Tag: Phones

WileyFox Spark, Spark+ and Spark X

Posted by – September 27, 2016

Wileyfox Spark Range

WileyFox, known for high value, good specification smartphones in the UK, such as the highly popular WileyFox Swift, has recently introduced three new budget smartphones, starting with the:

WileyFox Spark – £89 Budget (lower spec than Swift)
8mp rear, 8mp front cameras
1GB ram, 8gb memory (going to be slow and fill up quickly)
5inch HD (1280×720) screen
1.3GHz quad-core
Dual sim, MicroSD slot
Cyanogen 13 (Android 6)
2200mAh battery (removable)
143 x 70.4 x 8.65mm
134.5g weight

If you have the choice between the Swift and the Spark, the Swift would be a better choice, as the 8GB leaves a very small amount of memory for use.

WileyFox Spark + – £119 Budget (V similar spec to Swift)
13mp rear, 8mp front cameras
2GB ram, 16gb memory
5inch HD (1280×720) screen
1.3GHz quad-core
Dual sim, MicroSD slot
Cyanogen 13 (Android 6)
2200mAh battery (removable)
143 x 70.4 x 8.65mm
134.5g weight

Improved “Selfie” camera, faster processor, lower rating battery, thinner.

WileyFox Spark X – £129 Budget with large screen (Similar spec to Swift)
13mp rear, 8mp front cameras
2GB ram, 16gb memory
5.5inch HD (1280×720) screen
1.3GHz quad-core
Dual sim, MicroSD slot
Cyanogen 13 (Android 6)
3000mAh battery (removable)
154.35 x 78.6 x 8.75mm
162.9g weight

Features a larger screen, and bigger battery.

 

 

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

HTC One Mini Screen and Sample Photos (Phones)

Posted by – August 26, 2013

HTC One Mini Homescreen

The HTC One Mini is the latest smartphone from HTC, with a smaller 4.3inch screen, it’s a great size phone, the screen is great, and the phone is fast, responsive and feels great. It’s got the same 4 megapixel sensor as the HTC One, and the bright f/2.0 lens, but the Mini doesn’t feature optical image stabilisation, whereas the HTC One does. It should still provide great low light images, but won’t be as good as those with optical image stabilisation, like the HTC One, Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020.

HTC One Mini

It’s got a dual core processor, 1GB memory, 4.3 inch 720p screen, 1.6mp front camera, Android 4.2.2, HTC Sense 5.0, plus stereo beats audio. Its got 16GB of built in memory, however you can’t upgrade this as there is no microSD slot, although they do give you loads of Dropbox storage for free if you set it up on the phone.

HTC One Mini Porsche Sample Photo

The camera takes some decent photos, although at only 4 megapixels, detail isn’t as good as you as other higher resolution camera phones. However for the most part 4 megapixels should be plenty for sharing on Facebook and other social network sites.

HTC One Mini Porsche Sample Photo

HTC One SmartPhone Review (Phones)

Posted by – April 17, 2013

HTC One Home screen

The HTC One is HTC’s “flagship” devices with specs that impress, an “ultrapixel” camera, bright lens, optical image stabilisation, 32gb, a great 4.7inch full HD screen, and a thin, stylish aluminium / plastic body, it certainly looks good, and has a modern stylish interface, with the OS based on the latest version of Android v4.1.2 (HTC Sense 5.0).

HTC One rear

The speakers are good, as we’ve shown in our videos previously, however they lack bass as they still have to conform to the logic and limitations of the physical world. IE. you can’t get a lot of bass out of a tiny set of speakers. And they are quite tiny, well they have to be, otherwise they wouldn’t fit in the 9.3mm thick mobile phone.

HTC One Screen Close

One of the most impressive things about the HTC One, other than the design, and the excellent screen, and the sound, (okay there are many impressive things), but one thing that stands out, is just how smooth the operating system and apps are on the phone. They are fast, respond quickly, and smoothly when you drag tabs in Chrome for example. Web browsing on the phone looks great with the high resolution screen, and it’s a shame when sites force you to view the mobile friendly version.

HTC One Camera and LED

The HTC One’s home screens, with the impressive facebook/twitter home page, look modern and stylish and respond quickly, and make the Sony Xperia Z’s home screens (and icon design) look dated in comparison. The “highlights” page can let you see the latest content from facebook/twitter/calendar/zoe share/TV and feels like you’re using a really useful app. The HTC TV app lets you set your favourite programs and get reminders about whats on TV each day.

HTC One Top

Other cool things worth mentioning: Wide-angle front facing camera. 28mm f/2.0 rear camera (4mp), LED works quite well (for an LED).

HTC One USB

Negatives: Software third menu button – there is nowhere for the third menu button, so you have to rely on the app or phone giving you access to this, and this doesn’t always happen. Seems a strange design feature to leave out an important button, and in some apps this takes up screen space while it displays the button on screen.

HTC One Beats Audio Logo

Another negative is the delay in the HTC One coming to market – which may be due to manufacturing problems – the device we had, had a number of tiny cracks or lines in the white plastic body of the phone that fits in between the aluminium parts. We’re guessing that this is due to this being from an early production phone, and hopefully this won’t be seen in ones being sold to consumers.

