Big gets even bigger: The Samsung Galaxy S4

GALAXY-S-4-Product-Image-12It is no news that the Samsung Galaxy series of smartphones have changed the way we view mobile phone technology today; rivaled only by the Apple iPhone and a few others. Everyone was very content with the revolutionary Galaxy S3 smartphone and with the lasting impressions its predecessors had, everyone would expect the new Samsung Galaxy S4 to be from outta space.

A straight to the point fact is that Samsung did not disappoint with the unveiling of the S4 – a phone boasting specs to further establish Samsung’s dominance of the mobile world. It’s a 5-inch beast, packing a full HD screen, a searingly powerful quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a host of Samsung software extras, a 13-megapixel camera and 4G LTE connectivity for super fast data speeds.

440x330-samsung-galaxy-s3-controlsScreen & Design

Taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S4 from the front, you’ll have a tough time telling it apart from the S3. Samsung has a bunch of new sensors scattered around the Galaxy S4’s body, but the general layout of controls is largely unchanged. Below the Screen, we find the typical physical Hardware sandwiched between the capacitive menu and back keys as on the Galaxy S3.

There’s some extra functionality upon a long press too – the Menu key handles Google Now, while the Home key brings up the task switcher. Pressing and holding the back button brings the side bar for the Multi- window feature (if it’s enabled), and if you click the home key twice the Samsung S voice virtual assistant kicks in.

The traditional ambient light and proximity sensors are joined by an IR gesture sensor, which enables the cool Air gestures in applications such as the web browser and music player. There’s also a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera for video calls and a status LED. The volume rocker is on the left side of the Samsung Galaxy S4, while the power/lock key is on the right. Despite the proper camera upgrade on the Galaxy S4, the new flagship is still missing a dedicated camera key; and though the volume rocker can be used for snapping photos, it can’t quite match a two-stage button.

The top of the Galaxy S4 features the 3.5mm audio jack, the secondary microphone and the IR blaster that allows you to use the smartphone as a remote control for your home appliances. At the bottom, sits the primary mic alongside the microUSB port which is used for both data connections and charging. Not only does it support USB host, The Samsung Galaxy S4 also comes with support for the new MHL 2.0, enabling 3D 1080p output and TV connections without an external power source. The back of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is where the 13 megapixel FullHD- capable camera lens is located. As on the Galaxy S3, the LED flash is right beside it, but the loudspeaker grille has been moved to the bottom left edge of the device

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One of the most important updates that the Samsung Galaxy S4 brings is the new 5 inch Super AMOLED screen of 1080p resolution. While it does have a PenTile matrix, the 441 ppi pixel density makes sure you enjoy the screen. Its impressive contrast and almost perfect viewing angles make everything on the screen pop, regardless of your viewpoint. The color saturation is beyond the reach of any LCD out there, which makes even the dullest of images appear remarkably vibrant. For non-fans of the over-saturated look of AMOLEDs, Samsung gives you the option to tune down the saturation to more natural levels and enjoy the best of both worlds. There’s a dedicated Adobe RGB setting that gets this done.

Interface, Software and Apps

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is powered by Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean – the latest release of the Google platform available at the moment – and a laundry list of new TouchWiz features. The Galaxy S4 combines the best of both worlds and while it seems familiar, there’s plenty new below the surface – so much in fact that you’d need a couple of days just to get accustomed to all the phone has to offer:

We start with the lockscreen, which features the new lockscreen widgets introduced with Android 4.2, though Samsung fiddled with them a bit. The default lockscreen shows the time along with a personal message overlaid on beautiful photos pulled from TripAdvisor (with text at the bottom about where the photo was taken). Samsung replaced the water ripples by a lens flare effect, if you prefer, you can switch back to the old one or disable it all together. Another cool feature is the Quick glance option we first saw on the Samsng Galaxy Note 2 which uses the proximity sensor to detect you reaching for the device and lights up the screen that shows the time, missed call and message counters, battery charge and music track info.

At the top is the notification area which offers quick toggles (five or eight in landscape mode) to enable and disable features. There are more than five toggles, you can swipe horizontally to get to the others. Or you can tap the new button that reveals a grid of all the shortcuts, 20 in total. You can rearrange this grid (the top row toggles are always visible). A two finger swipe directly opens the grid of toggles.

