Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lava Iris X1 : another affordable premium

As more Indian manufacturers respond to Moto E, things are getting interesting. Lava Iris X1 is the latest. And if camera is the primary reason for you to buy a phone, look no further, Lava Iris X1 offers a 8MP auto focus primary camera with capability of full HD video recording. It also uses a 1.4 ┬Ám pixel BSI (back side illuminated) sensor, some thing heard of only in very highly priced phones.

With each product iteration things are improving exponentially. I would guess that Moto E quality phone will soon be available for no more than 5K INR, that will be very interesting.

For now, if you are looking to buy Lava Iris X1, head to Amazon (see the link below), as of now it is exclusive, and only available on Amazon India.

Sony Xperia E1 : the first E, before Moto E


Before Moto E became hit, the 'E' moniker was I think first introduced by Sony with the Sony Xperia E. The newest entrant of this being Xperia E1 that was announced back in January 2014 (http://www.sonymobile.com/global-en/products/phones/xperia-e1/?utm_source=sactive&utm_medium=blogs&utm_campaign=xperiae1), with both single and dual SIM models available in Indian market. When introduced, it was termed as the "The world’s best smartphone in its class", however, one can say that this crown now belongs to Moto E.

Sony has recently announced that this phone will receive a Android KitKat update, in July this year: (http://blogs.sonymobile.com/2014/05/21/new-sony-software-upgrade-including-android-4-4-kitkat-rolls-for-xperia-z-xperia-zl-xperia-zr-and-xperia-tablet-z/). This is a very good news for those who bought this phone, or are thinking of (i.e. if you are a Sony fan!). For this very reason (that a software update is provided to the next OS release), I would recommend Sony Xperia E1 as another alternative to Moto E.


Moto E : sim is a micro sim

For those migrating from a feature phone the Moto E, many may require to get a newer micro-sim. Some may opt for cutting their current SIM to fit in the Moto E slot, but I would recommend getting a new micro-sim from your service provider. Generally the micro-sim is given free of charge, but the service provider may charge you about 25-50 INR for the same.

I had moved my SIM from Lumia 520 to Moto E. The SIM I used on Lumia 520 was manually cut from a full sized SIM. As I had not cut it perfectly the SIM wouldn't fit in the Moto E. This was not a problem on Lumia 520, due to the design on the SIM slot. However, on Moto E a sprint loaded slot is used where you push in the SIM and then it gets locked in its place. Essentially, I had to spent some time polishing the edges and the cuts to fit the SIM on Moto E. Moral of story : it is better to get a new micro SIM from your service provider.


Looking for Moto E alternatives? Here are some.

With Moto E constantly getting out of stock on Flipkart, and you have an urgent need to get one of the affordable smartphones, what other options are available.

Lava Iris 406 Q

Lava Iris is almost as good in terms of specs as the Moto E (except that there is no Corning Gorilla Glass protection). Lava Iris 406Q also has slightly better camera than Moto E, along with a front facing camera for video calls, and low quality selfies.

With a price almost same as Moto E on Flipkart, you may get it at a lower price from open market. With Moto E selling well, it may happen that Lava prices drop on Flipkart, so keep a price watch.



Micromax Unite 2

Micromax Unite 2 is superior to Moto E in all respects except the software update guarantee provided by Moto E. Though launched at the same price at Moto E, it appears to be selling at a higher price on Flipkart. You should be able to easily get this in open market. An inquiry at a local mall store however revealed that the unit is yet to come, but should be available by the end of June 1st week.



Micromax Canvas A105

This one is a new entrant. Micromax seems to be in a hurry to beat Moto E. This one is priced same as Moto E. But falls under the phablet category and comes with 512 MB rather than Moto E. The phone is currently available online on Homeshop18 (http://www.homeshop18.com/micromax-canvas-5inch-12-7cms-3g-quad-core-kitkat-a105/mobiles/mobile-phones/product:31837039/cid:3027/). Availability in local store is unknown currently. This is a good option, if you actually want a bigger screen, but be warned about the limited RAM, although Android KitKat is optimized to run smoothly on the low memory devices.

That is it. If you are ready to wait for Moto E, however, it is still the best option.
Keep a look at the Flipkart stock, and a happy weekend!


