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Posts tagged ‘Asus’

30
Jun

Form factors: which design language do you prefer?


flagship smartphones aa (7 of 18)

A short while ago, I wrote a small story about tablets. Despite my love for them, I will be the first to admit that affection is not spread equally. Some devices are not created as equal as others, though ironically (for the purposes of this piece), this has less to do with specs and more to do with design choices.

In this feature, we will take a look a the major form factors of devices and analyze the benefits of each, as well as the demerits. At the end, we’d like to ask you, the reader, to let us know your own personal preferences with a short survey.

Google’s on-screen buttons

nexus 6 review aa (14 of 14)

Lean and clean: AOSP uses on-screen buttons to handle navigation.

The best place to start the party is with Google’s core Android design, and generally speaking, that means Nexus devices. For the sake of this feature, this means on-screen navigation buttons. While Lollipop has ushered in a new, Playstation-esque geometry, the functionality is still relatively unchanged. You have a back button, a home button, and a quick access button.

Pros: In terms of hardware, having on-screen navigation frees up OEMs from needing to add any mechanical or capacitive features to their devices. While the power and volume buttons will always be present, the “Samsung effect” isn’t needed.

Cons: The one main problem with on-screen navigation is, and will seemingly always be, the reduced screen real estate. The buttons take up space, and nothing else is able to use it. As a result, a device like the HTC One M9 seems to have an even smaller screen due to the unusable space. Granted the buttons can be hidden, but when using the device in earnest (as opposed to a video or game) the problem is always black and white. Literally.

Special Mention: LG (and these days, some additional OEMs as well) has been allowing users to customize the navigational buttons for some time now. One option in particular that fans of phablets might like is the ability to add a notification shade drop down button thus alleviating the need to contort your hand to reach the top of the screen, or hold the device with both hands. Even on lower models that lack the customization, LG still lets users opt to swap the order of the core three AOSP buttons. LG also allows you an option to manually set the navigation buttons to hide and require a gesture to call them up on higher end devices.

Samsung’s physical and capacitive combo

samsung galaxy tab s 10.5 first look (8 of 24)

For me personally, this product -which should be among the top tablets for Android – is absolutely ruined by the capacative keys that constantly get hit by mistake.

Arguably a large part of why some feel Samsung’s fruits to be rotten, the Galaxy series has always employed a clickable, mechanical home button. Unlike Apple however, it also flanked it with two capacitive buttons which have changed functionality (and design) over the years.

Pros: Samsung’s products offer a lot of benefits to those who want maximized screen real estate, physical buttons, and these days, fingerprint sensors. The basic layout hasn’t changed (though the Menu Button was changed to a Recent App button last year) since the original Galaxy S.

Cons: Arguably the biggest problem with Samsung’s design choices are accidental button input. Especially with some of the lower end Galaxy Tab products, the “hit zone” can be quite large and thus create a totally jarring experience. Even in more premium products like the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, the buttons are so irritating that I literally can’t use the device in portrait mode because one of the capacitive keys will always get hit. More recently, Samsung has suffered some user outrage for removing the ability to set the time out lighting for the capacitive keys on the S6.

LG’s back mounted buttons

lg-g4-first-look-aa-22-of-32

LG has the “smartphone mullet” going on: AOSP business up front, and button bash on the back.

Starting with the LG G2, Korea’s other major conglomerate shook up the world by making a mainstay of the mullet: business up front, and a party in the back. The decision to move power and volume keys to the back of the device doesn’t directly affect Android interaction (namely because LG opts for on-screen buttons) but it did pave way for things like tap-to-wake and to this day is a love it or hate it affair.

Pros: LG’s approach solves the problem of accidental button presses a la Samsung. For all those who hold a device in landscape orientation and accidentally hit the power or volume keys in the process, having buttons on the back is a great feature.

Cons: While a smartphone is arguably acceptable, when tablets such as the Motorola Xoom opt for buttons on the back, the end result was an exercise in frustration more times than not. Even LG has opted not to use rear mounted buttons for its tablets.

The hybrids

Asus PadFone Mini aa 3

Asus as one form of a hybrid product going for it.

Type 1: The Multi-Form

Asus is one company that has been actively pushing hybrid devices for some time now. The Padfone for example, is a smartphone that has an optional tablet dock that basically converts the smartphone display and mirrors it on a tablet “frame” all while charging the battery of the smaller unit.

Pros: This is an great choice for people who only want to use one main device.

Cons: While buying the set is arguably cheaper than buying a top-tier phone and tablet, with this you’re really only getting a phone yet paying through the roof. The problem lies in the fact that the “frame” is absolutely useless by itself and thus if you forget your phone at work, you can’t use the tablet. Likewise, the tablet has no internal storage or specs to speak of, and thus you’d better be satisfied with the specs of the Padfone smartphone.

Type 2: The Foldable

Medias W

While the most recent example of a foldable device was the Japan-only NEC Medias W released some years ago, other examples include the Kyocera Echo and the Sony Tablet P. These devices all used two separate panels that worked in tandem to create one larger image. In the case of the Medias W, you could opt to use just one screen as the device folded in half “reverse book-wise” though with the Sony Tablet P it could only be used with the screens together.

