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Nokia-Lumia-510-3

Nokia Lumia 510 review

Nokia was kind enough to lend us review units of their latest and cheapest Lumias yet – 510 and 610. Lumia 610 was launched way back in July in India and was mostly received to negative responses from Windows Phone fans calling it the beginning of fragmentation in the ecosystem. However, with less than 5% apps being affected – I strongly disagree. Lumia 510 on the other hand, was launched last month as Nokia’s Diwali gift to India. I am going to do a quick impressions on Lumia 510 and what it means to consumers in India and why you should/shouldn’t buy it.

Hardware \ Design 

Here’s a question for you: Why Lumia 510? Why couldn’t Nokia just reduce the price of 610? It does make sense until you start using 510. Lumia 510′s back is surprisingly a soft touch cover panel coupled with subtle curves which make it a joy to hold. Lumia 610′s back is a wholesome plastick-y experience, so 510 definitely feels better in hand – sturdy and safe. There’s one downfall to this back cover though, it’s a dust magnet. However, the sturdy and well built hardware should make up for those tiny little dust particles sticking on the back of your phone. Lumia 510 weighs in at 129g v/s 132g on Lumia 610 however when you hold both the devices – you’ll feel that there is a lot more bulk attached to the 610.
When it comes to design – let’s put it simple terms – it’s uninspiring. Let’s just say it’s a mixture of Lumia 710 and Lumia 610, unfortunately the design borrows more elements from Lumia 710. I personally love the design on 610 but as mentioned above when you hold it – physically it feels a bit cheap. So again, Nokia had to make a compromise which some may or may not like. 

Lumia 510, exactly like the 610, has all the physical buttons (lock screen, camera and volume rocker) on the right side which is incredibly frustrating for me. Probably because I am used to HTC Mozart’s button placement – Lock screen button on top, volume rocker on top left and camera on bottom right. Sometimes when you are listening to music, you need to mess with the volume rocker without actually watching the placement of the button and I have ended up pressing lockscreen button most of the time. This isn’t much of a problem to be honest and if it is – I am sure with  a little more time, people can get used to it. You have a usb charging point right at the bottom and headset port at the polar opposite.

Let’s talk about my favorite part now – The screen. We are living in the world of smartphones where there’s a PPI war raging on..at the time of review – HTC just blew everyone away 5-inch 1080p 440ppi phone which is just an incredible achievement. However these are high end phones and it will take a considerable time for manufacturers to come out with non WVGA displays on lower end models (unless Apple comes out with an iPhone Mini!). Right, so Lumia 510 display is what makes it stand out. Lumia 510 comes with a 4 inch TFT 480 x 800 pixels (~233 ppi) display. Keep this in perspective, it has a larger display than Lumia 610, 710 and 800 and all these phones have WVGA resolution at 3.7inches. However the other models have higher PPIs but if you aren’t really used to retinas and One Xs (which you probably aren’t if you are looking to buy a lumia 510) – it won’t really be any issue at all. In fact, 4 inch v//s 3.7 inch difference is significant. After using 510, I personally am never going to a display < 4 inches. Windows Phone should be experienced at such displays – however at higher PPIs, no excuse on that which is why you should look at HTC 8X and Lumia 920,  meanwhile display nerds can feel free to skip WVGA displays on 820 and 8S (which is really a shame considering their pricing and competition).

Anyways, back to the screen. 4 inch display is a joy to use and Nokia undercutting 610′s price to bring out a larger display is an incredibly bold move (which resulted in some compromises that we’ll discuss later). The color reproduction is solid however the display is not to be compared with high end Windows Phone counterparts sporting SAMOLEDs and SLCDv2. It’s not a vibrant display and  lacks the viewing angles that I’d personally like. The outdoor visibility is fairly average. I prefer the 610 display if you look closely however I enjoyed 510 display more. Here’s another incentive to pick 510 display over 610: Windows Phone 7.8. Customizable tiles that would cover up your entire screen – the bigger the better, folks!

I am going to quickly go through some of the features on 510:

  • Camera: 510 sports 5 MP autofocus camera with no LED flash. The 5MP camera is highly unimpressive. I am no camera expert so I cannot really expand upon this, but as a consumer who can differentiate between a good and bad photograph, I’ll strictly put 510′s image taking ability at “below average” – keeping in mind the price point on this. There’s also no front facing camera which is also a huge downside to this device.
    As mentioned above, 510 undercuts 610′s pricing and had to compromise on some of 610′s feature. Well they didn’t compromise on the camera itself but on the lack of LED flash which is a bit hard to comprehend when all your competitors have it, something as simple as LED flash is missing. I can tell you my photo taking experience on Diwali (festival of lights) wasn’t pretty. Video recording is capped to VGA resolution (at 30fps) so it’s again..average.
  • Speakers: One word: Loud. The speaker grill is at the back and is a significant improvement to the disaster that the Lumia 800 loudspeakers are. I wrote this impression while listening to Nokia Music on 510′s loudspeaker and it’s an incredibly positive experience at this price range. I can’t stress enough how amazing Nokia Music is for the Indian market.
    Battery life: 510 has a 1300mAh battery. Nokia impressed me quite a bit here. The battery lasts more than a day of moderate use (over wifi). Unfortunately, haven’t been able to test this device on 3G. The back panel is removable – nothing new but many new phones tend to have a sealed back.
  • Storage: Alright, this is the only point where it becomes hard to justify the purchase of this device unless you are already on the cloud bandwagon and are connected to the internet at all times. Lumia 510 has just 4GB memory onboard with less than 2.9 GB memory available and most importantly, it doesn’t have Micro SD support so you have less than 2.9 GB to utilize. This can be a deal breaker for quite a few,. Personally, it hasn’t been much of a problem for me – all my files are on skydrive (free 7GB storage for all 510 customers) and  I am spending a lot of time listening to Nokia Music radio (free for one year). But yes, using Nokia drive offline maps coupled with applications and local music, videos – this is definitely not a device for offline media junky. This can be a deal breaker for quite a few.

