Archive | Reviews RSS feed for this section

Samsung Charge…on Verizon's LTE Network is Superfast

11 May

I have been using the Samsung Charge for over a week now. This is the first LTE phone that I have used. I primarily used the phone in the Puget Sound Area and also in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here is why I like the Charge:

  • LTE – The fastest “True” 4G phone on the market
  • Camera – 8 MP  and its video conferencing capabilities are truly amazing
  • Processor – Faster than my iPhone 4G
  • 4.3″ Display

I prefer the Samsung Charge to the HTC Thunderbolt on Verizon because of the form factor and the ease of use. The HTC phone may have a few more bells and whistles but the Charge is newer and I know that the Charge provides faster access to Verizon’s LTE network given the history that Samsung has with Qualcomm (chip supplier and 3G/4G technology developer).

Verizon and Samsung have priced the phone at $299 with a 2 year contract. Naturally, I expect the price of the phone to drop to $199 within 3-6 months.

For the customer that need the super fast Internet connectivity that LTE offers, I recommend the Samsung Charge.

Review: Otterbox Commuter case for iPhone 4

26 Oct

otterbox iphone 4 case The iPhone 4 can be a nightmare for those users who like to take extreme care of their phones. Unlike older iPhone versions, the iPhone 4 not only has that big display on the front but even the rear surface is made of aluminosilicate glass. Apple might claim it to be one of the toughest glass surfaces in the world, but for the finicky sorts, any glass surface means it has to be protected from scratches and greasy smudges, And that’s where Otterbox steps in with its Commuter series case for the iPhone 4.

 

Otterbox offers three cases for the iPhone 4, starting from Impact followed by Commuter and finally the Defender. Each case offers a different level of ruggedness, with Impact providing the minimum and Defender the maximum. However, increased ruggedness also results into increased bulk as the case keeps getting thicker. I prefer the Commuter case, which provides more than enough protection and feels just right when held.

 

The case comes with a silicone covering, which in turn is covered by a plastic shell that provides overall sturdiness. The headset jack is covered and all major buttons are easily accessible. The thing I like the most about this case is that it fits perfectly around the edges of the display, unlike some other cases that make it difficult to access those edges.

 

I can only think of one thing missing in this case – choice of colours. The Otterbox Defender case for iPhone 4 is available only in black. It is priced at $34.95 and can be bought online from here.

Review: Otterbox Commuter case for iPad

19 Oct

otterbox ipad case

One passion that is common with almost every Apple hardware user is hunting for accessories and protective gear for the iGadget. There has not been a single trip of ours abroad when we have not shopped for fancy cases for the iPhone, speakers for the iPod and now protective cases for the iPad! In fact, we are yet to see an iPad user who has not bought a case for it and considering the demand, we are kinda surprised at the few options one has when it comes to buying a case. Yes, Apple has one, but there ain’t as many choices of good third-party cases as those for the iPhone.

We have been reviewing the Commuter Series iPad case from Otterbox for over a month now and are impressed enough to stamp it with our seal of approval. We have used Otterbox cases for smartphones in the past and like their concept of multiple layered protection. Just like its smartphone cases, the iPad case has a first layer of silicone that covers all open ports to protect them from dust, yet still allows easy access to the headset jack with a removable plug. The second layer is essentially a hard plastic shell to protect it from impact, in case the device suffers a fall. A screen protector self-adhesive film is also provided in the sales pack.

otterbox ipad case back The rear of the case has a circular cut-out with a transparent plastic shield to display the Apple logo (something for the fanbois) and has a detachable panel on the lower part to provide access to the charging port and enable the user to use the optional dock for the iPad. However, one has to take it off every time the iPad needs to be charged. It would have been ideal had they provided a cut-out on that panel for the charging port for users who do not use a dock to charge the iPad.

Another thing that we missed was some substantial protection for the display. The screen protective film only prevents it from being scratched, it will be of little use in case the iPad falls with the display side facing downwards. That is probably the only area where the ‘folder cases’ score over this one. Having said that, these folder cases add to the overall bulk and also camouflage the iPad, which is a pity considering the effort Apple makes in designing lust-worthy gadgets.

