What would a full HD display on a smartphone look like? When will the wait for affordable 1TB solid state drives come to an end? How about a super zoom camera in a smartphone, or the other way around? Such are the topics that we often discuss while we are sipping on steaming hot chai at the stall right outside our office, so it wasn’t all that surprising to see Samsung come out with the Galaxy Camera. On the day it arrived in our test lab, I couldn’t wait to unpack it and try all the features.
Simply put, it’s the Samsung Galaxy S III with a huge lens popped in, minus support for making calls
I clearly remember Shayne’s expression when I asked him how he found the Galaxy Camera after he had come back from the launch event. “It’s oversized,” he insisted. At that time, I thought he was exaggerating, but on unpacking it, I felt even that was an understatement. At 129 x 71 cm, it’s a lot broader and taller than most travel zoom digital cameras or even compact mirrorless cameras. And on top of that, the massive 21x zoom lens that sticks out about half an inch from the body reduces portability even further. In no way is it designed to be carried in the pocket! Samsung should have provided eyelets on the sides to attach a neck strap, but that too is missing. A 4-inch display (Super AMOLED would have been nice to have) and a completely retracting lens would have gone a long way in shrinking the design and making it pocketable. But then, it would be challenging to offer a quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, graphics processor, 8GB of on-board storage, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G capabilities along with the guts of a super-zoom camera in a compact package.
Still, I imagined that there would be limitless possibilities with such a lavish feature set. It’s clear that Samsung wants to offer a camera that goes beyond just allowing you to share your photos wirelessly and upload them on social networks—something that doesn’t require the specifications of such a high-end smartphone. To me, the Galaxy Camera comes across as a super-zoom camera jammed into the body of the Galaxy S III. The functionalities of the camera are delivered by the camera app, which when run is supposed to give users the feel of a high-end camera. Instead, it actually feels like a high-end smartphone running a camera app, even if the user interface of the camera is top notch.
Virtual dials in the manual and semi-manual modes
Now, at Rs 29,900, for which you could buy a DSLR or an enthusiast-class super-zoom (such as the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS), it’s fair to expect stellar photo quality. But sadly, the Galaxy Camera doesn’t deliver on its core functionality—the quality of photos it takes isn’t impressive at all. It’s incredible as a mobile Internet device and portable media player—I feel the latter should have been the secondary aspect and not the other way around. If you ask me which device comes closest to or is better than the Galaxy Camera, I’d say it’s the Nokia PureView 808. It takes much better photos, and more importantly, it fits in the pocket!
From a technological standpoint, the Galaxy Camera is by far the smartest camera available. It was only possible for Samsung to conjure it up because it knows how to build high-end smartphones and digital cameras—it’s just a matter of converging technologies. It’s an over-enthusiastic concept, and the need to go in for it isn’t justified unless you’re a social networking or a photo sharing buff—it’s certainly not for enthusiasts, or for that matter, even amateurs. Things would have been different had the price been under Rs 20,000 or if the quality of photos was DSLR-like. For me, a better balance would have been a compact mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with some of the features of Galaxy Camera (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G support, GPS, social networking and at least 8GB of built-in storage), all built around a regular camera interface. Rather than the awkward Galaxy Camera, this fantasy device could make waves in the market.
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Early this month, the 8GB version of the LG Nexus 4 saw a similar situation and that it could be February 2013 before you could get your hands on it. Thus, both variants will test the length of your patience.
Some third -party retailers took advantage of the supposed limited supply and delayed shipping of the device by putting a hefty tag price on the smartphone.
The Google-LG Nexus 4 boasts a 4.7 inch screen display with 1280×768 resolution, 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, 8 MP camera and 2100 mAh battery.
The LG Nexus 4 also has WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC Android Beam, Bluetooth, 2100 mAh Lithium polymer battery, Microphone, Accelerometer, Ambient light, Compass, Gyroscope, Barometer and GPS.
The new Google-LG smartphone will run with the new Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, which promises new features upgrade such as better camera options and controls. This has become the selling point of the device.
