Monday, 25 February 2013

CONFIRMED: The Samsung Galaxy S4 is coming

It's finally been confirmed! As expected, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be announced on the 14th March at an event in New York. Initially confirmed by an official at MWC, and now these invites have been sent out:

Samsung gave followed the same 'Unpacked' line that was used for the Galaxy SIII. This is sure to mean that there will once again be an app to go alongside the launch. Hopefully its better than last years app, as in, actually have a purpose...

The S4 is likely to be the biggest tech conversation over the next few weeks, and is almost nailed on to be the biggest selling release of 2013 given the continually rising reputation of the Galaxy series. The question is, will Samsung look to raise the technological bar, or consolidate their position with a top-quality, yet similar phone. Rumours suggest we are looking at at 5″ Full HD screen supported by a Exynos 5440 processor and 2GB of RAM. Very little else is known at this point...

Thursday, 21 February 2013

HTC One: Raising the bar?

So, many of the rumours were true. HTC announced the new HTC One, and blimey, isn't it a gorgeous phone.

The outer shell is in keeping with HTCs recent 'unibody' addiction, but it is the first HTC made solely from anodised aluminium with the screen being made of Gorilla Glass 2. Too early to speculate on how tough it is but I'm sure some ridiculous tests will be blogged about soon!

Spec-wise, it was as expected. A 1.7GHz, quad-core processor with 2GB RAM to support. The screen is a stunning, bright full HD 4.7" beauty which received a lot of acclaim from the crowd in London. This screen offers an incredible pixel density of 468 ppi. Compared with the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III which have pixel density of 326ppi and 306ppi respectively, this is quite incredible.

Now, what we didn't know!

Ultrapixel Camera
HTC have moved the bar on from megapixels to HTC's own 'ultrapixels'. HTC have put a lot of effort into creating a better camera and focusing less on the number of megapixels they can boast. Whilst a sensible decision, it will be interesting to see how this is relayed to consumers and how it impacts marketing of the HTC One. A concerted effort has been put into allowing more light into those photos that require it. HTC say that the camera allows for 300 times more light than its competitors - and this certainly seemed the case in practice. HTC have also followed the Nokia Lumia 920 by including image stabilisation to the rear camera, they've bettered this though by including image stabilisation on the 2mp front-facing camera as well.

HTC Sense 5.0 - what's new?

HTC have revolutionised the often criticised HTC Sense with the 5.0 included on the HTC One. The key part of this is BlinkFeed which I've described below, but if you're a fan of the traditional HTC layout that can be used as well.

Sitting on your homescreens is 'BlinkFeed', which looks similar to Windows OS live tiles, except it delivers a constant stream of customised information to you. This information is collected from all your social networks, but also from news channels and other sources of interest.

Inbuilt IR receiver
Not only that, but the technology, powered by Peel also doubles as a TV Guide. If not spectacular, this is something we've not seen in a phone before and is a clever addition from HTC.

'Boomsound' - yes, cheesy name but give it a chance. 
HTC have gone all-out to impress with the HTC One's speaker system. 'Boomsound' as it has unfortunately been named consists of dual frontal stereo speakers which also have built-in amplifiers and Beats Audio. It's difficult to understand how good these are without it in your hands but this clip should help:

[Link via PocketableTech]

HTC have taken a step further than competitors by announcing HTC Zoe - a 'live gallery'. This gallery takes photos and videos and remixes them into a montaged story that can be edited and shared on social networks. Images can also be thrown together into 3-second .gif like clips. Here's a good demo from an HTC rep (there's not need to watch all of it, just a taste):

How will the HTC One get on? Time will tell. Critically, it is a really exciting piece of kit. Some nice extras without bringing too much 'new' to the market but a top, top-quality phone that HTC have every right to shout about. Will it be enough to challenge the powerhouse that is Samsung, and their upcoming S IV, probably not. Not because the phone is likely to be poorer, simply that Samsung is a marketing powerhouse and have the success of the SII and SIII to fall back on. I don't think this should be regarded as a massive concern to HTC at the moment though. They are competing with Motorola, Sony and LG - the HTC One certainly competes well amongst within that crowd.

HTC have been bold with the product, they need to be bold with the marketing.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A look at life through Google Glass

Google have today revealed much more about their exciting project: Google Glass. They've released a compilation video of what life would be like when using and interacting with the device, and it's pretty mind-blowing. Check out the video below:

I'm excited, are you?

Also, this is how they would look on you:

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

A look at what HTC are about to launch

Today HTC are seemingly ready to announce the follow up last years One series with the HTC M7, aka 'HTC One'. What we don't know is whether there will be cheaper alternatives or any other announcements. There have been rumours about a couple of other models: The HTC G2 and M4. These are far less solid rumours though.

