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Hardik Patel

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Friday, July 18, 2014

How to choose the right smartphone?

Shopping for a new handset? Great! You can finally buy that device you've always wanted. But how do you navigate through jargon like dual- and quad-core , GHz, mAh, and megapixels? What makes one operating system different from the other? After reading this primer, you will be sufficiently armed with answers to help you pick a phone that's right for you..

Operating system
Make no mistake, it's the OS that puts the 'smart' in your smartphone, so before buying, it's always a good idea to know about the different ecosystems that exist...

Android OS promises native integration with Google services that include Search, Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, YouTube, etc. Besides, you get access to over a million apps in its Play store. The best part? Titles that might be paid downloads on iOS and Windows Phone are sometimes available for free here. Another advantage of an Android handset is that these are plug-and-play . You can simply connect it to your PC via a USB cable to begin transferring files to and from the device with zero hassles. Also, you can choose from phones—costing as less as 4,000 right to those that are priced at over 50k—from vendors such as HTC, LG, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony, and even from local players like Karbonn, Lava, Micromax, Spice and Xolo. Just remember, Android versions are alphabetically named, and the latest in the market are Jelly Bean and Kit-Kat . Make sure you're putting your money on either of these.

Windows Phone is now playing catch-up with Android and iOS - and at last count, its app store just had over two lakh titles. Still, most popular apps have already made their way to this platform. Also, WP handsets in India primarily come from Nokia - and while the OS needs improvements, you get really good hardware for the price you pay. Plus, these devices come with subscriptions to free content like music and movies (depending on the model you buy), and also Here Maps and Drive+, which are arguably the best map and navigation services in the country.

iOS, only found in iPhones, is extremely intuitive to use - and since Apple vets every title that makes it to its App store, you're promised high-quality digital content in the form of educational material, music, videos and apps. The OS itself promises smooth operations, and you'll find very rare instances of iPhones freezing during use. On the downside, you'll have to use iTunes to connect the handset to your PC, and this can prove to be quite annoying. And yes, only buy from local authorised dealers; iPhones picked up from abroad are not covered under local warranty.

Processors 
When shopping, you are bound to hear about dual-core , quad-core , and even octacore processors. But what should you put your money on?
While a greater number of cores are supposedly better, it does not give you a true picture of how a smartphone may perform. Why? Well, not all cores are designed identically. UK-based ARM, which designs these chips, licenses different architectures - with names such as Cortex A5, A7, A8, A9, A12, A15 - to manufacturers. Here, higher numbers mean better chips. In effect, a phone that uses a quad-core A15 will definitely be more advanced than a handset with a quad-core A5. In fact, there might be instances where dual-core processors might fare better than quad-core chips.

Also, a lot of how a processor performs depends on how the OS utilises its abilities. So an iPhone on a dual-core processor could be a bett er performer than many quad-core Android phones.

That said, these are some of the names you can expect to hear when shopping... Qualcomm's quad-core Snapdragon 600 and 800 chips, Samsung's octacore Exynos, and Apple's dual-core A7 (found on the iPhone 5s, and not to be confused with ARM's Cortex series) are the top dogs in this market.

Devices like the Nokia Lumias use mid-range dual-core Qualcomm S4 chipsets that are also seen in handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Grand Quattro and the Sony Experia M. Older iPhones use a dualcore A6 processor (again, not to be confused with ARM Cortex).
In the mid- to low-price brackets, you'll find dual-core Intel Atom chips, the quadcore MediaTek MT6589, and Qualcomm's dual-core Snapdragon 200 and 400.

Display 
The best way to judge a smartphone's screen is to look at it from different angles for changes in colour, and also in varying lighting conditions for visibility. Invest in a Full HD (1080p) display if you're buying a phablet. On the other hand, HD (720p) screens work well for devices up to five inches in size. On smaller devices, load a web page to see if the text is crisp, and can be read without any strain to your eyes.

In any case, avoid smartphones with lesser than WVGA (800x480px) resolution. AMOLED screens are best when it comes to displaying punchy colours. LCD screens with IPS technology comes a close second, while TFT LCDs should be avoided if you can.

RAM 
It's plain and simple: more RAM is always better.

Storage 
We carry our world - e-mails , social networks, photographs, videos, music - with us on our smartphones, so when buying, always budget for a phone that comes with ample storage. Generally, if a phone lists its capacity as 8GB, only about 6.5GB will be available to the user. So if you need 4GB, buy a phone with 8 to 16GB.

More megapixels and HD video recording capabilities result in images and videos that occupy more space. Also, if you plan on watching Full HD movies on your phone, ensure you have at least 32GB storage.
If possible, opt for a model that supports microSD cards of up to 64GB so you can always add more memory when you need it.

Size 
In our experience, a screen of four to five inches works well for most purposes.

A phone that has a screen bigger than five inches could be slightly uncomfortable to use with one hand. Also keep in mind that big-screen phones are heavy, and can be uncomfortable to carry in your pocket.

