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Category Archives: Mobile Phone

OnePlus One, the 2014 Flagship Killer

Slightly over a week ago, the world was shocked by a little-known startup from China. OnePlus, which was formed only in December 2013, announced its flagship smartphone called the One, and claimed it to be the “2014 flagship killer“. The OnePlus One matches the top-tier hardware normally found in heavyweights such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One, but is offering its debut smartphone at a starting price that’s less than half the retail price of normal flagship smartphones. To offer high-end hardware is half the story. Great phones offer a package: superb hardware, precious design, amazing build quality and finally, great software to go along with everything. Does the OnePlus One offer all these and beyond ? Before we continue, here’s a quick disclaimer: this hands-on was done with a prototype device of the OnePlus One. The final design, we’ve been told, will remain the same save for one minor change in the volume rocker’s position and button depth. As a 5.5-inch smartphone, some would argue that the OnePlus One is in “phablet” territory. But holding it, the One felt more of an elongated smartphone such as the Samsung Galaxy S5. The width of the One is just about right, making it very comfortable for use with two hands. We’re still unsure of the company’s earlier claim that it is smaller than a Sony Xperia Z1, but it does feel small for a device with a screen that large. It was also revealed shortly after the One’s launch that the design of the smartphone closely resembled that of Oppo’s Find 7.

In fact, the white cover has a very similar texture to the Oppo N1′s matte, soft touch back. The slightly curved back, in addition to the almost rubberized finish, makes the One one of the more comfortable and grippy devices I’ve used so far. The 5.5-inch Full HD display, while not outstanding, is very capable to hold its own. At its lowest brightness setting (as can be seen below), the One isn’t as bright as the brilliant Super LCD 3 of the (other) HTC One (M8), but rather on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5. What I really do appreciate though, is that throughout the brief time I spent with the OnePlus One, I almost did not experience over-aggressive auto-brightness adjustments – something that happens very often on other smartphones I’ve used. The OnePlus One runs on a customized version of Cyanogenmod 11, called Cyanogenmod 11S. Widely known within the Android enthusiast community as one of the best custom ROMs around, OnePlus has added some additional features into CM11. Again, the Oppo influence is strong here, as some of the “screen-off gestures” found on ColorOS, such as drawing a circle on the screen to launch the camera, a “V” shape to switch on the flashlight, and other music-based controls, are all here on CM11S. But for the most part, Cyanogenmod 11S retains the near-stock Android look and feel – which is always welcome.

Given that this is not the final retail unit, I was expecting some bugs within the software. There were some (usually involving the awesome Screencast app), but performance-wise, the One is snappy and performs just as well as any Android flagship – without the unnecessary bloat. Being a Cyanogenmod ROM, there are also plenty of options to further customize the entire device to your heart’s content, but unfortunately we only managed some precious few hours with it and were not able to delve into it. Besides offering premium hardware such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, the OnePlus One also packs a 13MP Sony IMX 214 sensor – yes, the same one found in the Oppo Find 7. Being a Cyanogenmod build, the camera UI is almost the same as stock Android, but with a few exceptions. The UI does not use the same tap-and-hold gesture to open more options like on stock Android, and the expanded settings menu is more friendly to use. We did manage to try out the OnePlus One’s camera for a short while, and the sample images can be seen below. Do note also that the final retail unit may have some tweaks in the camera software. In all, though, the OnePlus One is a very impressive package. It’s managed to pack some serious hardware into a pleasantly designed chassis that feels solid in the hands. What really goes in its favour, however, is with its retail price. At $299 for the 16GB and $349 for the 64GB versions, it is a no-brainer for anyone looking to find a premium Android smartphone.

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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Mobile Phone

 

