Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc review

The XPERIA Arc is Sony Ericsson’s latest assault on the ever growing Android smartphone market. Unlike other manufacturers such as HTC and Samsung, Sony Ericsson has gone for a single core processor for their flagship smartphone. Rather than going with brute specifications, they are counting on the design and software optimisation to gain customers.

In the past Sony Ericsson has been criticised for slow updates and performance issues. With the Arc and their new line of XPERIA smartphones such as the XPERIA Play, Sony Ericsson has promised that they will be one of the first to update their phones whenever a new Android version is released. Sony has even posted a website dedicated at rooting the device's bootloader.

As far as smartphone goes, the XPERIA Arc sports a typical slate candybar design. At a glance the Arc looks incredibly similar to the XPERIA X10 as it shares the same design language. Sony Ericsson has tweaked the design a little, but it is obvious that overall the Arc retains the same design language as the rest of the XPERIA family. A large 4.2″ LCD display with 480x854 resolution dominates the front of the device. The screen is powered by Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine, a software that boost the colour and contrast of whatever is displayed on screen. This sounds nice but in real life it doesn't seem to make much difference. I turn it off to save on battery life.

Just above the display you will find the earpiece, proximity sensor and an ambient light sensor that does not work. Three hardware buttons (back, home and menu) can be found below the display. In an age where almost every manufacturers have moved to capacitive touch sensitive buttons, it is reassuring that Sony Ericsson has designers who still recognise the appeal of hardware keys. Dear HTC, Motorola et. al, some people actually prefer devices that were built with usability and function in mind rather than form.

On the left side you will find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. A power button and micro HDMI port (protected by a flap) can be found on the top of the Arc. Sony Ericsson has informed me that all XPERIA Arc will be bundled with a micro HDMI cable. On the right side of the device resides a microUSB port for charging and connecting the device to a PC, a volume rocker and status LED. Near the bottom of the same side, you will find a very small camera shutter button. The microphone and lanyard loop can be found on the bottom of the device.

Over on the backside you will find the 8 megapixel Exmor-R camera with a single LED flash that sits a little too close to the edge, the loudspeaker as well as a small microphone for active noise cancellation and audio recording. Removing the large battery cover will allow access to the 1500mAh BA750 battery, microSDHC slot and SIM card slot. Unfortunately both the microSDHC and SIM card slots are not how-swappable. A 8GB microSD card is included.

Quite how Sony Ericsson got a battery that big into a phone that slim (8.7mm at the thinnest point), I do not know, but they did. Sony Ericsson claimed that the battery is able to provide 430 hours of stand by time. I find that I am able to use the Arc for a day before the battery gives up. This is with 3G and twitter and Gmail pooling for updates every 10 minutes. It isn’t bad for a smartphone, but still a far cry from the days when phones can last 2-3 days with heavy use.

The Arc felt great in my palms due to the curved design. The light weight is all thanks to Sony Ericsson’s decision to use plastic. Despite that I can’t help think that the XPERIA Arc would be better off being made of metal. Still, at least the built quality is good and the device felt solid at all times. The tiny shutter key isn’t optimally placed, but at least there’s one. Users may find issues with the placement of the camera near the top edge of the back. There isn’t a front camera so forget about video calling.

The XPERIA Arc runs on the Qualcomm MSM 8255 Snapdragon Silicon-on-Chip (SOC) that features a single core 1 GHz Scorpion CPU and Adreno 205 GPU backed up with 512MB of RAM and 320MB of built-in storage. While this may seem inadequate in today’s world of dual-core phones, I actually found the XPERIA Arc to be an excellent performer. Sony Ericsson has obviously learned their lesson from the issues that plagued the original XPERIA X10. They got rid of Mediascape UI, but retained Timescape. Obviously the fact that it runs on the latest Android optimised for smartphone, version 2.3 Gingerbread, helped.

As I mentioned earlier, the XPERIA Arc runs on Google’s latest Android Gingerbread optimised for smartphones (Honeycomb was made for tablet), more specifically, version 2.3.2. Like every Android manufacturers, Sony Ericsson has customised the Android launcher in order to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. The launcher here looks almost like Launcher Pro. Four application shortcuts can be found on the dock of the homescreen and in between them a shortcut that takes you to the app drawer. Shortcuts and folders can be dragged from the dock to the homescreen and vice versa. There is a total of five homescreen panes to swipe around, which is plenty for most users.

Timescape now exists as a separate application and widget. While it looks cool and fluid, I actually question the need for Timescape at all. It doesn’t seem to be a terribly efficient way of looking through Facebook newsfeed, Twitter status updates and text messages. There is a new Overview mode that is accessed by the pinch-to-zoom method. It works a like HTC’s Leap View, but rather than being presented with an overview of the homescreen panes, the widgets are zoomed out giving the user and overview of any widgets currently active on the homescreen. Click on any widget and you will be brought to the homescreen pane where the widget resides.

