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Monday, August 29, 2011

Samsung releases 3 new Bada 2.0 phones

So, for those TouchWiz fans out there, Samsung just announced three new Bada phones.

Bada 2.0 that is. Bada 2.0 has finally brought along multitasking, NFC, WiFi-Direct, HTML5 support and voice recognition. The SDK(standard developer kit) was also launched recently.

Samsung Wave 3

The first one is the Wave 3, a successor for the high end Bada Wave 2. This one packs quite a punch coming with a 1.4GHz single core CPU. The Wave 3 sports a 4 inch WVGA(800x480) resolution, a 5MP LED flash autofocus camera that can shoot 720p video, all packed in a 9.9mm Anodized aluminum thin package. The internal storage is 3GB, expandable to 32GB trough the micro-SD slot. It also features a front facing VGA camera.

Samsung Wave M

The second phone is a mid-range handset named Wave M that sports a 3.65 inch HVGA(320x480) TFT LCD touch screen display made of tempered glass. It's 12.2mm thick with a 823MHz CPU and a 5.0MP LED flash autofocus camera. This one too has a front facing VGA camera. It's internal storage is just 150MB, but it is expandable to 32GB trough the micro-SD slot.
The Wave M bares a striking resemblance with the Samsung Galaxy Ace, but with a slightly bigger screen.

Samsung Wave Y

The last one is a low tier phone, the Wave Y, with the same CPU as the Wave M, and the same resolution, but a smaller 3.2 inch display. It also has 150MB of internal storage, expandable to 32GB trough the micro-SD slot.

All three phones have Bluetooth 3.0 onboard and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, USB 2.0 and assisted GPS.

Samsung seems to finally put some decent effort behind Bada, the previous crop of Bada phones having serious gaps between high end and low end that were never filled. Now, Bada lovers finally have a serious choice.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Symbian Belle comes with 3 new devices

Minutes ago Nokia officially launched Symbian Belle. Belle came accompanied by 3(three) new smartphones: Nokia 700, Nokia 701 and Nokia 600.

Belle comes with a completely redesigned homescreen much like Android's homescreen or like SPB Shell. It also includes a new pull down notification area. The widgets also have notifications counters like iOS when you get new message, miss a call or say have a new WiFi in range.

All these devices have 1GHz processors and come equipped with NFC chips.

The Nokia 700 has a 3.2 inch clear black display and it's supposed to be the smallest smartphone in the world. It packs a 5MP camera with EDoF, and a 2GB internal memory. The device is capable to record HD videos too. The 700 will retail at 390 USD before taxes.

Nokia 700

The Nokia 701 is practically a C7 with a 1GHz CPU, though there is no mention on GPU. The display is a 3.5 inch ClearBlack AMOLED display. It packs a 8MP camera with EDoF, just like the older brother, the C7, and an 8GB internal memory. The device is capable to record HD videos too, and also has a front facing video camera. The 701 will retail at 420 USB before taxes.

Nokia 701

The Nokia 600 is labeled to be the loudest smartphone in the world. It packs a 5MP camera with EDoF, and a 2GB internal memory. The device is capable to record HD videos too.The 600 will retail at 260 USD before taxes.

Nokia 600

It is not yet clear if any of those devices will have a GPU like the older brothers.

UPDATE: The developer pages for the new devices confirm that all of them have dedicated GPU's, which means the overall speed should be a lot better than the old Symbian^3 crop.

Also each device boasts a respectable amount of 512MB RAM which should be more than enough for Symbians to come.

Stay tuned for more info on these new devices. Meanwhile you can see a preview of Belle on video:


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Symbian Belle coming to town

Something teasing appeared on Nokia's Facebook page the other day. A countdown to "Something new on Symbian". At the time of this post there are still 28 hours left until the uncovering.

However, the flash movie from Nokia's website was kind of a spoiler. They named it something like "Belle teaser", so you can imagine the surprise coming tomorrow.

