BGR Crowns LG G3 'Android's New King'

July 25, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

Yesterday, BGR's Zach Epstein reviewed the new LG G3, which released in the U.S. this month.

Epstein points out that the G3 is in a "nice window of opportunity" right now, with hype surrounding the springtime releases of the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5 tailing off, and with Apple's iPhone 6 release still a couple months away.

Some highlights from Epstein's review:

  • Display: The G3 is the first widely available smartphone with a quad HD (2K) display. "It's incredible," he says.
  • Software: "LG has done a nice job of adding value to Google’s Android 4.4 software without being overbearing, (unlike Samsung's TouchWiz software)." He acknowledges there is some carrier bloatware on the device, however.
  • Industrial Design and UI:  "LG’s decision to move the power/sleep and volume buttons to the back of the handset gives the phone a fantastic look from the front, but they’re not terribly comfortable or convenient to use despite claims made in LG’s marketing."
  • Camera: "Focusing the G3’s 13-megapixel shooter is lightning fast thanks to laser-assisted focus, and it captures photos and videos that are very clear and vivid. Edges are nice and smooth, and color reproduction is also impressive. The camera features optical image stabilization as well, to help prevent blurring."
  • Two complaints: 1) The phone is gorgeous and sleek, but "feels plasticky" compared to the HTC One M8 or the iPhone 5S. 2) The phone is too big, at 5.76 inches tall by 2.94 inches wide and 0.35 inches thick.

Reviewers Call Amazon Fire Phone 'Gimmicky'

July 24, 2014   Comments

Amazon Fire Phone - Source: WIREDBy Allan Pulga

When Amazon announced the Fire Phone last month, it didn't seem all that revolutionary. Early reviews are confirming that.

Amazon touted the phone's key selling features "Dynamic Perspective" (a display that offers 3D-like visuals, pictured above) and "Firefly" (which lets you scan things to buy them online, and presumably on Amazon).

Here's what reviewers had to say about them, and the rest of the phone, this week. (It becomes available in the U.S. tomorrow, July 25, on AT&T.)

  • Adriana Lee, ReadWriteWeb: "App developers seem to be excited about the new things they might do with Firefly and Dynamic Perspective (just imagine it for gaming). But for now, these features aren’t much more than novelties that hit the battery. Hard."
  • Lee called the Fire Phone's battery life "pathetic." She also noted the phone is only available in the U.S. and on AT&T.
  • The Fire Phone runs a special version of Android, which ties the phone to its own app store, cutting out Google Play completely. This is bad for longtime Android users, who may have to re-download many apps. "Popular apps - like Google Maps and Google Drive - aren't even available."
  • Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica: "Dynamic Perspective, while not of a whole lot of practical use, is the kind of showroom feature a brand new phone like this needs to stand out. Firefly is just as impressive, and it's much more useful."
  • Cunningham praised FireOS' motion controls and said the camera and battery life are both pretty good. He also called Amazon Prime (free for the 1st year, a $99 value) and Cloud services "decent add-ons."
  • But should people buy the Fire Phone over competing devices? " For the time being, the answer is no," he says.
  • Geoffrey A. Fowler, Wall Street Journal: "The Fire (and its head-tracking controls) is the grown-up equivalent of a 9-year-old riding a bike with his hands in the air. "Look, Ma, no hands!" It's a neat gimmick, but it won't get you very far."
  • Like Lee, Fowler bemoaned the Fire Phone's poor battery life, calling it "the biggest reason I wouldn't switch" to the device. "In my battery torture test, which involves streaming a video over Wi-Fi with the screen at 50%, the Fire lasted just 6 hours and 40 minutes, 16% less than the Galaxy, and 25% less than the iPhone."
And there you have it. I would agree that battery life is typically a big differentiator when choosing a flagship phone. For me, so is the camera. But as many reviewers have pointed out, before you switch from your current phone to this one (at a cost of $200 with a contract or $650 unlocked - when only AT&T will carry it), its unique features need to be compelling, its common features superior, AND you should keep all the apps you like. So far, the Fire Phone offers none of the above.


Man Gets Galaxy S5, is 'Blown Away' By What He Was Missing on iPhone

July 22, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

Business Insider contributor Jim Edwards recently switched from an iPhone 5 to a Galaxy S5 and was beyond pleased with the change.

