Honor 4X Review

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Honor 4X

A few weeks back, I met with Honor UK at the Three UK launch of the Honor 6+ (see here for more information on the Honor 6+). Whilst I was there, I was offered a loan of the Honor 4X, which is more of a budget phone than the Honor 6+, coming in at roughly £150 (at time of writing, £145 on Amazon direct from Honor). I wasn’t expecting a lot from the phone, given the fantastic spec of the Honor 6+ and the price of this device, but I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised by the phone.

First of all, if you are a “brand snob” and want a phone with a well known brand behind it, then whilst you are less likely to buy this phone, you are also likely to pay a lot more money for either the same spec, or, I suspect, actually a lower spec.

So, let’s get to those specs (click more to find out the specs and my overall opinion of the phone)…

(more…)


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Honor 6+ launched exclusively on Three

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Honor 6+

I was lucky to be invited to the UK network launch of the Honor 6+, which will be exclusively available from Three on the high street (it’s also available from Amazon online, although they won’t ship for another week or two). The Honor 6+ is a very nice mid to high spec phone, whilst being well in the mid price category, being around £299 on Three PAYG (and likely to drop further when online sales really get going in a month or so).

Beyond the good screen size (5.5″, nearly too big for some), there are two key features I felt worth mentioning from my brief handson time during the launch; the camera and the battery.

The phone has twin cameras on the rear, and these are used to take two pictures at the same time. Then, if you find you did not get the exact area of the picture in focus, or parts of the picture are out of focus, you can refocus the image, allowing you to change both the primary object to be in focus, and the aperture that should have been used, allowing you to vary the depth of focus of the picture. This was demonstrated to me by taken a picture with both a close and far away object with the far away object perfectly in focus, but it was possibly to refocus the image such that the close object was in focus, whilst the far away object could be set to be out of focus (it was also possible to have both in focus!).#

This won’t be useful for the majority of pictures, but if you have taken a quick snap of something where there was a “moment” worth capturing, but afterwards you find the focus wasn’t quite right, then with this phone you can get it back into focus.

The other stand out feature of devices like this, and others (such as the OnePlus One) are the large battery that is fitted. Whilst the OnePlus One has a 3,100mAh battery, the Honor 6+ has a 3,600mAh battery, and Honor staff who already had devices confirmed that 2 days battery life was easily achievable; even for really heavy phone users, the phone should easily make it through a long busy hectic day without needing you to carry a charger.

Whilst some of the review phones were Android 4.4 (KitKat), Honor assure me that the devices shipping today should be running Android 5 (Lollipop) out of the box.

The device has two sim slots, although I think you will only get 3G from the second sim slot (it does not offer dual 4G sim slots), although some people will prefer to use that second slot to expand the memory of the device, as it will also take a microSD card. Having said the two stand out features are the camera and battery, many people will actually first notice the screen, which is a very vibrant bright screen that shows off the pictures from the camera very well. Even in bright sunlight, the demo device was clear and easy to use.

The Honor 6+ was available from Three UK stores from this morning, available on PAYG and contract (for unlimited handset data it will need a £36 per month 24 month contract).

Thanks to Three UK for the invite to the launch, and hopefully Honor will be able to supply me with a review unit soon to try it out for longer.


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Pioneer announce HUD for SatNavs too

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Pioneer Navgate HUD

After we covered the Garmin HUD a month or so back, it’s interesting to see Pioneer have now announced a very similar principle. However, these two devices can’t be directly compared; as well as offering a much better display, offering much more detail, it has a price to match… Whereas the Garmin unit will be around £150, this is going to sell nearer to £600!

For that though, you will get traffic, navigation instructions, points of interest, road hazards and more (clock, the current speed and speed limits, speed and red light camera warnings, the distance to the destination, as well as the estimated time of arrival) in full colour. The device attaches to the sun visor (meaning you will not be able to actually use it as a sun visor anymore), and for that, I do like it, as well folded up, it will not be as obvious to thieves.

Only just obvious from the picture above is the cable that’s needed to power the device, but the device also has a light sensor to vary the amount of light (and hence power) the device uses.

The Pioneer Navgate HUD will work with iGo Primo (iOS only) and CoPilot Live (both iOS and Android versions as best I can tell), so this does increase the range of options if you don’t want to change your existing navigation app of choice.

