Zoes and Video Highlights: HTC One Smartphone

March 20th, 2013

Two of the most important features on the HTC One are also two of the most confusing

HTC ZoeOne of the most important — and impressive — features of the HTC One is, of course, the camera. We’re not going to dive into the whole “UltraPixel” thing here, nor is this a review of camera quality. We’ll worry about how the sausage is made later. Right now it’s time to learn a few important terms when it comes to the HTC One camera.

When it comes to the new features in the HTC One Camera, you’ll be hearing a lot about Zoes (pronounced zoh-ee, as in Zoetrope) and Video Highlights. Zoes can stand on their own, or they can be part of a Video Highlight.

Following is a walkthrough of what a Zoe is compared to a Video Highlight, what you can do with them, and how you can share them.

Nokia Lumia 920 vs HTC One vs iPhone 5 vs Nexus 4 vs Galaxy S4

March 16th, 2013

Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 might look much the same as last year’s Galaxy S3, but it’s packing a whole host of updates to keep all you Galaxy-gazers happy.

To see how it stacks up against the competition, I pit its specs against the iPhone 5, the new HTC One, the Nokia Lumia 920 and the Google Nexus 4. It’s a brief comparison for now, but bookmark this page and check back soon for a full, exhaustive test once we’ve given it the review treatment.

Galaxy S4Design

The S4’s design is perhaps the most unremarkable aspect of the new phone. It hasn’t been updated much from the S3’s look, which isn’t likely to please those of you who scorned Apple for being similarly unambitious with the iPhone 5.

Crucially, it keeps the plastic construction — something of a contentious point for those who argued the S3 felt cheap. Both the iPhone 5 and HTC One use metal chassis, which feel very classy to hold and quite a lot more sturdy. The Lumia 920 uses a solid polycarbonate frame — a kind of upmarket single piece of plastic — which again feels more solid than the S3 did.

On the flipside, the plastic frame of the S3 made it very lightweight and the S4 is marginally lighter still. The S4 might be the better option if weight is an issue for you. At 7.9mm thick, it’s slimmer than the S3, Galaxy S3 MIni too and considerably more svelte than the comparatively chubby Lumia 920 and Nexus 4.

The single home button remains intact at the bottom on the front, a feature that prevails on the iPhone as well. The 920, Nexus 4 and HTC One all use touch-sensitive navigation buttons instead.

Screen

Samsung has upped the screen size to a palm-stretching 5 inches, up from the 4.8 inches of the S3. It’s only a tiny bit extra, so I doubt you’ll notice the difference. The Nexus 4 and HTC One both have 4.7-inch displays, while the iPhone 5 brings up the rear with a much more modest 4 inches. If you want screen real estate to watch video, the S4 is the one for you — so long as you have huge hands.

It’s got a Full HD resolution, which is only rivalled in this roundup by the HTC One. The One is slightly smaller though, so its screen will be marginally sharper as it’s packing in the same pixels into a smaller space. I almost guarantee you won’t be able to tell the difference though.

Software

Samsung has bundled its new blower with a handful of new software treats too. Its ChatOn messaging service now supports three-way video calling as well as screen sharing — something we’ve seen before on the new BlackBerry Z10. You’ll also get built-in translation tools for those times when you need to send a crucial email to your German buddy.

There’s also a load of gesture-based controls too. Waving your hand over the screen lets you do things like skip songs, scroll through Web pages and answer calls. Waving your hand over any of the other phones will just make you look like a fool. We’ll have to go hands-on (or hands near) with the phone to see whether this feature is any use in everyday life.

The S4 is running on the latest version of Android, known as 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. It features Google Now, Photo Sphere, built-in photo editing and a host of other treats. The HTC One uses 4.1 Jelly Bean, so you’ll be missing out on Photo Sphere, but everything else is much the same. As a reference device for new Android versions, the Nexus 4 already boasts the latest software and will be among the first to receive the next update, to Key Lime Pie. The others will likely have to wait quite a while.

Camera

Around the back of the S4 is a 13-megapixel camera, the highest number of megapixels offered by any camera in this group. The Lumia 920, Nexus 4 and iPhone 5 all have 8-megapixel snappers while the HTC One has a rather low 4 megapixels. Numbers aren’t everything though, as HTC claim its pixels are bigger and therefore better. It didn’t impress me much in my review though.

I9300 Galaxy S3 Style Cellualri Dual Sim Android
I9300 Galaxy S3 Style Dual Sim Android

The S3’s camera was good, but didn’t match the iPhone 5’s in terms of colour depth and HDR prowess. We’ll have to wait and see if Samsung has managed to up the image quality as well as the pixel count.

To help tip the scales, it’s loaded up the camera with a host of features. Drama Shot combines an action moment into one frame — exactly the same thing as we’ve just seen on the HTC One — while Cinema Photo allows you to selectively animate one portion of a scene to create a looping gif. Again, that’s lifted straight out of the Lumia 920 and can be done with the Cinemagram app on iPhone 5.