Most Android power users will prefer if the XPERIA Arc runs on vanilla (uncustomised) Android, but for the majority of users the Arc works well. Despite the use of an outdated single core processor, the device feels snappy and quick. In fact it feels far quicker than any other similar Android devices I have used like the similarly spec’ed Motorola Milestone 2. The only other device that I thought felt faster was the Google Nexus S, and that runs on vanilla Android. What Sony Ericsson are doing is similar to what the other manufacturers are already doing. Personally I like this far more than Motorola’s BLUR UI and HTC’s Sense. Being an Android phone you can always hack it. Sony Ericsson has even published a guide on how to root the XPERIA Arc, though they have warned that this may invalidate the warranty of the device.

In order to get the best out of the Arc, you will first need a Googla/Gmail account. This will allow you to sync your emails, contacts and calendar while also giving you access to the Android Market. Sony Ericsson has also added their own section on their Android market where you will be able to find a smaller section of curated apps optimised for their phones. These are mainly applications and widgets made by Sony Ericsson themselves (such as the LiveView application) and a handful of third party applications.

Being an Android Gingerbread phone, the XPERIA Arc works as you would expect it to. Messaging is a breeze thanks to the built-in support for threaded conversations. A dedicated Gmail app is available for email, and unsurprisingly is one of the best email clients you can find on any smartphone ecosystem today. A more generic email application is also available to handle POP and IMAP email accounts. The phonebook is very social friendly as you can link each contacts with their own Twitter and Facebook accounts, thus giving you an easy way to view any of your contact’s latest social updates. Linking the contacts is easy and painless, though isn’t as straight forward as Microsoft’s approach with Windows Phone 7.

For text input, the Arc only offers the standard default Gingerbread keyboard, though you can always install any third party keyboard you find on the Android Market. In portrait mode, the keys are large and easy to hit, though I do find that the Android’s default setting on auto-correct to be annoying at best. Typing is even better in landscape mode. While I struggle to use the default portrait keyboard, typing on the landscape keyboard was almost effortless thanks to the large 4.2″ screen. Unfortunately the large screen also makes using the Arc one handed to be a chore. The Arc is certainly not a device for people with small hands who prefer to use their devices one handed.

Web browsing is a breeze thanks to the high resolution screen. Zooming can be done via either double tapping or pinch to zoom. Tab browsing is also supported, as is text reflow. The UI is clean with only the address bar and bookmark icon visible when first entering. Pressing the menu button will bring up six keys allowing you to open a new tab, access the bookmark, switch between tabs, go forward, refresh pageand enter the options where you will find the browser’s settings. Here you can change the text size, disable JavaScript or images, clear cache and cookies, enable sites to access your location etc. Flash 10.2 is available for the Arc, enabling you to play Flash games and watch YouTube videos within the browser itself. Overall the browser does a great job at mimicking a desktop browser. The large 4.2″ screen certainty makes browsing a joy on the Arc.

Notifications are displayed on the top of the screen where you will find the usual assortment of icons which indicates the battery level, time, wireless activities and network signal strength. In addition to that, notifications from applications will appear on the left side of the notification bar which can get busy at times. Notifications that appear here will include missed calls, new Facebook messages, emails and Twitter mentions, Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins etc, all of these will appear on the top unless you specifically asked the applications not to have notifications. You can pull down the notification screen by swiping down from the bar to have a more detail overview of the notifications or dismiss them.

Equipped with an eight megapixel Exmor-R backlit sensor and f/2.4 lens, the XPERIA Arc is more than capable of capturing fast action even in areas with very little ambient light. I recently attended a gig and the Arc outclass the Nokia N8 when it came to capturing the action. The Arc does excel in low light no flash photography, for a smartphone. While the images were usable, the image quality were still no match for a decent digital compact like the fast-lens equipped Canon S90 and S95.

In comparison to the Nokia N8, it doesn’t perform as well when it comes to daylight photography. Colours are washed out and images look dull, and like all mobile phone camera with small sensors, it suffers from lack of dynamic range. If only the default photography app has the ability to capture images in HDR mode. The camera menu isn’t intuitive to use and the small shutter button is quite possibly the worst I’ve ever used.

The XPERIA Arc is also a capable HD video recorder. Unlike most of the newer Android flagships by other manufacturers which records at 1080p, the Arc tops out at 720p and 30fps. It features continuous autofocus, but does not support digital zooming like how the Nokia N8 does with video capturing. Still the quality of video recording is good and smooth with hardly any dropped frames. Unsurprisingly, the Arc captures video well in low light.