More information should be available next month when the device is available.


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Garmin announce portable Head Up Display

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

image

Today Garmin have launched a very interesting product, although before you get too excited there are a couple of issues; firstly, it’s not actually for sale yet, it’s likely to arrive in the UK around September October time, and although it’s not yet guaranteed to come to the UK, I think it is quite likely to arrive as even Garmin UK have been talking about it.

The Head Up Display is portable, although more on that later, and assuming you have the right SatNav software on your smartphone, will display turn information (lane assist), distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, and estimated time of arrival. It looks like it may also be able to warn you of upcoming speed cameras and traffic too.

image

At something like £80 – £130 it won’t come cheap, but will offer two modes of operation; you can attach a reflective film to your windscreen for the best effect, but if you swap cars a lot, it will also come with a reflective lens panel (as above; there’s quite a large bezel to this, which is a shame, but a small price to pay). It appears to need constant power, but the power cord includes a USB port for connecting your phone charger to, allowing you to only need one power socket in the car. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, Android device or even your Windows Phone, although your choice of SatNav software is limited; on iPhone you can use Garmin’s StreetPilot for iPhone or NAVIGON for iPhone whereas for Android and Windows Phone you are limited to only NAVIGON. Finally, it will auto adjust the brightness depending on the conditions.

I like this device. Given Garmin already have Bluetooth built into many of their hardware devices (for both handsfree calling and their Ecoroute HD product), I hope they are able to add support into their hardware devices for the HUD, but even so, this does look like an interesting product even if you can only use it with your smartphone.

We’ll provide more information closer to release time.


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Will 2013 bring more integration in gadgets?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Above is the new Canon Powershot-N camera, an interesting camera as it’s designed as an any-way-up camera, due to the square nature of the camera (although the screen only tilts upwards and technically it’s not quite square!). The any-way-up operation is achieved by two rings around the lens, one acting as the zoom ring, and the other the shutter button. Unless the information displayed on the screen also spins though, I suspect the majority of pictures will still be taken with the camera in the conventional position.

However, instead of including a GPS module within the camera (as Canon started to on their higher end models last year), they have used the WiFi link that you can establish between the camera and your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android only supported) to feed the camera with the gps location information from the smartphone / tablet instead. This WiFi link also allows you to easily transfer the pictures to your device, and then onwards onto Social Media sites, and photo sharing sites (the Canon Image Gateway offers 10GB of personal storage, and the software has a direct upload to Facebook option, but I suspect once the picture is on the smartphone / tablet there will be plenty of ways of getting the picture onto other sites via the OS or specific applications for those sites). To top off the range of new features, the device can be charged via USB (historically Canon cameras have needed the battery to be removed and placed into a charger, so providing in camera charging is also something I’m glad to see).

With a 8x optical zoom, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, and only measuring 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm (when lens retracted), yet still supporting Full HD video recording, this is an interesting new device which will be available in Black or White when it’s released in April around £270.

For completeness, I should mention that this same GPS integration is available on a range of other new Canon products announced this week (the Canon IXUS 140 and Canon PowerShot 3500IS in particular), in fact, what’s interesting is that you may not even need to maintain the link throughout the day whilst shooting your pictures, as Canon say “At the end of each day, Wi-Fi can be activated to pair the captured images on the camera with the location data recorded from the smartphone.”

Also announced today are two new Garmin EDGE cycling trip recorders, the Garmin EDGE 510 and Garmin EDGE 810 cycling devices. By utilising the Garmin Mobile Connect app, these devices are capable of additionally supporting live tracking, social media sharing and real-time weather updates as well as the more traditional functions of accurately track speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, ascent and descent (and supporting heart rate monitors and other ANT+ sports devices such as speed / cadence sensors). The Garmin EDGE 810 would be my preferred device, as it additionally supports the ability to load maps onto the device, which can either be obtained from Garmin or by utilising data such as that produced by OpenStreetMap at no charge for personal use.

Again limited to iOS and Android only, Garmin Mobile Connect allows these devices (via Bluetooth) to

  • share all the details of their rides with friends, family and social media contacts
  • allow cyclists’ friends and family to follow their races and training rides in real-time
  • allow for wireless uploads of completed activities from the Edge 810/510 as soon as cyclists finish recording an activity to the Garmin Connect website

The Garmin EDGE 810 will be available in the next month or two in 3 UK versions, just the unit for £380, the unit plus a heart rate monitor and a speed / cadence sensor for £430, or the unit will the sensors and a data card loaded with European maps for £480.

