Technologies on Smartphones That You Should Look For

NFC

Near Field Communication has always been regarded as a cutting edge technology. You can’t throw a stone now without hitting an Android device with NFC technology. It is a secure way that devices can connect by simply bringing them together. Right now, NFC has yet to find applications in the current smartphone market. The technology is not new, although it has yet to have any big applications. However, NFC has its importance. It simply has to be present in your smartphone if you are buying it for the long run.

2. Appropriately Large Screen

You don’t need an ultra-large screen such as the one with Galaxy Mega. You don’t even need a 5.5 inch screen as in Optimus G Pro. All you need is a 5 inch screen that fits well in your pocket, such as the one Galaxy S4 has. Anything between 4.5 and 5.2 inches is perfect for a smartphone. Anything above that goes into the phablet family and should be considered a different kind of device.

If you are buying a phablet, be prepared to use it with a little bit of difficulty than a regular smartphone. Due to this reason, Asus’s PadFone and FonePad are not quite there with the customers. For a perfect combination of devices, you could have a regular smartphone, 5 inches; a tablet, 8-10 inches; and optionally a small tablet, 7 inches. A phablet is neither there nor here, and it is difficult to get by.

As we talk about large screens, so should we about smaller screens. iPhone’s 4 inch screen and BlackBerry Z10’s 4.2 inch screen are not quite there in terms of user experience. I am not saying they are bad. They are not as perfect as HTC One’s or Galaxy S4’s. For such smaller screens, a smaller price is appropriate, but that is apparently not going to happen.

3. Battery That Lasts

Right now, LG G2 comes with a 3000 mAh battery that can last days even with that huge screen.

LG G2

Apple iPhone 5S’s battery is only around 1500 mAh, and it is nothing compared to those on the Android devices we have. The battery is not going to give more than a day of usage, and it is just inconvenient to have such a puny battery, even with a device as light and thin as iPhone.

Apple could make iPhone a little heavier by including a larger battery and still it would be one of the thinnest and lightest smartphones out there. They obviously chose not to do that. In your upcoming phone, look for a large battery that can give you more than enough backup.

4. Fingerprint Scanner

As Apple has pioneered this, fingerprint sensors should be available on all other devices in the very near future. That is the trend. It is one thing that anyone could admire about iPhone 5S. The fingerprint scanner allows perfect security, and it is also appropriately placed for the most ergonomic use.

5. Optical Image Stabilization

This is something great on your smartphone cameras. As of now, only a few devices come with it, including HTC One, Lumia 920. Other phones, such as the iPhone provide a technology to stabilize the images, but that is not built into the camera hardware itself, and hence it is not that perfect. If you are looking for a perfect anti-shake smartphone camera, OIS is worth waiting for.

Also, if you are not quite looking for front-facing camera quality, start looking. Here is the table containing the best front-facing camera smartphones.

front-facing cameras on smartphones

 

6. Large Pixel Cameras

Once we spoke about the camera technologies, where we mentioned the race for megapixel count has ended for good. Right now, Apple has also acknowledged the fact that the larger pixels, not the larger number of pixels create better images. HTC One was the first ever phone to revolutionize the large pixel size through its HTC One. One has a pixel size of nearly 2 microns each, called UltraPixels. With only 4 UltraPixels, HTC One camera gives us better images than the 8 MP cameras most other phones have.

With iPhone 5S, Apple has also gone with slightly larger pixels of 1.5 microns. That size is still not quite effective though. We want really large pixels. One of the upcoming phones that will have this is HTC One Max which will sport 5 UltraPixel camera.

Conclusion

If you are looking for amazing smartphones, there are a number of things that you need to have on them. A few technologies were discussed in our previous article here. Some of them are discussed here as well. Unless you are getting a perfect smartphone, there is no point in spending too much money.

[Image: Time]

Should Microsoft Consider Buying Nokia?

In a recent talk between Microsoft and Nokia, the two companies contemplated a merger. WSJ reported the story yesterday, and for quite a while, industry leaders have been cogitating on this move. Since 2011, Nokia has been in tie-up with Microsoft to use Windows Phone operating system on all of its major devices, notably the Nokia Lumia series (Lumia 920, 928, etc). This has helped both companies in great ways. Here is an analysis as to whether the merger could pave way to success to these companies.

Nokia

 

Nokia, the Finnish smartphone maker, has been quite big in the market up until Android and iOS destroyed the stronghold of its Symbian OS. Nokia subsequently fell from the top and now has the tenth position in global smartphone market with about 2.8 percent of the market, according to research firm Gartner.

