Windows Reunion with Nokia Lumia 920

The last time I touched a Windows mobile phone was May 2010. Back then I love WM phones, because it opened up so many development opportunities, from application to rom. I developed a couple of apps, and if app store was the only way to install app, I probably earned a tidy sum for some of my work, specifically StayUnlock. I subsequently went on with ROM development for my TouchHD then, and Merlion Leon ROM was my first attempt at OS level development (My subsequent attempt was modifying Android kernel for my Galaxy S) . I probably explore everything a developer could do, and then Microsoft decided that they need to overhaul their mobile product, and I told myself I should explore elsewhere while Microsoft goes figure their next journey.

Nokia Lumia 920

Nokia Lumia 920

It was the start of my 3 years Android journey and I had the full dessert course. I saw how Android evolved from the likes of Cupcake and Eclair, trying to find its footing in Gingerbread and Icecream Sandwich, to finally maturing as a yummy and addictive Jellybean. I would be lying if I said the desserts were all sweet and nothing else. They were bitter or sour moments, but its a choice between growing to be smart, or pretending to be already one. I chose the former and I am glad I had seem Android growing by leaps and bounds.

In recent months, I had watched Microsoft development with keen interest. It was almost like being home sick and you want to find the right timing to head home. WP 7 development started with a refreshing concept and innovation in its metro UI and live tiles. I thought it needed a couple of hardening through Mango and Tango. When WP8 was first announced last year. It really caught my full attention. And when Nokia announced its flagship Lumia 920, superceding its 900, I thought the opportunity had come knocking my door.

But it was not without some hesitation. It is like when a salesman comes knocking your door with a great deal, you will skeptically wonder if it is a scam. It didn’t help that Nokia Lumia 920 was launched and introduced with some controversial marketing advertisement.

First, the look is not really inspiring, it looks just like its predecessor (or so I perceived). In fact, many would agree it might even be mistaken as its sibling, Lumia 820. The weight is also mind boggling. Perhaps Nokia is trying to enhance its paper weight value proposition like manu other smart phones. Having own a couple of  light and slim phones like Galaxy S3 and S2, I was worried that I would need to strengthen up my biceps just to handle the extra 50-60 grams of weight. The lack of apps in the appstore is the other concern. Having seen the pathetically half filled Windows 8 store, I was worried if I will have cold turkey the moment I step into the store.

Will Windows be a key player in mobile space?

Will Windows be a key player in mobile space?

The lure of slick metro UI interface AND superior Carl Zeiss lens eventually won me over, despite being adequately satisfied with my Jelly-beaned Galaxy S3. The weight problem did falter away after some getting use to, probably because my biceps were already tuned to such weight when I owned Xperia S previously (just compared the two bricks, and Nokia Lumia is still the winner).

Having used the Lumia for 3 days, I am pretty certain that whatever I experienced will be the same in the next few months.  And it will only get better, although I do not expect miracle change overnight. The beauty of Windows Phone lies on its simplicity. Metro UI  with simple (but slick) navigation are all that makes up the entire user experience of the phone. There are no cluttered menus, and every content chunks are layered nicely that the navigation is intuitive (but only if you realised that you can swipe left/right to “layer” through) In that regards, Windows Phone hit an almost perfect score.

Networking capability seems to be superior than its competitors too. Before we get too carried away, Microsoft’s “Smoked by Microsoft Challenge” is a combination of marketing gimmicks and its capable networking feature, at least from my personal experience. When I share a photo to Facebook, indeed it was almost instantaneous, blazingly faster than any phones I have used (except when I share via photoUp in Android phones). It turned out that the photos are not only compressed, they are resized into a lower resolution, by as much as a third. It is therefore not a rocket science to explain why the photo sharing can be lightening fast in Windows Phone. That does not mean that Windows Phone is just all show and nothing real. I do observed that it handles small data transfer far more efficient than its WM predecessor, and probably Android and Apple as well. With our phones so tightly intertwined with internet, such efficiency helps to ensure the navigation experience continues to be butter-ly smooth when the connectivity crawls. The camera is one of the best camera phone I had owned so far, when compare to the likes of HTC One X and Sony Xperia series. What I like of  Nokia’s implementation of camera functionalities  is I could activate the camera function even when my phone is pin-locked. Not all Android phones manufacturers implemented this feature consistently, and not surprisingly only Sony understands why this is seemingly trivial but important feature for photography enthusiasts like myself

