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James Norton

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Everything posted by James Norton

  1. I have a two week old iPhone 8, an unwanted gift. Used only for about an hour indoors so totally mint. Boxed, unused accessories. Its a space grey 64Gb bought unlocked literally two weeks ago. Looking for £495 inclusive of RMSD.
  2. James Norton

    iPhone 8 64Gb unlocked space gray mint. SOLD

    This is now sold
  3. Selling my superb condition iPhone X 64Gb Silver, used since launch day and in a case at all times. All accessories unused and it is supplied boxed. RMSD postage included, payment by BACS.
  4. James Norton

    Nokia X review

    Why not start off with a look at our video review.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYFI8_hh2Vc A lot of people have been dreaming of a Nokia phone running Android. But why? There are a lot of great Android phones on the market, so why do people get excited at the idea of Nokia joining in on the party? Part of it must come down to an historic love for the Nokia brand. Many people's first phone was a Nokia - including mine - and just that brand name evokes a bit of excitement. Some of this desire comes from the sheer quality of Nokia devices in the past few years. Everything from the Lumia 800 to the latest Lumia 1520 is a quality product. Nokia know how to make great hardware and people want it. Perhaps the biggest draw though is the thought of a product like a Lumia 1020 running Android. Just imagine that camera but with the flexibility and power of Android. At least that is what we are told. If you are one of these consumers, if you want a Nokia smartphone, you can just go out and buy one of their Lumia devices and it doesn't really matter which one, they are all pretty great. People are not doing this though which suggests to me that Windows Phone is the problem. Well, if you fall into this camp, I am excited to say that Nokia have now released a phone running Android. And it comes in green. If you are using a high end Android device and are thrilled by this news, I suggest you stop reading right now, keep that smile on your face and go have a nice cup of tea. What's the story then? Well, you made it this far and are still curious. Lets get a few numbers out of the way first, just in case you want to change your mind... The Nokia X costs €89 - probably around £75 in the UK. It runs Android 4.1.2. It has a 3.15 megapixel fixed focus camera. It only has 512Mb of RAM and 4Gb of internal storage. It runs on a dual core Snapdragon S4 Play SoC in dual core 1Ghz guise. If you are a seasoned phone watcher, your nose might be turned up by these numbers, but what does it all mean for Nokia and how does it all pan out? When the X was announced back at MWC in Barcelona in February, Stephen Elop said that the strategy for the X was "the next billion". What he was saying is that smartphones are getting quite close to saturation in the developed western world and the Nokia X was targeted at emerging markets. He went on to explain that for many people, a smartphone will be their first and only computing device and he wanted their first online account to be a Microsoft account. This makes a lot of sense given that Microsoft and Nokia are on the verge of merging together of course. He also said that the Nokia X range would be a feeder device for people into the Lumia range. You have your first, super cheap smartphone from Nokia and upgrade to something with a bit more oomph in the guise of a Nokia Lumia. Lets take a look at each of these claims and see how Nokia has done. First of all, will the next billion users be using the Nokia X to sign up for a Microsoft account? Nokia make a good start on this aim as the Nokia X does not include the Google services that run on top of Android. This probably needs a little explaining. Android as we know it from mainstream devices available in Europe and North America among other places is essentially made up of at least two parts. Firstly, there is the Android Open Source Project component. This is a free to use, open source piece of software that Google maintains which forms the base of Android. It contains the core libraries for Android, some location API's and a set of basic apps for messaging and mail, a dialler and contacts, a basic launcher and a few other goodies mainly for capturing and playing back media. If you install a basic AOSP build onto a phone, you will have a working phone, but there will be no Google Play Store. And no other Google apps. The second part of Android as we tend to think of it are the Google apps. These are closed source, Google owned apps that you need Google's permission to include on a phone. In order to get a licence from Google to supply these apps, your phone needs to be certified by Google which means meeting some minimum standards largely focused on the way you present your software. For instance, the Google Play Store needs to be available as a shortcut on the home screen when the user first turns on the phone. What Nokia have done is take the AOSP, the free part of Android and not got Google to certify it but instead put their own user interface on top of this basic Android build and replaced the Google services with Nokia ones. There is the Nokia Store and there are Nokia HERE Maps for instance instead of the Google Play Store and Google Maps. So, you are not asked to create a Google account to use the X and in fact you do not need a Google account. Amazingly, you do not need any sort of account with any services at all to use the X. Even without a Nokia account, you can download free apps from the Nokia Store. This makes the phone very easy to get started with. Strangely, there is absolutely nothing on the X that tries to convince you to open a Microsoft account either. There are no pre-installed Microsoft services, even Skype has to be loaded from the store though you do get some competing services such as BBM weirdly. So Nokia are not pushing a Microsoft account on you at all. This is lovely from a users perspective but doesn't really tie in with what we were told at the launch of the X. How about their other claim that this will feed people into the Lumia range? Well, I have grave doubts about this as well. Nokia have made it very easy for developers to move their apps into the Nokia Store and they even allow you to install other app stores from within theirs. You can also sideload apps very simply if you know how. This means that right now, a decent proportion of the enormous number of Android apps are within reach and soon I would expect many more to be able to be installed more simply. If you use the Nokia X for a year or so with those Android apps available and then switch to the Windows Phone based Lumia range, what sort of experience will you have? Well, for starters you are going to find that some of the apps you use might well be totally unavailable for Windows Phone and many others will have a totally different user experience and often a more limited feature set. Then you will find that many of these apps are slower to load even though you have bought a more expensive device. You may well find that apps are not updating in the background as they do on Android. Sharing between apps works less effectively too. At that point you may well wonder if your shiny new Lumia phone was an upgrade at all! What I hope you take away from these musings is that the Nokia X is not quite the device that Stephen Elop wanted us to believe. But this does not mean it is without merit. Far from it in fact. The Nokia X may have issues leading you to a Microsoft account and then on to the Lumia range of Nokia devices, but there are no problems with it giving you a solid phone experience in and of itself. More importantly, whilst this is not trying to be a high end Nokia device, it is still a Nokia. This means that we have a supremely well built and very nicely designed phone. The hardware Lets take a look at the device itself more closely. What I have here is the green model. Nokia calls it Bright Green and they are not wrong! It is a wonderful colour and I absolutely love it. It looks fantastic, especially in the sun. The material Nokia have used here is plastic, but it is Nokia plastic and that means it feels pretty good. In fact, I think the X has a more premium feel than many phones costing three times as much. It feels very solid but still has a slight softness to the plastics. There is no give in the phone as there often is with devices that use a fairly thin plastic as a shell as Nokia do here. All the ports are cut perfectly with very smooth pleasing edges to them. This is way more attention to detail than the price point deserves and credit where it is due, Nokia know how to build a phone. The front is dominated by a 4" WVGA (that is 800x480) LCD screen that appears to just be a standard TFT unit - no fancy IPS technology here. It is a very basic screen that has just enough pop to make it pleasing to use, indoors. It simply does not go bright enough for use outside and is very reflective which leads to some real issues in any sort of brighter light. Its touch responsive is good without being notable. Above the screen there is a proximity sensor as well as an ambient light sensor, but I didn't really bother with auto brightness, needing it on max almost all the time. The left side is totally devoid of anything except wonderful green plastic though obviously the yellow model wont use green plastics!! On the right are the power and volume buttons which have a nice clicky action and are very easy to find as they extrude from the body nicely. The bottom is where you will find the standard microUSB charge and sync slot. Up top is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The single mic on the X is hidden in the edging that surrounds the screen. Inside, you will find a microSD card slot and the dual SIM slots. The SIM slots support dual standby - both can be active