Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Samsung's Galaxy Mega phablet

Samsung's Galaxy Mega phablet: Will it fly in the U.S.?

Samsung on Monday confirmed that the Galaxy Mega, a 6.3-inch phablet, is coming to the U.S. and targeting folks who want a hybrid smartphone meets tablet.

In a nutshell, the Galaxy Mega is a larger version of the Galaxy S4. The features on the Mega and S4 roughly match. The Galaxy Mega also has an 8-megapixel camera, runs Android 4.2.2 and has enterprise features under SAFE (Samsung for Enterprise).

Initially, the Galaxy Mega will be available on AT&T, Sprint and U.S. Cellular.

The big question here is whether the Galaxy Mega will find a base of customers. The device will be too large for a pocket, but may take some of the market that would gravitate to a 7-inch tablet.

Samsung's strategy is fairly clear when it comes to its mobile devices: Carpet bomb the market with screens of various sizes. A 7-inch tablet may leave someone out so why not go for a 6.3-inch screen.

Samsung's throw every screen size against the wall strategy appears a little nutty, but so far it has worked out pretty well. At some point, Samsung will hit a screen-size wall. It remains to be seen if the Galaxy Mega is that wall---at least in the U.S.

iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s

iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s: Connecting up the dots in Apple's plans

With Apple expected to launch new hardware next month, the rumour frenzy is building, but by now the speculation is coalescing into a comprehensible and even believable pattern: that Apple is likely to unveil two iPhones at an event in September: one premium model (thought to be called the iPhone 5s) and an economy sidekick (the iPhone 5c). It may even throw in an unexpected bonus by adding gold to its range of device colours.

But whatever Apple actually unveils, it will have to deal with a shifting smartphone landscape, marked by growing competition and fresh challenges. Here are some of the priorities that Apple needs to tackle — regardless of what colour its next handset turns out to be.

Turning dumbphones into iPhone fans

It may come as a surprise to those of us inside the high-tech filter bubble, but there are still some people out there who don't have a smartphone. In fact, there are quite a few, even in the US and western Europe (and plenty, plenty more in emerging markets). Persuading them that now is the time to make the jump from feature phone to smartphone, and chose Apple when they do, must be a top priority for Apple.

But it's not going to be easy: in a survey commissioned by Fortune, Samsung was found to be attracting more first-time smartphone buyers upgrading from feature phones (37 percent) than Apple (26 percent). An entry-level iPhone model that can trade on the cachet of Apple's premium brand could certainly help here, especially in developing markets. 

Taking on Android, and defending the iOS app ecosystem

Android phones continue to utterly dominate the smartphone market: Android increased its lead to 79 per cent of the market in the second quarter of this year (up from 64.2 percent in the second quarter of 2012), according to data from analyst Gartner, while iOS held a 14 percent share. It's a tough fight — Apple's family of (very similar) handsets versus pretty much the rest of the mobile industry.

And what of apps? While Apple users may spend more on their apps, Android users download on average the same amount per device, per month — and there are far more Android users out there. That means Android is becoming a more attractive development platform than it has been previously, analyst Benedict Evans points out. "This is a major strategic threat for Apple. A key selling point for the iPhone (though not the only one) is that the best apps are on iPhone and are on iPhone first," Evans writes on his website.

His answer: a cheaper iPhone to push up market share and protect the broader app ecosystem.

Laying the foundations for the next big thing

While it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Gear will be the first of the new generation of smartwatches to hit the market, there has been the constant tick-tock of leaks and rumours that suggest an iWatch is on its way.

But apart from the 'quantified self' fans, there's not a clear demand for smartwatches (or Google Glass either) yet. That means Apple needs to start laying the foundations for wearable devices and explaining why anyone ought to care.

Elsewhere, there's plenty of speculation that Apple will finally add the long-expected biometrics to its next iPhone. As my ZDNet colleage Jason O'Grady points out, adding biometrics could (assuming the implementation is decent) open the way for a whole new range of mobile payments applications.
Stop the average selling price slide

But while Apple's sales have continued to grow, the company has faced a significant drop in the average selling price (ASP) of its smartphones: despite the iPhone 5 being the most popular model, its ASP declined to the lowest figure registered by Apple since the iPhone's launch in 2007, thanks to strong sales of the iPhone 4, according to analysts Gartner.

