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Last Build Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:45:02 GMT

 



Review: Nokia 6

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 06:06:00 GMT

What's this? A review of a smartphone that doesn't run Symbian on AAS? And that doesn't run Windows 10 Mobile on AAWP? Actually yes - it's my first look at the new Nokia 6, running Android. And it's here because it's the return of the classic Nokia brand that I've written about so many times on these sites. The personnel behind it are mostly different, the OS certainly is, but is it worth casting a look in the 'new' Nokia's direction? Probably not, though hopefully this mini-review will be of interest. This Nokia is still designed in Finland, it’s still made like a tank, but the actual firm behind it is HMD Global and all the manufacturing is in China. So take the ‘Nokia’ branding with just a pinch of salt. There's little DNA here from the classic Nokia designs of the past, though some visual clues have been taken from phones such as the Nokia N9 (running Meego, so that's the fourth OS mentioned in the last two paragraphs!), Lumia 800 and Lumia 920.  As a smartphone, the ‘6’ is well styled, I was enormously impressed by how solid it is, with slab aluminium sides and polished chamfered edges. It's heavy too, at almost 170g, almost in phablet territory with a 5.5” screen. The fingerprint sensor, down the bottom, is 100% accurate, but the specification here means that it takes a second from placing your thumb to the Nokia 6 being unlocked and the display powered up. Is a second too long? Not for the target market, though anyone exposed to flagships (think iPhone 7, Google Pixel) will notice a difference. Around the perimeter is a welcome 3.5mm headphone jack, all metal volume and power buttons, a speaker aperture (of which more later) and... a microUSB charging and data port. That’s right - microUSB on a £200 smartphone in 2017, rather than the now ubiquitous USB Type C. It feels very out of place and my theory is that the Nokia 6 design was actually finalised at least 18 months ago, back at the tail end of 2015, when USB Type C was still only on flagships (the Lumia 950 and 950 XL famously launched with this, among the first smartphones with 'C'). The delays HMD Global faced getting the Nokia 6 to market have left it with this single anachronistic spec point. Most users won’t mind, of course, microUSB jacks and chargers are everywhere still - and, to be fair, it’s just about the only major disappointment in the Nokia 6. For the price. On the back is the reassuring ‘NOKIA’ logo, just as on the Symbian phones and Lumias of old, plus a very ‘Nokia’ vertical raised camera island. I suspect that the raising is purely cosmetic, since there’s no reason for this pretty average phone camera to need the extra thickness. I’ll come back to the camera later on. The display is IPS LCD and 1080p resolution. With the RGB stripe (i.e. all pixels represented, unlike on AMOLED screens), the screen is extremely crisp and decently bright, though I noted that contrast levels weren’t brilliant in the sun.  The top earpiece is used as a ‘tweeter’ and piped the left channel for any stereo audio. This is - absolutely - a hack of the highest order. The results when watching Netflix or similar are a definitely imbalance in the sound, with 90% of the volume coming from the bottom firing main speaker and 10% from the earpiece. Much of the time this doesn’t really matter, but just occasionally something’s supposed to be happening in the left channel in terms of music or effects and… you can hardly hear it. With proper stereo now on the HP Elite x3 and Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro (etc.) a mainly-right-channel hack just doesn't cut it. Still, for sat-nav, podcast and speakerphone use, the speaker combination is absolutely fine and pretty loud. Also on the audio front is a FM radio aerial built-in, not something you get on every phone nowadays, and indicating the Nokia 6’s potential markets, in countries where data isn’t ubiquitous and where FM radio is still a major source of news and enterta[...]



Looking back on 15 years of the megapixel race

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 06:57:45 GMT

I'm a sucker for smartphone retrospectives and also one for photography features. Put the two together and you've got a name-checking smartphone rundown from the last 15 years over on GSMArena that looks at how camera resolutions have changed in our phones. The highwater mark, of course, was the Nokia 808 PureView, from 2012, but the whole 'arc' is an interesting rogues champions gallery.

From the GSMArena post:

We've traced the rise of the cameraphone before, but since we're in a lull in the megapixel race, we wanted to look back and check the milestones reached along the way to the Nokia 808 PureView - the 41MP monster that (five years later) is still the phone with the highest resolution camera (and only matched by Lumia 1020 since).

The Audiovox PM8920 may have been the first to cross the 1MP line with its 1.3MP camera in 2004. Niche brands aside, Motorola brought out the 1000 series phones that same year - the touch-focused A1000, the E1000 bar and V1000 flip. The Windows-powered MPx220 also joined in.

Motorola A1000 • Motorola E1000 • Motorola V1000 • Motorola MPx220

Then in early 2005 Samsung unveiled the P850, a flip phone with a rotating screen and a 3.15MP camera. Sound familiar? You may be thinking of the Nokia N90 from a few months later and its 2MP camera (with Carl Zeiss optics). Before the year's end, the Nokia N80 matched Samsung at 3.15MP.

And then looking ahead further in the article:

There was a brief flirtation with 13MP by Motorola and Toshiba, but Nokia put an end to the debate in 2012 with, yes, the Nokia 808 PureView - one of the best cameraphones of all time.

Its monstrous sensor was 1/1.2", the biggest we've seen on a mobile device. To put that in perspective, the sensor was 3 times the size of a 1/2.3" sensor like the ones we see in the Xperia XZ Premium, Google Pixel and a few others.

The sheer size of the sensor meant that despite its massive 41MP resolution, pixels were still quite large at 1.4µm (the Nokia N8 was at 1.75µm pixels). But the genius of the phone was elsewhere - mature image processing and leveraging on that resolution to enable high-quality digital zoom for 8MP photos. Advanced image processing is at the heart of the best cameras today.

Nokia kept things going for a bit longer, in 2013 it came out with the Lumia 1020 (running Windows Phone). It kept the 41MP resolution, though it shrunk the sensor to a still huge 1/1.5" (pixel size went down to 1.12µm). However, megapixel counts dropped off quickly after that.

The rise of resolution according to tech and then the fall again as other methods of achieving results came into prominence (e.g. what I've dubbed PureView take 2) is fascinating.

Also of interest might be my own 'Top 10 phone cameras of all time', in which I put the Nokia 808 at no. 4 and the Nokia Lumia 1020 at no. 5. Interestingly, my no. 1, the Lumia 950, isn't mentioned at all in the source article, probably because it focussed (pun intended) on fine tuning the innovations from the previous few years rather than breaking new ground in terms of resolution or pixel size.

(image)




What's in Steve's must-have accessories toolkit?

