It's been a busy year for phones so far ... who is coming out on top?

Subject: Mobile | August 11, 2015 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, Moto G, galaxy s6, LG G4, iphone 6, HTC One M9, blackphone

The Inquirer has taken a look back at the past years smartphone releases with an eye towards providing a resource to help you compare them.  So far there are 11 phones in their round up, including the somewhat maligned Blackphone which was intended to be completely secure but turned out to be a little less invulnerable than advertised.  An overview of each phone is provided covering basic statistics such as screen size and resolution and often the processor inside.  As you would expect they also include a link to their reviews of the phone and they plan on updating the article as new phones are released.

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"THE SMARTPHONE MARKET is becoming increasingly competitive, make it harder and harder for buyers to choose which handset is right for them."

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Mobile

Source: The Inquirer

ASUS Announces the ZenFone 2 Powered by Quad-Core Intel Atom

Subject: Mobile | May 18, 2015 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: ZenFone 2, smartphones, intel atom, atom z3580, asus

ZenFone 2 is the new flagship smartphone from ASUS ZenFone, and features a new design powered by an Intel Atom Z3580 (Moorefield) processor with a massive 4GB of RAM.

zenfone2_main.png

The phone has a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display with 403 PPI for crisp scaling, and the “Ergonomic Arc” design includes a volume-control key on the rear of the phone “within easy reach of the user's index finger”, with a curved profile that tapers to a 0.15 inch at the edges.

The camera also features a 13 MP PixelMaster camera with a f/2.0 aperture and claimed “zero shutter-lag”. The battery weighs in at 3000mAh and features “BoostMaster” fast-charge technology that sounds similar to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.

But one of the most attractive features will be price, as ASUS will be selling these online through their retail channels as affordable unlocked smartphones:

  • 2GB / 16GB storage / Atom 3560 - $199
  • 4GB / 64GB storage / Atom 3580 / QuickCharger - $299

Here's look at the specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Quad-Core 64-bit Atom Z3580 @ 2.3GHz (Min Clock 333MHz, Max Clock 2333MHz)
  • GPU: PowerVR Series 6 G6430 with OpenGL 3.0 Support (Min Clock 457MHz, Max Clock 533MHz)
  • Display: 5.5in IPS, 1920x1080 resolution (403 PPI), Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with Anti-Fingerprint Coating
  • Memory: 4GB 800 MHz LPDDR3
  • Storage: 64GB eMMC
  • SIM: Support Dual active micro-SIM
  • Micro-SD slot: SDXC support up to 128GB
  • Modem: Intel XMM7260 LTE-Advanced
    • FDD LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/177/18/19/20/28/29
    • TDD LTE 38/39/40/41
    • WCDMA 850/900/1900
    • TD-SCDMA 1900/2100
    • EDGE/GPRS/GSM 850/900/1800/1900
  • Wireless: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
  • Rear Camera: 13MP, aperture f/2.0, sensor size 1/3.2 inch
  • Front Camera: 5MP
  • Maximum Video Resolution: 1080p/30
  • Battery: 3000 mAh Lithium-Polymer (11.4 Wh), Boostmaster Fast-Charging
  • Colors: Glacier Gray, Osmium Black, Glamour Red, Sheer Gold
  • Dimensions: 152.5 mm x 77.2 mm x 10.9-3.9 mm (6 x 3.04 x 0.43-.15 inches)
  • Weight: 170g

PR after the break.

Source: ASUS
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Motorola

Introduction

Motorola has released an updated version of their low-cost Moto E smartphone for 2015, adding faster hardware and LTE support to an unlocked device with an unsubsidized retail of just $149. In this review we'll examine this new phone to find out if there are any significant limitations given its bargain price.

Moto_E_main.jpg

Introduction

There has been a trend toward affordability with smartphone pricing that accelerated in 2014 and has continued its pace to start this year. Of course expensive flagships still exist at their $500+ unsubsidized retail prices, but is the advantage of such a device worth the price premium? In most cases a customer in a retail space would be naturally drawn to the more expensive phones on display with their large, sharp screens and thin designs that just look better by comparison. To get the latest and greatest the longstanding $500 - $700 unsubsidized cost of popular smartphones have made 2-year contract pricing a part of life for many, with contract offers and programs allowing users to lease or finance phones positioned as attractive alternatives to the high initial price. And while these high-end options can certainly reward the additional cost, there are rapidly diminishing returns on investment once we venture past the $200 mark with a mobile device. So it’s this bottom $200 of the full-price phone market which is so interesting not just to myself, but to the future of smartphones as they become the commodity devices that the so-called “feature phones” once were.

