Review: TV Guide Mobile App

As long as I can remember having a TV, I can remember the TV Guide. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t have a lot to do. The TV guide was kind of my connection to another world. Of course, back then we didn’t have 3 billion channels, nor did we have the internet. Nowadays I can only imagine that the TV Guide has to be quite creative to keep its revenue streams flowing. One way it is doing that is by offering a mobile app that can be downloaded on both Apple and Android formats. Today, I would like to give you my thoughts on the app.

TV Guide very recently updated their mobile app with some new features. Pictured below, you can see some of the channel partners that are available through the app. Some of these services, like HuluPlus and HBO GO, are subscription based. You can link your accounts through the TV Guide app.

TV Guide Partners

When you first install the app, it asks for your zip code so it can customize programming based on your location. It also has 3 options that allow you to choose whether you are a satellite, cable, or antenna user. Pictured below, you get the idea of how the app window looks. The current view is the “Listings” view which shows you the scheduled programs available for your area. If you click on a show, as pictured below, you will get a little pop out description of the with 3 options at the top. You can see where I have highlighted these options in red. If you click “I’ll Watch”, then it brings up a social media window where you can share what you’re watching with your friends.

TV Guide Window

You can also set alerts on shows. Pictured below, you can see the alert window. You can set a one time alert or you can set it to recur. This is pretty cool if you’re prone to forget what time you favorite show comes on. You can even set a lead time so it will warn you an hour in advance.

Alerts

You also can setup a “Watchlist” which basically allows you to pick a show or actor and it will go out and find all the relevant stuff available to you around that theme.

Watchlist

There are also other categories available like News, Photos, and Videos. The News and Photos sections are kind of like the articles you were accustomed to in the print version of the TV Guide. The videos section lets you browse through a selection of videos from the various channel partners. It also has subcategories that run along the top of the screen to help you narrow down your choice. For instance, if you’re looking for children’s videos, there is a category just for kids. There is also a search feature built in which seems to work pretty well.

Pros: The TV Guide mobile app has a slick interface and is pretty intuitive. If you’re a TV junkie, this is a great way to keep up with all the Hollywood news and keep up with programming.

Cons: Unless you’re already a HuluPLUS or HBOGO subscriber, there really isn’t a lot of free content available to you. The app does integrate with Crackle, which is free, but in my opinion, Crackle is pretty limited in its selection too. It would be nice if you could sort the videos by free or paid. It’s not easy to see that as it is designed now.

I give this app 3 stars because it really is just middle of the road in my opinion. If I had a “meh” rating, that is probably what I would give it. I think the app has potential, but right now it just seems like a shortcut to ABC programming and its affiliate companies. However, if you like reading articles about the stars and shows, then you might want to give this app a try.

If you want to download the Android App, click here.

If you want to download the Apple App, click here.

LG Optimus L5 E610 Review

I have always found the mid-range smartphone segment to be quite interesting. The budget limitations prohibit manufacturers from offering the absolute best they can cook up. However, they can’t afford to be too shabby either, since consumers rightly expect these handsets to be capable performers that are significantly better than the absolute low-end handsets that are typically available for half the price. The trick to coming up with stellar mid-range devices is to make compromises that the customer won’t mind compromising on. The Optimus L5 is LG’s mid-range Android smartphone. Let us see if LG has managed to perfect the balancing game.

Appearance

LG-Optimus-L5-Front

With the L-series, LG has been emphasizing a lot on style, and the L5 is undoubtedly among the better looking devices in this price range. The L5 is a fairly slender device with a thickness of just 9.5 mm. The combination of sharp and bold corners, faux metal rims, and intricate matt-finish on the back cover lends it a somewhat premium look that Samsung would do well to learn from.

Display

The LG Optimus L5 E610 sports a 4’’ TFT LCD screen with enhanced brightness that offers good outdoor visibility. Viewing angles are also quite reasonable. Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only positives I could identify in the display. The extra brightness comes at a premium. The L5, much like all other Optimus devices I have tried, lacks contrast, as a result of which, images appear washed out. This problem is compounded by the L5’s abysmal pixel density. LG increased the screen size, but chose not to amp up the screen resolution beyond 320 x 480 pixels. As a result, the L5 has a pixel density of 144 ppi, while Ace Plus has 165 ppi, Desire C has 165 ppi, Ace 2 has 246 ppi, and even Xperia J is rumored to have 245 ppi.

Hardware

Under the hood, the L5 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon, which is essentially an underclocked version of the chip powering the more expensive L7. The 800 MHz Cortex-A5 processor and Adreno 200 GPU are hardly cutting edge, but they are a notch above what similarly priced Wildfire S, or Desire C offer. However, when compared with the innards of Ace Plus, Xperia P, Ace 2 or even the Xperia Mini, the L5 is found lacking. Thankfully, the L5 comes with Ice-cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) that has been optimized to run on low-end hardware. The half gigabyte of RAM also comes in handy. As a result the L5 is laggy, but not unusable. During my two weeks of usage, I encountered several momentary freezes, but on the whole, the L5 was fairly usable. If you want to play cutting edge games you will have to pony up more dough, but the L5 is good enough for the likes of Angry Birds Space and Fruit Ninja.

