Acer Aspire R7: Is It a Great Tablet PC to Buy In the Current Market?

In the last few hours, I was engrossed in all kinds of thoughts and skepticisms about the latest tablet PC from Acer, Aspire R7. The tablet computer runs Windows 8 and comes with what most people call a ‘weird design’. However, is that really the case? How good or bad this new product really is? Let’s find out through this article.

The First Impressions on the Design

 

I looked through almost all of the first look reviews I could lay my hands on. Most of them talk about one most important aspect of this tablet PC—its design. Acer Aspire R7 as you can see here in this image is a weirdly designed tablet PC. It is neither a tablet, nor a laptop, nor a PC. Still, it works as all of them. R7 comes with an aluminum unibody design that has a hinge known as ‘Ezel hinge’.

With the help of the hinge, this computer can take four different shapes, you know kind of like Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga. Aspire R7 has one of the best design innovations that we got to see in Windows 8 computers. The four different modes of R7 are shown here—laptop mode, Ezel mode, pad mode, and display mode.

Laptop mode of R7

 

R7 in Ezel mode

 

R7 in pad mode

 

Display mode of R7

 

With the laptop mode, it is no different from another laptop, such as your Apple MacBook Pro. It is slightly lighter than MacBook Pro though. It can be carried around just like any other tablet PC, and not a regular tablet. R7 is definitely heavier than any tablet out there, and with more powerful parts you can’t expect it to be light as well.

The Ezel hinge takes the computer to a mode in which the display comes closer to the keypad, making it look sort of like your Surface tablet. At this time, it is easy to use both the keypad and the touch screen. Many reviewers are worried that it doesn’t provide enough space to rest the hands while typing. Let me ask you, would you rather have it with unnecessary hand-rest region to make it bulkier and unappealing? If not, just understand this is indeed the correct design.

In the display mode, you can turn the screen around and show what you are working on to the person facing you. This is perfect for working professionals as well as people having coffee together.

Ezel hinge

 

Another important aspect of the design is the placement of the track pad. It is assumed widely that the track pad should be placed below the keypad, and that is the custom followed on most of the laptops and notebooks out there. Acer on the other hand has decided to go differently here, and with good reason. The track pad is right above the keypad and you have access to it only in the laptop mode. If you are in the Ezel mode or tablet mode, forget about the track pad.

placement of track pad on R7

 

Although people say this is a weird placement for the track pad, there is no reason why this is not logical. On a tablet computer, how often do you use the track pad anyway?

In essence, I believe there is no ground to the general criticism and skepticism toward this particular design. Some people mix it with genuine concern, while most of our reviewers have learnt to mix skepticism in anything they review.

Here is a video that gives a neat first look at R7, thanks to Forbes.com:

The Technical Specifications

 

Let’s analyze the technical aspects of Aspire R7.

Feature Value
Display 15.6 inches; Full HD 1926×1080 px; 178 degree viewing angle
Processor Intel Core i5 1.8 GHz Turbo Boost up to 2.8 GHz
RAM 6 GB
Storage 500 GB SATA + 24 GB SSD
Graphics Integrated Intel HD 4000
Sound Digital Dolby with 8-watt speakers
Ports & Other Features 3 USB 3.0; HDMI; Micro SD slot; BlueTooth; Convertor port for Ethernet, VGA, or USB; Wireless receiver; Kensington lock port
Dimensions Height 37.6 cm (14.83 inch)
Width 25.45 cm (10.02 in)
Depth 2-2.84 cm   (0.81-1.12 in)
Weight 2.4 kg (5.29 lb)

 

We have not yet got the full technical specs of the computer. It is clear that with Core i5 processor and 6 GB RAM, the computer is well in place to take advantage of the high end software programs out there. It is pretty much a severe competitor to other mid-range laptops like MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.

R7 in Tablet Mode

 

When you place Aspire R7 in tablet mode, you are essentially making it into sort of a folded magazine style, which was first introduced by Sony through its older tablets. That design did not quite catch on.

On the other hand, Aspire R7 with the Ezel hinge cannot fully sit on top of the keypad to make it into a perfect tablet. The important thing is it is not required to do that to look and feel aesthetic to most people. The computer still works perfectly and is quite apt in that position to work on as a tablet.

Moving R7 into tablet mode

 

In the tablet mode, you get to work with one of the largest touch screens out there. As expected, Windows 8, a powerful desktop operating system, has made its mark in the PC world, and it has caused design innovation from a number of OEMs out there. Acer is one among them. Dell, Lenovo, HP, Samsung, Toshiba, etc., have come up with their own Windows 8 devices with different design patterns. Microsoft itself has manufactured its own product, Surface Pro, which is an amazing tablet PC.

Acer R7 Price and Availability

 

As per the latest news, the price is expected to be 999 USD, and R7 will ship to the US market by . Pre-order from Acer or Best Buy.

This tablet PC is priced lower than your MacBook Air, and it has better configuration than MacBook Air, which starts at 999 dollars. Also, R7 has the touch screen, not available with Apple laptops. In general, it is a better product than other major tablets and mid-range laptops in the market.

