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Last Build Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2017 05:00:04 GMT

 



Review: OUTXE Rugged (camping) Power Bank

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 07:13:11 GMT

I seem to have become synonymous with various things, one being smartphone imaging and another being power bank reviews, with the flexible and future-proof Lumsing Glory P2 Plus being the latest and best. Yet the OUTXE (OUTdoor Xtreme Energy, apparently!) Rugged Power Bank offers a totally different USP - it's fully waterproof (to a maximum of IP67) and pitches itself as the ultimate accessory for the outdoor enthusiast, with a seven LED 200 hour floodlight that's perfect for camping or emergencies. In terms of form factor, this is pretty standard - a slender rectangle, around half an inch thick and encased in an aluminium tube. And with 10000mAh (at 3.7V) of Li-Ion cells inside and USB Type A output (at 2A) and microUSB input (ditto). So far so boring. But each end is enclosed in rubberised plastic and with tasteful red accents. And then you notice that one end has a large translucent panel - I've seen power banks with a single LED 'emergency torch' before, but never one with seven high intensity LEDs that can light up a room. Or, more likely for the target market, the inside of a tent. In fact, this gadget is just as much a microUSB rechargeable floodlight as a power bank. There's a 'dim' mode too, for gentle lighting through the long (tent) night. The official specifications quote 200 hours of light from one charge, in this mode, or 50 hours in the full (bright) floodlight mode, which is very impressive. Add in charging a smartphone a couple of times and the PCPB10000 should be about right for a long (3 day) weekend's camping, serving up all light and power needs. There's also an SOS mode, plus a constant blinking mode (not sure what this serves), all accessed by pressing the main power button a number of times - this also doubles as a check on the status of the internal battery, using the traditional four status LED system. But there's more, of course. You'll notice the chunky rubber flaps over the only two ports. When actually in use (i.e. charging something else or being charged itself), with one or both flaps open, the OUTXE unit is still IP54 ratified, so if the tent blows open and rain gets in or even if actually used in the rain then you should be OK. This itself is a step up from traditional power banks.  But with the two rubber plugs pushed into place over the USB Type A and microUSB ports, the OUTXE PCPB10000 becomes IP 67 certified, i.e. dust and sand won't get in, the unit could be accidentally dunked in liquid and it would come out without harm. Now, there's the usual caveat wherein this only applies if the flaps are perfectly inserted and pushed all the way in, but in real world use all these IP numbers simply mean that you can take this out in your hiking rucksack or on your bike and it doesn't matter if you hit inclement weather, you won't have to worry about water getting into this particular piece of electronics. With the tethered plugs out, the out (left, above) and in (right) ports are exposed, each capable of handling 2A. Which should cover charging basics - there's no pretense here at Quick Charge compatibility, Power Delivery, and so on - just a solid charge into anything you can hook up via USB. The USP here then is to have the light and charge storage in a robust unit that's durable in an outdoor setting. And that makes it very interesting overall. This OUTXE accessory is available from Amazon UK currently at £26, which is decent value (you're paying a little extra for the water-proofing, which is absolutely fair enough), though apparently a USB Type C version is in the works, due for release in July 2017 - now that will be something jump on for many people reading this and wanting to be fully future (as well as weather) proof! PS. This is also available on Amazon USA here.[...]



MusiKloud updates for Symbian (and Maemo)

Sun, 15 Jan 2017 16:12:36 GMT

One of the last great active Symbian developers, Marxoft is keeping on going, with streaming media applications that keep pace with API changes in Internet services. Today saw updated versions of the developer's SoundCloud client, along with associated modules and Internet Radio.

From the Marxoft web site:

MusiKloud2 for Maemo5 has now been updated to version 0.2.0, whilst the Internet Radio and Mixcloud plugins have both been updated due to a change in the MusiKloud2 plugin API, which now also supports Qt/C++ and JavaScript plugins.

