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Snapdragon S4’s Butter Test

Qualcomm is arguably one of the mobile industry’s biggest players when it comes to designing and manufacturing processors for your smartphones and tablets. Their flagship processor line, dubbed Snapdragon S4, is currently powering 31 big-name manufacturer smartphones, most notably the Google Nexus 4, Sony Xperia Z and the Samsung Galaxy S3. That is not to mention the tens if not hundreds of smaller manufacturers such as Starmobile and Cherry Mobile that are boasting processors from the company.

Snapdragon

With this vast of a clientele, immense pressure is on Qualcomm to deliver products that allow mobile devices to stay cool even when required to process huge amounts of information and without the use of a fan. Because, obviously, who would want a fan on their brand new droid, right?

Well, to prove that they have the technology and capability to keep up their lead as the world’s baddest processor supplier for mobile devices, Qualcomm has recently released a thermal comparison and, read this, butter benchmark video on YouTube for their Snapdragon S4 processors. The said video features the Snapdragon S4 against two of its competitors in a two-round showdown of which processor is the coolest. It is interesting and entertaining at the same time, with Qualcomm engineers giving you a brief preview of the people behind your beloved gadgets.

Source: Qualcomm

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Yahoo! Weather for iPhone: the forecast is beautiful!

Are you on the lookout for an alternative weather app for your iPhone? Yes, a number of capable and beautiful third party apps exist for this kind of task. However, Yahoo! just recently entered the game with their all-new weather app. With the aid of various photographers and the Flickr community, Yahoo! Weather screams simplicity and stunning beauty at the same time.

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The app works by pulling the exact coordinates of your mobile phone, the time of the day and the general weather condition in the area. Yahoo! Weather then selects and displays an appropriate image taken in your town to match the forecast. Scrolling upwards allows you to see the hourly weather forecast, five-day forecast, “feels like” weather, wind and pressure, chance of precipitation, etc. A map mode is also available to provide a wider area of coverage. Turning your iPhone horizontally lets the app into full display mode.

From the app’s App Store page:

The forecast is beautiful.

See the weather like never before – only Yahoo! Weather combines stunning photos with the most accurate forecasts.

Favorite Features:
– Beautiful photos that match your location, time of day, and current weather condition
– Detailed weather information and forecasts
– Interactive radar, satellite, heat, and wind maps, plus sunrise/sunset times

Tips:
– Swipe vertically for detailed weather information
– Swipe horizontally for favorite locations
– Submit photos to the app at Project Weather on Flickr

Download your copy now!

Review: HTC One

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NEW YORK (AP) — Ready for the battle of the phones? This year’s crop of high-end smartphones is starting to emerge, like bear cubs crawling out of their burrows, sniffing the spring air. First out is the HTC One, a handsome, powerful animal that should do well this year.

The HTC One belongs to the big camp of smartphones running Google Inc.’s Android software. Collectively, they’re the big alternative to the iPhone, though no one model outsells the iPhone. What makes the HTC One really stand out is that it’s the only phone that can match Apple Inc.’s standards of feel and finish.

Much like the iPhone, the HTC One has a beautifully machined aluminum back and aluminum detailing on the front. Also like the iPhone, the metal edges are beveled, or “chamfered” as the industrial designers call it. Plastic and metal are joined together so well that you can’t tell by feel where one ends and the other starts.

While the HTC One clearly borrows some elements of the iPhone 5’s style, it’s hard to mistake the HTC One for the iPhone. For starters, it is half an inch taller and broader, with a huge screen. It’s also noticeably thicker at its maximum, but that’s cunningly concealed by a bulging back and narrow edges. Bigger screens are one way Android phones take on the iPhone, and that inevitably leads to bigger phones, but the HTC One carries its bulk very well.

The screen is quite a sight, boasting a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels — as many as you’d find on a 50-inch (1,270-millimeter) TV set. You’d have to line up three iPhone 5s, side by side, to show as much detail as you can on one HTC One screen. That doesn’t mean the screen is three times as useful. These pixels are just so small that the eye can’t take advantage of the full resolution.

Above and below the screens are two speaker grilles. That means that when you turn the phone sideways to watch a movie, you’ll get real stereo sound, without headphones. The speakers are great, too, pumping out surprisingly deep sound.

The price you pay for a body that feels as tight and sharp as a knife fresh from the forge is that nothing goes into or out of it. You can’t change the battery, and you can’t expand the memory with cards. Again, this is very much in the iPhone’s vein, but it’s a contrast to Samsung’s Galaxy phones, which have chintzy plastic backs that allow you to change batteries and plug in memory cards.

