Digixav Podcast 014 – July 30th 2013

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For the one true episode 014 of our now adolescent podcast, Xavier and Chris make up for lost time by talking about everything important since the Lumia 1020 happened. It turns out that this includes a fair bit about the 1020 itself, but our dynamic duo (sorry Henry) also trawl through news about its baby big brother, a new family of Droids from Motorola and Verizon with the Moto X launch looming later this week and HTC’s quest for profitability with One variants both big and small. Samsung, on the other hand, go full-on with the purple and Canonical decide that a crowdfunding campaign to make an Ubuntu phone with a sapphire crystal display makes perfect sense. There’s also a new BlackBerry leak if you’re into that kind of phone and Google’s new Nexus 7 and Chromecast streaming HDMI dongle thing.

Right click and save this link to download, and you can subscribe (and rate and review the show) using iTunes! Don’t fancy iTunes or use a different podcatcher? Here’s our RSS link!

If you have any feedback, questions or comments, tweet us or send us an email to podcast@digixav.com. We’d love to hear from you!

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Second generation Nexus 7 (or Asus ME571K_PR1_SKU2) caught on camera ahead of July 24th launch event

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After it failed to make an appearance at Google I/O in May, rampant speculation ensued surrounding Asus and Google’s inevitable launch of the successor to the Nexus 7. When Google sent out invitations this morning for an event next Wednesday to be hosted by Chrome and now Android chief Sundar Pichai, many concluded that the Moto X, Android 4.3 and this mystery tablet would turn up, and this has been all but confirmed by Android Central obtaining many pictures and a video of the miniature tablet. Rumours point towards a quad-core Qualcomm processor, a higher resolution display, rear camera and up to 4GB of RAM, all while retaining a price point similar to that of the original, clocking in on retailer databases as $229 and $269 for 16 and 32GB variants.

Source Android Central

 

App of the week: Pocket Casts

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If you’re like me, you listen to a lot of podcasts, and you will know that it can be quite hard to keep track of what you have or haven’t listened to or what episodes are new. This week’s app of the week, Pocket Casts by Shifty Jelly, is perfect solution for Android users who want to keep track of all the different podcasts conveniently and easily. It automatically checks for new episodes and notifies you when new episodes pop through via RSS, and presents you with options to either stream or to download. The app will even delete any episodes which you have listened to automatically, and use smart playlists to isolate those episodes that you need to finish first. All this comes alongside a plethora of other useful features such as cross-platform subscription sync.

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On Android, the new version 4.0 follows the Holo guidelines to the letter, but manages to add its own flavour of red and white to the mix, making this one of the best looking apps I have ever used. While not quite as good-looking or feature-rich, the iOS version of the app still looks great. All in all, I seriously recommend this app to anyone who listens to podcasts.

Pocket Casts, Android (£2.70), iOS (£1.49)
Download from Google Play or the App Store

LG Nexus 4 review

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Nexus 4

Like the inevitable tick-tock of a clock, Google, in partnership with LG, released the fourth Nexus phone late last year. On a day inundated with news on Hurricane Sandy, they managed to send the technology community into overdrive and rain on Microsoft’s parade by introducing a flagship smartphone for just £239.99 unlocked. Despite the shambolic release that occurred through Google’s own Play Store, there is no phone out there that appears to provide this kind of value for money. Google has taken a huge gamble with this device by selling it through its own channels with next to no profit margin, but has it paid off by making the best Android phone out there? Read on to find out.

Hardware

This phone is beautiful. There are no other words to describe it. It is right up there with the iPhone 5 and One X in terms of hardware design and build quality, which is a massive achievement considering the price point. The unadorned glass façade gently curves down to meet the plastic frame which, when flipped over, reveals a gently shimmering micro-etched glass back. Sure, it was a poor design choice in terms of durability, but it looks great. The front is graced with a small speaker grill and a front facing camera. It also features a hidden notification light centred on the bottom bezel – which is very clear and bright. It’s also RGB, meaning it can be programmed to be any colour with apps such as Light Flow. Aside from the volume rocker and power button, the only keys you’ll see here are on-screen, keeping with the pattern started by 2011′s Galaxy Nexus and continued throughout many other post-Ice Cream Sandwich devices and, while not without their critics, I love them. It’s simplicity done extremely well.

Nexus 4 Back

The screen is a 4.7” WXGA (1280 x 768) IPS affair, but some of it is taken up by software buttons. The screen is also up there with the best, using the same in-cell technology the iPhone 5 made a big deal about which, seeing as both panels come from LG, makes perfect sense. The colours and vibrancy are great, although still trail behind AMOLED in certain aspects. The Nexus 4 feels solid in the hand, but also feels very slippery due to the glass back and curve, and I therefore highly recommend getting a case for it, no matter how difficult it is to cover up the beautiful exterior. Another slight problem is the chrome band surrounding the front. While it is done very well, it does have the tendency to scratch or dent. The buttons are made of the same material. They have a nice travel, and feel solid, but they are quite slippery – a recurring theme with the hardware on this phone. However, in spite of all of these flaws, this is easily one of the best designed Android phones ever.

