promise of Android 5.0 upgrade soon
  • One of the first Chinese handsets with a 64-bit processor
  • Good to see microSD and dual-SIM here
CONS
  • Single rear speaker which can become muffled
  • Camera struggles in low-light
  • Battery life is OK, but could be better
8.0

64-bit processors are on the verge of becoming mainstream on Android devices, and the P6000 is one of the first smartphones from an Asian OEM that uses such a processor. The Elephone P6000 is a 5 inch device with a quad-core 64-bit Cortex-A53 based processor. If you haven’t heard of Elephone, that is because it isn’t that well known in the west (yet). But one thing is for sure, it is a rapidly growing company and the P6000 is a good example of what it can manufacture.

elephone-p6000-00010

Specs

In short, the Elephone P6000 is powered by a quad-core Cortex-A53 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 1.5 GHz, quad-core MediaTek MTK6732, 64-bit, Cortex-A53
GPU ARM MALI-T760
RAM 2GB
Storage 16GB, microSD card slot, up to 64GB
Camera 13 Megapixel Rear Camera, 2MP Front Camera
Battery 2700 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. Android 5.0 coming soon.
Dimensions 144.5 x 71.6 x 8.9 mm, 165g
SIM slots Dual-SIM: 2xMicro SIM

Design

Moving on to the design and build, the first thing that struck me about this device was how solid it felt. The weight, the case, and the construction make the device feel sturdy. This is also helped by the thickness. At 8.9m it isn’t ultra-thin (which in my book makes some devices feel too delicate) but it isn’t overly thick either.

In terms of design language, we are talking black and grey with rounded edges. Most of the phone’s exterior is made up of the the back battery cover. There are no separate edges per se, but rather a deep removable casing that includes the edges. Even the volume rocker is part of the back cover.

elephone-p6000-00033

Interestingly, Elephone has tried to make this a little more elegant by sloping the cover edges downwards at the corners. This gives the side of the phone a slight curved look as the cover slides downwards and the screen starts to take over.

On the front is the 5 inch , 720p display, the front facing camera, and a set of blue capacitive keys on the bottom. The home key glows when used, and also flashes when you have a notification. However, the back and menu keys don’t have a back light.

Down the right-hand side are the volume rocker and the power button. Both are easily accessible when the phone is held in your left hand, however they might be a little too close together. Sometimes I found myself turning the phone off by mistake when I wanted to adjust the volume.

On the top you will find the 3.5mm headphone jack, while on the bottom edge is the micro-USB port. Elephone has placed the port off to one side rather than in the middle. It looks different, but at the end of the day makes no difference – for better or for worse.

Flipping the phone over, you will see the prominent Elephone logo, the speaker grill, the flash and the camera lens.

Display

The 5 inch display on the P6000 is very good considering, the price point of this device. It is an IPS display with 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 for a budget device, 720p is more than adequate.

Performance

At the heart of the P6000 is the MediaTek MT6732. It has a quad-core Cortex-A53 based processor which is coupled with a Mali-T760 GPU. This is the first time I have tested a phone with this combination of CPU and GPU, and overall I have been very impressed. During 2015 this kind of CPU/GPU combination will become the norm for low- and mid-range phones.

The Cortex-A53 is ARM’s super power efficient variant from its first generation of 64-bit processors. The MT6732 uses four Cortex-A53 cores all clocked at 1.5GHz. According to Elephone the MT6732 is 20 percent faster than MediaTek’s octa-core Cortex-A7 based processors, but with 30 percent less battery consumption.

Elephone-P6000-GameBench-Riptide

My experience of using the P6000 is that the processor package is fast. The UI is smooth and rapid, in fact it offers the fastest UI that I have personally seen on a Chinese OEM phone. The P6000 handled everything I asked of it including gaming and video.

In terms of benchmarks, the P6000 managed to chalk up 45.5 frames per second on Epic Citadel in Ultra High Quality mode. According to GameBench, the P6000 can run Riptide GP at 54 fps, while Shadow Fight 2 runs at 52 fps. These are all excellent scores and reflect my experience with the device.

Elephone-P6000-Epic-Citadel

Hardware

The phone comes with a 2700 mAh battery, which is slightly less than I expected. I guess the rationale is that the 64-bit Cortex-A53 is more power efficient than the 32-bit Cortex-A7. Once you factor in a 720p display, rather than full HD, then the battery should be OK.

elephone-p6000-00031

What my testing showed is that the battery is OK, but that is all. The battery will last all day (from morning to evening) but it will be running out of juice when you go to bed. On average I was getting around 14 to 15 hours of battery life with around 3.5 hours of screen on time.

I also ran my customary set of tests. On one charge you will be able to play intensive 3D games for at least 3.5 hours. GameBench shows that Riptide GP will run for almost 5 hours. For those into multimedia, you can get about 4.5 hours of YouTube streaming from this device.

Elephone-P6000-Battery

The phone has a single speaker on the back of the device. It certainly is loud but don’t expect too much from it. One small irritation is that the speaker is completely flush with the back cover, this means the sound becomes muffled quite easily when placed on a flat surface.

The P6000 is a dual SIM phone that offers quad-band GSM, which means 2G will work just about anywhere in the world; dual-band 3G, on 900 and 2100MHz; 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. In the USA you will get 2G coverage but that is about it.

The GPS performance is excellent. The device is able to get a lock easily outdoors and can even get a lock indoors. I tested the P6000 with Nokia Here maps and I was able to use the turn-by-turn navigation without any problems.

The P6000 comes with 2GB of RAM, which is excellent for a phone in this price range. In terms of internal storage, the device comes with 16GB of flash and has a micro-SD card slot which can accept cards up to 64GB. Thankfully, unlike other MediaTek based devices, the internal storage isn’t divided up, you get access to the whole lot, which is around 12GB – once you leave space for Android etc.

Camera

This phone has a 13MP rear facing camera and a 2MP front facing camera. The pictures are crisp and the color reproduction is good. The sensor struggles a bit in low-light situations, but for outdoor shots I was quite impressed.

The included camera app, which looks to be the standard AOSP app, offers a few interesting features including HDR and Panorama. In the settings you can change things like the exposure level, the scene type, the white balance, face detection and so on. Overall, the app is fairly comprehensive but it doesn’t have any advanced modes or filters. You can also install and use third-party apps including Google’s camera app.

Here are some sample shots, judge for yourself:

Software

The P6000 runs stock Android 4.4.4. You get access to Google Play and all of Google’s services like YouTube, Gmail and Maps. Interestingly the device is rooted by default and comes with Chainfire’s SuperSU pre-installed.

Elephone-P6000-Android

However, what is more interesting is that Elephone has promised to release an over-the-air update to upgrade the phone to Android 5.0 lollipop. There is no actual official release date, however it is expected soon.

Price and Wrap up

To sum up, the P6000 is a 4G LTE enabled smartphone, with a 720p HD display and a quad-core 64-bit CPU. The performance is good for this price point, and the promise of Android 5.0 Lollipop is quite enticing. You can pick up an Elephone P6000 for around $160, which when you consider the overall specification of the device, is a great price.

Blu Vivo Air Review

Posted by wicked January - 27 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Thin and lightweight
  • Decent battery life
  • Affordable
CONS
  • Subpar camera
  • Some performance hiccups
  • Lacks LTE
8.0

 The Blu Vivo Air features great build quality in a super thin package, and while it does fall short in a few areas, it is a fantastic smartphone overall, at a very affordable price.

