Lumia 530 Announced with a Dual SIM Variant

The budget segment has been the biggest area of strength for Windows Phone devices, with handsets like the Lumia 520 and the 620 doing brisk business. The Lumia 520 alone managed to capture over a third of the Windows Phone market. Now, this crucial low-end Windows Phone handset is receiving a refresh in the form of the Lumia 530. The Lumia 530 promises to deliver more for less. However, the competition has gotten a lot tougher over the past few months with the launch of well-built Android devices like the Moto E. Does the Lumia 530 have enough to put up a good fight?

Nokua Lumia 530 1

The Lumia 530 is identical to its predecessor in terms of size and weight. The display still measures in at 4 inches, but the pixel density has been marginally improved to 245 ppi with the change in resolution to 480 x 854 pixels. The bright and vibrant colors that we associate with Nokia’s Lumia series are still there, but the Lumia 530 eschews the sharp, rectangular design in favour of a more conventional curved appearance.

Nokua Lumia 530 2

Nokua Lumia 530 3

The Lumia 530 features a Qualcomm Snapgradon 200 with a quad-core 1.2 GHz CPU that Microsoft will undoubtedly pitch as an improvement over its predecessor. However, in reality, the new processor will deliver roughly similar performance since it is a Cortex A-7, while the older one was a Cortex A-9 (Krait). Even the GPU is marginally inferior (Adreno 302 in 530 vs Adreno 305 in 520). The amount of RAM has remained unchanged at a measly 512 MB, but internal storage has been halved to 4 GB. Thankfully, the new Lumia is runs on Windows Phone 8.1, which allows the installation of apps on micro SD cards. Windows Phone is also less memory hungry than Android. So, even a device with only half a gigabyte of RAM should still be responsive and usable.

Nokua Lumia 530 4

Another piece of hardware that has been downgraded is the camera. Both the 520 and the 530 feature a 5 megapixel camera, but the latter is fixed focus and can’t capture HD (720p) videos. Front camera for video calling is still missing. The battery unit, which is unchanged, is rated at 1430 mAh.

Nokua Lumia 530 5

The Lumia 530 will be available in two variants – Single SIM and Dual SIM, and is expected to be priced at around €85 (a little over $110). Nokia also announced a companion Bang mini speaker by Coloud, which will retail for €19.

Somewhat surprisingly, the new Lumia appears to be a weaker phone than its predecessor. Everything including the chipset, camera, and storage have been downgraded. However, it might still end up being a big seller due to its newly earned quad-core status and the reduced price tag.

LG G3: Hands-on, Photos, and First Impressions

The LG G2 might not have achieved the massive sales figures of some of its competitors, but it won the hearts of many, and demonstrated that LG had what it takes to be an industry leader. With the G3, the Korean manufacturer is looking to raise the bar further.

LG G3 - Simple is the New Smart
LG G3 – Simple is the New Smart

Appearance and Display

As is the trend these days, LG has bumped up the display size in G3. It sports a 5.5’’ display, which firmly puts it in the phablet category. However, thanks to unbelievably narrow bezels the G3’s dimensions are actually very similar to the HTC One M8 or the Sony Xperia Z2. This means that like every other flagship released this year, the G3 is too big for single handed operation. However, the G3 at least gives you a phablet sized display. There are compromises to be made. The LG G3 boasts of a plastic body and doesn’t have any water or dust resistance. The metallic finish on the plastic does help retain the premium appearence, but it doesn’t feel as great to hold as the M8 or the Z2. LG has played its cards well, and the G3 ends up managing to to appear sleeker, smaller, and more premium than it really is. I’m a fan of the G2’s rear keys, and they’ve been improved further in the G3. The volume keys now form a distinct concave pad that makes it impossible to mistake them for the power button.

LG G3 Front View
LG G3 Front View
LG G3 Rear Keys
LG G3 Rear Keys

Even a few years back the thought of a full HD display on phones would have seemed ludicrous, but LG now believes that even 1080p is not good enough. As a result, the G3 boasts of a quad-HD (1440 x 2560 pixels) display. The display is simply fantastic, and you would be hard pressed to spot pixels even when you’re looking really close. However, this is only as long as you’re using the inbuilt apps and the wallpapers available in the gallery. For example, LG’s clock face for the Quick Circle screen looks disarmingly real. However, as soon as you open Chrome and start surfing or other use third party apps the screen advantage is rendered moot. Owing to its first mover status, the G3 is definitely going to have a content problem. The crazy high resolution has also forced LG to come up with clever optimizations to ensure that the battery doesn’t die within a few hours. There are also reports that the display gets heated easily and often forcefully reduces brightness to cool down. I didn’t get enough time during my hands-on to replicate these issues.

LG G3 Side View
LG G3 Side View
LG G3  Another Front View
LG G3 Another Front View

Hardware and Software

The LG G3 chugs along smoothly thanks to the Snapdragon 801 chipset that features a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 processor. The phone is available in 2 variants – 16 GB and 32 GB. Surprisingly, even the amount of RAM varies between the two. The latter has three gigs of memory, while the former only has a couple. Both of them support microSD cards. The G3’s tagline is ‘Simple is the New Smart’ and LG has attempted to clean up a lot of the mess from its previous release. I’m glad to report that the silly looking icons have finally been axed. LG has embraced flat design, and the colour palate is mature yet attractive. I really liked the new look and feel of the G3, but Android L’s Material Design is still the best Android UI so far. Several pre-installed apps have removed, while others have been merged to reduce complexity and increase available space.