I genuinely like the XPERIA Arc. Sony Ericsson has made a device that works great, is fast for a device with single-core and has a great camera that works decently in low-light situations. With the XPERIA Arc, Sony Ericsson has made big changes in the way they market their Android devices. Against the trends, they’ve not locked the boot loader, and have made big promises regarding future firmware updates.

To top it all, it features a design that looks just darn gorgeous.There is little doubt that the Arc is a great device, but with the HTC Sensation and Samsung Galaxy S II due to be released soon, it isn’t quite as future proof as those devices.

The XPERIA Arc is available now sim-free from around £399.99. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Firefox do the dance

As seen at the Firefox 4 launch (after) party yesterday evening at The Star of Kings in Camden, London. :D

Motorola P793 Universal Portable Power Pack review

I have been using the Motorola P793 Universal Portable Power Pack battery charger for a good couple of months now. In fact I rarely leave home without it. It's a slim portable charger that is perfect for any heavy smartphone users like me. Always connected, today's powerful (and inefficient) smartphones demands more than the too-small-for-smartphone batteries that all the phone manufacturers seems to think are enough.

Beneath the slim black case of the Motorola P793 lies a 1420mAh battery, essentially the same size as you would find on an average smartphone. An on/off power button can be found on the top, while a four-LED indicator can be found next to it. The indicator will give the user an idea on how much power is left, or when charging it from a power socket, will indicate when it is charging or when it reached full capacity.

A microUSB cable (in stylish blue) is conveniently built into the charger. The built quality is good, but the cable can be worn out as mine eventually did. Fortunately a full size USB can be found on the charger allowing users to plug in any USB cable. You can even charge two devices simultaneously using the built-in cable and another cable via the USB port. With a thickness of about 10mm and a weigh of only 54g making it is almost inexcusable for any power user not to carry one in their pockets, purse or bag. It certainly is far more portable than my Proporta Ted Baker charging kit, which I tend to only carry with me during weekend excursions.

As I have been using a Nokia N8 as my main phone for the past six months (has it been that long?), the Motorola P793 is an indispensable accessory that is ideal for the average N8 user. The 1420mAh battery is sufficient to charge up the N8 at least once, and then some. I have also used it on various phones such as the XPERIA Arc and Motorola DEFY. It outputs at 500mAh, which is decent enough to charge most phones in under two hours.

The Motorola P793 isn't widely available in the UK. At £30 (the lowest price I can find on a UK online store), it is a bit pricey for what you get. For the same price you can get a Proporta USB Turbocharger 3400, which has a battery capacity of more than double that of the P793. Having said that, the Motorola P793 is a much more portable and compact charger than the Proporta, and is perfect for people who needs a bit more juice for their smartphone for the day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Twitter Follower:Following Ratio means nothing

A number of my friends on twitter were recently unfollowed by @EleanorConway. I don't mind the odd unfollow, hell I've unfollowed uninteresting people before. But what Eleanor Conway (or her Social Media manager) did was mass following loads of people. Once they reached a certain followback target, she started unfollowing. In the past two days her follow count dropped from 8000+ to 42. As I type this her follower count is 8200 (and dropping as people got wind of her tactics).
What she did was a well known tactic of gaining a high follower:following ratio: follow, wait for a follow back, then unfollow. It's easy and anybody on Twitter can do it. They follow loads of people (in thousands), then some time later (this could be days/weeks or even months), they mass unfollow almost everyone. At the end of this campaign, they will have high number of followers making them look like some hot shot C-list celeb when in fact most of us have never heard of her. I have seen companies like @AudioTechnicaUK do that as well.

Do I have ill feelings for her? No. In the one week since she started following me, she has done nothing that interests me, so much so I think I would have eventually I would have unfollowed her myself. Would she has gotten to where she is if it weren't for the old follow then unfollow tactic? Perhaps, but we will never know. All we know is she got there using the dirty route. It would be better if she attempted to engage with her audiences rather than cast them aside to get a number that would satisfy her ego. It's sad really.

The lesson here is, when deciding to follow on Twitter, to know that the follower:following ratio means nothing. I have friends who have low follower counts, but I value their opinion just as equally (if not more) as some random dude with 50,000 "followers".

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nokia Gaming Night at WOMWorld/Nokia

On Thursday WOMWorld/Nokia hosted a gaming night at their 1000heads Soho HQ. It clashed with London Bloggers Meetup, which put me in a position where I had to choose. In the end I decided to go to the gaming night, but not before stopping by at the Long Acre pub to say hello to a couple of other friends and bloggers first. Based on the updates on twitter, it seems that the London Bloggers Meetup was a success, but enough about that...