Blu may not be the most well-known of Android OEMs, but the Florida-based phone manufacturer has been continuing to add to an impressive portfolio of high-quality but affordable smartphones over the past few years. Blu took the wraps off several new smartphones at CES 2015 earlier this month, and today, we’ll be taking a closer look  at one of these. Also serving as the thinnest smartphone currently available in the US, here is our in-depth review of the Blu Vivo Air!

Design

BLU Vivo Air-1

Great design and build quality isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about mid-range smartphones, but that is a trend that is rapidly changing, and continues with the Vivo Air. Admittedly, there are elements that seem to be borrowed from other more popular smartphones, but that is true of quite a few devices these days, and isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

BLU Vivo Air-10

The Blu Vivo Air comes with Gorilla Glass 3 panels on the front and back, with a solid aluminium frame sandwiched in between. Combined with the fact that the device is only 5.1 mm thick, and weighs just 97 grams, what you get with the Vivo Air is a solid, yet sleek and lightweight smartphone.

BLU Vivo Air-4

On the right side is the SIM card slot, while the bottom is where you’ll find the microUSB port and the headphone jack. The volume rocker and the power button are placed on the left side, and protrude quite bit from the body of the phone, making them easy to find while also offering a good tactile feel. The power button placement can take some getting used to depending on which device you’re switching from, but it is very easy to reach, and the learning curve isn’t as steep as you might initially believe. Standard capacitive keys are found up front below the display, with a single speaker placed on the back.

BLU Vivo Air-7

With the curved metal sides and the glass back, the expectation is that the device might prove to be quite slippery, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case. Its relatively compact size, with its 4.8-inch display coming with thin bezels along its sides, and its thickness, or lack thereof, means that this device is very easy to grip. One handed use is also very comfortable, which is certainly refreshing, given the considerable size of most smartphones available nowadays.

Display

BLU Vivo Air-29

As mentioned, the Vivo Air features a 4.8-inch display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 306 ppi. In this day and age, seeing 720p is automatically a bit of a turn off, but it is still good enough of a resolution for a display of this size. Viewing angles and brightness are great, and AMOLED technology brings with it everything we love about it including deeps blacks, saturated colors, and high contrast ratios. It may not be the sharpest display out there, but I had no complaints in my usage, with the display providing a solid experience when watching videos or playing games.

Performance and Hardware

BLU Vivo Air-13

Under the hood, the Blu Vivo Air packs a fairly standard processing package that can be found with most smartphones in this price range, with its octa-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, backed by the Mali-450 GPU and 1 GB of RAM.

BLU Vivo Air-19

MediaTek processors have historically not exactly been known to deliver great performance, especially when compared to their Qualcomm Snapdragon counterparts, and the story is pretty much the same here with the Vivo Air. While tasks like loading applications and playing games seem to perform just fine, it’s in the everyday general use that I noticed some performance hiccups. Swiping through homescreens and social media feeds often resulted in some choppiness and dropped frames. Of course, this could also be due to a lack of software optimization, but whatever the cause, it does become very noticeable. That said, this doesn’t necessarily slow you down from getting around the OS, but is rather annoying from an aesthetic point of view.

BLU Vivo Air-30

On the hardware front, the Vivo Air comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, with no expansion option available, so you may need to rely on cloud storage for all your memory needs. Connectivity is also limited to HSPA+, but in my experience, it was still fast enough for everyday tasks including watching videos on Youtube, and I didn’t find myself missing LTE all that much. The device is also available unlocked, and can work with any GSM carrier, including AT&T and T-Mobile.

BLU Vivo Air-5

The speaker is located on the back of the phone at the bottom right corner, and as is the case with most similar setups, it is fairly easy to cover up with your finger, or while the device is placed on a surface. The sound quality is just about average, and while it does get the job done well enough, you shouldn’t expect anything spectacular from this rear-facing single speaker.

When it come to the battery, the Vivo Air packs a 2,100 mAh unit, which is somewhat small, but is an understandable sacrifice, given how thin the device is. With light use, including texting, reading social media feeds, light browsing, and gaming kept at a minimum, it is generally easy to get a full day of use out of the device, but anything heavier may require you to charge it again at some point during the day. With the battery going to below 10 percent, I was able to get 4 to 5 hours of screen-on time, with 12 to 15 hours off the charger, during a typical day.

A CPU power saving mode is included in the Settings to help you get the most out of your battery, but something to keep in mind is that this does limit CPU performance in favor of better battery life, so it’s best to only use it when you need it.

Camera

BLU Vivo Air-9

The Blu Vivo Air comes with an 8 MP rear camera with LED flash, and a 5 MP front-facing unit. When it comes to the camera software, the device actually features two camera applications. The first is a very basic camera app, with just the essential features like HDR, panorama, and a few other additional settings. While the experience is pretty straightforward, the only gripe I really had with the app is that the settings did not rotate to landscape. So when wanting to change the settings while taking a picture, I would have to rotate the phone back to portrait to do so, which got pretty annoying over time.

BLU Vivo Air-3

The secondary camera app is called the CharmCam, and this can be accessed through the main camera app or directly from the home screen. The CharmCam allows for more customization, so you can have a little more fun with your photos. Features include things like beauty mode to make you look better by softening the details in your face, and a makeup mode to give you the appearance of wearing makeup.

You can also apply live filters, stamps to images, as well as a very useful feature called PPT. With PPT, the camera will focus on powerpoint presentations, whiteboards, books, or anything with text, and basically crop out everything from the image except the area with text. You can also group all the images together into a single pdf file for easy printing, which could be extremely useful if you’re a high school or college student.

As far as the actual image quality is concerned, the images look quite good on the 4.8-inch screen, but not so much when they are blown up on a computer. The focus tends to be very hit or miss, with colors appearing flat, and details lacking the sharpness that you would want in a photo. HDR also doesn’t help out as much as I expected. Images are brighter with a little bit more detail, but colors still appear very muted. In low light, the camera doesn’t fare much better, and while increase in noise levels is to be expected, the slow autofocus and shutter speed times make the camera unreliable in night time situations.

Software

BLU Vivo Air-24

On the software side of things, the Vivo Air is running Android 4.4 Kitkat, with BLU’s custom skin. It’s not an overly intrusive skin, but it does provide for a very different experience from stock Android. For starters, swiping left on the lock screen will give you access to the camera, sound recorder, and flashlight, all without unlocking the phone. You can even fake a phone call to get you out of a predicament, which is hilarious, but could be useful for a lot of people.

The traditional app drawer is also missing, which means that all your apps will reside on your homescreens, similar to what we’ve seen from a lot of Chinese smartphones. You’ll have to depend on folders to keep things from getting too cluttered, and you do always have the option to download a third party launcher for a more standard home screen experience. The overlay also brings some customization to the table like themes, although you’re only limited to a few at the moment, and fancy home screen animations. You’ll also find a series of smart gestures like smart dial, smart answer, double tap to wake, and gestures to quickly open apps without waking up the display. They’re all features we’ve seen before in some other phones so it’s not exactly groundbreaking, but they’re still really useful nonetheless.

