Tag: camera phone

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.

    The problem with cameras on mobile phones… (Phones)

    Posted by – March 26, 2010

    The problem with cameras on mobile phones is that they’re all crap – do you want to know why?.

    In the olden days (you know when people used film cameras) no matter what camera you had, whether it was a cheap piece of plastic crap or the best SLR in the world, it all had one thing in common: 35mm film*. And the one thing 35mm film did well, was take photos no matter what the lighting conditions. Even in dark situations, without flash, you’d still be able to get some kind of photo from it. * assuming you weren’t using a 110 or APS camera. An example on flickr, and another example above with flash (I assume the flickr link is using 35mm film which measures 24x36mm).

    Night shot Casio Z120

    With a digital camera – nearly all of them have flash (I’d estimate 99%) – so in dark conditions you can use the flash and get a half decent photo (generally speaking). Some of the time you can switch the flash off, setup the self-timer, put it on a wall or a tripod and take a half-decent night shot. Which is fairly impressive considering how small the sensor is in relation to 35mm film. (The average compact digital camera sensor size is 7.2mm x 5.3mm (1/1.8 sensor), this is roughly 5x smaller than 35mm film, with an average Pixel area(µm2) of 2.6 – 3.8µm2) (Using a 12mp example: Canon Powershot G9 with a 1/1.7″ sensor, the pixel area is 3.8µm2). Example above taken with the Casio Exilim Z120.

    On a side note: Do you remember when Digital Cameras were still new? Like in 2002 or 2003 when digital cameras were still so new that they had to write “Digital Camera” on the front of it somewhere so that you knew it was a digital camera? Simply being a digital camera in 2001 was so exciting and new that they simply used those two words together as a marketing tool / selling point for the camera. Now you’re lucky if you even have the model number written on it, and rarely do you find the manufacturer name on the back these days. (They used to always put the manufacturers name underneath the screen – like this). Now it’s more likely the be the huge number of megapixels or optical zoom or screen size that’s plastered all over the camera.

    Night shot - Nokia N86

    With a camera phone – most of them don’t have a real flash (maybe 1% has a real xenon flash (the Sony Satio is the only recent one) that is equivalent to the flash you find in a Digital Camera) – and the rest – if you’re lucky (or unlucky depending how you feel about it) – has an LED or a “twin” LED flash. The problem is that even with (or without) the LED flash, the camera’s just don’t cope with low-light situations. You can put the phone on night mode (if you’re lucky), put it somewhere steady^ and switch on the self-timer, and hope it takes a successful shot. The problem is that the sensors in camera phones are even smaller than compact digital cameras. They just can’t get enough light into the sensor, and that means in low light situations they produce crap noisy images that are over-processed so much that you’re lucky there’s any image left to view. Further problems are caused due to the small sensors lacking the ability to capture dynamic range, so dark areas are underexposed, and bright areas are overexposed, further reducing detail in images (the example above taken with the Nokia N86 – where’s the detail in the steps?). The latest 12 megapixel camera phone sensors made by Sony have a 1.4µm pixel size – which is again 2.7x smaller than compact digital camera sensors. (2.6mm x 1.96mm estimation). This is roughly 13.8x smaller than 35mm film.

    In a nutshell – it’s all about the light – 35mm film cameras can absorb lots of light, and therefore take photos in dark conditions and get as much colour and detail as possible. Digital Cameras, more so compact cameras, have much smaller sensors and struggle in low light, but don’t do too bad a job of it thanks to having a flash, however, they are very much on the limit of acceptable image quality (that’s why Digital SLRs get better image quality – they have larger sensors). Camera phones on the other hand have had to miniaturize to the point where image quality is badly affected, and the only way to get good photos from them is to use them in ideal light, or have a real xenon flash for times when lighting is poor.

    ^ Options are limited as I don’t know of any camera phones with tripod mount, and you’re generally lucky if the phone will stand on it’s side without falling over. Even on the “Photo-centric” Nokia N86 8mp you can’t stand the camera on it’s side without it falling over!

