Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note

I’m not entirely sure who the Samsung Galaxy Note is aimed at, but as somebody who gets to observe from the sidelines, this is one fun, functional and loveable device — although it comes at an out of contract price of around £450-500 upwards, give or take.

The biggest talking point of the Galaxy Note is its size: packing a 5.3-inch Super AMOLED display that sports full HD resolution of 1280 x 800p, this thing is BIG for a phone. That begs the question – Samsung actively encourages it – is the device a smartphone or a tablet?

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Nokia World: How do you own the platform when you don’t own the platform?

Nokia World, London - Having jumped off of a burning platform and into Redmond’s arms – a story that I (partially) broke on TechCrunch back in February this year – Nokia this morning finally took the wraps off its much anticipated entry into the Windows Phone world with two new devices: The flagship Lumia 800 and a lower-cost but competitively spec’ed (for a Windows Phone, anyway) Lumia 710.

I’ll get this out of the way right now. The Nokia Lumia 800 is a great looking device, sharing its design cues if not its internals with the recently launched meego-powered N9. After spending some hands-on time with the Lumia 800, overall there’s much to like if not love about this phone. However, much of the credit has to go to Microsoft not Nokia as the OS – Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) – is all Redmond’s own work. And herein lies the conundrum.

How does Nokia intend to own the platform when it doesn’t actually own the platform? How will the company differentiate its smartphone wares in a sea of Androids and iPhones and, drilling down further, with LG, Samsung and others offering Windows Phone-powered handsets. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop himself inadvertently highlighted the exact problem when he described his decision not to adopt Google’s Android for fear of commodization. Today we got a partial answer.

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Review: Nokia E6 (a must have upgrade)

On paper at least, Nokia’s E6 smartphone could have been designed just for me.

It keeps most of the design cues and form-factor first seen on the E71 and its successor the E72 – easy one handed operation, great physical QWERTY keyboard, rock solid build (well, the E71 at least), superb call quality, free turn-by-turn navigation, amazing battery life and sleek design –  while introducing a high resolution touch screen, 8 megapixel camera, HD video recording and playback and the latest version of Symbian, somewhat redesigned for touch.

In fact, the E6 is the type of smartphone that I’ve been waiting for: a touch screen phone that doesn’t generally force me to use touch so that I can still operate the device one-handed and swap between direct manipulation and click and scroll when either is more efficient or convenient. Of course, attempting to combine the best of both worlds could mean the E6 falls horribly between the two. I’m glad to say, however, that for the most part this isn’t the case.

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Review: Nokia N8 and the Symbian 3 verdict

Announced back in July, Nokia’s new flagship N8 smartphone began shipping on the last day of September to those that had pre-ordered the device (it’s now available on most UK networks). As did the first review units sent out with almost military provision to chosen technology bloggers, this writer included.

Having already declared “Nokia is back” at Nokia World, the Finnish juggernaut is to a degree framing the N8, the first to run the new Symbian 3, as a hard reset for the company as it attempts to return its once held leadership position in the smartphone space. Not in terms of marketshare (that’s not looking too shabby) but in terms of mindshare where Nokia has in recent times fallen behind iPhone, BackBerry and the relentless onslaught on Android. It’s in this context that the N8 is to be judged.

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Nokia World: Very quick hands-on impressions of Nokia’s three new smartphones

Yesterday was a really fun day spent at Nokia World, the Finnish handset maker’s annual shindig. Conveniently, this year it was held in my home city of London and I got to cover the event for TechCrunch Europe.

On day one, Nokia unveiled three new smartphones running Symbian^3, the C6, C7 and E7, which I later had a brief hands-on with, along with the previously announced N8. I came away quietly impressed with subtle but extremely necessary improvements to the UI of Symbian, which also seemed snappier and in touch form really benefits from Nokia’s decision to (universally) switch to capacitive touch screens. The build quality on all four devices seems rock solid too, and the newly introduced ClearBlack screen technology “for improved outdoor visibility” and contrast levels was quite impressive too. That said, Nokia is still crying out for wider developer support to bring better and more third-party apps, but that’s also what events like Nokia World are for.

