Samsung and HTC have already launched a mini version of their flagship smartphone. Now, LG joined the bandwagon with the unveiling of its mid-range LG G3 Beat smartphone. This handset is basically the trimmed down version of the company’s flagship device. LG G3 Beat packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC clocked at 1.2 GHz. The performance of this processor has been clearly demonstrated in the previously launched Moto G, Galaxy Grand 2 and HTC One Mini 2.
LG G3 Beat borrows the unique laser auto-focus from its bigger brother, which enables the device to focus on the object faster by measuring the distance between the subject and the camera using a laser beam. It comes with HD IPS display with a screen-to-body ratio of 74.1 percent and the Floating Arc Design with smooth curved sides and tapered edges for comfortable grip and feel.
Dr. Jong-seok Park, CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company, said,
“Smartphone manufacturers cannot ignore this growing segment of consumers who want the best balance of looks, features, performance and, of course, price. The LG G3 Beat represents our commitment to the mid-tier smartphone market that demands mature technology, proven branding, great innovation and attractive price, all in a single device.”
LG G3 Beat is powered by 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor. Apart from that, it features a 5 inch HD IPS display, sporting a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, 8 megapixel rear camera with Laser Auto Focus, 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, 8 GB internal memory, 1 GB RAM, MicroSD card slot, Touch & Shoot, Smart Keyboard, QuickMemo+, Gesture Shot and a 2540 mAh removable battery.
LG G3 Beat will be shipped with the Android 4.4.2 KitKat Operating System. It measures 137.7 x 69.6 x 10.3 mm and weighs 134 grams. This handset will be available in Metallic Black, Silk White and Shine Gold colors. LG G3 Beat will go on sale from July 18 in South Korea, followed by Europe and other major markets in the coming weeks. The price of this device will be announced soon. Stay tuned for updates!
Obi Mobiles today announced the launch of its first flagship smartphone in India, the Octopus S520. The smartphone will be initially available for purchase through Snapdeal.com for ₹11,990.
Obi Mobiles is headquartered in Singapore and promoted by Toronto-based Inflexionpoint, a company co-founded by John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Inc.
The Dual SIM flagship smartphone boasts of a sleek metallic design (maximum thickness of 8.4mm) and is powered by a 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor with 1GB RAM. The phone features a 12.7 cm HD IPS display and sports the latest Android Kit Kat 4.4 version.
The Obi Octopus S520 box packs in a Flip Cover, a Screen Protector, a USB Charger, and in-ear headphones. The company claims that the phones will be supported by a country-wide network of over 95 service centres for after-sales support.
“S520 is a beautifully designed product. It is engineered to highest quality specifications to reliably deliver a superior performance. This flagship device is an affirmation of our stated commitment to extend the best in class smartphone experience. From hardware specifications to the quality of accessories there are no compromises whatsoever, because we know our young customers conduct their lives around their smartphones.”
So, what changed? First of all, if you have OneDrive, your base storage goes up from 7GB to 15GB. You have OneDrive (formerly, SkyDrive) if you have a Microsoft account which you would have if you ever had a hotmail account or an Outlook.com account, a Zune subscription, an Xbox Live account, or if you have a Windows 8 PC and chose to sign in with a Microsoft account. So, Microsoft has effectively more than doubled the free storage that you get with your Microsoft account.
The bigger jump is for Office 365 subscribers. For Office 365 Personal, Home and University subscribers, the alloted storage (in addition to the 7GB free storage) was 20GB. This storage is now bumped up to 1TB. In addition, if you are an Office 365 Home subscriber, each user on the subscription (it could be up to 5 users) will get their storage bumped from 20GB to 1TB. That’s a pretty sweet upgrade.
Finally, if you want to purchase additional storage (regardless of whether you have the free OneDrive account or through Office 365 subscription), the plans are now more inexpensive than earlier. For example, a 100GB plan is now $1.99 per month instead of the earlier $7.49 per month.