My main gripe with Windows phone, as expected is the lack of apps. Perhaps the apps will come in times to come, but something must be done to entice the creative developers to develop in this platform. Some missing apps are as simple as 3G data usage tracker. Perhaps Microsoft has assumed that with their more efficient networking capability, such tracker is a redundant. But with the telcos clamping down on 3G/4G usage with removal of unlimited or reducing quota, this miss is a glaring one for me. But of course, I cannot be whining with just this trivial app miss. I can no longer do streaming of my favourite mp3 from my home media server over internet, use Runkeeper to track my running exercise (thankfully, I rely more on my Garmin watch now), or use my phone to remote control my TV (edit: it looks like there’s an app for it now, but I need to see its compatibility). More critically, as we see more gadget startups like Pebble sprouting with great ideas to transform mobile phones beyond just a personal communication device, most of them are still focusing on developing their ideas on Apple and Android platform. Microsoft needs to take a different approach in the mobile and consumer world. It needs to reach out to these start-ups more pro-actively. I think its attempt to entice developers through significant payout was a good start, but I have the inkling feeling that it just sit on incentive framework it had created for the developers which  I thought was just too passive. Microsoft should realise that their success is greatly dependent on the startup just as the latter depends on it.

It’s now or never.

HTC One X – Not exactly the One

I had wanted to blog about how HTC One X is the ONE phone to get.

8MP camera with f/2.0 aperture

The truth is, it is indeed an excellent product from HTC. I have always complained about the mediocrity of HTC camera, and HTC One X has addressed that with its BSI sensor. Not only it has a fast lens at f/2.0, it is capable of taking burst shot (6 frames per second), and has the improved panoramic shoot functionality. To top it all, the ability to take photo while you are recording a video, is a god-send. The video quality taken using HTC One X is also top notch, and is unlike its predecessors which always produce ghostly images playback.

The form factor is also sexy yet practical. Unlike Xperia S, which has quite a bit of wasted space, HTC One X screen maximises to the phone dimension. The concave display glass is aesthetically nice but may be impractical when you try to put on the screen protector. I am beginning to be sold on the concept of non-removable battery, as it helps to keep the phone body design simple. The body casing has a clean line that is only broken up by the power and volume buttons, a micro-sim tray and a micro-USB socket. My only gripe is that there’s lacking of micro-SD card expansion, not withstanding the presence of 32G internal storage.

Clean line

In the software compartment, I was initially disappointed by the buggy HTC applications (Facebook upload via HTC sense does not work, HTC Gallery does not show my Google+ albums, Calendar stops showing latest/updated appointments randomly, etc). It didn’t help that the HTC sense was not totally lag-free. There was still some random traces of lag, not significant but enough for one to know it is not buttery smooth. I always think HTC sense needs a full revamp,  but couldn’t really crystalise what exactly is missing until the recent Samsung Galaxy III  launch (more on this later). In a nutshell, it needs to do more than just delivering the phone functionalities in fancy UI manner, i.e. the user-centric features that complete the user experience . The latter is what Samsung SGS3 is touting to offer and I am eager to see those features in person. Did I say I was initially disappointed by the software performance? Well, about 3 weeks after its launch, HTC released a software update (which updates the firmware from 1.26.XXX to 1.28.XXX) over the air, and that does help to improve the performance significantly. Not perfect but acceptable.

One of the software improvement is BEATS support for all players.

Then we have the moddability of the phone, which is always the strength of HTC phones, even if HTC refuse to recognise it officially.  It is not very difficult to unlock the bootloader of the phone (although I have to say Samsung would be the easiest) with HTC providing the unlock key via its site. That said, HTC still put up its disclaimer on warranty for bootloader unlocked phones. In theory that is a fair disclaimer because an unlocked phone opens up the world of modification, which includes changing the kernel parameters which might damage the hardware inadvertently (such as over clocking). However, it is rare for a phone to be damaged due to such modification, so from my point of view, the onus is for HTC to prove it.

HTC One X vs Galaxy Nexus

So you would have thought this is the closest perfect phone one can get based on current market offering. So I thought until I had some trouble with the phone recently. To cut the long story short, the screen display broke down and I could not turn it on even though the rest of the phone was still functioning (I could hear new incoming messages and mail notifications). But it’s not the hardware failure nor the actual repair (they took just one day to replace the motherboard) that had left a bad taste in my mouth. It is the way HTC customer support team handled the delivery of the repaired phone to me, that had left me flabbergasted. Ironically, I would probably not had gone through the frustrating moments if I had opted for self collection. It was a long tiring process to say the least.

