Some thoughts on the new iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s

I wasn’t going to write anything about these because I didn’t think I had anything to say but then I thought what the hell.

iPhone 5c

So the iPhone 5c. Honestly, I’m not surprised Apple didn’t make a cheap iPhone. They did the same with the MacBook Air. Everyone expected them to make a cheap MacBook Pro. Instead, the priced it higher than what people expected but delivered a better product. They did the same with the iPhone. They still have the 4S if you want a cheaper iPhone. Anything cheaper than that would come with severe compromises and that’s not how Apple rolls.

The new colors look nice. I know Nokia likes to take credit for the colors but it’s not like Apple never made anything in color (just look at the iPods and the previous Macs). Let’s not even get into what Nokia phones looked like before the iPhone. And Nokia has been making color phones since ages now. If Apple was taking inspiration from Nokia, every iPhone since the first one would be in color. And they would be selling their hardware division to Microsoft. But let’s not make fun of the dead.  Continue…

Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4

So finally got a chance to spend some time with the Galaxy S4 yesterday. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much since for all intents and purposes it is a Galaxy S III S/+/Advance/Whatever. But I was still fairly impressed by the device.

Let’s start with the design. The design sucks; there are no two ways about it. The Galaxy S III design has grown on me over time but it still looks meh. The S4 actually looks bit worse because of the crazy pattern Samsung has going on on the surface. The brushed metal finish on the S III looked way better in comparison. It’s still cheap looking, glossy plastic and feels cheap in your hands. The build quality is good, though. As in, it feels cheap but it doesn’t creak or flex in your hands and Samsung’s plastic is known to be durable.

The improvement in design comes from the flat sides, which makes the S4 easier to hold than the S III. The S III is fairly usable for such a large phone but the curved edges constantly slip from your hands. The sharper, flat sides of the S4 provide better grip and makes it one of the most ergonomic large screened phones I’ve used. Samsung also has a convenient key arrangement on the sides, which reduced unnecessary stretching of fingers.

The display looks fantastic. The higher resolution completely compensates for the PenTile matrix’s shortcomings and even after staring long and hard I couldn’t spot individual pixels, leave alone any sub-pixel irregularities. The panel is also an improvement over the S III’s. It’s brighter, the colors are more natural and does not have that greenish tint that plagues the S III’s display. There are also some color options that let you tone down the saturation levels further.

Compared to the One’s display, the S4′s display looks every bit as good. The colors are more saturated but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s a matter of preference and a lot of people prefer it that way (the way people prefer big bass over natural, uncolored sound). You can fall in love with either display and you won’t be wrong. I prefer the S4′s display, simply because it is bigger, without the phone itself being any bigger than the One.

The software on the S4 is ridiculous. I generally prefer Samsung’s customizations but they have gone way overboard this time. Sure, you can turn off everything but there are just so many things to turn off this time it’s frustrating. Just look at this image of the expanded notification screen to get an idea of some of the software features on the phone.

The software also looks ugly. I’m fairly used to TouchWiz now but the color combination still looks jarring and puerile compared to the simplicity of stock Android or even the new Sense 5. You get used to it after a while but I wished Samsung concentrated more on the design than simply adding more features. There is one nice touch, though. The lockscreen animation is fantastic. It’s a bit hard to explain and is best experienced first hand so make sure you check it out when you use the phone.

From the short time I spent with it I think on its own the S4 is a really good smartphone and if you ordered it or are going to get one then you made a fine choice. Between this and the One, it’s a matter of personal preference and you can’t go wrong with either. I’d go with the S4 because of the bigger screen, higher resolution camera (Yeah, you need those extra pixels. Fuck those who say megapixels don’t matter. They don’t know jack shit. Try taking crops from a 4 megapixel sensor and you’ll know what I mean.) and some useful software features among the sea of useless ones. But if hardware feel matters to you or if you need a phone with speakers louder than most laptops then the One is also an excellent choice.

As for upgrading from the S III? I wouldn’t recommend it. Being an S III owner myself, I was fairly impressed by the improvements on the S4. However, I don’t think they are big enough to warrant upgrading to this phone, especially not at the current price. Perhaps later down the year I might change my mind if the price drops significantly but if you have an S III and would want to hold on for the next year’s model I would say you’re making a sensible decision.

If you’re importing the Nexus 4, here’s something you should consider

I believe I am a bit late in writing this but if you still haven’t pre-ordered your Nexus 4 there is something you need to consider.

