Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amazon Video now hits Europe on real Android devices

You might not even knew it, but Amazon Instant Video wasn't available until a few days okay on regular Android devices.

The long proclaimed "Android is not secure enough" looks no longer valid for a apparent change in the politics of Amazon. As pressure rises to establish the relatively new video service, we now see Android is and was ready the whole time.
Whatever drove Amazon to this change, now the Instant Video Player is available at the Amazon App Store. To use it, you also need the Amazon - App to buy stuff. It won't work without. While this is a bit strange, it's no big deal. After installing this, you can even watch Instant Prime movies and tv-series. Great news for many Android-users out there.

Both apps are, of course, available for free in the Amazon App Store, or the Google Play Store.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Pipo T9 Tablet With Phone Capabilities

Today I'll have a Chinese beauty at home. Powerful and with a phone feature, I'll have to test this right away.
Of course the mandatory unboxing video can't be missed. So very quickly:

How about the Specs?

● Display: 8.9", 1920*1200 IPS(16:10)
● Touch Panel: Capacitive  10-touch
● CPU: MTK 6592 Cortex A7,1.7GHz,Octa-core CPU
● GPU: Mali 450 MP
● System: Android 4.2.2
● Camera: Front 2M, back 13M (app only uses 8MP) auto focus, flashlight
● WiFi: 802.11b/g/n (supports 2.4G & 5G WiFi)
● Internal 3G  built-in: yes, WCDMA+phone call
● Bluetooth 4.0: Yes
● Built-in GPS receiver
● Sensor: G-sensor, Gyro sensor, light sensor, e-compass
● Others: Micro SD slot, mic, speaker, MHL
● Housing material: metal +plastic back
● Price: 249€ (currently sold at $239 (!) in the US)


Antutu benchmark with around 28000 is impressive for such a device.I could not manage to archive the promised 30000 promoted on the official page, but it's close enough.

21.73 sec elapsed time / 1000000 digits
for comparision Galaxy Tab P1000: 108.41 sec / 1000000 digits

Real Life Performance

Much more important than the benchmarks are the real life usage.
Everything feels fluent, no slow downs, even with intense games like Asphalt 8, it works great. At some point you really feels the octa-core, because background tasks won't interfere much, even though normal apps are not specifically built for eight cpu cores. The Mali 450 MP GPU makes a good job and is a logical choice for the Mediatek 6592 CPU. With 2GB of DDR3 RAM, the processors can work at full speed and assures usage of modern apps. Switching between apps works quickly. So all in all it's a fine, responding and quick experience even on the installed Android 4.2.2. Now imagine this with KitKat 4.4, which will arrive soon.
The UI is pretty much stock Android. There are some little tweaks in the settings and in some apps. Only 4 additional apps were installed that can be removed. So no bloatware on the device. Great!
The battery is one of its kind. 7300 mAh gives enough juice to run for days(!). I had this tablet under heavy usage for 2 days. At the second charge I failed to bring down the battery under 49% on day 2. This is amazing. 

Display & Camera
This 8.9" IPS Samsung PLS Screen 10-Point Touch 1920*1200, 254 PPI is really something. It's clear, crisp and sharp. The colors looks brilliant. Outside, even on a sunny day, you can read the display without much trouble. It's responsive and there is no "missing touches" like on many other, cheaper displays. I'm really curious how Pipo could hold this price with such a display.
The 13 MP camera on the back is outstanding for a tablet. The quality is okay. The front facing camera with 2MP is just enough to make selfies and video chats. The software for the back camera has a lot of options, but can only save photos up to 8MP. I can not tell you exactly why, but I'll guess it's to spare for the zoom that you can use on both cameras. Expect this to be changed on further updates of the OS. Because of this, however, even you you zoom in slightly, the quality will not get any worse until the 13MP resolution is reached. The lens focus feels like zoomed on both cameras. It's not the common wide range lens. On close ups it's annoying, but if you point it to objects far away it's an advantage. 

Phone Usage
Like mentioned, it has phone functionality, which is best done via a headset. You can however, speak free without a headset. There is a micro and good enough speakers built in. As soon as you invoke the dialpad, it's the common experience of Jelly Bean, and feels like a giant phone. The quality is good enough, and people won't complain about bad sound.

