OnePlus One Pre-Order Today

OnePlus LogoIf you have been toying with the idea of getting the Cyanogen-based OnePlus One smartphone, then you need to get online and in line today as OnePlus is opening pre-orders for only 1 hour across the world in about 2 hours time. If you haven’t come across the OnePlus One before, then you need to take a look as you get a great deal of smartphone for not much money. The 16 GB model will set you back US$299 (GB£229) but the 64 GB one is only US$349 (GB£269).

OnePlus One

The specs are impressive – here’s a quick rundown

  • Operating System CyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4
  • CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
  • GPU Adreno 330, 578MHz
  • RAM 3 GB LP-DDR3 @1866MHz
  • Storage 16/64 GB eMMC 5.0, available capacity varies
  • SIM 1 slot – Micro SIM
  • Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity and Ambient Light
  • GPS + GLONASS, Digital compass
  • 3100 mAh LiPo battery
  • Screen size 5.5″
  • Resolution 1080p Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), 401 ppi
  • Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Rear camera 13 Megapixel – Sony Exmor IMX 214
  • Front camera 5 Megapixel
  • Frequencies GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • WCDMA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8
  • LTE: Bands 1/3/4/7/17/38/40
  • Wi-Fi Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • Color Silk White/Sandstone Black
  • Dimensions 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight 5.71 oz / 162g

If that tickles your fancy, you can prepare your basket in advance of the window – follow the guidance here. It’s not entirely clear from reading exactly when the phones will ship after pre-order closes.

The window times are:

  • 23:00-midnight HKT
  • 16:00-17:00 CET
  • 15:00 – 16:00 GMT
  • 11 am -12 am EST
  • 8 am – 9 am PST

I’ve been thinking about ordering a OnePlus One to replace my Nexus 4 but I’m going to wait and see what Android 5 does for the Nexus 4. My only real problem with the Nexus 4 is the battery life. But then again…

Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens for Samsung Galaxy Review

Olloclip LogoFor the “point’n’shoot” photographer, smartphones and their built-in cameras have almost completely replaced the compact camera which has seen a huge drop in sales over the past few years. Despite the handiness of the smartphone camera and the myriad of post-processing effects beloved by Instagram, there are times where the problem is getting the right image in the first place. Smartphones with macro or wide-angle lenses aren’t common.

This is where Olloclip saw a gap in the market and via a Kickstarter campaign back in 2011, developed a selection of clip-on lenses for the iPhone and iPad, including macro, fisheye and wide-angle lenses. These have become fairly well-known and I’ve even seen a few people using Olloclips on their iPhone in real life. Not content with Apple owners having all the fun, Olloclip have launched a version of the 4-in-1 lens for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. Let’s take a look.

The 4-in-1 lens system for the Galaxy S4 consists of a mounting bracket that holds two macro lenses and two additional feature lenses that screw in on top of the macro lenses. One of the lenses is a fisheye and the other wide-angle. The bracket is well-made, with metal inserts to hold the screw-in lenses and the lenses are glass; by using different threads on the bracket, it’s not possible screw in the wrong lens. The bracket can be attached from the left or the right to get the correct lens in front of the phones camera. Take a look at the pictures of the Olloclip below to see how it all works.

Olloclip with Lenses

Olloclip with Lenses Removed

Samsung with Olloclip

In use, the Olloclip is straightforward – clip on the bracket with the lens you want to use in front of the camera and then start taking pictures using your favourite camera app. Simples!

To test out the Olloclip 4-in-1, I used a Samsung Galaxy S4 borrowed from a colleague and got snapping. Here are a few macro pictures that I took of a coin and the detail is impressive.

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

And here are a few photos of a local landmark using the normal S4 camera, the wide-angle lens and the fisheye lens. I’m no Ansel Adams, that’s for sure.

