Just a quickie for UK readers. Email in from Google to say that the Nexus 4 is going back on sale at 5pm today.
The smartphone market is full of great phones running Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regrettably none of them is running WebOS, so it was with much sadness that I decided to retire my HP Pre 3 and move on to a more current device. I tend to buy off-contract so as not to get locked in, but I don’t usually buy a top-of-the-range, just-released phone as they’re simply too expensive. With a budget of around £300, there’s plenty of choice depending on the age and features. Looking at Android phones, my main thoughts were around the Motorola Razr or one of the Xperias. But then I spotted that the Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus was beginning to be discounted with Expansys offering it for £299 and with its feature set, it’s an absolute bargain.
First impressions count and on unboxing, I couldn’t believe how big the screen was. It’s huge in comparison to the Pre 3, which in turn I thought was big compared to the Palm Pre. It’s also gloriously colourful and detailed and combined with the screen size, there’s definitely a wow-factor when I show it to someone who hasn’t seen either this or a Samsung SIII before. After a couple of days, I got used to the size and started enjoying the extra screen real estate available. It’s definitely worth it.
Secondly, although the Galaxy Nexus isn’t a new phone, it’ll update to the newest version of Android, v4.1 aka Jelly Bean. And it is sweet. The phone is very responsive, animations are smooth and everything that Google says about Project Butter is true. Combined with the lush screen, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to use. In the few days, I’ve been using the phone, I’ve never had a slowdown, never had a crash and never had to reboot the phone. Being a Google Nexus devices, it’s pure Android without any OEM features laid on top, which in my book, is definitely a plus and I can expect regular updates from Google without having to wait for the manufacturers to revise
I haven’t found that many functional differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean with one exception…Google Now. This runs all the time in the background, putting the smarts into the smartphone. Simply, it tries to help you run your life a little more smoothly using a set of cards which are like mini-apps. Here’s an example: if I have an upcoming appointment in my calendar and I’ve included the location of the appointment, Google Now will show me the place on a small map and it will tell me how long it will take to drive there. It will also alert me when it’s time to go. There are other cards available for public transport, flights, sports scores and I’m sure more will appear over time.
Other features of note…call quality is very good and a step up from the Pre 3. I can hear people clearly and by all accounts the person on the other end can hear me well too. The camera seems fine to me, taking photos up to 5MP, tracks faces, and there is a panorama mode for taking wide shots. I’m hoping that the lens doesn’t get too easily scratched as the camera seems to be located exactly where the phone rests on a flat surface. Jelly Bean includes the Face Unlock feature which works surprisingly well but I’m not sufficiently narcissistic to want to use. You may love yourself more.
On the downside…the battery life isn’t great, though it’s on a par with the Pre 3. To be fair, it’s a new phone and I tend to be doing more on the Nexus while I’m bedding it in, so I think it might end up being better than the Pre 3 once I get back to normal. I have ordered a larger battery anyway but it’s not arrived in the post yet. Another criticism is with the back cover that comes off to access the removable battery and the SIM card: it’s a bit flimsy but it is textured in the Nexus-style to make it easier to grip. I notice that there are replacement metal covers available but some come with warnings that the cover may interfere with GPS reception so I’ve not bothered. Finally, there seems to be only one speaker which is located in the bump on the lower back of the Nexus. Consequently, if the phone is put down on any kind of soft surface, the speaker easily gets blocked and can become quite quiet.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Palm, WebOS and what might have been. I bought a Palm III when I was a much younger man and have stuck with them ever since but when you can get as good a phone as the Galaxy Nexus, there’s no looking back. The only features I miss from the Pre is the wireless charging and the excellent multitasking app-card metaphor. Can’t have everything.
Overall, the Galaxy Nexus is an absolutely cracking phone and at £300 is a steal. Find one, try one, buy one.
Disclosure – this Galaxy Nexus was a personal purchase and not a review unit.
Enough information has found it’s way onto the web to say, with a great deal of certainty, that the Google Nexus tablet is a real device and will be on the market relatively soon. It’s almost certain as well, that the device is being built by Asus. What we don’t know are precise hardware specs and retail pricing, although rumors of the latter have placed it as low as $149.
Now today, mobile news site Phone Arena has posted leaked photos sent to them that are purported to be the highly anticipated tablet. Although the images are fuzzy (why are leaked photos ALWAYS fuzzy?!), a few things can be seen. One is the unmistakable Asus name on the back, along with the Google logo. The tablet also appears to be two or three colors, with what seems to be a white face and grey and black back.
