Categories
News

Google Pixel Phone will be available for Pre-order starting Oct 13 in India

Google today announced the launch of Pixel, the first-ever phone made by Google. The Pixel is the first phone with the Google Assistant built right in, bringing together the best of Google’s software and world-class hardware and making the Google experience come to life.

Pixel will be available for pre-order in India starting October 13th 2016 on Flipkart and at over 1000 plus organized and multi-brand retail stores with leading retail partners including Reliance Digital, Croma and Vijay sales among others. India is among the first six countries where Pixel is being launched.

Pixel will be available in India in two sizes – 5” or 5.5” and two colours – Quite Black and Very Silver with memory configurations of 32GB and 128GB sizes. Pixel is priced at 57,000 INR for 32 GB and 66,000 INR for 128GB; whereas, Pixel XL is priced at 67,000 INR for 32 GB and 76,000 INR for 128 GB version.

Hardware Specs - Google Pixel Phone

With the built in Google Assistant in the Pixel, users can have a natural conversation with Google to find answers or get things done on the go. Say “Ok Google” or touch and hold the Home button and the Assistant is ready to help.

Pixel ships with the newest Android operating system, Android 7.1 Nougat. Pixel Phones will get software and security updates as soon as they’re available, directly from Google. The update process too has been made easier. When a new update is available, it can download and install in the background, so users no longer have to wait for the phone to update.

Auto Updates on Google Pixel

Pixel’s camera lets you take stunning photos in low light, bright light or any light. In fact, the Pixel camera was recently rated the best smartphone camera anyone has ever made and the DxOMark Mobile score of 89 is a great example of what’s possible when great hardware meets great software.

Pixel users will have access to a toll free phone support number along with 54 walk in service centres across 30+ cities in India.

Categories
Features

Switching from iPhone to Android; Pleased as Punch!

I have been using an iPhone for quite sometime. While I love iOS for the optimised software and applications, the camera has always been the standout reason, why I choose to stay with an iPhone. As smartphones evolved, there has been some great Android based Smartphones in the market, which were worth trying.

More than anything, I look for a great camera and software experience when I buy a phone. People, who aren’t aware, I am a photographer and run my gig called iclickd. Every-time I wanted to use an Android, I had challenges with the quality of software regardless how great the hardware and the cameras on some of the phones were. Apps have also been a great concern on Android for me. If you do not agree, try the same game on an Android phone and iOS, the performance, ads and the experience are totally different.

This year, Although many people loved the Samsung S7’s camera, I wasn’t all that impressed with the image processing and the contrasts which the software adds to the photos; This makes the pictures look great on the phones, but very unrealistic when you move then to your computer. The HTC10 was a brilliant phone as well, however, the display was a let down. The LG G5 was very close to being my favourite, mostly for the Wide Angle lens.

In the past couple of months, I have been using the Huawei P9 as my primary phone, and to be honest, I am very impressed with it. Not too great in terms of specs or latest of greatest tech; but it offered a great experience and images were pretty good. They weren’t too saturated and even the colours and details felt very natural (almost as good as an iPhone did). I like to process the images my way, so prefer the tones to be at a normal level.

Dual Lens on the Huawei P9

The twin camera was worth looking at. The Leica branding made it even more compelling to try the phone as a photographer. Read our camera review if you would like to know more about how this works.

Anyways, Now that I have started using this device as a primary phone, I was on a look out for some great UX apps to solve my other problem.

Having most of my work stuff on Google, using an Android made more a logical sense for me. The Google Suite of apps works the best on Android. Other than the usual Social and messaging apps like Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Google+ etc, Here are some apps I loved on my phone.

My Favourite list of Apps:

top android apps

  • Solid Explorer Its by far one of the best file and Cloud manager app in Android. With the all new material design, It’s better, faster and solid when compared to the competition. Dual pane file browsing also helps. Solid Explorer is also a great file manager for viewing your media. It has a built in music player and image viewer, which even allow you to play remote content stored for example on your PC, Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive.
  • I personally like the keyboard from Google, however if you are looking for an alternative one, you should consider the Swiftkey Keyboard. This keyboard uses Artificial Intelligence to automatically learn your writing style, including the emoji you love. Most importantly, it also supports 100+ languages.
  • Wunderlist is one of the best productivity apps on Android for maintaining To-Do List & Tasks on your phone. Makes it easy to share your lists and collaborate with everyone in your life. This app instantly syncs between your phone, tablet and computer, so you can access your lists from anywhere.
  • If you enjoy listening to Podcasts, the Pocket Casts is a great app. This is very stable and has a great user experience as well. It allows you to download or stream various podcasts.
  • Pocket works great as a Bookmark. This is great when you’re browsing the news or some interesting stories on your social sites; be it Facebook or Google+ or even Twitter feed that you want to read later. The app is very simple to use. You can share from Pocket to other apps as well. The app also supports browser extensions so you can use it on a computer as well.
  • As you must’ve already figured out, I click a lot of pictures. The Google Photos is very interesting and the most useful app for me. The photos are automatically organised and searchable. Automatically backup all your photos and videos. The app also creates montage movies, interactive stories, collages, animations, panoramas, and more from your photos. You could also instantly share pictures with anyone regardless of the smartphone they’re using.
  • With so many social and online accounts, remembering passwords is always a challenge. LastPass is a password manager and password generator that locks your passwords and personal information in a secure vault. LastPass autofills web browser and app logins for you, and generates new, secure passwords instantly.
  • 1Weather is a nifty weather application. The app helps track current conditions and forecasts for your location and also up to 12 additional locations you choose from.
  • If you like to automate tasks and settings on your phone, Tasker is the one application worth considering to buy. This is one of the most powerful android app. This allow users to create custom made commands & actions; and use them in various places based on NFC tags. You can even use Tasker to create very complex commands based on your use-cases.
  • Drive Agent is a neat app to automatically respond to messages when driving.  If you like to have more customisable lock screen notifications, I would recommend you try DashClock or NiLS. If you want to customise the LED colour, Light Flow is a great tool. for the Moto X style notifications that light up your screen when notifications arrive, you can try ActiveNotifications.

