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Posts tagged ‘Camera’

12
Feb

Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead


Premium build, 4GB of RAM, 3x optical zoom, and $399 price tag – is this the smartphone to beat?

Asus has been trying to crack the market’s smartphone code for a while now. Prior to its current lineup, the company tried again and again to get consumers on-board with an unconventional but innovative smartphone/tablet integration concept with the PadFone. Alas, the Taiwanese manufacturer finally gave in to the lackluster sales and redirected its smartphone efforts to the ZenFone.

2015 was a good year for Asus; when the ZenFone 2 managed to catch the market’s attention with its newfound value. It packed bangin’ specs for the competitive price. Asus phones were finally selling. But while the company later used this success as an opportunity to introduce ZenFone 2 variants, one of its offering quietly slipped out of view – the ZenFone Zoom.

ZenFone_Zoom_2

First announced at CES 2015, Asus boasted a smartphone with a camera that could optically zoom. In hindsight, it seems like that project was a bit too ambitious for the manufacturer, as it’s taken a whole year of extra development to finally get it into our hands.

Is the ZenFone Zoom better late than never, or should it have remained as a concept? Let’s find out.

Design

If you recall the ZenFone Zoom’s CES 2015 announcement, you may notice that the back cover is slightly different to the production unit. The former had a smooth plastic cover while the latter looks leathery. Due to the Zoom’s aggressive pricing, I suspected that we would actually be dealing with faux leather.

ZenFone_Zoom_15

When I got a hold of the review unit, I was convinced that my assumption was correct. The entire back cover feels like a leather-textured hard plastic. However, Asus states that it is in fact a “premium”, burnished leather. Because the material doesn’t quite feel the part, I’m left ambivalent about the effort.

Nonetheless, the texture and rounded back feels great in hand. Yes, the phone is in no way trying to be slim, but it’s not a brick either. OEM obsession over phone thinness is overrated in my book (especially when it’s traded for features), and the Zoom’s extra girth is no way impugns phone ergonomics.

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

 

We can’t talk about the back of the phone without addressing the elephant in the room – that large circular camera housing. I’m not quite sure why the camera component has to take up so much space, but I won’t question the engineering magic that Asus had to pull off to gain 3x zooming from a lens that doesn’t telescope (more on the camera details later). I do appreciate that the odd module is just about the same thickness as the thickest portions of the phone. It doesn’t have that disruptive appearance that previous optically zooming smartphones have beared (i.e. Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom series)

The camera lens is recessed, so you don’t have to worry about the protective glass getting scratched and ruining your pictures. However, on a usability note, the len’s placement on the back isn’t conventional (it’s lower than on most phones). I find myself often touching it with my index finger, then having to swipe off the fingerprint smudge before taking pics.

ZenFone_Zoom_9

Because the curved back tapers on the sides, towards the bottom you’ll see a raised lining for stability (it keeps the phone from wobbling when set on a table). Subtle leather stitching surrounds the protrusion, for that convincing look. Right below it is a rear-facing, mono external speaker.

Oh, and that back cover is removeable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have access to the battery (it’s barricaded in), but you will get a micro-SD slot. This is where the SIM slot lives as well.

ZenFone_Zoom_3

Before receiving the Zoom, I wasn’t aware that Asus had now evolved the ZenFone’s build with a metal frame. It’s excellent and as premium as they come. It’s rounded, similar to the iPhone, and feels great in-hand. The finish is smooth and matte, the color has an interesting deep purple-ish tone. The metal is chamfered on both edges of the frame to show off its shine. The whole presentation says classy and complements the leathery backing well.

ZenFone_Zoom_10

Regarding ports, you’ll find the headphone jack on the top and micro-USB port on the bottom. And because the Zoom is camera-centric, Asus included a lanyard opening on the bottom-left corner, for safety from drops during all those photo shoots.

ZenFone_Zoom_20
ZenFone_Zoom_6

The physical buttons are all on the right side (there’s nothing on the left side). Asus not only fitted a camera shutter button but also a record button adjacent to it. Holding down on either button launches the camera app whether the phone is off or on. Cleverly, the volume buttons double up for zooming when you’re in the camera app. They even have “T” (Telephoto) and “W” (Wide Angle) labels etched on them, like on a dedicated camera.

ZenFone_Zoom_17

The front of the phone keeps traditional ZenFone fashion. There’s an Asus logo squeezed in between the earpiece and display, capacitive buttons, and the signature bezel plate along the bottom (which has a circular texture that produces a light ray effect from the center of the pattern). The Zoom’s bezel size is fairly average; it’s not the best screen-to-body ratio. It is just about as tall as the LG V10, which isn’t a good thing. The V10 has a 0.2″ larger display and a secondary screen on top of that.

ZenFone_Zoom_5
ZenFone_Zoom_12

But I suppose that when you factor in the $399 price and optical zoom, it can be forgivable.

Performance

ZenFone_Zoom_19

Asus continues its partnership with Intel on the ZenFone Zoom. It packs an Intel Atom Z3580, which is comprised of a quad-core processor (running at 2.3GHz), PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Yes, you heard correctly – 4GB in a $399 smartphone.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-06But do those specs mean as much as they sound like they mean in the real world? Mostly. The Zoom is a speedy animal. Even despite the heavy ZenUI, it still manages to chug through Android without hesitation.

However, there were moments that frame rate drops were noticeable. I’m not talking about lags or delays, but rather, the fluidity was interrupted at times. In digging around, I noticed that ZenUI’s default “Normal” power management system says that it “Smartly adjusts CPU performance and brightness”. You can switch it to the “Performance” mode, in which it will utilize the entire CPU’s capability (at the cost of battery life).

A great thing is that the standard internal storage capacity of the Zoom is 64GB. I wish that every OEM would follow suit. And what makes that even sweeter is that micro-SD expansion is supported. You can only add on 64GB more, but at least you can.

Audio performance on all front is nothing to write home about. The rear placement of the external speaker is not ideal, and it’s thin-sounding. And there is nothing special to my ears from the audio out of the headphone jack.

Display

The ZenFone Zoom has a 5.5″ sized IPS LCD screen. Its resolution isn’t saturated with the QHD pixel count that many flagships boast these days, but 1080P is sufficient (403 PPI). I don’t find the difference between QHD and 1080P on a 5.5″ display that telling anyways, and would much rather not waste the extra battery life on something that frivolous.

ZenFone_Zoom_8

The panel’s quality is above average. It particularly excels at keeping its composure at even extreme viewing angles. Colors look a tad dull to my eyes, but that’s just me being nit-picky.