So, what do you do with so much inexpensive or free/included storage? How about moving all your music there? I did that, and am pretty happy with it so far. OneDrive has excellent sync clients for Windows 7, Windows 8.x (where it is included in the base installation), Mac OS, iOS, Windows Phone, Android. These apps will allow you to access your files from virtually anywhere, and best of all, keep the dirty work of backing up your critical data out of your plate. Everything is in the cloud and synced to your devices so you don’t have to worry about losing your data. For your digital memories like photos, videos, music and documents, especially if you have Office 365, you won’t have to worry about backup at all. Not only will OneDrive provide you access to your files anywhere and anytime, it will also be a safe offsite copy of your data in case you lose your local disk for whatever reason.
One other note, Office 365’s business and enterprise editions have OneDrive for Business included and those plans’ subscribers also get 1TB storage. Although the two services OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are named similarly, they are not the same on the back end, although Microsoft has made 1TB available to all OneDrive customers, consumer or business. The OneDrive for Business storage upgrade has also started rolling out.
How do you plan to take advantage of the extra storage? My next move, given that I have an Office 365 Home subscription, is to move my photos and videos to OneDrive. It is a much bigger effort so it may take some time for me to plan it out and do it. Plus of course, I have to keep an eye on the bandwidth consumption since my ISP has a cap on how much I use every month. However, with my cloud storage being 1TB, I can now say that I have more storage in the cloud than on any of my PCs!
Announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year, the Sony Xperia Z2 has recently arrived in India. Sony’s flagship smartphones have always pushed the envelope further in terms of design and features, but a few mishits here and there have let them down.
If you have seen the Xperia Z1, you have seen the Xperia Z2. In terms of design, there are not many differences you will be able to notice at a glance. But that’s a good thing. Sony’s OmniBalance design with a combination of glass and metal looks very premium, and stands out from the crowd. It picks up fingerprints like crazy though. There are three color options like with the Z1 – white, black, and purple.
The latest iteration is tougher and the company claims that the glass panel on the back is scratch-resistant now. The design’s top notch, and the Z2 is dust-proof as well as water-proof. Sony’s distinctive round power button is in its now-familiar spot in the middle of the right edge and flaps lined with rubber protect the microSD card slot, the microUSB charging port, and the SIM card slot.
The Xperia Z1 suffered from a poor display with bad viewing angles. That changes now, and the Xperia Z2 boasts of IPS LCD which makes the 5.2-inch 1080p display pretty crisp with great viewing angles. It’s not perfect, and is quite reflective especially in direct sunlight.
The Xperia Z2 checks all the boxes on the specifications sheet for a flagship smartphone. Powered by the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.3GHz, the Z2 packs in a mammoth 3GB of RAM. There’s 16GB of internal storage, expandable by up to 128GB.
There’s not much you need to talk about the performance. The UI and navigation is as smooth as it gets, while multitasking and app startups are a breeze. There’s no lag in the overall user experience, and no stuttering while playing graphic-intensive games. I noticed it getting hot sometimes when pushed harder though.
One of the understated highlights of the phone is its battery backup. The 3,200mAh battery lasts for the entire day with several calls, and continuous 3G or Wi-Fi use with GPS turned on. That’s pretty impressive, and arguably the best performance in the current crop of flagship Android smartphones.
The Sony Xperia Z2 prides itself on its 20.7-megapixel camera. You’d only get that resolution in the manual mode though as the auto-mode defaults to 8MP. The photos in good light conditions are brilliant and vivid, with good color reproduction. In low light though, there’s considerable noise. There’s not optical image stabilization, which is a bummer.
Again, the camera is not perfect, but it’s no downer as well. If you know your way around manual settings, you’d be able to click pretty good photos. There’s also the ability to shoot 4K videos, pretty much a nice novelty on the list.
Among several effects that Sony packs in, background defocus is an interesting one allowing photos with a subject in focus and background blurred. Although, it’s pretty much a trick. The camera doesn’t sense the depth, but takes two photographs and then blurs everything except the subject. While you can select the intensity and pattern of the blur, it’s not a smooth process and the option has to be selected before clicking the photo, and not added after it has been clicked.