This was the second gaming night hosted at 1000heads. The first one was held last summer and was a success. However I felt that it became more of a networking event rather than gaming focused. Despite having a N64, SNES, Wii and Xbox 360, people preferred to gather together whilst having pizza. Which was fine as many of us were meeting for the first time. Still it was a good first event and Lauren did well organising it.

More Angry Birds toys = win!
Second time around, the event has become a bit more gaming focused. The traditional consoles were gone, instead three Nokia N8 smartphones were set up, each running a different mobile game and were then output to three separate HDTVs via HDMI out. The games were Fruit Ninja, I Must Run and SpeedX. With Fruit Ninja, users simulate a samurai sword to slice fruits thrown around the screen. It is one of the more enjoyable mobile gaming, and that's because it is one of the few mobile games that is actually optimised for touchscreen gaming.

AR.Drone in action
SpeedX is a racing game, but you don't race anything. Instead it's a 3D tunnel game (similar to Flux Challenge, except without all the opponents - and textures). It plays a bit like WipEout's Zone mode and Flux Challenge. It's a game of speed, and quick reflexes. It uses the N8's accelerometer to steer, which isn't the most accurate method of controlling a video game.

Finally I Must Run is a side scrolling action running game. There isn't much to the gameplay (the character runs automatically). You will still be tested on reaction skills as your character will run into obstacles that require you to jump, slide or punch.

RC car competition with a N8
There were three Nokia N8 phones up for grab based for whoever could get the highest score in each of the games. The competition was simultaneously conducted online via twitter. Two of the games were won by twitter users via the online competition while one was won by Zayd, who attended the Nokia Gaming Night event.

Other fun stuff includes a small competition involving a scale RC racing car where whoever could drive the car around quickest would win a BeeWi Bluetooth Mini Cooper RC car. Also on show was a AR.Drone. People took turns controlling the drone using a N8. Needless to say, it wasn't easy to control a RC Quadrotor using touchscreen and accelerometer as this video below so aptly demonstrates.

There was also a generous raffle of, guess what?? Angry Birds plushies! You might have thought I would be bored of Angry Birds toys by now, but you can never have enough, even despite the hundreds (exaggerated) or so hidden in my loft.

Many thanks to Hugo, Paul, Rhiannon and Klara from WOMWorld/Nokia and 1000heads for having us. We had a great evening.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Aloft launch party in London with emerging British talents

On Wednesday I was invited to a Aloft VIP party at The Vinyl Factory in Soho, London. The location was tricky to find as it was tucked away inside a record store, the Phonica Records on Poland Street, but thankfully some forward thinking helped.

The event/party was an early launch celebration of the Aloft hotel brand by Starwood due to open near the ExCel London exhibition centre later this year. In addition to celebrating Aloft's entry into the UK hotel market with Aloft London ExCel, they have also collaborated with Live Nation and Music Dealers to showcase some emerging unsigned British music talent.

According to Aloft, the event is aimed to highlight the sort of brand Aloft is aiming to become - in that it would be hip, modern and contemporary - hence the location and atmosphere of the party. Which is weird, as the hotel would be built in the London Borough of Newham. Still they have their reasons for building the new hotel there. Due to its proximity to some of East London's Olympic venues, as well as ExCel London, Aloft will surely acquire plenty of business, especially if they have a wicked party venue.

Still I can't help wonder if they should be targeting the hip and trendy part of London, like Soho and Shoreditch instead. But hei, what do I know about hotels? ;) On the other hand Starwood has recently brought their W boutique brand of hotels to London. The recently launched W in Leicester Square on the former grounds of the Swiss Centre building was the first.

The artists featured on the evening were Jay James Picton, Bones and Tiger Love, who recently supported Yelle. I have never heard of any of these artists prior to the invite. I have to say, from an outsider of the industry but a music lover, that all three have potential. I enjoyed Jay James Picton's opening set of modern soul music. The Indie Rock Camden-based Bones played a highly energetic set until some of the guests started dancing. Finally Tiger Love, also based in London, closed the evening with their brand of electro psychedelic rock. Check out their Under Control music video below. I certainly hope they get signed soon.