HTC post sales support is a big letdown

Bottom line, the support experience was horrendous, and it didn’t help that the support team did little (to my impression) to make me feel that they are going for an extra inch (if not miles) just to ensure proper follow through. For that, HTC scored a BIG negative score, enough for me to make up my mind that this will be my last HTC phone, at least for a long while. The last time I avoided  HTC products like plague was due to the camera mediocrity. HTC One X overturned that reason, but unfortunately not for long. Now, it’s their after sales support that I am avoiding HTC again.

Definitely not the ONE for me.

Vanilla Ice-Cream in Galaxy Nexus Sandwich

Ever since I had to give up my recent acquired Sony flagship mobile phone, Xperia S, I looked around in the market for a replacement.

I had wanted to try out Windows Phone. I think Microsoft has finally got their formula right this time round, after failing to gain a foothold in the mobile market with their Windows CE and Windows Mobile products  since 2000. The tiled interface is as evolutionary and refreshing as Apple’s multi touch interface. Fragmentation, which appeared to the biggest culprit in Microsoft’s previous failures in mobile market, is to some extent addressed by Microsoft’s attempt to put in restriction in how manufacturers and developers build and develop their handsets and applications respectively. The end result is a consistent interface, and much tighter control on how applications are being executed and rendered. The key draw back for me is the hardware, as the display and camera functions are not inspiring. I thought I would just get a cheap Windows Phone (since all Windows Phone looks and function the same!) as an interim, but eventually settled with Google Galaxy Nexus because I have always wanted to try out the pure Google experience.

galaxy nexus

Galaxy Nexus

Google Galaxy Nexus, manufactured by Samsung, runs on the latest Android operating system, i.e. Ice-Cream Sandwich (ICS) . With Google’s ICS, they seemed to have finally fixed the memory management issues and streamlined the user experience. I have to say it is a product, out of the box (because with Android being a open source, it doesn’t take a genius to do magic wonder in order to improve its usability), that would seriously compete with the likes of current Windows Phone and iOS. It may seemed like Google’s past desserts (Cupcake, Eclair, Frosted Yorgurt, etc) were a failure, or at best an alpha/beta of their operating system. However, if you trace through Android history, from the first public release (Cupcake) in 2009 to now, versus how long Microsoft put their act together, it is actually quite a remarkable progress. One might argue that Apple did it right in the first iPhone product,  but remember Apple was clever in its product release strategy. It had deliberately omitted key phone function features, and progressively released these missing functions as it rolled out its iPhone roadmap over the course of 5 years.

Galaxy Nexus is made by Samsung

Galaxy Nexus is made by Samsung

Back to Galaxy Nexus, I am not quite impressed by its form factor. It looks as if Samsung has deliberately short changed its development just to make sure it does not cannibalised its own flagship products, i.e. Galaxy S2 and Galaxy Note. The 1280×720 screen is nothing to shout about, until you put it on the brightest setting.  That said, when I put it side by side with Galaxy S2 or Lumia 800 (both of which have the same resolution of 800×480 pixels), it does look as good, if not better, given its higher resolution display. The back battery cover feels plasticky,  almost becoming a classic trademark of Samsung products. Camera is mediocre, as it fares badly when taken under dim lighting condition or trying to capture a fast moving object. How I miss my Xperia S for that matter! Don’t get me wrong, Galaxy Nexus has a decent hardware specification, but my take is that it is a jack of all trades, master of none. That said, I do like the ICS soft keys in the Galaxy Nexus with its backlit implementation. Beneath the soft keys, a multicolored notification LED is featured which glows on selected event such as a missed call or unread message. You can download the app Light Flow to customize your LED configuration, in terms of the events to be notified, colour of the LED notification, or even the rate of the LED pulse!