Specifications

Display 4.8-inch AMOLED display
720p resolution, 306 ppi
Processor 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592 processor
Mali-450 GPU
RAM 1 GB
Storage 16 GB, not expandable
Camera 8 MP rear camera, LED flash
5 MP front camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.0
microUSB 2.0
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Networks GSM/HSPA
Battery 2,100 mAh
Software Android 4.4 Kitkat
Dimensions 139.8 x 67.4 x 5.1 mm
97 grams

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Blu Vivo Air is available for $200 on Amazon in white and gold or black with a gunmetal trim. This price point is certainly great for what this device offers, especially in terms of looks and build quality. That said, the competition in this space is certainly heating up, and 2015 should be the year where we see a whole lot of high quality but affordable smartphones that fall in this price range.

BLU Vivo Air-27

So there you have it – the Blu Vivo Air! As mentioned, there are only a handful of phones that will offer the kind of build quality and design at this price range. The phone is not without its shortcomings of course, with an underwhelming camera, some performance hiccups, and the lack of LTE connectivity, but for $200, some consumers may be okay with that.

Buy now!

Best Verizon prepaid Android phones

Posted by wicked January - 21 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Verizon logo ces [aa] (2)

Verizon Wireless isn’t necessarily known for their massive selection of prepaid devices, but there are a few Android phones out there that stand above the rest. While there are many high-end offerings, most of them aren’t cheap. So with this in mind, we’ll look at the top two best Verizon prepaid devices, followed by the top three best ‘budget’ prepaid devices.

Editors note – we will be updating this list as more devices hit the market.


Best high-end prepaid devices

#1 – Samsung Galaxy S5

The follow up to last year’s immensely popular S4, the Galaxy S5 from Samsung doesn’t disappoint. This time around, Samsung has added a slew of new health tracking features and a fingerprint sensor, all while still offering top of the line specifications in their most popular handset. With it’s 5.1-inch 1080p display, 16MP rear-facing camera, big 2800mAh battery, and the added ruggedness thanks to its water and dust resistance, we think you’ll be happy with the S5.

The Galaxy S5 can be found directly through Verizon’s website for $599.99.

Specs

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • Removable 2800mAh battery
  • 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm, 145g
  • Shimmery White, Charcoal Black
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy now for $599.99


#2 – HTC One M8

Dozens of good Android phones came out last year, across budgets and niches. At the top, where competition is fiercest, we were spoiled with more choices than ever. One of the best devices released last year was the HTC 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. While the 4MP UltraPixel camera isn’t for everyone, it offers a slew of interesting camera features and a secondary depth sensor. Thanks to its 5-inch 1080p screen, Snapdragon 801 processor, decent battery life and expandable memory, the HTC One M8 still remains one of the best and most reliable Android devices to date.

You can grab the HTC One M8 directly through Verizon for $599.99.

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, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 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 (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy now for $599.99


Best budget-friendly prepaid devices

#1 – Motorola Moto G (1st Generation)

The Motorola Moto G is Moto’s first real attempt at a budget-friendly smartphone. The original Moto G was one of our favorite smartphones of 2013. It offered an insanely low price without sacrificing too much when it came to software or hardware. It boasts a 4.5-inch 720p display, great battery life and a stock Android experience. It fits great in the hand and doesn’t feel like a budget phone by any means.

You can find the Motorola Moto G directly through Verizon for $99.99, though Amazon is currently offering it for around $70. For one of 2013’s best smartphones, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal than this. Honestly unless you have some personal reason for not choosing Motorola, this is by far the best deal on this list.

Specs

  • 4.5-inch IPS LCD with 720 x 1280 resolution
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm A7 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, no microSD card support
  • 5MP rear cam, 1.3MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2070mAh battery
  • 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6 mm, 143g
  • Black
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (Lollipop update rolling out now)

Read more

Buy now for $67.88


#2 – HTC Desire 612

htc-desire-612

HTC has been very successful in the mid-range market for quite some time, and the Desire 612 is no exception. It has a perfectly-sized 4.7-inch display, 8MP rear-facing camera and a 2040mAh battery that should last you the entire day on a shingle charge. While it only has 8GB of on-board storage, it is microSD compatible for up to 128GB of extra storage. This device is small, sleek and should offer a great Android experience, especially when the device gets its Android 5.0 Lollipop update.

The prepaid HTC Desire 612 can be found on Verizon’s website for $199.99.

Specs

  •  4.7-inch LCD2 display with 540 x 960 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 8MP rear cam, 1.3MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2040mAh battery
  • 143.8 x 70.4 x 9.4 mm, 146g
  • Black
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Buy now for $199.99


#3 – LG Transpyre

lgpre_1024-x-640

LG has a number of great low-cost options on Verizon, but we’re partial to the LG Transpyre. The display is a bit small at only 4.5-inches, but it keeps the phone compact and easy to handle. While there’s only 8GB of internal storage on the device, you can use up to a 32GB microSD card to store music, movies and more. Also, the removable 2100mAh battery should be enough to get through the day on a single charge. If you’re not a fan of the Motorola Moto G (listed above), this may be your next best option.

You can pick up your own LG Transpyre through Verizon’s website for $99.99.

Specs

  • 4.5-inch LCD display with 480 x 800 resolution
  • 1.2GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 32GB
  • 5MP rear cam, 1.3MP front cam
  • Removable 2100mAh battery
  • 127.5 x 67.8 x 10.7 mm, 142g
  • Black
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Buy now for $99.99


How do like our list? Is there any device you’d add or remove when it comes to pricing categories? Let us know your opinions in the comments!

Report: Chinese OEMs accounted for 40% of phone sales in 2014

Posted by wicked January - 21 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off
flagship smartphones aa (13 of 18)

They might all frolic together, but they are most certainly not birds-of-a-feather when it comes to sales.

These days it seems like there is a lot of focus on two big issues in the mobile world: China and Samsung. Specifically, Chinese mobile brands and their explosive growth, and the gradual sales decline that Samsung is facing as a result. Names like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Oppo have little brand value (if any) to people residing outside of Asia, but inside the continent things are a very different story, especially in major developing countries like China and India. The latest bit of news only confirms this.

Now is a very good time to be a phone maker, according to a report by IT analyst firm TrendForce. Specifically, in 2014, global smartphone shipments increased by 25.9% over those in 2013, totaling 1.167 billion units. Now is also a very good time to be an OEM in China, as the same report indicates Chinese makers comprised almost 40% of that total, with combined shipments at 453.4 million units. Take a look:

trendforce Trendforce

Let’s examine the major components of this chart.

samsung galaxy note 4 vs galaxy s5 quick look aa (2 of 7)

These two devices are key to Samsung’s international success, but perhaps not so in China or other developing countries, where their high price point makes them a prohibitive purchase.

Samsung: While the Korean conglomerate has obviously held onto its #1 position for the past three years, it’s no small print to read the writing on the wall: its market share is eroding, having fallen from 32.5% at the start of 2013 to 26.6% at the start of 2015. While sales of the flagship Galaxy S5 were anything but stellar, the handset still managed great results in the USA. In Asia, however, where Chinese OEMs are stealing the thunder with extremely low prices and nice hardware, things are a bit different. This is exactly why Samsung was so eager to release the all-metal Galaxy A series there last year, and soon the Galaxy E series as well. While Samsung will definitely turn heads should it be able to release a truly flexible product this year, the assumed high price point won’t exactly save its market share.

iphone 6 and 6 plus drop test aa (25 of 27)

Apple’s first phablet was certainly what the doctor ordered.

