Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HTC ChaCha review

When HTC announced the ChaCha in February, there was a part of me who thought that the phone was a joke. I mean here was a mid-range QWERTY monoblock Android phone with seriously dated specs compete with its own dedicated Facebook shortcut button. There's always something about Facebook that gets to me and seeing their logo on a phone annoyed me (despite being a user myself). Still, the ChaCha is one intriguing phone, being one of a handful of Android smartphones with front facing QWERTY keyboard. I found that I have grown rather fond of it. Read on to find out why.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play review

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play is one of the first attempt to make a genuine gaming smartphone. Nokia has attempted this before with the N-Gage, which ended up as a spectacularly fail. The closest convergence device I can think off that almost pulled it off was the PalmOS Tapwave Zodiac, but it wasn't a smartphone and the lack of application support killed it.

The XPERIA Play is an Android smartphone, equipped with the latest Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) with Sony Ericsson customisation. I won't dwell on this section much, and you can read my XPERIA Arc review to get a gist on what the XPERIA Play can do as a smartphone. The only difference between the two as far as I know are the camera on the Arc is superior (8MP Exmor Vs regular 5MP) and the Arc's screen is significantly brighter than the Play. Even the software is identical, right down to the recent Facebook integration update that was announced with the XPERIA mini and mini pro. The only thing missing are the XPERIA Play exclusive app store and games launcher.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HTC ChaCha video hands-on

Those who are friends with me on Facebook will have noticed the amount of mobile pictures upload I have been posting recently. It isn't a coincidence as for the past two weeks I have been using the HTC ChaCha also known as the 'Facebook' phone. You will find my first impressions here. Despite some issues with third party applications, I have grown rather fond of the ChaCha. There's nothing particularly fascinating about this phone, but I can't seem to put it down and in the two weeks I have been using it more than the more powerful Milestone 2 with bigger screen.

Rant: The problem with Android...

Are the lazy developers who couldn't be arsed to optimise or even make their applications work with different kind of screen resolution and/or orientation. It's a problem with fragmentation and it will only get worse. Sort it out Google.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nokia N9 announced

Nokia today announced the N9, their first (and perhaps only) MeeGo device of the year. Codenamed Lankku (which is Finnish for 'Plank' - ironic isn't it?), the N9-00 features a curved Gorilla Glass 3.9" AMOLED screen with 858 x 480 resolution. It runs on MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Trent iCruiser IMP1000 10,000mAh battery pack review

I have been away for a week camping in the Lake District. As you know I am somewhat a mobile geek. Among the gadgets we brought were a HTC ChaCha, Motorola Milestone 2, Apple iPod Touch 4G, Three MiFi and Nokia N8. All these needed charging and we weren't going to find a charger point in the woods.

So here it is - a New Trent iCruiser IMP1000 battery pack with a massive 10,000mAh battery rated at 3.7V. This is significantly larger than my previous battery packs, the Motorola P793 and Proporta Ted Baker charging kit. Our previous camping trip to Wales was a nightmare when it came to sourcing power for our phones (despite having a SolarGorilla panel with us), so this will alleviate some of the issues, at least for the first couple of days.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mugen Power extended battery for Motorola Droid 2/Milestone 2 review

Mugen Power has been in the business of supplying replacement batteries for as far as I can remember. They have always been my first port to call ever since I first bought an extended battery for my old HP iPAQ h4150 back in 2004.

Mugen produces two types of batteries: an extended battery which retains the same size as the standard battery, and another extended battery with twice the capacity and size. Indeed the latter kind extended batteries are somewhat a speciality of Mugen Power who regularly produce these batteries with twice the capacity for almost any popular device on the market. In most cases an extended battery cover is also included to accommodate the larger battery size, although sometimes they come with a built-in cover.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HTC ChaCha first impressions

Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to play with, and take home, a HTC ChaCha at a tech bloggers meet-up hosted by the wonderful people at Three UK.

The HTC ChaCha is a mid-range smartphone running on Google Android, complete with Facebook integration on a hardware and software level. It features a monoblock design and comes with a QWERTY keyboard on the front. While not the first HTC smartphone to feature a front QWERTY keyboard, the ChaCha is still a rather unique phone. There aren't many Android phones with a similar form factor, and none by HTC. Despite that one can almost immediately recognise this (at least the top half) as a HTC phone due to the familiar recent HTC design language.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sony Reader Pocket Edition PRS-350 review

An early proponent of ebook readers, Sony was the first company to release an electronic device with E Ink designed for book reading: the LIBRie - released in 2004 long before Amazon copied the design for their Kindle series of ebook readers.

