PHOENIX – iPhones and iPads are simple. Apple only makes a handful of models and that’s it, that’s that. The simplicity of their product line is part of the charm. Android on the other hand is a totally different story.
There is a long list of manufacturers all making different sizes, speeds, software versions, etc, etc. There is some beauty to having more options but there is also a lot of confusion.
Amid it all, there is one line of Android products that stands alone. The Nexus products from Google . Problem is, most people have no idea what “Nexus” is all about.
Nexus, is a line of products sold by Google. Google doesn’t actually make the smartphones and tablets. It’s essentially a collaboration between Google engineers and a hardware company. Think of it as Google’s idea of the perfect Android smartphone or tablet.
Here’s how it works: the people at Google who create the Android software work hand in hand different hardware companies to design the next Nexus product. Usually in the world of Android devices, Google makes the software and then a hardware company takes that software and finesses it for their specific hardware. The Nexus line is a marriage of the two processes.
Nexus provides synergy (man I hate that word). It provides a connection between Android hardware and software that typically doesn’t exist. It’s not always the best hardware out there and you often times miss out on some of the added features that manufacturers tack on to the Android OS. None the less, you get the Android experience exactly as the creators of the Android operating envisioned.
What many consumers don’t know is that most Android smartphones actually run a very modified version of Google Android. This means each tablet or smartphone manufacturer will add their own software tweaks to give them the competitive edge. They’re all called “Android” smartphones but the software can look very different on some devices. In some situations this is a good thing, in other situations it just adds clutter. Nonetheless, Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola and others have carved out their Android niche because of their added secret sauce. With a Nexus device, it’s Android bare naked. No tweaks, no add-ons and no skins. It’s Android exactly as the software geniuses at Google dreamed it up.
The best part about Nexus devices is that you will almost always get the latest updates to the Android software within days of it being released by Google. Typically, months before normal Android smartphones and tablets get that same update. If you’re a “bleeding edge” kind of techie, this is a big deal. Otherwise, most consumers won’t care or notice the difference.
Right now, Google offers 3 Nexus devices including the Nexus 4 smartphone, the Nexus 7 tablet and the Nexus 10 tablet. The smartphone is not connected to a cell phone carrier and is only compatible with att and T-mobile. Buy the smartphone, slide in a SIM card from your selected carrier and you’re good to go. No contracts, no commitments.
Are Nexus devices the best? Not always. They offer a great marriage between the Android software and the exact hardware that Google dreams up. Typically they have some of the best specs to date but not always.
What you do get is a streamlined Android experience without the added clutter from the manufacturers and cell phone carriers. You also get updates as soon as they’re released. Best of all, you typically get this at a rock bottom price. The Nexus 7” tablet starts at $199, the 10” tablet at $399 and the Nexus 4 smartphone at $299 (without any contracts). These prices are hard to beat for the hardware you get and the “pure” Google Android experience.
I’m currently testing out the both the Nexus 4 smartphone and the Nexus 10 tablet, look for my reviews in the coming weeks.
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The Nexus 4 smartphone, from Google, but built by LG, is elegant. No, it is downright awesome. I’ve had a loaner test unit for well over a month and it just feels right in the hand. The camera is a dream to use, too.
Besides all the tech specs that make it a fast device that is easy to use and intuitive, it comes unlocked and contract-free. Sure, you are buying the device with cash up front, but it saves you in the long term by allowing you the freedom to jump carriers. (Jump to end of post if you are looking for the TechCrunch contest info).
I believe this phone offers business owners a chance to save money and get a terrific mobile computing device at the same time. After all, it is more than just a phone. I hear from many small biz owners who want out of the major carrier locked plan options and Google clearly has heard this refrain, too.
As readers may remember, I’m a big fan of the new Ting mobile phone service (briefly reviewed here in late September with a Samsung Galaxy S III): What Phone Should I Get?. Ting offers a terrific a la carte pricing plan that I really like for small business owners looking to keep phone costs down.
I’m still trying to figure out if I could purchase another Ting phone, swap out the SIM card, and make the Nexus 4 into a Ting phone. This post will be updated if I successfully achieve that goal. The company sent me a loaner phone and I’m on the $16/month for my business cell phone plan test with Ting. I love that I can change options easily without creating a new contract.
Since Google sent me the Nexus 4 to evaluate for my other small business columns (and sadly it goes back at some point in the near future), I have been using it with either Google Talk or Skype on wifi-only. But, figuring out where to go to get the SIM card set up takes a bit of, well, Googling.