Conclusion

 

I have always believed in designs that are inspired from our own body language. How we interact with the objects of our world should be used to design virtual user interfaces that will in turn be successful. This is the reason why touch screen gestures and voice commands have become popular. Voice is one of the most sought after input methods despite prevailing inaccuracies in recording and deciphering a command.

In the case of R7, the hinge design is quite different from the other products in the market (some of which were mentioned in the article we published earlier linked above), and this is one of the most innovative designs that I have got to see in the recent times. Hence, our recommendation for this product is a strong pro. We know we love it, and so we suppose you will too.

Aspire pre-order is available already at Acer store or Best Buy.

[Image: DigitalTrends; Engadget; Gizmodo; CNET]

What Is Wrong With Microsoft Windows RT Tablets That They Are Not Selling?

Windows RT operating system

We know about Surface tablet running Windows RT (Run Time), the ARM-specific Windows operating system that works on tablets. We have looked at the differences it has with Windows 8 regular. Windows RT is a tablet operating system, and hence doesn’t have the capability to install and run regular Windows applications. In one of the recent talks, NVidia’s co-founder and chief, Jen-Hsun Huang expressed disappointment over the sales of Windows RT tablets powered by NVidia Tegra processor.

NVidia has reason to talk about the sales of Windows RT devices. Three major Windows RT tablets—Microsoft Surface RT, Asus VivoTab RT, and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 are powered by NVidia’s Tegra 3 SoC.

Microsoft Surface RT

 

In another recent press conference, JK Shin, co-CEO of Samsung Electronics told to the WSJ:

Smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system aren’t selling very well. There is a preference in the market for Android. In Europe, we’re also seeing lackluster demand for Windows-based products.

Exactly how badly are Windows devices selling? I tried to do an analysis here are the findings.

Microsoft Failed to Explain the Differences

 

In an investigation conducted by the Verge, they found out how inadequately trained Microsoft’s store employees were about Windows RT and 8. To this date, most of the customers of Windows RT Surface tablets believe that Windows RT is just a toned-down version of Windows 8. You know, like how Windows 7 Ultimate has two more features than Windows 7 Professional!

One thing that we have told over and over again through various posts including our difference between RT and 8 article is that Windows RT is entirely different from Windows 8. If you are buying a Surface RT thinking about a touch-screen computer to run your desktop programs, you will be disappointed. Microsoft’s store wont’ tell you this, because those guys don’t have a clue.

From the beginning, Microsoft really failed to explain this to the customers, and look what happened! Sales went down cruelly for MS.

The chief of Windows, Steven Sinofsky had promised back during the time of the release of Surface RT that the differences between both operating systems would be told to the customers in an understandable way. That did not happen. And in Nov, 2012, the long-time veteran, Sinofsky went out of Microsoft, kind of leaving the company defenseless, I would say.

IHS ISuppli reported that less than a million Surface RT tablets were actually sold in the market. The exact sales figures should be around 680,000 to 750,000 only. Other important aspects mentioned by the market research company were that the return rate of Surface RT tablets was higher than usual and that the OEMs were becoming less enthusiastic about the operating system.

Surface RT Is Priced High

 

In our technology market, only a few companies are allowed to set high prices and still retain its command on the market. Apple is one such company. Microsoft is definitely not a company that can set high prices on its products, although they are great. Surface RT is not a great device, but it is sold at a high price, while the manufacturing cost is only 283 dollars. In that article also, we mentioned that RT is not Windows.

Surface RT’s capabilities as a tablet doesn’t let it command such a high price, especially since all of its working apps come through Microsoft’s app store, which has a tiny selection of apps.

Microsoft has no place in the tablet market in fact. This is the tablet market sales figures as given by research firm IDC.

Manufacturer 2012 4th quarter # of shipments Market Share (Q4 2012) Notes
Apple (iPad & Mini) 22.9 million 43.6 % All tablets running iOS
Samsung 7.9 million 15.1 % All tablet running Android
Amazon 6 million 11.5 % Tablets running Android (customized)
Asus 3.1 million 5.8 % Android and Windows RT and Windows 8
Barnes & Noble 1 million 1.9 % Android
Others 11.6 million 22.1 % Android & Windows

 

First of all, through this particular table of sales figures, we can’t say how many Windows RT tablets have been sold. One thing is certain though: Apple has sold more than 22 times Surface RT. There are other manufacturers making tablets based on Windows RT. In fact, there are five tablets based on RT—Asus Vivo Tab RT, Dell XPS 10, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, Samsung Ativ, and Microsoft Surface RT.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

 

Dell hasn’t sold many of its XPS 10 tablets. XPS (Xtreme Performance System) is a popular brand under Dell that sells laptops and desktops, and I own one of them. Windows RT, however, on XPS 10 probably tainted the brand at best.

Windows RT Doesn’t Have Many Apps

 

Wanted to know how many apps are available for your Windows RT device? By the last scan done by MetroStore scanner, on , there are 49,328 apps in the Windows store.

