Sunday, September 25, 2011

HTC Runnymede is coming..

We recently got a quick peek at the upcomingHTC Runnymede thanks to AndroidGuys, and now we've gotten a full press shot of the 4.7-inch Gingerbread handset. Very much an Android-powered companion piece to the just-announcedHTC Titan Windows Phone, the all-white Runnymede will reportedly feature a single-core 1.5GHz processor, 768MB RAM and 16GB/32GB ROM, plus WVGA resolution. Sound quality and image capture are said to be top-notch, with the Beats Audio-infused device supposedly offering up a class-leading camera that may even best the highly-anticipated iPhone 5's. 

Pricing has been tipped at 530 pounds ($838) unlocked for the 16GB model and 560 pounds ($885) for the 32GB version -- which sounds right in line for a high-end HTC product -- although launch plans are still unknown. We could possibly learn more at the September 20th HTC event in New York City, although we suspect that may focus on US-specific devices such as Bliss and Vigor on Verizon.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Now that you can pick up touchscreen smartphones for pocket money prices, premium mobiles have to find other ways to differentiate themselves. 3D is the perfect solution, adding a gloss of techno-cool to imaging and gaming, and promising yet more to come (3D navigation anyone?).
The latest device intent on dragging us kicking and screaming into a new dimension is the HTC EVO 3D, a feature-packed Android phone available on the Sprint network in the US. With twin 5-megapixel cameras to capture 3D photos and videos, and a glasses-free 3D screen for playback, the EVO 3D promises nothing short of a multi-dimensional revolution.
It comes with a deafening array of bells and whistles, including the latest Android Gingerbread OS, a huge 4.3-inch screen, 1.2GHz dual core processor and 4G(ish) connectivity. Like its Korean rival LG, whose Optimus 3D handset is already available, HTC is clearly positioning 3D at the upper end of its range, a luxury feature that sets it apart from duller, flatter phones.
What is less obvious yet is whether there is any demand for mobile 3D, especially when it comes with weight and size handicaps, and uses first-generation technology that can still be annoying and even unpleasant to use.

Three’s a crowd

Some smartphones aspire to exist in only two dimensions, stripping away weight, features and ports in a quest for the ultimately slim profile. Not the EVO 3D. Unapologetically three dimensional, the HTC is nearly 12mm thick, 126mm long and weighs 1.25 iPhones. The 4.3-inch display occupies most of the face, covered by a sheer slab of glass that extends down over the four touch-sensitive Android keys.
The surround is solidly built from plastic and the plastic rear cover is slightly rubberised and heavily textured for grip. The design itself is rather anonymous, enlivened only by red detailing around the twin rear cameras (on the Sprint version, gold on others) and a shiny silver-ish shutter button. A physical switch nearby changes the camera between 2D and 3D modes.
Otherwise, the volume rocker and power buttons are a bit plasticky, and the 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB power/data port are uncovered. Rounded corners help the EVO 3D to sit naturally in one hand, although it is a little too easy to knock the camera controls by mistake.

Flat out

Fire up the HTC EVO 3D and the first thing you’ll realise is that it’s a first class 2D phone. The 4.3-inch screen is qHD resolution (960 x 540 pixels) and looks sharp and very detailed. Colours are good and there are no issues with motion blur. However, contrast is a little lower than on some rivals and the viewing angle is limited, perhaps due to the parallax barrier needed for 3D playback.
The HTC Sense skin is, as always, a joy to use. The lock screen can be set to various useful themes (weather, stocks, social etc.) and the unlock circle jumps you straight into one of four favourite apps. There are seven home screens, some of which come pre-populated with HTC’s Friend Stream, bookmarks, calendar and other widgets. The screens are fast and responsive - perhaps a little too much so if you really get them spinning. Swype is pre-installed for speedy text input.
Throughout our tests, the 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon chip kept thing zipping along. We didn’t experience any slow-downs, even when multi-tasking several intensive apps. Having said that, the phone did regularly crash out of apps and return to the home screen, and even hung completely once while loading a game.

