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Friday, June 27, 2014

Google's next version of Android 'L' release has a new look, deeper ties to the web

KitKat may have only found its way onto roughly 15 percent of phones at this point, but that won't stop Google from looking to the future. The new version, teased by Sundar Pichai is simply being referred to as the "L" release right now. As previous leaks have indicated, this will be the most dramatic UI overhaul the OS has enjoyed since Ice Cream Sandwich debuted back in 2011. The heart of this overhaul is called Material Design -- aflatter look, with rounder elements and softer edges that will extend beyond tablets and phones to Chrome OS and Google's various web services. You can see some of the new design philosophy at work already in the latest version of the Google+ app on Android. But it goes beyond that. Shapes are simplified and there are smooth transition animations across the UI. And those animations aren't just inside apps; they can also be between apps. For instance, you could view an image in the photo gallery, and then choose to open it in a third-party editor. Rather than laboriously closing the gallery and then opening the editor, the image itself could appear to float above the apps and simply shift into the second app, which is already open to the editing pane. Developers can also add the illusion of depth by adding "elevation" which automatically stacks visual elements appropriately and adds drop shadows.

Of course, if the only new thing was a face-lift, it wouldn't be all that exciting. But there are also plenty of new features. Not that there was anything wrong with notifications in KitKat, but there's always room for improvement. In L, you'll be able to interact with notifications, right from your lock screen. That can include quickly swiping them away or double-tapping on the notification to head straight into the relevant app. The notifications aren't ordered simply chronologically anymore either; they're sorted by relevance and importance, which is determined by a number of details, like the source app, etc... For truly important events, Google has introduced heads-up notifications, which pop interactive notifications over your current task. In a demo, an incoming call showed up at the top of the screen while Dave Burke, director of engineering for Android, was playing a game. He could simply ignore the pop up completely, or he could tap the options to accept or dismiss the call.

Obviously, if you have a secure lock screen, it might be a little tough to actually get excited about those notifications. But L will also introduce Trusted Environments, which allow you to access the phone without the hassle of pattern or PIN codes, but still leave you feeling secure that your data won't be accessible to others. The authentication can come in many forms. For instance, it could be connected to your fancy new Android Wear watch. When the phone is within a foot of your G Watch or 360, it would function normally. But if it moved beyond that distance, it could automatically batten down the hatches to keep ne'er-do-wells out.

One of the more intriguing changes is the deeper tie to the web and Chrome. The new recents interface will pull in not just apps you've launched, but also tabs you've opened on your desktop. And, developers can make links go to apps instead a web page. So, if you search for a restaurant on your laptop, the recent menu won't simply open up a web page, but could launch directly into the Yelp reviews.

Then there's the ART runtime, the software library that actually makes all your pretty little apps work. ART brings a whole bunch of advantages: Apps should run significantly quicker, and in particular, they should launch much faster. It should also increase battery life because Android will be wasting less processing power decompressing apps. ART is also built to support 64-bit mobile chips that are just starting to hit the market. Those processors, combined with the proper software support, should bring additional performance enhancements and power savings. And, if you still find yourself wishing for a longer battery life, there's a new battery saver mode than can extend standby time by up to 90 minutes by turning off unessential services.

L is also where Google is making a serious push into enterprise by embracing the bring-your-own-device culture. There will be new APIs specifically designed to allow personal and work data to live side by side with minimum inconvenience. But Google will also package these features as standalone apps; this way even users still on KitKat in a few months will be able to take advantage. The security and enterprise tools are actually built on Samsung's Knox tech, which is officially part of the Android OS now.

Most importantly though, Android L is where Google's OS finally fulfills its promise of being everywhere. That means wearables, cars and TVs -- pretty much everywhere you could want access to Android's deep well of applications and voice controls. Developers will get access to L soon, but sadly there's no word yet about when it might come to consumers.

Source: Engadget

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

BlackBerry Z3 with 5-inch display launched in India at Rs 15,990

BlackBerry has launched its mid-range BlackBerry 10 smartphone - Z3 -in India at a price of Rs 15,990. The Z3 features a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor, 1.5 GB RAM, 8 GB internal memory (expandable upto 32 GB).

