Tag: Android

WileyFox Spark X Quick Review

Posted by – October 22, 2016

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

The WileyFox Spark X is the “top of the range” budget phone from WileyFox. Priced at £139 – just £10 more than the RRP as the original WileyFox Swift, it now has a larger 5.5inch screen, bigger battery, and updated selfie camera.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

AnTuTu Benchmark gives it a score of: 31,676, (3D: 3268, UX: 12243, CPU: 11703, RAM: 4462) so gaming is not going to be a strong point. (As a comparison the Samsung Galaxy S5 scored 60,380, and the new Sony Xperia XZ scored: 136,989)

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Dual sim slots, and a MicroSD slot.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Speaker grill is copper / orange

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – 13mp camera on the back

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Removable back and removable battery

The phone doesn’t really feel like a budget smartphone, but ever since the Moto G, and subsequent models the quality of budget smartphones has improved massively.

The phone is solid, and has a number of stylish touches, such as a coppery chrome surround, a copper speaker grill at the front, as well as a copper fox logo on the back, there’s also a copper surround around the camera lens on the back.

(Compared to the current Moto G, the Moto G4, the Moto G4 is around £160, has a FullHD 5.5inch screen, 8-core processor, 16GB, a 13mp, f/2.0 camera, is waterproof and scores an Antutu Benchmark score of: 46,614 – Source)

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – 3000mAh battery

The screen looks good, and the screen is bright, and it’s not really obvious that the screen is a 1280×720 resolution.  The phone comes with a pre-fitted protective film, although it’s quite thin, so not going to protect it from drops.

In use, the phone is responsive, and does a good job with all the things I’ve used it for. Youtube, Facebook, etc.

The default keyboard is reasonable, but doesn’t have the numbers on a separate line, which is a shame, as a 5.5inch screen is easily big enough to accommodate this. Personally I use SwiftKey, and switch on the number row.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Rear speaker grill

The phone has a decent speaker.

Lets go over the main specifications compared to the WileyFox Swift, with the Spark X on the left, and the Swift on the right:

WileyFox Spark X WileyFox Swift
13mp f/2.8 main camera (Samsung, 4mm)
8mp selfie camera
5.5inch screen 1280×720 (IPS, 2.5d Dragontrail glass)
1.3GHz Quadcore (Mediatek 6735, 64-bit)
Removable 3000mAh battery
154.35 x 78.6 x 8.75mm (thinner)
162.9g (with battery)
Black
13mp f/2.5 main camera, Samsung BSI CMOS, Dual-flash
5mp selfie camera
5inch screen, 1280×720 (Gorilla Glass 3)
1.2GHz Quadcore (Snapdragon 410, 64-bit)
Removable 2500mAh battery
141.15mm x 71mm x 9.37mm
135g
Available in black or white
Same: FullHD video recording (rear and front camera)
Same: 2GB / 16GB built in
Same: MicroSD slot
Same: Dual SIM slots

Sat-nav using Google Maps works reasonably well (not perfect, but good enough), the speaker is loud enough. Call quality is reasonably good.

WileyFox Spark X

WileyFox Spark X – Close up of camera, top headphone socket

Camera – When recording video (FullHD, 30fps) you can take FullHD resolution photos at the same time. The camera app has auto, steady photo, night, HDR shooting modes. Panoramic as well.

WileyFox Spark X Aston Martin Photo

WileyFox Spark X Aston Martin Photo

Unboxing video:

WileyFox Swift Quick Review

Posted by – March 9, 2016

WileyFox Swift Back

The WileyFox Swift is made by a UK company, WileyFox, who currently sell two models, the Swift is the entry level model, priced at around £130 (Cashback offer between 1st March – 25th March 2016), with the higher spec model, the Storm, priced at around £200. The Swift runs Cyanogen OS (currently 12.1.1), a user developed version of Android (currently 5.1.1).

WileyFox Swift Camera View

The WileyFox Swift, as a “budget” Android smartphone is competing with a number of other models, but offers an impressive range of features and specifications, considering the price point.

WileyFox Swift Key Features:

  • 13mp main camera, Samsung BSI CMOS sensor, Dual-flash
  • 5mp selfie camera
  • FullHD video recording (rear and front camera)
  • 5inch screen, 1280×720 (Corning Gorilla Glass 3)
  • 1.2GHz Quadcore (Snapdragon 410, 64-bit)
  • 2GB / 16GB built in
  • MicroSD slot
  • Dual SIM slots
  • Removable 2500mAh battery
  • 141.15mm x 71mm x 9.37mm
  • Available in black or white

WileyFox Swift

Alternatives include the following:

