Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sony Mobile Xperia S camera samples

Here are more image and video samples taken with the Sony Xperia S. For a camera phone, the 12MP Exmor-R sensor has really impressed me with the amount of detail captured. With an aperture of f/2.4, the lens is fast and offers almost no barrel distortion. There are issues with dynamic range, but all digital cameras with small image sensors suffers from this. Even my Nikon D7000 does.

Sweep panorama
Sweep panorama

Sony Mobile Xperia S sound quality review

The sound quality of a smartphone is something I have often ignored, but one I will revive for the Xperia S, mainly because this device is built by Sony, the creator of the Walkman and also the best DAP I ever owned, period. Because of the sheer size of the Xperia S, it isn't a device I would have used personally as a portable audio. The iPhone 4S and Lumia 800, in my opinion, are perfect digital audio players. Shame that the Lumia 800 sounds awful, and the iPhone 4S isn't actually mine.

Out of the box the Xperia S supports a variety of audio codecs. Because of the open nature of smartphones however you can easily download replacement music players with different codec supports. The one that I would recommend using is UberMusic, but there are other competent apps to suit anyone's different needs. For the purpose of this review however I will be sticking to the default music player by Sony. FLAC lossless is not supported by the player, and while this may disappoint a few people, the vast majority will carry on fine with listening to high quality MP3 files.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sony Mobile Xperia S review

This past couple of months has seen plenty of changes within Sony Mobile. Formerly Sony Ericsson, Sony has completed their buy Ericsson's shares from the company. I am sure they will be glad to see such distractions behind, but I have a feeling that the restructuring of the mobile unit will go on for quite a while.

The Xperia S is the new Ericsson-less Sony Mobile's first ever smartphone. While I wouldn't go far as to call it the first real Sony smartphone (development no doubt began more than a year ago), it is the first Sony branded Android device to hit the market. Like previous Xperia devices, rather than going all out brute force with big numbers and specs, Sony is counting on good designs and software differentiation to make an impact.

Sony (Ericsson) has improved tremendously over the past year offering devices that not only performed well despite the specs handicap, but also being more open to software updates and development. With devices like the Xperia Play and Xperia Ray, they have also successfully differentiated more than their Android OEM competitors have. Read on for the review of the Xperia S.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

WeatherMaster for Windows Phone 7 review

There seems to be no shortage of good weather apps on Windows Phone 7. I have been installing and trying out a handful of competent weather apps over the past few months, and of those, at least half of them are good enough to recommend outright. Even Microsoft has stepped up and addressed their free Weather app by making it Windows Phone 7 Mango compatible, with Live Tile and all.

To me a good weather app should satisfy three criteria: provide an accurate weather forecast, a Live Tile (or widget if it is on Android) that is well designed and offers some form of customisation. Most of the free and paid weather apps on Windows Phone do at least satisfy two of those.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

UltraGlass for iPhone 4S review

About a week ago, a friend of mine bought an iPhone 4S. I advised him to purchase a screen protector and case to protect his expensive investment but he declined. Within a week his iPhone has already sported a visible thin long scratch plus other tiny marks. Yes, this is a first world problem, but when you are spending over £500 on a device, the least you should do is protect your investment from such minor things.At least it stops it from devaluing faster than it should.

The screen protector I am reviewing here today isn't a conventional type. This isn't your typical flimsy plastic kind that requires you to change every few months. The UltraGlass is a series of screen protector made of tempered glass. Yes, glass. The UltraGlass I was sent is made to fit specifically for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. It is available in four colours, black, white, red and blue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sony Mobile Xperia S unboxing

It took its time, but Sony Mobile's flagship Xperia S has finally arrived at this HQ. I will spare you the unboxing of the frivolousness giant candy-filled box filled, that accompanied this phone courtesy of Sony PR. Instead, marvel at this most beautiful of Android smartphone, part of Sony's NXT line up, running on Gingerbread and its lovely 4.3" Bravia-powered LCD 720p display in the video unboxing of the retail box below.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nokia Transport (London) for Windows Phone 7 review

Nokia has recently rolled out the free Nokia Transport for Windows Phone 7 app, exclusive for their Lumia range of smartphones. Nokia Transport (formerly known as Nokia Public Transport) is also available for Symbian devices.

With location services pretty much the focus of everyone's attention now, the release of Nokia Transport couldn't be better timed. The app integrates with Nokia Maps in order to provide routing capability to the user via the city's public transport system. For this review I will be focusing on Nokia Transport in London, as that is where I happen to live (well nearby, anyway).

The key ingredient to how well Nokia Transport works is how simple it is to use. The app immediatedly detects your current position. You only need to enter your destination and it will do some number crunching (presumeably on Nokia's server) before displaying your route using the quickest method of travel. These routes are presented in a simple manner displaying the relevant transport required to complete the journey in clear big text, whether it be a bus or train or on foot. On foot routes can also be optionally displayed on Nokia Maps.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sony Xperia Ad is Powered by Tiny Robots

Were there any doubt that Sony would once again triumph when it comes to creative TV ads? Hardly. It seems that Sony has proven once again that when it comes to commercials at least, they know a thing or two. A couple of days ago I blogged about Sony's teaser of their new Imaginative TV ad for the Xperia NXT range.