Pros: The ultimate in compact-yet-expandable size factor. These devices were all quite small yet when using both screens, created a much larger experience. Samsung is rumored to be making a product that would possibly feature two truly bendable displays.

Cons: Basically everything. My own experiences with the Medias W and the Tablet P were met with endless irritation as key apps weren’t compatible (in particular, YouTube with the Tablet P), problems with the gap separating the two screens and dragging/dropping elements, battery life, software issues…until someone can actually get this right, it’s safe to say there’s a reason we haven’t seen any new foldable device in the past couple of years.

Wrap up

So now that you’ve gone through the three (arguably four) main types of hardware design language choices, please feel free to take our survey below and let us know which you prefer. Drop a comment as well and let us know just why you made your choice, or what form factor you’d really want to see in the future.

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26
Jun

Galaxy S6 takes first place in real world speed test, beating out LG’s G4 and the iPhone 6


Samsung_Galaxy_S6_LG_G4_Cameras_01_TAA new massive benchmark from Tom’s Guide has put six of the best performing smartphones on the market against each other to see which phone came out on top in a variety of situations. The tests measured everything from real-life performance and tasks you’d typically do on your smartphone every day, to gaming and other benchmarks. The test measured the Samsung Galaxy S6, LG G4, HTC One M9, Google Nexus 6, Asus Zenfone 2, and Apple iPhone 6, so there’s a very wide variety of hardware here.

What’s definitely going to be great news for Samsung, their Galaxy S6 finished in 1st place a vast majority of the benchmarks, including PDF loading times, gaming performance, WiFi speed, and a handful of benchmarks. This can probably be attributed to Samsung’s own zippy Exynos processor, their very fast memory modules, and the insanely fast flash storage they opted to use in the S6. Surprisingly, though, the LG G4 beats out the S6 in camera opening time. Considering how much Samsung mentioned the quick camera shortcut on the home button, you’d think that would have scored better in a benchmark. But hey. props to LG for pulling that off.

The G4 scored 1st in camera opening time, as well as a Basemark OSII Memory test. Interestingly, the G4 pretty typically beat out the Snapdragon 810 powered HTC One M9. Considering the G4 has a higher resolution and only a Snapdragon 808 processor, this is almost irrefutable proof that the 810 has some problems. The only benchmark that the M9 came out ahead in was a 3dMark benchmark.

Another note worth mentioning is how poorly the Nexus 6 runs compared to other devices. It held up fairly well in benchmarks, but in real world tests, it was pretty consistently dead last, beaten by the Zenfone 2 and HTC’s M9. Considering Nexus phone are supposed to run very fast, completely stock versions of Android, that’s more than a little disappointing.

source: Tom’s Guide

via: Android Authority

Come comment on this article: Galaxy S6 takes first place in real world speed test, beating out LG’s G4 and the iPhone 6

26
Jun

ASUS’ ZenWatch drops down to $150


ASUS Zenwatch-19
With the recent announcement of the Asus ZenWatch 2 at Computex, Amazon and Best Buy have decided to lower the price of the first generation model down to $150. While it’s no longer the latest and greatest, the ZenWatch is still a solid piece of kit, powered by Android Wear and sporting a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 with 512MB RAM.

On the downside, the ZenWatch has been updated to Android 5.1.1 but isn’t capable of supporting Wi-Fi functionality, due to hardware restrictions. If you’re okay with having to carry your phone with you  in order for the watch to work, then this is still a great deal if you’re wanting to jump onto the smartwatch bandwagon.

For those on the fence between picking up the ZenWatch over its successor, one of the biggest differences is the ZenWatch 2 has a revamped design and will come in two sizes, bringing a 37mm face in addition to the larger 41mm face. The IP certification has also been bumped up from IP55 to IP67, which means enhanced resistance to dust and water. In the hardware section, the ZenWatch 2 will come with a new magnetic charging system and a functional crown. The battery life is also expected to be improved dramatically over the previous model possibly making it last as long as 4 days.

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If you don’t care about having the newest model available, the specs of the ZenWatch should still be more than enough to handle Android Wear into the foreseeable future, though it might miss out on a few minor features here and there due to hardware limitations. And since most of us will be carrying our phones anyways, the lack of WiFi capabilities shouldn’t be a deal breaker. So will you stick with last year’s model and get a great deal or perhaps wait for some better hardware to come out before you buy a Smartwatch? Let us know down in the comments.

Get the Zenwatch here: Amazon, Best Buy

20
Jun

Talk Android Weekly Recap: June 14 – June 20, 2015


TalkAndroid_Weekly_Recap

And that’s a wrap for another week in the Android world. There were some exciting stories in the spotlight this week, such as a possible $100 million fine on AT&T and Nest unveiling some exciting products to “focus on the little things, so you can focus on the things that matter.”

That’s just a small look into what happened this week. Want to catch up? Be sure to check out some of the top headlines below:

Have a great week, everyone!

Come comment on this article: Talk Android Weekly Recap: June 14 – June 20, 2015

19
Jun

You can now unofficially unlock the ASUS ZenFone 2 bootloader


ASUS-Zenfone-2-13

For those of you who have been waiting patiently to begin tinkering around with the ASUS ZenFone 2, now is your chance. According to a thread on XDA, the ZenFone 2’s bootloader has been unofficially unlocked by the community, and there’s a list of instructions available on the thread that explains how to do it yourself.