Apple: Interestingly enough, Apple hasn’t really seen any semblance of change, especially in the past year. This may be in part a result of the company’s increased efforts to add new carriers around the world each year. With respect to the past year, the iPhone 6 Plus saw Cupertino’s first phablet, which released to a very warm reception. This is no doubt a cause for concern for Samsung as the iPhone 6 Plus is a direct competitor to its Galaxy Note series, even without the stylus; all those iOS users who might have migrated to the Note could very well have (or are planning to) returned to Apple to procure its phablet.

motorola lenovo logo

Expect some big things from Motorola now that it has Lenovo’s full attention and financial support.

Lenovo: Despite it taking almost an entire year to complete the acquisition of Motorola, Lenovo remains the #3 vendor despite the fact that few of its products are available to markets outside of Asia. With Motorola now in tow, the company has direct access to the company’s comfort zone in North America, and can now benefit from products such as the Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E, not to mention the Nexus 6, thus offering the potential for next year’s results to show growth. It should be noted that Motorola and Lenovo are listed together in 2014 because the merger had been announced, though as mentioned, it wasn’t completed until more recently, hence 2015 reading just one company.

lg curved edge display (4)

With products like this dual-edged display, LG may very well have another big year in 2015.

LG: Perhaps the biggest non-Chinese success story here, the other Korean company has seen its market share increase due to products such as the LG G2 and G3, not to mention some more creative offerings such as Flex (though how much of a difference that made on the balance sheet is another matter). As the first major company to offer a 2K display on a mobile phone, for all intents-and-purposes, LG’s G3 out-speced the Galaxy S5 given that only the Korean Category 6 Broadbad LTE-A variant S5 made use of a 2K panel: the rest of the world had to make due with a lowly 1080p. With the Flex 2 coming out soon, and the G4 around the bend, the company is potentially set to have another good year. And considering the company’s flexible situation that is supposed to unfold, it might end up being a period of increasing growth.

Sony Logo

It’s truly regrettable, but these days, Sony’s slogan (minus the period) seems to offer a summary of the company’s business plans

Sony: Despite flagships like the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact receiving heaps of praise from critics around the world, Sony just can’t seem to keep its head above water. The company lacks the marketing presence that Samsung has (perhaps a result of its management, perhaps a result of its financial situation) and seemingly makes more news about its mishaps and price points than it does anything smartphone related. Then again when you release a new flagship every six months, even the most die-hard of supporters may call it quits. Although Sony is allegedly going to slow down its product cycle this year, with rumors floating around that it might be looking to offload its smartphone business, there is also a possibility it won’t even be on the charts come this time next year.Xiaomi's latest high-end offering, the Mi Note.

Xiaomi’s latest high-end offering, the Mi Note.

China: With a whopping six companies in the top ten spot, the OEM collective in China is absolutely on fire. Let’s take a more in-depth look at its domestic figures via another chart from TrendForce:

834869001421738733 Trendforce

The big force to be reckoned with here is actually Xiaomi, for its astounding rise to 15.8% market share in just a couple of years. With head-turning products like the just-announced Mi Note series, it’s easy to see why. Assuming the trend here continues, a similar increase in 2015 might actually put it ahead of even Lenovo/Motorola, come next year’s report. Much has been made of various Chinese OEM’s business models, wherein they sell devices primarily (or exclusively) online, and for an extremely low cost despite providing relatively good-or-better specs. This has allowed them to access a large number of users within the country who might live hours away from any kind of flagship store, but who may have internet access.

Chinese Google Play Store Android

One country to rule them all…China’s Android dominance has begun.

2015 will very likely see these companies take more market share away from external rivals, with the most likely culprits being Samsung and Apple, but with LG also potentially at risk. This is true not only inside China, wherein the country is rapidly modernizing and holds the world’s largest potential market of customers, but also around Asia where companies like Xiaomi and Huawei are very eager to get a stronghold on the other major Asian customer explosion: neighboring country India. Should Samsung cede even more Chinese and Indian market share to Huawei or Xiaomi, its 2015 financial results could very well make 2014’s look like a walk in the park.

Wrap-Up: So there you have it: 2014 was a fantastic year for smartphones and Chinese OEMs, but not so much for Samsung or Sony. Any thoughts on the results? Surprised? Not?

Deal: Mount Your Phone or Tablet to Any Surface With the Discounted Neutron S

Posted by Kellex January - 20 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

Have you ever wanted to mount your phone or tablet to the dash of your car on the fly, without one of those giant suction cup arm holders? Or maybe you just want to be able to stick your phone quickly to a board, wall, microwave, cabinet or other surface to keep your hands free for a minute? One option to get you there is the Neutron S. Originally funded in minutes through Kickstarter, the Neutron S is a magnetically shielded mount that can be “installed anywhere” and is now available in the DL Deals shop for $25 ($5 off).

The Neutron S “uses magnetic architecture to generate herculean grip while taking up minimal space,” but also has NFC built-in so that you can configure it to accomplish tasks as you mount a device (think turning on Bluetooth as you mount it in your car to connect to your stereo). The Neutron S attaches to objects using 3M VHB tape that is included with purchase.

Deal Link 

Deal: Mount Your Phone or Tablet to Any Surface With the Discounted Neutron S is a post from: Droid Life

Best AT&T Prepaid Android Phones

Posted by wicked January - 20 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

samsung galaxy s5 aa (16 of 36)

As good at the moment as it may be to be able to buy a flagship smartphone that costs upwards of $800 at a subsidized rate, not everyone is looking to get tied down in a 2-year contractual commitment to do so. Luckily, there are a lot of decent options when it comes to buying phones off-contract and opting for a prepaid plan. Apart from a slew of prepaid carriers, major network operators like T-Mobile and AT&T also offer such devices. Today, we’ll be exploring some of the best prepaid smartphones available from AT&T.


#1 Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the best Android smartphone you can get if you decide to opt for a prepaid GO plan from AT&T. As is the case with any Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S5 packs a host of software and hardware features, including the new additions of a fingerprint scanner up front, integrated into the physical home button, along with a heart rate monitor at the back. Samsung’s TouchWiz UI on top of Android 4.4 Kitkat, which should soon be upgraded to Android 5.0 Lollipop, means that there is no shortage software enhancements either.

Of course, since you will be buying this device off-contract, you will have to pay the full price for this high-end smartphone. In the case of AT&T, that number is $649.

Specs

  • 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 1920 resolution
  • 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB
  • 16MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • Removable 2800mAh battery
  • 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm, 145g
  • Shimmery White
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy from Amazon for $649


#2 Motorola Moto G 4G LTE

Not to be confused with the current iteration of the Moto G, the Motorola Moto G 4G LTE comes with features and specifications identical to the first generation device, while allowing you to take advantage of high-speed internet connectivity on AT&T’s 4G LTE network.

The Moto G 4G LTE will also receive Android 5.0 Lollipop soon, and while it is starting to show its age on the specifications front, it is still a fantastic option for those on a budget, with its impressive price point of just $179.99 off-contract.