at the same time - but only slot 1 supports 3G. The back of the X is a large slab of plastic with the Nokia logo in the middle. A simply integrated camera sits up top and there is no flash. The hardware here is both unremarkable and yet absolutely remarkable. For a phone at this price point, it is quite amazing that we are getting such quality. Yes, it is a bit of a chubby device, but the back curves a little and it feels great in the hand. The software This phone is not just about the hardware, it is also about the software. And it is a very interesting bit of software too. Based on Android 4.1.2 - a base version of Android released in mid 2010 - Nokia call this their Nokia X Software Platform. Lets get the basic problem out of the way first. The Nokia X Software Platform is slow. I have been very careful with my words here as I found the provided software worse than some of the apps available in the Nokia Store. This is a slow device running on very basic hardware. Compared to something like the HTC Desire 500 which runs on a quad core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 200 SoC with the same amount of RAM and the same Android version, the X feels worse. The HTC at least feels like it is responding to you whereas sometimes the X leaves you hanging for many seconds. It is an odd experience to get on a smartphone these days. The launcher on the X has a bit of Windows Phone about it. You get to organise your apps and Android widgets on the screen - there is no separate app tray - and each app icon is a sort of live tile which can show some information. Each of these tiles can be one of two sizes, small or large. The large ones take up the space of four small ones. As you tap and hold on a tile to move it around, other tiles sort of shimmy out of the way. It looks neat but the animations are a bit jerky. I actually really liked the layout it could provide, but it is a bit of a pain to set it all up. Swiping either left or right from the home screen takes you to the Nokia Fastlane. This is a UI and a concept taken straight from the Nokia Asha line up. Here the fastlane shows you all of your notifications and gives you a chronological history of the things you have done with your device - in reality this is a list of apps you have opened, calls and texts. There is also a button for quickly sharing to a social network. Pull down from the top and you get the notification drawer. At first this looks like Android, but actually this drawer does not keep your notifications for you. Instead, it has some quick toggles and a link to settings. Notifications are actually shown only as toast messages across the top of the display, disappearing into your Fastlane after a few seconds. Try as I might, I could not tap on one and get it to do anything either which seems like a weird omission. Changing notifications and the notification drawer is just one standard Android thing that is now different. The Nokia X only has one button under the screen and it is a back button! Long press it to go home or just tap it to go back. Going back works like an Android back button, not a Windows Phone back button. There is no task switching button, you either re-launch an app from the home screen or find it in your Fastlane. There is also no menu button on the X. Instead, when a menu is needed, a small icon with three horizontal lines appears at the bottom of the screen. Swiping up on those reveals the menu. Many of the other parts of the Nokia X Software Platform are obviously Android but made to look different. For instance, the settings app is pure Android in how it looks. There is even a standard developer menu. The email app is the stock AOSP email app but with the Nokia look and feel. It works reasonably well. One area that is obviously different is the web browser which actually has a nice simple interface. It is very simple to change which search engine you are using and the browser renders pages well, if a little slowly. I downloaded a wide range of apps from the Nokia Store. It is not totally bare - I was surprised at how many apps are in there - but still, much is missing. Everything I downloaded ran really well. Some things I installed were a massive upgrade. I side-loaded Apex Launcher which completely changed the Nokia X. Suddenly it felt like a normal Android device and Apex was a lot faster than the stock launcher for me too. The keyboard the X comes with is pretty poor. I found it slow and laggy and a chore to type with even though it does do a decent job of correcting your typos. Luckily SwiftKey is available for free in the Nokia Store - go download that before trying anything else I would say. Easily, the best parts of the software are the Nokia apps. Nokia MixRadio is a fantastic free music streaming app where you can start your own radio station based on some music genres you like or a favourite artist. Definitely something worth checking out. Nokia HERE Maps can compete with and often better any other mapping solution out there. You can even download maps for offline use which is very useful in places where mobile data is patchy or expensive. With the X, you get a licence for one countries maps to be stored offline with no obvious way to upgrade right now. The GPS and mapping works really well though and is a very useful addition. The basics Above all else, the Nokia X is a phone. And it is actually a very good phone. Calls were loud and clear. It has a very loud speaker which works very well as a speaker phone. It has amazing cellular signal reception, consistently holding on to weak signal better than anything else I have used for some time. Messaging is handled by what appears to be a skinned version of the AOSP messaging app and works fine. The battery is a weakness though. The Nokia X comes with a 1500mAh unit which should be fine for a device of this size. The X has fairly low standby battery drain, even with two SIM cards installed. But the battery percentage plummets alarmingly when it is used. I was able to drain it in 2 hours of continuous use just browsing the web, reading some Twitter and Facebook and taking a few pictures. That was from a full charge as well. Not very good! For most lighter users of the phone, it will get you through a day, but only just! To compound the endurance problem, it charges very slowly. The camera Nokia have endowed the X with a 3.15 megapixel fixed focus camera. Now hold on, because things are not quite as bad as they might initially sound. Sure, you are not going to take pictures of text or fine detail unless you are at exactly the right distance from it, but it really is serviceable as a camera for sharing to social media. You will find a few snaps at the end of this section. What is silly is how fully featured the user interface is! It is pretty straightforwards at first with a capture button and the ability to choose to take video or panoramas too. Open up the settings though and there are a myriad of options including setting your own ISO, choosing saturation, sharpness etc etc. I would ignore all of these and let the camera do its work and it will produce usable shots. It is just strange that Nokia made the interface so full of options. I would also ignore the panorama mode which I found to be pretty bad. The video quality is ok for a FWVGA (854x480) resolution but that is not saying much. Overall, the camera produces images with a nice colour balance, it copes with dynamic lighting better than expected and is reasonably fast to use. This is far from an imaging device, so I will leave it there. Click on these camera samples for the full size untouched version. So what does it all add up to? At the end of the day, the Nokia X is a decent offering in its price range. I suspect it will be about £50 on PAYG when it comes to the UK later this year and at that price it is a much better offering than any feature phone including the Nokia Asha range. It is that which I believe Nokia targeted with the X, it needs to be a replacement for the Asha range. Once the Microsoft purchase of Nokia is complete, will they keep an Android phone in their line-up? Who knows, but it is a risk if you are considering buying the X. If Microsoft keep it, I hope they will update the underlying AOSP version and get some Microsoft services pre-installed. It is a bit strange that you have to go hunting for stuff and would be more useful to be offered some services to help you get the most from the device, but I do like that you don't have to create any accounts for the X to work out of the box. The other sticking point here is Nokia's Lumia 520. It can be had for as little as £60 right now and at that price the X cannot compete. The 520 is a better phone in every single way. It has a better camera, much better screen, better app store (at least for now) and will get the upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1. It is also a lot faster and has a better battery endurance. If you are willing to stretch, then the Motorola Moto G can be had for around £100. The Moto G is also far superior than the X with a far far better screen, a better camera, much better battery life, an infinitely richer ecosystem and decent build quality too. So where will the X end up? I think in developed markets, it may well end up unsold, but in the markets Nokia are really targeting, for "the next billion users", it represents a smartphone with great build quality at a low price. I still reckon any cheap Google Android device is a better bet from a total experience but Nokia have incredible brand loyalty and I can see the X doing very well. There is no simple answer to the "should I buy one?" question. If this will be your first smartphone, it is an interesting option, but is a bit risky. If this is not your first smartphone, there is no compelling reason I can see to buy the X over a cheap Google Android device beyond the Nokia apps. I would definitely recommend a wait and see attitude to the X right now. View full item
  5. James Norton