Out of them, there are only 1820 productivity apps. This doesn’t come anywhere close to Apple’s app store which caters to iPad 4 and Mini, containing over 800,000 apps, of which nearly 300,000 are specifically optimized for the iPad.

Windows RT devices are not as productive as iPad or any Android tablet.

In this page, detailing the differences between Surface RT and Surface Pro, Microsoft does speak about the app limitations of Windows RT, but as we mentioned above, this is not how you reach out to the customers. On the other hand, Surface Pro runs the full Windows 8 operating system and is thus capable of running all kind of Windows applications, and it is also one of the best and most productive tablet computers you can buy.

Microsoft’s Stronghold

 

Microsoft has a stronghold on the device design, and it imposes this on all OEMs wanting to manufacture devices based on Win RT. Due to this stronghold, Texas Instruments, HP, and Toshiba declined to make tablets with Windows RT. Acer also thought it apt not to make a tablet based on RT. Samsung released its tablet called Ativ to the UK market, and canceled the release to the US. In another report, Samsung also did stop its Ativ tablet shipping to Germany, due to as you guessed it, weak demand!

In Conclusion

 

I would like to mention a pet peeve of mine to this list. Windows “RT” is not really a beautiful, catchy name to give to that operating system. There is more than one operating system that Microsoft released in the past that were not quite popular and had the not-so-catchy name. Windows ME is one, and so is Windows CE. Win XP on the other hand has a catchy name and has revolutionized the PC market.

Microsoft’s other operating systems, Windows Phone and Windows 8 are also not quite selling as expected. Here is a Gartner study giving the operating system activations over the years. It clearly tells the story. Click the image to enlarge.

Gartner study of operating system activations

 

Leave out unsuccessful operating systems—Bada, Symbian, and even BlackBerry. Look at the difference in number of activations that Microsoft is achieving in comparison to iOS and Android. Although there is probably a steady growth, it is not really a positive growth.

We may look at the other Windows operating systems in another article. Right now, it is definitely a state of concern for Microsoft as the operating systems are its major revenue source.

The Best Smartphone in the Market That You Can Buy Right Now

I am not talking about the smartphones that will be released in the coming months or days or the ones that are no longer available, but the ones that are in the market right now. You, as a smartphone customer, are looking for various factors to determine your purchase. Some of us want to get our work done quickly and effectively. Some of us want to read books and watch movies, and are looking for amazing screens. Some of us are interested in amazing build quality. Some others want to have their phones work everywhere, in all networks, in all plans.

Well, there is a recipe for each requirement, but not one that satisfies all, I am afraid. Let’s take a look at the best of the lot in this post. Also, one thing to note, these smartphones are the ones with highest configuration out there. We have left out the low performance models completely.

1. The Most Productive

 

The answer is simple. Apple iPhone. With over 750,000 apps available, iPhone has the one app ecosystem that has everything you need to get your work done. Some of you may be more inclined to have a larger screen for business purposes, but you cannot get the best app ecosystem to go with it.

Apple iPhone 5

 

Android is close behind in this race, and Google Play has 655,530 apps.

With an app ecosystem that works exceptionally well with iPhone’s hardware, Apple is well in the lead in the most productive smartphone category.

You can get iPhone from the Apple store, Amazon, or Best Buy.

2. The Biggest Screen

 

Among the smartphones, excluding the phablets of over 5 inches, the largest screen by far belongs to HTC’s Droid DNA, the Verizon Wireless’s exclusive Droid family mobile phone. The 5 inch Super LCD 3 screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 2. It has amazing pixel density of 441 ppi, which makes it Full HD (1920×1080 px). It is possible that Droid DNA has the best screen of all smartphones in the market today. One competitor is Galaxy S3, in which Samsung uses Super AMOLED technology, which is a low-power display technology.

HTC Droid DNA


Buy directly from Verizon Wireless

Outside the Verizon Wireless network, HTC Droid DNA takes the shape of HTC Butterfly. The hardware specifications are exactly the same. You can get it from Amazon for 899 dollars.

3. The Best Camera

 

In this category, all of the major camera shootouts have given us one fine contender. Competing with all of the other major smartphone cameras in the low light shootouts, Nokia Lumia 920 emerged successful as the best camera smartphone.

Nokia Lumia 920

 

Windows Phone device, Lumia 920’s 8.7 megapixel camera shot this image in the dark. On the right, you can see the same image shot with iPhone 5; click on them to enlarge.

low light on Lumia 920low light on iPhone

 

This particular image comparison was done by Gizmodo recently. You should check it out. It has some amazing shots done by other major smartphone cameras.

You can buy Lumia 920 from Best Buy.

4. The Fastest Smartphone

 

It is extremely difficult to pinpoint a really fast smartphone, out of this sea of phones we have here. The speed is measured differently in different platforms, and the fastest phones are bound to have low ratings on some benchmarks. We have gone through quite a number of benchmarks, with our list of the fastest smartphones, and have been able to pinpoint one device that stands out with a more consistent performance in these benchmarks.