The source of the photos also claimed the tablet is running a Tegra 3 processor and will launch running Android 4.1, widely believed to be the version number for Jelly Bean.
The tablet is expected to be officially announced later this month at the Google I/O Conference and may begin shipping as early as July. If the price rumors are correct then this could be an immediate competitor to the Amazon Kindle Fire. You can check out the two images below, reprinted from Phone Arena.
There have been rumors circulating for a few days now that Google is working on their own tablet to rival the Amazon Kindle Fire. Now those rumors are becoming more credible as more information has begun to leak out. The tablet actually makes a lot of sense given that Google already releases their own “official” Android phone, currently the Galaxy Nexus, made by Samsung.
Details that have surface so far include such details as a 7 inch size, Asus as the manufacturer, and a Tegra 3 chipset. Rumors continue, by stating that the new Google Nexus tablet will retail for $199, once again matching the Amazon Kindle Fire. The details have mostly filtered out of Mobile World Congress, which happened last week in Barcelona, and many came courtesy of the web site Android and Me, who naturally cited “unnamed sources”.
Everything here seems logical, and given that Google already uses a third-party to manufacture their “official” phone, everything is falling into place nicely. As for a release date, there are less-than-credible rumors that it will be this spring or summer. There are even some threads floating around that a 10 inch, $299 tablet will also be forthcoming.
3feet almost need no introduction. Their universal smartphone and tablet stands are well-known for their neat design and their (probably) unique feature of being dishwasher-proof.
Being universal, the 3feet stand works with iPads, TouchPads, Playbooks, Xooms, iPhones, Nexus, Galaxies, Lumias, Nooks, Kindles… Pretty much anything that’s reasonably flat and you want to see. The 3feet can hold a device at three different angles.
Moving away from the gratuitous product placement, there’s now a wider range of basic colours (11) and the opportunity to have different colours for different parts of the stand. The stand is made from recycled plastic and it’s all made in the USA.
Available from good retailers for around $20.
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In order to get round all those pesky app store rules, the musos at Grooveshark have produced a basic little HTML5 player that’s available via Grooveshark’s website. If you’re not familiar with Grooveshark, it’s “the world’s largest on-demand and music discovery service. With over 15 million songs, Grooveshark is an ecosystem that brings together music fans, bands, music labels, and brands.”
A posting on their blog yesterday said:
In an effort to span over this confounded series of tubes and reach as many mobile music listeners as we can, we’ve done the unthinkable.
Should you choose to accept your mission:
!!! For covert opts points, try it on an html5 device not listed above and report your findings to Dr. Lovedoctor at firstname.lastname@example.org for your bonus surprise.
I’ve tried out on an HP TouchPad, a Pre 3 and a Google Nexus S and can confirm that it works most of the time. On occasion, it wouldn’t start playing a track and once that had happened, I had to restart the browser to fix the problem. The app is pretty simple, no fancy cover-flow effects here. This is it on the TouchPad.
Tap on a track and it starts playing. There are also genre “radio” stations for a continuous stream of tracks. Overall, it’s not bad but the tracks failed to start playing too many times for my liking.
In a change to the mobile phone contract status quo, UK mobile telco O2 has announced a 12 month smartphone leasing service. For £55 per month, you get a 16 GB smartphone, 750 minutes, unlimited text, a paltry 500 MB of data and insurance. Allegedly unique in the UK market, both consumers and business will be able to take advantage of O2 Lease.
If you are wondering what the difference is between a 12 month lease and 12 month contract, it’s simply that the smartphone doesn’t belong to you and must be returned in reasonable condition at the end of the lease. That’s why insurance is included in the cost of the lease so that the smartphone can be replaced in the event of damage or loss.
O2 extols the benefits of a 12 month lease, tying it into the upgrade cycles of the smartphone models and giving you the latest model without a long contract. The choice of smartphone models isn’t mentioned but O2 offers all the premium smartphones – Apple iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Nokia Lumia 800 and Blackberry Torch. 32GB models cost an extra £10 per month. Update – O2 Lease is specifically mentioned against the iPhone 4S here.
If you really want the latest phone and you’re a big talker or texter, this scheme might be worth considering but the tiny data allowance really makes it all a bit of a farce. My monthly data usage is between 600-800 MB and I don’t think that I’m a particularly heavy user. Yes, I might download the odd podcast but it’s mostly email, web browsing, Twitter and RSS feeds.
Personally, I tend to buy my smartphones SIM-free as there are far better tariffs out there and you can easily sell the smartphone after 12 months to part-fund your next purchase. Do the maths for yourself and see what works for you.
The full press release is here.