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20
May

Huawei Snapto Review


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • 4G LTE support in the US
  • Incredible battery life
  • Budget-friendly price point
CONS
  • Below average camera
  • Sluggish performance
  • Average display
7.0

While have official 4G LTE support is great, the Huawei Snapto is found wanting in key aspects, and falls short when compared to its competitors in this price range.

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The worldwide budget smartphone market is extremely competitive, with a slew of solid mid-range and entry-level smartphones from various OEMs making their way to consumers. Not a lot of these devices see an official release in the US unfortunately, often due to their lack of full support for US network carriers, along with the availability of high-end smartphones at subsidized rates, albeit with contractual commitments.

Only recently have a few devices in the sub-$200 category, off-contract, been making their way to US, but there is still a significant gap in this segment, a void that Huawei is trying to fill with their latest budget-friendly offering. One of the big selling points of this device is its support for 4G LTE on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, but what else does it bring to the table? We find out, in this in-depth Huawei Snapto review!

Design

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When it comes to the design, Huawei takes a fairly simplistic approach with the Snapto. The device is made entirely of plastic, with the back featuring a textured leather finish, allowing for a feel in the hand beyond what you’d expect from a smartphone at this price point. The tapered edges of the removable back cover transition into a smooth matte plastic along the sides, and a glossy plastic wraps around the edges of the display. Opening the back cover gives you access to the microSD card slot and SIM card slot, but the battery is not replaceable.

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Going around the device, the power button and volume rocker are both on the right side, and while responsive, they don’t come with a very satisfying tactile feel to them. The headphone jack and microUSB port are placed at the top and bottom respectively. The back houses the 5 MP camera at the top left corner, just above the LED flash, as well as the single speaker unit found towards the right at the bottom, with the Huawei branding featured at the center.

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The company logo returns up front below the display as well, and the bezels around the display aren’t particularly thin, especially surprising given the use of on-screen navigation keys. The Snapto is also on the thicker side of things, with a thickness of 8.4 mm, and is also heavier than its all-plastic build would suggest, weighing in at 150 grams.

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Overall, the design of the Snapto is quite underwhelming, and it feels like Huawei has instead chosen to focus on the internals of the device. That is of course not a bad thing, but if you’re looking for something more aesthetically pleasing, there are significantly better options out there in this segment.

Display

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The Huawei Snapto comes with a 5-inch TFT display with a 720 resolution, with a resulting pixel density of 294 ppi. The display proves to be somewhat of a let down, with a lack of contrast, and poor viewing angles. Once you hit 45 degrees, there is a significant drop in brightness and quality, and sunlight readability is also not very good. The display is also kind of a fingerprint magnet, and despite my best efforts to keep it free from smudges, it still managed to collect fingerprints.

Performance and Hardware

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Under the hood, the Huawei Snapto packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, backed by the Adreno 305 GPU and 1 GB of RAM. This was the processing package that powered a lot of the mid-range devices in 2014 and was quite impressive, which is unfortunately not the case this time around. The Snapto feels quite sluggish when it comes to everyday performance, and while usable, is slow to the point where the slowness is not only noticeable, but also, at times, frustrating.

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For example, the pre-installed Google Keyboard rarely kept up with what was being typed when sending text messages, and going back to the homescreen from an app sometimes resulted in a 2 or 3 second delay before all the application icons re-appeared. Multi-tasking wasn’t particularly smooth either, with their being a noticeable slowdown when opening more than a couple of apps. The Adreno 305 GPU handled gaming decently well, however, graphic intensive games like Asphalt 8 had lower frame rates, and the occasional stutter.

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The Snapto comes with a standard suite of sensors and connectivity options, including 4G LTE support, that allows for high-speed internet access on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and their respective MVNOs. 8 GB of on-board storage is available, further expandable via microSD card by up to 32 GB. The single speaker unit at the back actually sounds surprisingly good, and gets fairly loud without the distortion that is sometimes seen with other similar budget-friendly devices. As is the case with any device with a speaker in this position, the sound gets muffled when the phone is placed on a flat surface.

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The Snapto packs a non-removable 2,200 mAh battery that provides surprisingly impressive battery life. The device comfortably lasted a full day of use, and then some, with just under 5 and a half hours of screen-on time, which is just fantastic. There is also a power saving mode baked in, with options including normal, smart, and endurance, to get even more juice out of the device. Battery life is certainly one of the highlights of the Huawei Snapto.

Camera

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The Huawei Snapto comes with a 5 MP rear camera with a LED flash, along with a 2 MP front-facing camera. The camera application is fairly easy to use, with a few different shooting modes to choose from, along with the ability to manually adjust certain settings such as white balance and ISO.

Unfortunately, the camera proves to be an extremely poor performer, with the pictures taken consistently out of focus and lacking in sharpness. The camera does come with a useful feature that allows you to take a shot by pressing the volume down key twice, but that is the only good thing about the camera experience this device provides.

Software

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The Huawei Snapto runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Huawei’s Emotion UI 2.3 on top. It’s not too far a departure from the traditional Android experience, but Huawei did make a few notable changes. For starters, an app drawer isn’t available, which can take some getting used to, and will require users to depend on folders to keep things organized. The available icon pack takes on a square motif with rounded corners, and the notification shade also comes with an expandable quick settings menu, which is certainly useful.

The Google keyboard is available as the default, but we’ve already mentioned the issues with it in terms of performance. The Recent Apps screen retains stock elements, although Huawei has added individual close buttons, and a one touch clean button. The lock screen gives users the ability to directly open the dialer, the messaging app, or the camera, and once in the homescreen, a simple swipe up will give you access to essential tools like the calendar, calculator, flashlight, and clock. I did really enjoy the ability to change each volume profile by pressing the setting button after pressing a volume button, a feature I wish every Android device had.

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There are a few pre-installed apps that come with the device, but it isn’t too bad, and at least there isn’t any carrier bloatware you have to worry about. There is also a simple mode, if you prefer to have a cleaner looking launcher. You also have the ability to disable apps from running when the screen is off, which is a contributor to the impressive battery life of the device. Finally, there is a notification manager that allows you to set from a single location which apps can send you notifications.

On the downside, I wasn’t very happy with the default notification sound, or should I say music. Whenever I received a notification from apps like Snapchat or Gmail, the phone would play a song which is kind of excessive, especially if you receive notifications frequently. Luckily, this is something that can be changed in the Settings.

Specifications

Display 5-inch TFT display
720p, 294 ppi
Processor 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Adreno 305 GPU
RAM 1 GB
Camera 5 MP rear camera with LED flash
2 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, USB 2.0
Storage 8 GB, expandable up to 32 GB
Software Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
Battery 2,200 mAh
Colors Black
White
Dimensions 144.5 x 72.4 x 8.4 mm
150 grams

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Huawei Snapto is available for $179.99 with color options including black and white. The main competition for the device are the identically priced and specced Moto G (2014), as well as the slightly more expensive, but arguably more powerful, Asus Zenfone 2.

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So, there you have it for a closer look at the Huawei Snapto! While the Snapto does have some strong selling points like LTE support, a good sounding speaker, and incredible battery life, I don’t think that this is a good choice for the average user. Buying a budget phone officially with LTE support in the US is great, but you really have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to give up a lot of what makes a smartphone good, with the display, performance, and camera, all points of contention. As mentioned, the competition in this space is heating up, and there are certainly more compelling options at this price point out there.



19
May

Oppo R1x Review


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Gorgeous design and build
  • Fluid software experience with no hitches
  • Vibrant display despite only 720p
CONS
  • Lower end specs for the price when compared to the competition
  • Average camera with poor low light performance
  • No VOOC fast charging
7.5

While the Oppo R1x lacks a standout feature to differentiate itself from the competition, what it does offer is a device that simply looks, feels, and is built like a flagship.

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Flagship smartphones continue to impress with their incredible specifications, performance, and features across various aspects of the smartphone experience, but there is always going to be a need for devices that aren’t as demanding on the wallet. The increased focus on the mid-range segment has been a boon for consumers, with a budget-friendly price tag no longer indicative of a significant compromise in quality. As the competition in this space heats up, we’ve seen some great devices from numerous OEMs, including Oppo. What does the company’s latest mid-range offering bring to the table? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Oppo R1x!

What does the company’s latest mid-range offering bring to the table? We find out, in this in-depth review of the Oppo R1x!

Design

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Oppo’s penchant for great design and build quality, even when it comes to their more budget-friendly offerings, really shines through with the R1x. Maintaining the design language of its predecessor, the R1x features a thin aluminum chassis, and CNC-machines with the now very popular diamond cutting techniques help deliver the mirror smooth chamfers which surround the various buttons and ports.

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Speaking of buttons and ports, the volume rocker and SIM card slot are found to the right, with the power button on the opposite side, along with the headphone jack and micro USB port placed at the top and bottom respectively. The micro USB is flanked by what might look like a dual speaker setup, but instead houses a single speaker unit on one side, and a microphone on the other, with the grill design present for the sake of symmetry. Below the display is where you will find the capacitive home, back, and recent apps keys.

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The R1x also retains the glass sandwich design of its predecessor, akin to the Sony Xperia Z line of smartphones, this time with a sapphire glass backing that should do a great job at keeping things scratch free, along with a reflection pattern that shines no matter what angle the phone is held. Even with a thickness of just 6.8 mm, Oppo has managed to avoid a camera bump that can be found with even some flagships out there, allowing for a sleek and uniform look throughout.

Display

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The Oppo R1x features a 5-inch IPS LCD display with a 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 294 ppi. We’ve certainly seen devices in this segment with higher resolutions, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a valuable visual experience to be had in this case. Helped along by the bright and colorful user interface, everything is still clear and detailed enough, with IPS technology bringing with it the great viewing angles and good brightness it is known for.

Performance and Hardware

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Under the hood, the Oppo R1x packs a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This is the processing package powering quite a few mid-range offerings out there, and continues to prove its capabilities. Moving around the various elements of the user interface, as well as the animations, are all smooth and snappy, with there being no hint of any lag or hiccup. Going in and out of applications and multi-tasking are a breeze, and gaming is also handled very well, save for the most graphic-intensive of situations. The experience may not be as fast as what is possible with the current crop of flagships, but there isn’t much to complain about when it comes to the performance of the R1x.