The camera does something interesting, but the results are disappointing. It’s well known that boosting the megapixel count of camera sensors doesn’t really do much for the image quality, but phone and camera makers can’t seem to stop using megapixel count as a marketing tool, so the megapixels keep climbing. HTC has finally taken a stand against this trend, with a camera sensor that has only 4 megapixels of resolution. It’s a timid stand, though, as HTC doesn’t actually tell you it’s a 4-megapixel sensor.

Rather, HTC calls it an “Ultrapixel” camera. The story is that the sensor pixels are twice as big as they are in most phone cameras, which means they can gather more light. More light per pixel means better pictures in indoor lighting, at least in theory. In practice, I found the images to be better than those of other Android phones in low lighting, but not as good as those from the iPhone 5, which are of higher resolution. Low-light pictures taken on the HTC One do show relatively little “noise” — which usually looks like colored speckles — but the images aren’t particularly crisp.

Another hardware feature that reaches but doesn’t deliver is the infrared diode on the top edge. Through it, the phone can control your TV or cable box. But setting up the software is daunting. I was confronted with going through a list of 1,800-plus channels and manually selecting which ones I get from my cable provider. Even if I were to set this up, I still couldn’t control the DVR functions of the cable box from the phone. So as a replacement for the remote, the HTC One falls short.

The phone’s other big shortcoming isn’t really new, or unique to this model. Rather, the problem is that HTC is doing what it’s always done, and what competitors like Samsung do, too. It can’t leave Android alone, but tinkers with it to “improve” it and put its own stamp on it.

The result is a baffling interface, with four different “home” screens from which to launch apps. It might reward those who take the time to customize it and really get to know it, but most people aren’t like that. They’re better served by simple, consistent interface. Google recognizes this and keeps Android relatively simple on its own Nexus line of phones. HTC and Samsung seem determined to make things complicated.

AT&T, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile USA are set to start selling the phone this month. Prices will be about $200 with a two-year contract. There’s no word yet from Verizon.

If you’re looking for an Android phone, do yourself a favor and check out the HTC One in a store. Samsung Electronics Co. will outspend HTC Corp. many times over in marketing when Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 comes out shortly. But if you take the time to feel the One in your hand, it will probably be your One.

Update: The HTC One was officially released yesterday by the folks from HTC Philippines. Price starts at P32,990 and is expected to be available countrywide starting tomorrow.

For a more visual review, see this video from MobileTechReview:

Samsung Galaxy S4: Quick Review

Samsung Galaxy S4

Finally, for Android fans out there, the wait is finally over as Samsung, the consumer electronics giant, unveils and ships the latest installment in the Galaxy lineup of smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy S4. How does this new beast fare in terms of raw power and user experience? Read on to find out.

Hardware

The new Samsung Galaxy S4 improves on almost all aspects of the previous generation, with more powerful hardware and a handful of new software features in tow. Also armed with a battery of new sensors, the S4 aims to be the ultimate life companion for its consumers. For a quick rundown of the S4’s specifications, see the summary below:

Connectivity GSM 850/900/1800/1900HSDPA 850/900/1900/2100LTE (carrier dependent)

WLAN (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)

Bluetooth (V4.0 with A2DP, EDR, LE)

NFC

Infrared

USB (microUSB 2.0, USB on-the-go, USB Host)

Dimensions 136.6mm x 69.8mm x 7.9mm130g
Display Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors5inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441ppi)Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Memory 16/32/64GB internal storage2GB RAMmicroSD expansion slot (up to 64GB)
Processor Quad-core 1.6GHz Cortex A15 orQuad-core 1.2GHz Cortex A7
GPU PowerVR SGX 544MP3
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, gesture
Camera Primary: 13MP, 4128 x 3096pixels, autofocus, LED flashSecondary: 2MP, 1080p@30fps, dual video call
Battery Li-Ion 2600mAh

The Samsung Galaxy S4 ships in an eco-friendly retail packaging made entirely of recycled paper and printed with soy ink. It also comes with a standard set of accessories: A/C adapter, microUSB cable and complementary earphones. However, it should be noted that the earphones bundled with the S4 has been redesigned and features dual speakers for an improved listening experience. Although they are not expected to fully replace high-end aftermarket earphones, they are a tad better than what the Galaxy S3 shipped with before.

In terms of design and build quality, not much have changed since the previous generation. The S4 shares the same Hyperglazed finish as the S3, and as such is expected to receive the same criticism as its predecessor with its overall handling and feel. However, with a new texture employed, the Galaxy S4 looks more stylish and premium than its predecessor. It also features slimmer bezels, providing more space for the Super AMOLED screen.

As far as the screen of the S4 goes, it now comes equip with a new 5inch Super AMOLED screen with a 1080p resolution. Although still sporting a PenTile matrix configuration, the 441ppi pixel density as well its redesigned pixel matrix offers image quality like no other. It has impressive contrast and amazing viewing angles, with color saturation unbeatable by any other LCD screen today.