LG G3 Display Up Close
LG G3 Display Up Close
LG G3 Knock Code
LG G3 Knock Code

Camera

The camera snaps pics at 13 megapixels, which is lesser than some of the other flagships. However, based on my limited hands-on, the camera is actually really competent. I took a few snaps inside the display booth to compare the Z2 with the G3, and found that the G3 has nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, in a couple of cases, I felt that under proper lighting conditions shots captured by the G3 had better details and lower noise. The G3 includes a laser focus feature that LG claims to significantly improve capture speed as well as focusing ability under low light. During my hands-on, I found that the G3 is consistently fast in focusing and capturing photos, but not much faster than its competitors. The G3 also includes dual-LED flash for a more natural colour reproduction under flash. Once again, I didn’t see any significant enhancement during my hands-on, but I’ll hold my verdict for now due to the limited amount of testing that I could do. Other camera tricks include a new selfie mode that can be triggered via hand gestures, and optical image stabilization. The latter is something that both Sony and Samsung surprisingly left out of their flagships.

LG G3 Big B Edition Back View
LG G3 Big B Edition Back View
LG G3 Black Model Front
LG G3 Black Model Front
LG G3 Black Model Back
LG G3 Black Model Back

Conclusion

A quick hands-on is never enough to fully judge a phone. I’m not entirely sold that the QHD display is necessary, or even worth all the added compromises. I would like to go back and take a deeper look at the camera, audio output and the battery, as well as the software modifications that LG has made. However, one thing that I can say without a shade of doubt is that the G3 is an extremely competent smartphone that makes a great first impression.

The G3 is being launched in three colours – Metallic Black, Silk White, and Shine Gold. LG will also release 15,000 Big B editions of the G3 that will sport Amitabh Bachchan’s signature. In a welcome departure from prevailing trends, the special edition won’t cost extra. Officially, the price tag is ₹47,990 for the 16 GB variant and ₹50,990 for the 32 GB variant; however, you should soon be able to get them for less.

LG G3 Accessories: First Look

Earlier today LG unveiled its new flagship smartphone along with a bunch of accessories at a glitzy event in Mumbai featuring the Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan. We’ve already shared our hands-on experience with the LG G Watch. However, it’s not the only interesting G3 accessory that LG is launching.

Cases

LG has enhanced its Quick Window case and renamed it as the Quick Circle case for the G3. As the name suggests, the transparent portion of the case is now circular. Tapping the circle a couple of times activates the display, which by default displays clockfaces. Like earlier, there are several clockfaces, but the combination of insanely high display resolution and the circular shape makes them appear stunningly beautiful. LG has also thrown in a soft glow effect for the rim of the circular window, which gets activated when you receive a call or a message. Double tapping activates the circular window, and a quick swipe lets you access the music player, pedometer, email, phone, and camera.

LG Quick Circle Case - Analogue Watch

LG Quick Circle Case - Change Watch Face

LG Quick Circle Case - Digital Watch

LG Quick Circle Case - Options

Besides the Quick Circle case LG is also launching a Slim Guard case with protective rubber edges and a Slim Hard case with premium leather finishing. All three cases support Qi wireless charging.

Charging Dock

Quite naturally LG is also launching a new wireless charging dock to take advantage of the aforementioned Qi wireless charging support. The dock is a simply white slab that can be propped up to double up as a stand for the phone. The phone can be placed on the dock in either orientation – portrait and landscape. However, the stand is not very secure in both modes, and needs to be accurately aligned with the dock for charging to commence

LG Wireless Charging Dock

Headset

LG has partnered with the famous audio equipment manufacturer Harman Kardon for its behind-the-neck Bluetooth audio headset. The in-ear headset has retractable cables, which ensures that the cables never gets tangled. The headset features a 220 mAh battery is rated at a whopping 550 hours of stand-by, 17 hours of talk time, and 14 hours of playback on a charge. The headset features a jog button to fast forward and rewind music, and sounds an alert and vibrates whenever there are incoming messages. When paired with the LG G3, it even announces the name or phone number of the caller. Raising the G3 up to your ear will automatically disengage the headset and allow you to converse using your phone.

LG Tone Infinim

LG Tone Infinim - Close Up

Round-up of Everything Announced At Google I/O 2014

The first day of the 2014 edition of Google I/O was jam packed with new product and feature announcements. Some had leaked in advance, many were expected, while the rest took everyone by surprise. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the conference, here’s a round-up of everything (well, almost everything) announced by Google.

Google-IO-2014

Android L Release

The big news was of course new edition of Android. Google referred to the next-gen Android as simply the ‘L release’. The L release will be available to the general public in the fall of 2014; however, for the first time ever, Google will be providing a developer preview, which is expected to be released later today.

Android-L-Material-Design
Android L Release – Material Design

The L release will sport a massive design overhaul as a part of Google’s new cross-platform design principle called Material design. Material design, which will be used across Google properties, including Android and Chrome OS, builds on top of the flat design trend by adding a sense of depth and lighting, beautiful typography, and intelligent animations that enable seamless transition between content. Material design is vibrant, fresh and cheery without appearing to be immature. Based on the demos shown by Google, Material design feels like a brilliant evolution of a lot of concepts introduced by Microsoft’s Metro design language.

The L release’s enhancements aren’t just skin deep though. In fact, Google is throwing out the Dalvik Virtual Machine and replacing it with the Android Run Time (ART). ART is already present in KitKat devices as an optional alternative; however, in the L release, ART will be completely replacing Dalvik. ART uses various optimizations (including Ahead of Time code compilation, enhanced garbage collection, and 64 bit support) to offer significant performance benefits. Google is also working with hardware manufacturers on Android Extension Pack, which will enable game developers to provide console quality graphics on mobile devices.