    Nokia X review

    Why not start off with a look at our video review.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYFI8_hh2Vc A lot of people have been dreaming of a Nokia phone running Android. But why? There are a lot of great Android phones on the market, so why do people get excited at the idea of Nokia joining in on the party? Part of it must come down to an historic love for the Nokia brand. Many people's first phone was a Nokia - including mine - and just that brand name evokes a bit of excitement. Some of this desire comes from the sheer quality of Nokia devices in the past few years. Everything from the Lumia 800 to the latest Lumia 1520 is a quality product. Nokia know how to make great hardware and people want it. Perhaps the biggest draw though is the thought of a product like a Lumia 1020 running Android. Just imagine that camera but with the flexibility and power of Android. At least that is what we are told. If you are one of these consumers, if you want a Nokia smartphone, you can just go out and buy one of their Lumia devices and it doesn't really matter which one, they are all pretty great. People are not doing this though which suggests to me that Windows Phone is the problem. Well, if you fall into this camp, I am excited to say that Nokia have now released a phone running Android. And it comes in green. If you are using a high end Android device and are thrilled by this news, I suggest you stop reading right now, keep that smile on your face and go have a nice cup of tea. What's the story then? Well, you made it this far and are still curious. Lets get a few numbers out of the way first, just in case you want to change your mind... The Nokia X costs €89 - probably around £75 in the UK. It runs Android 4.1.2. It has a 3.15 megapixel fixed focus camera. It only has 512Mb of RAM and 4Gb of internal storage. It runs on a dual core Snapdragon S4 Play SoC in dual core 1Ghz guise. If you are a seasoned phone watcher, your nose might be turned up by these numbers, but what does it all mean for Nokia and how does it all pan out? When the X was announced back at MWC in Barcelona in February, Stephen Elop said that the strategy for the X was "the next billion". What he was saying is that smartphones are getting quite close to saturation in the developed western world and the Nokia X was targeted at emerging markets. He went on to explain that for many people, a smartphone will be their first and only computing device and he wanted their first online account to be a Microsoft account. This makes a lot of sense given that Microsoft and Nokia are on the verge of merging together of course. He also said that the Nokia X range would be a feeder device for people into the Lumia range. You have your first, super cheap smartphone from Nokia and upgrade to something with a bit more oomph in the guise of a Nokia Lumia. Lets take a look at each of these claims and see how Nokia has done. First of all, will the next billion users be using the Nokia X to sign up for a Microsoft account? Nokia make a good start on this aim as the Nokia X does not include the Google services that run on top of Android. This probably needs a little explaining. Android as we know it from mainstream devices available in Europe and North America among other places is essentially made up of at least two parts. Firstly, there is the Android Open Source Project component. This is a free to use, open source piece of software that Google maintains which forms the base of Android. It contains the core libraries for Android, some location API's and a set of basic apps for messaging and mail, a dialler and contacts, a basic launcher and a few other goodies mainly for capturing and playing back media. If you install a basic AOSP build onto a phone, you will have a working phone, but there will be no Google Play Store. And no other Google apps. The second part of Android as we tend to think of it are the Google apps. These are closed source, Google owned apps that you need Google's permission to include on a phone. In order to get a licence from Google to supply these apps, your phone needs to be certified by Google which means meeting some minimum standards largely focused on the way you present your software. For instance, the Google Play Store needs to be available as a shortcut on the home screen when the user first turns on the phone. What Nokia have done is take the AOSP, the free part of Android and not got Google to certify it but instead put their own user interface on top of this basic Android build and replaced the Google services with Nokia ones. There is the Nokia Store and there are Nokia HERE Maps for instance instead of the Google Play Store and Google Maps. So, you are not asked to create a Google account to use the X and in fact you do not need a Google account. Amazingly, you do not need any sort of account with any services at all to use the X. Even without a Nokia account, you can download free apps from the Nokia Store. This makes the phone very easy to get started with. Strangely, there is absolutely nothing on the X that tries to convince you to open a Microsoft account either. There are no pre-installed Microsoft services, even Skype has to be loaded from the store though you do get some competing services such as BBM weirdly. So Nokia are not pushing a Microsoft account on you at all. This is lovely from a users perspective but doesn't really tie in with what we were told at the launch of the X. How about their other claim that this will feed people into the Lumia range? Well, I have grave doubts about this as well. Nokia have made it very easy for developers to move their apps into the Nokia Store and they even allow you to install other app stores from within theirs. You can also sideload apps very simply if you know how. This means that right now, a decent proportion of the enormous number of Android apps are within reach and soon I would expect many more to be able to be installed more simply. If you use the Nokia X for a year or so with those Android apps available and then switch to the Windows Phone based Lumia range, what sort of experience will you have? Well, for starters you are going to find that some of the apps you use might well be totally unavailable for Windows Phone and many others will have a totally different user experience and often a more limited feature set. Then you will find that many of these apps are slower to load even though you have bought a more expensive device. You may well find that apps are not updating in the background as they do on Android. Sharing between apps works less effectively too. At that point you may well wonder if your shiny new Lumia phone was an upgrade at all! What I hope you take away from these musings is that the Nokia X is not quite the device that Stephen Elop wanted us to believe. But this does not mean it is without merit. Far from it in fact. The Nokia X may have issues leading you to a Microsoft account and then on to the Lumia range of Nokia devices, but there are no problems with it giving you a solid phone experience in and of itself. More importantly, whilst this is not trying to be a high end Nokia device, it is still a Nokia. This means that we have a supremely well built and very nicely designed phone. The hardware Lets take a look at the device itself more closely. What I have here is the green model. Nokia calls it Bright Green and they are not wrong! It is a wonderful colour and I absolutely love it. It looks fantastic, especially in the sun. The material Nokia have used here is plastic, but it is Nokia plastic and that means it feels pretty good. In fact, I think the X has a more premium feel than many phones costing three times as much. It feels very solid but still has a slight softness to the plastics. There is no give in the phone as there often is with devices that use a fairly thin plastic as a shell as Nokia do here. All the ports are cut perfectly with very smooth pleasing edges to them. This is way more attention to detail than the price point deserves and credit where it is due, Nokia know how to build a phone. The front is dominated by a 4" WVGA (that is 800x480) LCD screen that appears to just be a standard TFT unit - no fancy IPS technology here. It is a very basic screen that has just enough pop to make it pleasing to use, indoors. It simply does not go bright enough for use outside and is very reflective which leads to some real issues in any sort of brighter light. Its touch responsive is good without being notable. Above the screen there is a proximity sensor as well as an ambient light sensor, but I didn't really bother with auto brightness, needing it on max almost all the time. The left side is totally devoid of anything except wonderful green plastic though obviously the yellow model wont use green plastics!! On the right are the power and volume buttons which have a nice clicky action and are very easy to find as they extrude from the body nicely. The bottom is where you will find the standard microUSB charge and sync slot. Up top is a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The single mic on the X is hidden in the edging that surrounds the screen. Inside, you will find a microSD card slot and the dual SIM slots. The SIM slots support dual standby - both can be active at the same time - but only slot 1 supports 3G. The back of the X is a large slab of plastic with the Nokia logo in the middle. A simply integrated camera sits up top and there is no flash. The hardware here is both unremarkable and yet absolutely remarkable. For a phone at this price point, it is quite amazing that we are getting such quality. Yes, it is a bit of a chubby device, but the back curves a little and it feels great in the hand. The software This phone is not just about the hardware, it is also about the software. And it is a very interesting bit of software too. Based on Android 4.1.2 - a base version of Android released in mid 2010 - Nokia call this their Nokia X Software Platform. Lets get the basic problem out of the way first. The Nokia X Software Platform is slow. I have been very careful with my words here as I found the provided software worse than some of the apps available in the Nokia Store. This is a slow device running on very basic hardware. Compared to something like the HTC Desire 500 which runs on a quad core 1.2Ghz Snapdragon 200 SoC with the same amount of RAM and the same Android version, the X feels worse. The HTC at least feels like it is responding to you whereas sometimes the X leaves you hanging for many seconds. It is an odd experience to get on a smartphone these days. The launcher on the X has a bit of Windows Phone about it. You get to organise your apps and Android widgets on the screen - there is no separate app tray - and each app icon is a sort of live tile which can show some information. Each of these tiles can be one of two sizes, small or large. The large ones take up the space of four small ones. As you tap and hold on a tile to move it around, other tiles sort of shimmy out of the way. It looks neat but the animations are a bit jerky. I actually really liked the layout it could provide, but it is a bit of a pain to set it all up. Swiping either left or right from the home screen takes you to the Nokia Fastlane. This is a UI and a concept taken straight from the Nokia Asha line up. Here the fastlane shows you all of your notifications and gives you a chronological history of the things you have done with your device - in reality this is a list of apps you have opened, calls and texts. There is also a button for quickly sharing to a social network. Pull down from the top and you get the notification drawer. At first this looks like Android, but actually this drawer does not keep your notifications for you. Instead, it has some quick toggles and a link to settings. Notifications are actually shown only as toast messages across the top of the display, disappearing into your Fastlane after a few seconds. Try as I might, I could not tap on one and get it to do anything either which seems like a weird omission. Changing notifications and the notification drawer is just one standard Android thing that is now different. The Nokia X only has one button under the screen and it is a back button! Long press it to go home or just tap it to go back. Going back works like an Android back button, not a Windows Phone back button. There is no task switching button, you either re-launch an app from the home screen or find it in your Fastlane. There is also no menu button on the X. Instead, when a menu is needed, a small icon with three horizontal lines appears at the bottom of the screen. Swiping up on those reveals the menu. Many of the other parts of the Nokia X Software Platform are obviously Android but made to look different. For instance, the settings app is pure Android in how it looks. There is even a standard developer menu. The email app is the stock AOSP email app but with the Nokia look and feel. It works reasonably well. One area that is obviously different is the web browser which actually has a nice simple interface. It is very simple to change which search engine you are using and the browser renders pages well, if a little slowly. I downloaded a wide range of apps from the Nokia Store. It is not totally bare - I was surprised at how many apps are in there - but still, much is missing. Everything I downloaded ran really well. Some things I installed were a massive upgrade. I side-loaded Apex Launcher which completely changed the Nokia X. Suddenly it felt like a normal Android device and Apex was a lot faster than the stock launcher for me too. The keyboard the X comes with is pretty poor. I found it slow and laggy and a chore to type with even though it does do a decent job of correcting your typos. Luckily SwiftKey is available for free in the Nokia Store - go download that before trying anything else I would say. Easily, the best parts of the software are the Nokia apps. Nokia MixRadio is a fantastic free music streaming app where you can start your own radio station based on some music genres you like or a favourite artist. Definitely something worth checking out. Nokia HERE Maps can compete with and often better any other mapping solution out there. You can even download maps for offline use which is very useful in places where mobile data is patchy or expensive. With the X, you get a licence for one countries maps to be stored offline with no obvious way to upgrade right now. The GPS and mapping works really well though and is a very useful addition. The basics Above all else, the Nokia X is a phone. And it is actually a very good phone. Calls were loud and clear. It has a very loud speaker which works very well as a speaker phone. It has amazing cellular signal reception, consistently holding on to weak signal better than anything else I have used for some time. Messaging is handled by what appears to be a skinned version of the AOSP messaging app and works fine. The battery is a weakness though. The Nokia X comes with a 1500mAh unit which should be fine for a device of this size. The X has fairly low standby battery drain, even with two SIM cards installed. But the battery percentage plummets alarmingly when it is used. I was able to drain it in 2 hours of continuous use just browsing the web, reading some Twitter and Facebook and taking a few pictures. That was from a full charge as well. Not very good! For most lighter users of the phone, it will get you through a day, but only just! To compound the endurance problem, it charges very slowly. The camera Nokia have endowed the X with a 3.15 megapixel fixed focus camera. Now hold on, because things are not quite as bad as they might initially sound. Sure, you are not going to take pictures of text or fine detail unless you are at exactly the right distance from it, but it really is serviceable as a camera for sharing to social media. You will find a few snaps at the end of this section. What is silly is how fully featured the user interface is! It is pretty straightforwards at first with a capture button and the ability to choose to take video or panoramas too. Open up the settings though and there are a myriad of options including setting your own ISO, choosing saturation, sharpness etc etc. I would ignore all of these and let the camera do its work and it will produce usable shots. It is just strange that Nokia made the interface so full of options. I would also ignore the panorama mode which I found to be pretty bad. The video quality is ok for a FWVGA (854x480) resolution but that is not saying much. Overall, the camera produces images with a nice colour balance, it copes with dynamic lighting better than expected and is reasonably fast to use. This is far from an imaging device, so I will leave it there. Click on these camera samples for the full size untouched version. So what does it all add up to? At the end of the day, the Nokia X is a decent offering in its price range. I suspect it will be about £50 on PAYG when it comes to the UK later this year and at that price it is a much better offering than any feature phone including the Nokia Asha range. It is that which I believe Nokia targeted with the X, it needs to be a replacement for the Asha range. Once the Microsoft purchase of Nokia is complete, will they keep an Android phone in their line-up? Who knows, but it is a risk if you are considering buying the X. If Microsoft keep it, I hope they will update the underlying AOSP version and get some Microsoft services pre-installed. It is a bit strange that you have to go hunting for stuff and would be more useful to be offered some services to help you get the most from the device, but I do like that you don't have to create any accounts for the X to work out of the box. The other sticking point here is Nokia's Lumia 520. It can be had for as little as £60 right now and at that price the X cannot compete. The 520 is a better phone in every single way. It has a better camera, much better screen, better app store (at least for now) and will get the upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1. It is also a lot faster and has a better battery endurance. If you are willing to stretch, then the Motorola Moto G can be had for around £100. The Moto G is also far superior than the X with a far far better screen, a better camera, much better battery life, an infinitely richer ecosystem and decent build quality too. So where will the X end up? I think in developed markets, it may well end up unsold, but in the markets Nokia are really targeting, for "the next billion users", it represents a smartphone with great build quality at a low price. I still reckon any cheap Google Android device is a better bet from a total experience but Nokia have incredible brand loyalty and I can see the X doing very well. There is no simple answer to the "should I buy one?" question. If this will be your first smartphone, it is an interesting option, but is a bit risky. If this is not your first smartphone, there is no compelling reason I can see to buy the X over a cheap Google Android device beyond the Nokia apps. I would definitely recommend a wait and see attitude to the X right now.
  6. James Norton