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Moto E : not all apps to sd card

While in the earlier post I mentioned that I didn't like that I had to individually move the apps to the SD card, what I didn't realise is that many app cannot be moved in the first place.

I did finally try to move all app one by one  the SD card, and even after that only about 600 mb is free on the internal storage. This can be quite restrictive is you do a hell lot of things on your phone. But I guess a large majority doesn't do so.

As I mentioned before that this is not actually a gaming device. Its a work device for sure, not for gaming definitely. And is especially true in terms of the extremely limited internal storage. More so as you can't install apps or games directly to the SD card. You will have to first install it on the internal memory and then individually move it to the SD card if allowed.

With all these funny quirks with SD card, I think an SD card is more of a hassle than actually trying to solve any problem. My current primary phone and the previous phone both have 16 GB internal storage and no SD expansion slot. I am almost filling up my current phone's space with apps and data, but I know that I have enough cloud storage to not worry much about storage.

I hope that the next iteration of an affordable premium actually come with a larger storage and forgo the SD card.

In the end there are two things at premium  on a smartphone : the battery life and the storage space. Motorola has done quite well on the earlier front, it is the later that needs work and attention.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Moto E: no magnetometer

The Moto E does not seem to have a magnetometer, so no compass for you. I had not realized this earlier, but is a bummer. The Unite 2 by Micromax has a magnetometer sensor.

Moto E vs Unite 2 via GadetsToUse@Youtube

Here is an Youtube review from GadgetsToUse:



Their verdict: both are good, but if you need a good camera it is Micromax Unite 2 that is the winner.



Moto E : This is not a gaming phone, but a solid work phone

I have been using this phone for over a week now. I generally use my primary phone (iPhone) for work purposes (with some social apps). I wanted to see if I could do the exact same thing with Moto E, so I installed most of the apps that I use on iPhone on the Moto E. There are some that are missing (exclusive to iOS), or some that don't really work properly (bar code scanner, business card scanner), because of the not so good camera (more on this in a later post).

From a work phone, I like to have few essential things: E-mail client that is solid, a good calender app, productivity apps, and preferably a good digital assistant. While the iOS e-mail is super good in handling all of my e-mail providers, the Android lacks a solid e-mail client, if you are not using GMail. With GMail, it is a totally different story, it is the very best. The calender app on Android links to your GMail, and is good, but I use an Outlook calender. Google Now, is also available on iOS, but is tightly integrated with Android and provides a super experience with everything from setting reminders to letting you know how much time it will take for you to arrive at office via public transport.

Here is a list of App I am currently using on Moto E:

Productivity:
GMail (and the in-built Email client),
Microsoft Office Mobile,
Microsoft One Note (use this a lot),
Quickoffice (it came pre-installed, but it is pretty bad)
Adobe Reader
Blogger client
ES File Explorer
JuiceSSH (ssh client)
Chrome Browser (pre-installed)
Google Drive (pre-installed)
Microsoft One Drive (use this more than Google Drive because of Office Mobile)

Social:
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+ (pre-installed)

Messaging:
Google Hangout (pre-installed, and the default SMS client as well)
Whatsapp
Viber
Hike
Telegram

VoIP:
Skype

Photography:
VSCO Cam
(I use Flickr a lot on my iPhone, but the quality of photos on Moto E is not good, or I have been not yet able to use it to its best, and hence I thought of giving Flickr a skip on Moto E - at least for the moment)

Music:
Play Music (pre-installed)

News:
Flipboard
Play news stand (pre-installed)

With all this installed, the free space remaining is about 670 MB. I have a 4GB card installed that stores media files. I have not moved any of the apps to SD card as I find it a painstaking process. You have to go to each app and individually move every other app to the SD card, there is no "move all" option as with media files.

Even after installing all these apps, the Moto E has not slowed down. This is a pretty good thing. My past experiences with Android has not been stellar, and it is very pleasing to see this opinion changed by a lowly priced Moto E, again reinforcing the premium affordable nature of the device.