The phone features a 5-inch (540 x 960 qHD resolution) display and a 5 megapixel rear camera. Its rear camera is capable of making 1080p HD video recordings.

The BlackBerry Z3 is the first phone manufactured by Foxconn. The phone supports a few Android apps out of the box. Android apps can be downloaded directly from the Internet. However, not all Android apps are supported.

However, the firm saw its share fall as devices powered by Google's Android OS and Apple iPhones gained strong traction in the market and despite launching its BlackBerry 10 OS, it has so far failed to re-gain foothold in the market.

While analysts suggest that pricing could be a major issue, the Z3 ,with its features and affordable pricing, could play a crucial role in reviving the fortune of the firm, they added.

Popular especially among the youth for its Curve range of devices and messaging app BBM, India was a strong market for the Waterloo-based firm. It had a 12.1 per cent share of the smartphone market during January-June 2012 period.

Source: IBN

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Amazon launches the Fire phone with four front cameras to offer glasses-free 3D experience

 Amazon has unveiled its long-rumoured smartphone with free, unlimited photo storage, jumping into a crowded field dominated by Apple and Samsung. Named Fire, the phone has multiple cameras on the front.
Amazon's first-ever smartphone has Gorilla Glass 3 protection with a rubber frame, and its buttons are made of aluminium.
The new smartphone has a 4.7-inch LCD HD display that has 3D capabilities. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says images are typically flat, and Amazon wants to change that. You can rotate the phone around and get a different view depending on your angle of vision. He says the phone is basically redrawing the image 60 times per second. Bezos calls this "dynamic perspective."
The phone is smaller than leading Android phones, but larger than Apple's iPhone. CEO Jeff Bezos calls the screen, measuring 4.7 inches diagonally, ideal for one-handed use. The phone has a circular polariser that lets users look at it even outside at any angle, says Amazon.
The Amazon Fire has a glass back - something which we have already seen on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and Nexus 4.
Under the hood is a 2.2GHz quad-core processor with Adreno 330 graphics. The phone has 2GB of RAM, which has become a standard feature in high-end phones.
The Fire phone comes with a 13 megapixel rear camera with Optical Image Stabilisation to counteract shaking as people take shots. Amazon is offering unlimited free storage on its Cloud Drive service.
The phone has a dedicated camera shutter button to launch the camera app - the Sony Xperia Z2 also has a similar button. In fact, we have seen it on many phones in the past. It features dual-stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus.
Amazon says the phone will come with a pair of earphones that features a tangle-free design with flat cables and magnetic earbuds.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrated a new technology - Firefly - at the launch event. It recognises over a hundred million items including email addresses, books, movies, song, and URLs. Snap a photo of a book title, and it'll show you where to buy it. Listen to a song playing in the background, and it'll direct you to that tune on Amazon.
Firefly can even direct you to knowledge: Snap a shot of a painting, and it'll pull up a Wikipedia entry on it.
The new Firefly feature also lets you snap bar codes, phone numbers and more. Like the camera app, there is a dedicated physical button for Firefly too.
The Amazon Fire Phone will bring features found in other Amazon devices, such as X-Ray for supplemental content and Mayday for live tech support. There's also access to e-books to borrow for members of Amazon's $99-a-year Prime program.
The phone has an auto-scroll feature, so you can tilt the phone to let the text scroll. It's similar to a feature found in Samsung's Galaxy phones.
The phone will start at $199.99 for a 32-gigabyte storage version with a two-year contract on AT&T.

