Category Archives: Reviews

Video: Swype For Honeycomb Demo – Much Better Than The Default Keyboard

Swype for Honeycomb is still in development, but early indications point to a all new experience which will better the default Honeycomb keyboard by far. Swype for Honeycomb not only brings the ability to swype to enter text quickly, but will also include the option to use it as a normal keyboard that supports predictive text and auto corrections. Add to that the fact that it can be resized and moved left or right on the fly and you have the makings of a truly wonderful offering. Swyping on a large display doesn’t make sense as you hardly save time, but with the resize options, it becomes relevant once more.

I caught up with Brian Lysak of Swype and he was kind enough to give me a demo of the yet unreleased Swype for Honeycomb offering running on a Motorola Xoom.

Just like other versions, Swype is looking to enter into deals with manufactures to pre-load Swype onto their devices, and I am hoping companies like Samsung carry forward their partnership with Swype from smartphones to tablets. It is that good.

Nokia Offering MeeGo Devs A 50% Bonus To Stop Them From Going ‘Mee-Go’

According to the Finnish site, Taloussanomat, Nokia is offering its in-house MeeGo devs a salary plus 50% bonus to continue with the company and help avoid a mass exodus after the Feb 11 announcement that Nokia was moving to Windows Phone as its primary operating system.

Nokia Offering MeeGo Devs A 50% Bonus To Stop Them From Going 'Mee-Go'

With the help of Google Translate, it appears that the bonus is structured on a quarterly basis. The first slab being end July, followed by September and brought up by the year end. If an employee resigns before a deadline, he/she stands to loose the entire bonus for the said period.

According to Taloussanomat, Nokia has about 13,000 engineers in Finland, half of whom work on MeeGo. Nokia had also been hiring a lot of talent for MeeGo development recently, but because of the February announcement that Nokia was virtually making MeeGo a research project, a lot of people have considered moving on.

Nokia still plans on delivering its first MeeGo smartphone, possibly the N950, later this year and loosing top brains certainly wouldn’t help. But perhaps, the bigger question is, what happens once the phone is ready?

Nokia E7 Unboxing & Hands On

The Nokia E7 is one device that feels absolutely great in the hand, it is built like a tank, feels a little heavy in a good way. You actually feel as if you are carrying an impressive piece of technology along.

At Nokia India’s E7 event, we got to to play with a bunch of E7’s and I must say they even felt better than the first time I had played with one at Nokia World. Friend of the site, Clinton Jeff was also at the event as we decided to do a joint unboxing and a quick hands on.

Since this was completely hands on and a spur of the moment thing, there may be times when the video feels a little less than coherent, therefore if you think there are things we missed, let me know in the comments section below.

Watch it the E7 unboxing and hands on in HD here.

The Apple iPad Review: The Good, Bad & The Ugly

The iPad just went on sale in India today, and if you have been itching to get one for months now, this should come as great news. First things first, the iPad is shinny, its Apple and thus virtually irresistible once you play with it at a store. To top is all, Apple has priced the iPad well, very close to the US prices and cheaper than for what it sells in Europe, but does that mean you should run and grab one now? I recommend reading through this page before you make up your mind.

Apple iPad India Review

Apple’s iOS has been around for quite sometime now, acting as a catalyst for others to get their act together and innovate on whatever OS they were resting on. It soon became the benchmark against which all the other efforts were appraised and established itself as king when it came to ease of use and a glorious UI.

I for one was never smitten by the ‘beauty’ of it all, and the walled garden approach made me uncomfortable. Yes, there would be jailbreaks but with Apple looking to patching one exploit after the other, I didn’t want to enter into a world where the sum on my hopes rested on a jailbreak and thus the iPhone never really enticed me.

Then came the iPad. It was thought to be a large iPod Touch in sum and substance, but it sold. Sold very well. The iOS developer community, which was finding it hard to get visibility among the millions of apps on the store, suddenly has a new cat to bell. The result was that we saw some exception iPad only apps on iOS. Soon Apple gave in and added pseudo multitasking, this was when I seriously considered getting the iPad. The lure of a large multitouch screen was too great to pass and I ended up picking one up while in Dublin recently, partly because I wanted to see why there was so much hoopla about iOS and partly because Apple’s shinny new hardware is very hard to pass up once lay your hands on it.