Many thanks to David for the invite!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc excels in low light photography

Yesterday I attended an event in London showcasing new artists. It provided me with an opportunity to test the XPERIA Arc's camera. What can I say? The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc excels in low light no flash photography. It won't be replacing your DSLR or high-end compact yet, but it is able to provide usable images like the one above. I will be posting a post in due course where I compare the XPERIA Arc's camera with that of the Nokia N8. For good measure I will throw in samples from my Canon S90 as well. ;)

Finally, check out the 720p video below of a set by Tiger Love. I've removed the audio track due to copyright and also because it sounded awful (not the band - but the audio recording quality from a tiny microphone). Still the video recording demonstrates the continuous auto focus of the XPERIA Arc's camera, as well as its ability to record in low light situations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

HTC Sensation video hands-on

The newly announced HTC Android flagship HTC Sensation is demonstrated in this hands-on video recorded at their press event in London on Wednesday.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc preview

Oh boy are you in for a treat today. Here is the third phone I am previewing in as many days - the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc. The XPERIA Arc is the Japanese-Swedish mobile phone manufacturer's latest assault on the smartphone market.

Unlike Samsung, HTC, Motorola etc., Sony Ericsson has decided to go with a different route to their new flagship Android smartphone. While every Android manufacturer has unveiled ever more powerful flagships that runs on dual-core processors, have the latest GPU and even including features we do not need like 3D cameras and displays, the XPERIA Arc's specifications is modestly 'so last year'.

The XPERIA Arc runs on the Qualcomm MSM 8255 Snapdragon SOC that features a single core 1 GHz Scorpion CPU and Adreno 205 GPU backed up with 512MB of RAM. While this may seem inadequate in today's world of dual-core phones, I actually found the XPERIA Arc to be an excellent performer. Sony Ericsson has obviously learned their lesson from the issues that plagued the original XPERIA X10. They got rid of Mediascape UI, but retained Timescape. Obviously the fact that it runs on the latest Android optimised for smartphone, version 2.3 Gingerbread, helped.

With the Arc, Sony Ericsson has introduced a new Overview mode on the homescreen. Normally on a regular Android homescreen when you pinch to zoom the homescreen, it brings up a screen with an overview of all the installed tiles. On the Arc (as well as the XPERIA Neo, Pro and Play), doing so brings up a new tile displaying all the widgets currently installed across all five homescreen tiles. This makes it much easier for the user to quickly locate a widget.

Sony Ericsson has gone to great lengths into designing the XPERIA Arc. It simply looks stunning. The design is obviously a slimmed down version of the XPERIA X10, and retains elements from the model such as the three hardware keys. In a time when manufacturers are moving towards using capacitive soft keys, it is a relief that Sony Ericsson designers recognises the advantage of having physical keys. While the keys are thin in shape, I did not find them a problem to use.

Above the keys you will find a large 4.2″ LED-backlit LCD capacitive touchscreen display with 480 x 854 resolution, apparently powered by Sony Mobile BRAVIA engine, a software that boost the colour saturation and contrast of whatever is displayed on the screen. The display is a joy to use. While it doesn’t have the same pixel density as the HTC Sensation, images are sharp and the resolution is still good enough for comfortable web browsing.

Powering the Arc is a massive 1500 mAh battery. Quite how Sony Ericsson got a battery that big into a phone that slim (8.7mm at the thinnest point), I do not know, but they did. Sony Ericsson claimed that the battery is able to provide 430 hours of stand by time. Whether this is true will depend on the user's own phone habits, and one I will be testing. The microSD and SIM slot can be found by the battery. These are not hot-swappable. A moderate capacity 8GB card is included in the sales package.

The Arc felt great in my palms due to the curved design. The light weight is all thanks to Sony Ericsson's decision to use plastic. Despite that I can't help think that the XPERIA Arc would be better off being made of metal. Still, at least the built quality is good and the device felt solid at all times. The tiny shutter key isn't optimally placed, but at least there's one. Users may find issues with the placement of the camera near the top edge of the back. There isn't a front camera so forget about video calling.

Having been using the Arc for less than a day, I am already considering getting one for my own personal use. It feels quicker and easier to use than my similarly spec'ed Motorola Milestone 2. The larger screen helped, and even despite playing with the HTC Sensation yesterday, I appreciate the slimmer design of the Arc more. The closest competitor to the Arc is the Samsung Galaxy S II, which is even slimmer and has a dual-core processor. But the price may be too prohibitive for some.

Will I still be appreciating the Arc's form factor after a couple of weeks? Or will I wish that it had a more powerful brain by then? Ask me again in a couple of weeks.

The XPERIA Arc is available now sim-free from around £399.99.

Amnesty International launces iOS app

I don't normally post press releases, but this is something I think is worth posting as it is about two things I am interested in - human rights and mobile technology. I've been testing the AiCandle application on the iPod Touch for some time now. It's basically an app that allows users to quickly access human rights news and also provide an easy way to sign e-petitions to any human rights issues by 'taking action'. If you have an iOS device, you can download the AiCandle app now from the app store.