Back to the original point; a couple of years ago we all wanted each and every device to come with a SIM card slot to allow us to connect it to the Internet, but unlike tablets, devices such as these aren’t going to be used every day of the year, or even every month, and suddenly the cost of the additional hardware support and maintaining a mobile phone contract for them does seem a burden, so by allowing them to connect to the internet via an existing mobile device suddenly makes a lot more sense, and with many of the UK mobile networks offering unlimited data offerings (whether or not these devices would fall foul of no-tethering clauses in contracts I’m not sure; for many of the functions, the devices are simply getting information to and from the smartphone, as opposed to direct onward internet access), then I can see devices like these becoming more common, and integration between different gadgets really taking off.

Having said that, with only iOS and Android support in both ranges of devices at launch, it is starting to look like other OSes (Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 etc.) could potentially lose even more market share once people start buying other connected devices for use whilst out and about and need their smartphone to support those peripheral devices.


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Vodafone announce Red Hot; phone rental scheme

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Sometimes a company offers something that’s actually quite innovative, and personally, I wonder if this is actually a very fantastic offer.

Vodafone has announced Red Hot, which is a scheme whereby you rent a phone (for a 12 month period), and also pay line rental, and then at the end of the 12 months, you can hand the phone back, and get a new phone. None of the traditional 24 month tie in that most mobile operators are concentrating on right now. Now, as with all these things, there’s a few good and bad points to consider if you are thinking about the deal:

  • It costs more than an normal contract, but then you get to change phones every year.

Let’s take the Samsung Galaxy S3 16GB, one of a small number of phones being offered on the deal (others include Apple iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note II); normally buying on a traditional plan, it would cost £42 per month (24 month contract, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data per month on the new Red Data plan); the equivalent is £47 per month on Red Hot (12 month contract, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data per month). Given that the deal also includes insurance for the handset, it’s actually fairly comparable, and with the ability to change your phone after 12 months to the next greatest handset, quite a good deal.

  • If you don’t want to swap after 12 months (because the new phone you want isn’t quite released), you can hang onto the current phone for up to 6 months.
  • You don’t own the phone though, so although you can easily hand it back, you can’t sell it on ebay to recover any cost.
  • If you hand the phone back damaged, then charges will apply. Of course, with included handset insurance, it would seem sensible to claim on the insurance and then hand the phone back (assuming the damage is covered within the small print of the insurance, though an excess charge will apply).
  • You do need to return the phone and original charger.
  • With £75 charge for deep scratches or dents, you might be wise to buy a case to protect it (after all, it’s not your phone).
  • One final thing to watch out for; a “non-approved operating system” will occur the maximum damage charge, so you shouldn’t hand it back with a custom ROM installed (yes, I can see an argument that it’s still a variant of Android, but I suspect that’s not a gamble most people will want to take).
  • It’s not exactly clear how much a phone next year will cost, but of course, you would be free to walk away from the contract anyway.

Although there’s a lot to consider, I actually think the prices aren’t bad, and well worthy of consideration, especially for those who are happy to swap phones every phone (but not more often). More details can be found at the Vodafone Red Hot page.


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Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The last article was about Vodafone European roaming rates for PAYG customers, so I thought I would jot down some of the techniques I use to try to minimise my roaming costs when going abroad. I should note for my last trip abroad I used 30MB of data (over 4 days), and a handful of texts, yet kept my total spend below £10, and could not have spent more than £20, yet that spend actually got me a bundle of texts, calls and data for the UK leg of the journey, and whilst abroad I could have used upto 100MB without spending any more money!

So, what techniques do I use:

Firstly, I carried my primary UK phone number in a phone where I turned off roaming data whilst still in the UK. In fact, as I left the UK, I turned off mobile data completely. This phone I only use for emergencies, being contacted if needed. This limited usage kept the battery going for 2 days without a charge.

I then carried a second phone, in my case, an old Android phone from a year or so ago. This had been wiped clean and just had the apps needed, with most of the sync functions turned off (actually, I kept calendar / contacts syncing, and ran a couple of Social Network clients). Although I kept the syncing turned on, to minimise usage even further, I would turn this off, as it only adds to the usage, and most changes could wait until I returned. Again, roaming data was initially turned off.