At $64.95, the iPad Commuter case is not exactly cheap but its worth is something that only an Apple user would understand. If you are looking for a sleek case yet sturdy case for your iPad, which does not take away the gadget’s oomph, this is what you should be looking at. You can buy it from here.

Quick Review: Motorola EX115

19 Oct

Seemingly inspired by the success of local Indian vendors, Motorola has launched a couple of Dual-SIM phones of its own in a new EX-series. The first two phones in this series were announced about a fortnight ago. The EX115 is the first QWERTY phone with Dual-SIM from the ‘BIG FIVE’ global handset vendors. (Though the composition of the top five handset brands has changed, traditionally the BIG FIVE comprise global biggies Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and LG.) Can a global handset vendor take on smaller local players in their own game? Let’s find out…

moto-ex115- 001

Motorola might be pushing its portfolio of Android smartphones globally, but in emerging countries like India it has not forgotten the mass market, low-cost segment. We were the first ones to break news about Moto’s dual-SIM phones and are now among the first ones to review them.

The EX115 is a Dual-SIM phone with QWERTY keypad with a street price of approximately Rs 5,000. Yes, you can easily snap a similar looking phone from one of the local handset brands, but what sets the EX115 apart is its build quality. The plastic casing is solid and does not creak when held with a tight grip. The QWERTY keypad is spacious and the keys while slightly stiff have enough give for comfortable typing. The EX118 rules the roost of Dual-SIM QWERTY keypad phones when it comes to pure looks and build quality.

Yes, not everyone would be pleased with the choice of colour (it is only available in brown), considering colourful phones are the norm these days. Ironically, Motorola was the first brand to really toy with colours when it launched the Razr V3 in pink!

moto-ex115- 007 Even Motorola’s user interface is much superior to what one sees in most of the Micromaxs, Spices and Karbonns, which seem to be inspired by a certain ‘berry. The icons are large and colourful and the transition from one menu to another zippy. The direction pad is quite spacious too and there isn’t any clutter around it. The 2.3-inch display too looks much better than those found on the local dual-SIM phone though like most phones in this range, visibility suffers under sunlight.

Another area where the EX115 scores over its local rivals is its camera. The 3.15 MP camera churns out pretty good shots, especially if you have a steady hand. We say that because it does not have auto-focus but neither do other Dual-SIM phones. It can shoot videos too but only at 15 fps with a resolution so low that the videos are choppy and not worthy of watching on a screen bigger than that of the phone itself.

The phone has a 3.5 mm audio jack on top and the audio quality exceeded our expectations. The 50 MB internal memory might not be good enough for most audiophiles and for them the EX115 packs a surprise – its microSD card slot supports cards up to 32 GB! It is probably the first phone in its segment to support microSD HC cards. Most local branded phones support up to 8 GB or lesser.

The EX115 offers GSM+GSM Dual-SIM functionality and both SIM cards operate simultaneously. However, if you are talking on one number, the other number will become inactive during the duration of the call. At the moment, Samsung Dual-SIM phones offer a feature where you will get a call waiting notification if someone calls on the other number.

One area where we were largely disappointed was the ‘bells and whistles’ the EX115 was supposed to have in the form of a social networking suite. The icon for social networking has links for popular networks like Orkut, Facebook and YouTube. But they are just that – links. Clicking on any one of the links will take open the browser and take you to the homepage of that site. That’s as far as it would go. While Motorola has provided a link to YouTube, we were unable to make the handset stream even a single video. And in case you haven’t noticed, there is no Twitter in the list of social networking sites. Rather than going through all the trouble of creating their custom app (or should we say list of links?), they should have simply tapped one of the third party apps for social networking.

The EX115 will appease to those who won’t be caught dead with a local branded Dual-SIM phone with a QWERTY keypad. Thinking about it, we are surprised that Samsung, which was one of the pioneers of Dual-SIM phones, does not have one with a QWERTY keypad yet. Yes, the Rs 5,000 tag might pinch considering there are a lot of cheaper options out there but remember, you are paying for quality and performance over here.