Due to its cheap price and features and specs, the device attracted a lot of consumers and quickly it appeared in the Google Play Store, it sold out hours later when it was released.
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At Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2012) next week in San Francisco we expect to see the latest iteration of iOS unveiled with a laundry list of updates to extend the growing appeal of the
iPhone. But, there’s still one key feature that Apple isn’t likely to improve enough to catch up with
It’s hard to argue that Android is more usable than iOS overall. The truth is that iOS is a more limited, simplified experience, but that makes it easy for most users to pick up and start using right away and makes it hard for them to get themselves in trouble by misconfiguring things. By contrast, Android is more flexible and customizable, but it can also be more difficult to navigate and more apt to confuse smartphone novices.
However, the alerts system is the one area where Android is just flat out more useful and more usable than iPhone. If that sounds trivial, it’s not — especially for business professionals and others who do a lot of stuff with their smartphones. Alerts give you timely updates of important information, quickly let you know about things that need your attention, and give you an at-a-glance look at your latest messages from various sources.
Apple made big strides with its alerts system in iOS 5 — taking obvious inspiration from Android — but even the vastly-improved alerts system still didn’t match the power and efficiency of what Android offers. In fact, iOS 5 didn’t match Android 2.3 “Gingerbread,” which still powers the vast majority of Android phones. Meanwhile, Google enhanced the alerts functionality even more in Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich,” which debuted at the end of 2011.
The biggest advantage that Android alerts have over iOS alerts is immediate glance-ability, and a lot of that has to do with the fundamental design of the platform. That’s why iOS appears unlikely to catch up in this area any time soon.
What I’m really talking about when I say “immediate glance-ability” is that when you turn on the display on your Android phone you see a bunch of little badges in the top left corner of the screen that let you know you’ve got new messages or that a calendar appointment is about to happen or someone is talking about you on social media or there’s a severe weather alert in your area.
Jason Hiner | CNET)
In iOS, you actually have to swipe down from the top of the screen to open the Notification Center and then scroll through your whole alerts list by app to see what all you might need to address. A lot of iOS users just aren’t in the habit of checking the Notification Center since it’s a newer addition to the platform.
Jason Hiner | CNET)
More often than not, the habit in iOS is to see if your apps for Mail, Messages, Calendar, or Twitter (or various other apps) have their red alert badges in the upper left corner activated with the number of important new things you haven’t seen yet. Then you go straight into each app and check the new stuff. Lots of iOS apps can use the red alert badge now and it’s handy for the stuff you want to track most often, but it’s obviously not as efficient as that quick glance in Android.
Jason Hiner | CNET)
Once you get past the glance-ability, Android also has iOS beat when you dive into the listing of alerts. Ironically, iOS is actually more configurable and customizable in its listings, but Android’s default configuration nails it, and that’s more important since most people never change the defaults. While iOS lets you decide how many alerts you want to show for each app and how you want to organize them, Android simply mixes up the alerts and shows them in chronological order from the time they happened. In Android 4.0, you can also simply swipe right to dismiss individual alerts, which isn’t possible in iOS.
Jason Hiner | CNET)
Another thing to keep in mind here is that Google is just really good at alerts, and Apple isn’t. Take a look at what Google has done with Google+ alerts by building them into the universal Google toolbar and giving an excellent at-a-glance look at the activity that’s happening around your Google+ content. Meanwhile, Apple has still never built a decent universal alerts system into
Mac OS. The most popular solution is the third party app Growl.
Jason Hiner | CNET)
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of other things that Android does better than iPhone — for example, turn-by-turn GPS navigation and Google Voice integration. But, Apple will likely catch up in maps and GPS and Google Voice is a niche solution mostly used by technophiles. Alerts represent the one area where Android is a lot more friendly and usable than iOS, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon unless Apple does a more drastic redesign on the user interface of its home screen.