The one thing that makes this happen for this device is its processor, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.5 GHz quad-core, arguably the fastest smartphone processor today. I suppose you already guessed the device we are talking about is LG Optimus G. And since the hardware is almost the same on Google Nexus 4, we have to say there are two devices in this category.

LG Optimus G

 

LG Optimus G has scored 2147 points in Geekbench, while the close contenders include Galaxy Note II with 1926 points, Galaxy S3 with 1717 points, iPhone 5 with 1601 points, etc.

The close contenders for this smartphone include iPhone 5 with amazing top results in graphics benchmarks and JavaScript benchmarks done with GLBenchmark and SunSpider; HTC Droid DNA that came with a slightly better score in AnTuTu benchmarks (20083 of Droid DNA vs. 19078 on Optimus G).

One important thing to note is that almost all of the top smartphones in these benchmarks were using the same processor—Snapdragon APQ8064 quad-core clocked at 1.5 GHz, the same on Droid DNA, Nexus 4, and Optimus G.

LG Optimus G can be purchased from Amazon

 

5. Best Carrier Options

 

With the idea in mind to find out the smartphone with the best carrier option (you know, including 4G LTE and all) we went into the top US mobile carriers—AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile. We wanted a phone that is available in all networks and at a reasonable price. A lot of the first contenders were already gone, such as Nexus 4 (no LTE), Droid series (only in Verizon), etc.

Samsung Galaxy S III

 

It seems that Samsung Galaxy S3 is the clear winner in this case.

Galaxy S3 is not only available in all of these carriers, but also has the best prices as compared to others like iPhone 5.

You can get S3 from Amazon here.

6. The Build Quality

 

I don’t need to speak too much, too loud about this particular aspect. As there are more phones coming up with amazing build quality; plastic players moving toward premium, metallic designs; and some OEMs innovating in the waterproof front, it seems build quality is important.

One of the upcoming models that will sell for its build quality is HTC One, but we are not going to talk about that here. We are going to talk about Nokia’s Lumia 920 that survived drop tests so well that it had to be thrown forcefully to break. Have you ever driven a car over your Lumia smartphone? If not and you are afraid, check this out:

Thanks to Phonebuff.com for this video.

With polycarbonate back and thicker Gorilla Glass 2 at the front, the smartphone is unbreakable. You can read our list of the most durable smartphones here.

Conclusion

 

Is there any other aspect that we missed? Oh yes, the price. I believe that ship has sailed since we have already mentioned this is a showdown of high-end smartphones. All of them listed here are the flagship models from the respective companies. It is quite nice to say Lumia 920 coming up in two separate aspects. It is a simple truth that iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 are not the only choice customers have these days.

If you continue to read our blog, you will come across amazing new gadgets to buy. In this review, it is quite impossible for me to pinpoint one of these phones. Each is good in its own way.

If you want to add any other aspect to the list, please let us know through the comments, and we may do just that.

Which OS Has More Useful Apps? BlackBerry 10 or Windows Phone 8?

BB10 vs Windows

Since both of the top spots in mobile operating system world have been occupied by Apple iOS and Android, there is only a chance for a third position for one of these operating systems—BlackBerry 10, released very recently, and Windows Phone 8. In terms of the number of apps and their actual worth, new operating systems do not compare well with iOS and Android. Let’s analyze the apps and their usability in these new platforms.

The Number of Apps

 

Android has 650,384 apps according to Appbrain, at the time I am writing this article. Apple iOS leads and as of Jan 7, Apple has reported 775,000 apps out of which 300,000 are native iPad apps. Let’s see where Microsoft’s Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 stand in terms of app statistics.

Microsoft has three operating systems—Windows 8 for regular PCs and laptops, Windows RT specifically for tablets, and Windows Phone 8 for smartphones. Although there have always been talks about bridging the gap between RT and Windows Phone 8, we will not be discussing it here. Windows RT is a lost cause as it supports 44,309 apps at this point. MetroStore Scanner gives us this statistic.

Windows Metro store app statistics

 

Windows Phone 8 on the other hand has crossed 130,000 apps as of today, and Microsoft has made an official announcement of that. Also, these apps have been downloaded over a billion times.

While Windows Phone 8 has crossed 130,000 apps, BlackBerry 10 started off last month with 70,000 apps. The main marketing tactic of BlackBerry is the fact that it is a first generation mobile OS with the highest number of apps ever. CEO Thorsten Heins and other major people in BlackBerry, such as VP of developer relations, Alec Saunders have repeatedly told how BB10 is the operating system with the highest number apps at launch. They are betting on developers to release more and more apps.

However, to date Android and iOS are leading with an amazingly large number of apps.

The Usability of Apps

 

All these app ecosystems, including Apple and Android, really need to do a better job at weeding out unnecessary apps. If you do a minor search on these app ecosystems you will see how many ‘fart’ apps you can find. Literally hundreds! Among paid apps, a competition will automatically come since a user will pay only for useful apps. On the other hand, among free apps, there is no competition. As long as a developer can submit an app that follows the platform’s app submission guidelines, they can get in.