The best post I found about setting up this unlocked phone is from J.R. Raphael at ComputerWorld in his post: Google’s Nexus 4: Understanding Your Carrier Options. In a nutshell, he recommends purchasing a simple prepaid cell phone plan from Straight Talk or a regular monthly plan from T-Mobile. Plus, you can follow some of his other in-depth posts for more ideas on how to save on your cell phone bill.
Head to this official Google page for all the details about the Google Nexus 4. Just a few of the highlights:
Chris Velazco at TechCrunch did a super in-depth review in November and it covers just about anything you might wonder about this new phone. Nexus 4 Review: Not Exactly Perfect, But Close Enough For Me.
The last cool thing to know about the Nexus 4, if you are in the market for a personal or a business mobile phone is that TechCrunch is giving one away on New Year’s Eve. It is partly a contest to build Facebook likes, but hey, that’s one of the games these days. Read the contest details here: TechCrunch Giveaway: Nexus 4 And Nexus 10 #TechCrunch.
If you are a business owner looking to save money on a cell phone plan by purchasing an unlocked phone up front, the Google Nexus is one high-end phone to consider. LG has done a fine job of making a phone that competes with Apple’s iPhone, in terms of eye candy and technical chops, though many of my Apple buddies prefer the smaller form factor of the iPhone. The Google Nexus 4 is a powerful phone and handheld computer for those days where you are mobile and without a tablet or laptop.
If you thought Samsung’s Galaxy Note 2 was big, what would you say about Karbonn’s latest phablet Karbonn A30, which comes with a 5.9 inch screen? The phone is really big, though in the hand it does fit as well as the Note 2.
However, at Rs 11,500 it is really something to look out for. So when we got a chance to get an exclusive hands on of the phone we couldn’t refuse the offer. The device, incidentally, is available at Saholic.com.
Karbonn A30 is based on Android 4.0 and offers dual SIM connectivity and all the sensors that you normally expect from an Android phone. Here is what we felt about the device after spending a couple of hours with it.
The phone is big, though it’s not a 7 inch tablet and can still be used like a phone without being an embarrassment. It measures 165 x 90 x 10 mm, which makes it not very bulky.
It is just about 10 mm wider than Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and about 0.6 mm thicker and 14 mm longer. However, the downside is its weight, which, at approximately 260 grams, makes it the heaviest phone in the market. The device comes with a very fine textured leather case, though it is white in colour, which makes it easy to soil.
However, it looks elegant and not very flashy. The USB port is at the bottom and there is a 3.5 mm jack on top. The power/lock button is located on the right side, which makes it easier to operate.
The button would have been difficult to reach had it been at the top as the phone is quite a bit longer than its nearest rival. The volume rocker is placed on the left side. The back cover gets a matte finish (in case of a leather cover it is finished in aluminium,) making it easier to grip. When you put on the leather cover, you can hold the phone like a small book, making it really easy to hold with one hand and operate with the other.
A large size, however, means that single-handed operation is not a good option. Inside the cover you have the battery, two SIM slots and a micro SD card slot, for which you do not need to remove the battery. The quality of the plastic is good, with just the right amount of flex to avoid cracks in case the phone is dropped (we did not drop it, and therefore can’t testify to this).
Karbonn has used a WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) resolution screen, which is fairly standard across budget tablets and phablets with very few exceptions getting higher resolution. The display’s brightness is good and so is the colour reproduction and sharpness, and though it is not the best it is certainly not something that we can complain about, given the kind of screen real estate it offers at such a remarkable price.
Karbonn has also stated that it has used a toughened glass that is scratch resistant, though it is not Gorilla Glass.
The tablet has a 1 GHz dual core processor coupled with 512 MB of RAM. The processor offers decent speeds, although a 1 GB RAM would have done better justice to the processor’s power. We played Temple Run on the phone and it worked just great, with no lag at all. However, the device we used was a new one and was not yet loaded with apps and user data, which means that the RAM was still mostly free.
Once the user starts to load the phone with apps, the RAM will tend to run out faster, slowing down the device. There are very few phones in the budget category that offer anything more than 512 MB RAM and therefore it doesn’t take away anything from this phone. A smart user who chooses apps well and deletes useless apps regularly will be able to get decent performance from the phone.
Karbonn has put in an 8 megapixel camera along with a single LED flash at the back, and a 1.3 megapixel camera in the front. The camera, though, gets grainy while used in low light when you zoom into a picture. Other than that the picture quality of the phone was above average as compared with phones like Micromax Canvas 2 A110 and other budget phones with 8 megapixel shooters.