I will now be regularly using this as a second phone (with a different SIM - as the nano SIM is not compatible with this phone), and see if it stands up to constant usage, and still give the same "almost" lag-less performance.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Micromax Canvas Engage A091 : another affordable Android

I think Micromax is trying hard to take out your attention form Moto E. And I consider this a good sign. Reports have emerged (see: http://www.gizbot.com/mobile/micromax-canvas-engage-a091-android-kitkat-os-launch-rs-6000-news-017349.html) that Micromax is about to release Canvas Engage A091 (did Micromax learn to name there products like Microsoft lately?!). Another Android phone, with the latest OS. The specs though look like they might be just enough to convince some people to use this over Moto E. Again cannot say much about the usability as a day-to-day phone. I am still using Moto E (well trying to), with the apps that I regularly use on my primary phone (iOS). Will be reporting soon on that front.

Source: Gizbot

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hangout : make it the default SMS client

I find it pretty useful to have google hangout as the default SMS client. Gives a central hub to do all kinds of communication: text, IM, audio / video hangouts.

Moto E : available again on Flipkart

... Soon!

If you missed the previous slot of getting your hands on to the Moto E, Flipkart has announced that it will be up for grabs again starting at 11 am IST on 23rd May 2014. Head straight here: Flipkart Buy Moto E 

Micromax Unite : I want to compete with Moto E

And so it starts. ET reports (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/hardware/micromax-takes-on-moto-e-with-unite-2-prices-it-at-rs-6999/articleshow/35485394.cms) that Micromax is coming up with Unite 2, that is priced exactly at Moto E price, but far surpasses the spec sheet. Biggest question is if the performance is on par with what is offered by Moto E: un-compromised smartphone experience. And more importantly are there guarantees of software update from Micromax. But good to see that Moto E has set a standard, against which every thing else will be bench marked in the premium affordable category. 

Moto E : The Verge review

I can't believe this, but The Verge has actually written a review for Moto E. No doubt, Moto E is the first true premium affordable. The full review is here: http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/22/5737290/motorola-moto-e-review, and is written by Vlad Savov. Like one sentence from the review: "Budgets differ, Expectations don't", Vlad (@vladsavov) should trademark that ;)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Moto E : install google now launcher

This is not the official from Google play store, but you can still do it. Head to the XDA forum :
Download the launcher4.4.zip extract it on moto e (use an application like es file manager from Google play). Then enable installation from unknown sources (use the settings app to do this). Install only the GoogleHome.apk , other are not required for Moto E. Enjoy the google now launcher.
(Note: This is unofficial, so you are at your own. Not reposible if anything goes wrong for you!)


Moto E : creaky backpanel

The way moto E back panel is designed, it has already become creaky after about 4-5 days of usage. This is not exactly a good sign, for a 'build to last' phone. The Lumia 520 is however a different story, it is not creaky a bit even after pretty rough usage (along with a fall) for the last six months. Because of the way the back cover is designed, the Lumia 520 back cover also provides some protection to the screen from the sides on an impact.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Affordable smartphone market is worth INR 2800 Cr in India

A recent news item in The Economic Times indicates (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/hardware/affordable-smartphones-a-rs-2800-crore-opportunity-in-india-hari-om-rai-cmd-lava-international/articleshow/35297434.cms) that the affordable smartphone market in India is worth INR 2800 Cr. This is indeed a huge market to tap into. While ET indicates a price range of sub 12K INR, I actually think it is somewhere close to 5K INR.

Moto E : specs and compares

Moto E specs are best seen in comparison to Lumia 520, the another affordable premium:

Feature
Moto E
Lumia 520
CPU
Snapdragon 1.2 GHz Dual Core
Snapdragon 1.0 GHz Dual Core
GPU
Adreno 302
Adreno 305
RAM
1 GB
512 MB
Internal Storage
4 GB
8 GB
External Storage
YES upto 32 GB
YES upto 64 GB
Screen Size
4.3”
4.0”
Screen Resolution
540 x 960
480 x 800
Double Tap to wake
NO
YES
Screen Protection
Corning Gorilla, with anti-smudge coating
Scratch resistant glass
LED notification
YES
NO
Camera
5 MP, Fixed focus, No Flash
5 MP, Auto focus, No Flash
Dedicated camera button
NO
YES
Manual camera settings
NO
YES
Navigation
YES (Google Maps)
YES (Nokia Maps)
Offline Maps
YES (Limited)
YES
Battery capacity
1980 mAh
1430 mAh
Removable battery
NO
YES
Weight
142 g
124 g
Thickness
12.3 mm
9.9 mm
Mobile Network
2G / 3G
2G / 3G
WiFi
YES
YES
SIM Type
Micro-SIM
Micro-SIM
SIM Slots
2
1
OS
Android Kitkat 4.4
Windows Phone 8
Upgradable
Yes (promised to next version)
Yes to WP 8.1 (available soon)
Ecosystem maturity
HIGH
UPCOMING
Wins
9 (of 19; 7 are equals)
10 (of 19; 7 are equals)