There are a bunch of other little additions too, along with the usual selection of scene modes. It’s good that Samsung has whacked in some camera goodies, but it doesn’t seem to be bringing anything new to the table that you can’t find on the other cameras. If it wants to show off its photography skills, it’s going to need to capture some great shots without relying on gimmicks.

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Outlook

The one area the S4 really stands out above the competition is its eight-core processor. It’s likely to be phenomenally powerful, but whether that power really makes it a better phone than the rest remains to be seen.

Its software tricks and its camera additions are sure to keep Galaxy fans happy for a little while, but it’s disappointing not to see Samsung play with a metal design, especially as swanky metals are in place on two of its main competitors.

Samsung Galaxy S4 improves on Apple Retina display

March 15th, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 boasts hand gestures, improves on Apple Retina display

Samsung detailed the Galaxy S4 at a New York press event on Thursday, highlighting a range of new features for the flagship Android smartphone.

Click to view larger image

The Samsung S4 will support offline Group Play, is operable with hand gestures, and boasts a display that will deliver greater clarity than Apple’s retina display.

The 4G LTE phone supports WiFi and BlueTooth, has a 13 megapixel front camera and 2 megapixel rear, and is equipped with an infrared Lampadine LED. It contains 2GB of DDR3 RAM.

The phone is slimmer than its predecessors, though director of product marketing at Samsung Ryan Bidan claims it is “stronger”. The S4 is 136.mm long and 68.mm wide, with a 5-inch, 441 ppi HD screen.

Other features include a nine language translator, an array of video and photo features, and Group Play, which will “support multi-user games”, though these features were not elaborated on.

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Meanwhile, the system will carry its own first-party controller, which bears a resemblance to the first-generation Xbox 360 control pads.

Image: Engadget

The smartphone was revealed at an extravagant New York unveiling, and is expected to release by June. The Android phone will be available in 16, 32 and 64 gigabyte versions. Samsung has sold more than 40 million Galaxy S3 units since its release in May 2012.

ASUS Padfone 2 now available on Vodafone in UK

March 14th, 2013

Back in Barcelona alongside the Padfone Infinity announcement, we also learned that its predecessor, the Padfone 2, would finally be launching on UK shores. The phone/tablet combination officially launched in the UK on March 1, and now it has become available subsidized on a new 2-year contract at Carphone Warehouse. Android Central

Best of all, the Padfone 2 can be had for free on contracts from £33 per month. All deals are being offered on the Vodafone network, but considering what you get hardware wise it’s not a particularly bad deal. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the forthcoming Padfone Infinity, the Padfone 2 is no slouch. With a Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2GB of RAM and a Super IPS+ HD display, it still packs some impressive hardware specs. And, since the tablet portion is also included, it’s pretty decent value for money too.

The first Wii U game to support NFC: New Pokémon

March 13th, 2013

New Pokémon Wii U game is the first to support NFC

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the first Wii U game to utilise near field communication (NFC) tech will be a Pokémon game.

Wii U Screenshot

According to scans of Japanese magazine CoroCoro, Pokémon Rumble U will launch in Nintendo’s home country on April 24.It will allow players to purchase collectible Pokémon figures from stores and import virtual versions into the game using the Wii U GamePad‘s NFC reader.

The game will be priced at 1,800 yen (£12.60) and will release alongside seven Pokémon figures each priced at 200 yen (£1.40). Apparently you’ll be able to level up and record battle information on the toys themselves.

The game’s story sees players attempting to return lost Pokémon to a toy shop, while facing various bosses such as Chandelure.

Nintendo Wii Mario Kart Pack

Western release plans for Pokemon Rumble U have yet to be confirmed.

Nintendo design guru Shigeru Miyamoto said last week that Nintendo is currently prioritising the development of NFC-enabled Wii U games over those that support dual GamePads, and that the company hopes to show off its work in this area soon.

AT&T finally announced its HTC One X is getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean

March 11th, 2013

Update 2: Never mind AT&T’s blog post … the update most definitely is available now. It’s a whopping 630 MB.

Update: And AT&T has pulled its blog post announcing all this. Figures.

Original: AT&T today finally announced that its HTC One X is getting Android 4.1 Jelly Bean starting today.

AT&T HTC One XWe’ll let that sink in for a minute. This one’s been a long time coming.

In addition to the expected Google improvements, such as Google Now, Project Butter, better notifications and all those other improvements we’ve been enjoying on other phones for some time, you’ll get:

  • A new countdown timer for the front-facing camera.
  • ISIS mobile payments. This is worthless unless you’re in Austin, Texas, or Salt Lake City.
  • AT&T Locker, so you can store your photos, videos and docs in the cloud. Which you can also do just fine without AT&T-specific software.
  • AT&T DriveMode, which can be set up to send custom replies to incoming messages once your phone (presumably in a car) is going more than 25 mph. This is a good thing. Use it.
  • AT&T Messages: A single inbox for texts, calls and voicemails, accessible from your phone, tablet or computer. Should interesting.

AT&T says the update should be available any time now, though we don’t see it yet, and now we’ve got that blasted “You can’t check for updates again for another 24 hours,” which is as annoying as ever.

