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Thursday, July 25, 2013


 YotaPhone Expected Q3/Q4 2013
14th December 2012
If you own a smartphone, then you probably know that its battery life is nowhere near as good as old-fashioned "dumbphones". There are lots of reasons for this, but usually the biggest issue is the screen. It simply takes more power to illuminate a big touchscreen display than a small one, but surely this power drain is a fact of life? Well.. not exactly, because if you own an eBook reader such as an Amazon Kindle, then you will already have come across big screen devices that seem to last on a single charge for weeks.There are many differences between an eBook reader and a smartphone when it comes to power drain, but one major one is the display technology. Where smartphones and tablets use some sort of LED or OLED technology, an eBook reader will generally use an electronic ink display, sometimes called an electronic paper display or electrophoretic display (EPD). These have been around for a long time, and first appeared in the Motorola FONE F3 five years ago and more recently the Samsung Zeal sported an EPD as a sort of keypad. Modern EPDs boast up to 400 dpi screen resolution and can be as large as you want, although they are still limited to being monochrome-only panels.So why  not use an EPD in a smartphone? Well, the refresh rate on an EPD is very, very slow.. and the black-and-white technology is not suited to a lot of smartphone applications..
 you couldn't play a game or watch a video for example. But some things work just fine on an EPD, such as pages of text (a book or your email perhaps), status displays and quite a lot of other simple applications. But it seems that you can't have the best of both worlds. Well, not at the moment anyway.. not until the YotaPhone comes out.The YotaPhone is designed by a spinoff of the Russian Yota mobile network, and it features an LCD panel on one side of the phone, and an EPD on the other. Because EPDs are relatively thin and lightweight, the YotaPhone isn't much bigger than a standard smartphone, but Yota Devices say that it has about twice the battery life.Quite how Yota Devices is going to make the YotaPhone work is a mystery, but we should get more details in the spring when Yota show off the YotaPhone at MWC in Barcelona. The YotaPhone will not only have to work with multiple screens, but those screen will have different technical characteristics - a fast, multitouch colour screen on one side, a slow mono screen on the other with rudimentary touch support at best. There needs to be some clever software trickery here, but Yota devices have been working on this since 2010 so presumably they have ironed a lot of these issues out.Apart from the dual-screen, the rest of the YotaPhone's specifications are pretty familiar. There's a 4.3" 720 x 1280 pixel full HD display on one side with an HD camera for video calls. On the other side is a 4.3" EPD panel of unknown resolution plus a 12 megapixel primary camera. Inside is a dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM 8960 processor with 2GB of RAM and either 32 or 64GB of non-expandable flash memory. The YotaPhone supports LTE 4G data, NFC and wireless charging.This will be an Android 4.2 smartphone (when, and if, it hits the market), with all the usual features that you would find on an Android phone, including 3.5G support, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity.

We would assume that the YotaPhone also supports GLONASS as that is just as Russian as Yota.Inside is a relatively large 2100 mAh battery, and Yota say that the YotaPhone measures 131 x 67 x 10mm and weighs 140 grams. Available colour schemes will be white or black.We don't know how much the YotaPhone will cost, but the additional hardware costs of adding the additional EPD panel shouldn't be that great. However, the amount of effort that it will take to get the software working will probably be substantial, so we imagine that this will command a hefty premium.

If you want one of these then you will probably want one right now. The problem is that Yota say that the handset will start to ship in Russia in Q3 2013 and elsewhere in Q4 2013. That's a long wait, and the chances are that the specification will change somewhat in that time, and of course there's the risk that it might be cancelled altogether. But there's a fair chance that Yota may have created something that will be extremely desirable, and just perhaps we will see the birth of another significant player in the mobile phone market.
View the original article here

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Expected soon
12th June 2013

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a smartphone with a proper digital camera, and it slots in the range slightly below the radical Samsung Galaxy Camera, although it does things a little differently.
Despite the "Galaxy S4" name on the device, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is not based on the Galaxy S4 but instead it seems to be based on the somewhat inferior Galaxy S4 Mini. Having said that, the specifications are certainly pretty decent and the S4 Zoom should be able to do almost anything that you want it to do.
The most obvious feature is the great big camera assembly on the back, housing a 16 megapixel sensor with a 10X optical zoom plus a Xenon flash. This is proper digital camera territory, and Samsung are experts when it comes to standalone cameras.. so you can be reasonably assured that this is going to be very good, and it can also capture 1080p HD video at 30 fps which is great. The problem is that it also looks ridiculous if you are using it for anything other than taking photos, but at least it isn't a boring black slab.