GPS, eCompass & Sensors
Cheer up Geocachers. With this thingy, you can navigate through the woods. The GPS is accurate, with 4m accuracy tested at a window (!) in a city with buildings around. Devices like the old P1000 Galaxy Tab only gets about 20m accuracy here. This is magic. I can only assume the GPS module has more room than in most phones and so it gets better reception. If even this fails, you have a eCompass, which is very unusual for a tablet. That means you still can get a bearing. Together with c:geo, which is a complete new feeling looking at those spoiler photos, and GCC, it's a great experience for geocachers. But one warning: It#s not in any kind water resistant. So don't play around with this in the rain.
All other common sensors are also there like a light sensor, Gyroscope and G-sensor.

Details & Cons
The device feels not cheap. There is a metal (!) back, surrounded by plastic. The front is completely glass, only a very thin frame is plastic. So it feels like a much more expensive tablet.
Curiously it has a DC power plug in. Yes, the small round pin :). First it seems to be illogical, but this thing needs power to charge. 7300mAh battery doesn't charge fast enough with normal USB-connectors. And this will let you charge quickly and connect to a Computer at the same time. However you can charge it via the micro-usb connector, too. It's located together with the sim-card slot and microsd-card (up to 32GB) behind a lid. This is something I can't understand. The lid is a real head-scratcher.

Audio quality for music and headphone output is not as good as the rest. The sound has a lot of digitally artifacts at some frequencies.Headsets are not being recognized probably. The only one that I got to work together as it should is a original Sony headset for the Xperia Neo V. I'm pretty sure this is a software problem and will get fixed. The same goes for Bluetooth audio and headset, which is at this point, unusable due to horrible dropouts.

This tablet is too big for a phablet. But it's a phone, too. The quality is decent. Much better you would expect from a cheap Chinese device. Together with the high specs it's an alternative to tablets up to $400 easily. And some which even higher prices still struggle to beat this sometimes. A few small glitches with audio and Bluetooth software can't ruin the fun. You'll get very good tablet for a very good price. And this proves that a Chinese tablet can be great. I think we'll see more from Pipo under different names very soon.  

Low light shots. Left without, right with device zoom

Regular shot with normal light conditions indoor

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The New Google+ App is Great With a Problem

This morning I've got my Google+ Update. And the new design is not bad. I like it somehow. But there is a fundamental problem with this. Inconsistency**.

No, I don't mean in comparison with other Google apps. They all can get updated and probably will in June at Google I/O 2014. I mean that only a few month back, Google pushed hard for the "Hamburger" menu at the top left side. I thought this was a great move. Now that menu is gone again. Menus are keep moving around the screen every few month. This isn't good.
People tend to getting used to the UI. A slighty better UI is more annoying for people than a "not so good" design they are using. You can easily discover that by putting a Windows only user behind the best UI ever. They will feel it's crap. Everything is different, they don't want to learn again and again. And boy, this new G+ app design is different.

Some features are apparently gone. But they hide in submenus, or in ridiculous small font lines at the bottom inconsistent in the same menu. The main function, to write a post, even hides as an overlay button. How long until people jokingly put buttons in their photos to drive people insane (hey, good idea :) )?
The only thing really got improved is the way you can add photos to your G+ postings. Even a live preview camera thumbnail is available. Nice!

But to say it like this: A very nice design, that brings nothing more on functionality and changes the way you use G+ on mobile again. And the guidelines with the "Hamburger" menu? Please, Google, don't take this away everywhere. It was so good. This menu is... a mess.

** I rarely criticize Google-Updates. Normally I don't chime in on the "OMG, they ruined it". And they didn't ruined it. It's just so annoying and illogical to use.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Is The "OnePlus One" The New Samsung?

The best Android phone? The new Samsung? Are the Chinese taking over the phone market now?
These question could come to your mind if you followed the amazing PR in the last weeks. A little startup from China promises to get out the best Android phone for a ridiculously cheap price. How can this happen? It's almost hard to believe it will happen at all. But the release date is set for the 2nd Quarter 2014.
Can OnePlus succeed?

Here we go. The specs are reading like a dream:

