All posts by Rajesh Pandey

Rajesh is a 19 year old nerd, currently pursuing B.Com Hons from Bhawanipore college in Kolkata, India. He loves everything tech, especially Android. You can follow him on twitter @ePandu or mail to him at [email protected]

Android Market Gets Some Much Needed Changes!

Google has just rolled out some much sought after and welcomed changes to the Android Market. These changes will be appreciated by both the developers and the general Android users.

For the developers, Google has gone ahead and increased the APK size from 50MB to a whopping 4GB! The company also introduced a new APK format Multi APK which allows developers to upload different APKs of the same app, for different Android devices. Also, developers will now host their app on the hosting provided by the Android Market itself!

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Another welcome change is the ability to exclude specific Android devices or filter devices by their screen resolution for an App in the Android Market. Developers will now also get monthly statistics of their app like the number of times it has been downloaded, how the competitive apps are doing etc. Developers will also be able to view sales figure of their application, right from January 2010.

For the general Android users, Google has added many new categories to Android Market including Editors’ choice, Top New Paid and Free apps, Top Free, Top Paid, and Top Grossing etc. All these lists will show you apps, depending on the country you access the Android Market from. The Market will also recommend users applications based on their usage pattern.

Android Market users can find the full change-log here.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7” Android 2.3 Gingerbread Update Rolling Out Now

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 was one of the most popular Android tabs in 2010. The Galaxy Tab 7, as the name suggests, sports a 7-inch display, and is basically an upsized version of the Galaxy S.

Like all other Android tablets released last year, the Galaxy Tab came with Android 2.2 FroYo on-board, with a tablet optimized version of TouchWIZ.

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When Google announced the Android 2.3 Gingerbread with the Nexus S in December 2010, Samsung promised that the Galaxy Tab will get the Gingerbread update. Now, 5 months after Gingerbread’s code went public, Samsung has released the Android 2.3 Gingerbread update for the Galaxy Tab 7.

Right now, Galaxy Tab owners are reporting that the update is being rolled out only in Italy. However, the firmware is already up for download over at the XDA forums.

Galaxy Tab users, who flashed the Android 2.3.3 firmware on their tablet, are reporting improved system responsiveness. Sadly, two of the Gingerbread goodies – the screen-off animation and the network bar icons, which change color according to the handset’s sync status with Google’s server – have not made it to the Tab.

It’s not the Android 3.0 Honeycomb update the Tab owners were wishing for, but something is better than nothing!

Android 3.1 Honeycomb Announced; Supports Google TV As Well!

Google has just announced an updated version of Honeycomb –   Android 3.1 – at Google I/O.

The Android 3.1 Honeycomb update brings some nifty features and much needed changes. First and foremost, the task switcher in Honeycomb will now show an unlimited number of apps, unlike the previous limit of 5. The widgets are also resizable, according to a user’s needs.

There are also many new APIs being introduced by the Android 3.1 Honeycomb update for developers to take advantage of.     Motorola_XOOM

Another major change is the support for USB host. That is, users can simply plugin a USB keyboard, mouse etc. and use it with their Android Honeycomb based tablet. In fact, users can also use game controllers and card readers with their Honeycomb tablet.

Here is the twist in the tale – the Android 3.1 Honeycomb update will also be rolled out to Google TV owners. Yes, Google TV! The Android Market will also start listing Google TV compatible apps, sometime this year!

The Android 3.1 Honeycomb update is already being rolled out to Verizon’s XOOM (3G model). Other Android tablets owners need to wait longer, before they get the latest version of Honeycomb!

Google Music, Books And Movies Services Goes Live!

Google has just announced three new media related services at the Google I/O Google Books, Google Movies and Google Music.

Users can purchase any book from the Google market, and read it on any Google Books compatible device.

Android users can rent movies for 1.99$ for up to 30 days. After renting a movie and watching it for some time, users have 24 hours to watch the whole movie. Users can stream movies, in HD quality; to any device they wish to including Google TV, Android Honeycomb tablets etc.

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Honeycomb based tablets will get a special app dedicated to Google Movies, with the Android 3.1 Honeycomb update. The service is also available for Android 2.2+ based handsets. Google has also added two new sections to the Android Market Books and Movies.