Powered by Android 4.4 KitKat, the user experience it pretty much stock Android with some UI customizations. In most cases, that’s not a bad thing, but you’d miss the more functional implementations in notifications or settings like in Samsung or LG flagships.
There’s of course too many Sony apps, some of which like Jive for unlimited music downloads are good to have but are too, for the lack of a better phrase, in the face. There’s also Sony Liv that offers a number shows from Sony’s television channels. The ‘What’s New’ widget throws up updates about Sony content and services, and pretty much annoys and eats up data. It’s the first one you should get rid of.
Sony Xperia Z2 is a significant improvement over the Z1, and the water-proof feature is a terrific addition to the feature list. Sony has also almost got the display right this time, and offers a terrific battery life.
While Sony covers all bases for a flagship smartphone, there’s no standout, marketing pitch like the fitness features of the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the dual-camera system of the HTC One (M8). If that doesn’t bother you, and in most cases, it shouldn’t, Xperia Z2 is a good buy if you are looking for a top-end Android smartphone. Launched at ₹49,990, the price has dipped a little since then.
Microsoft announced on July 15 over on the Nokia Conversations Blog that Windows Phone 8.1 is beginning to roll out to general public starting today. In addition, for Lumia devices, Nokia is also making their firmware named Cyan available in tandem.
As you know, Windows Phone 8.1 is a major update to Windows Phone 8 (despite the .1 name, which is mostly to be in line with Windows 8.1) which includes many features that bring it up to par with iOS and Android, and in some cases, catapult it ahead of those two. For example, Windows Phone finally gets a notification center in the form of Action Center to bring it up to par with iOS and Android. There are many other new and updated features, including:
A digital personal assistant with a personality of her own. Many think of it as a good blend of Siri from iPhone and Google Now. It takes the personal nature of Siri and combines it with the ambient and context-aware nature of Google Now, and throws in a privacy-focused “notebook” which stores all the information that one would want the assistant to track. I have used Cortana quite a lot since the developer preview was released and am really happy with how she works, including the recent sports predictions.
Third column of tiles
Previously this feature was only available on the larger, 1080P screen devices but now it is a setting on all Windows Phones. The added density of tiles makes it possible to see even more information on the go, and thereby makes it possible to have more wide tiles which surface more information on the live tiles.
This feature allows one to automatically log in to wireless hotspots, including optionally filling out browser-based login screens which are common at many wifi hotspots. The settings are saved so that the information does not have to be entered over and over again. WiFi Sense also allows one to optionally share wifi username and password with connected contacts (who obviously should be using Windows Phone), so there is no awkward password sharing involved when friends and family visit each other.
Word Flow goes to the next level
The Windows Phone keyboard is one of the best among its competition, especially given the accuracy of its predictions of the next word, but with Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft added a gesture-based keyboard. This keyboard is similar to the ones found on Android (and coming soon to iOS 8) but combine that gestures with the predictions and you get a fast, fantastic typing experience.
Internet Explorer 11
Besides an updated browser engine, Internet Explorer now lets you share favorites, open tabs and most importantly, passwords among Windows devices (as long as they are Windows 8 and above :-)).
New Calendar view
Not only is the Calendar app now a standalone app (as evidenced by updates to the app delivered recently to those who are on the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1), but it also adds a much-requested week view. The view is very smartly designed because when you tap on the date icon in the app bar below, it keeps the weekly view but simply expands that day of the week. Similarly, if you tap on any other day of the week, it simply expands that day. Tapping it again will switch the view to the daily view.
The Cyan firmware update is applicable to Lumia devices, and as suggested by it being firmware, the update provides lower-level improvements to the device in general. These improvements help Nokia’s great photo applications like Nokia Camera, Creative Studio and Storyteller.