The brightness does leave to be desired though. I feel like the max brightness should be able to go an extra 20-30% further (based on my experience with other phones). This mostly becomes a concern outside on a sunny day. But in digging around, I did find out that you can gain more brightness from within the Battery settings. Putting the phone in “Performance” mode increases the max brightness slightly (we’ll talk about this more in the Battery section).

Camera

ZenFone_Zoom_21

Now the moment you’ve probably been waiting for – the ZenFone Zoom’s camera performance. Asus boasts a lot of technological achievement about the Zoom’s sensor on paper, but all that awesomeness deliver in real world use? We’ll get to that.

Firstly, something to know about the Zoom’s optics is that the lens doesn’t telescope like with traditional optical zooming. I didn’t know that upon receiving the phone. So when I opened her up and stared at the lens while zooming, you can probably guess the look on my face.

asus_camera_zoom

Asus says that the 3x optical magnification is achieved by some 10-element HOYA periscopic lens arrangement trickery. You can get more details about the technology (which Asus dubs PixelMaster 2.0) on the manufacturer’s site.


http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push();

The sensor itself has a 13MP capture resolution. It is also supplemented by 4 stops of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an ultra-fast (0.03 seconds) laser auto-focus. The len’s f/2.7 aperture isn’t particularly great (compared to significantly larger sizes from the latest flagships), but Asus tries to assist the low-light performance from the software side with a Low Light shooting mode.

Without further ado, let’s get into the photo samples. Click on the collection below to see zoomed in (3x) and out samples.

ZenFone_Zoom_Collection

The optical zoom does work, and the camera quality is maintained when zoomed. Check out this comparison with the LG V10, both zoomed at 3x (but the V10 can only do digital zoom).

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

To my eyes, the Zoom’s camera performs fantastically in good lighting. But the results can take a dubious turn otherwise. Areas of concentrated lighting can too easily be overexposed.

P_20160207_141336
P_20160209_110746

HDR helps to a point (mostly to even out the overall contrast), but the blown-out areas will still be there. On the other extreme, there is an expected struggle when light is taken away. But the camera doesn’t try to force it and give you grainy images, things are just less visible. Thankfully, there is a Low Light shooting mode in the camera interface, which produces decent results.

Auto shooting mode

Auto shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

There’s no strings attached to the optical zoom’s use. It still works in special shooting modes, such as HDR and Low Light, as well as while recording. If you find that you need to zoom more than 3x, the len’s mechanism also allows it to go all the way to 12x (but via digital zooming).

Speaking of shooting modes, Asus makes sure the hardware is well supported on the software front. On the bottom-right corner of the camera interface is a shortcut to a barrage of modes.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-49-58

Some of these options are commonplace, but there’s a couple standout features. Super Resolution combines the detail from four simultaneous shots into a result that simulates 4x the capture resolution. Miniature mode gives the user finer tuning over the depth of field effect. Time Rewind takes simultaneous burst shots before and after the shutter button was tapped.

Battery

The ZenFone Zoom packs a modest 3,000 mAh capacity battery (non-removeable). It’s been sufficient in my use. I’ll go ahead to show you a battery usage graph, over a 9-hour period (the first half on T-Mobile’s network and the other half on WiFi).

Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-48
Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-55

50% battery drain over 9 hours is fine in my book. My usage covered a lot of use cases, such as internet browsing, music, maps/navigation, social media, and camera (screen brightness varied between max and 75%). But I didn’t play any games.

Do be aware that ZenUI packs battery modes that can largely determine what your battery life outcome will be. By default, the system is set to “Normal” (this is the mode that I used for the results above). It’s nice that Asus gives the user choices. Most UI’s have some form of Power Saving settings, but ZenUI actually lets you maximize performance if you want to (at the cost of battery life of course).

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-25
Screenshot_2016-02-10-21-49-13
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-33

There are two tiers of power saving modes: “Power saving” and “Super saving”. The former disables networks when the phone is on standby, while the latter only keeps the basic phone functions going (calling, texting, alarm). Or you can select “Customized” and pick and choose the system behavior yourself, such as CPU performance, screen brightness, and network and app activity. Lastly, “Smart switch” allows automatic battery mode switching based on either a certain battery percentage or user-specified schedule.

Software

The ZenFone Zoom runs off of Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Sadly, it’s not the latest version of Android and not even Android 5.1 (which was a crucial update in Lollipop). ZenUI is the user interface (UI) overlay and is no doubt as heavy as they come. But I will admit that after some time with the UI, I’ve started to open up to it. I don’t find that performance is hindered by ZenUI (which gives me confidence over Asus’s software competence), and I’ve discovered several useful functions that aren’t on other UI’s.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-16
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-25
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-33

But I will always complain about unnecessary changes to Android’s aesthetics; it’s a waste of effort when changes don’t add any value. Things like the notification shade, app drawer, folder layout, and panel transitions all get a ZenUI fix. In fact, there’s no trace of true Android that I can spot.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-19
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-38-15
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-38-40

Adding more insult to injury, Asus throws in a ton of home-brewed apps that get in your face. At the phone’s first startup, you get a barrage of notifications from these apps to let you know that they’re present (and they pop up again over time). The Asus apps range from system management (data cleaner, power settings) to media features/tools. Fortunately, if you’re like me and don’t care, the system allows you to disable the apps (but not uninstall).

But ZenUI does redeem itself through a couple ways. One of these is gestures (which stock Android has yet to implement).

Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-39-42
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-03
Screenshot_2016-02-11-13-34-08

There are two categories of gestures: Motion and Touch. There’s only a couple of motion gestures; shaking the phone to take a screenshot or bringing the phone to your ear to pick up a phone call. The touch gestures are far more interesting. Firstly, tap-to-wake is present (thank you, Asus!). What’s also cool is that you can draw a letter on the screen when it is off to launch one of the specified apps.

One other neat action is when you swipe up from the home screen. A “Manage Home” area pop ups, which contains various functions you may often use. You’ll also run into other nice useful features throughout the UI. For instance, you can set a tap and hold on Recent Apps button to take a screenshot or open up an app’s menu. The display’s coloring is alterable via presets or user customization. And there’s a useful “Auto-start Manager”, where you can save system memory by controlling which apps are allowed to run automatically.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-41-43
Screenshot_2016-02-11-14-07-10
Screenshot_2016-02-11-15-18-12

Theming is something that I think every UI should be able to do. ZenUI has a “Themes” app with a vast library of free and paid options. This includes a library of icon packs and third-party support to grab a pack from the Play Store.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-42-01
Screenshot_2016-02-11-15-28-28

Final Thoughts

ZenFone_Zoom_7

When I reflect on everything that the ZenFone Zoom offers and then recall its asking price of $399, I can’t help but think that the value is great. I could most definitely replace my daily driver flagship phone (which costs almost twice as much) and not regret it. That’s where the ZenFone line has the upper-hand, and the 3x optical zoom is icing that you won’t get on most cakes out there.

