Why you shouldn’t dismiss the Nokia 808 PureView

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Xavier Voigt-Hill:

TechCrunch explains a bit about the Nokia 808 PureView and why its insane megapixel count is more than a gimmick.

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

My first reaction upon hearing about Nokia’s 41-megapixel 808 Pureview was that it was an absurdity, a perfect example of the very worst of consumer electronics, and a total miss. But the more I read, the better I understood that this phone isn’t just some freak of nature with a ridiculously high number attached to it. It’s just the slightly awkward first steps of a serious move by Nokia to differentiate itself.

If you’ve only skimmed the news, there are some things you should probably know about this strange beast of a camera.

First, the 41 megapixel figure is really misrepresentative, not to say untrue. It doesn’t take 41-megapixel photos in any way, shape, or form. Even in the special high-res creative mode, it “only” produces 38 megapixels. Mostly it will be taking normal-size shots, between 3 and 8 megapixels. So what the hell does this 41 megapixel figure even…

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Nokia 808 PureView with 41MP sensor confirmed at MWC

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Nokia shocked the tech world this morning with the announcement of the 808 PureView, the spiritual successor to the N8. While the actual phone itself had been rumoured for some time, the confirmation of a 41 megapixel sensor came as a surprise to everyone. While people may dismiss such a specification as pure marketing crap, Nokia’s new PureView technology can compress numerous pixels into one for ultra-clear images. The technology sounds phenomenal and has been in the works for 5 years, meaning that it launches with Symbian before a planned launch on other platforms. The phone is capable of shooting stills at up to 38MP, but optimal performance comes with compression to 5MP. 1080p video can be shot with 4x lossless zoom, and due to the massive sensor, zooming is actually more like using a different part of the sensor rather than trimming the shot down. The document explaining the tech makes for a great read, and has this sensor diagram to prove a point.

Aside from the 41MP camera, the phone is a standard Symbian Belle affair. A 1.3GHz single core chip powers things, while 16GB of internal storage can be boosted to 48GB via microSD for your photo collection. A 4″ nHD (640 x 360) ClearBlack AMOLED occupies the front face with buttons similar to the Lumia 710, and 2.5D Gorilla Glass coats the device. Having such a large sensor comes at a price, however. At its thinnest, it remains over half an inch and the camera protrudes to 17.95mm. Have a glance at the full spec sheet and some phenomenal sample shots here.

The device is set to ship worldwide in May as the Symbian swansong at €450 before tax, but expect to see the technology making its way into other Nokia products before the year is out if Symbian doesn’t float your boat.

Technophobia: Yes, Newt, a moon base

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

I know that this is a technology blog, but there’s only so much I can rant about that is technological. Anyway, sci-fi is a bit technology-y, right?

About a month ago, Newt Gingrich, one of the Republican candidates running for election said, and I quote: ‘By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.’

I’m sorry, but what?

Call me a cynic, but that to me seems a little bit far-fetched. It seems as though Newt has decided that his slogan this election is going to be ‘to infinity and beyond’.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong, maybe in eight years time we will find ourselves with a permanent base on the moon. JFK’s vision in the early 1960s that by the end of said decade America would have put a man on the moon would have seemed pretty mad at the time. And look what happened.

And while we’re on the topic, to all those people out there who think otherwise, yes, Neil Armstrong did set foot on the moon. NASA didn’t just film it in a studio to trick the whole world.

Anyway, skip forward through some stuff about America being streets ahead of China and Russia, how you shouldn’t vote Romney because he can speak French (how is that bad?) and Newt finishes:

‘Does this mean I’m a visionary? You betcha!’

Or not. Maybe you’re just, I don’t know, crazy?

So yeah. If you vote Gingrich, America will build a moon base. Of course. Not that I’m politically biased.

It’s just, if any of the current Republican candidates becomes president, the world is pretty much screwed.

Image from Sacramento Bee

Samsung introduces Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Galaxy Beam with a projector and Gingerbread

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Samsung, a company known for endlessly churning out devices that are nearly identical, have added 2 new devices to their Galaxy range to coincide with the start of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Firstly, we have the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. Aside from the TouchWizzed Ice Cream Sandwich that comes pre-installed, the device seems identical to the original Tab 10.1, with a 1GHz dual-core CPU, a 1280 x 800 TFT display, a 7000mAh battery, a 3MP rear camera and 16 or 32GB of microSD-expandable storage. Strangely, the front camera has been bumped down to a VGA resolution from 2MP and the device is 9.7mm thick as opposed its svelte 8.6mm predecessor. Design wise, it appears closer to the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, the German variant designed to evade Apple lawsuits based on the design similarities of the Tab 10.1 and the iPad.