The declining ASP suggests a need for a new flagship model, but introducing a new lower-priced model alongside could risk even greater cannibalisation than is happening with the iPhone 4. Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta has warned: "Despite being seen as the less expensive sibling of the flagship product, it would represent a new device with the hype of the marketing associated with it." Launching a premium model and an economy handset could reduce the risk, but Apple has to get the balance between the two right.

Regaining momentum and defeating iPhone fatigue

It's incredibly hard to deliver major innovations in the smartphone realm, but following the underwhelming iPhone 5 launch, Apple needs to come up with something better than a gold iPhone to regain its momentum.

And much of its competition are currently quite invigorated: Samsung has done a good job with layering additional services on top of Android on the S4, the Motorola Moto X has some interesting new ideas and even BlackBerry's BlackBerry 10 operating system looks surprisingly elegant: Apple needs to leapfrog all of these. That iOS 7 has dumped the tired skeuomorphics of previous iterations suggests a step in the right direction.

Nokia Lumia 625 Review

Nokia Lumia 625 Review: Big screen, small specs, low price

Nokia recently released their largest display in a Windows Phone device, 4.7 inches, on the Nokia Lumia 625. However, the affordable cost means most of the internals were cut down to support the large display strategy.


The Nokia Lumia 625's primary focus is the large display. It comes in at 4.7 inches with a resolution of 800x480 pixels (201 ppi), which is the resolution of the first generation of Windows Phone devices. It is an IPS LCD with super sensitive touch technology. Windows Phone displays have always looked great, even at this resolution. I've been spoiled lately by higher res displays and we expect that even higher resolution displays are around the corner for Nokia and Windows Phone. While the large display doesn't have very high resolution, it is still well designed with glass that curves down all the edges to give it a great look and feel.

I was sent an orange Lumia 625 to check out and note that you can also buy them in black, white, yellow, and green. The color is only on the back shell piece that also wraps around all the edges. Starting from the bottom front you can pop off the back and see that you can exchange the one that comes with the device with another color if you want to change out the look of your device. The plastic shell feels quite durable and gives the device a rather rugged appeal.

When you pull off the back you will see that there is an interesting SIM card and microSD card slot arrangement where they are stacked on top of each other on the right side. The battery is not removable, but I see a few screws on the back and imagine you may be able to take it apart to replace the battery down the road.

Nokia has a focus on imaging, but the camera is pretty basic on the Lumia 625. It comes with a 5 megapixel camera without Carl Zeiss optics or anything too fancy. The front facing camera is also a measly VGA quality camera. Photos from the rear camera don't look bad though and are perfectly acceptable for social networks and digital sharing.

All the traditional Windows Phone buttons are on the right side, the headphone jack is on the top, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. There is nothing on the left side. The small flash is found just to the left of the camera lens centered on the upper back.

Like original Windows Phone devices, the Lumia 625 is responsive and I did not notice any lag or performance issues. With just 512 MB of RAM though, I wouldn't count on being able to play lots of high end games. You are limited by the integrated storage of only 8GB, but you can store media on a microSD card.


The Nokia Lumia 625 ships with Windows Phone 8 and the latest Nokia Amber update. This includes software such as Nokia Smart Camera, HERE Maps suite, Nokia Music, FM radio, Nokia Video Trimmer, and Nokia Video Upload to YouTube.

The device is currently not available in the US, but is being sold as an international unlocked device. With the evaluation AT&T SIM card in the device, AT&T featured apps appear in the Windows Phone Store so you can install them if you desire. There are no AT&T apps installed by default though.

I have covered Windows Phone quite a bit over the past three years and there is nothing particularly new or unique in the Nokia Lumia 625.
Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences and the specifications of the Lumia 625, here are my pros and cons.

  • Affordable price
  • MicroSD memory card expansion slot
  • Latest Windows Phone 8 software
  • Excellent Nokia apps and services
  • Durable and colorful shell
  • Low resolution display
  • Limited RAM
  • Low internal storage memory
  • No wireless charging
Pricing and availability

The Nokia Lumia 625 is not being sold in the US by any carrier. However, you can find it from importers, including for just $342.50 at Negri Electronics. It is not yet available in other countries, but is coming soon.
The competition

Most Windows Phones are 4.3 or 4.5 inches in size and the Lumia 625 is the largest display device so far. There are plenty of large screen Android devices, but few that are as affordable as the Lumia 625. If you need a large display for viewing content then the Lumia 625 is a good low-priced option.