As long as your expectations aren’t sky-high, the ZenFone Zoom is definitely recommendable. I just emphasize that the camera’s general performance is good but not the best you’ll find, and that ZenUI may be too heavy for Android enthusiasts (although, it functions just fine).

We’d like to give a shout-out to B&H Photo for supplying our ZenFone Zoom review unit!

Asus ZenFone Zoom product page

The post Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead appeared first on AndroidGuys.

12
Feb

Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead


Premium build, 4GB of RAM, 3x optical zoom, and $399 price tag – is this the smartphone to beat?

Asus has been trying to crack the market’s smartphone code for a while now. Prior to its current lineup, the company tried again and again to get consumers on-board with an unconventional but innovative smartphone/tablet integration concept with the PadFone. Alas, the Taiwanese manufacturer finally gave in to the lackluster sales and redirected its smartphone efforts to the ZenFone.

2015 was a good year for Asus; when the ZenFone 2 managed to catch the market’s attention with its newfound value. It packed bangin’ specs for the competitive price. Asus phones were finally selling. But while the company later used this success as an opportunity to introduce ZenFone 2 variants, one of its offering quietly slipped out of view – the ZenFone Zoom.

ZenFone_Zoom_2

First announced at CES 2015, Asus boasted a smartphone with a camera that could optically zoom. In hindsight, it seems like that project was a bit too ambitious for the manufacturer, as it’s taken a whole year of extra development to finally get it into our hands.

Is the ZenFone Zoom better late than never, or should it have remained as a concept? Let’s find out.

Design

If you recall the ZenFone Zoom’s CES 2015 announcement, you may notice that the back cover is slightly different to the production unit. The former had a smooth plastic cover while the latter looks leathery. Due to the Zoom’s aggressive pricing, I suspected that we would actually be dealing with faux leather.

ZenFone_Zoom_15

When I got a hold of the review unit, I was convinced that my assumption was correct. The entire back cover feels like a leather-textured hard plastic. However, Asus states that it is in fact a “premium”, burnished leather. Because the material doesn’t quite feel the part, I’m left ambivalent about the effort.

Nonetheless, the texture and rounded back feels great in hand. Yes, the phone is in no way trying to be slim, but it’s not a brick either. OEM obsession over phone thinness is overrated in my book (especially when it’s traded for features), and the Zoom’s extra girth is no way impugns phone ergonomics.

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

Thickness comparison between the LG V10 (left) and ZenFone Zoom (right)

 

We can’t talk about the back of the phone without addressing the elephant in the room – that large circular camera housing. I’m not quite sure why the camera component has to take up so much space, but I won’t question the engineering magic that Asus had to pull off to gain 3x zooming from a lens that doesn’t telescope (more on the camera details later). I do appreciate that the odd module is just about the same thickness as the thickest portions of the phone. It doesn’t have that disruptive appearance that previous optically zooming smartphones have beared (i.e. Samsung’s Galaxy Zoom series)

The camera lens is recessed, so you don’t have to worry about the protective glass getting scratched and ruining your pictures. However, on a usability note, the len’s placement on the back isn’t conventional (it’s lower than on most phones). I find myself often touching it with my index finger, then having to swipe off the fingerprint smudge before taking pics.

ZenFone_Zoom_9

Because the curved back tapers on the sides, towards the bottom you’ll see a raised lining for stability (it keeps the phone from wobbling when set on a table). Subtle leather stitching surrounds the protrusion, for that convincing look. Right below it is a rear-facing, mono external speaker.

Oh, and that back cover is removeable. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have access to the battery (it’s barricaded in), but you will get a micro-SD slot. This is where the SIM slot lives as well.

ZenFone_Zoom_3

Before receiving the Zoom, I wasn’t aware that Asus had now evolved the ZenFone’s build with a metal frame. It’s excellent and as premium as they come. It’s rounded, similar to the iPhone, and feels great in-hand. The finish is smooth and matte, the color has an interesting deep purple-ish tone. The metal is chamfered on both edges of the frame to show off its shine. The whole presentation says classy and complements the leathery backing well.

ZenFone_Zoom_10

Regarding ports, you’ll find the headphone jack on the top and micro-USB port on the bottom. And because the Zoom is camera-centric, Asus included a lanyard opening on the bottom-left corner, for safety from drops during all those photo shoots.

ZenFone_Zoom_20
ZenFone_Zoom_6

The physical buttons are all on the right side (there’s nothing on the left side). Asus not only fitted a camera shutter button but also a record button adjacent to it. Holding down on either button launches the camera app whether the phone is off or on. Cleverly, the volume buttons double up for zooming when you’re in the camera app. They even have “T” (Telephoto) and “W” (Wide Angle) labels etched on them, like on a dedicated camera.

ZenFone_Zoom_17

The front of the phone keeps traditional ZenFone fashion. There’s an Asus logo squeezed in between the earpiece and display, capacitive buttons, and the signature bezel plate along the bottom (which has a circular texture that produces a light ray effect from the center of the pattern). The Zoom’s bezel size is fairly average; it’s not the best screen-to-body ratio. It is just about as tall as the LG V10, which isn’t a good thing. The V10 has a 0.2″ larger display and a secondary screen on top of that.

ZenFone_Zoom_5
ZenFone_Zoom_12

But I suppose that when you factor in the $399 price and optical zoom, it can be forgivable.

Performance

ZenFone_Zoom_19

Asus continues its partnership with Intel on the ZenFone Zoom. It packs an Intel Atom Z3580, which is comprised of a quad-core processor (running at 2.3GHz), PowerVR G6430 graphics processor, and 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Yes, you heard correctly – 4GB in a $399 smartphone.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-06But do those specs mean as much as they sound like they mean in the real world? Mostly. The Zoom is a speedy animal. Even despite the heavy ZenUI, it still manages to chug through Android without hesitation.

However, there were moments that frame rate drops were noticeable. I’m not talking about lags or delays, but rather, the fluidity was interrupted at times. In digging around, I noticed that ZenUI’s default “Normal” power management system says that it “Smartly adjusts CPU performance and brightness”. You can switch it to the “Performance” mode, in which it will utilize the entire CPU’s capability (at the cost of battery life).

A great thing is that the standard internal storage capacity of the Zoom is 64GB. I wish that every OEM would follow suit. And what makes that even sweeter is that micro-SD expansion is supported. You can only add on 64GB more, but at least you can.