Native S4 Camera

Olloclip Wide-Angle

Olloclip Fisheye

I was impressed with the Olloclip and with more interesting subject matter, I could have a lot of fun. I particularly liked the macro capabilities and the fisheye was fun too; I was quite surprised at the width of the field of view. Overall, the 4-in-1 was easy to use, clipping on and off in seconds, and significantly increased the photographic possibilities of the Galaxy S4. . On the downside, you do have to remember to bring the Olloclip with you, and the on/off and volume buttons are obstructed by the bracket when in use. The other problem can be with Samsung cases, which often replace the smartphone’s back. If you have one of these cases, you’ll find that the Olloclip won’t clip on and you’ll need to revert to the original case.

The Olloclip 4-in-1 for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 is available direct from the website or through other on-line retailers. Priced at a penny under US$70 or GB£60, it’s more than an impulse purchase but if you are photographer or want to get more from your camera, it’s worth forking out for. Hopefully enough Galaxy owners will purchase to persuade Olloclip to look at other popular Android smartphones as well.

Thanks to Olloclip for the review 4-in-1 lens and to Jacinta for the loan of the Galaxy S4.

Apps and Android Fragmentation

Smashing Magazine LogoWhen it comes to developing for Google’s favourite operating system, Android fragmentation is often bandied around as an issue for app developers. But how bad is it really and what’s the impact?

Fortunately you don’t have to make do with my wild guesses and assumptions as Smashing Magazine have a done a comprehensive critical analysis of testing done by app and game developers using the TestDroid cloud-based testing suite. Over 17 million tests were run on 288 different devices over 3 months early in 2014. Depending on region and measurement, the 288 devices represent somewhere between 92% and 97% of Android phones. With the credentials laid out, let’s take a look and see what the testing revealed.

Most of us will have seen the version stats from Google, showing the relative percentage of Android versions. Put simply, Froyo is less than 1%, Gingerbread is around 10% and ditto for Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean takes the lion’s share at nearly 55% and KitKat comes in second at about 25%.

Android LogoSmashing Magazine’s testing showed that on average 23% of apps exhibit a problem when moving between versions of Android. The biggest problems arose with Gingerbread (30%) followed by KitKat at 21%. Jelly Bean and ancient Honeycomb were next. Interestingly, although Gingerbread is the oldest version with significant market share, 40% of tested apps still work with this version.

The figures also reveal that ICS is the most stable version of Android with a low failure rate that broadly continues through Jelly Bean, though KitKat was more problematic with an increased error rate.

While the OS can cause problems, the hardware’s not blameless either. The research looked at screen resolution and the impact of memory on apps as well. Devices with resolutions of  2560 × 1600, 1280 × 800 and 1280 × 720 pixels gave the fewest problems, typically 1.5% or less. Small screen resolutions were the worst with 400 × 240 and 320 × 240 pixels being particularly bad.

On the RAM front, 512 MB seems to be a significant cut-off point and it’s no surprise that Google recommends this as a minimum. With this amount of memory or less, around 40% of tested apps exhibited problems. At 768 MB and above, the error rate falls to 16% and by 1 GB RAM, it’s down to 1%.

Overall, this is all interesting stuff and a fascinating insight into what app developers have to put up with. I’ve only covered a few of the areas and there’s additional analysis on drivers, OEM customisations and chipsets. I thoroughly recommend that you read the whole article over at Smashing Magazine to understand more.

Taking a slightly different view from a user perspective, if you want a really stable device, you should be buying a high resolution device, with 1 GB RAM and running Ice Cream Sandwich. Hmm.

OnePlus Partners with JBL for E1+ Earphones

OnePlus LogoOnePlus today announced a partnership with audio specialists JBL for exclusive earphones to complement the audio capabilities of the OnePlus One smartphone. The new JBL E1+ earbuds are bright red with flat tangle-resistant cable and comes with an in-line three button remote. The built-in microphone means that there’s no need to unplug when a call comes in, and it’s a standard 3.5mm jack on the end.

JBL E1+ Earphones

 

These earbuds look great and I love the knurled endcaps. I’m usually pretty understated with black Sennheisers but I could like these red E1+ earphones and I hope the audio is up-to-scratch too. It’s great to see all these moves in the audio space and it’s not just the iPhone that has all the fun, too.

Available in October for US $39.99 or GB £29.99 from the OnePlus Store. Video below ticks all the expected boxes.

