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Last Build Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2017 15:45:03 GMT

 



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 keeping electronics charged!) So not a perfect accessory, but with a USP that's only going to become more and more useful as more of us venture out into the world, with friends or family, as the sun appears! You can grab this on Amazon UK here, and before you baulk at the cost note that we have a special offer for AAWP readers with £6 off using promo code VO3J2KJO, taking the price down to a very reasonable £16.99 - until April 25th 2017. So you've go[...]



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 bright enough to be useful and dim enough not to drain the battery too fast. The LEDs accumulate to 1W and are supposed to stay lit for about 12 hours on a full power bank charge. Despite being a cool phone accessory for the outdoors enthusiast, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. There's that 1A limit on input and output, which seems too low in 2017 - I thought 2.1A outputs were now more or less de rigeur? Then there's the 4200mAh capacity - I'd have [...]



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.[...]



Rafe Blandford and MWC 2017

Fri, 03 Mar 2017 11:12:12 GMT

Wrapping up MWC 2017 week, and with Rafe exhausted after 100,000 steps in five days, I wanted to provide at least a taste of this year's show, via Rafe's Twitter feed, via my own analysis, and so on. On the AAWP front, we saw the revised HP Elite x3 and news that the IDOL 4S Pro is heading to Europe, but the scope of MWC is vastly wider and Rafe's good at finding interesting tit-bits, see the embedded tweets below!

Before heading into tweets though, I'd like to embed my own Phones Show 302, which attempted to round up the major phone releases of the show in a fast-paced but easy to watch six minutes or so. Nothing directly relevant to AAWP or AAS, but very definitely of interest. And AAS readers should watch the remaining three minutes, since I cover both the Nokia 9500 and a new QWERTY wannabe...

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ixQMg9b5FV4" width="853" height="480">

Anyway, from Rafe Blandford's public Twitter feed, to give you a 'dip in' flavour of MWC without having to actually go there, here are some of my favourite illustrated tweets of his, in approximate chronological order, spotted in between commitments for DigitasLBI. They're hopefully self-explanatory and you can click through if you want to know more about a particular subject:

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:

src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/205778039" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0">

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:

Features:

  • 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

(image)

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'!

Comments?




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

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lhsmcCJlM4w?rel=0" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">

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

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gcucSt7NWjA?rel=0" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">

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

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vLx18cSjM6c" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">

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...

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ffnK3junTBY?rel=0" width="853" height="480" frameborder="0">




Chipset ability can help phone imaging greatness, it seems

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 14:02:17 GMT

There's a fascinating (if understandably promotional) post over on Qualcomm's site, in which the imaging capabilities of the upcoming smartphone chipset, the Snapdragon 835, are discussed. See below for a few quotes. In summary, it's becoming increasingly evident that great smartphone imaging is just as much about processing power as it is about the raw optics and sensor size. The Nokia 808 PureView arguably started the trend, with a custom image processor, but with the likes of the modern Snapdragon 820/821 and now 835, we have even faster image processing and implemented so generically that it can be part of a great many devices and not just the one it was designed for.From the Qualcomm blog post: With traditional digital cameras, your photos and videos are only ever as good as the camera’s image sensor and lens, and whether the environment is just right. Often, what you get are shaky clips and blurry images due to low light, grainy zoom, and slow autofocus, among other factors. The way to overcome these limitations is through a technique called computational photography — clever computing algorithms and technologies designed to enhance image quality, ensure speedy performance, and add new imaging capabilities that previously weren’t possible. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor is packed with technologies engineered to turn your smartphone’s camera into a brilliant computational camera that delivers gorgeous photos and video. The Snapdragon 835 integrates more than just a CPU and GPU; there are many technologies working together. Here are some of the camera enhancements you’ll experience when your device is powered by a Snapdragon 835. The post then goes on to list the various ways in which a really powerful chipset can help, starting with better digital zoom: One of the biggest complaints about smartphone cameras is the ineffectiveness of the zoom. That’s because most phones use a digital zoom, which electronically crops and interpolates images. This is effective up to a certain point, but zoom too far and you’ll get too much digital noise (grainy or blurry images as a result of the loss in resolution and color). An optical zoom enhances details as you get closer, which means you have a better shot at capturing hi-res photos from far away. The Snapdragon 835 processor is designed to address the graininess problem by intelligently combining optical and digital zooms, so photos can be smooth, seamless, and lossless. The integrated Qualcomm Spectra 180 ISP (Image Signal Processor) is made to support up to a 32MP resolution at 30 fps with zero shutter lag on a single camera. In order to support dual cameras, one ISP per camera is required. In the case of optical zoom, Snapdragon 835 is engineered to support one for a wide angle lens and a second for a telephoto lens. And the processor’s heterogeneous computing capabilities are engineered to effortlessly bridge the different lenses to deliver both digital and optical zoom — a radical upgrade from the digital-only zoom. Ah, ok, so you do need two camera lenses then, but these set-ups do seem to becoming more common, albeit only Apple (with some ex-Nokia expertise!) has actually mastered it yet in my opinion.  Then there's video stabilisation, I'm a fan of hardware OIS, as you know, though adding EIS on top does produce stunningly smooth results. Here's Qualcomm again: As with still photography, there are frustrations associated with capturing video on a smartphone. Shaky video can be literally sickening. Qualcomm Technologies is a leader in Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) technology, which is integrated in earlier generations of Snapdragon processors, to counteract this unwanted motion. Version 3.0 takes it to the next level, with support for 4K reso[...]



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 favour[...]



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[...]



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 t[...]



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 Andr[...]



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 dangero[...]



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 [...]