Windows Phone 8? Done. But which phone? Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC 8X?
Jan16

Windows Phone 8? Done. But which phone? Nokia Lumia 920 or HTC 8X?

OK, listen up, folks. I get it. Microsoft still has a way to go in dominating the mobile market the way many analysts believe it will do in the coming years. But if we put aside branding and marketing, such as the very name of the OS, Windows Phone (hurts me to say it), Microsoft actually has quite a compelling product on its hands. I have used Windows Phone extensively over the past year with phones such as the Omnia 7, the Lumia 800, and most recently, the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X. Let’s try to put aside our love or hate of everything Microsoft (like Apple, no one is indifferent to Microsoft. You either love it or hate it.) and focus on the two phones at hand. Both the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8x were sent to me by Microsoft, so let’s just get that out of the way. At no point did anyone ask me to write my thoughts on the phones, but I do believe Microsoft knows how impressive both these phones are, they are confident that by sending them to folks, the phones will speak for themselves. They are right. HTC 8X As my totally non-geeky next door neighbor so elegantly put it, “This phone might be the best looking phone I have ever seen.” Once you hold the HTC 8X, you are pretty much guaranteed to be impressed. The phone is super slim, colorful, solid, and fast. By all standards, whether you are comparing it to the plastic devices from Samsung, the more high end phones from Apple, or even previous solid devices from HTC, the 8X is built to near perfection. Having said that… I cannot force myself to use the 8X on a daily basis and there are several reasons, but one primary one for this. The battery is not replaceable. Fine, I have and continue to use an iPhone, so I am down with that. In fact, the battery on the 8X is impressive, so not a big deal. The on board storage maxes out at 16GB, and I have the 8GB version. Also, not a deal breaker for me, at least until I try to add my music. Most of what I use is in the cloud anyway, so I have no need for more than 16GB of storage. Again, not ideal, but not a deal breaker. But then there is the power/wake button on the 8X. If you have used one of these phones, you are now nodding your head in agreement. If you have not, let me explain. The phone is super slim, which makes it...

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs iPhone 4S Comparison/Review. Part 2–Sofware, UX&Conclusions
Dec29

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs iPhone 4S Comparison/Review. Part 2–Sofware, UX&Conclusions

This is the second and closing part of our comparison/ review featuring Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Apple iPhone 4S and Nokia Lumia 800. In the first part, we had a closer look at the hardware and performance of the three flagships. Today we’ll compare and highlight differences in the software platforms and overall user experience on each device. We also reveal which phone we believe comes on top in this test, and draw some other interesting conclusions at the very end. One thing is for sure: all three are well rounded high-end smartphones that are interesting and unique in their own right. Read on to find out more. User interface With Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 4S and Lumia 800 on hand, we’ve got all three major smartphone operating systems present in this test – Android 4.0, iOS5 and Windows Phone 7 respectively. It’s safe to say that the operating system is where the most striking differences will come out that will have big – if not the biggest – impact on your day-to-day experience using the smartphone. Android 4.0, also codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) by Google, has seen a number of notable changes in the UI in an effort to make the OS more user friendly, and also to unify the mobile and tablet versions of this OS. The underlying structure of Android, including its greatest qualities, remained unchanged. In comparison to the other two players in this test, Android provides user with the richest customization options, most notably with the 5 homescreens that can be populated with useful widgets as well as application shortcuts. Unlike Android, iOS visually changed very little since 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone and revolutionized the touchscreen user interface on mobiles. There’s the horizontally scrollable grid of apps and folder, while an omnipresent bar with 4 shortcuts sits near the bottom of the screen. It’s clear that Apple is still reluctant to wander even half-step away from the winning formula that has simplicity as one of its main draws. With iOS5, however, Apple managed to nab some successful ideas from competitors, most notably the ‘new’ notification center that combines all system and app events into a pull-down window that is extremely reminiscent to that on Android. The change is nevertheless very welcome in iOS5 and iPhone 4S, especially because it fits so organically with the rest of the OS, enriching the already solid user experience. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 follows closely iOS philosophy in simplicity but with its very own tiles inspired user interface. Nokia Lumia 800 ships with Windows Phone 7.5 update, codenamed ‘Mango’. The main idea of this mobile operating system revolves...