First and foremost, you’ll need to be running the latest firmware, version 2.19.40, and your ZenFone 2 needs to be rooted. After typing in a handful of adb commands and downloading a small file, your phone should be unlocked.

Don’t miss: ASUS ZenFone 2 review

Now that the bootloader is unlocked, developers can begin building custom recoveries and ROMs for users to flash on their devices, which is where all of the fun starts. Keep in mind that while this is arguably one of the most enjoyable aspects of Android, unlocking the bootloader isn’t for everyone and can result in a bricked smartphone. If you feel like you’re up for the challenge, however, go ahead and follow the source link below to get all of the details.

Do you own a ZenFone 2? If so, will you be unlocking the bootloader? Be sure to let us know in the comment section.

19
Jun

Best cheap Android tablets (June 2015)


While high-end devices are generally the stars of the Android world, there is a growing emphasis on quality on a budget, and that’s very visible in the tablet arena.

From companies that are willing to sacrifice profits for the sake of market share, to established players looking to improve their game in the mid-range, several companies have brought to market affordable Android tablets that are actually worth buying. Unfortunately, for every great cheap Android tablet, there are tons of poorly made, clunky, and underpowered slates out there, which can make buying tablets on a budget a pain. We’re here to help.

No budget limitations? See The best Android tablets money can buy

If you’re looking for a good budget-friendly gift for a loved one, or just want to treat yourself, check out our list of best affordable Android tablets. Let’s get started!

Update, June 2015: Joining the Nexus 7 (2013) and the Asus MemoPad 8 on our list, are some new devices like the 10-inch Lenovo Tab 2 A10, as well as tablets that have received significant price cut that put them in the range of $200 or below, including the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4.

Nexus 7 (2013)

Despite being almost two years old, the Nexus 7 (2013) is still one of the best tablets you can buy, and with newer tablets making their way to consumers, the already attractive price tag of the Nexus 7 (2013) is bound to get even better.

The Nexus 7 (2013)’s quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 320 GPU and 2GB of RAM is still more than capable of handling all but the most processor-intensive activities. Its display resolution is still the highest you can get in this size category, and most importantly, you get a great software experience, helped along by the guarantee of timely updates, including Android 5.0 Lollipop. This is why the Nexus 7 (2013) opens our list of best cheap Android tablets.

Specs

  • 7-inch LCD IPS display with 1920 x 1200 resolution (323ppi)
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor
  • Adreno 320 GPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB storage
  • 5 MP rear camera, 1.2 MP front-facing camera
  • 200 x 114 x 8.7 mm, 290 grams
  • 3,950 mAh
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

Read more

Buy from Amazon from $182


Asus MeMO Pad 8

asus memopad 8

Asus refreshed the affordable Android tablet it first launched last year, bringing to the new MeMO Pad 8 improved specifications and a better overall performance. The new MeMO Pad 8 combines a 8-inch IPS LCD screen with a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor running at 1.33 GHz and 1GB of RAM. A thin and light design makes this tablet very portable, and a ton of extra goodies worth around $270 makes this a good choice for budget buyers.

Specs

  • 8-inch IPS LCD display with 1200 x 800 resolution (189 ppi)
  • 1.33 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal storage, expandable
  • 5 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 211.7 x 124.9 x 8.3 mm, 320 grams
  • 3,040 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Buy from Amazon from $179


Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

While the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is priced slightly above $200, it’s a difficult device to ignore, given all that it offers for only a slightly higher price tag compared to the other devices on this list of cheap Android tablets. With its very high resolution display, making it a fantastic media-consumption companion, and a processing package that powered flagship devices only a short time ago, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is more than impressive when you consider its price point.

Samsung is known for packing their devices to the hilt with software features, and that is also available here for those that are looking for it. Samsung has refreshed their mid-range tablet portfolio since the release of this device, but the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 remains one of the best choices of the lot, and not only because of its comparatively cheaper price point.

Specs

  • 8.4-inch Super Clear LCD display with 2560 x 1600 resolution (359 ppi)
  • 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16/32 GB storage, expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 219 x 128.5 x 7.2 mm, 331 grams
  • 4,800 mAh
  • Android 4.4 Kitkat (upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop arriving in Q3 2015)

Read more

Buy from Amazon from $223


Dell Venue 8

dell venue 8

The already budget-friendly Dell Venue 8 saw a significant price cut following the release of its successor, making this one of the cheapest Android tablets currently available. Powered by an Intel processor that is backed by 1 GB of RAM, the specifications of this tablet may not be as impressive as some of the others on this list, but it is still quite a capable performer, with a display resolution that is great for watching videos or gaming. Of course, it is hard to overlook its unbeatable sub-$130 price point, making it a great choice for those on a budget.

Specs

  • 8-inch display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution (283 ppi)
  • 2.1 GHz dual-core Intel Z3480 processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB storage, expandable via microSD by up to 64 GB
  • 5 MP rear camera, 1.2 MP front-facing camera
  • 130 x 216 x 8.95 mm
  • 4,550 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

Buy from Amazon from $129


LG G Pad 8 (LGV480)

LG Electronics G Pad LGV480W

Following the success of the LG G Pad 8.3, LG added three new devices to their G Pad tablet line last year, featuring three different display sizes. Falling in the middle of the pack was the LG G Pad 8.0, with its 8-inch display big enough to enjoy gaming and video watching, without being too unwieldy. On the specifications front, the device may not feature a display with a particularly high resolution, but the Snapdragon 400 processor has proven itself to be a very reliable processing package.