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The R1x comes with 16 GB of onboard storage, with expandable storage up to 128 GB available via microSD. While the device does features dual-SIM support, it has to be mentioned that the R1x comes with a tray setup with two slots, leaving it up to the user to choose between dual-SIM capabilities or microSD expansion with a single SIM in place. The standard suite of sensors and connectivity options are available, along with support for 4G LTE, even though it might be compatible with LTE networks in the US. Call quality is decent, and the single speaker unit at the bottom certainly gets loud enough, even if the sound quality isn’t particularly rich.

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On the battery front, the Oppo R1x packs a non-removable 2,420 mAh unit, which comfortably allows for a full day of use with moderate to heavy usage. During a day with usage that involved using Google Maps periodically, texting, sending emails, web browsing, and watching videos on Youtube, the device managed just under 3 hours of screen-on time, with the battery just about making it through the full day. Serviceable is the operative word here, and while it may not be the best performer, the battery life isn’t close to the worst either. The R1x does not come with Oppo’s incredibly fast VOOC fast-charging capabilities though, which is quite a disappointment, being one of the best features of any Oppo device, but unfortunately, it looks like Oppo is saving this feature for its more higher-end offerings.

Camera

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On a mid-tier smartphone like this, you might feel you’d be completely cheated out of any reasonable camera experience, and while you’re definitely missing out on 4K video capabilities with only 1080p max, you’re still getting a solid 13 MP shooter with at least passable outdoor capabilities. It produces subdued colors, but the images aren’t lacking in detail. Understandably, indoor photography suffers more, even with its f/2.0 aperture. The camera works hard to bring brightness to the image with an ISO increase, but then makes for a grainy unattractive image.

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All of the automatic settings are controlled by what Oppo calls Pure Image 2.0+, that changes the settings to create the optimal image. Manual controls are available too, so those with the technical know how are given the opportunity to tweak the settings for a better image, with access to white balance, ISO, exposure, and manual focus. The camera app is packed with features though, with even more choices available for the user to install later such as GIF creator, RAW image capture, and After Focus, to name a few. For what amounts to being an average camera, you do get almost every software feature you could possibly think of.

The device also packs a 5 MP front-facing unit, which certainly packs enough pixels, but also allows for only average shots when outdoors, with a noticeable drop in quality when indoors, with images coming out noisier than expected, with a post-processing on the software side that ends up crushing detail in the image to compensate. Of course, the seemingly standard Beauty Mode is also available, to add a little extra to your selfies.

Software

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When it comes to the software, the Oppo R1x runs Color OS 2.0.1 based on Android 4.4.4 Kitkat. As mentioned, the software experience is very smooth, with snappy animations without any hint of lag. As is the case with the software seen with a lot of devices from Chinese OEMs, there is no app drawer available, which could take some getting used to, and leaves you dependent on folders to stay organized, and of course, you do always have the option to utilize a third-party launcher from the Google Play Store to return to a more traditional experience.

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But Color OS itself has its own toolbelt of features that does make it a compelling UI option, including a robust theme store to customize the look to better suit your tastes. Other features include the Exclusive Space and Live Weather widgets, with the latter allowing for weather themed animations for your wallpaper, and the former introducing Oppo’s take on widgets for your camera and music player. It may not be a standout feature, but are certainly a fun, fresh take on the widget side of things.

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The Color OS on the Oppo R1x works pretty well, but the device does come with the ability to get back to a more stock iteration quite easily. In the Settings menu, that is well laid out into three categories, General, Sound, and Display, you have the option to switch to the Google Now launcher, and set Google Hangouts to be the default messaging up, resulting in a more standard Android experience. That said, Color OS isn’t an uncomfortable experience by any means, and the ability to play around with the look and feel via themes is something that users may prefer.

Specifications

Display 5-inch IPS LCD display
720p, 294 ppi
Processor 1.7 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615
Adreno 405 GPU
RAM 2 GB
Camera 13 MP rear camera with LED flash
5 MP front-facing camera
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, USB 2.0
Storage 16 GB, expandable up to 128 GB
Software Color OS 2.0.1 based on Android 4.4.4 Kitkat
Battery 2,420 mAh
Colors Dark Blue
White
Dimensions 140.6 x 70.1 x 6.8 mm
130 grams

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The Oppo R1x is priced at the equivalent of approximately $450 in various markets around the world, with availability in the US, and compatibility with US LTE networks, not confirmed for now.

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So there you have it – a closer look at the Oppo R1x! The device arrives at a time when the competition in the mid-range space is as intense as ever, and while it does to prove to be quite capable, with a beautiful, albeit low-resolution display, and more than decent performance, what the R1x lacks is a standout feature to differentiate itself from the competition. With that said, what it does offer is a device that simply looks, feels, and is built like a flagship, but at a much lower price point.



15
May

Android Wear vs Apple Watch Software Comparison


Wearables have slowly been finding their feet over the last couple of years, and were given a much needed boost with the arrival of Android Wear. That said, whether we love it or hate it, what has further pushed this technology into the mainstream is the Apple Watch. Apple’s take on the smartwatch is finally here, and understandably, the first question on everyone’s mind is with regards to how it stacks up against the competition. Today, we’re going to find out what is similar and what is different between the two, in this close look at Android Wear vs Apple Watch!

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-3

For starters, it has to be mentioned that this comparison is mostly pertaining to the software side of things, as there are some differences in hardware depending on which Android Wear watch you have. For the purposes of this comparison, we will be using the LG Watch Urbane, given that it is currently the only Android Wear smartwatch to run the latest Android 5.1.1 update.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-6

While aesthetically very different, the latest version of Android Wear and Apple’s Watch OS 1.0 couldn’t be more similar in terms of features and capabilities. Both receive notifications, answer phone calls, track fitness data, and have customizable watch faces, along with a laundry list of other features, and of course, also tell the time. Granted, there are some significant differences as well, including when it comes to the implementation of what are essentially identical features.

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We begin by taking a look at how each watch handles notifications. In the case of Android Wear, notifications show up in a Google Now-esque card style format that pile up in a vertical list as more notifications are received. All of them can be dismissed easily with a simple swipe, and most come with a set of actions, such as replying to a text message or email, deleting them, or the option to open the relevant application on the phone directly from the watch.

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On the other hand, the Apple Watch takes on a more mobile-like implementation with regards to how it manages notifications. Whenever a notification arrives, it briefly appears on the display, and if you happen to miss it, or want to see all your notifications, you can find them with a swipe down from the top of the display to reveal the notification shade, from which you can also dismiss them. Unlike Android Wear, only a certain set of notifications can be responded to from the watch, making for an implementation that feels less robust. Applications like Google Hangouts and Gmail require you to open them on the phone, but messages on Apple’s iMessage can be responded to from the watch itself, either via a preset message, or using voice dictation.

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Speaking of voice dictation, just like their phone OS counterparts, you are dealing with Google Now on Android Wear and Siri on the Apple Watch. Google Now integration on Android Wear means that any cards that you normally get on your phone or tablet like sports scores, stocks, and weather information, will also show up on the watch. While Siri doesn’t necessarily offer that on the Apple Watch, a swipe up from the bottom of the display reveals what Apple calls “Glances,” which houses a lot of the same information that one might get from Google Now. Glances is also a management hub for other things like media controls, navigation, and even Instagram and Twitter.

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For fitness junkies, both operating systems are capable of keeping track of calories burned, exercise, and heart rate monitoring, with the Apple Watch also giving you a reminder to stand and move around a bit if it thinks you’ve been sitting idle for too long. There is possibly a third party Android Wear that offers this additional feature, but is something that isn’t available out of the box.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-4

Watch faces are also highly customizable on either OS, but for now, there are a lot more options available for Android Wear, likely due to the open nature of the platform and its third party support. Along with the appearance, watch faces on both can be customized to show pertinent information like battery life, current date, and weather, to name a few.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-5

With the update to Android 5.1 Lollipop, Google added some new features to Android Wear, such as Wi-Fi support to allow the watch to sync with your phone without a Bluetooth connection, wrist gestures to scroll through notifications by flicking the wrist, screen lock, a dedicated app and contacts screen, as well as the ability to send emoticons. With the exception of Wi-Fi and wrist gestures, all the other features are also available on the Apple Watch, but again, in a different implementation.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-7

For example, screen lock on Android Wear is in the form of a pattern lock, while it is a PIN iteration in the case of the Apple Watch. Applications on Android Wear can be found in a simple vertical scrolling list, compared to a series of floating circles on a black background on the Apple device, which might seem confusing, but is actually very easy to navigate. Granted, these are negligible differences, but differences nonetheless.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-1

The big difference between these two platforms comes in what purpose they are trying to serve. Android Wear feels like a companion to your smartphone, with access to all the essentials without being too much of a distraction. On the flip side, the Apple Watch is akin to a miniaturized version of your phone, offering a lot of what your phone can also do, including taking phone calls directly from the watch, and making purchases with Apple Pay.

Android Wear Vs Apple Watch-8

Most of the disparity really has to do with the app selection. Even though the Apple Watch is very new, there is already a wide selection of apps available that you won’t find on Android Wear, at least not yet, and with better integration, at least in some cases. For example, while you can receive notifications from Instagram and Twitter on Android Wear, you will still have to get your phone out to use the app. With the Apple Watch, you can scroll through Instagram or Twitter and like, comment, favorite, and retweet just like you would on the mobile, and even book an Uber ride directly from the watch.

Of course, all of this could change in just a short period of time, as both platforms continue to evolve and compete, in much the same way their mobile OS counterparts have. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and while they share a lot in common, the implementation and overall experiences are very different. At the end of the day, it is all going to come down to personal preference, just like it always has, in this never ending competition between Apple and Google, with a focus now on the domination of your wrist.