    Review: The Sony Satio 12mp Camera Phone – Re-visited (Phones)

    Posted by – January 27, 2010

    As a phone – it’s okay. It has a great screen (the built in videos are quite impressive) although it’s not as colourful as the Nokia’s OLED screen. Acceptable touch screen – although I’m not a big fan – so never really got completely used to (or happy) using this phone. The stylus seems quite loose – which has resulted in me loosing it once, and nearly loosing it a second time. The phone feels a little cheap – very plastic – although the sliding lens cover is quite nice and the shutter button feels decent. It’s interesting (and a little surprising) to see Sony ditch Sony M2 memory cards and instead include an 8gb Micro SD cards. (It looks like Sony are doing the same with all their cameras and giving the option of Sony MS or standard SD cards). What else does it do… find out below…

    More…

    Review: The Nokia N86 8mp Camera Phone – Re-visited (Phones)

    Posted by – December 29, 2009

    Previously I was particularly scathing of the Nokia N86 8mp Camera Phone – but perhaps, after experiencing the touchscreen Sony Satio, and updating the firmware of the Nokia N86 – my experience using the phone has been a little more pleasant, and it seemed about time to post my re-evaluation of the phone.


    Most of the issues originally reported still exist (and pretty much all of them are still relevant), but being aware of the limitations has let me work round most, sorry, some of the issues (and ignore or avoid the rest), until I can get a “real” smartphone (see Android phones), and finding 3rd party apps has certainly helped.

    First of all you’ll need to install Opera Mini (version 5 Beta 2 works very well*) as the built in web browser is pretty rubbish, and data hungry. Another good app is J1CK.Tweet which is a simple and easy to use twitter app, with a decent number of features, such as letting you take photos and post them on twitter / twitpic (and then onwards to facebook if you use the facebook selective twitter app and #fb). See what I mean about needing to find a work-around or two?

    You can also use Opera Mini for RSS feeds – but I haven’t found an app for this problem yet. (The built in RSS feed reader hides inside the built in web browser).

    ISO100

    The built in Sat-Nav software is still pretty annoying, and limited to 10 days of use. One feature you can use is the walking mode – and as long as you don’t drive over ~29mph – you can still use this as a handy navigation system when stuck with no other solution. (The N86’s built in Sat-Nav software is by Nokia, and called Nokia Maps – and is noticeably better than the Sony Satio’s bundled navigation software: “WisePilot” – when I first used it, it only had four locations available: Sweden, Germany, plus two other European countries, which were not much use when I was in the north of England!)

    ISO100

    There is still no facebook integration built in apart from the “Facebook app” – which is basically a shortcut to the website, and an icon. It uses the built in web browser, and the web browser still doesn’t accept email addresses with the subject defined after a ‘?’ question mark. You can get round this by adding an email account to the phone, and adding your facebook mobile email address to your contacts, or by using a 3rd party twitter app (see above). But it’s hardly elegant or particularly easy.

    ISO100

    Running too many programs at once is an issue – and by too many – I mean about 4 or 5 apps. Load up Opera Mini, Web Browser, Email, Music Player, etc and then try sending a text message to someone – and the phone will freeze, unable to open the text message page, and will give no error message, just an empty screen. You can go to each application and quit them one by one, but sometimes it’s just quicker and easier to switch the phone off and on again.

    Battery life is still awful. The only solution to this is to carry a USB cable with you at all times so that you can charge it when you’re in front of a computer. If you’re staying anywhere overnight, you will need to take the wall charger, battery life is around 1 or 2 days. If you actually use it, the battery life is appalling.

    ISO123

    The battery life can noticeably affect the visibility of the screen in bright light – so it’s important to keep the phone charged at all times. The screen does look very good – the colours are very bright, the screen is clear and crisp, assuming the battery is fully charged – and the sun isn’t out. Although the screen does seem to scratch very easily.

    ISO132 – Keep Off The Rocks” How about “No large notices?”

