Friday, April 27, 2012

HTC One X review

HTC has been under tremendous pressure. The past year has seen their status as top Android manufacturer slowly whittled away by Samsung. Even Google, who launched the Nexus developer series with HTC, has looked towards the Korean behemoth. Things were looking bleaked for the beleaguered Taiwanese OEM manufacturer, who struggled to come up with new exciting design for the smartphones. That was until they announced their flagship monster, the One X.

The One X is HTC's comeback phone. The initial press rendering doesn't do the phone any favours as the distinctive HTC design language remained the same as it was for a couple of years now. Still and I admit, the One X is one gorgeous looking smartphone and simply the best looking Android smartphone I have ever had the opportunity to use. It features a single unibody aluminium body that beautifully wraps around the display.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Metro and the future of mobile UI

Having grown up with computers for most of my life and witnessing the growing evolution of desktops and then mobile devices, I notice that there is an overemphasis on the details. I don't mean little details like functionality and design language, but on aesthetic of icons and applications. People seem to genuinely believe that a better looking icon meant that their gadgets were quicker and better. Thing is, a detailed icon does not make Photoshop better, nor does it make a browser render quicker. Similarly, having a flip animation doesn't make a book better either.

It is a problem that other industry has eventually grown out of, but the reverse trend is only currently making head ways in the consumer electronics industry. Apple knew that, which was why their iPods were so popular. The black and white text based UI was simple to use and navigate. Competitors like Creative and Archos countered by creating devices featuring colourful but complicated UI, and failed for good reasons. With the iPhone, Apple ditched that core UI philosophy but they got away with it, because their competitors at Nokia, Microsoft and Google did things far worst. While iOS was revolutionary in 2007, it is starting to look extremely dated now.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

HTC Radar vs Nokia Lumia 710

With devices at all price points, there hasn't been a better time to dip your toes and try out Windows Phone. Today I will comparing the HTC Radar and the Nokia Lumia 710, both the lowest priced Windows Phone 7.5 Mango smartphones both either manufacturers. Both are priced at around £200 sim-free, but can be had for much less when bought on pay as you go. You can read my in-depth review of the Lumia 710 here and of the Radar here.

Both of these devices are second generation WP7 smartphones, meaning they are shipped with Windows Phone 7.5 Mango and comes with Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon S2 System-on-Chip (SoC) with Adreno 205 GPU. The Lumia 710's Scorpion ARMv7 CPU is clocked at a higher 1.4GHz speed, whilst the Radar is clocked at a more modest 1GHz. While it may seem like the Lumia 710 has a speed advantage here, Windows Phone 7 is so well optimised the speed difference isn't that apparent apart from certain areas like web browsing. Still the Lumia 710 is likely to be in a better position to take advantage of Windows Phone 8 Apollo, assuming of course that the OS is made available to either devices.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Phone manufacturers, you are doing it wrong

In a survey conducted by HTC last year, the Taiwanese manufacturer asked customers whether they prefer their phones with great battery life or are willing to sacrifice that for thinness. Apparently the majority of customers prefer a thin phone with awful battery life. Armed with this result, HTC decided to cancel the production of phones with 3000mAh batteries to make the HTC One series, like the HTC One X, which I am currently reviewing.

The very thought that HTC shelved plans for a smartphone with 3000mAh battery greatly depress me. I am sure I am not the only one who isn't fond on the direction the mobile industry is heading towards. As much as I love the One X, its mediocre battery life isn't one of them. Thin 'superphones' like the One X needs large batteries. With a 4.7" display and quad core processor, you would think that a bigger battery would make sense. These days I always carry a wall charger with me whenever I am out, in case I have to make a pit stop at Starbucks to top up, as well as my Motorola emergency charger. I would rather not, but I have little choice in this.
Motorola, the only manufacturer that gets it
Now if you think I am singling out HTC for this, you are wrong. It just happened they admitted to using a survey to justify this awful decision that lead me to write this post. My current main phone, the Nokia Lumia 800, has a battery that wouldn't last a full day on power use (it isn't even thin!), as was my previous Samsung Galaxy S II. In fact the only device I ever owned that was capable of lasting a full day, and then a couple more, was my old Nokia E51. What a wunderphone that was.