Nokia market share

 

Nokia lost its stock value considerably, and the strong stock, which some time in 2007 was trading at a peak rate of 40 dollars, now trades at around 3-4 dollars. Quite a heavy fall and Nokia was slowly forgotten from being a household name. The only way the phone maker survives right now is by marketing its Lumia range of smartphones, all based on Windows Phone operating system, with a marketing pact with Microsoft that supplies it with money and motivation.

Even after so many Lumia devices, Nokia failed to stabilize its position in the smartphone market.

Microsoft

 

What about Microsoft in the world of smartphones? When most people talk about smartphones, they are thinking about iPhone or Android devices. They don’t know about other operating systems that exist out there, Firefox OS, Ubuntu, BlackBerry 10, Windows Phone, Tizen, among others.

While since 2007, Apple and Google have been dominating the smartphone operating system world, Microsoft tried to snap up a tiny portion of the market with its redesigned Windows Phone device. The design of new Windows has been revolutionary. Still, the software giant’s efforts in the smartphone world and tablet world with its own Windows RT OS have not been quite successful as you know well from our previous posts.

The company holds hardly around 3 percent of the market, just as Nokia.

Windows Phone market share

 

Microsoft gets sales only for Lumia phones, although there are other OEMs in the Windows Phone market, such as HTC with Windows Phone 8 and Samsung with its ATIV phones. Either the other manufacturers are not enthusiastic enough to promote Windows phones, or Microsoft wants to market Lumias over others.

A Merger?

 

From a merger, what could we expect? Nokia is the largest Finnish company and it contributes a huge chunk to the small country’s economy. A merger will move the mobile phone division of Nokia to Microsoft, and that division is estimated to be worth around 14 billion dollars or so. While the stock holders of Nokia may be looking for any ways to rescue the firm, it waits to be seen whether Finland, one of the strongest economies in the current European Union, would like the deal.

The merger should be in the best interests of Nokia due to a number of reasons. First of all, Nokia is not probably going to get any success by moving away from Windows Phone. Within the Android world, the only OEM that makes any money is Samsung at the top of the smartphone market. Other manufacturers, HTC, Sony, Motorola, LG, etc., are either in loss or making extremely tiny profits. It is highly unlikely in any foreseeable future to see any change in this.

The only two mobile operating systems making it big are Android and Apple iOS, and the rest of the lot have such a tiny market place. Nokia’s best bet is in staying with Microsoft Windows Phone.

About Microsoft, they are not finding success with any OEM other than Nokia. Although Samsung and HTC have made their own Windows Phone devices, they did not get anywhere. Lumia is the only Windows phone that has a noticeable presence. If Microsoft buys Nokia, they can unify the business, and probably make it big in the smartphone world. I would like to point to these major advantages if the companies merge:

  • Why Apple and BlackBerry are revered so much? They make their own hardware and software. If all parts of the phone are in control of the OEM, the resulting device tends to be of absolute quality. With a smartphone hardware division, Microsoft will probably be able to rise to the level of Apple and BlackBerry in hardware software compatibility.
  • Nokia has one of the best hardware divisions, along with a bunch of absolutely valuable mobile patents in various mobile technologies. A merger can probably save these assets and subsequently benefit Microsoft too.
  • Just as in the case of Windows 8 and Surface, Microsoft can take advantage of other OEMs for Windows Phone. It is not that with a merger with Nokia, Microsoft is shutting its options for other mobile OEMs. If the merger becomes successful and Windows Phone prospers, other OEMs will be interested in making handsets with Microsoft.
  • Nokia’s purchase price could be really low and quite affordable for Microsoft. Nokia has been working on its strategies and strengthening its position in the market in the last few months though.
  • Nokia has never made a tablet, but under the aegis of Microsoft, it might be tempted to give it a shot, and that might create an interest among users. With such a cool design team that made Lumia 920, Nokia is sure to hit the jackpot with a cool tablet design.

Argument against the merger is also quite strong. For one thing, people believe Nokia has a chance if it moves away from Windows and diversifies its options. I would really love to get my hands on a Nokia Android device, if it ever happens. But as mentioned earlier, it is extremely difficult to be successful alongside Samsung.

Microsoft is interested only in smartphones, and not Nokia’s diverse feature phone business. Microsoft may spend unnecessary money in acquiring that feature phone business too.

Conclusion

 

Although there are a few arguments against MS acquiring Nokia, it seems quite a bit sure that the merger is in favor of both companies. The future will show us whether they decide on it or not. In whatever case, it should be an improvement over the status quo.

Lumia 928: Probably Verizon’s New Hero!