This is also one of the few budget-friendly tablets to receive an upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop, making for a very compelling package overall.

Specs

  • 8-inch IPS LCD display with 1280 x 800 resolution (189 ppi)
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • Adreno 305 GPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB storage, expandable via microSD by up to 64 GB
  • 5 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front-facing camera
  • 4,200 mAh battery
  • 210.8 x 124.2 x 9.9 mm, 342 grams
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

Buy from Amazon from $169


Acer Iconia Tab 8

acer iconia tab 8

The Acer Iconia Tab 8 is another great option for those looking for a low-cost tablet that offers solid specifications and performance. The device also comes with a premium design and build quality that goes beyond what its price point suggests, a high resolution display, and dual rear speakers that allow for a good audio experience, along with a large battery and the promise of an impressive battery life. Overall, the Acer Iconia Tab 8 is certainly one of the best options when it comes to cheap Android tablets.

Specs

  • 8-inch IPS LCD display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution (283 ppi)
  • 1.33 GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor (1.86 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel Gen 7 (Ivy Bridge) GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16/32 GB storage, expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
  • 5 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 4,600 mAh battery
  • 215 x 130 x 8.5 mm, 360 grams
  • Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Buy from Amazon from $189


Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7

The Kindle Fire HDX was another fantastic addition to the popular tablet line from Amazon, offering features and specifications that allow for solid performance and a high resolution display and dual Dolby Digital speakers that makes it a great media-consumption companion. While the software iteration is far removed from the traditional Android experience, this take on Android is ideal to take advantage of the Amazon ecosystem and everything it entails, including games, books, movies, and more. If you’re in the market for a low-cost Android tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX is a great choice for you.

Specs

  • 7-inch IPS LCD display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution (323 ppi)
  • 2.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor
  • Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16/32/64 GB storage
  • 1.3 MP front-facing camera
  • battery allows for battery life up to 11 hours
  • 186 x 128 x 9 mm, 303 grams
  • Fire OS 4

Read more

Buy from Amazon from $179


Lenovo Tab 2 A10

The Lenovo Tab 2 A10 has a lot going for it when compared to the rest of the devices on this list. For starters, this is the only device to be released in 2015, introduced back at MWC this year, while being the only 10-inch tablet in this roundup as well. This is also the first tablets to feature Dolby ATMOS 3D Cinema audio enhancements, which aims to make your audio experience much clearer, while taking advantage of the beautiful, large Full HD display. Performance is impressively smooth, and while mobile photography isn’t a key feature when it comes to tablets, this device does offer a solid camera experience. If you’re looking for a large-screen tablet experience on a budget, look no further than the Lenovo Tab 2 A10.

Specs

  • 10.1-inch IPS LCD display with a 1920 x 1200 resolution (218 ppi)
  • 1.7 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT8165 processor
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 16 GB storage, expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera
  • 7,000 mAh battery
  • 247 x 171 x 8.9 mm, 509 grams
  • Android 4.4 Kitkat (planned upgrade to Android 5.0 Lollipop at the end of June)

Read more

Buy from Amazon from $199


And there you have it – our list of the nicest affordable tablets on the market right now! We’ll be keeping this post updated, so be sure to check back. You can’t really go wrong with any of the tablets listed above. Let us know what you think are the best cheap Android tablets!

19
Jun

Asus’ ZenFone 2 now has an unlockable bootloader on the latest firmware version


ASUS_Zenfone_2_Official_76

The Asus ZenFone 2’s bootloader can now be unlocked, which means developers can begin developing custom ROMs for Asus’ most impressive flagship yet. It’ll certainly make the device more appealing to the development community.

There’s just one small hurdle about unlocking the bootloader–you need to be running the latest firmware version for the device. If you’ve got the latest firmware–2.19.40–you should be ready to go. It’s extremely easy to bust through the bootloader. According to XDA Developers, you’ll need root on the ZenFone 2, and then need to run the following ADB commands:

adb shell
su
getprop ro.isn > /factory/asuskey
reboot bootloader

After that, the ZenFone 2 should restart in recovery mode, and the ASUS splash screen will be white, indicating that the bootloader is unlocked. Originally, the splash screen was black, which indicated that the bootloader was still locked up tight.

Hopefully it’s not long before we see CyanogenMod on the device. CyanogenMod paired with the device’s 4GB of RAM will make the ZenFone 2 one hell of a smartphone.

source: XDA
via: Android Police

Come comment on this article: Asus’ ZenFone 2 now has an unlockable bootloader on the latest firmware version

19
Jun

ASUS ZenFone 2 bootloader gets unofficially unlocked


For those of us who like tinkering with our devices – you know, rooting, custom ROM’s – then owners of the ASUS ZenFone 2 will be pleased to learn that the bootloader of the device has just been unofficially unlocked, opening up all kinds of fun possibilities.

