Feb 052013
 

Most users of tablets and smartphones spend at least some of their spare time playing games on them. While there is no shortage of arguments regarding the best overall type of device for gaming, even the more demanding casino gaming, these generally concern the tradeoffs between screen size, portability, ease of use and battery life. However what we are now seeing is a tablet and smartphone convergence with tablets becoming smaller and smartphones getting larger. This has led various analysts to predict a new device that will emerge from this convergence which is being termed the “phablet”.

Phablets are around the corner, convergence of smartphones and tablets

The size of smartphone screens is getting larger as demonstrated by devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note II, the Sony Xperia and the Huawei Ascend Mate. The implications of this convergence are huge, and we are seeing devices that offer the best of all worlds: browsing the web, voice calls, messaging, computing and most importantly gaming and online gaming. The tablet is the ideal device for mobile gaming, and with a new phablet, you don’t even have to carry around a phone to cover the one function a traditional tablet lacks. Some analysts are also predicting that it will eventually result in the demise of the PC. Certainly the sales of desktops have taken a dive and their manufacturers are struggling; many are eying up the tablet markets. Why would you wait to get home to play casino games on your PC when you can just take out a phablet and game in a social situation with friends?

The Samsung Galaxy Note II with its 5.5 inch screen is already close to being a phablet and the Huawei Ascend Mate with its 6.1 inch screen is already being described as such. These smartphones are the very best devices on the market for gaming as they combine all the convenience of a smartphone with all the power and display capabilities of a tablet. Even online casino games such as the ones found in www.jackpotcity.co.uk/mobile-casino/ can be played with ease on these screens and on the Ascend Mate you can even play live dealer blackjack with your gloves on as it includes Magic Touch. It would seem that phablets have hit the jackpot and, as we see sales of the iPhone decline, expect to see the sales of phablets rocket.

Sep 042012
 

The Nokia Lumia 900 is probably one of the best Windows smartphones on the market, considering there is only single core support. While the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple iPhone 4s dominate the market, handsets like the Lumia are a good alternative. Here are the Lumia’s top 5 features.

Nokia Lumia

Nokia Lumia

Looks

Despite its high performance hardware, the thing that really stands out with the Lumia 900 is its stunning design. The 900 is truly one of the best looking handsets on the market, with a bold design that is unlike anything else on the market. The polycarbonate unibody design comes in 3 colours: black, white and blue meaning you can personalise the phone to suit you. The only downside with this finish is that it ends up being quite heavy (160g) when you compare it to the iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy S3 but the look and feel more than make up for this.

Camera

Carl Zeiss have been supplying the lenses for high end Nokia handsets for some time now and have consistently offered some of the best mobile phone camera combos, the Lumia 900 being no exception. The camera is a great all round performer, producing image quality similar to that of the iPhone 4S, which is highly impressive. The camera button is a great touch, blending the boundaries between camera and phone, with a halfway push to focus the lens and a full push of the button to take the picture. This feature makes the Lumia a great choice for someone who uses their phone to take snaps on nights out.

Hardware

Considering Windows Phones only support single core chipsets, the Lumia performs extremely well and doesn’t suffer from the lags that other singe-core handsets do. When you consider handsets such as the Galaxy S3 have quad core processors, the Nokia Lumia deals with everything thrown at it without a problem.

Screen

The 900 is the largest handset of the Lumia range, and it features a truly stunning AMOLED screen that is perfectly responsive. It’s large enough to make viewing video a very pleasurable experience.

Windows OS

The Lumia is one of the few phones that comes pre-loaded with the Windows operating system. While you won’t be getting the Windows 8 system upgrade for some time, the pre-loaded Windows Phone Mango OS (7.5) can be upgraded to version 7.8 for added functionality and support. The Windows phone operating system definitely has a unique look, with a focus on ‘tiles’, essentially large squares that display app information. It takes some getting used to, but the operating system really comes into its own once you become familiar with it.

May 012011
 

There’s been such hype surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone since we first spied it earlier this year, we were worried we might have expected too much of it. The specifications were tantalising, our first hands-on was all-too brief; would it be all we were hoping it to be, or a huge letdown?

In the end, we needn’t have worried. The Samsung Galaxy S II is a stonking smartphone, and it all starts with its most obvious asset: that huge 4.3in Super AMOLED Plus screen.