Whether we will see this at a lower price remains to be seen, but rumours persist that a 2560 x 1600 Galaxy Note 10.1 with a stylus S Pen will turn up later this week.

Secondly, we have the Galaxy Beam, a phone with a built-in pico projector capable of pumping out a 50″ high definition image. The phone allegedly has 6GB RAM, a 4″ WVGA screen, 8GB storage, a 1GHz dual-core chip and Android 2.3 for some odd reason. Knowing OEM updates, don’t buy this expecting Ice Cream Sandwich any time soon. A 5MP rear camera has a 1.3MP counterpart on the front, and the 2000mAh battery should keep the half-inch thick handset going throughout the day, providing you don’t use the battery-draining projector. Another thing that goes against the Galaxy Beam is the yellow rim. It’s almost as bad as BBC Sport.

Windows Phone App of the Week: SuperTube

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I’m sorry that I haven’t done an app of the week for a while, but I’ve been busy at this thing called school. But sitting here gated to my room on a Saturday night and listening to Garden by Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs inspired me to get back to the work that really matters. Without further ado, this week’s app of the week is YouTube Pro.

This fantastic app is better than any of the other YouTube apps that I have personally tried, simply because it is the only one I have tried that allowed you to log in to your YouTube account. Upon opening the app, you are faced with a Metro style start screen, you then slide along the panorama to view things such as the top rated videos and your subscriptions. However most of the interesting stuff is located on the first screen. The ‘Recorded Page’, where you can take and upload videos from within the app is a very useful addition, and this along with the uploading page makes mobile uploading a great deal easier. Also, as you would expect, there are pages for your playlists, your downloads and many other features that have in fact been missing from most other apps that I have used. The actual video playback in this app is good also. Before playing a video, you are taken to a page where you are given a choice of what quality you wish to play it in, the description of the video, and the like and dislike buttons. The only problem that I have with this app is the fact that in order to play low quality video, you need to have the standard YouTube app installed, but after having downloading it I have had no more problems.

YouTube Pro is an excellent app which I recommend to any person both with or without a YouTube account.

YouTube Pro, Windows Phone 7, Free or 79p
Download from the Marketplace

 

Alternatives to SMS services cause financial dent to networks

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Everyone jumps at the opportunity of not paying for something, even the smallest things. Text messaging is now included in that list. Apple’s iMessage, BlackBerry’s BBM and Facebook’s Messenger are all free messaging services and they are all very good. People use them as free alternatives to texting and they seem to becoming very popular, but too popular for the networks.

In 2011, mobile networks such as 3, O2, Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile lost over $13.9bn (£8.8bn) because of these new free massaging apps. With so many alternatives to SMS services available, people are not texting as much as they used to and are instead looking to free apps. Network providers are missing out on their usually vast amounts of money they receive from people who pay for large SMS plans.

Network providers are desperately looking for ways to win back the public into SMS. In the short term, I expect, they will be looking to lower the prices of SMS services and crack down on data usage. Let’s see what 2012 brings…

Apple iPad 2 review

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Launched almost 1 year ago, Apple’s iPad 2 remains the biggest selling tablet of all time but, with its successor’s unveil coming in as little as 2 weeks, is it still a viable option in the tablet space or could it become the next budget smash hit?

Hardware

The main upgrade from the iPad to the iPad 2 is the dual-core A5 processor, clocked at around 1GHz, which definitely contributes greatly to the immense speed of the iPad. It also includes both a front and rear camera at 0.7 and 0.1 mega-pixels. You may look at these specs and sneer, but the back camera also is capable of up to 720p HD. Admittedly, using the iPad as a camera does make you look stupid, as Spike Lee demonstrated in front of Barack Obama. With a choice of either 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, you can choose the model that is right for you. The iPad 2′s 9.7″ IPS screen is once again fantastic and, while not quite full HD at 1024 x 768, still provides a fantastic image. The battery life of the iPad is surprising, as it is able to be used non-stop for a full 10 hours before charging is required. The iPad still uses the same 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use any old headphones. This is unlike Sony Ericsson, for instance, where the proprietary connector needed is often very hard to find and sometimes quite expensive. The three axis gyro and accelerometer make hand-held gaming entertaining. A great app to test this out is Sonic Riders, a game just like Mario Kart but with Sonic characters. You tilt the device to steer and it is much more enjoyable than moving an analog stick with one finger.