Specs

  • 4.5-inch LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 3G/GSM
  • 4G LTE and microSD
  • 8GB and 16GB storage options
  • 5MP rear cam, 1.3MP front cam
  • 2070 mAh battery
  • 143g weight, 129.9 x 65.9 x 11.6mm
  • Removable colored backs
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Read more

Buy from Amazon for $179.99


#3 Asus Padfone X Mini

padfone-mini-x

If you’re in the market for a smartphone and a tablet, but are on a budget, the Asus Padfone X Mini might be the answer. As is the case with most mini iterations of flagship devices, the Padfone X Mini is decidedly mid-range in its specifications, featuring a 4.5-inch display, an Intel Atom processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of expandable storage on-board.

Of course, the great news with this device is the fact that the phone can be docked into a Padfone Station to then use it as a 7-inch tablet with a display resolution of 1280 x 800, and a 2,200 mAh battery. Granted, you can’t use it as a tablet without the phone, but with the phone features carrying over to the tablet, including making and receiving calls, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. With an off-contract price of just $149.74, the Padfone X Mini is certainly a great option for those wanting a single device that can serve as both a phone and a tablet.

Specs

  • 4.5-inch IPS LCD display, 480 x 854 resolution, 218 ppi
  • Intel Atom Z2560 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB internal storage, expandable up to 64 GB
  • 5 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 3G/4G LTE
  • 132.1 x 66.3 x 12.7 mm, 148.8 grams
  • Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
  • Padfone Station: 7-inch IPS LCD display, 1280 x 800 resolution, 1 MP front camera, 2,200 mAh battery

Buy from Amazon for $149.74


#4 HTC Desire 610

HTC’s penchant for great design and build quality makes its way over to even its budget-friendly offerings, and that is exactly what you get with the HTC Desire 610. Even with its plastic build, the phone certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap in the hand. Also available is HTC’s signature front-facing BoomSound speakers, which may not pack as much of a punch as its more expensive siblings, but is still one of the better audio experiences you can get, especially at this price point.

The Snapdragon 400 processor performs quite well, and the Sense UI keeps things running smoothly and lag free. Except for the qHD display, the Desire 610 is a worthy competitor to the Moto G, with an equally impressive price point of just $139.99.

Specs

  • 4.7 inch qHD (960×540) display
  • 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front camera
  • 8GB internal storage, expandable up to 64GB
  • 2040 mAh battery
  • 3G/4G LTE
  • 143.1 x 70.5 x 9.6 mm, 143.5 grams
  • Dual front stereo speakers

Learn More:

Buy from Amazon for $139.99


#5 ZTE Compel

zte-compel

The ZTE Compel is an entry-level smartphone available from AT&T. While the specifications are decent, with its 4-inch display with 480 x 800 resolution, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, and 1 GB RAM, what is great about this device is the fact that it can also take advantage of AT&T’s 4G LTE network for high-speed internet access.

At a price point of $69.99, the ZTE Compel is a fantastic smartphone for anyone looking for a good entry point into the world of Android.

Specs

  • 4-inch TFT display, 480 x 800 resolution, 233 ppi
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable up to 32 GB
  • 3G/4G LTE
  • 5 MP rear camera
  • 1,820 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4. Kitkat

Buy from AT&T for $69.99


While there a few options available, none of these smartphones are anywhere near the latest and greatest, instead mostly comprising of good mid-range and entry-level smartphones. The good news is that a lot of unlocked smartphones can work on AT&T’s network, so you do have the choice the pick one up separately and subscribe to AT&T’s Prepaid GO plans.

Looking for a good unlocked phone to bring over to AT&T’s GoPhone service? Some of the best budget-friendly choices include the following:

 

None of these do it for you? Don’t forget to check out our roundups of the best Android smartphones, and the best budget-friendly smartphones currently available.

Samsung Galaxy A5 Review

Posted by wicked January - 20 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Aluminium build feels great
  • Fast and accurate camera
  • Snappy performance
  • Beautiful screen
CONS
  • Awkward location for speaker grill
  • Status-quo Samsung design
  • Chrome around lip chips easily
8.5

As expected the Samsung Galaxy A5 does not disappoint and is a great mid-range offering from the company. While it looks the same as the last few generations, the change in the build material from plastic to metal finally allows for the premium feel in the hand that many have been waiting for.

There’s no denying that Samsung goes all out with their smartphones, packing them to near bursting point with tons of special features and generally cutting edge specs. Special features and hardware aside, one point of contention has always been the use of plastic, making even premium devices feel somewhat cheap. The good news is that Samsung began turning over a new leaf by introducing the metal-framed Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4. More recently, Samsung also introduced a couple of mid-range smartphones that featured a full metal unibody metal construction. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at one of these devices, in this in-depth review of the Samsung Galaxy A5!

Design

Samsung-A5-1

As mentioned, the marquee feature of the Samsung Galaxy A5 is its full metal unibody construction. Apart from the change in build material, the general design language of the device remains largely the same as the many other Samsung smartphones available.

Samsung-A5-15

The signature home button returns up front, flanked by capacitive back and Recent Apps keys, with the 13 MP camera on the back placed at the usual position, along the top and in the center. On the right is the power button and dual SIM card slots, on the left is the volume rocker, with the headphone jack and the microUSB port found at the bottom. The rear camera is flanked by the LED flash and the speaker grill.

Samsung-A5-9

Despite its aluminium construction, the Galaxy A5 is quite light at just 123 grams, and is one of the thinnest smartphones in the company’s portfolio at just 6.7 mm. With the phone being as thin as it is, the rear camera module does protrude a little bit, and while the device doesn’t sit flush with a surface, it remains well balanced and doesn’t rock back and forth.

Samsung-A5-6

The Samsung Galaxy A5 is light and sleek, and finally offers the premium feeling in the hand that consumers have been calling for. If this is an indication of what we can expect from Samsung’s upcoming flagship, a lot of people are going to be very happy.

Display

Samsung-A5-7

Given its mid-range nature, the Galaxy A5 packs a 5-inch Super AMOLED display with a 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi, with the device featuring a decent screen to body ratio of 71%.

As is the case with most Samsung displays, saturation levels are high and colors have a punch to them. If the colors are too vivid for you, you do have the option to change the settings to better suit your liking. Even with a non-flagship resolution, Samsung’s display prowess shines through and you will have a great experience doing anything on this screen.

Performance and Hardware

Samsung-A5-2

Under the hood, the Samsung Galaxy A5 packs a quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, along with the Adreno 306 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. With Android 5.0 Lollipop slowly making its way to more and more devices, this 64-bit processing package is likely what we’ll see with most upcoming mid-range smartphones.

Samsung-A5-12

In terms of performance, the Snapdragon 410 certainly impresses, with day to day usage feeling comparable to even the high-end Snapdragon 805. The device flies through the various elements of the user interface, and all the issues users have faced with TouchWiz lag are nowhere to be seen. Multitasking is a breeze, and gaming is quite good on the device as well. Apart from the most graphic-intensive of games, the Galaxy A5 handles gaming smoothly, without any lag.

The Galaxy A5 comes with 16 GB of on-board storage, which is further expandable up to 64 GB. A full suite of connectivity options are available, including support for LTE, which works on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks for high-speed internet access. Dual microSIM slots are also available, ideal for users who travel internationally.