  • Moto G (3rd Gen): 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 1GB/8GB, 1.4ghz quadcore, 2470mAh, 155g, 11.6mm, £130
  • WileyFox Swift: 5inch, 13mp f/2.5 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.2ghz quadcore, 2500mAh, 135g, 9.3mm, £130
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime: 5inch, 8mp f/2.2 cam, 8GB, 1.2ghz quadcore, 2600mAh, 156g, 8.6mm,£130
  • Lenovo K5: 5inch, 13mp cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.4ghz quadcore, 2750mAh, 142g, 8mm, £130
  • BLU Life Mark 4G: 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.3ghz quadcore, 2300mAh, 150g, 9.5mm, £105
  • Huawei P8 lite: 5inch, 13mp f/2.0 cam, 2GB/16GB, 1.2ghz octacore, 2200mAh, 131g, 7.7mm, £139

To get the Moto G (3rd Gen) to match the memory provided with the Swift as standard you have to go for the £159 version, and other smartphones at this price point often compromise on other features, including a lower resolution camera, or a lower amount of storage space.

WileyFox-Swift Screen

The screen features a 720×1280 resolution, and the brightness can be adjusted easily. It’s quite bright on default settings, and seemed to be set so that it didn’t automatically adjust itself depending on the surrounding conditions (which was frustrating at first), and this was quickly resolved by finding the right settings.

The WileyFox Swift is reasonably quick and responsive, and the GPS and Sat-Nav features work well in real time, making it a suitable alternative to a dedicated SatNav device. Some budget smartphones, such as the Honor Holly (a £90 Android smartphone) can struggle, and seem a little slower in comparison. The Swift does not seem to have any problems playing back videos smoothly.

Battery life should last a day in theory, although it will also depend on how you use the phone, and we found that listening to music on the train with earbuds seems to drain the battery very quickly. Perhaps due to the phone regularly losing mobile phone signal going through tunnels. You could get a spare battery as the phone battery can be removed and replaced, or you could take a USB charger with you, and there are plenty of portable chargers available for not much money.

WileyFox-Swift Camera

The camera – it’s quite good, with a 13mp sensor, and f/2.5 aperture, and it’s certainly reasonable, although with no optical image stabilisation, and not an especially fast aperture compared to some smartphones, low-light photography can be tricky. I’d prefer it if the camera increased the ISO speed, with additional noise, rather than having a blurry photo (and low noise). (The Honor Holly is good at increasing the ISO speed, giving you a sharp but noisy image, and features an 8mp f/2.0 camera). The camera does feature twin LEDs, which can help with close subjects in low light.

I was unimpressed by the built in camera app and have switched to using Google’s photo app. There are a good range of options and shooting modes using this app, including photo sphere, panorama, lens blur, camera and video, as well as HDR.

Overall – For the price it’s very difficult to find an Android smartphone with a better specification, without compromising on something. The simple fact is, that at this price, you get a highly capable Android smartphone with a decent screen, relatively stylish looks, a good enough camera, and 2GB/16GB memory, which means you can get a good number of apps and music on without the smartphone feeling slow. For the more advanced user, or for someone who uses the camera a lot, in a variety of situations, the slow-ish aperture and poor low-light performance will most likely have you looking at other smartphones pretty quickly.

Pros: Price, specification, design, 2GB/16GB built in, reasonable 13mp camera, 5inch screen, fairly quick, good GPS performance with Satnav, light and slim.

Cons: As a UK only mobile phone, the availability of spare parts, accessories, or repair by 3rd parties may be more difficult compared to a main brand that is sold Worldwide. Camera and battery life could be better, but are fairly reasonable considering the price. Generic looks on the screen side.

Waterproof Tough Android Smart Phones

Posted by – March 8, 2016

If you’re looking for a tough, rugged, waterproof, or water-resistant smartphone, then there’s a reasonable choice of Android phones, here’s a list of them, including some key details, as well as links to reviews:

2015:
Sony Xperia Z5, 5.2″ screen, IP65/68, about £400, Reviews: ePHOTOzine.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, 4.6″ screen, IP65/68, about £320, Reviews: theVerge.
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, 5.5″ 4K screen, IP65/68, about £550, Reviews: CNET.
Sony Xpera Z3+ (AKA Z4), 5.2″ screen, about £300, Reviews: PhoneArena.
Sony Xpera M5, 5″ screen, between £300-£360, Reviews: AndroidPit.
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, 5″ screen, about £155, Reviews: CNET.
Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3, 4.5″ screen, budget-ish, IP67, £150, User reviews: GSMArena.
Moto G (3rd Gen), 5″, 13mp, 1m WP, IPX7, from £130, Reviews: ePHOTOzine.

US: Samsung Galaxy S6 Active
US: Samsung Galaxy S5 Active and Sport
US: Huawei Honor 3, 4.7″, budget, IP57.

Nb. IP ratings, first digit dust protection ie: IP6 = Totally dust protected, second digit water protection, eg: IP68 = Protected against prolonged submersion in water. More details here.