Apple iPad India Review

It was finally time to find out what the big deal about iOS was. I had used it in the past, a few days at a time but its only when you use it consistently that you truly appreciate the strengths and weaknesses. A casual play will tell you that it is great for web browsing, email and photos. Play a few pre-loaded games and almost everyone is virtually sold. But own one for a few weeks, you realize that you cannot download files using Safari, deleting and adding music to it is a pain, and that the iPad is dependent on your computer for a lot of things.

1. Activation. The iPad need a computer to start up for the first time, I wasn’t such a fan of this approach. But the activation was painless and look a few seconds in total. The date and time were automatically pulled and this was a nice touch.

2. The Apple ID. This is what makes Apple what it is. It asks you for your credit card the moment you sign up and keeps your information for times to come.

3. The App Store. The famed App Store in all its glory doesn’t disappoint when you open it up. Look for an app for any service that you use and you will see an app for it. But once your done with the essentials, you move onto discovery. There you come across great like Flickpad (which makes looking at your Facebook and Flickr pictures a real pleasure), Flipboard (Facebook & Twitter as a magazine), Pulse and a few others. These apps then become a part of your daily iPad habits and you slowly come to realize that despite installing a hundred apps in the first few days, you’re only using a select few. At that time you think that may be Apple’s App Store is just a little overhyped.

But what you have to give credit to Apple for is the fact that they make it very easy for you to give them your money. To buy an app, all you do is click ‘Buy’ and enter your Apple ID password as you would for a free app and before your realize it money is gone from your account and you have the precious app already downloaded. You don’t even realize money is being spent. Nothing else on Android Market or the Ovi Store comes close to the sheer ease.

4. Notifications. There are push notifications from apps like Facebook, News apps along with the usual ‘you have mail’ kind of notifications and this is iOS’s weakest aspect. There are no symbols at the top bar telling you that you have unread messages, facebook notifications, tweets and so on and the only indicator is the number symbol that pops up into the app icon. The on screen notifications get hidden if another notification comes in and the system is not elegant. Fortunately, this something you won’t have to worry about much on the iPad, in most cases it is a secondary device to your phone and won’t be receiving anything your phone won’t.

5. The Polished UI. Yes it is very slick, but then so is Android and infact I prefer Android because it has a dedicated back button while on iOS you generally need to reach across to the top of the app to go back on most occasions. It terms of UI polish I’d prefer Android on my phone as compared to iOS where as on the iPad I’ll probably be happy sticking to iOS. Infact, in my book the iOS is better suited to the iPad than to an iPhone. Where iOS really shines is the fact that it never lags. Android and Symbian both have a tendency to cram up after a few days without a reboot and even the system apps struggle, but on the iPad everything remains speedy.

6. Dealing with Files. This is the problem area. The iPad doesn’t pop up as a flash drive when you connect it to the computer and all your transfers have to be done via iTunes. You need apps such as ‘Download HD’ to transfer files across effectively and this is a native weakness. No dropping music or video or documents anywhere and expecting that various third party apps will pick them up automatically. Similarly, if you want download video or documents using Safari, you will hit a wall. Again, third party apps come to the rescue.

7. Lack of Flash. We all know that the iPad doesn’t support Adobe’s flash. This means no flash games, and restricted flash video playback. But in the real world, it doesn’t make such of a difference. The games are still out, but because of Apple’s considerable influence, most websites offer iPad friendly versions on the video, especially YouTube so you are never missing much.

8. Jailbreak. For power users Jailbreaking the iPad is almost second life and they feel very restricted without uprooting Apple’s walled garden. Since the iOS 4.2.1 firmware, jailbreaking the iPad isn’t child’s play and most of you couldn’t be bothered. So does the iPad still remain an attractive proposition? Yes. The major reason people jailbroke the iPad was for the multitasking and since Apple has included this itself, we won’t have such a problem anymore. However, since VLC is off the App Store, new users who want to use the iPad as a video machine will have to go the Cydia route.

9. Which iPad to buy? The iPad comes in a bunch of configurations, all powered by Apple’s A4 1Ghz chip and 256 MB of RAM. The difference lies in storage space and whether or not you want a 3G enabled version. I choose a 16 GB WiFi only model for the simple reason that I am happy using my phone as a WIFI access point for the iPad, thus not only saving on monthly 3G costs, but also the INR 5000+ upfront. If you are serious about gaming on the iPad, you might want to consider getting a 32 GB version as some games are a whopping 600 MB+ in size.

