HTC Readying Desire 620 64-bit Device

Desire 620 courtesy of Nixanbal
Desire 620 courtesy of Nixanbal
HTC apparently has another new smartphone in the works, a new Desire 820 that will fill the space between budget and mid-range for the company. According to Bulgarian website, the device is coming soon and they even managed to get their hands on one, revealing it to be typical HTC fare.

For example, the obvious HTC design language is alive and well, making this a sexy little middle of the road runner. Sure, it lacks the all metal unibody of the One M8 flagship (plastic is the name of the game here), although those front facing speaker grills probably do have BoomSound’s underneath. In terms of specs, the Desire 820 is said to have a 5-inch 720p display, a quad core 1.2GHz 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of on board space, a micro SD slot, and a 2100 mAh juicer. Other specs will include Android 4.4 KitKat with HTC’s own Sense 6 skin, while this handset will certainly get Android 5.0 Lollipop eventually. It also has an 8 megapixel rear lens and a 5 megapixel front facer (EYE Experience?). The handset is probably the 64-bit replacement for the Desire 610, which was only released a few months back, so if you already have that handset prepare to be miffed. The 610 had a 4.7-inch 960×540 display, Snapdragon 400 processor, 8GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, and an 8MP rear-facing camera.


Samsung Remains Dominant in North American Phablet Market

There has been plenty of bad news for Samsung of late, but the company still has some bright points to look at. For example, the company is still the phablet king despite the arrival of the iPhone 6 Plus, at least according to market researcher Chitika. The company conducted research for the North American market, looking at smartphone traffic for devices with a screen size of over 5-inches.

The results found that despite increased competition Samsung remains comfortably out in front in terms of usage.

With Samsung’s sizable number of offerings in the segment, it’s no wonder that users of its larger-screened smartphones drive more than 77% of all phablet-based Web traffic within North America,” Chitika writes. “However, current usage statistics point to a competitive marketplace with a variety of brands achieving success with new five-inch and greater phone models.

Chitika hits on why Samsung enjoys such dominance in this sector, it’s because the company simply has so many handsets on the market and they are mostly all over 5-inches. It is this kind of market saturation that has ultimately hurt Samsung this year, but it still keeps the company on top of sales and usage lists. As for which particular device excels, the Galaxy Note 3 is the most used smartphone with a screen size of 5.5-inch of more, with 14%. Considering Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is now out in the wild that statistic will probably change in the coming months. At the moment Apple’s first ever large screen device accounts for 3.9% of the market through the first weeks of November, which is even behind Motorola and Verizon’s aging DROID Ultra (4%). Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 4 took 2.1% of all traffic, but again that number will undoubtedly grow through the Holiday Season.

source: Chitika

Microsoft Says Lumia Denim Update is Close

Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8 may have been stealing the limelight recently, but there is another major platform update on the way. Microsoft has been preparing the latest update for its Lumia smartphones and revealed on Twitter today that, “roll out soon following testing and operator approvals.”

Of course, the Microsoft updates for its own devices are not the same as a Windows Phone patch, so if you are rocking another WP smartphone then this won?t be for you. The bump is known as Lumia Denim and comes with a number of new changes to enhance the overall Windows Phone 8.1 experience. While Microsoft is saying the update is imminent, I would think that you may still be waiting at least a few weeks until carriers get hold of it and release it.

Hey Cortana ? the ability to activate cortana without touching your handset. Only for Sensorcore devices. Camera speed improvements, which much improved start up and shot to shot times. Moment Capture ? The ability to take 8.3 megapixel stills from 4K video at 24fps. This is a kind of replacement for burst mode. Burst shots now shoot between 3 and 12 images in the time it takes the human eye to blink. More camera features like Dynamic flash, auto HDR, and improved imaging algorithms. Support for Bing Weather, fitness data, or notifications on the Glance screen. Some features are part of the Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2, such as SMS forwarding, variable snooze times, Live Folders and VPN improvements.

source: WMPowerUser

LG Transpyre is a Budget LTE Device

LG has raised the curtain on yet another new device, with the Korean company now going all Samsung on us and trying to fill every niche and every price point. The new LG Transpyre is actually a device we saw last month as the LG F60, a handset that falls firmly in the budget bracket and even comes with a spot of LTE connectivity.