15
May

Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 Review: one of the best budget phones of the year


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Attractive, slim, and symmetrical body
  • Dual front-facing speakers sound great
  • Large 1080p display
  • Reliable performance, even if not very fast
  • Solid camera
  • Software is quite spartan
  • THAT PRICE
CONS
  • Large size may not be for everyone
  • Spec hungry will wish for even more snappiness
  • Software needs a bit more polish
8.8

With its simple, elegant design, decent specifications, solid camera, and fantastic audio experience, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 is one of the best budget-friendly smartphones out there.

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The competition in the mid-range Android space continues to heat up, with a slew of OEMs, some better known than others, having some fantastic devices on offer, with most coming with distinctive features to help differentiate themselves from the competition. One common thread among all of these solutions is their surprisingly affordable price tags, that unlike only a few years ago, is no more indicative of any shortcomings on the quality side of things. One such device, which is probably one of the best budget-friendly phones we’ve ever seen, is from Alcatel OneTouch, introduced back in February during MWC 2015. What does this smartphone have to offer? We find out, in this in-depth Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 review!

Design

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At the start it has to be mentioned that there are two variations of the Idol 3 available, one with a 4.7-inch display and the other featuring a 5.5-inch screen. The latter is also the more powerful of the two, with hardware and features that are generally better across the board, and what is focused on in this review.

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At first glance, it’s hard not to think about the Idol 3 as a large Nexus 4 because of its pebble design, complete with a subtle silver trim and the lack of buttons. One difference that arises is the presence of a dual front-facing speakers with the Idol 3 that are powered by JBL audio enhancements, found at edges above and below the display. The bezels on the sides of the display are also quite thin, so handling isn’t much of a problem despite its larger form factor.

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Another noticeable aspect of the design is the fact that this device is very symmetrical, and you will often find yourself picking it up upside down accidentally. Luckily, that doesn’t prove to be an issue, and rather, one of the features of this phone is the ability to use it in either orientation, with the screen flipping over for easy usage. Even better is the fact that calls can also be answered either way, with a microphone and speaker combo found on both ends.

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The volume rocker and power button are found on the right and left respectively, and are positioned a little too high to be within a comfortable reach, resulting in some hand gymnastics being required every time to get to them. Below the power button is a dual tray that houses both microSD and SIM cards. The headphone jack is up top, and the microUSB port is on the right side at the bottom.

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Heading over to the back is where you will see the hard plastic cover with a brushed metal finish reminiscent of the LG G3, allowing for a more premium look and feel than its price point would suggest. The branding on the back is simplistic as well, and towards the top left corner is the camera unit.

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As mentioned, the handling experience is just as expected, and not any easier or harder than it should be, helped by the fact that this is a relatively light device. The smaller iteration may be the ideal choice for some, but this variant makes for one of the easiest and more affordable entry points into the large display space. Ultimately, the simplicity of the Idol 3 does fit its price point, but all the subtle touches add a lot more value to an already accessible and attractive body.

Display

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The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 features a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. While we are certainly spoiled by the Quad HD Super AMOLED’s and Quantum Display’s of the world, the display of the Idol 3 is more than a capable performer, especially when considering the fact that not too many mid-range smartphones come with this resolution.

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Brightness and viewing angles are good as one would expect from an IPS panel, and while contrast can use a boost and colors are just a little bland, there are worse performers out there. Text looks just fine and watching videos and playing games make for an enjoyable experience, helped by the size of the display and the front-facing speakers. Overall, the display is certainly more than good enough for the regular user, with only the spec hungry being left feeling somewhat disappointed.

Also worth mentioning is that the Idol 3 does come with a double tap to wake feature, which unfortunately doesn’t prove to be as reliable as we would have liked.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. While this processing package is decidedly mid-range, the experience it provides doesn’t fall much behind the snappy and smooth performances we’ve seen with the high-end releases this year.

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The near-stock version of Android doesn’t get bogged down with a lot of additions from Alcatel OneTouch, with those that are included running as smoothly as everything else. Loading applications does take a little bit of time, and moving among applications via the Recent Apps screen isn’t the fastest experience, but is still very reliable. The same holds true with the gaming experience as well, with the device handling quite a lot, save for some of the more graphic-intensive games out there.

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Understandably, the Idol 3 is not going to match up to the standards set by the current crop of flagship Android smartphones, but things remain as smooth and reliable as hoped for, which is certainly great given how inexpensive this device is.

Hardware

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Budget-friendly devices don’t usually shine in the hardware department, but the Idol 3 is an overachiever in this department. A full suite of connectivity options are available, including dual SIM support, and connecting to the T-Mobile 4G LTE network was quick and easy. Call quality was great, with the sound loud and clear, and as mentioned, you have the ability to answer a call and talk no matter which orientation you’re holding the phone in. One important disclaimer that appears in the Idol 3 though is that the orientation of the screen dictates which speaker and microphone combo is used, so as long as you’re not looking at the screen upside down when answering a call, it’ll work fine.

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Listening to music, watching videos, and playing games are a very enjoyable experience courtesy of the dual front-facing speakers, that bring with it loud, clear, and full bodied JBL enhanced audio. These speakers are quite close to rivaling the HTC BoomSound speakers, which is really an impressive feat.

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Internal storage is dictated by the whether you pick the single SIM or dual SIM version of the phone, with the former coming with 16 GB of built-in storage and the latter doubling that. Both versions do have microSD card support though, with the storage expandable up to 128 GB.

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Finally, when it comes to the battery, the Idol 3 packs a 2,910 mAh unit, that in my experience comfortably allowed for a full day of use with around 3 hours of screen-on time, before the power saving mode was activated with the battery life down to 15%. This device certainly provides enough juice to last an entire day, which is the least we can ask for from a device that is intended to be used as a daily driver.

Camera

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A Sony-made sensor powers this 13 MP camera, and is actually a pretty solid performer, with a nice 8 MP front facing unit to back it up. The front-facing camera brings some larger pictures to the selfie game, though it isn’t perfect by any means. Pictures have a noticeable grain to them and the angle isn’t as wide as some of the competition in the same market segment. It does work well enough for the occasional selfie, and 1080p video recording is available as well.

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The camera application is pretty simple, with just button elements placed on the sides of the viewfinder. Hitting the menu button brings up a number of modes, including even timelapse, which takes a bunch of photos for every second of what ends up being a video. HDR does a decent job of lightening up the subject if it is blown out, but otherwise its effect isn’t too strong.

Pictures from the Idol 3 are actually quite good, with details captured quite well, and a slight amount of post processing working to smooth out the grain. While pictures manage to keep from being too bland, the colors can use a bit of punch most of the time, and very lit scenes might miss the mark in terms of contrast. Lower light shots get the typical amount of grain and loss of detail, but not to an extreme degree, and usable photos are definitely possible in darker situations. Overall, this isn’t a camera that underperforms, especially if you consider devices of the same price or even somewhat more expensive, and that is quite impressive.

Software

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On the software front, the Idol 3 is running a mostly stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, with a few additions by Alcatel which manage to not be too overbearing. For example, icons are a bit more bubbly, almost to the extent that you would think there’s no app drawer, even if that’s not the case. Folders in the homescreen fold open, which is a nice animation, as is the twisting animation the phone makes when flipped over. There is also a Mix application that can take local audio files to use as two DJ tracks, so you can have quite a bit of fun with it and make some mashups. It is supposed to tap into streaming services, but for whatever reason, that was not available in my testing.

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Otherwise, the software experience has a lot of the Material Design elements of Lollipop, as can be seen in the notification drop down with quick settings, the Overview screen, and even in the animations when getting to and from applications.

Specifications

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

There really isn’t much keeping this phone from being a reliable performer, which is why the price of $250 is nothing short of incredible. Even comparing so-called budget releases from plenty of the top tier manufacturers, this can be considered one hell of a steal.

thumb ALCATEL ONETOUCH IDOL 3 EDITORS CHOICE (1 of 1)

So, there you have it – a closer look at the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3! We might be looking at one of the best affordable devices this year. With plenty of mid-range to lower-end devices coming out all the time, it’s great to see Alcaltel remaining unique from the rest, without the need for any crazy features or gimmicks. A larger screen with dual front facing speakers, JBL enhancements, a solid camera, and a spartan operating system in an attractive body make this one of the easiest entry points to Android available yet, as well as one of the easiest on the wallet.

70
9
May

LG Watch Urbane Review


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Beautiful design
  • Vibrant OLED screen
  • Great battery life
  • Luxury appeal
  • Comfortable on the wrist
  • Latest version of Android Wear
  • Good performance
CONS
  • Premium price
  • Stainless can be prone to scratches over time
9.3

LG sets the standard with their latest Android Wear smartwatch offering, the LG Watch Urbane, even if the premium design and build quality does result in an admittedly pricey device.

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Editor's Choice Update 2015The first generation of Android Wear smartwatches were quite impressive, and while things remain quite similar in terms of specifications, features, and the software experience with the current crop of devices, there has been a significant improvement in terms of design and build quality. LG has been at the forefront of this evolution, starting from the reference model-like nature of the LG G Watch, to its first round face smartwatch, the G Watch R, culminating to its latest, and most expensive, offering. Is the newest Android Wear smartwatch from LG deserving of a place on you wrist? We find out, in this comprehensive LG Watch Urbane review!

Related – Best Android Watches

Design

LG Watch Urbane-8

LG is no stranger to the smartwatch game at this point and it certainly shows, judging by the design and build quality of its latest offering. The Watch Urbane is classy and elegant, and looks great not just in terms of being a smartwatch, but as a watch in general, with elements like its circular design, power button disguised as a winder, and thick watch lugs making for a device that looks like a regular watch to the untrained eye.

LG Watch Urbane-33

The body is constructed with a polished stainless steel that gives it a luxurious appearance, along with a nice substantial feel to it, without being overly heavy. The stainless steel could be prone to scratches, but this review unit has held up just fine so far, but it is a fingerprint magnet and smudges fairly easily. That is, of course, just a minor gripe, as it is a small device and is very easy to keep clean.