On the flip side, large screens allow for a better experience while watching movies, playing games and browsing the web.

Camera 
A 5MP camera is capable of 8x6-inch prints even at 300dpi (dots per inch), which is the standard resolution used in professional printing.

So, if you're looking for a good camera phone, dump the idea that more megapixels will give you better pictures. Instead, look for phones that boast of good camera optics (go for devices that come with Carl Zeiss lens). Remember, a high-resolution camera with a low-quality lens will only give you low-quality pictures in high resolution.
In any case, if you need a snapper only for photos you'd like to share on social networks or Instagram, a 10MP camera phone is going to be overkill.

Opt for cameras with BSI (backside illumination) sensors for better low-light photography; make sure it comes with an LED flash.
In our experience, if you want a good shooter, you have to shell out extra bucks. Good photos are a result of adequate megapixels, good lens and sensor technology, as well as high-end processor chipsets. The Nokia Lumia 1520, 1020 and 925, the Apple iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4 and S4 Zoom, LG G2, and HTC One are known for their good snappers.
For your front-facing camera, one megapixel is more than adequate.

Battery 
You may have the best hardware at your disposal, but if you keep running out of battery, your handset is quite useless...
Bigger screens, extra cores, and more sensors mean greater power consumption. If you're considering a smartphone over 4.5-inches in size, look at devices that come with at least a 2000mAh (milliamp-hour) battery. The higher the mAh, the longer the battery will last.
If possible, select devices that come with lithiumpolymer batteries over lithium-ion . The former are lighter, and also retain their charge for longer.

And yes, preferably, buy a device that comes with a user-replaceable battery (although a handset like the Lenovo P780, which comes with a 4000mAh non-removable li-polymer battery, could prove to be an exception to the rule).

iPhone 6 to Enter Mass Production in July: Report


Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, the world's largest contract manufacturer of electronic goods, will begin mass production of Apple Inc's next-generation iPhone (expected to be called the iPhone 6) this month, Taipei media reported Friday.

Mass production of a 4.7-inch successor to the wildly popular iPhone 5 series of smartphones will begin during the third week of July, Taiwan's Economic Daily News said, without citing sources. Production of a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 version will begin during the second week of August, it said.

A separate report issued Thursday by a China state-run news service said Hon Hai is planning to hire 100,000 workers at its mainland facilities to meet future demand for Apple's latest smartphone, citing comments made by the chief of the Henan Provincial Commerce Department.

Fellow Taiwanese contract manufacturer Pegatron Corp this month also began recruitment of over 10,000 workers for its mainland facilities to manufacture the phone, according to the Economic Daily News report.

Hon Hai had no comment on the report. Representatives for Pegatron and the Henan Provincial Commerce Department could not immediately be reached for comment.

Google Q2 revenue up 22%, overshadows slow growth


SAN FRANCISCO: Google's earnings rose modestly in the second quarter as the internet company's expensive ambitions devoured most of a surprisingly strong gain in revenue.
The report released on Thursday also showed that Google's advertising prices are still dropping to extend a nearly three-year slump.
Meanwhile, the company's expenses are steadily rising as it hires more workers, promotes products and ventures into new technological frontiers such as internet-connected eyewear, driverless cars and robots.
Those trends have frustrated many investors, causing Google's stock to lag the broader market this year even though most analysts still view the company as a prudent long-term investment. The company's shares had gained 4% through Thursday's close, compared to a 6% increase in the Standard & Poor's 500 index.
Investors saw more positives than negatives in the second-quarter numbers as Google's stock added $5.74 to $579.47 in extended trading.
Besides reviewing its second quarter, Google also announced chief business officer Nikesh Arora is leaving the company after a decade to become a top executive at SoftBank. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Omid Kordestani, Google's original advertising chief.
Arora is being allowed to keep an $8 million bonus that he was supposed to repay to Google if he left the company before April 25, 2015. In a Thursday regulatory filing, Google said it was waiving the requirement imposed on Arora when he received the bonus in 2012.
Google earned $3.4 billion, or $4.99 per share, during the April-June quarter. That compared to income of $3.2 billion, or $4.77 per share, in the same period last year.
If not for the costs of employee stock compensation, Google said it would have earned $6.08 per share. That figure missed the average analyst target of $6.23 per share, according to FactSet. It marks the third time in the last four quarters that Google's adjusted earnings have fallen below analyst estimates.
Revenue totaled nearly $16 billion, a 22% increase from a year ago.
After subtracting the commissions paid to Google's advertising partners, revenue stood at $12.8 billion — nearly $500 million above analysts' projections.
Excluding its cost of revenue, Google's core expenses in the second quarter jumped 26% from last year.
The increase included the addition of another 2,200 employees during the quarter. Google hired about 4,300 employees through the first half of the year to increase its payroll to about 52,000 people. The expansion contrasts with a contraction at one of its main rivals, Microsoft, which announced plans to lay off 18,000 workers on Thursday.
Google's revenue growth is being held back by a persisting decline in the average prices for the ads that appear alongside search results and other web content, a measure known as "cost per click." The average price fell by 6% from the same time last year, marking Google's 11th consecutive quarter of erosion.
Ad prices have been sagging because marketers haven't been willing to pay as much to pitch consumers who are squinting at the smaller screens on the smartphones that are drawing eyeballs away from desktop and laptop computers. Google executives are confident advertisers eventually will be willing to pay more to connect with prospective customers on smartphones and tablets as mobile computing becomes even more pervasive.
The desktop-to-mobile transition would be hurting Google even more if people weren't clicking on ads more frequently. The volume of activity is important because Google bills advertisers when people click on a promotional link. Google's paid clicks during the second quarter climbed 25% from last year.
Although Google still makes most of its money from internet searches, the company has been generating more revenue from other channels such as YouTube and its Play store that sells content and applications for the more than 1 billion devices running on its Android software.
Google executives consistently say YouTube is attracting more advertisers without providing specifics. The research firm eMarketer is expects YouTube's ad revenue to total $5.6 billion this year, a 51% increase from last year.
The Mountain View, California company also doesn't disclose its Play sales, but says the mobile store generates most of its revenue outside of digital ads. Google's non-ad revenue totaled $1.6 billion in the second quarter, a 53% increase from last year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Budget Battle: Moto G Vs Asus ZenFone 5



