The Lumia 928 is the only Lumia that comes with a Xenon flash, 3 high amplitude audio capture mics and a loud speaker with more thumb than most of its competition. If along with Verizon’s excellent LTE network, these are things that excite you, then read on for the unboxing and overview of this device, that costs $99 on contract.
The Lumia 928 while looking different from the Lumia 920 (more square than rounded, less colour options) is still very similar to it. Most internals are still the same, a 1.5 Ghz dual core Snapdragon S4 chip, 1 GB of RAM, NFC, a 2000 mAh battery, a 4.5″ Gorilla Glass 2, super sensitive Pure Motion HD+ display, 8.7 MP Carl Zeiss camera with optical image stabilisation, HERE apps, Nokia Music and other apps like Smart Shoot, Cinemagram camera lenses.
Where the Lumia 928 improves is:
Despite packing a Xenon flash, is only 10.1 mm thick.
3 HAAC mics for great audio capture no matter where you’re shooting.
A louder speaker on the back (although the quality can be iffy at full volume).
When asked about its key differentiator, along with location services, Nokia never forgets to mention imaging. So it should come as no surprise that they are yet again looking to push the envelope with the Lumia 925. On the face of things it seems to have the same 8.7 Megapixel camera with an LED flash + optical image stabilisation that the Lumia 920 did, but there’s more to it than what meets the eye.
The Lumia 925 features an industry first, 6 part camera lens that along with improvements in the imaging algorithms promises better, clearer and sharper images than before. During the keynote, Nokia’s Jo Harlow specifically mentioned even better low light and ‘day light’ photos. This was perhaps in response to the criticism than the Lumia 920 has faced that its good light performance is average, and some shots tend to be slightly less sharp than what is expected.
Further, the Lumia 925 also becomes the first Nokia to ship with the ‘Smart Camera’ kit. The Smart Camera lens brings a number of features to the Lumia range that devices like the HTC One, and the Galaxy S4 pack. Basically, the app takes 10 five megapixel frames over the course of 2.5 seconds, and gives you the following options:
Best Shot: The device automatically determines what it perceives is the best photos out of the lot, and presents it to you.
Action Shot: This mode lets you super-impose the ‘action’ into one single photo, and then you can even highlight one part for that extra pop. Examples below, click through for the full resolution shot.
Motion Focus: While best shot and action shot like features are available elsewhere, Motion Focus seems to be a Nokia exclusive for now, and adds a lot of drama to the photo. It creates motion blur in the background, making the subject look as if it was moving very fast. Taking such a shot on a DSLR is possible, but involves a lot of skill.
Change Faces: This feature has been available on Lumias for a while, but now has been brought under the Smart Camera umbrella. It recognises each face in the photo, and then lets you replace it from any of the other 9 shots. Very handy for taking portraits and group shots, no more retaking a shot because someone’s eyes were closed.
Object Removal: You’re taking a photo in front of a monument, someone walks by and ruins the shot. With this mode, you can make that person disappear.
The good thing about the Smart Camera lens is that unlike other lenses for Windows Phone, you can directly launch this application by pressing the camera button, making it your default shooting mode. Like I said earlier, the 6 part lens and the improved camera software promise even better photos, and another example of this push is the new ISO range that the Lumia 925 brings. Instead of going from 100 to 800 like it was with the Lumia 920, it now goes upto 3200, letting in 4 times more light.
While in the Smart Camera mode, you are restricted to 5 MP shots. If you want to use the full resolution of the 925’s camera, shooting in the default WP mode will also not disappoint if these images are anything to go by. Click to get the full resolution shot.
Since the Lumia 925 camera software isn’t final yet, Nokia isn’t letting people take their own samples from the prototype units. All photos above have been published by Nokia themselves.
The Asha 501 was announced today morning, and I’ve already covered that here. But what’s a post without a video. So here is a detailed demo of the impressive new Asha 501. In the demo we get a look at the new Lumia inspired design, the Swipe UI, the Asha platform’s new ‘Fastlane’ that brings pseudo multitasking, its performance and other things that make the Asha 501 the compelling proposition that it is.
At the 99$ price point you get a capacitive display, that is responsive to the touch like no other device in low end of the spectrum. Add to that the N9 like intuitive UI, Nokia’s services (Nokia Music is coming as well), social network integration and the wide variety of popular apps that will be available at launch, and there is very little to not like about this nifty little device.
Nokia’s Asha range kept the company afloat while the transition to Windows Phone happened, however in the last quarter Nokia’s Asha shipments have taken a hit. In the Q1 earnings call Stephen Elop had hinted that a rechristened Asha was coming, and it has been revealed at Nokia’s global launch event in Delhi.