    Since the last issue with ovi.com and their on-line services I’ve avoided them completely. However I’ve had to use the OVI desktop software – this is a big huge mess of an installation – centering around “Nokia Ovi Suite”. The most useful feature of this is the ability to plug in your phone and use it’s internet connection when yours is down, but the Sony Satio version of the software is much better, simpler to install and use, and gives you more useful information when connected to the internet. (The Sony Satio software is also easier to install, being cleverly stored on the phone, so that you can install it where-ever you take the phone, instead of the Nokia software coming on CD, or needing to be downloaded).

    ISO107

    The camera uses an LED flash, which despite Nokia’s claims of excellent low-light performance thanks
    to the f2.4 aperture lens, just isn’t adequate for indoor shots of people. It simply isn’t bright enough when compared to cameras with a real flash (see DigiCamReview.com or the Sony Satio) and photos of people with any movement will come out blurry (see the examples below, these are fairly typical of the results you’ll get indoors). In fact it’s so bad that one nights photos with the Nokia N86 8mp were completely unusable – I took about 12 shots with the camera with flash, they were nearly all blurry, with poor colour, featured lots of red-eye, and were not even decent enough to put on Facebook (with it’s lower than VGA photo requirements). In comparison the same number of shots taken with the Sony Satio on the same night all came out well due to the Sony’s Xenon flash.

    ISO100

    Photos outside, in good light, can be pretty good. By pretty good, I mean good for a camera phone (see the examples shown – these are some of the better photos taken with the camera). I still think even the cheapest branded digital camera from Kodak (see below), Fuji, etc would be better than the Nokia N86. The macro mode is fairly good, but often the photos look a little washed out (lens flare?), and the camera is very sensitive to any dirt on the lens. Photos are still overly compressed and end up on average between 590kb and 1.9mb which is quite small for an 8mp camera (averaging around ~1.2mb).

    Overall – this camera phone is pretty rubbish – but “acceptable” as a phone as long as you don’t expect too much of it. Don’t expect it to do RSS feeds properly or well (it needs a dedicated app for this), don’t expect it to do Facebook properly or well (ditto), and don’t expect it to do Twitter at all unless you get a 3rd party app. Most of all, don’t expect it to be a decent camera, simply because it can’t take decent photos indoors. The twin-LED flash solution, is just not good enough, and if you want a camera on your phone then you will need to get the Sony Satio with a real flash, or better yet, just get a cheap digital camera, such as the Kodak Easyshare C140 for £49 – it had a real 3x optical zoom lens, and a real flash!

    After three months of use I’ve grown to accept the phone’s limitations – and grown to appreciate it’s design – I like the buttons, the sliding design, and compact size. It’s easy to text and phone people*, and the camera is acceptable in good weather**. But saying that, a dedicated digital camera is always going to be better, thanks to a real flash and better image quality – the images from the Nokia look over processed, and the colour seems poor generally. The phone works fairly well on the internet (better with Opera Mini) and is a decent enough phone if you don’t want to switch over to a touch screen, are a fan of Nokia, and you don’t expect too much from it. However, saying all this, it’s still pretty rubbish, and should have been, and could have been much better!

    Pros:
    Uses the new Micro USB connection which is now the world-wide standard for all mobile phones! Hooray!
    The kickstand is quite useful for video watching (iplayer etc)
    Uses the standard 3.5mm stereo jack
    Wide angle 28mm AF lens

    Cons:
    Satnav limited to 10 days navigation.
    LED Flash (no substitute for a real flash) – doesn’t light subject well, but does create red-eye
    Poor value for money (especially when new, as with most new contract mobile phones – £238 sim free)

    * apart from the crashes obviously.
    ** assuming you don’t have a real digital camera with you.

    Tested with software version 20.115.229.01, 21-09-2009. Face detection was added with the firmware update.