Unlocking your bootloader allows for the flashing of custom ROM’s and kernels that can really change the look, feel, and performance of your handset. Doing so comes with a risk, and you should exercise caution if you’re not sure what you’re doing and be sure to follow instructions carefully.

With that said, if you want to unlock your ASUS ZenFone 2 bootloader, then check out the XDA Forums.

The post ASUS ZenFone 2 bootloader gets unofficially unlocked appeared first on AndroidGuys.

18
Jun

Top Android Phones of 2015 (so far)


We’ve certainly had our fill of exciting Android releases thus far in 2015.  When I look at all the differentiation between each manufacturers’ offering, I get reminded of Android’s newly established motto, “Be together. Not the same“.

Each flagship presented to us have strengths and weaknesses, making the designation of the “best phone” only apparent when resolving what best suits you.  It is in this respect that we’ve compiled a rundown of the top phone options at the halfway point of 2015, in impression and comparison.  Let’s get started!

New Flagships

Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

s6I think we can all agree this iteration to Samsung’s flagship brought the biggest change to design and build.  And it was about time!  Last year’s Galaxy S5 proved that Samsung could not keep recycling the same design and remain successful.

From the front, you’d be hard-pressed to tell that anything has changed.  Samsung has retained the same button, earpiece, and sensor layouts as before.  It’s only until you look at the sides and back where you notice a serious makeover.  The metal frame around the device is a bit more refined than what we saw on the Note 4 last year, with subtle curves and a soft finish.

Gone is the plastic, removable backing we’ve always known.  Samsung has succumbed to sealing the back for the sake of a premium build.  A flat glass back is now present, with a neat color-shifting reflection effect as you tilt the device.

Samsung also took this opportunity to take the curved edge concept from the Note 4 Edge a step further and put it on both sides.  Although it adds little to functionality, no one can deny it is certainty neat to look at, especially as content falls off the screen.

Under the hood we got another surprise, a home-brewed Exynos processor instead of the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon.  The 16 MP sensor was upgraded to a f/1.9 aperture lens, resulting in great low light performance.  Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has been toned down, and those lags and stutters are yesterday’s news.  This thing is quick.

s6_en_s6_edge 
The Good 

  • Premium design and feel
  • Arguably best phone display, with excellent outdoor visibility
  • Arguably best Android camera
  • Curved edge variant
  • Refined fingerprint sensor
The Bad 

  • Sub-par battery life
  • No microSD support
  • TouchWiz UI still present
  • Expensive

HTC One M9

m9-hero-imageHTC has taken quite a bit of flak for what they delivered to us this year, and I won’t say it wasn’t well deserved.  It’d make more sense to look at the One M9 as a One M8+, we don’t have much change.

It pains me to see that HTC is sticking with 5″ for the display.  It is simply too small for a flagship in this day and age.  And what makes it worse is that HTC shortly released the One M9+ with a 5.2″ display overseas soon after the M9 launch in the US.

It is also painful to see the infamous black bar (surrounding the HTC logo) still present.  Bezel should be a sensitive subject when the speakers add so much of it.  HTC should have worked to reduce it (perhaps a larger device could have provided the extra space for the circuitry).

But whatever negativity may befall the One device, it is still a solidly built, sexy slab of metal.  This time around, HTC added a two-tone finish, for flare and jewerly-like attractiveness.  The speakers underwent a dolby-surround upgrade.  The Sense UI is still one of the quickest and is now on version 7.0, although the biggest software updates were home screen app location switching and control over theming.

The camera got both an upgrade and a downgrade.  Upgrade in megapixel count, downgrade in quality.  Reviews found that the Toshiba-manufactured sensor isn’t where a flagship should be.  Not having OIS results in grainy shots, low light shots are fuzzy, and light balance is iffy (whites get overexposed in shots with dynamic ranges).  It’s like HTC flipped their ideals from a couple years ago, when they held quality over MP count.

And where is that phablet!?

m9 
The Good 

  • Proven design and solid build
  • Best smartphone speakers
  • Fast UI
  • MicroSD support
  • Uh-Oh damage protection (free 1-time replacement)
The Bad 

  • Exhausted look
  • Primary camera can’t compete
  • No wireless charging
  • Bad power and volume button ergonomics
  • Sense 7.0 doesn’t add much

LG G4

G4_Genuine_Leather2It’s a funny thing that LG has been creeping their flagship launches closer and closer to the Spring each year.  They’ve refined the G-series into a very competitive device and want to play with the big boys.  Like HTC, LG took the route of minor design changes.  The G4 bears a striking resemblance to the G3 last year.  The big differences to the design are the back covers, where we have either a diamond-texture plastic shell or leather.  The plastic build is here to stay (perhaps to maintain the removable back cover for battery and microSD card access).  Also, although subtle, the G4 got a little influence from the Flex line, with a slight curve on the chassis.

You start to see where the changes are when you breakdown the components.  Although the screen is still a 5.5″ QHD display, the quality has been bumped up quite a bit, at least on paper.  LG is using a brillant IPS “Quantum” LCD panel, with improved vividness, contrast, and color gamut.  This is flagged as the LCD screen to rival Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen.

The other larger improvement was the camera.  LG packed a lot of technology here to go with the 16 MP camera:  OIS (in all three axis of movement, x, y, and z), laser autofocus, color-spectrum sensor (helps light balance), and tons of manual controls in the camera app.