Additional features in version 0.2.0 include:

  • Support for playing remote URLs.
  • Recursive searching for music tracks when playing local folders.
  • Option to save/restore playback queue.
  • Sleep timer.
The updated packages can be obtained from the Maemo5 extras-devel repository.

In addition to the Maemo5 update, MusiKloud2 is now available for the Symbian platform. Below are links to the SIS packages:

Comments welcome if you're using any of this as to how well it works. So many other Internet services are no longer fully compatible with Symbian apps, and with certificate issues rearing their ugly heads, it has proved unworkable for me as a primary phone, but I'm sure there are some people persevering!




Xenon and zoom: the Hasselblad takes on the Nokia 808/Lumia 1020 (etc.)

Fri, 30 Dec 2016 11:35:00 GMT

Yesterday I looked at the arrival, in for review, of a rather rare thing - a Xenon-flash-equipped, zoom-equipped camera phone, competing (obviously) with such (also rare) Nokia classics like the 808 PureView and Lumia 1020. But never mind the bulk (in this case, removeable, but still...), never mind the form factor, how do these ultra-camera-phones perform against each other in a variety of challenging tests? Let's find out...As hinted in the original piece, I'm going to throw in a known data point, the current world champion of camera phones (in my opinion), the Lumia 950 XL. Not because it's good at zoom (it isn't), not because it has Xenon flash (it hasn't), but because behind all of the thoughts here about super-specialist camera phones is the reality that a traditional LED-equipped, solid state flagship smartphone is good enough for most people. I.e. what's interesting here is how far (or otherwise) the 950 XL is behind the specialists here, given the specific tests included. The 950 XL stands in here for the iPhone 7*, the Galaxy S7 and other top end consumer phones. * and yes, the iPhone 7 Plus now has a 2x zoom lens, though this isn't OIS-enabled and there's still just LED flash. I know, I know. See here for my iPhone 7 Plus imaging comparison feature. Things are complicated, in terms of comparisons, by the different capture resolutions here, so there will be a degree of mismatch in all the crops below: The Nokia 808 has an 8MP oversampled 'Creative' mode, with zoom to 1:1 on the sensor where needed. The Lumia 1020 is best in its 5MP oversampled mode, though as with the 808, for zooming purposes, the full resolution of the sensor is, of course, used. The Lumia 950 has its native 8MP oversampled mode, and again the fuller 16MP (in 16:9) resolution is used when zooming. The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom shoots in 16MP in 16:9, natively, and there are no useful oversampled lower resolutions, so we're stuck with this in terms of comparisons. Zooming is optical, so there's no change in resolution or sensor use here. The Moto Z Hasselblad shoots in 9MP in 16:9 mode, with the same note about optical zoom as above. In addition, the 2.5x (or so) lossless zoom in the Lumia 1020 (slightly less in the 808 in its 8MP mode and less still in the 950, with its lower resolution sensor) is no match for the true, optically stabilised 10x zoom in the Galaxy K Zoom and Moto Z Hasselblad mod, so these ultra-zoom cases are sometimes included separately - see the notes below, as appropriate to each test shot or use case. Note that I'm deliberately trying to push the boundaries in every shot below, as noted in each case, I wanted the phones to struggle - many of the photos wouldn't have worked at all on more conventional phone hardware. Test shot 1: Sunny churchyard The easiest shot here, I still presented a challenge by shooting into the sun and noting huge differences in light and shade across the frame, so this was a test of dynamic range. No zooming needed - yet! Here's the overall scene: And here are central crops from, in sequence, the Nokia 808 PureView, the Nokia Lumia 1020, the Microsoft Lumia 950 XL, the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and the Moto Z with Hasselblad mod - in each case click the phone name to grab the original JPG for your own analysis. As expected, with such a relatively easy shot, there's not much to choose between the photos here, though the Lumia 950 clearly has the edge in terms of dynamic range, contrast and detail (especially because it has the full resolution 16MP mode up its sleeve too). This is fitting, the 950/XL remains the phone camera to beat in the world if you exclude zooming and Xenon flash, which is where this feature comes in, of course! Test shot 2: Sunny churchyard, clock zoom The clock tower remains a favourite subject of mine, here lit in bright sun, so there was plenty of light available. Here's the overall scene: And here are central zoomed crops from, in sequence, the Nokia 808 PureView, the Nokia Lumia 1020, the M[...]



