Steam Summer Sale 2013 is Live

Gamers rejoice, another mega Steam sale is here. The Steam summer sale kicked off a few minutes ago, and has already knocked down the store, which is unavailable through both the client and the browser. Steam’s mega weeklong sales have become famous for offering incredible deals that gamers around the world eagerly wait for. While Amazon and other third parties like GMG have also started offering offering stunning deals, Steam sales still are a mega event.

Steam-Summer-Sale

To get things started, Steam is offering a flat 50% discount on the universally acclaimed Bioshock Infinite. Endless Space, Left 4 Dead 2, Dragon Age: Origins, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Scribblenauts Unlimited are available for less than half their original price. Other games that are available at half price are Witcher 2, The Walking Dead, and FTL. The recently released Grid 2 is also available at a 40% discounted price.

Head over to store.steampowered.com to check out all the deals, and don’t forget to check back everyday for fresh deals. It is also worth remembering that waiting until the last day for a game to become a featured deal can often help you in getting a better deal.

Nokia Introduces Entry Level Smartphone Asha 501 in India [Hands-On]

The distinction between smartphones and dumb phones has continuously blurred over the past few years with the plummeting prices of smartphones and the increasing capabilities of the so called dumb phones. Nokia Asha 501 burrs this line further with smartphone like features at a low price point.

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The Nokia Asha 501 sports a 3-inch QVGA (320×240) resolution display with capacitive touchscreen. The touchscreen is capable of discerning up to two simultaneous touches, which allows it to detect simple gestures like pinch-to-zoom. As far as picture clarity is concerned, it is what you’d expect from a display with 133 ppi pixel density. Viewing angles are decent, but I didn’t get the opportunity to test the display outdoors. With the Asha 501, Nokia is introducing its new OS called “Nokia Asha software platform”, which is targeted at budget handsets. The Asha software platform comes with its own app store, and as many as fifty preloaded apps. Asha apps are essentially Java apps, and apparently porting existing J2ME apps is fairly straight forward. Nokia has reached out to developers to ensure that the phone launches with popular games like Asphalt 6 (preloaded), Need for Speed Shift, and Ninja Fruit Cutter. Nokia’s excellent HERE maps is also supported, however isn’t preloaded. However, due to the absence of a dedicated GPS chip, it will presumably rely on cell towers for location information.

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The Asha software platform seemed intuitive and well designed from the brief hands-on time I got with the 501. The user interface is strongly driven, with a swipe up bringing up a context menu, a swipe down revealing the notifications, and a swipe to the left or right opening the ‘Fastlane’. The Fastlane is sort of an extended notifications area that Nokia touts as the hub for your past, present, and future. The Fastlane keeps track of everything you’re doing and lists the past fifty activities. This includes your recent contacts, the apps you’ve used, and the songs you’ve listened to. Tapping on any one of the items opens up the relevant app. You can directly update your Facebook or Twitter stream from the Fastlane without having to open up a new app. Additionally, it shows the upcoming events from your calendar. The low-end hardware did cause some hiccups, and some of the apps seemed prone to crashing, but the phone behaved reasonably well. The apps developed by Nokia are mostly beautiful, especially the Alarm and Music app, however third-party apps were a bit all over the place.

On the multimedia front, there is a 3.15 megapixel rear camera, which performs about as well as you can expect a camera in this price range to perform. It captures QVGA video at 15 FPS and snaps images with a resolution of 2048×1536 pixels. The Asha 501 supports audio and video playback, and includes a well done music player that even allows you to share music with other Asha phones by tapping two handsets. This utilizes a new feature called ‘Slam’, which can also be used for sharing images and other files. Slam works like the tap to send features we see in high end handsets; however, instead of using NFC, which low-end smartphones don’t support, it works purely using Bluetooth. On the connectivity front, the Asha is a dual-SIM handset with 2G and W-Fi (b/g) support, but it leaves out 3G. This is a surprising omission from a handset that is otherwise pretty feature packed. Nokia believes that consumers who pick the Asha 501 over other budget smartphones like the Lumia 520 are unlikely to have 3G connectivity, which still remains fairly expensive. Given that according to TRAI, only about 2% of Indian mobile subscribers are on 3G, Nokia may be onto something. Nevertheless, I would certainly like to see a 3G enabled version in the future, even if it costs a thousand bucks more.