Considering the high-end segment is mostly dominated by Samsung and Apple, the Finnish brand Nokia (now owned by Microsoft) turned its attention to the budget smartphone market. Similar strategy worked wonders for Motorola, and now the latest company to follow the suite is Asus. By pricing its feature-packed ZenFone 5 aggressively, the Taiwanese company is planning to take on the Moto G. Let's find out how they stack up against each other.
Construction And Aesthetic
As far as the sturdiness is concerned, both the Moto G and ZenFone 5 offer excellent quality for the price. These phones can easily withstand a few (accidental) drops. The materials used in construction are also top-notch. In terms of looks, the stylish ZenFone 5 fares better than Motorola's clunky phone. As mentioned in its review, Asus has "borrowed" the design elements from HTC's premium handset, One, but we are not complaining since it looks nice.

Display
The ZenFone 5 as its name suggests sports a 5-inch screen, while the Moto G settles for a 4.5-incher. Both these panels are IPS type so the colour reproduction and viewing angles are good. These screens are covered by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3. Since the Moto G packs in HD resolution in a relatively smaller size, you get higher pixel density. It's 325 ppi Vs. ZenFone 5's 294 ppi to be precise. However, it doesn't make much of a difference. So I think it's a tie in the screen department.
Software
Moto G supports the latest Android 4.4 Kitkat, which is a great thing at this price tag. The stock Android interface looks much better than what Samsung, Sony, LG, Lenovo, and Gionee offer. On the other hand, Asus offers highly-modified ZenUI. Thankfully, it looks and performs very well. Plus, it's more consistent and cohesive compared to Google's design language. However, as far as the version number is concerned, Asus lags behind Moto with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Coming to the subject of future updates, Moto G has a clear advantage. It's eligible for Android L, while the ZenFone 5 hasn't even got Kitkat yet.

Firepower
The Moto G is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 chipset. Based on ARM's tried-and-tested Cortex A7 architecture, the SoC (System on Chip) is clocked at 1.2 GHz. Then, there's 1 GB RAM and Adreno 305 GPU to handle gaming. On the other hand, the ZenFone 5 is based on Intel's Atom platform. This particular handset runs a Dual-Core Atom Z2560 chipset clocked at 1.6 GHz. It features 1 GB \ 2 GB (16 GB version) RAM and PowerVR SGX544MP2 GPU. That's more than enough to handle all the popular Android games including Real Racing 3. In terms of performance, Asus' device is as good as the Moto G.
Camera
The ZenFone 5 sports an 8 megapixel camera. It comes with PixelMaster enhancement, which let's you snap decent photographs in low-light conditions. In well-lit environments, the ZenFone 5 produces quality images. Compared to it, Moto G's 5 megapixel camera module disappoints with its performance. Forget night-mode, even in normal conditions, Motorola's handset produces grainy pictures. So if you're into photography, ZenFone 5 is a much better option than the Moto G.
Miscellaneous Features
Contrary to Motorola, the Taiwanese brand Asus duly covers all the essential accessories such as a wall charger, USB cable, and decent earphones. Another area where Asus takes the lead is the expandable storage. It supports up to 64 GB microSD card slot. On the other hand, you're stuck with limited space to store your music and movies on the Moto G.
Price
The Moto G (16 GB) costs Rs 14,000. There's no point in buying an 8 GB version, as the Moto G lacks a microSD card slot. In comparison, priced at Rs 10,000 (8 GB + microSD slot), the ZenFone makes the Moto G look overpriced. For us price conscious Indians, that makes a lot of difference. So the aggressive pricing clearly puts the Asus' product ahead of the Moto G.