The Asha 501 represents a departure from the existing Asha design language, and is also based on a brand new Asha platform, Series 40 is no more. Now that Symbian is out of the picture, Nokia had been using Series 40 to bridge the gap between Windows Phone and their entry level phones, thus blurring the definition of a smartphone.
The Asha 501 is backed by solid specifications:
A brand new Asha platform (everything is swipe based)
A 3 inch AMOLED capacitive screen with a 320 x240 pixel resolution
A 3.2 MP camera
MicroSD card support, ships with a 4GB card inside
FM Radio, WIFI.
Swappable back covers, Lumia inspired design
Dual SIM version as well, lets you swap SIMs without a reboot.
3G version coming later
Dimensions: 99.2 x 58 x 12.1 mm; 98 grams
Available colours: Bright Red, Bright Green, Cyan, Yellow, White and Black
All this ensures that the Asha 501 feels like a lot like a smartphone. Asha and Series 40 have supported apps for a while now, with Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp support being its bread and butter. When Nokia killed MeeGo, the promise was that the lessons learnt from the N9 would live on, and we finally get to see that implemented across the board with the new Swipe based UI on the Asha 501.
The UI is controlled with swipes and the only physical button is a back key. On screen the UI is split into a app launch screen and ‘fastlane’. Fastlane is the N9’s notification screen on steroids. The Asha 501 also benefits from Nokia’s acquisition of Smarterphone, and features an impressive talktime of 17 hours and even more cool 48 days standby.
The Asha 501 should have access to 90% of the Series 40 touch apps at the time of sales start. EA and Gameloft games will be available as well. The phone will come pre-loaded with the Nokia Xpress Browser, and a brand new Xpress Now feature that presents local content in a good looking UI, think Flipboard but without the fancy animations. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, YouTube etc. will also be available.
The Asha 501 will retail at $99 without taxes, a very impressive price point indeed. It will hit stores in India come June.
More than anything else, the biggest problem LG has at the moment is that no one really considers it a top grade Android device manufacturer. This isn’t because their devices don’t have great screens, or the latest specs, but because people don’t really associate LG with great smartphones. In the Android ecosystem its all about Samsung these days, and then to a lesser extent HTC and Sony. Tell a friend that you picked up the latest LG, and you’re sure to get a puzzled look. This sentiment is LG’s problem, and they are getting serious about fixing this.
The partnership with Google to make the Nexus 4 has really helped, but the branding is not quite there yet. So does the Optimus G help LG push that envelope further, is this a smartphone that you should think about when looking for a shiny new toy? Lets find out.
When it comes to specs, LG’s really left no stone unturned. For about 30,000 INR ($560 / 425 Euro) this devices manages to pack quite a bit of muscle:
A 4.7″ 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus (768 x 1280 pixels) display with Gorilla Glas
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset – Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU with 2 GB of RAM, Adreno 320 GPU
13 MP camera with LED flash and a 1.3 MP front-facing camera
LG generally has a tendency of following its Korean sibling, Samsung’s lead when taking cues for its smartphones, but thankfully they’ve brought something of their own to the table with the Optimus G. The device is made using plastic and glass with a metal frame surrounding the screen. The glass back also has a nice reflective texture that becomes visible when light hits it at certain angles, much like the Nexus 4 and the older Optimus devices before that. This along with the metal frame around the screen add a premium feel to the device, and the glossy plastic bezel doesn’t feel too bad at all.
LG’s gone in for a very squared look, and that means that the Optimus G can feel a little blocky at times. Since there is no curved back, the device doesn’t fit as naturally into the hand as some other devices. However, since this is a unibody design with no removable parts, it does feel quite solid and reassuring in the hand with no creaks or squeaks. At 131.9 x 68.9 x 8.5 mm and a 145 grams, the Optimus G isn’t too big or bulky. Its a little smaller than the Galaxy S3, but about 12 grams heavier.
SOFTWARE & PERFORMANCE
The Optimus G had launched with Ice Cream Sandwich, but has since been upgraded to Jelly Bean 4.1.2, while that’s not the latest Jelly Bean software, devices like the HTC One that are just coming out, also run the same release. In any case, there isn’t much that Android 4.2 (also called Jelly Bean) brings to the table that you’ll really miss.