"I had no idea what I've been missing," he wrote (July 19). Edwards focuses mostly on the difference in size between the two devices, saying the GS5 makes a "huge difference" in terms of user experience, "especially for videos and photos."

Edwards extols the GS5's larger size as a better device for all media, including Instagram and Facebook. He also praises it as being a better device for working remotely upon. "Typing and email on the Galaxy are amazing," he says.

As for fears in transferring all your iTunes content over to an Android device? "Baseless," he scoffs. "There are a ton of apps to do it for you (I used "Easy Phone Tunes") and Google Music can do it via the cloud."

Near the end, Edwards offers up a few of what he considers flaws to the GS5, which is commendable and gives his stance a bit more objectivity. Things like: the phone coming with an older version of Android, settings being diffficult to learn, "super-aggressive" autocorrect, invasive Google integrations throughout, and slower machine response times.

Overall, Edwards' article is a really long-winded way of saying he likes having a bigger phone. It will be interesting to see what he thinks when Apple releases what is rumored to be a larger iPhone 6.

Microsoft Axes the Nokia X Android Phone

July 17, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

In an interesting about face, Microsoft has announced it is discontinuing the Nokia X Android phone Nokia announced back in February.

When Nokia unveiled the Nokia X at Mobile World Congress (Feb. 24), it was a bit of a head scratcher. While some thought it was a strategic move by Microsoft to lure Android users to the Windows Phone UI, apps and services, others speculated Nokia was hedging its Microsoft acquisition bet because the deal was not yet finalized.

Well the deal went through April 25. And yet even then, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop talked up Nokia X. This quote, is from PC World:

"Microsoft acquired the mobile phones business, inclusive of Nokia X, to help connect the next billion people to Microsoft’s services,” Elop said then. "Nokia X uses the [Microsoft] cloud, not Google’s. This is a great opportunity to connect new customers to Skype, and OneDrive for the first time. We’ve already seen tens of thousands of new subscribers on [Microsoft] services.”

"What’s clear, however, is that Elop was overruled (by Microsoft) on how to take forward the Nokia X," wrote PC World's Mark Hachman.

BlackBerry Announces Virtual Assistant to Counter Siri, Google Now and Cortana

July 16, 2014   Comments
BlackBerry Assistant mock-up - Source: Engadget

By Allan Pulga

Today, BlackBerry announced "BlackBerry Assistant," its own voice-command mobile assistant to compete with Apple's Siri, Android's Google Now and Windows Phone's Cortana.

Engadget reports BlackBerry Assistant will be available on the upcoming Passport phone. Details have yet to be released as to what search engine will power BlackBerry Assistant.

The story felt a bit like damage control because Apple just announced a new partnership with IBM to build apps together and sell more iPhones and iPads to enterprise (i.e. corporate and government) clientele. Enterprise, of course, used to be BlackBerry's wheelhouse.

Not surprisingly, BlackBerry's stock price took a hit as a result of the new Apple-IBM partnership.

BlackBerry Unveils 'Passport' with Square Display

July 11, 2014   Comments

By Allan Pulga

On Wednesday (July 9), BlackBerry revealed a new phone, called the Passport, with a 4.5-inch square screen.

As you can see in the photo (above), it makes for a unique form factor with sharp edges. The physical keyboard looks different: It only has three rows of buttons.

Yesterday (July 19), Michael Clewley, Director of Software Product Management at BlackBerry, wrote on the company blog that the Passport "re-invents the mobile keyboard."

He wrote: "With the Passport’s touch-enabled keyboard, you’ll be able to navigate web pages, apps and e-mails by lightly brushing your fingers over the keys, which helps with things like scrolling and cursor placement.

"It’s a minimalist design that maximizes BlackBerry Passport’s already-awesome amount of screen real estate. You’ll be able to read documents faster, as well as keep your fingers close to the keys, ready to type."

I'm a little skeptical. The square screen ssems gimmicky and basically looks like an old BlackBerry, which we all know has already gone out of style. Granted, it may appeal to loyal BlackBerry fans in terms of its "retro" design. The sharp edges also make it appear less pocketable.

I'd have to try the keyboard to see how user friendly it is, though. Click through to Clewley's full blog post to see all the purported benefits of the new Passport keyboard.

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