One of the biggest concerns with smartphones is its battery life. The Asha 501 comes with a 1200 mAh battery, which isn’t exactly massive. However, thanks to the Asha platform, Nokia expects the 501 to last at least a couple of days for most people. Talk time is rated at 17 hours, and music playback at 56 hours.

Nokia-Asha-501-Back-Battery

The Nokia Asha is a low-end smartphone meant for folks who want a capable touch screen phone from a reputed brand but are on an extremely tight budget. It’s available in six attractive colors (White, Black, Yellow, Red, Green, and Blue) and costs Rs. 5199. Spending about three thousand bucks more will get you the Lumia 520 or a bunch of low-end Android smartphones from the likes of Samsung, Sony, and LG. However, if you don’t have that extra three thousand, then Asha offers a tempting option. It allows you to upload pics on Facebook, check-in to Foursquare, follow latest trends on Twitter, surf websites on Nokia Express browser, listen to music, and more. The Asha 501 takes care of most basic user requirements, and throws in the convenience of a capacitive touchscreen. The lack of 3G still irks me; however, as far as first impressions go, the Asha made its mark on me.

Nokia-Asha-501-Color-Options

LG Optimus G Pro E988 Review

A short while back, LG launched it’s new flagship, the Optimus G Pro, in India. Coming mere months after the Optimus G, which in itself was an excellent smartphone, the Pro attempts to take things to the next level. But, does it succeed? Read on for our full review.

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Appearance and Display

Although LG hasn’t been using the word phablet for the Optimus G Pro, in reality, it is more of a competitor to the Samsung Note II than the Galaxy SIV. The Optimus G Pro features slimmer bezel than the Note, and as a result is slightly more compact. However, it’s still too large for one handed operation, and for a lot of users the size will definitely be a cause for concern. Thankfully, LG has attempted to make things slightly easier by placing the power and volume buttons on the side instead of on the top. There are two capacitive buttons along with a physical home button that also doubles up as the notification LED. Unlike it’s predecessor, the G Pro features a shiny all plastic body. It definitely doesn’t feel as good in the hand as the Optimus G. However, the plastic back offers quite a few advantages. The most obvious benefit is increased durability. I couldn’t muster up the courage to drop test the review unit, but the plastic back definitely increases the odds of the handset surviving a fall. The plastic back has also enabled LG to make the battery user replaceable. To LG’s credit, it has tried to infuse some character into the back cover by imprinting a Optimus G like pattern on the back which shines under light. The effect is not as spectacular as it’s in the Nexus 4; however, it still looks pretty cool.

LG-Optimus-G-Pro-Back

The Optimus G Pro features a full HD (1080p) 5.5 inch IPS Plus LCD display, which boasts of a pixel density of 400 ppi. The display is quite simply spectacular. It’s crisp, vibrant, yet well balanced. LG’s display is definitely among the best, if not the best, that you’d find in the current breed of smartphones. It has extremely wide viewing angles, and is bright enough to be legible even under direct sunlight. HD videos are a joy to watch on the giant display, and made me willing to accept the inconveniences caused by the size.

LG-Optimus-G-Pro-Front-2

Hardware and Software

The LG Optimus G Pro features a Qualcomm APQ8064T Snapdragon 600 chipset that houses a Quad-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300 processor and an Adreno 320 GPU. The top notch SoC is well complemented by 2 gigabytes of RAM. Although I didn’t get around to running any benchmarks, the phone was consistently fast. Whether I was zooming into a full-HD video, or switching between a dozen tabs in Chrome, or playing Asphalt 7, the G Pro never missed a beat. You’re unlikely to be complaining about the performance of this device for quite some time to come. The review unit I received had 16 gigs of internal storage (slightly more than 10 GB is available to the user); however, I believe that a 32 GB edition might also be released in the market. The storage can be augmented by up to 64 GB of external memory (microSD).

On the connectivity front, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Miracast, Bluetooth 4.0, MHL, and NFC are supported. It also sports an IR blaster that can be used for controlling your television. The Optimus G is an LTE enabled handset; however, this is of little benefit in India. The G Pro features a powerful 3140 mAh battery, which ensures that even with a gigantic display and a bleeding edge chipset, the handset can keep on chugging along for a full day (or more) on moderate usage on 3G. The Note II features a similar battery; however, thanks to its last-gen chipset and a lower resolution display, it will probably last a bit longer than LG.