 

lg_g4_black_leather 
The Good 

  • Fantastic display quality
  • Powerful camera and control
  • Swappable battery and microSD support
  • Minimal bezel
  • Leather option
The Bad 

  • Plastic build
  • Uses the Snapdragon 808 (not more powerful Snapdragon 810)
  • No quick charging
  • No wireless charging
  • Unattractive UI

LG G Flex 2

flex2The LG G Flex 2 had a quiet launch at beginning of the year.  It predictably turned out to be a mash up between the original G Flex and the G3.  What surprisingly took dominance was the screen size, reduced down to 5.5″ from the mammoth 6″ of the original Flex, not something we see happen often.  LG has a sweet spot for 5.5″.

The banana-shaped chassis of course made a return, along with the self-healing backing.  The internals got bumped up to our first spotting of the Qualcomm’s new octa-core Snapdragon 810 SoC.  The camera and laser autofocus were retrieved from the G3.  However, the screen was toned down slightly to a 1080P Plastic OLED screen, rather than the QHD IPS LCD of the G3.

G-Flex2 
The Good 

  • Head-turning curvature
  • Speedy internals
  • Proven camera and quick focus
  • MicroSD support
  • Cover seal-heals against lite scratches
The Bad 

  • Lower resolution than other flagships
  • More bezel than the G3
  • Plastic, glossy build
  • No wireless charging

Sony Xperia Z4 / Z3+ / Z4v

Sony_Xperia_Z3+

We weren’t sure if we would get anything from Sony in the first half of the year, as they were reportedly cutting down their mobile division and failed to make a usual flagship showing at Mobile World Congress this year.  The Xperia Z4 got announced overseas, without a word on availability in the US.  Then the Xperia Z3+ got announced, for the European market.  The difference in naming prompted a head scratch.  Did Sony think other parts of the world would be outraged to see this minor iteration be called the Z4, but it was okay in Japan?

So what changed versus last year’s Z3?  Even more subtleties than we’ve witnessed before.  The main upgrade was the SoC, to the latest Snapdragon 810.  There were minor tweaks to the chassis:  Front speakers were moved closer to the top and bottom frames, the charging port flap is gone, and thickness was reduced by 0.4mm.  The battery was downgraded to 2,930 mAh (from 3,100 mAh on the Z3).

And to add to the messy fragmentation, Sony just announced a continuation of partnership with Verizon, with the Xperia Z4v.  This variant tacks on a 3,000 mAh, wireless charging, and bump in resolution to QHD (I thought Sony made a stance against going higher than 1080P?).  These additions expectedly took a hit on the sleekness, adding some weight and thickness, and to further tone down the appeal, Verizon has Sony throw in a plastic build.

Xperia Z4 / Z3+

z4
 
The Good 

  • Proven design and build
  • Top end SoC
  • Leading camera
  • Water and dust proof
  • MicroSD support
The Bad 

  • Very minimal change from predecessor
  • Battery capacity decrease
  • Unattractive Sony UI
  • No wireless charging

Xperia Z4v

Verizon Xperia Z4V 2
 
The Good 

  • Specs keep up with Z4/Z3+
  • QHD resolution
  • MicroSD support
  • Wireless charging
  • Slightly larger battery than Z4/Z3+
The Bad 

  • Less premium build (plastic)
  • Thicker and heavier than Z4/Z3+
  • Verizon-only

Still Relevant

Moto X / Droid Turbo

moto x (2014)Motorola did a great job last year delivering a successor to the original Moto X.  They up’d the specs to “flagship” status and boosted customization with Moto Maker, where you could choose from three different back cover materials (plastic, real wood, or real leather) and a multitude of color accents around the phone, something no one else yet offers.

The screen size was a modest 5.2″ (AMOLED panel, 1080P), the latest Snapdragon 801 SoC for the time, and a very near stock Android experience.  But alas, 2014 Moto X suffered from an Achilles heel, the camera.  Although on paper it sounded decent, at 13 MP, f/2.25 aperture, and dual LED ring flash, in practice the image quality often left to be desired.  So much so that Motorola admitted the fault and vowed to bring it next time.  The battery capacity was also unreasonably low for the day and age at 2,300 mAh.

Soon after the release of the 2014 Moto X, Verizon debuted their exclusive Droid Turbo, which was essential a Moto X on steroids, without Moto Maker and with some pre-set Droid-themed materials and colors.  Compared to the specs on the Moto X, the Turbo up’d the processor to the high-end Snapdragon 805, screen resolution to QHD, the camera to 21 MP, and the battery to a considerable 3,900 mAh.  And they threw in wireless charging for good measure.  It was certainly a top dog, but only for Verizon customers.

Moto X

moto_x_2nd_gen
The Good 

  • More customization than anyone else offers
  • Near Stock Android experience, with useful Motorola enhancements
  • front facing speaker
  • Great starting price (currently at $299)
The Bad 

  • Camera not in flagship league
  • Small battery
  • No microSD support
  • No wireless charging

Droid Turbo

Motorola-DROID-Turbo 
The Good 

  • Huge battery
  • Huge ppi
  • High-end SoC with 3 GB RAM
  • Lots of megapixels
  • Although a plastic build, some cool and unique back cover choices, like ballistic nylon
The Bad 

  • Only for Verizon
  • No on-screen buttons
  • No microSD support
  • No OIS on camera
  • Still on Android 4.4 (KitKat)

Note 4 and  Note 4 Edge

note4Samsung’s Galaxy Note series will always be highly regarded.  The first Note started the phablet trend, back in 2011, when a 5.3″ screen was considered enormous.  In the following years, screen size in other flagships began to grow aggressively, and soon the Note found itself in a good place, as the leader of the pack of pocket-busting phones.

