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Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2017 09:30:02 GMT

 



The Nokia 8 takes on the Lumia 950

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 07:58:05 GMT

No, not the Nokia N8. This is the Android-powered Nokia 8, made by HMD Global, of course, in 2017. But it's still a phone that I've had lots of emails about, so I arranged a shootout over on AAWP here. Now, at some point I'll get the Nokia 8 in here, in the office, and the natural shootout would be Nokia N8 vs 808 vs Nokia 8 - all the 8s....!!! Watch this space.

In the meantime, here's some text from my conclusion:

This was one of the most requested AAWP phone camera shootouts and thanks to KF Chan for helping make this happen. One of the reasons why I'd not moved heaven and earth to get a Nokia 8 in for review yet (though I have been asking PR) was that I knew it would be something of a disappointment. And so it proved. Despite two cameras, OIS and ZEISS optics, HMD Global doesn't have anywhere near the same imaging expertise that the Nokia guys had back in the day (and at Microsoft until they all left or got made redundant), the Nokia 8 has sensors that are too small, no oversampling and no secret sauce (along Google Pixel lines) to rescue the results.

At some point, no doubt, I will get the '8' in for a full review and at that time I can do more head to heads with, for example, the Nokia N8 and 808 from the Symbian world, since those too have been requested. Can 'Nokia' (actually HMD Global) fix up the camera with updates or is the Nokia 8 destined to underperform? Currently I'd class the imaging as not worthy of the prestigious Nokia brand name - as someone who loved the N82, N8, 808 and 1020 before the 950, I hear 'Nokia' and I think 'amazing camera', and this simply isn't the case for the '8'. Yet.

Which would win of the Nokia 8, 808 and N8? That's actually a tougher call since the latter two predated the modern OIS era. So it all depends whether I allowed tripod use. Or had very, very steady hands for the low light test cases!




The Nokia 808 takes on the Sony Xperia XZ1 and the Galaxy Note 8

Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:12:20 GMT

Reader Martin Roth runs a YouTube channel, in part dedicated to comparing camera phones - and he's now put up videos on the Nokia 808 PureView versus the Xperia XZ1 and Galaxy Note 8, both running Android. They're in German, but see below for how to get English subtitles!

Firstly the Nokia 808 versus the XZ1. Maximise the window and then dive into the YouTube player settings - set the 'subtitles' to be 'Auto translate' and then 'English' (or whatever):

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VfoIiNmPQmA?rel=0" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0">

And then the Nokia 808 versus the Galaxy Note 8:

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MRwTJzCVFGs?rel=0" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0">

Comments? The subtitle system makes the videos something of a hard watch, not least because the videos flickered for me as a result, but hey... Some Nokia 808 content - in 2017!