2014:
HTC Desire EYE, 5.2″ fullHD screen, 13mp, (f/2.2 22mm front, f/2.0 28mm rear), 1m wp, Reviews: TrustedReviews.
Samsung Galaxy S5, 5.1″ fullHD screen, 16mp camera, dust and wp, Reviews: ePHOTOzine.
Sony Xperia Z3, 5.2″ fullHD screen, 20.7mp camera, IP65/68 (dust and wp), Reviews: Engadget.
Sony Xperia Z3 compact, 4.6″ 1280x720p screen, 20.7mp camera, IP65/68 (dust and wp), Reviews: KYM.
Sony Xperia Z2, 5.2″ fullHD screen, 20.7mp camera, IP55, IP58 (dust and wp), Reviews: Engadget.
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact, 4.3″ 720p screen, 20.7mp camera, f/2.0 lens, IP55/58 (dust and wp), Reviews: GSMArena.
Sony Xpera M2 Aqua, 4.8″ (960×540) screen, 8mp camera, IP65/68 (dust and 1.5m wp), Reviews: Wired.
Cat S50 (4G), 4.7″ (720p) screen, 8mp camera, dust (IP67),  drop and 1m wp, Reviews: Clove.
Cat B15Q, 4″ screen, 5mp camera, dust (IP67), drop, and wp, Reviews: CNET.

2013:
Sony Xperia Z1, 5″ fullHD screen, 20.7mp camera, £270, Reviews: ExpertReviews.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra, 6.4″ fullHD screen, 8mp camera, IP55/58 (dust and wp), £199-239, Reviews: Pocket-Lint.
Sony Xperia Z, 5″ fullHD screen, 13mp camera, Reviews: ePHOTOzine.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, 5″ fullHD screen, 8mp camera, Reviews: PCAdvisor.
Cat B15 (discontinued), 4″ screen, Reviews: TrustedReviews.

Available in the UK 2012:
Motorola DEFY, 2010, 3.7″, 512mb, 800mhz, 5mp, 2.1-2.2 S/H: ~£75, Reviews: TrustedReviews
Motorola DEFY Plus / +, 2011, 3.7″, 512mb, 1ghz, 5mp, 2.3, ~£195, Reviews: ExpertReviews
Motorola DEFY Mini, 2012, 3.2″ low res, 512mb, 600mhz, 3mp, 2.3, ~£79, Reviews: CNET
Sony Xperia Go, 2012, 3.5″ low res, 512mb/8gb, DC 1ghz, 5mp, 2.3-4.0, ~£150, Reviews: RegHardware
Sony Xperia Acro S, 2012, 4.3″ high res, 1gb/16gb, DC 1.5ghz, 12mp, 4.0, ~£270, Reviews: GSMArena
Sony Xperia Active, 2011, 3″ low res, 512mb, 1ghz, 5mp, 2.3, ~£150, Reviews: Pocket-Lint
JCB Pro Smart, 2012, 3.2″ low res, 256mb, 800mhz, 5mp, ~£279, Reviews: ExpertReviews

Not currently available in the UK:
Motorola DEFY XT, 2012, 3.7″, 512mb, 1ghz, 2.3
Samsung Rugby Smart (i847), 2012, Reviews: Engadget
Casio G’zOne, Japan and US only.

Note: wp = waterproof, fullHD = 1920×1080, hi-res = 720p (1280×720), low-res = 320×480, if not stated, then “standard” resolution: 800×480

The Huawei Ascend G300 (u8815) Phone Quick Review

Posted by – December 28, 2013

The Huawei Ascend G300 (model number u8815)

The phone has an impressive specific for the price, available for 99 ish pounds online (or much less second hand) without the need of top up. You can even get 30 pounds off if you search hotukdeals or moneysavingexpert making it better than last years San Francisco, and many would say the San Francisco 2.

Features

  • 1ghz CPU
  • 4inch screen WVGA capacitove touchscreen, corning gorilla glass
  • 10.5mm thin
  • Android 2.3.6, upgradable to ICS 4 (officially)
  • 5mp camera with flash (LED)
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS (agps)
  • Proximity light sensor

iPlayer works ! Yay

Huawei Ascend g300

It looks a lot like one of the early iPhones with rounded corners and the same or similar tiny bit of Silver and black. Although the corners are white plastic and while it takes away from the simple design it should provide additional protection if dropped. Even the position of the on / off, lock button, is in the same place as the iPhone lock button.

The home, back and menu buttons are flush with the screen and glow a bright white. And look good, With the whole overall look and design of the phone giving it all much more premium feel that the 99 pounds would suggest possible. Although the silver on the back of the phone does scratch easily.

The stock install comes with a few Vodafone apps pre-installed but these aren’t excessive and thankfully the theme is left alone without horrible branded colours and wallpaper *cough* San Francisco.