Amazon Prime Videos Come To Android Phones

Amazon_Android_Prime_Video_PlayerFinally, Amazon has made available an Amazon Prime Instant Video Player for Android phones.

However, there is a bit of a catch. Rather than making the Amazon Prime Instant Video Player available in the Google Play Store, it is available only via Amazon Android Apps, which are now part of the regular Amazon Store app that you probably already have installed. Update — it is also available ONLY for Android phones and NOT Android tablets.

To download the Amazon Prime Instant Video Player, it is necessary to go into the Android security settings and temporarily enable installation of apps from “Both Trusted and Unknown Sources” – a.ka. non-Google Play Store sources.

Inside the regular Amazon Store app, go to the Movie and TV section and find a Prime Instant Video and click on play. Simply follow the on-screen prompts to download and install the Amazon Prime Instant Video Player app.

After you have downloaded the app, go back into the Android settings and remove the checkmark from the “Both Trusted and Unknown Sources” in order to lock the phone back down to apps installed from the Google Play Store only.

Once installed the Amazon Prime Instant Video Player for Android seems to work flawlessly. It was able to pick up my user name and password directly from the existing Amazon app.

Until now Android has been lacking an Amazon Prime Video playback app, even though it has been available for iOS for quite some time.

The last streaming video reason to keep an iOS device around has just been removed. Netflix and Hulu Plus have had Android players for a long time. Now with the addition of Amazon Prime Videos the big three video streamers are now all available via Android phones. The next step is to make the videos playable on regular Android tablets.

A Week With My iPhone 6

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 4.16.07 AM

I was up at midnight, PST to preorder my iPhone 6 from the Verizon Wireless site. I had zero problems getting through and getting it ordered. I was already done and back to reading Facebook when I see Robert Scoble complaining that he can’t get anywhere on the Apple site. Apparently everyone thought that was the only place to go for preorders…? Anyway, a week later, I got my shiny new iPhone 6. The upside to preorders is, no lines to wait in. At around 10:30am last Friday, Fedex rings the bell and drops it off. Done. The downside is, you don’t get to actually touch the phone until you get it. I figured I didn’t need to hold the iPhone 6 Plus because I could already tell it was going to be just too big. My phones go in my front pocket. My keys and money go in the other. If my phone is too big to comfortably fit in my front pocket, it’s just no good. I don’t carry a bag or fanny pack, so it seemed unnecessary to me. A female friend of mine wants a Plus, but that makes sense to me because her phone goes in the purse. No problem. (And don’t get me started about it bending in pockets. We can all see that was a massive over-hype by now.)

Anyway. I got my 6, did a smooth restore from my old 5’s backup and began the tedious task of trying to remember all my passwords and some ringtones, as none of those things transfer from restore to restore. Finally, I was up to par and could actually start using it and appreciating it.

I love the size and feel of the 6. I love the bigger screen and how light it is. It doesn’t feel cheap to me either. iOS8 has some great features that really shine on the 6. I got the 64gb version this time as I got tired of constantly clearing photos and videos off my old 16gb 5. And I’m really glad I upped my space. One of my favorite features is the high speed camera for video. I think everyone I know did a slo-mo video of themselves doing something stupid with their lips. I moved from that to filming my dog drinking water and then saw a helicopter slow its rotors down to nearly nothing. Impressive stuff. The time lapse mode is equally impressive. And the lens seems to handle macro shots really well too. As a photographer I may be biased, but I love all the new slick stuff that’s camera/photo related on the new phones / iOS.

My 5 didn’t have thumbprint recognition, so I’m really digging that. It works really well and it’s nice to just use my thumb when buying stuff from the iTunes and App stores. I’m still finding new things that I like and very few that I don’t. I’ve had a few issues with bluetooth and wifi dropping, but that may have been cleared up with the 8.0.2 update. I’ll have to take note.

All in all, I’m really digging it.

Check out the Radmo car phone mount

Using your phone in the car is a dodgy proposal, you don’t want to talk or text, but many of us use it for our GPS device. This generally requires some sort of mounting system, keeping the screen always in front of you and preventing the need to pick it up or look down. The item most of us think of is the traditional windshield mount, but some states restrict these items.

