Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .
Almost four months after Facebook’s disastrous IPO, Zuckerberg finally broke his silence at TechCrunch Disrupt. Speaking to Arrington, Zuckerberg described the stock performance as ‘disappointing’, and shed his characteristic indifference towards Wall Street in an attempt to win back the confidence of investors who have been hurt by the sliding Facebook stock. However, the most interesting revelation came when Arrington enquired about mobile web, which is often highlighted by analysts as Facebook’s biggest challenge.
When I’m introspective about the last few years I think the biggest mistake that we made, as a company, is betting too much on HTML5 as opposed to native… because it just wasn’t there. And it’s not that HTML5 is bad. I’m actually, on long-term, really excited about it. One of the things that’s interesting is we actually have more people on a daily basis using mobile Web Facebook than we have using our iOS or Android apps combined. So mobile Web is a big thing for us.
Last month, Facebook doubled its iOS app’s speed and responsiveness by ditching HTML5 in favor of native. The significant overhaul of Facebook’s iPhone app left Android users, who have long been treated as second class citizens by Facebook, disappointed once again. However, Zuckerberg has promised that a similar native Android app is on the way.
Zuckerberg also dismissed Facebook phone as “the wrong strategy”, but hinted that search might be something that Facebook will eventually get around to doing. Facebook’s deep integration into the fabric of the World Wide Web through the Open Graph enables it to collect treasure troves of metrics that can lend it a decisive advantage in deciphering the semantic web. Zuckerberg’s belief that search is a natural progression for Facebook is precisely the reason why Google has been desperately trying to get into the social media arena.
Nokia is known to do stupid things from time to time – like releasing their flagship model on a day when most stores are closed. However, this time they might have even outdone themselves.
Yesterday, Nokia unveiled its new flagship – the Lumia 920. To be honest, the 920 seems to be a great device. It has reassuring build quality, elegant styling, capable hardware, and stunning imaging capabilities. The Lumia 920 features an 8-megapixel camera with moving parts that promises to offer outstanding low light photography, and digital-camera like optical image stabilization. Nokia even created a video to show off the 920’s photography chops.
The trouble is that most of the things you see in the video embedded above is fake. If you look closely, in one of the trailer windows you can spot a reflection of the camera crew. The video was definitely not shot by a guy riding on a bicycle. In fact, it wasn’t even shot with a Lumia. As you can see in the image embedded below, the camera man is clearly using a professional camera and not a smartphone.
Once exposed as a cheater, Nokia was quick to own up to its mistake. It apologized “for the confusion”, and admitted that the video was “not shot with a Lumia 920”.
Unfortunately for Nokia, that wasn’t the end of story. An enterprising blogger, Youssef Sarhan, spotted several oddities with the one of the pictures that Nokia is touting as a Lumia 920 sample snap. Check the light sources in the image below. Notice the diffraction patterns? That’s the kind of diffraction pattern you would expect from a prosumer camera or a DSLR. A smartphone camera is likely to produce a simplistic diffraction pattern like we see in the second image embedded below. To make things further damning for Nokia, a Hacker News user shared a snap taken during Nokia’s photoshoots, which clearly shows a DSLR being used by Nokia.
Nokia Lumia 920 PureView: Alleged Fake Photo
Nokia Lumia 920 PureView: Prototype Sample Pic
Photo: Copyright [email protected]
Nokia Photoshoot in Progress: DSLR Spotted in exteme left
What makes Nokia’s decision to fudge sample videos and images taken by the Lumia 920 so ridiculous is the fact that the 920 actually takes brilliant images. Everyone who managed to get their hands on the prototype came away impressed with Lumia’s low-light capturing abilities. Nokia could have shared “real” camera samples and comparisons with the iPhone 4S and Galaxy S3, and everyone would have still been impressed. However, they just couldn’t resist the temptation of faking the samples to make the Lumia seem out of the world.
The past couple of years have not been very pleasant for Nokia. The Finnish mobile phone giant has had a hard fall, and it can only blame itself. There is only one way Nokia can pull itself out of its downward spiral, and that is by coming up with droolworthy handsets. Fortunately, that is exactly what Nokia seems to be doing. The Lumia 920, which was unveiled a short while back, is a gorgeous device that is well complemented by great hardware and latest software.
Samsung was first off the block with Windows Phone 8 smartphones, but Nokia will probably end up deciding Microsoft’s fate in the smartphone segment. The Windows Phone 8 powered Lumia 920 packs in ample wow-factors to make consumers crave for Nokia’s beast.