Camera Samples

Lumia 510 camera sample at moderate lighting

Lumia 510 camera sample at moderate lighting

 

Lumia 510 camera sample outside shot

Lumia 510 camera sample outside shot

 

 

Lumia 510 camera sample outside shot - night | no flash

Lumia 510 camera sample outside shot – night | no flash

Performance

Powering the 510 is a familiar looking  Cortex A5 MSM7227A Snapdragon processor clocked at 800 MHz and of course the measly 256 MB RAM. There’s a lot of buzz around how this 256MB RAM is causing WP OS to move towards an era of fragmentation and how it’s not the right way to experience Windows Phone. This is the first time I have spent significant amount of time with a 800 MHz processor WP device coupled with 256 MB RAM and I can frankly say that if you have used a Windows Phone device before – you will never touch this device again. If you haven’t – we’ll it’s a smooth sail.
What this 256 MB of RAM does is that it excludes nearly < 5% of the applications from your reach. However this minority includes some massively used applications like Skype, Tango, Angry Birds, etc and even excludes Nokia’s own application City Lens so this is a bit of a bummer.

However, let me write about the much  exaggerated lag story on Lumia 510. Lag is there, no doubt, but it’s not really noticeable most of the times. Yes, the OS struggles to keep up sometimes – you miss a transition or two or you get a 2-3 second delay but it’s not signifcant enough to make a difference in buyer’s opinion. You have to keep two things in mind:

1) The competition is cheap android phones and Android tends to lag on dual core OS as well.

2) If you are using a Windows Phone already, you are not going to buy a cheap Lumia device. You notice the lag because you can relate to your existing device – for a new customer, this lag will be relative to either Android or Symbian which I can assure you would beat WP on 510 in terms of lag and performance issues at this price point.

 I have been using extensively 510 for couple of hours now (at the time of writing) with Nokia Music running in background with Mehdoh realtime streaming and I am constantly switching between Baconit and Metrotube and there’s no sign of lag anywhere. Sometimes it does lag inside the third party apps  and yes it’s not as buttery smooth as you’d expect from Windows Phone but it’s barely enough to deter users.

Nokia Windows Phone ecosystem

If you are buying a WP7 device, no two thoughts about it – get a Nokia Lumia. Nokia, since their announcement of WP device, has been working really hard and has produced an array of exclusive Nokia Lumia applications offering unparalleled experience on Lumia devices. Other OEMs don’t even come close to the offerings from Nokia on Windows Phone. There are a few applications I’d like to point out that you should weigh in when you put 510 in your buying list:

  1.  Nokia Drive: This is undoubtedly the best turn by turn voice navigation tool and every lumia owner gets this application for free. You can use it both online and offline. My city map was just worth 100MB of data so don’t worry about the   space on your device – there’s plenty left. My dad has a lumia as well and he absolutely loves Nokia Drive.
  2.  Nokia Maps: Well,  since the Bing Maps weren’t upto the task so again, Nokia saved the day with Nokia Maps. There are alternatives in the marketplace (such as gMaps which offer Google Maps based solution).
  3.  Nokia Music: This is on top of the list of why you should buy a Lumia. Nokia Music is just absolutely incredible. You can stream songs from their radio, download songs and best part is that it’s absolutely free (free download for first three months). Since there’s no spotify, pandora or even xbox music streaming – Nokia Music stands out as the best streaming solution at this point of time in India.
  4.  More incredibly useful applications like App highlights which give you list of relevant and popular applications, Counters – to check your data usage, Contact Transfer and Share – for contact management and lot more. There’s no doubt that Nokia has the best OEM marketplace and they do really offer substantial applications that contribute to your platform experience.

Final Thoughts

Summing it up: 510 is priced at Rs 9,999 and I will recommend it if you can survive the 4GB memory on board – if not I’d suggest you take 610 route. With Windows Phone 7.8 coming with bluetooth file sharing, I think 510 will definitely be a Value for money device which is exactly what the consumer at this price range requires.

Challenge for Nokia is to beat Samsung at micro level – starting right from local retailers who prefer to sell cheap Android phones over any other OS – it’s a big long struggle for Nokia. This is the device that we have been waiting for since WP7′s inception, the sub 10k WP device and I can say it doesn’t disappoint at all and with time – the  price will go down making way for WP8 to seep through the price barriers and this becomes an even better phone as it goes down the price rank. With right marketing push and most importantly, with help of local retailers – 510 could be a bestseller for Nokia that this company’s been waiting for a long time.

Further reading:

Lumia 510 specs

Lumia 510 review at UTP

Lumia 510 review at FA

 Lumia 510 review at WPDang

Lumia 510 and 610 compared at WPXbox

weatherflow_review_4

Windows Phone App showcase: Weather Flow

This neat little app has stirred up a lot of dust when it came out, and I’ve got to tell you: it’s really as impressive as people say.