Xenon and zoom re-enter the smartphone world, courtesy of Hasselblad

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:12:59 GMT

I've periodically returned to the classic Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020, highlighting the lossless 2.5x zoom and 'proper' Xenon flash, though there's been precious little to compare these with that's camera centric from the wider smartphone world in the last five years. Yet along comes something new, the Hasselblad camera mod on the Moto Z, a late 2016 Android smartphone. Along with the 808, 1020 and also ageing Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, I couldn't resist a quick photo comparison. No, not of results (that comes soon!), this time of the hardware itself...Why am I making a fuss over both zoom and Xenon flash? Because they dramatically enhance the range of subjects and scenarios for taking photos. After all, every standalone camera, every DSLR, all have both zoom and Xenon too - so it's puzzling that phone manufacturers have steered quite so far clear away from these technologies. I realise that there's a slight increase in bulk and power requirements, but I'd have still expected that there be a few more camera-centric smartphone offerings. Than four. Over five years. (I don't count units like the Panasonic CM-1 or the Kodak Ektra because they had neither zoom nor Xenon.) Why zoom? As in 'lossless' zoom, implemented on the Nokia 808 PureView (running Symbian) and Nokia Lumia 1020 (running Windows Phone 8.1), and optical zoom, implemented here on the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and Motorola Moto Z 'Hasselblad' (snap-on) mod. Because you can get optically closer to your subject, providing more detail and more intimate framing.   Why Xenon? Because shots of pets and human beings in low light can come out perfectly sharp, 'frozen' in motion. I realise that this isn't always to everyone's taste, since the flood or pure white light can also affect the atmosphere (e.g. at a party), but sometimes when you're grabbing a moment at an evening event then only Xenon will do. Step one then - comparing the physical propositions. (Step two will be to take these camera phones out into the world and see how they perform relative to each other, and this will take a day or two.) The Hasselblad solution is by far the bulkiest, but this is natural because there's not only the bulk of a telescopic 10x zoom mechanism, there's also the added bulk from having separate phone and camera portions (the 'mod' pulls off and you can swap it for extra battery or a large stereo speaker etc.)  Plan form factors aren't that different, apart from the oldest, the Nokia 808, with its relatively tiny 4" screen (by today's standards!), though all phones are presented here camera-side first: Aside from the 'DSLR-like' 'grip' on the Moto Z plus Hasselblad, the phone form factors don't seem too dissimilar at first glance. However, start to introduce a plan perspective and the difference in thicknesses is immediately apparent: And you thought the Nokia 808 was chunky back in 2012... In fairness, the detachable nature of the Hasselblad Moto Z Mod means that you're not holding the full form factor all the time. You'd typically carry the Mod in your pocket (it comes with a case) and clip it on when the time came to take some adventurous photos. Of course, if you're going to carry something in a pocket then why not a small standalone camera in the first place? You do get the immediate sharing via the Moto Z smartphone this way round, but the solution does seem a little overkill.  The all-in-one Galaxy K Zoom seems svelte and elegant by comparison, while the Lumia 1020 is positively the looker in this group, offering a vastly slimmer profile with almost no compromises beyond that 2.5x limit on (lossless) zoom. (If you want - for personal preference - more of a DSLR grip for the humble 1020 then this accessory exists.) And - gulp - this is all with the cameras not activated. Boot the Camera apps up and the electronics swing into action. The Nokia 808 and Lumia 1020 mechanical shutters power up and you can see the lenses, the Hasselblad Mod and the Galaxy K Zoom p[...]



