Thursday, 24 July 2014

Apple May Debut iPhone 6, iTime Watch This Fall


The Apple logo is seen at an Apple store in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Apple is likely planning a September event to unveil the next generation iPhone 6, followed by a debut of a much anticipated smartwatch called “iTime” in October, according to reports by Silicon Valley insiders.

An Apple keynote speech tentatively planned for mid-September will reveal a new iPhone 6, and announce final details on the new iOS 8 operating system for the company’s devices, Apple-focused blog 9to5Mac reports. New features for iOS may include dual-screen multitasking mode for iPads and new functions for its Maps application, 9to5Mac reports.

The new iPhone may also use Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint password feature unveiled on the 2013 iPhone 5S as part of a new mobile payment system, which would partner with credit card firms like Visa, 9to5Mac reports.

 Unveiling a new phone in September has become something of an annual event for Apple, which has sold more than 500 million units of the iPhone worldwide since the product first debuted in 2007. Despite its success the company is under pressure from investors and competitors to unveil new types of products.

To keep its innovative edge Apple has been widely reported that it will unveil a health-monitoring smart watch in October, designed to be both fashionable as a watch and functional as a fitness wristband. That device may be called the iTime, according to a patent granted to Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. According to the patent, which includes diagrams, the watch will sync with iPhones, iPads and other computers in a "personal wireless environment."

 The patent outlines that sensors in the device may respond to arm and wrist gestures, which could be used to answer calls or make other commands. The patent also indicates the watch with a square-shaped can be removed from straps and operate like an iPod.

Apple, known for a design culture of perfection, might feature more bells and whistles on it's iTime than those on similar devices such as those supported by Google’s Android Wear operating system. That culture also might leave open the possibility that while Apple could debut the smartwatch in October, it might not sell the watch immediately to allow a final chance to tinker with the design.

Images leaked by phone component makers earlier this year also hint at what the iPhone 6 may look like. The next generation iPhone will likely have a 4.7-inch screen, featuring a slimmer frame and wider screen than the current iPhone 5S. 

Hacking virus ‘Bladabindi’ may be lurking in your pen drives and operating systems


‘Bladabindi’ is a virus you need to be wary of if you live in India, since this cyber bug is wreaking havoc in the country and has a high potential of compromising you personal details. The state-run Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has issued a warning about this virus and has also suggested some countermeasures against it.



Representational Image
‘Bladabindi’ has the potential of infecting the Microsoft Windows operating system and is mainly spreading through USB flash drives or pen drives as they’re more commonly known in India. It steals sensitive user information from infected computers and is even capable to propagating further malware downloads to provide remote attackers with backdoor access.

CERT-In has said that this virus can use up to 12 aliases so as to conceal its real identity, and moreover, it can be created easily through a publicly available malicious hacker tool. While bypassing firewalls is one of its properties, it has been reported to steal your name, country, Windows username, OS version and more importantly, saved passwords on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

The agency has suggested a few measures that can be taken in order to ensure that you’re not affected by ‘Bladabindi.’ Firstly, a complete system scan needs to be performed with any antivirus software which is up to date. Secondly, you should also disable the autorun functionality in Windows and scan your USB drives before opening them.

These simple measures can keep you away from the ‘Bladabindi’ hacking virus, but to stay safe on the Internet, you should also be cautious about the legitimacy of the links you’re clicking, the attachments you’re downloading and sites you’re visiting.

Oplus XonPhone 5 launched on Snapdeal with Android 4.4.2 KitKat


The Oplus XonPhone 5 may have a weird name, but it has gone official in India featuring a pretty alluring design and a decent offering of specs. The handset is being sold exclusively through Snapdeal where it’s priced at 7999 and is already available to purchase.


Oplus XonPhone 5
The Oplus XonPhone 5 is the second device to reach India from the Taiwanese company. The Oplus XonPad 7 which is a 7-inch Android tablet was launched earlier this year and was also exclusively sold through Snapdeal. The new smartphone is KitKat powered which gives it an advantage over many others still stuck on Jelly Bean.

If that wasn’t enough, the phone packs a good deal of features at the said price. Most handsets in this range would offer a low-resolution display, but the XonPhone 5 is equipped with a 5-inch IPS panel proffering 720p HD visuals.

Coming to the design, the smartphone looks nothing out of the ordinary from the front, but flip over to the rear and you’ll be presented with a textured panel. It more or less looks like a combination of LG G3’s arc look with the Samsung Galaxy S5’s dimpled finish. The phone is 8mm thick and it tips the scales at 170 grams which is quite heavy for its size.

Oplus XonPhone 5 key specs:

- 5-inch HD IPS OGS display
- 1.3GHz quad core MediaTek processor
- 1GB RAM, 16GB storage, 32GB expandable
- Android 4.4 KitKat
- Dual SIM slots
- 8MP rear camera, 2MP front shooter
- 2000mAh battery


If you’re interested in the Oplus XonPhone 5, head over to Snapdeal to purchase the smartphone in options of silver, grey and gold shades.

Nintendo is back: why summer 2014 belongs to the Wii U




Nintendo's star gets wheels in Mario Kart 8. 
 

Nintendo's star gets wheels in Mario Kart 8. Mario Kart 8 – one of the best games you'll play this summer


It is the oldest cliche in the great book of video game cliches: never underestimate Nintendo.