We’re talking about Weather Flow, another nice app made by Gergely Orosz, who’s also responsible for other cool apps like “App Flow App Discovery”, “Cocktail Flow” and “Flashlight 7″.

This time, Gergely has brought us a wonderful weather app with rich graphics and a really smooth layout.

Check out the screenshots Gergely provides:

 

 

Now, if that doesn’t stun you, let me show you a quick video of the animations. (Please excuse the video quality… I really need to buy me a new webcam :)
 
Windows Phone App Review: Weather Flow
 

Weather Flow really gives you smooth and amazing graphics, vivid animations, live tiles, and up to date data.

 

This is the official app description from the marketplace:

Introducing the most beautiful weather app. The one with the best live tiles. Ever.

Don’t let bad weather take you by surprise! Whether it’s raining, cloudy, clear, warm or cold, Weather Flow will provide you with current weather conditions, hourly and daily forecasts. Forecasts and weather conditions are provided for your city and multiple locations around the world.

Pin your current location on your screen and the two sided live tile will show not only the current conditions, but also how the weather will be compared to yesterday and if it’s a good idea to pack an umbrella. Add multiple cities to the app and switch between them to see what their weather is like – perfect for when you’re planning to travel. Spice up the visuals by switching between a Metro theme and a visually rich theme, using which ever you’re in the mood for.
 

The app costs USD 1.99 and has ranked 4/5 Stars at the time of writing with 41 reviews so far. We’d highly recommend you try the application.

Get the app at the WindowsPhone Marketplace.

 

 

Windows Phone Nokia India

Windows Phone App Review : Indian Rail App

I travel a lot by trains.  In fact so much, that I am responsible for 50% of revenues for Indian Railways ( Ok I am exaggerating but you guys get the point, right ?). I usually check for a train availability via the Indian Rail website. One look at it, and you will understand why I hate it.  Too many ads and very unreliable website. To get a seat availability on the train between two stations, I have to check the codes for the station and then come back and then put in the data and then get the result . OH ! and not to forget the thousands of ad popups that ask me to get a Travel Insurance (Yes, exactly what I need while planning a travel).

There are other sites too like IRCTC, ClearTrip which have good UI but then again they are not really mobile friendly. Since I am on the move most of the time, I wanted a mobile app. And that is when I stumbled upon IndianRail App on the Marketplace.

The App really looks beautiful as it tries to emulate Windows Phone’s Tiles interface and has various sections displayed as Tiles.

Screen Capture (5)

The App has 5 sections

1) Train Schedule : Lets me check any train’s schedule by entering the train number. I can also Save the Train Schedule in this app

2) PNR : One of the best features – It lets me see if my ticket has been confirmed or still waitlisted. I can also bookmark the PNR number for faster access

3) Travel Plan : Quite an extensive feature, Lets me see how many tickets are available in different classes on a given day between two stations.

4) Train Live Status : Live Update of the train which shows actual / expected time of the train in a nice table format

5) Passing By Trains : List of Trains that pass by a certain station in the time frame that the user sets.

I am in love with this app. I use this regularly and one thing I totally heart is how it displays different stations and pops up suggestions when I type the station name. Also the way the stations are displayed in the list ( in the same way , how your music is displayed in Zune on Windows Phone ) is good !

Screen Capture (6)Screen Capture (7)

It all just fits in and the Developer Pavan Bhattad has taken care the app emulates the look and feel of Windows Phone ! The Developer regularly provides updates for the app every now and then.

You can find Indian Rail App on Marketplace here.

P.S : At WPSauce, we are starting with reviewing apps which cater to the Indian Marketplace or are developed by Indian Windows Phone Developers. If you are a Windows Phone Developer from India and have developed some good apps – Drop me a mail at karthik[at]wpsauce[dot]com (or use WPSauce.com/Contact) and I will get back to you.

WP7 Game Review: Rummycomb

rummycomb

Leda Entertainment has a holiday-themed update for their game Rummycomb. So how is it? Read on to find out.

Rummycomb is a hexagonal grid of icons, and you have to drag your finger over icons of the same color to make them vanish. It is one of those matching-board games that make me really wonder what color-blind people think when they browse the marketplace.

Right off the bat, I was super confused what to do, because the game came with no instructions. It took me a while to understand that you are supposed to drag your finger over neighboring icons of the same color. A few instructions would have been nice. After you figure out what to do, the gameplay is fairly simple. You remove icons in a frantic race against the clock. You can rack up bonus points by doing some special tricks, like removing a set of icons of the same shape and  color. However, the gameplay is not too engaging.

The visuals are nice and shiny, and the Christmas-themed icons are jolly enough. While I understand the motivation behind choosing the font (it matches the hexagonal theme of the overall game), the readability is not very nice. A bigger problem, however, is that the game gives no visual cue that the icons are dropping in from the top. Selected icons just disappear, and new ones take their place, and you will be none the wiser where they came from.

rummycomb-1rummycomb-2

 

Rummycomb is free on the marketplace. Overall rating: 2.5 / 5 for a fun free game, that lacks appeal in the visuals and is not very replayable.

holding the titan

HTC Titan Review

 

With a little bit of confidence, we can make quite a few guesses about the goal of smart phone manufacturers. We feel that many companies are taxed with the intention of creating the perfect smart phone to match user needs. In many cases, a company will choose industry standards and parts to ultimately create a product that sells like hot cakes. But every so often, a mobile company will go against modern conventions and use a part or a sensor that makes people want the smart phone that much faster when it’s announced. And while many would argue that it was Apple that shifted conventional standards with the Apple iPhone, HTC is often said to do something similar. HTC’s method of change is surprisingly what gives the company a unique identity: standardizing large screen devices for a bevy of platforms and making 4.0 inch screens almost an unwritten requirement for the modern smartphone. Yet again, HTC broke convention when announcing the HTC Titan, a Windows Phone with the largest screen Windows has seen to date. Is the screen enough to change the smartphone wars in Microsoft’s favor and claim every bit of market share it desperately needs? Read on to find our thoughts on the HTC Titan.