Audio performance on all front is nothing to write home about. The rear placement of the external speaker is not ideal, and it’s thin-sounding. And there is nothing special to my ears from the audio out of the headphone jack.

Display

The ZenFone Zoom has a 5.5″ sized IPS LCD screen. Its resolution isn’t saturated with the QHD pixel count that many flagships boast these days, but 1080P is sufficient (403 PPI). I don’t find the difference between QHD and 1080P on a 5.5″ display that telling anyways, and would much rather not waste the extra battery life on something that frivolous.

ZenFone_Zoom_8

The panel’s quality is above average. It particularly excels at keeping its composure at even extreme viewing angles. Colors look a tad dull to my eyes, but that’s just me being nit-picky.

The brightness does leave to be desired though. I feel like the max brightness should be able to go an extra 20-30% further (based on my experience with other phones). This mostly becomes a concern outside on a sunny day. But in digging around, I did find out that you can gain more brightness from within the Battery settings. Putting the phone in “Performance” mode increases the max brightness slightly (we’ll talk about this more in the Battery section).

Camera

ZenFone_Zoom_21

Now the moment you’ve probably been waiting for – the ZenFone Zoom’s camera performance. Asus boasts a lot of technological achievement about the Zoom’s sensor on paper, but all that awesomeness deliver in real world use? We’ll get to that.

Firstly, something to know about the Zoom’s optics is that the lens doesn’t telescope like with traditional optical zooming. I didn’t know that upon receiving the phone. So when I opened her up and stared at the lens while zooming, you can probably guess the look on my face.

asus_camera_zoom

Asus says that the 3x optical magnification is achieved by some 10-element HOYA periscopic lens arrangement trickery. You can get more details about the technology (which Asus dubs PixelMaster 2.0) on the manufacturer’s site.


http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js

(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push();

The sensor itself has a 13MP capture resolution. It is also supplemented by 4 stops of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an ultra-fast (0.03 seconds) laser auto-focus. The len’s f/2.7 aperture isn’t particularly great (compared to significantly larger sizes from the latest flagships), but Asus tries to assist the low-light performance from the software side with a Low Light shooting mode.

Without further ado, let’s get into the photo samples. Click on the collection below to see zoomed in (3x) and out samples.

ZenFone_Zoom_Collection

The optical zoom does work, and the camera quality is maintained when zoomed. Check out this comparison with the LG V10, both zoomed at 3x (but the V10 can only do digital zoom).

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

To my eyes, the Zoom’s camera performs fantastically in good lighting. But the results can take a dubious turn otherwise. Areas of concentrated lighting can too easily be overexposed.

P_20160207_141336
P_20160209_110746

HDR helps to a point (mostly to even out the overall contrast), but the blown-out areas will still be there. On the other extreme, there is an expected struggle when light is taken away. But the camera doesn’t try to force it and give you grainy images, things are just less visible. Thankfully, there is a Low Light shooting mode in the camera interface, which produces decent results.

Auto shooting mode

Auto shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

Low Light shooting mode

There’s no strings attached to the optical zoom’s use. It still works in special shooting modes, such as HDR and Low Light, as well as while recording. If you find that you need to zoom more than 3x, the len’s mechanism also allows it to go all the way to 12x (but via digital zooming).

Speaking of shooting modes, Asus makes sure the hardware is well supported on the software front. On the bottom-right corner of the camera interface is a shortcut to a barrage of modes.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-49-58

Some of these options are commonplace, but there’s a couple standout features. Super Resolution combines the detail from four simultaneous shots into a result that simulates 4x the capture resolution. Miniature mode gives the user finer tuning over the depth of field effect. Time Rewind takes simultaneous burst shots before and after the shutter button was tapped.

Battery

The ZenFone Zoom packs a modest 3,000 mAh capacity battery (non-removeable). It’s been sufficient in my use. I’ll go ahead to show you a battery usage graph, over a 9-hour period (the first half on T-Mobile’s network and the other half on WiFi).

Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-48
Screenshot_2016-02-07-21-41-55

50% battery drain over 9 hours is fine in my book. My usage covered a lot of use cases, such as internet browsing, music, maps/navigation, social media, and camera (screen brightness varied between max and 75%). But I didn’t play any games.

Do be aware that ZenUI packs battery modes that can largely determine what your battery life outcome will be. By default, the system is set to “Normal” (this is the mode that I used for the results above). It’s nice that Asus gives the user choices. Most UI’s have some form of Power Saving settings, but ZenUI actually lets you maximize performance if you want to (at the cost of battery life of course).

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-25
Screenshot_2016-02-10-21-49-13
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-40-33

There are two tiers of power saving modes: “Power saving” and “Super saving”. The former disables networks when the phone is on standby, while the latter only keeps the basic phone functions going (calling, texting, alarm). Or you can select “Customized” and pick and choose the system behavior yourself, such as CPU performance, screen brightness, and network and app activity. Lastly, “Smart switch” allows automatic battery mode switching based on either a certain battery percentage or user-specified schedule.

Software

The ZenFone Zoom runs off of Android 5.0 (Lollipop). Sadly, it’s not the latest version of Android and not even Android 5.1 (which was a crucial update in Lollipop). ZenUI is the user interface (UI) overlay and is no doubt as heavy as they come. But I will admit that after some time with the UI, I’ve started to open up to it. I don’t find that performance is hindered by ZenUI (which gives me confidence over Asus’s software competence), and I’ve discovered several useful functions that aren’t on other UI’s.

Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-16
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-25
Screenshot_2016-02-03-22-28-33

But I will always complain about unnecessary changes to Android’s aesthetics; it’s a waste of effort when changes don’t add any value. Things like the notification shade, app drawer, folder layout, and panel transitions all get a ZenUI fix. In fact, there’s no trace of true Android that I can spot.

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Adding more insult to injury, Asus throws in a ton of home-brewed apps that get in your face. At the phone’s first startup, you get a barrage of notifications from these apps to let you know that they’re present (and they pop up again over time). The Asus apps range from system management (data cleaner, power settings) to media features/tools. Fortunately, if you’re like me and don’t care, the system allows you to disable the apps (but not uninstall).

But ZenUI does redeem itself through a couple ways. One of these is gestures (which stock Android has yet to implement).

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There are two categories of gestures: Motion and Touch. There’s only a couple of motion gestures; shaking the phone to take a screenshot or bringing the phone to your ear to pick up a phone call. The touch gestures are far more interesting. Firstly, tap-to-wake is present (thank you, Asus!). What’s also cool is that you can draw a letter on the screen when it is off to launch one of the specified apps.