ICS compliant application will now have all menus at the top corner, freeing up the bottom screen from the cluttered menu

Inside Galaxy Nexus however, the user experience is superb given that it is running on the Ice-Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, at the point when I got the phone, it was still running on 4.0.3, not 4.0.4 which offers an even more optimal performance. (Nothing stopping me from upgrading it to 4.0.4 though) Regardless, I understand that 4.0.4 was shortly released “OTA” after a few weeks. On the positive notes, the user interface is polished and uncluttered. The multi tasking of applications does not has any slight adverse effect on the overall phone performance. The UI navigation experience is as “buttery” smooth as you can imagine. With a pure Google experience, it also means I do not have those bloated applications that offer bells and whistles at the expense of performance. Given that I have most of my resources resided in Google (mails, contacts, calendar appointments, photos, etc), I have immediate access to every of my content and information the moment I signed into my Google account. No hassle of synchronising or data migration!

But it did not take me too long to switch to another phone. Not because Galaxy Nexus is bad, but because I have been eyeing on HTC One X after hearing how HTC had improved its camera function over the year. That has been my biggest gripe of HTC products (amongst others). That said, after using HTC One X for two weeks now, there were and are times where I still miss Galaxy Nexus for its clean ICS implementation!

Xperia S – Sony eXperience?

It has been a while since I blog about gadgets. My current Galaxy S II is probably the first gadget for a long while where I have kept it for more than six months; 8 months to be exact. There is really no new smart phones around that would excite me to change. HTC seems to have over sensationalized its sensation products (although I just learnt that its camera capability has improved since the last HTC phone I have used). That said, there are a couple of products that I am looking forward to.


First, there’s Galaxy Nexus, a Google-branded phone made by Samsung. I have always wanted to try “Out of the Box” or “Vanilla” Android phone. Then there’s Sony’s Xperia S, Sony’s first product after their break up with Ericsson. I wonder if the DNA of Xperia S will be “Sony inspired”, or inheriting the mediocre Sony Ericsson genes.

Galaxy Nexus was first released to the market. But the lure of what is considered as Sony’s first Android product in Xperia S, especially upon hearing a reliable news that it’ll be  released 2 weeks later, made me decide to wait for the latter instead. On the first day when Xperia S was sold in the retail,  I went to the outlet and bought a set without even waiting for other customers’ feedbacks.

The first impression of the minimalist-design hardware gives me a mixed feeling. I like the cool looking clear bar at the bottom of the screen. It reminds me of the design found in Sony’s LCD  TV products. However, it is just  bells and whistles, as it just display the icons of the  touch panel functions above it, and nothing else (edit: I was told it could also act as light notification, but am not sure about it).  I wonder what goes behind the mind of the designer. As I figure out eventually, the design is probably meant to align with the new  UI design in Google ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google Android OS platform). Still, given that the bar takes up a good chunk of the phone form factor, I thought it is a bad design.

Sleeky but not functional Light Bar

The phone feels thicker and heavier than the sleek Sony Ericsson Arc I had used previously. So perhaps it is a sign of Sony trying to get rid of its SonyEricsson DNA, albeit not in the direction I would have expected from a consumer company like Sony. The back battery cover is removable, even though the battery is not and there is no removable storage space. On the other hand, the battery cover fitment is not perfect, leaving an uneven gap all around. In nut shell, the phone does not wow me like the Arc did on first physical encounter.

But I have to say, the phone grows on me after a while, primarily by its superior screen and camera function. First on the screen. The BRAVIA HD technology, along with its high 1280×720 resolution, renders rich colour saturation and image sharpness. The photos and videos look amazingly stunning with the colour vibrants and black deep. While it looks stunning on photos and video playback, I thought in some applications, the screen display looks a bit wash out, perhaps by the brightness and contrast level that is tuned towards HD video playback.

Sony Screen with Bravia HD engine

The camera, powered by Sony’s Exmor R for mobile CMOS sensor, reaffirms my belief that Sony produces one of the best, if not best phone camera in the market. A friend of mine did tell me that Apple’s  iPhone 4S has the best optic lens in the mobile market, but I think Sony’s Xperia S is not far behind, if not the best. Pitting the camera function of Samsung Galaxy S II against that of Xperia S, makes me realize how Samsung has stagnated in its innovation. I remembered I was most impressed by Samsung Galaxy S’s camera function, thinking on how it had the best mobile camera capability in the market then. Perhaps the DNA of the two consumer giants (Sony and Samsung), plays a big part in this gulf.