It includes a 5mp AF camera with single LED “flash” light. Outdoors in good light the camera can take decent photos.

Theme Park works well although it can take a while to become smooth.

WordPress doesn’t seem totally happy in Android. Making editing and formatting a little difficult.

Must have Symbian / Android Apps (Phones)

Posted by – December 16, 2010

Recent events have led me to use both Nokia’s latest phone and operating system (Symbian ^3 on the Nokia N8), as well as Google’s Android operating system on the ZTE Blade / Orange San Francisco. As most people tend to have the same uses for mobile phones, such as twitter, camera, torch, music, etc, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the “must have” apps for the platforms, and show what the most similar apps are on both platforms. If you want to add the Apple versions, please get in touch, or leave it in the comments, and I’ll add to this list.

Must have app Nokia Version Android Version
Barcode scanner UPCode Barcode Scanner
Last.fm Scrobbler* Mobbler Last.fm App
Twitter client Gravity (£8 – Well worth the money) Tweetdeck
Torch App QTorch Color Flashlight
Spirit Level Level Touch Bubble
Battery Meter Nokia Battery Monitor (Ovi) Battery Widget / Built in
Panoramic Photo Nokia Panorama (N8 – unlimited shots?) PanoPhoto (only 2 shots)
Keyboard entry Swype Swype
Photo Editor Nokia Photo Editor (Built in) Photoshop Express
Phone Tracker Phonelocator Periodic Where’s My Droid
Screenshot “Best ScreenSnap 2.0” (link, or here) screenshot
Navigation Nokia Maps (Built in) Google Maps / Navigation (Built in)
Navigation Customisation Own Voice (record your own voice) None?
WIFI Internet Sharing JoikuSpot Tethering and Portable Hotspot (Built in with v2.2)
Location information Here and Now (Built in) Places (Built in)
Location aware profiles Nokia Situation (betalabs) Locale (link)
Camera based location info Nokia Point and Find (betalabs) Google Goggles
Task Management Task Manager (Built in, S^3) Taskiller / Task Manager
GPS Based Sports Tracking Nokia Sports Tracker My Tracks (link)
Podcast Support Built into Music Player / Podcatcher (link) Google Listen
Alt. Music Players TuneWiki (link) TuneWiki / Winamp

* Can replace this with Spotify if you have an account as Spotify is available for both.

Find new / more apps for Symbian / Nokia on http://blog.ovi.com/dailyapp/global/, Nokia Betalabs (apps), recommended apps on MobileRnR

Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade TFT Review

Posted by – December 14, 2010

Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade running Froyo

The Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade offers an extremely cheap entry into the world of Android. Priced around £99 (with a mandatory top up of £10/£20), it offers excellent value for money, and is one of the higher spec phones available around that price. Offering a large 3.5″ screen with a high resolution of 800×480, a 600mhz cpu, and 2gb of Micro SD ram.

Another big feature of the phone is the community support for the phone, allowing it to be unlocked for free (found via Modaco), and upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and potentially newer versions when they are released, it has it’s own dedicated forum here at Modaco.

Nokia N8 OLED - Orange San Francisco TFT

Nokia N8 OLED - Orange San Francisco TFT

The “SanFran”, as some people affectionally call it, has 3 physical buttons at the bottom of the screen: Home, Menu, Back, one power button at the top, and volume buttons at the side, there is no dedicated camera button or unlock button. To unlock you press the power button and slide something on the screen based on what version of android (or screensaver) you have. Considering the whole touch screen ethos of the android operating system, it seems strange to have to use physical / moving buttons to navigate – it would make more sense for these to be soft touch buttons (as I’m sure other android phones do).

Box Contents: Phone, Battery, Orange SIM, Earphones with microphone (earbuds, NOT in-ear earphones), Wall charger (Plugs into wall and has USB socket), USB Cable (used to charge phone with wall-charge or plug into computer), User guides (quick start guide, printed 133 page manual, plus 2nd manual for orange software), 2GB MicroSD Card.

Phone quality – Making and receiving calls, the audio quality is very good, the speaker is loud and clear, and quality seemed very good with no feedback or echo noticeable. (Although you network coverage may alter your experience)

Music playback – full volume is still on the quiet side of things. The music player app is fine, nothing seems to be missing, but nothing stands out as particularly interesting either. It does the job, but only seems to work in portrait mode (and not landscape). Music playback is interupted by other app notifications!? (Could just be my OS build, 2.2, and even when the other notifications are set to silent!?)

Web browser – this is quick, responsive, and works well.

android 2.2 homescreen (with fish) android app updates android task manager - system is busy, try later! (WHY?)
Some screenshots, click to enlarge, homescreen, app updates, task manager.

