20 July 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Google Pixel 2 – Will it live up to expectations?

The latest offering from Google promises a lot. Will the search engine giant finally be able to compete with the best from Samsung and Apple? The LG G6 is also up there with the top two, so Google will have to create real magic to claim the top smartphone crown.

The Pixel 2 will probably be launched in October, twelve months after the launch of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL. It is assumed that Google will launch the new phone around the anniversary of the launch of its predecessors.

At this stage all we have are rumours, but the phone is no longer under development and is now undergoing extensive testing and fine-tuning prior to its launch. This means that the review handset doing the rounds behind closed doors will be almost exactly what we can expect to see in October. Does the Google Pixel 2 have the features to make it a winner?

Google owns its own cloud services, and the Pixel 2 will more than likely continue with unlimited full resolution cloud backups of all photos and videos taken. The phone will also get immediate Android OS updates within none of the performance annoyances many other Android phones have to deal with.

An excellent camera is essential for a premium smartphone, and the Pixel phone fulfils expectations by being both fast and producing top quality images. It offers the added bonus that it is extremely easy to deliver winning shots repeatedly.

Superb all-round performance is one of the most important requirements a smartphone needs if it has aspirations to be the best phone in its class. This is where the Pixel 2 does not disappoint. It offers instant response and consistent smoothness which is unmatched by any other Android phone. Add this to a very impressive battery life and you have the makings of a giant killer. The Pixel’s battery gives all day performance without worry about regular top ups. The Pixel 2 is also likely to have a waterproof design, which has become the standard in upmarket phones.

Where does the Pixel 2 lose ground against the current leaders of the smartphone race? The most obvious feature which is lacking is the wow factor in its design. The Pixel 2 needs some excitement in its visual packagin. There is no denying that both the Samsung and the Apple deliver desirable phones. Their designs make a statement, and at this stage, the Pixel 2 does not look the part. It is not unattractive, but it is not exceptional, and a top phone needs to be exceptional.

What will the Pixel 2 cost in the UK? Initial speculation is that the Pixel 2 will apparently carry a loftier price tag than its predecessors – something we hope doesn’t turn out to be true. The old one started at £599 (or £719 for the XL version) so it was already quite expensive.

How much would you pay for one?

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26 April 2016 ~ 6 Comments

iPhone SE – New Old iPhone

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Apple just announced the iPhone SE and is billing it as the most powerful four-inch phone ever. Using the four-inch display and aluminium casing similar to the 2013 iPhone 5S, the company claims it took a “beloved design, then reinvented it from the inside out”.

The new phone is very similar to the 5S, but it has the power and performance of the new 6 series which makes for a very attractive overall package. Technical specifications are very similar to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus with a 64-bit A9 chip and an M9 motion co-processor which should give the same processing and graphics performance found in the flagship models. Photographic specifications are also the same with a 12 megapixel iSight camera capable of capturing 4K video. Live Photos is included in the SE package, which brings your still photos to life with sound and movement.

The new phones all share improved wireless specifications which give faster LTE and Wi-Fi. It is now possible to browse the web, download apps, and games, and stream video over 802.11ac Wi-Fi and LTE at higher speeds than on the iPhone 5S.

Techradar describes the iPhone SE in a review as “a simply brilliant palm-friendly phone”. It really is a very good phone, especially if you like a smaller and more manageable phone which sits comfortably in your hand (and even more so if you have a small hand, which can often struggle with the larger smartphones). And of course, the low price makes it the most affordable iPhone in the market.

The iPhone SE is a bold step by Apple to target a market niche ignored by Samsung, LG, and other Android smartphone manufacturers. Apple is offering consumers a premium small screen smartphone with the features and technical specifications found in its top models. The compact Android smartphones, by comparison, are all offered with downgraded features and low specifications. It’s a shame that, until now, there hasn’t been as much choice.

This might also have been somewhat shortsighted from the Android manufacturers; Apple confirms that the “compact” smartphone market is still very strong, particularly in China. More than thirty million four inch phones were sold by Apple last year which probably accounts for Apple’s reasoning behind the production of the iPhone SE. It is a well calculated gamble which we expect to pay large dividends for the company.

With a starting price of just £359, the new iPhone SE should prove to be another winner for Apple. What do you reckon?

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10 February 2016 ~ 1 Comment

Sony Xperia Z3+ is 2016’s best waterproof smartphone

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In a recent review of the best smartphones for 2016, as chosen by leading technology critics, the Sony Xperia Z3+ was chosen as the best waterproof smartphone.

It was hardly a surprising choice since Sony has been committed to waterproof phones since the release of the Sony Z in 2013. All their new phones have an IP68 rating meaning that they are both waterproof and dustproof.

The Z3+ is an upgraded version of its predecessor the Z3, with improved specifications, a thinner body and the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system. It still retains the same 5.2 inch, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution display, but has a slimmer and sharper design at 6.9 mm which makes it the thinnest Sony handset, with the same thickness as the iPhone 6.

The new octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, clocked at 2 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 430 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, makes for a powerful package with excellent speed. Although not class beating, it certainly competes well with other premier range smartphones. But the processor is also a problem for the Z3+. It is prone to overheat, and at this stage, this means that the phone will often shut down in use when it starts getting to warm. Hopefully, this problem will be addressed in future software releases.

The Xperia Z3+ has 32 GB of onboard storage which can be expanded up to 128 GB via a microSD card. It has all the standard connectivity including 4G LTE support.

One of the features most critics were unanimous in approving was the dedicated camera shutter button. It makes taking photographs easier and the soft press to set focus is a welcome touch. The main camera itself has not changed in this model and is a 20.7 megapixel unit. Image quality, although good, is not exceptional. One feature where Sony stands alone is its commitment to high-quality audio. The Z3+ has unequalled high-res audio.

There are a few problems with the Xperia Z3+ which unfortunately tarnish its otherwise excellent features. The Z3+ is capable of recording video in 4K, but recordings often fail after about 20 seconds due to overheating. The battery is also not good enough for the device. It allows around 3 hours of screen-on time although with lighter use you might be able to eke out power for a day.

The UK version of the Sony Xperia Z3+ is currently available at a 45% discount on the recommended retail price of £549.99. At just £305 SIM-free, it is an exceptionally good phone which is both attractive and durable, as long as Sony can do something about the overheating.

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