Design


As mentioned earlier, the iPad 2 features a 9.7″ IPS LCD screen which, in my opinion, looks stunning. It makes tablet gaming, surfing the web, and watching movies much more enjoyable than on my other devices. The size of the screen makes for excellent cinematic experience as it is nearly as big as some smaller netbooks. I love the aluminium body, only 8.8mm thick and weighing just over 600g. This makes it nice and simple to carry around and it fits snugly into your hand during use. It can simply slip inside a bag or a coat pocket and is easily accessible at all times.

Software

iOS 5 was released in October and comes with over 200 new features including iCloud, iMessage, Newstand, Reminders, Notification Centre and WiFi syncing, much of which has made its way across to OS X Mountain Lion. iCloud enables Apple device owners to store music, videos, apps and anything else to “the cloud”. This means that you can wirelessly add all your files to any of your iOS 5 devices such as Mac, Apple TV, iPod Touch and iPad 2. iMessage is now open to iPad and iPod Touch as well as just iPhone. It allows to to send unlimited text messages via Wi-Fi or 3G. You do not have to pay to do this which I think is an amazing bonus. Reminders allows you to store dates, meetings, shopping trips and much more. You can also set alarms to help you remember when and where to be. The new Notification Centre allows you to have all your notifications in one place to access instantly. Personally, I am glad that Apple have finally decided to do this as I find the small red circles on apps quite annoying as you would have to load up the app to find out what it was. Now, however, you can see all your notifications for all apps, all on one page. PC free registration now enables people who don’t even own a computer to own an iPad, part of Apple’s quest to kill the PC and make the tablet king. With PC Free you can simply set everything up on the device itself. This means you can have your brand new tablet up and running in less than 10 minutes.

There are over 140,000 apps available for the iPad now and the variety is massive. You can have everything from apps for fruit-slicing to apps for checking your football teams latest scores. Apple, of course, have made their own apps for the iPad including Apple’s own iWork suite for document editing, GarageBand, iBooks and iMovie. These all are very stunning on the iPad and are definitely worth getting if you ever get the chance. However, as well as Apple’s first-party apps, there are thousands more out there waiting to be downloaded. Some of my personal favourites include Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Stick Cricket, Temple Run, Sonic Riders and Doodle Jump. There are also all the social networking apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Skype. For primary school children, secondary school children and even students at university there is a wide selection of educational apps in many subjects. One of my favourite educational apps is The Night Sky. You simply point the device towards the sky and the advanced gyro spins the star map to show you the names of all the stars and planets in the sky. Great for learning about the constellations and planets. There are also apps to help you out in business, sports, news, travel and much, much more.

Accessories

Even though the iPad 2 is a stunning piece of equipment on its own, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of accessories to help you out with making the most out of your tablet. The iPad 2 smart cover is a quite interesting piece of equipment. When you snap it over the screen, it not only fits snugly and perfectly, but it automatically put the iPad into sleep mode. The cover can also be folded into a stand so you can sit back and watch a movie or even if you just want that extra bit of elevation. The Smart Cover comes in many different colours and you get the choice between polyurethane and leather, but you will, however, have to pay an extra £24 for the premium leather, which will fade over time. Another great accessory is the camera connection kit. It includes two small dongles that plug into the main iPad port. One has a SD card slot for instant download capability should the internal storage not be sufficient, whereas the other has a USB 2.0 port for camera cables to be plugged directly into the iPad.

Conclusion

Even 1 year on, the iPad 2 is still the best tablet on the market. With so much more tablet specific software than other platforms, a fantastic aluminium design and a lower price than a number of its competitors, there is no real reason not to choose anything over it at the moment, but be wary of the iPad 3 launch that lurks just around the corner.

Nokia 100 review

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Nokia is still one of the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturers not purely because of high-end smartphones, but certain markets demand different devices, like the latest bargain from Espoo, the Nokia 100. Picking this phone up for £15 unlocked, you can’t really expect much other than Nokia’s standard durability, a feature I most value while finding the perfect phone. With no microSD slot for storage expansion, no camera or any other remarkable hardware this is not a phone for you gamers out there or lovers of music but for those who want a simple, reliable and frankly indestructible phone, this is definitely the phone for you.

Hardware

With a 800 mAh battery, a common capacity for most phones of its calibre, you almost never need to worry about charging your phone. The 100 will give you 7.5 hours of talk time and 850 hours on standby, meaning that you can leave it on in your pocket for a whole month before charging. The flash light equipped has proven useful, being bright and not munching on too much battery. This function can be activated by pressing the top cursor twice. Even though this phone hopelessly fails at providing you with entertainment, it still has a built-in FM radio tuner that, with a compatible headset, plays at an impressive quality. Another, and perhaps my final criticism of this phone is the alarm system. I can’t for the life of me figure out how, or if, it works. I have set an alarm on various occasions, each time going off on time but failing to make any noise, even with all the sound settings on loud. There may well be an obvious feature I have not yet activated but this is still a let down.