Nokia will surely officially announce Symbian Belle, most likely with a new device. There are rumors that the new device will be the Nokia 700, a 1GHz Symbian powered phone.

However, don't get too excited, the new device will probably be available after a few months, and by that time the Belle update would probably be available for the existing army of Symbian phones that include the C7, E7, N7, C6-01 and the newer X7 and E6, and maybe even the announced 500.

Belle is supposed to really close the gap between Symbian and Android in the user interface and performance department. The new Belle homescreen can accommodate resizable widgets. The text only software buttons will be replaced in Belle with graphical buttons that are more intuitive. The back button will be placed on the left side of the screen instead of the right side as before. The new Belle browser will also have a revamped UI that will now accommodate more useful soft buttons on the bottom bar.

If Symbian Anna was still in the evolutionary stage and felt more like an incremental update for Symbian^3, the Belle is more like what we all expected from Symbian 4 a while back.

Nokia has also embraced the pull-down notifications area which is so popular on Android and has been adopted by iOS too lately.

One thing can be said about Nokia that cannot be said about many handset manufacturers. They have learned from their S60 mistakes, and are now releasing updates like crazy. First Anna, and now Belle make me believe that Symbian is far from dead, and I do think that Nokia will realize what a mine gold they have here and not give it up just yet.

For those of you who have not already seen what Belle brings to the table, here's a video of a leaked Belle firmware running on a Nokia N8.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Symbian Anna available worldwide

Nokia has been working for the last days at releasing the Symbian Anna update for the Nokia C7, Nokia C6-01, Nokia N8 and Nokia E7.

Symbian Anna is available in most countries worldwide trough OTA and trough Ovi suite.

Symbian Anna brings lots of new features, like portrait QWERTY keyboard, improved icons, improved user interface speed, and a lot more new features in a great deal of on-board applications.

The most notable feature however, is enabling the NFC chip on the Nokia C7, so you lucky C7 owners, can now pair your phone with your NFC enabled Bluetooth devices, by a simple touch.

Nokia promised the update to August 2011, and it seems they delivered. Next, we'll be waiting for Symbian Belle which already leaked for the Nokia N8.

Symbian Anna was already available for the Nokia X7 and the Nokia E6 since they were launched, and now the whole Symbian^3 devices range can benefit from it.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Motorola Milestone - How to make the best of it - Custom ROMs

Well, I've been waiting quite a while to write this post. Many asked me to write a post on how to install a custom ROM. My answer until today was, I won't. Why? Because there was no custom ROM that was as stable as the stock ROM. CyanogenMod has been the closest ROM to stock stability-wise. It had it's pros and cons. The biggest con it had was the video recording bugs. Even with the phone clocked at 1GHz, the video would freeze half a second here and there while recording. I was following CyanogenMod 6 for the Milestone, until it was abandoned by it's maintainer, nadlabak. He concentrated on porting CyanogenMod 7 for the Milestone, which I think is way too much for the Milestone to handle. Maybe now that Google owns Motorola, we'll finally get an unlocked bootloader, and with swap enabled, we would be able to run CM7 too. But until that day comes, CM6 is my custom ROM of choice.

Lately, milaq has got the handles of CM6 for Milestone, and he will be maintaining the ROM for the time being. He just released a new update, namely CM 6.3 for the Milestone. This is the most stable ROM, and for my 4 days of use, I found no bugs whatsoever on it, besides the camcorder nag. So I thought I would check out the differences between CM6 and the stock ROM regarding the camcorder. And I struck gold. I found that in an attempt to improve the camcorder image and audio quality, the CM6 developers changed the default media profiles to use the h264 encoder instead of the m4v default. Also the audio was switched from amrnb to aac. So I tried various combinations and tried to keep the video quality and audio quality on balance, but unfortunately the Milestone has a hard time keeping up with the new codecs. So I switched them back to the Motorola ROM defaults, and guess what? It works!