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 07:06:00 GMT

Over the years I've reviewed dozens of smartphone accessories, maybe even hundreds. And I've reviewed a fair number formally here for AAS and AAWP. But, of this mass of plastic, metal and, often, lithium, which accessories really made the grade? Which ones do I personally carry around with me on any trip out of the house of more than a few hours? Here's a glimpse into my standard kit. Shown above really is my kit, it's the case I take more or less everywhere with me and the only difference is that: I've tied it for the photo! I've set the case code here to a dummy number to mask my real case unlock... I also often take either my Surface Pro (and Backlit Type Cover) or my Macbook, depending on where I'm going and what I'm doing - and these fit in the top document pockets of the briefcase. And their chargers would go in the main body if I was gone for longer than a day, of course. I've been asked numerous times what I really, truly use, so here it all is - I'll start with the stuff in front of the case - which normally goes in my wallet or in the case or in its document flaps, as appropriate. Working left to right: A short USB Type A to microUSB cable, Nokia-branded. Has never let me down, unlike many third party cables and adapters. Nokia knew how to build cables! A Tronsmart USB Type A to Type C cable (mainly because I lost my Microsoft ones!) An Olixar Wallet Ultra-slim stand - so slim I forget it's there, yet saves the day at least once a week! An Inateck Bluetooth keyboard - it's SO slim and yet SO useable. And no, I don't think you can buy them anymore, sadly. A microUSB to USB Type A (female) adapter - for plugging in flash disks to phones 'on the go', though I can't remember when I last actually did this! A multi-way USB Type A to microUSB/Type C/Apple 30-pin adapter. Just an extra option, and again it's small and light. Would be nice to have Apple Lightning on this too. I think this came with a power bank in the distant past! OK look, it's one of those lost Microsoft Type A to Type C cables after all - phew! Now for the case contents, and I'll try to work left to right again - you'll work out what's what! The AUKEY SK-S1, the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I've ever heard, bar none. It's biggish, but when you hear the depth to the sound, it's like having a hi-fi always with me. A Choetech USB Type C to HDMI adpter cable - not cheap, but a one-wire way to connect to Continuum (etc) displays. An old tin that's the perfect size for tiny things. So it's chock full of microSD cards, adapters, old SIMs, SIM tools, USB flash disks, and anything else that would otherwise get lost! My Marshall Mode in-ear headphones. Stunning bass and general fidelity, three way media controls, sturdy clip. Again, not cheap (£40?), but you get what you pay for. My Rolson Tradesman knife - cheap and yet very well made and simply to slot in new razor blades. Perfect for unboxing things?(!) A white 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable. Because you never know when Bluetooth is going to let you down and it's best to 'jack in'! Some emergency mundane things: rubber bands, a small notebook (for ideas?), paper clips, stapler, tissues, online banking access gadget. The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter - because you can't always have cables trailing across living rooms and offices! Perfect for Continuum stuff as long as you don't mind a little lag here and there... An Integral SD card reader. Especially useful for getting photos onto - and off - awkward laptops. A Tronsmart mains-to-dual USB Type A 36W fast charger - hasn't let me down yet when there are multiple phones or tablets to charge A cheap and nasty USB current meter - sometimes this seems invaluable, other times I'm not sure I believe its readings. But better than nothing. Shout out in the comments if you have something reliable that you can recommend. The AUKEY USB Type C Hub - it's a hard-wired Continuum dock that only weighs 50g - hit! And finally, in the case on the right, three p[...]



PureView digital zoom is more common than you might think

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 07:03:00 GMT

Think back to one of the original tenets of Nokia's 'PureView' system, designed to accomplish lossless digital zoom using a high resolution sensor to 'smart crop' into, in a seamless way, exemplified in the Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020, but also found in the Lumia 930, 1520 and 950 range. Is this all patented, or can other manufacturers and developers leverage the exact same idea? In playing with my Android-powered ZTE Axon 7, I discovered that the exact same idea is already used when zooming on non-Nokia/non-Microsoft phones, and it works just as well. Who knew?I mention all this in case users of any of the above-mentioned handsets were thinking of moving to Android and worrying about missing this zooming aspect, at least. From my own article here: So I set the camera to take photos at 4MP in 16:9, a nice compromise between file size and resolution/detail. In fact, it's similar to what that old Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 used to use. I wonder.... what happens if I zoom now on this Android phone? Will the 4MP image simply get blown up and blockily zoomed, or will the phone be clever enough to 'smart crop' into that high resolution sensor, just as the 808/1020 used to? So I did some tests. Here's a nice shot of some flowers, the original is at 4MP: And here's a 1:1 crop from that image at blog resolution: So a very tight crop and the resulting image is tiny, as you'd expect. Now, using multi-touch on the Android phone's Camera UI, I zoomed in to '2x' and took the photo again: A nice zoomed shot, but is this a genuine zoom, i.e. without loss? Let's now look at a 1:1 crop of the same detail as above: This is quite a bit more detailed, as you'd expect. You can read on in the full original article. Now, I can't guarantee that quality or indeed zoom factors will be as good on certain Android handsets as on the old Nokias, but I thought that other devices (can) behave in the same way was at least notable! PS. It's absolutely true that all of this is nothing more than smoke and mirrors on old and new phones and that you could just take full resolution photos all the time, but then you have to live with 20MP (etc) snaps all the time, where something much smaller would do, plus you also have to go back later and manually crop things.[...]



The GPD Pocket now available

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:25:47 GMT

It's not Symbian, it's not Windows 10 Mobile, heck it's not even Android, but the new GPD Pocket is now available (around £400) and offers a certain nostalgia for anyone brought up on Psion palmtops, Nokia Communicators and Windows Mobile clamshells. It's bigger, of course, but still miniscule compared to a traditional laptop. See the videos below.

WBI reports:

The mini-laptop GPD Pocket Windows 10 we talked about last February is finally available for purchase in some e-shops. After Win GamePad, a mini laptop Windows 10 dedicated to mobile gaming, the Chinese manufacturer GPD offers us another very interesting device, GPD Pocket. At the expense of size, this has technical specifications of all respect, better than many much more bulky PCs. It is a truly portable Windows 10 device...

  • Processor -  Intel Atom Z8750-x7
  • RAM -  8 GB
  • Internal Storage -  128GB
  • Display -  7Full HD 
  • Dimensions -  18 x 10cm , 7cm
  • Ports -  USB 3.0 , USB Type-C , HDMI
  • Input -  jack 3.5 mm
  • Battery -  7000 mAh
  • Operating system -  Windows 10 / Ubuntu 16 . 04

The Mini Portable Pocket GPD is available for purchase from Italy on Gearbest at a price of 437 € including shipping.