Mini-review: Veho ZB-6 hybrid headphones

Wed, 11 Oct 2017 13:10:00 GMT

In this world where everyone's going wireless for their audio, it seems, I thought I'd profer a suggestion, and one that involves flexibility and yet intense luxury. I was sent the Veho ZB-6 Wireless headphones a while ago, but don't switch off, these aren't generic Bluetooth 'phones. These are true, supremely comfortable over-ear studio-class (at least to my ears) headphones that work over Bluetooth or via a standard 3.5mm lead. Battery life is off the charts, the feel on the ears and in the hand, is tremendous, and they even fold for easy storage when travelling. Top notch gear.I've used Veho headphones for a while, in fact, swearing by my Z-8 headset when podcasting since they're just so comfortable, hour after hour. The materials used (faux leather?) in the soft ear cushions, the cushioning itself, the rubberised ('Tacton') finish on everything, it all adds up to a premium experience. There's no bare plastic at all, and the only bare surfaces are metal, cold and polished. And it's the same with the ZB-6 here: Aside from feel and comfort though, the main thing to get across is the dual mode in terms of connection: Bluetooth or Wired. The pros and cons of each aren't quite as evident as you might think, so here's a little table: Headphones Bluetooth Wired Pros No wires to get tangled. Perfect sound quality, or as perfect as the DAC in your phone! No need to charge the headphones. Cons Audio quality has to 'compressed' again, so there's some loss in fidelity. You have to keep the headphones charged. A wire to get tangled or caught on things. The degradation in sound quality going from wired to wireless headphones IS noticeable - you can hear the way sound has less depth and fidelity as a result of the extra processing. Now, the ZB-6 doesn't support the advanced APT-X codec, which solves the quality problem, which is a shame. But you still get the option of wired use when you want maximum quality and wireless when you want maximum freedom. The charging here is via microUSB, with a cable supplied, the socket being underneath a rubber flap on the right ear-cup. The battery is (relatively) huge (90mAh) though, with Veho claiming 25 hours listening time on one charge. In practice (I can back this up), this means that they'll last a typical working/commuting week for most people and then need a top-up at the weekend. Very convenient and almost zero hassle. Pairing with my various phones (the Lumia 950 XL shown at the top) was painless and I liked the way that the headphones themselves announce, audibly, what's happening when you press or long press the multi-function button, e.g. "Powering on", "Pairing", etc. The + and - buttons activate next and previous track functions, with long pressing each adjusting volume, as expected. I couldn't find a button combo to bring up Cortana, but that's no big deal. Audio quality is excellent throughout though - while I can hear the difference between wired and Bluetooth audio (not all can), they're both enjoyable to listen to (unless you put on rap music - sorry, couldn't resist....!) and, as I say, supremely comfortable on/over the ears. I apologise if all this is sounding somewhat gushing (and yes, do see the disclaimer below) - I just happen to like the product a lot and remain a Veho fan. These are currently on offer on Amazon UK at £75 or so. Which seems a reasonable price considering the luxury and quality on offer*. * The obvious disclaimer here is that the review headphones were sent across free of charge. But these would still be on my radar if I was dipping into my own wallet.[...]



Review: Archeer A320 Bamboo Wireless Speaker

Mon, 09 Oct 2017 19:13:08 GMT

OK, we have a winner in the Bluetooth speaker stakes. Except that it's not as portable as you might think. Or as rugged. We're talking living-room quality bamboo cambinet, and zero protection from impact on the front, so consider this suitable for environments with no kids or animals! It's all worth it though - the sound quality from the Archeer Bamboo A320 is astonishing. 

(image)

The secret here, other than sheer heft (the A320 weighs 1.4kg!), is the central 15W sub-woofer and bass reflex port on the back - these push around a lot of air. The upshot is that whether you're into classical music or rock, the fidelity is right up there with a dedicated living room sound system. Perhaps not matching proper hi-fi set-ups, but darned close considering that you can pick this up in one hand and move it to a different room in an instant.

I was testing this with my Lumia 950 XL and it paired easily and also reconnected automatically on subsequent play tests. Once playing, music (or YouTube, above) can be controlled from the phone's volume buttons or those on the fabric-covered speaker top:

(image)

The craftsmanship that's gone into the bamboo machining and finishing is extraordinary - the A320 is currently £75 in the UK and it's worth every penny. I remember when a 'Jambox' speaker was over £100 and here we have something with five times the audio quality at a lower price, albeit in 2017.

(image)

On the back of the A320, in addition to that bass reflex port, are the usual ports - 3.5mm Aux in, in case you don't want to use Bluetooth, microUSB for charging, though the internal battery is a whopping 5200mAh and we're six hours of playback into our family test and haven't needed to recharge it yet. Given the (relative) lack of portability, the odds are good though that this will be within range of a charger most of the time - we're not talking beach or hiking sessions here!

(image)

Talking of beach and hiking, add in anything to do with water or physical attack - so that's kids and pets out. The exposed speakers cones look fantastic but aren't going to fare well if something hits or presses against them. Also avoid (steamy) kitchens and bathrooms! 

But, for the adult in a safe and secure living room or office, the sound quality from the Archeer A320 is unequalled in my Bluetooth speaker tests. A top product, beautifully crafted - just be careful where you put it!