The industry veteran is a master of comebacks and agenda-setting lateral business moves; it practically invented handheld gaming as a viable global entertainment platform; it watched its 95% console market share eaten away by the Mega Drive, and then pummelled its upstart competition with a hundred classic SNES games.

Then it fell behind Sony and Microsoft in the tech arms race, so it built the Wii out of old bits and pieces it found in Radio Shack and sold a 100m units.

As for the Wii U? It's been a sorry tale so far. A bungled announcement, an inability to explain what the GamePad is for, a lack of games, the dwindling support of the major third-party game publishers. It all looked pretty grim for a while.

But in a survey published by IHS Technology and Gamer Network this week, consumers showed a 50% increase in "purchasing intent" for the Wii U, after a wonderful showing at the E3 games event in Los Angeles.

Big, bright family games like Yoshi's Woolly World, Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker, Super Smash Bros and Mario Maker promised fun in abundance; a world away from the grittily bombastic, grim-faced action adventures duking it out in however-many-frames-per-second on PS4 and Xbox One.

And then there's Mario Kart 8, easily a game of the year contender with half the year to go. It is a sublime and inventive addition to a much-loved series, combining all the traits we have come to expect from top line Nintendo-developed titles: accessibility, variety and depth.

Kids can play against each other, parents can play against kids, adults can play against each other, and everyone has a chance – and yet skilled driving is always rewarded. It will be a key feature of many lazy days during the coming school holidays (note: families can still go outside while not enjoying video games – it's okay to have both).

The key thing is that there's not much coming from the other "next-gen" consoles to counter Mario Kart 8 this summer. There will be a few interesting digital-only releases, but the mainstream schedule is, as usual, a wasteland until September.

This gives Nintendo several weeks to really push the Wii U, centred on Mario Kart 8, but also reminding people about a back catalogue that, while hardly an embarrassment of riches, is certainly not an actual embarrassment. Super Mario 3D World, Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101 and Lego City Undercover are all there to be discovered.

Nintendo is even trying to improve the Wii U's online functionality. A new update allows players to finally transfer data and accounts from one machine to another, and to navigate more easily to the eShop digital store.

And there are hints that the company may finally be making games that genuinely explore the capabilities of the GamePad, the Wii U's "second screen" controller that promised a future of asymmetrical multiplayer experiences, but then delivered... a gigantic Fisher Price tablet that pretty much acted as a glorified mini-map for most titles.

At E3, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto showed off a couple of interesting experimental concepts – Project Giant Robot and Project Guard – that use the device in interesting ways. And the team-based shooter Splatoon has promise.

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have some amazing titles lined up for later in the year, and even more in 2015. Let's not get silly here: Wii U is not going to trouble them for some time – if ever. But it can safe itself from the nosedive.

And right now, you can get Wii U and Mario Kart 8 in a bundle for £240 and that's probably the most fun you're going to have with a games machine this summer (while you're not outside at the beach or cycling or, you know, hand-gliding off the Malvern hills or whatever).

Nintendo needs to move fast – with its marketing, with its special offers, with whatever it has. Fun and light have always been the dual currencies of the Nintendo empire, and we need both right now. 

Yo-Yo Ma! Seinfeld Emoji Have Come to the iPhone





Yo-Yo Ma! Seinfeld Emoji Have Come to the iPhone 

With hundreds of emoji supported on iPhone, Android, and the Web, it seemed like there was a smiley face, cartoon figure, or icon for almost any occasion imaginable. 

That is, until you wanted to call someone a Soup Nazi and had to actually type it out with boring old text.

But that’s all in the past now, because a new iPhone app called Emoji – Seinfeld Editionjust launched featuring 42 Seinfeld emoji to help you better express your inner Art Vandelay.

There are all the main characters, of course, as well as a Junior Mints emoji, a Kenny Bania emoji, both of Jerry Seinfeld’s parents, a Pez dispenser, the Frogger machine, and other favorites. 

The app doesn’t replace your phone’s current emoji keyboard –– that feature is coming with iOS 8, due out this fall –– so, for now, the only way to share these Seinfeld icons is by exporting them from the app as picture messages, Twitter images, or Facebook/Instagram photos. You can also save them to your Camera Roll for sharing in any other way you like.

image
Emoji – Seinfeld Edition.

Much like everything else Seinfeld today, Emoji – Seinfeld Edition was hatched from the brain of the indispensable Jason Richards, mastermind behind @seinfeld2000. For more than a year and a half, Richards’ amusingly sic-laden “Seinfeld Current Day” stream of consciousness has helped us “imagen” what the former NBC-TV show Seinfeld would be like if it were still on the air today. The Twitter account is packed with images of the show’s characters involved in typically high-tech and NYC-centric activities, and is a lampoon of the more popular, workaday @SeinfeldToday account. 

Many of the 42 emoji in the app are modernized versions of the characters and icons we remember, as imagined by Richards: Jerry wearing Google Glass, for example and a Breaking Bad version of the dentist Tim Whatley (played by Bryan Cranston, who went on to play Walter White). 

Some classic emoji we felt were missing from the collection — and some missed opportunities for “modarnizing” the characters: Kramer’s coffee table ebook about coffee tables, the couch Poppie peed on, David Puddy with New Jersey Devil face paint, Elaine with ombré hair, a poison envelope, H.E. Pennypacker wearing a smartwatch, a GORE-TEX coat, a Cronut muffin top, and Fusilli Jerry.

image
At the time of launch, this Seinfeld app is available only on iPhone (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The creators have promised an Android version, but no release date has been announced. Of course, we’re hoping it’s before the holidays, because that would surely feel like a Festivus miracle for us Google smartphone owners.