Looks very interesting indeed for road warriors everywhere, here's the product buy page. It's utterly traditional in one sense, mind you, it's just very small. We're expecting a 'Surface Phone' (or similar) to be smaller still but omit the physical keyboard in exchange for even more screen real estate, possibly using meshing dual displays.

Some video promos and demos of this new GPD Pocket, both from the IndieGoGo days:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/49o4yco9cyY" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/l52WQ5VXcm8" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">




Screens and resolutions through the ages

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:57:00 GMT

This is the sort of feature I often create, but GSM Arena has done such a good job that I'll just link to them instead. They look at screen resolutions and sizes over the last decade - the trend is obvious, but it's always surprising just how far we've come.Of course, along side the increases are wholesale additions to what we use smartphones for. 'Smart' in 2007 meant Web browsing, email, music, photo sharing, etc. 'Smart' in 2017 includes paying for things, media streaming, live social activities, HD gaming, and more. Anyway, from the article: “The [2.8”] display truly looks larger than you might guess. The QVGA resolution stays the same and is adequate for providing great picture quality… “. It may seem like this statement is from another century, but it's just under 10 years old - from our very own Nokia N95 8GB review. And you can kinda see where we were coming from - the average screen in 2007 was 2.3" in diagonal and had less than 84,582 pixels at 171ppi density. And it got us curious so we decided to dig through our database and see how screens evolved through the years. We picked the 50 most popular phones for each year to analyze - those account for the vast majority of all sales and that way we avoid exotic devices skewing our stats. We chose 2007 as a starting point, the year Apple revolutionized the smartphone market by releasing its first iPhone. Back then the iPhone's 3.5-inch screen was considered huge and its HVGA resolution was close to the highest available - only devices like Nokia E90 and N800 had more pixels. The touchscreen revolution then quickly took over the mobile world and screens and resolutions started growing rapidly. In 2010 a couple of key launches happened and they sped up the process rapidly - Apple debuted the iPhone 4 with its Retina screen, while Samsung introduced the Galaxy S - a 4" WVGA flagship. The following year Samsung released the first Galaxy Note, which had a huge 5.3-inch screen of over 1 million pixels. At that point the 3.5" iPhone was already below average in size, but the Note got more ridicule for its size than praise. As phablets' popularity grew exponentially average screen size moved from 3.6" in 2011 to 5" in 2014. Even Apple couldn't resist joining the size race as the 4.7" iPhone 6 and 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus came to be. Resolution was growing even faster - by the end of the period Retina screens were only average in terms of pixel density. In 2015 Android flagships moved to QHD and we saw another huge spike in ppi. Sizes kept increasing as well and the average screen stood at 5.2 inches. And then everything changed when the mid-rangers attacked. Okay that might be an overstatement, but in 2016 mid-range handsets finally became good enough and they shot up in popularity, which explains the dip in the average resolution that year. There's more, including charts and tables, in the source article here.  The fashion in 2017 seems to be near bezel-less phones, made possible by virtual controls now being supported by most OS - we're getting ever closer to those Star Trek slabs of glass. Still, it's good to look back and I reckon that I've (mostly) owned or (in one or two cases just) reviewed all the handsets shown above. Heck, some are classics and they remain in my 'museum'! PS. Good to see the Nokia E90 and N800 get a mention, forgotten form factors and interfaces...[...]



SIStore now online - a Symbian software archive

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 09:33:52 GMT

OK, it's not quite a competitor for the AppList Store for Symbian, but SIStore is a valid on-device portal to a full archive of working SIS installation files. See below for the main link and screenshots.

You can find SIStore here, with a direct link to a self-signed installer for an on-device client, giving on-the-go access to obscure apps and games. Here's SIStore in action on my 808:

(image) (image)

The opening screen gives video links (which didn't work on my 808, but then that might be something my end) and new app highlights; (right) the applications tab starts you off with categories.

(image) (image)

Then it's into application listings, each (right) with screenshots, details and a 'Download link'...

(image) (image)

Downloads are served from a web page via HTTP but are routed straight to Symbian's installer. 

There's no checking for what's already on the phone, mind you, this is simply a SIS archive browser. So it's up to you to know what you have and haven't already got installed! And there's also no update mechanism, spotting new versions, of course. So all a little primitive, but at this stage in Symbian's life (i.e. it's been obsolete for almost half a decade) any activity and any archive source is helpful. Especially as there seems some impetus here from active Symbian users to find workarounds for things which have stopped working.

It's not clear how this will behave on phones with production firmware (my 808 has Delight CFW), so comments welcome, let others know how you get on!




Mini-review: AUKEY SK-S1, the 'Rolls Royce' of Bluetooth speakers?

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 14:17:56 GMT

Yes, yes, I've reviewed Bluetooth speakers in the past, most recently a rugged item from the same manufacturer, i.e. AUKEY, but the SK-S1 is different. In a world of Bluetooth speakers to provide decent audio from your smartphone, this one is the Rolls Royce. Far better sound, far louder, far better looking, yet with no sacrifice in playback time and little sacrifice in size. Meant to be together: the AUKEY SK-S1 and the Lumia 950 XL There's clearly some trickery going on here, because the effect of this 'Rolls Royce' speaker is that the whole chassis is aluminium, when in reality the huge grille, front and back, is aluminium-effect plastic. But don't hold that against the SK-S1 because the chamfered aluminium panel at the top adds a huge air of quality to proceedings on its own. And if all the grille was metal then weight would be another 20g or so. Not to mention the cost of drilling holes in that much aluminium! Regardless of the premium silver looks, what matters in any Bluetooth speaker is the sound, of course. I did note the cutaway diagram on the Amazon UK product page: If those speaker cones look like they mean business then that's because they do. Savour these specs: 8W per channel, with twin rechargeable cells inside in series, giving 7.4V at 2000mAh, with a typical playback time of around 8 hours and a typical volume of over 80dB maximum (at around 1m). So 16W total - and, ignoring that different manufacturers quote speaker power in different ways, once you get up in double figures you're talking about serious volume and fidelity. In this case, the acid test is listening. I hooked up my Lumia 950 XL (though any Bluetooth-capable smartphone will do here, of course) and played a variety of music types. As with other Bluetooth media solutions, the actual volume is a function of the volume setting on the phone and that on the speaker, i.e. the two are separate and get 'multipled' together. For most music types, I found that the volume output couldn't be kept at 100% on both, since the speaker was so loud that I was seriously worried about attracting the attention of all my neighbours and getting complaints! No, the speaker isn't pink - it's just shiny and reflective, and here it was in a bedroom with lots of pink around it!!! What's really impressive here isn't the volume though - it's the bass. With those serious speaker cones and with full reflex air movement out of the back of the SK-S1, the fulness of the bass is astonishing. In fact, never mind putting the AUKEY SK-S1 on a shelf or table - hold it in two hands on front of you and you can feel all the low end, vibrating through your hands and against your fingers from the back of the accessory. It's an amazing demo. The speaker's effective 4000mAh (at the more normal 3.7V) battery does take a while to charge up, at least 5 or 6 hours, so it's an overnigth job in reality. And it's via microUSB, which is a slight shame for anyone now standardised on USB Type C, though you of course get a charging cable in the box. In fact, you also get a line cable, 3.5mm to 3.5mm, in the box - and this means that you can dispense with the vagaries of Bluetooth encoding (aptX isn't supported, though A2DP HSP/HFP are) and simply wire your smartphone in, if needed. Controls are thankfully split out - previous AUKEY speakers have tried to combine volume with playback control, with disastrously confusing results. Here it's obvious what each button does: Priced at just over £30 at the moment, this is easily the most impressive Bluetooth speaker I have ever tried, yet is far from the most expensive. In fact, leaving aside the missing aptX (and aptX HD) support, this could be the bargain of the year in terms of (literal) bang per buck. In fact, as I write this, I'm working out how to make sure this makes it into my day to day gadget-bag - it's that good*. * I notice t[...]