At its annual I/O developer event, Google is widely expected to debut a Nexus Tablet that it will sell directly to consumers. Conversation about such a device started up several months ago, but as of this week, there’s evidence of the actual device. Dubbed the Nexus 7 — which could be an internal code name as opposed to an actual product name — several websites have been visited by this device, or perhaps different variations of the device for testing. Our own server logs show nearly a hundred hits from what appears to be a 7-inch tablet running with 1280 x 768 resolution and Nvidia’s Tegra 3 processor.
Other data points from the logs show the Nexus 7, expected to be built by Asus, to be running Android 4.1, which looks to be the Jelly Bean version of Android. That follows Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0, which is currently on newer devices and will soon be arriving on T-Mobile’s Galaxy S II smartphone. According to our logs the browser used to visit the site has varied between the native Android browser, Chrome for Android and Currents; Google’s Flipboard-like app for news and social network reading.
Google’s I/O event takes place late in June, so we only have a few weeks to wait and see if the next Nexus is a tablet. I see little reason to doubt it as Google typically uses a single device to show off major software advances; if the company has Android 4.1 ready to roll, a new smartphone or tablet is sure to spotlight it. And since Google has jumped back into the direct sales game — it now sells a GSM Galaxy Nexus without contract for $399 — it makes sense that a Wi-Fi tablet priced at $249 or less could be the next piece of hardware for sale in Google Play.
The mention of Google Currents reminds me that Flipboard is still generally an iOS only product as only one phone officially has Flipboard for Android: Samsung’s Galaxy S III. But the Flipboard team is looking to expand its software release to other Android phones, this week opening up a beta program. You can get in on the beta simply by providing your email address here and then waiting a short bit. I filled out the form and had a download link in under 24 hours. My first look at the app shows it to be a great reading experience, just as it is on my iPhone and iPad.
For a smaller screened reading experience, I’m now turning to the Android-powered Motorola MotoActv on my wrist. A software update released this week added support for Twitter messages and Facebook wall posts on the smart watch / health tracker.
The data comes from a Bluetooth-connected Android phone and is great for quick reading, although you can also retweet and like posts directly from your wrist thanks to the capacitive touchscreen. What started out as a wearable GPS tracking device for exercise is fast becoming a capable Android smart watch.
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You no longer need a PC browser to test out apps from Amazon’s Appstore for Android. The online retailer recently announced that you can try out apps before you buy them by using the company’s new beta feature, Test Drive for Android. All you need is a compatible device and the Amazon Appstore for Android app version 2.6.53 or higher.
The company said only select Android devices will be able to use the new feature at launch, but did not elaborate on which phones were compatible. If your phone is compatible, a green “Test Drive” button will appear on an app’s product page above the “Save for Later” and “Share” buttons. Amazon said more devices will be able to use the new feature in the coming months.
Amazon has more than 5,000 Android apps ready to use Test Drive, and it aims to make the entire Appstore catalog available. At launch, only apps that use basic touchscreen features and device accelerometers have Test Drive enabled. Apps that require multitouch, a keyboard, microphone, camera, gyroscope, near-field communication (NFC), or GPS are not yet available.
Unlike Google Play’s 15-minute refund policy, Amazon’s beta version of Test Drive for Android does not require you to purchase the app first to try it out. Instead, the company puts the power of the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) servers to work. Whenever you try an app via Test Drive, a version of the app is launched on Amazon’s EC2 servers. Your taps and other inputs are sent to Amazon’s servers, and all display and audio outputs are sent back to your device. You can purchase an app at any point during your test drive.
Amazon originally launched Test Drive as a PC-only feature in early 2011 with the debut of the Appstore for Android. The company said it has enabled more than 16,000 apps for the PC-based version of Test Drive since then.
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Cobra brings in-car radar detection into the 21st century—by pairing it with your smartphone. The Cobra iRadar system ($129.95 list) consists of a hardware radar detector and a companion Android or iOS app. This isn’t a bad idea—a smartphone offers a much nicer interface than a bunch of tiny LED lights and switches, plus the promise of Internet-connected services and over-the-air software updates. Overall, iRadar performs about as well as expected, although several design quirks mar its overall appeal.