Another step I took to make the CM6 ROM worthy was to keep the CPU clock lower than the CM6 default. 1GHz is too much for the Milestone because it gets too hot, and eats battery life like crazy. So I clocked it at 700MHz, which is only 100MHz higher than what the ARM A8 CPU was intended to run, namely 600MHz. So now, the Milestone is cool even after playing games for a long time. The 700MHz keep the UI snappy and I could not feel the difference between 1GHz and 700MHz, to be honest.

So, if you want to apply these changes, you need to apply my patch after installing CM6 on your phone.

Let's go trough the steps needed to install CM6 on your phone:

1) First you need to override the bootloader of your phone. Download the update.zip file from here and place it on your SD card root.

2) Second, you need to install RSDLite on your Windows machine(download here) and the USB drivers unless you already have them installed (from here).

3) Now you are ready to flash the Vulnerable Open Recovery to your phone. Download this SBF file to your computer

4) Now you need to power off your phone and boot in the bootloader mode. To do that, first power off the phone and then slide open you keyboard. Now you need to press the arrow up on the D-pad(as you are looking at your phone in landscape mode), keep it pressed and press and hold the power button. When the Motorola logo appears, keep both buttons pressed for 2-3 seconds and then release power button. When the bootloader screen appears, you can stop pressing the arrow button. You are now ready to flash Open Recovery.

5) Connect your phone to your PC and wait until Windows installs the drivers. After the drivers are installed, open RSDLite. Click the "..." button next to the Filename text field and browse and select the SBF file you downloaded earlier. You should see the device in the list below as Model A853. Now you need to press the start button, and wait until the progress finishes. Your phone will reboot in the process. DO NOT UNPLUG YOUR PHONE FROM THE USB CABLE! YOU WILL BRICK IT!

6) Next you need to download the latest CM6 from here. Go to the end of the first post and download the ROM file and the Google Apps file.

7) Turn off your phone again. Now you need to enter Open Recovery. After the phone turns off(the USB cable should still be plugged) slide the keyboard open and press and hold the X key on the keyboard. While holding the X key, press and hold the power button. Do not let go of the X key! Keep the X key pressed until you see a list on your screen. Now we have two cases here: first, you can find yourself directly into the Open Recovery menu(a menu printed in red color) or you can find yourself in the Motorola recovery menu(printed in blue). In the second case you need to navigate(with the D-pad) to the "Apply sdcard: update.zip" option (second option) and click the D-pad center button. Now the Open Recovery mode should be available(the menu printed in red).

8) Navigate to USB Mass Storage option and press the D-pad center button. Now you are in mass storage mode, and your phone should appear as a memory card on your computer. Browse the sd card on your phone and go to the root folder, and then to the OpenRecovery folder and then to the updates folder in it. Copy the CM6 file and the Google Apps file downloaded at step 6 here(sdcard:\OpenRecovery\updates). If you want to apply my patch, you have to also copy it here. Now you can click "Disable mass storage" on the phone.

9) Before installing CM6 you need to wipe the data on your phone because CM6 is not compatible with the stock ROM. Just to make sure in case something goes wrong, make a Nandroid backup. Use the Nandroid menu -> Backup -> Backup all.

So after the Nandroid backup is done, wipe your phone by using the following options from the Open Recovery menu, in this exact order.
a) Wipe Data / Factory Reset
b) Wipe Cache Partition
c) Wipe Dalvik Cache

I'm not sure if you need all three actions, but just to make sure, do them all.

10) Navigate to the "Apply update" option in the menu. Here you will see more than one option. First choose the update-cm6.X.X-Milestone-signed.zip and then confirm the update.
After that is done, you should also apply gapps-hdpi-XXXXXXX-signed.zip update, in order to have the latest Google Apps installed. If you want to install my patch, you need to apply it here too.

Now, use the Go back option to return to the main menu. Now use the Reboot option to restart the phone.

Congratulations, you are now using CyanogenMod 6, patched my yours truly!


Some things I forgot to mention... First of all, to get more RAM out of the CyangogenMod 6, you must disable the JIT compiler. To do so, go to Settings->CyanogenMod Settings->Performance settings and uncheck the "Use JIT" checkbox. Reboot your phone and you're done.