AAWP Insight #201: Steve Litchfield - Origins part 2

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 07:48:00 GMT

In AAWP Insight #201, hosted by Steve and Rafe, we continue the Steve Litchfield 'origins' story (following Rafe's own Origins tale on the 361 Degrees podcast). This time we (mainly) cover the post-millennium years. This includes the All About era, Steve's database efforts (from Trivopaedia to a UK Pocket Directory), early device reviews and content, and the switch from Symbian to Windows Phone.

This podcast was recorded on December 12th 2016 with Steve Litchfield and Rafe Blandford.

Links:

Mentions:

You can see more of our podcasts in the Media section of the site.




AAWP Insight #200: Steve Litchfield - Origins part 1

Wed, 07 Dec 2016 03:52:00 GMT

In AAWP Insight #200, hosted by Steve and Rafe, we celebrate our 200th podcast by tackling (the much teased) Steve Litchfield 'origins' story (following Rafe's own Origins tale on the 361 Degrees podcast). We cover the early years (adventures in aerospace), the rise of Psion and the 3-Lib shareware library, Steve's app development efforts (from golf to GIS), the dawn of connected PDAs, and the beginning of the Symbian era.

There's so much to cover that we'll have to continue in a follow-up podcast, part 2 if you like - watch this space for a follow up episode. This will look at not only Steve's efforts in the Symbian era and beyond but also Rafe's, and those of the other characters involved in the 'origins' and deveopment of the 'All About' sites. We have plenty of anecdotes left to share - and this time Rafe can't use the excuse that he was still in school (etc!) so he'll be joining in with the reminiscences more!

This podcast was recorded on December 6th 2016 with Steve Litchfield and Rafe Blandford.

Links:

You can see more of our podcasts in the Media section of the site.




Mini-review: Choetech USB to Type C adapters

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:32:00 GMT

We're entering a strange new world of physical connectors. microUSB, which came in around 2007, is being supplanted in a big way now by USB Type C, a reversible, more robust and more capable alternative. Where does that leave you, with microUSB data leads for your phones in a world where Macbooks only come with Type C? Looking for adapters, that's where, as we go into 2017. And, thinking laterally, the same adapters also let you plug in standard USB flash disks into USB Type C-equipped smartphones. So a bit of a win then.

Now, I'm sure there are other brands out there, but Choetech were good enough to send over a couple of pairs of USB to Type C adapters, so it's theirs that I'm going to plug here. That they come as pairs is a very good thing because they're tiny and easy to lose - I've already lost one of the four adapters sent over a couple of weeks ago!

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While you may have your own uses in mind for these adapters, the main one I have in mind is when trying to use a legacy phone, with its own USB data and charge cable, with a new 2017 laptop that only has USB Type C jacks. The new Apple Macbooks are the first such, but I'm sure others will follow - Chromebooks and, one day, even Windows Surface devices or laptops. Or perhaps the main USB port is occupied and you're having to use a secondary, Type C port?

Either way, you plug the USB cable into the back of this adapter and then the Type C end into the appropriate Type C (or, in Apple parlance, Thunderbolt 3) port - and you're off to the races.

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Choetech says of the adapters: "Built-in 56k ohm resistor follow Type C standard specification. Support OTG, hot plug and play design. No external driver needed and without software installation." I've come to trust the Choetech kit and these certainly seem to work.

I also tested the other use mentioned above, that of plugging in standard USB flash disks to a Type C-equipped smartphone, and this also worked immediately (on Windows 10 Mobile, the USB flash disk mounts as just another disk drive on the phone).

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The adapters are £6 for a pair on Amazon UK, which seems like decent value - expensive enough to guarantee that corners haven't been cut and yet still easily in impulse buy territory.

A very handy little widget for your briefcase or pocket going forwards then, into this brave new USB Type C world - it'll take up to a decade until the older USB-A really dies out, so you might want to snap up several pairs to tide you over!