Oh, and the other personal highlight of Nokia World was definitely meeting Chris Ziegler and Thomas Ricker from Engadget, and being recognized by the awesome Leila Makki of TelecomTV, along with a few other folks from Twitter.

Read my full coverage over at TechCrunch…

Kindle vs iPad: The case for the dedicated e-Reader

Over at TechCrunch I’ve penned an op/ed piece on why I’m in love with the Kindle. Or more specifically, why the dedicated e-Reader still has a role to play in the context of Apple’s iPad and competing multifunctional tablet computers, such as the plethora of Android-powered devices that are about to hit the market.

I’m now a total Kindle convert.

Yes, I know. It’s a laughable notion to anybody that knows me well and judging by the number of unread books – mostly Christmas presents from friends who should know better – that occupy shelf space and the spare cupboard in my house. But I can’t get enough of the Kindle.

Why?

It’s the only gadget that encourages me – no, forces me – to go off the grid and get away from, as Mike Butcher puts it, the “background hum” of being always-connected. If fact, it’s for exactly the reasons that Carr states, that the dedicated e-reader can be seen as the anti-iPad. And that might well be its long-term appeal.

Head over to TechCrunch to read the full article…

Quick review: Amazon Kindle 3 e-reader

This morning I took (early) delivery of Amazon’s new Kindle 3 – I opted for the WiFi only version – a device that claims 50% better contrast than any other e-reader, a 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area, and a 20% increase in the speed of page turns. These are, of course, all very welcome improvements but specs alone don’t tell the real story of Kindle’s appeal and why it sets the bench mark for an e-reading experience. Instead, it’s Amazon’s decision to adopt a vertical model: controlling the hardware, software and, most controversially, content of the Kindle that define the user experience. But first, let’s dive into the device itself.

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Vodafone does a 180 as its 360 handsets are canned – I'm not surprised

The hardware business is a tough one. And in the smartphone space an incredibly crowded, expensive and competitive one.

It’s perhaps noble then that Vodafone tried but ultimately failed with its bespoke Vodafone 360 handsets, which were based on the LiMo operating system and manufactured by Samsung. The mobile operator announced this week that while its “360″ suite of mobile services would live on, it was getting out of the handset business. The upcoming Samsung H2 has been canceled.

I’m not surprised.

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Review: Palm Pixi Plus – It's all about webOS and that form-factor

As regular readers will know, I’m a big admirer of Palm’s webOS (see Palm Pre review) and a fan of the BlackBerry-esque portrait QWERTY form-factor as found on Nokia’s E72 – my current primary smartphone.

It’s therefore not a stretch to presume that Palm’s second device running webOS, the Palm Pixi (or to be precise, the Palm Pixi Plus, the GSM variant that adds WiFi), would be right up my street with its portrait physical QWERTY keyboard and multi-touch screen. And for the most part it is, with the exception of an underpowered processor and eye-squinting web browser. Read on for my hands-on review.

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Opera Mini 5.1 comes to Android

The Norwegian Browser company, Opera, has announced the release of Opera Mini 5.1 for Android phones today.

Opera Mini provides a “lightning fast” browser experience by virtue of its proxy service. Servers over at Opera receive page requests from the Opera Mini browser, and download the page. By reflowing text and compressing images, this allows pages to be downloaded faster than a browser loading the original page. The disadvantage here is a lack of privacy, and indeed the proxy service will break some sites that require a login, and internet banking is a definite no-no for any proxy-based browser.

Opera Mini also provides functionality to synchronise bookmarks with other Opera Mini installations on other phones and with the desktop Opera browser. There are other handy features like “speed dial” which provide quick links to favourite sites. Opera Mini also supports full copy and paste for grabbing and using text from web pages.

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