As you might expect, the camera makes it quite bulky. But you might be surprised to find that Samsung say that it is only 15.4mm thick.. but as with the Galaxy Camera before it, Samsung's claims are not actually true. As far as we can tell, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is only 15.4mm thick at its thinnest point, at the point where the camera is it comes in at a whopping 27mm or so. It's a lot lighter than the Galaxy Camera though, coming in at just 208 grams compared with 305.. but even so, this is a bit of a big, heavy device.
Inside is a 2330 mAh battery, which is a major improvement over the 1650 mAh one in the Galaxy Camera. It sounds like a lot, but it's pretty modest for a digital camera which tends to have quite high battery drain.. especially when you consider that the battery in the Zoom is going to have to support the motor in the zoom lens and all the ancillary electronics plus the powerful Xenon flash in addition to the display and wireless connections.
As mentioned before, this is pretty much a Galaxy S4 Mini with a massive camera stuck to the back. The screen is a 4.3" 540 x 960 pixel AMOLED screen, inside is a 1.5GHz dualc-ore CPU with 1.5GB of RAM with 8GB of flash storage plus a microSD slot. The Galaxy Zoom has NFC support, GPS and GLONASS, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, there's an optional LTE version and there are all the usual Android features, and we think that you can even make phone calls on it (unlike the Galaxy Camera). Oh yes, there's a 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera in addition to the 16 megapixel behemoth on the back.
The operating system is Android 4.2 with the usual bunch of Samsung enhancements plus some additional camera trickery, so you really might get away with carrying just one device if you are a serious photographer.
No word was given on availability or pricing, but it's worth noting that the recommended retail price for the existing Galaxy Camera is about €500 with a street price as low as €310 and we guess that the Zoom will be at the higher end of that scale at launch.

View the original article here

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BlackBerry Q5

 The BlackBerry Q5 is here, and about time too as the Canadian firm launches its first affordable BlackBerry 10 device.
Unveiled at the annual BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando the BlackBerry Q5 had been almost completely leaked under the moniker BlackBerry R10, so its design and specs come as no surprise.
There's no firm word on which countries will be treated to the Q5, but BlackBerry is touting it as an entry-level to mid-tier device aimed at emerging markets.

What we do know is that it will be available in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, with expected availability beginning in July.
It looks like the US is set to miss out on the BlackBerry Q5 and when TechRadar quizzed spokespeople on UK and Australia availability no one could provide a solid answer.
At first glance you can tell the BlackBerry Q5 will be a more keenly priced device than its high-end Q10 brother, with a swath a bezel adorning the front of the noticably plastic handset.

It lacks the premium look and finish of the Q10, but retains the classic BlackBerry QWERTY phone look, with the isolated keys a nod to past BB OS handsets such as the Curve 9320.
In terms of specs the Q5 has a lot in common with the Q10, with both devices sporting a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a 3.1-inch, 720x720 display - although the Q5 is furnished with a lower quality LCD offering compared to the Super AMOLED screen on the Q10.

While the bezel around the screen may be larger than on its higher-end relation it's not necessarily a bad thing as it provides more room below the display for the upwards swipe gesture required to exit apps.
On the Q10 there isn't any space between screen and keyboard which made the motion a little tricky at times, however on the Q5 we could easily slide our finger around without fear of pressing any keys.

 Of course this does mean the Q5 is longer and the Q10, and it's also a little chunkier as well but BlackBerry has managed to keep the weight down so it's not overbearing in the hand.
The solid plastic rear is reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS, but there's no metallic rim round the edge to hold things together and the glossy finish doesn't provide a great deal of grip.

Up top there's a headphone jack and centralised power/lock key which we found was pretty difficult to hit as it wasn't raised above the chassis meaning you really need to push down hard for the Q5 to register your action.
Down the right side are the trio of buttons which also feature on the Z10 and Q10 with volume keys sandwiching a third switch which provides a shortcut to voice commands.

On the left there's a microUSB port, but there's no HDMI out option - something you do get on the other two BlackBerry 10 handsets.
Instead on the left we have a plastic flap which covers microSD and microSIM ports, allowing you to build on the 8GB of internal storage inside the BlackBerry Q5.