What’s great about the Motorola EX115?

  • Excellent build quality with a spacious QWERTY keypad
  • Good 3.15 MP camera
  • Supports up to 32 GB microSD HC cards

What could have been better…

  • The social networking suite simply links to the web pages of popular sites. A third party app would have been more appropriate.
  • Twitter integration should gave been provided
  • There should have been a call waiting alert feature for calls coming on the second number while the first is busy

Nokia N8, the definitive review

11 Oct

It has been over a week since I have not touched my Motorola Milestone. After almost two years, it is for the first time that I have used a Symbian smartphone as my primary phone for this long a period. The last Symbian smartphone I had was the Nokia E90, which I loved to bits till the iPhone came along followed by Android smartphones. I tried using the N97 and the N97 mini but could not use either of the two for more than a few hours! Would I be able to survive the N8? Let’s find out…



Appearance



Let’s face it, the N8 is no mass murderer when it comes to killer looks. It looks smart, yet many find it short and stocky. Too many reviewers out there talk about how thick it is and like to compare it with the wafer-thin Galaxy S and the likes. Many of you might cry foul, but I don’t believe in quoting geometric dimensions of a phone’s chassis (though I’d admit, I’m forced to quote them at times). For me what matters the most is how comfortable the phone feels to hold. And for me, the N8 feels very comfortable. Yes, it is thicker than the Galaxy S, the iPhone and the XPERIA X10 but there is a reason for it – the Xenon flash. More on that later.



The aluminium casing with anodised paint on it is simply brilliant. It is virtually scratch proof and we have tested it by trying to scratch it with a key! The phone looks sturdy enough and should survive an occasional fall or two.



What I don’t like about the design is that every edge has something or the other on it. There is no plain/vacant surface on the phone. The top one has the mini HDMI port, the 3.5 mm audio port and the power button. The left edge has the microSD, SIM card and microUSB ports. On the right, there is the volume rocker, the screen lock and camera shutter. Hell, even the bottom edge has the Nokia thin pin charging port.



No matter how you hold the phone, you will be touching some button or the other. Nokia could have easily avoided some of these ports. Now since the phone can be charged using the microUSB port, I do not see any reason for the thin pin port. Even the screen unlock jogger could have been done away with. Instead, the menu key below the display could have been used to unlock the screen and the power button on the top to lock it. The designers could have taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and introduced an iPhone-like SIM tray. Overall, the N8’s design is a mixed bag. Some would love it while many would not be able to stand it.



User Interface



Nokia’s initial idea of having a touchscreen version of Symbian S60 was to simply put a touch layer on top of it and it expected users to use it like the non-touch version – tap an option to select it (akin to scrolling and reaching your desired menu item) and then tapping it again to open it (just like hitting the ok button). The result was devices like the N97 and the N97 mini. Another area where Nokia had faltered in the past was its reliance on resistive touchscreens.



I’m pleased to say that the N8 resolves most of those issues. The capacitive touchscreen is responsive, Symbian^3 now has a uniform one-touch only interface and online widgets actually work. Unlike the older touchscreen version of Symbian, this one does not freeze and things work at a quick pace. I was able to configure my Mail For Exchange account in under two minutes in my first attempt and had my contacts synced in about five minutes. For me, this is a personal record on Symbian.



However, Nokia might like to revisit the interface while inputting text. To do so, you first tap on the text box, which opens another window and the onscreen keypad. Enter the desired text and hit the green tick mark on the bottom left corner of the keypad. This will close that window and show the text on the original text box. Then click the send button. I’m sure there can be a simpler way.



Multimedia



One area where the N8 really shines and live up to its N-series branding is multimedia. This one is a multimedia monster. You name it, it is most likely to be present on the N8. Firstly, the 12.0 MP camera. It is simply one of the best that we have seen on a camphone. The other – the Samsung Pixon 12 and (the Pixon 12 runs Samsung’s proprietary OS) Sony Ericsson Satio – were also running on Symbian and had good cameras. But they were useless as phones.