    ZTE Blade S6 review

    Just a few short years ago, ZTE looked like being the next big thing in the consumer smartphone space. That never quite happened for us here in the UK, but they remain a huge manufacturer and are in or on the cusp of the top 5 worldwide regularly. They recently announced and released the Blade S6, a mid-range handset sitting above the budget range and offering great bang for your buck, at least on paper. It is available for around £169 off contract but cheaper deals can be found. For that relatively meagre outlay you are getting some fantastic specs and interesting design features. Yes, it is fair to say that ZTE are aping the look of some other well known brands with some blatant rip-offs including their "Designed in California" missive found on the back of the phone, but sometimes that imitation leads to good results. Hardware and design The front of the phone is dominated by its 5" 720p IPS LCD display. This is far from the best display in the world but it is still rather nice. The resolution and pixel density are high enough that there should be no complaints. The colour gamut and saturation are not fantastic with bold hues being particularly muted and while contrast is acceptable it struggles to reach the heights of some devices even at this end of the market but I really had no complaints. In direct sunlight the screen is OK, nothing more. In a manner that is less common than I would like, the glass curves slightly towards the edges of the display and the fit is such that the seam between the glass and the body of the phone is very minimal. It is not as refined as some devices but still works well making swiping gestures all the more pleasant. Underneath that screen is the blue lit home button fashioned as a circle. I like the way this looks. Annoyingly though, the capacitive home and menu keys (yes, it has a menu key) are just dots which light up on demand next to this circle. The dots are customisable as to which is menu and which is back. On the back we see the 13mp camera and its single LED flash and a speaker aperture with a little nubbin to raise the phone up slightly so it can be heard when resting on its rear. The body of the device is entirely plastic and I am not convinced by the metallic effect ZTE have gone for. The right hand side has a volume rocker and the power button both of which are positive enough in their feel. On the left side we find the slots for the dual nano SIM cards and the microSD card. Overall, ZTE have built the Blade S6 averagely. It creaks and moans occasionally when being used and feels a tad flimsy. It is nice and light but does not have that solidity I hope for in a phone. Software Switching the screen on reveals a customised version of Android Lollipop called MiFavor 3.0 UI. The name does the Blade S6 no favours but in reality the software skin is reasonably good. The Android notification drawer and quick toggles are left intact as is the status bar. The MiFavor launcher has no app drawer but offers some flexibility. Swipe up when on the home screen for options to change the wallpaper and the animation when moving between pages. Widgets and app icons can be laid out as you see fit and I do like the widget drawer that ZTE provide. There is no way to change the order of homescreens though. ZTE have left the settings menu largely as it was adding only a few custom options of their own. Similarly, the lock screen is basically stock Android for which ZTE should be applauded. There are a lot of pre-installed apps, but almost all can be either uninstalled or disabled. I shouldn't have to do this but at least it can be done. Most of these apps are not very useful and I especially disliked the ZTE calendar, but of course there is full Google Play access so you can install anything else you like. Once I had my own launcher and all the Google apps installed, the experience feels very stock Android and given how easy it is to make the phone look that way, I question the value of ZTE's efforts in offering their custom software, but there we are. One interesting feature of the Blade S6 is that it offers dual SIMs. One is for LTE with all UK bands supported and the other only received GSM signals. The setup works well and as expected is flexible as to which SIM is used for calls and messaging. In use So how about the experience of using the S6. Well, it is pretty fast. ZTE have used the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 SoC here paired with 2Gb of RAM and 16Gb internal storage (about 10Gb available). The 615 is a fairly new SoC and I can confirm that it is fast. Apps load relatively quickly and once loaded are very fast. The whole interface is fairly smooth and pleasant to use. In fact, I was so impressed with this chip, I started to wonder why you would need anything more. I would go so far as to suggest that the Snapdragon 615 is a game changer for Android in both a positive and negative sense. It is clearly a fast chipset and I suspect it has good enough battery endurance too. It never seems to run hot and is an all round great SoC. The problem for OEMs might be convincing people that higher end devices with faster chipsets are worthwhile, the performance differential is becoming negligible. Unfortunately, the Blade S6 is riddled with little bugs and all of them are on the software side. The problems with Android Lollipop are well documented and all of them are here including weird battery drain and slow downs as well as some obvious memory leaks. Add to that many more app crashes than I would expect and a surprising number of spontaneous device resets and it is clear there are some issues. ZTE launched the device with Android 5.0 and have updated it to 5.0.1 now with some fixes. After doing the upgrade, which annoyingly involved wiping the phone, it was smoother with fewer crashes and resets, but all these issues still existed. It is a real shame as some well optimised and stable software would lead to a truly fantastic experience. The touchscreen on the S6 is good but not perfect with a few phantom touches and a fair number of issues differentiating between taps and swipes. The capacitive buttons respond to the touch nice and positively but the use of a menu button rather than the usual task switch button is simply baffling these days. It slows down multi-tasking and essentially makes a whole hardware component of the device completely useless. ZTE could and should do very much better here. Cellular connections are reasonably strong with good data transfer rates. Call quality though is very weak with the other person on a call often completely unable to hear me. Volume levels in the earpiece are also a bit too low. Talking of volume levels, I found audio quality to be only OK both through headphones and the built in speaker and the maximum volume to be almost laughably low at times. Camera Like many manufacturers, ZTE have used a Sony sensor in the S6 camera, a 13mp one in this instance, and whether the sensor is good or not, the overall camera output is fairly poor. ZTE clearly have a long way to go to match the best even at this price range. It is a real shame as their camera interface is not too bad. It loads to a simple view with not much in the way of manual control visible. Press the red circle on the left and full manual control is enabled. There are lots of options here and they are implemented in a fairly nice way but ultimately I never bothered using them as the camera is simply not good enough to warrant it. There are a number of effects available including an HDR mode which is very aggressive in its processing. I just left it in normal mode all of the time though. You can see some camera samples here, as always click on the images to see the full size versions: The front facing camera is a 5mp sensor and seems to have a fairly wide angle lens in front of it. The quality is very average and although I don't take many selfies, when I did with the S6, I was left disappointed. Battery Battery life is a constant problem on smartphones and the 2400mAh unit in the S6 combined with the concerns about Lollipop battery endurance had me worried. I am looking for solid battery performance but more than that, consistent battery performance. I want to feel confident that when I look at my battery gauge, I can accurately guess how long I have until it will be dead. I have never seen such variable battery life as I had with the S6. I had more than one day where I got through the day with four hours screen time quite easily, impressive stuff. I also had more than one day where I was searching for a charger by early afternoon with only one hour of screen on time. This variability was more of an issue for me than the generally average battery performance I felt it really gives. ZTE need to work on getting this more consistent. I did test using a second SIM in the phone to see the impact on battery life but it was so variable, I cannot really comment. Conclusion Should you buy the S6? If you want a dual SIM device at a relatively low price point with fairly stock Android Lollipop, then maybe. Otherwise, I wouldn't. ZTE have done a decent job with the Blade S6. It is very fast and generally nice to use. It looks good enough not to give the impression of being cheap, at least from afar. However, there are too many issues for me to recommend it. It feels a bit cheap, there are far too many software bugs and the camera and battery are problematic. If you are looking for a phone at this price and don't need dual SIM slots, we would still recommend the Moto G, especially the second generation model with LTE. It is worth waiting a month or two though as many more Snapdragon 615 powered devices are coming to the market.
  7. James Norton