The Google Music service also went live, after months of speculation. The Music site is already up, and sadly the service is invitation based only. The Google Music service will allow users to stream their whole music library to their Android tablet or handset, via a Google Music app for Windows/Mac. Basically, once a user adds his music library to the Google Music app, his whole library is uploaded to the cloud.

Users can add up to 20,000 songs as well! The service will remain free, until it is in beta. Sadly, the service is only for people residing in the U.S.

Google has also released a new music app for the Android 2.2+ handsets, which can be downloaded from the Android market.

Google Music Page Goes Live; Available Only In The U.S.

Google I/O is going to kick-start in just half an hour from now, and the Google Music page is already live!

It was very well known that Google will be launching Google Music’, a cloud based music storage and player for all Android Gingerbread based phones and Honeycomb based tablets. As with any Google product, the service is in Beta right now.

Also, the service is in Invite only mode for now. So, readers interested in Google Music need to request for an invitation first. The Google Music page also states that the service is free only for a limited time.

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However, the biggest issue with Google Music is that it is only available to the people living in the United States. I seriously did not expect this from Google. There is a world outside the United States, and they also deserve their share of cloud based music player.

The Google Music is the second cloud based music player to pop-up on the Internet, after Amazon unveiled its cloud based music player a couple of months ago.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc Review

Last year was pretty bad for Sony Ericsson. The company launched its Xperia branded Android handsets including the X10, but all the models failed to generate user interests and revenue.   The X10 was criticized for its outdated Android OS (v1.6) and lack of multi-touch. Later on, Sony Ericsson was also criticized for delaying the Android 2.1 update for its flagship handset.

Nevertheless, Sony Ericsson has learnt a lesson or two from last year, and is trying to change it this year. The company announced a bunch of Xperia branded handsets, running on the latest version of Android OS, and each standing apart from the crowd.

The Xperia Arc is Sony Ericsson’s flagship phone for this year. The handset is slim, stylish, packs an awesome camera and runs on the latest version of Android OS.

However, 2011 is all about dual-core Android handsets, and will the Xperia Arc be able to compete with its upcoming competition. Read our review to find out!

Build Quality And Screen

Right out of the box, anyone will be surprised by how thin and how long the Arc is. True to its name, the Arc has an Arc shaped design. At its thinnest point, the Arc measures only 8.79mm, which is… insanely thin!

The Arc is mainly made up of glossy plastics, but has a premium fit and finish. There is a metallic ring covering the sides of the phone. Sadly, all that glossy plastic is a fingerprint and smudge magnet.

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Like the X10, the Arc only has 3 hardware buttons – Back, Home and Menu button – in the same order. The keys are not backlit. There are two small LEDs between the three buttons, but they are of hardly any help.

The top of the Arc houses a mini-HDMI port, while the top right houses the notification light, microUSB port and a tiny volume button. Oh! There is also a camera button at the bottom right of the handset, which will definitely go un-noticed by most people. The left side of the handset is pretty empty, and only has a 3.5mm jack.

The front of the handset is dominated by a 4.2-inch LCD screen, with a resolution of 854×480 (FWVGA). The LCD of the Arc has decent contrast and brightness. The Arc does have automatic brightness control, but there is no option to turn it on or off in the Display settings.

The Arc also features Sony Ericsson’s new ‘BRAVIA Mobile Engine’. This new technology boosts the screen’s color contrast, and sharpness whenever a user is watching images or videos on his handsets. The technology definitely helps improve the image quality of the display. Images and videos look mind-blowing on the Arc’s display. The Bravia engine does not impact the screen performance in any other aspect except when viewing images and videos.

Sadly, the biggest problem with the Arc’s display is its viewing angles. The display looks washed out, if viewed from anywhere except its perfect viewing angle.

User Interface And Performance

The Arc runs on Android 2.3.2 Gingerbread, with Sony Ericsson’s proprietary UI on top of it. Unlike the X10, Sony Ericsson’s UI changes do not run right into the OS core, and are merely cosmetic changes. Sony Ericsson has replaced the black theme, which Google introduced with Gingerbread, and is using a blue theme instead.