Product Line, Design, and Setup
Cobra sells two separate versions of this product. The Android version, the iRAD-105, is the subject of this review. There’s also an iPhone and iPod touch version of the package, called the iRAD-100. The hardware looks exactly the same in both cases, and the software is available as a free download in Google Play and Apple’s App Store. The separate versions don’t pose a problem unless you later switch from an iPhone to an Android phone, or vice versa.
The Cobra iRadar system consists of two distinct features: The main, Bluetooth-enabled detector unit, with its included DC power cord, and a free downloadable app that you install on your smartphone. Let’s start with the unit itself, which looks like just about any other Cobra radar detector, albeit with less controls and LED lights than usual. The device is made entirely of black glossy plastic, with a single hardware volume knob on the left that doubles as a power switch, and a single status LED on the front front. On top, there’s an oversized, circular Mute button. Behind that is a vertically oriented speaker grille.
The built-in suction cups grab the windshield tightly. Instead of using a plastic lever to lock them in place the way GPS mounts usually work, you just push directly on the plastic center portion with a good amount of force. But to effectively use iRadar, you’ll also need a mount for your phone, which is true for any in-car Android app like iOnRoad Augmented Driving (Free, 3.5 stars), or even just when using the built-in Google Maps Navigation (Free). You’ll also want to find a way to run the cable to your car’s power accessory jack as neatly as possible.
For this review, I tested Cobra iRadar for Android on a Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket ($149.99, 4.5 stars) running on ATT’s network. I sat behind the wheel of a 2013 Ford Taurus SHO, one of three that the automaker loaned us for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks 2012 testing. Given the SHO’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, which outputs 365 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque, having the iRadar along was certainly welcome.
To get started, I downloaded the Cobra iRadar app from Google Play and installed it. Next, I used the phone’s usual Bluetooth pairing mode to link up with the iRadar detector, which worked perfectly on the first try; it pairs, but doesn’t connect. At this point, I fired up the app, which found the paired iRadar device and linked it up within moments. Then I hit the road.
Testing, Band Detection, and Crowd-Sourcing
It turns out I picked some good days to review iRadar, because I encountered just about every radar short of actual laser—and several times. The oldest radar guns use X-band, and are often left on continuously; a lot of things also emit X-band and trigger false alarms. More advanced (and now common) guns use K-band, which is shot in bursts, and which detectors can pick up bouncing off of cars ahead. Finally, both the newer Ka-band and laser are the toughest to detect.
The app interface is fairly Spartan. It displays your current speed, your car battery’s current voltage level (just because it can, apparently), your current compass direction, and a toggle for city and highway modes. You can also view a Google-powered map showing your current location. Once alerts pop up, the screen changes to show information about the specific event, although many of these screens are also pretty barren. I appreciate the larger view, but the jury is out as to whether you need a smartphone to display this information. For example, while the app has a speedometer, it doesn’t display the current road speed limit the way a GPS navigation app would. And all cars already have a speedometer, so what’s the point?
In testing, the Cobra iRadar behaved more or less as expected. Range seemed okay with X-band, but much less with K-band and almost non-existent with Ka-band—which is typical for lower-priced radar detectors. For example, I saw one Ka alert, looked up, and saw a cop about 500 feet away on the opposite side. He was already making a U-turn onto my side of the highway. I still heard iRadar alerts as he passed by and pulled up about 200 feet ahead of me, but then I stopped hearing them, even though he was still following people a bit further ahead. I had virtually no warning here, and luckily I wasn’t speeding (much).
A big Report button on the main screen lets you “send in” crowd-sourced data for the benefit of other users. In addition, if there’s an alert, you can tap Real or False to send proper data back to the cloud. None of this ensures the crowd-sourced data will be actually useful, though. For example, the Photo Enforcement Zone and Speed Trap Zone alerts were a total annoyance, simply because they popped up constantly—several dozen times during one 60-mile stretch of I-95 alone. Not one of the alerts was accurate, as far as I could tell. User-reported Live Police alerts were also useless, since I never saw any police cars whenever these sounded. The Settings page lets you configure alerts for individual categories, so you can turn some of these off.
