Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First Impressions : Android 4.3 JellyBean Mobile Operating System

Google announced a new updated version of its mass popular mobile operating system - Android Jellybean 4.3 on 25th July. This is the third iteration of Android which has JellyBean as its tagname. My friend’s Google Nexus got the update just couple of days back. Today I checked the phone and here are my initial findings for the latest Android on board.



As already announced by Google, Nexus devices are the first to get the latest OS update and later on other manufacturers will follow after integrating the OS with their own layers of user interface. That’s a good thing about Nexus devices, you get a pure android interface with no bloat wares and these are first to get the latest updates as well.

For a layman this is hardly an update. And mind you before I type any further this is not a complete revamp of the OS but just includes minor additions here and there which will be actually too hard to notice for some people.  As far as overall user interface and looks is concerned there is hardly any noticeable change.






Familiar User Interface with Minor Tweaks 

You will find the first visible change in the About section where you get a 4.3 label under Android version. If someone was using older google talk then that will be updated to hangouts which comes by default with 4.3 JellyBean. A person running JellyBean 4.3 on his phone will find a new app icon called as ‘Google Keep’ – this is android’s stock notes application and now you will not require downloading a third party notes application like evernote anymore.

Interface of all apps remains more or less the same. Dialer app now features an autocomplete feature which suggests names of contacts as soon as you tap a number.

Android 4.3 introduces native support for dialpad autocomplete, a feature that suggests names of contacts as they type a number in the Dialler. This feature is already present in many Android phones due to tweaks by manufacturers. This autocomplete enhancement is actually implemented on past versions of Android also – thanks to the proprietary user interface of mobile manufacturers, for example HTC Sense in my One V already has this feature.




Camera interface in Android JellyBean 4.3

Tap the camera app and you will notice a revamped interface. The camera controls are now arranged in Speedometer style. The person who implemented this design must be a petrolhead ;)

Performance wise there is hardly any difference but yes the phone has got a little smoother than before. Battery life should increase as it supports low power Bluetooth. Android 4.3 should run newer 3D games smoothly as it supports OpenGL ES 3.0 – the latest version of graphics application programming interface.

It also has a new feature called restricted profiles where you can manage your apps usage by restricting apps usage to certain users only. This is available for tab devices as tabs are often used by more than one person in a family. Good feature for multi-user devices.





UI of Android 4.3 JellyBean


Rest I could not find any other significant improvement or functionality added to the OS as far as the user interface/apps/performance is concerned.

After Nexus devices, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One will receive the update soon.

So can we say that this update is just for the sake of updating the OS as the 4.2 was almost ten months old? For me it’s kind of 50-50 situation rest I leave it to users to decide.


Thanks folks for reading! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review : Nokia Lumia 520 – eXperience the freshness through Windows!


The Nokia Lumia 520 has been launched in India at a price of Rs. 10,000 in April 2013. It sports a 4-inch IPS Capacitive Touchscreen,  1 GHz Qualcomm Krait Dual Core Processor, 512 MB RAM,  Adreno 305 GPU,  5 MP Primary Camera, 8 GB internal memory, Expandable Storage Capacity of 64 GB and  Windows Phone 8 OS.



Looks like I am getting a bit lucky these days; lots of my close friends are buying new phones and letting me to use their devices because of  which only these blog posts are actually possible. I would like to thank them all before typing any further.



We often open ‘Windows’ to let fresh air into our homes when the inside air gets stale.  The experience is even more refreshing when the outside breeze is pleasant & cold.

One can experience this kind of freshness with mobile phones also. I did as I experienced the Nokia Lumia 520 powered by Windows 8 mobile operating system. This was for the first time I used a Windows OS mobile phone and it has definitely left me impressed. As I mentioned in my earlier review of Nokia Asha 306, the Finnish giant is concentrating real hard to mark its presence in the already crowded smartphone segment without having the most popular mobile OS i.e. Android on board.




Screen & Build Quality

Nokia Lumia 520 is a step forward in this regard. Having launched a Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 in the high-med segment, Nokia Lumia 520 is an attempt to target a segment which derives maximum sales for a cell phone manufacturer. This budget Windows OS phone comes with a 4-inch IPS LCD with a 480x800 pixel resolution at 233ppi which is pretty decent for a budget Nokia smartphone. It doesn’t come with a gorilla glass protection but Nokia claims the screen to be scratch resistant. It is still advised to get a screen protection cover as soon as the purchase is made. The screen quality is fine for a 10k smartphone. The colors/saturation/contrast levels are good which makes the text/pictures to look crisp and sharp. Under the sun legibility is just OK. Touch response is good. One issue which I noticed is that the screen is finger print magnet and does get a little muggy at the end of the day but once you get a screen cover, maintaining screen will be very easy. The screen is surrounded by black glossy edges which enhances the phone’s look.