The colour reproduction and sharpness levels were good and in small rooms the flash worked well so that even in low light the pictures were reasonably good. The front camera is good for video calls and for taking self portraits to be used on Facebook etc, though they would be unfit for printing.
The phone gets a 2500 mAh battery, which is required given its large display. We tried to drain the battery in the two hours that we had the phone for, and we managed to drain only about 10 per cent, which indicates an average battery life of one and a half days.
However, we will wait to get the phone for a longer period to better assess its battery life.
In the limited time we had the phone for we were impressed with Karbonn’s effort. It is a pocketable device that offers a tablet-like screen. The phone is price well and offers all the bells and whistles that you expect from an Android phone, with connectivity features like 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth and micro USB. You get 2 GB usable internal memory and 32 GB expandable memory. The quality of the product is also good.
On the downside the phone is slightly heavy, and would have been better if it had slightly more RAM. Even with these two drawbacks the phone is well worth considering, but do first take the dummy in your hand and decide if it fits well in your palm before you buy the phone.
We will publish a full review once we get the phone in our office. In the meantime we can only say it feels good, though long term performance is something we still need to access. If you want to buy this phone you can do so at Saholic.com.
If a report by tech site Sammobile is anything to go by, then Samsung may introduce its mid-range Galaxy device Samsung GT-S6810 Galaxy Frame at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona. In fact, the report suggests that the smartphone is expected to hit store shelves at the end of the first quarter of 2013. Only other substantial information known at the moment is that the specifications of the Frame will be around the same level as the Galaxy Ace or Galaxy Mini smartphones, says Sammobile. The Frame reportedly will only be available in the Pearl White colour.
Samsung also recently unveiled the Galaxy Grand smartphone, which it claimed to be an ideal smartphone for users with fast-paced mobile lifestyles who demand more from their phone.
Galaxy Frame coming at MWC 2013?
Samsung Galaxy Grand smartphone runs Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), Google’s latest operating system. It sports a 5-inch display, which the company claims provides an expansive viewing experience, presenting messaging, multimedia and web content in brilliant colour and clarity. Samsung adds that despite the large screen, the phone is still slim, ergonomic and comfortable to hold. You can also enjoy true multitasking by running multiple apps simultaneously and without switching screens using the Multi Window feature.
The Samsung Galaxy Grand is powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor that supports seamless multitasking, faster web browsing, lightning-fast screen transitions and superior graphics for some of the most demanding apps and games.
The camera on the Galaxy Grand smartphone is one with zero shutter-lag and ultra-quick start-up. It includes a backside illumination sensor to ensure clear shots even in dark conditions, as well as full HD video recording.
Samsung Galaxy Grand also includes intuitive features that make the phone easy to use. For example, Direct Call enables users to automatically dial a call by raising the device up to the ear; while users can also shake the phone to trigger status updates, or pan it to zoom into a screen. Smart Alert shows missed events such as missed calls and new messages just by picking up the phone. Popup Video, for example, lets users watch video in a pop-up window anywhere on the screen while running other tasks; S Voice lets you control the phone using your voice; and AllShare Play lets you share content across Samsung devices using a single account.
The phone is pre-loaded with the latest versions of Samsung Hubs to deliver the most popular games, movies and music direct to the user on demand.
Here’s a quick look at the specs of the Galaxy Grand smartphone:
The Galaxy Grand will be available in two versions – the dual-SIM version (GT-I9082) will launch first and the single SIM version (GT-I9080) will follow. For the dual SIM version, Samsung claims that its innovative dual-SIM feature provides total communication flexibility, allowing users to manage two phone numbers from a single phone. It is possible to receive calls on one SIM number, while taking a call from the other, ensuring efficient management of personal and work commitments without ever missing a call. It goes on to add that dual-SIM also offers the flexibility of selecting different billing plans for either SIM, switching between them to make the most of cheaper call and data plans.
The smartphone also features a powerful dual-core 1.2GHz processor, along with 1GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel rear camera offering 1080p video recording and a 2-megapixel front camera.
It also includes 8GB of internal memory with a microSD memory expansion slot, Wi-Fi b/g/n, GPS functionality, and the usual perks, such as an accelerometer, compass, and gyroscopic sensor.
The Galaxy Grand also connects to high-speed HSPA+ networks, but falls short of offering 4G LTE connectivity.
The Korean smartphone giant said the smartphone will be sold in two variants: the I9080, which offers single SIM service, while the I9082 will offer dual-SIM functionality, allowing users to use two separate cell numbers from the same device, such as work and personal numbers.