LG Watch Urbane-6

The band is made from genuine leather, and comes with real stitching along its sides. The leather LG likes to use is quite stiff and rigid and may not be to everyone’s liking, but does hold up very well against everyday wear and tear, while being comfortable on the wrist. The good news is that the band can easily be swapped out for any standard 22 mm band, so you always have the option to get one that better suits your tastes.

The  Watch Urbane is one of the larger Android Wear smartwatches available, but definitely isn’t a bulky watch by any stretch of the imagination. Granted, it could take some getting used to, but if you are already comfortable with wearing larger watches, the Watch Urbane will feel quite normal.

Display

LG Watch Urbane-21

The Watch Urbane comes with a 1.3-inch P-OLED circular display with a 320 x 320 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 245 ppi. The display is protected by a Gorilla Glass 3 panel that should keep it free from scratches. Further, the glass is slightly recessed into the body of the watch, helping to prevent any damage from accidental bumps.

LG Watch Urbane-26

As expected, the plastic OLED screen provides some very deep blacks, saturated colors, high contrast ratios, and enough brightness for easy outdoor visibility. OLED technology makes a lot of sense with a smartwatch, not only because of its battery saving properties, but also given how this display really makes the elements of Android Wear pop. The deep blacks and high contrast make darker watch faces look fantastic, along with graphics looking good, and text being reasonably sharp and easy to read. Some may find the 1.3-inch size to a little on the smaller side, but it is still very easy to use for the most part, and it definitely is a very good looking screen.

Performance and Hardware

LG Watch Urbane-32

Things remain standard when it comes to the performance and hardware side of things, with the Watch Urbane packing the same processing package as most other Android Wear smartwatches out there, with its quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, clocked at 1.2 GHz, and backed by 512 MB of RAM.

The processing package is starting to show its age but is still more than enough to power Android Wear. Day to day performance has been very smooth with clean animations, while swiping between cards, notifications, opening apps, and changing watch faces are all done without any instances of stutter. The experience has been at par with any other Android Wear smartwatch out there, and there isn’t much to complain about.

LG Watch Urbane-11

Things are standard on the hardware side of things as well, with the Watch Urbane coming with support for Wi-Fi, which it can now take advantage of with the Android Wear version it runs, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 LE. 4 GB of on-board storage is available, as well as the usual suite of sensors, like the accelerometer and compass, and a heart rate monitor on the back. The watch also comes with an IP67 certification for resistance to dust and water.

As  you may have noticed, the Watch Urbane has a lot in common with its predecessor, the G Watch R, and that holds true when it comes to the battery as well. As such, you can expect the identical battery life from this 410 mAh unit, with up to 2 days of usage with “Always screen on” enabled. This battery life is again fairly standard across the board, so shouldn’t be an issue for any previous or current Android Wear smartwatch users.

Software

LG Watch Urbane-29

The LG Watch Urbane is the first Android Wear smartwatch to ship with the latest Android 5.1 Lollipop update. The core software experience remains the same, with actionable notifications and Google Now cards as well as customizable watch faces all available. The update does introduce some key new features to the table though.

Always screen-on mode is now available for applications, so if you’re looking at something like a checklist or a map and the screen happens to time out, you’ll still be able to see it in a black and white format to save battery, similar to how watch faces appear on the screen when in a dimmed state. One of the best features this update brings is Wi-Fi support, which means that the watch doesn’t always have to be connected to your phone via bluetooth anymore. As long as the watch is connected to a Wi-Fi network and the phone has a data connection, notifications will sync with the watch, giving Android Wear a little more independence, and you a little more freedom, away from your smartphone.

LG Watch Urbane-16

Notifications can also be scrolled through now with “wrist gestures,” by simply flicking the wrist. It can really come in handy if your other hand is full, or you just don’t want to touch your watch, but it only works if the watch is upright, so don’t expect to be able to scroll through notifications with your wrist while laying down in bed. To increase the level of security, Google added a new feature called “screen lock,” which is essentially a pattern lock ported over to Android Wear. This can be enabled manually, or set to lock automatically anytime you take your watch off your wrist, to prevent others from snooping in on your notifications. Finally, for a little bit of fun, Google has made it very easy to send emojis just by drawing them on the screen.

LG Watch Urbane-24

Besides the addition of new features, the UI has undergone some cosmetic changes. Tapping on the screen, swiping to the left, or long pressing the power button, now brings up a separate column for apps, starred contacts, and the standard Speak Now screen. This not only makes it easier and quicker to find what you need, but also reduces the amount of vertical scrolling, that made previous builds of Android Wear a little more cumbersome to use. The new features and UI enhancements brings about some very welcome changes to the Android Wear experience, and for the time being, is something that is unique to the Watch Urbane.

Specifications

Display 1.3″ 320 x 320 P-OLED, 245 ppi
SoC 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400
RAM 512 MB
Storage 4 GB
Battery 410 mAh (2+ days)
Resistance IP67
Extras pedometer, heart rate monitor
Charging Dock
Price $349.99

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The LG Watch Urbane is available now in stainless steel and rose gold for $349.99, making it one of the most expensive Android Wear watches to date. Whether it’s worth it or not will depend on how much you value the luxury appeal and aesthetics of the Urbane, because everything else this watch offers can be found on pretty much every other Android Wear smartwatch out there.

lg watch urbane aa 16

Editor's Choice Update 2015So there you have it – a closer look at the LG Watch Urbane! With OEMs not given a whole lot of freedom to play around with the software experience, and with the internals largely the same across the board, there isn’t a whole lot that differentiates the Watch Urbane from the competition, save for its beautiful design and build quality, that unfortunately does result in a significant bump in the price point. Judging solely on the design, LG has a clear winner on their hands, both as a standard timepiece and a fashion item.

See it on Amazon

Other awesome smartwatches!

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7
May

Blu Selfie Review


The Bottom Line

PROS
  • Unique and attractive design
  • Solid build quality
  • Good display
  • Good performance
  • Impressive battery life
  • Budget-friendly price point
CONS
  • lackluster camera performance
  • Outdated processor
  • Poor placement of power button and camera shutter button
  • No 4G LTE support
6.5

The Blu Selfie features a distinctive design that will certainly turn heads, and offers decent performance and impressive battery life, but unfortunately falls short in what should have been its biggest selling point, the camera performance.

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Blu may not be the most well-known company in the Android smartphone space, but the Florida-based company has released a slew of entry-level to high-end smartphones that are available at very affordable prices unlocked and without any contractual commitments. It’s not just about the price though, as some of their more recent releases do attempt to bring something unique to the table, such as the Blu Selfie. There’s no prizes for guessing what the primary purpose of this smartphone is, but what does it have to offer beyond the ability to take a good selfie? We find out, in this comprehensive Blu Selfie review!

Design

Blu Selfie-14

The Blu Selfie features one of the more unique smartphone designs out there, with a shape that is a bold departure from the norm. With a look that will remind you of a concept design from the past, there’s no denying that this device is certainly very different and eye catching. With its subtly curved polycarbonate back and brushed metal band, the Blu Selfie not only looks great, but feels great in the hand as well.

Blu Selfie-11

The plastic comes with a matte finish that helps with grip and is quite resistant to fingerprint smudges, but unfortunately can fall victim to some minor discoloration. After using the device for around two weeks, a faint bluish hue was noticeable on the chin of the phone where the plastic back wrapped around to meet the glass of the display, which may be an issue with the white version of the device. Using a damp cloth to wipe the area does help, but only to some extent, making it difficult to return to the original color.

Blu Selfie-16

The golden accents found on the camera ring and metal band complement the design, and the tapered meeting point between the plastic back, metal band, and display give the device an elegant and professional look. Understandably, using the Blu Selfie when out and about drew a lot of attention, and the response from those who asked about it was generally positive. The competition in the budget-friendly smartphone space is as intense as ever, and it’s great to see a company attempt to offer something unique to consumers.

Blu Selfie-13

Granted, the choice in shape, and Blu’s determination to pack the device with two Sony IMX 135 cameras does result in a few drawbacks. For starters, it is on the slightly thicker at 9.6 mm, and the curve on the back does make for a wobbly device, even if it isn’t enough of an issue to be a major concern. Secondly, for as unique as the shape of the device may be, it does make for a considerable amount of bezel on the front, not surprisingly at the top and bottom, but unfortunately also along the sides of the display, making for a device that is much larger than its 4.7-inch display size would suggest. That said, it’s not difficult to reach across the display, but does require some hand gymnastics to get to the top.

Blu Selfie-6

There’s a very good reason for these bezels of course, with the top bezel housing the 13 MP front-facing camera with a flash, along with the earpiece and the usual sensors. The bottom bezel is where you will find the back, home, and recent apps capacitive keys, that have plenty of illumination for comfortable visibility both indoors and outdoors. The home key also doubles as a notification LED, eliminating the need for an extra light at the top of the phone. Overall, for a lot of users, the distinctive look of the device should help overcome any negative feelings with regards to the thick bezels.

Blu Selfie-2

Going around the device, on the left is the volume rocker, positioned to be within easy reach. Unfortunately, that same isn’t true for the power button found up top, which requires a stretch to get to given how tall the device is, and the possibility of dropping the phone while reaching for it can be a concern. The headphone jack and the microUSB charging port are at the top and bottom respectively. On the right is the SIM and microSD card slot, as well as a camera shutter button placed right at the center on that side.

Blu Selfie-5

What is unfortunate about the camera button is that it only works when the phone’s display is on, and unlike some other devices out there, you can’t simply press and hold the button to launch the camera when the phone is locked. You actually have to press the power button first, and then press and hold the camera button to launch the camera app. The logic behind is quite confusing, since you can also just swipe left on the lock screen to open the camera at the same speed as the physical button. Since it doesn’t speed up the amount of time it takes to actually take a shot, it’s usefulness is certainly diminished, and further, it’s not positioned ideally to even take a picture when the camera app is open. Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.

Ultimately, it would have been much better served if the power button was where the camera shutter button now is, with the latter more effective along the bottom of the right side.