PureView vs the Pixel: the 808, Lumia 950/1020 vs the Google Pixel

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:37:00 GMT

Having set up expectations that Google's HDR+ computational photography in the new Pixel flagship can be considered 'PureView take II', or thereabouts, I thought it time to put this to the test. So I took three PureView flagships from various eras: Nokia 808, Lumia 1020 and Lumia 950 XL, and pitched them against the new Google Pixel XL. The aim, away from trivial sunny shots (hey, suits me, this is the UK in October!), is to really stretch the pixel combination systems, in reducing noise and finding detail and colour. Of course, the Nokia 808 PureView (running in 8MP 'Creative' oversampling mode) and Lumia 1020 (running Windows Phone 8.1 and in its default 5MP oversampling mode) are here only for interest sake and for reference, since they're both obsolete in terms of anyone buying them. The Lumia 950 XL here is in its default 8MP PureView oversampling mode, matching the Google Pixel's 8.3MP HDR+ mode. In each case, all photos were snapped at 16:9 aspect ratio, in case you were wondering about some of those resolutions, though that's not that relevant since I'm mainly going to be looking at central detail. There are also minor differences in terms of how wide angle the optics are in each case, so the 1:1 crops below won't match exactly in terms of framing. Again, in contrast to other camera phone tests around the web, I'm deliberately trying to make things hard for the phone cameras and I am looking in detail and being picky. Let's see how the phone imaging hardware performs... Test 1: Landscape, daylight, heavily overcast My standard suburban landscape scene, with plenty of detail of all kinds. Not a glimmer of sun, thanks to the time of year! Here's the overall scene, as shot by the Nokia 808 (which has the most neutral colours): Now for some central crops from, in turn, the Nokia 808, Lumia 1020, Lumia 950 XL and Google Pixel XL. Click the device names to grab the individual JPGs, in case you wanted to download and compare them yourself: There are few surprises above - the original PureView pair do best in terms of a natural, real life look, and don't knock the 1020 for detail, since it doesn't have a 8MP mode and so it's forced to work at 5MP (I guess I could have applied a little PureView zoom but that's hard to judge on the fly). The Lumia 950 and Google Pixel both show signs of sharpening and processing, but then the effect is 'crisper' to most human eyes so you can see why manufacturers do this. Nokia 808:  9pts; Lumia 1020: 10pts; Lumia 950: 9 pts; Google Pixel: 8pts Test 2: Landscape (lake), daylight, overcast Another landscape scene, somewhat prettier, with plenty of detail of all kinds. Here's the overall scene, as shot by the Nokia 808 (which again has the most neutral colours): Now for some central crops from, in turn, the Nokia 808, Lumia 1020, Lumia 950 XL and Google Pixel XL. Click the device names to grab the individual JPGs, in case you wanted to download and compare them yourself: Again the original PureView pair do best in terms of a natural, real life look, while the Lumia 950 and Google Pixel both show signs of sharpening and heavy processing, to the detriment of the photo in this case - the Pixel shot in particular has ugly detail when you look up close, as here. Nokia 808:  10pts; Lumia 1020: 10pts; Lumia 950: 8pts; Google Pixel: 7pts Test 3: Landscape (lake), overcast, zoomed in The same lake scene as above, but this time using the native zoom functions on each phone. Here's the overall zoomed scene, as shot by the Nokia 808: Now for some central crops from, in turn, the Nokia 808, Lumia 1020, Lumia 950 XL and Google Pixel XL. Note that because the latter two have no exact scale in their UI it was hard to judge how far in I'd zoomed, so the framing doesn't match exactly. You'll get an idea of zoom quality though. Click the device names to grab th[...]