For the new stop motion animated ad, Sony seek out a young kid and turned his imagination into an inspiration. It tells the story of small Iron Giant-inspired robots who work tirelessly inside each Xperia handset in order to bring it to life. It is a creative ad, lovable in fact and one of the best I have seen this year yet. Check it out below.

The Stupidest Angel film!

The Stupidest Angel is one of my all time favourite absurdist fiction. Written by Christopher Moore, who has hardly ever written a bad book (Fool was pretty bad though). So I felt a tinge of excitement and dread when while surfing IMDB I noticed there was an entry for it.

Yes, The Stupidest Angel is being adapted into a film and they are currently in pre-production phase. All of Christopher Moore's books has been optioned for film adaptation, but this is the first to be in danger of being made into one.

Casting for certain key characters has already been announced, with Tyler Labine lined up to play Theo Crow. Somehow I can't imagine Tyler Labine as Theo, the stoner constable of Pine Cove, the California town where The Stupidest Angel is set. I know Tyler Labine looks like a stoner, but he just doesn't look like a Theo, who I always imagined as malnourished and kinda sad looking. Still, it could be worse.

The fantastic Dina Meyer will be playing Molly Michon, the former B-movie scream queen aka Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland, who we saw last hooked up with a sea monster in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove before settling down with Theo. I haven't seen a film with Dina Meyer for years, perhaps since Starship Troopers, so it is nice to know there is at least one film I am watching in the future which will feature her.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

glƏƏk! Twitter Client for Windows Phone 7 review

Users of Windows Phone 7 devices will find no short of Twitter clients on the Marketplace to play with. With establish brands like Twitter and Seesmic seemingly unable or unwilling to focus on the platform, third party developers has come in droves to fill in the missing gaps that Microsoft has failed to provide with their Twitter integration.

That's not to say Microsoft didn't do a good job integrating Twitter into Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, but there is so much more to Twitter than just replies or uploading pictures to Skydrive. After all different people use Twitter differently. With Carbon, Rowi and Mehdoh leading the charge, it is fair to say that there is a healthy amount of Twitter clients on the Marketplace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sony Mobile's little Android campaign

Adverts? Who likes them eh? But I have always been a fan of good adverts that passes off as an art form. Take Fallon's excellent Sony Bravia 'Playdoh' or Walkman 'Project Music' advert for example. Remove any reference to Sony and these ads could have easily been submitted to Cannes' short film Palme d'Or award for consideration, or indeed any film. Adverts do not need scream buy me in order to be imaginative, it just need to be memorable. Why else do you think Cadbury's 'Gorilla' and the incredible and legendary 'Eyebrow' adverts, both which had nothing to do with chocolates, were so well received?

Now that Sony Ericsson has been bought by Sony, it is time to see what Sony Mobile can do. I have high expectations for Sony's new NXT device range but a good phone can only do so much by itself (even Apple has to rely on massive advertising campaign to promote their wares). Sony Mobile along with ad agency McCann Erickson, has recruited Wes Anderson of Fantastic Mr. Fox to direct a new stop-motion animation campaign. The TV ad will premier on the evening of Saturday 24 March, but they have released a teaser to explain their creation, which will tell the story of their little robot (Android, geddit?), through 37 handcrafted cyborgs.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Social Network Timeline

These days when you talk to someone about social networks, they think of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. And if you talk to a digital marketer, they will tell you of how best to monetize them and why social networks are such a new thing.

Internet veterans, the snobs that they are, will know that social networks and internet-based social media has a long illustrious history that began immediately when the Internet was born. After all, the public Internet was born out of human's desire to be more social.

When we finally got connected to the Internet in 1994, it didn't take me long before I got onto IRC, and off shot of BBS, one of the world's first truly global social networks. Back then we didn't have marketers and self-loathing social media consultants telling us why it was important to sell our personal brands, and we would talk about anything. There were no numbers to sell, no artificial metric to live by. It was raw. It was good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Three Web Cube wireless hotspot review

Last month Three UK, the network that likes to think outside the box (cough), announced a new product that aims to free users from the tyranny of fixed broadband. The cute boxy Web Cube is a semi-portable wireless access point hotspot optimised for home use. Like Three's own MiFi, the Web Cube supports up to five simultaneous wireless connections, HSPA+ download speed of up to 21.6 Mbit/s and HSUPA upload speed of up to 5.76 Mbit/s.

Three is currently conducting trials in three locations: Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds. It is likely that not all Three base stations has been upgraded to take advantage of HSPA+ technology yet, like where I live just outside North London (more on this later), so do bear that in mind when reading the review.