One other neat action is when you swipe up from the home screen. A “Manage Home” area pop ups, which contains various functions you may often use. You’ll also run into other nice useful features throughout the UI. For instance, you can set a tap and hold on Recent Apps button to take a screenshot or open up an app’s menu. The display’s coloring is alterable via presets or user customization. And there’s a useful “Auto-start Manager”, where you can save system memory by controlling which apps are allowed to run automatically.

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Theming is something that I think every UI should be able to do. ZenUI has a “Themes” app with a vast library of free and paid options. This includes a library of icon packs and third-party support to grab a pack from the Play Store.

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Final Thoughts

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When I reflect on everything that the ZenFone Zoom offers and then recall its asking price of $399, I can’t help but think that the value is great. I could most definitely replace my daily driver flagship phone (which costs almost twice as much) and not regret it. That’s where the ZenFone line has the upper-hand, and the 3x optical zoom is icing that you won’t get on most cakes out there.

As long as your expectations aren’t sky-high, the ZenFone Zoom is definitely recommendable. I just emphasize that the camera’s general performance is good but not the best you’ll find, and that ZenUI may be too heavy for Android enthusiasts (although, it functions just fine).

We’d like to give a shout-out to B&H Photo for supplying our ZenFone Zoom review unit!

Asus ZenFone Zoom product page

The post Asus ZenFone Zoom review: Clearing up the view ahead appeared first on AndroidGuys.

10
Feb

Grammy awards get built-in cameras for a winner’s perspective


The 58th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony is set to take place next week, and this year folks watching at home will get a rather unique perspective. The awards themselves, those iconic golden-horned record players, will have cameras built in to their bases. This means that you’ll be able to catch views only the trophy would “see,” including on-stage shots and more. Footage will be streamed online to Grammy Live, a pre-event feed that starts hours in advance of the show. However, it includes the Grammy Premiere Ceremony where additional awards are handed out. What’s more, the producers for live broadcast coverage on CBS will have the option to use Grammycam clips as they see fit.

Each of the awards will be equipped with a disassembled GoPro camera to capture the visuals. The components have been modified to beam the feed via RF to a broadcast truck where all of the camera angles, including the online stream, are being managed. The main challenge for Monday night? Battery life. Each unit is battery-powered, so it’ll have a limited supply of juice for the 3-hour event.This certainly an interesting way to capture new views, but we’ll have to tune in on February 15th to see how well it works.

Source: Fast Company

8
Feb

Galaxy S7 photo leaks show refinement to familiar designs


The unveiling of Samsung’s latest Galaxy handsets is fast approaching, but if you’re too antsy to wait, thankfully leakers have our backs. Today, we’ve gotten our best looks yet (allegedly) at the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. We also have some juicy details to round out the leaks.

First up is a rear shot of the Galaxy S7. We’ve previously heard that Samsung was working on slimming that unpopular camera hump from last year’s flagship, so many folks have been itching to get a visual of that effort.

galaxy-s7-live

While the camera component doesn’t look completely flush with the chassis, it does seem like a big improvement. If you’ve missed recent murmur about the S7’s camera module, it supposedly uses BRITECELL technology and underwent a reduction in megapixel count, from 16MP in the Galaxy S6 to 12MP (f/1.7 aperture lens).

Another interesting observation on the leaked image is that the back cover appears to be plastic rather than glass. But we shouldn’t jump to conclusions yet. It’s likely that this unit is a prototype. Also, notice that the Note5‘s curved back made a return.

Fortunately, that’s not all we have. Another image, of the alleged Galaxy S7 Edge, also surfaced.

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This image doesn’t really show us anything we didn’t already know. We’re familiar with those sexy curved edges. The S7 Edge is supposed to be the larger of the pair (5.5″ vs 5.1″ on the S7), and it does look like it from these pictures.

Samsung is said to have refined the metal frame on the Galaxy S7, replacing it with a stronger magnesium alloy. Water resistance and considerable battery capacities have also been reiterated.

We all know that the chipset will be a beast (they always are). The AnTuTu benchmark score on the S7 Edge image is thought to be achieved with the newest Exynos SoC. But keep in mind that various sources have suggested that some markets will get the Snapdragon 820 (likely the U.S.). Quick charging will also get a significant boost, with a claim of 0 to 80% in just 30 minutes. Lastly, the Galaxy S7 is said to join LG in the high quality audio game, also packing the HiFi ESS Sabre 9018 DAC (digital-to-analog converter).

What do you think about the Galaxy S7 pair so fair? If these details are true, are you sold on one or the other?

Source: SamMobile

The post Galaxy S7 photo leaks show refinement to familiar designs appeared first on AndroidGuys.

5
Feb

Android OEMs, this is what we’ve been wanting in smartphones!


You know, too often it looks like Android smartphone manufacturers aren’t listening to our wants (or at very least, our top priorities). We’re the ones buying the phones after all!

I guess that’s not completely fair. I mean, my wants may be different from yours. But bear with me here. As of late, leading smartphones have somewhat reached a plateau, haven’t they? We’re no longer (in large) clamoring for faster processors or more resolution. Therefore, chances are that our wants, as a whole, are easier than ever to determine.

Let’s do this: I’ll list the top five things I would tell an OEM to prioritize in their next flagship. I’m betting that most Android users will agree.

Battery

Battery

We want our phones to last. There’s no point in packing all these neat features into a phone if it runs out of battery. The battery needs to be the top priority.

I can’t help but point my finger at Samsung on this point. Last year, it revamped the Galaxy line with a much needed makeover. Except, the Galaxy S6 had terrible battery life. This is just wrong. A manufacturer who puts battery life on the sideline for another feature is making a bad play. Shame, shame on a giant like Samsung for not knowing better.

Let’s talk with our wallets and not buy into a negligence to battery life. At the high price of flagships, we shouldn’t have to settle. If we don’t have the ability to swap the battery anymore, than we need to see considerably large capacities in flagships. Screw thinness, battery life matters so much more.

Camera Optical Zoom

Cameras on flagship phones are fantastic today. Last year, I did comparisons with the Galaxy S6 and LG V10 against a Sony RX100 camera. The results were astonishing when you think about how small the smartphone sensors are in comparison to a dedicated camera.

This means we can are rely on smartphone cameras more than ever for capturing the life around us. But zooming is often associated with camera use, and digital zoom is quite horrendous. Digital zooming is actually cropping, and the decrease in image quality shows in a big way, even on the best current smartphone cameras.

For an example, I’ll show you a preview of my upcoming LG V10 vs Asus ZenFone Zoom comparison. The ZenFone Zoom has 3x optical zoom, and the benefit is quite clear.