    Sony Ericsson Satio 12.1 Megapixel Camera Phone (Phones)

    Posted by – October 28, 2009

    Ah Sony… you take Nokia’s Symbian operating system and make is so much better… yet you still fail at providing advertised features! Your advert shows Facebook, Twitter, all integrated into the phone… yet they’re not, and Sony’s own blog recommends using snaptu, or symabook (in ALPHA!) to get this functionality…

    THE SONY BOX features a mystery facebook app – but is this on the phone, pre-loaded, or available anywhere? Not to my knowledge…

    Someone, somewhere*** says you can upload images STRAIGHT to Facebook – this is simply not possible without MANUALLY adding your own personalised email address to the phone! And where’s the direct uploading to Twitter? Nowhere, it doesn’t exist. The phone comes with built in setup to send photos to message (MMS, email), bluetooth, To web – which features Blogger*, PicasaWeb, Webalbum**, Flickr, Youtube, and Other…

    “Other” lets you add stuff, for example, you can add your personalized facebook email address to and this will work quite well to upload photos (you can also send MMS to facebook’s email address, and add them as a contact to speed up the process), without you having to spend money sending MMS messages.

    * Blogger is most annoying of all, this will upload your photos to a brand new blog on blogger.com – how about letting us upload to our own already existing blog?

    ** Webalbum takes you to Sony’s “PlayNow” website, and simply says “There are no items available” so basically doesn’t work.

    *** will confirm source.

    I’ll update this further on the phone… but for now, I’m slightly unimpressed. And what happened to the Cybershot branding?

    Links: Flickr Satio Photos

    And on the subject of Symbian – it seems like Sony and Nokia are using Symbian for some unknown reason, like these projects started years ago before they realised that they should be developing for Android. Motorola “decided to axe the entire Symbian product line as well as phones using several other operating systems.” (NYTimes) and have just released one of the most impressive new phones: The Motorola Droid based on Android 2.0. Even Nokia seem to be hedging their bets by developing new phones with Linux based operating systems: The Nokia N900 / based on Maemo.

    If web connectivity and the ability to upload to social networking sites isn’t built into the core of a mobile phone operating system these days, then it just isn’t good enough, and releasing apps (Sony), patches (Nokia), and updates for features that should have come with the phone, isn’t the right way to go about it. By the time your updates are available, people will have already jumped ships, and will simply be “putting up” with the phone until they can get out of their contract, or get rid of their phone, to switch to an iPhone, or an Android phone.

    The Nokia N86 8mp Camera Phone and Ovi.com (Phones)

    Posted by – September 2, 2009


    So once upon a time, when mobile phones were just that, mobile phones, they would come fresh out of their packet, and just work. They were simple, made phone calls, and worked, and that was GREAT! Now, however, they are multimedia computers with the photographic capabilities of a budget 8mp camera, wifi connecting, youtube streaming, iplaying, facebooking, emailing, fm radio, gps tracking, interneting wonder machines, all promising to keep you 24/7 connected to your new internet life…

    However, the simple fact of the matter is that they fail. Badly.

    The Nokia N86 8mp is case in point – here’s where it fails:

    – It offers an 8 megapixel camera, but has an awful LED flash
    – If offers email connectivity that works, but wont successfully click an email link with the subject defined as a ? and therefore Facebook Mobile Photo Upload does not work
    – If offers a web browser, which features a built in RSS reader as a hidden away menu item, and doesn’t let you put your RSS feeds on the home page
    – If comes with satnav software that can only be used for 10 days – would you buy TomTom if it only worked for 10 days?? So why do mobile phone companies get away with demo functionality? It also tells you to turn right anytime it looses GPS signal!
    – It offers it’s own photo hosting connectivity, and will let you upload to Ovi (by Nokia), Vox (who?) and Flickr, or email, but does not include built in Facebook support.
    – It has a pretty user interface and multi-tasking applications that can run in the background, but they then stay in the background until eventually crashing the phone until you manually exit each program individually, rather than just quiting when you exit.
    – It provides links to useful programs as downloads, such as a flashlight program, that sensibly uses the screen as a torch, that is free for a number of days, but when you download it and install it, it then updates itself and tells you that you have to pay to use the program. Even though the program should be included free with the phone as standard.
    – The phone likes to go into power saving mode when it has 2 bars of battery life left, when it does this, the screen brightness is set to minimum, and can’t be adjusted, and then when you go outside into the sunlight, YOU CAN NOT SEE THE SCREEN!
    Update: Note scratches on the glass under the lens cover – this is caused by the LENS COVER! Normally lens covers are supposed to stop the lens from being scratched, apparently this is the fixed version which only scratches AROUND the lens photo taking area, which is better I suppose than the N97 that scratches where the photos are taken!