This phone carried a Vodafone PAYG SIM, which I topped up with £20 before I set off. This topup gave me minutes, texts and 500MB of data in the UK. As I’m already opted in to Vodafone Passport, I knew that if I kept data to less than 25MB per day, my data costs would be £2 per day.

Before I left the UK, I used those bundled texts that came with the topup to alert a few key people that if they needed me over the next few days to use this number in preference to my normal number.

Once I arrived, I was greeted with text messages to both phones informing me of the rates (which, given it was before the new 1 July 2012 roaming limits are imposed, were somewhat of a shock (eg £3.07/MB for data!). I then turned on roaming data on the Vodafone SIM, and then used the normal data on/off functions to control my usage. I had a data counter installed (I use 3G Watchdog Pro, which included the ability to create a widget on the homescreen which monitored and reported my roaming usage) to ensure I was kept aware of my usage.

So, with careful use of data, I kept within the 25MB daily limit Vodafone include with the Passport option, sent and receive a few texts (11p per text, but coming out of the £20 credit), and spent under £10 all in. Given the phone only had a £20 credit, even if something went wrong with the Passport data options, or I suddenly started making lots of calls (or my phone had been stolen; though I’m not sure a two year old Android phone would have been that worthy), my absolute roaming spend was limited to that £20 topup. I appreciate the UK networks have now introduced roaming cost caps to limit bill shock, but this method truely limited my costs to a fixed amount.

In addition, I ran mapping software which allowed me to download the maps beforehand, so I wasn’t paying for Google Maps type data transfers of map data all the time (and in fact, since travelling, Google Maps on Android now has a formal offline feature for downloading the maps, but not the turn-by-turn navigation). I didn’t need to drive / travel any great distance, but if I had, Nokia Drive on Windows Phone (or Symbian) still makes a lot of sense as it provides true offline navigation.

Most importantly, as I was travelling with my family, by having an old phone without every latest bit of software installed, and a need to keep data usage down, I mainly had the phone for emergencies, and enjoyed the holiday.

If you are travelling abroad this summer, you will firstly benefit from lower roaming rates within the EU, but either way, spend some time thinking about the costs and researching it before you leave, and make sure you plan a way that works best for you; this is even more key when you leave the EU, where the caps and new low rates won’t apply. With many of the networks now offering bundles and good rates on PAYG SIMs, it’s well worth considering taking a second phone (or simply an old phone in the cupboard) to best save money and keep down the risk of bill shock.


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Mobile World Congress roundup

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s Mobile Web Congress, where many (but not all) device manufacturers announce their new products for the next few months. Of course, many are well into planning future products, but right now, there’s been a lot of products announced (ie launched, not yet actually available), and I thought I’d summarise the devices that caught my attention the most…

So, in no particular order…

Nokia PureView 808

This device can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s running Symbian (but the newest version of the OS, which makes it much closer to Android), yes, people still feel Symbian is past it’s best, but this device has a major selling feature; that 41MP camera!  One of the best features is to use all those megapixels not to produce a very hi res photo, but to reduce the resolution of the end picture.  This can either be because it’s a low light situation, and having much bigger groups of pixels collecting the light will make for a better picture. The other reason is to allow for a decent quality digital zoom without any interpolation going on. As the successor to the Nokia N8, I believe this phone will sell well. Nokia have indicated that this is not a one-off device, and we will see future devices with equally high megapixel counts. For some, this may be good enough to actually replace a low to mid range camera too…

New Nokia Lumia devices

On top of the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710 launched last year, we now have the Nokia Lumia 900 and the base model, the Nokia Lumia 610. The Lumia 900 was expected (as the US version was already launched), but I suspect this will be popular as it’s the current top of the range model, with a slightly larger screen than the Lumia 800. Personally, I don’t feel WP7 needs such a large screen, and many people will cope much better with the rest of the range. The Lumia 900 should ship around May time.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is the new base model, and will need the slightly updated Tango version of WP7 to operate. With a slightly lower spec than current WP7 models, there may be the odd application which will need some tweaks between now and June to work fine on this device, but it’s going to allow the networks to sell an even cheaper WP7 device (this could be very popular on PAYG). Microsoft and Nokia’s aim is to get WP devices below £100, which I don’t quite think they’ll manage with the Lumia 610, but given in all other respects it’s got the same capabilities as devices like the Lumia 710, it should sell well.