Software

The LG Optimus Ux Overlay is mostly unobtrusive and well done. However, I wish OEMs stopped replacing the modern, understated icons of ICS with bright, in-your-face, pastel colored blotches. And LG is not the only one who is to be blamed – this seems to be something all the manufacturers think is a good idea. A few of the extra stuff that we saw in the Optimus 4X trickle down to the L5 (for example, QuickMemo for notes and annotations), but most of the goodies are gone. The default install is mostly junk-free with just a handful of pre-loaded apps like Polaris Office, Smartworld and Smartshare. Smartworld is LG’s own app store, which offers personalized recommendations based on your download history. It’s largely redundant, and in India, it appears to be only suggesting free apps. Smartshare is a much more useful addition that enables streaming of media directly from Windows Media Player (on your PC) or to your HDTV over Wi-Fi. It is essentially LG’s counterpart of Samsung’s Allshare. However, the best bundled app is MobileTV, which is exclusive to the Indian market. LG Mobile TV is actually powered by Myplex Now, which is a free Android app available for all handsets. Mobile TV offers live streams of several dozen TV channels from different categories like news (Aaj Taak, NDTV, TimesNow etc), Entertainment (UTV Movies, Zoom, UTV Bindass etc.), Infotainment (History Channel and NDTV Goodtimes), Music (9XM and Channel UFX), Spiritual (Aastha, Gurbani etc.), and Regional (Asianet, Jaya TV etc.). Mobile TV is also slated to offer movies and other multimedia content on-demand. According to LG India, it will be free for first two months, and then require subscription.

Multimedia

LG-Optimus-L5-Back-Camera

LG’s 5 mega-pixel camera is competent, which is exactly what you should expect from products in this price range. It struggles to produce clear images under low light, but outdoor performance is good enough for most casual photography needs. Although ICS’s instant capture is technically supported, the low-end hardware means that there is a couple of seconds’ delay (more under low light) between shots. Special photography modes available include panorama and continuous shot (keeps on taking snaps as long as the capture button is pressed). Advanced options include ISO and EV settings. However, macro focusing mode is absent.

LG-Optimus-L5-Camera-Sample
Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Picture)

Video capture is a bit of a disappointment. The L5 only captures VGA videos at 30 fps. This pales in comparison to Xperia Mini, and Ace 2’s ability to record at 720p. Front camera for video calling is also not available.


Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Video)

Others

The L5 packs a 1500 mAh battery, which easily manages to last more than a day with average usage. Call clarity is good and the speaker is quite loud. I didn’t have trouble talking even in the noisy streets of India. Connectivity options supported include Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, and NFC.

Verdict

LG-Optomis-L5-Back

The Optimus L5 makes a lot of compromises. The biggest of them are with the screen and the processor. The low ppi and single core processor means that mobile enthusiasts are unlikely to find the L5 to their liking. Sony’s Xperia Mini and Walkman Live are smaller, but come with better processors, better displays, and 720p recording. Xperia U costs about Rs 3,000 more, but offers a significantly better hardware (Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9), but doesn’t support expandable memory. If you want micro-SD support, along with a dual-core processor, high ppi display, and 720p video recording, you will have to stretch your budget a bit further to accommodate the likes of Ace 2 and Xperia Sola.

However, the L5 hardly seems like a phone targeted at enthusiasts. LG is clearly gunning for the average consumer. The average consumer doesn’t care too much about the specs as long as the phone feels good. And the L5 feels good. It’s sleek, stylish, and well built. It takes decent pics, and the ICS build is optimized enough to not frustrate the casual user. LG TV is essentially a rebranded version of a readily available Android app, but it’s still something that most consumers will be attracted to.

In the end, I can’t help but feel that LG has sacrificed quality with the goal of appealing to the casual mobile users. Currently the Optimus L5 is selling for about Rs. 13,000. It would become a lot easier to recommend LG’s mid-range device had it been a couple of thousand bucks cheaper. However, right now, unless you really need the big screen, it’s hard to justify buying the L5 over similarly priced Xperia Mini or Xperia Live. In fact, if you can afford to spend a bit more, you will end up with a significantly better device by considering the Xperia U (Rs. 14,000 approx.), Xperia Sola (Rs. 15,500 approx.), or Ace 2.

Samsung Galaxy S III Review – The Good, The Not-So-Good And The Bad

The Galaxy S III is no doubt the most popular Android handset of this year, at least until the next Nexus from Google is unveiled. Samsung has left no stone un-turned to make sure the handset excels in each and every category, right from the outstanding 4.8-inch Super-AMOLED HD display, a powerful quad-core Exynos SoC to the beefy 2100mAh battery.

If you, however, still have not made up your mind on whether you should splurge so much money on the handset or not, read our short review below to find out.

The Good

Ergonomics – Excellent! The handset is roughly the same size as the Galaxy Nexus, but the rounded bottom of the phone makes it easier to use the phone single-handedly. The missing bump at the back also helps in improving the overall ergonomics of the phone.