    …and this one deserves it’s own section because it’s so unbelievably flawed:

    ovi.com (by nokia)

    The phone can sync with Nokia’s Ovi.com website over the internet, so that you can apparently backup your contacts to the internet, however, as I have experienced, after it’s backed them up to the internet, it:

    – Somehow removes all the phone numbers from the phone, leaving just the names.
    – So you think, that’s okay, I’ll just restore from ovi.com to the phone
    – You sync the phone, and then it removes all the names from ovi.com, leaving just the numbers on the website, and all the contacts on the phone have been named “Unnamed” and have no number:

    And then you’re stuck with 220 phone numbers on ovi.com and no idea whose number belongs to who… and 220 entries on your phone, all called “unknown” – it simply should NOT be possible for a BACKUP service to DELETE all the DATA from the phone and itself! Backup systems are meant to be about copying data, NOT DELETING DATA! (unless of course ovi was designed specifically to “hunt down data from across the internet and try to kill it“)

    And if that wasn’t enough of a pain in the arse (particularly when ovi.com was supposed to be a backup of your contacts, rather than deleting them!) ovi then doesn’t work when trying to invite friends and contacts, and provides completely different functionality when you have a different phone, for example the Nokia N97, which can send requests out, that simply don’t work if you have a different phone.

    To summarise: Basically, if you’re going to make a phone, that connects to everything, please make sure that:

    1) your bundled applications work (facebook mobile uploads),
    2) standard internet technologies are supported WELL for example with a seperate fully functioning RSS reader that can be viewed on the home screen like it’s email,
    3) that your biggest selling feature such as an 8mp camera has the expected supporting features needed to make a decent camera, such as a real flash,
    4) include REAL satnav features that works for as long as you own the phone,
    5) include expected software for free (flashlight tool), and don’t update it to disable the expected demo!
    6) support multiple upload services INCLUDING facebook, not just your own dumb ovi.com photo hosting service
    7) this is KEY: provide sync / backup software that NEVER EVER deletes data from the phone or the backup, but instead, you know, backs up the data!
    8) once again support internet standards such as ? defining the subject of an email!
    9) Make an operating system that doesn’t crash because there are too many programs open, because the OS doesn’t shut them down automatically!
    10) Make a screen THAT WORKS OUTSIDE (even when the battery is low!!), mobile phones are meant to be MOBILE, they are not just for use indoors!
    11) Standardise expected functions, such as copy and paste, so that you can copy from one part of the phone (ie text messages) into another part of the phone (ie web broswer or other apps)
    12) Standardise what buttons do when using different programs, if the C key is the backspace key when writing texts, then why doesn’t it do the same when typing something into the web browser? Instead it quits the web browser and everything you were doing! (This can be switched off, but for some reason may revert back to default settings)
    13) New: Make a lens cover that, DOESN’T scratch ANY PART of the lens!

    The list could go on, but it just goes to show that these products are being released with serious flaws and faults that anyone can experience and come across without even trying. You come to expect everything to work straight out of the box like in the olden days, and when it doesn’t, you’re left wondering whether anyone at Nokia actually tested this phone in real life, outside the perfectly functioning office, you know, perhaps outside in the real world?

    It’s as though they printed a list of 20+ features, except that 50% of them have a small * (star) next to them with legal print at the bottom in tiny tiny writing that goes on to explain “these features may or may not be fully functioning and may not provide expected features or functionality”. Except they then forgot to print the disclaimer on the website / packaging and marketing material.

    Lens Unit PCB

    Update: The Nokia N86 comes with 8GB of memo
    ry built in, which is great for putting your MP3s on (assuming you keep them all on your PC as well), but not so great when you’ve taken 500 photos, and then the phone dies and is irrepairable. As you’ll have just lost all of your photos. To avoid this it’s worth buying a seperate memory card for the phone, even if it does cost you money (thankfully there is a memory slot, unlike some other phones!).

    More links: Nokia N97 Reviewed by Gizmodo, Dumb phones must die (Gizmodo).