Samsung Announces the Galaxy K Zoom

Samsung has today announced the new Galaxy K zoom, the company’s latest attempt at merging a premium smartphone with an equally high-end camera with optical zoom. Its Galaxy S4 Zoom received lukewarm response last year, but that hasn’t prevented the South Korean giants from trying once more with a sleeker body, better optics and of course, a new moniker in the Galaxy K zoom. Last year, the Galaxy S4 Zoom appeared to be a Galaxy S4 Mini merged with a 16MP digital camera with 10x optical zoom. This year, there isn’t a Galaxy S5 Mini to speak of (yet), but again with the Galaxy K zoom, the hardware is not derived directly from the company’s recent Galaxy S5 flagship. Powered by a Samsung Exynos hexa-core processor (1.3GHz quad-core + 1.7GHz dual-core) with 2GB of RAM, the “smartphone” aspect of the K zoom’s hardware is largely a “lite” version of the Galaxy S5. It has a 4.8-inch 720p Super AMOLED display, LTE connectivity, Android 4.4, 2430mAh battery and only 8GB of internal storage (expandable up to an additional 64GB). On the other hand, the “camera” aspect of the Galaxy K zoom is a little more interesting: there’s a new 24-240mm 20.7MP 1/2.3 BSI CMOS sensor, with 10x optical zoom, optical image stabilisation (OIS) as well as a new Xenon flash with autofocus-assist LED. The new sensor has an aperture range of f/3.1 to f/6.3 and an ISO range of 100 to 3200, with a 3fps continuous shot capability. In terms of software, the Galaxy K zoom simplifies things better than its previous iteration, splitting the camera into three main modes: SMART Mode, Expert Mode(P/M), and My Mode. As you would guess, SMART Mode has an abundance of preset settings, including Auto, Panorama, Rich Tone, Night and the more exotic ones such as Selfie Alarm, Waterfall, Sound & Shot, Shot & More, Fireworks and lots more. All told, there are 28 SMART Modes to choose from. One area that Samsung has improved upon is with Pro Suggest, which offers five optimised filter settings in any light conditions. That’s not all. The new K zoom also has new tricks up its imaging sleeve, including object tracking, smile/blink detection, and a new AF/AE Separation (Auto Focus/Auto Exposure Separation) feature that lets you separate focus and exposure points. There’s even a pre-installed Studio app that allows users to easily edit their images and videos. Interetingly. while the Galaxy K zoom is thicker than the S4 Zoom, measuring 20.2mm at its thickest point against the S4 Zoom’s 15.4mm, the new device is actually 8g lighter at 200g. The sides also are also tapered, and measures 16.6mm. It is of course heavy for a smartphone of its class, but none of the other smartphones can boast a 20.7MP sensor with 10x optical zoom. It also boasts a similar perforated back cover as the Galaxy S5 (and not the fake leather one as seen in the first leaked images), together with Galaxy S5 software features such as Ultra Power Saving Mode, Kids Mode and S Health Lite.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Mobile Phone

 

OnePlus Only $299

OnePlus has finally unveiled its flagship smartphone, the One. Teased by the company for the longest time, this premium device is set to shake the mobile industry with its “flagship killer specs“. With a retail price that starts from only $299, this may well be the game-changer the industry has been waiting for. OnePlus may have systematically revealed the key specs of its flagship smartphone in the lead-up to its launch today, but the official announcement earlier today still raised an eyebrow. The OnePlus packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz quad-core processor with 3GB of RAM, 5.5-inch Full HD display by JDI, 13MP Sony Exmor sensor, 5MP front-facing camera, 3100mAh battery, LTE support for 8 bands, 5GHz WiFi, and a choice of 16GB or 64GB flash storage. Eagle-eyed readers will see some stark similarities between the design of the OnePlus One and the recent Oppo Find 7. This may be due to the fact that OnePlus contracted Oppo to build the One in its manufacturing facilities, as CNET revealed. In fact, it is a common theme running throughout the One: it uses a similar Sony Exmor IMX 214 sensor that can be found on the Oppo Find 7, while the 5.5-inch screen also features Touch On Lens technology – another piece of tech found on the Find 7. On top of that, the OnePlus scores a few additional bonus points with its choice in materials. The back cover is made from a soft-touch material (OnePlus is also offering a set of StyleSwap back covers), while the chassis is made from magnesium. At 162g, OnePlus claims that this is the world’s lightest 5.5-inch smartphone. The second world-first the company has crowned the One with is the world’s first smartphone with bottom-facing stereo speakers. Sure, that really isn’t as impressive as the first, but these speakers have been tuned by JBL, so that should help. Essentially, this smartphone has really delivered on its “2014 flagship killer” promise. With its top-tier specs and what should likely be great build quality, it all boils down to the price of the One. CEO Pete Lau has promised that the One would cost below $400, but nothing quite prepared us when the final price was revealed: The 16GB OnePlus One will retail at $299 (around RM990), while the 64GB variant will be sold at $349 (around RM1160). The One will also be available in two colours: Sandstone Black and Silk White. Unfortunately, to cope with what will be sensational demand for a phone offering spectacular value, OnePlus has previously announced an invite-only system to purchase the One. Basically, it means that someone who has been invited to buy the OnePlus One can invite a friend to buy his or her own unit, and they can then invite another friend. The chain means that those who already know and are interested in the One would be able to buy it first when it is available later this quarter. As mentioned before, Malaysia isn’t part of the initial 16 countries where you can buy the OnePlus One. However, your best bet would be to get it from the US and have someone ship it here (which could elevate the price a little), or get it from either the Taiwan or Hong Kong markets. That is, of course, if you have an invitation to buy it first.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2014 in Mobile Phone