The Lumia 920 features an eight-megapixel camera, which by itself is hardly noteworthy. However, Nokia claims that it will offer outstanding low-light performance thanks to its ability to capture five to ten times more light than other smartphones. It also features the stunning PureView tech that we saw in the 808. While the Lumia doesn’t have the gigantic lens of the 808, the combination of superior optics and PureView software could very well make it the best-in-its-class as far as the camera is concerned.
To go with the camera, Nokia is also bundling a number of Lens apps, which are nothing but little apps that are tightly integrated with the camera. The ones that Nokia showed off today include Bing Vision, Photosynth, Blink, FXSuite, PhotoStrip and CNN iReport. Bing Vision is Microsoft’s answer to Google Goggles. It offers image-based search for quickly looking up more information about the book that you are reading or the music CD that your friend owns. Photosynth is also a Microsoft app, and it allows you to create stunning 3D models of any location by stitching together a series of images. FxSuite is an image effects app that allows you to preview effects before actually capturing an image.
The most exciting feature, however, is City Lens. City Lens was announced earlier this year, and was so far only available through Nokia Beta Labs. However, with Windows 8, Nokia will be baking this feature into the system. City Lens is an augmented reality app that leverages Nokia’s excellent maps to overlay information about nearby buildings and establishments on your camera. Augmented Reality apps have been around for quite a few years; however, they are yet to really go mainstream. If Nokia can manage to nail City Lens, it could very well open the flood gates.
Using City Lens is pretty straightforward. Open the app, and tell it what you are looking for (e.g. Restaurants). It will instantly pull up nearby restaurants, and overlay them on the camera along with info about the restaurant and its distance. Tilt the phone 45 degrees, City Lens will switch to a list of those locations. Hold it in a parallel position, and it will bring up the map view. Check out the video below to see it in action.
This year’s Mobile World Congress saw a flurry of ultrabooks with manufacturers queuing up to compete with the Apple MacBook Air. Now, at the IFA 2012, the trend seems to have shifted towards convertibles or hybrid devices – ultrabooks with detachabledisplay units that can also be used as tablets.
We have already covered Samsung’s Smart PC and HP’s Envy x2. A short while back, Dell also got into the game with its XPS duo 12. Unlike others, the XPS doesn’t have a detachable display unit. Instead, you can flip the display unit over to use it in a tablet like form factor. The distinctive disadvantage of this is that even when you are using the XPS duo 12 as a tablet, you will have to put up with the additional weight of the keyboard.
The XPS duo 12 is built using Aluminum and Carbon Fiber, and sports a 12.5-inch full HD multi-touch display, which is covered from edge to edge by Gorilla glass. The XPS duo will be a premium device, and processor options will go all the way up to Ivy Bridge based Intel Core i7.
The XPS duo 12 is an interesting device, but it seems to be a notebook first and a tablet second. The large form factor and bulk might make it a bit too bulky to be used regularly as a tablet. However, it will be among the most powerful hybrid devices around. Dell will be releasing the XPS duo 12 when Windows 8 becomes available on October 26.
Samsung is not the only one who is trying to blend the notebook and the tablet. Hours after Samsung introduced the Ativ Smart PCs, HP announced its own hybrid device – the Envy x2.
The HP Envy x2 promises to deliver the power of a notebook and the freedom of a tablet owing to its innovative hinge with magnets that allows the display to be effortlessly detached from and reattached with the keyboard dock. The Envy weighs less than 1.5 kg with the tablet component weighing only about 700 grams. The detachable display unit features an 11.6-inch, multi-touch capable IPS display with a resolution of 1,366 x 768.
Under the hood, the Envy is powered by a Clover trail based Atom processor. Both the display unit and the dock have a battery. When powered on, the battery embedded in the display unit gets charged first. Conversely, when running without power, the battery in the dock gets discharged first. The objective is to ensure that the tablet is ready to be detached and used as quickly as possible.
Other features include NFC, pen support, Beats audio, 8 megapixel rear camera, HDMI output, 2 USB ports, and expandable memory (SD in the dock, and microSD in the tablet). Launch date and price are not yet known, but HP is obviously hoping to have the Envy x2 ready for the holiday season.