Nokia Software Recovery Tool (NSRT) update makes it work again

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 06:54:35 GMT

DigiPassion reports the welcome news that Microsoft has updated the old Nokia Software Recovery Tool (NSRT) , thought abandoned, along with all some of the old Nokia Series 60/Symbian firmware images - and it all now works again, with images now firmly on Microsoft's servers! Guess Microsoft is not quite the 'evil empire' after all? Good news anyway, and this will breathe new life into quite a few older Symbian-based phones.From the DigiPassion piece: Good news for Nokia phone users! Microsoft recently released a new version of Nokia Software Recovery Tool (NSRT) for good old Nokia phones. In this release Microsoft has fixed the Nokia firmware download issue. As you may know Microsoft closed down all Nokia websites (including phone software repository) earlier this year. This rendered all the firmware downloading softwares (like Navifirm, Nokia Suite, NDPM, Nokia Care Suite etc) useless. This NSRT update makes it clear that (fortunately) Microsoft has not deleted the Nokia firmware files altogether. Rather they have just shifted the files to their own download servers. This shift resulted in change of firmware file URLs which can be accessed via new NSRT now. Hopefully other such softwares will also get updates in the future with access to new download URLs.... How to download Nokia phone firmware files using Nokia Software Recovery Tool? Download latest version of NSRT from here and install in your computer (compatible with Windows 7 or later OS) Launch NSRT and connect your Nokia phone (in switch ON condition) with computer using USB data cableWait for a while as NSRT detects the phone – it will show phone details at the left side and latest available phone software at the right-hand side Click “Install” button – read and agree to the terms – NSRT will start downloading firmware files – wait for the download process to complete If you just want to download the firmware files (and not want to flash the phone) then keep an eye over the download process and disconnect the phone just when the download finishes. Otherwise NSRT will start flashing the phone soon after the download process. You may then use these files later on to flash your phone via NSRT (or any other such software like Phoenix Service Software) in offline mode. Thanks to DigiPassion for spotting this welcome news. By the way, the 'here' link above is directly to the .exe file for Windows, so wait until you're on the PC that you're going to use until you hit it. Reports are in that only Symbian^3/Anna/Belle (upwards) devices are supported. So nothing for S60 5th Edition and before. At least, not yet. Not being able to 'recover' a messed up phone was a major pain in the Symbian world over the last year and many times I had to point people towards the Delight custom firmware pages. Delight is only available for a handful of phones and, of course, it's not exactly 'stock', so it's good to see that the official OS images are all back now online. Many people, including me back in 2014, had been downloading and stockpiling certain device firmware images 'just in case', but it seems now that this archiving wasn't necessary and that Microsoft still has every image needed. Of course, none of this helps fix other holes in Symbian's operation in late 2016, with gaps developing for social services, email, web browsing, and so on. There ARE workarounds for some things, feel free to share any of your favourite tips below or in an article submission to AAS. In an ideal world, I'd write them up myself, but I've moved on to Windows 10 Mobile and Android for my primary devices. C'est la vie.[...]