 

Nokia’s M510 Tablet From 2001

It’s been said time and again now that at its peak, Nokia were not only making the best handphones in the world, but the Finnish company were also readying plans for an eventual change into smart devices. Tales of building its first smartphone and an “ecosystem” before the word even became synonymous with smartphones are aplenty, but many will not be aware of the fact that Nokia was also very, very close to releasing its first tablet in 2001 – nine years before the original iPad was announced. On the day after Nokia and Microsoft announced the finalization of the American giants’ acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services division – and the renaming of the Nokia brand to Microsoft Mobile – let’s take a look at the Nokia tablet that the company felt was too far ahead of its time. In 2001, Nokia had developed a “web tablet” that was ready to hit production. Just after 1000 units were produced in the first production run, Nokia halted production of the Nokia M510 before dropping it altogether. Nobody outside of Nokia knew of its existence, but based on the company’s market research the company literally felt that consumers were not ready for such a device. Esko Yliruusi, who was part of the team behind the web tablet, noted that the research findings stated that “it is not yet time for a device like this.” “It was a marvelous concept but nothing the consumers would yet accept,” he added. One look at the specs sheet today and it’s clear that the M510 could be seen as the spiritual forefather to today’s modern tablets. It was running on a very early build of what will eventually be known as Symbian; had apps for email, calendar, noticeboard and even an Opera web browser; sported a 10-inch 800 x 600 LCD touchscreen with stylus input support, built-in WiFi, 4-hour battery life, stereo speakers and even USB (and ps/2!) ports. Of course, this tablet also had only 32Mt (megabyte?) SDRAM and storage, and with a weight of 1.8kg it was never going to be as portable as tablets today. But the hardware embedded on the M510 – while totally beyond obsolete today – was way ahead of its time in 2001. Unfortunately, the M510 web tablet never came to be. Remnants of the M510′s legacy appeared four years later in the form of the Nokia 770, a 4-inch “tablet” running on Nokia’s Maemo platform which later evolved into the ill-fated MeeGo operating system. Of the 1000 that was produced, only about 130 remain today. Each member of the development team were given one as a parting gift, and the rest of the tablets were destroyed. After the project was dropped, the team was disbanded and only some were re-absorbed into Nokia.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Mobile Phone

 

ASUS ZenFone 4 RM 299

Featuring a 4-inch 800×480 display, the ASUS ZenFone 4 is the smallest device in ASUS ZenFone series. Similarly, the ZenFone 4 is also the most affordable model in the family since it will be priced at only RM 299 once it goes on sale in Malaysia later this month. So, what does the ZenFone 4 is able to offer you in exchange for your hard-earned RM 300 ? Jump in for a brief look at the brand new affordable smartphone from ASUS. Let’s talk about the display first. Apart from it being a 4-inch WVGA backlit LED display, ASUS has also covered it with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 together with an anti-fingerprint coating which are features that you usually heard on smartphones that cost much higher. However, ZenFone 4 does not feature the ultra-sensitive setting that exists on ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 6 which allows their displays to be operated while wearing gloves. Moving on to its physical design, the Asus ZenFone 4 features a removable back cover that is made from polycarbonate and it is available in several vibrant colorways including Cherry Red, Solar Yellow, and Sky Blue together with Pearl White and Charcoal Black although actual available colors varied from market to market. With a thickness of 9.9mm, the device is said to weight around 115 grams. Meanwhile, ASUS has also brought over the concentrated circular polished metal design from ZenBook laptop series to ZenFone series. This particular physical trait is implemented on the lower front area, just underneath of the front control butons of all ZenFone models including ZenFone 4. Being a ZenFone, the device is equipped with ASUS own ZenUI on top of its Android 4.3 operating system. The Taiwanese company also chose to equip the device with a 1.2GHz Intel Atom Z2520 dual-core quad-thread (since it is built with Intel Hyper-Threading tech) processor together with 1GB of RAM. For Malaysian market, the ZenFone 4 comes standard with 8GB of internal storage and it also supports MicroSD card of up to 64GB. Not to forget, the ZenFone 4 supports two Micro-SIM cards as well download speed of up to 42Mbps thanks to its DC-HSPA+ capability which is also another feature that it shared with ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 6. While the 5-megapixels autofocus rear camera on ZenFone 4 doesn’t come with the fancy F2.0 5-elements lens and flash as per its two bigger siblings, most of the ASUS PixelMaster camera modes from ZenFone 5 and ZenFone 6 are actually available on ZenFone 4. This is with the exception of the Low Light Mode and Time Rewind. At the same time, the selfie job on ZenFone 4 is handled by a 0.3-megapixels front-facing camera. Last but not least, the ZenFone 4 is powered by a 1200mAh removable battery. As far as a first impression goes, the build quality of ZenFone 4 is rather excellent. In addition to the features that ASUS has equipped into the device, it might be possible for some users to forgot that they are looking at a RM 299 smartphone. It is going to be interesting to see how Malaysian consumers will react to this highly affordable, yet feature-packed smartphone once it is released into the market later this month.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Mobile Phone