None of these apps get any useful work done, and they are simply clogging up the app store. The elevated number of app statistics of these ecosystems has everything to do with the number of unnecessary apps. Apple app store and Google Play have thousands of fart apps and many of them are even paid apps.

Still, App Store and Google Play have plenty of high-quality apps and games which make them stand out. BlackBerry and Windows Phone 8 on the other hand, cannot afford to have useless apps like these.

fart apps for Windows Phone

 

Games

 

Among BlackBerry devices, Z10 has the maximum compatibility with BB10 apps. Among famous games, we were able to find very few familiar faces in the AppWorld. Where’s My Water?, Asphalt 7 Heat, Uno, etc., are some of the apps in BlackBerry app world.

Among Windows devices, top paid apps include a little more, with Fruit Ninja, Assassin’s Creed, Angry Birds, Sims 3, etc.

Then I went ahead and looked up apps developed by the top games vendors for Android and iOS. Some of the top game developers are Gameloft, Disney, EA, Rockstar Games, Zynga, Rovio, Imangi, etc. Here are the findings.

Electronic Arts (EA): EA gives sixteen games for Windows Phone 8 while there is absolutely none for BlackBerry 10. However, none of EA’s top games, NFS Most Wanted, FIFA 12, NFS Shift, The Simpsons, etc., are not available in Windows Phone store.

Rockstar Games: The famed developer of Grand Theft Auto series and Max Payne Mobile has no games for Windows Phone or BlackBerry 10.

Rovio: The developer of Angry Birds has quite a number of offerings for Android and iOS, while within Windows Phone Store, Rovio offers Angry Birds and its variants—Seasons, Star Wars, and Space. BlackBerry 10 has Angry Birds Star Wars only. Within BlackBerry App World, there is however an app named Hungry Birds.

Disney: When we talk about Disney, we are talking about Where Is My Water and Temple Run – Brave, which are two of the most popular games in Android. Within Windows Phone store, there are two Disney games, Where’s My Water? And Where’s My Perry? Where’s My Water game is also available on BlackBerry 10. There are no other Disney apps for Windows Phone or BlackBerry.

Gameloft: Gameloft has quite a number of amazing games for us—The Dark Knight Rises, Asphalt, Amazing Spider-Man, Uno, Assassin’s Creed, Driver, GT Racing, etc., are some of them. Within Windows Phone 8 store, Gameloft has exactly nine offerings, and they include Assassin’s Creed, Asphalt 7, 5, Uno, etc. On the other hand in BlackBerry app world, there are 7 games from Gameloft, including Uno, NOVA 3 (not available in Windows Phone), and Asphalt 7.

Zynga: There are quite a number of famous offerings in Android store by Zynga, and some of them are Words With Friends, Scramble With Friends, Zynga Poker, etc. Within Windows Phone store, there are two games by Zynga, Words With Friends and Draw Something. BlackBerry app world doesn’t have any game by this developer.

Other game developers like Imangi (Temple Run series), Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja, available for Windows Phone, not for BlackBerry), Four Pixels, etc., have close to nothing to offer for Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.

If you are coming from Android or iOS and are a fan of some of these popular games, you are going to be equally disappointed with Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10. With BB10, you can get fewer games than WP8.

Social Media Apps

 

I have looked at Windows Phone store and BlackBerry World for top social media apps. Facebook doesn’t make apps for these platforms. However, Microsoft and BlackBerry have developed their own Facebook apps to work with the platform. Also there are a few third party developers coming up with Facebook apps.

Microsoft has developed its own YouTube app, while within BB10, there is no YouTube official app. Other major social networking apps missing from these platforms include Instagram, Google +, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, etc.

Fortunately LinkedIn and Twitter have their own apps for these platforms.

Productivity Apps

 

When it comes to productivity apps for Windows Phone and BlackBerry platforms, we are looking at maps, office, image editing programs, etc.

First of all, Google has no integration to Windows Phone or BlackBerry. Google search app is the only app available for Microsoft from Google. For BlackBerry 10, Google provides no app.

However, there are third party developers, including Microsoft itself, coming up with all kinds of Google-related apps. Some of them are Google +, YouTube, etc.

There is no Google Maps on either platform. On Microsoft, there is a third party app named Bingle Maps that promises to give Google and Bing Maps within it.

Comparing productivity and business apps between these platforms and Android seems quite like a lost cause. Box seems to be the only cloud storage provider for Windows Phone other than the obvious SkyDrive. Integrated office apps are available on both platforms, but there are very few third party offerings. Within BlackBerry world, you can come across a few business-related apps like business card reader, interest calculator, etc. BlackBerry has also created its own app for a few of the cloud platforms, Box, Dropbox, etc.

Looking at browser offerings, Windows Phone has only IE 10, and there is no other browser with Webkit engine like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or Safari. BlackBerry 10 also comes with its native browser only, and there are no other popular browsers. Z10’s browser has quite a number of capabilities, and some of them are discussed in CrackBerry blog here.