One of the companies at the forefront of a lower-cost approach to smartphones is Motorola, now independent from Google after Motorola Mobility was sold to Lenovo in October of 2014. A year before the sale Motorola had released a low-cost smartphone called the Moto G, an interesting product which ran stock Android for a fraction of the cost of a Google Play edition or even Nexus device; though it was underpowered with decidedly low-end specs. After a redesign in 2014, however, the 2nd edition Moto G became a much more compelling option, offering a unique combination of low price, respectable hardware, a stock Android experience, and Motorola’s now trademark design language, to a market drowning in bloated MSRPs. There was just one problem: while the 2014 Moto G had solid performance and had (quite importantly) moved larger 5-inch screen with a higher 720x1280 resolution IPS panel, there was still no LTE support. Selling without a contract for just $179 unlocked made the lack of LTE at least understandable, but as carrier technology has matured the prevalence of LTE has made it an essential part of future devices - especially in 2015. Admittedly 3G data speeds are fast enough for many people, but the structure of the modern mobile data plan  often leaves that extra speed on the table if one’s device doesn’t support LTE.

Moto_E_cover.jpg

Continue reading our review of the new Motorla Moto E smartphone!!

MWC 2015: Samsung Has Officially Announced the New Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | March 1, 2015 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphones, Samsung, MWC 2015, MWC, Galaxy S6 Edge, galaxy s6, Exynos 7420, 14nm

Samsung has announced the new Galaxy S phones at MWC, and the new S6 and S6 Edge should be in line with what you were expecting if you’ve followed recent rumors.

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The new Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge (Image credit: Android Central)

As expected we no longer see a Qualcomm SoC powering the new phones, and as the rumors had indicated Samsung opted instead for their own Exynos 7 Octa mobile AP. The Exynos SoC’s have previously been in international versions of Samsung’s mobile devices, but they have apparently ramped up production to meet the demands of the US market as well. There is an interesting twist here, however.

14nmOcta.jpg

The Exynos 7420 powering both the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge is an 8-core SoC with ARM’s big.LITTLE design, combining four ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores. Having announced 14nm FinFET mobile AP production earlier in February the possibility of the S6 launching with this new part was interesting, as the current process tech is 20nm HKMG for the Exynos 7. However a switch to this new process so soon before the official announcement seemed unlikely as large-scale 14nm FinFET production was just unveiled on February 16. Regardless, AnandTech is reporting that the new part will indeed be produced using this new 14nm process technology, and this gives Samsung an industry-first for a mobile SoC with the launch of the S6/S6 Edge.

GSM Arena has specs of the Galaxy S6 posted, and here’s a brief overview:

  • Display: 5.1” Super AMOLED, QHD resolution (1440 x 2560, ~577 ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
  • OS: Android OS, v5.0 (Lollipop) - TouchWiz UI
  • Chipset: Exynos 7420
  • CPU: Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57
  • GPU: Mali-T760
  • Storage/RAM: 32/64/128 GB, 3 GB RAM
  • Camera: (Primary) 16 MP, 3456 x 4608, optical image stabilization, autofocus, LED flash
  • Battery: 2550 mAh (non-removable)

The new phones both feature attractive styling with metal and glass construction and Gorilla Glass 4 sandwiching the frame, giving each phone a glass back.

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The back of the new Galaxy S6 (Image credit: Android Central)

The guys at Android Central (source) had some pre-release time with the phones and have a full preview and hands-on video up on their site. The new phones will be released worldwide on April 10, and no specifics on pricing have been announced.

Ahead of MWC, 2015 Is Shaping up to Be a Good Year for Low-Cost Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | February 28, 2015 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, MWC 2015, MWC, Moto E, LG Magna, ios, Android 5.0

Last year my favorite smartphone became the 2014 version of the Moto G. This was (and still is) a $179 unlocked Android phone that shipped with 4.4.4 KitKat, but recently received an OTA update to 5.0 Lollipop (and subsequently 5.0.2 via a second OTA update). Motorola’s aggressive pricing made the phone compelling on paper, but using the device was even more impressive. It looked good, with a 5-inch 720p IPS display and the same design language as the Moto X and later Nexus 6, and ran a virtually untouched stock Android OS. It was never going to win any awards for raw speed, but the quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC was plenty fast for daily use. The main drawback was a glaring one, however: the Moto G was not LTE capable. Enter the new Moto E.

Screenshot_2015-02-28-16-19-06~2.jpg

The Moto E 2nd Edition

Here are some quick specs from Motorola:

Moto E 2nd Edition (LTE capable)
4.5” 540x960 display
Android 5.0.x
Snapdragon 410
Quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A53/Adreno 306
1GB RAM/8GB storage
2390 mAh battery
Unlocked, $149

We are already off to a solid start in 2015 with a great option from Motorola in the new 2nd edition Moto E. This LTE capable smartphone might look a little chunky, but the specs make it more that just a compelling option at $149 (unlocked) as it could have the disruptive impact on price that Microsoft just couldn’t make last year with their inexpensive Lumia phones. With 2015’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) fast approaching the Moto E has already been making some noise in the affordable phone space that last year’s Moto G played a big part in, and this time the message is clear: in 2015 a smartphone needs to have LTE, regardless of price.