We could go on and on — yada yada yada — about the emoji app forever, but unless you’re too much of a hipster doofus, you iPhone people should probably just try Emoji – Seinfeld Edition for yourself. It’s free, so grab it now from iTunes, Mojambo.

Tech Five: Facebook, Nokia stock soaring


Two tech companies are surging early in midday trading. Let's take a look at the technology stocks to watch Thursday:



Facebook. Shares of the social network are up 7% -- double its IPO price of $38 -- as mobile ad revenue continues to spur growth. The company reported a 61% bump in revenue and more than doubled its profit during the second quarter. Meanwhile, mobile advertising revenue skyrocketed 151% compared to the same time last year.

Nokia. The sale of its handset business to Microsoft seems to be paying off. Shares of Nokia are up 7.5% after boosting its forecast on profit for the year, AP reports. Although revenue dipped during the second quarter, profit jumped 20%. The company closed its deal to sell its handset unit to Microsoft for more than $7 billion in April.

Amazon. The online retailing titan reports second quarter earnings after the markets close, just as its first entry into the smartphone market makes its debut. Amazon is predicted to report a loss of 15 cents per share off $19.3 billion in revenue, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Pandora. Shares of the streaming music service jumped 1.6% ahead of its second quarter earnings announcement Thursday. Analysts expect quarterly revenue of $218 million with an earnings per share of 3 cents.

Twitter. The social media company becomes the latest tech firm scrutinized for a lack of diversity after releasing workforce figures Wednesday. In the U.S., nearly 90% of Twitter's employees are white or Asian, while men make up 70% of all staff.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Flipkart launches e-learning category


Flipkart launches e-learning category













Homegrown online marketplace Flipkart Wednesday announced the launch of its E-learning category.

With over 1900 products and titles, this category will offer an exhaustive range of E-learning material, certification courses and online tests catering to students with a variety of requirements, Flipkart said in a release.

With this announcement, Flipkart will be extending its virtual academic books category to feature a selection of offerings for students in schools, colleges as well as those students appearing for competitive exams, it added.

Flipkart said study material from reputed brands like Career Launcher, Edurite, EduKart, Merit Nation, TCY Online and Practice Guru, will be a part of this selection.

Also, Flipkart will continue to expand its E-learning portfolio with exclusive offerings for students with varied needs, it stated.

"The availability of eBooks, certificate courses and online tests - all on one platform, will make the entire process of buying/accessing e-learning material very easy for students who form a significant part of our customer base today," Flipkart Senior Director (Retail) Nipun Mehra said.      



Did Nadella confirm that Windows 9 will replace three OSes?


Did Nadella confirm that Windows 9 will replace three OSes?

Amidst all the bad news about job losses and closures, somewhere in Microsoft's quarterly conference call, held yesterday, the company's CEO Satya Nadella, confirmed that the company was working towards a unified Windows operating system, potentially replacing Windows RT, Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Following the release of the Universal Windows Apps developer tools back in April, Nadella said that "We will streamline the next version of Windows from three operating systems into one single converged operating system for screens of all sizes."

He added, "In the past we had multiple teams working on different versions of Windows. Now we have one team with a common architecture. This allows us to scale, create Universal Windows Apps."

In practice, developers are still having to deal with two fundamentally different architectures (x86 and ARM) but development tools (like Visual Studio) transparently handles the coding process, making it less demanding in terms of money and human resource.

Microsoft biggest competitors, Apple and Google are also likely to merge their mobile and desktop OSes; MacOS has adopted some of iOS' features while Google confirmed years ago that Chrome OS and Android will merge sooner or later.

What that entails in the long term is an architecture agnostic approach that focuses more on the market, the audience needs and the screen sizes. Windows Pro, Windows Phone, Windows Enterprise, Windows Embedded and other versions will still exist, albeit in slightly different formats.

Sony India unveils Xperia T3 priced at Rs27,990


Sony India unveils Xperia T3 priced at Rs27,990

Consumer electronics giant Sony Corp. on Wednesday introduced the ultra thin smartphone Xperia T3 for the Indian market priced at Rs.27,990. 

The handset, with a screen size of 5.3 inches, will be available in white, black and purple. It will be at retail outlets by the end of this month. 

“Xperia T3 is a light smartphone designed from premium materials including stainless steel. The industry-leading Sony technology is packed into world’s slimmest smartphone,” the company said in a release. 

Featuring a high definition (HD) display with Sony’s Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, Xperia T3 remains light at a mere 148 grams, it added. 

The phone comes with a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and a 2500 mAh battery, as well as an 8-megapixel camera. 

Xperia T3 features camera apps such as Social live that allows the user to broadcast live via Facebook and allows to share comments in real time on the phone’s screen. 

It also has Xperia Transfer, a simple app that helps move contacts, photos, bookmarks, apps, music, messages from an old Android or iOS device to the new Xperia T3. 

It will be available at all Sony centres, Xperia Flagship and major electronic stores across India from 28 July.

Android KitKat 4.4.4 update causes problems on the Motorola Moto


Android KitKat 4.4.4 update causes problems on the Motorola Moto X



Updates are designed to fix past issues, at least in theory. Sometimes however, things do go wrong. Such was the case with the Android KitKat 4.4.3 update on the Nexus line, and history seems to be repeating itself now with the Android KitKat 4.4.4 update too. This time however, the affected phone seems to be the Motorola Moto X. Apparently, multiple Moto X users have posted complains on the Moto X boards about poor battery life following the KitKat 4.4.4 update. The firmware seems to have done more wrong than right this time around, seriously affecting the phone’s battery life.