One important thing to note is that these applications, like Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., are all available through the browser running in these platforms. However, there are people who have grown accustomed to native apps rather than the regular website on browsers. Remember the massive customer dissatisfaction with Apple iPhone for booting Google Maps from the App Store. Those customers still had access to the Google Maps through the browser.

Voice Recognition

 

Voice control is available on both Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 devices. Most of the basic actions such as calling, texting, opening apps, searching the web, etc., can be accomplished properly on both these devices.

I will not say they are as amazing as Apple’s Siri or Google Now on Android, but they get things done. Microsoft has been quite bad in recognizing voice for such a long time. Even within desktop Windows Microsoft has not achieved success in recognizing even the western English speakers. But now, most of the voice recognition systems are near perfect. Microsoft has also updated its voice recognition system quite a bit and is capable of recognizing natural language pretty well.

Within BlackBerry 10 OS, you can even update your Facebook and Twitter accounts through voice commands.

Conclusion

 

As you can see, BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 are quite a bit identical in terms of apps and games. Windows Phone 8 is a little bit ahead of BlackBerry though. There are a few important things to note.

Firstly, Windows Phone 8 has been there for some time, and it has been only a month since BlackBerry 10’s official release (still the phones are supposedly selling). Windows Phone 8 platform has OEM diversity (with phones from Nokia, HTC, and others), while BlackBerry is the only manufacturer for BB10 OS. Another aspect is how actively these platforms are promoting their operating systems.

BlackBerry is organizing developer events across the globe in the form of BlackBerry Jam. Jam events are worldwide and they are conducted on a number of locations. On the other hand, Windows has two events scheduled, both in the United States, while I am writing this article. Check this out:

Windows Phone developer events

 

To analyze further, here is a comparison of search interest between BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 according to Google Trends.

WP8 and BB10 don’t even compare to Android or iOS in terms of search trends.

Well, it seems BlackBerry is a little bit more excited and enthusiastic about pushing its platform forward than Microsoft. That enthusiasm makes all the difference. If it manages to achieve a huge number of usable apps in the coming days, BlackBerry can definitely get the third spot among mobile operating systems.

Is Google Still the Best Search Engine In the World? A Comparison Study

Google has been the king of search since its birth in 1997. There have been other search engines worth mentioning, such as AltaVista, Ask, Dogpile, Excite, Yahoo, etc., but none of them stood a chance with Google it seems. Now, as you can see Google is also the world’s most visited website according to Alexa search rankings, moving Facebook (that held the first position briefly) to the second spot. With the ongoing controversies against Google search algorithms and its favoring Google Plus profiles in search results, one comes to ask the question, whether Google is still the world’s best search engine?

If it’s not, then what is? We are trying to find an answer to this in this post. If you don’ want to wait till the end, look at the bottom of the article, which will quench your thirst. In our test, we decided to include three other search engines. Bing, obviously; a new search engine called Blekko; and another new search engine called DuckDuckGo.

About These Guys!

Okay, so as a first step, let me tell you briefly about these contenders we have here. I suppose you don’t need any introduction to the main contenders, Google and Bing. If you don’t know about them, you can probably visit Google.com, Wikipedia, Microsoft, Encyclopedia Britannica, etc., although you may have to first move that rock, under which you are living.

Blekko is a relatively new search engine, launched in 2010. It is said to have about 3 billion pages in the index out of which it serves up search queries. It uses a new system known as slashtags, which are similar to hashtags in Twitter, but hash is replaced by a slash (/). Blekko serves a tiny fraction of the whole search market that goes beyond five billion queries per day, and ranks around 1000 on Alexa.

DuckDuckGo is a relatively newer contender, with a great interface. It is pretty simple to use. Amazing thing is when asked about Blekko, Google web spam team head Matt Cutts actually said DuckDuckGo is one of the Google competitors he liked. Here’s a video of the Google guy endorsing other search engines:

So, they are the contenders we set against Google and Microsoft Bing.

Setting Up the Search Engines for the Test

Before the test began, we had to set up these search engines, obviously. Did you imagine I was going to serve up the results taken from an unknown place on the planet? No. We went through painstaking procedure to set up the search engines. Here are the steps taken.

1. Google

When you are logged into any of the Google services, your past search history will influence your search results. Earlier, this was even worse, when you would be served up with a number of results from the same website, which you happened to visit for information quite often. As a result, it is not a good idea to log into your Google account if you want to simulate search results in another region.

We are most interested in search results as seen from the United States as this blog has the highest number of visits from the US. We are using Google Chrome, and we have already added Google USA search as one of the search engines within Chrome. It is in fact the default search engine.

Google search in Chrome

Also, in order to analyze better, we tweaked the interface to show the maximum number of results, which is 100. We also do not use Safe search option when logged in, and pretty much get all kind of weird results. But in the experiment, we logged out and set up the search engine and enabled Safe search so that all ‘weird’ ones get filtered out.