All told, I’m unconvinced of the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing, at least the way Cobra implemented it. This is reflected online, as you can see plenty of mixed reports in the user reviews section on Amazon and Google Play, essentially saying the system is filled with a ton of bad data.
Other Notes and Conclusions
Unfortunately, iRadar also lacks directional alerts, the way the market-leading (but non-smartphone-based) Valentine One ($399) works, and the way K-40 detectors worked 20 years ago. That means if there’s a source of radar ahead, iRadar only alerts you to its presence—but not which direction it’s coming from, or how far ahead it is. Cobra’s app does tell you the number of alerts, at least. This way, if there’s a usual false alarm in one spot that you’re aware of, but then suddenly one day there are two alerts in the same location, you know that a cop could be hiding there. The voice prompts are also useful, as they can clue you in to the type of warning without having to take your eyes off the road and see what the smartphone is displaying.
All told, the Valentine One is still the benchmark in this category, thanks to its class-leading range and reliable direction reporting, although it’s much more expensive and lacks a companion smartphone app. Still, the V1 is also software upgradable; a Valentine One purchased a decade ago can be upgraded to the latest software revision. The Escort Live! ($539.90) offers a similar setup to the Cobra iRadar, but it’s also much more expensive; I haven’t tested this system yet.
Based on my experiences, it’s a pretty involved process to use iRadar, because it’s constantly throwing alert after alert, which needlessly raises your blood pressure. Still, the tech geek side of me finds Cobra iRadar appealing. Some further refinements in the crowd-sourcing features, along with some genuine range improvements in the hardware, would sweeten the deal considerably.
Article source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404134,00.asp
Samsung hasn’t ceded the small slate market to either the Kindle Fire or Nook Tablet just yet. Although these two 7-inch slates are gobbling up market share for low-cost tablets, Samsung launched its Galaxy Tab 2 this week. The $249 Wi-Fi tablet certainly has some better hardware over its competitors but the real question is: Can it provide the experience people are looking at this price?
That’s going to depend on exactly what experience consumers are looking for. With Android 4.0, dual-core processor, two cameras and integrated GPS, the Galaxy Tab 2 is a low-cost Android tablet with few limitations. It can run any third party app from Google Play, take and sync pictures or be used as a GPS navigation device. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are far more limited in what they can do out of the box but what they can do, they do very well.
Amazon did remove one limitation this week when it added support for in-app purchases. This could lead to a greater number of free third-party apps that make money through upgrades or additional content within the application. This “freemium” model has been supported by iOS and Android for some time and has begun to bring more money to developers over paid mobile apps. I also expect more Android developers to bring their apps into Amazon’s AppStore; good for Kindle Fire owners.
My latest Android gadget is similar to the Kindle Fire, in that you’d never know it actually runs on Android. I bought a MotoActv wearable device about a week ago, hoping to find a way to track my outdoor exercise without having to carry my smartphone and use its GPS. The MotoActv works quite well for this, but I also gained some unexpected benefits from my $199 purchase.
Because the MotoActv is crammed with sensors and radios — accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and FM radio — I’m actually wearing it from the time I wake until the time I sleep. The 1.6-inch device with capacitive touchscreen measures calories burned as well as steps taken, so I gain that health data.
It also has 8 GB of storage, so I’ve added several albums and use it to enjoy music as needed. And of course, when I run, I turn on the GPS radio and track my route, pace, and distance, plus my heart rate with an external heart rate monitor.
The MotoActv also works as a watch, complete with several difference faces to choose from. And when paired with a smartphone, it can receive notifications such as SMS messages, caller ID and calendar events. When the device launched last October, the notification feature was only supported on Motorola handsets. However, a software update earlier this month added support for all Android handsets.
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Samsung has pushed back the release of it second-generation tablets from the end of March to the end of April. The delay, according to a Samsung spokesperson, is because the company needs more time to work on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. That’s funny, because Samsung has had access to Ice Cream Sandwich longer than any other hardware maker.