So dear HTC, Nokia, Samsung and Sony, you are doing it wrong. We do not care if a phone shaves an extra 1mm in thickness, and we certainly do not care if it holds the title for world's thinnest whatever phone. We want phones with large batteries, and we want them now. Hell, if Motorola can even give us a slim phone with awesome battery life, why can't you?

Source: GSMArena

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Windows Phone Twitter Clients Comparison

It is unbelievable that just a couple of months ago I lamented about the lack of good Twitter clients on the Windows Phone platform. These days however I have five permanent third party Twitter apps on my Lumia, three of which I paid for. Of the six Twitter clients I have selected for my comparison here, three were only launched this year. It goes to show how much the Windows Phone platform has exploded since last year, with an average of around 300 new apps submitted each day.

The five third party Twitter apps listed below are, in no particular order, the best Twitter clients you can get on the platform now. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. I have also included the official Twitter client in the comparison despite how awful it is, well because it is only fair that we show Twitter how it is supposed to be done.

Do take the comparison table with a pinch of salt, after all having the most features does not make an app great. For example, despite how featureless Ocell is, the app is by far the quickest app here to launch. So if you are looking for something lightweight, Ocell should be on your radar as a secondary backup app. Best of all, it is open sourced under the Apache Software License, so the potential is huge.

I will be updating this table from time to time, whenever new updates are made available that introduces new features, so make sure you bookmark this.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HTC One X OTA update fixes camera bug

HTC today released an over the air (OTA) firmware update for their new flagship Tegra 3-powered One X smartphone. No official changelog has been provided, but it is said to provide a number of fixes including battery optimisation, fixes to on-screen menu, brightness level, as well as various minor fixes. While the Android ICS version remains at 4.0.3, the updates increases the firmware version to 1.28.401.9.

I can confirm that the update also fixes the camera bug issue that is documented in my HTC One X camera review. The bug, which has never been acknowledge by HTC, prevents the device from saving images larger than 3MB. Indeed, the first thing I did after applying the update was capture an image of a brick wall (something I always do to test the lens for barrel distortion), which resulted in an image file north of 4MB. Lovely. Good job HTC.
A brick wall may be boring, but it is a demanding test for your puny cameraphone. You can also hurl your phone at it.
My HTC One X unit has also exhibited serious screen flickering and corruption issue but I can't confirm whether this update fixes it as the issue appears at random and there is no real way of replicating it easily.

While the camera bug should never have escaped initial testing before deployment of the One X, it is nice to see HTC providing an update that fixes it, among others, barely two weeks after the smartphone was released. The update should be available on European HTC One X units. An OTA update for other markets will no doubt follow soon.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

HTC One X camera review

Once upon a time HTC made very good smartphones with very bad imaging parts. Cameras so bad that when you bought a HTC smartphone that comes equipped with a camera you would assume it doesn't come with one. These days however, HTC phones comes with adequate camera sensors that does the job well. One would even argue that apart from Nokia and Sony (Ericsson), HTC now makes some of the best smartphones when it comes to imaging.

Now, the image quality on the HTC One X isn't the best. In fact images, even those taken in daylight, suffers from plenty of noise and evidence of over processing and sharpening. Having said that, high image quality isn't a deal breaker for a performance-focused smartphone. When I am carrying a cameraphone, what I expect it to do is be quick. And here is where the One X excels. Boy, the camera here is fast. It takes about three seconds in total to unlock the phone, press the touchscreen camera shutter and capture, autofocus and all. It's the sort of camera you want to be with if you are the type of person who does not like missing the moment then post right away on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Limited Edition Lumia Batphone on eBay

Well well well, if you ever wanted to own that limited edition Batman Lumia 800, now is your chance. An extremely rare Nokia Lumia 800 'The Dark Knight Rises Edition' is being auctioned off on eBay UK. Only 40 of these highly desirable Batphones has been made, ever. One of which is currently in the possession of yours truly. And no, I ain't planning on selling mine, so don't ask! :)
Source, Via

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nokia's Big Mistakes

Nokia is in trouble, so the media has been telling us. Well, we all know that. In fact many of us knew that things will only get much worse before it gets better. Cue shock faces.