The Galaxy S4 comes with the multi-window feature. This allows the use of apps (two apps) side by side on the screen and you can adjust the division line giving one app more space; something similar to the “snap-in” function of Windows 8. Only compatible apps can be used with the multi-window, and that means mostly the ones that come preinstalled on the phone. You can move the small arrow that brings up the drawer with the multi- window apps to make it easier to reach with your thumb. You can also move the whole drawer to the other side of the screen. The settings menu has been redone in the latest TouchWiz version. Instead of a scrollable grid of icons and sections Samsung has went with a tabbed interface. On top you get four tabs – Connection, My device, Accounts and More. you can find relative features in their corresponding place – display, for instance, is in the My Device tab. It makes navigating the settings menu much faster and more intuitive.

With the Galaxy S4 comes a lot of advanced features:
The first is Air View, which debuted on the Galaxy Note 2 and worked with the S Pen. There’s no S Pen on the Galaxy S4, or a need for it because the phone can detect your finger hovering over the screen. This enables information preview, previewing videos just by pointing to a spot in the timeline, moving to the next track in the music player by hovering over the next button (works with previous button too), previewing folders, speed dial contacts, and even magnifying links in web pages. Air view detects fingers 1cm away from the screen. Another set of “air” features are the Air Gestures. Quick Glance is one of them, but there’s more. The rest of the air commands are triggered by waving your hand over the Galaxy S4. Air Gestures turns the S4 into a mini-Kinect. Air Gestures can detect your hand up to 7cm and might prove useful in some situations. The sad part to this feature is that it only supports native apps and third party apps will not work with them (inclusive of Google Chrome that comes preinstalled on the phone). The familiar Smart Stay and Smart Rotate features are enabled too. Smart Scroll is one of the two new features on the Galaxy S4. It allows you to scroll up and down by tilting the phone or by tilting your head. The second new feature is simpler and more useful – Smart Pause. While watching a video, it uses the front- facing camera to track your face and will automatically pause the video when you look away. Look back and the screen and the playback continues.

Camera and Video

If the promise of the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel images doesn’t wow you, Samsung is hoping that its refreshed interface and enhanced features will. Perhaps the face and will automatically pause the video when you look away. Look back and the screen and the playback continues.

If the promise of the Samsung Galaxy S4’s 13-megapixel images doesn’t wow you, Samsung is hoping that its refreshed interface and enhanced features will. Perhaps the most out-there would be the dual-shot mode, which takes photos and video from both the front and rear facing cameras, and combines them into one. The background shows the capture from your main camera, while the foreground — whatever you take from the front-facing camera — lays on top. You
can choose to change the window size and shape on top, say a postcard stamp, an oval, or a simple window. You can also swap camera positions so that rear-facing gives you the inset and the front-facing image forms the background. More new modes include Sound & amp; Shot, which takes a picture and captures up to 9 seconds of audio and Drama Shot, which combines all the actions from a burst shot into a single frame. If someone is jumping, for instance, you see all stages of the leap in one shot. Then there’s Cinema Photo, which lets you animate just one portion of a video and keep the rest static, and Eraser mode, which can erase an unwanted person from a shot. You’ll also find Story Album, which gathers friends into a single photo album. You can add more location-based detail, and you can print any album through self-publishing platform Blurb.

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Processor, Memory and Battery

The Galaxy S4 features an Exynos 5 Octa 5410 Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 processor with a 2GB RAM. It comes in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage options (expandable to 64GB via micro SD).

As for battery life, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is packed a large 2,600mAh , but also a larger screen and even more features to compromise performance. Smart Stay and S Voice both drain the battery more quickly.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy S smartphones have always been a dominant force in the smartphone world and with the release of the Galaxy S4, Samsung is here to stay at the top. With such stunning features already discussed, this phone is a beast! Possible downsides of the phone would be its wallet shrinking price, its plastic design and the fact that there’s no FM radio. If you’re interested in a super phone, a strong gaming phone or possibly the ‘best’ android phone there is… the Samsung Galaxy S4 is surely the phone for you!

Read even more at GSMArena

Hero… but NOT Savior: A BlackBerry Z10 Review

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The BlackBerry Z10 is the first smartphone to run the BlackBerry 10 OS. The company’s hope of holding on to its diminishing market share and its ability to right the ship that sent it from first to worst in smartphone relevance all rests on the shoulders of The Z10. Gone are the days when we consider the BlackBerry as a definitive smartphone. Today’s world of smartphones is not as it used to be as striking a balance between entertainment and enterprise is now the much desired standard. Can The BlackBerry Z10 be the savior that BlackBerry – the company and operating system – so desperately needs?