Google bringing the Nexus 7 to Korea

March 8th, 2013

Google is expanding Play Store availability of its devices today by bringing the Nexus 7 to Korea directly. Sure the Nexus 7 has been out for some time now, but that doesn’t mean its not still one of the best options when it comes to the 7-inch form factor. And any time that you can buy Google’s products directly from them rather than a third party retailer is a bonus. Korea will have access to both 16 and 32GB versions, but there’s no indication (although we’re not great at reading Korean) that there’s a Cellulari DUAL-SIM data version right at this moment.

Nexus 7

Let’s hope that Google continues this trend of bringing the Play Store — and Nexus devices as a whole — to more countries.

ICS running on your Windows box: WindowsAndroid

January 26th, 2013

There are a few options available to those wanting to run Android apps on a Windows machine. The first, and oldest, is the official Android emulator; there’s also Bluestacks, which has been around for a while. Today another contender emerges — WindowsAndroid, from Chinese startup SocketeQ. Unlike the emulator, it runs Android natively on your Windows PC, and unlike Bluestacks it brings to life the full Android OS, not just individual apps. Essentially, it’s full-blown open-source Android running natively, in a window, on Microsoft’s desktop OS.

I959D Dual sim, digitale terestre
I959D Dual sim, digitale terestre

The current version is based upon Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich; SocketeQ says that a “new version” is being planned, presumably based on the newer Jelly Bean. It uses the Android tablet UI, and you can control things using the keyboard and mouse.

On the whole, it’s a pretty speedy, if slightly buggy experience. We used WindowsAndroid on a 3GHz Core 2 Quad rig — by no means bleeding edge — and the whole OS ran smoothly without taxing the CPU too much. There are some glitches to watch out for, though. Certain tasks, like trying to load the camera, will result in a crash, and loading some websites in the browser will result in an error message, accompanied by missing images. So it’s still early days for WindowsAndroid at present.

What’s great for hackers is that the entire directory/partition structure of Android can be fiddled with directly through Windows — just navigate to C:\SocketeQ\windowsandroid_root, assuming you’ve installed it to the default location. That means sideloading apps is simply a matter of loading the relevant files into /data/app.

The WindowsAndroid installer weighs in at 64MB, and takes up 300MB when fully installed. You can find download locations over at the source link; it’s also mirrored elsewhere if you’re having trouble downloading via the overloaded official server.

Pink Motorola Droid RAZR M will hits Verizon

January 24th, 2013
Just in time for Kansas Day or the all-important Groundhog Day, Verizon today announced that the Motorola Droid RAZR M will be available in pink starting tomorrow, Jan. 24. The pink version will be available in stores as well as online.Pink RAZR M

And be sure to read our complete RAZR M review (and just pretend it’s pink).

UPDATE: Ah. Right. Verizon also says it’ll be available for Valentine’s Day, which in hindsight makes a little more sense.

DROID RAZR M’s design and compact size drew attention from Computerworld, which noted that the large screen runs flush with the border, putting it on par with larger Android phones. Gizmodo added that DROID RAZR M is perfect for people who want to fit a 4G LTE phone into skinny jeans.

CNET’s review commented that, despite DROID RAZR M size, its fast dual-core processing, access to 4G LTE speeds and long battery life offer strong performance.

Ultimately, available for $99.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate with a two-year contract, the value of DROID RAZR M stood out for many outlets, including CNET, Gizmodo and PC Mag.

New HTC M7 images emerge showing new version of Sense

January 21st, 2013

Android Central Android Central

We’ve seen a few renders claiming to show HTC’s next flagship Android phone of late — first an image based on an on-device animation, then another mock-up render did the rounds on Twitter and elsewhere over the weekend. These latest images, however, could be the most accurate yet.

Today’s shots come from Android Police, which received them via an anonymous tipster claiming to have access to HTC’s next big thing, a phone currently known only by the codename “M7.” Based on the images, the device looks to share many design cues with the Windows Phone 8X and Droid DNA — a primarily squarish design, with rounded corners and a rounded back. Interestingly, it seems HTC has swapped the location of the home and task switching button on this device — home is now on the far right, and task-switching now lives in the middle.

Alongside these photos, screenshots from the device show what’s said to be HTC Sense 5.0, the next version of HTC’s Android UI. If this is an accurate representation of what’s next from HTC, 2013’s version of Sense certainly looks more minimalist than earlier iterations — the bright colors and faux 3D effects that’ve previously characterized Sense are nowhere to be seen here. There are new icons, new widgets, and what seems to be predetermined widget areas for social media updates, news and tutorials. The UI is also watermarked with “HTC Confidential” and a unique code, and Sense and Android versions marked as “protected.” Both are hallmarks of pre-release HTC software.

On the whole, these images look pretty promising. But we still have no way of knowing where in the prototyping process this device lies, and how close it is to the finished product. Certain anomalies, like the excessive bezel, derivative design and lack of regulatory info on the back suggest that the finished product might look a little different. Nevertheless, it’s our best indication yet as to what might be next from HTC. We’ll likely find out more at Mobile World Congress 2013, where the company is expected to officially announce the M7.