On top of Jelly Bean 4.1.2 is LG’s very own Optimus UI. Traditionally, it has been very cartoon like and LG’s worked on toning it down. Infact, the Optimus UI comes with four themes that you can choose from, and you can also pick the font that you like from the settings. Google’s new default Android font, Roboto is available. While the icons still do not deserve an A+, you can easily live with them.
Other than that, the UI is very slick and very fast. You can literally fly past homescreens, and everything launches instantly. The lockscreen features a nice bubble like unlock animation. The notification area houses quick toggle for everything that you can think of, and then there are the Qslide apps.
If Samsung has multi window apps, where you can run two apps side by side, LG has Qslide. Arguably, this implementation is better. Basically Qslide gives you a picture on picture mode, where one app becomes transparent and lets you interact with the app under it. So for example if you are watching a video and an email pops in, instead of exiting the video, you can enable the Qslide mode and let the video play in the background (its still visible, but is now see through) while you check your email/do other tasks. Since you can also control the transparency, this feature comes in pretty handy. This works with Memo, Calendar, Browser and Calculator. The video above will give you a better idea of how this works.
Then there is also Quick Memo. This application takes a screenshot and then lets you annotate on top of that.Useful, and something similar to what Samsung has on the Galaxy Note devices.
The 4.7″ 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus is one of the Optimus G’s highlights, and among the best 720p displays on the market currently. What I love about high resolution LCD displays is that unlike AMOLEDs, there is no blue tinge to them, so reading text on a white background is a real pleasure. Further, a person spends a lot more time reading on the phone than looking at photos/videos. So even if the display doesn’t have the pop that AMOLED screens do, it remains a better bet.
While LG uses a zero-gap construction so that there is no air between screen layers in order to eliminate reflections, strong sunlight might present a bit of a challenge. Other than that, its everything you could want. Right under the screen are three capacitive buttons, back, home and menu. A long press on the home button brings up the task switcher, and a button to goto Google Now. You can change the duration for which they light up from the settings menu, I personally had them set to always on.
A quad core processor, a 720p screen, multitasking and all the other gazillion things that smartphones can do today eat into the one precious commodity that’s battery life. The Optimus G features a 2100 mAh Li-Po battery, that unlike Lithium-Ion batteries give you more charging charing cycles, about 800 in the Optimus G’s case. That’s a good things because the Optimus G’s battery isn’t end-user replaceable.
So how does the Lithium-Polymer battery do otherwise? With 3G enabled, 2 push Gmail accounts, a fair amount of Twitter and Facebook usage with notifications turned on, WhatsApp, an hour of browsing and 15 minutes of calls, you’ll get through a 9am to 8pm day. That’s not bad for a modern smartphone, without 3G and 3D gaming, the battery life will be even better. Most people shouldn’t have problems getting a day’s usage out of the device.
While the Optimus G boasts of a 13 MP sensor, don’t let that play on your mind too much. Unfortunately, the camera is at par with the 8MP snappers that the competition offers, and those 5 extra megapixels aren’t really doing anything for image quality. Day light photos are acceptable, but the unit struggles in low light, producing some grainy shots.
The phones does come with the ability to shoot HDR photos and panoramas out of the box. The Camera UI is nice and simple, and there are even a few fun modes to it. For example you can take a shot using your voice by saying words such as ‘Whisky’, ‘Cheese’ and so on. Then there is a mode called ‘Time Catch Shot’ that starts taking photos before you have pressed the camera button, making sure you don’t miss the right frame. Next, there is ‘Smart Shutter’ that is aimed at producing lag free photos. The phone is also capable of shooting 1080p video, with average results.
Overall the Optimus G camera is good, without being impressive. A closer look at the camera UI is available in the video review above.
The Optimus G has been available for a while now, and it isn’t exactly the newest kid on the block. But because it came a few months after devices like the Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X, it does have a few advantages over them. A faster processor, 2 GB of RAM compared on the 1GB on the S3, 32 GB of storage compared to 16 on the S3 (but no microSD slot). The HTC One X/X+ devices with their Tegra processors had a tendency of getting hot, and that’s something that’s much better on the Snapdragon powered Optimus G. All of this does make the Optimus G more future proof.
Overall the Optimus G presently a very competitive package. A good looking device that has powerful hardware under the hood. The Optimus UI has been toned down and is no longer a hindrance to the functioning of the device. Infact, with Qslide apps and things like Quick memo, it does bring value to the product. So if you are in the market for a mid-high range smartphone, should you consider the Optimus G? Yes.
Infact, if LG can continue to iterate and build upon devices like the Optimus G, it is poised to be the comeback kid of the Android world.