PS. For anyone in the USA, here's the Amazon USA buy link, along with a discount code: GWZRR89M




Choosing a smartphone platform in 2017

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 06:31:00 GMT

So I've put forward the case for Windows 10 Mobile in video form, plus I've shown that W10M is still relevant in 2017. But - like any intelligent person - you'll have been looking around at other smartphone platforms, eyeing up shiny new phones. It's only natural. Which is why I wanted to set down my thoughts on how the three* main platforms compare - which way should you jump?* OK, so the 'third ecosystem' is only in contention numbers-wise if you include Windows 10 on all form factors, but it remains the only real alternative to the big two on mobile: iOS and Android. Writer's note: A casual perusal of the table below will show that there are many more positives than negatives for Windows 10 Mobile, with slightly more negatives than positives for the iPhone and iOS. Although I've tried to be objective below, I can't help a little personal subjectivity creeping in - this is AAWP, after all! And comments welcome below, as usual...   iOS Android Windows 10 Mobile Pros/advantages Good security, locked down Store and installation Wide application selection Network of Apple Stores worldwide for support and repair Ostensibly simple 'what you see is what you get' UI Good update prospects, typically 4 years per handset after launch Wide application selection Home screen interactive widgets microSD support (hardware dependent) Very wide variety of hardware to choose from MTP file access to desktops (in theory, doesn't always work IME) Standard USB Type C or microUSB compatibility Good security, locked down Store and installation UWP applications across form factors Plug and play file compatibility with Windows PCs Start screen and resizeable live tiles Virtual controls that can be dismissed completely for more visible content Continuum and external genuine secondary displays Monthly security and patch updates for two years per OS branch, so typically 3 to 4 years per handset after launch microSD support Standard USB Type C compatibility All phones ever made have 3.5mm audio out(!) Cons/disadvantages No microSD expansion Proprietary USB port (Lightning) Many models have no 3.5mm audio out, so dongles needed No back control in the UI, 'back' function varies according to application [gesture being added for iOS 11] Locked down file system, access only through very specific mechanisms Static and inflexible app launcher/home-screen Security worries if not kept 100% bang up to date or used properly (latest big scare here) Along similar lines, only flagships tend to get significant updates, and even then only for 18 months at most Lots of UI variations, all slightly different Vertical/boutique applications, social apps, all missing or less capable Very poor games and VR selections Very limited hardware selection for new handsets I think I've been pretty fair above. I've not been shy about both praising and criticising the iPhone and iOS in the past, while I use several Android smartphones in my day to day rotation/life. But however much I try and look away from Windows 10 Mobile and - specifically - the Lumia 950 XL, I keep getting sucked back by the pros/advantages above. They're genuine advantages too, as I've mentioned several times. Yet they're undermined by the three cons/disadvantages, which are - if I'm honest - rather huge. The app selection most people could work around (see our directories of general apps and imaging/reading apps), with third party applications and services accessed though the Edge browser. But the last one - limited new hardware is probably the killer in the wider phone market. Lumias are out of stock almost everywhere by now, the promised third party budget phones are still just IFA demo material and the Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro is effectively the only game in town, at least when wanting to pick up something brand new. For AAWP old hands, of course, you're wondering whether to stick w[...]



Inside camera phones, and Nokia through the ages

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 07:48:09 GMT

I'd just like to draw your attention to two specific podcast episodes that you might not have been aware of. Both aired in the last couple of weeks on brand new shows and both are of direct interest.

Firstly, Richard Yates is part of the team at a new podcast, 'The TechBox', based in the UK, and in episode 5 he's flying solo but his subject matter is his history with Nokia, the brand, the hardware and the company. Over the last 25 years. 

It's a good listen, with no real omissions as such, though it's assumed that you know some of the tech background, such as Microsoft buying Nokia's Devices division in 2013. Regular readers here will be able to fill in these contextual gaps though. Richard's been through many of the same devices as you and I, so it's refreshing to hear someone else's experience.

And yes, he cover's some of Nokia's mistakes, including not capitalising on their 'app store'. I'd go back further to Nokia's 'Download!' Store around 2005, but Richard's reference to the 'Ovi Store' (2009) only being for Nokia handsets as a 'mistake' doesn't quite ring true as a mistake since by then there weren't really any other Symbian licensees (just one Samsung handset that had much bigger issues). A bigger mistake, also identified, was general mis-management over the decade.

Richard highlights some of my favourite smartphones, in particular the Nokia N93, N8 and - of course - the 808 PureView.