Android-L-ART
Android L Release – ART

The L release also shines the spotlight on one of the major weak points of modern day smartphones – battery life. The next edition of Android should be able to last longer thanks to Project Volta. Besides introducing a Battery Saver mode, which will be disabling battery intensive services and throttling the CPU, Google has worked on enhanced data collection and better resource utilization.

There are numerous other enhancements in the next edition of Android, including more useful notifications, easier ways to authenticate and unlock your phone, and better multi-tasking.

Android One

Android One is a set of reference hardware that Google will be creating for smartphone manufacturers. Google is hoping that Android One will enable its partners to quickly create high quality Android phones at a low price point. The Android One initiative will begin in India, with Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice as the OEM partners. Android One phones will ship with stock OS, but Google will allow automatic download of OEM apps (Play auto-install). To put it simply, Android One is Google’s Nexus program re-imagined for the emerging markets. These low-end devices are expected to cost less than a hundred dollars.

Android-One
Android One

Android Wear

Earlier in the summer, Google had offered a sneak peek of Android Wear, its new operating system for wearables. At the Google IO, it released the Android Wear SDK, announced the first devices from its hardware partners, and gave a more detailed look at how Android Wear will work. For apps on your smartphone that support Android Wear, the Wear part of the app will automatically be installed and updated on your watch. This is a major improvement over other wearable operating systems as it avoids the hassle of having to install an app on the tiny watch, and then to go back and install the parent app on the phone. Android Wear will continuously stay in sync with your mobile phone, and will be leveraging voice controls and Google now to make your life simpler.

The first two Android Wear devices to launch are the LG G Watch, and the Samsung Gear Live. Both of them currently available on the play store for $229 and $199 respectively. Motorola’s gorgeous Moto360 will be available later this summer.

Android Auto

As the name suggests, this is Android for cars. The focus with Android auto is on simplified navigation and voice controls. As soon as you plug in your phone in the car, your Android installation is projected on the car’s infotainment system. You can control the OS with your voice as well as by using the controls provided in the car. The focus points of Android Auto are navigation, music, and communication. However, Google will be providing an Android Auto SDK, which will enable developers to extend the experience. Launch partners for Android Auto include Audi and Honda.

Android TV

In a move which surprised absolutely no one, Google also announced Android TV. Television sets are quite often the biggest displays in a household, and Google quite obviously wants to be on them. Android TV features a smart homescreen that acts as your content hub. It features a recommendation screen that’s tuned to your watching habits, apps, and games. Android users will be able to cast multimedia content on their TV, just like you’d be able to do with Chromecast. Gaming is also one of the focus areas of Android TV, with support for multi-player experience between smartphone/tablet users and TV users.

Android-TV
Android TV

Chromecast

Chromecast, which was the unexpected hit of last year, also got its fair share of improvements. It’s no longer necessary for everyone to be on the same network to be able to cast to your TV. You’ll also be able to cast exactly what’s on your Android tablet or smartphone screen (device mirroring) on your TV. There’s also a new Backdrop feature which will allow you to play a slideshow of pictures from your personal gallery as well as Google curated content. Using your TV to play slideshows while no one is paying attention seems to be a massive waste of energy to me, but I guess there must be takers for this. Google also announced the launch of a new website as well as a separate category in the Play Store for Chromecast apps.

Chrome OS

Thanks to updates in the Chrome OS, your Chromebook will now be a lot more in sync with your phone. You’ll be able to unlock your Chromebook automatically if your phone is around. Incoming phone calls and text messages will show on your Chromebook. You’ll get notified when your phone’s battery is low. And finally, you can even run Android apps on your Chromebook. This feature is a work in progress, and might take some time to arrive. However, with all of Android’s powerful apps and games, Chromebooks will suddenly become a lot more useful.

Chrome-OS
Chrome OS running Android App

Google Cardboard

This could have easily been an April fool’s day joke, but it is not. In fact, it’s possibly the weirdest and product on display at Google IO. Google gave away a Cardboard to every attendee. And this, is what I mean by Cardboard.

Google-Cardboard
Google Cardboard

Once you assemble the device, all you need to do is pop in your phone, and launch the Cardboard app. You’ll have a low-tech, but apparently awesome Virtual Reality headset with head tracking (powered by your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope). The only button on the device is in the form of a metallic ring that you can flick to select items on the screen.

Other Updates

Some of the other stuff that were announced yesterday include:
Google Fit: A fitness platform with a multi-OS API that aims to aggregate a user’s fitness data.
Google Play: Play Games will get Quests and a Saved Game section, while Play Store will be get carrier billing option for user purchases.
Google Cloud: Google announced several enhancements to its Cloud infrastructure which is leveraged by several popular apps and services. A new suite of tools – Cloud Save, Cloud Debugger, Cloud Trace, and Cloud Monitoring – were introduced.
Google Docs: Google’s online suite of productivity apps will now be able to open, edit, and save Office files including Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets, and PowerPoint Presentations.
Android for Work: Google will be building on the work done by Samsung on Knox to offer a secure environment for enterprise that’ll be separated from your personal data and apps. Drive for work will offer an unlimited storage option for just $10 per user per month.

Aviate Launcher Steps out of Beta, Gets One Step Closer to Becoming the Perfect Android Home Screen

Aviate Launcher, which dubs itself as an ‘intelligent homescreen’ for Android, was acquired by Yahoo in January. Unlike most other Yahoo acquisitions, Aviate wasn’t put on the chopping block. To the contrary, Yahoo promised to make it a core part of its Android-based experiences in 2014 and beyond. Today, Aviate came out of the private beta, and released the most significant update since its launch.