Design & Buttons

Nokia Lumia 520 is quite a looker and definitely attracts with its lovely colourful back cover which are also available as spares in different colours to match with say for example colour of your T-shirt or even your mood. The build quality is surprisingly good. The phone weighs around 124 gram and 9.9 thick. The back cover is nicely integrated which gives it a unibody feel. On removing the cover you will find a removable battery and SIM card/SD card slot. Please note that this is a single sim phone.  On the front you will find three capacitive buttons for back, start and search operation. The earpiece is placed just above Nokia logo; microphone is nicely tucked on the lower edge of screen.  There is no front camera and neither had I expected it to be at first place because of the phone’s price.



Camera & Sound

Flip down the phone and you will see a 5 MP camera capturing images at 2592х1936 pixels with features like autofocus, 1/4'' sensor size, geo-tagging and 720p video recording @30fps. It does not comes with a flashlight which should not be a deal breaker in any case as I personally found flashlights doing more harm than any good to the photographs. I clicked few pictures with Lumia 520 and observed the autofocus is bit slow but overall picture quality is fine for outdoor shoots. Low light clicking was not much impressive. Below the camera lens there is a Nokia logo nicely embedded to the back cover in glossy black fonts. There is also a SAR certification sticker placed near the speaker. On the right side of the phone you will find a volume rocker, a power button and I was surprised to find a dedicated camera button just below it; thumbs up to Nokia for this. There are no buttons on the left side of the phone. On the top there is 3.5mm audio jack and at the bottom you will find a charging/data transfer port.





Operating System

When was the last time you used a mobile phone with a start button? Press the power button and you will find a crisp looking lock screen. The Windows 8 mobile OS is very different from the already used to Android OS. Tap the start button and you will get a fresh looking interface with varying sized live tiles. If you have used Windows 8 on a personal computer then you will feel right at home. Limited apps availability on windows store can bother people switching from Android platform. Windows apps interface is very different from those available in Android or even in iOS. Basic apps like facebook, whatsapp are available but you will be surprised to find some games/apps like angry birds/fruit ninja chargeable which are free on Android platform. Windows OS sports Internet Explorer which is claimed to be the fastest mobile browser available.


     

Applications

The live tiles are resizable. Performance is respectable for a budget smartphone. Navigating through the user interface was snappier with hardly any lag in between. I haven’t played any games on the device so can’t confirm the same for gaming. If you are switching from Android platform, you may feel little uncomfortable with the overall user interface. It’s not that it is not user friendly but just totally different with Android OS hugely popular among masses. Windows 8 mobile OS comes loaded with Nokia proprietary apps like Here Maps, Here Drive and Nokia music. You will get a mobile version of Microsoft Office, skype and email app. Windows Store is still desiring for lots of apps and I am sure developers are working on it considering the increasing popularity of Windows phones. All other basic apps like weather, calendar etc is pre-installed.

                             
        


  
Call Quality 

Call quality is excellent; speakerphone output is good. The phone hardware supports FM radio but sadly Windows OS does not. So that’s up to Microsoft now to implement Radio functionality in the operating system. The phone comes with a standard Nokia charger, couple of booklets including warranty/user manual and an earphone which is reported to be of average quality and nothing to write home about. The removable battery rated @ 1430mAh will last a day easily with average usage. I am not sure how Windows OS or its applications will affect battery unlike Android applications but it is definitely not a power hungry device.

 

     


If you are in smartphone market today with a budget of Rupees ten thousand and want to try something different, Nokia Lumia 520 is the right phone for you. For once you may feel little uncomfortable using a Windows smartphone but upon getting used to there's no looking back.

Thanks folks for reading

Disclaimer: The review and its content are my own views & user experience and may differ from others. I am not an expert reviewer and the review can have possible shortcomings. Please bear with that. Comments and suggestions much appreciated.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review : Samsung Galaxy S4 - Performance never satisfy you.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been launched in India at a price of Rs. 40,000 in May 2013. This flagship phone from the South Korean giant sports an Octa Core (1.6 GHz Quad + 1.2 GHz Quad) Processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal memory with SD card support upto 64 GB,  5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED Touchscreen with 441 ppi and Android 4.2.2 JellyBean. 



So in a very quick succession I am back with another device to review and this time it’s the most powerful smartphone available in the country- The Samsung Galaxy S4 – the flagship device produced by Samsung. One of my friends recently bought this monster for forty grands. 

What made Samsung to release S4 while its S3 was already doing well; in fact it was the bestselling phone in high end smartphone segment? S3 was hardly one year old but companies just stay on their toes and starts working on a next iteration as soon as they release an upgrade. Who knows Samsung may have already started working on an S5 or whatever they will call it at the time of writing this text. It’s not that Samsung was apprehensive because of iphone 5 or HTC One. It’s just like that you better look good when racing against yourself. In this case Samsung had to better its own offering, the Galaxy S3. 