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs iPhone 4S Comparison/Review. Part 1 – Hardware & Performance
Dec28

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Nokia Lumia 800 vs iPhone 4S Comparison/Review. Part 1 – Hardware & Performance

Choosing a smartphone to carry for the next year or two is a difficult task these days. There are tens of devices running on 7 operating systems/platforms, at prices ranging from 100 to 600 Euro. To make that choice a little bit easier we took a closer look at the flagships representing 3 smartphone platforms,  to see how will they fare against each other. Samsung Galaxy Nexus represented Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, iPhone 4S stood for Apple’s iOS 5 and Nokia Lumia 800 for Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. In the first part of this comparison/review we look we checked out the device hardware and performance. In the second part tomorrow we will look at software and features. Design & Ergonomics The Galaxy Nexus remains true to its Samsung roots as it is mainly based on different kinds of plastic. The build materials aren’t necessarily cheap but rather very uninspiring, especially for a high-end device. The design is also kept very simple, where the only diversity comes from the textured battery cover, while the front of the device is completely bare and button-less. The phone sits quite nicely in palms thanks to the slight hump at the back, but due to the enormous size of the screen – 4.65 inches – the overall usability takes a hit. Clearly ambitious in its undertaking, Apple iPhone 4S takes the design to extreme heights. The phone consists of two glass panels separated by a stainless steel frame (thankfully the antenna problems have been resolved with 4S), which makes the phone pretty to look at, but also quite impractical. The glossy glass surface can easily get smeared with fingerprints, and getting it scratched isn’t too hard either if you’re not careful. On top of all that, the phone is extremely slippery, and we’ve already seen some vivid examples of what happens when the glass structure of iPhone 4 meets its worst enemy: the gravity. These undoubtedly premium materials also contribute towards making 4S the heaviest phone in this test. Nokia 800 Lumia seems to take the golden middle ground both in terms of built materials and usability. It’s made from a solid block of polycarbonate plastic that is not only eye-catching but also quite practical as it barely leaves any fingerprints. The smooth surface and curved sides of the shell also provide some extra grip in comparison to the other two phones in this test. The screen is also decently sized – 3.7 inches – which makes 800 Lumia neither too small nor too big, so the phone fits nicely in hands and pockets alike. Display All three are standard candybar touchscreen...

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review: The Next Step for Android
Dec20

Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review: The Next Step for Android

In a world where Android now powers more than half of all smartphones sold in the last quarter, the so called ‘Google phones’ find themselves in rather awkward position in the market. Releasing once per year, these smartphones break little ground in terms of hardware. Down to its core, however, the fundamental selling point is a substantial one, namely, the premise of a Google phone itself. The outgoing advantages are apparent right off the bat – an Android phone running on the very latest version of the OS, freshly baked with love, directly from Google. But, aside from the premise of being first in line of receiving any future Android updates, what else is there going with Galaxy Nexus? Let’s find out… Look&feel. Simple yet elegant – all plastic The unusual shoebox-like package of Galaxy Nexus doesn’t hold any surprises. You basically get what you pay for – that includes a charger/data cable and in-ear type headphones. Take a look at the whole thing getting unboxed along with a short demonstration of the new Android in action: Google appears to be quite content on using Samsung as its OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to demonstrate the raw power and potential of Android. The previous Google phone, Nexus S, was also manufactured by Samsung, and was based for the most part on South Korean company’s own Galaxy S model. The story with Galaxy Nexus, for the better or the worst, is no different. At least on the paper, it seemed like a no-brainer to base the hardware platform on the widely successful Galaxy SII that came out earlier this year and took the market by storm. The design on Galaxy Nexus, while some might consider it to be overly simplistic, has a certain touch of class to it. The curved display isn’t very obvious but enough to highlight the little design fidelities that full touchscreen phones have still left. The build materials are consistent with what we’ve previously seen from Samsung for what seems like eternity now: the plastic encompasses most of the phone, while the front is covered by a solid layer of glass that resists fingerprints surprisingly well (oleophobic coating is probably in action here). Following the curved glass display, the slim profile (8.9 mm) of Galaxy Nexus starts to widen towards the bottom, creating a nice point of counterbalance to keep the phone steady in hand. That is not to say that Galaxy Nexus is very comfortable to operate using just one hand. While the weight remains fairly manageable – 135 g (vs 116 g on SGSII), the hefty dimensions of the screen -4.65 inches – dictates certain...