Design
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The BlackBerry Z10 has what many might consider a generic appearance. There are no eye-popping colors like we’ve seen with Windows Phone 8 devices, nor any bold curves to elicit the cliché labeling of a phone being “sexy.” It’s an all-business box, rectangular and overwhelmingly black except for the silver-colored buttons that appear in limited areas. That’s not to say that being all business is boring; The Z10 just so happens to have a design that favors minimalism. The 130mm x 65.6mm x 9mm (5.11in x 2.58in x 0.35in) frame is basically the “Little Black Dress” of smartphones.

A large edge and lines along the edges make the BlackBerry Z10 rather catchy but a user’s senses will quickly gravitate to touch. Hard plastic is used for the front and sides of the phone, but a pleasant soft rubber-like material is used for its back. It has dozens of tiny “dimples” similar to the Google Nexus 7, and it’s definitely one of the most comfortable smartphone materials to rest gently in your palm.

BlackBerry has shed the weight of a physical keyboard and trackball that has been the trademark of the handset maker. The Z10’s only distractions from its otherwise understated build are micro USB and microHDMI ports on the left; a power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on the top. There are also volume buttons, separated by a button that can pause music playback or be held down to prompt voice commands, on the right. The bottom of the phone houses a speaker that plays music at a decent volume, and there’s also a red notification light in the top right corner… as usual.

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Screen

The BlackBerry Z10 features a 4.2 inch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 768. The display looks excellent thanks to strong brightness, which can be adjusted on a sliding scale. With a pixel density of 356ppi, The Z10 creates a detailed picture that looks wonderful for videos and text. The brightness levels also translate to a legible screen when viewed outdoors.

Software, Apps and User interface

BlackBerry 10 is a new approach to smartphones that places an emphasis on gestures and hidden menus. There is no “Home” button like what’s seen on every other major platform, because the concept is more like “you shouldn’t go Home, you should move on to the next task or app.” Swiping from the bottom of the glass button of the Z10 will reveal the screen showing Active apps, which are the eight most recent that have been opened. Users can tap or visit or close an app, or swipe to the right to browse through a traditional app grid.

The BlackBerry 10 places a high value on its gestures because that’s how users interact with elements that typically don’t appear on screen. For instance, swiping down from the top of the phone will reveal a quick settings menu, and swiping to the right will go back to the previous screen within apps. The approach is not always the most intuitive because it’s hard to know when a gesture is appropriate. A downward swipe in the browser can expose the webpage’s title, but swiping towards the left doesn’t trigger the back gesture like it does in other apps. To go to the previous page, the user must tap the on-screen back button. Likewise, the camera app can tap in the bottom corner to make adjustments to the snapshot, but full settings are only available by swiping down from the top. The inconsistency is a minor annoyance, but it sparks frustration with the UI at times. The built-in software included with the BlackBerry Z10 represents BlackBerry’s effort to shake its reputation as the phone of choice for stuffy executives in suits. The Z10 is still the phone with the most enterprise-oriented background, but it branches out into other areas to be a solid consumer device as well. BlackBerry’s balance is a killer feature that enables a work and personal mode.

The work mode grants access to corporate data and apps in a secure environment that IT managers can use to push app installations or revoke access, and the personal mode lets employees retain control of their phone and install other apps or have some private, personal data. Balance creates a dividing wall between the enterprise and entertainment aspects, and either side can be accessed through a secure door that can be opened quickly.

BlackBerry doesn’t completely shed its stiffness, but it makes some admirable attempts. The Music, Photo, and Video apps follow a similar design and are effective at the basics, and they even include DLNA streaming to other devices. The Photo app looks rather plain, but it hides a capable editor that can enhance photos and apply filters. The Music app feels half-baked because it does a good job of organizing music and including cover art, but navigating large libraries may be a problem for some because there’s no option to browse with a list view until you’re choosing a specific song. Story Maker is one example where BlackBerry breaks from formation and has some fun. The app lets users select a collection of photos or videos and create a video that splices clips and photos with background music. The BlackBerry 10 isn’t blessed with many options for customization other than changing the order of content and applying some optional filters, but the app is a quick and clever way of creating personal videos on a smartphone. App results improve when BlackBerry sticks to what it knows best – communication and productivity.

BlackBerry enables Word, Excel, and PowerPoint document creation or editing in Docs To Go, a capable app that works well for light editing or computing. The BlackBerry Remember app creates notes that synchronize with Evernote, so users can manage their to-do lists and memory aids just as easily as they manage their work documents.