Size5.5" x 2.6" x 0.35" (139.2mm x 66.5mm x 8.9mm)
Weight5.64 ounces (160 grams)
Processor2.2GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU, with Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM
Display4.7" HD LCD display, with 1280 x 720 resolution at 315 ppi, 590 cd/m2 brightness (typical), 1000:1 contrast ratio (typical)
Cameras13 MP rear-facing camera, multi-frame HDR, auto focus, optical image stabilization, f/2.0 5-element wide aperture lens, LED flash
2.1 MP front-facing camera
OSFire OS 3.5.0
Storage32 GB or 64 GB
Cloud StorageFree cloud storage for all Amazon content, and photos taken with Fire phone
BatteryBattery size: 2400mAh. Talk time: up to 22 hours; standby time: up to 285 hours. Video playback: up to 11 hours; audio playback: up to 65 hours.
Video recording1080p HD video recording at 30 fps (front- and rear-facing cameras)
Audio playbackDual stereo speakers with Dolby Digital Plus audio processing
TV and VideoSupports screen mirroring and Second Screen
Content formats supportedAudio: Dolby Digital (AC-3), Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3), non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, PCM/WAVE, AAC LC/ELD, HE-AAC (v1 & v2), AMR-NB, AMR-WB, AMR-WB+, Audible Enhanced format (AAX); Video: MPEG4, VP8, H.264/MPEG4/AVC,MPEG4 SP, H.263,AVI,HDCP2.x, PlayReady DRM; Images: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, GIF87a,GIF89a; Viewable docs: PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, DOC, DOCX, Kindle (AZW), KF8, TXT
SensorsDynamic Perspective sensor system with invisible infrared illumination, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, barometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
LocationGPS, Assisted GPS, GLONASS, Wi-Fi/Cellular location, and Digital compass
CellularUMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz), Quad-band GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), 9 bands of LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20), supports carrier aggregation
Connectivity802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, up to 300 Mbps with channel bonding; Bluetooth 3.0 wireless technology; NFC enabled
HeadphonesPremium, tangle-free headphones with remote and mic
Rating for hearing aidsM4, T4
SIM CardPre-installed Nano SIM card
PortsMicro USB 2.0
3.5mm headphone
Warranty and Service1-year Limited Warranty included. Use of Fire phone is subject to these terms
Included in the BoxAmazon Fire Phone with Fire OS 3.5.0
Headphones with remote and mic
Micro USB to USB charging cable
USB power adapter (5W)
Quick Start Guide

Source: IBN

Monday, June 16, 2014

India's cheapest Android 4.4 (KitKat) smartphone launched at Rs 2,999

Indian handset maker Celkon has launched its Campus A35K smartphone in the country for Rs 2,999 in an exclusive partnership with online marketplace Snapdeal.com.

Touted as the cheapest Android 4.4 (Kitkat)-based smartphone, the handset has dual-sim slot and is powered by a 1GHz processor with 256MB of RAM, it said in a statement.

With a 3.5-inch display, the Campus A35K sports a 3.2-megapixel rear camera, 0.3MP front-facing camera and 512MB in-built storage (supporting expandable storage up to 32GB). The device supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, microUSB, and A-GPS connectivity options, along with 3G.

Android 4.4 (Kitkat) is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. While the market is flooded with devices based on the previous generation of Android OS, handset makers are now focusing on launching devices based on the latest release.

Handsets like LG's Nexus 5, Moto X, Moto G, Karbonn Titanium Hexa and Lava Iris X1 are based on Kitkat. Another homegrown firm Intex has also announced that it will launch an Android-powered device priced under Rs 10,000.

Source: TOI

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Oppo Find 7: A smartphone with a 5.5-inch QHD display, 13 MP camera launched in India

Oppo has announced the launch of its new Find 7 smartphone in India. The 4G-enabled Oppo Find 7 is claimed to be the first smartphone in India that sports a 5.5-inch inch Quad HD screen with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and 538 ppi display.

The Find 7 comes with the VOOC fast charging technology i.e., a five minute charge allows the Find 7 to support a two-hour call. A 30 minute charge gets the Find 7 to 75 per cent of full battery, claims the company.

The phone is powered by Qualcomm's 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 Quad Core (MSM8974AC) processor.

The smartphone runs its proprietary OS called ColorOS, which is based on Android 4.3.

The Find 7 has 32GB of internal storage; its memory is expandable up to 128GB.

The Find 7 is equipped with the latest stacked IMX214 CMOS sensor from Sony and has a 13 megapixel camera.