Making phones whose batteries don't catch fire isn't rocket science

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 14:31:15 GMT

The recent stories surrounding the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, with it catching fire and even exploding, ostensibly due to over-ambitious use of space inside the phone applying pressure to the internal Li-Ion battery, caused me to mull over features in many past smartphones that seem - in hindsight - designed to specifically avoid a 'Note 7' style Lithium accident. Using the example of the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 640 XL, I show how such an accident is far, far less likely. One thing had always puzzled me about Nokia (and then Microsoft) smartphones - almost every example with a replaceable battery (and that's most of them) had a foam pad stuck to the inside of the back cover. It's true that this is partly to stop the battery rattling a little when the phone is shaken, but the foam also serves another purpose, I contend. For starters, it allows for a little variation in battery thickness. No two cells are ever exactly the same thickness, and the last thing you want is a frame so tightly space controlled that a small percentage of batteries end up under physical pressure from any direction. Such pressure deforms the internal electrolyte layers and, in the worst case, can cause the battery to catch fire or explode - as we saw recently in the Android world. Now, I'd argue that the first design aim for any smartphone should be to have a replaceable battery in the first place, but the likes of the Apple iPhone and fashion have meant that many manufacturers have opted for a sealed design because it's prettier, lighter and... thinner. And yes, that latter constraint works against the danger here. The second design aim should then be to have some margin of error in the size of the battery - in checking the various smartphones around All About Towers, I noticed that quite a few had empty space around the bulk of the battery, up to a millimetre (in total) in some cases. This doesn't impact performance, since the battery contacts are 'pin and sleeve' and work at a variety of relative distances. But it does mean that if a battery is very slightly over-size (by a fraction of a millimetre) then it's not going to be a problem inserting it and there won't be any external pressure around the sides. The same applies, only more so, on the battery's exterior face, with at least a millimetre (and sometimes more) of empty space above it and under the removeable back cover. Ample room for tolerance errors in batteries, and yes, the foam pad is then needed to avoid mechanical rattles. The foam pad becomes even more important when the battery gets old, too. You see, when a Li-Ion battery gets old or has been misused (e.g. allowed to run down to zero charge and left there for a while), gases build up inside and the battery starts to swell - I'm sure most of us have seen examples of this. Eventually the battery dies, of course, and has to be disposed of responsibly. However, in the meantime, while it is swelling up (and in old phones this can happen while the phone is in daily use) the foam pad takes up all the initial swelling without stressing the battery layers too much. If the phone body was fixed and the battery wasn't replaceable then the swelling would apply serious pressure to the phone's structure, to its surrounding electronics and - most dangerously - to the battery's own structural integrity. I've argued many times (e.g. here) that the pros of replaceable batteries outweigh the cons but I never thought it would take a $17 billion industry loss to prove the potential dangers of going 'sealed'. Note that I'm not saying that all 'sealed' smartphones are inherently dangerous - just that unless the manufacturer leaves a little 'wiggle room' inside then the pressures on the cell when everything it screwed together can cause serious problems. I've taken iPhones apart, for example, and the b[...]



Unreleased 'Nokia 6770 Slide' snapped

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 16:16:25 GMT

Nice find by the people over at Nokia Collectors, with photos of the unreleased Nokia 6770 Slide, pictured with the high end (but similar form factor) Nokia N86 8MP. So many memories of the form factor, even if the OS and Internet-facing services have been left behind in 2016.

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Being shown off here is the Nokia 6770 Slide. It's a 'dummy internal developers's prototype'. Specifications, were this to have all working components, are quoted as:

  • Steel (Frame, Slider)
  • ABS Plastic (Chassis, Rear Cover)
  • Symbian OS 9.3 (S60 3rd Edition) Feature Pack 2
  • 2.6" screen with 240x320 (QVGA) resolution
  • 5MP camera with AF and Flash
  • Stereo speakers (stereo audio)
  • 2mm connector for charging
  • 3.5mm Audio-Jack
  • DVB-H TV Module
  • Bluetooth
  • MicroUSB data/charge

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See also Symbian Zone and Nokia Collectors, plus info on the Nokia NEO/Atlantis/E80/X7-00.1/Silver N950.