Nokia is in trouble because they failed to adapt and continued to make mistakes. They believe they were a software company when they were only ever good as a hardware one. People bought Nokia phones because of the great design, not the silly OS it runs on. But behind the large pile of money and rose-tinted glasses, Nokia failed to see that and that is why they are in this pickle. Mistakes were made by all, from the old deposed regime to the new, from the management down to the grass roots.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bitesize rant too long for Twitter

Still seeing plenty of disgruntled former employers and executives of Nokia ranting against the company for abandoning Symbian and Meego in favour of the sexiness that is Windows Phone. Imagine if they put the same amount of effort in their previous jobs at Nokia as they do moaning, the culling of the derelict that was Symbian wouldn't have happened.

Funny that.

HTC One X first impressions

Is there a more exciting Android smartphone announced at MWC this year than the HTC One X? Not many people seem to think so. The HTC One X has been collecting plenty of accolades since its release last week, and it was about time it was put this under the stress of a review by yours truly.

HTC's press rendering of the One X doesn't do it much justice. The One X is simply gorgeous and is easily the most beautiful Android smartphone I have ever held. With a single unibody aluminium body, the HTC One X retains the now recognisable HTC design language but with subtile changes that makes it fresh. With a slightly curved 4.7" 720p HD display, the One X is begging to be fondled the moment you set your eyes on one.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ecobuild China 2012

From Monday 9 - Thursday 12 April 2012, Shanghai will host the first ever exhibition dedicated to the future of sustainable building, design, construction and the built environment in China. The inaugural Ecobuild China Expo & Conference will be held at the Shanghai Kerry Hotel and Shanghai New International Expo Center.

If you happen to be a reader from China who is working in the construction and building industry and is interested in sustainable development, do attend the event. (I don't know, my blog may be banned in China, so perhaps this post may not ever be read, in which case this post is all moot...). While it is already too late to pre-register, you can still register at the Shanghai New International Expo Center for the Ecobuild China Expo event. The event is free to attend, so why not? You get to learn more about sustainable building plus you get to meet some new contacts. I heard Shanghai construction people party hard! (Well not as hard as us tech bloggers!)
My partner Jennifer Hardi, a senior consultant at Building Research Establishment (BRE), will be presenting at the Ecobuild China Conference in Shanghai Kerry Hotel and Shanghai New International Expo Center. As the lead BRE keynote speaker, she will be part of a panel on Tuesday putting forward the case for BREEAM standard on behalf of the UK. Representatives of China's three star system, USA's LEED standard and Japan's CASBEE standard will also be joining her on stage in this panel, where they will debate the strategic development and concepts of green rating systems.

On Wednesday she will be also talk about Passivhaus standard and its progress in China as well as presenting the certificate for the first ever BREEAM assessed development in China. If you happen to be attending, do chat with her (she speaks both English and Mandarin Chinese fluently). In fact go follow her on twitter now!

International Pillow Fight Day 2012 London

Yesterday was the annual International Pillow Fight Day. And like a mad man, aching to be kicked in the arse by pillow fighters, I made my way to Trafalgar Square, London, armed with only a small pillow and camera. The attendance seems to be less than last year's flashmob, which I put down to poor weather - but the crowd as a whole were in jolly good mood and in fact more ferocious. The video of the event is embedded below. More pictures can be found on my Facebook photo album.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

HTC Radar review

HTC was an earlier supporter of Microsoft Windows Phone 7, and was a launch partner, going so far as to announcing and releasing no less than five WP7 devices when the platform was launched a year and a half ago. These days HTC is all about Android, but that doesn't mean they have completely abandoned the Windows Phone platform. With the relaunched of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango and promising Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 due at the end of this year, it would be silly to do so.

The Radar is HTC's mid-level Windows Phone 7.5 smartphone. Released a few months ago, it was designed to replace two previous HTC devices, the cheap and cheerful 7 Trophy and the stylish and musical 7 Mozart. Currently priced at under £200 for sim-free and available for much less on contract, the Radar sounds on paper like a great device for anyone on a budget wanting to get onto the Windows Phone scene. Oddly enough, the Radar is more expensive on Pay As You Go, but whatever. Read on for my full review of the HTC Radar.