The Find 7 also gives users a video experience at 4K resolution with HDR and slow motion capabilities.

The Skyline Notification on the Find 7 produces a blue oscillating light to alert you of notifications.

It has 3 GB RAM, 3,000 mAh battery, and a 5 megapixel front camera.

The Find 7 is priced at Rs 37990.

Source: IBN

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gionee Elife S5.5 review: Slim is in

Gionee made headlines when it announced the world's slimmest smartphone, Elife S5.5, during the Mobile World Congress earlier this year. While new slimness records are made and broken every year, this slim warrior also boasts of powerful hardware under the hood, a full-HD display and an attractive price tag. So, is Elife S5.5 a no-compromise phone? We've been using the phone for the last few days and will try to answer this question in our review.

Build & Design
Gionee Elife S5.5 is available in a number of colours, but we got a black coloured one as our review unit. It is certain that when you take Elife S5.5 out of its box, the first thing that strikes you is the phone's super-sleek form factor.

It looks like a bar of chocolate. It's amazing how Gionee has managed to reduce the thickness of the phone to just 5.5mm and squeezed in hardware components further. It sports a unibody design so you can't remove the battery.

The phone doesn't only look sleek but also premium and solidly-built thanks to the use of materials like glass and magnesium alloy. The frame that holds the phone is made of the alloy with inserts for antenna at the edges.

The front features the 5.5-inch display, capacitive touch button for navigation, the front camera and the sensor array.

The shiny, all-glass back has a glossy finish and has a small, raised strip at the top left that features the camera lens and an LED flash. Even the back has Gorilla Glass protection to guard against scratches. However, we feel a matte finish rear would have been more helpful to go with the thinness and for better grip.

There's minimal branding at the back. The right edge sports the volume rocker and power keys that offer good tactile feedback and look nice. The left edge houses the micro-sim card tray. The 3.5mm headset jack is at the bottom edge and the micro-USB port sits at the top.

Gionee S5.5 sports a 5-inch Full-HD Super AMOLED display that offers vivid albeit over-saturated colours. However, the black levels are very good and the display looks gorgeous with black themed apps and wallpapers. It comes with Gorilla Glass Class 3 coating to guard against scratches.

Brightness levels are great and we didn't encounter any problems using the phone in sunlight. Even the viewing angles are pretty good. We'll not hesitate to say that it's one of the most gorgeous displays we've seen recently, if one can ignore the over-saturated colours.

This is one area where the world's slimmest phone loses points. We fail to understand why Gionee doesn't offer the latest release of Android with its new phones. Perhaps the Amigo 2.0 skin that it uses takes time to deploy.

While the UI featured on Elife S5.5 looks slightly different from the previous version of the software, it's still laggy and full of jarring transition effects and animations. It comes with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, an older version of the OS with Gionee's Amigo UI on top which is very different from stock Android. It also adds support for the double-tap to wake up gesture. For a complete review of Gionee's UI, you can check out our Elife E7 review.

We wish Gionee removes unnecessary visual effects and optimizes the software for the hardware. Of course, you can use an alternative launcher to make things better. We tried using Google Now launcher, but observed considerable amount of lag.

Gionee Elife S5.5 comes with a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front-facing camera. During our use, we found the camera to be underwhelming particularly compared to Gionee Elife E7 which sports a great camera. Pictures shot in daylight were kind of underexposed and lacked punch. Colour reproduction was reasonably accurate and close-up shots were good.

Pictures taken in less light turned out to be grainy and light sources appear to be distorted. Focusing takes time and is often a little tricky.

Videos recorded with the phone were above average, but we again encountered issues while trying to focus.

The front camera clicks good quality selfies and is great for video chats.

Gionee has included two custom camera apps, Camera and CharmCam. The Camera app is the primary app that lets you switch between a simple mode and a professional mode.

The professional mode features settings for Picture Size, Exposure value, White Balance and ISO, in addition to toggles for self-timer, HDR, Panorama, Face detection, and scene selection that are also included in the simple mode. An interesting inclusion is a level meter that helps in avoiding tilted captures. It also allows you to take burst shots.