Clearly the Moto E is neck to neck with the features of Lumia 520. The final choice here I think boils down to the choice of the OS (and the ecosystem) and overall user experience. While Lumia 520, no doubt provides a top class user experience with WP 8 (and the upcoming 8.1 brings it closer to Android / iOS experience see the review on The Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2014/4/14/5611992/windows-phone-8-1-review), apps are still lacking on the platform. Android has the app (and ecosystem) advantage; its not only apps, but it is easy to buy movies, books and music, not so with WP. While my dad is being using Lumia 520 for quite a few months (and I have used Lumia 800 for 2 years), there is absolute no slowdown even when loaded with tonnes of apps. I can't say the same about Android. My previous experiment with a low cost Android phone has been a disaster. And my experience with Nexus 7, after I loaded many apps has been less than stellar. But Moto E is probably different. That is my hope. I am going to use the device for next few days for all sorts of things and put out a report here. Till then enjoy your life :)


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Moto E : affordable premium smartphone

There are numerous 'cheap' smartphones available in Indian market, but the quality is amiss. You say there is Nokia X, but the software is amiss. You say Lumia 520, yes I would agree, but Moto E undercuts Lumia 520 in price and offers a whole bunch of better features. It may be true, that the camera on Lumia 520 is superior to that of Moto E, but it is a no slouch, and as an overall device, the Moto E turns out to be a clear winner.

I own both these devices, both bought from Flipkart for the same price. The Lumia 520 is being used by my dad, while the Moto E arrived just yesterday. So I will be comparing these here. But before we compare let us meet the Moto E.

(As compared to other tech sites out there, I won't be writing 'review', per say, but rather my experience in using the device. As a result, a product 'review' or experience will be spreading out into multiple posts rather than one post)

The premium-ness of a device is defined, according to me in these terms: The Looks (#1), The Specs (#2), The Performace (#3) and The Overall Experience (#4). We will first have a look at the looks :)

Moto E, the looks

Moto E may be an affordable device, but it looks great, is build great.I have a black version of the device, but I have a feeling that the white version looks better than the black one :)

From left, Lumia 520, Lumia 800, the Moto E and the iPhone 5s. 
The front of Moto E is made of scratch resistant glass with oleo-phobic coating, which is quite similar to the iPhone. Moto E does not sport any buttons on the front, not even capacitive buttons. In fact, it has only two button on the right side of the device: one for sleep/power and other for volume control.

Moto E from the sides. Right of the device is where all the buttons are, the top has a mic and a 3.5 mm headset jack, nothing on the left of the device, while the bottom has the standard micro usb data / charging outlet.
The front also houses the earpiece at the top, and a mono speaker at the bottom. The speaker slot probably also has a mic.

Moto E is not slim. At 12.3 mm (6.2 mm at the edges) this is the thickest of the smartphones I currently have (not that I am using all of these thought). It is also not light weight: at 142 grams it is heavier than even Lumia 800 .. and I thought that would be the heaviest phone I would ever be buying. The weight and thickness is however a personal preference. I travel a lot in public transport, and to me a slightest increase in weight in my jeans pockets is noticeable and causes inconvenience. This is also especially noticeable when I go on long walks.

The back of the Moto E is made up of rubberized plastic, that feels great when holding the device as well as provides a solid grip.

Moto E with the back cover removed. The battery is non-removable. There is a 5MP camera, but not flash on the back side (top - center). 


Moto E, in the box

The Moto E is currently only available via Flipkart in India: Buy Moto E (Black) from Flipkart.com or Buy Moto E (White) from Flipkart.com. Even though, the Moto E may be out of stock on Flipkart, I would recommend against heading on to eBay to get one. It is better to wait a bit than pay up more on eBay.

