30 August 2014

A Working iPhone 6

With all the leaked parts for iPhone 6, this company did manage to successfully assembled a working iPhone 6. It did power up, except that booting to the Connect to iTunes screen.

Check it out here:

20 August 2014

What's Wrong With Xiaomi?

MIUI 6 has been announced! It's astonishing that it's design language is almost replica that of Apple! When Mi Pad was announced, Hugo Barro mentioned "If you have two similarly skilled designers, it makes sense that they would reach the same conclusion," he argues. "It doesn't matter if somebody else has reached the same conclusion" about, for example, a 4:3 screen ratio being preferable to the more cinematic 16:9 that most Android tablets offer. Mi is focused on making the best products that it can and refuses to shy away from a good idea just because Apple might have done it already. "We're not copying Apple's products. End of story."  Does that means that they have almost an entire team that have the similar creativity and skill set to those from Apple? From their products, to their OS layer and their website? This cannot be coincidence...

iPad Mini
Mi Pad

Let's take a look at some of the screenshots of MIUI 6 versus that of iOS 7.

Settings, MIUI6 (left) vs iOS7 (right)
Search, MIUI6 (left) vs iOS7 (right) 
Calendar, MIUI6 (left) vs iOS7 (right) 
Calculator, MIUI6 (left) vs iOS7 (right)
Mi's products' main selling point is cheap and value for money. They shouldn't have to try to imitate Apple in doing their products, website and even their presentation. In China, there are many skilful and creative people, they can definitely do one better than Apple!

Xiaomi's Leijun with his One More Thing in recent presentation...
Jobs' One More Thing in his trademark presentation...


24 March 2014

Xiaomi Mi-3 Review Part 2 - The OS, MIUI

Introduction
I have been an iPhone user since the first generation was released in the United States. Having been accustomed to the way iPhone works for more than 7 years, it makes switching to an alternatives an uphill task. During the past few years, I have tried Samsung Galaxy, HTC One and Windows Mobile but weren't able to convince myself for the switch. Hardware speicifcations on these phones are always almost impressive but none impressed me in terms of their Android customisations.

Not till I met MIUI last year when I was in China.


MIUI
The familiarity of MIUI makes me take another look at Android. MIUI turns Android inside out. You will get familiar and settle down with it easily. MIUI is no simple copy of the Apple iOS. It offers enough unique features of its own to distinguish between itself, iOS and the rest of the Android world.



MIUI put an emphasis on the visual appeal to the Android ROM. Whether it be its transparent portions, the Gaussian blur, animations or even the color scheme, MIUI has the entire package yet doesn't appear overloaded. It is pleasing for the eyes if you happen to like its bright and playful look. 




MIUI has an app for pretty much every area of use just like iOS, with something extras. It has Notes, Virus Scanner, Usage monitor for mobile data, app permissions, compass, voice recorder and flashlight to name a few. Not only do the apps look great, they offer a great range of functionalities.


One of the feature that I find it useful is the phone recorder, you can record your conversation directly from the phone app. 




The phone dialer is great especially for those iOS user. The dialer pad is context sensitive, you can either hit the number that you wanna call or just enter the name using the dial pad conveniently without having to search for them in the Contacts.

MIUI offers a truck load of themes. To download and use new designs though, you'll be forced to set up the free Xiaomi account. If you don't like the default bright and playful look, you can always find something that you like here and applies the theme that changes the entire look and feel of your user interface in the blink of an eye. This is what iOS users had missed all these years. 


Bugs/Issues
There are a multiple of bugs/issues with MIUI due to its deep customisations. 4 notable bugs/issues are the SMS, auto-correction, camera Selfie and HDR option.

SMS
This is a major bug and issue. If you try using those one-time pin issued by the bank such as DBS, you will never receive the SMS. Those 3D-Secure pin by the banks can never reach you too. If you intend to use MIUI, have a hot standby phone.

Auto-Correction
As you type along and make a spelling mistake, you would most likely touch on the word to make the correction. At this instance, a row of suggested words are displayed above the keypad along with suggested words on the pop-up. If you tap to select any of the word in the pop-up, the app will quit unexpectedly. The workaround is to tap the back key and select the suggested word from the row above the keypad. This is irritating if you have type a long sentence.