RUNDOWN
  • $199 on new two year AT&T contract, $549 unlocked, int’l: $650
  • Windows Phone Mango
  • 4.7 in SLCD
  • Rear 8 MP Camera, 1.3 MP FFC
  • 1.5 ghz single core & 1600 mAh battery

Hardware

The Titan is big, but feels oh so sweet
Before jumping into the rest of the hardware provided by the HTC Titan, it is difficult not to mention the elephant in the room. The size of the HTC Titan screen is at 4.70 inches diagonally and is powered by a Super LCD display. Unlike the AMOLED display standardized by Samsung, Super LCD gives more natural colors versus the often saturated coloring AMOLED screens offered by Samsung. Despite the wider array of colors given by the AMOLED display, the screen technology gives lackluster whites. This is where the Super LCD panel shines in creating better whites on Windows Phones. Of course, we can’t help but wonder if Super LCD is weaker in comparison to the bevy of display technologies available.
Another differentiating factor of the HTC Titan is the CPU speed. While Microsoft chassis specifications require each smart phone running the Qualcomm Scorpion CPU, the HTC Titan is clocked at 1.5 gigahertz versus the 1.4 and the first gen 1.0 gigahertz devices available. Powering the HTC Titan is a 1,600 mAh located on the back of the device. Personally, I would’ve loved a bigger battery in the range of 1,750 mAh, but we will get to the reason why later on in the review.

Super LCD gives more natural colors versus the often saturated coloring AMOLED screens offered by Samsung
The HTC Titan is equipped with two cameras. The first camera being a 1.3 MP on the upper right hand side of the screen and a 8 MP camera that can record up to 720P with continuous autofocus The rear camera also offers an F2.2 lens and BSI sensor that promises to give the user high resolution photos and great HD video recording in low lighting conditions. In addition to providing a 8 MP camera on the rear, the HTC Titan also offers dual LED flash versus the single LED flash offered on Samsung devices.
Everything else on the HTC Titan is Windows Phone chassis 1 standards. The standard 3 capacitive Windows buttons are located to the bottom of the device. To the right of the device lies the dedicated camera button and volume rocker. To the left of the device is the micro USB charging port that serves as a way to sync music and videos with Zune. To the top left of the device is the standard 3.5 mm headphone and toward the top right lies the power button. Similar to the HTC HD7, the button is quite recessed taking a bit of effort to power on the device. Often, we found ourselves accidentally powering on the device twice.
Measuring at 131.5 x 70.7 x 9.9 mm and weighing 5.64 oz (160 grams), the HTC Titan would be considered a brick for those considering switching from the Focus S to the Titan or even to the average user. However the device isn’t as much of a brick when it’s held in hand. For some users the device won’t feel ergonomic due to the sheer size of the device. However, in our daily use, we enjoyed the soft metallic edges, the durability of the back panel, and the overall construction of the chassis. Sufficed to say, the device is built like a tank with all materials firm in hand with a little bit of weight to it. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all.

Display

Natural colors plus aging display and dated resolution is not a good mix
While we touched briefly on the display in the hardware portion of the review, the display also demands its own specific area for a variety of reasons. The first reason why the display deserves a category of its own is the display is the selling point of the HTC Titan, period. It’s a massive 4.7 inch display that shocks and awes many people, to the point that some will say the screen is actually too big for a smartphone. On the other hand, many will argue that the screen is too small and demand giving Windows Phone a 5 inch display. To those that demand a bigger screen, that may not be such a good idea right now from HTC for a Windows Phone.
For starters, chassis 1 requires that despite the size of the display, the resolution stays at 800×480 pixels; no way to increase the WVGA resolution. While we loved seeing elements of Windows Phone blown to mind boggling proportions thanks to the 4.7 inch screen, the OS suffered quite a bit. For one thing, icons and fonts looked fuzzy and pixelated. It was mind boggling to use a device with such a massive screen and see the pixilation when reading email, reading on word, or even playing a quick game of Sonic 4 or Let’s Play Golf. The pixilation is a minor gaff for many users because it won’t be noticed. But for those that are transitioning from the iPhone 4/S or any Android device greater than WVGA, the pixilation is there and it is there to stay. It could make a person wonder why purchase a huge screen when the conditions aren’t optimum for a big screen to give the clarity that modern smartphone technology almost demands.
The second issue is the display technology itself. Super LCD was always meant to be a competitor against the AMOLED displays that Samsung and other companies offered on their mobile devices to give comparable colors depth and clarity. The whites are whiter, and the colors give a more warm feeling versus the shocking saturated effect that the AMOLED display provides. The big problem with Super LCD is the fact that companies have moved beyond the AMOLED screen and have gone to Super AMOLED/Plus, IPS displays, and several different types of displays. Comparing the above mentioned screens to Super LCD and you realize in a head to head, Super LCD will lose. On a personal level, the Super LCD does show its age and offers almost an inferior experience in combination with the pixilation of fonts and icons.
And yet, despite pixilation and the somewhat dated display technology, we absolutely loved the screen. The size is too perfect for media or gaming. And even for reading with the pixelated fonts, it was a great experience because icons were so big. So while there are complaints about the technology and the pixel density, we loved the dimensions of the screen and the natural colors of the screens. We also loved that the whites were far brighter than anything Super AMOLED could hope to achieve. While saturation will always go with AMOLED technology, the natural appearance goes to the Super LCD.

