Archive | March, 2010

First Impressions: Motorola Milestone

31 Mar

Motorola is back in India with its first Android smartphone and I have been using it for the past couple of days (I returned the unit to Motorola today). The Milestone (the GSM version of the Droid) is at the moment the only Android 2.1 device available in India (HTC tells me that the update for Hero is about a week away).

Being an early Android adopter here in India – I had earlier used the HTC G1 and the Magic and bought the Hero the day it was launched – it is very difficult for me to be impressed by an Android device that does not have a custom UI. Surprisingly, the Milestone has not only managed to impress me but also left me drooling over it. (No wonder I found myself unwilling to part with the device so soon.) Considering that I could not use it for a longer duration, I don’t consider this as a review but just my first impressions. (For the record, I usually use a phone for at least a couple of weeks before penning a review.)

The Good:

The first thing I noticed about the phone even before powering it on was its build quality. The Milestone has an all metal finish with a rubbery (if I may) coating on top of it. The result being a sturdy, reassuringly heavy and non-glossy chasis unlike other plasticky Android phones doing the rounds these days. The sliding mechanism is smooth, which reveals a flat four row QWERTY keyboard. I was sceptical about the keyboard as it seemed to lack tactile feel but I was proven wrong the minute I started typing on it. Yes, you would have to use the ‘ALT’ key a lot as almost every button represents two characters (notice that all numbers are secondary characters). But that’s managable.

Then comes the massive 3.7 inch display with its rich 480×854 pixel resolution. I won’t be exaggerating if I say that this is the best screen I have ever seen on any phone out there and it does multi-touch too. It is among the brightest ones too and even when I set it to the lowest brightness level, it was bright enough for indoor usage. I notched it up a couple of levels and it worked fine under sunlight. Here’s a quick tip that I figured out – go to display settings and turn off auto brightness. Then set it to the middle level if you are outside or the lowest level for indoor use. You’d end up saving a lot of battery juice. To make things easier, add a power widget on the homescreen from which you can toggle the brightness level on the fly.

Even though the Milestone runs on a Cortex A8 processor clocked at 600 MHz, it is zippy. Had I not known better, I could have assumed it to be running on a Snapdragon 1 GHz processor. Everything seemed to run faster, much faster, when compared to my HTC Hero. Probably keeping things simple does help at times.

The Milestone in India comes bundled with turn-by-turn navigation thanks to maps for most Indian cities from MapMyIndia preloaded on the bundled 8 GB microSD card. I have not tried the feature but it is good to have it straight out of the box.

Then comes the benefit of running Android 2.1. I could configure multiple e-mail accounts without having to rely on third party solutions (like HTC’s mail on the Hero). The live wallpapers is an interesting feature but that’s about it, nothing worth writing home about.

The Not-So-Good:

As smartphones become smarter with more features and prettier with bigger displays, the battery life becomes the first casuality. I have faced this problem with all high-end touchscreen smartphones these days and the Milestone is no different. Yes, I couldn’t condition the battery (Motorola recommends that you charge it for eight hours for the first three days) but still I’d be surprised if it could see anyone through a day with two push e-mail accounts, a Twitter account set to ping every hour and an hour of calls and Internet browsing. Yes, I end up doing lot of things on my phone but that’s what smartphones are meant to do, aren’t they?

My second grudge is with its 133 MB of internal storage. Yes, there is an 8 GB memory card bundled with the phone but Android, at the moment, does not allow users to run applications from external storage. You have to save and install them on the phone memory, for which 133 MB does not seem enough.

Thirdly, there is very little bundled with the phone. The least Motorola could do was include a carrying pouch and a screen protector and at the most a dock. I’d hate to see the display or the chasis getting scratched and the preinstalled maps don’t really help if one cannot find a car dock for it.

I would save my verdict till I get to use the device for a longer duration but for the moment, the good aspects of the device seem to weigh over the not-so-good things about it. And if you see, the negative aspects are not exclusive to Motorola but just about every Android phone available in India at present.