HDR
The HDR option to shoot an object back off a brightly lit background is really bad. See the photo for yourself below. This should be something basic, and shouldn't have happen.




Selfie
All your selfie taken are mirrored! Of course you can flip the photo after you have taken it, but it is very irritating.



Other Considerations 
Memory Leakage
I realise that you can never get back your memory used in full. With 2G of RAM, you are good to start with about 1.2G after every reboot. As you use your apps, it will shrink down to about 800M even though you kill all the active apps.


Music Player
If you have ever play with the China ROM, you will realise that lyrics for your song are automatically sourced and displayed along when your song are being played. You can also search online for the song that you have wanted. Unfortunately in the International ROM, MIUI integrate the music player with Realplayer and it doesn't work as well as the China ROM does. There's no online streaming option too.



Video Player
The China ROM video player provides tons of video that you can stream online for free. This is not available in the International ROM due to legal and privacy issue. It's such a disappointment. Even though you can easily download other apps such as PPS.TV, PPTV and Souhu etc, but I am one who likes to use default apps.




RAW
Where is the RAW camera mode? It's one of the listed feature on their website and it's never found in the International ROM.


Bottom Line
MIUI v5 will be loved by everyone who wants to use the Android system but still likes the way iOS works. MIUI is beginner-friendly, yet offers some customisation options though not as much as a stock Android would. If Xiaomi could sort out the bugs, I wouldn't see why you wanna give it a miss. 





13 March 2014

Xiaomi Mi-3 Review Part 1 - The Hardware

Introduction
Finally Xiaomi Mi-3 is launched in Singapore on 7th March 2014. The phone has been much talk about in the past few months. As you might already know, Xiaomi has been growing from strength to strength doubling it's sales year to year. Their phones have been selling like hotcakes and sold out every time it is out for sales in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. When they launched the Hongmi during the past 2 launches here in Singapore, it's sold out within minutes. Mi-3 launches this time round is no difference, it's sold out in 2 minute. Well, the number of Mi-3 phones put out for sales is unknown...
Design
First thing you will noticed when you get your Mi-3 is that the phone is beautifully packaged in a slim brown box. When you opened the box, you will see the much waited Mi-3. 
Xiaomi’s flagship phone is an extremely slim and light device. It measures 5-inches with a thickness of a mere 8.1mm and weighing at only 145 grams. The design looks like a hybrid of Nokia Lumia 800 and Sony Xperia Z. The aluminium looking polycarbonate body looks good. Since it is not real aluminium, you wouldn't need to worry that it will get dents easily. The Corning Gorilla glass fronting the IPS LCD makes the screen looks gorgeous. The combination of the faux aluminium body and gorilla glass gives the phone a premium feel. My only grip is that the rectangular phone is a bit clunky and doesn’t sit well in my hands. I wish it had the slightly rounded corners of the Mi-2S.

Performance
The 16GB Singapore version of Mi-3 is equipped with a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. Based on AnTuTu benchmark, the Mi-3 is ranked number one in terms of speed, easily outperforming high-end competing phones like Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
Video performance is as impressive. The phone plays 1080p video beautifully sharp and clear. Games from less graphics intensive one such Pet Rescue Saga to the heavily intensive one such as Real Racing 3 play smoothly and speedy. It is extremely responsive without any lag at all. 
Battery life sits pretty well with me during the past 2 days. I had a full charge in the morning at 6:30am and by 9:30pm, I am left with 6% charge giving me about 15 hours of usage. During this time, I play about 2 hours of games on and off. I had my company push mails and I am checking the Straits Times breaking news regularly. In between, I had surf about an hour of internet and taking about 20 photographs. I also had the honour of demoing and introducing the phone to my curious colleagues.
Camera
Camera performance with the 13 megapixels Sony Exmor sensor under broad daylight is excellent. The camera has a bright f2.2 lens and a wide angle of 28mm. Even photo taken under undesired lighting condition didn't disappoint.
The photos shown below are taken from the Mi-3 without any editing other than the resizing.
(c) 2014 Tech Wonders

(C) 2014 Tech Wonders

In terms of the front facing camera, it is a 2 megapixel camera with the same bright f2.2 and 28mm wide lens as the rear camera. Ladies will love this front facing camera because the camera software provides an automatic brightening and smoothening of the skin tones.