Display

Blu Selfie Feature-1

The Blu Selfie comes with a 4.7-inch IPS LCD display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 312 ppi. The display looks pretty good overall, with good brightness and viewing angles, and accurate color reproduction. Of course, it won’t be as sharp as the higher resolution panels out there, but at this size, 720p does more than a good enough job. The display is protected with a Corning Gorilla Glass 3 panel to keep it free from scratches, and Blu also includes a screen protector in the box if think it’s needed.

Performance and Hardware

Blu Selfie-14

Under the hood, the Blu Selfie packs an cota-core MediaTek MT6592 processor, clocked at 1.7 GHz, and backed by the Mali-450 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. This particular processing package is starting to show its age, but things remain more than decent when it comes to the overall performance. General day to day usage is mostly smooth, with some stutter noticeable only while scrolling through some webpages. The device also handles gaming impressively, with games like Asphalt 8 and Bloons Tower Defense 5 running without any hiccups.

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The Blu Selfie comes with 16 GB of built-in storage, further expandable via microSD card up to 64 GB. Popping out the SIM tray on the top right side of the phone reveals a dedicated area for a micro SIM card on the left, and a shared area that can house either nano SIM card or microSD card on the right. This implementation is something we’re seeing with a lot a budget-friendly devices, and gives the user the choice between expandable storage or having dual-SIM capabilities.

Blu Selfie-17

Unfortunately, the Blu Selfie doesn’t come with support for 4G LTE, so users will be limited to HSPA+ on the AT&T and T-Mobile network. It has to be mentioned though that HSPA+ on the T-Mobile network is not fully supported though, with connectivity possible likely only in metropolitan areas. The usual suite of connectivity options, including GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n are also available. The device comes with a single speaker mounted at the bottom on the back, and offers decent sound quality. It does get loud, but a noticeable distortion is present when at the highest volume.

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On the battery front, the device packs a non-removable 2,300 mAh unit, which offers surprisingly great battery life. During the three days of real world battery life tests, I had no trouble getting the phone to last throughout a full day of use, with just over three and a half hours of screen on time each day. The lower resolution display, power efficient Mediatek chip, and lack of LTE support are certainly contributing factors, but some credit lies with the software optimization as well. One area that the Blu Selfie really shines is with regards to the performance of the battery.

Camera

Blu Selfie-10

Given the name of the device, there are a lot of expectations from the camera performance, and while Blu has been resolute in their marketing of the 13 MP Sony IMX 135 cameras found both up front and on the back, the performance is unfortunately disappointing.

The camera application is quite minimalistic and simple to use, with a few settings available, such as white balance and image quality, along with normal and panoramic shooting modes. Given the selfie-centric nature of this device, a few beauty enhancement features are also included, giving you the ability to make your eyes bigger, slim down your face, and smoothen or whiten your skin. The camera software is pretty simple to use, with options in the settings to adjust white balance and image quality, normal and panoramic shooting modes, and a few beauty enhancement features.

Blu Selfie-8

The device comes with a dual LED flash, flanking the very large sensor on the back. The flash does get very bright, and unfortunately floods the subject in low light conditions, making some shots look worse than they should have been. As expected, the Blu Selfie takes some decent looking shots in well-lit environments or outdoors, but a certain amount of grain and out of focus objects are noticeable when zooming in to the shot. The rear camera seems to have problems focusing, and the slow shutter speed requires very steady hands to get a shot without any blurring. The overall quality is just about average, with a lot of the shots taken lacking color, and coming with excessive amounts of noise.

The front-facing camera is placed in the center of the bezel at the top of the phone, and the single flash is to its right. The front-facing flash is what BLU calls Glam Flash, and is designed to offer the right amount of light when you need it most and performs very well. It is bright enough to illuminate the face, but not blinding, while taking a selfie. It does sometimes take up to four seconds to finally capture an image with the flash on, so you have to be extremely still if you want to increase the chances of your selfies being in focus. Overall, I would say that the front facing camera takes just average looking selfies, except at a larger 13 MP.

Software

Blu Selfie-9

The Blu Selfie comes with Android 4.4.2 Kitkat out of the box, which is disappointing given the fact that it is a new release, and further, there doesn’t seem to be any plans for an official update to Android 5.0 Lollipop in the works either. However, Blu is still supporting the device with OTA updates for bug fixes and general improvements in performance.

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The myHome launcher is on top, which doesn’t come with an app drawer, leading users to rely on folders to stay organized. Custom icons are present for the system apps, and any third party applications you download are denoted with a circle around them. The lack of an app drawer does take some getting used to, but you do always have the option to download a third party launcher from the Google Play Store to return to a more familiar software experience.

Specifications

Display 4.7-inch IPS LCD
720p resolution, 312 ppi
Processor 1.7 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6592
Mali-450 GPU
RAM 2 GB
Camera 13 MP rear camera with dual LED flash
13 MP front-facing camera with flash
Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Storage 16 GB, expandable up to 64 GB
Battery 2,300 mAh
Colors white, blue, black
Dimensions 146 x 66.3 x 9.6 mm
136 grams

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The BLU Selfie is available in white, blue, and black, and is priced at $249.

So there you have it – an in-depth look at the Blu Selfie! Although the device comes with a unique design, decent display, good performance, and impressive battery life, the expectation that comes from its name of great camera performance is unfortunately not met. As mentioned, the competition in this segment is very intense, and there are some wonderful offerings available from some other OEMs at this price point. Despite is very distinctive look that is sure to turn heads, the overall experience is rather lacking, making the Blu Selfie somewhat difficult to recommend.

Buy now on Amazon



7
May

LG G4 Review: a phone that attempts to do everything


 

The Bottom Line

LG tries to offer users everything the others do not – and then some

PROS
  • Aesthetically unique and attractive design
  • Quad HD 5.5-inch screen is vivid and great for media
  • Snapdragon 808 shows how optimization is recipe for success
  • Backing is removable, comes in leather or plastic
  • Removable battery and expandable storage
  • Camera is among the best in quality
  • Camera manual mode is robust
  • LG UX is very snappy and almost feels slimmed down
CONS
  • LG UX still a bit bloated
  • Still some smudgy post processing in the camera
  • For those that don’t want leather backings, plastic backs are a consolation prize
9.0

With a unique and attractive design, great performance, and a fantastic camera, while also being the only current flagship to feature a replaceable battery, LG is attempting to provide users with a phone that offers literally everything you may want.

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In today’s landscape, we are seeing more and more OEMs push away from the less premium designs of old, electing for slim, great-looking devices that are unfortunately not without their compromises. LG has decided to go a somewhat different route with their latest flagship, in an attempt to provide users with a phone that offers literally everything you may want, from a great design to power user features like removable battery and microSD.

What does the company’s latest high-end offering bring to the table, and how does it stand out from the crowd? We find out, in this in-depth LG G4 review!

Design

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In terms of design, what worked with LG’s last two high-end releases, the G Flex 2 and the G3, are brought together to create this new device. Curves, a variety of back cover options, and a large form factor are all par for the course here.

The presence of a 5.5-inch display dictates the overall size of the phone and the resulting handling experience, but as always, LG’s penchant for slim bezels on the sides of the display does make for a pretty narrow device. The G4 is slightly taller than its predecessor, but that is mitigated by a very subtle curve. Speaking of which, the curve of the G4 display isn’t as pronounced as what was available with the G Flex 2, and unfortunately, does not offer the immersive quality of the latter. The benefits are felt in terms of durability though, with even this small curvature resulting in 20% more resilience when compared to any regular slab smartphone.

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The sides remain quite thick, with the phone measuring 9.8 mm at its thickest point, but there are no buttons on these sides, with LG’s signature rear button layout returning, found below the large camera optics. The power button is quite small, but offers a different feel from the volume rocker that flanks it to make it easy to identify the right area to press. This button layout falls squarely in the region where the index finger would lay when holding the phone, a design choice that continues to make sense, apart from just being aesthetically unique.

What curves may be lost in the subtlety up front are best felt on the back. This is all for the sake of handling, and there’s no doubt that the LG G4 offers one of the best handling experiences around when it comes to large form factor device. For a lot of users, there is an obvious preference for at least some form of one-handed usage, and the G4 manages to just toe the line of comfort. The device rests nicely in the hand and in the pocket, and while hand gymnastics are of course necessary to reach across it, it’s not too bothersome.

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Back covers of the LG G4 are available in a couple of different styles, with a slew of color options across them. This particular review unit is the titanium version, which comes with a metallic feel, with the other plastic iterations, the white and gold, coming with a ceramic finish, and all coming with a subtle diamond grid pattern. However, the fashion statement LG is making with the G4 comes in the form of the leather backing, with a variety of textures and color options available. We did enjoy our time we had with these back covers during the launch event, but it might be a point of contention for some though, as the leather is actually sourced from cows and vegetable tanned. What might be the biggest selling point of the LG G4 is the fact that the back cover is removable, something that no other current flagship offers, giving users access to features like expandable storage and replaceable batteries.

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The LG G4 is certainly a lot like the G Flex 2, with a design that is further refined and with a less severe curve overall, and does raise the question as to whether the presence of leather backings is a way to prevent this release from seeming too incremental. That said, LG’s design continues to be distinctive and therefore, recognizable, and the G4 is still quite an attractive phone.

Display

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LG ups the ante in the display department with an ever better iteration of the Quad HD display from its predecessor, now boasting the Quantum Display moniker. Flashy names aside, the 5.5-inch IPS+ LCD screen comes with 2560 x 1440 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 538 ppi. What makes this display different is the Quantum Dot technology behind it. LG’s presentation during the launch event focused on how the actual molecules are being manipulated as it passes through a phosphor layer, the result being an even better color gamut than typical IPS screens can provide.

What is probably easier to understand is their philosophy on displays this time around, with the company looking to adhere to the DCI standard normally reserved to television and cinema with the G4. Whereas the Samsung Super AMOLED displays of the world go past this standard with its overly saturated colors, the G4 stays 98% within the parameters, to provide the proper experience. Now, without some real knowledge of film standards, it is hard to really tell if LG has hit that mark, but the difference can be seen in a comparison shot, with the Samsung phone definitely being a little more saturated.