    ZTE Blade S6 review

    Just a few short years ago, ZTE looked like being the next big thing in the consumer smartphone space. That never quite happened for us here in the UK, but they remain a huge manufacturer and are in or on the cusp of the top 5 worldwide regularly. They recently announced and released the Blade S6, a mid-range handset sitting above the budget range and offering great bang for your buck, at least on paper. It is available for around £169 off contract but cheaper deals can be found. For that relatively meagre outlay you are getting some fantastic specs and interesting design features. Yes, it is fair to say that ZTE are aping the look of some other well known brands with some blatant rip-offs including their "Designed in California" missive found on the back of the phone, but sometimes that imitation leads to good results. Hardware and design The front of the phone is dominated by its 5" 720p IPS LCD display. This is far from the best display in the world but it is still rather nice. The resolution and pixel density are high enough that there should be no complaints. The colour gamut and saturation are not fantastic with bold hues being particularly muted and while contrast is acceptable it struggles to reach the heights of some devices even at this end of the market but I really had no complaints. In direct sunlight the screen is OK, nothing more. In a manner that is less common than I would like, the glass curves slightly towards the edges of the display and the fit is such that the seam between the glass and the body of the phone is very minimal. It is not as refined as some devices but still works well making swiping gestures all the more pleasant. Underneath that screen is the blue lit home button fashioned as a circle. I like the way this looks. Annoyingly though, the capacitive home and menu keys (yes, it has a menu key) are just dots which light up on demand next to this circle. The dots are customisable as to which is menu and which is back. On the back we see the 13mp camera and its single LED flash and a speaker aperture with a little nubbin to raise the phone up slightly so it can be heard when resting on its rear. The body of the device is entirely plastic and I am not convinced by the metallic effect ZTE have gone for. The right hand side has a volume rocker and the power button both of which are positive enough in their feel. On the left side we find the slots for the dual nano SIM cards and the microSD card. Overall, ZTE have built the Blade S6 averagely. It creaks and moans occasionally when being used and feels a tad flimsy. It is nice and light but does not have that solidity I hope for in a phone. Software Switching the screen on reveals a customised version of Android Lollipop called MiFavor 3.0 UI. The name does the Blade S6 no favours but in reality the software skin is reasonably good. The Android notification drawer and quick toggles are left intact as is the status bar. The MiFavor launcher has no app drawer but offers some flexibility. Swipe up when on the home screen for options to change the wallpaper and the animation when moving between pages. Widgets and app icons can be laid out as you see fit and I do like the widget drawer that ZTE provide. There is no way to change the order of homescreens though. ZTE have left the settings menu largely as it was adding only a few custom options of their own. Similarly, the lock screen is basically stock Android for which ZTE should be applauded. There are a lot of pre-installed apps, but almost all can be either uninstalled or disabled. I shouldn't have to do this but at least it can be done. Most of these apps are not very useful and I especially disliked the ZTE calendar, but of course there is full Google Play access so you can install anything else you like. Once I had my own launcher and all the Google apps installed, the experience feels very stock Android and given how easy it is to make the phone look that way, I question the value of ZTE's efforts in offering their custom software, but there we are. One interesting feature of the Blade S6 is that it offers dual SIMs. One is for LTE with all UK bands supported and the other only received GSM signals. The setup works well and as expected is flexible as to which SIM is used for calls and messaging. In use So how about the experience of using the S6. Well, it is pretty fast. ZTE have used the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 SoC here paired with 2Gb of RAM and 16Gb internal storage (about 10Gb available). The 615 is a fairly new SoC and I can confirm that it is fast. Apps load relatively quickly and once loaded are very fast. The whole interface is fairly smooth and pleasant to use. In fact, I was so impressed with this chip, I started to wonder why you would need anything more. I would go so far as to suggest that the Snapdragon 615 is a game changer for Android in both a positive and negative sense. It is clearly a fast chipset and I suspect it has good enough battery endurance too. It never seems to run hot and is an all round great SoC. The problem for OEMs might be convincing people that higher end devices with faster chipsets are worthwhile, the performance differential is becoming negligible. Unfortunately, the Blade S6 is riddled with little bugs and all of them are on the software side. The problems with Android Lollipop are well documented and all of them are here including weird battery drain and slow downs as well as some obvious memory leaks. Add to that many more app crashes than I would expect and a surprising number of spontaneous device resets and it is clear there are some issues. ZTE launched the device with Android 5.0 and have updated it to 5.0.1 now with some fixes. After doing the upgrade, which annoyingly involved wiping the phone, it was smoother with fewer crashes and resets, but all these issues still existed. It is a real shame as some well optimised and stable software would lead to a truly fantastic experience. The touchscreen on the S6 is good but not perfect with a few phantom touches and a fair number of issues differentiating between taps and swipes. The capacitive buttons respond to the touch nice and positively but the use of a menu button rather than the usual task switch button is simply baffling these days. It slows down multi-tasking and essentially makes a whole hardware component of the device completely useless. ZTE could and should do very much better here. Cellular connections are reasonably strong with good data transfer rates. Call quality though is very weak with the other person on a call often completely unable to hear me. Volume levels in the earpiece are also a bit too low. Talking of volume levels, I found audio quality to be only OK both through headphones and the built in speaker and the maximum volume to be almost laughably low at times. Camera Like many manufacturers, ZTE have used a Sony sensor in the S6 camera, a 13mp one in this instance, and whether the sensor is good or not, the overall camera output is fairly poor. ZTE clearly have a long way to go to match the best even at this price range. It is a real shame as their camera interface is not too bad. It loads to a simple view with not much in the way of manual control visible. Press the red circle on the left and full manual control is enabled. There are lots of options here and they are implemented in a fairly nice way but ultimately I never bothered using them as the camera is simply not good enough to warrant it. There are a number of effects available including an HDR mode which is very aggressive in its processing. I just left it in normal mode all of the time though. You can see some camera samples here, as always click on the images to see the full size versions: The front facing camera is a 5mp sensor and seems to have a fairly wide angle lens in front of it. The quality is very average and although I don't take many selfies, when I did with the S6, I was left disappointed. Battery Battery life is a constant problem on smartphones and the 2400mAh unit in the S6 combined with the concerns about Lollipop battery endurance had me worried. I am looking for solid battery performance but more than that, consistent battery performance. I want to feel confident that when I look at my battery gauge, I can accurately guess how long I have until it will be dead. I have never seen such variable battery life as I had with the S6. I had more than one day where I got through the day with four hours screen time quite easily, impressive stuff. I also had more than one day where I was searching for a charger by early afternoon with only one hour of screen on time. This variability was more of an issue for me than the generally average battery performance I felt it really gives. ZTE need to work on getting this more consistent. I did test using a second SIM in the phone to see the impact on battery life but it was so variable, I cannot really comment. Conclusion Should you buy the S6? If you want a dual SIM device at a relatively low price point with fairly stock Android Lollipop, then maybe. Otherwise, I wouldn't. ZTE have done a decent job with the Blade S6. It is very fast and generally nice to use. It looks good enough not to give the impression of being cheap, at least from afar. However, there are too many issues for me to recommend it. It feels a bit cheap, there are far too many software bugs and the camera and battery are problematic. If you are looking for a phone at this price and don't need dual SIM slots, we would still recommend the Moto G, especially the second generation model with LTE. It is worth waiting a month or two though as many more Snapdragon 615 powered devices are coming to the market. View full item
  8. James Norton

    A quick look at iOS 7 Beta.

    I have been using Android since buying an HTC Hero in the summer of 2009 and have loved every minute of it. Of course, as a gadget obsessive, I also try everything else on the market, but it always feels like coming home when I finally give up and return to whatever Android phone I have to hand. The last time I used any sort of iPhone exclusively for any extended period of time, it was an iPhone 3GS. Since then, I have merely dabbled with using an iPhone a little here and a little there. The iPhone 5 has always been a device I wanted to try as I think the hardware is particularly attractive, and with the announcement of iOS 7 I felt the time was right. So I managed to get hold of an iPhone 5 and I installed the first iOS 7 beta and used it all the way through to the release of iOS 7 Beta 5. The screen shots shown throughout are from Beta 5. The iOS 7 setup screens are shockingly different to previous versions. Very white and minimalist with lovely typography fluidly animating across the screen welcoming you. Landing at the home screen is no less of a surprise. Everything looks and feels different from previous versions. Gone are all the heavy gradients, faux backgrounds and 3D highlights. What you are left with is a clean, young feeling, fresh interface which looks particularly well integrated on the white iPhone. Whereas Android is broody, dark, minimalist and extremely familiar, with the same basic design having been around for a few years now, iOS 7 is very bright, minimalist and initially quite flat. Many buttons have been replaced with just text, there are new fonts, new animations and new icons. My first half an hour with iOS 7 was largely spent feeling the flat nature of the design. But soon, that flatness gives way to something far more important, far more pervasive and far more interesting. iOS 7 is one of the most richly layered and least flat operating system designs I have seen. Layers can build up with a pleasing transparency allowing you to see down to the layers below, the colours peeking through giving you an impression of that depth. It is an extremely effective and compelling experience. Android devices have had partially transparent notification drawers before, but this is something different. It is more subtle and somehow more real. iOS shows its depth off well in the new notifications centre and the control centre brought up with a swipe from the top or bottom of the screen respectively. This multi-dimensional character is also shown off very effectively in the new live wallpapers which are available that twist and turn as you move the device around. The icons and notification counters on icons also move slightly as you move your device around. It is almost like a pair of eyes following you around, but it does increase that sense of depth whilst also having a minor functional element in making it appear that you are viewing the icons head-on even when in reality you are not. Folders enhance this feeling of a three dimensional space massively. Tapping on a folder to open it from the home screen causes a zoom effect as the icons inside the folder take up the screen. Opening an app also performs a zoom into that app. It is a very attractive feature and does make the operating system feel very deep. There are more visual changes to iOS and its core apps than it is worth listing here but some of the most notable are the calendar and the contacts apps which display absolutely no skuemorphism any more and instead are simple flat designs with screens that move side to side as you select different items much as Android panes move side to side. It is within these stock apps that the influence of Android and Windows Phone can be most keenly felt. I don't believe Apple have copied the design of any of their competition, but there are influences dotted throughout iOS 7. As well as the visual changes there are some interesting new interactions that have been introduced with iOS 7, primarily around swipe actions. In many apps including in the settings, you no longer have to reach to the top left corner of the screen to go back, but rather a simple swipe from left to right anywhere on the screen will take you to the previous screen. In the notification centre, you can now swipe between the panes too. Despite all this, iOS 7 remains the same in many ways. It is still a closed ecosystem. The apps are still fantastic but extremely tightly sandboxed. And you still can't choose your own tone for when you receive a text message! But there are some great new API's which will help app developers, especially allowing for some multi-tasking so that when receiving a notification, the app can fire up and load new content. This will help in apps such as GMail which will be able to load new messages before you open the app. Of course, individual developers will need to update their apps to take advantage of such things. Ultimately, if you didn't enjoy using iOS before, you are unlikely to enjoy it any more now. If it was the rather out of date design and heavy feel to the operating system that was stopping you, then iOS 7 is going to be a real breath of fresh air. It is bright, colourful and modern in look and feel. It is something genuinely a little different and I found it to be a lovely system to interact with. Once apps are updated to share the new design of iOS 7 and take advantage of the new multi-tasking API's, I could even see myself using an iPhone as my primary phone. The design of iOS has caught up with Android and Windows Phone in terms of modernity and with its superior apps, amazingly fluid operation, new interactions and updated API's, it will remain a compelling and attractive option for most users. Is it better than Android? I don't think iOS 7 will change how people feel about that question, but it will keep iOS users very happy and hopefully will drive Google and Microsoft to even greater heights over the coming years. Click here to view the item
  9. James Norton

    A quick look at iOS 7 Beta.