Another thing worth mentioning is the launcher. Michael Bentz, the man behind Zeam launcher managed to get some magic working and now Zeam Launcher eats 10-12MB of RAM with 3 homescreens full of widgets and shortcuts. I prefer it over the default ADWLauncher.

And the last thing... In order to avoid the homescreen restart every now and then, I checked the "Lock homescreen in memory" option in CyanogenMod Settings.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Apple should keep they mouths shut and get a life!

Well, somehow, Apple managed to get an injunction for the upcoming Samsung Tab in Europe(except Netherlands). A German court, ordered Samsung to delay the launch of the next Tab in European Union, at Apple's request. The reason was not patent infringement, but design rights. Apple claimed the the Samsung Tab copies the iPad design.

Why is this outrageous? Because Apple claims that it has design rights over something they did not design, but copied.

WOW! You may exclaim, who and when designed a tablet that has the same design as the iPad?

Well, a company called Knight-Ridder(no joke here), came up with the Tablet Newspaper back in 1994, saying that it will be the newspaper of the future, providing dynamic content to users.

While Apple's vision of the table was as in the picture below, the Knight-Ridder company, came up with a design that has striking resemblances with the current iPads.

So, here is how the Tablet Newspaper looked like:

So either Apple designed the iPad 15 years ago, or they blatantly copied the Tablet Newspaper design, and now claim they own it. I tend to believe the latter.

Either way, Apple is in for a big loss in this Samsung trial, and I for one hope they will get buried once again, because all of these insane and countless lawsuits. This time, we're not talking about licensing patents and stuff like that, we're talking about Samsung losing tons of cash because of Apple's insane claims.

Here is the Tablet Newspaper demoed (jump to min 4:36 to see the Table Newspaper):


Friday, August 5, 2011

Nokia X7 review - The phone from outer space

When the Nokia X7 arrived to my home, courtesy of the nice folks at WOMWorld, I wasn't there to receive it as with almost every package that comes with my name on it. So my wife received the package. I usually ask her to open up the package and plug the phone into the charger so I can use it fully charged when I get back home. When I get home I usually find the phone still connected to the charger lying on the kitchen table. So, I go and grab the phone and start playing with it. The day I got the X7, I had a "WTF?" moment when I got home... The phone wasn't there where all phones are left my wife for charging. So, I scratched my head, and I asked her where it was. She told me that the battery was almost full, and she didn't plug it, but she used it the entire day, shooting photos and videos of my kid, and playing Angry Birds on it. My jaw dropped! It was the first time I've seen my wife being so enthusiastic about a phone. And a touch phone none the less! She's a sworn enemy of touchscreens. She completely ignored the C7, E7 and N8, but she could not resist the X7. And after I held it in my hand I understood why. It has something, that just attracts you to it. it may be the design, it may be the way it feels in your hand. Bottom line, it's a joy to behold.

I usually shoot an unboxing video for every phone I receive, but I barely got 15 minutes of use of the X7 that day, and shot the unboxing next morning while my wife was still asleep, otherwise I might have waited for a few more days.

The X7 doesn't have the camera that the N8 has, doesn't have the sliding keyboard, the Clear Black Display, or the front facing video camera, but it has personality, and it's just a beauty. It's sleek, and I'm talking SE Xperia Arc-like sleek, but much stronger and much better build quality than the Xperia. Because of the design of the phone, the screen seems to be even bigger than it actually is. And the design, makes it look like something from outer space, which made me wonder which planet did the DHL guy came from :P

No one can accuse Nokia of lacking originality and innovation when it comes to design. These days Apple sues Samsung because of "rounded corners with one button" phones. They should take a look at what Nokia does design-wise and innovate instead of wasting time and money in courts.

Back to the X7. The phone is equipped with the same EDoF 8MP dual led flash camera like the C7 and E7. It cannot be compared with the 12MP AF camera of the N8, but still holds it's own, even indoors.