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The changes made by Sony Ericsson are positive in all aspects. Sadly, the Gingerbread screen-off animation as seen on the Nexus S, is not found on the Arc.

By default, the phone ships with 5 home screens. Users cannot add or delete home screens if they want. The app launcher dock can incorporate up to 4 icons, excluding the ‘menu’ button in the center. The application grid offers users with a nifty feature to sort apps alphabetically, in order of their use, manually or recently installed.

The MediaScape UI, found in the original X10, has been merely reduced to a desktop widget now. The music player of the Arc looks gorgeous, and even has a few equalizer presets. However, there is no option to manually create a new equalizer preset.

The Timescape UI looked good in the X10, and it still does. Basically, the Timescape UI aggregates all the social updates of your friends from Twitter and Facebook in a 3D view. Sadly, the dialer on the Arc does not feature smart dialing. The back of the handset also features a secondary mic. for noise cancellation purposes.

During the trial period, I had no issues with the performance of the Arc. The handset totally flies, and users will hardly feel the lack of a second core, on a day-to-day basis. The phone scores around ~1400points in the Quadrant benchmark, which is pretty decent.

Camera And Video Recording

This is very where the Xperia Arc truly excels. The 8MP camera at the back of the Arc is a truly mind-blowing. In proper lighting, the images came out crisp and sharp, with more than enough details.

Below is an image sample clicked at the default camera settings 6MP, 16:9 aspect ratio – from the Arc :

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The rest of the images below, were clicked at 8MP resolution with auto scene detection :

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Sony Ericsson also touts that the Xperia Arc has an Exmor R sensor, which allows users to click some stunning low-light pictures. I clicked some pictures in complete darkness, and the results are truly stunning.

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The Arc is also able to record videos in 720p HD resolution at 30fps. The phone also features continuous auto-focus while recording videos. The back of the handset features a second microphone, to cut down on background noise while recording videos.

The camera interface of the Arc is very clean and smooth. However, the phone only offers very limited scene modes including Smile detection, scene recognition and normal mode. The camera also has touch-to-focus while clicking still pictures.

The videos taken from the phone came out clear and sharp, with no choppiness and duplicated frames were rare as well.

Web Browsing And Battery Life

The web browser on the Arc, like any other Android phone, absolutely rocks! The general web browsing performance is smooth, with no troubles. Scrolling around through web pages was smooth as well. Things did get a little jerky when browsing heavy flash based web sites like Espnstar.com. The Arc was able to playback Flash videos embedded in webpages without a hitch, as well.

Even though the Arc is insanely thin, it packs in a 1500mAh capacity battery.   The handset will easily last a day on moderate to heavy usage on a single charge. Compared to most other Android handsets, especially HTC branded ones; the battery life of the Arc is a major plus!

Conclusion

The Xperia Arc is a decent all-round phone. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the phone. The camera, looks, battery life, and the performance of the Arc are its major plus points. The dated internal hardware of the handset can be a problem 2-3 months down the line, when nearly every phone will launch with a dual-core processor.

For the general users out there, the Arc is more than enough. They will be highly satisfied with it. However, for the Andro-geeks out there, the Arc is nothing but an outdated phone with an awesome camera.

At the moment, the Arc retails for Rs 28,000, which is quite steep for the features and out-dated hardware it offers. The phone will be a hot seller if priced below the 25k mark. Once the Arc’s price settles below the 25k mark, it will be a true VFM phone.

How To Pre-Order The Samsung Galaxy S II

The most anticipated Android phone of this year the Samsung Galaxy S is already up for sale in a few countries. However, in most places of the world, the handset is still up for pre-order.

First of all, I should make it clear that Samsung still has not announced any plans of launching the Galaxy S II in the United States. Blame the network operators in the States for the delay!

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People living the U.K can already order an unlocked Galaxy S II from Play.com for £499.99, as well as from Clove. The handset is also available at Phones4U and the O2 U.K. network as well.