A new type of mount called Radmo aims to change the way we display the smartphone in the car. The holder does require a CD player in the stereo, but that shouldn’t be a hurdle for most customers.

The makers promise “Radmo literally takes seconds to assemble with no need for any tools. It’s 100% adjustable for any phone size up to mini-tablets”.

The project is on Indiegogo, and has already far surpassed its intended goal, with still more than a month left. Quantities are limited, so you may wish to grab it now. The price is right at only $20.

Read An eBook Day

Read an ebook dayJust in case you were going to miss it, Thursday is “Read an a eBook Day“, a celebration of modern storytelling. Surprisingly, it’s not sponsored by Amazon on behalf of the Kindle but rather OverDrive whose apps let you borrow library books for free. Yes, for free.

It’s probably one of the best keep secrets in the whole tablet and ereader business. Contrary to what Amazon would  have you believe, you don’t have to buy ebooks from them as there are plenty of up-to-date novels available from your local library. The downside is that transferring books isn’t that slick and you need an ereader that’s not tied in to the Amazon ecosystem. I have a Nook, but ereaders from Sony and Kobo are supported as well, and you need to load the books via a PC rather than downloading across the Net.

If you have tablet, it’s much easier as the OverDrive app is available for iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows Phone, as well as for Windows and Mac desktop platforms. Check the appropriate app store or else try OverDrive‘s web site. Once you have the app, all that’s needed is a membership of a library and you can download directly from your library to your tablet.

Instead of “Read an eBook Day”, Thursday should be “Read a Free eBook from your Local Library Day”.

Motorola Moto X, G and 360 – UK Details

Motorola M LogoAs expected, Motorola last night refreshed its smartphone line-up with new versions of the Moto X and Moto G plus a new Bluetooth earpiece called Hint. First impressions are that they’ve kept the good bits and bumped the spec with bigger screens (5.2″ 1080 HD on the X) and faster processors (2.5 GHz quad core in the X). The edges of the phone are now finished in metal too, giving a more upmarket impression.

Motorola Moto X

For UK Motorola fans, the good news is that Moto Maker is going to be available so we’ll get the wide range of colours and materials. Best of all there’s a new leather back which looks very luxurious. If you don’t use a case for your phone, this is definitely the one to get. Motorola has announced the UK availability and pricing as below.

Moto X

  • 16 GB in black, leather and bamboo
  • Starting from £419.99
  • Available from Amazon and Phones 4u from the end of September

Moto G

  • Black and white
  • Starting from £144.99
  • Available from Amazon and Phones 4u from 5th September
  • Motorola Shells will be available from October

Moto 360

  • Gray leather and black leather
  • Starting from £199.00
  • Available from O2, Tesco, Amazon, Phones 4u and John Lewis from early October

Moto Maker

  • Moto Maker 16GB – starting from £419.99
  • Moto Maker 16GB with wood or leather – starting from £439.99
  • Moto Maker 32GB – starting from £459.99
  • Moto Maker 32GB with wood or leather – starting from £479.99 
  • Available from end of September

Moto Hint

  • Moto Hint will come to UK in the coming months. Details to be confirmed.

I’d say the Moto X is a strong contender to be my next phone, but it’ll be up against the next Nexus device. Hopefully I’ll get a review unit in the not-too-distant future.

Motorola Moto X (2013) Smartphone Review

Motorola M LogoMotorola’s been busy since I reviewed the Moto G back in January, with the Moto X, Moto E and a 4G version of the Moto G filling out their range of smartphones. With IFA on, a refresh of the Moto X is expected very soon and rumours swirl regarding the next Nexus smartphone, the Nexus X (which neatly sidesteps any legal issues around the Nexus 6 name).

Back in reality, Motorola kindly lent me the Moto X for a long-term test, so I’ve been using the Moto X for over three months instead of my Nexus 4. Let’s take a look.