The Moto E sales package comes with bare minimum: a charger, a headset and printed manuals along with warranty information. Unfortunately there is no data cable, and no complimentary sd card either.

Moto E sales box: 1 phone (battery is non-removable, in-built), 1 charger, 1 headset (with mic), printed manuals and warranty information booklet.


Moto E, the charger and the headset

The Moto E comes with a micro usb charger that fits properly in Indian power outlets. In fact, the charger units has the words "Made in India" printed on it, that made me a bit happy :) The charger cable is fairly long at about 1.5 m, which is good. The charger takes almost 3 hours to fully charge the Moto E, but then probably you may not need to charge it every day.

Moto E charger, the Indian edition is made in India.

Moto E also comes with a descent headset with integrated mic and a call receive/end button.





The only gripe I have is that all the accessories are full which when the phone is full black. I should have either ordered a black one or Motorola should provide matching color accessories with the device ;)

(Up next: Moto E specs, compare with similar priced phones)

About this blog

Hello Internet!

I am V. Ganesh, and I generally write at (http://tovganesh.blogspot.in/). I have an immense interest in science and technology, and my work and past education has all in some way attuned my mind towards advances in these fields. I believe, I am lucky to live in a world that has moved from PC to mobile devices at an exceedingly fast pace, and now soon towards wearable computing. I have had extreme fun, writing weird mobile apps such as the one called mobihf (https://sites.google.com/site/tovganesh/s60), that does a full Quantum Chemical calculation on a pretty old smartphone. Yes, I do weird things. But then at the same time I also have been lucky to get my hands on these devices when I needed them. I am one of those, who has never used a "feature phone".

I bought my first phone, because I wanted to program it, and that was the number 1 feature I was looking for when I bought Nokia 6600 in 2006. Things have changed a lot since then. The power of today's phones are more that 100 times than the phone which I had used to write mobihf. But there is one pain point which I always consider to be hindrance in mass adoption and innovation: it is the price.

Sure today, I can afford an iPhone as a daily device. But the point is that one should be able to get quality that is at par with an iPhone, without going bankrupt. And price is a very important factor in the part of the world I live in. There are a lot of low cost devices available here. But hardly any one provides a premium device or a service at an affordable price.

That brings me to the next question. What does affordable exactly mean? I have a very simple definition of this: one should be able to buy a device / service by saving his/her 1 months salary. So when I was at grad school, it was anything below 10K INR, as that was the fellowship I used to get. (Since, I mostly live in India, my focus point will be from Indian perspective, but I hope the rest of you can connect the dots). Now I think that one has to actually cut down on this. If 10K is your salary then you cannot exactly survive one whole month without spending on food, transportation and possibly house rent. I didn't have to bother about the later three back in the grad school, but practically a truly affordable device should be around 5K INR. We are not yet there, but things are close. And there is one particular device that fueled my thoughts on starting this blog: the Moto E. That one device, for me defines what a affordable premium must be, much like what Tata is doing with their latest additions of the Nano car.

So, this blog will be trying to bring to your attention the devices, news, technology, research and other information that are all geared towards bringing affordable, but premium technologies to the masses. So that everybody is equally empowered and innovation thrives, not because you have money, but because you have genuine desire, need and genius to do so. This blog will be about the Moto E, not the iPhone; it may talk about the Tata Nano, not the BMW; and a Raspberry Pi but not the Thinkpad. Occasionally, I may compare a Moto E to iPhone; not to show what you are missing, but to show how close are you to the premium. All of this with a hope that I can one day have a team that will build a sub 5K device for every one that I envision here: (http://tovganesh.blogspot.in/2012/01/kosh-building-mobile-user-experience.html). As India sees a clear mandate for the next governance, there is hope, and there is this will that every one is doing what they are doing, because they want to see a developed India. Affordable premiums, is one angle of the whole story, it is one dot, in the bunch of dots we have to connect.

(coming up soon, Moto E, initial review ...)

(Note: This blog, unlike my other blogs will carry advertisements primarily to support myself to obtain the devices that I will be reviewing here)