The phone has an unbelievable balance between size and weight. It feels solid, and just fills the palm of your hand.

The display is very bright, but the X7 does not have ambient light sensor. Maybe it was meant to be that way since it's an entertainment phone and most of the times you'll be holding it in landscape mode, and the light sensor may get covered up by your hand.

So, the X7 doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the E7 or the N8, but it quickly became my favorite.

Another thing I liked about the X7 was, and you're gonna think I'm out of my mind, the fact that the touchscreen is not insanely sensitive like the E7's. It does not register a click after the slightest of touches. On the E7 I got a lot of accidental clicks, but with the X7 it never happened. Maybe this is one of the reasons I favor it over the E7.

I got a lot of WOW's at work when I showed up with the X7. And for good reasons.

The picture quality is good, not best, and the HD video recording is very good, as I was expecting from a Symbian^3 device. But the device really shines when you're playing games. It's a whole new experience. The phone seems to be designed to be used mainly in landscape mode, held with both hands. Angry Birds just got better on the X7's screen.

The gaming side is enforced by the two games that come preloaded, Galaxy on fire and Asphalt 5. Both play very well on the X7.

Unlike it's S^3 brethren, the X7 does not have any internal storage, but it has an SD expansion slot and it comes with an 8GB SD card preinstalled. You might think about getting a larger SD card if you plan shooting HD videos a lot, because they tend to eat up your SD space.


There's not much to be said about the hardware, it's about the same as on every other S^3 device, besides the screen and keyboard.

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100
AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Resolution: 360 x 640 pixels, 4.0 inches
Gorilla glass display
Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
Memory: 256 MB RAM, 1 GB ROM
Expansion: microSD, up to 32GB, 8GB included
Size: 119.7 x 62.8 x 11.9 mm, 85 cc
Weight: 146 g
Stereo speakers
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP
microUSB v2.0, USB On-the-go support
Camera: 8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, EDoF(full focus 40cm to infinity), dual-LED flash
Video: 720p@25fps
OS: Symbian Anna
CPU: 680 MHz ARM 11 processor, Broadcom BCM2727 GPU

The box comes with a micro-USB charger, a first for Nokia Symbians. The X7 uses only the micro-USB port for charging, being the first Nokia that does not use the classic Nokia pinhole charger.

The box also contains a micro-USB data cable, and a set of earphones.

On the top of the X7 you can find the micro-USB port, the 3.5mm jack port and the power/unlock button. Unlike previous Nokia touch phones, this one does not have an unlock knob, the only to unlock it is by the unlock touchscreen button. This is more in line with modern smartphones, even though I have to say I miss the unlock knob.

On the right side of the phone you can find the volume rocker and the camera key.

On the left side you have the SD card tray and the SIM card tray.

On the front of the phone you have the ear piece with the proximity sensor, the large 4 inch touchscreen and the classic menu button. There are no dedicated call and hang up keys. The menu button is nicely located in the middle.

On the back we have the 8MP camera with dual-LED flash.

The grids on the bottom corners of the phone hide the stereo speakers. The phone only has 2 speakers, not 4 as it may seem, the top grids being there for design only.


The X7 is powered by Symbian Anna, with the additional games I mentioned above. The Symbian Anna review I wrote was done on the X7.

So, how good is the user experience? Well, think about this: It turned my wife who's a touchscreen hater, and who could not use an Android phone if her life depended on it. She loved it, and now she wants one for Christmas. Hope it'll get cheaper by then.

Here is my unboxing and video tour in case you missed them:


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Symbian Anna review - How does the game change?

Well, Symbian Anna is an evolution of Symbian^3. It fixes most of the things that were annoying in Symbian^3 and also adds new features that were missing.

UPDATE: This review comes to complete the in depth review of Symbian^3 I did a while ago. It looks at the aspects that have changed and improved in Anna. If you are not familiar with Symbian^3 please read the original review. Also note that this review was conducted on a Nokia X7 and the upcoming update for devices with smaller screen size like the Nokia C6-01 may not bring for example the portrait QWERTY.