Nexus 4 Base

Inside, the Nexus 4 sits perched upon the top of 2012′s internal hardware. It has a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro with an Adreno 320 GPU, coupled with 2GB of RAM giving you a blazing fast phone, although the upcoming flagships like the HTC One and Galaxy S IV should easily eclipse it. Benchmark scores demonstrate this, although these should be taken with a pinch of salt, as our testing shows that the US variant of the Galaxy S III (with dual-core S4 chip) obtains a higher Quadrant score than the quad-core S4 Pro-powered Nexus 4, suggesting that this benchmark has not been properly optimised for Android 4.2 yet.

Benchmarks

Device Chipset Quadrant AnTuTu NenaMark2
LG Nexus 4 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro (Quad) 4694 17561 59.6 fps
Samsung Galaxy S III (US) 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 (Dual) 5325 7373 48.7 fps
HTC One X+ 1.7GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 7652 13546 57.0 fps
HTC One X (Intl.) 1.5GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 4602 9795 54.7 fps
Asus Nexus 7 1.3GHz Tegra 3 (Quad) 3734 10426 55.3 fps

Software

This phone is running pure, unadulterated Android and is all the better for it. Untouched by manufactures, this allows the end user to experience and enjoy Android as Google intended, which is of course one of the major selling points of this phone. A positive knock-on effect of this is that it should receive timely updates to Android, currently on version 4.2.2. This is why the Galaxy Nexus remained a great phone throughout it’s lifespan – and why the Nexus 4 will be the same. It’s a safer choice than a Samsung or HTC phone, which may or may not be updated to the latest version of Android.

Nexus 4 Corner

Android 4.2 is the best version of Android yet, and it looks great on the hardware of the Nexus 4. I’m not going to do a full review of the software as it’s still the Jelly Bean that we know and love from I/O 2012, but I’ll go over a few of the new features, such as lock-screen widgets. Combined with the ever-growing number of third party apps that support this functionality, this is amazing. My favourite use case is to see my to do list and edit it all from my lock screen. This is joined by gesture typing (a Swype-esque keyboard), Photo Sphere (StreetView-esque 360 degree panoramas) and Miracast streaming to make the latest point upgrade of the dessert-flavoured OS.

Nexus 4 Camera

What does this all mean to you? Basically, you get a rock solid, lightning fast version of Android. This is easily on par with the iPhone, if not smoother thanks to Project Butter. It also blends in with all the apps that follow the Holo design guidelines (unlike the One X). I realise I must sound like a fanboy when I say this, but honestly it’s true. There are still places where Android lags behind iOS, but those places are few and far between. I’m genuinely excited to see what Android 5.0 will bring.

Camera, Battery and Radios

As many reviews have stated before, and more will state after, the Nexus 4 camera is simply average. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but not amazing. I would put it about on par with the iPhone 4S in terms of picture quality, and slightly worse than that for colour reproduction. Rather than telling you, it’s better for me to show you. There is a full gallery of sample shots on the way to be added to this review later.

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Again, the same goes for battery life. It is average, and maybe even slightly below. The Nexus 4 lasts about 10 hours on a charge, but with screen on time fluctuating wildly depending on usage and the ROM. My highest is about 4.5 hours and the lowest is about 1.5 hours. Not great, but with a bit of careful usage here and there it will get you through the day. I’ll also update this review with screenshots of a few charge cycles. I’m not entirely sure why the battery life is so sub-par considering it is a non-LTE phone with a 2100mAh battery, but I assume that the internals or apps are draining it.

The radios in the Nexus have been very good, definitely better than the One X I reviewed last year. WiFi reception has been pretty good, reaching 3 bars out of 4 in my room. This is pretty good for a smartphone as my room has brick walls, and 3G reception has been pretty good too. One major thing that the phone has been bashed for is the lack of 4G LTE capability, but if you are in the UK then that shouldn’t be a problem until much later when 4G is widespread, unless you are an EE customer.

Conclusion

Nexus 4 Conclusion

The Nexus 4 is easily the best phone in its price bracket and, in most ways, it is definitely the best phone on the market. However, is it the phone that you should buy? The HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S IV are both lurking just days away, and I say if you are buying a phone to last 3 or 4 years, this probably isn’t the phone to buy due to the crack-prone glass back and lack of LTE. If you are buying a phone to last 1 year (or even 2), then this is your phone. The promise of prompt Android updates ably aided by the swift internals will keep you ticking by nicely. Sure, in 2 years it might not be the best-specced phone, but it will remain the yardstick for Android in 2013. Why? Because it’s a Nexus, and this is how Android phones should be done.