Summing up, the experience with Android as a primary phone has so far been good. The Android ecosystem is definitely more powerful than the iOS one. With so many variety of devices in the market, android has more challenges in screen dimensions as well.

Android does give users a lot of options to customise. That is one reason, why most of the geeks do love playing with it. However, I just wish Google had a more strict policies to verify apps before it loads it up on the Play store. That would ensure good quality applications. And yea, companies should talk beyond the spec war and emphasise on experiences. These things will make the entire experience on this ecosystem even better.

Categories
News

Xiaomi launches Mi Pay in China Today

Xiaomi and China UnionPay, one of the world’s largest payment networks, jointly launched Mi Pay today, a revolutionary way to pay with Xiaomi smartphones in China.

Xiaomi also announced that it now supports public transportation cards from six cities. With this, Xiaomi becomes the first smartphone company in the world to support contactless payments through both bank and public transportation cards. Mi Pay will supports debit and credit cards from 20 banks to begin with.

Up to eight cards can be tied to any one device. Mi Pay users also get to benefit from promotions and rewards offered by the banks.

Users can simply add their China UnionPay and public transportation cards to the Mi Wallet app as shown below.

Mi Pay bind card Process

In stores, instead of having to swipe a card when making payment, users just have to hold their device near China UnionPay’s QuickPass-enabled POS terminals and the bank card details will popup. After fingerprint verification, the device is then activated and can be used as a bank card. This results in an extremely simplified payment process: users can complete their transactions just by holding their smartphone near the POS terminal with a finger on the fingerprint scanner.

Xiaomi uses NFC for Mi Pay. NFC has been there for a while now; Hopefully, this will help change the landscape of mobile payments and increase the adoptions.

Near-field communication is a set of standards for smartphones and other mobile devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimeters. – Wikipedia

Other than hardware-level security, Xiaomi has also incorporated multiple authentication mechanisms that protect user information in these scenarios: adding a bank card, smartphone theft or loss, and attempted fraud. For example, users have to be logged in to their Mi Account when they are adding a bank card, which ensures the safety of their personal data. For transactions, Mi Pay employs tokenization to protect plain text credit card information, and makes users verify their fingerprint for maximum security. If a device is lost, users can turn off Mi Pay through the official website, and find their device using Mi Cloud.

Mi Pay could help resolve the frauds w.r.t Mobile Payments and data breaches. This can also be a simple substitute to the 2 factor authentication and OTP as well.

Categories
Explainer

Smartphone Photography Tips Worth Trying!

Smartphone photography is at a rise now. Companies have started to bring in some great innovations in camera department and its getting better. Few days ago, we wrote about the new trend of dual lenses in smartphones. Everyone loves clicking with their phones now; and sometimes its nice to understand the little nuances of photography. In this article, let us look at few smartphone photography tips that can help you transform your normal looking pictures great.

1. Know your camera settings:

Test your camera on your phone in various conditions. Do not just reply on Auto Modes. These days, most of the smartphones come with a variety of modes to help you shoot pictures in different scenes. Some of them do come with Manual Mode as well. This will help you control Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO thereby altering the entire exposure of the image.

HDR mode, like the name says, High Dynamic Range gives you great punchy colours on your picture.HDR Mode takes two or more pictures of varying exposures almost simultaneously, then combines the best and brightest bits of both into one photo. You need to keep the camera super-steady, otherwise, your photo will come out blurred.

2. Composition:

Composition is how you arrange your subjects in your frame. How visual appealing it gets is left to you on how you frame it. For example, while clicking portraits, Placing your subject in the centre of your frame can get a little boring after a while. Remember, the old school passport photos. it isn’t all that impressive. Make use of Law of Thirds. Imagine your frame is divided into a 3×3 grid, and place your subject along one of the resulting gridlines or where two gridlines intersect.

law of thirds grid

Use Space better. When you surround your subject with empty space, it simplifies your frame. Further, there are fewer things to distract from your subject, so that subject really pops to the viewer. Also, empty spaces creates curiosity in the picture.

curiosity-frame

Check your corners of the frame while you click. Ensure there is any distracting elements or things that is getting chopped off. I also like using leading lines to the end of the frame. That way, it gives the feel that the picture is a part of a scene.

While shooting landscapes, try to take photos with people in it. That adds life to a picture. It also gives you a sense of scale.

Understand where you plan to put up the pictures you click and then shoot accordingly. For example, If I am going to upload on Facebook, I would rather shoot in Landscape Mode.

Get to the level of the person or a scene. For example, while you shoot kids or pets, going on the floor and clicking them at the eye level would give you much better perspectives and pictures.

3. Metering the Picture:

Remember, in some cameras when you tap to focus it also exposes your images and calculates the right exposure for the image. You could tap and hold so that, the focus gets locked. You can then alter the exposure to adjust the right brightness and highlights for your images. For eg: If you are going to click a portrait at a beach (backlit scene), you will want to tap on the person to expose him right to the camera. Most of the times, the cameras look at brighter areas in the frame and adjust accordingly.

4. Understanding the Light Source:

The right amount of lighting can make pictures more expressive and environments more welcoming. As much as possible, try to take your photos under natural lighting. You can do this by going near windows or doors when taking photos indoors, moving yourself close to the candle on the table at a restaurent, and to sources of light like street lamps when shooting outdoors. While clicking portraits, using the light on the sides can capture depth giving a very candid feel to the pictures. 9 out of 10 times, I avoid using flash lights from the camera. They are too flat and spoil the depth of the image.