    I have been using Android since buying an HTC Hero in the summer of 2009 and have loved every minute of it. Of course, as a gadget obsessive, I also try everything else on the market, but it always feels like coming home when I finally give up and return to whatever Android phone I have to hand. The last time I used any sort of iPhone exclusively for any extended period of time, it was an iPhone 3GS. Since then, I have merely dabbled with using an iPhone a little here and a little there. The iPhone 5 has always been a device I wanted to try as I think the hardware is particularly attractive, and with the announcement of iOS 7 I felt the time was right. So I managed to get hold of an iPhone 5 and I installed the first iOS 7 beta and used it all the way through to the release of iOS 7 Beta 5. The screen shots shown throughout are from Beta 5. The iOS 7 setup screens are shockingly different to previous versions. Very white and minimalist with lovely typography fluidly animating across the screen welcoming you. Landing at the home screen is no less of a surprise. Everything looks and feels different from previous versions. Gone are all the heavy gradients, faux backgrounds and 3D highlights. What you are left with is a clean, young feeling, fresh interface which looks particularly well integrated on the white iPhone. Whereas Android is broody, dark, minimalist and extremely familiar, with the same basic design having been around for a few years now, iOS 7 is very bright, minimalist and initially quite flat. Many buttons have been replaced with just text, there are new fonts, new animations and new icons. My first half an hour with iOS 7 was largely spent feeling the flat nature of the design. But soon, that flatness gives way to something far more important, far more pervasive and far more interesting. iOS 7 is one of the most richly layered and least flat operating system designs I have seen. Layers can build up with a pleasing transparency allowing you to see down to the layers below, the colours peeking through giving you an impression of that depth. It is an extremely effective and compelling experience. Android devices have had partially transparent notification drawers before, but this is something different. It is more subtle and somehow more real. iOS shows its depth off well in the new notifications centre and the control centre brought up with a swipe from the top or bottom of the screen respectively. This multi-dimensional character is also shown off very effectively in the new live wallpapers which are available that twist and turn as you move the device around. The icons and notification counters on icons also move slightly as you move your device around. It is almost like a pair of eyes following you around, but it does increase that sense of depth whilst also having a minor functional element in making it appear that you are viewing the icons head-on even when in reality you are not. Folders enhance this feeling of a three dimensional space massively. Tapping on a folder to open it from the home screen causes a zoom effect as the icons inside the folder take up the screen. Opening an app also performs a zoom into that app. It is a very attractive feature and does make the operating system feel very deep. There are more visual changes to iOS and its core apps than it is worth listing here but some of the most notable are the calendar and the contacts apps which display absolutely no skuemorphism any more and instead are simple flat designs with screens that move side to side as you select different items much as Android panes move side to side. It is within these stock apps that the influence of Android and Windows Phone can be most keenly felt. I don't believe Apple have copied the design of any of their competition, but there are influences dotted throughout iOS 7. As well as the visual changes there are some interesting new interactions that have been introduced with iOS 7, primarily around swipe actions. In many apps including in the settings, you no longer have to reach to the top left corner of the screen to go back, but rather a simple swipe from left to right anywhere on the screen will take you to the previous screen. In the notification centre, you can now swipe between the panes too. Despite all this, iOS 7 remains the same in many ways. It is still a closed ecosystem. The apps are still fantastic but extremely tightly sandboxed. And you still can't choose your own tone for when you receive a text message! But there are some great new API's which will help app developers, especially allowing for some multi-tasking so that when receiving a notification, the app can fire up and load new content. This will help in apps such as GMail which will be able to load new messages before you open the app. Of course, individual developers will need to update their apps to take advantage of such things. Ultimately, if you didn't enjoy using iOS before, you are unlikely to enjoy it any more now. If it was the rather out of date design and heavy feel to the operating system that was stopping you, then iOS 7 is going to be a real breath of fresh air. It is bright, colourful and modern in look and feel. It is something genuinely a little different and I found it to be a lovely system to interact with. Once apps are updated to share the new design of iOS 7 and take advantage of the new multi-tasking API's, I could even see myself using an iPhone as my primary phone. The design of iOS has caught up with Android and Windows Phone in terms of modernity and with its superior apps, amazingly fluid operation, new interactions and updated API's, it will remain a compelling and attractive option for most users. Is it better than Android? I don't think iOS 7 will change how people feel about that question, but it will keep iOS users very happy and hopefully will drive Google and Microsoft to even greater heights over the coming years.
  10. James Norton

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

    495 grammes. I will say that again, 495 grammes. The Xperia Tablet Z is almost unbelievably light. It is like when you take a phone out of its box and wonder in amazement at how they managed to keep it so svelte - until you put the battery in. But this time, the battery is already in there. This tablet really is a featherweight. 6.9mm. That is how thick the Xperia Tablet Z is. And it is the same thickness everywhere. The iPhone 5 is 7.6mm by comparison while the iPad Mini is 7.9mm thick. This is a seriously thin tablet. Unbelievably thin. All this means that the Xperia Tablet Z is over 100g lighter than a Nexus 10 and more than 150g lighter than an iPad 4. It is also around 2mm thinner than the Nexus 10 and 2.5mm thinner than the iPad. These amazing statistics define the experience of using the Xperia Tablet Z. It makes every other 10" tablet feel big, heavy, clunky and annoying. Taking it out of its box, you have to wonder if something this seemingly impossibly light and thin can actually be any good. Can Sony have put enough technology inside this slim square to make it a viable prospect? No doubt, Sony's new design language helps when packaging the Tablet Z. Its square lines give a reasonable volume compared to a more curved device and I think it looks fantastic, especially in white. You can just see the white frame peering back at you as you take in the expanse of glass on the front of the Z. It is a wide tablet this, wider than most of its Android brethren, but even this extra girth is well hidden by the fairly featureless casing. It is so uniform that I often found myself holding the Z the "wrong way up" and wouldn't notice for hours on end. Sometimes not until I wondered why the Sony logo had disappeared! There has been no skimping on Sony's part when it comes to expansion and connectivity. You might imagine that something this slim would struggle to pack in many ports, but if you peel back the various covers around the edges, a pleasant surprise awaits. The bottom houses a Micro SD expansion slot and the SIM card slot should you order the 4G version. There is also the micro USB charging port down there behind another port cover. How delightful that Sony went with standard connections for everything. And that charging port supports MHL and OTG connections, allowing you to easily connect it up to a TV or expand storage further with a USB storage device. On the left there is a standard headphone jack, again behind a port cover whilst on the top of the device is an IR port for controlling your TV or other IR controlled devices. So what is it with all these port covers? Well, the Xperia Tablet Z is IP57 rated meaning it is dust proof and water proof. The port covers help ensure that water will not damage your precious tablet. And yes, you can take the Z into the bath and use it safe in the knowledge that the tablet will survive without a wrinkle. We only ask that you don't use the front facing camera while having your soak. Sony have also managed to squeeze a decent set of stereo speakers into the Z. They are cleverly located at the bottom of the tablet with two output holes for each speaker. Of course, the speakers openings don't affect the IP57 rating as they are sealed from the inside and whilst not being the loudest speakers you will ever come across, they are more than passable and add to the Z's credentials as a media device. One of the first things I needed to check out for myself was whether the tablet creaked and flexed. It is thin enough that along with its plastic construction, there is could be cause for concern. I don't know what Sony have done, but I am pleased to report that the Z is solid as a rock with not a hint of flex at all. The way the plastic backing is mounted onto the shell does cause some minor flexing of that thin plastic back, but it feels like it is just a cover over a much more solid frame. I never worried about having to treat the Z like a delicate flower. The port covers on the Z are also pretty sturdy. I gave them all a good pull and twist with no damage, so its IP57 rating wont be easy to defeat. Any good tablet needs to have a great screen and Sony have not skimped with the Z. It packs a lovely 1920x1200 pixel screen which is bright, colourful and responsive. Sony also provide their Bravia engine enhancements here, but that only seems to be useful when watching videos and looking at pictures. Either way, this screen may not be able to compete on pixel density and sharpness against the Nexus 10 and the retina iPad, but it can hold its own in every other way and seems plenty sharp enough. The only downside here is that there is no Gorilla Glass protection. There is some scratch resistance and Sony provides a factory fitted shatter proof screen protector, but even this has issues as it picks up smudges and fingerprints at an alarming rate. Combine that with its high reflectivity and it is less than ideal so I plucked up the courage and removed the screen protector. A definite improvement in reflectiveness resulted but it is still a bit of a fingerprint magnet. This is all well and good, but does this tablet perform? The short answer is yes, it performs extremely well. The long answer is more complex. It contains a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core CPU running at 1.5GHz, an APQ8064 to be precise. This is a processor which has now been superseded but it is still a real powerhouse and has no problem running everything you can throw at it including high end 3D games. The 2Gb of RAM contributes to super smooth multi-tasking and an overall pleasurable experience. The device I used was the 32Gb model, providing plenty of internal storage for all your videos and music along with lots of apps and games. Should that not be enough, there is always the micro SD card slot which can accept cards up to 64Gb in size. There is also a 16Gb variant available which is the one I would buy, saving enough money for a high capacity storage card and a MHL cable too. Should you be so inclined, you can use the 8.1 megapixel camera on the back of the Z to snap pictures whilst out and about. Personally, I would keep that kind of activity behind closed doors - it is not a good look! Nonetheless, it is there and it is of passable quality. It is not great, and not a patch on any phone I would carry with me these days, but it is reasonable. Of more use is the 2.2 megapixel front facing camera which is of good quality and very nice to use for video calling. Such a slim and light tablet must have some compromises and that hits hardest when we start to discuss battery life. The Z includes a 6000mAH battery which is quite a bit smaller than that in the Nexus 10 for example. So how does it perform? Well, slightly better than you might expect. In use, I consistently got around seven and a half hours of continuous use. That was always over a couple of days too, so included some standby time and is a very acceptable result. It may not be the best, but it is good. Annoyingly, Sony ship a charger that whilst outputting more power than the typical phone charger, still isn't powerful enough. It takes nearly five hours to charge the Z and it is awkward to use while charging. Enough about the hardware, what about the software? The Xperia Tablet Z comes with Android 4.1 and Sony's custom skin which is actually very attractive and useful. It starts with Sony's font which is clean and smooth. It is not better than Roboto, but it is nice in its own right. The home screen is rather excellent. It uses the Android tablet layout with the soft buttons in the bottom left corner and the clock and notification drawer available from the bottom right. Sony have provided a nice simple range of themes with wallpapers designed to show off their great screen. There are lots of nice features from the way that Sony has customised how you organise your home screens to having quick shortcuts - a bit like an omni-present dock - which is actually across the top next to the persistent search box and can fit four apps. The app drawer can be organised as you would like including putting apps into folders which is a neat touch. Apps can also be organised alphabetically or by recent downloads. Why that isn't part of stock Android is beyond me. Sony have quick apps, like many tablet skins do. Just tap a little icon at the bottom of the screen and the options appear. You can choose to add widgets from any app here too which is genuinely useful. Next to that icon is a quick shortcut to Sony's IR app allowing you to use the IR port included on the Z. Any app can go in this position which is another useful touch. Talking of that IR app, it works well and is easy to setup with details for your TV and set top box. Of course, it can also learn the correct signals for any device not in Sony's database. The settings are lightly skinned. There are various power save options including a stamina mode which does seem to have a small impact on battery. Like most of these things, battery life isn't massively impacted, only slightly. A really useful option is the ability to show the battery percentage in the notifications area, whilst another which is my personal favourite is the ability to unlock the device with a double tap on the screen! Very cool. Sony provide a wide range of apps on the Tablet Z. They have their own music and video stores along with their own Playstation games store of course, and great integration with your PS3 controller of course! These are the same as those available on the Xperia Z phone which Paul detailed at length in his review. So where does all this leave us? Quite simply with the best 10" Android tablet available in our opinion. It is light and slim, delightful to hold and use and has a quality feel. It is fast and responsive with a lovely screen and a decent skin on top of Android. Sony provide useful built in apps and a good range of connectivity. The stereo speakers are a nice touch and the IP57 rating may well be appealing to you. There are two big stumbling blocks. The first is in the software. It runs an old version of Android and Sony do not have the greatest record when it comes to updates. The biggest issue is the price. Remember, this is a tablet with a slightly older CPU, and a screen that is lovely but a little behind the curve in terms of resolution. Is this tablet worth £399 for the 16Gb version when the Nexus 10 is £319? Can it compete with the iPad and its retina screen and amazing app selection at the same price? It is a bit of a sticking point. The £449 version with 32Gb of storage certainly isn't worth the money and the £499 version which includes 16Gb of memory and 4G connectivity is also dubious. Ultimately, it is just a little too expensive. Its size and weight are not worth the premium and there are new super high resolution tablets with much faster internals coming from the likes of Asus and HP very soon. I love 10" tablets. I love the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. But I just can't bring myself to buy one.
  11. James Norton