The Note 4 brought the build improvement that Samsung started with the Galaxy Alpha and fully evolved to the S6 this year, with metal surrounding the phone.  Else-wise, we got subtle refinements from the Note 3, still a 5.7″ display and a removable faux-leather back (sans the stitching).  Samsung upgraded their brilliant Super AMOLED screen resolution to QHD, toned down the color saturation that had plagued their panels for quite some time, and backed it behind the latest Gorilla Glass 4.  The Note 4 is still a speedy beast, with the Snapdragon 805 SoC on-board and 3 GB of RAM.

Samsung also took this opportunity to debut the curved screen we had been seeing in prototype form for quite some time.  They curved one edge of the display down to the frame and called it the Note 4 Edge.  This offering turned out to be more proof-of-concept, as it didn’t really add much value (and for a hefty price tag), but it was a start and great to see something different come to market.  As for functionality, the Edge could treat the edge portion of the screen separately and give you different controls than on the main screen or tidbits of information.

Samsung-Galaxy-Note-4-Charcoal-Black-32GB-Verizon-Wireless-0 
The Good 

  • Brilliant and leading QHD display
  • One of the best Android cameras
  • High-end specs
  • Unique S-pen functionality
  • MicroSD support
  • Edge variant that keeps you on the cutting edge
The Bad 

  • Expensive
  • Back cover still feels cheap
  • Need special cover to wirelessly charge
  • Speaker is still lacking
  • Edge variant could use more functionality
  • TouchWiz (nuff said)

Nexus 6

Nexus 6The Nexus 6 made such a stir in the Android community when it was announced.  How could Google turn the Nexus line into a phablet-only club!?  For better or worse, Google wanted you to just be open-minded.  But then another aspect took a turn for the worse, the price.  Since LG took the reins starting with the Nexus 4, the Nexus became the phone for everyone through its affordability.  The Nexus 6 brought us back to the reality that if you want a premium smartphone, you gotta pay for it.

In terms of design/build, the Nexus 6 was essentially a blown-up Moto X, which wasn’t a bad thing at all.  The curvy-ness of the Moto X served well for a phablet variant in the hand.  Motorola nailed all the upgrades we would want from the Moto X:  High-end Snapdragon 805 SoC, check.  QHD display, check.  13 MP camera with OIS, check.  Dual front-facing speakers, check.  Qi wireless charging, check.  Let’s just say, as long as you didn’t mind the price and ginormous size , this was a dream phone.

But not all was rainbows and unicorns (that is, other than the 64 GB White version at launch).  The display looks great, but the visibility is poor outdoors.  The Lollipop pain-points have been addressed with the 5.1 update, but the battery life still isn’t where it should be.  And the camera could only be said to be decent at best, with struggles in low-light situations and an iffy camera app.

nexus-6 
The Good 

  • Huge QHD AMOLED display with minimal bezel
  • Stock and latest Android experience
  • High-end specs
  • Dual front-facing speakers
  • Wireless charging
The Bad 

  • Huge phone size, difficult one-handed use
  • Hit or miss camera
  • Poor outside visibility
  • Battery life should be better
  • No microSD support

Cost Friendly

Asus Zenfone 2

Asus-Zenfone-2-heroAsus has been in the smartphone scene for quite some time…it just wouldn’t be necessarily known because they have never made much of a dent in the Android world.  That is, until the Zenfone 2.  Asus has shifted their smartphone focus to value.

Similar to the Oneplus One strategy, the Zenfone 2 can be seen as a flagship at a budget price.  We have a common 5.5″ IPS LCD display at 1080P, quad-core 64-bit CPU (Intel Atom Z3580 SoC), 4 GB of RAM, 13 MP rear camera with dual-LED and dual-tone flash, 3,000 mAh battery, 64 GB of on-board storage with microSD expansion, and Android 5.0 Lollipop, all for $300 (available via Amazon).  Killer deal if you ask me.  There is also a cheaper variant with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage for $200 as well.

But do expect to see some some compromises.  The quality of the display is just okay, the camera is not on par with the greats, and the Asus software is undesirable.

zenfone2 
The Good 

  • Great value
  • “Sweet spot” display size
  • Quad-core, 64-bit CPU, 4GB RAM
  • MicroSD support
  • Lots of back cover choices
The Bad 

  • Mediocre display quality
  • Mediocre camera quality
  • Mediocre build quality
  • Weak speaker
  • Undesirable UI

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3

alcatel_onetouch_idol3Acaltel is not a house-hold name in the smartphone world, but they have been around, slowly building their presence.  They debuted the OneTouch Idol 3 this year, with very respectable specs for the asking price.  Be sure to check out our review here.