Volterman: the trackable, thief-proof, smart wallet that charges your phone?

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 10:17:34 GMT

You know me, I can't resist gadgets, powerbanks, adapters. And I've spotted this 'Smart Wallet' concept over on Indiegogo - it's already funded, so will definitely happen now. Essentially it's a range of wallets with a wireless (and wired) power bank built in, with GPS tracking (should it get lost), and with a camera to snap whoever opens it when it's 'lost'. Is it pricey? Heck, yes, but it's also unique and perfect for that Christmas 2017 present, surely?

From the Indiegogo listing:

Volterman® is the World’s most powerful smart wallet with 5 smart functions: •

  • Built-in Powerbank (from 2,000 to 5,000 mAh) 
  • Distance Alarm 
  • Global GPS Tracking 
  • Worldwide WiFi Hotspot 
  • Thief Detection Camera

With all the tech inside, Volterman® is slim and lightweight made from premium quality materials.

I have some questions, not least about the standby drain of the integral gadgets. It's also claimed that the power bank can wirelessly charge from your phone, but that would assume that your phone also had Qi coils and support for this?

There are several variants, with different sizes and capabilities:

  • Volterman CardHolder
  • Volterman BiFold
  • Volterman Travel

(image) More over at the full Indiegogo introduction page.

Naturally, there's a promo video too, deliberately cheesy and fun(!):

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WrslPHiz2mI" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">

I'm looking forward to reviewing at least one of these variants in due course.




ZEISS returns to Nokia, abandons Microsoft

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 09:40:29 GMT

Totally off-topic for AAS and AAWP in a sense, because the end products won't be 100% relevant, but the news is very definitely of interest, with Carl Zeiss (later renamed just ZEISS) producing the award winning optics for every Nokia flagship from the early 2000s onwards, and ending with the last Microsoft Windows-running phones, the Lumia 950 range, at the end of 2015. And now ZEISS is back with 'Nokia' - not quite the same Nokia that had its Devices division bought up and then eventually gutted by Microsoft - but the Nokia name, even on Android OS, is notable and the presence of a ZEISS collaboration is a good sign that the company is back on track.  [Update] In addition, announced on Twitter, was that (no surprises, but...) there will be no more Microsoft branded devices with ZEISS optics - the original licensing deal, inherited with the Nokia purchase, has ended. See below for the full tweet.[Update] The smartphone cooperation between ZEISS and @Microsoft mutually ended with the beginning of the cooperation with HMD. — ZEISS Camera Lenses (@ZEISSLenses) July 6, 2017 Given that the Lumia 950 range was announced almost two years ago, this isn't really news, but interesting to have it confirmed. It also puts paid to the idea that a future Surface phone will re-use the camera from the Lumia 950, which is a slight shame... Anyway, from HMD: Espoo, Finland/ Oberkochen, Germany, 6 July 2017 – HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, and ZEISS today jointly announced the signing of an exclusive partnership that aims to set new imaging standards within the smartphone industry. This long-term agreement builds on the shared history and expertise between ZEISS and Nokia smartphones. With a joint ambition to advance the quality of the total imaging experience on smartphones spanning the entire ecosystem from software, services, through to screen quality, and optic design, the partnership will see ZEISS and HMD Global co-develop standard-defining imaging capabilities and will bring the ZEISS brand back to Nokia smartphones. This pledge to constantly improve consumers’ imaging experience is a reflection of the shared values between both businesses – a single minded commitment to quality, true craftsmanship and a desire to improve real life experience. The relationship between ZEISS and Nokia phones began more than a decade ago, and is founded on a shared passion for innovation and always delivering the best for the consumer. The past collaboration saw ZEISS and Nokia phones driving technology innovations such as the world’s first multi-megapixel mobile phone and many more standard-setting devices, from the Nokia Nseries to those featuring Nokia PureView technologies. This renewed relationship is a long-term commitment to build on that technology innovation over the years to come. Will we ever again see mighty imaging flagships from Nokia that are as ground-breaking as the Nokia N93, N95, N86 (shown below), N8, 808 and Lumia 1020? Somehow I doubt it, the competition is largely 'catching up', but the ZEISS agreement is certainly welcome. PS. I've yet to even touch a Nokia-branded Android smartphone, but the '6' looks good and it's due out in the UK early next month. [...]