Amnesty International launches iPhone app for human rights

Amnesty International today unveiled the latest tool to take action for human rights, the AiCandle. The iPhone application is the fastest way for people to join in campaigns to end human rights abuses.

The AiCandle enables people to access at their finger tips breaking news on human rights and to support Amnesty International’s latest campaigns– from prisoners of conscience to ending poverty.

“The AiCandle is part our suite of digital tools that empower people to take immediate action for human rights,” said Owen Pringle, Director of Digital Communications at Amnesty International.

“The solidarity of our 3 million supporters across the world continues to make a positive difference to the lives of so many individuals. The AiCandle offers another way in which people can express that solidarity.”

Supporters are able to share news and actions with others via Facebook and email through the AiCandle. The application will continue to evolve over the coming months with further multimedia elements added.

The AiCandle 2.0 is now available to download free for iPhone or iPod Touch at the iTunes App Store. The first version of AiCandle has been running as a live beta since 2010.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

HTC Sensation first impressions

HTC today announced their new flagship Android smartphone, the HTC Sensation previously code-named as the HTC Pyramid. I was at their London press conference for the reveal and had my first hands-on with the new device.

The HTC Sensation is an Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread 'superphone' running on a dual core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm MSM 8260 processor with 1GB user accessible ROM and 768MB RAM. It has a 4.3" Super LCD capacitive touchscreen with qHD 540x960 resolution with Gorilla Glass protection. Connectivity wise, the phone includes HSDPA, WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, microUSB port with MHL support for HDMI out and DLNA.

Other features includes the GPS receiver, accelerometer, digital compass, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. The Sensation also a 8MP camera with dual LED flash capable of 1080p video recording and VGA front camera for video calling. A large 1520 mAh battery powers the device. All of these are packed inside an aluminium unibody shell that weighs a respectable 148g. Despite the power, the phone is slim measuring 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm.

Informal display comparison between the HTC Sensation, XPERIA Arc and Nokia E7
The HTC Sensation comes with the latest HTC Sense UI and like the HTC Flyer, will ship with HTC Watch, a film rental and purchase store application. The new HTC Sense includes support for endless scrolling and a new lock-screen similar to Nokia Betalabs Bubbles. Users can assign application icons onto the lockscreen and be dragged around to a launcher ring that unlocks the phone, and immediately launches the app.

HTC Watch is due to be launch with over 600 titles. Films, once purchased or rented, can be played almost immediately over WiFi. Because the HTC Sensation comes with HDMI out capability (with a microUSB MHL adapter), users can easily watch films on a big HD telly. The Watch application was easy to use and films were easy to browse. Trailers play automatically regardless of whether the user is on 3G or WiFi. Prices will be confirmed at a later date.

I had a brief hardware hands-on with the device. The HTC Sensation felt good, has a built-quality similar to that of their other phones like the Desire S. Despite the large screen, it felt comfortable to hold and use. Overall the device felt solid, light and portable. The aluminium unibody not only looked good, but also felt good to hold. With the Sensation, HTC did not stray far in terms of design. In fact I spoke to a couple of other journalists and they all agreed, if HTC did not tell us, the Sensation could easily be mistaken for one of their other past products.

HTC's Florian Seiche announcing the Sensation in London
HTC claims that the HTC Sensation is their fastest phone yet, and that it is able to open applications twice as fast as their previous single-core smartphones. Browsing is also quicker. The device not only felt fast, it has no issues despite me throwing any applications I can find at it. In fact it feels so much quicker than my Motorola Milestone 2 and the new Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc. The HTC Sense was a joy to use and is now easily the best out-of-the-box custom Android launcher.

In the UK, the Sensation will be exclusive Vodafone UK for one month. Three UK has also confirmed that the Sensation will be available on their network. In the US, the HTC Sensation will be known as the Sensation 4G and will come with HSDPA+. HTC has not confirmed pricing for the HTC Sensation.

This post originally appeared on Fone Arena

Yuri Gagarin's space flight

The video above is a real time recreation of Yuri Gagarin's space flight, the first time a human has been in orbit in space. The film, shot from the International Space Station, combines with new footage of the mission with Gagarin's original mission audio and a new musical score by composer Philip Sheppard.

via firstorbig.org

Monday, April 11, 2011

Meet the Fone Arena Team - me!

I have been blogging for Fone Arena for exactly a year now (well, blogging is actually an overstatement as the contribution to the site has been minimal). Check out the interview with my good friend Michael Hell over at Fone Arena in their latest 'Meet the Fone Arena' feature, this time featuring me! I look forward to writing many more reviews and features for the site, as well as meeting the rest of the fantastic team in the future. Happy days!