The handset has been launched exclusively with Verizon in the US and costs $199.99 off contract or if you are a part of Big Red’s pre-paid plan, $99.99. The handset comes with a 4.5-inch screen, but forget about anything like HD quality as this is a 480 x 800 resolution panel with a pixel density of 207ppi. Elsewhere there is a modest 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, good for 64-bit processing, and coupled with an Adreno 306 GPU and 1GB of RAM. Other specs include just 4GB of internal memory, but at least that is offset by the inclusion of a micro SD card slot to expand the storage. Cameras are taken care of by a 5 megapixel rear lens and a simple VGA front facing shooter. There is a 2100mAh battery on board, but the good news is it’s swappable, while LG has also included compatibility with Verizon’s LTE network, arguably the Transpyre’s calling card. Running the show is Android 4.4.2 KitKat, but we would be interested to see whether this device ever sees Android 5.0 Lollipop. So, hardly anything special here, but the LG Transpyre does come with an interesting price and that LTE connectivity. It is available now through Verizon.

Sony’s New Camera Sensor Ups The Imaging Ante

Sony has taken the wrapping off a new camera sensor today that should point to the future of smartphone imaging in the near future. You may be thinking why a new Sony component would show the direction of all smartphone shooters, but the Japanese company is a chief supplier to many of its smartphone rivals with lenses and other camera parts.

The new Exmor RS IMX230 features a stacked CMOS sensor comes with 21 megapixels, which is actually the same as the current effort found in Sony’s flagship smartphones. However, this newer component is smaller, with all of those megapixels crammed into a 1/2.4-inch piece, while the new sensor also gets 192 point phase detection autofocus, which should make snapping fast moving objects a lot easier to do with high quality results. Other key new features include High Dynamic Range (HDR) capture which offer high-res images and 4K video recording. You can check out the full range of features and specs from Sony’s press release below. The new sensor will be arriving on the company’s high end Xperia devices first, but it will almost certainly find its way to other smartphones too.

Tokyo, Japan – November 17, 2014 – Sony Corporation (hereafter “Sony”) today announces the commercialization of the Exmor RS IMX230 for smartphone cameras and other devices requiring increasingly sophisticated image-capture functionality. With 21 effective megapixels, this stacked CMOS imaging sensor features compact size, higher image quality, and improved functionality. This is the industry’s first CMOS image sensor for smartphones to be equipped with an onboard image plane phase detection AF signal processing function to achieve excellent focus tracking of fast-moving subjects. The High Dynamic Range (HDR) function, which captures both backgrounds and subjects clearly and vividly even in high-contrast scenes such as backlit locations, now supports high-resolution still images and 4K video recording. This new CMOS image sensor will ship in April 2015. Rather than the traditional back-illuminated CMOS image sensor’s support substrate, the Exmor RS uses a chip consisting of signal processing circuits, on top of which is stacked a pixel section consisting of back-illuminated pixels for an original stacked construction. This kind of stacked CMOS imaging sensor, which delivers superior image quality and high functionality in a compact size, was first commercialized by Sony in 2012. The new IMX230 is a type 1/2.4 stacked CMOS image sensor with a significantly improved 21 effective megapixels, and it is also equipped with a newly developed signal processing function. These features fulfill the growing needs in smartphone photography for high-speed autofocus (image plane phase detection AF) and clear, high-quality capture of bright and dark areas even in backlit scenes (HDR imaging). Image plane phase detection AF is a technology used in mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, and HDR imaging now supports not only 4K (4096 x 2160) high-resolution videos but also still images. Sony also plans to extend the lineup by adding a 16 effective megapixels stacked CMOS image sensor equipped with image plane phase detection AF and HDR imaging functions by the end of the next fiscal year. Image plane phase detection AF This function enables the camera to capture quick-moving subjects and makes accurate, high-speed autofocus tracking possible when shooting still images and videos, such as kids and animals constantly on the move and other fast subjects including athletes at sporting events. Dedicated image plane phase detection AF pixels are discretely incorporated into the screen of the image sensor, and the distance to the subject (range) and lens position for focusing are calculated based on the information obtained from these dedicated pixels. Up to 192 AF points can be used. All of this is instantaneously carried out by the stacked CMOS image sensor’s internal image processing circuits, making it easy to enjoy shooting photos and videos of fast-moving subjects on a smartphone or other device. High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging This function enables the camera to record still images and videos that reproduce details and rich gradations in the highlights and shadows of high-contrast scenes, such as those found in backlit environments. This is made possible by setting two different exposure conditions and applying the appropriate signal processing to the image information obtained from each condition. Through improved pixel placement and signal processing, this new HDR imaging function is now compatible with both video recording and, by popular demand, still image capture, the latter a feature that was not available previously. The enhanced resolution and generation of images with a wide dynamic range enable a high level of visibility and the production of images with vivid backgrounds and subjects, even in backlit conditions. This function is also compatible with 4K (4096 x 2160) high-resolution video recording. source: Sony