The problems come from various sources, such as data cache problems with applications that cause additional drain, poor network signal which also affects battery life due to constant signal searching and even problems with overheating. In addition, the WiFi signal receiving seems to be affected, as well as the carrier frequencies, which all add up to considerably hit the phone’s power reserves. There are of course temporary workarounds to keep a lid on things for now, but if you’ve already upgraded to KitKat 4.4.4, you’ll likely be facing some issues that can’t really be solved until Motorola launches a new firmware version. Using Airplane Mode can help with network signal search drains, while setting your WiFi to stop connecting to weak signal networks may also be of some use.

Why Apple’s iPhone 6 should launch on September 12th



iPhone 6 and iOS 8 Release Date

While some reports say the next-gen iPhones will be launched on September 19th – not to mention that some retailers already offer pre-order options of the iPhone 6, despite the fact that it doesn’t yet exist – Business Insider has a different take on when the iPhone 6 should be released.

The publication says that since Tim Cook took over the CEO position from Steve Jobs, Apple always launched an iPhone two days after the operating system version made alongside that model was released for earlier devices. And the latest iOS version was released to users exactly 100 days after being unveiled at that year’s WWDC edition.

That’s why Apple may launch iOS 8 on September 10th (a Wednesday) and the iPhone 6 on September 12th (a Friday).

iOS was introduced on June 11th, released 100 days later (on Wednesday, September 19th) and followed two days later, on a Friday, by the iPhone 5. iOS 7 was unveiled on June 10th, released 100 days later on September 18th (again a Wednesday), and followed by the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on September 20th, also a Friday – Apple almost always launches new iPhones on a Friday.

This year, Apple unveiled iOS 8 on June 2nd at WWDC. By applying the same math, September 12th comes up as the potential launch date for the iPhone 6.

Unless the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s launches were simple coincidences – launching 102 days after their respective iOS version were unveiled – Apple could follow a similar pattern this year with the new iPhone 6 models.

BlackBerry 9320, 9720 and Q5 prices cut in India


The BlackBerry 9320, 9720 and Q5 smartphones have received price cuts in India officially with the QWERTY range starting from under Rs 10000. The new promo is part of the company’s efforts to show its commitment in the QWERTY market and also offer fans an alluring deal on its classic devices, not to mention sell off remaining stock.

BlackBerry Q5

The BlackBerry Q5 is the only smartphone on the roster part of the BB10 lineup. The 9720 and 9320 phones, on the other handset, fall in the outdated OS 7 portfolio. While special offers usually have a time limited, there’s no mention of an expiry, so we’re assuming that these price cuts are permanent.

The BlackBerry Q5 is now available for Rs 13990, while the 9320 and 9720 are tagged at Rs 9900 and Rs 11990, respectively. The second phone is also the first 3G handset from the company to fall under the Rs 10000 price range.

The Z10 and Z30 all-touch devices have also been treated to reductions with the former performing exceptionally well in the country, even going out of stock multiple times. In other news, the BlackBerry Z3 smartphone was launched in India around a month back and sales appear to be promising.

Key specs of the BlackBerry Q5:

- 3.1-inch 720 x 720p display
- BB10.2 OS
- 1.2GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor
- 2GB RAM, 8GB storage, 32GB expandable
- 2MP front camera, 5MP rear shooter
- 2180mAh battery

The company has announced that the price cuts on the BlackBerry 9320, 9720 and Q5 are already in effect across all of its retail networks.

Will the Xiaomi Mi Band be a game changer for wearable devices?




It’s the dawn of wearable devices and smartbands are now becoming a trendy accessory to complement your smartphone. Xiaomi has already shaken the world with its insane pricing for its smartphones and now it seems that it is planning to keep up its momentum by launching affordable accessories.  At the Mi 4 smartphone launch event, Xiaomi’s CEO Lei Jun also announced the Mi Band, which is a health and fitness band with an unbelievable price of just $13 (Rs. 780 approx.).

If you thought the price was the best part, then hold on to your seats as the Mi Band is claimed to give a battery backup of about 30 days. This puts the Sony SmartBand (which costs about Rs. 6,000) to shame in pricing as well as battery backup. The Mi Band also has the ability to work as a proximity security unlock for your Xiaomi smartphone. This feature unlocks your device without requiring a password when you hold the smartphone in the same hand as you are wearing the band.

This is an extraordinary move by Xiaomi as the Mi Band is now the most affordable fitness band that you can get your hands on. We really thought that Sony had done a good job with its SmartBand but you get almost all of the features on the Mi Band at a price that's 10 times less.

This is definitely going to usher in similar products from different brands and at such a low price, one would not feel hesitant to try and experiment with such devices. The wearable tech market has not yet exploded here in India, but if products like these are introduced, there is a huge potential.
Will the Xiaomi Mi Band be a game changer for wearable devices? - See more at: http://www.digit.in/wearable-devices/will-the-xiaomi-mi-band-be-a-game-changer-in-wearable-devices-23379.html#sthash.buZiKnYY.dpuf
Will the Xiaomi Mi Band be a game changer for wearable devices? - See more at: http://www.digit.in/wearable-devices/will-the-xiaomi-mi-band-be-a-game-changer-in-wearable-devices-23379.html#sthash.buZiKnYY.dpuf

Panasonic launches T41, P41 and P61 smartphones


Panasonic India has launched three new smartphones namely T41, P41 and P61 at Rs 7,990, Rs 11,990 and Rs 14,990, respectively.