Camera

A big improvement, but lags in the competition
Cameras and HTC have a love hate relationship. We are personally reminded of the days of Windows Mobile where the camera wasn’t the best selling point of the device offering lackluster shots in comparison to Samsung or the competition. Even using Android as an operating system, the camera sensors HTC placed in devices were lackluster, until the mytouch 4g slide which included the same camera sensor that the HTC Titan currently has. On a personal level, this makes me feel as if HTC is trying to improve photo quality and give users the best experience regardless of the different scenes where people need to take pictures. So how does the camera fare?
We won’t mince words. If you have the Nokia N8, the camera of the HTC Titan will not ever be on the professional level of the Nokia N8 where all a user has to do is point and shoot. The HTC Titan shots were catch 22. The 8 MP camera performs well in adequate lighting, like most camera phones on the market at 8 MP. Snapping shots on a rainy or sunny fall day in Chicago were simple with the HTC Titan. The quality in natural photos is where the Titan shines in our testing. A major weakness came in macro shots which were less than stellar.

this makes me feel as if HTC is trying to improve photo quality
However, there are two main issues with the camera. The first issue the camera has a little bit of lag from taking a shot and the preview of the shot. It is considerably slower versus first generation devices and all Samsung second generation devices tested. The second problem is the quality of the camera shot. Some photos look good, with others looking cold and lifeless where optimum lighting conditions are achieved. While Microsoft has given users the ability to auto fix photos on the device, the quality of the photo declines drastically. In some cases, a perfect shot becomes a distorted pixelated mess thanks to auto focus, which has never happened on a previous device.
The HTC Titan is also capable of rendering video in 720P HD at 30 FPS with continuous autofocus. The quality of the 720P recording is great, but it is also comparable to the Samsung Focus S, which is amazing. HTC has done a great job in recording, which was a huge weakness at one point for many HTC smartphones. We found that the lens adjusted very well to the lighting conditions on the day of recording our camera sample and kept up with jerky movements while providing excellent video quality.
The take away message here is if you have a DSLR or the Nokia N8, the Titan camera is not a good substitute at all. It is far better than most HTC cameras, but it isn’t the top of the crop when it comes to cameras. Some shots are stellar, with others looking cold and dreary. But the 720P video recording capabilities were great, if not fantastic.

Performance & battery life

The Titan performs well, so so battery life
The HTC Titan is easily the fastest Windows Phone currently on the market in North America. The speed is attributed to the Windows Phone operating system and the chassis 1 hardware that is specifically designed to give users the ultimate experience. But HTC has taken things further with switching from SD based storage to flash based storage making the device even faster. The HTC Titan is also clocked at 1.5 gigahertz, a rarity among Windows Phones which are only clocked at 1.4 gigahertz. Sufficed to say, the performance was fast for everything we threw at the device. From loading games to switching from applications, everything was silky smooth. Not many chugs were attributed to the hardware, but we feel it is necessary that an update of hardware specs wouldn’t be a bad idea either. 512 MB of RAM is too little for some processes and the silky smoothness of the OS is destroyed.
The battery life of the HTC Titan could be better. While the Samsung Focus S and the Samsung Focus Flash gave us almost 2 days of continuous use on a single charge, the HTC Titan will only give users 16 hours on the 1,600 mAh battery. In part, the huge drain of the battery is attributed to the screen. AMOLED displays are far more efficient at power consumption over Super LCD, and we are left wondering why HTC didn’t use a bigger battery to power the Titan. In comparison to the Samsung next gen devices, the Titan feels like a first gen device in the battery life department. It is a step up from the HD7, but not the best in terms of battery. The Titan may require a charge every night at least.

Audio & call quality

Loud rear speakers, but subpar sound in call
The speaker quality of the HTC Titan can be described in one word: LOUD! HTC has went to great lengths to improve the speaker quality of the Titan and it definitely shows. In our testing, we noticed that audio popping was present in Zune, especially when a track ended and another track began. We also noticed that some songs had a distorted sound at the start of some tracks as well. Similarly, the call quality was less than stellar. Callers sounded tinny on the Titan, but that could also be due to AT&T service in the area. Amazingly, callers told me that I sounded extremely clear, even if they sounded like they were in a tunnel on my end.