Opera’s State of the Mobile Web Report for February 2010

31 Mar

The Norwegian browser maker – Opera, has released its State of the Mobile Web Report for February 2010. By compressing 90 per cent of the web pages and making telephone bills appear happier even for users even with flat-rate data plans, the browser vendor has not only satisfied Opera Mini users but also the carriers. The company has managed to generate over $1 billion per year for telecom operators globally. Opera has also made it clear that their servers are responsible for the fast browsing experience and not the ‘strained telecom networks’.

 

In the month of February, 50.5 million people were recorded for using Opera Mini and the browser compressed 3 Petabytes of operator data for its users. Say thanks to its compression technology that has saved consumers $8 billion worldwide on their mobile browsing bills.

 

Nokia devices occupy the top ten spots in India for the maximum usage of the Opera browser. The list includes – Nokia 5130 XpressMusic, 2700 classic, N70, 3110 classic, 6300, N73, 7210, N72, 5310 XpressMusic and 3500 classic. But that should change in the coming months as Nokia faces intense competition from emerging players like Micromax and Spice, that come preloaded with Opera Mini browser.

Garmin-Asus launches M10, India's first WinMo 6.5.3 handset

30 Mar

Garmin and Asus’ teamwork gave us the two phones- the M20 and the G60 in the past.  And now the third phone by this successful partnership is finally in India, a dedicated navigation handheld – the M10. The coolest thing about this one is that, it has got pre-embedded maps of 62 major Indian cities (thanks to Navteq) offering integrated turn-by-turn navigation, lane assistance with junction view and text to speech (reads out road names). There is also a Ciao feature in the handset that will let you know on which road is your friend travelling. Just to sum it up, it’s more like an inclusion of the best GPS device by Garmin into this phone.

 

On the specs front, it is based on the latest updated version WinMo 6.5.3, sports a 3.5 inch display, a 600 MHz processor by Qualcomm, Wi-Fi, a 5.0 MP camera, VGA video recording, 4 GB of onboard storage and talktime of 8 hours.
 
Wondering how much you would have to shell out on this one? We’ll say, take a sigh of relief as this one is available in the market for just Rs 19,990.

We have had a chance to take the M10 for a spin and will be posting our first impressions in the coming days.

Follow us on Twitter @cellpassion

HTC's Peter Chou talks about smartphones for the masses, its relationship with Microsoft and everything in between…

30 Mar

Like we reported earlier this week, HTC today introduced its first device running on Qualcomm’s BREW mobile platform along with Airtel. The device will be available in India at Rs 9,990. HTC’s CEO, Peter Chou, sat down with CellPassion in a candid interaction where he talks about the impact smartphones will have on the society apart from the company’s OS strategy, its competition and partners. Some edited excerpts:

After Windows Mobile and Android, today HTC has yet another platform – Qualcomm’s BREW MP. What is the OS strategy here?

We are very committed to Windows Mobile. It is a very valuable platform and some of our products on that OS have been very successful. The HD2 has sold very well everywhere in the world. Since we started shipping it in November, we are facing lot of shortages but that’s good. The product has been very successful. We are also working on Windows Phone 7 and we hope that should be coming out by the end of this year.

On Android, we have been working very closely with Google. We are creating lots of products.

Now, we are creating another category that we call smartphones for the masses. We think smartphones are very exciting but the problem with some of today’s smartphones like the HD2, the iPhone or the Hero – they are high-end, sophisticated, high technology devices that mass market consumers think is not for them. The price of such devices is also high so we created this new smartphone (the Smart) that has social networking capabilities, predictive messaging and Internet applications with really good experience like touch, HTC’s Sense UI and intuitive communicating experience. We have also included lots of great widgets found on HTC Sense that are useful widgets not like some others who put a touch panel on a phone but use widgets like icons that launch an application. That’s not a great widget.