    Sony Xperia Tablet Z review

    495 grammes. I will say that again, 495 grammes. The Xperia Tablet Z is almost unbelievably light. It is like when you take a phone out of its box and wonder in amazement at how they managed to keep it so svelte - until you put the battery in. But this time, the battery is already in there. This tablet really is a featherweight. 6.9mm. That is how thick the Xperia Tablet Z is. And it is the same thickness everywhere. The iPhone 5 is 7.6mm by comparison while the iPad Mini is 7.9mm thick. This is a seriously thin tablet. Unbelievably thin. All this means that the Xperia Tablet Z is over 100g lighter than a Nexus 10 and more than 150g lighter than an iPad 4. It is also around 2mm thinner than the Nexus 10 and 2.5mm thinner than the iPad. These amazing statistics define the experience of using the Xperia Tablet Z. It makes every other 10" tablet feel big, heavy, clunky and annoying. Taking it out of its box, you have to wonder if something this seemingly impossibly light and thin can actually be any good. Can Sony have put enough technology inside this slim square to make it a viable prospect? No doubt, Sony's new design language helps when packaging the Tablet Z. Its square lines give a reasonable volume compared to a more curved device and I think it looks fantastic, especially in white. You can just see the white frame peering back at you as you take in the expanse of glass on the front of the Z. It is a wide tablet this, wider than most of its Android brethren, but even this extra girth is well hidden by the fairly featureless casing. It is so uniform that I often found myself holding the Z the "wrong way up" and wouldn't notice for hours on end. Sometimes not until I wondered why the Sony logo had disappeared! There has been no skimping on Sony's part when it comes to expansion and connectivity. You might imagine that something this slim would struggle to pack in many ports, but if you peel back the various covers around the edges, a pleasant surprise awaits. The bottom houses a Micro SD expansion slot and the SIM card slot should you order the 4G version. There is also the micro USB charging port down there behind another port cover. How delightful that Sony went with standard connections for everything. And that charging port supports MHL and OTG connections, allowing you to easily connect it up to a TV or expand storage further with a USB storage device. On the left there is a standard headphone jack, again behind a port cover whilst on the top of the device is an IR port for controlling your TV or other IR controlled devices. So what is it with all these port covers? Well, the Xperia Tablet Z is IP57 rated meaning it is dust proof and water proof. The port covers help ensure that water will not damage your precious tablet. And yes, you can take the Z into the bath and use it safe in the knowledge that the tablet will survive without a wrinkle. We only ask that you don't use the front facing camera while having your soak. Sony have also managed to squeeze a decent set of stereo speakers into the Z. They are cleverly located at the bottom of the tablet with two output holes for each speaker. Of course, the speakers openings don't affect the IP57 rating as they are sealed from the inside and whilst not being the loudest speakers you will ever come across, they are more than passable and add to the Z's credentials as a media device. One of the first things I needed to check out for myself was whether the tablet creaked and flexed. It is thin enough that along with its plastic construction, there is could be cause for concern. I don't know what Sony have done, but I am pleased to report that the Z is solid as a rock with not a hint of flex at all. The way the plastic backing is mounted onto the shell does cause some minor flexing of that thin plastic back, but it feels like it is just a cover over a much more solid frame. I never worried about having to treat the Z like a delicate flower. The port covers on the Z are also pretty sturdy. I gave them all a good pull and twist with no damage, so its IP57 rating wont be easy to defeat. Any good tablet needs to have a great screen and Sony have not skimped with the Z. It packs a lovely 1920x1200 pixel screen which is bright, colourful and responsive. Sony also provide their Bravia engine enhancements here, but that only seems to be useful when watching videos and looking at pictures. Either way, this screen may not be able to compete on pixel density and sharpness against the Nexus 10 and the retina iPad, but it can hold its own in every other way and seems plenty sharp enough. The only downside here is that there is no Gorilla Glass protection. There is some scratch resistance and Sony provides a factory fitted shatter proof screen protector, but even this has issues as it picks up smudges and fingerprints at an alarming rate. Combine that with its high reflectivity and it is less than ideal so I plucked up the courage and removed the screen protector. A definite improvement in reflectiveness resulted but it is still a bit of a fingerprint magnet. This is all well and good, but does this tablet perform? The short answer is yes, it performs extremely well. The long answer is more complex. It contains a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core CPU running at 1.5GHz, an APQ8064 to be precise. This is a processor which has now been superseded but it is still a real powerhouse and has no problem running everything you can throw at it including high end 3D games. The 2Gb of RAM contributes to super smooth multi-tasking and an overall pleasurable experience. The device I used was the 32Gb model, providing plenty of internal storage for all your videos and music along with lots of apps and games. Should that not be enough, there is always the micro SD card slot which can accept cards up to 64Gb in size. There is also a 16Gb variant available which is the one I would buy, saving enough money for a high capacity storage card and a MHL cable too. Should you be so inclined, you can use the 8.1 megapixel camera on the back of the Z to snap pictures whilst out and about. Personally, I would keep that kind of activity behind closed doors - it is not a good look! Nonetheless, it is there and it is of passable quality. It is not great, and not a patch on any phone I would carry with me these days, but it is reasonable. Of more use is the 2.2 megapixel front facing camera which is of good quality and very nice to use for video calling. Such a slim and light tablet must have some compromises and that hits hardest when we start to discuss battery life. The Z includes a 6000mAH battery which is quite a bit smaller than that in the Nexus 10 for example. So how does it perform? Well, slightly better than you might expect. In use, I consistently got around seven and a half hours of continuous use. That was always over a couple of days too, so included some standby time and is a very acceptable result. It may not be the best, but it is good. Annoyingly, Sony ship a charger that whilst outputting more power than the typical phone charger, still isn't powerful enough. It takes nearly five hours to charge the Z and it is awkward to use while charging. Enough about the hardware, what about the software? The Xperia Tablet Z comes with Android 4.1 and Sony's custom skin which is actually very attractive and useful. It starts with Sony's font which is clean and smooth. It is not better than Roboto, but it is nice in its own right. The home screen is rather excellent. It uses the Android tablet layout with the soft buttons in the bottom left corner and the clock and notification drawer available from the bottom right. Sony have provided a nice simple range of themes with wallpapers designed to show off their great screen. There are lots of nice features from the way that Sony has customised how you organise your home screens to having quick shortcuts - a bit like an omni-present dock - which is actually across the top next to the persistent search box and can fit four apps. The app drawer can be organised as you would like including putting apps into folders which is a neat touch. Apps can also be organised alphabetically or by recent downloads. Why that isn't part of stock Android is beyond me. Sony have quick apps, like many tablet skins do. Just tap a little icon at the bottom of the screen and the options appear. You can choose to add widgets from any app here too which is genuinely useful. Next to that icon is a quick shortcut to Sony's IR app allowing you to use the IR port included on the Z. Any app can go in this position which is another useful touch. Talking of that IR app, it works well and is easy to setup with details for your TV and set top box. Of course, it can also learn the correct signals for any device not in Sony's database. The settings are lightly skinned. There are various power save options including a stamina mode which does seem to have a small impact on battery. Like most of these things, battery life isn't massively impacted, only slightly. A really useful option is the ability to show the battery percentage in the notifications area, whilst another which is my personal favourite is the ability to unlock the device with a double tap on the screen! Very cool. Sony provide a wide range of apps on the Tablet Z. They have their own music and video stores along with their own Playstation games store of course, and great integration with your PS3 controller of course! These are the same as those available on the Xperia Z phone which Paul detailed at length in his review. So where does all this leave us? Quite simply with the best 10" Android tablet available in our opinion. It is light and slim, delightful to hold and use and has a quality feel. It is fast and responsive with a lovely screen and a decent skin on top of Android. Sony provide useful built in apps and a good range of connectivity. The stereo speakers are a nice touch and the IP57 rating may well be appealing to you. There are two big stumbling blocks. The first is in the software. It runs an old version of Android and Sony do not have the greatest record when it comes to updates. The biggest issue is the price. Remember, this is a tablet with a slightly older CPU, and a screen that is lovely but a little behind the curve in terms of resolution. Is this tablet worth £399 for the 16Gb version when the Nexus 10 is £319? Can it compete with the iPad and its retina screen and amazing app selection at the same price? It is a bit of a sticking point. The £449 version with 32Gb of storage certainly isn't worth the money and the £499 version which includes 16Gb of memory and 4G connectivity is also dubious. Ultimately, it is just a little too expensive. Its size and weight are not worth the premium and there are new super high resolution tablets with much faster internals coming from the likes of Asus and HP very soon. I love 10" tablets. I love the Sony Xperia Tablet Z. But I just can't bring myself to buy one. View full item
  12. The videos below show the rather funky image stabilisation test bed that Samsung provided on their booth at MWC this year as well as the output from the iPhone 6+ and Samsung Galaxy S6. We decided to test the new Galaxy S6 (in this case an Edge model) against my venerable iPhone 6+. It must be noted that the iPhone does not use its OIS when recording video so what you will see here is just the software stabilisation. Nonetheless, the iPhone is noticeably worse in this test. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5ez5U7xw-c https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZf6ca52ZeM
  13. James Norton