LG-Optimus-G-Pro-Side

LG doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to Android updates. It’s launching the G Pro with Android 4.2.1, even as Samsung managed to ship the Galaxy SIV with Android 4.2.2 just months after the update was released by Google. There are rumors that LG is testing Android 4.2.2 on the Optimus G Pro; however, so far there hasn’t been any official confirmation. The G Pro runs LG’s Optimus UX, and comes with the usual suit of LG specific apps. Some of the most notable software enhancements include:
QuickMemo: QuickMemo can be triggered anywhere anytime through the dedicated hardware button. It captures the current content on the screen, and allows you to annotate and draw on top of it. Notes saved through QuickMemo are sharable through email, Facebook and other networks.
QSlide: QSlide enhances multitasking by running supported apps in a windowed mode. So you can continue surfing the web while watching a movie. Qslide supported apps include the web browser, video player, Memo, Calendar, and Calculator. You can also adjust the opacity of these apps so that they don’t get in the way of your workflow.
MediaPlex: Most the fancy new features in the video player that were introduced with the Optimus 4X have been retained in the Optimus G Pro. So, you can pinch to zoom into a video, get a neat preview while seeking, and increase or decrease playback speed. All of these work flawlessly even on full HD videos, and are perhaps the best demonstration of the power of the Snapdragon 600.
Smart Screen and Smart Video: These two features are exactly the same as the Galaxy SIV’s Smart Stay. The Optimus G Pro can detect when you are looking at the phone and accordingly prevent the screen from timing out. Similarly, it can also detect when you aren’t looking at the phone and automatically pause videos. Both of these features are disabled by default, which suggests that LG isn’t too confident about their accuracy.
Quiet Time: You can pre-define a time range during which your phone will automatically go into silent mode, and disable all sounds expect that of multimedia and alarms.

LG-Optimus-G-Pro-Settings

There are a bunch of other neat stuff including Vu Talk, configurable notification toggle buttons, video editor, and music video creator. The SMS notification implementation is particularly cool and deserves a shout out. When you get a new message, you get a neat popup near the top-left, which lets you to immediately reply to the SMS without having to open up the Messages app.The Optimus UX doesn’t exactly go overboard with features like TouchWiz; however, it offers supports extensive customization options which will please the power users. My favourite setting is the ability to map the QuickMemo button to any custom app, including the camera app. The Optimus UX is not without issues though. LG still uses the unified volume control option, which can be frustrating. The notification menu appears a bit cluttered with the inclusion of power control widgets, QSlide apps, and a brightness control slider.

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LG-Optimus-G-Pro-Notification-Menu

Camera

The LG Optimus G Pro sports a 13 megapixel rear-camera and a 2.1 megapixel font camera. While many of the early reviews criticized the camera quality, I found the G Pro to be an excellent snapper giving great performance both indoors and outdoors. LG has been continuously refining the Camera app over the past few generations, and as a result its a joy to use. All the usual stuff including preset scenes, exposure adjustment, white balance settings, ISO settings, panorama and HDR mode are there. Additionally, LG has thrown in manual focus, color modes, time catch shot, dual shot, and VR Panorama. Time catch shot is a nifty feature whereby the camera automatically preserves shots from moments before and after you pressed the shutter, and allows you to keep the best shot. VR Panorama is essentially Google Photo Sphere, which allows you to stitch together multiple pics to create a 360 degree view of any point. Dual shot, as the name suggests, uses the front and rear cam simultaneously to take a pic of the photographer as well as the subject. This works for both stills and videos.

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The G Pro is capable of recording full HD (1080p) videos with continuous auto-focus at 30fps. HDR mode is supported; however, it yielded disappointing results for me. Due to some reason, HDR videos seem to be desaturated and devoid of details. The video player supports Live Effects that can track faces to add silly effects as you shoot the video. It can also replace the background provided the camera frame remains still.

Verdict

The Optimus G Pro is a fabulous device and a worthy successor to the Optimus G, which was LG’s first truly great smartphone. It’s most obvious feature is the huge display, which is absolutely fantastic. You’ll find yourself wanting to use the phone simply because of the display. However, at the same time, the large size will also make you want to pick up an HTC One or even an Samsung Galaxy SIV. They are so much easier to hold and use that many will be willing to forgo the advantages of a large screen. Do you want a phone that can be used with one hand, or do you want a phone that can shoulder some of the responsibilities of a tablet? That’s the single biggest question you’d have to answer. If you want a phablet, and don’t plan on doing any drawing or sketching, the G Pro will serve you well. It’s a generation ahead of the Note II and is a better performer in every way. The Optimus G Pro delivers in terms of performance, display clarity, camera quality, and battery life. It’s a true winner.