In South Korea, the Galaxy S II is up for pre-order on all the three major telecom operators S K Telecom, KT, and LG U+. In fact, more than 200000 units of the Galaxy S II have already been pre-booked in Korea.

Interested Samsung Galaxy S II buyers in India can have a look at eBay.in, where they can pre-order the handset for nearly Rs. 40,000. However, I will suggest them to wait and buy the handset when it is released by this month’s end.

The Samsung Galaxy S II will be available in most of the regions of the world, by the end of this month.

HTC Desire HD And Desire Z Get A Fully Functional Sense 3.0 ROM

Last month, HTC announced its next super phone’ the HTC Sensation. Along with cutting edge hardware, the handset also features the latest version of Sense (v3.0). In its latest version, Sense 3.0 features a new lock screen, and some stellar animations.

When the HTC Sensation and the Doubleshot ROM leaked on the Internet, the Desire HD and Desire Z tried porting it over to the respected handsets. However, due to difference in resolutions and hardware, most of the stuff was broken in these ROM.

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Now, two very talented developers from the Desire Z and the Desire HD modding scene rmk40 and capychimp have released a fully working Sense 3.0 ROM for Desire HD/Z. The ROM has been named as Virtuous Fusion ROM, and also supports the Inspire 4G and the T-Mobile G2. The ROM is based on the leaked HTC Kingdom RUU.

Compared to any other Sense 3.0 ROMs, this ROM has very minor issues. There are some graphics glitches in some screen, and the default Sense launcher does not work in landscape mode. Hopefully, these issues will soon be resolved by the developers!

Interested Desire HD, Inspire 4G, Desire Z and T-Mobile G2 owners should head over to this thread over at XDA, for more information.

Samsung Galaxy S II Pre-Orders Reach 3 Million Units By Carriers

It was only a few days ago that Samsung released the highly anticipated Galaxy S II in some regions of the world. In most regions of the world, the phone is currently up for pre-order, and will be released to the general public by this month’s end.

Today, Samsung announced that mobile carriers all over the world have pre-ordered more than 3 million units of the Galaxy S II. Please note that the pre-order is done by mobile carriers, and not the consumers. However, I am pretty sure that the operators won’t have any problem in selling these pre-booked units.

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It was just a few days ago, that Samsung had managed to ship more than 120,000 units of the Galaxy S II in Korea,   in less than 3 days.

The Samsung Galaxy S was among the most popular Android phones of last year, and sold in excess of 10 million units. Its successor, the Galaxy S II has already been getting ravishing reviews all over the Internet, and is expected to sell more than 15 million units. The Galaxy S II will be released in more regions of the world by the end of this month, or early June.

(Source)

Notion Ink Adam To Get A Major Software Update Soon; Including Android 2.3 Gingerbread!

Remember the controversial Notion Ink Adam from a startup in India? Well, it looks like most people have forgotten about the company and its product. Last week, Notion Ink Adam posted some information about a major software update for the Adam, which was gone un-noticed by everyone until now.

Notion Ink is soon going to release a major software update for the Adam, which will include the Android 2.3 Gingerbread update for the OS. The update will also bring a basic music and video player to the Adam. The usual performance, stability and UI enhancements are also on-board.

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Here is the official change-log -:

  • the new e-book client
  • a new Browser (the name of the book client and browser will be released in a separate blog next week)
  • updated Kernel
  • optimally over-clocked Tegra
  • Gingerbread 2.3
  • lots of Usability Issues resolved
  • new multi-tasking environment (easier way to manage all tabs and applications)
  • Chords Music Library and Player (Simple and straight Music Player)
  • Video Library and Player
  • DSP support, so now equalizer will work in better way. Soon we are adding more bass boost in the speakers as well (not a part of this update).
  • Flash pre-installed
  • and more!

The new web browser and the eBook client are the Dolphin HD and Kindle. The blog post also states that Notion Ink is already working on porting Honeycomb to the Adam.

It’s nice to see Notion Ink supporting the Adam, but I wonder how many units the startup actually managed to sell. The Notion Ink Adam’s launch was delayed numerous times. When it was finally made available to the public, the shipments were delayed numerous times as well.

The update is expected to be rolled out soon by the company.