As you can see in the raw specifications, there were several trade-offs made to lower the price of the Nokia Lumia 625.
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.2 GHz processor
  •  512 MB RAM
  •  8GB internal storage and microSD card slot
  •  4.7 inch 800x480 pixels resolution IPS LCD
  •  5 megapixel camera and VGA front facing camera
  •  802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE
  •  2,000 mAh removable battery
  •  Dimensions of 133.2 x 72.2 x 9.2 mm and 159 grams

The Nokia Lumia 625 isn't going to blow you away and isn't going to compete for the best Windows Phone title. However, it is designed to be a low cost Windows Phone with a large display and it succeeds in that regard. I am giving it a rating based in large part on the low price that goes along with the device. If we look at the Lumia 625 across the entire Windows Phone spectrum, not considering price, then I would give it a 5 out of 10.

Moto X's Software features

Verizon Droid Maxx hands on: Moto X's software features, but better hardware

I received a Verizon Droid Maxx to test out yesterday and after just a few hours of use I think this Droid may have me reactivating my Verizon account soon. It has all of the cool software features of the Moto X, but it's a better piece of hardware.

Moto X features in the Droid Maxx

A lot has been written of the slick software features in the Moto X so I was pleased to see them also appearing in the Droid Maxx. You will find the following in the Maxx:

    Active Notifications: Notifications for most apps can be selected to appear on the display when it is off. You can then swipe up to jump right to the application. Sleep mode is also managed in the Active Notifications settings.
    Motorola Connect: You can use your Google account to connect to your phone from a computer. This is a great way to stay connected via text messaging while your phone is put away.
    Touchless Control: The "OK Google Now" functionality from the Moto X is fully supported on the Droid Maxx.
    Launch camera with a twist: The ability to launch the camera by twisting the phone with your wrist twice is provided on the Droid Maxx.
    Motorola Assist: The Assist utility lets you manage what actions take place while driving, in meetings, and while sleeping at night. It is a smart utility that I will be using daily.

You will also find an additional feature called Droid Zap that lets you easily share photos and videos wirelessly to anyone in the area with the Droid Zap application loaded on their Android phone. The recipient, or sender for that matter, do not have to be using a Droid.

Why is the Droid Maxx hardware better than the Moto X?

I am getting used to the Moto X hardware a bit more, but still find the device to have a mid-range feel and some fit-and-finish issues (sloppy buttons and raised SIM door). The Droid Maxx definitely has a more premium feel with solid fit and finish. The glass display extends all the way to the edges and curves down into the sides; the Kevlar soft touch back feels great in your hand; the buttons are solid with ridges to help you manipulate them; and the SIM card is ingeniously hidden under the volume rocker switch.

In terms of hardware specifications, the Droid Maxx beats the Moto X in the following ways:

    Wireless charging: Nokia has spoiled me with wireless charging and I now have Qi devices in my home office, bedroom, and work office so the convenience of just setting my phone down to charge is a bonus.
    Battery: The Droid Maxx has a 3,500 mAh battery, the Moto X battery is 2,200 mAh.

The two Motorola smartphones have the same custom Motorola X8 processor, same display resolution, 2GB of RAM, 10 megapixel camera, and same version of the operating system. The Droid Maxx weighs in at a hefty 5.86 ounces while the Moto X is just 4.59 ounces. I have large hands and, if the battery is as great as advertised, the additional weight is worth it to me.

The Droid Maxx is assembled in China, whereas the Moto X -- assembled in the US -- offers AT&T customers the ability to customize the casing colors. The Droid Maxx looks to be an amazing business phone while the Moto X may be more fashionable and pocketable for the masses.

As I wrote last month when the Droids were announced, I never really considered picking up a Droid device. After just a day, though, I am already thinking the Droid Maxx may become my prime Android device.

I performed the initial full charge and am now seeing how long I can go between charges. With a reported 48 hour usable battery life, if this thing can go a day or two with my extreme 4:15 am to 11:00 pm time period then I may not be able to resist. No other phone can really go for this long without some kind of charge or limit in what I use it for.

As I work on my full review of the Droid Maxx, please let me know if there is anything specific you want me to check out.

Tag Cloud

More Details here
Blogger Widgets