Final Thoughts

For all of its faults, the Titan is a great Windows Phone
In ancient Greece, it was the Titans that ruled Mount Olympus. However, during the Titanomachy, the Titans were toppled by younger Greek Gods. It is very interesting to recant Grecian ancient history, and we believe HTC has also taken note of Ancient Greek history in the naming of the HTC Titan. While it’s not the first time that HTC has used the Titan name, it surely is the first for Windows Phone. That said, much like the Titans of historical past who were revered for their size and godly stature, the HTC Titan should also be revered for its size, design, and Windows Phone OS under the hood. But we can’t help wonder that despite the hardware, the HTC Titan will still be toppled by its adversaries in the smart phone wars.
One of the main issues with the HTC Titan is the main selling point. For the people that don’t wear their glasses (me), the massive screen is a joy to use when reading and performing normal tasks. However, unlike iOS or even some Android devices which offer higher pixel density, some elegant parts of Windows Phone looks almost comical due to the higher pixel density with the screen size. Some icons, text, and the elements of Windows Phone on the Titan look mediocre and not incredible. I won’t say that it looks cartoon like, but the higher dpi makes for a less than elegant experience.
Other nagging issues that persist in the device include video stuttering persistent in games and intensive tasks almost negates the smoothness and speed offered by the 1.5 gigahertz snapdragon processor. The camera, while using a similar sensor to that of the newest HTC Android devices, still takes mediocre shots when comparing it to the Nokia N8. For some shots, there is a considerable amount of lag between time of the photo being taken and the preview Windows Phone. Finally, while Super LCD gives a less saturated appearance to colors versus AMOLED technology, from the various differing displays offered, Super LCD seems almost dated versus current screen technologies.

the HTC Titan should also be revered for its size & design
And yet, despite the issues and criticisms taken with the HTC Titan, it is a fantastic device. Period. It easily out performs the Samsung Focus S, and is the only device offered by a major manufacturer that seems like a true upgrade. It is definitely hard to part with the device because currently, it is the best Windows Phone device on the market. There’s no question of that. But the question at the end of the day is whether that title will last with Nokia demanding to make a name in the Windows Phone space. For now, the Titan may be the IT phone for large screen enthusiasts

 

Review Score
Design8.0
Display7.5
Camera7.0
Reception7.5
Performance9.0
Battery Life7.0
Final Score7.6

While this is our personal opinion of the device, opinions can and do differ on use of devices. The score is based on an average of the numbers above. Please be reminded that numbers alone should not deter a possible purchase. YMMV

metro-b-icon.png

Flash video comes to windows phone with Metro Browser

metro-b-iconTwo developers: snickler and Marvin_S from xda-developers have released their app, Metro Browser into the marketplace, that can play flash video from youtube, megavideo, videobb and other sites.

This app is a must have for all windows phone users, since it allows you to play those YouTube videos that are otherwise unavailable to mobile users because you have to watch an ad before it (hey, Google, if you are reading this, please come up with an official solution for that.) This works not only with the YouTube website, but also with embedded YouTube videos across the internet.

The main advantage of this app, however, is that you can watch videos from Megavideo, videobb, etc. Something that so far, only Android users could do (or iOS users if the corresponding app exists.)

metro-b-1metro-b-2

I tested the app myself with videobull.com and found that it does work, I was able to watch mythbusters on my phone! (Sorry for the low quality video, I did not have a great camcorder with me)

Metro Browser playing flash video

Metro Browser works by acting as an intermediate layer between the site and the IE control it hosts, and figuring out when you have a flash video to be played. As soon as it detects one, it plays it using the player. They do not seem to be using the wp7 video player, and you have to wait for a while for the video to be buffered before you can play the video.

Metro Browser is free with ads, and $1.99 for ad-free browsing. Download from Zune Marketplace or see more details in the XDA-Developers thread.

2011-11-17-171

Samsung Focus Flash/Omnia W Review

When many people see Windows Phone devices, the first thing they say is Wow that’s a nice phone but it looks really expensive. To assuage that belief, Microsoft promised to release Windows Phones devices at diverse price points to broaden the Windows Phone experience (aka cheap and expensive phones on major carriers). One of the devices apart of Microsoft’s new strategy is the Samsung Focus Flash, the third Samsung device offered on AT&T and other networks worldwide. But in exchange for that cheaper price, is the customer getting shafted with an inferior experience to the likes of Mr. Green Roboto? We hope to answer that question in our review of the Samsung Focus Flash, the little brother to the gigantic Samsung Focus and the Samsung Focus S.

Hardware

Would not know the phone is made of plastic on first glance
As strange as this is about to sound, the Samsung Focus Flash is built like a very old HTC/Sony collaboration (does the Sony Xperia X1 ring a bell). The device, while made of plastic, has a very professional feel to it. In part, this is due to the brushed back, which may not be metallic, gives the device a premium feeling. Uniquely, the sides of the device, in comparison to the Samsung Focus S, are less rounded in appearance and have a square-like shape. The design choice may be a catch 22; while it definitely makes the device stand out, the edges can be a bit painful after prolonged holding in a horizontal orientation. Still, one must be impressed with how the phone has a premium feel to it, despite its plastic chassis.

The front of the device sports a front facing camera to the upper right corner of the device. To the bottom of the front lies the three standard Windows Phone buttons. Unlike the other Samsung Focus brethren, the Samsung Focus Flash has an actual start button made of clear plastic that is also recessed to minimize accidental keypresses. In addition, pressing the start button turns on the device, which can be a good thing if you don’t feel like pressing the on button. On the left of the device lies a pretty sturdy volume rocker, which takes a bit more pressure to increase/decrease volume versus the Samsung Focus S. To the top of the device lies the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. To the bottom of the device lies the standard micro-usb port for charging and syncing with Zune. On the right of the device lies the power button and the dedicated camera button. Much like the volume rocker, the power and camera buttons require a bit more force to enable or disable in comparison to the Samsung Focus S. The buttons aren’t necessarily as recessed and are easily spotted for many users. One thing that we enjoyed was the buttons weren’t cheap feeling like the Samsung Focus S or recessed like the Samsung Focus.