10. But should you buy one at all? The answer of course depends on how much you want one. The iPad has come to India at the end of its life cycle, with the new iPad expected to be announced and made available in the next 2 months. However, chances are that the new iPad won’t be coming to India anytime soon and unless you or friends/family is planning a trip to the US, you can forget about getting one at a reasonable price any time soon.

All in all, the iPad is a great web browsing tool that lasts for about 8-9 hours easily, can play video for a solid 7 hours and serves you well as a bedside, couch or travelling device. The email client is solid, the web browsing limitations can be overcome and the app ecosystem is as good as it gets. No other tablet, even the Android Honeycomb powered ones, will come close to the iPad in the next 3-4 months, the time it takes for the developers to catch up.

If you have money to spare, the iPad is a great way to indulge yourself. It will not replace your laptop, but for most tasks it will come pretty close.

So, do you plan on getting one in the next few days?

Review: Travelling With The Nokia N8

Almost whole of last week I was in Dublin for the first ever MeeGo Conference (more on the conference later) and had with me the N8 as my primary device. I was also carrying the Samsung Galaxy S as a side phone. While back home, the way I use both devices is that my main SIM remains in the N8, while a 3G SIM is placed in the Galaxy S for data purposes only.

All through the flight I was debating where to put the local SIM I bought in Dublin in the N8 or the Galaxy S. To help decide, I made a list of priorities – battery life, followed by camera, navigation and Twitter of course to help live blog the event. At that point the N8 with its 12 MP camera, promise of better battery life, Ovi Maps and Gravity virtually because the only choice.

Review: Travelling With The Nokia N8

(Aviva Stadium Dublin, Taken With The N8’s Panorama App)

At the airport I found out that the only SIM the retailer had was an O2 with 50 MB of data a day, not a lot obviously. But since the only other choice was getting a data only Vodafone SIM, I preferred having the voice capabilities of the O2.

It is at this point that I started to realise how efficient the Symbian operating system is, and how Nokia makes incredibly data frugal devices. For browsing, I turned off the images in the browser and downloaded Opera Mini and because of this I had virtually consumed no data at all despite all the browing, Facebook and Foursquare activity on the one hour ride to the hotel. Here is my tweet appreciating that.

Once at the hotel, Gravity with its super low data consumption and images turned off mode was helping me keep in touch with people at the MeeGo Conference and follow updates. Next, I decided to head out and look at the city a little. Since it was my first time in Dublin, I had no clue of where everything was and needless to say it was time for some Ovi Maps action. Fortunately, I had pre-loaded Ireland before I flew out so navigation was not going to blow a hole in my pocket. If I had been using the Galaxy S with Google Maps, I would have run out of the day’s data limit by the time I got home that evening.

The thing about having Ovi Maps handy is that even if you are not driving or walking, you can still keep track of where you are within the bus and that way help predict the stop you need to get off at. The N8 even within the bus, and not necessarily near the windows, had no problems keeping a fix and informing of my whereabouts. That one feature alone, made me glad.

While I was checking out the city, I was of course taking nicely Geo-tagged images. A good thing about the N8’s camera is that you can take a picture, hit the camera button and its again ready to fire away, but if you don’t want to take another shot then and there, you can simply lock the device with the dedicated switch and the camera goes into standby, ready to spring into action the moment you unlock. This is much faster than having to relaunch the camera everytime and is a great way to take pictures while exploring a city with no hit on the battery life.

Guinness Storehouse Dublin

(Geo-Tagged upload to Flickr)

While at the conference there was WIFI, so I do admit using TweetDeck on the Galaxy S because its honestly a wonderful app. But when it came to Twitpicking or uploading pictures to Facebook, I did find myself going back to the N8, not just because of the camera but because Gravity has a pretty solid image upload section and PixelPipe is a great way upload quickly and fast to multiple destinations.

On the day before I had to fly back, I met with a friend in Dublin and he was showing me around in his car. Having an FM transmitter meant that I was playing all my favorite tunes and he thus got a taste of the latest trends in music back home.

Last, how can I forget the battery life on the N8. It kept going throughout the day despite all the above activities that I mentioned, I feat very few smartphones of today can boast of. Infact, on Day 2 of the conference I even forgot to put it on charge before I slept but come 6AM the next morning, the alarm was still ringing. Lifesaver. Add to that the speed at which it charges, and you can feel pretty confident about not running out of juice.