The HTC One packs a quad core Snapdragon 600 chip, 2 GB of RAM, an incredible 1080p 4.7″ IPS display and runs Sense 5.0, a new iteration of Sense that trims down the UI to a very large extent, while not taking away too much from the default Android experience. With its premium aluminium construction, there is hardly anything you won’t like about this device.
The HTC One is definitely one of 2013’s top smartphones, and as is the case with most devices these days, there are features that are obvious and then there are some that take a bit of finding. Over the last few days that I have been using the HTC One as my primary device (review coming soon) I have come to learn a few nifty shortcuts and tricks that every HTC One user should know.
If you can’t see the video embedded above, hit this link to go to YouTube. If you’d like to see some of these tips & tricks in text instead of video, read on.
How Use The HTC One To Create Video Highlights Of Pictures & Video Taken On Another Camera: Details here.
Capacitive Buttons: Because the One only comes with two capacitive buttons, instead of the 3 button default Android setup, the home key has some added responsibilities. A long press of the key launches Google Now, while a quick double tap, ala iOS, launches the multitasking app switcher. From there you can kill apps by simply dragging them off the screen.
Screenshots: Taking screenshots is very easy, just hit the home button and the power key simultaneously and a screenshot will be saved to the gallery. The One also has the ability to take screenshots while a video is playing. So if you want to quickly grab an image, just tap the screen once while the video is playing and hit the camera button that appears. A 1920 x 1080 screenshot will be saved to the gallery.
Homescreen Setup: By default, whenever you press the home button the first thing you’ll see is Blinkfeed. There is no way to turn Blinkfeed off, but fortunately you select another homescreen to be the default screen. To do this, pinch the homescreen and you’ll be presented with the following screen. Now choose the homescreen you want to set as the default by pressing down on it and dragging it to the ‘Set As Home’ option that appears.
Jump To Top: Very hand for long lists, wherever you are to quickly jump to the top, hit the notification bar once. This works in all sorts of lists – Contacts, Blinkfeed, Music Player and so on.
Secure Inbox: If there are certain messages that you’d best keep from prying eyes, the HTC One has you covered. Long press on the message you so wish to hide, and select the move to Secure Inbox button. Then when you wish to goto that message, choose ‘Secure Inbox’ from the list and enter your password. Note: The password is set the first time you enter the Secure Inbox.
Two Finger Scrolling: Scrolling with two fingers on any list displays the corresponding alphabet as you scroll along. Great when you want to stop at a particular letter in say, the Contacts app. In the messages app, a two finger scroll results in the dates being displayed as you scroll along.
Bluetooth Remote for the Camera: A bluetooth headset can act as a remote for the camera. Mount the One of a tripod and be part of the shot. Makes you wonder why didn’t anyone implement this earlier.
NFC & Usage: Buried in the settings menu under the ‘More’ heading is a toggle for NFC, turn it off if you’d like to save that every bit of battery life. The Usage option lets you restrict and monitor the amount of data your device is using. You can also keep tabs on your cellular minutes and text messages. Very handy if you don’t have unlimited data.
App Gallery: By default, the Sense UI displays a grid of 3 x 3. Thankfully you can change this to 4 x 5. Also present is an option to hide certain apps completely. So all the operator branded junk that you never open can now easily be removed from sight. Also, you can list apps alphabetically, or by the date they were added. You can also have a custom setup if you like.
Power Saver: The HTC One has a power saver mode, use it. It throttles the CPU, reduces the brightness, makes the data connection goto sleep for small intervals, and turns vibration off. Based on experience, just letting the phone throttle the CPU and suspend the data connection makes a lot of difference. Enjoy that screen, don’t skimp on the brightness.
Stop Google Play from auto creating shortcuts: If like me, you hate it when an app is automatically added to your homescreen the moment you installed it, this tip is for you. Goto Google Play settings and uncheck the auto-add widgets button.
Gracenote Integration: Thanks to its Gracenote integration, the One automatically adds album art to the music you’ve copied to the device. That’s not all, it will even pull the lyrics down from the Internet and display them – synchronised.
Unresponsive/Reset: If the HTC One ever hangs, or becomes unresponsive you can’t really pull the battery out. The way around that problem is holding the power button down for 10 seconds. The phone will reboot and hopefully your problem will be fixed.
Changing Shortcuts in the Dock: You can change the default apps in the dock, and even add folders. However, this cannot be done from the homescreen and you’ll have to be in the app drawer to make changes.
In addition to these, there are a ton of other must know things – Zoes, Video Highlights, IR Blaster for controlling the TV. Which ones are your favourites? Sound off in the comments section below!