The concept is that such phones (like the Smart) are not superphones but make the consumers experience what is data and mobile Internet. These are smartphones that will bring a lot of value to the society and will enable a lot of applications like social security, education. These are the areas where smartphones can have an impact in the future but we need to bring (the price of) the smartphones down for the mass market. This is what we intend to do with BREW and will not conflict with Android or Windows Mobile.

Will we see more products in this segment this year?

Well, we are creating a product portfolio so that we can let the consumer decide which phone to use. We don’t believe that one device can satisfy all. We don’t think HTC is able to say that this is one product for all.

Microsoft says that it won’t be possible for handset manufacturers and vendors to change the UI of Windows Phone 7. HTC has transformed the Windows Mobile market by its proprietary interfaces on Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 with TouchFlo and Sense. How does that impact your relationship with Microsoft and what do you plan to do with Windows Phone 7?

Nothing stands still forever. That’s what innovation is all about. You have to find new ways of doing innovation. I think we can innovate on Windows Mobile (sic) 7 in a different way and still give the HTC experience. But it won’t be exactly as it is on Windows Mobile 6.5. That’s ok, that’s fine. What’s important is when a product is coming from one company, the holistic experience of the hardware, the software, the quality, the brand experience… the whole thing must be very competitive. And I think that HTC is very competitive. We have a good relationship with Microsoft and Google.

What do you think about the ongoing price war in the Indian market. Samsung, for instance, is now retailing the Galaxy i7500 for about Rs 13,000 down from its recent price of Rs 24,000? Do we see HTC responding to it?

I don’t know but we think that our pricing strategy is very competitive. But some companies may do crazy things if their product is not selling or they have a lot of inventory or are seeking attention. But we don’t want to comment about that. What is important for HTC is our capability to show differentiation to the consumer. It is most important for us to get the consumer excited about our products and our brand. Then they are willing to pay a little bit more for our products.

The market size is very big and there is space for four to five suppliers in the smartphone segment. In three years from now, we want to be among the top three smartphone brands globally. We see a lot of momentum in our favour in the first quarter and I think we are in a pretty good position. But we need to continue to work hard.

LG launches its first Android phone – the GW620 – in India

29 Mar

It’s raining Droids over here in India! After the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 and the Moto Milestone, it is now LG’s turn to join in the Android shower with its GW620. Tagged as an Android phone for the masses. the GW620 aka Eve sports a 3.0 inch HVGA (320X480) touchscreen along with a sliding QWERTY keyboard. Also on board is a 5.0 MP camera with face tracking and smile shot, Wi-Fi, GPS and the works. The only sore point that we can see from the press release is that it still runs on Android OS 1.5 aka Cupcake, which in our opinion is too dated for a newly released phone. Nevertheless, a price tag of Rs 16,490 doesn’t leave much room for complaining, now does it?

Motorola officially launches the Milestone in India

29 Mar

Hello Moto! It’s nice to see you around. We were the first to break news that Motorola will be launching the Mileston in India and right on cue we have the official press release from Moto.

The first Android 2.1 smartphone in India – the Milestone – has been available in the market for a couple of days now and we have spent some quality time with it (thanks to one of our readers who was kind enough to share his shining new device with us!) and all that we can say at the moment is that the Milestone has just unseated the HTC Hero as the best Android phone in town!

Officially, the Milestone is priced at Rs 32,990 however, you can easily snap one for just under Rs 30,000. If you are shopping around for your next smartphone, do check out the Milestone. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

HTC to launch its non-smartphone handset 'Smart' tomorrow!

28 Mar

Smart – the first non-smartphone device by Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC – is all set to hit Indian market tomorrow. After being announced at CES, the phone immediately captured everybody’s attention because of its capability of bringing a similar version of the famous HTC’s Sense UI that will make the device act like a smartphone. The Smart is speculated to be priced at under Rs 10,000  

 

As for the specs part: based on Qualcomm’s BREW Mobile Platform, sports a 2.8-inch TFT-LCD touchsensitive screen, a 3.0 MP camera, Bluetooth, a 3.5 mm audio jack and is expected to offer a talktime of 7.5 hours.