Samsung Galaxy S II 2 Review

We loved the 4in screen on the original Galaxy S but this truly takes it to the next level. It’s bright – we measured a full white screen at 300cd/m2 at maximum brightness, and as OLED has no pervasive backlight (each pixel has its own light source), contrast is nigh-on perfect. A black screen registered as 0cd/m2 on our colorimeter, which means it’s pure, deep, unsullied jet.

Photos and videos look incredible. Colours leap from the screen with such fury that you almost have to look away. Even the traditional complaint over OLED screens, that they’re “grainier” than their TFT equivalents, can’t be levelled at the S II’s display and the reason for this is its red, green and blue subpixels are arranged in the traditional RGB grid, as they are in standard TFT displays.

Previous smartphone OLED panels have used what’s known as the PenTile grid, which gives you two green pixels for every blue and red pair and a rather grainy effect as a result. Look closely at a PenTile AMOLED display, such as the one found on the original HTC Desire, and you’ll find you can see the individual pixels; you can’t with the Galaxy S II.

The only significant complaint we’d have is over the pixel count. It’s still “only” 480 x 800, which means small text on zoomed-out web pages is more difficult to make out than it is on the iPhone 4’s 3.5in 960 x 640 display.

If we were being really picky we’d also highlight the fact that the brightness of the S II’s display can’t match that of the iPhone 4, which tops out at a ludicrous 475cd/m2.

We didn’t like the fact that the S II comes with its dynamic brightness setting turned on either. This dims the brightness depending on what’s onscreen, and when mostly white web pages load up, the brightness halves. Taken as a whole, however, these are relatively small considerations; the screen is at least as good as the iPhone’s, but in different ways.

Physical Design

If the screen is impressive, the physical make-up of the Samsung Galaxy S II is almost as noteworthy. At its thinnest point, it claims to be the slimmest smartphone yet, and we were able to confirm this: using a set of vernier calipers, we measured it at 8.7mm. A bulge at the bottom and around the camera means it isn’t this slim along its entire length, but it’s nonetheless a mighty feat of engineering, and coupled with its light weight of 116g, the Galaxy S II is as pocket-friendly as any 4.3in-screened smartphone has any right to be.

Samsung has retained its iPhone-alike front-panel design, so the single physical button is retained below the screen (flanked by a touch-sensitive menu and back controls), as is the all Gorilla Glass front. The latter is finished with an oleophobic coating and resists smudges from greasy digits remarkably well.

What Samsung hasn’t done is improve the build quality much, or at least the impression of it. The previous Galaxy S felt a little too cheap for a flagship phone, and our opinion hasn’t changed this time around. The Galaxy S II’s textured rear panel is made of wafer thin, flimsy plastic and the chassis, aside from the glass front, is plastic too. If you want a phone that feels a million dollars, as well as looking it, the Galaxy S II isn’t for you.

Performance and Galaxy S II Battery life

That may soon be forgotten once you start using the S II, however, because this is one powerhouse of a smartphone. Under its gossamer-thin shell, the new Galaxy sports a dual-core processor, based on the ARM Cortex A9 design. Most dual-core smartphones and tablets are doing the same, but the difference with the S II is the speed is up from 1GHz to 1.2GHz.

In terms of benchmark tests, the S II blows the competition out of the water. It loaded the full BBC homepage in four seconds dead, completed the SunSpider test in three seconds, and most impressive of all, gained a score of 3,460 points in the Android-specific Quadrant test. To put that last test into context, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc scored 1,378 (one of the fastest Android smartphones we’ve tested), a full 2,182 points behind.

It couples the processor with a staggering 1GB of RAM, and nothing that we could throw at the Mali-400MP graphics chip caused it to come close to breaking sweat. Everything from Angry Birds to Reckless Racing Play was dispatched with a slippery smooth frame rate that makes this as good a phone for gaming as any on the market.

As ever, there’s a caveat, and that concerns battery life. In our standard tests over 24 hours the Galaxy S II chewed up around 50% of its capacity – about the same result achieved by the Galaxy S, and a notch behind the iPhone 4. That’s despite having a bigger 1,650mAh battery.

The battery management options in the settings ameliorate this somewhat, however: switch on the dynamic-brightness tool and the ambient light monitor, and two days of moderate use is easily within reach. Just don’t expect Nokia-beating levels of stamina from the Samsung Galaxy S II battery life.

