27 December 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Android Marshmallow 6.0 is now out

android marshmallow relseased

The latest operating system update for Android phone users has been released. Continuing the tradition of confectionary-themed code names, we now have Marshmallow for version 6.0. The updates began with Android 1.5 Cupcake and were then followed, alphabetically, by names like Gingerbread, KitKat, and then Ice Cream Sandwich for version 4.0.

Unsurprisingly, the Google-developed Nexus was the first phone to get the new Android operating system. Manufacturers who work closely with Google, and who developed Nexus devices, such as LG and HTC, will be first in line for the upgrade. Sony, Samsung and others will get Android 6 early in 2016. However, Samsung has indicated that owners of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ should have received their Marshmallow updates in time for Christmas. The version for the standard S6 and the S6 Edge will be released in January while the Note 4 while Android for other models will only be available towards the end of January .

So what is exciting about Marshmallow? After all, it is not a major design update like Lollipop was, but there are some exciting new features. A major emphasis is on increasing battery life. Other general improvements include better app permission controls, standardised support for fingerprint scanners, more granular volume controls, USB-C support and new Google Now features.

The new fingerprint sensor functionality means that you can unlock your phone with your finger and when Android Pay is released in the UK you will be able to make payments without opening apps.

Android 6.0 opens the way for improved voice control features. Users will soon be able to speak to their apps – and the apps will even talk back. This natural way of speaking to our smartphone and the apps installed on it could revolutionise the way we interact with our devices. Probably not soon, but it could.

To improve battery usage Google has announced the Doze feature. Using motion sensors to detect whether a device hasn’t been moved for an extended period of time, Doze will switch it to a deeper sleep mode that consumes much less power. Doze will still allow alarms to go off and key notifications to come through.

Google says it took two Nexus 9 tablets, one running Lollipop and the other Android Marshmallow, loaded the same apps and settings on both, and then tested the standby power drain on the two. Apparently, the Nexus 9 running Android Marshmallow lasted up to two times longer than its Lollipop counterpart which is pretty damn impressive. These results sound very impressive and should lead to noticeably better battery life.

One of the new features which should prove very popular is Now on Tap which is essentially an updated Google Now and allows for contextual and location based information when using apps like WhatsApp.

In summary, many of the updates are aimed at developers and should lead to improved user experiences for Android users. What are your thoughts?

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23 March 2015 ~ 7 Comments

Top 5 smartphones March 2015

top 5 smartphones feb 2015

Everyone knows about the latest and greatest superpowered smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Apple iPhone 5S and the HTC One M8. They pack in the latest technology and the most features and are really at the cutting edge of modern industrial design. However, despite the high performance, they have a price tag to match.

Not everyone can afford £1000+ on a new mobile phone and commitment to a contract of two years or more. Furthermore, anyone following technology knows that early adopters pay over the odds and sometimes even subsidise other consumers for the right to boast that they a device at the bleeding edge of tech.

Smarter customers often look for bargains instead of obsessing over the very best. By going for a phone that’s a generation or two behind the curve, you not only get a product with amazing performance but you also save a lot of money. Simply, it’s the best way to maximise the bang for your buck. And it’s pretty clear that nowadays, even a phone that came out two years ago offers a blisteringly fast user experience, the same solid build quality and more features than you’d probably ever use. If you want better value for money, you can still get amazing performance – after all, most phones today offer better tech specs than laptops and digital cameras from just a few years ago.

We now have bargain smartphones available that refuse to compromise on performance. Today we’re rounding up the top five phones that offer the best value. These handsets are all less than half the price of a new Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5S but still keep up with the latest games and apps. In our opinion, they are easily the best value for money smartphones you can currently get. Have a look for yourself!