Most gadgets launched these days have some technical issues in the first batch. These issues usually surface immediately in the first couple of weeks after the device goes on sale. The companies are usually quick to rectify them in the later batches and if you bought one from the earlier ones they will quickly replace them for you.

Except if you live miles away in a different continent.

Now I’m not saying the first batch of Nexus 4 will have hardware issues but if they do there is no way to know until the phone has been out in people’s hands for a while. If you were in the US, you could just send the device back for replacement. But what will you do if you imported the device? Wait for LG to sell the phone here in the hopes that they might be able to fix the problem?

Which is why I suggest you hold your horses for a month or so to see if there are any issues with the initial batch. If that is not the case and you don’t hear any major problems being reported then by all means go ahead with your purchase.

P.S. – I admit I did not think of this while I was trying to pre-order the device for myself earlier this week.

Regarding the Nexus 4 pricing in India

Google finally announced the Nexus 4 earlier this week, even though weather in the US tried its best to stop the launch (for what it’s worth, Google couldn’t hold the event and had to rely on press releases to make people aware of the launch). Other than the impressive hardware, which is basically the Optimus G in a different body running stock Android, the other impressive aspect about it is the price, which at $299 and $349 for the 8 and 16GB models unsubsidized is great.

The thing is, I don’t think we will get the same prices in India. Or anywhere close, for that matter.

There are couple of reasons why this phone is so cheap in the US. First of all, the Nexus devices were never about making money off the hardware but to showcase the platform and push it to as many buyers as possible. It’s a long term game, where Google, just like Amazon, plans on reaping the benefits from a platform used by millions of people, through ads and content sales from their store.

Secondly, the Nexus 4 does not have LTE, for which Google has its own reasons but then they also can’t, in good conscience, price it the same as other LTE smartphones, regardless of how capable the phone might be otherwise.

Things are different in India. Google doesn’t sell as much content in most of the markets outside the US, so they have few reasons to offer the Nexus devices there, leave alone at a low price.

Moreover, there is no LTE in India, so the battleground is even and actually tilted in favor of the Nexus 4. If the phone is launched in India, it will instantly become the best Android smartphone on the market. Period. Nothing else comes close, neither in terms of hardware nor the software. To think LG would sell this phone cheaper than some of its own phones even though it is significantly better would be naive. For reference, LG’s current flagship phone, the Optimus Vu, costs 30k in India and it’s nowhere as good as the Nexus 4.

This leaves two options in front of LG; either price the phone high enough to not jeopardize its own smartphones or not sell the phone in India at all. Either way it sucks for the buyers but I have a feeling LG would go with the second option. I know they said that they might launch the phone in November in India but then again, ASUS also said they’ll announce the Nexus 7 in October and we’re yet to see that happen.

One X vs. Galaxy S III

If you want a high end Android phone these two are still the best options available. Unfortunately, the two are quite evenly matched, which means it’s easy to get confused. What’s worse, they even cost the same now. 

The following are some of the pros of each phone that I discovered based on my experience with them. Hopefully, it will help you make a better decision. 

One X Pros: 

  • Better design
  • Better display quality
  • Better looking UI
  • Better camera quality in low-light
  • Greater built-in storage space
  • Wider game support thanks to Tegra processor

Galaxy S III

  • Faster processor
  • More ergonomic design
  • Plenty of useful features in software
  • Better camera performance in daylight
  • Better video recording
  • Expandable memory
  • Replaceable battery

Personally, I’m just glad I don’t have to choose between the two cause it’s not an easy choice. I wish there was a phone with the One X’s design and display with the S III’s processor and camera. But if someone were to point a gun to my head I’d probably go with the S III, mostly because of the camera and the ergonomic design. It’s also the only phone out of the two that has Jelly Bean right now, although the One X should get it soon. 

Quick hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S III

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time now and finally today I managed to spend some time with the Galaxy S III at a Croma. Here are some quick observations. 

  • Isn’t as ugly as I thought it would be. At the same time the design is absolutely uninspiring. Only thing I liked about it is the way the keys below the display are completely invisible until they light up. 
  • The size and weight seem about right for a phone with a display that big. I didn’t have a One X side by side to compare but the S III definitely felt a bit more compact. It’s also very light but feels well built nonetheless. 
  • The display looks stunning. I knew despite what the PenTile matrix layout might suggest, the quality is going to be excellent. The display on the One X is still a tiny bit better but overall they are both very similar and very good. 
  • Performance was really good. The phone never lagged or stuttered and everything was smooth. 
  • TouchWiz is still tacky. It is severely toned down compared to older Samsung phones but it still looks bad. I’m not a big fan of Sense either but I gotta say, it does look a lot better than the TouchWiz on the S III. Having said that, as with previous versions, Samsung’s UI is very functional with some clever functions thrown in, such as the shortcuts in the notification screen. 