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What matters most of all is that the display of the LG G4 is still powerful and pleasing to the eye. Blacks are adequately shown, colors are definitely very vibrant, and all tasks look great on it. A couple of small nuances from its predecessor return however, like a smoothening of the screen elements, that can be observed mostly when viewing and scrolling through text, likely a result of the device lowering sharpness on these types of areas to lower power consumption. Knock On and Knock Code also return, so double tapping the screen to turn it on or tapping a pattern at any time are available.

Big words and scientific language aside, the display on the LG G4 is worthy of a high-end flagship, and there certainly have been no complaints from us.

Performance

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While we might expect the latest and greatest processing packages to be found in today’s high-end flagships, LG decided to take a somewhat unconventional route in this regard. On paper, it looks like LG has taken a step back, with the G4 packing a 1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Thankfully, the overall experience is better helped with more optimization, as opposed to just sheer power.

Thanks to this optimization, the still bloated LG G UI manages to move along with a speed and smoothness that might be a bit surprising. In my daily usage, there have been no hiccups or instances of stutter throughout, with there being a negligible pause only when applications needed to be loaded from the Recent Apps screen. Unlike what is the case with some other flagships, this smoothness isn’t a result of a stripped down and lighter software experience. In fact, much of what was found with G3 and G Flex 2 make a return here with even a few more extras tacked on, and whatever close relationship LG has with Qualcomm is what has paid off here.

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Browsing among applications is a breeze, even when using the Dual Window functionality, and intensive gaming is also not hindered by the two core shortage, with the Adreno 418 doing an admirable job in the graphics department. Despite many of the elements remaining in the latest iteration of the LG UI, the snappiness of it all makes it feel otherwise. It all makes a case that taking great care in optimizing the processor to the needs of the software, and vice versa, can often be a better recipe for success.

Hardware

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As already mentioned, and something that LG will most certainly heavily market, the main cornerstones of the LG G4 is the availability of expandable storage and removable battery. The expandable storage will be most useful for photographers looking to take advantage of the RAW capture ability of the souped-up camera of the G4, but most everyone will agree that it’s always nice to have a buffer for space regardless.

It’s important to mention here that this review unit is the Korean edition, and as usual, LTE connectivity in the US wasn’t possible. While HSPA+ connections were still adequate for daily usage, I relied mainly on Wi-Fi for internet connectivity. Connection on the T-Mobile network was still quite good, including during calls, and the subtle curve of the phone is felt when holding the phone up to your ear. The rear facing speaker does sound better than previous iterations, with more body and richness to the sound, but unfortunately, the general issues with this positioning of the speaker do return.

Qualcomm and LG did work together to create a more accurate location algorithm in the G4, but without the benefit of full mobile network connectivity, this is something that I will have to follow up on with a local version of the phone. Nonetheless, this accuracy is achieved using a combination of all sensors available in the phone, rather than just Wi-Fi and general global positioning. During a day heavy with GPS navigation, it seemed to do its job quite well, positioning me in the right direction even at the start of each trip, which isn’t always common.

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Battery life will also have to further tested with a US version of the device with LTE connectivity. In this case, primarily using Wi-Fi and HSPA+ where  required, the G4 did do very well in terms of daily battery usage, with up to 3 hours of screen-on time possible during a total usage of 16 hours. A few hours of screen-on time was also possible even with heavy usage, including once that included almost a full hour of GPS navigation, which did seem to provide the kind of accuracy LG and Qualcomm claim the G4 has.

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Of course, power users will be happy about the fact that you always have the option to carry around spares, which is something that might need to be taken advantage of, with any quick charging capabilities being noticeably absent. In my observation, I did find the phone to charge quicker when using something like the Motorola Turbo charger, but definitely nowhere close to the speed that Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 provides.

Camera

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It might be a game of one-ups-manship for LG as it tries to provide more than the competiton, and specifically, their Korean brethren Samsung. Ultimately though, it’s the consumers that are the winners, as LG introduces yet another high quality camera to this year’s Android smartphone space.

Te larger camera package on the back is very noticeable, and bigger than anything we’ve seen so far. This larger sensor comes with a f/1.8 aperture lens, flanked by laser autofocus, a flash, and a color spectrum sensor. LG made a lot of sense in their launch that a large aperture opening doesn’t make much sense if the actual sensor itself is really small, so the G4 has quite a bit going for it physically, as the larger sensor will also benefit from better optical image stabilization.

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Up front is an 8 MP unit, providing a larger photo than many competitors, but also comes with a few gesture-centric features. Bring a hand up and close it to trigger a countdown, or do the gesture twice to take four pictures in succession, and then bringing down the phone immediately after the shot lets you automatically review the selfie. The last one might be the more useful feature, because we think that just hitting that shutter button on the selfie cam is just as quick, and requires less effort. We might put the front facing camera as one of the better iterations in Android now, as it has good detail and a wide enough perspective for group shots.

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When it comes to the camera interface, there are a few different modes available. The Simple mode allows for tapping on subjects for quick laser focusing and immediate snapping, the Auto mode opens up a few more possibilities which are easily seen via the controls, and then there is the Manual Mode.

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It’s here that the budding photographer will have a great many tools at its fingertips, including everything from a histogram for accurate levels, to shutter speeds as long as 30 seconds, to a full white balance kelvin gamut that allow you to cater the shot exactly how you want it. All of the changes will show in the viewfinder, so there is little guess work to be had in this manual mode, and even then, if you are not happy with the JPEG that comes out, shooting simultaneously in RAW format opens up the possibilities even more, as the photographer can take the RAW capture and mess with every setting available in a program like Lightroom. Of course, the RAW files will be huge, so expandable storage will definitely be required in this case.

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White balance is a very important aspect of this camera, as the IR backed color spectrum sensor works to analyze the entire scene and get accurate color reproduction, and of course, the very act of taking pictures is still a breeze here because of the laser guided autofocus. Indeed, using this camera in either the Auto or Simple modes brings one of the easiest picture taking experiences available, and the resulting pictures still happen to be quite great.

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In good lighting, the 16 MP photos are very pleasing, especially with the low aperture lending to nice depth of field perspectives for close or far focus. When zooming in, one can find that a noise reduction is still at work here, as the grain is smoothed out. This does detract just a little bit from the overall sharpness of the image though, but doesn’t do so to a large degree. This is better seen in lower light situations, where the camera also seemingly opts to have a slower shutter speed instead of higher ISO, making clear shots a bit tougher to capture. Finally, in lower light, prominent light sources are a little bit blown out, but again, not to a terrible degree.

We give the LG G4 high marks for having a great camera interface and a fast picture taking experience. It’s pictures are ultimately quite great, but fall just short of being the best in Android today because of the post processing that results in smudgy shots sometimes. That said, the G4 camera is definitely one of the best companions a user can have in the pocket.

Software

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Moving on to the software side of things, easily noticeable is the speed of the familiar user interface, but there are a few new additions this time around as well. Mainly, the calendar app has been updated to use just about any captured area of the phone as reminders on dates. It takes away from having to fill in a lot of information, but those who prefer high organization might still opt for the textual elements. The gallery has been given categories for

The gallery has been given categories for easy look back at one’s memories, and is generally better organized overall. If the hand gymnastics need to be helped, changing the button layout on the softkeys is possible in the Settings. Finally, the phone can now perform a number of actions based on location cues. LG’s continued relationship with Google is easily seen here, with Chrome being the default browser, and integration with Google Drive baked in, which also includes an additional 100 GB of storage for free for two years.

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The UX largely looks the way it did in the G Flex 2, with new Lollipop styled elements and plenty of features all around. Dual Window adds to multitasking and plenty of contextual features include the Smart Notice widget. Now there are more reasons for the widget to tell you pieces of information, as it will give suggestions not only for current weather conditions, but also warn the user of when applications in the background are continuously draining battery. These suggestions aren’t bad, but they might not be as useful for everyone as LG thinks.

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QSlide apps also return, so if you do need to have a floating window for things like a dialer or calculator, the line of applications will add extra girth to the notification dropdown. There is also the Smart Bulletin, which is a second screen to the far left that brings information from a number of sources, including LG Health and tips for better usage. It’s a better way of showing these features than before, but thankfully it can also be easily turned off.

The LG UX offers quite a lot without overcrowding the experience, which has been a gradual but welcome change. As a daily driver, it’s hard not to be impressed with the speed of this operating system, and the G4 manages to deliver a user experience that keeps up with some of the best out there.

Specifications

Display 5.5-inch LCD Quantum Dot
2560 x 1440 resolution, 534 ppi
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (hexa-core: 2xCortex A57+ 4xCortex A53, 64-bit), Adreno 418 GPU
RAM 3 GB DDR3
Storage 32 GB, expandable via microSD, up to 128GB
Camera Rear camera: 16MP, f/1.8, color spectrum sensor, OIS, laser-assisted focus;
front camera: 8MP
Connectivity HSPA, LTE-Advanced
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 4.1
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Battery 3,000 mAh, user removable, wireless charging, quick charging
Software Android 5.0 Lollipop, LG UX 4.0
Dimensions 149.8 x 76.2 x 6.3-9.8 mm, 155 g
Colors and finishes Plastic: Gray, Gold, White
Leather: Black / Brown / Red / Sky Blue / Beige / Yellow

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

The LG G4 will come in at the premium price for a flagship on carriers, and as we have been told, will be the same price unlocked as the LG G3 when it was first launched. Obviously, the main competitors in the space include Samsung and HTC, who have released their flagship devices earlier this year.

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So there you have it – an in-depth look at the LG G4! It’s been a great year so far for flagships. With every phone bringing different offerings to the table, the LG G4 is trying to bring the most. A great camera experience is backed by yet another speedy iteration of Android, in a body that remains recognizable and attractive due to LG’s signature design language. If what are missing in other flagships kept you from buying them, the G4 just might be the phone that you’re looking for. It isn’t a big leap from previous generations of the series, but that is true for most of this year’s releases as well.