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AT&T HTC Titan Review
Nov09

AT&T HTC Titan Review

Usually a phone’s name does not have much relation to the device itself, but this is not the case with the HTC Titan. The Titan is a behemoth with a 4.7-inch screen and a strong metal chassis build. The Titan is the only Mango device of the three announced by AT&T to have not yet been released(The Samsung Focus and Focus Flash were both released today). The question is, does Windows Phone Mango run welll on this large of a screen? With a large display comes high resolution and low battery life? Find out in the full review below. Hardware/Design The Titan’s large gorilla glass screen and matte finish go quite well together. I personally don’t like a ton of company branding on smartphones and the Titan is very discrete with the HTC and Windows Phone logo both chrome-free. There is no doubt that the Titan is a large phone with its dimensions at 131.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm and 160g. It felt a little big in my hands and it was slightly crammed when I wore jeans which do not have as baggy as pockets as regular shorts or pants. On the top edge of the device you will find a power/sleep button on the right and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left. The right side includes a volume rocker and a dedicated camera button below it. The left side includes your micro usb charge/sync port. The bottom  includes your three touch buttons which are the usual back, home, and search. On the back is a 8 megapixel camera with dual-LED flash and a 1.3 megapixel camera in the front. Under the hood is a 1.5 GHz single-core processor, which is 50 percent faster than the HTC’s previous HD7 on AT&T, 512 MB of RAM, and 16GB of onboard storage(only 12.63GB of it is actually usable). It is quite disappointing that Microsoft still has yet to include expandable memory into any of its devices. This will definitely annoy those who love to load their devices up with tons of photos, videos, and music. Connectivity wise, the Titan features UMTS/HSPA (up to 14.4Mbps downloads and 5.76Mbps uploads depending on the Network), WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR. Also included in the Titan are the GPS, gyroscope, G-sensor, digital compass, proximity and ambient light. The Titan lacks a NFC chip(since there is no support for it in Mango) and a FM radio. Display Under the Gorilla Glass is a 4.7-inch Super LCD display. This is the largest screen on any Windows Phone device on the market. The display is bright, has good viewing angles, and the colors look vibrant. The downfall of having a large...

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TouchWiz on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review: An unobtrusive update to Honeycomb
Aug16

TouchWiz on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 review: An unobtrusive update to Honeycomb

When news dropped of Samsung bringing its custom interface to Honeycomb, I rolled my eyes in disgust. Then with the snap of a finger, Samsung TouchWiz UX interface running on prototype units of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and 10.1, were announced at CTIA 2011. For the record, I am not a big fan of TouchWiz or any custom UI, for that matter; I feel that Honeycomb, like any other vanilla Android OS, is good as is. Visually, the TouchWiz UX interface shares many commonalities with its smartphone platform brethren, but it doesn’t exactly tilt my meter of excitement. With that said, it’s been over a week since Samsung has pushed out its TouchWiz UX update to retail Galaxy Tab 10.1 units across the country, and having spent most of the week playing with it, I would love to share my thoughts on the Tab 10.1 with you guys. Installation & Impressions The actual installation process took about 20-25 minutes, most of which went at a fairly decent pace. I thought something went terribly wrong with my Tab once it stalled completely at 77% for several minutes, but once it hit 78% it was all good again. After the first update had completed, the reboot process had followed, taking a handful of minutes that seemed to take forever to pass by. (Be sure to have you Tab fully-charged before starting the update process.) Once the installation process was complete, there was a noticeable aesthetic difference. When I navigated between home screens and switched pages within the app drawer the entire experience felt a lot smoother, with less lag. Now lets break down TouchWiz UX shall we? This is the first major overlay to hit Honeycomb and I can honestly say its far from a hindrance or annoyance. The user interface reflects what the Samsung Galaxy S II is using with TouchWiz 4.0 with several enhancements that are unique to tablets. One of the first things that you’ll notice about TouchWiz UX is the updated navigation bar, but you’ll be happy to know that core functions still remain the same as it does on stock Honeycomb. This version of TouchWiz on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is nothing like its predecessor on the Galaxy phones. Navigation bar, Quick Panel and Mini Apps Tray In this update, a noticeable change happened within the notifications, which Samsung calls, the “Quick Panel.” The stock Honeycomb notifications tab has an unintuitive design. With TouchWiz UX, all of your toggle settings like Wi-Fi, Notifications, GPS, Sound, Auto rotation, are noticeable and a finger press away. But I must say I don’t care much about the lager font Samsung added; it’s just not necessary. When it comes to the navigation...