LG Optimus L3 II Dual E435 Review

In all the hullabaloo surrounding the launch of flagships boasting of the latest and greatest technology, it can be easy to forget about devices like the Galaxy Ace and the Xperia Tipo. However, it’s these low-margin bargain devices that have helped Android zoom ahead of the iPhone. In fact, according to Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report all of the top nine handsets used by Opera Mini users were priced under Rs. 10,000 (about $165). LG’s new entrant in the budget smartphone category is the LG Optimus L3 II Dual E435. After using it for a week, here’s my quick review.

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Appearance and Display

The Optimus L3 II won’t win awards for its design; however, it definitely doesn’t look bad. Like most other second generation L-series devices, the latest iteration of the L3 has dropped the bold rectangular design and gone back to the traditional rounded edges. The phone is small, but solidly built and feels wonderful to hold. The plastic body feels well-constructed and doesn’t creak, while the buttons offer good feedback. My biggest complaint with the body is that the front buttons aren’t backlit. This makes them difficult to spot in the dark.

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The 3.2’’ display is small by today’s standards, but considering the price, you can’t really complain about the size. However, what’s shocking is the resolution. Thanks to a meagre resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, even the tiny display can manage only a 125 ppi pixel density. This is far lower than that of similarly priced Sony Xperia Tipo Dual (180 ppi) and Samsung Galaxy Ace Duos (165 ppi). As a result, everything on the screen appears pixelated. Reading small text is nothing short of a nightmare on this display. The viewing angles and outdoor visibility are pretty decent; however, none of the other positives can make up for the horrific resolution. The L3 II has the worst display that I’ve seen in an Android phone so far.

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Hardware and Software

The LG Optimus L3 II is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon chipset which comes with a 1 GHz processor and Adreno 200 GPU. It has 512 MB RAM, and 4 GB of internal memory. Quite obviously, you can’t expect the L3 II to be able to run all of the games and apps; however, it is capable enough to tackle the likes of Temple Run and Cut the Ropes satisfactorily. In fact, as far as CPU power is concerned, the L3 II is ahead of the Ace Duos and Tipo. The lower resolution further reduces the computing load on its chipset. There were a couple of seconds of wait while opening apps or switching between tasks, but I didn’t encounter significant freeze ups. General operation is reasonably smooth, and LG’s budget smartphone feels a lot more responsive than its competitors like Tipo.

As far as the hardware is concerned, the best thing about the L3 II is its battery. The L3 II 1540 mAh battery, which is quite a bit more powerful than the one found in the Galaxy Ace. Thanks to the tiny screen and the low-end single core processor, the battery isn’t really pushed too hard. As a result, even with reasonable amount of usage on 3G you should be able to make it through the day without requiring a recharge. This is significantly better than what most flagships have managed to offer.

The L3 II Dual packs a 3.15 megapixel rear camera capable of snapping images at 2048×1536 pixels and recording VGA resolution videos at 30 fps. The picture quality is exactly what you would expect. It’s good enough for Facebook and Instagram updates, but not something you’d be happy carrying on a vacation. The absence of even an LED flash means that the camera is useless in low light scenarios. The Camera app offers five different preset scenes and supports white balance, ISO, and exposure adjustment.

As the name suggests the L3 II is a dual SIM phone. It has a dedicated button, which allows you to toggle between two SIM cards. The switching happens quite quickly without requiring a reboot. However, you cannot use two SIMs at once.

On the software front, LG has launched the L3 II Dual with Android v4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), which is once again better than its closest competitors. Like all LG smartphones, the new L3 also comes with the Optimus UX. However, the only fancy feature that has made it into the L3 II is Quick Memo. QuickMemo is a sharable, system-wide notebook where you can jot down stuff quickly or annotate and comment on documents. Almost all of the other goodies that we saw in the flagship Optimus G have been dropped. Thankfully, even the stripped down Optimus UX has lots of configuration options and nifty tricks up its sleeve. You can change themes, use any of the half a dozen preloaded screen swipe effects, enable Quiet time, edit the lock screen shortcuts and more.