Performance – This thing flies! Literally! The quad-core Exynos SoC and the ARM Mali-400MP4 GPU make sure that the phone does not stutter even under heavy multi-tasking. All the games I have played on the handset do not show even a sign of lag, including GTA with all the graphics settings cranked to full.

Apart from the SoC, even the NAND storage used by Samsung in the handset is blazing fast. It took only 10 minutes to transfer nearly 9GB of data from my Mac to the S3’s internal memory. The I/O performance of the handset is unrivalled by any other Android handset.

Storage – One thing I absolutely hate about my Galaxy Nexus is the low amount of storage space.  13.3GB of storage space just does not cut it in 2012, with most games taking up nearly a GB of space.

The Galaxy S III not only comes with 13GB of internal space, but also a microSD card slot to make sure user’s never run out of space.

Sound Quality – Unlike the HTC One X and the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung has equipped the Galaxy S3 with more than audible loudspeaker. Considering how silent these loudspeakers are getting with every new handset, this should come as a welcome change to many.

Samsung has also equipped the Galaxy S III with a Wolfson W8914 audio chip. Original Galaxy S and Nexus S owners who know what this means. The Galaxy S3 is going to have top-notch audio quality enough to rival dedicated audio players.

Battery Life – The Galaxy S II barely used to last a day on 3G with medium-usage. Thanks to Samsung’s under the hood optimizations, and a beefy battery, the Galaxy S III will easily last you a day on medium to heavy usage. Earlier firmware of the handset have had some ‘Cell Standby’ battery drain issues, but that has been greatly fixed via a couple of OTA updates from Samsung. The Galaxy S III might not have the best battery life, but it is right there at the top with the iPhone 4S and the Droid RAZR MAXX.

Developer Support – The Galaxy S and Galaxy S II had one of the best developer community, and the Galaxy S III is no different. The phone already has a stable CM9 port, along with some extremely talented developers like Supercurio and Franco cooking mods for it.

The Not-So-Good, Not-So-Bad

Display – The Super AMOLED HD display on the Galaxy S III is probably the oldest piece of ‘tech’ used in the handset.  The display exhibits typical AMOLED characteristics, with bluish whites, and strange artifacts at extremely low brightness level. Even then, the display holds its own against the S-LCD2 used in the HTC One X, thanks to its black levels and contrast.

However, the naked human eye will definitely prefer the SLCD2 on the One X to the S-AMOLED HD on the SGS3 because of better color rendering.

Camera – The 8MP snapper on the Galaxy S III is stupidly fast. It makes the zero shutter lag on the Galaxy Nexus feel slow. The Galaxy S II packed an awesome 8MP camera, and the Galaxy S III is no different. The sensor inside the SGS3 is slightly better than the one on the Galaxy S2, with a slightly larger aperture. In adequate lighting, the Galaxy S3 can take some fantabulous shots, almost iPhone 4S like.

However, in low-lighting condition the camera is nothing short of a disaster. Pictures come out grainy, with barely any details and look like they have been clicked with a VGA camera. In fact, the Galaxy S II camera performed much better than the S3’s camera in poor lighting conditions. The OTA updates rolled out by Samsung did bring about a noticeable improvement in the camera image quality in low-lighting conditions though, but there is still room for improvement.

It is only because of the poor low-light performance, that the camera on the S3 comes in the Not-So-Good, Not-So-Bad list. If you don’t care about the low-light photography, you will be more than happy with the S3’s camera.

The Bad

Design – The Galaxy S was a cheap iPhone lookalike from Samsung.  The Galaxy S II looked like a smart looking ‘matured’ Galaxy S.

The Galaxy S III has been “Made for humans” by Samsung. Sadly, most humans on Planet Earth have not really appreciated the looks of the handset. Some, like me, have found the handset to be downright ugly, while others have not found it to be particularly attractive.

Build Quality – The Galaxy S and S II had terrific build quality, all thanks to the plastic used by Samsung to make the phone. Even though the Galaxy S III is made of plastic, the phone is much more fragile than before. In quite a few drop tests done by other bloggers, the Galaxy S III could not survive a fall from shoulder height with the Gorilla Glass 2 on the handset shattering into pieces.

TouchWIZ – Samsung has made a lot of progress with the Nature UX on the Galaxy S3, but it still does not stand a chance against stock Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. TouchWIZ may trump stock ICS in terms of features with Smart Stay, Direct Call, and Smart dialer etc.

However, TouchWIZ looks dull and ugly compared to stock ICS. There is no UI consistency in TouchWIZ, with the magazine like Swipe UI missing in some places (like Dialer) creating confusion. The inclusion of a menu button instead of ICS styled Recent button adds to the confusion. Also, nearly every list menu in Samsung’s stock apps are *long* I understand TouchWIZ is necessary for Samsung to differentiate its product, but the company can also offer an option to disable TouchWIZ for advanced users

Conclusion

If the looks and the poor build quality of the handset does not bother you, the Galaxy S III is THE handset to buy. Not only is it much faster than its closest competitor, the HTC One X, it also has better battery life, music quality and better developer community support.