BlackBerry 10 includes a few quality pre-loaded apps, but the apps in BlackBerry World fall short of doing much to enhance the Z10. It’s true that BlackBerry has made strides to launch its new OS with more than 70,000 apps, but a sizable portion of those apps are junk or hastily-ported Android apps that perform strangely. While no one should reasonably expect all of the top smartphone apps to be included in BlackBerry 10, many of the headliners are absent, and the apps available to take their place are less than appetizing. Even the built-in Twitter and Facebook apps are disappointing because they lack features that have been available on the Android and iOS versions for months.

Performance, Memory & Battery

For an Operating System built entirely on the concept of fluidity, it has to feature a strong processor, and the BlackBerry Z10 fits the bill with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM. The processor keeps the Flow and Peak elements of the BB10 software moving freely, and the phone seems to buzz along with only a few hiccups. It also comes with an internal storage memory of 16GB and is expandable to 32GB via microSD.

Battery life is pretty much on the average on the BlackBerry Z10, The 1800 mAh battery will deplete sooner with LTE enabled or using power-hungry features like video calling. The Z10 won’t last a full day for a power user, but the slim battery is replaceable and easy to store, so one advice: if u’re a power user, it would be better to keep a spare battery to swap in when necessary.

Camera

BlackBerry has never been famous for exceptional camera qualities and the BlackBerry Z10 keeps to that tradition. The 8 megapixel rear camera produces good photos when there’s a lot of light nearby, but it does a poor job in low or moderate conditions. Photos are dark, noisy, and often out of focus, which can be frustrating because there are no manual controls in the camera software.

Browser Connectivity

The BlackBerry 10 browser is not that great from a design standpoint, but it’s pretty good behind the scenes. The browser loads webpages fast enough and could be one of the best of the modern webKit-based browsers when it comes to handling various websites and designs. There are some issues with sites failing to recognize the BB10 as a mobile device, even when the Desktop preference is disabled, but the browser is as good, if not better, than the default options on other major phones. There’s obviously the usual bundles of radios as well, including 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, dual-band, GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, the BlackBerry Z10 supports HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 – STL100-1 networks along with EDGE 850/900/1800/1900.

The BlackBerry Z10 does not support FM radio.

Conclusion

With all the rumors and hype… we waited for the BlackBerry Z10 to impress compared to its other smartphone counterparts. BlackBerry Z10 has impressed in its own way. However, there are still some areas of concern with BlackBerry 10: navigation issues, lack of useful apps and a not very okay camera are letdowns on sensitive spots. It shines on several things though, communication and its browser, making this a sensible purchase for business-minded individuals and BlackBerry loyalists. But others will see The BlackBerry Z10 as just another smartphone that doesn’t quite do what they’ve already managed to do on their existing device. Would I drop my Android or iPhone for the BlackBerry Z10? Heck! Never!!

BlackBerry can’t yet convince most consumers that the Z10 makes more sense than more popular and mature options. The BlackBerry Z10 is a hero device, but it’s no savior. Many thanks to Andrew Kameka for making this article a success.

Ubuntu-based Smartphones!!

It appears Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS are about to face some new competition: Ubuntu Phone.

Ubuntu Phone is a mobile platform developed by Canonical Ltd for smartphones and they aim to give us a similar user experience as the Ubuntu desktop edition. The OS which was previewed on January 2013 will be release officially in February 2013 . Ubuntu Phone is not an operating system for Mobile phones, it is the standard Ubuntu operating system that is used on desktop computers deployed on smart phones, so the same native applications can be run on both. There is uncertainty about when first devices will ship with the OS preinstalled since no OEMs have committed to producing hardware yet, though first estimations are set at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

The new smartphones will include an “entry level” model powered by a 1GHz Cortex A9 with 512-1024MB of RAM and 4-8GB of flash storage and a “high-end superphone” handset, which will feature a quad-core A9
or Intel Atom APU, 1GB or more RAM and pack 32GB of internal storage.
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Ubuntu for smartphones appears to take some cues from Palm OS or even BlackBerry 10, favoring gestures like
finger swipes and taps to intuitively reveal settings, display features and switch tasks. Interestingly, Ubuntu mobile should work on ‘any’ Android-based device, as both operating systems share the same driver module support. Ubuntu has already been adapted to run on chipsets using the ARM and Intel x86 architectures relevant for mobile devices, with the core system based around a typical Android Board Support Package (BSP). So chipset vendors and hardware manufacturers do not need to invest in or maintain new hardware support packages for Ubuntu on smartphones. In short, if you already make handsets that run Android, the work needed to adopt Ubuntu will be trivial.
When it comes to apps, Ubuntu hopes to flex its partnerships with big players like EA and Valve. Additionally, the OS will fully support HTML5 for both easily written and easily ported apps. If native apps are your thing though, developers may also take advantage of Ubuntu’s C/C++, OpenGL, QML and JavaScript support.