 

Specs Comparison: Nokia Lumia 930, 1520, 1020, 925 & Lumia 920

Last week at Microsoft Build Developer Conference, Nokia has announced a number of new smartphones under its Lumia family that will become the first batch of Windows Phone 8.1 devices to be released into the market. One such model is the Lumia 930, which has now become the company’s new flagship device. While there is no indication so far on whether Lumia 930 will be released in Malaysia or not, we believe that it is now a good time to compare the new kid in the block against its predecessors. Jump in to see how their technical specifications fare against each other. It is interesting to note that Nokia has actually released plenty of Windows Phone 8 flagship devices over the past 1 and half year – starting with Lumia 920 in the Q4 of 2012. In fact, the number is much bigger if you include market-specific models such as Lumia Icon (US), and Lumia 920T (China). To keep this list relevant to our market though, we decided to keep the list limited to flagship devices that were launched in Malaysia. In general, it is not absurd to call the Lumia 930 as the smaller version of Lumia 1520. After all, it still has a full HD display together with the same 2.2GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM as well as the 20-megapixels PureView camera. Both devices are also equipped with four microphones that allows them to perform directional stereo recording which will be soon enhanced further with the support for Dolby Surround Sound Capture that will come together with Lumia Cyan update. However, you can immediately see there are some differences between both devices when you compare their specifications thoroughly. One of the obvious difference between the two high-end devices is their physical design. Not only that Lumia 930 is thicker than Lumia 1520, the Lumia 930 also features a combination of aluminium frame and polycarbonate body (identical to Lumia 925) while the Lumia 1520’s body is fully made of polycarbonate. Lumia 930 also uses a different display technology than Lumia 1520 and apparently has a higher level of pixel density as well. However, it turns out that Lumia 930 is not able to support Nokia Glance feature due to hardware limitation. Additionally, there is no Micro SD card slot on Lumia 930 as well which could be a deal breaker for those who love to carry around extra contents for their smartphone. Nevertheless, it is pretty clear from the specifications alone that the Lumia 930 is just like the Lumia 1520: both of them are the most advanced smartphone in Nokia’s Lumia family, as of now. Just that Lumia 930 might be more comfortable to be placed into your pocket as it is much more compact than the humongous Lumia 1520. The final verdict is still down to user’s day-to-day, hands-on experience though which we hope we will be able to do so in the near future. Of course, that’s if Nokia release the Lumia 930 into our market.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Info ICT, Mobile Phone

 

Nokia Lumia 630/635 vs Lumia 625/620

Apart from Lumia 930, the other new device that was also launched at the recent Microsoft Build Developer Conference was the Nokia Lumia 630 together with its LTE-enabled twin, the Lumia 635. Technically, the Lumia 630 will be leading Nokia Lumia family into the Windows Phone 8.1 era as it will be the first device to come standard with the newest iteration of the operating system. While the previous Lumia 600 series devices were positioned in the mid-range area of the market, the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are targeted for the budget segment due to their price range of around RM 520 to RM 620. But, how big is the difference between the new Lumia 630 and 635 as compared to their predecessors ? As pointed earlier, it seems that Nokia is shifting the focus of its Lumia 600 series from mid-range segment to low-end market based on Lumia 630 and Lumia 635’s pricing. Partially due to advancement in technology, Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 is packed with slightly more firepower than their predecessors but at much more affordable price tags. However, there are several features that are not available in Lumia 630 and Lumia 635. For example, the NFC capability and two microphones setup in Lumia 620. Also missing is the front-facing camera and LED flash for rear camera which were available on both Lumia 620 and Lumia 625. That being said, Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 have their own strengths as well. Apart from spotting Windows Phone 8.1 right from the factory, they are also equipped with a quad-core processor. In addition to that, the Lumia 630 is available as a dual SIM model which is the first Windows Phone 8 device to spot such feature. At the same time, there is also the Lumia 635 which is made for users that are looking for a budget LTE smartphone. All in all, the Nokia Lumia 600 series is still about choices even as the series is heading into the Windows Phone 8.1 era. Not to forget, Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 are rather affordable – a fact that I believe will be highlighted as much as possible by Nokia (and Microsoft, to certain extent) if the company decides to release them in Malaysia.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Info ICT, Mobile Phone