Sound

The speaker of the phone is located at the bottom of the phone. When you are playing games or watching video in landscape mode, you will unintentionally covered the output and blocked the sound. Thus a earphones is necessary. This is where the Dirac SFX surround sound employed in Mi-3 comes in to optimise the audio output quality and provides theatrical like surround sound with your earphones. It is impressive!
Call/Data/GPS
Call quality is good with Mi-3. You can configure the phone to reduce background noise either by using the rear mic and/or main mic. The data connection is quite disappointing though. I kept having drop connection in 3.5G mobile network. However when it's not dropping, the HSPA+ speed is still acceptable.
5G and 2.4G wifi connection is fast without any issue.
The GPS locking is fast if you have a good network connection. Else it will take a much longer time to hook-up to the satellites. Also, I noticed that my GPS tends to "hang". This causes the compass app to fail to work, and also the camera app to hang as well. Only a reboot of the phone fixes the problem.
Maybe I might have a lemon... 

NFC (updated)

This might not be a big thing, but Mi-3 has NFC built-in. The NFC chip is located around the mi logo on the back of the phone. I tested it with my Sony SRSTV5 speaker and it works seamlessly. I simply touch the speaker with the phone's back mi logo while playing my song and voila, the speaker is paired and the sound plays out from the speaker.
Wrap-up
The Mi-3 is a premium Android that performs exceptionally beyond the S$419 no-contract price that you have paid. It makes one wonder why Samsung Galaxy, Sony Xperia and HTC One with equivalent specs are slapped with a premium price range.
If you are not put away by a 5-inches screen size big phone and the lack of LTE, you should look no further. 
I will provide a review of the OS in my next write-up.

19 March 2013

A non-techie review of Pebble

After waiting for more than 5 months, my Pebbles have finally arrived. From the mailing packaging, it seems that it has been sent locally in Singapore.


Opening the mailing package, I was presented with Pebble's brown cardboard packaging with basic information printed on in black.


There is a "zipper" on the side of the package where you tear off to review your newly acquired smart-watch and a magnetic USB charging cable layout in white preformed plastics. Nothing to shout about the design of the packaging, it's akin to that of Amazon Kindle Fire packaging.


You might already have the Pebble app installed either on your iPhone or Android smartphone. If not, head to App Store or Play Store to download it. Before you proceed to launch the app, power up the watch by pressing the left button (the lone button on the left). Once powered up, go to your phone Bluetooth setting to pair up the devices. When done, you can launch the app. It will prompt you to download and update the firmware for Pebble. The app will also provide you with additional watch faces that you can install later. Updating the firmware and installing the watch faces is a breeze.

Pebble is charged using the provided magnetic USB cable. Just plug the USB end to any iPhone charger or computer and stick the magnetic end to the charging contact on the left side of the watch to charge your Pebble. Pebble will not indicate that it is charging the watch or if its fully charged. That is quite an annoyance but I believe that it can be fixed with a firmware update.

The quality of the watch material and made is average, not exceptional. It's plastics after all. I am not really convinced that the watch lens is scratch-proof. However I have been using it for a week, so far no scratches on the lens yet. Navigational wise, the top left of the button is the back/power button, bottom left is the charging contact. On the right, you have the up/down scroll button with the select/enter button in the middle. The back of the watch has the Kickstarter Edition wording engraved on it. Unlike earlier prototype where the serial number is a cheap sticker, the actual watch engraved the text on it


Even though the watch looks big, it fit well on a ladies hand. As the back of Pebble is flat, it doesn't really feel comfortable wearing for long hours, but it isn't that bad either. Pebble attracts a lot of attention, people around me has been asking about this special (or maybe weird) looking watch. When I told them that it can alert you of phone calls and display SMS and emails, most of them would ask how do they get one. This shows that people are generally interested in this type of smart watch. Most of them really like the text watch face. The fact that you don't need backlight for Pebble's e-paper display under normal light condition make the text display really cool. When it gets dark, you can flick your wrist to activate the backlight to view the time or messages. It as a built-in accelerometer.