10 years of iPhone? Most of its 'innovations' came in with Nokia and others

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 10:08:00 GMT

The tech media has been falling over itself in the last week to talk about the ten year anniversary of the Apple iPhone, that moment when Steve Jobs revealed the shape of smartphones to come. All singing, all dancing? It really wasn't. Revisionist history says that the iPhone introduced all the features we see in today's smartphones, but that's not accurate...I guess I shouldn't get too worked up about people rewriting tech history - but as one of the writers behind All About Symbian (and now AAWP) I just can't help myself put the record straight. Tech journalists (mainly American) have been falling over themselves to praise the iPhone as the point where the modern smartphone was born, but they're only right in one small sense. And even that small sense is highly debatable. Think of the iPhone of 2007 and then today's phones and there's a clear sense of continuity of a full-screen experience with capacitive touch. Yet smartphones had been all-screen for years in the Windows Mobile world, with devices like the O2 XDA launching in 2002, a full five years before the iPhone, and based on the existing Windows Mobile PDAs of the previous few years. Even though the iPhone was absolutely to be credited for bringing capacitive touch to the mainstream phone world, it wasn't the first - the LG Prada had a capacitive touchscreen six months previously. Nokia N95 and the original iPhone, for comparison. Outstanding functions and capabilities versus outstanding ease of use? All other functions were represented in existing smartphones. Over in the Symbian world (the dominant smartphone platform from 2000 to 2009, a full decade), the Nokia smartphones - in particular the Nseries - had pioneered the inclusion of a GPS receiver, had introduced the use of accelerometers, with the N95 being the obvious model to point to, being launched at the tail end of 2006, the year before the iPhone's release. Then there are good cameras, with some of the Sony Ericsson 'feature phones' (culminating in the K850i from summer 2007) containing high megapixel units along with Xenon flash, though again it was Nokia that brought high megapixel imagery to the smartphone world with the N95 and N95 8GB, plus the N82 (again with Xenon flash). In terms of features, remember that all the early Nokia Series 80, Sony Ericsson UIQ and Nokia Series 60 (S60) smartphones from 2002 to 2006 had full operating systems, with vibrant third party application scenes, full file systems, copy and paste(!) and full web browsers (based on the same Webkit code as the iPhone). With hardware media controls, landscape UI, full file and office editing, advanced imaging functions, and an onboard application store - the Nokia N95 pretending it's a laptop (well, almost), and many months before the original, limited iPhone was even available.... Which doesn't leave much for the iPhone to have 'innovated' with. Today's iPhone ranges do include all of the above (great camera, GPS, sensors, applications, even - cough - copy and paste!), but it has taken most of the celebrated decade for the iPhone to have really caught up with the rest of the industry in terms of raw technology. Steve Jobs said at the iPhone's launch that it had 'Software that’s at least five years ahead of what’s on any other phone' - which is accurate in that the iPhone is rightly responsible for smartphone UIs that are intuitive enough not to need to ship a paper manual with each phone (remember those?!), but this quote is often mis-remembered as Apple saying that the iPhone itself was five years ahead. Jobs said 'Software', not hardware. And even then the original iPhone lacked third party applications and basic editing functions, so what Steve Jobs really meant was 'a UI that's five years ahead'. Perhaps showing that screen size[...]



Today, June 15th: EU roaming charges now officially dropped

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 09:22:31 GMT

OK, this is as generic a phone link as I'll ever include, but it's worth noting that the EU's 'roam like home' mandate comes into force today - in theory anyone can move around within EU countries without incurring extra callular charges. See the quote below.From the EC article: Roam Like at Home rules enter into force on 15 June 2017. People will pay domestic prices, irrespective of where they are travelling in the EU for phone-calls, SMS and mobile internet. Read the background and step-by-step details on how the EU achieved the end of roaming charges. The gradual reduction of charges since 2006 results in the end of roaming charges in 2017. Roam Like at Home in a nutshell Phone calls, SMS and going online with your mobile device from another EU country will be covered in the national bundle. The minutes of calls, SMS and megabytes of data that a person consumes abroad within the EU will be charged the same as at home. People will not have bill shocks anymore. If a person has unlimited calls and SMS, he/she will get unlimited calls and SMS when roaming in the EU. However if a person has unlimited mobile data or very cheap mobile data at home, his operator may apply a safeguard (fair use) limit on data use while roaming. If so, the operator will have to inform the customer in advance about such a limit and alert them when they reach this limit. The EU rules ensure that such a roaming data limit should cover the normal usage patterns of most travellers. If a person reaches the limit, he/she can continue to use data roaming for a very small fee: up to 7.7€/GB + VAT, which is 6.5 times less than before 15 June 2017 and 25 times less than before that. As long as a person periodically travels and spends more time in his home country than abroad over any 4-month period, they will fully benefit from Roam Like at Home. If a person gets charged extra, he/she should first contest those charges with their operator, who should have a complaints procedure in place. If the operator persists, the person should refer to the national telecoms regulator, who will settle the case.   If a person stays in another country within the EU longer than in his home country over a few months, the operator may contact him and ask to pay more. More information can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). A very small number of operators in the EU have been allowed by the national telecoms regulator to continue applying a small roaming surcharge after 15 June, in order to avoid negative effects on very low domestic prices. Such surcharges will be significantly lower than the ones applied before 15 June 2017. There are some caveats above, sure, so do triple check with your operator before you travel. But mainstream operators in EFIGS will already have complied. Now, all that's need is to make sure that you're in a EU country. And if you are, make sure that some idiots in charge of your country haven't started to take your country out of the EU, because when that happens you'll be utterly scuppered![...]



My all-time 'SteveMark' camera phone top-ten list- but interactive!

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 16:39:36 GMT

You may recall that I picked my top 10 all-time best smartphone cameras a while back? Well, the idea's back and this time I've made it interactive (with a little help from Javascript wizard Indrek) - you can now put in your preferences and the top 10 will get sorted and ranked accordingly. Which phone camera (from this list, anyway) really is THE best for YOU?

To get started, head over to stevelitchfield.com/grid.htm and rate how important each of a zillion factors to you in terms of what you'd expect from a great phone-hosted camera. You can apply your own weightings, though, and the page will multiply everything up and work out rankings according to your stated criteria. Cool, eh?

I'd have hosted the grid here, but it's too 'wide' for Rafe's layout!

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Comments welcome, of course. Which, in your opinion, smartphone cameras need adding to this table? I can do various additions and amendments in time!

PS. If you get my old 'smartphone features' grid on that same URL, then refresh the page in your browser. I re-used the URL because the old grid was so out of date, etc.

PPS. I wonder if any of the DxOMark people read my criticisms of their methods and results. I'd be happy to chat to them about all this, of course...