Aviate-Home-Screen-Android

The new version retains the two cornerstones of Aviate.

Workspaces

Your Aviate experience changes throughout the day based on where you are and what you are doing. There are several pre-configured workspaces (‘Spaces’ in Aviate terminology) like Today, Moving, Listening, Work, Home, and Nearby. If Aviate detects that you’re at work, it will automatically show scheduled events from your calendar and display productivity apps. If it detects that you’re travelling, it will automatically pull tips about nearby venues from Foursquare. Throughout the day it keeps switching between the different Spaces to surface information and apps that are most relevant. Each of these workspaces can be manually configured to display the content that you want. Yahoo has also begun leveraging Aviate to cross-sell its other apps by tying them in with the workspaces. For example, the Today page integrates with Yahoo News Digest to showcase breaking news from around the world. I suspect that future versions will integrate other Yahoo properties including Stocks, Weather and Flickr.

Aviate-Spaces
Aviate – Spaces

Collections

Aviate automatically categorises all installed apps into Collections like Social, Productivity, Utilities, Music, Transit, and Games. You can add or remove apps from Collections, or even create entirely new Collections. You can add these Collections to relevant Spaces to get quick access to apps when you really need them. Each Collection also doubles up as a neat app discovery service, by suggesting other popular apps that belong to the same category.

Aviate-Collection
Aviate – Collections
Aviate-App-Drawer
Aviate – App Drawer

Aviate has also introduced three major enhancements with this release.

Favorite People

A simple swipe up from the home screen brings up a list of your favorite contacts as well as recently dialled numbers. This ensures that the people you want to call or message are just a swipe away.

Aviate - Favorite People
Aviate – Favorite People

Calendar

Previously Aviate used to simply display calendar apps when you were at work. It now directly displays your calendar entries in the Spaces and offers neat options such as getting directions to your next meeting, booking an Uber to your destination, or directly calling a conference number. This is once again an example of Yahoo leveraging its existing portfolio to improve Aviate. The calendar capabilities are similar to what was previously present in Donna, an intelligent assistant from Incredible Labs, which was acquired by Yahoo.

Aviate-Space-Calendar-Integration
Aviate – Today Space

Daily Delight

As mentioned earlier, Aviate integrates with News Digest to offer you a quick glimpse of events around the world. A new digest is available twice a day –in the morning and in the evening. The weather functionality has been enhanced so that if a significant deviation in weather forecast is detected from the previous day, Aviate will automatically alert you. Additionally, Aviate also monitors your usage to double up as a light-weight sleep tracker.

Aviate-Home-Screen
Aviate – Customised Home Screen with Google Now

Smart launchers aren’t exactly a new concept in the Android world. However, among all the smart launchers that I’ve tried, Aviate is the one that comes closest to getting it right. The objective of smart launchers is to make you more productive by simplifying things, and simplification often mandates trimming down on features. The biggest challenge for developers is to achieve this without alienating users by eliminating the strong suites of Android. For example, Nokia’s Z Launcher goes too far in its pursuit of simplicity. By removing everything from multiple screens to folders and widgets, Z launcher stifles users. Using Aviate also entails sacrifices. You’ll have to live without live wallpapers. You’re restricted to three screens – Spaces, Home, and Collections. You can configure these screens by adding app collections and widgets, but you won’t get the myriad of options that you’d get with Nova or ADW. Nevertheless, Aviate never ends up being too restrictive. Once you spend some time personalizing your home screen and the Spaces, you’ll have a smart home screen that’s truly personal. And, this is its biggest achievement.

[ Download Aviate ]

Save Mobile Data on Android with Opera Max

Opera web browsers have long had the ability to speed up web surfing and conserve bandwidth by compressing web traffic. Opera Mini compresses all web traffic and serves a static representation of the web page, while Opera for Desktop and Android have an ‘Off-Road’ (previously Turbo) mode that can be enabled to turn on data compression. However, Android users can enjoy the same benefits without being tied down to Opera browser thanks to Opera Max.

Opera Max acts as a VPN, which reroutes all unencrypted traffic through its servers, where the data is first compressed and then sent to your Android smartphone. Opera Max is also the first product from the Norwegian browser developer to leverage SkyFire’s Rocket Optimizer technology. Opera had acquired SkyFire Labs in early 2013 for $155 million. Rocket Optimizer can compress nearly every streaming video, including YouTube videos, to realize data savings up to 60%. Additionally, Opera Max also compresses standard web traffic including text and images.

Opera-Max-Compress-Mobile-Data
Opera Max – Data Compression Statistics

Getting started with Opera Max is pretty simple. After you download the app, you’ll be prompted to grant it permission to act as a VPN. There’s no configuration required beyond this. Opera Max will stay in the background and compress data used by various apps. It can’t compress everything. For example, streaming music as well as encrupted traffic aren’t compressed. However, you should be able to realize about 10% data savings during normal web surfing, and a lot more during video playback. It automatically disables itself when you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. Opera Max also acts as a pretty neat bandwidth monitor that gives you daily and monthly breakdowns of network bandwidth usage. You can select a app to view its history of data usage, and even prevent that app from using mobile data.

Opera-Max-Save-Mobile-Data
Opera Max – Prevent an App From Using Mobile Data

Opera Max is free to use, but it also has a Recharge tab. There isn’t much you can do other there, other than tapping a button to recharge Opera Max for free every seven days. Presumably, the recharge tab is there because Opera intends to switch to a freemium model later on.