Samsung unveiled a boatload of stuff at its IFA 2012 event. We have already written about the Galaxy Note II, the Galaxy Camera, the Ativ S, and the Ativ Tab. Two other stars of the Ativ line-up that Samsung introduced yesterday are – Ativ Smart PC and Ativ Smart PC Pro.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC
The Ativ Smart PC is a hybrid device that can act as both a tablet and a notebook. The Ativ PC features an 11.6-inch ten figure multi-touch display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels that can be easily removed from the keyboard dock to function as a neat looking tablet. Under the hood, the Ativ PC is powered by a Clover Trail based Intel Atom processor, which might not be the fastest chip around, but is efficient enough to extract 13.5 hours of battery backup. There is a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2 mega-pixel front cam.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro
Ativ Smart PC Pro packs in more power thanks to the Intel Core i5 processor, and lasts a respectable 8 hours on battery. Other specs have also been beefed up in the Pro edition. The tablet comes with a full HD (1920 x 1080) display, and the rear camera has been upgraded to 8 mega-pixels. Both the devices will ship with Windows 8 and are being touted as fully Windows 7 compatible.
Samsung is also bundling the S Pen that we saw in the Note 2 with the Ativ hybrids. The Smart PC includes a USB 2.0 port, while the Pro edition ships with an USB 3.0 port. Additionally, the keyboard dock for both features two extra USB 2.0 ports. Other known features include mHDMI and miniSD compatibility. The devices will probably be released in the US on October 26 when Windows 8 starts shipping. The Smart PC will cost $750 (a hundred bucks less if you don’t want they keyboard dock), while the Smart PC Pro will cost $1119.
The Xperia tablet that was introduced to us by the way of leaked slides is now official. A short while back, Sony announced the new Xperia Tablet S at IFA 2012. The new tablet shares a lot of the design traits of the original Sony Ericsson Tablet S; however, there are improvements and tweaks all around.
The new Xperia Tablet S is slimmer and lighter, and has a diagonal length of 9.4 inches. The specs revealed in the leaked slides were bang-on, and the Xperia tablet comes with an NVidia Tegra 3 chipset, a 1080p IPS display, expandable memory, and 6000 mAh battery. The tablet will hit the shelves with Ice Cream Sandwich; however, a Jelly Bean upgrade is in the works.
The Tablet S is gorgeous and powerful. However, even that might not be enough to guarantee success in the crowded tablet market. And, Sony knows this. The Japanese electronics giant has thrown in quite a few nifty goodies to give the Tablet S an edge.
On the content front, Sony is integrating its multimedia service titled Music and Video unlimited that provides full access to Sony’s online music and video catalogue for a flat subscription fee. 5 GB storage in PlayMemories (Sony’s cloud storage service) is also thrown in.
On the software front, Sony has added a WatchNow app which will act as your personalized TV guide. It will recommend TV shows based on your social stream and viewing preferences, allow you to checkin to TV shows, and talk about your favorite series over various social networks.
Like its predecessor, the Xperia tablet features an IR emitter, which enables it to act as a programmable universal remote. The improved remote control app now supports macros, which will allow you to pre-configure a sequence of commands.
Finally, the Xperia Tablet S features a guest mode, which is great if you are going to share the tablet with your family and friends. Guests will have their own set of preferences and apps, and can be restricted from accessing certain stuff.
As you might expect, Sony is also going to launch a host of accessories for the Tablet S. The most attractive among them is the Microsoft Surface like smart-cover, which is essentially a cover that can double up as a keyboard. There is also a docking stand that can come in handy when you want to get some serious work done on the tablet. Both of these accessories will cost about $100. Other accessories include a dock speaker ($130), a case ($80 for leather and $51 for non-leather), a charging cradle ($40), and a stand ($25).
The Xperia Tablet S will launch on September 7 with the 16 GB version costing $400 and the 32GB and 64 GB models going for $500 and $600 respectively.
I have always found the mid-range smartphone segment to be quite interesting. The budget limitations prohibit manufacturers from offering the absolute best they can cook up. However, they can’t afford to be too shabby either, since consumers rightly expect these handsets to be capable performers that are significantly better than the absolute low-end handsets that are typically available for half the price. The trick to coming up with stellar mid-range devices is to make compromises that the customer won’t mind compromising on. The Optimus L5 is LG’s mid-range Android smartphone. Let us see if LG has managed to perfect the balancing game.
With the L-series, LG has been emphasizing a lot on style, and the L5 is undoubtedly among the better looking devices in this price range. The L5 is a fairly slender device with a thickness of just 9.5 mm. The combination of sharp and bold corners, faux metal rims, and intricate matt-finish on the back cover lends it a somewhat premium look that Samsung would do well to learn from.
The LG Optimus L5 E610 sports a 4’’ TFT LCD screen with enhanced brightness that offers good outdoor visibility. Viewing angles are also quite reasonable. Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only positives I could identify in the display. The extra brightness comes at a premium. The L5, much like all other Optimus devices I have tried, lacks contrast, as a result of which, images appear washed out. This problem is compounded by the L5’s abysmal pixel density. LG increased the screen size, but chose not to amp up the screen resolution beyond 320 x 480 pixels. As a result, the L5 has a pixel density of 144 ppi, while Ace Plus has 165 ppi, Desire C has 165 ppi, Ace 2 has 246 ppi, and even Xperia J is rumored to have 245 ppi.