Verdict

Budgets phones are all about compromises. It’s often difficult to pick the best phone in this category, as the best really depends on the user. The LG Optimus L3 II has its fair share of flaws, as does all of its competitors. The L3 II Dual costs just Rs. 7,500 and LG has had to make plenty of trade-offs to get there. The real question is can you live with the decisions LG has made? The L3 has a horrible display; however, the same low resolution display probably helps in boosting its performance. The L3 has a newer version of Android than most phones in its class, and feels smoother than many of the other low end devices that I’ve used. If performance is important to you and you are willing to overlook the display, the LG II Dual might be a good fit for you. However, if you are looking for a decent display, you need to look elsewhere. Similarly, if you want a decent camera, the old Samsung Galaxy Ace S5830 with a LED flash might be a better buy. Alternatively, if Android isn’t a must for you, you can even take a look at the Lumia 520. It doesn’t have as many apps as the Android smartphones; however, offers a better camera and significantly better performance.

FreshDesk Report Confirms that Customers Are Increasingly Adopting Social Media in lieu of Phone and Email for Lodging Complaints

FreshDesk, one of the best known startup success stories to emerge from India, has published a State of Customer Support report based on the data gleaned from the 250,000 users of its customer support software.

The key takeaways are not very surprising. Customers hate being put on hold, and are the happiest when their queries are resolved within a reasonable amount of time following which satisfaction ratings plummet. In most cases, customers expect their queries to be resolved within a day. However, resolution time isn’t the sole parameter that determines customer satisfaction. Transparent and effective communication is also of paramount importance.

FreshDesk-Customer-Satisfaction-Index

While email continues to be the biggest source of support queries, its prominence decreased by 7% in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12. Phone support, which is the second most dominant medium, also lost ground. Unsurprisingly, it’s support through social media that registered the strongest growth. Support requests through forums more than tripled, while complaints registered through Facebook increased by about 150%. Twitter, which has been very publicly adopted by various organizations for reaching out to customers, is surprisingly lagging behind Facebook and Forums, but gained by more than 50% to overtake support through chats. Unlike phone and mail, social media allows customers to very publicly air their grievances, which often prods the companies into reacting faster. However, a worrying trend is that on Facebook, firms are often quick to respond but fail to seriously follow through. Conversely it also appears that in the hurry to offer faster resolution on social platforms, accuracy and accountability suffers. Email support is the leader in terms of accuracy with least amount of reopened or reassigned tickets.

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Amazon India Launched, but Don’t Count Out Others Yet

After years of speculation, it has finally happened. Amazon India is now open for business. More than a year after launching Junglee, a price comparison engine, the ecommerce giant has launched its own full-fledged marketplace.

“Our vision, at Amazon, is to be Earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover virtually anything they want to buy online. With Amazon.in, we endeavor to build that same destination in India by giving customers more of what they want – vast selection, low prices, fast and reliable delivery, and a trusted and convenient experience,” said Greg Greeley, Vice President of International Expansion at Amazon.com. “We’re excited to get started in India and we will relentlessly focus on raising the bar for customer experience in India.”

India is Amazon’s tenth marketplace, after countries like USA, UK, Canada, China, and Japan. The Seattle based online retailer is starting off with its strong suite – books. Amazon India claims that it currently has more than 7 million books in its catalog. The Indian store also has nearly ten thousand movies and a little over one thousand TV shows for sale. Other categories including Mobiles and Camera are expected to be launched soon.

The Amazon India launch was months in the making. However, the biggest stumbling block was the Indian government. Restrictions on foreign investment on multi-brand retailers prevented Amazon from setting shop in India. However, it appears that Amazon has found a way around the regulations. Unlike in the US and many other countries, Amazon won’t be maintaining its own inventory. Instead it will be operating purely in a marketplace based model. Times of India is reporting that Amazon has signed up 100 vendors across the country, and has setup a 1.5 lakh sqft fulfillment center near Mumbai to service online orders. Amazon is also inviting other retailers to sign up and list their products in the Amazon marketplace. It is providing two options for vendors – Selling on Amazon and Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). The former allows the seller to list their products on Amazon.in, while retaining control over inventory, shipping, and customer service. The latter allows the seller to leverage Amazon’s expertise by offloading logistics, shipping and customer service also to Amazon.