Daylight, low light or no light, the N8’s camera performs like a pro. Mind you, the camera is set to click pictures at 9.0 MP resolution by default to ensure that the entire screen is used as a view finder (something to do with 16:9 aspect ratio, I hear). Like the Satio, the Xenon flash makes a big difference to photos clicked indoors or in low light conditions.



On the video recording front, the N8 can do 720p HD videos at 25 frames per second (fps). It would have been ideal at 30 fps. You can check out our sample video here.



I was expecting the N8 to be all about the camera on the multimedia front, that is until I found the Ovi Music Store. I had not used the Music Store on a phone before the N8 and my experience has left me impressed. The interface is simple – search for a song, find it, download it. I have so far downloaded over a 100 songs already and plan to download some more after penning this review. The best thing is you can download as many songs as you like for a year and keep them with you. The only downside is that these songs are DRM protected and are locked to your phone. Still, I believe Nokia has done a great job here.



The music player is pretty neat and you have the option of choosing an equaliser settings from a few pre-set ones or even create a custom setting. The onboard speakers are efficient if you are sitting in your room or are at a quiet place but are of no use in noisy environments, say when you are driving. For such situations, the N8 has an FM transmitter, which relays the music on a pre-defined frequency. You can set your car’s audio system to that frequency and enjoy the music playing on the phone from the car’s speakers.



Performance



After using the N97 mini, I was not really expecting much from the N8. However, the responsive touchscreen, the working widgets and its multimedia capabilities caught me off guard. The N8’s GPS got a fix in less than five seconds, again impressive.



The battery performance too is way ahead of most Android smartphones that have displays as big as the N8 (3.5-inches). A single charge lasted me for about 30 hours, which included about two hours of calls, another two hours of playing music, about four hours of downloading music, occasionally checking my Twitter and Facebook feeds and Wi-Fi turned on throughout this period. My Milestone usually gives me about 20 hours with Wi-Fi turned off!



However, all is not well with the N8. While the hardware is just about perfect, it is the operating system that really lets it down. The default Internet browser is pathetic and unusable. This is the state when Nokia wants to transform its N-series from multimedia smartphones to Internet services driven smartphones. The web browsing experience is so bad that I did not browse the Internet at all on the N8. Thankfully, the default Ovi social networking app covered my Twitter and Facebook needs efficiently.



Then comes the Ovi Store for applications. For some strange reason, Nokia has not pre-installed the Ovi Store client. Instead when you boot the N8 for the first time and hit the Ovi Store icon, it navigates to a web page and asks you to download it. What is the reason behind that is something I really want to know. Nokia should better have a good reasoning.



Once installed, you’d find only a handful of apps, nothing like what you expect to see when Nokia claims more than a couple of million app downloads a day. In fact, I do not see any new application on the Ovi Store that was not there when I first started using the N8. No new apps in about a week? This does not impress me, who uses both an Android smartphone and an iPhone. It would be interesting to see if Nokia ever reveals how many apps does an average user download every week.



I do not have an iota of doubt that the N8 is indeed the best smartphone to come from Nokia, ever. But it just does not have in it to take on the likes of iPhones and Androids of the world. No doubt, it outdoes them when it comes to multimedia, but the absence a decent browser and the lack of apps kills the smartphone part of the experience. Serious smartphone users might like to give it a pass but those looking for just a great multimedia phone without the ‘headache of apps and the Internet’ (not my words) would get their money’s worth considering it carries a price tag of approximately Rs 26,000.

CellPassion on NDTV Cell Guru

10 Oct

For those of you who did not watch this week’s Cell Guru on NDTV, you missed our review of a couple of cool Android apps. Never mind, we won’t let you miss out watching us on national television. Hit the break below, click play on the video and bear it till about the 13th minute.

CellPassion's Nokia N8 review in Businessworld

9 Oct

Our very first review of the N8 is out in Businessworld magazine, which has just hit the stands. You can read our take on Nokia’s flagship device here. For those looking for a more detailed review, complete with sample photos from the device and live pictures, watch this space as we expect to post a detailed review over the weekend. In the meanwhile, you might like to watch a HD video that we shot with the N8 here or the phone’s internals here.