That’s about all I could gather in ten minutes. I wish I could say I’ll write more when I get a review unit but with Samsung India not giving out any of those that’s gonna happen. 

Still, if I had to choose between this and the One X, I’d go with the latter. The Galaxy S III is a good smartphone, but the One X has a significantly better design and UI and the display is also a tiny bit better. In every other aspect, the two are mostly identical. The One X is also cheaper, which further helps its case. 

Few thoughts on the Galaxy S III

Wanted to post this right after the event but I was quite disappointed by what I saw. So I waited a while till I could generate enough fucks for me to be able to write this. So here it is. 
  • The design is terrible. It’s even worse than what I expected it to be. I don’t expect Samsung to design good looking phones. That’s like expecting Apple to make an ugly product. They are just not capable of doing that. But the fact that the phone managed to disappoint me despite my low expectations means something is seriously wrong with it. The worst part about it is the back that actually looks like Samsung’s low-end Android phone. I’m not sure what made Samsung’s designers think that it was a good idea to make their flagship model look like their low-end models. When the iPhone 4S came out, people were wondering how people would tell their phone apart from the previous iPhone 4. Galaxy S III users will have to worry about how people will tell their phone apart from one that costs 1/3rd of that. 
  • The display seems impressive. I assumed it would be the same as the one on the Galaxy Nexus but it is a bit bigger. Some people are complaining about it having a PenTile matrix. I think that’s just being pedantic. The Galaxy S III has a pixel density of 300 PPI. You seriously think you will be able to make out the difference at that resolution? 
  • Samsung has opted for placing the keys below the display unlike on the Galaxy Nexus, which in my opinion is a smart move. Let’s face it, Android developers are dicks and it would take them years to adopt Google’s new system in ICS. Till then, you will have annoying menu buttons popping up on the screen like on the Galaxy Nexus and the One X. Having the menu button at the bottom is also very convenient. Google’s moronic decision to move it to the top of the screen in ICS makes it a pain to reach, especially on phones with bigger display. Now everything is within your thumb’s reach at the bottom of the screen. 
  • The phone seems to be pretty thin but that’s not such a big deal considering it is wide enough to land planes on. Android manufacturers seem to be having a hard time grasping how big a normal human hand and the thumb on it is. They seem to think that as long as you can hold the phone in your hand you will be fine, which is why we see abominations such as the Galaxy Note. But what about using the phone? Is your thumb automatically going to stretch to celebrate the fact that you now have a ridiculously big phone with a 5-inch display? 
  • The new SoC is good. Very good. It bested Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 in CPU benchmarks and even managed to beat the A5 on the iPhone 4S. Of course, five months later Apple will blow everyone out of the water again but for now the Exynos 4 Quad is the king of the benchmark hill. 
  • The camera seems to be identical to the one on the Galaxy S II, which is not bad because that is one of my all time favorite cameras. It’s just faster now thanks to the new processor and optimizations. 
  • The S-Voice seems like a Siri rip-off on surface, which is mostly because it is. But it has a few advantages over Siri. First of all, it can understand more accents. Secondly, it can launch applications, something that Siri inexplicably cannot do. Finally, you can launch S-Voice itself with your voice. It always felt silly to me that you have to launch the voice controlled feature on your phone with a button. Why not go all the way and have the whole thing voice operated from start to finish? Having said that I don’t think S-Voice is able to find Wolfram Alpha results for you, or suggest restaurants based on their menus or anything clever like that. 
  • The eye-tracking thing is cool. I feel like punching poodles whenever the phone’s display switches off when I’m reading something. This feature can come very handy. It remains to be seen how well it works in the dark and how much battery the front camera consumes. 

Overall, I think the launch event was a bit anti-climatic. The Galaxy S III is by no means a bad phone but I think we all expected a bit more than just an evolutionary upgrade. Samsung is the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer and the most profitable Android phone manufacturer but their phones don’t reflect that. The quality is there but it’s wrapped up in such a mundane shell that it generates practically zero emotions. 

Unfortunately, people will lap it up as usual, even those who are now complaining about it. People who buy with their head and not their heart. One can’t help but feel bad for such people. It must suck to be so practical all the time. To compare spec sheets and buy the one with the greater numbers. Then again, that’s practically every Android buyer out there, including myself whenever I’m pondering over which Android phone to buy. And you can’t blame us. Without the emotions, all that is left in these phones are the numbers.