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The 'SteveMark'(!) top 10 phone cameras of all time

Wed, 31 May 2017 07:35:00 GMT

With every rating that the much-quoted DxOMark site puts out for phone cameras, the more I think that it's missing a healthy dose of real world experience and use cases. Not to mention a few key phone models (e.g. Lumia 950). Given that I've tested the majority of recent smartphones for AAS and then AAWP, usually against the best of the competition, I wanted to aggregate my experience into my own 'Top 10' camera-phones of all time. 'SteveMark', if you will.Let's start with DxOMark's ratings though. Here's their all-time, current top (22) phone cameras: 1. HTC U11 2. Google Pixel/XL 3. HTC 10, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7/Edge, Sony Xperia X Performance 7. Huawei P10, Moto Z Force Droid, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus, Sony Xperia XZ, Sony Xperia Z5 12. Apple iPhone 7, LG G5, Galaxy Note V, Samsung S6 Edge 16. Huawei Mate 9, LG V20 18. Apple iPhone 6s Plus, Google Nexus 6P, Moto Z Droid, Moto G Plus, Moto Droid Turbo 2 Notice any omissions? No Nokia 808, Lumia 1020, Lumia 950, not even the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, which was ALL about the camera. In fact, you have to go way down to the 40s and 50s in their list to find any of the models just mentioned - if they're there at all (no 950, e.g.) Which is clearly wrong and misleading. So I thought I'd right this with my own all-time list. There are, as ever, some notes to read first: I'm mainly looking at image quality, though I do make some allowance for the speed of the photo-taking experience. It's a tricky balance. For example, it might take four seconds to take a photo on the Lumia 1020 (i.e. before you can take the next one), but if the resulting photo is ultimately of higher quality than that on (say) an Apple iPhone, which might have dashed off three photos (or more, in a burst) in the same time, then the 1020 gets the higher score in my book. Though what if the 1020 'missed the moment' while the iPhone grabbed it, despite ultimately slightly lower image quality? So I'm not totally disregarding speed in my list below.  I go further than DxOMark by putting in more 'real world' scenarios into my testing. So moving people in low light with flash; arty night landscape shots, handheld; using digital zoom; and so on. All staples in my tests. You can't just test a phone in a studio on a tripod, or just outside in the sunshine, you know.   Unlike DxOMark, I try to test phone cameras regularly well after their launch date, so early software issues have a chance to be resolved.  Unlike DxOMark, I'm not biased against Nokia or Windows Phone (and successors)! DxOMark hasn't even tested my number one pick below, 18 months after it was launched, so long that it's hard to even find it for sale now. Yet it appears nowhere in the DxOMark all time listings.  I haven't included any phone camera that I haven't personally tested. And yes, I'm aware that this introduces ironies ("Steve didn't even include model X!")! And so on to my 'SteveMark' top 10 of all time, with notes and explanation along the way. In order: 1. Lumia 950/XL 18 months on, I'm still staggered by the sheer quality of 8MP and 16MP shots taken with this phone camera. And it's quick too, since all post processing is shoved to the background while you get on with taking the next snap. The triple LED flash does a decent enough job on the whole, the OIS is top notch, and in 8MP mode there's even a little lossless zoom, which is handy. The only real Achilles heel is going beyond 'lossless' into 'lossy' zoom territory, since the old 'Lumia Camera 5' digital zoom algorithms are complete rubbish. 2. Apple iPhone 7 Plus The iPhone 7 Plus gets in here by cheating, of course, using not one but two 12MP cameras, the second of which is a 2x[...]



Mini-review: AUKEY 3-port car Quick Charge 3.0 adapter

Sun, 28 May 2017 14:47:00 GMT

I've reviewed 12V adapters for smartphones before, of course. Back in the day there would be a single wire heading off to microUSB or similar. Then we saw twin USB port (e.g. here), slimline adapters - how did they fit the electronics into such a small inline plug? And now we have the logical end of the line, using just about all the frontal area of a 12V 'cigarette lighter' car socket - with three standard USB ports. Impressive. And one of them is Quick Charge 3.0-enabled, which is a useful nod to the future.

The density of electronics is getting higher and higher, with not only the mechanics of three full size USB-A ports but also enough safety circuitry to handle 42W of power. All in a couple of inches of glossy black plastic.

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Usefully, AUKEY throws in a spare USB Type C cable in the box - you can never have too many of these and, being high current, these are more substantial and not as cheaply made as microUSB cables used to be.

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And then we're onto the charger itself. The nominal specs are 2.4A (max) at 5V for the first two (green) ports, with the Quick Charge 3.0 port capable of '3.6V-6.5V at 3A, 6.5V-9V at 2A, 9V-12V at 1.5A', though the latter can also power traditional 5V USB devices, i.e. it's intelligent about what it supplies. All very neat.

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I happen to own a USB ammeter and did some testing. It should be noted that the actual current drawn by any one device depends the current (e.g. phone) battery state and the charging electronics inside it, first and foremost. Plugging in one smartphone into a green socket, I measured 1.4A at 5V, ditto for the next one, and then ditto again, though at 6.5V, for a Quick Charge 3.0-compliant phone into the orange socket, all at the same time.

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It didn't seem to matter about the extra load of the other outputs, showing that perhaps the current drawn is limited more by the phones themselves than by the output electronics here. (Or maybe my ammeter is broken and limited somehow?!) Regardless, all three smartphones (and I threw a few tablets into the three-at-once charging mix too) charged just fine, so I'm inclined to believe the AUKEY specs here.

£14 (on Amazon UK) including the extra Type C cable seems rather a bargain for this handy little car gadget, effectively giving you three USB-A outputs of very decent capacity yet with almost no space penalty.




No need to be ashamed - we've been Creators on mobile for a decade!

Fri, 05 May 2017 18:46:50 GMT

The naming of Microsoft's latest Windows 10 branch as the 'Creators Update' has been viewed from some quarters as somewhat hollow from the perspective of mobile, since the new 3D and Ink features are not mirrored on the phone. Yet in some ways, this is the desktop catching up - we've been 'creating' on smartphones for over 10 years now, I'd argue.

The naming of any OS branch is somewhat of a gimmick, of course, since at the end of the day it's just an 'operating system' and 99% of what people do on their computers is down to the applications and services they choose. But marketing being what it is, it's undoubtedly friendlier to give an OS update a name, something memorable. 

And, given the 'Ink' and Paint 3D extras thrown in with Redstone 2, the name 'Creators Update' seemed appropriate.

However, over on the phone side of things, despite getting the exact same OS branch and build, the same core and 99% the same built-in UWP applications, the absence of Ink and Paint 3D (both of which make more sense on the much larger screens of a desktop) has made the marketing handle feel somewhat 'hollow'.

But wait, isn't this just the desktop getting a taste of what we've had on mobile for a decade? Admittedly, the creating act is very different, but I'd argue that with the advent of the Nokia N93 (running Symbian) back in 2006, the smartphone became a very valid 'creation' tool. For the first time I could shoot TV/DVD-quality video, with stereo sound, ON MY PHONE.