Galaxy Note Edge Review Roundup

Galaxy Note Edge is now rolling out in the United States and Samsung has also made the handset available for pre-order in the UK, with the rest of Europe to follow through November. The device is also in the hands of reviewers and as you can see by this quick cross section, the Note Edge seems to be a solid smartphone, but most reviews think it is a definite first attempt, while there is no getting away from the expense of buying the Note Edge.

My brief time with the device left me impressed, although I share the general view that the Edge will be the reference points for future devices of this ilk. That of course should not stop the early adopters, and the truth is they will still be getting a stellar smartphone, just one not without its issues. Yahoo Tech in its review argued that for some the added side strip screen could be a bit pointless as a notification bar, especially with apps likely to remain scarce.

The Note 4 is the best big-screen smartphone on the market, and the idea that it could be even better is intriguing, but I just can’t bring myself to say that the Note Edge is a superior device. Yes, it does make jumping between apps easier, and being able to take photos without half the screen being covered by the camera controls is great. Being able to control my music from the Edge Screen is pretty convenient, too. But in the end, the Edge’s price is simply too high to recommend over the Note 4. The benefits just don’t outweigh the $100 premium the Edge has over the Note 4.

Gizmodo shared a similar view and could not justify the extra cost, considering that the Edge has some significant limitations next to the cheaper Galaxy Note 4.

If the Note Edge was the only new Note phone, this might be a tougher call, but since it’s not, the decision is easy. The Galaxy Note Edge is not a total disaster by any means, but you should definitely just get the Galaxy Note 4 instead, and maybe use some of the money you save to buy a bedside alarm clock and a book of conversation starters.

The Wall Street Journal also raised the subject of the extra sided screen and argued that it could be a redundant feature for some. The publication offered that the device is not needed, although did commend Samsung for at least experimenting.

Giving 110% can sometimes be too much. The Note Edge may appeal to Android lovers who enjoy customizing their phones. With the side screen, you get 160 precious new rows of pixels to add a launchpad for apps or a Times Square-like news ticker. Some people may find creative uses for the space, for instance by personalizing it with a pencil-thin animated picture. The unusual design certainly attracts attention. But to me, the Note Edge ends up being yet another distraction in the arms race for our attention. I’m glad Samsung is experimenting with new designs, but the Edge just tacks on new territory to an already cluttered phone landscape.

Here are some other choice cuts from around the web, starting with Mashable:

The edge panel itself is a well-thought-out piece of technology. It’s not buggy in the slightest, and it was an expert at responding to my finger taps – it hardly ever confused an edge tap with one on the main screen, and there were virtually no “false positives” from my palm, even though it appears to rest dangerously close to the panel as you hold it. Certainly, the Note Edge won’t force a wholesale rethink of smartphone design. But I could see it becoming the defining feature of a sub-brand of Galaxy phones. Given its size and price premium, it should be considered Samsung’s dreadnought class.