I have used Pebble with 2 different OSes - iOS and Android.

In iOS, it can displays SMS and email messages. When calls come in, it will alert you which you can choose to answer or reject the call. If you answer the call, you must talk using your phone. During the 3 days usage, I get constant Pebble disconnection alert from my iPhone. I have to launch Pebble app everytime to reconnect the watch to my iPhone.

On an Android, Pebble will only display SMS notification with no message preview using the official Pebble app. When call comes in, the accept or reject doesn't work. The good thing about Android is that it is an open source OS, developer can create wonderful solution. One of those is Pebble Notifier. You can get it from the Play Store. With is app, you can setup your Pebble to display messages from email, SMS, Whatsapp, Kakaotalk, Line and many more. I really love Pebble pairing with my Android phone. And you get much lesser disconnection of Pebble from your phone in android too.

So would I recommend Pebble? It's cool and since we do have any better alternatives at this moment, I would say Yes. It's even better for women who mostly had their phones in the handbags. They will never missed any messages or phone calls from their love ones.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

23 September 2012

iPhone 5 is fastest smartphone!

In my earlier blog, I mentioned that iPhone 5 edge out Samsung Galaxy III slightly. Someone wrote and argue with me that the result is fake because iPhone 5 has not been released yet. She pointed me to an article that doubt the authenticity of the result.

Well, now that the iPhone 5 is out, and the moment of truth... iPhone 5 is indeed the fastest smartphone in land. Not only that, an iPhone 4S upgraded to iOS 6 is also on par with a... quad core Samsung Galaxy S III!

Click here for the full report.


17 September 2012

iPhone 5 edge out S3 slightly...

For all the boosting of quad core processor from Samsung Galaxy S3, it still doesn't beat a dual core A6 processor from Apple. Check out the geekbench result below:


07 September 2012

First Look at iPhone 5

The rumours mills are working extremely hard this year. Parts of iPhone 5 have been all over the place. The final assembly of the physical phone was out even before Apple sent out the media invitation for 12th September 2012.

My first reaction to the design of iPhone 5 is... disappointed! Don't poke me, I am really disappointed and disgusted that after having the same iPhone design (4 and 4S) for the past 2 years, we are getting the same look and design again for the next one year. I mean same design but slightly thinner and longer phone. If you have not seen the iPhone 5 before, check out the video here:


Android owners will be laughing at us for having the same phone for 3 years. Apple is not moving, or are they complacent since SJ passing?

What's the purpose of having a 4 inches screen bearing a 16:9 ratio and having a weird resolution of 640 x 1136? We can't really think of what's Apple's plan with that.

To think of it again, I realised that I have wrong Apple.

What's Apple's design all about? If you were to look at the design of iMac, MacBook Pro and iPod, you will realise that the design of these products doesn't differ too much from it's predecessor. A 2007 aluminium iMac will almost look exactly like the current model. Ditto to MacBook Pro and iPod. Thus it wouldn't be strange that Apple decided to keep the changes to the design of iPhone 5 to the minimal. At least you will feel at ease with the new phone. Even with this larger 4 inches screen, the width of the phone remains unchanged. It will still be good for one-handed operation. You know what I mean if you have ever use a 4.5 or 5  inches Android phone.

With iPhone, it's all about the operating system - iOS. Everyone that owns an iPhone and tried an Android will know that. iOS is about simplicity. It's smooth and doesn't complicates. Thus the critical component of the iPhone 5 is not about the hardware, it's about iOS 6!

Let's see what surprise in iOS 6 that wasn't included in the beta for the developers! We are almost there! Just a week more to go.

01 May 2012

Apple's Warranty Policy on iPad

Recently my iPad suddenly refused to turn-on. Since it is under warranty, I decided to bring it down to the service centre for a repair (in Singapore).

To my shocks, the service centre refused to take in my iPad. The reason given was that I have dents at the corners of my iPad. I argued that the iPad has had dents all this while and was still working well, the fault is not related to the dents. However, the service centre stands by their policy.

Apple replaces a faulty iPad under warranty and does not repair them (at least in Singapore). This could have resulted in abuse by Apple users to replace their badly deformed iPads by faking some faults. 