Compared to the Galaxy S3, the Galaxy S4 boasts of a slightly superior battery performance, owing this to its slightly larger battery.

Lastly, in terms of camera performance, the Galaxy S4 brings about a resolution bump to the Galaxy family. The 13MP camera is capable of capturing up to 4128 x 3096 pixels of pictures, while the 2MP camera on the front can snap a photo or record a video simultaneously.

The camera can be used in a variety of shooting modes such as Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, Night and Sports shots. A number of specialty modes are also available, similar to other Galaxy phones before. Best Photo and Best Face snaps multiple photos and lets you choose the best one, while Beauty Shot does automatic beauty touch up.

360 Photo, similar to Photo Sphere, creates a spherical panorama similar to those in Street View. Eraser, on the other hand, allows “photo bombing” objects or features to be removed on your final photograph, making it a great feature when travelling. Drama mode, meanwhile, captures a moving object and clones it several times, while Cine Photo creates cinemagrams which is simply an animated GIF image.

Another great travel feature of the camera is Sound & Shot, which captures a photo while recording the ambient sound at the same time. Lastly, Double Shot snaps a photo with both the front and primary camera, which is great if you want the person holding the camera to be included too.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is currently available in two versions: one with the Exynos 5 Octa CPU and the other with the LTE-enabled Snapdragon 600. Although early benchmarks show that there would be a slight edge with the Exynos chipset, this is generally seen to be negligible in normal, day-to-day usage of the device.

User Experience

The Samsung Galaxy S4 ships with the latest release of Android with 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box. TouchWiz still dominates the User Interface of the device, but now it comes with a laundry list of new features that is aimed to further improve the overall usability of the device.

The lockscreen features the new lockscreen widgets that comes default with Android 4.2, with multiple panes capable of displaying one widget at a time. Similar to the Galaxy Note II, the Galaxy S4 also features a Quick Glance option that uses the proximity sensor to automatically show you device information such as the time, missed calls, message counters and battery charge whenever you reach for your phone.

At the top, the notification area features a total of 20 configurable toggles to quickly enable or disable features. The homescreen looks almost the same as before, and the app drawer hasn’t also changed much, with the app shortcuts presented as a customizable grid.

The Galaxy S4 comes with a Multi-Window feature, letting you run two apps side by side on the screen. Users can adjust the dividing line between two apps depending on which one needs more space. However, only compatible apps can use this feature, which means right now, mostly the ones that comes preinstalled in the phone would benefit from this.

The Settings menu has been overhauled and this time, instead of using a scrollable grid of icons and sections, the TouchWiz interface on the new S4 now uses a tabbed approach. Up top you get four tabs: Connection, My Device, Accounts and More. Related features are correspondingly dumped on their respective tabs, making navigating the menu faster and more user-friendly.

Now, let us talk about the Galaxy S4’s new advanced features. With powerful hardware paired with dedicated sensors, the S4 is able to provide more nifty tricks than ever before. Air View, which debuted on the Galaxy Note II, comes preloaded in the S4. It can detect your finger hovering over the screen, and could consequently enable the following: information preview (SMS, calendar entry, etc), video preview by pointing to a spot in the timeline, changing tracks in the music player by hovering over the next/previous button, previewing folders, speed dial contacts, etc. The feature is able to detect fingers 1cm away from the screen.

Another advanced set of feature available on the S4 is called Air Gestures. Vertically waving your fingers allow scrolling web pages in the browser, while waving horizontally allows you to move between music tracks or photos, accept a call, and move app shortcuts. Air Gestures can detect your hand up to 7cm, although only the native apps support them.

Smart Stay and Smart Rotate features are also available. Stay prevents the screen from locking as long as the front-facing camera can see your face and Rotate uses the orientation of your face rather than accelerometer info to decide how to rotate the screen.

Smart Scroll, a new feature on the S4, allows you to scroll up and down by tilting the phone or by tilting your head. It’s a bit hard to get it right the first time, but after that you can tilt your head down to scroll down and up to scroll back up. Smart Pause, on the other hand, uses the front-facing camera and tracks your face. It will automatically pause the video when you look away. Look back and the screen and the playback continues.

Wrap Up

Hands down, the Samsung Galaxy S4 lives up to its legacy as the worthy successor to the Galaxy S line. The big 5inch screen fits well into its compact body, with the 1080p Super AMOLED panel allowing significant image quality. The 13MP camera is one of the best in the industry today, and performance-wise, few could actually keep up with the S4. Add up the handful of new and advanced features included in the S4 and you have a very capable and complete life companion. Kudos to the guys at Samsung for this one, because indeed, the company is proving yet again that they are the king of the Android handset world.

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