3D or not 3D

It’s still early days for 3D, with several different technologies out there and each manufacturer taking a different approach. Let’s start with photography. Clearly, you’ll get a more pronounced stereoscopic effect with a wider separation of lenses and the EVO 3D’s 5-megapixel snappers are a good 35mm apart (each with its own LED flash). That’s pretty good but it’s still only around half the average interpupillary distance in adults.
Enter the camera or camcorder, flick the switch to 3D and you can preview the effect. The first thing you’ll notice is a massive drop-off in both brightness and sharpness. The loss in brightness comes from the parallax barrier allowing only the correct direction of light from the screen to your left and right eyes. The loss in sharpness is because each full frame of your screen now has to provide a separate, half-resolution image for each eye, see the images below.
These losses aren’t too serious indoors but they make it very difficult to frame images outside on a bright day, and virtually impossible to read small menu text in 3D. The best thing to do is get your settings right - and even roughly frame shots - in 2D, before switching into 3D at the last moment. Switching modes takes 2 seconds, and there is about a second shutter lag in either mode.
Parallax barrier is one of the older 3D technologies now, and comes with some issues. As you move your head (or the phone), the 3D effect flickers in and out in a way that it as best disconcerting and at worst nauseating. The 3D-ness of an image also depends on how it was captured, and on the person viewing it. The Nintendo 3DS deals with all this by having a hardware slider to manually adjust the 3D effect, and such a control is sorely missed here.
In fact, there is no way of adjusting the 3D effect at the point of capture. When you review images in gallery, you can at least tweak the parallax effect in the editor for each individual image (though not videos). But there also needs to be a global way of doing the same thing.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xpiria Arc

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Design and display

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is constructed from a combination of attractive glossy and matte plastic. It features a design that curves inwards, making it comfortable to hold and distinguishing itself from the crowd of other top-end Android phones. The XPERIA Arc may be larger than Apple's iPhone 4, but Sony Ericsson deserves a lot of credit for making it thinner and lighter.
While we love the design of the XPERIA Arc, its build quality could have been improved with the use of higher quality plastics. Along with its toy-like feel, the XPERIA Arc's Android shortcut buttons on the front of the handset (back, home and menu) are thin and lack a backlight, its rear cover feels flimsy and often creaks when pressed, and the power, camera shutter, and volume keys are too small and feel awkward to press. The glossy finish of the XPERIA Arc also attracts a wealth of fingerprints.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has a 4.2in screen that the company has dubbed a 'Reality display'. This sits alongside other fancy display names including the iPhone 4's 'Retina display', the Samsung Galaxy S II's Super AMOLED Plus' display and the 'Nova display' of the LG Optimus Black. Sony Ericsson claims the Reality display increases contrast and sharpness for image viewing and video playback, and we can confirm it is one of the best screens we've seen on an Android phone. Colours are bright, contrast is outstanding and its performance in direct sunlight is impressive. The only downsides are its poor viewing angles and the lack of an automatic brightness setting.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android phone has a 4.2in 'Reality display'.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Software

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc runs the latest 2.3 Gingerbread version of Google's Android platform. Gingerbread offers a revamped keyboard, better copy and paste, improved power management, and a slicker user interface as improvements over previous versions of Android.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc is slick and relatively fast during day-to-day use. We really like Sony Ericsson's minimalist UI overlay — though it doesn't offer the same deep customisation of HTC's Sense (seen on theDesire and Desire HD Android phones), it has five home screens for live widgets, handy folders that enhance shortcuts and a main menu that can quickly arrange apps in various orders, including most used. Disappointingly, the on-screen keyboard is small and cramped, and there is no option to revert to the more spacious, standard Gingerbread keyboard, though this is easily downloadable from the Android Market.
The XPERIA Arc also includes Sony Ericsson's Timescape application, which first appeared on the XPERIA X10 Android phone. Timescape groups social networking and phone communications into a single, graphically intense interface; each communication event on the phone forms a 3D box that you simply flick your finger up and down the "spine" to scroll through. Thankfully, Sony Ericsson has included Timescape as a regular app rather than integrate it into the XPERIA Arc's UI. This makes it unlikely to suffer the same Android software update delays as the XPERIA X10 did, and easily removable should you not wish to use it, which we didn't. We don't feel Timescape offers anything compelling besides an attractive look.