Aloft & Music Dealers: Artist Spotlight

On Wednesday I will be attending a new artists evening event at The Vinyl Factory, Soho, London. The event, appropriately called Artist Spotlight, is a collaboration by Aloft, the new hotel brand by Starwood  Hotels; and music licensing company, Music Dealers. The event aims to promote new music talent and also to celebrate the launch of the Aloft hotels in London later this year.

Artists featured will include Jay James Picton, local Camden band Bones and Tiger Love, who recently supported Yelle. Check out the video of Jay James Picton below. I have not heard of him before, but his brand of acoustic soul sounds great.

Nokia E7 preview

Well here it is, the Nokia E7 - Nokia's newest Eseries flagship (soon to be dethroned by the Nokia E6) and the hire apparent to the Communicator series. In regards to Nokia's naming scheme, my views of the E7's naming scheme haven't changed since Nokia World 2010 when it was first officially unveiled and where I had my first hands-on.

The built quality is brilliant. I can find absolutely no faults with the hardware design and the materials used. It feels solid. The slider feels great and I found the AMOLED screen with Clear Black Display to be stunning. But I can't help thinking what I am seeing here as what was a Nseries smartphone rebadged as an Eseries because Nokia either could not get another Eseries out in time or felt that marketing this as a Nseries phone would remind people of the much hated Nokia N97.

The specs are typical Symbian^3 specs in that it runs on a ARM11 680 MHz processor, which isn't a big deal considering how optimised the OS is with in taking advantage of the GPU. The 256MB of RAM does seem lowly in comparison to most modern smartphone, and while Symbian^3 does not require much RAM, power users will likely encounter situations when background applications are forced to close due to insufficient RAM.

Like the Nokia N8, the E7 comes with HDMI out function which, coupled with the ability to play 720p videos, is useful. This is especially true when used with an application like Nokia Big Screen. It also has 16GB built-in storage. Unfortunately the E7 does not come with a external memory card slot, so the 16GB is all that users will ever get. This isn't a big deal for most users (even the Samsung Nexus S comes with only 16GB storage), but multimedia addicts will likely want to look elsewhere. The keyboard is pretty good, and an improvement over the one on the prototype. While it is only a four row keyboard, the keys are well spaced and provide good tactile feedback.

The camera on the E7 is the EDOF type. First seen on the Nokia E55, EDOF has spread like a virus onto every none-camera focused smartphone, which right now is everything apart from the N8. As I carry my own dedicated digital camera almost 99% of the time, I honestly could not care less what camera the E7 has (in fact I do not care what camera the N8 has!). However, because of the price, Nokia should have at least included a better camera with it. An autofocus camera with macro ability would also be useful for business users (you know, the typical Eseries users) who would want to scan documents and business cards.

I will be using the E7 for two weeks. Expect a review in the next couple of weeks. If there are any questions please ask away, either here or on my twitter account.

The Nokia E7 is available now for a sim-free price of £489.99.

Nokia gets even with HTC

HTC are holding a press event in London on 12 April. That's tomorrow. Nokia will also be holding a press event tomorrow, concerning Symbian. Do you know where I am going with this? Yes, Nokia is getting even with HTC for Nokia World 2010.

Just a reminder. At last year's Nokia World 2010, HTC and Nokia had a funny and very public spat in front of the world's technology press. Basically HTC sent a couple of coaches to Nokia World in order to ferry journalists to Central London for the HTC London press conference. In retaliation Nokia sent a couple of employees to 'picket' the event with Ovi Maps balloons and handing out Nokia lunch boxes with Ham, Tomato and Cheese sandwiches to the press outside.

So what will Nokia announce? Well I suspect (or hope) we will see a full preview of the long awaited revamped of Symbian UI. We will also see new device announcement in the form of a new E-series flagship, the E6 which replaces the successful E72, and X7.

In any case I will be at the HTC event. Expect a new Android flagship smartphone filled with features we do not need to be revealed. Follow my twitter stream for updates from the press conference.

Mobile phone users overspending by an average of £195 a year

According to The Guardian, UK mobile phone users are overpaying £5 billion a year to networks because they are on the wrong contracts. This is apparently equal to almost half a user's spent every year - an average of £195 wasted out of £439 spent annually.

I have not had a mobile phone contract for three years now and am happy for it. Since cutting off ties from o2, I've reduced my expenses to £120 a year (£10 a month on pay as you go). These days however I only spend about £40 annually on mobile web (plus the occasional £10 top up every six months for texts) as I do not use voice calls and hardly ever text because of WhatsApp.