The T41, P41 and P61 models are powered by a 1.3GHz quad core processor and run Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The phones offer Glide play feature that enables apps to pop-out and glide along from one screen to the other. These devices also sport other features seen in Panasonic phones including Pop-i Player, Music Cafe and Gesture Play+.

The newly launched smartphones come with freebies.

Panasonic T41 is a dual-sim smartphone that sports a 4.5-inch display (480x854p). It is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 512MB RAM. The phone comes with 4GB internal storage, a microSD card slot and a 1,650mAh battery.

The phone sports a 5MP rear camera with LED flash and a VGA front-facing camera. The smartphone also supports multi connectivity options like WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct and other multiple sensors. It will be available in bright red, black and pearl white colour variants.

Panasonic P41 is a dual-sim smartphone that sports a 5-inch IPS display (540x960p). It is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. The phone comes with 8GB internal storage, a microSD card slot and a 2,000mAh battery.

The phone sports an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP front-facing camera. The smartphone also supports multi connectivity options like WiFi 802.11b/g/n, FM radio, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct and other multiple sensors. It will be available in black and pearl white colour variants.

Panasonic P61 is also a dual-sim smartphone that sports a 6-inch IPS display (720x1280p). The 8.2mm thick phablet sports a metal back cover design.

It is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. The phone comes with 16GB internal storage, a microSD card slot and a 2,800mAh battery.

The phone sports an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 2MP front-facing camera. The smartphone also supports multi connectivity options like WiFi 802.11b/g/n, FM radio, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct and other multiple sensors. It will be available in black and pearl white colour variants.

Commenting the launch, Manish Sharma, managing director, Panasonic India said "The mobility landscape in India is rapidly evolving driven by factors such as improving mobility infrastructure and lowering prices of technology. In line with this, the company offers a range of mobility solutions catering to the entire spectrum of its consumers. One of the key focus areas for Panasonic India is to build a strong connect with the consumers by bringing alive brand experiences through our innovative product line up. The models thus resonate with the consumer's pulse and passion, mirroring their preference for on- the-go smart solutions thus empowering our consumers." 

Amazon Fire Phone Review




After years of rumors, Amazon's first smartphone is finally, finally here. It's unique, it's can be fun, it's a pretty decent phone. And you can do better.

What Is It?

The first smartphone from Amazon, and the first running Fire OS, Amazon's heavily modified version of Google's ubiquitous Android platform. A phone with a 4.7-inch HD screen, Snapdragon 800 processor, and 32GB storage. $200 on-contract (with a limited time offer of a free year of Prime). It has a few tricks built in, like tracking your face with four front-facing cameras.
Most of all, though, it's the world's largest store, squeezed into your pocket.

Why Does It Matter?

Amazon's e-readers are in a class by themselves; its latest tablets are surprisingly adept little devices. Which makes the Fire Phone not only the tech goliath's long-awaited entry to the smartphone game, but also a test of Amazon's evolving hardware philosophy.
Amazon devices started as dirt cheap but good hardware sold essentially at cost. But with the release of the HDX line, the company eased into higher-quality and slightly more expensive devices. The Fire Phone is the culmination of that shift. It's not cheap, it's not even cheap-ish; it's full-on premium. And it's a test of whether that's a space where Amazon can compete. This is a big step for Amazon.
As for why it matters for you: Well, no one has ever put six goddamn cameras on a phone before. Six!

Design

Like any good smartphone, the Fire Phone is an attractive rectangular prism. It's got lightly-rounded corners that make it look an awful lot like a slightly bigger iPhone, and a Samsung-esque oval home button. It's also a little heavy. At 160 grams it's not quite as burdensome as a Lumia 920, but it's noticeably heftier than an iPhone 5S (112 grams), Nexus 5 (130 grams), or Galaxy S5 (145 grams). It's a chunker, but not to the point that you'd feel it weighing down your jeans.
The rounded sides of the Fire Phone are rubberized for grippiness, but considering the back is glass it's still a bit prone to sliding on tables, just not out of your hand. It's kind of a disappointed step back from the fun, weird, but ergonomic and cool-looking angles of the Kindle Fire HDX line. Instead, the Fire Phone is a lot more nondescript.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
The buttons are nice and solid, way less cheap feeling than the ones on my Nexus 5, and it's kind of fun to have a devoted camera button (and Firefly button, if you hold it down) though, I kept accidentally activating the camera and taking mistaken creepshots of strangers on the train while I fumbled around to stop it.
Its most distinguishing feature comes in the form of the five front-facing cameras sprinkled across its face; one is for selfies, the other four are devoted to tracking your face to pull off its fancy 3D tricks. The Fire's 4.7-inch, 720 x 1280 pixel IPS display has a nice, wide viewing angle, which you'll need when you're tilting the phone all over the place. And size-wise it's a sweet spot, at least for my largish man hands. 4.7 inches is juuuust on the top end of screens that are still small enough that my thumb can touch any corner without struggling.
All of which is to say that the Fire Phone is fine-looking, if also kind of boring. Some of my coworkers disagree though, and at least a handful find the thing to be down right ugly.

