I have to apologise if I'm producing too many editorials which classify as 'rants' these days, but it's hard to keep one's strongly felt opinions inside sometimes. In this case, the trend towards ever-thinner smartphones in the wider industry (Windows Phones aren't, thankfully, the worst offenders here), as evidenced by the recent launch of the mass market Apple iPhone 6, at under 7mm thick, and the current record holder, the imminent Gionee Elife 5.1, at 5.1mm thick. Is it me, or is this march to 'thin' both counterproductive and impractical?
Recent Features - Hardware
I noted from yesterday's lengthy Apple announcements (of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) that the cameras in each had been upgraded, to (allegedly) 1/2.6" sensors and, in the Plus's case, OIS as well. Which, in imaging terms, brings the iPhone at last up to near the top of the Nokia photography tree - the Lumia 1520/930 camera is very similar in size and specs (even if the image processing techniques are very different). Have smartphone cameras plateaued? And can anything be done to improve LED flash results?
It's a fair cop - I've written quite a bit over the years on why Xenon flash is a must in a camera phone, for evening and night time people shots, freezing motion and stopping typical low light blur. But there's more to a great Xenon flash in a phone camera. What about in daylight? Yes, really - 'fill in flash' is a technique used by professional photographers, yet something that's largely out of reach of people using phone cameras. Unless you have a Nokia Lumia 1020 and that all-important Xenon....
Available today on Verizon Wireless in the USA is the new and somewhat cumbersomely named 'HTC One (M8) for Windows', with the glimpse of availability on other carriers and in other countries in the near future. If nothing else, this release offers some new competition to the giant in the Windows Phone world, Nokia - now effectively Microsoft itself. With specs across the board both pretty high, how does HTC's new Windows Phone entry stack up against the similarly sized and priced Nokia's mid 2014 Lumia 930?
I've heard it said that Nokia's monster camera phone, the Lumia 1020, is "rubbish in low light because it doesn't focus fast enough". I disagree - what's happening here, and equally applicable to every other Windows Phone camera, is that there's not enough understanding by users on how camera phones focus in the first place. Which is why I thought a 'how to' article might be appropriate. Turns out that focussing can be happily controlled after all...
Variously referred to with a '1' on the end (or not), the official Developer Preview version of Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 (I'm using the numeral, as it's less confusing!) is now available and I thought a summary of what's in it would be appropriate. Along with my (admittedly marginal) deliberation that this is a smaller update than the original 8.1/Cyan step upwards, and that enrolling on the DP track might not, on balance, this time, be worth it?
I've been tracking the standby battery drain from Windows Phone for the last six months, from version 8.0 of the OS through to the official Windows Phone 8.1 release with Lumia Cyan, here on my Lumia 1020. Now, being a scientist by trade, I'm appalled by the number of caveats involved in producing the chart below, but the result is still very clear - the official release of Windows Phone 8.1 is (by far) the most battery friendly one yet. [updated]
Stop press: the editorial Lumia 1020 now has the official Lumia Cyan update over-the-air from Microsoft, bringing this year old device bang up to date in terms of OS and core software. Making it rather appropriate, in the light of some criticism of Nokia's latest and greatest, the Lumia 930, to compare the two devices and wonder if the older device now holds its own or even surpasses the new flagship. Controversial, moi?
As something of a fan of wireless charging in general and Qi in particular, I jumped at the chance to interview John Perzow, VP of market development at the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC), which created and is continually evolving the Qi standard. A man to answer some of those questions I'd been wanting to ask for ages....
Traditionally, the price barrier for smartphones was £100. Even Nokia's lowest end Symbian handsets only strayed a little way below this, yet with feature phones all but dying out in many countries, there's now a battle on to provide a 'first smartphone' for a buyer at as far below £100 as can be managed. There have been numerous ultra-budget Android handsets at rock bottom prices, but with legendarily poor performance and specs. So let's take something modern, like the Moto E, and see how it compares against the latest Windows Phone budget launch. And, for the sake of interest and further comment, against the older, existing Lumia 520.