Ubuntu is also pushing its boundaries beyond just PCs and smartphones though, hoping to land itself on your television or even alongside your existing Android device. Canonical is touting its OS as the only truly “universal” OS that can find a home on virtually anything. Many thanks to  Rick Burgess.

NOKIA ASHA 311

With the release of Nokia Asha 311, Nokia hopes to stay afloat in the market. Asha 311 has a 3-inch low-res capacitive display and a 1GHz processor, both working together to bring the best out of the patched up interface of the series 40. Still as affordable as this phone is, competing with low end Android phones seems a tall task. Anyways, lets see how this phone performs before i make any conclusion.
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Design

There’s nothing really great about the design of the Asha 311. The features which the phone easy to recognized are the two physical buttons placed just below the screen. I wouldn’t say it adds much to the beauty of the phone, but the two physical buttons are very responsive and easy to press.

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The side keys are nothing like the front buttons. They are too ridig, too nard to press making it uncomfortable. Nokia still featured the traditional pinhole charging port which is located on the top of the phone. There’s also a microUSB port and a 3.5mm headphone jack just beside the pinhole charging port.

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Finally, the phone feature an ambient light and proximity sensor which becomes active during calls to dim the screen.

Screen

The Asha 311 is one of the best in its family. It has a capacitive 3-inch LCD display screen with a resolution of 240 x 400 pixels. The good news here is that the Asha 311 comes with a Corning Gorilla Glass which protects it from scratches or scrapes. It also support multitouch. Nokia added a polarizing filter for betteer outdoor visibility (outdoor visibility performance is average).

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Interface

The Nokia Asha 311 comes with the Series 40 interface. There is an imitation of the Android OS dropdown menu, three swipeable home screens and an imitation of the IOS notification icon. Nokia made a little improvement on the user interface by adding a bouncy effect for icons whenever you scroll to the top of a list.
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Processor and Memory

I would say Nokia made an effort moving a step forward with the Asha 311. Compared to the other Asha series, the Nokia Asha 311 is fast. All thanks to the more responsive capacitive touchscreen, but also to the RAM memory (128MB) and a 1GHz processor. The phone comes with a 2GB microSD card, internal storage of 140MB and can take up to 32GB microSD card.

Internet and Connectivity

The Asha 311 has a 3.2 megapixel camera with no flash. It a fixed-focus camera with very low quality shots. The good thing is that the camera is very easy to operate. It also captures video in 480p recorded in .3gp format. The frame rate is 25Fps and it’s not that good for recording fast-moving objects (Great…how on earth can i record Usain Bolt’s race!).

Multimedia

The Nokia Asha 311 has a very well equiped media play with tons of codec support and a clear loudspeaker. Nokia is giving away 60 java games from EA for free as a gift for Asha buyers (don’t you expect high-end games since all you get are the basic games. After all, it’s running on a Series 40 platform). The Good news it that Angry Birds comes pre-installed (hurray!)

Battery

Finally, the Asha 311 can also boast of something; longer battery life. It’s packed with a 1100mAh Li-ion battery that yield 6hours of 3G talk time, 14hours of 2G talk time and up to 40hours on music play time.

Conclusion

I’ve had a look at the Asha 311 from all angles but I’ve been kinda silent on the most important part which is the price. In Nigeria, the device costs between ₦18,840 to ₦23,550 ($120 to $140) depending on the market. This pits it in the same category as low-end Android smartphones like the Galaxy Y, Galaxy Pocket and LG Optimus L3 (cost either the same or lower than the Asha 311, but bring you into the smartphone land with lots and lots of useful apps unlike the java apps you get on the Asha 311).If you are a Game freak, you have to consider the options but the Nokia Asha 311 is a very good phone (for my mum, dad and little bro since they’re not that borthered about classy apps or games). On its own the Asha 311 stands proud.

The Good
-Capacitive screen brings better responsiveness
-Refreshed Series 40 UI
-3G, Wi-Fi connectivity

The Bad
-Not cheap enough, better smartphones now available at same price
-Design too plasticky
-Series 40 still feels a bit slow

Reference
Phone arena