Nokia’s Lumia 920 is arguably the best smartphone in the market today due to a number of reasons. It’s major disadvantage is that it is a Windows Phone device, and hence, less number of apps. If Lumia 920 ran Android, it might have proven to be a much greater success. It has the best camera, great display (although smaller than Galaxy S3 and HTC One), and amazing build quality. It is simply the best Windows Phone device out there.

Now, Nokia is all set to release its upgraded handset in the Lumia 900 family—Lumia 928. My Nokia blog recently discovered a billboard of Lumia 928 (location unknown), shown here.

Lumia 928 billboard

 

We are also not sure if it’s real or faked. It could well be a billboard for Lumia 920 that someone doctored.

The rumors of a higher-end Lumia 920 device for Verizon Wireless started appearing at the start of the year itself. It has never been officially confirmed by Nokia, until now. Nokia has a new 928 page here that talks about this device. Updates on the announced device are yet to come.

We hope that Nokia fixes a few issues with 928, such as the enormous weight of 920. It is the heaviest of high-end smartphones in the market. While iPhone 5 weighs only 113 grams, Lumia 920 goes beyond 180. Nokia does really have to fix this. Other than that, there is not much to talk about. If you love Windows Phone, then Lumia is the device to go for. As soon as new information comes up, we will be publishing a more detailed review of the device.


[Update]

Lumia 928 camera in action. This video was published by Nokia US to show us Lumia 928′../../2012/11/technical-blunders-and-apologies.html”>this with Lumia 920.

Talking about the sales and market position of Nokia, here is a disturbing story from Reuters. While we assert repeatedly that Lumia series is an amazing family of smartphones, with a lot of high-end and low-end models available, Windows Phone is not probably the direction to take for Nokia.

Even though, Symbian was long trashed by the growth and significance of Android, it is time for Nokia to put aside the feelings and approach the big guy on the block. Nokia has to make plans and come up with an Android phone to take a plunge into the current smartphone market. That is in the best interests of its investors and customers. How much longer can they ignore the elephant in the room?

Smartphones With the Largest Screens: Have We Reached the Breaking Point Yet?

One of the biggest news of the last two days is the release of yet another smartphone in the Samsung Galaxy family, a phone of no especial features, with 720p 233ppi TFT screen, Android Jelly Bean, 1.5 GB RAM, 8/16 GB internal storage, Exynos 5 1.7 GHz dual-core processor, etc. The smartphone, known as Galaxy Mega is peculiar due to its screen size, of 6.3 inches, which makes it the mammoth of the smartphone market.

Samsung Galaxy Mega

Samsung was the first manufacturer to lead the way to phones of unusually large screen sizes. Soon enough, other manufacturers followed, and some even managed to go a few steps further. Is this rat race for large screen sizes come to an end? Is it time for customers to really think about the display technology, rather than the screen size? Let’s find out.

The year was 2011 and the place, Berlin, home to the Berlin Radio Show. Samsung announced a legendary product in its Galaxy family of devices—the Galaxy Note. The product is in its second generation now, with sales going up continuously. It is one of the most successful products from Samsung, and the most successful among the so called ‘phablets’. Note came out almost a year after the first device to mark large screen revolution, Dell Streak, which did not sell well largely due to the cumbersome nature of its form factor.

Note, however, changed the story altogether, by becoming highly successful. Note II is also well received, although we would love to wait. Note family has spawned a whole number of phablets, which was a new term applied to devices between phones and tablets (specifically, between 5 and 7 inches of screen size). Galaxy Mega, by that reasoning, is a perfect phablet.

Screen Sizes of Touch Devices

In the last few years marking the revolution of touch-based devices—smartphones, phablets, and tablets—we have seen that the devices have touched all screen sizes. We have a whole array of phones and tablets with screens going from 4 to 10 inches.

We have the legendary Apple iPhone at the sixth generation now with a screen size of 4 inches, the smallest of all devices in high-end mainstream production. We have BlackBerry Z10 with 4.2 inch screen, Nokia Lumia 920 with 4.5 inch screen, HTC One at 4.7 inch screen, Galaxy S3 at 4.8 inches, and S4 at 4.99 inches. This is the array of smartphones having all kind of screen sizes. After this, we have phablets—LG Optimus G at 5 inch, Note II at 5.5 inches, and now Galaxy Mega at two different screen sizes—5.8 inch and 6.3 inches. Beyond that, we enter into the tablet market, dominated by Google Nexus 7 with 7 inch screen, iPad Mini with 7.9 inch screen, etc., and the list goes up to Nexus 10 with close to 10 inch screen.

Right now, the only size that we expect to be filled is between 6.3 inches and 7 inches. Maybe, Samsung will come up with another phablet with some 6.8 inch screen to fill that void.