Using It

Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
Fire OS 3.5
At its core, the Fire is a perfectly usable-if not fantastic-phone. Fire OS, Amazon's unrecognizable fork of Android, has moved past the awkward teen years. But Fire OS 3.5 often feels better-suited to the tablets it was originally meant for than it does a phone. There's a difference between idly swiping through apps and movies and books on your tablet, and pulling out your phone to glance at what's next on the agenda before you duck into the subway, and Fire OS still leans a little bit to the wrong side.
For instance, the main interface is a still a giant, space-devouring icon carousel better suited for a larger, landscape screen. Fortunately you can pin important apps to the front of it now, and beneath each icon is a little widget that provides a glimpse at the data inside. A quick look at your last two emails from the home screen is super convenient, though not every app offers bonus data that's quite so useful.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
Helpful! / Not helpful!
Fortunately the icon wheel isn't your only way to navigate. With an inward flick of the wrist (that registers maybe like 40 percent of the time) you can call up a more efficient menu that categorizes all the different types of stuff you have on your phone; the categories include Apps, Games, Web, Music, Videos, Books, etc. It's a way more convenient way to get around, but actually engaging it with the gesture controls was so iffy that I usually wound up just swiping up on the dock to access a more traditional app drawer. Fire OS offers unique ways to navigate, but none of them is preferable to the basics.
Extras are fine, even if you're ultimately ignoring them, but Fire OS 3.5 is also missing some features that are pretty standard now across iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8.1. Fire OS's voice assistant, for example, is way behind Siri, Google Now, and Cortana. If you ask it to open an app, for instance, it'll apologize and offer you the paltry list of things it can d Make calls, send texts, send emails, and search the web. And if you ask it for directions to the nearest gas station, it'll return a query for "gas_station" on the Yelp mobile site. Lots of room for improvement here. Fortunately some of the other glaring abscense that we noticed in our hands-on time-like a lack of transit directions and a task switcher-have shown up.
But the big Fire OS omission that is still here and here to stay is the absence of Google's suite of apps. It hurts far more on a phone than it ever did on a tablet because where a Kindle Fire is generally a sidekick device, the Fire Phone wants to be your daily driver. That said, the lack of Google apps never made the Fire Phone feel altogether unusable. After all, it has things like Nokia's (great!) Here maps for directions, Amazon's Silk browser for web surfing, and native email and messaging clients. But the little annoyances of not having Google still add up.
Chief among them is the lack of an official Gmail client. Sure, it's easy to just connect that sucker to the Fire's default Mail app, but you lose the precious tabs that separate the email wheat from spammy chaff. Every single promotion and update and newsletter you never opted out of because it was tucked away in some other tab has now been promoted to a first class citizen. I practically drowned in Twitter and LinkedIn notification emails before I finally turned them off.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
The Fire Phone approximates some of Google's other absent features as best it can. There's a menu you can pull out from the right side of the homescreen that tries its damnedest to be Google Now by offering you info about the weather and the events on your calendar. As a feature it's reflective of Fire OS as a whole; not as good as the competition, but still good enough.
Dynamic Perspective
Dynamic Perspective is ostensibly the Fire Phone's killer feature. It's the first billed on Amazon's feature list, and the secret star of Amazon's initial teaser trailers. It's the trick where the Fire Phone uses its four front-facing infrared cameras (and corresponding infrared LEDs) to track your face on three axis (x, y, and z), enabling you to alter what's on the phone's screen by either tilting the display from side to side or moving your head around. It can see you, even in total darkness.
It's impressive tech! It's also pretty useless.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
First, and to be absolutely clear, Dynamic Perspective will impress you the first time you see it, and Amazon is pretty good at showing it off. The Fire Phone's lock screen is by default one of several Dynamic Perspective-enabled scenes, displaying the time as one of several different objects. It's made of rocks in the "Egyptian ruins" mode, it's written on the table in spilled milk in the "food fight," which features a shattering milk bottle frozen in mid-shatter. It's parallax taken to its natural extreme by making everything a slightly rotatable 3D object that reacts not only to the movement of your hand but also the movement of your head. It's neat!
But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it. Dynamic Perspective is packed into pretty much every corner of the Fire Phone, but in ways that range "amusing the first dozen times" to straight up annoying.
Dynamic Perspective touches nearly everything in Fire OS 3.5. Icons in the carousel are Dynamic Perspective-enabled 3D objects that shimmy and shake under your gaze. Unless they're third party apps, in which case the two-dimensional icon awkwardly flaps around. Ditto the icons in the dock. And the icons in the master icon drawer. And the text in the the Fire Phone's main navigational menu. And the numbers in the dialer.
The technique is used to greater effect in some of the games that support it. It's at its best in games like Planet Puzzles, in which you rotate 3D Rubiks Cube-esque puzzle cuboids to see and interact with their different sides. It's at its worst in Monkey Buddy where, if you tilt the screen far enough, you can reveal a hidden "about" page. Ooooooo.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
Revealing hidden information at specific angles is Dynamic Perspective's other main trick, and it isn't just limited to easter eggs hidden in the upper left- or right-hand corners of lock screens or games; it's built right into Fire OS in the form of something called Peek. The idea here is that if you rotate the phone just slightly askew, or move your head to the side to create the same sort of screen-to-eyes relationship, additional information will appear. That's right; you can reveal data by moving your phone to a position that's (slightly) less readable than head-on.
The most aggressive (and annoying) instance of this is that the status bar-where you see the time, your signal strength, and battery power-is invisible when you look directly at your phone. There's an option to disable this in settings, but considering that the status bar area is just wasted space otherwise, why even do this at all? And it's not just the status bar. I didn't see a single instance of Peek where it revealed some sort of information that couldn't have just been there all along, or didn't need to be there at all.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
No peek / Peek
Firefly
The Fire Phone's other big selling point is Firefly, the identify-anything-and-then-buy-it-on-Amazon-please app with its own dedicated hardware button. Here's a video of it identifying-and failing to identify-a random assortment of objects that were in close proximity to my desk.
It should come as no surprise that Firefly can't identify everything you throw at it; objects sans packaging are generally a no-go, so you won't be able to index your buddy's entire apartment when he's not looking. But that's not what Firefly is for. When I waltzed through a local bodega and stood awkwardly, holding my phone expectantly in front of a variety of foodstuffs, Firefly hit the nail on the head 13 out of 15 times. The two misses included a bag of chips with a big ol' "$2 OFF" sticker on the front (Firefly misread the flavor but got the brand right), and a box of tea from some obscure brand that for all I know is hand-boxed in the back for this specific shop.
Between that hit rate and the track record Firefly had identifying still-boxed gadgets and toys laying around the office, the feature makes a strong case for the Fire Phone as a "I want to buy that thing right now, but from Amazon" machine. It seems to aim for the small niche of impulse-buying price-matchers. Or people keen on putting local shops out of business out of spite.
Firefly doesn't just identify physical objects, though. It also does music, movies, and TV by using Shazam-like super powers. It nailed everything from my favorite Streetlight Manifesto songs to random episodes of Scandal I loaded up on Hulu. The catch is, it (naturally) directs you to Amazon once it identifies, so I found myself presented with an offer to purchase the songs I was listening to for free on Spotify, and the shows I was watching for free on Hulu. Not that there's anything wrong with purchasing goods instead of streaming them, but in its attempts to funnel you further into the Amazon ecosystem, Amazon (obviously) isn't going to have your monetary interests in mind.
Camera
While the cameras on the front of the Fire Phone don't often get put to good use, the 13MP shooter on the back isn't bad. It's nothing to write home about either though. It falls pretty squarely in the middle of the Android pack, which is more than good enough if you just want to do some tweets and Instagrams.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
While the Fire Phone's image quality is nothing to sneeze at, its camera is pretty remarkably feature sparse. You won't get any of the slow-mo video shooting or photo-spheres, or RAW images you're able to get elsewhere in wide world of more specialized camera phones. The Fire Phone's got panoramas aaaaand that's about it. If you're a quantity over quality person though, you will get totally unlimited cloud storage for all your Fire Phone photos thanks to Amazon, which is a nice touch.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step