You can subscribe to The TechBox here.

Secondly, I was a guest on Myriam Joire's new 'Mobile Tech Podcast' a few weeks ago, in episode 16, chatting about all aspects of camera phones. The chat was very much driven by Myriam, who wanted to explain in detail the various parameters that make up a good phone camera, but I think I held my own and managed to get in some chat about Xenon flash(!) and some classic Nokia PureView phones, the 808 and 1020. 

Myriam had been a guest on my own Phones Show Chat (now well into its 400s!) several times, so it was good to be invited back by her in return. See what you think. You can subscribe to her Mobile Tech Podcast via the RSS feed here.




Mini-review: Veho TA-1 Multi-region Travel Plug

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 13:20:36 GMT

I realise that travel adapters have existed since the dawn of time, but this one takes the biscuit. It's pass through, it has integral support for dozens of countries, it has four USB ports for gadget charging, and yet is only a few cubic inches. Amazing. If you're a regular traveller then this is one way to save space in your kit bag with an all-in-one gadget.

(image)

The chunky control and the four USB ports impress at first glance - what on earth is this and how does it work?

Once unboxed, it all becomes clear - the main slider (which has to be depressed slightly before it moves, for safety reasons) pops out either European-standard mains pins:

(image)

...or UK-style pins:

(image)

...or USA-style pins. The first via a spring mechanism, the latter two by using the movement of the slider itself to push out the relevant pins. And, when the Euro pins are popped back, it's almost a perfect cube and incredibly neat!

(image)

But there's more. On the cube's top face is a universal mains (female) socket, so that's where you plug your mains appliance. But while this is going on, the four USB ports can output a maximum of 3.5A (up to 2.4A maximum on the left hand 'smart' socket, which tries to supply current intelligently rather than rely on your phone/tablet managing charging):

(image)

The possibilities from all this are almost endless. You can be almost anywhere in the world and one of the three plug styles will fit the wall sockets, while your (e.g.) laptop charges out of the top using your normal charging cables. And while up to four phones and other devices charge happily from the bank of four USB sockets.

The innovation here is in the compactness and lack of reliance on parts that snap off and on again (which will get lost or break) - and I was seriously impressed. What a neat solution.

I should declare that Veho sent this across for me to use freely (it's normally £30) and it just made my main go-anywhere kit case.




An hour of camera phone tech with Steve and Myriam

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 20:31:02 GMT

Just a podcast of interest - or at least a particular episode. I was the guest of Myriam Joire on the Mobile Tech Podcast this week - and, predictably, we chatted about smartphone imaging. For an hour. And could probably have gone an extra hour if time had allowed. We cover some of the past classics, such as the Nokia N8 and 808, we cover the Lumia 1020 and 950, but all in the context of today's Android-powered imaging flagships. And yes, I do mention Xenon. At some length 8-)

Here's the podcast, anyway, worth an hour of your time if you're really into your camera phones!

src="http://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/5688968/height/90/width/640/theme/custom/autonext/no/thumbnail/yes/autoplay/no/preload/no/no_addthis/no/direction/backward/render-playlist/no/custom-color/87A93A/" width="640" height="90" scrolling="no">

We get a bit carried away and sorry for talking at top speed - if it's too fast for you then listen at 75% speed! That's what a little passion does for the recording process....

See also the home page for Myriam's podcast.




Mini-review: Romoss 2-in-1 Universal Cable

Thu, 24 Aug 2017 10:26:36 GMT

'Universal cables' have been tried before, of course, with multiple cabled heads. Plus you can buy simple adapters that convert one charging connector to another format. But the former is bulky, while the latter suffers from the inevitable 'lost adapter down the back of the sofa' problem. Enter Romoss with what is essentially a tethered microUSB to USB Type C adapter. Making it just about perfect for anyone spanning the old (Symbian, Windows Phone) and new (top-end Android and most Windows 10 Mobile) days.

I myself have a number of the old micro-to-C adapters. At the bottom of drawers and cases and never around when I need them. And they don't always support data as well as power.

(image)

The Romoss cable aims to fix things and for £9 all in, which I think is quite reasonable. The double-head has the USB Type C cable tethered by strong plastic and so it can never be lost. And when you need Type C for hooking up to a PC or for charging, for a newer device, then just pop it over the microUSB connector and Robert's your father's brother.