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc: Other features

The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has an 8-megapixel camera that boasts Sony's 'Exmor R' image sensor. The company claims this gives higher sensitivity with less image noise, therefore performing better in dim lighting than traditional mobile phone cameras. While it performed slightly better in low light than other phone cameras, the XPERIA Arc still won't replace a stand alone digital camera when it comes to night-time photography. That being said, the XPERIA Arc's camera captures photos with excellent levels of detail, and good colour reproduction, while it also records great quality 720p HD video. The XPERIA Arc camera is a little light on settings, but the camera app is intuitively laid out with options on the right, and recently taken photographs on the left. However, the camera lens is impractically positioned, and is too easily covered by your hand when you hold the phone to take a photo.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc's 8-megapixel camera also boasts Sony's 'Exmor R' image sensor, claiming better performance in low-light conditions.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc comes with an HDMI-out port, meaning you can connect it directly to a high definition television — Sony Ericsson includes a HDMI cable in the sales package. Along with DLNA connectivity for wirelessly sharing media content, the XPERIA Arc is well equipped for multimedia sharing.
The XPERIA Arc has a microSD card slot, but Sony Ericsson has only included a paltry 320MB of internal storage. Sony Ericsson includes an 8GB card in the sales package. Like the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play, the XPERIA Arc also has a 1GHz processor with Adreno 205 GPU, and 512MB of RAM.
Unfortunately, the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc has below average battery life. Most users will get around 24 hours of life out of the XPERIA Arc's 1600mAh battery before it needs a recharge, but heavy users may need an injection of power before then. Our review unit often ran out of juice before the end of the day during testing.
The Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc Android smartphone will launch in Australia in early April on the Optus and Vodafone networks. Pricing has yet to be announced.



Network Tehcnology
- GSM..   850, 900, 1800, 1900..
- UMTS.. 800, 850, 900, 1900, 2100..

- from factor..   ..candybar..
- dimensions..   4.92 x 2.48 x 0.34 (125 x 63 x 8.7 mm)
- weight.. 117 g.

- resolution  .. 480 x 854 pixels..
- physical size .. 4.20 inches..
- touch screen ..Yes..
- multi touch ..Yes..
- light sensor ..Yes..
- proximity sensor ..Yes..
- scratch-resistant glass ..Yes..
1. Capacity ..1500 mah..
2. Talk time ..6.91 hours..
3. Stand-by time ..430 hours..

1. OS  .. Android 2.3..

1. processor ..Single core, Qualcomm MSM8255, 1000 MHz..
2. memory Ram ..512..

- resolution ..8.1mp..
- flash ..Yes..
- features ..Auto focus, Image stabilizer, Video stabilizer, Face detection, Smile detection, Digital zoom, Geo tagging ..
- additional camera ..Yes..
- video calling ..Yes..

1. music player ..Yes..
2. video playback ..Yes..
3. youtube player ..Yes..

1. Internet browsing ..Yes..
- supports ..HTML, Flash..

- type ..A-GPS..
- navigation ..Yes..

- slot type ..microSD, microSDHC..
- maximum card size ..32 GB..
- built in ..512 Mb..

1. Bluethooth ..Yes..
- version ..2.1..
- EDR ..Yes..
2. Wi-fi ..Yes..
3. Usb ..Yes..
- type ..microUSB..
- version ..USB 2.0..

4. Headphones connector ..3.5mm..
5. HDMI ..Yes..
6. DLNA ..Yes..


Friday, August 12, 2011

HTC Chacha

The second “Facebook phone” from HTC, and launched in tandem with the HTC Salsa, is the HTC ChaCha. It’s strange name for a phone that is something of a strange Android device, offering a format we haven’t seen much of from the Google OS. We can’t knock it for offering customers choice, but how will Android cope on the touch type device and will teenagers/business folk be keen to ditch their beloved BlackBerry for a little ChaCha?


HTC know how to make phones, so it should come as no surprise that the HTC ChaCha is lovingly crafted. The most distinctive design element is that slight angle to the body, a nod to the “chin” of many HTC handsets, but means that you can bash away on the keyboard and view the screen comfortably at the same time. 
The phone is constructed from metals and plastic, giving a nice combination of materials and an attractive design. In terms of size it is slimmer than the BlackBerry Bold at 10.7mm; the ChaCha is marginally larger than the Bold overall, with a wider spaced keyboard offering up individual keys.
Across the bottom of the display are the normal touch controls for home, menu, back and search, with the volume rocker and standby/lock buttons falling into their regular places. Unlike the HTC Salsa there is no camera button, but you do get two hard calling buttons beneath the display, meaning you can answer calls and hang-up without having to touch the screen. 
Then we have that Facebook button, which is perched beneath the keyboard, a little too prominently, emphasising the fact that this phone is a little bit different. The HTC ChaCha isn’t just a phone with a Facebook button though, as it’s the first candy-bar Android device with a full QWERTY keyboard that we’ve seen from HTC and seen running HTC Sense.