LG V10, 3x zoom

LG V10, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom

Asus ZenFone Zoom, 3x zoom


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OEMs are probably reluctant about incorporating optical zoom because camera modules are already thicker than they would like. Everyone likes to complain about the camera hump on the iPhone and Galaxy series. That means this is an argument about phone thinness again, and I would gladly take a thicker phone if it meant better features.

More base storage

Storage

We’ve taken this BS long enough. Why do we still see devices released with 16GB or even 32GB of internal storage? While storage space has progressed for everything else in the market (solid-state drives, flash drives, SD cards), OEMs continue to short change us. All while many have gotten rid of micro-SD expansion on phones. This is an injustice.

I see many folks say that the low internal storage isn’t a big deal, that they can manage. But we should neither have to manage nor settle. OEMs are pulling a fast one on us and we continue to let them. They know they can include much larger storage space, but don’t. Maybe they’re banking on us buying a new phone every time we run out?

Durability

GR_GS6_Active_600x600_xlarge_grp_1Fragile phones just don’t make sense. They’re always in our hands, which means that gravity will claim them at some point. They should be designed to withstand accidents.

Historically, durable phones have been reserved for low/mid-end offerings from lesser known manufacturers (i.e. Kyocera). But I’ve always wondered why it has to be this way? Sure, we’ve seen some big manufacturers step up to the plate, like the Galaxy S Active line (which unfortunately has AT&T exclusivity), but they are too few and far between.

Another good example is Sony. While the Xperia line isn’t necessarily rugged, it has always had water and dust proofing. Motorola also had the right idea with last year’s Droid Turbo 2 and its “shatterproof” screen.

Part of the problem comes around to thinness again. Adding durability increases thickness. OEMs need to let go of the thin phone mentality.

Toned-down UI’s

Moto_X_PureMore OEMs need to step up to the plate like Motorola did with regard to phone software. Phone makers love to pile on their own touches to Android, in an effort to stand out. The problem is that very few make an appealing user interface (UI).

For instance, Samsung’s TouchWiz UI has long been infamous in the Android community for unnecessary changes to the stock Android UI and being resource hungry. Last year’s Galaxy S6 had a big issue with multitasking, where it closed down apps seconds from leaving it. That isn’t how Android was made to behave.

All these affordable offerings coming from Chinese OEMs nowadays are compelling but bittersweet. Sure, you’ll be getting tons of value, but it’s almost certain the UI will be heavy and/or subpar. How I wish that there were more OEMs that would adopt Motorola’s methodology – near stock Android with some enhancements. Android fans want the stock UI.

We’d like to hear your feedback. Do you agree with my top five list of things phone makers need to prioritize today, or is there another feature that you think takes precedence?

The post Android OEMs, this is what we’ve been wanting in smartphones! appeared first on AndroidGuys.

3
Feb

How to take better pictures with your Android smartphone


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In today’s smartphone-centric world, everybody and their mom (quite literally) has a camera in their pockets at all times, and the end result is millions of pics splashed all over the web. Of course, anyone can snap a photo and share it with the world, but taking a good pic is another story.

We all think we can take nice pictures nowadays, but keep in mind photography is no easy skill to master. There’s a plethora of factors that go into shooting a good photograph, and the same general rules apply to any camera (if you want to excel, that is).

Things are a little different with smartphones when compared to a traditional camera, though. This is why we are giving you a comprehensive tutorial for making the best out of your smartphone camera. Let’s get started, shall we?


nexus 6p vs samsung galaxy note 5 aa (14 of 26)See also: Best Android smartphone cameras (February 2016)24

Composition, composition, composition!

Composition is the #1 priority for taking a good shot. There is no way around it. I don’t care if your picture is perfect in every other way; bad framing will ruin your photograph. Sadly, there are way too many rules of composition to compile them in a post like this one. I mean, people go to college for years to learn this, but we will give you some general tips that will take you a long way.

Rule of thirds

If you take any photography class, this is more than likely the first rule of composition you will be taught. It’s really quite simple. Just imagine the frame is divided in 9 equal rectangles, with two vertical lines and two horizontal dividing the frame.

The idea is that your subject (by the way, always have a clear subject) should be mainly located towards one of the corners of the rectangle in the middle. Here’s an example:

rule of thirds

By the way, most smartphones have the option to show a grid you can base your photographs on. The thirds are sure to be included in there, if yours has the option.

Oh, and one common mistake people make is that they leave a lot of dead space in order to keep their subjects in one of these corners. Remember, if there is nothing interesting in the rest of the photograph, the rule of thirds won’t help much. In those cases it’s better to close in on your subject.

Use lines

There are lines everywhere. Use them to your advantage. These can help lead to your subject. A cliche example is railroads, as well as bridges or roads, but really, there are lines everywhere.

railroad Shutterstock

Point of view

Anyone can stand in front of an object and take a shot, but quite frankly, that is boring. You have to find the right angle, and sometimes the right angle is not in the most conventional place. See a rock? Maybe you can climb it and see how things look from there. Or maybe you can get on the ground and shoot facing up. Anything, just make the effort to find the angle that most people won’t think of capturing.

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Background

The background is just as important as your subject. Make sure it looks good; if not, at least keep it clean. Ensure there is no trash or obvious discrepancies. Watch out for points of escape (distractions) that will lead your viewers away from your subject. This would include bright lights or colors, as well as striking objects.

Spotify-4

Lighting

Professional photographers are lighting experts. Really, that is all photography is about – working with light and trying to capture it with the sensor (or film). Be smart about the way you use lighting. Turn to a direction in which the light is hitting your subject better. In the case of a selfie, for example, face the light.

The issue with smartphone cameras is that they tend to have very small sensors. Technology is at a point where you can still take great photos… in daylight. But the sad truth is that having a small sensor will always mean lesser performance when the lights go off. Your smartphone camera needs as much help as possible. Turn on the lights, get a lamp close to you, or something.

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Stop using flash

Flash photography is very tricky. People spend years trying to perfect it, so for most casual users it does more harm than good to use the flash. Especially if you are going to be using a single-direction, low-quality flash like the ones you find in smartphones. They will usually mess up your highlights, blow up the shadows and create a very unnatural look.

I would just never use the flash unless you are in a very dark place with no artificial lighting to help.

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Or use it smartly

With that said, this doesn’t mean you can’t use lights to improve your images. In fact, those who want to get creative can go all out and make images look stunning with the right knowledge and combination of lights. You could use soft boxes, flash, reflectors, continuous LED lights and more.

It’s really hard to go into detail about how these all work, but if you take the time to learn it all it will change everything you know about mobile photography. The guys over at Fstoppers actually made an amazing video on how they created great professional photos by using an iPhone.