I am not asking Apple to replace my iPad. I just need them to rectify the fault. They can give me back the iPad in whatever condition that I have given them after they have repair it. Nobody has asked for a new replacement, it is their policy of not repairing the iDevice but replacing it.

Update: Apple has been good. They have excellent customer service and support. They have spoken to me, and had make an exception to replace my iPad for free! I doubt any other companies could emulate what Apple have done! 





13 January 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note

I have been very fortunate to get this hot gadget - Samsung Galaxy Note. Android is the third mobile OS that I have been playing within the last 2 months. I have had a Nokia N9 (Meego) and a Lumia 800 (WP7) prior to this. So how does it fare? I will give you my short personal view.


Let's talk about the hardware. Galaxy Note is a fantastic device with 5.3" AMOLED display and a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. It features more pixels than an iPad. The brightness and color is fantastic. Except that there seem to be a slight bluish hue on the screen. It is running on dual core processor with a 1GB RAM and an internal storage of 16GB. You can add a 32GB SDHC microSD if you needed extra storage. On paper, this monster should fly.

The 5.3" size doesn't suit everyone though. However I find that it is not too big either, and it is quite comfortable to make calls but with lots of stares from people with around you. For my general usage of phone calls, messaging on SMS and WhatsApp, less than 15 minutes of web surfing, I find that the battery barely last me a day. I have to do in-between charges in the office.

In terms of UI, Samsung has put in their defacto TouchWiz UI on top of Gingerbread. Compared to other Android makers, the TouchWiz is good. You can have up to 7 pages to put in your shortcuts and widgets. However there's no way to create folders unless you decided to install third party launcher such as GO Launcher. Being Android and open, you can replace everything from Messaging app, Keyboard and Locker screen. There's no end to it.

In terms of input, the default Samsung keyboard lacks Chinese input. You can switch to Swype keyboard for Chinese input. I find that the keypress pop-up and word replacement/completion is kind of clunky. I do not know what's the cause given that it has powerful processor, I will attribute that to the OS deficiency.


In terms of camera, it takes good photo generally. However I find that it still lags by a fraction of a second between the time you press the shutter and the photo being captured. Could be an OS issue too.

I always wonder that with a high penetration rate of Android adoption should comes high internet traffic for Android browsers but it doesn't seems so. iOS's Safari is the king, capturing more than 70% of the internet traffic. I'd never know why but now I do know the reason. It is lousy internet surfing experience even on the gorgeous Note's screen and resolution. The zooming in and out of a web page is unnatural. Double tapping on a column doesn't zoom directly into it but sort of wobbles into that section. Scrolling up and down the zoomed in column is the worst. It moves laterally left-right as well. Unlike in iPhone, scrolling up and down of a zoomed in column will only move up and down. The web pages load generally fast. But if there's a flash component on the site, you will find that the page crawls. I can simply say that Mobile Safari on iPhone is the best mobile browser!

The device is responsive, however it may be slow at times and that's when you will have to start your Task Manager to clean up the memory. That reminds me of the old Windows Mobile 6.x and earlier days.

Overall, if you are an Android fan, you will love this monster. However if you comes from an iPhone environment, I can simply tell you that your iPhone is still the best. Even though the iOS UI looks a bit dated (being 5 years old), iOS5 on an iPhone 3GS should easily beat this device on Gingerbread.

Good about Note
* Big screen and easy on the eyes;
* Easy to type;
* Many customizations available;

Bad about Note
* No chinese input on default Samsung keyboard. You'll need to use swype or download third party keyboards. You might also like Google Pinyin IME which I do not like because it shows a chinese character (前往) for the Enter key be it I am typing in English or Chinese;
* Default Internet Browsing is not natural; Scrolling up and down a zoomed column moves the page laterally left and right as well. Best alternative is Firefox but unforunately it doesn't utilize the GPU and thus page rendering is slower and sucks battery;
* RAM is quickly chewed up by apps that you run, and also the background running apps. You will need to access Task Manager frequently;
* Sound volume is soft.
* Battery doesn't last the full day; but so is my iPhone.
* Android Market lacks quality apps. And there are porn apps available.