Due to the phones simplicity, there is not much more to talk about other than how indestructible it is. As I write this, Xavier and Kieran are playing catch with the 100, which is dust proof and made from very tough materials, just as you would expect from a Nokia.  On occasion, the battery does come out with a very sudden impact landing, but the phone boots in just under 4 seconds. Whether this phone is waterproof I do not know but I do not plan to try it out. (Digixav is not responsible for any broken Nokia phones as a result of them being plunged in water – ed) All visible hardware on this phone is either made from stainless steel, copper, zinc or aluminium and the plastics which make up the majority of the phone are ABS/PC, PET, PA and epoxy. These materials may well be the result of how light this phone is, weighing slightly over 70g including the battery.

Conclusion

If you want a cheap, durable, brick of a phone that does precisely what it should, ie. call and text, then look no further than the indestructible Nokia 100, or its dual-SIM cousin the 101. The phone is compact, simple and reliable, and it will almost certainly be able to handle anything you throw it at.

Nokia Lumia 710 review

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Nokia’s first Windows Phone, the Lumia 800, was just what they needed to get back into the market. Running Windows Phone 7.5, the phone won multiple awards and the hearts of many consumers. Also announced at Nokia World in London at the same time was the Lumia 710, pitched as the affordable Lumia device. Now, this device has made it to the UK at a slither under £200 on pay as you go, but, with fierce competition from hordes of Android and BlackBerry devices in the same price range, is it enough to win people over?

Hardware

Internally, the 710 is almost identical to its more expensive bretheren, the 800 and the 900. The phone comes equipped with the same 1.4GHz single core Qualcomm MSM8255 processor and Adreno 205 GPU, resulting in snappy performance in everything we have tried with it. The phone has a 3.7″ display with the current standard Windows Phone WVGA (800 x 480) resolution and Nokia’s ClearBlack technology, allowing for deeper blacks and slightly more vibrant colours. While the 800 and 900 both use AMOLED displays for more vibrant colours, Nokia used an LCD to cut costs on the 710. It still looks quite good with the same 252ppi density as the 800, but, comparing the 2 devices side by side, the difference in the displays is very noticeable. As ever, the PenTile layout of sub-pixels causes occasional problems while reading text, however this can easily be rectified by zooming in when able to. The phone has fantastic viewing angles with very little discolouration occurring, with more problems being caused by the overly glossy screen.

One of the main advantages of the 710 over the 800 is its removable 1300mAh battery, allowing for the obligatory battery pull if problems arise. Booting from a battery pull is incredibly quick, certainly around 3x quicker than my aging HTC Wildfire and also the HTC HD7. Nokia claim that the battery lasts around 7:40 on a single charge while connected to a 3G network, and we have found this to be not far off the truth.

The phone is quite heavy at 125g, but it feels very comfortable in the hand. One problem I have with small screened devices is that they are often very thin and, as such, sit low down in the hand. The 12.5mm deep chassis feels fine in my hand, allowing my thumbs to move freely across the device without engulfing it as with the iPod touch. The phone is both thicker and heavier than my daily driver, the HTC Wildfire, but it is hardly noticeable in my pocket and I could easily move up to a phone of this size. Being a Nokia, it feels like it has been made with care, and that it could withstand anything. A sheet of Gorilla Glass is on the front to protect against cracks and scratches, but we didn’t want to test the ruggedness of it on fear of something going wrong.

The phone requires a microSIM card which can be slightly awkward to insert and remove from its slot, but, most importantly for a phone, the call quality is fantastic. When using the O2 network, the Lumia provided crisp, clear sound, and the caller was very audible throughout. This feature of a phone is often overlooked, but it is good to see Nokia ensuring that users get the best experience from the HSPA+ radio inside. My biggest problem with the entire phone, however, is the lack of storage. Since the phone has no ROM, the OS takes up a good chunk of the paltry 8GB storage, leaving only 6.4GB free to the user. With no option to expand this with microSD, you must rely heavily on the cloud for your media consumption if you pick up the 710.

