26 April 2016 ~ 3 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 ~ 0 Comments

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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07 February 2016 ~ 1 Comment

How Windows Phone is growing faster than Apple and Android in the UK

Windows Phone is regarded by many as not being able to compete with the mighty Apple iOS and Google’s Android-powered smartphones. Indeed, we’d usually agree with the argument that Microsoft is “doomed to irrelevance in the mobile age”. However, it may be time to reconsider the reports of the imminent death of Microsoft’s smartphone operating system. According to the latest figures, it certainly is not dying in the UK.

Smartphone operating system market shares for the year ending December 2015 compared to the year end 2014 shows some interesting trends. Android’s market share grew by 1.8 percent while Apple’s iOS declined by 3.1 percent. Meanwhile, Windows Phone showed better growth than Android at 2.3 percent (albeit from a much lower base).

A curious fact which emerges from the Kantar Worldpanel ComTech global analysis shows that the UK is the only Western market where Microsoft phones are showing growth. In China, Windows showed a 0.5 percent growth in a market currently dominated by Apple.

The performance of Windows Phone in the UK is probably linked to the success of Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950 XL handsets which were launched in November. Both phones have been well received by the public and if they had been released earlier in 2015 the UK sales growth for Windows Phone would have been even more impressive. This success contradicts Gartner’s view last year, which predicted that the Lumia won’t have much of an impact on Microsoft’s dismal performance in the global markets.

It’s not all good news for Microsoft though as the overall Windows Phone market share has tumbled across the globe to 2.2 percent and analysts do not see much hope for improvement from that base. Without strong support from OEM partners and mobile app development, the future looks bleak for Microsoft mobile. However, the new Lumia handsets are very popular with users who want a functional smartphone without much need for additional software or applications. And this market will probably keep driving the sales of Windows Phone.

What do you think? Where do you see Windows Phone this time next year?

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