As you may have already guessed the presence of the slots of the left means you can't whip the back off the BlackBerry Q5 to access the 2100mAh battery.
That shouldn't be too much of an issue though as the battery in the Q5 should easily last you more than a day if the Q10 is anything to go by - which has the same size battery.

Thanks to the decent processor and amount of RAM BlackBerry has managed to stuff inside the Q5 the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system provides a fluid and lag-free experience.
We were easily able to glide through homescreens and apps generally opened up pretty quickly.

Because the BlackBerry Q5 is running the latest version of the BB10 OS you get features such as pin to pin messaging, but the HDR camera mode hasn't made the cut on this cut-price handset.
The camera app itself opens in a second, but the auto-focus is quite laggy and we found the Q5 took two to three seconds to snap a picture, which is a little too long for our liking.

Round the back you get a 5MP camera and single LED flash which does produce some decent snaps, plus the front facing 2MP snapper will help with video calling and vanity checks.
BlackBerry has managed to take its lightening quick web browsing performance from the Z10 and Q10 and stick it into the Q5 and we were able to load the desktop TechRadar site in under five seconds on a strong 4G connection - that's impressive for a handset which is aimed at the lower end of the market.

Web pages, text and images appear crisp and clear on the 3.1-inch 720 x 720 display, but it's not quite as bright and colours don't pop like they do on the Q10's Super AMOLED screen.
Obviously the big attraction for anyone considering the BlackBerry Q5 is its QWERTY keyboard and once again the Canadian firm shows its prowess in this area.

The isolated keys have a decent amount of travel, but we did find it was a little trickier to type on the Q5 compared to the Q10 and the whole keypad did wobble quite a bit under our prods, which just reinforced the budget nature of this device.
For anyone who's grown up using BlackBerry keyboards the Q5 offers more of the same, but if you're considering switching from a fully touchscreen device you probably won't be convinced.

The BlackBerry Q5 is one for the aficionados who can't afford, or refuse to splash cash on the highly priced Q10, with the solid BlackBerry typing experience at the heart of everything it does.
Without knowing the price it's difficult to say how it will stand up against other handsets, but anyone who isn't a BlackBerry fan and is in the market for a reasonably priced smartphone probably won't be taken with the Q5.
That said if BlackBerry manage to price the Q5 low enough it would make it a seriously attractive proposition with its decent power under the hood, HD display and rapid internet browser. We're just going to have to wait and see.

View the original article here

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Huawei Ascend Mate

Great IPS displayOutstanding battery lifeDecent cameraLaggy performanceToo big and heavyLow internal storageBland interface design
Huawei is the epitome of the challenger brand. With a brand name that no one ever pronounces correctly (even a receptionist at the Mate's launch event reffered to the company as 'highway'), the Ascend Mate isn't going to be on the tips of the tongues of many in the market for a new phone.

To counter this, Huawei is resorting to headline-grabbing specs and features. There's the 6.1-inch screen, for starters, plus a custom quad-core processor which Huawei is claiming to be fastest in the world. Has we got your attention yet?
With a screen this size, the Ascend Mate truly is a 'phablet', however much you may hate that word. It is more than a centimetre taller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and half of a a centimetre wider.

It is also a touch heavier, at 198-grams, though for better perspective, compare this to the 130-gram weight of the Galaxy S4. In short: this feels like a big phone to hold and carry around.
Happily, the quality of the 6.1-inch screen makes it feel like the size and weight are a worthwhile trade-off. Huawei opts for a bright IPS LCD display which shows excellent colours and blacks, and has a fantastic viewing angle. Even with the phone titled at acute angles away from your eyes, the images on screen as still clear and colourful.

 Huawei positions the power and volume buttons halfway down the side of the handset, and while this might seem unusual at a glance, it is actually the best place for them for when you are holding the phone one handed and hoping to find the buttons easily.

There are no hard or soft navigation keys on the handset itself. Instead, Huawei make use of the soft-keys included in the design of the Android Jelly Bean, with Back, Home and Multitasking buttons along the button of the visible screen space.
There is a 3.5mm headphone socket on the top of the handset, across from a micro-SIM slot. There's also a microSD card slot on the side to expand the handset's 8GB internal storage.

The back of the phone is covered in a soft-touch black plastic, which feels nice to hold, even though it shows fingerprints over time.
In what may be considered an unpopular move, the Ascend Mate is a sealed handset, meaning you won't have access to the battery.