Samsung-A5-9

As mentioned, the speaker grill is positioned on the back next to the rear camera, which proves to be somewhat awkward, especially while using the phone in landscape orientation. While watching videos or playing games, it is quite easy to cover up the speaker grill, and the placement also makes the sound lack depth and a sense of direction. Using the speakerphone is fine, but when listening to music, all the issues related to a single speaker setup show up.

 

On the battery front, the Galaxy A5 features a 2,300 mAh unit which is not removable. This is an unfortunate compromise that had to be made to accommodate the new unibody design, and might leave some Samsung fans who appreciated the replaceable battery setup unhappy. The performance of the battery is quite good, and you should be able to easily get a full day of use out of this phone.

Camera

Samsung-A5-11

Samsung recognizes that the camera is an important feature for a lot of users and packs even their mid-range devices with high quality cameras, which is the case with the Galaxy A5. The 13 MP rear shooter is an extremely quick camera, and provides very clean images. For a smartphone camera, the depth of field is also quite impressive.

Samsung-A5-13

In good lighting, images appear bright and vivid, and the quality remains quite good even as the lighting conditions deteriorate. There is a bit more grain to the images and they sometimes lack color, but it is still one of the better low light cameras out there.

Samsung-A5-10

The front-facing camera is a 5 MP unit, but the images are lacking in detail and color, and depends on the software to compensate for that. A Beautify Mode is on by default, but it doesn’t always result in the best images.

Samsung-A5-14

On the camera software side of things, it isn’t as feature packed as you may be used to with Samsung cameras, with only a few shooting modes available. While more can be downloaded from the Samsung store, the available options are quite limited. A slide out menu on the right includes some additional settings such as white balance and ISO, along with voice activated pictures and hand gesture settings to make taking selfies very easy.

The 13 MP rear shooter of the Galaxy A5 is equally impressive as the 16 MP camera of the flagship Galaxy S5, with image quality at par with each other, even if there are a few more shooting modes available with the latter.

Software

Samsung-A5-3

Out of the box, the Galaxy A5 is running Android 4.4 Kitkat, of course, with TouchWiz on top. There are three screens by default, with a swipe to the left giving you access to Flipboard, and pressing and holding on the screen lets you select various homescreen functions, settings, or add widgets.

Samsung-A5-4

Apart from a few Samsung applications like S Planner, Voice Recorder, and My Files, the software is otherwise free of any bloatware. A contributing factor is also fact that the Galaxy A5 isn’t linked to a network carrier in the US, which does tend to add its fair share of bloatware to the overall software experience.

Samsung-A5-5

TouchWiz seems to have been watered down in its current iteration, and isn’t as in your face as it may have been before. Lot of reports suggest that Samsung is moving to a more stock-like version of its software with its upcoming flagship, and while TouchWiz is still TouchWiz in a lot of ways, the decided lack of additional applications and features is very noticeable.

Specifications

Screen 5-inch Super AMOLED display
720p resolution, 294 ppi
Size and Weight 139.3 x 69.7 x 6.7 mm
123 grams
Cameras 13 MP rear camera
5 MP front-facing camera
Memory and Storage 2 GB RAM
16 GB storage, expandable up to 64 GB
Processor 1.2 GHz quad-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410
Adreno 306 GPU
Sensors GPS, Accelerometer, Compass, Proximity
Networks 3G/4G LTE
Wireless Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.0
Ports micro-USB 2.0
Battery 2,300 mAh
OS Android 4.4 KitKat

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy A5 isn’t available at a subsidized rate from any network operators in the US, but can be picked up from Amazon, priced at $434.95.

So there you have it – the Samsung Galaxy A5! This smartphone is another fantastic addition to Samsung’s mid-range portfolio. The latest Snapdragon 410 processor, coupled with a watered down iteration of TouchWiz allows for a fast and snappy experience. The camera is one of the better ones out there. And of course, the full metal unibody construction gives the device the premium look and feel that we’ve all been wanting from Samsung. If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy A5 is definitely one of the choices you should consider.

Best unlocked Android smartphones

Posted by wicked January - 19 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

samsung galaxy note 4 first look aa (6 of 19)

In early 2015, we’re now seeing more and more OEMs bring their devices to market for low price points. It’s because of this trend that an increasing number of US customers are buying unlocked devices, rather than getting tied in to a 2-year contract. So, what are the best devices out there for the crowd that wants to move off-contract? We’ll take you through our list of the best unlocked Android smartphones for under $250, under $400 and above $400.

Table of contents:

Under $250

  1. Motorola Moto G (2nd Gen.)
  2. Motorola Moto E
  3. Sony Xperia M2
  4. Blu Vivo Air

Under $450

  1. LG Nexus 5
  2. OnePlus One
  3. LG G3
  4. Moto X (1st Gen.)

Over $450

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 4
  2. Nexus 6
  3. Moto X (2nd Gen.)
  4. Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Editor’s note: we’ll be updating this list regularly as new devices launch. It’s also worth noting that this article is written for a US-centric point of view, though (since they are unlocked) pretty much all of these devices are available outside of the US at least in some capacity. 


Best Android phones under $250

#1 – Motorola Moto G (2nd Gen.)

The follow-up to the original Moto G holds a lot in common with its predecessor, including its 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU and 1GB of RAM. This time around, however, the display size has jumped up to 5-inches and the camera package has also improved.

Most versions of the Moto G are now running Android 5.0 Lollipop, though some models are still waiting for the update. Motorola’s Moto G series proves that low-price doesn’t have to mean low quality, something we’re also seeing with the even cheaper Moto E.


Specs

  • 5-inch LCD display with 1280 x 720 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 3G/GSM
  • 8GB and 16GB storage options, microSD expansion
  • 8MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • 2070 mAh battery
  • 141.5 x 70.7 x 11 mm, 149g
  • Removable colored backs
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

Read more

Buy now from Amazon from $178


#2 – Motorola Moto E

Yet another phone from Motorola that proves you don’t need to pay top dollar to still get a solid Android experience. The Moto E is far from a power house with its dual-core Snapdragon 200 CPU and a smaller qHD 4.3-inch display, but the phone actually performs rather well, in large part thanks to its clean stock-like Android installation.

The Moto E actually has a few small advantages over the first-gen version of its bigger brother, such as its microSD expansion slot and the inclusion of a front-facing speaker, but the second gen Moto G takes these advantages away. Without a front cam and with slightly weaker specs, the Moto G (2nd gen) is the better deal but if you absolutely are looking for the cheapest phone around, the Moto E provides a $50 savings over the Moto G and yet is still without a doubt one of the best handsets you’ll find for under $250.


Specs

  • 4.3-inch LCD display with 540×960 (qHD) resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm dual-core Snapdragon 200 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 3G/GSM
  • 4GB storage with microSD
  • 5MP rear cam
  • 1980 mAh battery
  • 142g weight, 124.38 x 64.8 x 12.3mm
  • Black, White with removable colored backs
  • Android 4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy now from Amazon from $113


#3 – Sony Xperia M2

The Sony Xperia M2 is a great offering because it provides premium Sony hardware for users on a budget. It has a 4.8-inch screen that should be plenty big enough for most users. The 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and 1GB of RAM help run the device, and produce a smooth software experience overall. It also has an 8MP rear-facing camera and removable storage up to 32GB, so multimedia fans should be partial to this device. Though the M2 only has a 2300mAh battery, we found the battery life to be really exceptional.