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Sprint HTC Arrive Review
Mar31

Sprint HTC Arrive Review

The very first Windows Phone 7 device has shown up on Sprint’s website and stores (note how I avoided the obvious pun there?), which Microsoft should consider a huge victory for its overall smartphone market share in the US. Now that WP7 is finally available on CDMA, we should see the floodgates open for multiple handsets running the platform on Sprint and Verizon both. This is going to be great for Microsoft, since up until this time the OS was only available on exactly 50% of the major nationwide networks, and it’s only going to continue growing. But before we see any sort of floodgates in action for WP7, let us first reflect upon the HTC Arrive, the phone responsible for leading the charge against the CDMA carriers. With one more OS platform becoming available on Sprint, I love seeing carriers offer more OS choices to their customers. Let the HTC Arrive review commence! Here’s Part 1 of the Video Review.   First impressions and Unboxing Check here for my first impressions of the HTC Arrive immediately after unboxing it, and watch the unboxing video below.   Software of the HTC Arrive Windows Phone 7 devices are the most consistent of any OS platform (with iOS perhaps excepted) currently, which is another way of saying it’s the most boring across the board. Every single device running WP7 has to be running a minimal hardware standard, and the most customizing any OEM or carrier can do on WP7 is restricted to the Hub for that company. It’s a locked-down OS to the max, which makes Microsoft sound a heckuva lot like Apple. My guess is that they have chosen the same closed-OS model as its competitor because they were too worried that an open-sourced or open-to-customization WP7 would easily just spiral out of control, essentially turning into the same exact problem Windows Mobile 6.x ran into. The software of any WP7 device is going to be boring to review, because there’s very little room for each OEM and carrier to innovate and be different from their competitors. The only hope for each WP7 phone to shine is to find a nook or cranny on the software or hardware that makes it look or feel different than the rest. In the case of the HTC Arrive, they were supremely different in 3 things: NoDo pre-installed, Sprint Zone, and a couple new design ideas that had me sold from the first moment I tried the phone. NoDo Update on the Arrive The HTC Arrive is the first to come pre-loaded with the new NoDo update, which is finally now starting to roll...

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Verizon 4G LTE Review: the Good, the Bad and the Weird
Mar28

Verizon 4G LTE Review: the Good, the Bad and the Weird

I love to review products whilst travelling. I find that when I’m not at home, I rely much more heavily on the products I review and thus can give a unique perspective on those products. It’s not until you’re away from the comforts of your home and your own surroundings that you realize how much you take these kinds of gadgets for granted. Because I went to CTIA 2011 in Orlando, Florida last week, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to get some in-depth testing of some of my review products. There were two in particular I was extremely excited to check out: the HTC Thunderbolt and Pantech UML290 LTE USB modem. Why was I so particularly interested in testing these two gadgets? They’re both signature products on Verizon’s still-new LTE network, which is only available in certain cities across the country. Though Verizon announced expansion to a total of 147 US cities by the end of 2011, only 38 are covered currently, and my hometown is unfortunately not one of them. I was very excited at the prospect of taking my brand new Thunderbolt, the very first LTE phone on Verizon, and the Pantech USB modem, which has been out a longer period of time but still crucial for me to do some testing on. Orlando is one of the 38 markets blanketed by LTE, so I was ready for a smooth process and all of my data needs at CTIA would be totally covered by these two devices, right? Well, not so fast. You may have read my article that listed Verizon’s LTE coverage at CTIA as one of the worst parts of the show. But I must emphasize that I was referring to coverage I experienced at the show — which was swarming with other tech powerhouses that either have purchased LTE equipment on Verizon or were taking review units for a spin, much like I was — and not the LTE network itself. Regardless, I don’t think Verizon was quite ready for the onslaught of bandwidth hogs that a show like CTIA attracts. In general terms, the Verizon 4G network is the strongest and fastest at present time. Part of this is due to the LTE technology itself, which is indeed faster than WiMax and most of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ (though now that they are expanding out to speeds of 42 Mbps, this is a harder point to argue currently). It is what many tech gurus feel is true 4G, not “faux G” as Dan Hesse has called the competition. The other reason it’s strong and fast is the lack of market penetration the 4G...