Most people with smartphones are tied down by meagre data packs that are often not bigger than 1 GB. Even if Opera Max manages to save only a hundred megabytes per month, that will enable users to get several extra days’ worth of usage from their data packs. How useful Opera Max proves to be will depend on your internet usage habits. People who mainly use mobile data for streaming music on the go, won’t be able to realize significant benefits. However, if you watch a lot of videos or surf a lot, you might end up with significant savings. Over the past week, I’ve consumed 450 MB of data, out of which, more than 300 MB was file downloads and Spotify streaming that Opera can’t compress. For the remaining 150 MB of bandwidth usage, Opera managed to save 19 MB of data usage.

[ Download Opera Max ]

5 Reasons Why the LG G3 Might Be the Best Smartphone of the Season

LG Mobile has officially unveiled its latest flagship, the LG G3. Due to the flood of leaks in the days leading up to the official unveiling event held in London, there were very few surprises. However, the star of the night still left an impression. LG has come a long way over the past few years. The recent Nexus devices manufactured by LG have received rave reviews, and the G2 and other recent launches did well enough to push LG into the #3 spot (behind Samsung and Apple) in the world of cell phones.

The LG G3 has a lot riding on its back, and based on what we saw tonight, LG might have another hit on its hands. With the G3, LG has rectified its mistakes and enhanced its strengths. Here are five reasons, why the G3 might turn out to be the best Android smartphone of the season.

LG-G3-Poster
LG G3

Superb Display

LG-G3-Front

The G3 features a 5.5’’ screen with a whopping QHD resolution (2560 x 1440 pixels). This amounts to a pixel density of 538 ppi, which is way ahead of anything its competition can offer. In order to ensure that the QHD display doesn’t kill the battery, the G3 dynamically throttles frame rates in addition to throttling the CPU. However, the big question is how much 4K content will become available in the coming months, as right now none of the non-stock apps are designed to take advantage of the super high resolution display.

Slim Body

LG-G3-Back

The G3 uses faux metal (“light-weight metallic skin” is the term being used by LG) for it’s latest flagship, which might not be as premium as the Xperia Z2 or the One M8, but is still better than the G2 and the Galaxy S5. This isn’t the only improvement in the G2’s design. The LG G2 was smaller than the Xperia Z1, in spite of having a bigger display due to the edge-to-edge display. With the G3, LG has managed to trim the bezels even further. The G3 is a big phone, but it’s not much bigger than the other flagships. The G3 (5.5’’ display) measures in at 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm compared to the Xperia Z2’s 146.8 x 73.3 x 8.2 mm (5.2’’ display) and HTC One M8’s 146.4 x 70.6 x 9.4 mm (5.0’’ display). LG has also retained the smart ergonomic choices it had made with the LG G2, such as having the power on and volume buttons at the bottom of the phone, instead of at the edges, which can be tough to reach.

Smarter Camera

The LG G3 sports a 13 megapixel camera with Optical image stabilization, and dual LED flash. Going by LG’s previous releases, the camera should be a very competent shooter, with good low-light capabilities. The dual-LED flash with BSI sensor promises a sharper image and a more natural color pattern. However, the real innovation in the camera department is the inclusion of LaserAF. LG is promising almost instantaneous autofocus with LaserAF. The camera interface has also been greatly simplified, and taking awesome selfies is now simpler than ever before.

Improved Sound

Somewhat disappointingly LG has shied away from implementing front-speakers. This is possibly a compromise the Korean giant was forced to make to avoid making the phone even. However, LG has added a 1 Watt speaker with an AMP, which it being claimed to be powerful enough to produce deep bass and clear trebles.

Powerful Hardware

The LG G3 is powered by the Snapdragon 801 chipset, which has a Quad-core 2.5 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU. The battery is as powerful as it was in the G2 (3000 mAh), but is now removable. The only weak spot is the 2 GB RAM in the 16 GB edition (the 32 GB model has 3 GB RAM).

Besides the aforementioned hardware enhancements, the G3 also boasts of numerous software enhancements. Instead of adding more gimmicks, LG has trimmed a lot of fat from the software. It promises to have removed all unnecessary visual elements. Security has been enhanced through Content Lock (personal data encryption) and Kill Switch (remotely disable phone). Knock Code from the G2 Pro, which enables you to directly unlock your phone by tapping on the screen in a predefined pattern, has also been retained.

LG-G3-Features

TruePlex for Android Shows How Risky Your Installed Apps Are

Earlier today, the FTC announced the terms of its settlement with the free torch app “Brightest Flashlight”, which had surreptitiously collected real-time location data of its users and sold to advertisers. Although Android doesn’t allow you to modify the permissions that an installed app has, Google does display the permissions that an app is requesting before you install the app. A privacy breach like the “Brightest Flashlight” incident can easily be avoided by paying attention to the permissions that an app requests. For example, there is no valid reason for a torch app to access your location. If you find that an app requests more permissions than justifiable, it might be best to simply avoid it and pick a less nosy alternative.

The trouble is that if you have been using Android for a while, you must have already installed dozens of apps. Manually reviewing their permissions is a cumbersome process that very few users will be willing to undertake. This is where a new app called TruePlex can help.

Trueplex-Android-App

TruePlex is a new app which does one simply thing. Once installed, it cross-references the apps installed on your phone with its database, and generates a report with a rating (lower is better) for each identified app. The rating is based on the amount of access the app has to private data. A higher rating doesn’t necessarily mean that there is something is wrong, but it does indicate that you should take a closer look at the permissions the app is requesting. Tapping on any of the app icons in the report opens up a new page which lists all the permission an app has. While it makes sense that your SMS app will have access to your messages and contacts, be wary if a random game requests the same permission.