Android market (app store) – this has very nice integration with websites, you visit the site, click the link to download from the store, it takes you there and you click install, it then takes you back to the website and downloads and installs the app in the background. Very swish, very un-intrusive, very simple, very easy, the way it should be done. (I’m looking at you Nokia) It’s also ironic that you can get Snake free for the android – but no official version from Nokia for Nokia phones…

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Battery

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Back / Battery / MicroSD / SIM slots

Expansion – Under the one piece back cover (made of plastic), you’ll find slots for the MicroSD card, SIM card, and battery. Small hole next to the camera lens – could be a reset button?

Battery – a 1250mah 3.7v battery.

Build and size: Slim, compact, the back cover covers the power button, and needs to be taken off / put back on carefully as, like the Nokia N95, it could cause problems if not treated with care or over-used. The plastic is coated with a rubbery texture, making the phone feel like a higher quality / higher price handset than it actually is, and internally the circuit boards seem very thin. The use of philips head screws make it very tempting to take apart…

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Taken Apart (Teardown)

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Taken Apart (Teardown)

There’s a hidden screw under a white dot, so no doubt taking it apart will void your warranty, there’s also a moisture detector dot under the battery, as shown above, and there are 8 screws in total holding the phone together, after taking these out, the phone then unclips with some encouragement – although you can help it along by pushing the clips surrounding the battery area – I didn’t want to go further than this as the rest looked like it needed the ribbon cables disconnecting, and this is often fiddly.

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade TFT back

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade TFT Screen Removed (back) - Click to Enlarge

To remove the front glass / case, you need to remove / disconnect the top ribbon cable that connects the *something* (don’t know what). The ribbon cable connections are held in place with plastic that “pops” up, and the wi-fi aerial also pops-off. The screen is quite firmly glued on to the main plastic “chassis” in the middle of the phone, and there is also a ribbon cable behind the main board connecting the top led and light sensor, and the volume control ribbon cable is soldiered on, and the buttons are glued onto the chassis, making it very difficult to disconnect / remove – it quickly becomes very fiddly.

ZTE Blade components ZTE Blade board close ZTE Blade board close - other side

Identifiable chips / components: (Click images above to enlarge, or to view additional images!) Top: Samsung SWB-A23 (Wifi, bluetooth), Qualcomm (hidden from view), Qualcomm PM754, AH56714, C1034003 (Power management), Underneath: Samsung 040, KA1000015M-AJTT, YK10338E (RAM), Qualcomm MSM7 (CPU, hidden from view), TriQuint 7M5012H, 1037, KORE, AT9366. Camera module: Made by MCNEX MC_32A2_48, 2010.06.04, the chip on the front of the phone, above the screen: 1KAAV0QW, Z1A0AD09.

Nokia N8 Camera with Flash - Orange San Francisco Camera with no Flash

Nokia N8 Camera with Flash - Orange San Francisco Camera with no Flash

Camera – 3.2 megapixel AF (Auto-focus) lens. Photos are awful. Terrible. Horrible. Utterly crap. Seriously substandard.

Other features? Impressions? The top bar shows you your notifications, things like texts, twitter or app notifications, and battery / connectivity status etc (3G, Bluetooth etc), but doesn’t actually let you interact with the notifications on the right of the bar… you can’t click the battery, for example, to see how much remains (like you can on Symbian ^3), instead you seem to have to go through the phones setting menu to get the information.

Updated conclusion: 6 months later: (10/07/2011) Some have said, in the comments that this review is overly negative, and somewhat lacking in it’s conclusion, and I agree. In retrospect, the ZTE Blade (Orange San Francisco) is still, to this day, 6 months later, one of the most fully featured, and lowest priced android phones available, and the good screen, and low price make it very apealling, especially with such a huge homebrew community of support. I bought it as I wanted to see what all the fuss about Android was, and I wasn’t as impressed as I felt I should have been, especially considering all the hype. There are areas of weakness such as the poor camera software (camera is poor on this phone, but may suffice in great weather, outdoors), and generally android isn’t as polished as I think it should be (this may have changed with newer versions, I tested 2.2). The ZTE Blade with a lower spec processor than most, won’t do flash, which is a huge drawback for me as I need iPlayer on my phone. Another big weakness is the high SAR levels (1.35 W/kg) – enough to give some users enough of an issue that they’ve seen a GP (Doctor) about it… Another big issue is the fact that everyone feels the need to mess with the google version of android, and try and add their own skin, apps, and money making programs to the phone. Very annoying. Anyway, to try and conclude this as quickly as possible, the ZTE Blade (OSF), is a great phone considering the price, and if well worth looking at if you’re on a limited budget and don’t mind the various issues the phone has.