HTC One Screen

While the Ultrapixel camera will give you much better low light photographs than the majority of other smartphones (such as the Nokia 808, iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 etc), due to it having a 4 megapixel sensor, f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilisation, it means that you are limited to a 4 megapixel camera. Which in good light is quite low resolution – particularly when other smartphones offer 8 or 13 megapixels (or even 41mp in the case of the Nokia Pureview 808) – and while these other cameras have crammed a lot of pixels into a small sensor, in bright sunny conditions they should be able to produce decent, sharp, detailed photos.

HTC One

Overall, while the HTC One makes an excellent smartphone with a speedy responsive screen that looks great, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying it for the camera alone, unless you take the majority of your photos in low-light. And then if you do, then aren’t you likely to get better results from a digital camera with a real flash? If you just want a great smartphone with an awesome screen, great speakers built in, and stylish design, and aren’t too fussed about the camera, then the HTC One would make a great choice. I certainly loved using it, and will definitely miss it when I have to send it back! (Photos of the HTC One taken with the Canon EOS 700D and 18-55 STM lens, you can click them to view full size.)

HTC One Screen… (Phones)

Posted by – March 28, 2013

HTC One

HTC One

The HTC One, has a simply stunning screen. It has a 4.7 inch, Full HD 1080p, 468 PPI (pixels per inch) screen. It looks great. Click the images to view super high res (18mp) photos of the phone’s screen.

HTC One

HTC One

Must have apps for Windows Phone / Symbian (Phones)

Posted by – December 5, 2012

Recent events have led me to use both Nokia’s latest phone and operating systems (Symbian on the Nokia PureView 808), as well as Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system on the Nokia Lumia 920.

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. For android versions, have a look at this list.

Must have app Nokia Version Windows Phone Version
Barcode (QRcode) scanner UPCode Barcode Wallet (scanner and storage) / Scan
Last.fm Scrobbler* Mobbler Last.fm App
Twitter client Gravity (£8 – Well worth the money) Twitter / Seesmic
Torch App QTorch Flashlight with LED / Flashlight XT
Spirit Level Level Touch Another Level / Level
Battery Meter Nokia Battery Monitor (Ovi) Battery Level (suprisingly not built in!)
Panoramic Photo Nokia Panorama (N8 – unlimited shots?) Ztitch+ / Panorama (Nokia)
Keyboard entry Swype N/A
Photo Editor Nokia Photo Editor (Built in) Creative Studio (by Nokia for Lumia)
Phone Tracker Phonelocator Periodic Find my phone – built in, in settings
Screenshot “Best ScreenSnap 2.0” (link, or here) Built in (WP8) Press power and windows key together
Navigation Nokia Maps (Built in) Nokia Maps (Built in)
Navigation Customisation Own Voice (record your own voice)
WIFI Internet Sharing JoikuSpot Tethering / Portable Hotspot (Built in, settings, internet sharing)
Location information Here and Now (Built in) TripAdvisor (included)
Location aware profiles Nokia Situation (betalabs)
Camera based location info Nokia Point and Find (betalabs) Nokia City Lens
Task Management Task Manager (Built in, S^3)
GPS Based Sports Tracking Nokia Sports Tracker Runtastic / Endomondo Sports Tracker
Podcast Support Built into Music Player / Podcatcher (link) Built into the store
Alt. Music Players TuneWiki (link) Nokia Music, Last.fm, TuneWiki

* Can replace this with Spotify if you have an account as Spotify is available for both. Shazam / Soundhound is also recommended.

Recommended Nokia Lumia Photo apps: PhotoBeamer, CinemaGraph, SmartShoot
3rd Party Photo apps: Lomogram, Fantasia Painter Free,
eReader: Nokia Lumia: Nokia Reading, Amazon Kindle. Weather: Weather (by The Weather Channel)
Transport stuff: thetrainline.com (both), Tube Map (WP)

Find new / more apps for Symbian / Windows Phone / Nokia on, Nokia Betalabs (apps), recommended apps for Symbian on MobileRnR

Hi Res: HTC One X vs Samsung Galaxy S3

Posted by – October 13, 2012

HTC One X vs Samsung Galaxy S3
HTC One X vs Samsung Galaxy S3 screens, taken with the Nokia PureView 808. Click to view larger, then click again to view really high res version of the photo.

Nokia N8 and Nokia PureView 808 Camera Phone Reviews

Posted by – July 30, 2012

DigiCamReview has reviewed the 12 megapixel Nokia N8 after using it for 18 months, while ePHOTOzine has reviewed the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808. Both camera phones run Symbian, and feature Carl Zeiss lenses, and Xenon flash – which helps massively in low light situations. Here’s what ePHOTOzine had to say about the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808:

“Looking at the detail resolved in these images, it shows more detail than 24 megapixel APS-C Digital SLRs, and provides very similar levels of detail to the 36 megapixel Nikon D800, albeit with more noise visible in the image.”

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.