If you want something unique, the G4 is among the best choices you have today, with its leather backings, and expansion options only sweetening the deal. If we had any doubt that LG was falling behind in the competition, the G4 is surely an example that they haven’t lost the touch yet.



6
May

LuguLake II Bluetooth speaker review


I

had a chance to spend some time with the LuguLake II Speaker for the past week, during which I was moving while also still travelling for work. The situation itself was a hassle but it also gave me several different settings in which to test it out.

The model’s selling points – audio playback via either included Aux cable or Bluetooth, phone-charging capability and ability from any USB power source (laptop, wall charger with a USB slot, car charger, etc.) all delivered on their promises. Several times in the week I found myself outdoors or in the middle of an empty room with no access to a wall charger, but I was still able to charge the Lugulake II from my car and laptop.

61MXjJCjFZL._SL1500_The unit charged rather quickly via the provided USB charger, which I connected to my Macbook’s USB output. An overnight charge provided me with an entire day’s worth of playback and charging. I appreciated the lack of a need to carry around another wall charger, as these tend to either be forgotten somewhere or borrowed (stolen) by someone else looking to charge something.

On top of that, I attempted to measure how long it would take me to drain the battery for the sake of this review, but it lasted longer than I did and I fell asleep before it stopped playing music and charging my Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s also supremely lightweight (just over 1lb.) and portable (8 inches from end to end), easily fitting in my backpack as I went from one location to the next.

The unit’s drawbacks were minimal. Playing music from my phone and charging it simultaneously caused a low-level but noticeable static/feedback noise under the music. The buzzing ceased when I removed my phone from the charger, and this problem was nonexistent when playing music via Bluetooth. I only used the Bluetooth once, but the connection process was hassle-free and I was able to stray pretty far from the unit before losing a connection.

On the topic of sound quality, this unit falls just about in the middle of my experiences with portable speakers. I’ve used units with no power and no bass to speak of, resulting in thin, treble-heavy sound that you couldn’t hear even if you wanted to. The Lugulake II, however, provided reasonably accurate bass and an overall quality sound.

Music was neither distorted nor weak, and in my gym, with machines running and people watching TV’s, I was still able to clearly make out what was being said on the podcast I had playing, even when I strayed from the corner that I was keeping it in.

This speaker regularly lists for $99.99. At that price, I personally wouldn’t buy it. The power and loudness was enough for me alone packing boxes, or with a few people sitting around drinking, but you definitely wouldn’t be able to get even a tiny a party started with this on the level you could with a battery-powered boombox from CVS.

At its sale price of $49.99 however, I don’t think you’ll find a portable speaker with such long-lasting battery, sound quality and functionality.

Check out LuguLake II Bluetooth Speaker on Amazon
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4
May

Fugoo Tough speaker – The absolute best speaker available


With literally hundreds of different sizes, brands, shapes, etc, buying a portable Bluetooth speaker can be rather intimidating and confusing, especially if you care about getting value out of the product you buy.  With so many manufacturers of Bluetooth speakers and so many different kinds, you can easily assume that Bluetooth speakers are a money making machine.

Bose, Beats, Sony, Samsung, Lg, Logitech, etc, all make speakers, and each focus on sound first, followed by durability, battery life, design, function and features like Bluetooth, NFC, and speaker phone.

Most people head down to their local Best Buy, Target, or Amazon.com to research and purchase their Bluetooth speaker.  In noisy environments, it is hard to pick up which speaker sounds the best, and in many cases customers go simply off of loudness and bass to make their decision when in store, or they have to rely on user reviews from amazon.com.  For the readers of Androidguys, I have a treat for you.

The tough Fugoo speaker is the absolute best speaker you can buy for the money.  I will explain why in the review.  Fugoo, or Fugu, is a pufferfish that is prepared for food consumption in Japan as well as a very few select restaurants in the US.  The pufferfish is highly poisonous, and if it is not served properly, it can kill the people who consume it.  When you think of Fugu, you think of something that takes many hours of practice to be able to serve it to consumers.  You also think of things like, premium, rare, high-quality, and tough.  And that is why I believe the Fugoo speaker is the last Bluetooth speaker you will buy.

Fugoo sells 6 speakers, but of those six, they are derived from 2 core models.  You have the standard core which I will be reviewing, and you have the XL(larger size) which I hope to review in the future.  The Fugoo comes in three different designs, the Style, Sport, and Rugged.  I chose to review the Rugged model, as I tend to explore the outdoors in sunny San Diego and I want a speaker that can handle the elements which Fugoo claims it can.

Sound

First and foremost, the most important factor when choosing a speaker is the quality of sound.  When people think of a manufacturer that puts sound first they usually think of Bose.  I am one of the customers who owned a few Bose speakers, and generally I would say they do offer the best sound quality.  All other speakers usually sound pretty good, or good enough, and when picking a speaker you can balance all of the features that are most important when making your final decision.

In comes Fugoo.  There is absolutely no compromise on sound.  You can see the 6 speakers through the grilles on the device, 2 speakers on the front and back, and one on each of the sides.  When listening to music, you do not need to worry about which way the speaker is facing.  It pumps out loud and quality music in each direction.  When watching movies with my Samsung Galaxy Tab S, I place the speaker behind the tablet, and if there were a movie theater experience on a tablet, the Fugoo would be it.  You can feel the bass, hear the 3D sound, and hear every word because the speaker is simply loud and clear.  Without getting over analytical with sound data charts, I can say this speaker is better than the Bose Soundlink Mini which is a direct competitor.  The Bose speaker was the best sounding speaker that I had heard until the Fugoo.  Both sound great, but the six speakers on the Fugoo just give a better listening experience.  Music and movies truly come alive when listening to the Fugoo.

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Battery

At 50% loudness, Fugoo claims that the speaker will last an astounding 40 hours.  In comparison, the Bose Soundlink Mini gets an estimated 10 hours of use.  I can confirm that the Fugoo absolutely demolishes the competition when it comes to battery life.  I received this speaker two months ago, and the reason why it has taken me so long to write this review is because I was not only testing in-use battery life, but I was testing standby battery life.

I personally believe this is the best portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy in this price range.  Before writing this review and recommendation, I wanted a real life experience in how I would use the speaker so I could pass that on to you.

I never quite made 40 hours of use with the Fugoo speaker, but I did get over 30 hours.  That can be attributed to me cranking the volume up because I enjoyed this speaker so much.  It truly brought my music to life when I was cooking, taking a shower, hanging out at the dog park, and camping on an overnight trip with a few friends.  I never once worried about recharging the speaker until it warned me when the battery was running low.  Listening at 50% volume for 40 hours just wasn’t an option for me because this speaker sounded too great to keep it quiet.

After testing the in-use battery life, I tested the standby battery life.  I went 30 days without touching my speaker after a full charge.  When I went to use it after 30 days, the speaker had 75% battery life remaining.  The battery is simply incredible.

I would imagine most of the weight of this speaker, it is heavy for such a small device(1.4 pounds), comes from the six speakers and huge battery.  Either way, I don’t mind the extra weight because this device lasts so long.  No other speaker comes close when it comes to battery life.  Sound quality can be debated until blue in the face, as sound quality is highly subjective, but battery life speaks for itself.  No other speaker comes close in matching battery life.

 

Durability

When you spend 200-300 dollars on an accessory, you would definitely like it to be durable.  No one appreciates an accessory falling apart.  The Fugoo is best-in-class when it comes to durability.  I tested the “Tough” version and by all means was it tough.  The Tough speaker is built with a heavy-duty cage and frame designed to withstand the elements.  My speaker was rained on, dropped, thrown in a backpack, run under water from the sink, dropped in the sand at the beach, and it still worked perfectly.  There was not even a hint of this speaker breaking down after two months of solid usage.

Usually when you buy a portable speaker for outdoor usage,  the manufacturer puts build quality over sound quality.  In Fugoo’s case, the speakers build quality and sound quality are equal.  You will not find a more durable speaker than the Fugoo, and you will not find a better sounding speaker than the Fugoo.

fugoo water

 

Accessories

Since the Fugoo was designed to be multi-purpose, they offer a wide range of accessories to go with the speaker.  They offer a bike mount, a strap mount( to tie the speaker to any object you want, or a multi-mount which can be used to use a tripod, rope/carabiner, or belt clip with this speaker.  In addition to the different mounts, Fugoo also offers a remote control with a built-in bottle opener for those outdoor trips.

When you’re done with the outdoors and want to change the look of your speaker for home use, Fugoo also offers a wide range of cases.  These cases are not designed to go over the Tough speaker, they are designed to replace the tough case.  An allen wrench is provided in the packaging which will allow you to remove the core of the speaker from the case.  Once removed you can easily replace the tough cover with a sport jacket, or style jackets which come in a multitude of colors.  Your outdoor speaker doesn’t have to look rugged when you use it at home.

Conclusion

With a starting price of $229.99 for the Fugoo Tough speaker, it puts this in a class with the likes of the Bose Soundlink Mini, Ultimate Ears Boom, Beats Pill 2.0, and JBL Pulse, and without a doubt I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this speaker above all others.   On top of that, the speaker is incredibly easy to use.  Once you pair the Fugoo to your phone/tablet it stays paired and will play music whenever you turn it on.  Fugoo has managed to create the best sounding speaker, best battery life speaker, and most durable speaker on the market today.


The Fugoo speaker has been reviewed by many other sites, magazines, etc. and all give it high reviews.  You may not see this speakers in stores which means you won’t be able to test it in store, but trust me, don’t waste your money on anything else.  Spend it wisely and pick up the Fugoo Tough speaker.  You will not be disappointed and you will not need to buy any other portable speakers.  

Fugoo

Fugoo Tough on Amazon

Fugoo Sport on Amazon

Fugoo Style on Amazon

The post Fugoo Tough speaker – The absolute best speaker available appeared first on AndroidGuys.

2
May

Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S6 edge!