The other app, CharmCam, features live filters to apply effects, and various shooting modes, including Face beauty, an Eraser mode for removing objects from photos, and even a PPT mode for capturing slideshows, among others.

Gionee Elife S5.5 is powered by a MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor and 2GB RAM. The phone boasts of powerful hardware yet its performance was a mixed bag. We noticed minor lag while launching and switching between apps and even while browsing multimedia content in the gallery. The major culprit for underwhelming performance is the software which has not been optimized to take advantage of the hardware.

In synthetic benchmarks, the phone scored 26,573 in Antutu, 14,552 in Quadrant, 2391 in Geekbench 3(Multi-core) and 57.2 in Nenamark 2 benchmark tests. Some of these are less than the ones scored by Micromax Canvas Knight, another MediaTek octa-core smartphones.

But we'd not recommend a phone based solely on benchmarks as real world performance can be different at times.

Another department where the phone disappoints is battery backup. The phone comes with a 2300mAh battery, but hardly sails through a full working day (9-10 hours) with moderate to heavy use.

The phone comes with 16GB storage, but unfortunately, it doesn't sport a microSD card slot. This means you'll need to live with the limited storage capacity of the phone. Elife E7 and E7 mini also don't come with a microSD card slot. Gionee must do something about this if it has to take Indian market seriously.

We were able to play most video and audio files on the phone without encountering problems. The phone offers good call quality and signal reception. It was able to lock to GPS without any hiccups.

The external speaker on the phone offers loud sound output. However, the sound gets muffled when the phone lies on its back, which is a problem with all such designs that place speakers at the back.

The phone is able to handle graphics-rich games without any hiccups, but multitasking becomes a bit sluggish if a lot of apps are running in the background due to less RAM. We were able to play games like Danger Dash. Asphalt 8 (with visual details set to 100%) and Riptide GP 2 without encountering any problems. However, we noticed that the phone gets heated up within a few minutes of playing graphics-heavy games.

Gionee Elife S5.5 never claims to be a flagship phone (Elife E7 enjoys that status). The phone's headline feature is its slim and sleek form factor and premium fit and finish. It surely lives up to it. It also looks more expensive than what it's priced at. Even in terms of performance, the phone has good potential as evident from its gaming prowess.

However, it is let down by Gionee's Amigo software layer which hampers smooth day-to-day operation. While we appreciate Gionee's efforts in bundling useful apps, we could really do without all the extra visual bells and whistles.

At a price of about Rs 23,000, Gionee Elife S5.5 is a good buy if you're looking for a phone that looks good and gives you a reason to boast about (at least till the time some other phone wins the race to be slimmest).

But if you're primarily looking for a smartphone that performs well, we'd recommend Motorola's Moto X. If you want a big screen phone in the same price range, you can also check out HTC Desire 816, which has an additional advantage of dual-sim (GSM+CDMA) functionality. Among other octa-core smartphones, the Micromax Canvas Knight is also an option that you could consider.

Source: TOI

Monday, June 2, 2014

Apple announces iOS 8 with widgets and OS X Continuity

 Apple on Monday announced an all-new iOS 8 for iPads and iPhones, and OS X Yosemite, the next version of its desktop operating system for Mac range of computers. However, it disappointed by not announcing any new hardware as was being expected.

Calling it 'the biggest release since the launch of the App Store, giving users new features and developers the tools to create new apps', the Cupertino giant listed out a number of new features that mark a virtual overhaul of the iOS to suit its new mobile devices that will get launched later this year.

Visually, iOS 8 isn't very different from iOS 7. But Apple said the OS delivers a simpler, faster and more intuitive user experience, and comes with new features like iCloud Photo Library, allowing users to access their photos and videos more easily across their devices.

Interestingly, using the new Messages feature a user can easily share voice, video or photos a la Whatsapp.

