Saturday, January 31, 2015

Samsung and Metal

Alright, Samsung is starting to churn out beautiful metal finish phones that are hitting the affordable range. The first one to be acceptable price point (but not really a good one) is the Galaxy A3 ( Interesting times. The Galaxy A3 would be a hit if it would be priced at around 15K INR rather than 20K at present. 

"Cheapest 4G phone" : Lenovo A6000

Lenovo is releasing A6000, dubbed the cheapest 4G phone in India next week (Feb 4), exclusively on Flipkart (see here).

The phone seems pretty well speced, although is not running Android 5.0 and probably does not have a gorilla glass as well. There are other interesting things though: it has got a stereo digital Dolby speaker (not even many flagships have this), 4G dual sim and is light weight at 128 grams. 128 grams is quite light for a 5" display phone.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Finally, Tizen is on a smartphone, really ?

Tizen (the OS) has a long history of never making it. Meego was Tizen's ancestor, and it only released Nokia N9, shortly after Nokia was in a lot of trouble, switched to WP, and finally sold the mobile division to Microsoft. Nokia N9 was a great phone though - both in terms of hardware design and smartphone user interface design. When Meego was dissolved by Nokia; Intel, the other partner and the Linux foundation found another partner looking for an alternative: Samsung, and rebased the source to form the Tizen OS. It has almost been 3 years since then. Tizen has never come to a smartphone (although it has come to smart watch and recently smart TV), even with multiple promises from Samsung - until now. Last week Samsung released Z1 in India. The fist ever commercially available Tizen based smartphone in the world.

Samsung Z1, unlike Nokia N9, does not try to stand out in terms of either hardware design or user interface design. So it does not ask for a premium. It is costing about 5.7K INR. But is touting fast boot time (not sure how that is useful for an always on device anyway), and great browser (I am not sure if anything is better than Firefox ;-) ! The other specs that matter - hardware are paltry. It has only a 3.1 MP camera, which is quite lousy. Only 768 MB RAM, which is odd and low - but is 512MB + 256MB, for reference. Apps are non existent (I bet, Firefox OS supports more web apps than what Tizen would support). There is no personal assistant. At this price tag - other phones - WP and Android, have pretty good and maturing personal assistants - Google Now and Cortana.

Even though, I like open source, and promote it when ever possible, I think Tizen is too late too less. I would rather recommend a Firefox OS based phone (such as this beauty: , instead of either Tizen or Sailfish based phone, if you must have only pure open source based smart phone. Oh, and don't even ask me about that unicorn Ubuntu phone.

(On a side note I feel that Samsung Z1 could run Firefox OS, or Firefox OS actually optimises for low end specs of Intex and other Firefox phones currently available in India - which clearly it is not).

AUXUS RIST : A short review

Weather you like it or not, weather you want it or not, wearable tech is going mainstream. Of the all wearable tech, the one that is getting most attention is the watch. I am not really a fan of wearing watches. I stopped wearing a watch even before I got my first smartphone. With a smartphone however, I had absolutely no need of even thinking of using a watch. Occasionally, I needed a watch when going on long trips, but then the powerbanks and easy access to power source at commute places essentially solved the problem of depleting battery life of smartphones while traveling.

About six months ago, when Spice released a cheap 'watch phone', I gave it a try. It was great for first few days, then one thing really killed it for me: it was not programmable, apart from doing some rudimentary stuff on the web browser. And more importantly there was no health tracking functionality on the device. Eventually, I stopped using the watch altogether. I thought I would never again wear a watch again. I was not particularly interested in waiting for Apple Watch for two reasons: it is going to be quite expensive, and more importantly, it had to be paired with my phone to be truly useful. Although, I feel, only Apple Watch at present (though not yet released) has the best design and functionality for a smartwatch.

During the GOSF 2014,  eBay announced launching of AUXUS RIST - a fully Android based smartwatch and phone - for under 10K. This got me interested and I ordered one of them. Again, falling in the wearable trap! Two things caught my attention: A full Android system with onboard SIM support and a Water proof device. Here is a short review of the device.

Starting up
Starting the device up is surprisingly complex if you are not a geek. It actually requires you to carefully open the device to insert the SIM and SD card using the provided screwdriver. I think this is the first major hurdle in mass acceptance of the device.

The build
The build quality is solid, but quite bulky. But it depends on how you look at it. In terms of sheer material yes, it is a solidly build device. But if you look at it in terms of a device that is to be worn on your wrist, I think it a miss. It is better than the Spice mobile that I had earlier, but that is an understatement. I could easily give this device a miss and still my appearance would be no different. In fact, with the bulk of the device, I would rather give it a miss on day basis.

Battery Life
At best battery life is moderate, lasts for about 12 hours with 3G, WiFi and GPS on. But this is good, if you consider that it is actually a fully functional phone.

Since the device has a dual core, and 512MB RAM, performance is not much of a problem if you are using only the Google apps. However, if you start to install a lot of third party apps, it is sure to impact performance as is the case with all other Android systems. I have a "slow watch", would rather be a funny and ironic statement to make!

The default launcher is no fuss, usable, but has shortcomings - the biggest one is no integration with Google Now. Even though I don't use Google Now on day basis - I like the way it surfaces information for me. I tried installing the Google Now launcher to replace the built in launcher, it works, albeit with a caveat - icons are suddenly too small.

All of the Google Play store apps are available. None of the apps I tried (particularly health related) had any issue. Have not tried any games - but then this is not the device to play games.

When I got this device I was quite sure I want such a device, and is quite indispensable for my everyday usage. However, after using it for about 3 weeks now, my views have changed. I really don't need a phone on my wrist. About the only reason I would need a SIM on the device would be to have a data connection independent of my smartphone. Also, although the design of the device is quite decent, it is hardly inspiring to carry around every day the weight on my wrist - let alone the need to charge it every day. I would not recommend it for the average you, only buy this is if you are a geek.

(eBay link:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Can Microsoft bring better smartphone experience than Firefox phone at the low end?

The cheapest smartphone to buy in India is still the Firefox range of phone @ about 2K₹. But the experience of using this phone as a daily driver is not exactly stellar. I own one of these phones, which I time and again try to use on a daily basis, but always give in almost immediately. And I think most of the problems stem from the paltry RAM these devices have (128MB) as compared to many of the other smartphones in the market.

Microsoft, yesterday released Lumia 435, a device that would probably be priced just below the 5K₹ mark. That device has quite a good internal specs: 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM and many common sensors. Now if Microsoft can make a Lumia 330/335 with 1GB of RAM and 4GB ROM while keeping most of the external specs intact, and get a price point of about 2.5K₹, they would not only effectively have devices in the now retired Asha range, but they would have better product in terms of first time Smartphone experience.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015