Turning the device on the back reveals the speaker and the 5 MP camera with a single led flash. The 5 MP camera, which was once considered the "premium" option for Windows Phones, is relegated to a cheaper status in the current Windows chassis specifications. Now what is interesting about the Sammy Flash is the quality of the back cover. Unlike the Samsung Focus S that has a relatively cheap back cover with a raised bump design, the Focus Flash offers a long piece of plastic that surrounds a considerable amount of the back. The back cover does not curve around to surround the volume rocker like in the HTC Titan, but still the Samsung Focus Flash back cover takes a lot of room and engulfs a considerable portion of the back. The brush finish definitely makes the device look nice.

The device is a lot of things, but it is not a light device in any stretch of the imagination. The Samsung Focus Flash feels considerably heavier than the Samsung Focus S despite the Samsung Focus S being considerably larger. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At times, the Samsung Focus S was so light, I forgot I even had it. But with the Samsung Focus Flash, you feel the bump in the pocket and you won’t freak frantically looking for the device. The heft and design of the device makes it stand out; almost demanding that a user pays attention to the Samsung Focus Flash. Typing with such a uniquely designed device is an interesting experience for a variety of reasons. Unlike the ergonomically designed Samsung Focus S, the edges of the Focus Flash will become a bit bothersome after a while. Unless you’re typing a paper of amazing proportions or a very long text message, chances are you may not really feel the corners of the device hitting you unless you are holding on to the device for dear life.

Display

Super AMOLED never looked so bright
Unlike previous Samsung Windows Phone devices, the Samsung Focus Flash sports a 3.7 inch Super AMOLED display with a 800×480 screen resolution. Unfortunately, the screen offers a pentile matrix subpixel arrangement. For those of you that don’t know, a pentile matrix offers about 768,000 subpixels while the Super AMOLED Plus display offers 1,152,000 subpixels. While the color banding issue has been solved in Mango and requires developers to update their programs to disable strange color banding issues, users won’t get the wild array of colors that the Samsung Focus S offers.

Despite not getting the wide array of color depth and pixel density that the Focus S offers, the Focus Flash is no slouch because it is using Super AMOLED. Where it beats the Samsung Focus S is in its brightness. Enabling or disabling auto display intensity in the extra settings on the Samsung Focus S does very little for the device to catch up to the automatic brightness of the Samsung Focus Flash. It made us scratch our heads to ponder why the "runt" of Samsung’s family shines ever so bright compared to its more expensive brother.

If a user has an issue with pentile matrix subpixel arrangement, then chances are this device won’t be in your future because of the limitations of the Super AMOLED display. But if viewing angles matter, as does a bright screen, this device is the one for you. Plain and simple, the viewing angles, brightness of the screen, and the overall size (at 3.7 inches) is very natural. Coming from a 4.3, 4.1, or 4.7 inch screen didn’t decrease the experience. Typing is a breeze, viewing content is a breeze due to the great viewing angles. The Flash also has a better pixel density versus the Samsung Focus S, giving some very sharp results. The screen technology may not be a spectacular, but it is something I would recommend in a heartbeat!

Camera

Images should never be this cold and lifeless
The Samsung Focus Flash offers a 5 MP camera and a front facing camera. I won’t mince words here. If there is ever a reason why the Focus Flash is considerably cheaper, one reason lies in the camera. Before explaining the quality of the camera, there are some good things the camera performed well at versus the Samsung Focus S. The major aspect that the Flash outperforms the S in is the white balance. Indoors or out, the white balance on automatic is almost top of the class in several shots. The flash on the Focus Flash didn’t result in many issues or over exposure in indoor settings like the Samsung Focus S, which is also a good thing. Finally, the same tap to focus on many Windows Phones taps on a specific object in the image and the focus isn’t just center weighted. All of these aspects were a joy to use.

What we didn’t enjoy was the lackluster performance of the camera. Samsung cut out a few key features that made the Samsung Focus and the Samsung Focus S a fantastic camera. One of those features include the anti-shake. With no anti-shake, the user is required to hold the camera a certain way, without shaking, to take a non blurry image. For many aficionados, that’s not an issue, but for some it can present a few issues. One of the largest complaints about Windows Phone was the camera, and the Samsung Focus saved many from those woes by providing antishake. It definitely makes a big difference in taking an image under optimum conditions.

So, how did the images fare? Surprisingly lackluster. The colors looked washed out and unnatural, the antishake feature that yields a sharper and more precise image was missing, resulting in blurry images. Unlike the Samsung Focus S which took great photos in natural settings, the Flash just doesn’t have that quality in imaging. Which is a shame considering the emphasis on camera performance Samsung prides itself on.

The Focus Flash has 2 recording settings: 720P and VGA. The VGA recording on the Focus Flash was not bad, often with much sharper video and adequate moment without jerkiness in playback. Despite the sharper video, the quality wasn’t that great. The 720P video recording was sadly worse often the quality of the video being extremely grainy. If that weren’t enough, the playback is absolutely horrible and in many ways beating the Dell Venue Pro for worst 720P video recording and rendering. In a head to head, the VGA output performed better than 720P, but in terms of video quality, you may want to keep your dedicated camera on hand. The Focus Flash is a camera you should avoid because of the lackluster shots and mediocre recording versus the Focus S and the original Focus.