To be fair Microsoft has already addressed need for LTE with their low-cost Windows Phone devices like the Lumia 635 (which is actually selling for just $49 on Amazon now), but the app ecosystem for the platform is just too restrictive to make it a viable solution compared to Android and iOS. Honestly, I love the Windows Phone OS but there are too many missing apps to make it a daily driver. So, since Windows clearly isn’t the answer and Apple won’t be selling a sub-$200 unlocked smartphone anytime soon (the cheapest unlocked iPhone is the 8GB 5c at $450), that leaves Android (of course).

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LG's 2015 mid-range smartphone lineup

Another possibility comes from LG, as ahead of MWC there was a press release from the company showcasing their new “mid-range” smartphone lineup for 2015. Among the models listed is another phone that matches the specs associated with a $200-ish unlocked phone, but pricing has not been announced yet.

LG Magna (LTE capable) - Unreleased
5.0” 720x1280 display
Android 5.0.x
Quad-core 1.2/1.3GHz
1GB RAM, 8GB storage
2540 mAh battery

We await the announcements from MWC and there are sure to be many other examples of low-cost LTE devices, but already it’s looking like it won’t take more than $200 and a SIM card to avoid the endless device upgrade cycle in 2015.

Intel is investing in mobile chips

Subject: General Tech | December 8, 2014 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, iot, billions

Intel has pulled out some spare change to upgrade its plant in Chengdu, in what analysts are predicting will be focused on Intel's ultra-mobile chips.  It certainly comes at an interesting time for the market, Google and Microsoft have both had recent unpleasantness with the Chinese government while Qualcomm, a direct mobile market competitor, is about to fork over what could be a record breaking settlement to Chinese anti-trust investigators.  This could make talent from Qualcomm available for Intel to hire as well as giving them even more of a financial advantage.  It marks a change in the recent trend of Intel to invest heavily in their US assets and reinforces their desire to make headway in the current ultramobile market and the burgeoning Internet of Things.  Check out the links at The Register for a bit more background on the state of this market.

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"Chipzilla has decided to take another run at the mobile chip market, announcing plans to spin as much as US$1.6 billion in the direction of its Chengdu plant in China to achieve its aims."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

MWC 2014: Lenovo S860, S850, S660 Phones Announced

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | February 24, 2014 - 12:01 AM |
Tagged: smartphones, MWC 14, MWC, Lenovo

Also at Mobile World Congres, Lenovo expanded their smartphone portfolio with three additions. Each of these belong to the S-series, although they are only loosely related to one another. North American readers will probably not be able to purchase them, of course; Lenovo's US and Canada websites do not even have a section for smartphones (products like the Vibe Z can be searched directly - but are not available). I take that as a sign.

lenovo-mwc14-smartphones.jpg

Anyway, the three phones belong to the S-series but each has a distinct customer in mind. The S860 seems to picture a business user who travels and wants to talk for long periods of time between charges. The similarly named S850 cuts back on RAM and charge capacity, replacing it with aesthetics (colors and an all-glass exterior) and a slightly lower price for users looking for design. Finally, the S660 is the lowest-price of the three, sacrificing things like camera, storage, and screen resolution for users who do not care about any of that.

Let us compare the three phones in a table.

  S860 S850 S660
Display 5.3" 720p 5" 720p 4.7" 960x540
Processor (SoC) MediaTek Quad-Core, 1.3 GHz
RAM 2GB 1GB
Dual SIM Card Yes
Storage 16GB 8GB
Battery Capacity 4000mAh 2000mAh 3000mAh
Battery Life
24 hours
(3G voice)
Unlisted "All Day"

All three phones will be available this year, either at retail or on Lenovo's website. The Lenovo S860 is expected to retail for $349, the S850 should be $269, and the S660 comes in at $229.

Source: Lenovo

More fuel for the rumours that Intel is abandoning smartphones

Subject: General Tech | January 28, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: Intel, smartphones, edison

As part of their keynote address at CES 2014 Intel introduced Edison, a dual core x86 machine the size of an SD card.  This chip will be used not for powering smartphones but for wearable technology as well as for the so called 'Internet of Things'.   As it is WiFi enabled it can be accessed wirelessly to allow fridges to order food or as in the provided example, start a baby bottle warming before you arrive with your hungry child.  With this new focus and the poor performance of Intel's smartphones overseas the rumours that DigiTimes are reporting on seem to be probable.  Their deal with Lenovo to provide phones has ended and while they do have a current relationship with Asustek, that could end as soon as 2015.  The chances of North Americans getting hold of a phone with Intel Inside seem to be diminishing.