Like the Asus Zenfone 2, we’re looking at a 5.5″ 1080P IPS LCD display, 13 MP rear camera, and plastic build.  We start to see differentiation when we look more closely.  The Idol 3 is powered by a more-common Qualcomm SoC, the Snapdragon 615 (octa-core, 64-bit, 2 GB RAM).  The screen quality on the Idol 3 is unarguably bests the Zenfone 2, with more accurate colors and wider viewing angles.  Acaltel put some focus on sound, with dual front-facing speakers (powered by JBL audio), something we never see on budget phones.  The Idol 3 falls slightly cheaper than the Zenfone 2, at $249 (available via Amazon).

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 
The Good 

  • Great value
  • Fantastic display for a budget phone
  • Octa-core, 64-bit CPU
  • JBL front stereo speakers
  • MicroSD support
The Bad 

  • Plastic build
  • Okay camera quality, no OIS
  • Only 2 GB of RAM
  • No quick charging

Moto G (2015) and Moto E (2015)

moto_gMotorola made quite a name for themselves in the budget sector, first with the Moto G, then followed by the even cheaper Moto E.  At sub-$200 price tags, they wanted to cover a range of low budgets, with phones that only had what you needed to get the job done, without thinking poorly of them.  Hence, the review process is different when you take a tour around the devices, and the question becomes, how much am I getting for my money?

Turns out, you get quite a bit.  At $180, the 2015 Moto G gives you a 5″ screen with 720p resolution, quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC, 8 MP f/2.0 aperture rear camera, dual front-facing speakers, microSD expansion (up to 32 GB), and stock Lollipop (something you don’t see often).

At $120, the Moto E gets you a 4.5″ with 540×960 resolution, quad-core Snapdragon 200 SoC, 5 MP f/2.2 aperture rear camera, mono front-facing speaker, microSD expansion (up to 32 GB), and stock Lollipop.  In addition, unlike the Moto G, the Moto E has the option for a better model, with LTE and a Snapdragon 410 SoC, for $150.

Something to note is that neither phones have NFC, so you won’t be able to utilize Android Pay to make in-store purchases with your phone.

Moto G

moto-g-2nd-gen-front 
The Good 

  • Exceptional price for what you get
  • Dual front speakers
  • MicroSD support
  • Stock Lollipop

The Bad 

  • Plain design
  • Camera and screen quality are just okay
  • Only 1 GB of RAM
  • No LTE option

Moto E

moto-e-2nd-gen-front 
The Good 

  • Exceptional price for what you get
  • Option for LTE and better Snapdragon 410 SoC
  • Larger battery than Moto G
  • MicroSD support
  • Stock Lollipop
The Bad 

  • Plain design
  • Slightly worse camera and screen than Moto G
  • Only 1 GB of RAM
  • No camera flash

OnePlus One

OnePlus OneI don’t think it’d be right not to include the OnePlus One.  It almost falls in its own category, both a flagship and budget offering.  When we first heard about this venture for OnePlus last year, we weren’t sure if it’d be successful.  Not to mention that awful invite system.

Fortunately, OnePlus managed to make quite a name for themselves and a large fan base.  The One was everything OnePlus promised.  Well…except for all those different StyleSwap back cover options.  Nonetheless, over time it has become proven to be able to stand up with all the rest, for half the price.  And with recent price drop, it is made that more a consideration, especially when compared to new budget phones at about the same price.

To recap, we’re looking at the still capable Snapdragon 801 SoC, 5.5″ 1080P IPS LCD, 3 GB RAM, 13 MP f/2.0 (Sony IMX 214) rear camera, 3,100 mAh battery, and Android 5.0 Lollipop with either Cyanogen 11S or OxygenOS.

445CA0567C4C_OnePlus One_3_PORTRAIT 
The Good 

  • Fantastic value, even today
  • Great display size and quality
  • Camera that beats budget offerings
  • Large battery
The Bad 

  • Bigger than what a 5.5″ device should be
  • Dual bottom speakers are not all that
  • No microSD support
  • No wireless charging
  • Back cover options promise fell through

The post Top Android Phones of 2015 (so far) appeared first on AndroidGuys.

16
Jun

HTC doesn’t want to be acquired by ASUS, wants to keep going it alone






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Last week, we covered the story of Asustek (ASUS) Chairman, Johnny Shih, floating the idea of ASUS acquiring HTC at the Asustek annual general meeting. Although it was established that it was quite an unlikely move, HTC has come out of the woodwork to comment on those claims saying that HTC doesn’t want to be acquired by ASUS – the statement read:

“We strongly deny the news. We didn’t contact Asusteck and will not consider the acquisition. As an international brand, HTC will continue to design world-class innovative smart devices through its pursuit of brilliance brand promise.”


It’s almost disappointing that the door has been slammed shut again – a merger of HTC and ASUS makes a lot of sense and would do good for both company’s ambitions. HTC has been struggling with capital to do the things that it wants to do with smartphones (and tablets) and ASUS has been trying very hard to breaking into an almost impenetrable Western smartphone market. Still, you can’t blame HTC denying the claims so strongly as they have made it this far on their own, and despite extremely poor results recently, probably see themselves being their own saviours rather than requiring someone else to save them.

Source: HTC via TechCrunch

The post HTC doesn’t want to be acquired by ASUS, wants to keep going it alone appeared first on AndroidSPIN.

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