Performance

Fast, but aching for more than 8 GB of storage
If you’ve taken a look at our review of the Focus S, there isn’t much more to say. You get the same next gen 1.4 GHz snapdragon single core processor, but it runs smooth as butter in performing tasks. Period. This is where Windows Phone will always shine and I don’t think anyone would argue that. Metro is stylish, pleasing and definitely something users should try.

Despite the buttery smooth performance, if you expect to perform a lot of tasks on the device, don’t. In part, this is due to the storage limitations of 8 GB. Samsung undoubtedly had to make another concession to drive the price point. Unlike Mr. Green Roboto, there is no option to expand the storage. So users are stuck with 8 GB of onboard storage, and that’s it. Don’t expect to take your full audio/video catalog or to load several different mapping solutions. But for not so memory heavy tasks and light music listening, any user should be alright with that.

Battery

One night charge, two days later, back on the charger it went
The Samsung Focus Flash offers a Super AMOLED display that is extremely bright. We expected the device battery to be relatively short given its price point and brightness of the display. But color us shocked, for the power that the Focus Flash provided, we got almost 2 and a half days over wifi with heavy usage, and about a day and 10 hours after heavy usage and automatic brightness. For any smart phone, that’s impressive! Samsung, excellent job on the battery life.

Wireless

While call quality could be improved, wifi connection was great
Unlike the Samsung Focus S, the Samsung Focus Flash had mediocre call quality. On the plus side, not a single dropped call. But on the negative side, the volume seemed extremely low, the phone had a humming noise that were heard on both ends of the conversation, and there was a high pitched sound to some calls. The faux g speeds that are touted to bring speeds up to 14.4 MBPS didn’t get above 2.5 MBPS in a 4g area in Chicago. Understandably, the issues can be attributed to AT&T and not indicative of the phone itself. But the experience on cellular radio was mediocre; almost bordering on horrible.

But the Focus Flash had one of the most consistent wifi connections I’ve ever used in a Windows Phone. No matter where I walked in my home, the connection didn’t drop. A few meters away from my house, and I was still connected to my wifi. This is something I couldn’t do with the Samsung Focus S and that was considered the "premium". Go fig.

Final Thoughts

It’s not a premium smartphone, but I would definitely consider it
Throughout the review, constant comparisons were made between the Samsung Focus Flash and the Samsung Focus/S line of devices. In many ways, it is almost impossible not to compare the Focus family of devices. But that quality hurts the Focus Flash because it makes the device lack a unique identity in comparison to its 4-inch brethren. But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. There were a lot of things we enjoyed about the device that makes it one of the better Windows Phones out there. Yes, there is a 3.7 inch screen and it’s only Super AMOLED, and yes there is only 8GB of onboard storage. Topped that with the mediocre camera performance, what makes the device special?

One thing that makes the device special is the pixel density. The pixel density makes for a sharp viewing experience. In my eyes, it makes metro really look fascinating and on par with the Super AMOLED plus display without the foibles the Samsung Focus S had. There is no concession for performance because the device is clocked at 1.4 GHz, like the Samsung Focus S. And the price is fantastic – $49.99 on a new 2 year contract with AT&T and a penny on Amazon Wireless! If anything, this is the best priced device you can get on the market. If camera and storage isn’t what you need in a smart phone, consider this being the top of the proverbial heap. Definitely try this device out. We were far more excited about this than the Samsung Focus S. I suppose pricing is a huge reason, but you decide.

What we loved

  • Design
  • Performance
  • Viewing angles
  • Battery life

What we hated

  • Mediocre camera with subpar 720p recording
  • Storage

Bottom line

If you are on a budget and need a phone that just works, get the Focus Flash if you’re on AT&T. It’s hard to be disappointed with the device even with its shortcoings

7.0/10

2011-11-08-063

Samsung Focus S review

What’s a big screen device at 4.3 inches running Windows Phone and is considerably thin? For the majority of users, the answer is clear – something from HTC. Surprisingly, many would be absolutely wrong because Samsung released the Focus S, a Windows Phone that is sporting a 4.3 inch display running Windows Phone 7.5 that is also razor thin. However, unlike the Taiwanese company that has made their name for huge screen and razor thin chassis, the Samsung Focus S offers a Super Amoled Plus display in almost a thinner form factor than any of HTC’s 4.3 inch devices. Does the slim size make the Samsung Focus S a must have for those that want to try Windows Phone? Or is this one of those cases where size is actually a bad thing? Of course we’re not going to tell you now, you have to read the full review to find out more. Continue reading

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Samsung Focus Flash unboxing and first impressions

While many users may find the Samsung Focus S perfect to suit their needs, Windows Phone is bringing diversity of handsets to satisfy all users needs. One of the devices that is offered on AT&T currently is the Samsung Focus Flash, a 1.4 Ghz next gen snapdragon processor with a Super Amoled display measuring 3.7 inches diagonally. The device also offers a vga front facing shooter with a 5 mp shooter on back. In this unboxing, we are just going to go over the basics of the device and the AT&T packaging. In later stories, we will explore the software and perform some camera tests and give an overall review.

Surprisingly, the device feels really good in hand and reminds me of the Sony Xperia X1 device that came out a few years ago with Windows Mobile 6.1. There’s something about the design of the device that definitely makes for a sturdier device versus the Samsung Focus S. I love the viewing angles of the device as well. For a Super Amoled display, the colors are extremely vibrant at many angles, despite the device not being Super Amoled Plus. But one has to wonder what Samsung sacrificed to get the price point so low besides the memory. Stick around at wpsauce for our full review!