Amazon-India-Infographic

Gmail Tries to Tackle Inbox Clutter with Tabs

AOL isn’t exactly a hotbed for innovation, but its Alto mail did introduce a few neat concepts. The chief among them is the idea of stacks and automatic categorization. Unfortunately, Alto also had too many inconveniences to ever become a mainstream product. However, the good news is that Google is taking a leaf out of Alto’s book. Yes, Gmail is taking inspiration from an AOL email product.
Gmail-Tabbed-Inbox-Desktop

Google has annoucned a new tabbed inbox for Gmail that builds on the automatic categorization concept featured in Alto to reduce your inbox clutter. Gmail already has Priority Inbox, which surfaces mails that matter to you. Now, it will be grouping mails further, depending upon its source of origination. For example, one can tuck away all notifications from Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn under the Social category. Similarly mails from Groupon and its likes can be put under the Promotions category. You can setup custom categories and customize how you want your mails to be categorized.

Gmail-Tabbed-Inbox-Android-iPhone

Google will also be updating its Android and iOS apps (for iPhone and iPad) to add support for a categorized inbox. You will see your uncategorized mail by default when you open the Gmail app. You’ll be able to navigate to your categories from the left menu, as shown in the above screenshot. The updated Gmail app will be released within a few weeks, while the desktop version will be rolled out gradually.

Flipkart Shuts Down Flyte, Blames Piracy

Flyte-Digital-Music-StoreA little more than a year ago, Flipkart launched Flyte with more than a million tracks spread across a wide array of genres. The objective was to revolutionize the Indian market by offering high quality, DRM-free music downloads at an affordable price. The recording industry hoped that the digital music store might entice Indian music lovers to give up piracy. Fifteen months on, it’s clear that Flyte didn’t quite live up to the expectations. Flipkart has announced that it will be shuttering the service on June 17, 2013. Purchased music will continue to remain available for download until August 18, 2013.

“We have realized that the music downloads business in India will not reach scale unless several problem areas such as music piracy and easy micro-payments etc. are solved in great depth”, said Mekin Maheshwari, head of digital media and payments at Flipkart. “Which is why, we feel that at present, it makes sense to take a step back from Flyte MP3s and revisit the digital music market opportunity at a later stage.”

Maheshwari’s statement highlights just how deep rooted the problem of music piracy is in India. With dozens of websites offering the latest music releases for free, and local CD-wallahs selling pirated media with hundreds of songs for less than a dollar, most Indians consider purchasing music legally a folly. Flipkart also made its task harder with a crude delivery system. The online music library lacked even the most basic features, and the download manager was stupid enough to drive anyone up the wall. There were also rumors that Flipkart had failed to renew their licensing agreement with the music labels. Flyte had managed to amass almost 100,000 customers during its short existence. So, it’s also possible that stubborn record labels sealed their fate more than music piraacy. Apple recently stepped into the Indian market with the launch of iTunes in India. It’s unknown how well it is faring in India; however, Apple is unlikely to give up so soon.

Opera Adopts Chromium, Loses its Soul

Just days after Opera Software released the first version of Opera Mobile powered by the Chromium engine, it has unveiled an early preview of the desktop version. The latest build of Opera Next bumps the version number to 15, and utilizes Chromium 28. This means that Opera for desktop is now built on top of Google’s Blink rendering engine.

As we have come to expect from any major Opera release, there are plenty of changes in the latest version. Of course, the biggest change is the adoption of the new layout engine. Opera hopes that the website compatibility problems that have plagued it since its inception will go away with the adoption of Blink, which is a fork of WebKit. Thanks to the popularity of mobile devices as well as Chrome for desktop, WebKit is currently the most popular engine in the market. The new engine also helps in other ways. Opera has never been slow; however, Opera 15 feels fast. Really, really fast. In fact, it feels a lot faster than the stable release of Chrome, which is still at v27.

Opera-15-Preview-Build

Other new features include an improved speed dial that adds support for folders, and a new discover page that features a customizable stream of news from your selected region. Somewhat controversially, Opera has dropped support for traditional bookmarks. Also new to this version is a ‘Stash’ functionality, which is essentially Opera’s take on ‘Read It Later’ (now Pocket). You can add any website to your Stash by clicking on the heart icon in the address bar, and come back to that page whenever you feel like. Opera has also received a fresh coat of paint. The new skin feels more native, and is brought to life by some well thought out animations. Opera Turbo has been rechristened to ‘Off Road Mode’.