GPS and Camera

A critical failing of the first Galaxy was appalling GPS performance, and we’re happy to report that this has been addressed in the S II. Google Maps Navigation had no problem at all getting a quick satellite lock, and throughout our driving and walking tests it maintained a rock-steady position.

More notable is the huge improvement in the camera over the iffy effort of its predecessor. It’s absolutely stuffed with features, with image stabilisation, blink detection, ISO and metering adjustments, a macro mode and more. And it shoots at a decent resolution too: 8-megapixel stills and 1080p video at 30fps.

Quality is great. We took a series of shots with the iPhone 4’s camera and the Samsung Galaxy S II – indoors with a flash and without, outdoors in good light, scenes with high contrast and close-ups – and in every shot the S II’s camera won.

The automatic white balance worked flawlessly throughout our tests; where the iPhone tended to give shots under fluorescent light a slightly blue tinge, the S II’s shots looked natural. The macro mode is seriously impressive too.

Even 1080p footage in low light wasn’t dreadful. Noise was obvious, but footage didn’t look quite as muddy as the iPhone 4 in the same test, although we did notice one flaw. In low light, autofocus in video tended to hunt around, with our test footage swinging gently in and out of focus; annoying, but hardly a disaster.

Finally, it’s also worth pointing out that call qualityis excellent, with conversations coming through loud and clear on the earpiece, and even sounding pretty good on the single speaker at the rear.

Software

So the hardware is pretty good, but what about the software? Not surprisingly, the Galaxy S II runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), which among other things means the phone is fully Flash capable. But this isn’t Android in its purest form: Samsung has added its own UI tweaks (dubbed TouchWiz 4), and there’s plenty to like.

There’s the usual selection of flat, sideways scrolling multiple desktops we saw on the Galaxy S, with a persistent, customisable toolbar running along the bottom of the screen. And when you pull down on the notifications bar at the top, you’ll see switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and Sound, plus a button for auto-rotate lock.

A rather pointless tilt-to-zoom feature lets you place two fingers on the screen, then tip the phone back and forth to zoom web pages and photos. More useful is the inclusion of Motorola-like resizable widgets, and you can pinch to zoom out on the main app launch grid in addition to the desktop.

However, topping our list of favourites is the addition of wireless synchronisation via the Kies Air app. This allows you to access and manage the contents of your phone using a browser without having to connect it to a PC.

Switch it on, type the IP address of the phone into your browser, and up pops a web page of small square content panels, with navigation links down the left-hand side. Using these panels you can edit and delete contacts, download and upload files, photos and videos, and even access the phone’s call and text logs. It’s a great system, and you can connect via your wireless network, or directly using the S II’s personal hotspot mode.

Verdict

There’s plenty more in terms of software we could go into, from the excellent contact linking to the integrated task killer and the dead-easy DLNA sharing software, AllShare, but what you really want to read is our final verdict on the Samsung Galaxy S II. If you hadn’t guessed from the tone of the review, we absolutely love it.

Its power is unrivalled, its 4.3in is wonderfully bright and colourful, call quality is great and the camera is simply superb. The only concern we have is over battery life, but with everything else so good, a small hit in terms of stamina is the least of our worries. Even the price is reasonable: you can get one free on a £29 per month contract, a price that undercuts the best you can currently swing an iPhone 4 for – £69 and then £30 per month.

In short, the Samsung Galaxy S II is good enough to elbow the iPhone 4 roughly aside and grab the crown of the best smartphone on the planet. We’d encourage anyone who’s currently upgrading to push it straight to the top of their shortlist.

Mar 172011
 

The Optimus 3D will mark a first in the world of mobile phones as it will be the first smartphone to successfully implement 3D technology. While the 3D technology employed on the phone’s screen is not quite as sophisticated as 3D technology found in the world of cinema, it remains something unique to the Optimus 3D for the time being. Only time will tell whether this feature will become more commonplace in the smartphone industry like cameras and social network support, or whether it will be consigned to the dustbin of pointless gimmicks.