Pros: (Positives)
+ High resolution 3.5″ capacitive screen (responsive)
+ Extremely good value for money
+ Easily unlocked, for free
+ Upgradable to Android 2.2
+ Tons of apps, good app store experience
+ Notification of app updates, and “Update all” button (not just OS)
+ Full screen PDF viewer (in QuickOffice)

Cons: (Negatives)
– Home screens don’t work in landscape mode (see Symbian ^3, or Launcher Pro for Android)
– Music playback is interrupted by other app noises! (even when the phone and notifications are silent)
– Limited memory as standard (only 2gb MicroSD provided)
– AWFUL camera (see Nokia N8!), lacks even basic LED flash
– Fragmented OS / Features ie BBC iPlayer is supposed to work on 2.2 (using Flash*) but wouldn’t for me, 2.1 it just isn’t available (see Nokia / Apple)
– Poor battery life (8 hours)
– No strap loop / wriststrap mounting hole
– Camera shutter sound on, even when all sound muted.
– Default install location is the phones memory, not MicroSD, easy to fill the 512mb built in.
– Difficult to use one-handed (back button awkward – and pressing the background of the screen doesn’t take you back so you have to press the back button – easier on Symbian ^3 to just press the screen behind the pop up menu)

* Flash 10.1 is needed, which isn’t available for the ZTE Blade due to the ARM6 processor.

Useful links: ChrisLowthian.co.uk How to Unlock.
Orange San Francisco also available from Amazon UK (Unlocked).

HTC Desire HD Review (Phones)

Posted by – November 10, 2010

HTC Desire HD

The HTC Desire HD. Let’s get the specs out of the way eh?

  • Processor: – Chipset: Qualcomm 8255 SnapDragon – Speed: 1Ghz
  • Battery: – Talk Time: 9 hrs – Standby Time: 490hrs – Capacity: 1230 mAh
  • Display: – 800 x 480 pixels/4.3″ – Touch Sensitive(Capacitive)
  • Camera: – 8 mega-pixels (auto-focus) – Digital Zoom – Dual LED Flash – Geo Tagging
  • Video: – Recording Resolution: HD (720p) – Recording Speed: 25fps – LED Video Light – Supported formats: MP4, 3GP, DivX, XviD – Video Streaming – YouTube
  • Music: – Supported formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+, OGG & WMA – Dolby Digital Mobile – SRS WOW Surround Sound
  • Messaging: – SMS – MMS (with video) – E-mail (POP3, IMAP4, Exchange, GMail) – Twitter – Instant Messaging (Google Talk)
  • Memory: – 768MB (RAM) – 1.5GB (internal) – microSDHC (memory card)
  • Call Features: – Hands Free – Caller ID – Voice Dialling
  • Connectivity: – 2G: 850/900/1800/1900 Mhz (Quad-band) – 3G: 900/2100 (Dual-band) – WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) – HSDPA (14.4Mbps) – HSUPA (5.76 Mbps) – Bluetooth (2.1) – microUSB – 3.5mm Audio Connector
  • Navigation: – AGPS – Digital Compass – Google Maps
  • Sensors: – Accelerometer – Proximity Sensor – Light Sensor
  • Features: – Web Browser – Office Document Viewer (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) – PDF Viewer – Flash 10 – DLNA Wireless Media Sharing
  • None of which tells you anything useful. Well, there are loads of things to talk bout with this phone so lets go.

    Screen

    It’s a 4.3 inch screen and it’s a bobby dazzler. Despite sounding massive it feels really natural in the hand. It’s noticably bigger than the iPhone but the weight and smooth contours make it easy to hold. The camera lens protrudes from the back a good few millimetres. I really thought that it would catch my palm and do my head in, but not at all. Ergonomically it’s a decent phone. Typing is tough with one hand unless you use the excellent, yet love it or hate it Swype. Swype lets you type with swipes, moving from one letter to the next without taking your finger off the screen. If it sounds weird it is at first, but now it’s a ‘how did I do without i?’ app for me. It’s predictive and lets you add to the dictionary. Provided you’re not typing nonsense words it is seldom wrong. There are no hard keys as such. They have been made in to touch sensitive buttons for Home, Menu, Back and Search. Gone completely is any trackball or trackpad. I don’t miss it.

    Apps look great on screen and the touch screen is unintrusive and useful. Call quality is good but the bundled hands free kit is predictably crap. Terrible sound and earphones that fall out of your ears.At the bottom are the SIM and Micro SD slots, with a hatch that slides off  so no need to turn the phone off or take the whole back off to remove either. Left side has a volume rocker, which can be hard to operate, rather irritatingly, and top left is power, again, irritating to access. Minor points but they do annoy me.

    Performance

    Lightning fast apps, switching, animations and functions make this phone a joy to use. However, the big issue. Battery life. When I started using this phone I was horrified at it’s 6-7b hour standby time. I thought it was faulty at first until I did some research, and here is how you get 30-40 hours out of it.