Ravishing screen and sublime photographing capability aside, Xperia S still has some unfinished work to do in order to be the leader of its pack. Although none of the phone manufacturers has yet launched an ICS out-of-the-box product, it is still disappointing to see Sony releasing a Gingerbread based Xperia S. The phone still experiences random moments of lags, slight enough for me to notice it, and the Sony’s home launcher force-closes on me a few times. That said, Sony’s home launcher and widgets have gone through some significant improvement, both visually and functionally. But I think they could have channelled their time and resources on improving the overall user experience, instead of bridging the gaps of Gingerbread.

Sony phone with the old Sony Ericsson Logo.

Unfortunately, the deal breaker for me is the Sony Xperia S’s security management. The issue is how the phone handles the “IdleTimeoutFrequencyValue” parameter, part of the security policy enforced by my company’s Exchange Server. Based on my knowledge, the parameter, configurable only by exchange server administrator, implies the longest acceptable time that the device can idle before the phone needs to be locked.  I know my company’s administrator had initially set as “1 minute”  before settled for “40 minutes”, as many employees felt that the policy was “too strict”. Xperia S takes this parameter literally, and will only lock my phone after 40 minutes of idle. There is no way I can force a lock; For all the previous phones that I have used, I could either set a shorter time-out myself, or force a lock by pressing the power button. With this “bug”, I have to bear the risk of leaving my phone unprotected for as long as 40 minutes. A few years ago, this is probably not a big deal for me. However, ever since I experience the loss of my phone within 5 minutes after misplacing it in a public place, I become more conscious about mobile security, especially with more confidential and/or sensitive information stored in our mobile devices these days.

So it is a “Short eXperience” for me, perhaps that’s what Xperia S stands for me. But if you don’t have a strict company exchange server administrator like mine (that configures every parameters of the policy), can live with some of the niggling issues highlighted above, I am sure it’ll be a “Splendid eXperience” for you.

WebOS TouchPad, a simple desktop in tablet form

WebOS-powered TouchPad

I am a big fan of Palm products. Those days it was cool to carry a Palm PDA, and if my memory did not fail me, my first Palm product was a Palm Pilot series. Palm gave me the impression of building nifty products but not a world shaker one. However when the webOS was first unveiled in 2009, I thought it is the mobile platform to go, with Windows and Linux both dominating the desktop market. The thoughts of web connected device, taking advantage of the Web 2.0 technologies, was just salivating.

Since then, a handful of Palm devices were launched sporting WebOS. I love the simple interface but the form factor never grew on me. With the products mostly focused in the US market, strangely if I may add, I never got to own one until now.  Then HP acquired Palm, and it got me lighted up. A PC giant (or a ex PDA big player in Jornado and iPAQ), and an promising next generation mobile OS maker, perfect marriage or a disastrous divorce in making? Continue reading

Samsung Galaxy S II, The best Android Smartphone ever?

Whenever i hear such a claim, on any product for that matter, i always wonder what is the context of the “best”. You see unless the product excels in all departments, i.e. it is the purrrrr -fect product in comparison to its competitors (see there is still a context) it can’t be the best.

Take the category of smartphone as an example. I would rate HTC for its famed Sense experience, which help to ramp up a newbie experience with Android (and Windows Mobile previously). On the other hand I see SonyEricsson being in the leader in its camera functionality having used its Xperia Arc and compared it with all the Galaxy S series. That said, HTC Sense is getting too complicated as the company tries to be sophisticated for its products to be ‘smart’. But I have digressed.

So when I read reports that raved the new Samsung Galaxy S II as the best Android smartphone to date I thought it is a bold statement. Don’t get me wrong as I think it is yet another fine product by the Korean company but that statement needs to be contextualized. Continue reading

Experiencing the new Xperia in Arc

A couple of years ago, when SonyEricsson decided to re-invent their new flagship mobile product in Xperia X1, I bought their vision, literally. The phone, despite running on Windows Mobile platform, wowed me with their sleek design and their UI panel concept. Hey, I even contributed to their vision by developing a navigation panel. The quality of the phone was far from perfect, and I promptly returned the phone back to the service centre when they offered a buy-back proposal to appease my dissatisfaction. That was my last impression of a Xperia product. Continue reading

Desire HD a Déjà vu

It has been more than 3 months since I have gotten myself a Desire HD. Usually I would be excited with the new phone, and would blog about it like I did with my Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S. Somehow, with Desire HD, I have been dragging my feet (or rather my fingers) to blog about my thoughts of the HTC latest flagship Android gadget.  It was mostly disappointments that piled up one after another, and I tell you why.