While shooting low-light, ensure that your cameras are stable. Either you hold it tight, or use a make-shift tripod. If you have option for manual control on your camera, increase the ISO so that, the camera can get more sensitive to light. Remember, more the ISO, the higher the amount of noise on the picture. However, you can always post-process to get rid of the noise to a certain extent. You would’ve got the shot nonetheless. Also, as mentioned above, Go close to the light source. Avoid back light when taking pictures of people unless you want to try the silhouette effect. If you shoot your subject using side light, it can capture texture and depth.

5. Avoid digital Zoom:

Most of the smartphones do not have an optical zoom, so when you zoom in while taking a picture, you are actually cropping in and that will definitely affect the quality. So, if you can, walk up few steps close to your subject and then click.

6. Watch your highlights and shadows:

image-graphThe sensor on the smartphones have improved to a great extent. Although, they do not have a great dynamic range when compared to that of a DSLR, they do the job pretty well in good lighting conditions. Further, The graph gives you some great insights on how your picture is exposed. Using the Torch to fill in light at the dark areas which are caused by shadows.

7. Shooting the right Monochromes:

Monochromes – Black and White Pictures as referred commonly is a favourite for many people. look for scenes that contain some strong blacks and whites. The best black and white photos usually have some portion of the photo that is near to pure white, and some portion of the photo that is near black. This increased contrast adds interest to the scene.

Long exposures (slower shutter speed) work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. Pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes in your frame. They add magic to your monochromes. While shooting portraits, ensure you focus on the eyes and with a tad sharp contrast, the picture would speak!

Smartphones have greater processing algorithms as well. I am using the Huawei P9 which has some great attention to details to Monochromes. Check out some of the samples below.

Oh yes, did I forget one important thing. Keep your lenses clean. Your pocket isn’t cleanest of the places your phone lives. So before you shoot, just wipe off some of the dust from the lens. I love seeing my pictures in prints. As much as you want to support going green, it feels great when you see your pictures in print.

Just because you can take a shot with your phone doesn’t mean you should. Understand the norms if you are shooting on streets, do not flash lights at a theatre performing arts etc. Your pictures should showcase the moment you’re living in. So first live the moment and then shoot pics. Happy Clicking!

Categories
Features Smartphones

Huawei P9 Camera Review: The Leica Powered Dual Lens is Magical

Huawei P9 has been one of my favourite Camera Smartphones I have tried this year. With dual lenses, the P9 does a lot more than the competition. This is the second phone after LG G5 to come with a dual lens setup this year. While on the G5, the secondary module is a wide-angle lens, Huawei’s approach is slightly different. The P9 has been co-engineered with Leica, to bring out great details and tones on photographs. Let us look through the Huawei P9 Camera Review, its Features and how you can snap great pictures with this device.

If you have already bought one or thinking about buying one, this would be useful. While the camera is the most interesting feature on this phone, the oct-core chipset, The EMUI, and a fast fingerprint scanner are worth appreciating as well. Read our full review here.

How does the Twin lens System on the Huawei P9 Camera work?

Like mentioned earlier, The Huawei P9 Camera has two 12MP sensors set at f.2.2 Aperture, where one of them shoots monochrome only. When you click a picture, the monochrome sensor gauges the picture in terms of the light thats hitting the sensor through the glass and different objects in the frame. Using all these information available, the system then adds the colour onto the picture from the other RGB sensor. Using the colour and monochrome cameras simultaneously helps in producing a superior image with deeper blacks and vivid colours than a conventional one-sensor setup.

Dual Lens on the Huawei P9

Further, Image information from both sensors makes the Huawei P9 camera 100% more light-sensitive than the competition. The Dual camera systems also enables you to take pictures with an adjustable depth of field to create background blurs. Let us look at how can you do that a little later.

Camera UI and Modes:

When you launch the camera button on the Huawei P9, you see a very simple UI which still looks very iOS‘ish. However, Swiping towards the right, brings in various modes to choose from.

Camera-Modes-Huawei-P9

One particular mode worth mentioning is the Monochrome one. The quality of the output is fantastic. The contrasts and tones are worth falling in love with. Have a look at some samples below.

While on the camera screen, when you swipe towards the left, you get these different menu options. These let you set the resolution of the photographs to either standard format or the wide-screen one. There is GPS Tag, if you like to tag your pictures to the location. Pretty useful option, if you are a traveller and want to make a summary of your route & sort at the end of your trip. There are few more straight forward options.

Huawei P9 Camera Options

Similar to Leica cameras, there is a Film Mode which gives you three options to tune your images while shooting. They enhance the colour quality of your pictures. Although, each one of us have our preferences when it comes to colours and saturation, Its still worthwhile checking out.

Leica-Filters

You also have live filters in the camera. Once you click the icon, you will be able to see all the filters in action. You can then choose according to your taste.

Camera Filters Huawei P9

Pro Mode Huawei P9 CameraMost of the settings on the Huawei P9 Camera are visible when you are on Pro Mode. To activate the pro mode, you will need to swipe up above the shutter button. Once you are in Pro mode, you will be able to adjust the focus points, shutter speed, Exposure Values, White Balance Settings and even the focus modes. Notably, it was weird not to find the option to tune the aperture settings. As a photographer, I really missed this.

Once you are in Pro mode, you can again swipe left and now you can find more options show up. The first notable feature is the option to store photos in RAW (DNG format). In a RAW mode, the pictures are captured as-in with all the information intact available for you to post process the image later. This is very nifty, if you love playing with your images on Lightroom or Photoshop. You have an option to change the camera grid, if you prefer to get some aid while composing the pictures. There is an optional level scale too!

Tap to Focus:

The Dual lens systems on the Huawei P9 Camera enables you to take pictures with an adjustable depth of field to create background blurs, what we call Bokeh. On the camera screen, once you select the Aperture icon here, you will have an option to click a picture with aperture settings and option for tap to focus; which results in specific part of the image being focused. You can also click a picture and then adjust the depth later.