The biggest improvement that is very noticeable is the overall speed of the new Symbian. The previous iteration used to lag here and there making it a mixed bag from the user experience point of view. Most of the lags are gone now, and the user experience is more fluent than any touch enabled Symbian available.

The text input

One of the most expected and needed updates is the text input. The Symbian^1 alphanumeric keypad was inherited by Symbian^3 without notable improvements, but Anna finally changes that. A full QWERTY split-screen portrait and landscape keyboard is available now, and it is used by most of the applications. There are times when you find yourself in the same situation as with the original S^3, in a full screen input dialog, but that one also has the portrait QWERTY enabled. I'm sure it's just a matter of time, before all apps will use the split screen keyboard.

The full QWERTY is not the best in business, but it does have some features that other QWERTY keyboards are missing, like the editing menu, or the arrow keys for moving the cursor around.

The icons

Another big change is the icon theme, which is the same icon theme used on MeeGo, where icons are square with very well rounded corners. The icons for folders are more visible, and things are not as confusing as the were with previous iterations. The folder icons are filled with a single color and have suggestive imprints over them. In other words it's almost impossible to mistake a folder for an app with the new Symbian Anna.

In the settings menu, and most of the apps provided by Nokia, the list icons are now monochrome, bringing a more minimalistic look to the icons.

The homescreen

Another big improvement is the speed of the homescreen and the way the widgets are refreshed. The swipe gestures on the homescreen lead to immediate homescreen slides compare with the old version where you used to swipe left or right and after a fraction of a second, the homescreen would scroll over.

Th widgets show a loading circle when they are refreshing so you know what happens with them at all times, as opposed to the old way where you had no idea a widget was refreshing until it actually finished.

And the improvements do not stop here. Some applications got notable updates, and here they are.

The Calendar

The calendar display includes the events for the current day as well as the full month view. A nice touch is that now the month view has pinch to fullscreen. When you pinch in, the full month view shows on the entire screen, and if you pinch out, the month view also shows the today events too.

The calendar got another improvement in the form of the new event dialog. It's now easier to add and configure a new event than it was on the previous version.

The file manager

The file manager was pretty good to start with, but now it has a new feature, that was very much needed, the mark multiple items. The file manager switches the view to checkbox selectable items, and you can mark as many items as you want by just touching them. The file manager still misses the range mark ability, but it's still very usable. In other words you may not need an alternate file manager again.

The email client

The email client got a big improvement in the speed chapter, and scrolling trough your email list is now smoother that it ever was on Symbian. The email view is also faster, and the email client seems to be now suitable for all email needs.

The camera application

The camera application also got a boost, and now the settings view is better organized, closing the gap between the old camera app, and the best camera applications in business.

The browser

The browser got a huge update. Nothing about this new browser reminds you of the old Symbian browser. Even if the user experience is still a bit clunky, the browser is far better that it ever was on Symbian. The speed of the page loading is better, the address bar is new, and the menu is better organized. You have a soft back button which is very helpful in many situations, and you can open a new window whenever you like.

The contacts application

The contacts application was also updated, and the search trough contacts is done now by typing on the QWERTY keyboard instead of the old alphabet that was popping out on the old version. This kind of search seems more natural than before.


In addition to the usual application package, Symbian Anna comes with the topApps application pre-installed. The topApps application gives you a hand in deciding which apps you should download to your phone, have three categories, Featured, Staff picks and Reviewed. The user interface is similar to the Ovi Store interface and it is a good place to start when you're looking for applications.

All in all, Symbian Anna brings more background changes, in terms of optimization and speed, than user interface changes. It removes most of the nags that Symbian^3 inherited from Symbian^1, and if you compare Anna to S^1 they don't seem to be from the same planet.

It's pretty clear to me that Nokia is preparing for Symbian Belle later this year, and by the looks of it, it will change the way we perceive Symbian in a big way.

Good job Nokia!