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All About Symbian - General News

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Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:00:04 GMT


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 power banks - hey, this is me, I like redundancy in this[...]

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:

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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...

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 that it's running a 4.5 star average on Amazon too, so it's not just me that's a fa[...]

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(!):

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

ZEISS returns to Nokia, abandons Microsoft

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 11:12:12 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.


See Rafe's full feed for all his tweets, the selection above aren't even half of what he's posted during the last week. Rafe will be back on the AAWP podcast in the coming week, where I hope to hear more about the latest trends in mobile, plus we can chat about the latest Windows mobile stories.

I'd also like to mention friend Leigh Geary's YouTube channel for Coolsmartphone, in which he takes several HOURS (really) to walk through just about every stand in every hall in the show. Wow. Respect. Go check it out the walkthroughs here and here.

Anatomy of a camera phone photo #3: 1870s Clock

Thu, 02 Mar 2017 07:05:00 GMT

My series 'Anatomy of a Lumia photo' (here's #1!) has proved popular, even though I used the HP Elite x3 instead for #2 and even though I'm gradually widening out the title! Anyway, here goes another, reverting back to the Lumia 950 XL again - light is again one of the key themes. As it should be for anyone with a keen shutterbug eye!(I widened out the title so that I could include AAS readers too - after all, there's nothing here that's platform-specific!) Let's start with the final shot: You can download the original of this here, it's an 8MP (oversampled) PureView photo, straight from my Lumia 950 XL. The story behind this photo starts with a 140 year old pendulum clock that my family has had in its possession for five generations. The detailing is exquisite and, on the whole, the clock even works well, losing just a minute each day. My photo above (hopefully) artily shows some of the finest detail, gets over the personality of the clock, along with some stunning colours from the gold surrounds. But. The clock is tucked away in a corner of a living room, where it's almost always in shade - yet for half an hour a day in the winter, if the sun's out, the low down rays pierce the living room windows in such a way as to (gloriously) illuminate the clock and its face, here. Given that the sun's rarely out in the UK winter, I'd say that the opportunities to even take this shot were rare. Which means that you have to seize the opportunity. How many times has your own eye been caught by something fantastic lit by the sun at a particular angle and yet you moved on with your busy life and didn't stop to capture the moment, the detail? (Oh, and the clock can't be moved, otherwise it will stop working and need repairing - in case you were wondering!) So the clock was lit up by the winter sun and I headed over to snap it. Here's the boring first cut: All very unremarkable - it's just a clock, old but dustry and the colours don't pop on screen as much as they were doing to my eyes. Plus I hate vertical photos (most of the time) and yet the shape of the clock seemed to leave me no alternative. My eyes were drawn to the painted detailing on the clock face though, so I went in closer, this time in landscape aspect ratio: There's more of a 'glow' this time, but there's still lots wrong. There's too much wasted frame/resolution, the clock just looks wrong (square on) without the rest of its body, and the slightly dusty cover glass was dimming the detail on the face itself.  My solution was to get in even closer. I opened up the glass cover (to stop reflections and eliminate the dust!) and deliberately angled my Lumia 950 XL to skew the angle in a way that the clock face could be seen with maximum quality and detail and fill up as much of the frame as possible. Success - without the cover glass in the way, the Lumia 950 XL camera was seeing the colours as they really were, glowing in the sun. I should emphasise that the shot here is direct from the Lumia - there's no post processing whatsoever: I was really pleased by the result - it's a colourful and vivid memory to share around and a testament to the skill of the clock makers in 1870-something! As with other photos in this series, I share all this merely in the hope that my thought processes in approaching a subject might inspire you to think along similar (or cleverer) lines.[...]

The Psion Series 5 reborn? Running Android, but hey...

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 16:59:00 GMT

I realise that this is tangential in interest for both AAWP and AAS, but both communities have long been interested in QWERTY-based devices, so.... Plus Symbian was the successor to EPOC/32, which is what the original Psion Series 5 PDA ran. So there's a connection through. The Gemini PDA is by the designer of that Series 5 and is currently up as an Indiegogo project, with a month to go. Will there be enough interest to create this thing? It runs Android or Linux and, well, they don't seem to have a fully working prototype yet, so who knows how it will run, but the specs are high. Very interesting!

Here's the Gemini PDA web page and below is the promo video:

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Very telling that in almost all the video the device is shown from the back or bottom. The screen is supposed to be touch-enabled and one would hope for a stock-ish build of Android. Or hey, what about booting this thing into Windows 10 of some variety?

Here are the official specs:


  • Two weeks of stand-by time / 12 hours of talk time
  • Fully tactile keyboard - recognised as the smallest keyboard for finger touch typing
  • Measure: 17.1 cm x 8.0 cm x 1.35 cm
  • 5.7” colour hi-res ultra-wide touch screen
  • Wifi & WiFi+4G mobile options
  • Weight: 400 g
  • Dual side mounted speakers
  • Dual USB-C connectors to connect to keyboards, external screens, mice, charging cables as needed and many more.
  • Integrated Voice Assist button


It all looks extremely early days, I'd estimate that this would be around a year away from retail even if the Indiegogo campaign is fully funded. Still, interesting - they had me at 'stereo speakers'!


Nokia are back, though don't get too excited...

Mon, 27 Feb 2017 06:23:50 GMT

Announced yesterday were a trio of Nokia smartphones, the first allowed (legally) since the Microsoft buyout of Nokia's Devices business back in 2013. It's a new day and a new team, with HMD Global handling it all, the 'Nokia' bit is mainly just the name, though the handsets don't look too shabby and they certainly look good value. Don't get too excited though, internally they're just generic Android slabs. Some details below.

The three new unibody aluminium smartphones are the Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6. While the last was already unveiled by HMD Global in China, the other two phones are brand new and all three will be available globally soon. All three run Android 7.0 and with 'stock' status, i.e. no manufacturer added skin and with full eligibility for monthly Android security updates.

Taking the phones in reverse order, and with a focus on the launch video promos:

Nokia 6

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The Nokia 6 has a 5.5" 1080p display, a Snapdragon 430 chipset, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage, microSD card slot and stereo speakers. It also has a fingerprint sensor and a 3000mAh battery with Qualcomm quick charging. As befits the Nokia name (kind of), there's a decent, if not class-leading 16MP rear camera with f/2.0 aperture.

The Nokia 6 will be available for 229 Euros in a couple of months.

Nokia 5

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The Nokia 5 comes with a smaller 5.2" 720p display, 2GB RAM, and a 12MP camera. Otherwise, the phone packs similar specifications to the Nokia 6. The Nokia 5 will retail for 189 Euros.

Nokia 3

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The Nokia 3 has 5" 720p display, and just a 8MP camera, and will cost 139 Euros.


There's something slightly depressing about seeing such vanilla design and specifications with the Nokia name on them, though in fairness a lot of the Lumias released in 2015 were pretty boring too. And, obviously, I haven't handled these yet, so the usual caveats apply. It's good to see Nokia's name back in the industry, though not in a way that's directly relevant to AAS and AAWP readers, of course.

If you're a long time reader and keen on new designs and 'different' then take at least a sideways glance at the new Blackberry KEYone, whose hardware has at least a passing nod to the glories that were the Nokia E71/E71 and E6...

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