Tap to Focus on Huawei P9 Leica

When you go to the gallery, you can see these images with a small lens symbol. You can then tap open the picture and adjust the settings. There is a slider which appears next to the icon. This helps you to change the width of the aperture. Wider (least the number) the aperture, greater the background blur. This way, you could tune the image to your preference – as shown below in this image.

Defocusing-on-Huawei-P9

The software Emulates as open as f 0.95. That makes the picture focus sharp at that point and everything else has this creamy blurred effect to it. Since it’s a software made, its easy to identify as the edges get very smooth.

Auto Focus could’ve been even better. Although, the above mentioned software focusing options does come to rescue at times.

The Video mode gives you some options for manual controls as well. The video quality is decent and the colours looks good too. The P9 only records upto a 1080p and doesn’t support the 4K resolution output. Further, Lack of Optical image stabilisation also means, you may face some issues in low-light conditions; or if you want great quality, I recommend using a tripod.

I hope the latest version of the software, EMUI 5.0 with Nougat, would bring in even better camera software optimisations as well.

Summary:

The Huawei P9 camera maintains a good exposure regardless of the conditions you shoot. Highlights are just about right. The noise levels are impressive too.The camera also bumps up the details in some of the photos especially in the low light scenarios making the picture look neat.  Food pictures look great too. The camera adds the right amount of contrast and saturation to make the picture pop and appealing. The highlights are well separated from the shadows.

HDR is pretty good as well. It brings down the shadows and increases the colour saturation. The dynamic range of the images are pretty good. The two cameras working in conjunction definitely helps the device click great pictures. The pictures look even more good when you have a high dynamic range in the scene.

The option for RAW file processing might really impress people who love tweaking their images. Something I really miss on this phone is a hardware camera button. That would’ve been a nifty addition.

I recommend using the monochrome mode when you have too much of dark zones in your scene. That makes the contrast of the images look Magical.

Categories
Accessories Product Reviews

Zagg Pocket Keyboard Review: A Nifty Smartphone Accessory

Smartphones have really transformed over the years. While there are lots of new hardware which are included every year, something that went missing is the physical keyboard which many of the business phones had. While its faster to use the onscreen keyboard, few of us still prefer a physical keyboard. Especially, the ones who love to work or write long.

Meet this portable keyboard from Zagg, which is simple and compact; and works great with any smartphone or tablets.

The keyboard is designed well. When folded, it is compact and is around 9” tall. Its thin and light. You could easily slip it into your bag. Could it fit in your pocket? Well, that’s subjective!

Zagg Pocket Keyboard

The Keyboard connects to your smartphones/tablets using Bluetooth. Pairing it is very simple and quick. It worked perfectly with different gadgets I tried – iPad, iPhone and various other Android Phones.

This keyboard promises a great battery life of a couple of years between charges. It goes into standby mode when its not being used to conserve battery life. There is no power button on the keyboard; The magnets on the device keeps the Pocket folded and help maintain battery life by automatically turning it off when closed. There is a 2 to 3 second lag when the keyboard wakes up from standby mode and it automatically shuts off when closed. You can recharge by connecting a micro USB cable to the keyboard.

The Zagg keyboard has built-in holders to hold up the device to give a more upright position and a computer feel to the user. This is also slightly a problem, as you get only a fixed angle.

Zagg Pocket Keyboard Review

The chicklet keyboard feels great to use. It’s not a touchpad but an actual keyboard in true sense, with true key presses. Although, the size looks smaller than a standard keyboard, it’s not cramped. The Pocket maintains over 85% the typing space of a desktop keyboard. I was still able to type with great accuracy and quick. The device has a neatly laid out keys. Pleasantly surprised at the tactile feedback. The key travel is very short; ideal for those with a light touch when typing.

The hardware quality could’ve been slightly better. It does feel plastic though. The keyboard has been designed to be used only on a flat surface and will not work that great on your lap or any other unstable surface.

Zagg Pocket Keyboard Layout

After using the ZAGG Pocket Keyboard for a couple of weeks now, I’ve really started to enjoy it. I wrote this entire review using this keyboard paired with my iPhone. I even used this on my seat tray in the flight and it fitted in perfect regardless of the space between.

While there are few areas of improvements, I would still recommend this. If you are a writer,  It’s a great accessory for your phone. Its easy to use and most importantly, portable while you travel. It will take sometime to get used to; but once you do, you will start to enjoy typing on this.

The Zagg Pocket Keyboard works on both iOS and Android devices and is available on Amazon.in here.

Categories
Smartphones

Huawei P9 Review: A Smartphone every Photographer would Love

Smartphones have always tried to replace our cameras. In true world, it does make sense, as you don’t carry your camera wherever you go unlike your mobile devices. While some companies claim to make camera phones, that would replace a DSLR, its nothing but just a joke. Each have different purposes and it would be wiser if we do not compare these two. However, on a regular daily usage you do not need a DSLR for everyday pictures; it would be nice to have a good portable Smartphone that couples as a camera which clicks quick and great pictures.

Huawei announced its flagship, the Huawei P9 today in India. The phone will be available for 39999 INR on Flipkart. The Huawei P9 is one of the best phones the company has every made. It is targeted at people who love creating photographs. Especially, with its association with Leica, it makes it even more worth looking at. I have been using this phone for over a couple of weeks and I am very impressed. Let us look at a detailed Huawei P9 review in this article. If you are keen on the camera review, read it here.

Hardware, Look and Feel:

The Huawei P9 is made up of aerospace-class unibody aluminium and a 2.5D glass with a brushed metal effect for a smooth look. The edges are flat and straight design makes the device easy and comfortable to hold.