HTC Desire HD


When I first had my hands on the Desire HD, I actually thought I fell in love with it. The overall quality is just what you would have expected from HTC; The use of good quality material (over some cheap plastic material assembly), the polished user interface including the initial set up process. The phone feels heavy but it makes you think of the good solid material instead of the negative aspect of the weight. The tactile feedback on the screen gives a “tight, controlled mechanical” response you would expect from a high quality haptic technology based components. The initial take of the phone then was this should be what HTC Desire was 6 months ago. But it turned out to be more than 6 months gap.

Like all romances, love at first sight is never definitive, and with Desire HD it is a good classic example of that. The quality one can expect from HTC is not just about the positive ones. There were still alignment issues with the housing and casing covers, and the stability of the HTC applications that were bundled with the phone remained questionable, just to name a few. Before this blog entry degenerates into rants, let me just highlight three key areas that had subdued my enthusiasm about this phone.

With all the fantastic technical specifications that Desire HD is carrying, the phone fails miserably in the screen display and camera department (of course in my humble opinion). If Samsung Galaxy S had changed my perception about what a mobile phone can do as far as video recording and playback are concerned, Desire HD proved why the former is the best selling Android phone in the marketplace today. That is despite all the great things you can find about the phone itself. At a first glance, Desire HD screen display looked fabulous. The Super LCD screen appeared to have match the bar set by Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen. But when I placed my Desire HD and Galaxy S side by side,  my jaws dropped and I was almost screaming, “What is so super about the SLCD!?”.

From the video below, the display on Desire HD is simply washed out. The display colors looked faded and flat, whereas in the Samsung devices they looked vibrant. Looked at the contrast and brightness!   The conclusion I got?  I would never want to watch any movie on my Desire HD, if I happen to spot somebody around me carrying a Samsung Galaxy S.

Moving on to the video recording capability. Despite the specification of being able to take 720p video, Desire HD  was never able to match the video recording capability I had experienced in Galaxy S. The ghostly motion effect is still there, especially if the video is taken in an indoor setup (flash is a moot point because I could record a smooth video indoor with Galaxy S). If that was not bad enough, there was a severe bug in Desire HD, that resulted in video recorded with random stuttering effect. So when you are trying to take a HD video, this bug becomes a big joke. Incidentally this bug occurred only when I set the video camera mode to 720p. Essentially, the phone had problem recording at 30 frames per second in high definition. There are “dirty” workarounds, but I was never happy with this video recording function since day one.

a sample of video recording using Desire HD. Notice the freeze in 0:16 frame.

Then comes the software aspect of the phone. I remembered when I first got HTC HD2 more than a year ago, I had to endure the buggy SMS application for more than 2 months. If text messaging is an essential mobile function for you, that bug effectively rendered the phone unusable. Despite the bad experience, I remained hopeful when Desire HD was first launched in the market.  HTC development team must have learnt a big lesson out from that saga and delivered a better quality product this time round.

How wrong was I again! One of the selling point of Desire HD is that it is “smarter” than before with its  The latter is essentially a service based feature which enables the phone owner to locate and control the phone remotely. Theoretically one can locate the phone with the help of GPS, or initiate a ringing on the phone so you can locate its presence acoustically. One can even initiate remotely, to redirect phone calls and text messages, or wipe out data in case of emergency. Sounds great isn’t it? And of course I said that is in theory, because until last month, I could do nothing of these, even though these were advertised features. The  HTC support acknowledged that the performance stricken services (or applications) in were buggy and the development team was working on it. Being an IT-trained professional, I can understand how software can never be perfectly free of bug. However, the line should be clear between a software in alpha stage versus one that is go-to-market ready. was clearly at a former stage, so it baffled me why the product was being launched in the first place. Perhaps it should not come as a surprise given the pressure to launch in the market, but it looked like somebody in HTC had done his maths. That the market share gain (through early product launch) will take care of the market share loss (due to the product quality problem).

A web-based service that looks good but not functional at all

On the otherhand, the could also be more smarter than it is. As of now the services become useless when the phone battery get depleted. Imagine you discover that you have left your phone at home when you reach the office.   You want to remotely redirect your phone calls and/or text messages, only to find out that your phone is “uncontactable” because it runs out of battery. But I digress.