    ZTE Blade S6 review

    I used the B08 build for most of my testing and a few days with the build previous to that, I haven't tried B10, any idea what is new?
  14. James Norton

    Asus ZenFone 2 hands on

    We were big fans of the last year's ZenFone range so we wanted to check out the new 5.5" 720p screened ZenFone 2. Running on the latest quad-core Intel Atom chip, the ZenFone 2 is a fairly fast and powerful device which is also Asus' first with Android Lollipop. Remembering that the ZenFone range has fairly competitive pricing - the ZenFone 5 LTE was £189 - the specs here are decent including up to 4Gb of RAM, 8 or 16Gb of storage and a 13mp camera. The plastic build is not inspiring but is very functional and there are a range of interesting colours. Asus have borrowed some design elements from other OEMs but have made it their own just enough to make their phone distinctive and interesting. Check out our hands on below for a quick look around the ZenFone 2 and the new Zen UI. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoToCCTRfJw
  15. James Norton

    Asus ZenFone 2 hands on

    We were big fans of the last year's ZenFone range so we wanted to check out the new 5.5" 720p screened ZenFone 2. Running on the latest quad-core Intel Atom chip, the ZenFone 2 is a fairly fast and powerful device which is also Asus' first with Android Lollipop. Remembering that the ZenFone range has fairly competitive pricing - the ZenFone 5 LTE was £189 - the specs here are decent including up to 4Gb of RAM, 8 or 16Gb of storage and a 13mp camera. The plastic build is not inspiring but is very functional and there are a range of interesting colours. Asus have borrowed some design elements from other OEMs but have made it their own just enough to make their phone distinctive and interesting. Check out our hands on below for a quick look around the ZenFone 2 and the new Zen UI. Click here to view the item
  16. James Norton

    Nokia N1 hands on

    What does the name Nokia mean to you? If it means back-end cellular connectivity devices and high speed LTE provision then nothing about Microsoft's purchase of Nokia will have phased you. If however, the brand means high quality phones, innovative software and a unique view on the world, then the last few years might have been a little painful to watch. Worry no more, Nokia are back with the N1, an all glass and metal Android tablet. Few have had a chance to see it before now, but Intel have an N1 on their booth highlighting the Atom SoC found in the tablet and we wasted no time in having a play and recording a video for your viewing pleasure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSMngaE5pEE
  17. James Norton

    Nokia N1 hands on

    What does the name Nokia mean to you? If it means back-end cellular connectivity devices and high speed LTE provision then nothing about Microsoft's purchase of Nokia will have phased you. If however, the brand means high quality phones, innovative software and a unique view on the world, then the last few years might have been a little painful to watch. Worry no more, Nokia are back with the N1, an all glass and metal Android tablet. Few have had a chance to see it before now, but Intel have an N1 on their booth highlighting the Atom SoC found in the tablet and we wasted no time in having a play and recording a video for your viewing pleasure. Click here to view the item
  18. James Norton

    Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6+ cameras

    This comparison was not done under ideal circumstances and so should be viewed with a little scepticism. We also do not know if the Samsung software is final yet. The low light shots were taken by pointing the phone camera into a darkened box. I then took a photo of a very alluring looking Paul! Finally, we mounted the phones on a shaking box to see the effect of the OIS, hence the wobble shot with the phones wobbling a fair bit. Click on any image to view it full size.
  19. James Norton

    Samsung Galaxy S6 vs iPhone 6+ cameras

    This comparison was not done under ideal circumstances and so should be viewed with a little scepticism. We also do not know if the Samsung software is final yet. The low light shots were taken by pointing the phone camera into a darkened box. I then took a photo of a very alluring looking Paul! Finally, we mounted the phones on a shaking box to see the effect of the OIS, hence the wobble shot with the phones wobbling a fair bit. Click on any image to view it full size. Click here to view the item
  20. James Norton

    Kazam are definitely one to watch

    Last year at MWC we met with a new company called Kazam in a tiny meeting room in the back of one of the vast halls of exhibiters in Barcelona. Returning this year to see their progress, our shock was palpable as we looked on, genuinely impressed with the relative scale of their booth. This is a company that has come a long way in a short time. To coincide with mobile web congress, Kazam announced a whole range of new products and were kind enough to invite us for a meeting with James Atkins, their Chief Marketing Officer and a friend of MoDaCo. Kazam's confidence and bullishness was very evident throughout our discussion as James told us how Europe remains their primary focus, especially Poland, Spain, Italy and the Benelux region. Germany and the UK are on their hit list of locations for improving scale as well. The unique selling points of a Kazam device are clear and simple. Free screen protection, up to a 3 year warranty and on their Android phones, Kazam Rescue which allows them to remote control your device to help fix issues. They also limit the bloatware installed on their phones. Whilst Kazam started out selling only Android devices, they have now diversified into Windows Phones and Windows tablets but easily their most exciting announcement this week was the Tornado 552L, a 5.2" full HD AMOLED screened phone running Android 5.0 Lollipop with a 13mp rear camera, 8mp front facing camera and a 1.7Ghz octa-core SoC. The 552L is only 5.5mm thick which makes it a pleasure to hold, light and comfortable. Their most sought after tablet is the Kazam L8, an 8" 1280x800 full Windows 8.1 tablet with 1Gb RAM and 32Gb storage. Coming in at under €250 this is a great value tablet giving access to the full range of Microsoft services. Overall, Kazam are one to watch. Their growth in the last year has been phenomenal and they are rightly confident about their offering which is of reasonably good quality, very good value and has some truly unique and useful selling points. Click here to view the item
  21. James Norton

    Kazam are definitely one to watch

    Last year at MWC we met with a new company called Kazam in a tiny meeting room in the back of one of the vast halls of exhibiters in Barcelona. Returning this year to see their progress, our shock was palpable as we looked on, genuinely impressed with the relative scale of their booth. This is a company that has come a long way in a short time. To coincide with mobile web congress, Kazam announced a whole range of new products and were kind enough to invite us for a meeting with James Atkins, their Chief Marketing Officer and a friend of MoDaCo. Kazam's confidence and bullishness was very evident throughout our discussion as James told us how Europe remains their primary focus, especially Poland, Spain, Italy and the Benelux region. Germany and the UK are on their hit list of locations for improving scale as well. The unique selling points of a Kazam device are clear and simple. Free screen protection, up to a 3 year warranty and on their Android phones, Kazam Rescue which allows them to remote control your device to help fix issues. They also limit the bloatware installed on their phones. Whilst Kazam started out selling only Android devices, they have now diversified into Windows Phones and Windows tablets but easily their most exciting announcement this week was the Tornado 552L, a 5.2" full HD AMOLED screened phone running Android 5.0 Lollipop with a 13mp rear camera, 8mp front facing camera and a 1.7Ghz octa-core SoC. The 552L is only 5.5mm thick which makes it a pleasure to hold, light and comfortable. Their most sought after tablet is the Kazam L8, an 8" 1280x800 full Windows 8.1 tablet with 1Gb RAM and 32Gb storage. Coming in at under €250 this is a great value tablet giving access to the full range of Microsoft services. Overall, Kazam are one to watch. Their growth in the last year has been phenomenal and they are rightly confident about their offering which is of reasonably good quality, very good value and has some truly unique and useful selling points.
  22. The videos below show the rather funky image stabilisation test bed that Samsung provided on their booth at MWC this year as well as the output from the iPhone 6+ and Samsung Galaxy S6. We decided to test the new Galaxy S6 (in this case an Edge model) against my venerable iPhone 6+. It must be noted that the iPhone does not use its OIS when recording video so what you will see here is just the software stabilisation. Nonetheless, the iPhone is noticeably worse in this test. View full item
  23. James Norton

    Asus ZenWatch hands on

    Asus got in on the Android Wear party late last year and we had our first chance to get some time with the interesting looking ZenWatch. It may have teh same specs as all the other Wear devices but Asus have given their watch a unique look with some high quality materials. Check out our hands on to see our first impressions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ00NhE5IW0
  24. James Norton

    Asus ZenWatch hands on

    Asus got in on the Android Wear party late last year and we had our first chance to get some time with the interesting looking ZenWatch. It may have teh same specs as all the other Wear devices but Asus have given their watch a unique look with some high quality materials. Check out our hands on to see our first impressions. Click here to view the item
  25. James Norton

    Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet hands on

    Following its announcement yesterday, we made our way to the Sony booth to check out the new Xperia Z4 Tablet. This is the replacement for the rather lovely Z2 Tablet and boasts an impressive array of specs including a 2560x1600 super bright 10.1" LCD display, Snapdragon 810 SoC, 3Gb RAM, 32Gb storage and a 6000mAh battery. All that technology is packed into a super slim 6.1mm body weighing just 392 grams. As always with Sony, the tablet is water resistant but this time there is no flap over the charging port. Take a look at our hands on video which also features Sony's take on Lollipop on a tablet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBk6zRYaD0E
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