The Huawei-made Web Cube has been lovingly designed and is both stylish and practical. The case is made of translucent white plastic housing the internal hardware and a couple of blue LEDs on the top (as a signal strength indicator) and glowing inner blue LEDs that doubles as a network status indicator. I am not a fan of blue LEDs, but fortunately the LEDs here aren't too bright to be annoying. The device is heavy enough to be able to store it on a shelf without fear it would fall under the weight of the cable.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kanga Yoga in East London

Apologies to anyone who did see this blog post coming (there's a first for everything). A friend of mine, Emma, who used to work at Nokia House Soho, is offering weekly adult classes and children workshop in East London. If you or anyone you know are into Yoga, please check out the press release below. I am not into Yoga, so don't expect to see me mediating there anytime soon!

But you never know, especially if they do a Doctor Who party for adults!

PR after the break.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Microsoft won me back

The i-mate JAM is my first true smartphone. Announced in 2004, the i-mate JAM was a highly anticipated mobile device being the first Windows Mobile smartphone that comes in a portable package. Also known as the HTC Magician, the i-mate JAM was a beauty. I remember paying £400 to Expansys to ensure I got it on day one and boy was worth it.

As it runs on a modified version of Pocket PC, the compact i-mate JAM was a familiar device to use. I've already owned quite a few none-cellular Pocket PC devices. With a 2.8" (problematic) touchscreen LCD display with 240x320 resolution, an Intel XScale PXA272 processor clocked at a screaming 416 MHz (overclockable to 520 MHz!), 64MB RAM and 1.3MP back camera. It was cutting edge hardware. Best thing about it? It ran on a Windows Mobile 2003 SE for Pocket PC, the mobile OS you want if you were a self respecting smartphone geek in 2004.
My then awesome i-mate JAM next to my still awesome Palm Tungsten T3

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nokia Lumia 800 with FW 12070 out now

Nokia has begun rolling out a new firmware update for the Lumia 800. Firmware 1600.2487.8107.12070 is rumoured to fix among many things, the fast battery drain problem and sound quality. Contrary to speculations on the interweb, I can confirm that it lacks any new camera shooting modes.

Despite never truly suffering from awful battery on both my review unit and Batman Lumia (Nokia Diagnostic always reported around 1480 mAh available capacity), the power management on the Lumia 800 could have been better. Now that I have more apps with my Lumia, many which relies on background tasks, the Lumia 800 regularly last half a day of active use before needing a recharge. This isn't ideal as it means I have to carry a portable battery pack with me at all times. I am happy to report that this update does improve the standby time by a significant margin.

Nokia's promise to fix the rather awful camera performance has since been met with silence. The latest firmware update 12070 apparently promises to fix the white balance issue, but I can't confirm that yet until I do more shooting. Do note that you will not be getting Internet Sharing with this update. While Internet Sharing is part of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango, operators and manufacturers are free to disable it. While this does not affect me personally, Nokia has promised back in November that the feature will eventually arrive. At this rate I suggest not to bother waiting for one if WiFi hotspot is a deal breaker.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DoDonPachi Maximum review

Smartphone gaming, what's there to talk about? Not much really. These days smartphone gaming are about quick first person shooters clone with no innovations, or racing games with high quality textures and tacked on accelerometer steering. In fact mobile gaming is the bane of the industry, filled with quick me-too indie-dev wannabes with little to no aspiration to innovate and stand out. You can't blame them though, gaming on a touchscreen only device is just, well, shit. Try playing GTA III on Android or iOS - it's unplayable. And don't let me get started with all the crap Gameloft puts out.

Developers has recently started looking back at older arcade games an. Old school arcade titles were the bastion of simplicity, often only requiring a single directional stick and a button or two. And more often that not, they work. Mind you, not all arcade titles will work on a touchscreen device, particularly those that were created with more than two buttons in mind. For example Street Fighter IV on iOS had to be reduced to such simplicity to make it work on the touchscreen you have to wonder, why did Capcom bother? Still, people get pretty excited when supposedly full console titles gets ported down to mobile games, and excited people pay good money to stay excited.

Monday, March 5, 2012

EPIC Assassin's Creed III trailer

There is little doubt that Assassin's Creed series is one of the most original video game to come out of Ubisoft in recent years. The series Renaissance Italy setting introduced in Assassin's Creed II however has gone stale a little bit, with each sequel introducing very little in gameplay innovation and improvements. Brotherhood and Revelations may have been good games, but everyone wanted Assassin's Creed III to be different.

Assassin's Creed III takes the action away from Italy to North America during the American Revolution. Here you will play Connor, an assassin born from a Native American mother and British colonist father. The trailer has no gameplay footages but do reveal what we should expect from the title. You can now navigate the wild by free running up trees and branches, possibly hunt animals in the wild ala Red Dead Redemption. Better yet, Assassin's Creed III is due out on my birthday week. Bring it on!