Cyan also delivers a new Device Hub, which is meant to identify devices near you which you can connect to, as well as suggest apps which will be able to take advantage of the connection to the said devices. For example, if it finds a Windows 8 PC nearby, it may suggest Remote Desktop as an app, if it detects a media streaming device like a DirecTV receiver, it may suggest a media streaming app.
For the low-end Lumias like Lumia 520, 525, etc., the HERE Drive app gets bumped up to HERE Drive+. For the high-end Lumias like Lumia 1520 and Lumia Icon, Cyan enables Rich Recording and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound. The high-end Lumias also get improvements in photos with improved colors and even better low-light photos along with RAW images and a new Living Images feature which adds a tiny bit of animation before the shot is taken, to add “life” to the image.
Now, for the not-so-great news. Windows Phone 8.1 and Cyan are available but they have only been delivered to the carriers. The update rolls out based on the carriers’ testing. The good thing is that Nokia is documenting the updates on their page as usual. The page is here.
I have been running the developer preview and I feel it is now up to the developers to bring their apps to the performance level that Windows Phone 8.1 provides, especially on the higher-end devices. I had almost given up on Windows Phone but Cortana and Action Center kept me interested. Along with many new apps coming to the platform, it has become a truly legitimate contender from a features perspective. The market, especially US and China, will of course speak with their wallets, but at this point Windows Phone 8.1 on a recent Lumia is not a bad choice to go for.
Here’s Nokia’s official video walking us through Windows Phone 8.1 and Cyan:
Xiaomi, one of the leading mobile Internet companies in China, has finally forayed into the Indian market with a range of Mi smartphones and an exclusive partnership with Flipkart.
The first Mi smartphone that Xiaomi has launched in India is the Mi 3. Priced at ₹13,999, Mi 3 will go on sale on July 22 while the pre-registrations are now open at www.flipkart.com/Mi, and will continue till July 21 midnight.
Mi 3 is powered by Xiaomi’s Android-based platform – MIUI. MIUI is a live operating system constantly improving with frequent software updates, and offers a high degree of customisation.
“Mi 3 is the fastest Mi phone ever. We are very excited to offer one of the world’s most powerful smartphones in India at an incredibly affordable price point of INR 13,999. We hope Indian users will love MIUI, our super intuitive Android-based operating system.”
– Hugo Barra, Vice President, Xiaomi Global
In addition, Xiaomi has also announced two other smartphones – the Redmi 1S and the Redmi Note – which will be launched over the next few weeks. The 4.7-inch Redmi 1S is priced at ₹6,999 while the 5.5-inch octa-core Redmi Note is priced at ₹9,999.
According to Manu Jain, India Operations Head for Xiaomi, the company is starting with 35+ service centers across top 20 cities along with a hotline that operates 7 days a week to ensure a robust after-sale service and a hassle-free customer experience. There are also two exclusive Mi service centers in Delhi and Bangalore.
Mi 3 Specifications
5-inch Full HD 1080p IPS display
2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800AB processor
13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
3050 mAh internal battery
How to Order Mi 3 in India
Head to Flipkart, and login using your account.
Register for the sale on the Mi Store (www.flipkart.com/Mi)
On July 22, buy the device. Note that only customers who register before July 22 will be able to purchase their Mi 3 on the sale day.
Do you have a ton of space in your OneDrive account and don’t know what you want to do with it? How about taking the bold step of moving your music collection to OneDrive?
Wait a second, you may say. OneDrive does not “support” music files, you may say. Well, maybe not openly and definitely not as a streaming music service could. However, as I coincidentally found out over the weekend, as long as you have the OneDrive app (I tested on Windows Phone, iPhone and Windows 8), you may at least be able to play your music, one song at a time.
Through a variety of promotions and tie-ins, I have almost 240GB of space on my OneDrive, and very soon, it is going to be 1TB because I have an Office 365 Home subscription.