Sony Xperia Z2

Was £559.99 Now only £309.99

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sonyxperiaz2

Boasting a well-proportioned 5.2-inch 1080p display and a beautiful form-factor, the new Sony Xperia Z2 is a stunning choice. It claims 18 hours of talktime and a massive month of standby as well as one of the best-specced cameras going – a 20.7 megapixel monster with a 4K video capture and a huge sensor for the crispest photos and gorgeous depth of field with its F2.0 aperture.

Believe it or not, but this phone is also rated to be submersed underwater for half an hour with its IP55/IP58 rating. Our favourite aspect of this phone is the phenomenal battery life which is usually something we whine and drone about for other smartphones. Not only does it look great but it’s got plenty of power backing it up. While the included headphones are, as usual, uniformly crap, overall it’s an incredible handset for any money and with a bloat-free OS and the stunning display, the Z2 excels.

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Motorola Moto G

Only £169.99

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This second-generation Motorola Moto G offers incredible value compared to its rivals. Where else can you get this much phone for so little money?

And don’t think you’ll be skimping on specs or quality – it has an 8 megapixel camera and a brilliantly-clear 5-inch HD display all powered by the Snapdragon 400 quad-core CPU running at 1.2 Ghz.

Hardly any crapware, Gorilla Glass screen, great build-quality, a decent battery and – best of all – dual SIM! Hurrah! For the price, surely this is still the best bargain around?

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HTC One M8

Was £532.00 Now only £379.99

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htconem8

Most people are familiar with the HTC One line by now but if you’re not, check out the design of this phone which just oozes quality and class. The HTC One M8 has a 5-inch display with practically no bezel running at 1080p resolution and a 4 megapixel camera which includes HTC’s “Duo” multi-layer feature.

The speakers sound great and have more than enough punch especially for such a small device. Which, by the way, we have to praise again for its build quality as well as its sleek all-metal body and eye-catching curves. Battery life is merely better than average but that doesn’t stop this being one of the fastest and overall best handsets currently available.

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Google Nexus 6

Was 499.99 Only £490.00

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googlenexus6

Google Nexus does it again. The all new 6-inch model is manufactured by Motorola and features a quad-HD display, dual stereo speakers and an amazing 13 megapixel camera.

It really looks and feels like a premium product and it’s a real treat to have stock Android Lollipop without gimmicky features and mountains of bloat.

Sure, the form factor may not be for everyone with the 6-inch screen just a tad too big for those with smaller hands, but it’s a sensational phone. Battery life impresses as does the screen and all aspects of the hardware due to the exceptional build quality. What’s not to like about easily one of the best phones on the market?

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LG G3

Only £329.00

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lgg3

Wow! That’s what most people say when they see the LG G3 handset in person. The edge-to-edge 5.5” screen is not only a near-perfect size but it really does pop. Not content with just a premium screen, this offers an industry-leading quad-HD beast stuffed with pixels at a density of a might 538ppi. You won’t believe how crisp it is.

In fact, the overall industrial design is lush from all angles with a lightweight metallic body and a fingerprint-free matt finish. We love the fact it has a removable battery and the 13 megapixel laser-focussed camera is a joy to use and produces exquisite shots.

There’s a reason this is the flagship phone from LG and that’s because it’s quality in every respect. Treat yourself!

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15 January 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Top 5 camera phones

Camera quality on the mobile phones we carry around with us has increased at a phenomenal rate over the last few years. When the first camera phones came out, it was nigh on impossible to make out what the grainy, low resolution, noisy mash of pixels was meant to represent. however, nowadays it is becoming more and more common for people to leave their compact camera at home and rely a mobile phone to capture photographic moments instead. Phones like the Nokia N95 really pushed the envelope with high quality optics and dedicated shutter buttons to make taking good-looking phones on a mobile phone more of a breeze than ever.

In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that we saw the release of the first generation of digital cameras. Just a few years later, mobile phones offer unrivalled improvements in resolution and clarity. But which handset is going to give you the best shots? Which phone will give your Facebook selfies the most likes? Who is top dog of the camera phone kennels? Join us for our run-down of the five best smartphone cameras in the world right now.