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And I did. I shot numerous home movies on the N93, each of which made their way onto DVDs for the family to enjoy, mainly of my growing six year old daughter. The N93's 480p quality may seem quaint by modern standards, but was pretty close to the 576p of DVD, mainstream quality back in 2006, and arguably better than the interlaced grain of the traditional 'TV' of the day.

So I was very much creating back then, eleven years ago. Movies, auto-focussed 3MP photos too, high enough resolution to print out at 8 x 6 and no one would notice that the shot hadn't been taken on traditional film or a standalone camera.

The Nokia N95 and N86 followed, each increasing quality, though without the genuine 3x optical zoom that was special to that old N93. And across the rest of the mobile world cameras in phones started to improve, with Apple and then the various Android licensees getting into the game, and by 2011 just about any decent camera phone could shoot 720p HD video and take 8MP photos.

Today we have 4K video and 20MP photos, good enough in most cases to pass muster on even the largest displays, and all this media created on people's phones.

Then there's audio capture. I've recorded numerous podcasts and lectures or interviews on my various smartphones over the years, later editing things together in Audacity or similar on the desktop. I think that qualifies as creating too.

Not to mention creating by crafting words. Emails, documents, notes, thoughts, all on the phone, either via an on-screen keyboard or, more usually, by using a Bluetooth keyboard. This very article was created on the phone.

So let's have none of this 'mobile is an afterthought, where are the Creators features?' We've been immensely creative on our phones for a decade now!

If you can think of other ways you've been creative on your phone in the last ten years then feel free to add them in the comments below!




It lives - 'Symbian World' CFW for the Nokia N86

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 06:34:36 GMT

Proving that nothing really ever dies, a team out of Russia has been working on custom firmware for the venerable Nokia N86 - and has produced a 'Symbian World' themed OS - you know, with the cute Symbian cartoon imagery of recent (well, 2010) times... See below for details and download link.'Bounty Hunter' says: We finally released very stable and quite deep mod of Nokia N86 FW. Non touch Nokia phones have far too few good Custom FirmWares (CFW). So our group Symbian_Zone in Russia is still trying to use this phone to the max. :) This CFW is very clean, all dead Nokia services are deleted, and the CFW has many important fixes like built-in SHA-2 certs for normal web browsing, officially updated library, Nokia Maps, N-Gage and others. Also, an optional ROM Patcher used. So you can use official software and unsigned packages too.  This is the first CFW from our Symbian_Zone: Symbian World series. Also, we finally understand how to calibrate the core in Symbian 9.2 phones, so the next CFW will be done for the Nokia N81-1/N81-3 (Nokia's N-Gage 2.0 flagship) and a few more.   There's a detailed changelog, though here machine translated from the original Russian: Modified firmware "Symbian World" for Nokia N86 8MP (RM-484). It is based on the original firmware v30.009. -------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------- Features of CFW: All interface, input and help languages ​​are removed, except English and Russian; The default language is English; The default date is 01/01/2017; The default standby mode is "Standard" (In which the "idle mode" is empty); The default USB mode is "Drive"; Updated time zones, for Russia there is no more time translation, but Moscow is still "GMT + 4", not "GMT + 3"; The default time delimiter is a colon, the date separator is a dash, for all languages; The "Themes" icon is returned to the menu. The theme "Nokia NSeries" is replaced by "Symbian World Silver Theme"; In the corresponding menu in "Themes" many different waiting modes are added; Reduced the top bar in the menu. There was more space for the icons, and the menu now looks the same as on Symbian OS 9.1 / 9.2; New menu structure. Added folders: "Multimedia", "Data Manager", "Internet", "Location", "Games", "Help"; Replaced application icons "Dictionary", "Reading message", "Home Media", "FM-transmitting", "Phone settings" On the OVi style. Initially, one part of these icons was in the NSeries style, and the other, in the ESeries style: Nokia E66 / E71; The "Real Player" icon is now replaced with themes; The system has the effect of the NSeries themes, but it is not registered in the manifest, which has never worked. Corrected. Now all standard themes have this effect; The OVi standby mode has been replaced with a mode where there are only application shortcuts and 8 notes of the calendar, since in standard horizontal standby mode only 4 calendar notes can be accommodated. But there is a plug-in built-in E-Mail client; In the horizontal standby mode, by default, the mail and Internet exchange lines are disabled; The calendar plug-in on the desktop shows events only for the current day, and not for 7 days in advance; The warning about emergency calls in the standby mode when the autonomous mode is active has been removed; Quality of images for the camera: 100% - for all resolutions, and for video recording, the bit rate is increased from 4 MB / s to 5 MBit / s; The cache for firmware via FOTA is reduced to 0 bytes, as new versions of official firmware will no longer be available; In normal and offline modes, wa[...]



Review: AUKEY 'Compact' 10050mAh Power bank

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 06:16:00 GMT

With some of may all time favourite power banks reviewed here, here and here recently, what possible reason could I have for featuring one more? Simply that this AUKEY unit has a higher power-to-volume density than anything else I've seen. It is, in fact, jaw droppingly impressive - despite an otherwise less-than-cutting edge electrical spec.Now, I know you're thinking 'Galaxy Note 7' here and wondering whether this super-compact form means that the AUKEY product is dangerous? Not in my tests so far, it doesn't even get warm when being charged, apart from around the input port and end electronics, partly because its charge is limited to 2A - so no fears of over-current explosions here. The idea here then is to have a small gadget in your pocket, compact enough that you genuinely forget that it's there, yet with enough juice to recharge the entire family's USB gadgets through a busy day out without flinching. If this sounds impossible then take a look at the photos here and take my word that I've been trying it out, charging tablets and phones - and the capacity is genuine. As you'd expect from AUKEY, which is an established name in this sphere. The 'Compact' (as I'll call it) comes with a neat elasticated bag and a USB to microUSB cable (both shown above), though these increase the bulk unnecessarily perhaps - the Compact works better when pocketed as-is, keeping the volume to the absolute minimum - it's a 'pebble'-like design with smooth plastic to help it slide in and out of pockets: The usual four LED array shows the current charge state, either side of the main 'on' button. I do prefer having this manual method of triggering charging, since not all USB devices activate power banks which come 'on' automatically. Most notable in these photos is the tiny size of the power bank, yet with relatively huge capacity, confirmed on the end of the accessory, shown below: Seen from the side, the svelte lines are again apparent, along with the (slightly old fashioned) microUSB port for input: And so to the business end of the Compact, protected by default by a thin sheet of plastic. It's not at all obvious that the user should remove this, but the tiny scratches in ths plastic were annoying me, so I peeled it off, as shown below. I suspect that many users will leave the plastic on as extra protection, but I've always used my phones and accessories 'naked'(!) With the plastic peeled off, we have a clean end-plate, with central LED torch, activated by a three second press on the main power button (and ditto to turn off). Plus two USB-A output ports, pushing 1A and 2.1A respectively. This, along with the microUSB input, is where the AUKEY Compact feels old fashioned - we've been used to Quick Charge 2.0 and 3.0 outputs, to 3A or 4A outputs over USB Type C, and so forth, so this is a step backwards into terms of the cutting edge. Regardless, the build quality is great and the ports work well at their stated currents. Charging the Compact is at 2A, so we're looking at over five hours, more usually leaving it overnight, ready for putting back in the pocket for the next trip or period. With summer coming in the Northern Hemisphere and with coats and jackets coming off, it's a good time to discover a genuinely high capacity power bank that is far smaller than it has any right to be. In daily use, I take this, with three short 10cm cables, USB-to-C, USB-to-Lightning, and USB-to-microUSB, ensuring that I'm equipped for whatever my extended family throw at me (last weekend, out of the blue, I had to rescue two phones and a tablet - normobs are just terrible at keep[...]