The crux of the matter is that we have reached an impasse. Any other screen size probably is not going to make any difference. You can safely put away the search for a fitting phone with large screen size.

What Should You Consider in A Smartphone Display

Another important question here is, how do screen size and screen quality correlate? Galaxy Mega has a 6.3 inch TFT screen, but it supports only 720p HD resolution, which is smaller than 1080p full HD on Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Accordingly, it has close to half as many pixels as in Galaxy S4. 233 ppi is not a very rich screen, in comparison to GS4’s 441 ppi or iPhone 5’s 326 ppi.

Another important aspect to consider is the technology used in the display in question. There are quite a number of smartphone display technologies out there, and you should know which your phone uses. Super AMOLED and LCD IPS are two of the most prominent. While most of the Samsung devices have Super AMOLED HD display, iPhone and most of the other smartphones come with LCD with In-Plane Switching technology. There are a few differences between AMOLED and IPS.

A year ago, if you needed a smartphone of enormous display size, you probably had only one or two options, but now you can get a number of phones from all manufacturers at all convenient display sizes.

The crux of the matter here is, you should consider the display technology used, including the brightness, contrast ratio, resolution, etc., now that you can get smartphones of all display sizes.

A Few Competing Devices

As we noted early, Dell Streak started the revolution, although it was not part of it. Note won the revolution, and following its success a number of phones and tablets came out with extra-large display sizes. A few of them are here.

1. HTC One

HTC One

One comes with a 4.7 inch screen, which is just perfect for viewing anything, wrapped in a form factor that fits in your pocket perfectly. [By the way, just as Samsung came up with Galaxy Note with slightly larger screen than Dell Streak, they came up with S3 with slightly larger screen than HTC One X.]

2. Galaxy S4

Galaxy S IV smartphone

Upcoming Galaxy S4 marks Galaxy S family’s largest smartphone, at 4.99 inches.

3. Droid DNA (HTC, Verizon)

Verizon Droid DNA phone by HTC

Popular Droid DNA has super bright 1080p full HD display using LCD3 technology. It’s available from Verizon, and outside Verizon it takes the shape of J Butterfly.

4. Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

Xperia Z is this year’s Sony flagship with 5 inch screen. It is waterproof as well.

5. LG Optimus G

LG Optimus G

Optimus G is the most advanced smartphone from LG and it has the same tech specs as its brother, Google Nexus 4, also manufactured by LG.

6. Asus PadFone Infinity

Asus PadFone Infinity

This is a 5 inch phablet from Asus. It should not be confused with Asus FonePad, which is a 7 inch tablet with phone call capabilities. On an unrelated note, neither FonePad nor PadFone is named right.

7. Optimus G Pro

LG Optimus G Pro smartphone with 5.5 inch screen

Upcoming LG Optimus G Pro is a classic phablet with some pretty decent specifications.

8. ZTE Grand Memo

ZTE Grand Memo

This year’s Grand Memo is one of the devices that ZTE is betting on highly. It has a 5.7 inch screen. [By the way, Galaxy Mega has a 5.8 inch screen version as well, effectively closing the gap in competition with Grand Memo]

9. Huawei Ascend Mate

Huawei Ascend Mate

You know Samsung wants to make a larger phone whenever a phablet of large screen gets released, right? We saw it in action with Dell Streak earlier, and we saw it again with Ascend Mate from Huawei. The phablet with 6.1 inch screen was officially unveiled in CES this year.

These are only a few worth mentioning in a sea of large screen phones.

The Usability

One of the important things that I look for in a smartphone is how convenient it is to take it with me. A phone is a portable device, and it should be portable. Usually phablets are neither portable nor good enough for some serious work. If you want a phone, the perfect size should be five inches or less, as long as the design is compact enough to be carried around in your pocket. 4.8 inch Galaxy S3 fits well in your pocket and with the same size as that, Galaxy S4 will also fit perfectly. S4 is also thinner than S3. HTC One looks good and has a pretty correct form factor for even tight-fitting pants.

As long as the manufacturers keep the size of the phone proper, fitting well in all kinds of pockets, the screen size can be tweaked. On the other hand, making devices around screen size is not a good design technique. This is the reason why I would not recommend devices larger than the Note II at 5.5 inches. Due to the same reason, Galaxy Mega is not a product that we are excited about, not to mention the substandard tech specs.

Conclusion

Galaxy Mega and such other large phablets actually don’t give you any better user experience than a regular smartphone. They may only confuse you by making you think whether you could have chosen a small tablet instead. Nexus 7 would be perfect in place of Galaxy Mega. Hence, any product larger than 5 inches or at the most 5.5 inches qualifies as overkill and you needn’t be excited about it.

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.