TruePlex-Android-App-Security-Report

TruePlex looks and feels like something hacked together over a weekend. The app basically has a single screen, and all it does is prepare a report of the permissions that apps installed on your device have. Quite appropriately, TruePlex itself doesn’t request any special permission. This will perhaps instantly make it As soon as you hit the “Let’s Go” button, you are taken to your web browser, where your report is displayed. You also have the option of creating an account on the TruePlex website. This will allow you to compare you device score with other users.

TruePlex-Android-Security-Report-Detail

To be fair, the app is very basic, the report is ugly, the website is buggy, and there’s still a lot of work to be done. The database is still small, and not all of your apps are rated. I’m sure that if it gains popularity, we’re going to see a lot more polished app in the coming weeks. I’d definitely want to see it automatically figuring out what permissions my installed apps have, and generating a report even if the app isn’t in the TruePlex database. Nevertheless, the app is already quite useful and worth a download. The app is essentially similar to BitDefender’s Clueful app. However, TruePlex is a lot more lightweight, and requires no permissions for itself. On the flip side, the report lacks the succinct one line summary that Clueful provides.

[ Download TruePlex ]

The New Facebook for Android App: What’s New and How to Download It

Facebook-Android-App-Redesigned

Close on the heels of the website refresh, Facebook is pushing out a major revamp of its Android app. I am not a very big fan of the recent Facebook website redesign; it took an already cluttered user interface and made it even worse. Fortunately, the changes on the Android front are a lot more positive.

The new app feels a lot more vibrant and cheerful, mainly due to the use of lighter and brighter shades throughout the UI. Everything is also distinctively flatter.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI

The top bar has been split into two, and the navigation drawer on the left has been removed. The new layout is not only more visually appealing, but also more intuitive.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI-Places-Activities

The upper half has just two buttons – one for Search and the other for accessing phone contacts. The second half contains all the navigation options including Friend Requests, Messages, Notifications, and Profile and Settings.

Facebook-Android-App-New-UI-Settings

The new Android interface is more compliant with the Android design philosophy, and is definitely a step in the right direction for Facebook. Unfortunately, it’s still not ready for prime time. It’s currently only available for the Facebook alpha testers. If you want it right away, there are a few hoops you’ll have to jump through.

  • Go to the Facebook Alpha Testers group and signup with your Google account. This needs to be the same one that you’re using for the Play Store.
  • Once you’ve signed up successfully, you should be able to see the following page.

    fb_google_groups

  • Follow this link to become an alpha tester. If all goes well, you’d be able to see a message stating “You are a tester”.

    Facebook-Alpha-Tester-Signup

  • Now open the Play Store on your mobile phone, and you should be able to see an option to update Facebook. Download and install the update.
  • Go to Settings –> Apps –> Facebook. The current version of the Alpha build is 9.0.0.0.19. Your version should be same or higher.

    fb_app_version

  • ‘Force Stop’ the app, and ‘Clear Data’.
  • Launch the Facebook app. You will have to sign in once again. Once you login, you should be able to see the new Facebook layout.

Please keep in mind that Facebook builds released in the alpha channel are expected to be buggy. They might be buggy, crash-prone, or might not work at all. If you want to go back to the normal build, simply “Quit the Test“, and un-install and re-install the Facebook app from the Play Store.

[via Reddit]

LG G2 Review

After playing catch-up for several years, LG Mobiles is finally in a position to take charge. Samsung is still the market leader by a huge margin, but the Nexus 4 succeeded in instilling the belief among consumers that LG can also make good smartphones. Last week, LG Electronics India (LGEI) launched its latest flagship Android smartphone – the LG G2. The G2 has a lot riding in it. LGEI expects to pick up 10% of the Indian market share by the end of the year, and it’s targeting Rs. 200 crore in revenue from the G2. On paper the G2 is a monster; however, how does it stack in real life? Read on to find out.

Appearance, Display and Battery

LG-G2-Front

Unlike in the Nexus 4 or the Optimus G, the G2 is made entirely out of plastic. There’s no metal or glass to be found anywhere in the construction. Personally, I don’t mind the absence of glass. There’s no denying that the aluminium bodied Xperia Z1 exudes a more premium feel, but avoiding metal often helps in bringing down the cost and reducing weight, and glass is way too fragile to be practical in a device that you’re going to use day in and day out. However, what I’m disappointed about is the return to the cheap glossy exterior that LG had done so well to avoid in its 2012 line-up. The rear cover has a reflective pattern that’s mildly interesting, but the glossy finishing means that it’s a smudge magnet. The battery in the Indian version of the G2 isn’t user replaceable, but that has allowed LG to fit in a giant 3000 mAh battery in the relatively compact dimensions (138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9 mm) of the G2. However, even with a plastic body, the G2 is fairly heavy, weighing about 143g.

LG-G2-Rear

The most distinctive feature of the G2 is its button placement. All the buttons in the G2 are placed at the back, just underneath the camera. This seems counter-intuitive and definitely takes some getting used to. In fact, this is probably the single most debated aspect of G2. When I began using the G2, I wasn’t entirely convinced about the idea. In theory, the button placement made sense. Single handed operation isn’t exactly a joy in most recent top-of-the-line droids, and the reason for that is that reaching buttons placed on the top or on the sides is difficult for anyone with normal sized palms. The G2’s rear buttons should be a lot more convenient to use since they are placed just where your index finger should reside while normally gripping the phone. In practice, things didn’t start so well. For the first couple of days, I had to repeatedly turn my phone to see where the buttons were. However, things improved quickly as muscle memory kicked in. After just a week of regular usage, I instinctively knew exactly where the home and the volume buttons were . In fact, the rear-buttons are now among my favourite things about the G2. LG deserves to be applauded for coming up with the concept and being brave enough to use it in their flagship.