Google released Android 4.0 in October. Samsung released the global variant of Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0 on board in November, followed by the U.S. Verizon version in December. Other OEMs didn’t gain access to the Ice Cream Sandwich source code until November, about a month after Samsung got its hands on it.
The Galaxy Tab 2–both the 7-inch 7.0 version and the 10-inch 10.1 version–will be the first tablets to ship from Samsung with Android 4.0 on board. Android 4.0 offers a number of system-wide improvements when compared to earlier versions of Android.
The two Tab 2s are powered by dual-core 1-GHz processors, accompanied by 1 GB of RAM. Most new smartphones are shipping with 1.2-1.5-GHz dual-core chips. The Tabs supports worldwide 3G data, with HSPA+ at 21-Mbps in the 850/900/1900/2100-MHz bands, in addition to 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, USB 2.0, and a bevy of sensors.
The Tab 2 (7.0) has a seven-inch display, with 1024 x 600 pixels. The Tab 2 (10.1) has a 10.1-inch display with 1280 x 800 pixels. Both come with two cameras: a 3-megapixel fixed-focus main camera, and a VGA user-facing camera for video calling. They can record HD video at 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second.
They will ship in three different storage variations: 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB. All three will include a microSD card slot supporting an addition 32 GB of storage. The Tab 2 shaves a little thickness and weight when compared to the original, but not much. The Tab 2 (7.0) measures 0.41 inches thick and weighs 12.1 ounces, or about 0.75 pounds if you prefer.
The Tab 2 (7.0) and (10.1) are not bad efforts, but they are not very sexy. They lack 4G support of any kind, the cameras are low in quality, the processor and memory setups are already outdated, and Samsung already makes tablets that measure 7.7 inches, 8.9 inches, and 10.1 inches.
Samsung says Android 4.0 on the Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) and (10.1) is much faster than Android 2.3 Gingerbread, with a better app and user interface response. Faster is (nearly) always better, as laggy software is frustrating. Let’s hope so, because this is the second delay Samsung has admitted to due to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Last month, Samsung delayed Android 4.0 for the Galaxy Note.
As businesses rely increasingly on tablets for the productivity benefits they provide, IT must address the security challenges the devices present. Find out more in our Security Pro’s Guide To Tablet PCs report. (Free registration required.)
What applications are these people using such that it needs to be written on a per-device level? I’ve got an HTC HD2 running Android 4.0, despite it shipping with Windows Mobile 6.5, and have yet to have an app that didn’t run on it (running WELL is a bit of a different story for graphics intensive games like Temple Run, etc.). I don’t understand why having lots of different hardware is a problem for Android when it isn’t for Windows or Linux.
Wanna know what was REALLY a problem to develop for? Windows Mobile. Even if you only developed for Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1, and 6.5, it was a nightmare from a hardware perspective. Just those three releases brought us devices with 300MHz CPUs and 128MB of RAM, all the way to 1GHz CPUs and 1GB of RAM. Some had a GPS, some didn’t. Some had Bluetooth, some didn’t. Most had Wi-Fi, some didn’t. Some had infrared, some didn’t. Some had a CompactFlash slot, some didn’t. Some had an SD/MicroSD slot, some didn’t. Some had a cellular baseband in it, some didn’t. Some had a hardware keyboard, some didn’t. Some had 320×240 screens, some had 600×400 screens, some had 800×400 screens.
Android developers can assume that roughly 90% of devices have at least an 800MHz processor, a screen that’s generally the same proportion, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, an on-screen keyboard, and a MicroSD card. While I’m sure there are a handful of exceptions here and there, the dozens of Android running devices I’ve used have all had those specs in common. Just about the only applications I’ve seen that have justifiably needed to be model specific were rooting tools, ports of ClockworkMod, etc. Other than that, well, regression testing on 1400 devices for Angry Birds is a smidge excessive. Again: Windows and Linux do just fine on tens of millions of hardware combinations.