5. Sony Xperia Z

more infoxperia z

Sony has probably got more experience in the digital camera world than any other major smartphone manufacturer. The camera on the Xperia Z uses the same 30 megapixel sensor as in their digital SLRs.

As for features, the camera can produce decent quality 1080p videos as well as HDR stills and panoramas without extra software. Of course, there are also a variety of digital filters and effects you can apply to your shots. The shots look good and have consistent saturation and exposure but the optics could be better.

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4. iPhone 5S

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iphone 5s camera

The iPhone 5S‘s camera includes a dual-colour LED flash for better skin tones, a huge f/2.2 aperture and a bigger sensor than before. It also has the Apple A7 chipset to help with image processing. Unfortunately it is still lacking image stabilisation.

Of course it also features like an improved panorama mode and the ability to add a slow-mo effect to your videos using the phone. The HDR photography mode seems to work really well, producing nice wide shots with minimal effort.

In terms of performance, the lowlight photos are better than we expected; probably due to the large aperture size. The flash is certainly an improvement on the previous tone-reproduction qualities but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. We are glad to see that overexposure is less of an issue now though. Unsurprisingly, a very decent effort from Apple’s flagship.

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3. Samsung Galaxy Note 2

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galaxy s4 camera

Coming in at in third place is the Samsung Galaxy S4. It’s packing a massive 13 megapixel autofocus main camera which can handle full HD video at 30 frames per second.

As you would expect with Samsung, there’s a wealth of options available when using with the camera (not all of which you might want to make use of on a regular basis). However, some of the most usable shooting modes include panorama, action and the HDR mode. Another fun one is the Eraser mode which composites multiple images to remove unwanted moving subjects from the background.

The image quality is great although you might have to do some manual white balance tweaks. We’ll also impressed with the reaction time of the shutter. Our sample images look great and the colours in our shots came out well-exposed, rich and sharp. It also massively useful to have an expandable micro-SD card slot to hold all the photos you take especially due to the large resolution.

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2. HTC One

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htc one camera

Don’t be fooled by numbers and statistics. Even though the HTC One only claims to have a 4 megapixel camera, the “ultra pixel” sensor size is much larger than average and each pixel can capture more light and hopefully produce better quality results. The sensor is also coupled with a very fast f/2.0 aperture at a nice, wide 28mm focal length.

Taking photos with the HTC One is a pleasure mainly due to the excellent and bright screen which really makes it easy and clear to see how the shots are being framed and how they turn out. There are the usual shooting options such as various scene choices, night mode, panorama mode and the now-ubiquitous HDR.

In practice it seems the marketing guff around the “ultra pixel” sensor may well have some substance behind it. We were very impressed with the quality of the shots even when compared to the other phones in this shootout. Our photos came out really well especially at high ISO sensitivities – this is probably another of the benefits of the large sensor. The phone feels great in the hand when taking photos and images are crystal clear sharp.

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1. Nokia 808 PureView

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nokia 808 pureview

Finally, we get round to the winner of this test and it won’t surprise many to hear that it’s the Nokia 808 PureView. Hailed as a revolution in the camera phone arena, Nokia have packed a massive sensor into this phone that is capable of producing 38 megapixel images. Yes that’s not a typo – you read that right: Thirty. Eight. Megapixels. Astounding!

Of course, it takes more than just pixel count to produce good quality images, and thankfully Nokia have coupled their sensor with high quality Carl Zeiss optics. The aperture is nice and fast at f/2.4 and because of this it produces great images in low light conditions. The Xenon flash is also quite a powerful beast.

In general, the photos really look great – crisp and sharp and every pixel well exposed. Simply put, the quality of photos from this phone blow away those from its rivals. The huge sensor and a high-quality lens pretty much unparalleled in the smartphone arena. The only issue we have with this amazing piece of kit is that would have liked to see more options for manual control over the various exposure settings.

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