LG-G2-DIsplay

The gorgeous edge-to-edge full-HD display that we saw in the G Pro has gotten even better in the G2. The G2 features a 5.2’’ full-HD (1920×1080) IPS display with a 424 ppi pixel density. This is a good two inches more than the Sony Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. However, the G2 is actually smaller than the Z1 and about the same size as the S4, thanks to its extremely slim bezels, which almost vanishes when the display is off. As far as quality is concerned, there isn’t a single thing that I could find to criticize. The colour reproduction is brilliant, viewing angles are great, and outdoor visibility is never an issue.

LG-G2-Another-View

As I mentioned earlier, the battery in the Indian version of G2 is non-user replaceable. However, this has allowed LG to use a special step design to pack in more power. I didn’t run any benchmarks, but the G2’s battery backup is among the best I’ve seen in high-end smartphones. It’ll easily last through a day and a half of normal usage on 3G, and will probably keep on ticking for well over two days on 2G. LG claims a talktime of 21 hours on 3G and 31 hours on 2G.

LG-G2-Battery-Backup

Hardware

The LG G2 is powered by the mighty Snapdragon 800 chipset, which includes a quad-core Krait 400 processor clocked at 2.26 GHz, and an Adreno 330 GPU. In terms of performance, the G2 is in the same league as the Note 3, Xperia Z1, and Xperia Z Ultra, and ahead of pretty much everything else. No matter what you do, performance is never an issue with this phone. It maxed out the normal 3D Mark benchmark, maxed out a few of the tests in the 3D Mark Extreme benchmark, and was in the top 3 in the 3D Mark Ultra benchmark. The G2 has crazy amounts of processing power, which allows it to do stuff like zoom into full-HD videos and play them in windowed mode with adjustable transparency.

LG-G2-Quadrant-Benchmark-Score

Quadrant Benchmark Score

LG-G2-3DMark-Ultra-Benchmark-Score

3D Mark Ultra Benchmark Results

My review unit has 16 GB internal storage; however, a 32 GB model is also available. I’d recommend going for the latter since it’s only a couple of thousand rupees more expensive and the absence of any expandable memory support makes the extra storage crucial. The LG G2 has all sorts of connectivity options that you can imagine. Some of them are Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy mode support, and USB on-the-go. The chipset that LG is using is LTE enabled; however, the units being sold in India are 3G only. I suspect that LG might have disabled the LTE chip to conserve power. LG didn’t elaborate if it’s possible to later enable the LTE functionality through an update.

Software

I’m not an Android puritan, and don’t by default hate all software customizations. With that being said, it’s worth nothing that my main complaints with the G2 are all software related. There are a bunch of unique features in the G2. The first one that you’re going to encounter is the Knock-on feature. One of the disadvantages of having the power button at the back is that you’ve to lift up to phone to unlock it. Knock-on attempts to alleviate this issue by allowing you to unlock the G2 by simply tapping on the screen twice. The concept is deceptively simple and brilliant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work. It works most of the time, but it also fails enough times to make me prefer the physical button over Knock-on.

LG-G2-Optimus-UI-Launcher

The G2’s built-in launcher is among the better ones, and is capable enough to not make me miss any of the third-party launchers. It has all the essential features including folders and dock, and even throws in a few fancy features like multiple transition effects.
The G2 runs on Android 4.2.2, which is recent enough, but is still a version older than what Samsung Note 3 ships with. This isn’t as big a deal as it used to be, since Google has decoupled a lot of functionality from Android updates. Sure, I’d love to have Android 4.3 on-board, but I don’t feel like missing out on anything significant even with Android 4.2.

Somewhat disappointingly, LG hasn’t opted to leverage the Quick Settings feature introduced in Android 4.2. Instead, it has retained its old Notification pane with scrollable power buttons, Q-slide apps, brightness control, and volume control. With the exception of the volume control, all of these are handy additions that you’d find yourself using every now and then. However, packing all of them into a single screen is a bad idea, as it makes the notification pane look horribly cluttered. In the G2 only about half of the notification pane is actually available for displaying notifications.