Nokia Application Updates

Nokia Drive will be updated in the next few weeks to v2. This will add speed camera warnings and full offline searching and routing, functions critical to anyone who travels abroad and wants to minimise data roaming bills by turning off data completely. The current version allows you to download maps for multiple regions, but needs an online connection for routing, re-routing and searching. By allowing the data stored within the maps to be used, this nearly brings Nokia Drive inline with the functionality of the Symbian version. What’s missing? Traffic data and automatic re-routing, although I’ve heard this will be coming in v3, but I have no knowledge of a release date for that version.

Nokia Public Transport will also be released. Back at Nokia World last year, I was very impressed by this application (at that time running on Symbian, but as I reported at the time, it would come to WP7), and the new WP7 version does seem to be well thought out. Two minor issues with it; firstly, it’s an online application (which in the future will allow real time data to be included within the information presented), and currently I understand that although it includes Tubes, Busses, DLR and possibly even Trams, for some reason the various London train lines are still not included. Of course, within Central London, this is not a major problem, and the app in fact looks like it could shine in the suburbs when the train lines break, and only non-train options remain available!

Asus Padfone

Finally, a non-Nokia device; the Asus Padfone was first shown off last year, but is now ready for production. It’s an Android phone (ICS, 4.3″ screen) which can be placed inside a screen dock to create a tablet device. By only using one device it means you can have both a phone and a tablet, but only need one mobile phone contract, and you won’t suffer annoying sync issues between the devices (although Android is good at syncing contacts and calendar, most other apps have no sync capabilities). By placing the phone in the 10.1″ screen dock (Station), you’ll benefit from the battery within the dock to recharge and keep the two devices going for much longer than the phone would last on it’s own. There’s also a keyboard dock (very similar to the Asus Transformer tablet keyboard dock) which has another additional battery which will increase battery life even further.  The keyboard dock also adds a memory card slot and a USB port, which really does give the impression (like the Asus Transformer) that it could replace your laptop.

This is due to be made available in April, although prices are not yet available. I suspect the keyboard dock will be an optional accessory, but I suspect (and hope) most networks will offer the phone with the main Station dock as standard.

Overall, this was a good year for MWC, and I think we’re going to see some very nice devices released and available over the next few months. I’m putting together a separate post on the HTC devices that have been released this week.


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Polaroid develop Android Camera

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Now this is an interesting device, launched in the US at CES this week.  It’s not a phone, but rather an Android camera, so it’s got better optics than a phone would have, with a 3x optical zoom lens (36-108mm equivalent) and has 18 scene modes to take advantage of the 16 megapixel sensor. It has a Smart Album facility which will store pictures by date, location and people. With built in WiFi, Bluetooth (and “optional cellular data”), it can upload the pictures for you, saving you the need to connect the camera to a PC to share the pictures; there’s even some simple editing capabilities in the camera (cropping, red-eye removal, resizing and color correction).

Like many cameras, it uses a memory card, and like many phones, it uses the microSD card format, allowing upto 32GB of pictures to be stored on the device.

No price was announced for the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera, and Polaroid only stated it would be available “in 2012”; also no confirmed availability for the UK, but we believe it should be available in the UK at some point.


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Nokia Sleeping Screen graduates

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Back in April I mentioned a new Nokia Beta Labs application, Nokia Sleeping Screen. Well, this has now graduated from the beta programme and is now available from within the Nokia Store (as part of many other changes this year, Nokia are removing the Ovi name, so what was the Ovi Store is now the Nokia Store). If you want to try out the new Nokia Sleeping Screen, head here.

As I said back in April, I’d like to see apps like Nokia Sleeping Screen and Nokia Situations being included as standard from within the firmware to allow Nokia Symbian devices to compete with the other smartphone OSes, such as Android. Having said that, with the new Belle firmware due out in the next month or so (*) (which will replace the current Anna firmware for Symbian^3 devices), Nokia will have a good all round package to compete.

(*) Nokia are already making new devices available with Belle, but the upgrade for existing models is not due for a little longer.


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