Camera

Similarly to the 800, the Lumia 710 does not have a front facing camera but video calling with a phone is not something that matters to me. If you want this option available or feel it to be a necessity, then an HTC Radar would probably be the best option for you, despite the premium of about £80 over the 710. The rear facing camera lacks the Carl Zeiss optics of Nokia’s high-end cameras, but shoots decent, albeit slightly grainy, shots at 5MP in a 4:3 aspect ratio. The phone also shoots video at a 720p resolution, but we are unable to upload the test footage at the moment. We will update this review when can to include this footage, which is surprisingly good, handling movement very well for a mid-range phone.

Software

By and large, the phone has a stock Windows Phone 7.5 operating system which is as superb as ever. On the 710, it performs fantastically, with no problems handling games such as Rainbow Rapture and Crazy Survival. One thing that people use against Windows Phone is the relative lack of apps, however, at the time of writing, the Marketplace has reached As our unit came unlocked, it is fortunately free of carrier bloatware, but, as Nokia made clear at the unveiling in October, the Lumia range comes with a number of predominantly functional and useful pre-installed Nokia-centric/exclusive apps which can thankfully be uninstalled if desired.

  • App Highlights - Basic app suggestions in 4 columns: Starter Kit, Top Apps, Promo and Cool Stuff.
  • Contacts Transfer – A simple app that can be used to transfer contacts from your old phone via Bluetooth.
  • ESPN – Just as you would expect, this app has the latest sports news and videos from ESPN. Great for sports fans.
  • Marketplace – A Nokia Collection is featured in the Marketplace with the pre-installed apps along with other Nokia-exclusive apps WRC Live and TuneIn Radio.
  • Network Setup – An app that allows you to select which mobile network to connect to. Pointless after first boot.
  • Nokia Drive – Fully functional voice navigation for free – a great reason to buy a Nokia phone full stop.
  • Nokia Maps – Nokia’s fantastic map service is now on all platforms, but it is still better than the pre-installed Bing Maps app.
  • Nokia Music – Listen to mixes of music selected by Nokia, once again for free. A store is also available in the app.
  • We Care – Nokia tell you that they respect your privacy and about what they do with your data. Waste of space.

One thing that is missing is the ability to tether from the phone. Enabled with the Mango update, Nokia oddly chose not to include a tethering option in either the 800 or the 710 at launch. A software update enabling it was promised for the 800 so, should such an update ever come, the 710 should also be in line for the update. The lack of tethering is off-putting for me as I tether perpetually at the moment, but I could survive through the phone itself should it become necessary.

Design

No matter how you look at it, the 710 is the ugly duckling of the Nokia Lumia family. When compared to the elegant 800 with its sweeping curves and polycarbonate shell, the 710 is rather disappointing, something I mentioned when I wrote about the phone shortly after its launch. Granted, the phone does look a hell of a lot better in the flesh than any images could demonstrate, but there is something about it that doesn’t look right. In accordance with how the N9 design was recycled for the 800, the 710 borrows its form factor from the Nokia 603, a phone released with Symbian Belle that, like the N9, has not had an official UK release.

To appeal to certain demographics, the 710 comes in black and white with a whole host of interchangeable back covers to fit your mood. The black model that we reviewed came with black and blue covers out of the box, however I have yet to find a retailer that stocks the other colours. The black cover is coated with a soft-touch plastic and it feels very nice in hand, but I cannot say the same for the blue one. It feels of a lower quality and not as robust as its counterpart, and I think that the phone looks better as plain black anyway. The covers go on in a rather strange and fidgety manner. Unlike most battery covers which lock on from the bottom or top, the cover on the 710 requires connection on the right hand side at first, before wrapping around the device. Often, the case requires a further press above the camera lens to ensure a secure connection, and the method of removing the case takes some getting used to.

Unlike the 800 and most other Windows Phones on the market, the 710 has physical keys at the bottom instead of the normal capacitive buttons. The strip feels solid, but aesthetically it is not pleasant. The LEDs for the back, Windows and search buttons appear quite far away from the surface of the plastic, which itself is almost flush with the glass on the front, making the buttons hard to press on occasion. I can’t help but think that capacitive buttons would have been a better choice, but I understand that the corners had to be cut somewhere to get the phone to be half the price of its polycarbonate brother.

Conclusion

The Nokia Lumia 710 is a fantastic smartphone for those on a tight budget. For half the price of the 800, you get the exact same hardware, save for the display, the camera, the storage and the design. As I said, the phone looks so much better in the flesh than in pictures but undoubtedly the 800 and 900 look better. That being said, the phone is tremendous for the price. For Nokia to be selling such technology at such a low price is worthy of celebration, and I would thoroughly recommend this phone to anybody in the market for a great all-round smartphone at a low price.

Many thanks go to Digixav reader Joseph Bryant for lending us his phone for this review