LG-G2-Voice-Mate

Some of the other unique features in the G2 are:
– Guest Mode: You can protect your privacy by setting up a limited environment for your friends or kids while lending the phone. In guest mode only pre-configured apps are accessible.
– Clip Tray: Just like the Microsoft Office Clipboard, the Clip Tray provides you access to stuff you have copied in the past. The Clip Tray in G2 can store as many as 20 texts or images.
– Text Link: This is another really neat productivity enhancer. The G2 is capable of understanding certain phrases and sentences in your message. If it detects an address in an SMS, it’ll offer to open up maps. If it detects an appointment, then it’ll offer to add the event to your calendar or to your Memo.
– Audio Zoom: This feature was first introduced in the G Pro, but is featured more prominently in the G2. While recording in landscape mode you can tap on a particular subject and the G2 will attempt to amplify the sound from only that subject in the recording.
– Slide Aside: A three-finger swipe from right to left dismisses the currently open app and saves it in a container. A three-finger swipe from left to right restores it. You can save up to three apps using Slide Aside and quickly switch between them. LG claims that it radically improves multi-tasking, but it seemed more like a gimmick to me. The default Android Task Switcher can be used to do the same thing with a lot more ease.
– Shot and Clear: This is similar to the context aware fill feature in Photoshop. In theory this allows you to fix photo bombs, and get rid of other artefacts in an image. However, this feature obviously has limitations, and doesn’t always work.
– Life Square: Life Square is an automated journal that logs pretty much everything you do. This includes events in your calendar, updates you post on Facebook, links you share on Twitter, pictures you take on the camera, and people you text and talk with on the phone.
– QuickRemote: Like most of its competitors, the G2 features an IR blaster, which allows it to act like a customizable universal remote.
– QuickMemo: The trusty old QuickMemo feature is retained in the G2. Quick Memo is the quickest way to capture, annotate, and share a screenshot.
– QSlide: QSlide is like the Pop out feature in Samsung, which allows apps to run in a part of the screen, while freeing up the rest of the space for other tasks. So, you can run the YouTube app in a corner of the screen, while working away on your email. LG has also thrown in the ability to adjust the transparency of apps in QSlide mode. There are a bunch of QSlide enabled apps including the Video player, SMS app, and Calendar.
– Capture Plus: Capture Plus option in the Browser takes full page screenshots of websites.
– Answer Me: To receive a call, simply hold up the phone next to your ear.
– Voice Mate: Voice Mate is LG’s own attempt at creating a voice assistant. The app has pretty decent speech detection, but can’t really do much. Google Now is miles ahead of Voice Mate, and I don’t understand why Samsung and LG are even trying to compete with Google in this arena.
– Smart Screen and Smart Video: These are two more gimmicky features, which were undoubtedly inspired by the Samsung Galaxy S4. Smart Screen allows the G2’s display to stay on when the phone detects your face, and Smart Video automatically pauses the video when the phone cannot detect your face. LG obviously realizes that both of these features are far too inaccurate to be of significant use, and hence has disabled them by default.

LG-G2-Life-Square

There are a bunch of other features including a Translator, and a Task Manager. Traditionally, one of the strong points of the LG Optimus UI has been its customizability, and G2 continues that tradition. There are a massive number of things you can change without ever having to install custom ROMs. This includes customizing the touch navigation buttons, changing the lock-screen swipe effect, changing font type and size, and tweaking notification LED behaviour.

LG-G2-Customizable-Front-Buttons

Multimedia

Cameras are back in the spotlight, and the Nokia’s Lumia series has really set the cat among the pigeons. Everyone including Apple and Sony are trying to beef up their camera. LG has fitted the G2 with a 13-megapixel camera that’s at least mighty on paper thanks to its optical image stabilization and muti-focus capability. The good news is that the camera is truly among the best we have seen in a smartphone, and delivers on its promises. The Xperia Z1 will probably outdo the G2’s shooting capability, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The G2 features manual focus, which allows it to take some stunning macro pics. In fact, the automatic Macro focusing mode is also among the best I’ve seen in a phone camera. The G2 supports ISO levels up to 800, and beats the S4 as well as the HTC One hands down, as far as low-light photography is concerned. The optical stabilization mode also makes its effect felt while recording from a bus or an auto. The G2 captures full-HD (1080p) videos at 60 fps with stereo sound. HDR mode has also been thrown in for good measure. However, when it came to audio zooming, that feature just didn’t work for me. For now, I’m chalking it up as a gimmick rather a real enhancement.

LG-G2-Camera-Sample

Low light shot with Manual Focus

LG-G2-Camera-Night-Mode

Outdoor photo in Night mode

LG-G2-Outdoor-Pic-High-ISO

Outdoor photo in Normal mode with high ISO

I’ve always been a fan of LG’s Video player, and it has retained its strengths in the G2. You can pinch to zoom into any part of the video, or zoom and track a particular subject. With YouTube like seek preview, you can preview exactly where you’re about to jump to in the video. And with Q-slide you can continue to playback the video while doing your work.

Like the Note 3, the LG G2 can output 24 bit 192 KHz Hi-Fidelity audio. LG has paired its flagship with the new Quadbeat 2 earphones, which are surprisingly good. They’re not as bass heavy as Sony’s stunning MH 1c, but the soundstage is equally wide, and the IEMs sound really balanced. In fact, if you are looking for a budget IEM, the Quadbeat 2 is something you should definitely look at. Although, LG has done a great job with the bundled earphones, the phone’s speaker is bit of a disappointment. The speaker isn’t bad by any means, but it sticks out as a sore point because pretty much every other aspect of the G2 is superb.

Conclusion

LG has gotten a lot of things right with the G2, including the display, the SoC, the physical button placement, and the camera. As a result, the G2 is an absolute joy to use. The downers are the lack of expandable storage, the average speaker quality, the slightly old Android version, and some poor design choices in the Optimus UI. The 16 GB model of G2 is selling for about Rs. 40,000. The 32 GB model costs a couple of thousand bucks more. This makes it about ten percent cheaper than the Note 3, which is also significantly bigger than the G2. In my opinion, the biggest competition to the G2 is the Xperia Z1, which has the advantage of a better build quality, dust and water resistance, superior camera, and slightly better benchmark scores. Where the G2 outshines the Z1 is display quality and ergonomics. The G2 is a better phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. However, the Galaxy S4 is now available for about Rs. 36,000. I suspect that within a couple of months the G2’s price will also come down to similar levels. However, until then the price difference also makes the Galaxy SIV an alternative worth considering.

LG’s biggest achievement is that it has gone from competing solely on price to competing on performance and quality. Until a year or two back, you brought LG phones because they offered good value for money, not because they were the best phones in the market. With the G2, LG has succeeded in raising the bar and changing the game.