Under the hood, the L5 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon, which is essentially an underclocked version of the chip powering the more expensive L7. The 800 MHz Cortex-A5 processor and Adreno 200 GPU are hardly cutting edge, but they are a notch above what similarly priced Wildfire S, or Desire C offer. However, when compared with the innards of Ace Plus, Xperia P, Ace 2 or even the Xperia Mini, the L5 is found lacking. Thankfully, the L5 comes with Ice-cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) that has been optimized to run on low-end hardware. The half gigabyte of RAM also comes in handy. As a result the L5 is laggy, but not unusable. During my two weeks of usage, I encountered several momentary freezes, but on the whole, the L5 was fairly usable. If you want to play cutting edge games you will have to pony up more dough, but the L5 is good enough for the likes of Angry Birds Space and Fruit Ninja.
The LG Optimus Ux Overlay is mostly unobtrusive and well done. However, I wish OEMs stopped replacing the modern, understated icons of ICS with bright, in-your-face, pastel colored blotches. And LG is not the only one who is to be blamed – this seems to be something all the manufacturers think is a good idea. A few of the extra stuff that we saw in the Optimus 4X trickle down to the L5 (for example, QuickMemo for notes and annotations), but most of the goodies are gone. The default install is mostly junk-free with just a handful of pre-loaded apps like Polaris Office, Smartworld and Smartshare. Smartworld is LG’s own app store, which offers personalized recommendations based on your download history. It’s largely redundant, and in India, it appears to be only suggesting free apps. Smartshare is a much more useful addition that enables streaming of media directly from Windows Media Player (on your PC) or to your HDTV over Wi-Fi. It is essentially LG’s counterpart of Samsung’s Allshare. However, the best bundled app is MobileTV, which is exclusive to the Indian market. LG Mobile TV is actually powered by Myplex Now, which is a free Android app available for all handsets. Mobile TV offers live streams of several dozen TV channels from different categories like news (Aaj Taak, NDTV, TimesNow etc), Entertainment (UTV Movies, Zoom, UTV Bindass etc.), Infotainment (History Channel and NDTV Goodtimes), Music (9XM and Channel UFX), Spiritual (Aastha, Gurbani etc.), and Regional (Asianet, Jaya TV etc.). Mobile TV is also slated to offer movies and other multimedia content on-demand. According to LG India, it will be free for first two months, and then require subscription.
LG’s 5 mega-pixel camera is competent, which is exactly what you should expect from products in this price range. It struggles to produce clear images under low light, but outdoor performance is good enough for most casual photography needs. Although ICS’s instant capture is technically supported, the low-end hardware means that there is a couple of seconds’ delay (more under low light) between shots. Special photography modes available include panorama and continuous shot (keeps on taking snaps as long as the capture button is pressed). Advanced options include ISO and EV settings. However, macro focusing mode is absent.
Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Picture)
Video capture is a bit of a disappointment. The L5 only captures VGA videos at 30 fps. This pales in comparison to Xperia Mini, and Ace 2’s ability to record at 720p. Front camera for video calling is also not available.
Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Video)
The L5 packs a 1500 mAh battery, which easily manages to last more than a day with average usage. Call clarity is good and the speaker is quite loud. I didn’t have trouble talking even in the noisy streets of India. Connectivity options supported include Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, and NFC.
The Optimus L5 makes a lot of compromises. The biggest of them are with the screen and the processor. The low ppi and single core processor means that mobile enthusiasts are unlikely to find the L5 to their liking. Sony’s Xperia Mini and Walkman Live are smaller, but come with better processors, better displays, and 720p recording. Xperia U costs about Rs 3,000 more, but offers a significantly better hardware (Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9), but doesn’t support expandable memory. If you want micro-SD support, along with a dual-core processor, high ppi display, and 720p video recording, you will have to stretch your budget a bit further to accommodate the likes of Ace 2 and Xperia Sola.
However, the L5 hardly seems like a phone targeted at enthusiasts. LG is clearly gunning for the average consumer. The average consumer doesn’t care too much about the specs as long as the phone feels good. And the L5 feels good. It’s sleek, stylish, and well built. It takes decent pics, and the ICS build is optimized enough to not frustrate the casual user. LG TV is essentially a rebranded version of a readily available Android app, but it’s still something that most consumers will be attracted to.