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"A rumor circulating in the upstream supply chain in Taiwan has Intel reportedly questioning whether it should quit the smartphone market in 2015 if it continues to see weak performance in its handset business in 2014, according to sources from the upstream supply chain, though Intel has not yet commented on the rumor."

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Source: DigiTimes

LG Has Sold 10 Million LTE Smartphones Worldwide, Expects to Double Market Penetration in 2013

Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2013 - 05:37 AM |
Tagged: smartphones, LTE, LG, Android

LG recently announced that it has sold 10 million smartphones equipped with LTE (Long Term Evolution) radios. That number is merely a small slice of the total 90.9 million LTE phones shipped in 2012 by all manufacturers, but it is an impressive number for the South Korean company.

LG attributes its record sales to is flagship Optimus G and other LTE smartphones being launched in the United States, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. LG smartphones are still somewhat rare in the US, with Samsung and HTC dominating the Android options here. Still, it is nice to see additional competition, and hopefully LG will make itself more widely known in North America.

LG Optimus G.jpg

Through 2013, LG expects to double its market penetration with new LTE smartphones in additional emerging markets. Surprisingly, research firm Strategy Analytics estimates that global LTE smartphone shipments will grow Year over Year 202.5% to 275 million units. That is quite the jump from 2012’s 90.9 million LTE smartphones! According to LG, part of the company’s plan to contribute to that estimated shipment number is to introduce two new smartphones in the Optimus F series, and to roll-out the existing Optimus G to 50 additional countries.

The two new Optimus F smartphones feature LTE radios, IPS displays, large displays, and beefy batteries. The Optimus F7 has a 4.7” (312 PPI) IPS display, 1.5GHz dual core SoC, 2540 mAh battery, and 2GB of RAM. The Optimus F5, on the other hand, has a 4.3” (256 PPI) IPS display, 1.2GHz dual core SoC, 2150 mAh battery, and 1GB of RAM.

It remains to be seen whether or not LG can reach its goal, but I am hopeful that the company will at least be able to give the other Android smartphone makers a run for their money with new phone designs.

You can find the full press release over at Engadget.

Source: Engadget

CES 2013: Intel Announces Atom Z2420 Processor for Smartphones

Subject: General Tech | January 8, 2013 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphones, Intel, atom z2420, atom

Intel recently announced a new Atom-series Z2420 processor aimed at low-cost smartphones.   The new System on a Chip will complement the existing Medfield and Clover Trail+ line – which are for higher-performance devices – by being aimed at the low cost phones in developing markets. The Atom Z2420 combines a CPU, L2 cache, GPU, memory controller, cryptography  engine, image signal processor, and fixed function hardware used for video encoding and decoding. The chip is designed to be low power and is manufactured on Intel’s 32nm High-k metal gate process technology. According to Intel, the Co-PoP package measures 12 mm x 12 mm making it suitable for the intended smartphone form factor.

CES2013_Smartphone_Reference_Design.jpg

Specifications include a single core processor with 512KB of L2 cache running at 1.2 GHz that supports Intel’s HyperThreading, Burst, and low power C6 state technologies. With HyperThreading, it can utilize two threads and with Burst, the processor can dynamically scale frequency to balance power usage and CPU load. The Intel GMA GPU uses PowerVR SGX540 graphics cores clocked at 400 Mhz. It is compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0 and OpenVG 1.1. The GPU is rated at 40 MTS peak polygons and a 2000 MPPS peak fill rate. Additionally, the SoC features hardware that can hardware encode/decode 30 FPS 1080p video in H.264, H.263, and MP4. Further, the hardware can hardware accelerate decoding of VC1, WMV9 but it cannot hardware accelerate encoding of those two additional formats. The Atom Z2420 SoC supports dual channel LPDDR2 memory clocked at 400 MHz. The Image Signal Processor (ISP) can support a 1.2MP and 8MP front and rear cameras. The SoC can support 15 FPS burst capture, video image stabilization, and HD video recording.

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Intel has positioned the Atom Z2420 SoC at the Android operating system, and has even built a reference smartphone with the new processor. Acer, Lava, and Safaricom are among the companies lined up to produce future budget smartphones with the new SoC. Unfortunately, Atom Z2420-powered smartphones are not headed to the United States. Intel is sticking to developing markets suchs as India, Latin America, and Africa. Here's hoping next year Intel (finally) feels its mobile (smartphone) hardware is ready to compete with the ARM giants and that it pushes for Atom-powered smartphones in additional countries (including the US). Until then, you can find more information on the current generation Z2420 in the press release (PDF).

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Source: Intel