Leaked images suggest that the design of the phone will follow the BlackBerry 10, or Sony Xperia, with the two blocks on the top and bottom. The most authoritative leaks show an incredibly attractive phone so fingers crossed that is the case.

The rumoured spec for the HTC One is a 4.7 Full HD screen, with a 1.7GHz quad-core processor to support. Further rumoured specifications suggest it could include 2GB of RAM, Jelly Bean, Sense 5.0, a huge 12Mp camera and 32GB of storage. Whether they'll return to the removable battery or optional SD card is unknown. The HTC One's success or failure could rest on the price - and whether or not it is competitive, somehow, I doubt it.

HTC can still generate a huge amount of excitement over its products and that's testament to the quality of the products they produce. They have a couple of launch events in London so it will be interesting to see what they produce. The looming problem for HTC is the Samsung Galaxy S IV's launch date - under a month away, on March 14th. HTC have a job on their hands to convince consumers in a short space of time that the HTC One is a better device than the 'guaranteed to sell' Galaxy S IV. 

Regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of HTC, I like their products and their customer service. I own (and love) the HTC One X, and currently would change it for anything except the One X+. It has been a bad few years for HTC, but, for a relatively small company, their market share is more realistic for future sustainability. I wasn't a fan of their period of attempted market flooding but I understand the reasons behind it. This is a big year for HTC, and the smaller shares of the phone market. To avoid Samsung and Apple completely strangling the competition, they need to respond. Hopefully the HTC One is the beginning.

I'll be posting a review of the HTC One when it's all confirmed over the next couple of days. I'm also hoping to pop along to the launch event in Oxford St.

What do you think of the rumoured HTC One? Can HTC convince you to shun Samsung and iPhone?

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The SmartWatch Race: Can Samsung and the Apple iWatch make it a mass-consumer device?

First there was the kickstarter-inspired Pebble, then Sony jumped ahead of the still rumoured Apple iWatch with an Android-powered Smartwatch and now it looks like Samsung don't want to miss out on all the fun.

As the 'Smartwatch' is still a fairly unknown entity here's a brief overview of what is out on the market:

The Pebble

This Kickstarter project currently owns the market - but hasn't managed to create the SmartWatch into a mass-consumer product. It all started with the "inPulse" - a device that tried to use BlackBerry OS, and never really took off. The follow-up is a far more professional device called the Pebble. Importantly, the Pebble doesn't try and take over from your phone, it simply couldn't do that - instead, it is an extension of your phone, so you don't have to get it out whenever it's needed. Lazy - probably, but that's the world we live in!

The Pebble is sleek to your wrist and most won't be able to tell that it is a Pebble unless you tell them. The screen is a disappointingly low-res, black and white LCD, and this is probably it's biggest weakness. It has good battery life (reported one week) and once set up works well with either iOS or Android. It will notify you when you get tweets, calls, texts, emails etc and this is a really nice thing to have. You can also control your music via the watch, all via a Bluetooth connection.

Sony SmartWatch

The other SmartWatch option is offered up by Sony. In essence it is similar to the Pebble but with a couple of nice extras. Firstly, a colour screen. Simple, but gives the watch more of a 'Smart' feel. The screen quality is still poor however, and the Sony struggles a bit more because of it's touchscreen. Again, more Smart, but less clean. It still sends the same notifications over, calendar, tweets, Facebook, emails.

It still allows you to control calls and music but the Sony SmartWatch makes use of Android apps, that the Pebble simply doesn't. For example, there is a Google Maps app, which is a nice addition. There's a weather app, which I think is a little pointless - but there is the capability to run it which is the important factor. 

In my opinion the watch isn't as good looking as the Pebble but it's hardly disgusting - and wouldn't be a big ask to wear it around.

Both watches are available for around the $150 mark, which is a lot, when in essence it a simply a convenience device. However, competition from Samsung and Apple would drive this down and make it a more realistic purchase. It doesn't sound like Google will follow the trend - especially with Google Glass not being too far away from launch. They will be happy with the Android OS being used widely on SmartWatches. I would like to see a SmartWatch running Windows OS because it is an OS that transcends devices well. Interestingly, the leaked images of the Samsung SmartWatch look like the OS is following a Windows OS theme... We'll have to see.

Will I be buying a SmartWatch? Not quite yet, but I intend to do so when Samsung and Apple enter the fray - that is when the race really begins. I love how the important details are selected from your phone and sent to your watch. Without looking at your phone you are able to see who is calling, texting or emailing you. However, SmartWatches are simply an extension of your phone and take the little details from the notifications and put them onto your wrist, and $150 for convenience simply isn't worth it at the moment.

Thanks for reading, as always all thoughts are welcome. Will you look to buy a SmartWatch? Can they become more than just an extension of your phone? If you like what you read give me a follow in the top right, or have a look through my previous blogs if you need more convincing.