In the end, I can’t help but feel that LG has sacrificed quality with the goal of appealing to the casual mobile users. Currently the Optimus L5 is selling for about Rs. 13,000. It would become a lot easier to recommend LG’s mid-range device had it been a couple of thousand bucks cheaper. However, right now, unless you really need the big screen, it’s hard to justify buying the L5 over similarly priced Xperia Mini or Xperia Live. In fact, if you can afford to spend a bit more, you will end up with a significantly better device by considering the Xperia U (Rs. 14,000 approx.), Xperia Sola (Rs. 15,500 approx.), or Ace 2.
The Samsung Galaxy S3 might come with a Gorilla glass, but given the multitude of shattered Gorilla glass anecdotes doing the rounds on the web, that is hardly assurance enough. If you have butter fingers, or just don’t want to risk your prized possession, it makes sense to invest a bit more and opt for a protective case or a pouch.
Mobilefun sent me a couple of Galaxy S3 accessories to review. The first of them is the official Samsung S3 Slim Case. As the name suggests, the Slim Case is a super-thin case that barely adds to your Galaxy’s dimensions, but protects its hyper-glazed back from getting scratched. Samsung claims that the case is made from “unique plastic injection process” that retains strength and reinforcement. In my tests I definitely found the case to be sturdy and scratch proof. However, the biggest advantage of opting for the official case is its fitting. The phone fits perfectly into the case, which has precise openings for everything from the volume rocker to the tiny microphones dotting the S3’s exterior. The other advantage of the case is that it has a dotted texture (matt finish) that enhances grip and feels more comfortable to hold. At £14.95 (23.5 USD) for a dual-pack, the official case isn’t the cheapest option, but it provides almost no reason to complain.
The disadvantage of the Slim Case is that it offers absolutely no protection for the screen. If you want a more comprehensive protection, Samsung has the Flip Case, which protects both the rear and the front. The official case is also pretty slim, as it replaces the back cover. However, I wanted to try out one of the cheaper unofficial alternatives to see if they could get the job done. I opted for the Slimline Carbon Fibre Style Flip Case. I am not sure as to what the manufacturer means by “Carbon Fibre” style, but the Slimline case definitely looks reassuring. The front-lid has a comfy, microfiber lining that should be able to absorb shocks to protect your screen from light drops. The back plate on the other hand has a soft rubber coating. Slimline case also fits in quite well, and I like how the case attaches itself without using any extraneous devices like buttons or velcro straps. However, some of the openings are not cut very precisely and tend to reduce the premium feel of a product that otherwise appears to be more expensive than it really is. The Slimline Flip Case for Samsung Galaxy S3 sells for £11.95 (19 USD).
If looks are important to you, then the official Samsung Slim Case is undoubtedly the best option. The translucent case is barely visible from a distance, and completely protects the rear as well as the edges of the Galaxy S3. However, if you are concerned about protecting the screen, the Samsung’s Flip Case is a good option. The official case retails for $28 on Mobilefun ($40 on Samsung’s official website). If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, the Slimline Carbon Fibre Style Flip Case is as good a bet as any. It does add to the bulk of the phone, but I could hardly call it ugly. In fact, you can easily pass it off as a premium case.
Popular news reading app Pulse has finally unshackled itself from the mobile platform with the launch of Pulse for the Web. When Pulse arrived for the iPad in 2010, it instantly garnered widespread acclaim due to its intuitive and pretty interface. Since then it has broadened its reach to iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone, expanded its catalogue by signing up dozens of publishers, and diversified by adding video channels. Now, Pulse feels that it is finally ready to reach out to a wider audience.
Pulse for the Web focuses on the same things that made its mobile app so popular in the first place – a gorgeous clean interface that makes reading publications you love and discovering stories that you like simple and fun. In order to take full advantage of the larger resolution offered by desktops, Pulse has done away with its grid interface. Instead, the home page features a beautiful mosaic layout with large images and clean typography. Clicking on any link opens up the story in a clean distraction-free overlay. Pulse for the Web stays in sync with your mobile devices, and if you already have an account, all your settings will be instantly ported over.
Pulse team also worked with Microsoft to leverage advanced touch integration offered by Internet Explorer 10. Pulse web app supports swiping between articles, pinch-to-zoom, and more. If you have a Windows 8 tablet, Pulse for Web will practically behave like a native app.
Go ahead; take the new Pulse for the Web for a spin on pulse.me. I played around with it briefly, and the Pulse team is definitely not exaggerating when they claim to have not compromised on quality while porting to the web. In fact, the web app is even more beautiful and intuitive than the original mobile app. Pulse already has more than 15 million users, and Pulse for Web will only help in increasing that figure.