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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22 October 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Handsets changing the smartphone landscape in the UK

Something quite interesting has happened over the last months in the smartphone market. Two major brands (Sony and Motorola) and one cheeky upstart (OnePlus) have shown that we can get flagship quality for a reasonable price. The Motorola Moto X Style, Sony Xperia M5, and OnePlus 2 bring high end specs to the party while carrying unlocked price tags south of £350. So, is this a new trend we can expect other manufacturers to follow and will you see that value in contracts with carriers?

To answer the first question, it depends. It is unlikely that Apple is going to come out with a specced out blockbuster that costs £350 to £400, although the rumoured iPhone 6c will still be a premium metal device. Likewise Samsung, the market leader may well think that its Galaxy A7 and Galaxy A8 smartphones already fit the premium and affordable category. Perhaps they do, but not in the same way as the three aforementioned devices.

Moto X Style

moto x style

Motorola have already confirmed that the Moto X Style will be coming to the UK. If anything, this ups the flagship quality another notch with its huge 5.7-inch Quad HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (six cores) chipset, 3GB of RAM, 32GB native storage, micro SD card support, a 21MP rear camera, 5MP selfie shooter, and Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Included in the UK will also be Moto Maker, the pre-purchase design suite that gives you an enviable list of personalization options.

OnePlus 2

oneplus 2

The OnePlus 2 is a little more niche, but it is a true flagship that could cost as little as £300, provided you can get one. Yes, the Chinese company is once again employing a frustrating invite system for its “Flagship Killer” so unless you get an invite you will be left wanting. That means you won’t be seeing this device sold through retailers, not in any big numbers anyway, but if you pick one up it will surely impress you. A 5.5-inch screen provides 1080p Full HD resolution, while Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 810 with 4GB of RAM serves as the engine room. Other specs are high end and in some cases unique, such as USB Type-C.

Xperia M5

xperia m5

Finally, the Sony Xperia M5 carries a metal sandwiched by glass body that oozes premium quality, while under the hood the spec sheet would not be out of place in the £500+ price band. The goodies include a 5-inch 1080p Full HD screen, an octa-core 64-bit MediaTek MT6795 chipset, 3GB of RAM, 16GB storage, micro SD card support, a 21.5MP rear camera, a 13MP front facing lens, and Android 5.0 Lollipop. Sony has not confirmed whether the device will be bound for Europe, and despite the company’s rich history launching in the UK, the real question is whether it will see an official release or not.

All the above are fantastic smartphones that if bought unlocked will offer unbelievable value for money. However, what will carriers do with these handsets and at which tier will they be available on contract? Of course, for a flagship device you are looking at a subsidized contract in the region of £30 per month or more (for a free device) depending on your particular tariff configuration. Will carriers decide that these flagship specced devices should be in that top bracket, or will they drop them to the mid-range tier (£22-26 per month) that their unlocked prices suggest they should be? It is worth noting that this will not include the OnePlus One.

It will be very interesting to see what companies do, so we reached out to Carphone Warehouse, EE, Orange, and others to find out. Watch this space for updates.

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20 May 2015 ~ 8 Comments

Top 5 value-for-money smartphones

top 5 value for money

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!

Nokia Lumia 520

Only £79.84

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nokialumia520

Smooth, stylish and smart, the new Lumia 520 is packed with great features it’s hard to live without. Windows Mobile has massively improved recently and on top of that, there’s no denying that Nokia, with all their experience, make stunning-looking devices.

At an incredible pricepoint of under £80, it’s hard to argue with the Lumia 520. Anything else this cheap without a contract will be sluggish and unresponsive in comparison.

It also boasts a super-sharp 4″ screen, crystal call quality and many other perks such as a physical shutter button and digital lenses.

If you don’t mind a Windows Phone device, there is absolutely nothing that comes close to the price/quality ratio of the Nokia Lumia 520.

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Lenovo A820

Only £109.22

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lenovo a820

When looking at Chinese phones like the Lenovo A820, the main selling points is just how much phone you’re getting for your money. It has 1 GB of RAM and a quad core processor but still costs just over 100 quid. If you don’t have hundreds and hundreds of pounds to spend on your mobile phone but still want all the bells and whistles of a smartphone, this is a great choice to go for.

We’ve already written a full in-depth review of the Lenovo A820 but to summarise, the highlights of this handset are the power saving features, the long-lasting removable 2000 mAh power cell, the amazing dual-SIM ports and the fact it comes with a quad core processor.

This handset is incredibly cheap for the hardware you’re getting and it offers incomparable value compared to almost any phone available on British high streets.

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Moto G

Was £159.99 Now only £149.99

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moto g

Yes, you read it right. The Moto G is a Android KitKat 4G smartphone that only costs £150! It boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, boatloads of RAM and much more besides.

The battery is great and the two cameras produce snaps of amazingly good quality. Perhaps best of all in the impressive curved 4.5″ screen coated with Gorilla Glass. The casing is even water-resistant!

LTE 4G, HD display, Quad-Core Speed Android 4.4 KitKat and all for less than £150. A bargain!

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Nexus 5

Only £260.00

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nexus 5

The Nexus 5 surely needs no introduction. Built by LG, the Google-branded Android handset comes with an 8 MP OIS camera featuring HDR+ and Photo Sphere‚ a 4.95″ Full HD IPS Display, fast 4G LTE and a 2‚300 mAh battery.

The phone has a nice matt rubberised back and feels great to hold. Compared to high end competitors like the iPhone 5S, you get a bigger, better quality screen and the Nexus is just as blisteringly fast.

The Nexus 5 is outstanding and comes at an incredible price for a well-specced product that just exudes quality.

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LG G2

Was £489.00 Now only £275.79

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lg g2

If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can still get great value for your cash. The LG G2 blows away most of its competition with a 2.26Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, 2GB RAM, 13 megapixel OIS camera and a 5.2″ full HD display.

On top of that it boasts a massive battery to keep it going all day and genuinely useful software features such as tracking zoom, Knockon and Capture PLus.

The phone is gorgeous to look at with the bezel-less screen and amazing build quality throughout. The display density is 424 ppi and the colour reproduction is clear and vivid. Overall, the LG G2 is a great handset and an utter bargain at this price.

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