To The Cloud
First though, moving the collection. If you are like me, and have many ways to listen to your collection, and have multiple forms of backup running, you may be wary of moving things around. I took a deep breath and took the plunge, although I knew what I wanted to achieve: move the music to the cloud but not lose the local files, and still continue to back up to my cloud backup service, Crashplan.
So, on my Windows 8 “home server”, I took the music off the data drive and moved it to my OneDrive’s sync location under a convenient location like OneDrive\Music. It took a while to move my 120GB to the cloud, but once I copied it to the location, I let it do its thing uploading the music to OneDrive. This step should be identical if you have Windows 7 (or even a Mac) with the OneDrive sync client installed.
The advantage with this approach as opposed to leaving the music on the home server is that I now have the ability to access my music from virtually any device connected to the internet. At the same time, since the music is still on my home server, I did not lose the ability to play the music from devices on the home network like my Apple TV.
Backup vs Sync
One common confusion is mistaking backup for sync, or vice versa. I think of it this way: I want my important data to be backed up without any manual effort, and I want some of the digital memories synced so that I can access them from anywhere, at anytime. The nuance here being, the backup is a one-way data transfer from my home server to the cloud whereas syncing enables me to add to my music collection from anywhere. So the next time I see a great deal on Amazon Music for a $5 album, I can not only purchase it but also download it and make it available to my other devices.
Use the OneDrive apps
Speaking of being able to access from anywhere, what happens when you try to open one of your (DRM-free, of course) audio files? Well, it depends. If you open from a browser, it simply opens the dialog to download the file. This is because the OneDrive web app is not set up for streaming music. It is only meant to interpret documents (Office formats, text and PDF), pictures and video. In the mobile OneDrive apps on the other hand, you can navigate to the folder with the songs, and tap on the actual song and it will start playing the song.
I hadn’t noticed this earlier, and while this is good, it by no means makes the OneDrive app a music player like Amazon Music app or Google Play Music app. For example, the app does not play an entire folder. It does not understand playlists. When you skip a song, it simply returns you to the folder instead of playing the next song.
But the fact that it can now stream (not download and then play) is a good sign that perhaps the OneDrive app may unbundle the photos/videos, documents and music features into their own apps just like Google and Amazon have done. I can see a OneDrive app like it is today, for general storage features, an Office app to only surface the files that Office mobile can open, OneDrive Photo app for pictures and videos, and OneDrive Music or Xbox Music app to surface audio files.
Owning music vs renting
I say all of the above but I am one of those who has slowly learned to give up trying to deeply control the music collection. I mostly rent music via one or more of the streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, iHeart, etc. I am also a paying subscriber for Xbox Music Pass which lets me play any song from their catalog on-demand. As a result, the real need to listen to music I “own” (because you know, this collection goes way back to the Napster and Kazaa days), has gone down tremendously. There are still some comedians whose performances I have in my collection which are not available on iTunes or Xbox Music catalog. There are also some Bollywood songs which did not match when I tried iTunes Match and also Xbox Music matching, but those are general the exception rather than the rule.
And then there’s services like Apple’s iTunes Match. It allows one to “match” their local collection with iTunes’ catalog and whenever there is a match, iTunes allows you to listen to the songs from any authorized device. The service is not free, but at $25/year it is a small price to pay for hassle-free management of your music collection. It also allows customers to upload the songs which do not match, although the uploaded songs would count against the iCloud storage quota. Once Apple’s newly announced storage plans go in effect, it would be a good idea to let iTunes completely manage the collection, which is taking one more step towards freeing up your collection. Xbox Music advertised long ago that this feature was coming to the service but so far it only does matching but does not allow you to upload unmatched music to the cloud.
Use the cloud, any cloud
To conclude, I recommend that you start thinking about simplifying your data management. Why leave stuff on your hard drive when you can use the cloud? For digital stuff like music and photos, it is better to make the cloud your primary “drive” and sync it to the devices you use. I used OneDrive as an example in this article but feel free to explore the cloud of your choice. It won’t harm going instead with Google, Amazon, or coming soon, Apple because all of the big ecosystem providers understand that providing a reliable storage solution is key to keeping customers “sticky”. Start planning the move to the cloud, as long as your bandwidth permits.