There is also an entirely new Health app that gives users a clear overview of their health and fitness data, all in one place. But Apple lovers were left disappointed as the company failed to announce any fitness device as of now.

iOS 8 also includes predictive typing for Apple's QuickType keyboard, and option of SWYPE-like keyboards.

Another nifty and much-demanded feature called Family Sharing has now been introduced.
Using Family Sharing, a iOS user can share all purchases, photos and calendars within the same household; and use iCloud Drive, so users can store files and access them from anywhere.

"iOS 8 offers simpler, faster and more intuitive ways to use your device with incredible new features like iCloud Photo Library, a new Messages app, the QuickType keyboard and an entirely new Health app," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering.

"We're also giving developers amazing new tools to make managing your health and your home from your devices an integrated, simple and secure experience."

The new iOS, as also the new OSX, come with a slew of new features and some that indicate Apple is keen to catch up on the ground it has lost to rival Android from Google.

The announcements were made at the WWDC 2014 (Worldwide Developers Conference), Apple's ongoing annual developer conference.

OS X Yosemite comes with a new, overhauled user interface, new apps and new continuity features that make working across Mac and iOS devices virtually seamless.

Apple will now offer iCloud Drive (which will be located in the Finder) to store files of any type. Basic plan for free iCloud storage, however, stays the same at 5 GB. But 20 GB onwards, the more affordable rates indicate Apple is keen to fight it out with Google in cloud storage arena for its users.

The new OS X offers a new Today view in Notification Center that gives a quick look at everything users need to know in one place, just like Notifications in iPhone. But it is doubtful if Mac users would want to use Notifications the way they use them on iPhone.

Safari has a new design that puts the most important controls at the front, but not much seems to have been done to it. Apple did, however, claim the tweaks have made it the fastest browser in the world.

OS X Yosemite also has Handoff that lets users start an activity on one device and pass it to the other. This means they can continue with that activity while on the move with their iOS device like iPad or iphone.

Instant Hotspot is another interesting feature that makes using the iPhone's hotspot as easy as connecting to a Wi-Fi network. Yosemite now also offers users the ability to make iPhone calls on your Mac.

Source: TOI

Samsung Launches Its First Tizen Smartphone, the Samsung Z

Samsung has finally launched its first Tizen smartphone, the Samsung Z. The new Tizen smartphone will be available initially in Russia starting Q3, and will be launched in other markets soon after.
The South Korean giant has revealed that it will be offering additional apps for Samsung Z users via the Tizen Store. The company in an attempt to lure more developers to its new Tizen ecosystem has announced a special promotional program for developers which will for one year.
Unfortunately, the company has not announced pricing details of the Samsung Z; though it can be expected to be announced in Q3. Samsung will be showcasing the new Tizen smartphone at the Tizen Developer Conference on June 3 in San Francisco.
Notably, the Samsung Z sports an angular design with lines, providing a differentiated look and feel from company's Android-based Galaxy range of smartphones. It will be available in two colours - Black and Gold. Much like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Samsung Z also features the Heart rate sensor, Fingerprint sensor, and S Health 3.0 app.
The Samsung Z is a single SIM device which runs the Tizen 2.2.1 OS out-of-the-box. It comes with a 4.8-inch (720x1280 pixels) HD Super AMOLED display. It is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM.
It comes with 16GB of inbuilt storage, which is further expandable via microSD card (up to 64GB). The Samsung Z sports an 8-megapixel autofocus rear camera with LED flash and BSI sensor, while there is a secondary 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera.
On the connectivity front, the Samsung Z includes 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi, Micro-USB, Bluetooth, GPS/ GLONASS, and NFC options. The smartphone packs a 2600mAh battery with an Ultra Power Saving Mode feature. The Samsung Z measures 138.2x69.8x8.5mm and weighs 136 grams.
Commenting on the launch of first Tizen smartphone, DJ Lee, President and Head of Global Sales and Marketing Office, Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics said, "Samsung is committed to enhancing the mobile experience of consumers with innovation that is both personal and unique to their needs. The Samsung Z integrates the power and adaptability of the Tizen platform, enabling users to browse the web faster and utilize applications more effectively."

Source: NDTV