In all my correspondences with HTC support, it was clear to me that they could not commit a time to fix the problems. I gave up, and was looking to sell away the phone, or to do something about the phone myself. With, I could save a hell lot of my time from building my own ROM or optimizing my kernel which I did for my previous phones. I found Leedroid custom ROM and kernel, flashed it, and the phone finally became what it should really be in the first place. However, there are things that do not change, such as  the hardware limiting issues (i.e. screen display). In other cases, such as the overall product and customer experience with HTC,  it is almost like a carbon copy of the previous one when I had HD2.

It is a déjà vu again.

Holiday season warm up with Creative ZiiO

Year end holiday season is here finally, and I am already imagining a Christmas tree in my house with all the interesting gadgets nicely packed as presents surrounding it. More on that in subsequent blog posts. In the spirit of sharing joy of holiday season, I would begin by sharing my peep on Creative ZiiO 7″ — Creative first attempt in the Android tablet space.

ZiiO 7" Tablet

ZiiO 7" Tablet


Earlier this week, I was privileged to have my hands on Creative ZiiO 7″ tablet, even though it was just a development unit. Given that (that it was just a development unit), the exterior finishing was not expected to be polished. The tablet was however loaded with the latest firmware that would supposedly shipped for production, so the hands on experience will still be close to that of a retail unit.

For a tablet, what draws to one’s attention is usually its form factor and its screen display. Admittedly, the first impression was a mixed feeling. The size of the tablet, defined by a 7″ wide screen, coupled with its all-white outfit, would definitely catch an enthusiast’s attention. This is especially so for somone like me who had already experienced a 6″ Kindle and a 10″ iPad, the two extreme end of a tablet-type devices. Of course, Kindle belongs to a different league altogether, given that it is a dedicated e-reading device. However, the size and weight of these devices should give a tablet-shopping buyer a good reference of what he needs to look out for, for there is no one perfect tablet in the market that fits all the needs.

Holding ZiiO 7" with one hand is convenient


Once ZiiO 7″ catches your attention, the screen display might possibly drops yours. I was definitely disappointed by the screen display, especially after having used to colour vibrancy that Super AMOLED display offers, in my Galaxy S and recently Galaxy Tab. The colour is a little flat, and further impacted by the viewing angle. If there is anyway to describe the visual impact, it feels like a 3M privacy screen filter fitted on it, albeit a little exaggerated. Ziio sports a resistive screen. While it is probably one of the most sensitive resistive screen in the market today, Creative’s decision to stick with it sets me scratching my head given that capacitive screen has becoming a norm these days.  But I was quickly reminded that Ziio 7″ is Creative’s entry model for their Android tablet product line, and costs just 1/3 of Samsung Galaxy Tab’s price tag. Fair enough, but unless you are a budget-conscious shopper, or one who is about to buy the China-made i-Pad lookalikes, wow will be the last thing you would say when you power on the Creative’s ZiiO.

Usability wise, Creative ZiiO is very capable, despite having to navigate over the resistive screen.  The screen was responsive, so were the applications. I was told that ZiiO uses its own processor, ZiiLABS ZMS-08 HD Media-Rich Applications Processor. While I have not benchmarked its processor in the 7″, I tried on ZiiO 10″ which uses the same processor, and the result was astonishingly good, scoring a 3000 over points in CPU. To give some context, my over-clocked Galaxy S could only manage half of what ZiiO has achieved. ZiiO has a stereo speaker, but I could not make out its quality given that I was in a cafeteria at the point of testing ; Just not a conducive environment to test sound quality.

Creative Zii applications


ZiiO is still running the older Android Eclair (2.1) as we speak, even for the retail units. However, I was told that Froyo (2.2) should be released for upgrade very soon.  As I unlocked ZiiO 7″ tablet, I was greeted by Creative’s own simplified lock screen and home launcher. Neat, I told myself. At least the company is going to the right direction in developing its own DNA. On the application front,  Creative have a few customised applications, ZiiMusic, ZiiVideo and ZiiPhoto. Given Creative’s specialty, I have no complaints with their multimedia playback software, although ZiiMusic did hang on me once before I had to reboot the tablet to solve it.