2. Bing

We need to be logged out of our Microsoft account in order for Bing test to work perfectly. We tweaked the Bing search preferences, and set up the United States as the default location. Also, increased the number of results to fifty which is the maximum allowed by Bing. We also removed our search history from Bing.

These are some of the settings on Bing Search.

Bing Search settings

 

3. Blekko

Within Blekko, accessing the preferences is pretty easy. On the top right, you have ‘Prefs’ that has a short tab full of settings you can tweak. We do not have a lot of options to configure in the search engine though.

Blekko search

 

4. DuckDuckGo

We selected the results region as the United States and tweaked a little bit of the stuff available, such as safe search and the color scheme. The search engine loads more results automatically as you scroll down.

DDG settings

After setting up the search engines, we also needed to remove sponsored listings from the search results. In order to do that, we installed a Chrome plugin called AdBlock. This is just for the test, and we DO NOT endorse this plugin, and we never will.

The Test Begins

After setting up the search engines, we obviously had to find some nifty keywords that we could put against these search engines. It was an extremely difficult task indeed. We have to search for all kinds of search terms, such a latest news event, an object of classic value, a highly searched business keyword, a geographical location, an important person, a legal requirement, a living organism, a company, a scientific experiment, and so on.

We have specific icons on these following images of test scenarios. Here’ what they mean.

A green check: indicates a very good and relevant search result.
A yellow sign: indicates a not-so-relevant result or a promotional content
A red cross mark: Irrelevant or self-promotional content that people may not like.

These images are huge files, so click on them to view in full size, and they may take a while to load. You will find the images in Google-Bing-Blekko-DuckDuckGo order.

So, here we go…

1. An Object of Classic Value

So, we decided to search for something very unique. In fact, we searched for a number of one-in-a-million objects and looked for the relevance in search results. One of the objects that we searched for was the famed Russian “Faberge egg”. The total number of results also matters. Here are the findings.

In Google: 573,000 results
Bing: 11,300
Blekko: 82,000

DuckDuckGo doesn’t give the number of results as a whole, so we will not be updating that anymore.

Google search for faberge eggBing search for faberge egg

 

Blekko search for faberge eggDDG search for faberge egg

Here are my findings. Google obviously gave the most relevant results of all, although Bing would not be far behind. What is surprising is what I got with DuckDuckGo, which gave a number of amazing results, including a Scribd document that exceptionally well talked about the history of Faberge eggs. Blekko came up with obviously irrelevant results we don’t want to talk about. Here are the rankings.

Google>DuckDuckGo>Bing>Blekko

2. An Official/Legal Requirement

The search term we are going to use is ‘pay tax onlin’.

Google: 843 million results
Bing: 83.5 million
Blekko: 22 million

Google search for taxesBing search for taxes

 

Blekko search for taxesDDG search for taxes

Google has aced as expected. Bing has also aced this time. We don’t know if we should continue testing Blekko as it gives us pretty unnecessary results this time as well, even with ‘money’ slashtag. DuckDuckGo has all the relevant results on the front page, but the order is not quite right. It doesn’t give IRS official site at the top of the page.

Google>Bing>DuckDuckGo>Blekko

3. A Latest News Event

In order to get a keyword to test in the latest developments, we went into Google Trends. An interesting news item besides the obvious Valentine ‘s Day movies is about a meteor that hit Russia. Obviously Google should have the news item already in its results. Let’s analyze. Keyword: ‘Russian meteor’.

To give a chance to the competition, we tested this time without double quotes on Google alone [to make it return a few irrelevant results as well].

Google: 6.75 million results (16,600 with double quotes)
Bing: 7940 results
Blekko: 130

Google search for 'Russian meteor'Bing search for 'Russian meteor'

 

Blekko search for 'Russian meteor'DuckDuckGo search for 'Russian meteor'

At this time, DDG has failed miserably as you can see. It probably doesn’t even understand breaking news stories. This is one area that they could improve on. About Blekko, I am happy that it has shown some improvement this time, but several of the x-marked ones on the image are duplicate stories from similar domains. Blekko probably doesn’t handle duplicate content well. Other than that, Blekko has pointed to a lot of news articles related to the Russian meteor.

Google, on the other hand, has given as the most relevant results even without the quotes.

Google>Bing>Blekko>DuckDuckGo

4. A Competitive Search Term

A competitive search term is a term that can bring in good business to the high-ranking website. So, a lot of businesses capitalize on them, making them highly competitive. In this analysis, we went into Google keyword tool, and looked for keyword ideas. We selected ‘compare car insurance’, a relatively high competition search term with 301,000 global monthly searches in Google.

Google: 89.3 million
Bing: 425,000
Blekko: 11 million

Google auto insurance searchBing auto insurance search

 

Blekko auto insurance searchDDG auto insurance search

As you can see there is only one result that is not for profit among the search results in Google. In other search engines, all of the results pointed to companies that in one or other way wanted to make money. These results are not fully irrelevant. They are all good results, but they are mostly from insurance companies or their partners who directly or indirectly want you to sign up. That is the reason why they are marked yellow.