I know: “it’s an iPhone!”. The point is that the fundamentals of lighting are the same, and this happens to be my favorite video of its kind.

Keep an eye on your lens

Lenses can get dirty, scratched, cracked and more. These delicate pieces of glass are a key factor in your photography. It has been said time and again: the lens is actually more important than the sensor and body in your camera. And keep in mind your phone only has one lens! Make sure it’s always clean and try to protect it from damage to keep your images nice and crisp.

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Go manual?

Most smartphones won’t allow you to change all the elements of your exposure triangle. But first… what the heck is the exposure triangle? Well, when taking a shot one of the main focuses is to get the right exposure. Getting the right amount of light in consists of three factors: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

In a nutshell, the ISO determines your sensor’s sensibility, aperture is how open the light hole is, and shutter speed dictates how long the sensor will be exposed.

But we are not here to talk about the exposure triangle. You can do plenty of searches to learn all that. Instead, what we wanted to focus on here is that there are apps out there that will allow you to control as much as possible.

manual-camera


Polaroid cameraSee also: 15 best camera apps for Android87

My favorite apps are Manual Camera and DSLR Camera Pro. These will allow you to take charge and manipulate things like ISO, shutter speed, shooting mode, white balance and much more. Undoubtedly, it will be superior over the stock camera apps. They do both cost $2.99, but they are very well worth it if you are into taking full control of your camera.

Download Manual Camera
Download DSLR Camera Pro

Take advantage of HDR

Most modern smartphones can take advantage of HDR (High Dynamic Range). But what does that even mean? In the traditional sense, HDR is done by taking multiple images of the same frame at different exposure levels. These are then merged and balanced for perfect lighting. It’s great for producing images showing drastic difference in lighting in the same scene; for example, when standing next to a window inside a darker room.

It works a bit differently with phones, and it’s mostly done digitally, but the results continue to be great. Make sure you use HDR when the opportunity shows itself, it will make a huge difference when dealing with images displaying varying levels of light.

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Post processing

Editing is a whole other world, folks. It will also take a long time for you to really master your style, but you can get started by downloading a simpler app like Snapseed. Once you grow out of that application, you can get something more complex like Lightroom or Photoshop Express.

Something to stress is that you get in the habit of actually editing your photos. Most people just shoot images and share. Smartphone cameras are super smart, but they will almost never take the image the way you envisioned it. Edit it to make it perfect. After that, you can add filters if you so choose to.

Download Snapseed
Download Lightroom
Download Photoshop Express

adobe lightroom mobile best Android apps for artists


photo editor by aviary best photo editor apps for android tabletsSee also: Top 16 Photo Editor Apps for Android95

Stop using that fake blur… pretty please

You’ve probably seen those images. People add blur to their photos to try and imitate the bokeh you can usually get from DSLRs when using specific lenses in specific ways. Well, unless you are using something like Google’s camera app (bokeh emulated by moving camera during shot to detect distances) or a dual-camera phone, it will more than likely look horrible.

Not that blurry backgrounds are bad looking; they are gorgeous. The problem is that it’s hard to imitate if you don’t really understand the fundamentals of depth of field. People often blur things they shouldn’t making the image look extremely unnatural.

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And even if you have previous knowledge in the topic, most times mobile software is not good enough to recreate the effect in a natural-looking manner.

Your images can look great without the fake blur, guys. No need for bells and whistles when you have taken a good shot. You would just be trying to make an image look interesting; something you won’t achieve with blur if your photo isn’t interesting already.

Stick with 4:3 aspect ratio

Most Android smartphone screens use a 16:9 aspect ratio, so it only makes sense that you use the same for your camera, right? Wrong! In essence, all you are doing by shooting at 16:9 is letting the camera crop the image.

Your camera sensor has a 4:3 ratio. This means that if you want to take full advantage of your sensor, you must switch to 4:3.

This way, your photo will be larger, which means you will get more pixels to play with, as well as a better way to fill the frame with great visuals. Still want a 16:9 ratio? No problem. Just crop it. It will take but a few seconds and you will actually get to pick how your image is cropped, instead of letting the phone do it.

CMOS image sensor

Stop zooming

Well… stop zooming unless you have an Android device with actual optical zoom (like the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom). There are a few, but chances are you don’t have one of those. In which case, you should never zoom in while taking a photo with your smartphone.

Digital zoom does nothing but actively crop the picture you are taking. You can kiss picture quality out the door if you do this. Just get closer to the subject if you can. And if you can’t, we still advise that you shoot the whole frame and then crop later. You will still lose the quality, but at least you can play around with it more and make a more rational decision after the fact.

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Get out there!

Photography is nothing but a recollection of your experiences. Get out there and enjoy life! It’s the only way you can really take outstanding photos. And now that we have given you some great tools to excel, you really have no excuses. The best part? You have a camera with you at all times!

What are your best smartphone-taken photos? Hit the comments and maybe share a link with us.

2
Feb

Samsung reportedly launches its VR camera February 21st


Tired of waiting for Samsung’s virtual reality-oriented Project Beyond camera to be more than just a well-meaning idea? You might just get your hands on it (or rather, something like it) soon. SamMobile sources hear that Samsung is preparing to launch a finished VR camera, the Gear 360, alongside the Galaxy S7 on February 21st. From the sounds of it, this device won’t be as elaborate as Project Beyond — it’ll have two 180-degree fisheye cameras (à la devices like Nikon’s KeyMission 360) rather than the abundance of cams on the concept. It’ll record a 4K wrap-around picture if you use both lenses, though, and will have trick modes like split image views, panoramas and timelapses. There’s no word on whether or not you can stream live footage online.

This remains a rumor, so you might not want to set aside some cash for the Gear 360 just yet. With that said, a launch simultaneous with the Galaxy S7 would make sense. Tech enthusiasts everywhere will already be watching, and Samsung itself makes a big deal out of VR in its Unpacked event teaser. The big questions are the price and compatibility. Will this be affordable enough that you can pick one up out of sheer curiosity? And will it work with phones that aren’t made by Samsung? If the claims are accurate, you may get your answers in a few weeks.

Via: The Verge

Source: SamMobile

28
Jan

HTC One M10 will reportedly pull all stops, with a QHD display and 12 UltraPixel camera


The soon to come HTC One M10 is shaping up to be quite the beast. I, for one, hope this is the flagship that us HTC fans have been waiting for.

As the launch approaches, we’ve been getting little tidbits of information. But the M10’s specs have been kept quiet. Until now, that is. Courtesy of Evan Blass (via VentureBeat), we’ve gotten our first peak into the what the M10 (codenamed “Perfume”) will deliver, and it’s sounding really good.