The phone is very light and feels great to carry along. Might feel slightly slippery. The back is quite ergonomic and the rear flows very well to the front. A protective case will still be a good idea.

Huawei-P9 rear antenna

The power button and volume rockers are placed on the right side which feels vey neat and also offers a good amount of tactile feedback. The power button also have a textured feel to it making it more comfortable to use.

The left side is for the SIM and SD card slots. There is a single slot with a dedicated SIM and a Hybrid slot. You could either pop-in two SIM cards or use one for a expandable micro-SD card.

The phone is powered with an octacore Kirin 955 chipset (This octacore processor comes with 4 x Cortex A72 cores clocked at 2.5GHz and 4 x Cortex A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz), Mali T880 GPU, faster EMMC 5.1 and 3GB RAM. The Huawei P9 is the first phone with a processor, that has a Depth Image Signal  Processor onboard.

The phone has a onboard 32GB ROM, expandable upto 128 GB. The phone doesn’t support adoptable storage though.

There is a very slight lag on the app-load when you launch 3rd party apps; its certainly not a major deal breaker. Probably, it would’ve been better on a 4GB/64 RAM model. However, the Emotion UI makes the OS much user friendly and optimises the OS with a good RAM management.

The OS also provides some good tweaks that help in better performance when compared to other phones in  this segment. The Gaming performance on this phone is very impressive as well.

The rear of the phone sports the camera and the finger print sensor. The Leica branding on the rear adds to the premium feel to the phone. Although, I still wonder why the SUMMARIT H1:2.2/27 ASPH was needed. They could’ve just kept it subtle with just Leica.

Huawei P9 Dual Camera Leica

The finger print sensor is an impressive feature on this phone (or in any Huawei phone in that matter). The finger print reading is fast (the company says 0.5 seconds to unlock) and also, has worked well all the times for me. When compared to other phones, the accuracy is pretty neat.

The Kirin 955 chipset also helps with silicon-chip level protection. There is a dedicated security module within the silicon chip that ensures user security, handling key information like fingerprints, keypad, and voice.

The phone has a 3000 MAH battery which offers a decent battery life of around a day. The charging speed isn’t one of the best either. Considering the phone to be a flagship, the battery life could’ve been better for sure. However, With Emotion UI, there are tons of more customisations which you can apply, to make your phone even better in terms of battery saving. Thanks to the patents Huawei has on the same.

With triple Antenna, the call drops are fairly less. Also, you don’t need to worry about your hand position under different signal conditions. Better RF performance- system automatically switches to the antenna with the best signal to prevent dropped calls.

Huawei P9 Leica Dual Lens back rear

The call quality is very impressive and the volume is good too. The Wi-Fi+ 2.0 automatically connect to the strongest available Wi-Fi network. The phone ranks the Wi-Fi hotspots, and prioritises the best connection.

The combination of beautiful design, powerful hardware, and a great camera gives this phone an edge when compared to the rest of the competition.

Display

The Display is very impressive and sharp. I find it to be one of the real good features of the phone. Its a 5.2″ FHD display with 96% colour saturation and high contrast. The quality and the details are neat. Images aren’t over-saturated or too warm/cold. the colours are vibrant and the brightness on the screen is impressive as well.

The LCD ensures blacks are nice and deep. It’s quite good even in a broad day light. Reading text on the phone is pretty good. I like the fact, it isn’t too sharp giving a realistic clear text.

Huawei P9 EMUI

If you want to nit pick, the display brightness could still look slightly low when compared to other flagships who offer Quad HD displays and much brighter nits. Huawei has managed to offer a better battery life with a full HD display here.

Software, User Experience:

The Huawei P9 runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box with the customised version. These days, Every company have their own android skins for their phones. Out of all, my personal favourites have been the Flyme OS, MIUI and Emotion UI. They are not just basic customisations, but give users few features which are actually worth trying.

This phone offer Emotion UI 4.1, featuring Marshmallow.  There are few software features which makes the phone pretty good. My personal favourite is the notifications window. They show a lot more detail on a timeline about the app notifications and your system.

Shake to re-align icons is cool as well. Themes would also fancy some people for sure. I also like the screenshot gesture, where you just have to knock the screen.

step counter emui healthI love the Health App; that little notification on the lock screen is super cool. This version of EMUI also brings in some performance improvements.

The emotion UI provides you way more options to further make use of the finger print sensor, than to just unlock your phone. Gestures help you do that. For e.g.: Swiping up on the finger print scanner shows the recently used apps. Swiping down brings in the notifications page to quickly read through and toggle settings. A tap can be configured to take you to back screen or even click a picture while you take a selfie. You can even take a call, or use it like a home button with customisations available.

Camera:

With dual cameras, the P9 does a lot more than the competition. This is the second phone after LG G5 to come with a dual lens this year. While on the LG G5, the secondary module acts as a wide-angle lens, Huawei’s approach is different here.

With being, co-engineered with Leica, The Huawei P9 has a 12MP RGB main sensor and accompanied by a 12MP monochrome chip on board. The Huawei P9’s merging algorithm, intelligently combines the colours taken by the RGB sensor with the detail of the monochrome sensor.

Huawei P9 Dual Camera Leica

According to Huawei, the image information from both sensors makes the P9 camera 100% more light-sensitive than other smartphone cameras. Further, using the colour and monochrome camera simultaneously helps in producing a superior image with deeper blacks, vivid colours, and natural looking depth of field. Read our in-depth camera review here.

The Dual Lens on the Huawei P9 also helps in simulating shallow depth-of-field.

The camera is powered with a 12MP sensor, a f2.2 aperture, 22mm Leica optics, which does allow a lot of light and a dual tone LED flash to use in low-light conditions. The device doesn’t have an optical stabiliser though.