ZiiO's Kindle


Having used Kindle for a while, I naturally tend to compare ZiiO with the former, as an e-reader. ZiiO, with its weight almost twice that of the Kindle 3 (400g vs 241g), definitely feels heavy if one were to read over a prolong period of time. For a quick read, I would think it is definitely capable. What I was impressed is ZiiO’s night mode feature, which not only dim the backlit display, but also also toggle the display foreground and background color, so that the screen would not be too glaring. Although it can’t beat e-ink technology, the night mode feature is the most welcome feature, if you always like to read at night.

In a nut shell, for $359 SGD, I think it gives the China-made A-Pad a run for their money (go support Singapore products!). Looking from another perspective, if you are planning to spend $200-300 for a digital photo frame, grab this Creative ZiiO for its value for money, since it could do what a digital photo frame does, and more. But when pitted side by side with the bigger brothers, I could sense that Creative ZiiO 7″ is shouting out for his super-brother (not ZiiO 10″! fwiw) for reinforcement. I heard it will be coming …

Snap shot video of the hands-on (in a noisy cafeteria)

Galaxy is surreally desirable

Having tasted my first real Android experience in the mold of HTC Desire, I had another opportunity to lay my hands on Samsung’s new Android flagship product, Galaxy S. I am not sure what does the “S” means, but one cannot be faulted for assuming it is  Galaxy “Supreme”, based on its technical specification, and my initial impression of the phone.

In my short 20 minutes hands on, I was deeply impressed by its form factor and its captivating Super Active-Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (Super AMOLED) screen. First of all, it’s thin with a 4″ wide screen, a size that I feel more comfortable after having used to HTC HD and HTC HD2, which have screen size of 3.8″ and 4.3″ respectively. I just find the 3.7″ screen in the HTC Desire, a tad too small for me.  The Galaxy S has  just the right size, and to top it all, it is only 9.9mm slim and weighs only 118g. My only gripe is its piano-finishing battery cover, which is going to be a fingerprint magnet. The fact that the battery cover is made of polyurethanes material, doesn’t make it any more “cheap plasticky”, as I thought the overall build quality is solid.

Now the screen; it looks  stunning to the naked eyes, but once I put it side by side against HTC Desire, with the brightness level maximised for both devices, I find the difference is marginal, if any. I suspect the main reason behind this nano difference, is Samsung’s decision to maintain similiar brightness level, so as to maximize the power consumption efficiency. Afterall, a Super AMOLED screen is statistically capable of achieving 20% better brightness at 20% lesser power consumption level, in comparison to a AMOLED screen.  So if Galaxy S is designed and manufactured at the same brightness specification  as the AMOLED screen, then mathematically one can achieve 33% reduction in the power consumption. Not bad!  (Note: I did observed that the power consumption in Galaxy S much better than that in Desire. It’s not scientifically proven though that it is due to the above mentioned theory, but if anybody can confirm that, please let me know)

In the end, the brief experience was enough to lure me into the Samsung Galaxy S camp. So I got a set a few days later, and begin my Android journey, ehm,  officially. Afterall, the HTC Desire is technically a “T-loan” unit from yeez, and my other Android experience was really Android Cupcake half baked into my old HTC HD.

Having used the phone for the last few days, my conclusion of Galaxy S and Desire comparison is basically  hardware versus software. It is without a shadow of doubt that Galaxy S just shines in almost every aspect of hardware departments, except maybe the flash-less camera (and if I want to be nitpick, lack of LED notification light). I can however forgive the lack of flash, for its superb video taking capability. On paper, it can take 720p video at 30 frame per seconds,  but what counts at the end of the day is the actual quality of the video captured in reality. And I have to say it is almighty impressive, as it  could take a good video without any ghosting effect. Probably the best video capture capability I have come across for a smart phone.

Now, when it comes to software arena, HTC Desire is the clear winner by a mile. HTC sense  and its  home screen widgets,  spice up the otherwise default boring android home screen. One can draw the similarity from the  Windows Mobile devices; that without the Windows Mobile version of HTC sense, it is ladened by a functional but very dated Today screen. HTC has established itself as a smartphone leader, not because of its superior hardware specification, but its ability to mate the hardware and software (regardless of Android or Windows Mobile platform) to address the different needs of various mobile market segments. Samsung, on the other hand, has tried too hard to emulate iPhone, loosing it s own DNA. Its  TouchWiz user interface and the bubble style conversation for text messagin, are just some examples of that. Thankfully, there are applications like  LauncherPro, which can reinstate the iPhone wannabe back to the real android Galaxy S where it should be.