The smartphone also includes built-in features, such as Direct Call, Popup Video, Smart Alert, and S-Voice, the Samsung’s rival to Apple’s Siri voice-activated assistant.
Announced in the midst of the December holiday season, only days before many businesses finish for the year and consumer holiday spending reaches its peak, the Galaxy Grand is leaping into the public consciousness with no pricing or availability information.
We’ve put in questions to Samsung, but did not hear back at the time of writing. It is expected that the smartphone will be shown off at the consumer showcase
CES 2013 in January.
Update 8:31 a.m. PT: Samsung had little to offer in response to our U.K.-based writer: “Samsung UK availability of the Galaxy Grand is yet to be announced, a statement regarding UK launch confirmation will be made in due course.”
Samsung has taken the wraps off the Galaxy Grand, a smartphone with a giant five-inch screen but a low resolution usually found on smaller handsets.
The Android ‘Jelly Bean’ 4.1.2-toting Galaxy Grand was revealed on Tuesday in a blog post, in which Samsung confirmed a device previously known from FCC filings as the ‘Baffin’.
The Galaxy Grand has WVGA resolution, providing 480 x 800 pixels. This is a common resolution for devices with four-inch screens, but phones with larger screens, such as Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S3, tend to offer resolutions more in the region of 720 x 1280 pixels. This means the Galaxy Grand will have a very low pixel density.
Inside, the Galaxy Grand is resolutely mid-range. It has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor but is able to run many of the Samsung-only features found in more high-end devices such as the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. These include Samsung Hubs, pop-up video, direct call and S Voice.
The first version of the Galaxy Grand to hit the shelves will be a dual-SIM iteration, most likely aimed at travellers. A single-SIM version will follow.
The handset will have an 8-megapixel camera, DLNA, a 2,100mAh battery and HSPA+21Mbps mobile broadband connectivity. It will have just 8GB of storage and 1GB of RAM, although the inclusion of a microSD slot makes storage less of an issue.
Pricing and release dates have not been revealed.
Pictures of two new Samsung Galaxy smartphones have been spotted in the wild. There have been rumours in regards to the Korean handset maker working on Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos and Galaxy S II Plus and both these smartphones were caught on camera going through China’s TENAA certification process.
Both Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos and Galaxy S II Plus are expected to feature Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
According to Unwired.com Samsung Galaxy S II Plus is expected to feature a 4.3-inch WVGA display, dual-core 1GHz processor, 8-megapixel rear camera with flash, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. Earlier reports had indicated the Galaxy S II Plus will come with Android 4.0, 4.52-inch qHD display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera and 16GB of internal storage.
The Galaxy S II Plus GT-i9105, which could be officially unveiled later this month, looks a lot like the original Galaxy S II i9100 (launched in the first half of 2011).
The second new Samsung handset is the Galaxy Grand Duos GT-i9082. We’ve heard this would pack a 5-inch display and a quad-core processor, but that doesn’t seem to be true. Instead, the handset should feature a 4.5 inch WVGA screen, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 8MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, and Android 4.1Jelly Bean.
Obviously – as its name suggests – the Grand Duos is a dual SIM device.
There have been rumours about Samsung Galaxy Grand even in the past. It is expected to be an affordable Samsung phablet for the consumers who are fascinated by large screen phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Note and Samsung Galaxy Note II but don’t want to splurge as much on a smartphone. Grand Duos seems be the dual-SIM variant of this smartphone but the 4.5-inch screen instead of a 5-inch screen might be a bummer for some.
Additionally, as Galaxy S II Plus reportedly does not support 3G, it is a possibility that this smartphone might be targeted at developing markets such as India.
Google Nexus 4 owners reporting strange ‘buzzing’ issue
The sought-after Google Nexus 4 smartphone is now available to buy from UK network Three.
The 4.7-inch, Android Jelly Bean handset had been solely available through the Google Play Store and on contract through a one-month exclusive with rival network O2.
That period has now come to an end, meaning Three subscribers can pick up the handset for £35 a month over two years, plus a £29 one-off fee for the handset.
With users struggling to get a Nexus 4 directly from Google in time for Christmas, the Three contract offer, which includes unlimited data, will be a good test of just how popular this phone really is.
Most of the buzz around the Google Nexus 4, made by LG and unveiled at the end of October, was surrounding the price.
Google has been offering the 8GB model for just £239, while the 16GB version is only £279 SIM-free.