Sony isn’t particularly known for their cheap handsets, especially in the States. So if you’ve been waiting to get your hands on a super-sleek Sony device, the Xperia M2 may be the one for you.


Specs

  • 4.8-inch display with 540 x 960 resolution
  • 1.2GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 400 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 8GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 32GB
  • 8MP rear cam, VGA front cam
  • Non-removable 2300mAh battery
  • 139.7 x 71.1 x 8.6 mm, 148g
  • Black, White, Purple
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy now from Amazon from $240


#4 – BLU Vivo Air

vivo air

After a recent announcement at CES 2015, the BLU Vivo Air really stuck with us as one of the better Android devices on the market. It’s thin, extremely light and has a 4.8-inch screen that will likely suit most users’ needs. The Vivo Air is meant to be a thin, compact device that doesn’t break the bank. It has an octa-core processor, a clear 8MP rear-facing camera, and a 2100mAh battery that should be able to last you throughout the day on a single charge.

We really like what BLU has done with their newly-announced devices. If you’re looking for a sleek device for under $200, you may want to check this one out.


Specs

  • 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display with 720 x 1280 resolution
  • 1.7GHz octa-core Mediatek 6592 CPU
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 16GB of on-board storage, no microSD card slot
  • 8MP rear cam, 5MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2100mAh battery
  • 139.8 x 67.4 x 5.1 mm, 97g
  • Black, White/Gold
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy now from Amazon from $199


Best Android phones under $450

#1 – LG Nexus 5

If you want a stock Android experience, the way Google intended it, then there’s no better choice than the Nexus family, and while the Nexus 6 is more powerful, the Nexus 5 is still an extremely capable handset with an excellent price/value ratio. On the downside, the phone is on its way out the door and so it only has limited stock in Google Play, though Google continues to trickle in more stock from time to time.

The LG Nexus 5 is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU and has 2GB of RAM. The Nexus 5 is now running Android 5.0 Lollipop, so you can take advantage of Google’s most recent version of Android.


Specs

  • 4.96-inch display with 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 2.3GHz Qualcomm quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • GSM/3G/LTE
  • NFC, A-GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, Wireless charging
  • 16GB and 32GB storage options
  • 8MP rear cam with OIS, 1.3MP front
  • 2300 mAh battery
  • 130g, 137.84 x 69.7 x 8.59mm
  • Android 5.0.2 Lollipop

Read more

Buy now from Google Play from $350


#2 – OnePlus One

OnePlus came out of nowhere, but soon it seemed everyone in the tech world was 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 we had to include it on our best unlocked Android smartphones list.


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 (Lollipop/CyanogenMod 12 update coming soon)

Read more

While the OnePlus One is typically sold through a frustrating invite-only system, it ocassionally opens up sales to anyone who wants one. As an example, the phone is expected to be available to all for two hours on 1/19, and this is likely far from the last time OnePlus holds such an open window.


 

#3 – 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 (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $400


#4 – Moto X (1st Gen.)

Ah, the memories. Motorola aimed to show us that they could make an inexpensive phone with midrange specifications that performed as well as the competition. They managed to succeed with the Moto X. Many people grew very fond of this device thanks to it’s smaller-than-usual 4.7-inch screen, stock Android software, and that weird dimple on the back that fits your index finger just right. All of these features coupled with Motorola’s own software enhancements (Active Display, Touchless Control, Moto Assist), made for one heck of a great phone.

It wasn’t the best phone on the market, spec-wise. But it didn’t need to be. It didn’t have tons of extra software features that nobody needs, nor did it have a nice 1080p display. The Moto X will continue to be one of our favorite Android phones of all time.


Specs

  • 4.7-inch AMOLED display with 720 x 1280 resolution
  • 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 16/32/64GB on-board storage (no microSD slot)
  • 10MP rear cam, 2MP front cam
  • Non-removable 2200mAh battery
  • 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm, 130g
  • Customizable via Moto Maker
  • Android 4.4.4 KitKat (Lollipop update coming down the pipeline)

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Buy now for $260


Best Android phones $450 and above

#1 – 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 $673


 #2 – Motorola 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 5.0.2 Lollipop

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Buy unlocked from Play Store for $649


#3 – Motorola Moto X (2nd Gen.)

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 5.0 Lollipop

Read more

Buy unlocked from Amazon for $499.99


#4 – 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 $519.95


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

CES takeaway: smartphones and tablets

Posted by wicked January - 10 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

asus zenfone 2 first look a (7 of 19)

If you missed our coverage of CES 2015, that’s okay! As the event is coming to a close, we thought we’d take this time to go through the week’s top stories and roundup the biggest smartphone and tablet announcements we saw at the trade show. There’s a lot to recap here, so let’s jump right in.

Smartphones

LG’s G Flex 2

LG’s early announcement of the  G Flex 2 was arguably the biggest announcement of CES 2015. LG’s first G Flex brought a ton of new features to the smartphone world, but it fell short in many critical areas. With the G Flex 2, it seems as though LG stepped up and really made this a device worth buying. It’s 5.5-inch 1080p curved screen, rear-facing 13MP camera and even the super attractive Flamenco Red color make it an overall killer device. What’s more, the G Flex 2 is the first smartphone on the market to tote the Snapdragon 810 processor.

Last year’s G Flex was really difficult to recommend to almost anyone, but this year’s iteration will definitely be one of the most interesting phones of the year, especially for those looking for something a bit more unique when it comes to form factor.

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The superphone/supercamera hybrid: Panasonic’s Lumix CM1

Panasonic was showing off their Lumix DMC-CM1 smartphone at CES, but it was announced at the tail end of last year. That didn’t seem to bother anyone though, because this camera smartphone can really pull its own weight. The phone itself has a 4.7-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 800 processor backed by 2GB of RAM, and it’s running Android 4.4 KitKat. But the phone isn’t the star of the show here, it’s the camera. Panasonic managed to throw on a huge 1-inch sensor, an f2.8 Leica lens and a 20MP sensor that truly makes for an amazing camera experience. To top it all off, there’s a smartphone attached to it? Sign us up.

When the device was originally announced, Panasonic made it very clear that this device was meant solely for the European market. Turns out it’s coming to the US on AT&T and T-Mobile to the tune of roughly $1,000 unlocked. It’s expensive, but we think it’ll be worth it for any photography lovers out there.

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The multimedia powerhouse: Saygus V2

The Saygus V2 (V squared) is probably one of the most talked about handsets to hit CES this year. It’s marketed as a true multimedia powerhouse that is perfect for anyone who values tons of storage and great speaker quality. The most notable feature of the phone is definitely that it can house up to 320GB of storage. No, the phone doesn’t have a massive hard drive. There’s 64GB of on-board storage, and two microSD card slots (maximum of 128GB each), equalling 320GB of storage. What’s more, the device features a removable 3100mAh battery, front-facing Harman Kardon speakers, a 5-inch 1080p screen and a Snapdragon 801 processor backed by 3GB of RAM.

This really is the phone for you if you’re into one of the best multimedia experiences you can get on a smartphone. We’ll have more to say about this device in our full review, but for now, we’re really excited about this device. Of course the fact that it is from an unknown handset maker might be a turn off for many folks, and it’s worth mentioning that no exact pricing has been announced just yet, though supposedly it will hit the hands of consumers in the next few months.