Google>Bing=DDG=Blekko

5. A Famous Personality

We could search for anybody on the search engines, and we decided someone who has no affiliation to these tech companies. What about actor ‘Clive Owen’?

Google: 19.9 million
Bing: 117,000
Blekko: 808,000

Google search for Clive Owen

 

Bing search for Clive Owen

 

Blekko search for Clive OwenDDG search for Clive Owen

Overall, we were superbly impressed by Bing’s treatment of the search term. It gave us Clive Owen’s Facebook page, a few images and videos, and quite a bit of information, just as given on Google page as well. However, there was one page from Deadline.com that quite a bit marred the search experience. Overall, Bing did a little better job than Google I would say. Also, you can see we have discounted simple news story collections with tag ‘Clive Owen’.

Bing>Google>Blekko>DDG

6. A Company

In this, I searched for several companies, including the major tech giants, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. And guess what, the information will surprise you.

On Google, you can get the company website as the top result, along with some internal site links. When I searched for ‘Google’, Google came up with its own Google Plus profile on the right side. That was kind of a self-promotion we didn’t like. Also, Google didn’t give any stock information for the company searched for. Also, you can get the latest news stories concerning the company.

On Bing, on the other hand, we got comprehensive company information, such as the stock quotes, social media profiles if any, and the Wikipedia page about the company. When I searched for ‘Facebook’ on Bing, I actually got a recommendation to connect to Bing via Facebook.

Blekko had been pretty average on this. One thing I wanted to see was whether I could get any information about the fruit if I searched for Apple. And the fact is it doesn’t matter what search term you use (‘apple’ or ‘Apple’), you cannot get the details about fruit on the first page on Google or Bing. However, on DDG, I was surprised to find some information about apple the fruit. That was a pleasant surprise.

Google search for Google

 

Bing search for Facebook

 

Blekko search for SamsungDuckDuckGo search for Apple

Bing wins this round.

Bing>Google>DDG>Blekko

7. How They Handle Synonyms

We did multiple searches in which we used unpopular words to determine if the search engines returned relevant results with their popular known alternatives. For instance, we searched ‘Good TBA movies’ instead of ‘upcoming good movies’. In this particular search query, Google immediately identified TBA as ‘To Be Announced’ and returned a page that contained information about upcoming movies. Also, Blekko and DDG both returned one relevant result each, but the rest of them were crap. Bing did not succeed this specific test as it did not return any link to any of the upcoming movies.

Other search terms we used to confuse search engines:

‘The best social network’: Bing and Google identified we meant ‘he most popular’social network. Blekko returned completely irrelevant results, and DDG returned results that had ‘the best’ rather than ‘the most popular’ in them.

Movie dialogue from: Bing and Google displayed results containing movie ‘quotes’, while other search engines failed to identify specific synonyms. Bing and Google went one step ahead and fetched a page with complete script of a movie that I searched.

Remotest isles from America : I liked how Google still gave one or two relevant results. Bing gave as the top result, a location map of a Bank of America ATM in Sunny Isles of Florida. Blekko and DDG did not give any relevant results. We say there were no relevant results, because none of the results sufficiently gave me the information I was searching for. However, others may find these pages somewhat relevant.

World’s worst man: Out of curiosity, I searched this, and none of the search engines gave me a definitive answer. Google had an article up with information about deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Both Bing and Google had some other information about’Florida Man’ (I don’t know what that is). Other search engines also did not return pretty good results.

Most popular country in the world : I think you know I was actually looking for ‘populous countries’. I really enjoyed Google’s treatment of this search term and related terms like ‘popular cities’ They give you as the top result both popular countries and a list of countries by population. Bing also gives pretty good results, although overall Google gives better results on this. Blekko listed only ‘popular countries’ while DDG had identified also populous countries.

purchasing girlfriend on facebook: This points to a recent news item. Google and Bing returned highly relevant results that contained other terms like’buy’ and ‘get’. DDG mostly returned irrelevant results as there were not many pages that had the specific word ‘purchasing’. Blekko was irrelevant as always.

Conclusion

I was astounded by how much Bing has improved over the years. It used to return pretty awful results earlier, but now it mostly returns highly relevant search results. Three days ago, in Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ thread, Bill gates mentioned:

Seriously Bing is the better product at this point. Try the challenge. I am biased but the work to make Bing better has been amazing.

I would have to say that Bing has changed a lot and has become a very useful search engine, although they are waging war against Google in a bad way.

DuckDuckGo is an amazing new search engine as well, although not quite good at various aspects like news search or identifying synonyms. Blekko has been a total failure in most of the searches we did, and so we do not recommend it.

Overall, what we have identified is Google still reigns supreme as the king of search, and there is no other search engine in the planet even now that returns better, more relevant results than Google. I did not actually expect this to be an easy win for Google, but it has been. However, Bing definitely has a great chance to compete with Google, as its algorithm is pretty damn good as well.