Early supplies were extinguished within half an hour, while those who were able to snap up a device when new stocks arrived face a wait of over a month for their handsets.
With Three’s offering works out at £870 over the two year contact, and there’s no bargain whatsoever to be had, we’ll see whether it was the cost or the fine feature set that was really motivating buyers.
Via Trusted Reviews
Samsung has been pushing an ever-growing number of its mid-tier phones to larger screen sizes, and there’s further evidence that it’s not about to stop. Following some rumors, both the Galaxy Grand Duos and Galaxy S II Plus appear to have been spotted going through China’s TENAA certification process. The Grand Duos seen here isn’t likely to reach the US given its lack of compatible 3G, but it looks to have a Galaxy S III-based design that’s still relatively fresh for the category. Claims have it mating its namesake dual SIM slots with a 4.5-inch (if just 800 x 480) screen, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and cameras similar to its bigger cousin.
As for the Galaxy S II Plus? While it should have 3G that works with ATT and Canadian carriers, we’re not anticipating much pressure to bring the S II Plus to North America when the device at TENAA closely resembles the 4.3-inch original, especially if talk of a modest 1GHz dual-core chip proves true. We’ll need an official announcement, or further leaks, to know whether the S II Plus or the Grand Duos are enough to lure in new buyers.
Before you download an Android app, a developer has to present you with a list of system-level resources the app needs to access in order to run. These are simply referred to as Permissions; the purpose of Android Permissions is to let you know exactly what information an app maker is harvesting from your device, so you can make an informed decision over whether or not you want to download it. And an app needs your permission to do even trivial tasks like connecting to the Internet or preventing your phone from going to sleep.
But according to Leviathan Security researcher Paul Brodeur, even an Android app with zero permissions can still extract plenty of data from your device. Leviathan created a proof-of-concept app (called “No Permissions”) and found three types of personal data the app was still able to see:
1. Files on an SD card
2. A list of all apps already installed on the device, and files associated with those apps (the /data/system/packages.list file)
3. Basic device information: the GSM and SIM vendor ID, the Android ID which associates an app with a device, and kernel version.
An obvious question you might ask is what No Permissions could do with this data, if it couldn’t even connect to the Internet (which would require the ubiquitous “Internet” permission)? Brodeur claims Zero Permissions could still make one network call without explicit permission, one that would allow the app to launch the browser. Theoretically, from there the developer would be able to create additional browser calls and transmit the data.
Before you do something dramatic like making a leap to iOS, another security researcher says Leviathan’s findings don’t pose much of a threat at all.
“None of these are flaws with the Android operating system, but with some specific applications that aren’t named,” researcher Daniel McCarney from the Carleton Computer Security Lab told me. ”Most of the findings are entirely supported behaviour. None of this is new research [or] a serious security risk for end users.”
Here’s what’s really going on:
Older versions of Android use an outdated partitioning system (FAT32) also used by many other operating systems, including Windows and MacOS. FAT32 is popular as it allows users to insert an SD card without formatting it into another operating system.
Furthermore in February, Google said it was exploring a Read permission for the SD card in a future release:
“As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, non-removable memory, we’re taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images. We’ve always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data,” Google said in a statement.
2. App list: Yes, the permission-less app was able to pull a list file showing all the apps on your device. But McCarney said Google is not only aware, it has given developers an even easier way to get a list of installed apps (the PackageManager API).
“The use of this obscure file (packages.list) strikes me as a way to make the issue seem like a serious oversight or a vulnerability,” he said.
Jerry Hillebrand over at Android Central noted this list file doesn’t really pose a risk.
“Knowing what applications a user has installed is a great way to know what exploits may be useful to compromise their phone or tablet,” Hillebrand writes. “Knowing that an exploit exists it’s there means an attacker could try to target it. It’s worth mentioning that targeting a known insecure app would probably require some permissions to do so, though.”
3. Basic device information: Lastly, it remains to be seen whether a hacker with your GSM, SIM, kernel version, and Android IDs can actually identify who you are.
“This claim is entirely overblown,” McCarney says. “All their application is able to gain is the Mobile country code (MCC) and the Mobile Network code (MNC) of the phone. This information would tell you something akin to the fact that I have a Rogers mobile phone in Canada.”
There are a few precautions you can take, if this information still leaves you feeling uneasy.
1. Don’t store any personal information on your SD card.
2. Download one of our recommend Android security apps that will detect apps behaving badly.
3. Be sure to install updates to applications as they arrive. Typically if an app improperly stores secure data on the SD card, developers will fix this and issue an update.