Like

Firefly is good at what it does. Not perfect, but good. Whether or not you should be or need to be impulse buying everything you see from Amazon, Firefly helps you do it, so long as physical things you are trying to buy generally include some sort of packaging. And even besides the practical use, pointing a Fire Phone at things to see if it can identify them is a fun game. When it can identify something particularly obscure, it's a victory for everyone involved. A hell yes, technology!moment. That's a nice feeling.
The Fire Phone's pack-ins are great. Its earbuds take pretty much the same form as the iPhone's EarPods, but their tangle-free magnetization trick really works. They don't sound great, but they are wildly functional for cheap headphones. You will want to use them until they break, and that will probably take a while. This is what pack-in headphones should aspire to be. That, and the included USB charging cable is a glorious five feet long.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step
For running four cameras at you pretty much all the time, the Fire Phone's battery life is surprisingly solid. The Fire Phone can handle a day of pretty intense app-using, email-checking, and web-surfing and make it into the wee hours of the morning with as much as 20 percent power to spare, no doubt thanks in part to a relative of the same battery-saving tech that let the Kindle Fire HDX make it 17 hours in reading mode. More intense activities like using Firefly or Dynamic Perspective-heavy games will chew through the batter faster though. I lost 10 percent in 30 minutes playing To-Fu Fury on the way to work this morning.
Dynamic Perspective is cool. It's not useful, and it gets old fast, but it's still cool. Every time I started to get sick of it and handed it to another person who hadn't seen it before, they'd ooo andahh and it'd remind me "Oh hey yeah this is kind of cool!"

No Like

Fire OS is fine, but as an operating system for your primary mobile device, it is notably inferior to Android, iOS, or even Windows Phone 8.1. The lack of Google apps is a big handicap, and the lack of robust alternatives (Windows Phone at least has all those Microsoft services packed in) is an annoyance that will grate on you.
For all its neatness, Dynamic Perspective doesn't transcend beyond gimmick (so far). It works fine but it just doesn't improve on the phone experience in a way that justifies its existence or the four additional cameras that it requires. Some developer might find a killer use for it some day. But they sure haven't yet.
The Fire Phone gets really hot when you're playing games with a lot of Dynamic Perspective or using Firefly for more than 15 or 30 seconds. Not like, untouchably hot, but definitely warm enough to be obnoxious and borderline worrisome.
Amazon Fire Phone Review: A Shaky First Step

Should You Buy It?