Read more:

Asus Zenfone 2: The first smartphone with 4GB of RAM

Moving along, Asus also had a pretty big keynote at CES with their announcement of two high-end devices, one of which being the Zenfone 2. This device is such a hit thanks to its premium build quality, customizable software and unbeatable price point. There are three different variations of the Zenfone 2, all of which are at different price points. The “middle” device (the one featured in the above video) features a 5.5-inch 1080p screen and 2GB of RAM. The lesser of the three versions has the same screen size, but with a resolution of 720p and with 2GB of RAM. This device will cost less than the other two. The most powerful of the bunch, while no pricing information is announced yet, features a 1080p display and a whopping 4GB of RAM.

The three devices will be available beginning in March starting at $199 unlocked. There are a lot more specifications to cover with these three iterations, so follow the links below for more information.

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Asus Zenfone Zoom

Asus also unveiled the Zenfone Zoom alongside the Zenfone 2. As the name suggests, the Zoom is a camera-centric smartphone with a 13MP camera and 3X optical zoom, optical image stabilization and a laser auto focus system. While the device is quite bulky, it’s not as bad as other camera-focused smartphones out there. Overall, the 5.5-inch 1080p display and the sturdy build quality should suffice for anyone looking for a great camera experience on their mobile phone.

The Zenfone Zoom will be available in Q2 of this year starting at $399.

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HTC’s budget-friendly Desire 826

The Desire 826 is HTC’s next iteration in the Desire 820 line. Sure, the HTC One M8 and M7 were terrific smartphones, but HTC has really put a ton of effort into their mid-rangers lately. Many Desire phones are even considered to be towards the high end of the mid-tier, and the 826 is no exception. Much like the rest of the Desire series, the 826 is either glossy or matte plastic (depending on the color combination), and two SIM slots, a vibrant 5.5-inch 1080p display, and a 64-bit Snapdragon 615 processor. The big story here is HTC’s decision to move the cameras around a bit. On the 826, there’s a 13MP rear-facing camera and a 4MP UltraPixel shooter, instead of the other way around like we see on a few other Desire devices. This seems to be a really nice phone so far, and we’re looking forward to putting it through its paces in our full review.

The Desire 826 will be available later this year for China and other Asian markets, with the potential to roll out to other markets.

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ZTE Nubia Z7

Last but not least, we have the ZTE Nubia Z7. Shown off alongside the Grand X Max+ and the Star 2 at CES, this is the most high-end device out of the three. It has a 5.5-inch QHD screen, a Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery and 32GB of on-board storage. To be honest, there are very few compromises when it comes to this device. Unfortunately, it’s set right now as a China-only release, and there’s no word yet of the Z7 making its way out of Asia.

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The devices listed above aren’t the only smartphones unveiled at CES this year. If you’d like our full coverage on other recently-announced phones, check out the list below.

Tablets

Fuhu’s television-sized kids “tablets”

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Fuhu has released big tablets in the past, but none even close to this size. But at CES 2015, Fuhu announced some products to really expand their tablet lineup – 32, 43, 55 and 65-inch variants of their Big Tabs.

Fuhu is really pushing the “Internet of Things” movement, and would like their new Big Tab XL models to be the centerpiece of your home entertainment. There’s no mention of which version of Android these tablets are running, but the press release does say that they run “the latest Android software” and Fuhu’s groundbreaking Blue Morpho OS. All four of the new “tablets” will also double as televisions, which justifies the purchase a bit more. The two smallest models sport 1080p screens, 2GB of RAM and run on a NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. The two biggest models both have 4K resolutions, 4GB of RAM and use NVIDIA’s new Tegra X1 chip. The tablets will go on sale sometime this year and will range in price from $699.99-$3,999.99.

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Arbor’s rugged Gladius 10 tablet

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Arbor isn’t usually the name we think of when talking about Android devices, but the company has just announced the Gladius 10 rugged tablet. It’s meant specifically for warehousing, transportation, medical, and mobile point of sale applications.

The Gladius 10 features a 10.1-inch TFT LCD display with 1280×800 resolution with a Corning Gorilla Glass 2 coating. It also brings a MediaTek MTK8392 Octa-core Cortex A7 CPU, a Quad-core ARM Mali 3D GPU, 2GB of RAM, optional barcode scanner, a 13MP rear-facing camera, 2MP front-facing camera and a dual-SIM card slot. On top of these already decent specifications, the tablet is also rated with IP65 protection, and meets the U.S. Military’s 810G standard for drops and other hazards. There’s no mention of the battery capacity in the release, but Arbor is quoting the tablet to have up to 10 hours of battery life.

The Gladius 10 seems like a decent tablet so far, until we get to the price. The tablet will go on sale in May of 2015 for $1,030, and can be customized to the user’s preferences.

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Archos 80b Helium tablet

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Archos recently announced their new 80b Helium tablet, a 4G LTE-capable budget tablet for less than $150. Details are pretty scarce when it comes to this one, but we’ll definitely keep an eye out for more details. So far, though, a 4G-capable tablet for under $150 is bound to be a big seller.

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As much as people might want to disagree, I thought this year’s CES offered up a decent amount when it came to smartphones. We haven’t seen anything truly groundbreaking with smartphones in the past few days, but that surely doesn’t mean it was a bad CES. There are a few devices that are getting me excited, though.

First of all, I really like what LG is doing with the G Flex 2. It’s smaller, prettier and has specs that might give some other flagships a run for its money. LG hasn’t really had the reputation to skimp on their devices’ internals, and this year is no exception. It’s great to see them focusing hard on a smartphone that isn’t their “flagship,” and I really think more companies need to adopt that trend.

lg g flex first look aa (3 of 49)

Other than the G Flex 2, of course I’m going to love the Lumix CM1… and I think you’d be crazy not to. It’s a relatively high-end device on it’s own, only with a super powerful camera on its back. Speaking of devices with cameras strapped to the back, the Zenfone Zoom isn’t half bad either. Remember when the Galaxy S4 Zoom launched? It seems like Samsung didn’t even try to make the phone compact in the slightest. We’ve absolutely come a long way since then… the Lumix CM1 and Zenfone Zoom are actually viable options for folks who want to take photography a little bit more seriously.

One device that stuck out in particular was the 65-inch Fuhu Big Tab. It’s an interesting concept, and makes me feel a little bit more like I’m living in the future.

CES 2015 wasn’t a year that pushed any boundaries with smartphones or tablets, but it was a trade show that needed to happen.

A tablet that doubles as a television… with a 4K display… and NVIDIA’s new Tegra X1 processor? Awesome. What’s not as awesome is the price, though. When the devices launch, prices will likely hover around the $700-$4,000 range. Prices aside though, while there likely isn’t a huge market for devices like this, the concept is still very intriguing.

CES 2015 wasn’t a year that pushed any boundaries with smartphones or tablets, but it was a trade show that needed to happen. A few companies bumped up the specs of their devices, sure, but we all knew these progressions would come in time. While 4GB of RAM, 320GB of storage, or even QHD displays on more affordable handsets are great, we all knew these were going to happen eventually. So, I’m not too upset or excited about this year’s CES, it has just made me more excited for what’s to come in 2015.

What were your most favorite/least favorite smartphones and tablets from the trade show this year? Did you think this was a particularly good or bad year for mobile devices? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!