Samsung required a much needed upheaval of their flagship Galaxy S line to better keep up with current trends in the smartphone world, and that is exactly what the company did. With a dramatic shift in build material and quality, significant changes in hardware, and a far improved software experience, Samsung has finally delivered what many were looking for in the Galaxy S6.

Of course, Samsung is known for pushing its boundaries, and this came in the form of the Galaxy S6 Edge, bringing forward a concept seen last year in the Galaxy Note Edge, and introducing it to the mainstream. With the release of two worthy flagship smartphones from the company, the obvious question that will be on your mind is with regards to which one is better suited to you. That is what we attempt to answer, as we take an in-depth look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S6 Edge!

Other awesome smartphones!

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Design

On the design front, there is basically just one differentiating factor between these two devices, namely the curves on either side of the screen in the case of the Galaxy S6 Edge. Both devices do retain the tried and true design language of previous Samsung devices though, complete with the same tactile home button up front and standard placements for the volume rocker and power button.

The similarities continue on the back, as both devices sport a protruding camera module that is accompanied by a heart rate monitor. Both devices also have glass back panels, which eliminates the ability to remove the back cover and additional hardware features that they entailed. The Galaxy S6 is a tad taller and only a few grams heavier that the Edge variant, a difference that is largely negligible.

When it comes to design, what makes the case for the Galaxy S6 Edge is indeed its slopes on the right and left portions of the screen, a significant difference that might have to felt to be believed. The inclusion of two edges started to make sense after holding the device. The fact that they come down to meet the palm allows for a side to side handling experience that is perhaps better than what you would get with the slab form factor of almost every other smartphone out there.

Grip and accidentally turning on the display are mild concerns when it comes to the Edge variant. But when holding on to the phone, a very prominent lip is present in the metal frame that tilts down very slightly, and mainly sticks out from behind the screen. So with a good pinch, there aren’t a lot of problems with keeping the phone in check without triggering the screen accidentally. However, the same cannot be said when holding the phone in the landscape orientation, as I did find it a little tough to hold the device on the edges without some fidgeting.

The width of the devices is pretty much the same, but with the screen coming down on either end, the Galaxy S6 Edge actually feels more narrow, and that makes a lot of difference. Aesthetically as well, the S6 Edge is the one that will definitely turn heads. While the original looks like a mashup of the Galaxy and Xperia lines due to its dual glass panels, the Edge version will be instantly recognizable to the tech-savvy, and given Samsung’s big marketing push, likely to the common consumer soon enough. If handling is a big deal to you, the S6 Edge offers an experience that has to be felt, and its uniqueness is something that will certainly stay with you.

Display

The sentiments on the design side of things hold true when it comes to the display, with the curves of the Galaxy S6 adding to the overall viewing experience as well. First, on the specifications front, both devices offer nothing short of what you would expect from a Samsung flagship, with their 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screens featuring a Quad HD resolution, resulting in the super high pixel density of 577 ppi. Both displays are vivid, colorful, and sharp, and don’t miss a beat in work, play, or media consumption.

What makes the Galaxy S6 Edge so compelling is the fact that its screen is essentially one entity, and doesn’t have a specific area sectioned off for the edge capabilities, as was the case with the Galaxy Note Edge. We will explore the features of the edge in the software section below, but worth a mention is that they only take up one side of the display, and further, only appear when specifically triggered. It does feel like Samsung has finally figured out that the edges aren’t made for supposedly game changing features, but rather to offer literally a new way of looking at a device.

As such, elements of the Android 5.0 Lollipop Material Design are also given an auxiliary benefit, with a roll-in effect of various UI elements that may not always be noticed, but are certainly appreciated every time it is. As an example, watching media in the landscape orientation makes the heads up notifications look even better because of this effect. The edges don’t move any of the frame away from your viewpoint, and once again, are mostly there more for aesthetics and convenience, with a few features that for the most part, stay out of the way.

Performance

Another big change with their latest flagships was Samsung’s decision to give the Snapdragons of the world a skip in favor of its in-house Exynos processor, something that looks to have worked to great effect. Under the hood, both phones pack the octa-core Exynos 7420 processor, backed by the Mali-T760 MP8 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. It is also worth mentioning that the built-in storage benefits from a UFS 2.0 flash memory construction that helps keep things super speedy and optimized, a case that has been made against expandable storage, that just won’t be able to keep with installed memory. It’s also packing LPDDR4 RAM, which represents a huge leap forward in memory performance for mobile devices

Both these devices race through the elements of the dialed-back TouchWiz interface, with virtually every stutter and hiccup from the past now eliminated. The only real stutter that we’ve ever seen involves the Flipboard-powered Briefing screen, which has to refresh every time you swipe to it, slowing down an immediate return to the homescreens as a result.

All other tasks are handled extremely well, even if you’re trying to perform them at the same time using Multi-Window or the S Window capabilities. Almost no problems were seen with gaming as well, though the phone does get quite warm, but not uncomfortably so, while running the more processor intensive applications. The edge screen panels don’t down the Galaxy S6 Edge either, so its speed doesn’t get hindered because of its slightly higher feature set. As such, performance is one aspect where things are very much a tie, and is a non-factor for anyone confused between these two devices.

Hardware

The big story since the announcement of these devices has been the lack of replaceable batteries and expandable storage, that have been otherwise staple features of the Samsung line. These phones do pack more than most when it comes to hardware though, including a better implementation of the fingerprint scanner embedded into the home button, and the now vertical heart rate monitor that, in our testing, worked a little faster than previous editions found on Samsung devices.

Connectivity with the LTE networks has been very steady on either device, and the quality of voice calls are as good as they’ve ever been. The sound coming from the speaker in its new position at the bottom gets adequately loud, no matter which iteration of the phone you get.

Battery life on either device is pretty standard, despite the higher resolution displays. Of course, we come back again to the primary difference between the two smartphones, the edges. There are no real hardware capabilities that put the edge over the top in this regard, though the different form factor does mean different third party accessories.

Camera

As you may have seen, or can check out below, in the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge camera shootout, it has to be said the camera package Samsung has put out this year is definitely among the best. A rear-facing 16 MP camera with a f/1.9 aperture adds auto-HDR to a laundry list of capabilities, with the front-facing 5 MP unit sporting the same as well.

The camera application comes with a variety of modes, including panorama and slow motion video capture at 120 fps, and can easily be activated by a double tap of the home button, which is one of the best felt enhancements with the latest Galaxy offerings.

Autoplay

When autoplay is enabled videos will start playing automatically, you can turn off autoplay by clicking checkbox.

brightcove.createExperiences();

Using these cameras in all but the lowest light in indoor situations yields some really great looking photos, and with an auto mode that performs extremely well, most of the guesswork is taken out of the smartphone photography experience. Extra features, and a manual Pro mode, are available to those who want it, but for the general user who just wants to capture memories, both of these devices are great companions to have.

To some extent, smartphone cameras were struggling to get to the point of replacing even typical point and shoot devices, but things are closer than they’ve ever been with the current crop of flagship smartphones, and the possibilities offered by the latest additions to the Galaxy S line are prime examples of that evolution.

Software

As has been mentioned a few times already, the latest iteration of the TouchWiz software experience available with the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy S6 Edge has been toned down considerably, to the pleasure of many. Not only has a lot of gimmicky aspects been put aside, but those that are still available aren’t very prominent in their presence. Even the pop-up tutorials about how to use the different features are largely absent, and turning off features like S Voice is very easy to do this time around. The user interface still features a pretty colorful aesthetic, but the available theme engine can be used to change the look to anything that better suits your tastes.  

With the software experience also mostly the same between both devices, it’s better to take a look at what makes the Galaxy S6 Edge different, and what features and capabilities the edge panels offer. First, these panels and features don’t show up until triggered, which happens only from a standby position via a few swipes on the side that are pre-determined by the user.

The night clock comes up, and then you can swipe from the bottom portion to see notifications, news tickers, and a number of other edge panels that can be installed from the Settings menu. Despite some usefulness to the news tickers, the scrolling generally focuses on one story at a time, and thus pales in comparison to using even the Briefing screen instead. It can also be a good way of looking at notifications quickly, but waking the phone up and seeing them on the lockscreen is arguably still faster.

Finally, there is the People Edge, which houses five of your favorite contacts with specific colors assigned to them for easy access to calls and messages. While its functionality as a speed dial was great, the main gripe I had with it was the messages required the use of the native messaging app, instead of something else that you may already be comfortable with using, such as Hangouts. While the phone is upside down, the color assigned to the contact will glow on the side to let you know exactly who is calling in a very interesting way. That said, there aren’t a lot of situations where you will have your phone screen placed down on a table, and it honestly does look like the underside of an import tuner car.

Autoplay

When autoplay is enabled videos will start playing automatically, you can turn off autoplay by clicking checkbox.

brightcove.createExperiences();

Overall, the main takeaway from the software side of things is how much better the Samsung TouchWiz UI has gotten, helped by how optimized it is with the company’s own processing packages. The edge features are there for those who specifically need them, but all said and done, there might not be a whole lot of people who do.

Gallery

Pricing and Final Thoughts

When it comes to comparing the price points is when you realize that wanting the sloped edges requires a premium over the already not particularly cheap Galaxy S6. The Galaxy S6 Edge costs about $150 more overall for the unlocked version, and will result in higher monthly payments on various network carriers. For example, The S6 Edge will cost $10 per month on the Simple Choice monthly plan from T-Mobile.

 So there you have it – a closer look at the Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Galaxy S6 Edge! Both of these phones show that Samsung has jumped forward in the flagship game. The Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge will be the phones to beat this year, with their speed and stellar camera experience setting the bar very high for the competition. When it comes to picking one over the other though, it is really a matter of aesthetics and handling, both of which benefits that are actually felt. All things considered, the question that you have to answer is whether you are willing to pay even more for a phone that basically just looks and feels different, without bringing a whole lot else to the table. The Galaxy S6 Edge will certainly turn heads and revel in its uniqueness, and is personally the one I would pick. The great news is that you do have the option of having largely the same experience at a lower price point with the Galaxy S6.

Check out these awesome videos!

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