  • Snapdragon 801 QuadCore 2.5 Ghz
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 3 GB RAM
  • 16 or 64 GB eMMC 5.0
  • 5.5" IPS Display 1080p (401 ppi)
  • 13MP Back camera (Sony Exmor) 6 lenses
  • 5MP(!) Front camera
  • noise cancellation
  • CyanogenMod 11S (Android 4.4 based)
  • Weight: 162 g
  • 3g/4g LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • NFC
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 3100 mAh battery
And the price? $699 would be cheap. But you know it's $299 for the 16GB and $349 for the 64(!) GB version.
Take a deep breath. So far so good. It's available tomorrow. But there are some things that are suspicious. Of course you need to be very skeptical. It looks very good though that this is the real thing. But there is that strange invitation thing. Really? Selling through invitations? I know they might do that to hold the capacity for producing it, but I don't know if an invitation system is the right thing to do. This can very quickly spark up a big hate against that phone if you can't get it for your money. On the other site, invites can get out of control, too.
Another thing is the question how they can make this price? I read about some theories, but the most likely is that they don't make any profit on this. Maybe they even lose money. This is nothing uncommon. Google does that with the Nexus line already. But a startup? Sure they could do this to bring up the brand. And it worked. Worldwide the OnePlus one did ignite a wave of positive reports  and people are hysterical about it.
The company itself is marketing it as the "Flagship Killer", obviously a pun at Samsung. And they even have a campaign "Smash the past". Where you can get this phone for $1 if you smash your old phone to pieces. And the social media? It's going nuts. The company tweeted their presentation live, and it got a good chunk of attention on the networks.

So how are the chances for them? Well, one does not rebuild Samsung in a few month :). But his devices, if it's in your hand for real, has the potential to be a great start for OnePlus and their further products. They have all the attention now. If they can keep up with their promises and get a phone out with a decent build quality with that price point, it's sure a game changer in the long run. And we all know China will be big in mobile in the coming years. Very big.

Personally, I'm at least irritated enough to rethink my plans to buy a new phone. I wanted to buy a new device in May. Now I'm undecided. This is very, very luring.

Photo Source: OnePlus One [via Twitter] / © by OnePlus. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Motorola Reflections: Reality Is Strange. What You Forgot, Never Happened

Yes it's a philosophical thing. What is forgotten, never happened. If no memories are left, there is no way to prove that something happened in first place. Maybe that is why some desperately trying to clear things out of people minds, or out of Google's auto complete. And maybe some people at Google now wishes the Motorola deal would have never happened. Was it a fail? No, it fulfilled its purpose.

The news when Motorola was bought from Google, was a big deal. First some stated it was only for the patents, but then the Moto Line came out. It was clear that, despite the over-presented American patriotism for this company, the lack of tech specs that shakes the competition, would lead to a good, but not overwhelming number of sold devices. Mid-range, with the only real highlight the configurable back cover, it wasn't tempting for everyone.

And now another big news broke. Google will sell Motorola Mobility to Lenovo, if the Chinese and US authorities are okay with this deal. But without the patents. Oh! Yes, Google will keep the important patents and licensing it to Lenovo. Now, you can say what you want, but this smells like the old thinking was true. It was all about the patents.
And thats why it's still not a disaster to buy a company for $12.5 billion and sell it for $2.9 billion not even 2 years later. The deal was done and completed like intended. Sure, I'm not saying with the Moto X and Moto G being a success, Google wouldn't have kept Motorola Mobility. But with this numbers, it costs Google even more money to keep it.
Lenovo now wants to position Motorola against Apple in their home market.

And people will forget about this news quickly. Then nobody knows that Lenovo, a Chinese company, bought Motorola. And the company will keep living on with that American patriotism that Lenovo needs to get a stake in the US market. The Motorola deal? It never happened.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Does Google go the Apple-Way with KitKat 4.4 ?

Important features are missing in updates to +Android 4.4 KitKat. NOt even the launcher is the same. Transparent in status line and soft keys are missing. Is this the start of Google doing it the Apple-way and leaving out features for older devices?
I have to say I'm upset about this. For me the most important updates are the ones I feel and see. Personally I do not care much about the Launcher, which is basically the search app, because of doubts about spying out my usage behaviour, but the transparent status line on top and the ugly onscreen buttons on the bottom. Believe it or not, I want it. It's a totally new user experience and gives you the feeling you just have a new device with a bigger screen.
In addition to this, having the left-swipe Google Now permanently on the desktop is also a main improvement.

This is not cool. The Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 are totally able to handle all the features very well. What is Google doing?
The Google Experience Launche (GEL) is said to be available for those devices afterwards. That is not very soothing. First of all, Google never said officially something about a "Google Experience Launcher". And second, it doesn't sound good to have the transparent effect on launcher level only. This should have been integrated on a deeper level of the OS. And it's not even assured that the GEL really brings transparency to the N4 and N7.
And in the end, people will get totally confused, having to install a launcher to get the latest Android experience. It's okay to make it uninstallable. But it needs to be there by default on a Nexus device. Period!

All in all this is not a good development. I always hating this fraud from Apple, to tell users they have the "new OS" and in reality it's something different than the real devices. +Google , you can do better than this. And by the way, what about the open source status of the GE launcher?

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