In outdoors, the camera performs very well and is quick. The quality of pictures is fantastic and the details are sharp with colours being good as well. The bokeh (background blur) is natural unlike the other phones in this segment. Thankfully, the software doesn’t over-sharp the images and hence, images feel realistic. Emotion UI also offers a great camera software which gives DNG Raw capture and other modes.

The monochrome pictures out of the Huawei P9 are worth falling in love with!

The Huawei P9 also offers manual shooting controls (professional mode) for people who like to create photographs. Here are some of the pictures I clicked with this camera over the past 2 weeks.

Pros and Cons, Value for Money:

In the past two weeks, I have been using the Huawei P9 as my primary phone, and I am very impressed with it. To begin with, the phone feels great on hands, software is optimised, the images aren’t too saturated; the colours and details feel real etc.

The Huawei P9 has been my favourite Smartphone, not just for the fantastic camera capabilities, but for a great User Experience.

Well, at this price, although it looks quite expensive, we need to consider that, this is a device from Huawei (not Honor, which has been making the budget phones) and they are competing it along with other flagships in the market. The company seems to be aggressive in getting out the brand Huawei in the country and they would like to keep it at a premium point.

While the camera is the most interesting feature on this phone, the oct-core chipset, The EMUI, and a fast fingerprint scanner are worth appreciating as well. Something I really miss on this phone is a hardware camera button. That would’ve been a nifty addition. The phone is perfectly sized, feels premium and the software is top-notch as well.

If you are behind the latest and greatest of hardware, you may see various other options in the market. However, if you love clicking pictures and value great user experience than hardware, then Huawei P9 is the camera phone for you. Like I mentioned the, photos are great and the monochromes are something worth falling in love with. The P9 is one of the best phones Huawei has ever made.

Categories
Features

Meet Alibaba YunOS: Third Most Popular Mobile Operating System

YunOS, also called Aliyun OS is a Linux distribution designed for smartphones and other devices based on the Android Open Source Project. In Chinese, the word ‘Yun’ means Cloud. It is developed by AliCloud, a subsidiary of Chinese company Alibaba Group.

According to research by ZenithOptimedia, YunOS is the third most popular mobile system, which comes after Android and iOS. YunOS was introduced in China on July 28, 2011. YunOS 5 ATOM is the latest version from the company!

Why YunOS Matters:

Alibaba-PassportYunOS revolves around the idea of bringing cloud functionality to mobile devices. YunOS features a cloud-based e-mail, Web search, weather updates, and GPS navigation tools.

With unified accounts, the cloud services are available everywhere. One gets a cloud storage space which can be used for backup and sync personal data. YunOS supports backing up system settings that can be accessed online from any other platform. It also allows users to access applications from the Web, rather than download apps to their devices.

Through smart Cloud recognition and resource scheduling technologies, the devices running YunOS can accurately identify unwanted background programs/applications, set them low on priority and increase running speed of current applications by 30%, thereby giving users a smoother experience.

Alibaba YunOS - Aliyun OS

YunOS also has a built in system security app which includes – SMS payment protection, anti-phishing URL library, intelligent recognition in phone calls and text messaging, anti-virus application, ad blocker, etc.

YunOS System Security App

For a simpler UX for elders, YunOS also brings in a neat Senior mode which not only increases the fonts and icon sizes, but does a lot more stuff.

Alibaba YunOS Senior Mode

The AppStore on the YunOS is neat as well. You have apps in various categories, including ranks to choose from. Some of the Android applications crashed on load; not sure, what the real problem was. I will update, when I figure out a solution.

The YunOS is simple and content-centric.

How does Alibaba YunOS Work?

While there is a common myth that YunOS is a custom skin over Android, its different. It is a Linux platform based on the cloud running applications online. It synchronises multiple user devices and provides a good amount of cloud storage as well. The supporting contents and platform is pretty much aimed at attracting customers into the ecosystem of one company, Alibaba. 

A skin is an overlay that runs on top of the Android Operating System. It sometimes brings in more software enhancements, UI customisations and uniqueness to a brand. If you want more to know more, we reviewed Meizu Flyme few days ago.  

Cloud Services YunOSYunOS synchronises and stores call data, text messages, and photos in the cloud which can be accessed across other devices and computers.

Here is a simple illustration that shows the difference between the YunOS and Android.

The underlying most important part of the system is the kernel. This is completely open source. Many use this kernel to build the operating systems. To name a few, Android, Ubuntu, Firefox OS and YunOS.

The Board Support Package (BSP) helps connecting hardware and the system, similar to what BIOS does in the PC. The YunOS has 2 BSPs, one is for Android compatibility and the other is for its own system.

The virtual machine which runs the applications of each OS is entirely different. While Android runs on a Dalvik VM, the YunOS has a Ali Cloud VM implementation. Its reported that, Ali Cloud virtual machine offers around a 11% increase in performance when compared to the Dalvik VM.

Alibaba YunOS vs Android

YunOS has a app framework to run native apps and has an additional compatibility Framework to support running of Android apps. Furthermore, YunOS has its own cloud server framework which functions similar to Google Mobile Services (GMS) in Android. They work on their own with no support from any other Android apps.

On YunOS open platform – Ali accounts, payments, cloud storage system API, data services are all open for partners.

Top Features of the latest version of YunOS 5 Atom:

With Alibaba’s huge investments in Big Data technologies –  one can easily identify pictures and articles to get related digital contents. While surfing, you can easily jump to Taobao to buy among the million products available there.

YunOS 5 introduces a new interface with colour support, allowing users to customise the colours all through the system applications as well.

Colorful Screen YunOS 5 Atom

The Camera software has a Beauty mode which comes with real-time functionality. As crazy it sounds, with the operating intelligent assist in the search image by content and use, you can directly buy Beauty Supplies from Taobao.

The OS also supports facial recognition for device unlocks. It also introduces a Built-in intelligent assistant, that can detect motion data and operating habits of users and provide personalised advice.