    • Accounts sync. I had a total of 11 accounts  syncing, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, News, Weather, Stocks etc. They set themselves to sync every 15 minutes by default. Massive drain. I killed all bar the Google and Facebook accounts. Google updates every 2 hours and Facebook daily. This alone extended the life to a days’ use.
    • Install a task killer, kill all tasks that do not need to be running. This makes a huge difference.
    • Get rid of pointless apps. They are usually badly written and drain power. Apps like this are the price of the more open Android market, as opposed to Apple’s ‘Dolphin’s Butt’ approach.

    There are other optional steps that I took.

    • I rooted the phone using VISIONary, a free app that needs no restart and doesn’t flash the phone.
    • Installed Titanium Backup free and  deleted all the crapware that came with it. I dumped a load of pointless widgets, HTC bloatware apps that offered wallpapers etc and, astoundingly, there are two bundled Twitter apps with the phone, the official Twitter app and the HTC one called Peep. I use the far superior Tweetdeck so I have no use for those, off they went. A factory reset puts all of this back on the phone so you need not worry about that.
    • After this run the phone as normal for ten days, then drain it completely and calibrate the battery.

    My battery clocks in at 30-40 hours business use now so it can be done, Don’t believe the propaganda. I am the sort to plug my phone in whenever possible anyway, always have been. It’s hardly Apple’s ‘It just works’ appeal but I like Android for playing with it so I’m not bothered, you might be.

    Running widgets, particularly live feeds will drain it but it’s nothing to worry about.

    Media

    Music is well played, no skips etc but you’ll need decent headphones as cheap ones sound tinny. The screen is perfect for iPlayer/YouTube and the playback is very good indeed. Sharp, vibrant and well-balanced with intuitive controls. YouTube lets you sign in to a different account from the phone which is a useful idea. Photos look crisp and sharp too. Flipping between landscape and portrait is snappy and works perfectly. The music app displays album art and controls music whilst the phone is locked without having accidental presses. Clever. You can install different ones if you like, notably Tune Wiki, but I see no need. There is some sort of Dolby sound thing going on here, but I have to be honest, in my experience the rule is spend a few quid and it sounds good. This phone doesn’t convince me otherwise. It sounds good, but if I am supposed to notice some sort of sound revelation, sorry. It sounds good provided you don’t use a terrible bit rate on MP3 files.

    Navigation

    Google Maps and Navigation is there. It works snappily and the voice search is brilliant. No complaints. With it being a cloud based app there’s nothing new here that isn’t on other phones. What is new is HTC’s proprietary Locations application. It has several features. Free maps and mapping but navigation is a premium feature. Unless you’re a heavy user then navigation is free with Google. If you use it daily then buy the premium as Vodafone only give you a measly 750 MB data plan. I think this is taking the proverbial a little now. One gigabyte is not a huge amount so it’s clear they’re looking to squeeze a few pounds out of us on data.

    Fortunately, the free element of Locations is offline mapping. No data usage, but sadly the database of locations is absolutely hopeless. It’s empty compared to Google Maps and as far as I can see it does not accept postcode searches. They had better update that pronto. If you search then every space sees a lag as it tries to match what you just typed. That is extremely irritating and a flaw that needs to be addressed. However, most of the time, if you give it the data it will find what you need. If so, then the maps have 2D and 3D views – very nice indeed – and they work with the compass so that the map turns wherever you are pointing it. No more walking for a bit to see which way you should be going. Very nice feature and one iPhone has had for ages. I can’t for the life of me figure out why Google haven’t  done it  with maps. Locations also does general keyword shops. You can select whatever category of place you want, e.g. pubs, and find the ones in the area along with ratings and reviews. This is very good and means no worries about using your data up on Google Maps. As an aside, as these apps move to the cloud then networks need to be fairer on data allowances. I would happily compromise on say, mapping and browsing only, no downloads or streaming, in exchange for unlimited 3G data. I think that is a better way to keep everyone happy. No nasty surprises in our bills and the networks don’t have to worry about media streaming brining 3G networks to their knees. I am sympathetic as the traffic on 3G has exploded since iPhone changed things, but then they’ve had three years to beef up their infrastructure. If they keep this up it will stink of profiteering. Having expensive data tariffs on always-online devices is a gun to the head scenario in my opinion.

    GPS signal acquisition is lightning fast and as accurate as I have ever seen. Any thing like maps or navigation looks brilliant on that 4.3 inch screen.

    Location services on this work really well. I know there are real concerns regarding privacy but I am all over location services like a fat kid on cake. I love them and can’t wait until they gain wider acceptance. Why, for example, can’t 20 Foursquare check-ins at a restaurant equal a free meal? There is an opportunity to make money here, and hopefully the right sort of thinkers will drive this. Foursquare is a great idea, but the app on here needs refining. It works fine, but searches can often be slow and it’s a little  buggy. Not the phone’s fault, but a thought. Facebook works well and includes Places. Tweetdeck (or Peep/Twitter if you prefer) all permit location updates in tweets and geotagging photos os available too. This phone will stretch the possibilities for locatoin applications. It has the capability and the screen to be extraordinarily useful. We just need some original thinking from developers for apps and services. Bring it on.