That keyboard

The keyboard itself feels great to use, with a nice positive action to each key and a nice clean, slightly tactile, finish. The size and spacing is mostly fine and if you’re coming from a BlackBerry keyboard you’ll be up to speed in minutes. It offers four rows of keys so gives you the full QWERTY run down, with each main character key getting an alternate number or symbol. Some punctuation gets its own key, so comma, full stop and question mark are each just one button press away, which is handy in daily use.
You also get offered cursor keys, which although small, provide a modicum of control that you’d otherwise miss. You can use the cursors to leaf through the homepages, so if you have a run of widgets you can switch back and forth to keep yourself updated. You can scroll up and down some lists, with the return key doubling as “ok”, but this is where the experience starts to come unstuck.
Much of the cursor control will be dependent on the app recognising what you are trying to do. In most cases, you’ll have to select the list to scroll up and down, but dive into messages, for example, and you’ll be able go head down the list on conversations and press return to open up the one you want to continue. It will depend on the app you have open as to the options the cursor movement gives you.
But the thing that we don’t understand is the allocation of functions to the main keys. You press and you get the primary character, but a long press just gives you repeated characters. Surely a press and hold should offer you caps, or the alternative character? It means you’ll spend a great deal of time diving over to the shift and Fn buttons when typing. If you are going to be using the ChaCha to write “properly” (and by that we mean serious emails, etc., rather than casual Facebook posting) then you’ll be hampered by this - unlike a BlackBerry which caters very well for these sorts of controls. 
But there are some inherent benefits to the buttons too. Start typing from the homescreen and you are effectively already searching People, the phone returning either phone numbers or names as you type. It isn’t as smart as the universal search you’ll find on recent BlackBerry models, but it is more direct than opening the dialler and searching for the contact you want. 
There are some other shortcuts on the keyboard which make use of the function button. The camera shortcut works reliably although more than once we launched the camera rather than placing a fullpoint in an email (they share the same key). The spacebar sees itself with a settings icon, but we couldn’t get this to respond.
One key we had particular problems with was the W key. It shares itself with the number 1 and the shortcut for voicemail. We often found when entering text that we had to press W two or three times to get a response. We didn’t notice it to be a problem with other letters, but it’s a fairly common letter we wanted to work when writing emails, whether work-related or wasting time waiting for the W15 bus. You get the point. 
Miss a letter and you’ll have to go back and insert it, although you can opt for predictive suggestions. Predictive text of course appears on the screen and that means you lose a little more space, but it might be a useful addition if you are prone to mistakes.

In general terms everything on the HTC ChaCha runs very nicely. The HTC Sense side of things works well enough and the keyboard we’ve already detailed: it has some minor flaws, but on the whole it is a good experience. Other apps don’t fair so well because you lose the space to control them as accurately. At least once you enter an app the physical keyboard means you’re not fighting for screen space like you might be on some small-screen devices, and in most cases, hitting the search icon means you don’t have to fight to find that search text box. 
Android Market, for example, which will serve you up a fair selection of Android apps for you to enjoy, is positively minuscule on the ChaCha. To some extent it's great to see these apps presented in such tiny fine detail, but at the same time, you can't help but think it wasn't ever intended to be viewed like this.
Dealing with the Internet is another problem. The small screen means that cruising around websites is a bit of a pain. You’ll do a lot of zooming in and out to be able to read, and we often found ourselves flipping the phone sideways and re-flowing the text to be able to read things. It’s not the fully engaging internet experience that larger devices offer and that’s a fact you’ll have to live with if you choose a small screened device like this.
Internally the HTC ChaCha finds itself with the same Qualcomm MSM7227 processor clocked at 800MHz as we saw in the Salsa. You get 512MB ROM and RAM and these specs really set the phone out as a mid range handset. There is a microSD card slot in the back for memory expansion. As such, there are limitations to what it will do, but given that the screen is small, you’re probably less bothered about the lack of Flash support or the inability to chow through HD video files. You’ll probably not be worried about the fact that you don’t get the network streaming elements that are found on more powerful HTC devices either.
In reality, we found that the HTC ChaCha was stable and ran smoothly whilst we were testing it. It doesn't have the snap to the user interface that the top-tier phones do, but it isn't sluggish like some older handsets were. It’s also a really comfortable phone for calling on, the slight curve fitting your face. We found that calls came across loud and clear, and in combination with those dedicated calling buttons, it’s a great phone for making a lot of calls on.
Making a lot of calls isn’t great for the phone however, because it sees itself saddled with a 1250mAh battery. This means the life of the device is surprisingly short and on busy days we found ourselves having to charge it during the day. In terms of battery life we found that its sibling, the HTC Salsa, was better.