While ebook readers has since steadily improved, the core design remained similar with the majority of devices consisting of an  E Ink display. Some manufactures include colour LCD, but these have impact on battery life and usability. E Ink has the advantage of not using power when the screen is turned on as well (most ebook devices equipped with e-ink have a maximum battery life of thousands of page turns) as improved visibility outdoors. It is more comfortable to read on for longer periods of time. On a downside, E Ink displays have low refresh rate, lacks a backlight component and is currently limited to grey scale.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Three UK Pay As You Go: All You Can Eat review

I have been in possession of a Pay as you Go sim card loaded with All You Can Eat (AYCE) data plan from Three UK for a number of weeks now, and have been testing it in a HSDPA-enabled Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play and Motorola Milestone 2.

AYCE on PAYG is available as two add-ons: All in One 15 and All in One 25. All in One 15 will cost £15 and comes with 30-day access to unlimited data, 300 any network minutes and 3000 texts. On the other hand All in One 25 will offer 500 any network minutes, 3000 texts as well as 30-day access to unlimited data for £25. I should add that tethering is not supported with either All in One plan. Tethering is only available with Three's The One Plan on both 12 month and rolling contract.

There were fears that Three's network would not be able to cope with the increase in bandwidth demands. But Three UK's Sales and Marketing Director, Marc Allera, has stressed during the launch of the add-ons that unlike other networks, Three's was built for data - which was why they can introduce deals like this.

Despite weeks of downloading new apps and games, steaming YouTube videos and making Skype phone calls, I've not hit an artificial limit. Speed remained unthrottled whenever possible in areas and times when the cell towers weren't congested. Even in London, where my T-Mobile sim card struggles to even reach 2G-level speed, my Three sim card was able to handle the demand easily.

I did random speed test on the network at different places and days, and found that for most of the time, 3Mbps download speed was normal with upload speed around 1Mbps. I once watched a 2.5 hour video on YouTube in HQ, encountering no issues or even the dreaded buffering screen during the entire screening.

Three UK, a network well known for disrupting the UK mobile network industry, has done it again. While not exactly the only network to offer a truly unlimited data plan on PAYG (GiffGaff offers unlimited web when you top up £10), Three UK has demonstrated that they have the necessary network infrastructure to deliver true unlimited internet with the speed that one should expect to properly make use of it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Microsoft demonstrates Windows 8 tablet UI

Microsoft today demonstrated the new Windows 8 OS with tablet-optimised UI running on ARM-based tablets, inspired by the Metro UI as seen on their Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. The UI, which appears to be a shell with regular Windows running underneath ala Windows Media Centre for Media PC, looks very impressive and I for one can not wait to get my hands on it when it gets released in 2012.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rant: Google, you are doing it wrong

Many Android enthusiasts has pointed to me about the flexibility of Android and how it is great for users to be able to choose. The beauty of Android - there's an app for everything, they say. Custom ROMs? Covered.

The bad? The fact that I even need to install those apps or custom ROMs. Yesterday evening I copied a couple of videos onto my Android phone (yes, I am on Android full time now), expecting that the all great Android OS would be able to handle them. Sadly I was rudely greated with a file not supported pop-up. Forced to enter the crudely designed Android Market, I downloaded three video playback apps. The first one did not work. It works great on the second app, but for whatever reasons it decided to jack up the brightness to maximum. Finally the third app work - but only after much fiddling around.

So yeah, there's an app for everything on Android - but why the heck did I have to go through all those shit just to watch a video? The experience was so frustrating I was tempted to pick up my old Nokia N8 and watch the video then and there. Symbian has many faults but at least it can play a freaking video!

This whole thing reminded me of my time with Pocket PC and Window Mobile and how I had to spend countless of time and money to get stuff to work the way it should out of the box. If Google can't be bothered to make simple stuff like video playback work out of the box then I don't see the need to waste more of my resources on Android - just like how I don't waste any more money on Symbian.

Fix your shit Google.