The latest version also brings in the Qeexo’s gesture recognition technology – FingerSense, which can identify fingers, fingernails and knuckle’s touch responses. This is the same company which powers Huawei devices as well.

With this integration, developers and device OEMs have multiple options for customisations, including launching a shortcut menu to favourite or featured apps with a simple knuckle tap, Drawing letters to launch third-party apps from any screen. Knock to save a full screenshot or simply circle a section of the screen to crop, save, and share that section.

Qeexo also plans to include FingerAngle, that adds 3D touch capabilities to the mobile screen, and EarSense, which replaces physical proximity sensors for better performance and design. These new features will be available to YunOS developers through simple software updates.

Summing up:

There are a few devices that are available in China which runs this out of box. The company has also made the ROMs available for other devices as well; you can check the list of devices here. International readers, there is an installation package for Google’s Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 as well.

Understandably, most of the content is still in Chinese. Hopefully as the company prepares its expansion for other markets, we should start seeing International versions of the OS.

Alibaba YunOS running on a Xiaomi Mi4
I flashed the ROM for the Xiaomi Mi4. It was quite straight forward to do that. You just had to download the file and then flash it using TWRP.

YunOS integrates Alibaba Group’s Big Data, Cloud services and technological intelligent device operating systems which can be mounted on a smart phone, smart set-top boxes, Internet TV, smart home, smart car, smart wearable and other intelligent terminals.

The OS had around 40M active users around the end of last year and it aims to have 100M users by end of this year. The company is challenging the Android market in China and is also slowly looking to expand into Western markets.

Considering the fact that Google services isn’t available in China, Alibaba YunOS has obvious advantages over Android there. Along with running Android Apps, it also brings Ali’s e-commerce, Internet services, Cloud Storage and Content benefits for Chinese users.

Categories
Features

Xiaomi in India: A Journey that Transformed the Smartphone Scene

This week, Xiaomi celebrates its second anniversary in India and is offering great discount on products for its customers. Its quite intriguing to learn how this company made its way to glory over the past two years.

Early 2014, It wasn’t easy at all for any new company to establish itself in the smartphone market which was dominated by Samsung in India. However, Xiaomi adhered to its goal of providing affordable technology to people and managed to strike a cord by offering great products at reasonable prices. They have been progressing in the right direction ever since.

Xiaomi was founded in 2010. They’ve been able to bring together like-minded people from Microsoft, Google, Motorola, Yahoo and other big players in the industry with a focus of making innovative products at ground breaking prices. They reached great heights in China by 2014. Mi 3 was Xiaomi’s top performing smartphone in China then, so it was a logical move to introduce this phone in India.

xiaomi-mi-3

The Beginning:

Mi started its journey with Mi 3 in July 2013. This was one phone which transformed the Indian Smartphone market. Until Mi3 arrived in India the concept of ‘affordable flagship phone’ was non-existent.mi in india first invite

Xiomi had a different approach to things and had a clear road map in their mind.I can still remember the conversations which Hugo and Manu had with the media and blogger community. Instead of having the launch at a fancy venue, they focused on small group discussions with us to understand the market and our thoughts. They also explained to us what they bring to the table. This approach was something new to many of us and today we know that it was indeed a great way to start.

I loved the honest approach this company was taking. It was a new learning for many of us to understand how they could price the phone at such a great price.

The Mi3 India announcement came with this beautiful theme designed exclusively for the launch which showed their dedication and interest in bringing great products to our country.

mi-in-India-theme

Xiaomi Mi3 also introduced a new concept to Indian e-commerce business – The Flash Sale which was new to us and it became a routine for many of us to sit in front of a computer and wait till the clock strikes 2.00 PM to hit the submit button and buy phones. On a lighter note, the initial sales also did a regression analysis on the Flipkart’s infrastructure which went down many times during these sales.

flipkart-mi3-server-down

“The site saw an unprecedented 250,000 users simultaneously accessing the Mi 3 page shortly after the sale opened at 2pm today. This traffic load was 4 times higher than the heaviest level ever experienced by Flipkart’s infrastructure. At 2pm sharp, when the countdown timer on the Mi 3 page hit 00:00:00, users were able to instantly add the product to their shopping carts (resulting in liquidation of the entire inventory in just under 5 seconds) and were then taken to the payment and checkout pages which they completed at their leisure.” – Flipkart

More Phones to the Market:

Hugo scratching the phone screen
Hugo trying to scratch Redmi 1S using a pair of scissors to show the quality of the glass.

Following the Mi3 success, the company introduced Redmi 1s – which was the best entry level smartphone. The company also partnered with Airtel for the first time to help users experience how 4G can help them with faster internet using the Redmi Note 4G This also got company more traction which till then was only by online sales and branding via Facebook & Flipkart.

By the end of 2014, the company had already sold about 1M phones in India which was a massive number considering the fact, they were just 6 months old in the country.

Mi PowerBanks, which were launched in October 2014 was an instant hit as well. No one could imagine buying a 10,000 mAh power bank for as low as 999 INR.

Mi4, Mi4i and Mi Band:

2015 saw variety of devices coming from the company. The Mi4, Mi4i, Redmi 2, Mi Pad and Mi Band. The Mi Band became one of the most successful product for the company. In a short period of time, Mi also became the Number one wearable brand in India with over 27% market share according to IDC survey, 2016 Q1.

India Wearables Market Share 2016Q1

Days after the Mi4i launch, the company also announced that Ratan Tata, chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons has made an investment in the company. Ratan Tata’s investment was the best affirmation of the strategy the company has undertaken in India so far.

Manufacturing smartphones locally was a significant step which Xiaomi took.  Around August 2015, the company partnered with Foxconn to bring in the first Made in India phone to the market – The Redmi 2 Prime. Further, generating more jobs in India.