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Android 3.0 Honeycomb Review
Mar15

Android 3.0 Honeycomb Review

Like a good wine, Android has had a knack for maturing as it ages. With every new update to its OS comes more features, less bugs, and a more reliable experience for both consumers and businesses alike. Android 3.0 Honeycomb — the latest release — is special, being used only for tablets and is therefore optimized with even more features and benefits than you would normally find on a regular smartphone running on Froyo or Gingerbread. The Honeycomb project has seen a larger number of changes and revamps to the whole OS than any of its predecessors, with a whole new User Interface never seen before. But does that mean it’s better? We’re going to take you through a guided tour and review of Android 3.0, more popularly known as Honeycomb. I spent a considerable amount of time playing with Honeycomb while using the Motorola Xoom (review forthcoming), and I wanted to write separate reviews for each because Honeycomb is so different from 1.x or 2.x that it would be very difficult to cram all of this information into one convenient review. So let’s get started by going over the new layout of Honeycomb. This is, after all, the most visible part of the OS, and the most important as well. Tablet UI Wars: Honeycomb vs. Froyo If you’re expecting a similar Android experience to that found on the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, you should really lower your expectations. It’s a complete 180-degree turnaround in the User Interface — it looks nothing like the Tab’s UI. This is because the Galaxy Tab runs on Android 2.2 (Froyo), a version of Android that was built and meant for smartphones. In other words, while the Froyo works fine on a 7-inch screen, it just feels forced; it doesn’t feel natural to use on a larger screen at all. There aren’t very many apps that work and look perfect when stretched out to fit the larger screen, nor are there any widgets that go well with the tablet. In other words, using Froyo makes the Galaxy Tab feel and act just like an oversized smartphone, not a tablet. That’s where Honeycomb is meant to come in and save the day. A fresh UI redesign, brand new tablet-ready widgets, as well as apps that are optimized to work on a tablet, make it so my Motorola Xoom unit actually felt and acted like a tablet, not just a really large phone. This makes a huge difference in the user experience. It not only makes a big difference in overall experience for those who use Honeycomb, it also adds a hefty learning curve for...

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AT&T HTC Inspire 4G Review
Mar08

AT&T HTC Inspire 4G Review

Though AT&T has offered several Android smartphones on its lineup for a year now, they haven’t offered anything that stands out above the crowd. Any Android phone on the network up until this point has been a “me too” device, something that was only offered as a way of appeasing the few smartphone owners that weren’t interested in iPhones. It also gave them a bragging point that they had a lineup that featured a phone with every single smartphone OS platform (Apple, Blackberry, WebOS, WP7, Symbian, and Android). Now that iPhone exclusivity is gone, the game has changed and AT&T knows this. Thus we are now seeing a whole lineup of 4G-capable Android phones with top-of-the-line specs and reasonable prices getting launched, so AT&T can be truly competitive with the other networks. After all, now the network has to rely on other things to keep its numbers up. So without further adieu, we intro the HTC Inspire 4G on AT&T, the very first phone that the network is attaching the “4G” moniker to. Everyone has their own ideas about what 4G actually is, and if the current AT&T network can even be considered real 4G. The answer is yes, it IS technically 4G, but it’s not going to be running on the LTE network that’s slated to come out later this summer. On top of the 4G debate, is the Inspire 4G actually worth considering? Is it a legit post-iPhone contender that will likely be butting heads with the likes of the EVO 4G and HTC ThunderBolt? Let’s find out. Unboxing the Inspire 4G We had the opportunity to unbox the Inspire 4G and get some good first impressions of the device in the video below. Overall, my first impressions of the phone were good, though the 4.3” screen is not for everyone. Small hands need not apply, that’s for sure. Otherwise, a very solid phone with a battery cover (door?) that is nearly impossible to open and close without worrying that you’re going to break the cover.   Design and Hardware of the Inspire 4G Since the Inspire 4G — a revamped US version of the Desire HD — will be the first one on AT&T to bear the name of the high-speed network it is using, there’s a lot of pressure on the landmark handset to get it right. In terms of overall design, for starters, HTC sure did get it right. HTC excels at phone design by sticking with what works, and branching out for unique unibody aluminum exterior with the classic industrial silver and gray look is a wonderful design choice that’s both elegant and...

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