 

Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo announces Pro version of LG Optimus G with 5″ 1080p display

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LG Optimus G Pro NTT DoCoMo

In unveiling its DoCoMo NEXT line of smartphones and tablets for 2013, Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo has confirmed the impending release of an enlarged version of the LG Optimus G, the phone that served as the basis for the Nexus 4. The Optimus G Pro trades a 4.7″ 1280 x 720 panel for one of 1920 x 1080 over 5 inches, but that appears to be the only major difference, as both Pro and ‘Amateur’ models feature quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chips powering a skinned version of Android 4.1. The 3000mAh battery is the largest in DoCoMo’s new smartphone line, and a 13.2MP BSI CMOS sensor can be found on the rear. Along with the usual array of Japan-specific features such as One-Seg TV broadcasting, the Optimus G Pro will also support LTE, NFC and WiFi tethering for up to 8 devices, while a microSD slot will allow for up to 64GB of expansion. The phone is said to be hitting NTT DoCoMo in April although, as with the Sony Xperia Tablet Z, it remains unlikely that this phone will ever be seen beyond Japanese shores.

NTT DoCoMo 2013 Spring Collection

Via Android Police
Source NTT DoCoMo

Sony announces Xperia Tablet Z as the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet

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Sony-Launches-Xperia-Tablet-Z-Tablet-with-Android-4-1-Jelly-Bean-5 Today Sony announced the successor to their Xperia Tablet Z, a 10.1 inch machine running Android 4.1 and boasting some impressive specs. Design-wise Sony seem to have finally conceded defeat with the rolled-over magazine look that plagued their last couple of tablets being mercifully killed off. While it wasn’t as pronounced on the Xperia Tablet S as on its predecessor the Tablet S, which won our award for worst design back in 2011, we still feel that it drew away from the whole design. This time round Sony have given their new tablet a similar look to its upcoming smartphone sibling, the Xperia Z, and have come up with a classy, minimalist design which has been met with approval throughout the Digixav office.*

At a staggering 6.9mm thick, the Xperia Tablet Z is thinner than the iPad mini, and is the lightest 10-inch tablet in the world, weighing in at just under half a kilo. Like the Xperia Z, Sony says that the Xperia Tablet Z is waterproof for half an hour, up to a depth of one metre, and dustproof too. We only hope that these claims don’t prove to be as unfounded as those of the Xperia Tablet S.

xperia-tablet-z-1358733859Software is where this tablet really excels. The screen is 1920 x 1200, significantly better than the 1280 x 800 of the last Xperia tablet incarnation, and should rival the stunning display on the Apple’s 4th generation iPad. It packs Qualcomm’s 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip, and comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It’s quite likely that, as with the Xperia Tablet S, we will see Xperia Tablet Z SKUs with varying amounts of onboard storage at varying prices although, unlike the Nexus 10, there is a microSD slot for those who want a little extra storage. The tablet comes with a solid 8.1 megapixel camera on the back, but no details have been released for the front-facing camera yet. The 6000mAh battery isn’t anything to get too excited about, but it will suffice. It also has LTE and NFC support.

No details to do with price have been released, but with those figures we’re looking at £400+. We have no idea how they managed to fit all of those specs into a 6.9mm 495g slab. It’s interesting that the Xperia Tablet Z wasn’t announced along with its smartphone cousin at CES, but we’re sure that Sony have their reasons. No release date has been announced either, but we can presume that it will come out around the same time as the Xperia Z, sometime this first quarter. We’d have also thought that Sony might have wanted to wait for the imminent release of Android Key Lime Pie to release the Xperia Z family, what with the state of Android updates. All in all though, this will surely be the best 10 inch Android tablet on the market when it comes out, and will be the tablet to beat for Sony’s rivals.

*Only joking. We can’t afford an office at Digixav.

Via Engadget
Source Sony

Samsung Nexus 10 quick start guide obtained by Korean site

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As rumours circulate that Google is set to expand the Nexus family of Android devices at an event on Monday, Korean site Seeko has obtained images of a supposed Samsung Nexus 10 product guide. While sparse on details, the images show a diagram of the device including a Micro-HDMI port and front and rear cameras. It is also rumoured to have a 2560 x 1600 10.1″ display paired with Android 4.2, although the manual cannot corroborate this. With the Nexus 4, 7 and 10, Google’s new naming strategy is very clear, and on Monday we should get to see the clearer picture.

Via The Verge
Source Seeko

Unannounced LG Nexus 4 goes up for pre-order at Carphone Warehouse with October 30th release date

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Despite the fact that LG’s upcoming Nexus 4 remains unannounced, there is not a lot we still don’t know about Google’s future flagship phone. It has appeared in Carphone Warehouse’s database, been semi-confirmed by an LG executive and even been fully reviewed by Belarusian site Onliner.by after they got their hands on a prototype model. Now, with anticipation rising for Google’s Android event on October 29th where it is expected that all will be revealed, British retailer Carphone Warehouse has begun to offer the device for pre-order, with shipping promised for next week. Alongside Android 4.2 – which will still be known as Jelly Bean – the page confirms a Snapdragon S4 processor will power the 4.7″ 1280 x 768 display, while 8GB of internal storage will be built in with no expandability. An 8MP rear camera will be capable of 1080p video and NFC will also be present to allow for Android Beam support. While you cannot currently order the phone without a contract, deals are available on Vodafone and O2, with the cheapest contract without an up-front cost is for £31 per month. An October 30th ship date is promised, and we will be covering Monday’s announcement event live.

Source Carphone Warehouse