Review: Power from the sky: the dodocool Portable Solar Charger

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 14:33:00 GMT

It's that time of year, when the sun starts making regular appearances in the sky and when I start to think about walks, camping and the great outdoors. Which means smartphone accessories that - ideally - prove really useful, doing multiple jobs with minimal bulk. In this case, a USB power bank that you can leave facing the sun to charge itself from empty, and which doubles as a powerful flashlight or tent lantern. The external design here is top notch, with ruggedised and rubberised ribbed high density plastic and a really sturdy metal hinge and stand, used above to help the accessory face the sun, to charge, and below to hang it from a ruck-sack strap. The hinge is just beautifully done and very strong - staying put at every angle from 45 to 180 degrees: The smartphone aspect of this is, of course, the integral USB power bank. Solar energy in, stored in internal Li-Ion cells and then output to charge your smartphone via any convenient USB cable. Super-green and idyllic, right? Well, yes and no. For starters, the power bank's USB output port is limited to 1A - this is slow by modern standards. Fine if you're leaving your phone plugged in overnight to this accessory, but no use for a quick top-up before heading down the country pub once the tent's erected. The other critical statistic, of course, is how long it takes to charge the internal 4200mAh battery from the sun. The solar panel is rated at 260mAh at 5V. I left the dodocool accessory in the full Spring sun all day and it charged to around 50%, from empty, about what I'd expect. Now, there are some uncertainties here - the charge level in the power bank is +/-20% (there are just four LEDs to indicate state), plus the sun was low in the sky and certainly nowhere near the intensity/energy it would have in mid-summer. But the concept does work. The "maximum solar conversion efficiency (of) 22%" is enough that, in the height of summer, with blue skies overhead, and with the charger perhaps hanging off your ruck sack (in the direction of the sun), you might expect the power bank to be mostly charged by the time you set up the tent at the end of the day. At which point it could then charge a typical smartphone from empty - with, as the title suggests, power that came entirely from the sun. In practice, of course, weather is unlikely to be this perfect, plus you'll find it hard to keep the gadget facing the sun all day in a real world excursion. So the solar element is probably best thought of as keeping this power bank 'topped up' and assumes that you won't drain it fully each night. Which you probably will, since the 4200mAh here is just enough to charge one smartphone fully. And that's not to mention other USB-rocking gadgets that you might also want to charge, including those from other people on the trip. So keep your expectations lowered, this isn't going to power your electronics on its own.  But that doesn't mean it's not very cool and working better than you might expect. You can also charge the power bank via a traditional (if old) microUSB port, at 1A again, so about a five hour recharge (i.e. overnight) at base somewhere from a mains charger, typically. All a little underwhelming, despite the green credentials. The other main feature is the swivelling bank of four high power LEDs. Together with the sturdy metal stand, these form the heart of what might be a very useful lantern on dark camping evenings, either self-propped up on the floor or hanging from a tent cross-pole. These are moderately bright, probably trying to steer a middle ground between being bri[...]



The dodocool Ultra Slim (and modular) 5000mAh power bank

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 16:12:00 GMT

Every power bank has to have a unique selling point these days, before I even consider it for review. The USP this time is that the output staging is modular, in that you can switch it from 'microUSB' mode to 'Apple Lightning' mode in seconds, i.e. take it out for the day in either guise. The downsides? There's currently no USB Type C option, output is limited to 1A, plus this gets muckier with fingerprints than your todder's toys - in seconds. Regardless of those caveats, there's an interesting idea here - a slim and portable power bank with a recessed USB-A port and the facility to snugly store a short charging cable for the format of your choice. As per the photos here, showing both Apple Lightning (iPhone) and microUSB leads in use/unfurled. The extension of your choice fits snugly into the right side of the power bank. Only the phone end is designed to be clipped off quickly, the USB-A end is deliberately buried inside the body and needs a bit of wiggling to change. And no, there's no USB Type C option yet - I did ask. Perhaps if the product sells well then a new extension can be crafted and/or bundled? However, all is not lost for, in addition to the integral/recessed cable extension, there's an extra USB Type A socket on the end of the power bank - and current can be supplied to both USB outputs if needed, albeit at a maximum of 1A for each. Also seen below is the microUSB input port, this is how the dodocool power bank is charged (this time at 2A). The limited current output (i.e. 1A per port) proves to be the biggest issue that some will have with this accessory - we're so used these days to quick charging solutions - usually 2A at 5V or Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 compatibility, so dropping back to 5V/1A seems somewhat old fashioned! Overall capacity is decent enough considering the slender form and weight (125g), mind you, enough to charge any phone from scratch at least once. One final issue I had with the dodocool power bank is its finish - it's glossy. Very, very glossy. So glossy that it acquires fingerprints and looks terrible after only a day of use. This is where 'glossy' phones would use an oleophobic coating, but here it's just shiny plastic - a matt finish would have looked less stunning out of the box but would have looked better in real life use. An interesting, semi-modular power bank then. The creators needs to make one with a matt finish and then throw in a USB-A to USB-C extension as well - increasing the current output would be the cherry on the cake. Watch this space - I'll let you know if a 'mark II' arrives! You can buy this on Amazon UK here, use promotional code: AZ5YAE4C to get 22% off until the 28th of March 2017, or on the USA Amazon site here (promotional code 86ROTUG6). In each case, the code is only valid for the 5000mAh power bank in black.[...]