Nope. Definitely not. None of the Fire Phone's flaws are totally insufferable, but there's just no reason to suffer them at all. Fire OS is workable but mediocre as a smartphone operating system, and the hardware doesn't bring anything to the table that counteracts that.
At a $200 on-contract, $650 unlocked price point you'll be better served with just about any other flagship phone, whether it runs iOS, stock Android, skinned Android, or Windows Phone 8.1. Even with a free year of Amazon Prime bundled in, there are still better options. Go pick up a Moto X or something. You can find it for cheap and it's a better phone.
In an alternate universe, it's possible to see how a dirt cheap Fire Phone touting Firefly as its killer feature could have filled some sort of niche need for technology averse Amazon junkies. But as it stands-a premium quality phone with decent but not great software that attempts to hang its hat on a mainly on a gimmick-the Fire Phone isn't something you want in your pocket. Maybe someday, some endeavoring developer will find a truly transcendent use for those four front-facing cameras. But until then, you're better off with just about anything else.

Dell Venue 8 Pro : Review




What is it?

A slew of Windows 8 mini-tablets hit the market recently while the Windows 8.1 update also added some features and capabilities that lend very well to the small form factor. Dell's maiden Windows tablet, the Dell Venue 8 Pro, gets most of the things right and competes well with many of the Android tablets in the market. But it is not without a few miscues that come along the way.

Design

The 8 inch Dell Venue 8 Pro is pretty well designed with an impressive build quality for a budget device. It's thin, light, and easy to hold in one hand. The latter is actually true for most 8 inch tablets and a validation of the form factor over 10/11 inch devices.
The micro-patterned back feels good in the hand and the rubbery finish gives it a solid grip. Of course, it is not the lightest tablet in the market but feels, for a lack of better word, dense rather than heavy.
One of the awkward design choices in the Venue 8 Pro is the start button. Instead of a physical or capacitive button as expected on the bezel, the start button sits on the right end of the top edge if held in the portrait mode.
When you are using it for the first time, it definitely feels awkward. In most cases, I chose to use the Windows button via the Charms bar, rather than the physical button. But once you get the hang of it, it won't really matter. The position is well-thought-of and works well in the landscape mode.

Hardware

From a hardware perspective, Dell gets most things right. Powered by Intel Atom Z3740D with 2 GB RAM, the tablet comes in two storage editions - 32 GB and 64 GB. The quad-core Bay Trail processor is a great improvement over the predecessor, Clover Trail series, and gives a snappy performance overall, as well as a good battery life.
The tablet packs in a 5 MP rear camera and a 1.2 MP front camera. I am not a big fan of taking snapshots with a tablet, but the results are decent. The front camera also works well for video chats and web meetings. But the front camera is off-center - so you will have to position the tablet consciously instead of just facing it straight.

The tablet features a beautiful 1,280x800 IPS display and the colors are vibrant, without being over-saturated. The viewing angles are great, too. The non-full HD displays don't look good on the specifications sheet these days but honestly, that's more of a marketing pitch than practicality.

Out of the box, the screen brightness of the Venue 8 Pro is set to auto. The colors are dim and the details are difficult to view. But don't dismiss it right away. After the launch, Dell had issued a firmware update that corrects the issue with the ambient light sensor. The display now defaults to a better, readable setting that does justice to the true beauty of the screen.

I was actually quite surprised to learn that the Venue 8 Pro is packed with an active digitizer, a rarity in budget tablets of any size. You would need to buy the Dell Active Stylus separately, though. It is a better stylus than those useless capacitive pens, but still lacks in performance or accuracy. There has been a firmware fix for the stylus as well.

The addition of digitizer doesn't make up for some disappointing omissions. There's no micro-HDMI port, which is a shame if you are like me and prefer pushing your experience to a larger display. There's support for the Miracast, but the wireless streaming standard is not as ubiquitous as HDMI. Then there is the missing USB port. There is micro-USB but that just isn't the same thing, and you would need an adapter for most things.

Most tablet users spend a lot of time watching videos and playing games. And the Venue 8 Pro offers a glorious speaker, louder than most mobile devices. Granted that the sound gets a little distorted when pushed to maximum, but you won't complain.

Experience

Performance wise, the Venue 8 Pro is impressive. Apps get downloaded very quickly and can compete with an average PC in terms of speed. The animations and transitions in the modern UI fly though and the Bay Trail processor doesn't disappoint with lightweight desktop programs. Web browsing is a breeze and the pages load quick. Switching between tabs is a breeze as well.

But the tablet stutters while playing graphic-intensive games. When pushed hard, it also tends to get a little hot. For average user, however, these won't pose much problem.

Since the tablet runs on Windows 8, instead of Windows RT, you have access to full power of the desktop environment. But most desktop applications are not actually designed for an 8 inch touch screen. In most cases, you would misfire a lot and unless you are using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it is practically unusable and frustrating. Microsoft Office, with its optimizations for touch screens, works fine here and the tablet comes bundled with Office 2013 Home & Student Edition.

The battery life is quite decent for an Intel-powered device of this form factor. We could manage more than eight hours in most cases, which is pretty good. For modest usage, you can even push it to 10 hours, we reckon.

Best Part

  • Great display
  • Pen input
  • Build quality, at the price point
  • Loudspeaker
Tragic flaws
  • No micro-HDMI port
  • Lack of capacitive start button and the position of the physical button
Should you buy it?

If you are looking for a Windows tablet, Dell Venue 8 Pro checks all the boxes. It is good value for money and the benefits ultimately outweigh the quirks of the tablet. A few issues have been ironed out in subsequent firmware updates.
However, there's a wider pool of devices if you have to choose from an Android tablet, the iPad Mini, and a Dell Venue 8 Pro. This one is a pretty good device, but not the best in class.