When I saw my friend using his S4; I mistook it for a S3 only. Look wise it was no different but as soon as I grabbed the phone in my hands I realised it was much thinner, slicker and a bit lighter than S3. Design wise it’s no different than any other Samsung Galaxy phones available in the market. S4 is available in two colors - Black Mist and White Frost. Overall body shape, design and looks are nothing to write home about. One may just give it a paas if looks are preferred over performance. It is high time for Samsung to wake up its design team and bring something new and fresh. Same design/pattern again and again with every other launch will make things monotonous for Samsung and will not do any good. Like I mentioned this in my last to last review of Samsung Galaxy Core – South Korean companies just follow the same design cue with every other device they make; Take Hyundai’s fluidic design for example. Looks wise HTC One is the phone to lure for and in my humble opinion HTC makes the best looking phones. 




Screen & Build Quality

But I just forgot all other stuff as soon as I switched on the screen. I was smitten by the super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with 16M colors,  1080 x 1920 pixels (~441 ppi pixel density) which comes with corning Gorilla Glass 3. This is so far the most vibrant displays I have personally seen on a phone after my brother’s Note II. The colors, saturation, contrast all seems to be just perfect. The multi touch screen is super smooth to use. Samsung offers a display technology on S4 known as adapt display which optimises the screen depending on the ambient lighting conditions. Watching movies, reading text will be a nice experience on a S4. While I have not personally checked a HTC One yet but HTC claims to have a little more ppi density than compared to S4 but that hardly would be a deal breaker here.

Talking of build quality I would say that Samsung has disappointed again just like it has done in the past. The removable textured plastic back cover is too flimsy and one has to be careful while removing the cover as it appears that it just might break upon little mishandling. Build quality is disappointing; my sub 20K HTC One V has better build quality than this phone! Nothing beats smooth aluminium unibody construction.  This phone too has dollop chrome plated boundary like other Galaxy phones which I personally don’t like but majority of us do like chrome plating – be it on cars, bikes or mobiles.



Camera & Buttons

Just like every other Android phone this too has a power button on the right, a 3.5mm audio jack and charging slot on the top and volume rocker on the left. On the front there is a 2MP camera for video calling purposes along with couple of sensors – most probably for light sensing functionalities like smart stay/smart pause etc. Earpiece is located just above the Samsung logo and has a chrome grill which looks decent. Microphone is hiding somewhere at the bottom along with a micro usb slot. 

On the back, S4 sports a 13 megapixel  camera with 4128 x 3096 pixels having features like  autofocus, LED flash, check quality, dual Shot, Simultaneous HD video and image recording, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, image stabilization and HDR. Video recording is HD 1080p@30fps with dual-video recording mode and even the front 2 MP camera records 1080 @30 fps videos and featuring dual video call. Talking of the image quality – I would say that it satisfied the photographer in me for outdoor photos; hope my friends who know me will understand what I mean. In other words image quality is excellent for day time outdoor photos but quality degrades under low light conditions which is quite common with mobile phone cameras. 


Operating System and Hardware

Samsung Galaxy S4 comes loaded with the latest Android 4.2.2 JellyBean along with Samsung’s proprietary bloat ware. The octa core processor - combination of 1.6 GHz Quad + 1.2 GHz Quad processors easily handles that stuff. User interface is bliss to use, switching between applications is blazing fast.  Performance wise this device is a monster and there are no complaints in this regard. It has 2GB RAM and 16 GB internal space out of which about 8GB is usable. One can expand the storage capacity by adding SD card which is supported upto 64GB which must be sufficient for even the power users. For handling graphics and games, S4 comes with PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU processor. I could not play any games personally on the device but as reported by my friend the gaming performance is at par. 




Samsung’s touchwiz UI works over the Android just like the HTC sense. The user can have upto seven home screens with widgets etc. The pinch in gesture lets you quickly switch between screens. Smart stay feature keeps the screen on as long as you keep looking on it. Smart scroll will scroll up/down depending upon the direction of tilting the screen. Smart pause pauses a video if you take your eyes away from the screen.   Air view lets user to quickly preview their documents instead of opening by just hovering your finger over the files without actually touching or tapping it. Other basic features like NFC, Wi-Fi hotspot are present. 



Battery & Sound 

Call quality is quite good; the speaker phone loudness is just okay. S4 is shipped with a push in type earphones which are reported to offer excellent sound quality by my friend. This power hungry monster comes with a massive Li-Ion 2600 mAh battery which easily last for a day on full charge which is respectable for a device which comes with octacore processor and AMOLED screen. 



Considering its great screen quality and high end specification, this phone definitely catches the fancy of prospective customers, but all this comes with a hefty price tag of Rupees Forty Thousand which will keep this phone out of reach for many buyers. If you have the money and want to upgrade your 20k smartphone then this could be just the right smartphone for you. I don’t recommend S3 users to upgrade to S4 unless you have excess moolah to spend. Look wise I will still put my money on HTC One which may be a little expensive than S4 but looks incredible in my humble opinion and performs equally well. 

So guys that’s all from this post – Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: The review and its content are my own views/user experience and may differ from others. I am not an expert reviewer and the review can have possible shortcomings. Please bear with that. Comments and suggestions much appreciated.