Despite all the Facebooking, Tweeting, image uploads (when the WIFI broke), browsing, email and navigation, not once did I run over the 50 MB limit and this is where I think the N8 really shone. Plus travel is mostly about content creation and that again is one of the N8’s strengths. With the new browser and portrait QWERTY options coming in PR 2.0 next year, I can only see the N8 going from strength to strength.

When you travel is the time when things like a shiny UI take a backseat and the core functionality of a device comes out. If on such a day your current device makes you feel handicapped, then perhaps its time to look at something else.

Looking for more in-depth coverage on the N8’s individual features?

Still have questions? Let me know in the comments section below.

The Nokia N8 v Nokia C7 Debate

The Nokia N8 has been available for just two weeks and there’s already a new Symbian^3 handset that’s hitting the market in the form of the C7. Both of them run the same OS, share the same guts and are priced pretty near to each other. So if you are in the market for a new Nokia, which one should you be looking at?

The Nokia N8 v Nokia C7 Debate

What’s same:

  • The internals. Both devices have the same processor, GPU, pentaband chips and so on. This means that there will be no performance differences between them.
  • They also share similar capacitive touchscreens which are roughly 3.5″ in size.
  • They also have the same 1200 mAh BL-5K battery, which in the C7’s case is user replaceable.

What’s different:

  • NFC. The C7 has some hidden hardware. It packs a NFC chip that the N8 doesn’t, but as of now its just lying there serving no purpose. May be a future firmware enables it, but considering the fact that there won’t be many NFC use cases in the near future, its not a major win for the C7 in my book.
  • Dimensions. The C7 is also slimmer at 117.3 x 56.8 x 10.5 mm compared to the N8’s 113.5 x 59 x 12.9 mm. Its also lighter by 5 grams, 135 g on the N8 to the C7’s 130 g. This might not seem much, but the C7 does feel a lot thinner in the hand and the pocket bulge is virtually non existent. That being said, the N8 has reasonable dimensions itself and feels great to hold in the hand. Plus the metallic feel adds a premium element to it.
  • HDMI. The C7 is also missing the N8’s HDMI out slot. It still features the ability to use TV-out via the 3.5mm jack.
  • Price. The Nokia C7 is just about 3000-3500 INR ($70-80) cheaper than the N8 in the real world and that’s as far as Nokia can probably push the price difference on bill of material costs alone. The only major things they save on are the camera module, HDMI port and the part plastic construction as both phones have practically the same guts.
  • Storage. The C7 comes with 8GB on inbuilt storage, compared to the 16GB on the N8. Both have support for microSD cards of upto 32GB.

Camera:

  • The real toss-up for most people would be whether to go for a slightly cheaper, thinner C7 with its 8 Megapixel EDOF camera or pay a little more for the metallic N8 with its best in class 12MP auto-focus camera. EDOF stands for extended depth of field, this means that most images taken from the C7 will be in perfect focus provided you are not taking close-up shots. It will also mean that the shot to shot time on the C7 will be pretty good because the camera is not having to focus everytime you take a shot. More on EDOF cameras by Nokia’s camera boss Damian Dinning right here.
  • Both devices shoot video in 720P HD at 25 frames a second and the quality should be comparable. But because the N8 has an auto-focus camera, it is possible that future firmware updates or even hacks bring the ability to focus during video capture at objects up-close. The C7 will never be able to do this.

If you are not going to be taking pictures of documents or other objects placed close to the camera, the C7 will do just fine. It doesn’t have the N8’s wide angle lens or huge sensor so don’t expect great shots in low light but compared to the competition, the C7 will do just fine.

Personal Observations:

Having played with both devices, I may be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t like the C7’s design too much. Based on that alone, I would pick the N8. Its far better looking, feels great in the hand, because of the aluminum has greater resistance to scratches and in black looks outright classy. The C7 with its slightly plastic design and plentiful curves isn’t bad, but why get the second best, when you can have the N8. That being said, if you like the way the C7 looks, feel free to ignore this paragraph, the C7 too, after-all does feel solid in the hand.

The Nokia N8 v Nokia C7 Debate

To sum up, lets see what does the extra $70-80 get you:

  • A far superior camera, capable of some great results.
  • HDMI out, turning your smartphone into a virtual DVD/Blueray player replacement. Not to mention the Dolby support.
  • Premium design in an aluminum construction.
  • An extra 8GB of onboard storage.

In my book, all of those together are easily worth the extra money. No point compromising for such a small price difference. It is only when the difference reaches about $120 that you should weight your options, otherwise the N8 wins, hands down.