What’s your personal cloud situation? What about owning vs renting music, do you use any of the streaming services? Which ones? Why? Let us know!
In a press conference in New Delhi today, HTC unveiled the new HTC Desire 616 dual-sim smartphone, the first HTC smartphone with an octa-core processor.
The latest addition to the HTC Desire family features a 1.4 GHz octa-core processor, with 8 cores activated simultaneously. The company claims that the Desire 616 is designed to offer the best gaming and entertainment experience in the category and can comfortably meet challenges like rendering videos, deliver fast, responsive web browsing, silky-smooth graphics while seamlessly switching between multiple apps.
The Desire 616 boasts of a 12.7 cm, HD display and features HTC BlinkFeed home screen which was first introduced with the HTC One. The phone allows you to automatically turn your pictures and video clips into a professional-looking show reel of your best moments. Both, the 2MP front camera and the 8MP rear camera, offer 1080p HD video recording capability.
“Everyone looks for a combination that offers exciting performance phone at a great value. HTC Desire 616 dual sim is that very phone. The newest member of our renowned HTC Desire range offers our first Octa-core processor, 8-cores of super-fast processing and premium features at a great price, offering users the best possible experience in the category.”
– Jack Yang, President, HTC, South Asia
HTC Desire 616 Specifications
The new HTC Desire 616 dual sim will be available in Dark Gray and Pearl White for ₹16,900 in India starting from next week.
In a press conference in New Delhi today, HTC unveiled their next flagship smartphone, the HTC One (E8).
HTC One (E8) is a distinctive take on HTC’s iconic flagship design, and features an elegant dual curve design that looks gorgeous and fits well in the palm of your hand. The E8 features a polycarbonate, unibody design available in a a vibrant range of colors. The 12.7 cm device boasts of a full HD, borderless display for a cleaner viewing experience.
The HTC One (E8) features a 5MP front-facing and 13MP rear-facing camera. The company claims that the dual front-facing speakers and the latest HTC BoomSound technology offers rich tones, powerful bass, and crystal-clear treble, combining to create a rounded, immersive sound.
“The HTC One (M8) had set a new smartphone standard and now we’re taking it in another exciting direction. Combining style and substance, the HTC One (E8) represents the incredible experience people expect from a HTC One device with a look and feel that’s unlike anything else out there today. If you’re looking for the best flagship smartphone experience, but want to stand out from the crowd, this is the phone for you.”
– Jack Yang, President, HTC South Asia
HTC has also announced an innovative HTC Dot View case that displays notifications and interactions on a colorful dot-matrix effect. Combined with Motion Launch, you can check the latest information and receive calls without needing to uncover the screen. An on-board sensor hub underpins Motion Launch, enabling the HTC One (E8) to detect position and movement and allowing you to interact with the phone and perform popular functions without turning on the screen.
HTC One (E8) Specifications
The HTC One (E8) will be available in India from end of July for ₹34,900.
A bright object lit up the Australian night sky earlier today evening. It’s widely believed to be nothing more than space junk, and not an actual meteor.
At about 10 PM local time, on the 10th of July, there were widespread reports of a bright object streaking across the sky over southeastern Australia. It was initially thought to be a naturally occurring rock which had invaded the Earth’s atmosphere. However, it moved very slowly. Experts later confirmed that the flaming object was a piece of the Soyuz 2-1B rocket which was launched a couple of days back, in order to put a meteorological satellite called, ironically, Meteor M2 in orbit. The witnessed object is just the upper stage of the Soyuz rocket.
It is highly unlikely that anyone would be hit by such space debris, but the sight did cause a massive sensation. There were even occasional fragmentation as one would expect from such an object making reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. However, the aspect which caught most Australians off-guard was the very slow speed. Here is a video which is being circulated. It was shot using a mobile phone camera:
So, it’s just space debris making a lively reentry.