Firstly, HTC will finally join the rest of the flagship crowd with a QHD (2560×1440 pixel) display. It is said to continue the AMOLED panel trend revitalized with the One A9. And the screen size will be slightly bumped to 5.1″ (from 5″ on the One M9). No word if there will be a larger variant (I sure hope so).

I know a lot of us are wondering what the M10 will look like. There was no word in this report about the appearance, but it’s safe to assume that it will look a lot like the A9. Evan Blass previously said in a tweet, “If you like the A9, you’ll love the M10.”

HTC One A9

HTC One A9

The chipset was reported as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (Adreno 530 graphics) and 4GB of RAM. This is pretty much expected, but what wasn’t is the return of the UltraPixel camera. Yes, it is said to make a full force comeback, tripling the capture resolution of the original to 12 UltraPixels.

The advantage of UltraPixels is larger sized pixels, to capture way more light than the traditional megapixel. It helps tremendously with those tricky low-light situations. It’s low-light performance was proven on the One M7 and M8, but the original’s low 4 UltraPixel resolution didn’t jive with many folks. Things should get interesting now that we’ll have a more competitive 12 UltraPixel sensor.

Additionally, the camera’s focusing will be assisted by a laser auto-focus. Both the front and rear cameras will generously pack optical image stabilization (OIS).

The One A9 got rid of HTC’s signature BoomSound speakers (dual front-facing stereo speakers, used in HTC flagships since the One M7). Unfortunately, this report says that HTC is dropping it from the M10 as well. We can speculate that the speakers added too much bezel; it’s a common complaint that HTC phones are tall for their display size.

As far as timing, the M10 is said to miss a Mobile World Congress unveiling. That’s all we know. No pricing or estimated launch date. Does the One M10 so far sound like a winner to you? All we know is that the company really could use a big hitter right now.

Source: VentureBeat

The post HTC One M10 will reportedly pull all stops, with a QHD display and 12 UltraPixel camera appeared first on AndroidGuys.

28
Jan

Scosche Strikedrive EZTIP reversible micro USB car charger: review


It’s not very often that I get excited to review a car charger, but today is very different. There’s a high probability if you’re using an Android device that you are also using micro-USB to charge it. If you have other portable tech devices like Bluetooth speakers and headphones, you’re also using micro-USB to charge those too. With micro-USB being the standard for Android devices it makes it much easier for consumers to go with one cable type, and it frees us from the need to buy proprietary chargers like Apple does with its products.

So whether you buy a device from Sony, Samsung, LG, Motorola and so on, in all likelihood your cable is going to be the same type in micro-USB.

The major pitfall of micro-USB is that the plug is not reversible. The top of the plug is slightly smaller than the bottom which forces you to plug in the tip in the proper orientation. Another problem is the micro-USB is “micro”, so it is difficult to see which side is the top and which is the bottom if you have bad eyes like I do. We’ve all been forced to get used to this problem, and we do it without complaint because that is what we are used to.

Scosche, an award winning innovative company, has finally solved the problem with micro-USB and created the first mass market reversible micro-USB tip in a car charger called the Strikedrive EZTIP.

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Design

1We sometimes get caught up in feeling the need to radically change something in order to “innovate”. But, sometimes the smallest modifications are the ones with the most lasting impact. And Scosche has a great understanding of that with the Strikedrive EZTIP.

Scosche created a fully reversible micro-USB tip that can be plugged into any device with a female micro-USB receptacle. The Scosche micro-USB car charger is rated at 12 watt/2.4amp that provides fast charging while you’re in your car. It also comes with a small charging unit that prevents it from sticking out of the socket, and with a spring coiled cable to keep it off your feet and out of the way.

It is designed to work with Android devices, tablets, cameras, speakers, headphones and anything else with micro-USB.


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Usage

For a few months I had given up using micro-USB with my smartphones, because I was using the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X. Both of those phones have the USB type-C charging standard. While USB type-C can theoretically transfer data files faster than micro-USB, the main advantage is that it is the first plug to be fully reversible. While using both Nexus devices is when I learned how important that feature is.

Standard micro-USB(left), Strikedrive EZTIP(middle), USB type-C(right)

Standard micro-USB(left), Strikedrive EZTIP(middle), USB type-C(right)

Not having to look at which way I plug my charging cable in is a huge benefit, especially when driving. The last thing you want to do is look at your charging cable while on the road as it can be life endangering. We know we aren’t supposed to be looking at, or touching our smartphones while driving, but the reality is there are still many of us who do.

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I can tell you from experience with USB type-C, that having a reversible tip is a feature you shouldn’t overlook. The Scosche Strikedrive EZTIP works no differently than USB type-C, and fits as snug as micro-USB. I have been using the Scosche reversible micro-USB car charger with a whole host of devices, and it works incredibly well and is something that should replace the standard micro-USB tip.

Summary

Having a symmetrical charging tip is something you probably thought would have been the accepted standard versus the traditional micro-USB plug we use now. But it isn’t. We have to fumble with our charging cables, and look closely to make sure they are inserted in the right direction. Scosche solves that seemingly minor issue with the Strikedrive EZTIP and the reversible micro-USB car charger.

It seems minor, but once you have tried it you will want to replace all of your micro-USB cables. And there’s no more important area to replace your cable than in the car if you’re the type to mess with your devices while driving. It’s small changes like the reversible micro-USB tip that have the biggest impacts on our lives, and Scosche hit a home run with its Strikedrive EZTIP car charger.

Learn more at Scosche or at Amazon.com.

 

The post Scosche Strikedrive EZTIP reversible micro USB car charger: review appeared first on AndroidGuys.

28
Dec

Fujifilm’s X-Pro1 camera is finally getting a sequel


Fujifilm’s X-Pro1 was hot stuff for mirrorless camera fans when it arrived in 2012, but a lot has changed in 4 years — you can get considerably more powerful gear for the original asking price. At last, though, it looks like the photography giant is ready to update its flagship. Fuji Rumors has scored pictures of an X-Pro2 that (at least on the outside) is a welcome refinement of the original formula. You’ll still see the familiar, retro-influenced body, but it boasts clear changes to the viewfinder (possibly borrowing from the X100T) and control scheme — notice the joystick in the shot below? It may also be more compact, although it’s harder to tell in these early images.

What’s inside is a tougher call. The images line up with earlier drawings pointing to dual SD cards, but there’s not much else known so far. Will it get a fresh sensor? Faster image processing? Maybe. Fujifilm is supposedly unveiling the X-Pro2 on January 15th, however, so you may not have to wait very long to fill in the blanks.

The X-Pro2's back

Via: PetaPixel

Source: Fuji Rumors

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