MIUI, offering the User Experience that matters:

MIUI helps the performance and offers great user experience along with a variety of options to control your phone. Over the years there have been a lot of customisations specific to the Indian market like directory integration, copying OTP from messages etc.

You never buy a phone just because it has great specs. You buy it for its reliability, design, style and most importantly, the user-experience.

MIUI is more of an experience and gives you similar feel without worrying about the latest version of Android available in market. The company has been very vocal about supporting all their phones. Their latest release – MIUI v8 will be available to every device which was sold in India.

Mi Phones in 2016:

Early this year in March, the company announced the Redmi Note 3 which has seen incredible success for the company in India. They have sold over 600K phones within 60 days of launch. It was quickly followed by Mi5 and Mi Max  which reached India within months of their Global release.

Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Mi Fit App

Around April 2016, Xiaomi invested in Hungama which also got them an exclusive partnership to deliver content to Mi customers.

Earlier this month, Mi India expanded its offline presence with two new partners. Being primarily an e-commerce company, the company has taken its learning from the online model to offline model. As they expanded to more than 5000 offline outlets, it allowed more people to experience Mi products and purchase them easily.

The People behind and their Approach:

Hugo has always been a great guy to talk to.He has been honest and clear in his approach from the very first meet. A lot of people love his presentation style. The attention to detail in his talks is also worth mentioning!

Manu is very approachable as well. In the past 2 years, every-time we met him, he has always welcomed us with a wide smile. Its impressive to see, how he has built his team in India and taken ‎the company ahead in the region. Not to forget, his dedication on being part of the every launch and lending ears to our feedback. 

Mi Press meets have always reminded me of the good old Nokia days. They are not about flashing the technical specs or marketing content with numbers but one gets a lot of  insight by being a part of the detailed technical and feedback discussions.

Xiaomi also introduced the culture of Fans in India. While some companies used fans just to celebrate success or have them at their launches, Xiaomi involved them in testing/building the products as well. For their latest Redmi Note 3, Explorers identified 100 fans and planned a lot of activities and explore the phone through them.

Challenges the Company Faced:

Xiaomi’s journey in India has not been just a bed of roses; they faced many challenges as well. To begin with, the entire ‘Flash Sale’ model backfired when many people started to report it to be fake and questioned the integrity of Flash Sales itself. This also brought a sense of disappointment to the few who wanted to buy a phone but never managed to buy one through these Flash sales. Thereby, tarnishing the brand name on social media.

This was followed by concerns of data privacy as there were reports claiming that Mi devices store data on Chinese servers which could be hacked easily. The company had to step up and convince the users about how serious they were about user data and how they planned to move it out of China.

Now everyone expects Xiaomi to bring every cool product the company announces in China to India. Be it the MiTV, The Rice Cooker, Home Automation solution, Variants, Accessories etc. Unfortunately, its not that easy for the company to get them all here. There are definitely logistic constraints as of now and we hope to see them soon.

Customer Service is also the most discussed topic online. To be honest, every company suffers in that segment. I can’t think of any company other than Apple which excels in Product and Customer Service. But Apple has the luxury to do that. With Xiaomi things also went haywire as outsourced Customer Service companies could not live up to the expectation. Early this year, the company introduced its first in-house customer service offering.

A lot has changed in the past 2 years and its definitely worth looking back what this company has done in the Indian Smartphone Business. They changed the way how many people look at buying smartphones, technology got more affordable and a lot more people got connected. We hope they come up with more ground breaking and innovative technologies that anyone can use and adopt in their lives. We wish Xiaomi a lot of success in years to come, and Well, Happy Anniversary Xiaomi India!

Xiaomi Mi Anniversary

Categories
Features Internet of Things (IoT)

SAM Labs Helps Kids Learn Coding through IoT

SAM Labs, Maker of educational technology kits to learn coding, engineering, and DIY; SAM teaches incredibly complex concepts through a hands-on and visual approach. Without any prior knowledge of coding or programming, one can program the SAM building blocks by connecting the dots in the SAM Space app to form wireless circuits and learn.

The journey for this company has been exciting. Great ride since the Kickstarter campaign, the pop-up at the Science Museum and Joachim’s TED talk has been giving them great lime-light, attention and of course learning.

The kits are comprised of sensors and actuators (inputs and outputs). These are what we call SAM blocks.

SAM Labs

Within each kit, there is an assortment of blocks that hook up to our app, SAM Space. The blocks and the app are designed with one project to get you started, but not to give too much away. They want users to feel they have gained a springboard to inventing. You can see the whole process below.

Within the app, circuits can be customised with dynamic elements and inventions can even be internet connected. With a wide range of sensors and actuators, a diverse range of add-ons within the app, and endless projects to complete.

SAM Labs Circuit Design

Great design isn’t just about great and colourful looking products, it has to provide for great user experience. Simplicity and user-friendliness is what makes it a good product.

SAM Labs is currently being used in some schools around the globe to aid teachers and students alike to learn coding and programming. Microsoft has also been a fabulous helper in promotion and a driving force of users to SAM from the fantastic articles published throughout the past few months.

They want to ensure that kids have the skills to be able to build their futures. By using SAM, they gain a visual and hands-on approach to coding and STEM subjects that engage all kids – no matter their gender, ethnicity, abilities, or age.

If you’re wondering, how do you get started for your kid, first download the app and teeter around with it for a bit. Then, pick the Inventor kit. This is a fantastic one to introduce coding and engineering principles through scientific exploration as this kit was designed in collaboration with the London Science Museum.

SAM Science Museum Kit

They hope to bring in more awesome projects and a new industry standard within the educational field to gamify education and make school feel like play. “Internet of Everything for Everyone” is one statement the company vouches on.

The powers of engineering and the IoT are crucial to the development of technology and innovation in the future. By giving these to kids, we’re giving them the power to sculpt the future of technology, not just use it.