If you think you are overpaying and would like to reduce your bills for one year, why not enter my Three MiFi v2 competition?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play Launch Party in London

Last week Sony Ericsson launched their latest salvo of Xperia smartphones. The Xperia Play went on sale in the UK on Friday, while the Arc a couple of days before. If you have read my impression of the Xperia Play, you will know that the Xperia Play is a PlayStation certified Android phone that has an integrated gaming pad and access to PlayStation Suite. Android games optimised for the Xperia Play as well as old PlayStation classics will be available on the market.

As part of the launch Sony Ericsson set up a pop up gaming room at the Old Sorting Office, New Oxford Street in Central London, where the public was able to go hands on with the Xperia Play. The warehouse was transformed into a video gaming scene set in the Far East (Vietnam), decorated with props that are lifted out of gaming scenes such as a helicopter, sport car, rocket launcher and a crashed car. Sony Ericsson reps were dotted around the venue and were ever so helpful when demoing the devices to guests. A competition to win a Xperia Play was also held for guests checking in via Foursquare.

In the evening the warehouse was transformed into a party venue. All the props remained, but the area was now cordoned off to the public. VIP guests were then treated with (very) loud music, free drinks, hawker-style Chinese chow mein noodles and a free gig by a certain Tinchy Stryder.

#LeStudio52 gaming night - a success!

On 1 April we held our first ever public gaming night at #LeStudio52 in Shoreditch. The social gaming event was organised by Abul (@adonisdemon). We had three different screens running on two Xbox 360 and one PS3, all running various games including WipEout HD, Black Ops, Super Street Fighter IV, Red Dead Redemption and Blur. Two competitions were held, with two copies of Dragon Age 2 up for grabs, courtesy of The Average Gamer.

Congrats again to Abul for a successful gaming night (and winning the Super Street Fighter IV match). Also congrats to Yacin for winning the Blur competition.

For a full account of what happened during the gaming night, head over to #LeStudio52 website and read the post by Abul. 

I have also posted pictures from the event on Facebook. You can find them here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Win a Three MiFi with 12 GB data

To celebrate this blog hitting one million page views, I will be holding a competition. The prize: a Three MiFi v2 (Huawei E585) mobile wireless dongle courtesy of the wonderful people at Three UK.

The winner will also receive a 12 GB PAYG ready-to-go Three UK sim card, valid for 12 months, to be used with the MiFi. With the MiFi, you can easily create you own mobile hotspot so you can connect multiple WiFi enabled devices like the iPad.

To be in the chance to win the Three MiFi and 12GB sim card, both of are worth a total of £129.99, all you need to do is answer the following question:

How many devices can be connected simultaneously to a Three MiFi?

(You can find the answer in my review of the Three MiFi v2)

E-mail your answer and name to: jonchoocompetition@gmail.com with the subject: Three MiFi competition by 9pm BST on 17 April 2011.

Only one entry per person.

This competition will be opened to all UK residents. The winner will be chosen randomly.

Your details will not be used for anything other than determining the random winner. Once the winner has been selected and verified, all e-mail entries will be deleted.

Good luck!

Update: The competition has now ended. Over 250 entries were submitted. A winner will be picked at random shortly. Thank you for entering! 

Update 2: Congratulations to Chris Harper of Manchester. A Three MiFi with 12 GB sim card is on your way. Enjoy!

To the rest, don't worry - there will be more competitions coming up soon. ;)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

One million page views! Thank you!

Wow, there has been over one million page views on this blog since I launched it in 2004! According to Statcounter, which I have been using since the first day, there has been 750k unique visitors - 55k of who returned.
According to Flagcounter, which started tracking page views on this site since June 2009, there has been visits to this blog from 202 countries. The largest amount of visitors are from the United States (23.9%) followed closely by United Kingdom (20.6%) then Canada, Germany and Australia.

To say thank you, I am holding a competition to win a Three MiFi v2 and 12 GB of data. To be in the chance to win it, please head here.

In the mean time I will continue doing my best to write posts that will help you readers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

London International Pillow Fight Day 2011 flashmob

Today is International Pillow Fight Day 2011. As I write this, various pillow fight flash mob has happened or are happening in cities around the world from Hong Kong, Lisbon, Paris, Cape Town to New York. The London event happened today at 3pm at Trafalgar Square where several hundred participants pounded each other for almost an hour. It was incredibly fun and full of energy, with people from all walks of life participating. Many has vowed to make it for next year's International Pillow Fight Day 2012 - to be held on 7 April 2012.


I have just been informed that the 'Fight for Japan' pillowcases you see in the pictures I posted below were designed by Quick & Shirty. The pillowcases were sold at the Pillow Fight day in London. In fact you can buy t-shirts and other merchandises with the design on it, with all proceeds going towards the Japan Red Cross.

Here's a short video clip I recorded while in the middle of the pillow fight action:

And here are a selection of pictures:
 You can find more pictures here.