LG Optimus 3d

The 4.3″ LCD capacitive screen on the Optimus 3D is not truly 3D in the strictest sense, and does not require the use of 3D glasses. This can only be deemed a good thing as there are undoubtedly not many people who would be willing to walk about with LG glasses glued to their face just to make use of a smartphone. Having said this, perhaps it is not that unlikely an outcome judging by how widely adopted the equally silly looking Bluetooth headsets have become. The screen on the Optimus 3D instead works by coming with a multi-layered set of filters. While the benefit of this design is that it does not require glasses, the drawback is that the 3D effect can only be felt from certain angles.

This is not the only area of the handset that incorporates 3D technology however. The Optimus 3D comes with dual 5 megapixel cameras on its rear that allow you to record 3D videos and capture stereoscopic images. The 3D videos can be recorded in a high 720p quality and adopt a true 3D rendering that can be fully enjoyed on home 3D televisions. To aid this feature the Optimus 3D comes with an HDMI port as well as DLNA enabled Wi-Fi so that you can easily stream content to your home TV. The cameras are also capable of recording 2 dimensional video at a higher quality of 1080p.

While the Optimus 3D can support 3D video playback not all entertainment is yet 3 dimensional, but the Optimus 3D does an excellent job of supporting 2 dimensional video content as well. There is a hefty 40GB of storage space available when using additional microSD cards and the handset can also provide video entertainment from online with a dedicated YouTube app and Adobe Flash support.

Like all the best smartphones the Optimus 3D comes with excellent messaging features as well. The phone supports threaded SMS, email and instant messaging and comes with fantastic integration for social networks like Facebook. While Facebook has yet to go 3D there is nothing stopping you from uploading your stereoscopic images to your profile, even if they may be somewhat confusing to your 2 dimensional friends.

While 3D phones have been on the cards for some time the LG Optimus 3D is the first such device to make it to the stores. While some people are eagerly anticipating this smartphone others are already dismissing it as a pointless gimmick. However, it should be remembered that people also said the same thing when music and cameras were first introduced to mobile phones – and they were wrong.

Feb 152011
 

High Tech Computer (HTC) released five new Android-based devices, including two phones with a dedicated Facebook button, the Salsa and the ChaCha, at Mobile World Congress on Tuesday. It also unveiled its Flyer tablet.

HTC’s Facebook phones follow on the heels of two launched by INQ before Mobile World Congress: the Android-based INQ Cloud Touch and INQ Cloud Q, which both have tight Facebook integration.

htc desire s

HTC Desire S

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sent a video message to HTC’s news conference to say users can expect many more phones with much deeper integration with Facebook to arrive this year.

The Salsa and the ChaCha will make it easier to use Facebook while on the go. For example, when users have taken a picture they can push the Facebook button, which is located at the bottom of the device, to automatically upload the image. The same can be done with songs and other types of information users may want to share with their Facebook contacts. The button will light up whenever there is an opportunity for users to share content or updates.

Other features include the ability to view a friend’s latest status and photos on the dialer screen when you make a call. The updates are also displayed when receiving a call from a Facebook friend, according to HTC.

The ChaCha has a 2.6-inch screen and a QWERTY keyboard, which will help HTC compete with BlackBerry for the youth market, according to CCS Insight. The Salsa has a 3.4-inch touchscreen and a 5-megapixel camera, and both phones run Android 2.3. They will be available customers in Europe and Asian during the second quarter. In the U.S., AT&T will have an exclusive deal to launch the phones later this year. Pricing was not announced.

HTC Flyer

HTC Flyer

HTC’s Flyer, unveiled at the show, is a 7-inch Android tablet with a 5 megapixel autofocus camera on the back, and a 1.3 megapixel one on the front. The tablet has 32GB of storage and can connect to 3G networks at up to 5.76Mbps (you might want to think about laptop insurance !).

The company also launched the HTC Desire S, Wildfire S and Incredible S, all upgrades of its existing models.

The Desire S has been made out of a solid piece of aluminium, and is equipped with a 3.7-inch screen. The smartphone offers HD recording and integrated video chat. More memory and a processor at 1.2GHz will make it run faster than the predecessor, according to HTC

The Wildfire S is the company’s “mass market smartphone”, vendor speak for a lower cost product. Its 3.2-inch screen has twice as many pixels as the existing model.

The Incredible S has a Super LCD 4-inch screen and surround sound, and an 8-megapixel camera that can record video in HD.

HTC Incredible S will start shipping in Europe in March. The HTC Desire S, HTC Wildfire S will be available to consumers across major European and Asian markets during the second quarter. Pricing was not announced.