(image)

I tested this with an old Symbian phone, the Nokia 808, and saw data connection (mass storage) and charging, I did the same with a Lumia 1020 and 950 XL (both shown below) and then the new Alcatel IDOL 4 Pro, and finally an Android flagship with 'C' and in each case the cable performed as expected.

(image)

The only caveat is that the cable is quite thin by USB Type C standards, indicating that it's current limited, and indeed only 2.1A is claimed (I tested it at length!), some way short of the full 3A or 3A 'Power Delivery' that's part of the Type C specification and that we're used to from the most capable in-box and aftermarket chargers. And not compatible at all with Qualcomm Quick Charge 2/3, should you have a phone with this onboard.

Still, 2A is still a decent charging current (and the convenience of bringing only one cable to handle all your phones is probably worth taking a small hit on maximum current.

Oh, and the cable's white, which I've grown to like as it stands out in my case or bag*.

* I don't use Apple phones or tablets so I don't have a load of white gear already!




Review: Nokia 6

Wed, 16 Aug 2017 06:06:00 GMT

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



Looking back on 15 years of the megapixel race

Mon, 07 Aug 2017 06:57:45 GMT

I'm a sucker for smartphone retrospectives and also one for photography features. Put the two together and you've got a name-checking smartphone rundown from the last 15 years over on GSMArena that looks at how camera resolutions have changed in our phones. The highwater mark, of course, was the Nokia 808 PureView, from 2012, but the whole 'arc' is an interesting rogues champions gallery.From the GSMArena post: We've traced the rise of the cameraphone before, but since we're in a lull in the megapixel race, we wanted to look back and check the milestones reached along the way to the Nokia 808 PureView - the 41MP monster that (five years later) is still the phone with the highest resolution camera (and only matched by Lumia 1020 since). The Audiovox PM8920 may have been the first to cross the 1MP line with its 1.3MP camera in 2004. Niche brands aside, Motorola brought out the 1000 series phones that same year - the touch-focused A1000, the E1000 bar and V1000 flip. The Windows-powered MPx220 also joined in. Motorola A1000 • Motorola E1000 • Motorola V1000 • Motorola MPx220 Then in early 2005 Samsung unveiled the P850, a flip phone with a rotating screen and a 3.15MP camera. Sound familiar? You may be thinking of the Nokia N90 from a few months later and its 2MP camera (with Carl Zeiss optics). Before the year's end, the Nokia N80 matched Samsung at 3.15MP. And then looking ahead further in the article: There was a brief flirtation with 13MP by Motorola and Toshiba, but Nokia put an end to the debate in 2012 with, yes, the Nokia 808 PureView - one of the best cameraphones of all time. Its monstrous sensor was 1/1.2", the biggest we've seen on a mobile device. To put that in perspective, the sensor was 3 times the size of a 1/2.3" sensor like the ones we see in the Xperia XZ Premium, Google Pixel and a few others. The sheer size of the sensor meant that despite its massive 41MP resolution, pixels were still quite large at 1.4µm (the Nokia N8 was at 1.75µm pixels). But the genius of the phone was elsewhere - mature image processing and leveraging on that resolution to enable high-quality digital zoom for 8MP photos. Advanced image processing is at the heart of the best cameras today. Nokia kept things going for a bit longer, in 2013 it came out with the Lumia 1020 (running Windows Phone). It kept the 41MP resolution, though it shrunk the sensor to a still huge 1/1.5" (pixel size went down to 1.12µm). However, megapixel counts dropped off quickly after that. The rise of resolution according to tech and then the fall again as other methods of achieving results came into prominence (e.g. what I've dubbed PureView take 2) is fascinating. Also of interest might be my own 'Top 10 phone cameras of all time', in which I put the Nokia 808 at no. 4 and the Nokia Lumia 1020 at no. 5. Interestingly, my no. 1, the Lumia 950, isn't mentioned at all in the source article, probably because it focussed (pun intended) on fine tuning the innovations from the previous few years rather than breaking new ground in terms of resolution or pixel size. [...]