Review: EC Technology Swiss Army Charging Knife

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 20:59:00 GMT

It's a fair cop, my title was more descriptive than accurate - this little gadget is actually called, on Amazon, the 'EC Technology 5200mAh Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank', a typical SEO-heavy name that's not as interesting as the product itself. You see, this fills a very real need, at least in my household.Now, I know what you're going to say. "Yada yada, another blessed emergency charger, nothing to see..." But give this one a chance and hear me out. If you're a road warrior, of course, fully equipped to stay topped up all day long and with very well defined mobile needs, then you'll already have one of the various high capacity emergency chargers that I've reviewed on AAS and AAWP, e.g. here and here. And they're great - but also heavy and bulky. Then at the other end of the spectrum we have another of my favourite 'gadget' categories, 'wallet chargers'. These are ultra slim and small, fitting into (as the name suggests) a wallet card slot. However, the problems with these are that their capacity is necessarily limited, typically around 1400mAh at most (don't believe the ones that claim 2500mAh or more - battery capacity is 100% linked to physical volume, and 'ye cannae beat the laws of physics'), which is less than half the required capacity of a typical 2016 smartphone - times change, eh? Plus their output current is usually similarly limited, e.g. 1A. The final straw is that they usually have flying microUSB leads. This latter was a real blessing a couple of years ago, since it meant not having to remember to carry a charging cable too, but we now live in a world where USB Type C is ever more widespread and your family's iPhones use yet another standard, the Lightning port. The situation is, then, that you or I are out and about with family (partners, parents, kids, etc.) and someone, at some point, needs their phone topping up urgently. Heck, you probably agree with this need if it means trying to find them in an hour's time in a busy shopping centre. [Why do family not plan their phones' charges better? Who knows!] Yet the chances of their phone using the same physical connector as you are small. So you'll need to be flexible. And to provide enough capacity to charge more than one persons phone through a busy day out. And yet you don't want to have to carry a bulky and heavy duty power bank. This is starting to sound like a tall order, so let's crystallise the requirements for my (perhaps) mythical Swiss Army Charging Knife: Around 5000mAh of capacity Able to dispense current at (at least) 2A Easily pocketable, such that you dont notice the size or weight Can charge anything with microUSB, Lightning or USB Type C Durable, withstand daily throwing about But, as you'll have guessed from the existence of this review, I found a match. And no, this wasn't sent in for review, I researched this and bought it with my own hard earned money, in case you were wondering. I had to cheat very slightly, in that I also had to source very short USB Type A cables to go with it (it only comes with microUSB) - see the photo with all the leads at the bottom, but the central accessory is absolutely spot on. The EC Technology 5200mAh Portable Charger exceeds my capacity requirement, is so small in terms of volume that it fits inside my fist and only weighs 120g. Importantly, it can also not only be charged at a full 2A, but can charge other devices at 2A. So that would get a typical Lumia 950 XL class smartphone from empty to 80% full in around an hour and the EC charger would still have over half its charge left, ready for the next device. There's only the one USB Type A output, but that's all that's needed here, for family/casual use. You'll notice an extra, too. Again potentially very useful[...]



Apple strike out in imaging with the iPhone 7 Plus and ex-Nokian Ari

Mon, 01 Aug 2016 17:32:29 GMT

Many of you will have seen Apple's launch of the iPhone 7 Plus yesterday evening - yes, it's iOS, but its camera is noteworthy - in part because its technical breakthrough owes a lot to a certain ex-Nokian, Ari Partinen, who moved to Apple a couple of years ago. Yes, I know that Apple has a big imaging team, but my suspicions that Ari played a significant part in Apple's new camera system were confirmed when the man himself retweeted me during the night (i.e. day time in San Francisco).

Here's my tweet:

Congratulations to him on the new job, though contrary to the usual 'gloom and doom' reports around the web, his departure from Microsoft won't have any real impact, since the top end phone camera components available to all manufacturers are now very close to the best of Lumia.

In other words, Juha and his team advanced phone imaging enormously from about 2005 to 2015, but the latter has definitely plateaued in recent months - I still rate the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, in development from 2014 and released late 2015, as the best camera phones in the world, but the margins are now so small that you really have to look down at the pixel level to establish the margin of victory. So a no-name manufacturer in China can look at the possible components from the top camera factories and pluck out (say) a 16MP unit with 1/2.4" sensor, OIS and multi-LED flash, and get results not too far off what Juha's last babies under Microsoft could achieve, all at relatively minimal cost and without any real R&D.

Of course, there's more to imaging than just the hardware, and we've seen software algorithms and image processing make quite a difference - and it's also here where the 950 and 950 XL score. But, thanks mainly to Juha and team, the hardware's 'done', the software's 'done' and there's not really anywhere else to go in terms of consumer smartphone imaging. If the rumoured Microsoft 'Surface phone' (what I've referred to cheekily in the past as a 'Lumia 1060') uses the identical camera units to the 950 and 950 XL then this will already be eminently 'good enough'. And then some.

So hats off to Juha and his team and we genuinely wish them well in their efforts to advance imaging tech on new fronts - just don't get too depressed that your existing Lumia's imaging is suddenly second rate!