CNET wrote:

The Edge is a phone made for righties and adapted for the southpaws among us. A setting to flip the icons 180 degrees lets lefties turn the phone upside down so they can swipe and tap on the Edge display with their dominant hands. Since that orientation now puts the home button and navigation keys along the top (and well out of reach), you can swipe up to surface some on-screen navigation controls. It’s a workaround that seems to do the trick. With a product as daring as the Note Edge, a lot could have gone wrong. In this case, most of the technical stuff went right. The problem is justifying the high price and swooshing body shape compared to the more straightforward phones out there.

BGR said the device was simply not worth the cost:

But would I buy one myself? Definitely not. $400 is too steep an asking price for this phone. Period. The Edge panel doesn’t currently add $100 of value in my opinion, and I simply don’t have confidence that this is something third-party developers will be quick to embrace so they can add additional value to the Edge panel.

Finally TechCrunch added that it is not a necessary product but is still a welcome one:

As far as gimmicks go, however, I’m fine with this one and consider it a step forward. It’s a beautiful phone, well built, and usable enough to rival any other phablet. It’s not going to win any hearts and minds over less exotic devices (it’s $400 with contract on AT&T and about $840 unlocked, which could turn some off) but it does have a definite edge and it?s the shape of things to come.

source: Yahoo, Mashable, CNET, BGR, TechCrunch, Gizmodo

Microsoft CEO discusses Apple, Google, and slow growth of Windows Phone

Microsoft has done well through the quarters this year, but a change of CEO has brought another change of strategy for the company, while the Windows Phone platform has struggled to gain ground in mature markets.

Steve Ballmer through his latter tenure as Microsoft CEO turned the company into a devices and services brand, essentially pushing it towards the likes of Apple and Samsung. In other words Microsoft became a hardware focused company and bought the Nokia devices division as a result. However, the key to any hardware success for Microsoft is the popularity of the Windows Phone platform. However, while Windows Phone has continued to perform well in emerging markets (increasing to 10% market share in some regions), it still struggles in mature markets. In the United States the platform has fallen, while in Europe market share has grown by just minor percentiles. New CEO Satya Nadella has a new vision for the company and is steering Microsoft back to being a productivity company, although he plans to focus on software, the hardware side of things will play a part. In fact he is aiming to make a unified software experience (Windows 10) that is spread across multiple form factors, including the company’s own smartphones and tablets.

I want to be sure we have very popular applications as well as the fabric behind these applications,” Nadella told a small gathering of journalists and analysts at the company’s headquarters last Thursday. “Once we have that, we are working to make Windows a device family across all screen sizes.” “As we grow share, we will have a transference to the phone,” Nadella said. “We did the band as a cross platform piece. That’s the beginning of a relationship with Microsoft. Windows Phone is part of a bigger play.

Recently Nadella spoke about the strengths of both Apple and Google, but he contended that Microsoft has its own strengths and can compete with those rivals.

When I think about what Apple does, what Google does and what Microsoft does, therein lies perhaps the simplest answer to why these three identities are actually pretty distinct. To me Apple’s very, very clear, and, in fact, I think Tim Cook did a great job of even describing that very recently where he said they sell devices and that?s what Apple is all about. And Google is about being, it?s about data or it?s about advertising, it is about serving you ads in a tasteful way, and they’ve done a great job of that business. Whereas in our case our identity really is about empowering others to build products. It?s not really about us and our products. Of course, we have a revenue model and a business model, but to me the place where Microsoft can be distinct and where it comes naturally to us more so than anything else is from the creator of a document to a developer writing an app, to anyone else who is in the business of actually their own creation we want to be the tools provider, the platform provider. That’s the core identity, and productivity to me that?s why it has deep meaning.