Given that the Moto X is over a year old in the US and over six months in the UK, the specs aren’t important, but for the record it’s a 4.7” 1280 by 720 Super AMOLED screen powered by a Qualcomm 1.7 MHz dual-core S4 Pro processor supported by an Adreno 320 GPU. There’s 2 GB RAM and 16 GB of storage and comes with Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box. A 2200 mAh battery keeps the Moto X going, with Motorola reckoning on around 24 hours use. It’s a GSM phone with 4G LTE on the 800/1800/2600MHz (B20/B3/B7) bands. Dimensions are 65 x 129 x 10.4 mm (5.7 mm at the narrowest point) and weighs in at 130g.

Moto X Front View

Using Geekbench 3, the Moto X clocks in at 666 single core and 1258 for multi-core with the LG Nexus 4 scoring 501 / 1664. This bears out the specs with the Moto X having a higherclock speed (1.75 v 1.5 GHz) but fewer cores, (2 v 4). In real world use, there’s nothing between them.

The Moto X looks good, and is nearly all black with only the on/off  and volume rocker in chrome. As with the Moto G, it fits well in the hand and the curved back still reminds me of the Palm Pre and its pebble design cue. Unlike our transatlantic cousins, the fantastic range of Moto X backs isn’t available to us Brits, so we’re stuck with only black and white variants of the phone.

Moving round the phones, the right-hand side has the chrome on/off button and a volume rocker. There’s a micro-USB socket at the bottom and 3.5 mm audio jack at the top. The back has the rear-facing camera with flash and there’s an interesting little dimple in the back. It’s all very similar to the Moto G but thinner and lighter. Powering the phone up reveals two things….first the screen is tremendous and second that Motorola haven’t strayed too far from the stock Android experience. Although not a full 1080 HD screen, the 720 in 4.7″ gives a high pixel density and apps look good. Colours are strong and vibrant, and slightly richer than on the LG Nexus 4. Blacks are black and contrast is good. I like it.

Moto X Back

Returning to the user interface, anyone familiar with a Nexus device will be totally at home. It’s all fairly standard and what Motorola has done is to tweak some of the standard apps and include a few value-adding apps which you can use or not use, as you wish. They’re actually pretty good and I covered them in my review of the Moto G.

Windy DayAssist – a personal assistant-type app that sets up rules for when the phone needs to be quiet, based on driving, meetings or sleeping. Motorola Migrate – this app helps transfer information from an older phone to the Moto G. It covers text messages, call history, SIM contacts, media and volume settings. Innovatively uses wifi and QR codes. Moto Care seems to have been replaced with the a more mundane Help, though it seems to be broadly the same app. The Moto X doesn’t have an FM radio, so there’s no app for that.

New since I reviewed the Moto G is Alert, a personal security and emergency response app that notifies friends and family in the event of trouble. Connect is a cloud-based management app for Motorola devices which also lets the phone interact with the your PC or laptop. New too is Spotlight, a player for interactive three dimensional animations. It’s quirky and cool with two animations, Windy Day and Buggy Night. The former was created by Jan Pinkava of Geri’s Game and Ratatouille fame.

Where the Moto X really steps away from the Moto G and most other Android phones is that it’s always listening. Simply say “Ok Google Now” and the Moto X responds, switching over to voice recognition. From this point you can search, dial phone numbers, set reminders and otherwise control the phone. The touchless control is really cool and works well (though it doesn’t play very nice with PIN locks).

Touchless Control Set Reminders

There’s also Active Display which automagically shows notifications when you are nearby. No idea how it works, but it works well – you walk over to the phone and it comes alive showing that you’ve waiting emails or texts.

Active Display ActiveDisplay

Using the Moto X on a daily basis I’ve come to appreciate what Motorola have done with the Moto X. The general trend is for top-end phones to come with fast processors and big screens. But rather than focus on specs, Motorola have brought the innovative features of Touchless control and Active Display to a phone that would be defined as mid-range. The result is a phone that works hard towards putting the smart into smartphone.

The Moto X is available online for around GB£280 which puts it on a par with the Nexus 5. It’s a tough call as to which is the better but let’s see what Motorola has to offer shortly.

Thanks again to Motorola for providing the Moto X for review.