Unfortunately, the new engine and the fresh coat of paint come at a cost. Opera 15 isn’t just the old Opera with a new engine under the hood. It feels like an entirely different browser. Old users of Opera are going to be frustrated out of their wits by Opera 15. A lot of things that made me fall in love with Opera in the first place are no longer there. Opera Software has decided to separate the mail client from the browser. M2 is now an independent app which supports POP3 and IMAP mail accounts, Newsgroups, and RSS feeds. Unfortunately, it appears that IRC wasn’t deemed useful enough to be retained. One of my favorite features in Opera was its RSS client. Unlike other browsers, Opera offered a feed reader that was competent enough for most users, with the added advantage of tight integration with the browser. I loved not having to remember to separately launch my feed reader to read stories. I loved being able to instantly subscribe to any website that I was browsing. All that is no longer possible in Opera. To make matters worse, bifurcating the two functionalities didn’t really make Opera any smaller. Opera 15 is a 22 MB download, while Opera Mail is another 12 MB download. Opera 12 used to include both and still weigh only 13 MB.

In addition to splitting the mail component, Opera has also tossed out a number of beloved features. Here are some of the stuff that I noticed in the short time I tried using the new version:
– The famous sidebar has been eliminated. So you no longer have access to Notes or any of the other panels.
– All of advanced tab features have been chopped off. This includes visual tabs, pinned tabs, and even tab stacking.
– Private browsing is still present; however, you can only create private windows, and not private tabs like before.
– Per-site preferences, which allowed you to tweak how Opera behaved on each website has been tossed out.
– The new download manager is prettier, but doesn’t even allow you to copy the URL of a downloaded file. Also, you no longer get to specify where you want to save each file.
– Simple mouse gestures are still present; however, visual guide has been tossed out. I also couldn’t find a way to configure my gestures.
– Opera no longer has a true MDI (multi-document interface). Pop-ups now open in new windows, and the ability to resize browser tabs is also gone.
– Content blocker been canned.
– Trash can, which stored previously closed tabs and windows, is missing. Ctrl+Z hotkey also doesn’t work.
– Opera resumes sessions, but doesn’t have any of the powerful session management options it previously had.
– You can no longer save webpages in the MHTML format.
– The interface is completely uncustomizable. Forget about using vertical tabs or adding a status bar, you can’t even add new buttons or move stuff around.
– Couldn’t find any option to use userjs.
– Ability to create and modify search providers is missing.
– Opera Link is missing; however, this will almost surely make a comeback.
– Magic Wand, Opera’s password manager is no longer around. However, I would be surprised if it isn’t added back at some point of time.

That’s a pretty lengthy list, and I haven’t even used the browser for half a day. As it stands now, Opera 15 is a Chrome skin. It lacks pretty much everything that made it stand out from the crowd. I know that hate is a pretty strong word, and I detest using that word on something that lots of people have worked really hard to create. But, it’s the word that gets closest to describing my feelings about Opera 15. The good news is that this is only a preview build, and there is a possibility that we might get back some of the features by the time it’s ready for public consumption. However, seeing how extensive the list of missing features is, I’m not holding my breath.

You can download Opera 15 from www.opera.com/next. This release only has Windows and Mac builds, since Unix builds still need a bit of work. During my testing I didn’t experience any stability or performance issues. However, do keep in mind that this is a preview build.

South Korean Scientists Claim to Enhance Li-ion Battery Life by 300%

BatteryThe biggest bottleneck in a modern day smartphone is its battery. Within just a few years we have gone from single core processors to quad and octa core gigahertz monsters, WVGA to full-HD displays, and 3G to 4G connectivity. However, the battery technology has been struggling to keep up. LG Optimus G, which touts latest innovation from LG Chem, has a battery rated at 3140 mAh. That’s more than double that of what Xperia X10, a handset released more than three years ago had. However, even that probably will not last a day of reasonably heavy usage. No matter which smartphone you use, your battery probably won’t last 24 hours.

Researchers around the world are attempting to come up with a battery that can meet the demands of the next-gen smartphones and other mobile devices. The good news is that a group of scientists might have made some headway in Seoul, South Korea. A team led by Prof. Hyun Taek-hwan of Seoul National University claims to have increased the capacity of a lithium-ion battery by up to three times by using a nano structure of iron oxide and manganese oxide, instead of lead, as the cathode of the battery. The new battery is also believed to be more efficient, losing only 0.5 percent its performance even after numerous recharges.