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

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 07:06:00 GMT

Over the years I've reviewed dozens of smartphone accessories, maybe even hundreds. And I've reviewed a fair number formally here for AAS and AAWP. But, of this mass of plastic, metal and, often, lithium, which accessories really made the grade? Which ones do I personally carry around with me on any trip out of the house of more than a few hours? Here's a glimpse into my standard kit. Shown above really is my kit, it's the case I take more or less everywhere with me and the only difference is that: I've tied it for the photo! I've set the case code here to a dummy number to mask my real case unlock... I also often take either my Surface Pro (and Backlit Type Cover) or my Macbook, depending on where I'm going and what I'm doing - and these fit in the top document pockets of the briefcase. And their chargers would go in the main body if I was gone for longer than a day, of course. I've been asked numerous times what I really, truly use, so here it all is - I'll start with the stuff in front of the case - which normally goes in my wallet or in the case or in its document flaps, as appropriate. Working left to right: A short USB Type A to microUSB cable, Nokia-branded. Has never let me down, unlike many third party cables and adapters. Nokia knew how to build cables! A Tronsmart USB Type A to Type C cable (mainly because I lost my Microsoft ones!) An Olixar Wallet Ultra-slim stand - so slim I forget it's there, yet saves the day at least once a week! An Inateck Bluetooth keyboard - it's SO slim and yet SO useable. And no, I don't think you can buy them anymore, sadly. A microUSB to USB Type A (female) adapter - for plugging in flash disks to phones 'on the go', though I can't remember when I last actually did this! A multi-way USB Type A to microUSB/Type C/Apple 30-pin adapter. Just an extra option, and again it's small and light. Would be nice to have Apple Lightning on this too. I think this came with a power bank in the distant past! OK look, it's one of those lost Microsoft Type A to Type C cables after all - phew! Now for the case contents, and I'll try to work left to right again - you'll work out what's what! The AUKEY SK-S1, the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I've ever heard, bar none. It's biggish, but when you hear the depth to the sound, it's like having a hi-fi always with me. A Choetech USB Type C to HDMI adpter cable - not cheap, but a one-wire way to connect to Continuum (etc) displays. An old tin that's the perfect size for tiny things. So it's chock full of microSD cards, adapters, old SIMs, SIM tools, USB flash disks, and anything else that would otherwise get lost! My Marshall Mode in-ear headphones. Stunning bass and general fidelity, three way media controls, sturdy clip. Again, not cheap (£40?), but you get what you pay for. My Rolson Tradesman knife - cheap and yet very well made and simply to slot in new razor blades. Perfect for unboxing things?(!) A white 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable. Because you never know when Bluetooth is going to let you down and it's best to 'jack in'! Some emergency mundane things: rubber bands, a small notebook (for ideas?), paper clips, stapler, tissues, online banking access gadget. The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter - because you can't always have cables trailing across living rooms and offices! Perfect for Continuum stuff as long as you don't mind a little lag here and there... An Integral SD card reader. Especially useful for getting photos onto - and off - awkward laptops. A Tronsmart mains-to-dual USB Type A 36W fast charger - hasn't let me down yet when there are multiple phones or tablets to charge A cheap and nasty USB current meter - sometimes this seems invaluable, other times I'm not sure I believe its readings[...]



PureView digital zoom is more common than you might think

Wed, 19 Jul 2017 07:03:00 GMT

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



The GPD Pocket now available

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:25:47 GMT

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

WBI reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Screens and resolutions through the ages

Mon, 17 Jul 2017 08:57:00 GMT

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



SIStore now online - a Symbian software archive

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 09:33:52 GMT

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

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

(image) (image)

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

(image) (image)

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

(image) (image)

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

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

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




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

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 14:17:56 GMT

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



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

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 10:17:34 GMT

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

From the Indiegogo listing:

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

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

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

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

There are several variants, with different sizes and capabilities:

  • Volterman CardHolder
  • Volterman BiFold
  • Volterman Travel

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

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

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

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




ZEISS returns to Nokia, abandons Microsoft

Thu, 06 Jul 2017 09:40:29 GMT

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



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

Wed, 05 Jul 2017 10:08:00 GMT

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