    Camera

    The camera is 8 megapixels, twin LED flash and shoots HD video at 720p.

    Here is a sample video from bonfire night:

    Pretty good, I am sure you’ll agree. A couple of stills from the same night:

    The OS is the bang up to date Android 2.2, smooth and fast. There is a vast array of sharing options, Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Mail, YouTube. Uploads are a couple of taps and go just fine.

    Internet and Mail

    Gmail on this is great, push updates and notifications. The mail client works well with loads of options, including a unified inbox for all accounts. Nice touch. The browser works very well with smooth panning, zooming and pinching there, and in the rest of the apps too. Google search and voice search integrates brilliantly, giving local results for the device and net results too. I did install Firefox beta but for a beta release it has some terrible bugs, notably being the capitalising of the first letters of passwords, meaning you type it, then your full password, then go back and delete the capital. It’s easily fixed but that is a real balls up for something of Firefox’s standards. Quick look up works when you highlight text, you get the usual cut and paste options. The menu also gives ‘Quick Look Up’ as an option so you can get web and Wikipedia results for the highlighted text. Very good idea.Bookmarks are tiles and multiple pages are supported. plus map links and so forth open the relevant app rather than viewing in browser. Perfect touch there.

    Software

    The market now allows auto-update and update all for installed apps. It restricts that by forcing manual update if application permissions have changed. That stops developers sneaking in data mining and sharing that you did not originally agree to. Thank you Google. The market is simple to browse and the app selection is huge. Not quite up with Apple and there is a fair amount of crapware in there, but there are some great pieces of software. Be wary that quality control is non-existent, which gives app developers freedom but also allows more seedy tactics like apps that are just there to serve ads, thus generating cash, and apps that don’t work properly. Read comments before installing.

    Samsung Galaxy Tab – 7″ Android Tablet

    Posted by – August 25, 2010


    Text contained: Augmented reality, Video call, Navigation, PC Link Web?, HD Movie play, E-reading, Flash Support, 7″ screen, September 2nd, Berlin, Germany, Shown: Camera with LED flash, Email, Swype, Google maps, Calendar, Chat support, more?

    So basically everything Android 2.2 does, but with a big 7″ screen?

    App Reviews: Dell Streak

    Posted by – August 22, 2010

    Having used the Streak for a while now I wanted to review of some of the more interesting applications it uses.

    First up, Google Earth.  A couple of technical details. This requires Android 2.0 or better, and I had to find the .APK file online and install it manually as it seems to be available for Nexus One only in the UK Android Market. Quite why Google are dithering with this I don’t know, but it’s easy enough to find anyway. I always found it odd that this was out for iPhone pretty quick but was difficult to obtain for Google’s own mobile OS. The beauty of Android is that tinkering is allowed and easy. Beats the hell out of Apple’s NONE SHALL PASS approach. When installing from a non-market source you will need to enable external application installs in the applications settings menu.

    It opens pretty quickly, under five seconds. When it loads you see the familiar splash screen followed by the blue marble hanging in space. This is the first time I have run Google Earth on any Android device, and only the second mobile device after iPhone 3G. The animation and frame rate is smooth and does not lag at all. GPS allows you locate yourself and zooming is about as smooth and sharp as your data connection will allow. Strangely my 3G is far faster than my home WiFi so it’s pretty laggy when zooming in on my home broadband. Obviously that’s not Google’s fault. I just have a rubbish router.

    Video demo:

    Forgive me for searching ‘London’ when I was already there – duh. You can see it is pretty slick. You’ll notice I accidentally pressed a couple of photos. That isn’t n issue, I’m just holding a camera whilst using it so I slipped up. You can see that pinch, double tap etc all work very well.There doesn’t seem to be any way to mess with it,  import GPS tracks, KML files etc, but all the usual layers are available so you can, for example, view geotagged Panoramio photos.

    Google Earth works very well, and it is crying out for users to do things with it now. Let’s see what happens eh?

    Dell Streak Review (Phones)

    Posted by – August 21, 2010

    I’ve had the Dell Streak for a couple of weeks now so the review is not an unboxing.

    Here is how it looks:

    I’ve read a lot about the Streak online and it tends to be the same everywhere. Those who’ve never seen it don’t get it, those who see it like it, those who own it are always being asked about it.

    For a phone it’s big, almost comedy size, but despite the ability to make calls on it the Streak is sold as a tablet. The interface is set up in landscape mode and you can buy a data-only tariff.  I bought it  outright and got a 30 day rolling data contract. Other options are available, including 18/24 month deals or SIM free from Dell. Keep reading below…

    More…