Asus ZenUI. The Zenfone 5 Lite comes with the Asus ZenUI, the company's custom skin for Android.

REVIEW: Asus Zenfone 5 Lite: big-screen smartphone for the budget-conscious

BUILDING on the success of Zenfone 5, Asus recently released a cheaper version of the handset in time for end-of-the-year upgrading – the Asus Zenfone 5 Lite.

The Zenfone 5 Lite has a dual core Intel Atom 1.2 Ghz processor with 1GB RAM and an 8GB internal memory that is expandable via microSD up to 64GB. The phone comes with a 5-inch qHD display of 960×540. It has an eight-megapixel rear camera with auto focus and LED flash. It comes with a .3-megapixel selfie or front camera. Continue reading →

The UP Mini (top) and UP Lite.

REVIEW: Starmobile UP Mini, UP Lite: good phones on a budget

Except for their prices, the Starmobile UP Mini and UP Lite don’t come off as cheap. Their build quality is excellent and the phones are very responsive.

Starmobile's UP Mini and UP Lite.

Starmobile’s UP Mini and UP Lite.

I passed the UP Mini around and asked friends and colleagues to feel its finish, check out the device’s responsiveness and guess its price: P15,000 said one, P13,000 said another. The lowest guess was P5,000 with most saying it’s price was higher than P8,000.

The UP Mini actually sells for P3,690 and what a device for such a price. It has a 1.3GHz quad core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU with Android 4.4, a 4GB built-in storage expandable via micro SD, 8MP rear camera with Backside Illumination (BSI) and 1080P at 30FPS video capture. The device is dual SIM with dual 3G standby. Continue reading →

Unboxing Huawei Ascend Mate7

REVIEW: Huawei Mate7: This is the ‘droid you’re looking for

WHEN you first hold the Huawei Mate7 in your hand, what is immediately apparent is how sleek its design is. At 7.9 mm thin, the Mate7 is a well-built device with top-of-the-line specifications worthy of a flagship device.

I tested the phone for a few days this week and found the device a great option for those who prefer their phones with larger screens.

The Mate7’s 6-inch screen is bright and sharp. While it’s not quad HD, the difference isn’t by much, at least as far as I can see. I use an LG G3, which is a quad HD phone, and I didn’t see any glaring difference with the Mate 7’s display.

The phone packs a powerful octa-core CPU that’s more than up to the task of running any app or game. In my few days of using the device, I found it very responsive and quite zippy. I loved using it for work – managing emails with Mailbox, taking down and organizing notes using Google Keep and Evernote, working with interns in our startup via Slack, writing and editing using Google Docs, reading articles and keeping up with news updates via apps Flipboard, Pocket and Zite. Continue reading →

Starmobile vida

REVIEW: Starmobile Vida: entry-level phone packs a punch

WITH all eyes on the latest and greatest flagship devices of the different phone manufacturers, it’s easy to lose sight of the bottom end of the lineup — the entry-level phones that will connect the next billion to the Internet.

Starmobile’s Vida is such a phone. Its technical specs are good for an entry-level device: 1GHz dual core ARM Cortex-A7 processor with a 512MB RAM and a 4GB built-in memory with provisions for up to 32GB expansion via a micro SD card. It comes with Android Kitkat.

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LG G2

The LG G2 is a great high-end Android phone

THE first thing that strikes you when you turn on the LG G2 is how beautiful the display is. It is sharp and vibrant and comes on such a big screen. It’s almost realistic you’d find yourself gingerly pressing the glass.

And as you start using what is currently LG’s flagship device, the next thing that will strike you is how responsive it is. Opening apps, switching between applications and moving between screens feel fluid and seamless.

And as the day wears on, you’d find the phone’s large battery capacity kicking in, allowing you to use the device for an entire day without having to recharge.

I tried the LG G2 for several weeks and found the phone, which comes with Android Jelly Bean, a joy to use. Continue reading →

Facebook Messenger on BlackBerry Z10

Google Chrome simplifies sideloading of Android apps to BlackBerry Z10

One of the key features of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system that runs on newer devices like the Playbook, Z10 and Q10 is its ability to run some Android apps that have been converted into .bar files.

To install these apps, you need to “sideload” the files or transfer these to the phone via a laptop or desktop. If you’re on Windows, you can sideload the files using DDPB or VNBB10.

If you’re on a Mac, it used to be a bit more complicated to install Android apps and required that you type commands on the Terminal.

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EVERNOTE. The Evernote applications for iOS and Android allow you to manage your notes on the go.

App-y New Year

Mobile exploded in 2012. US consumers now spend 1.8 more times in mobiles apps than on the Web, according to Flurry, a mobile analytics company. Flurry said that between December 2011 and December 2012, “the average time spent inside mobile apps by a US consumer grew 35 percent, from 94 minutes to 127 minutes.”

Closer to home, the Philippines recorded a 326 percent increase in smartphone sales, the fastest growth in the Southeast Asian region, according to research company GfK. The Philippines is also the country “with the highest jump in smartphone market share within a year, from 9 to 24 percent,” GfK said in a press statement last September.

To mark the end of this year of mobile, let me riff on a Pinoy New Year’s Eve tradition by offering you my favorite apps in 12 task categories, in no particular order:

News apps Zite, Prismatic and News.me

NEWS APPS. (From left) Zite, Prismatic and News.me harness social networking connections to match news stories to users’ interests.

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Edmon Joson, Smart Communications Inc. product development manager, demonstrates features of the Netphone 701 during a press conference in Cebu. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Smartphones, Smart’s Netphone

In the US, 89 percent of those with smartphones use it throughout the day, according to a study published last April by Google. The study, based on interviews of 5,013 American adults who identified themselves as users of smartphones, said the device has become a consumer’s “always-on companion” and 93 percent use it at home, 87 percent while commuting or walking, 77 percent while in a store and 72 percent while at work.

Smartphones, according to the study, “serve as pocket PCs and extend the desktop experience” with 81 percent of smartphone users browsing the Internet, 77 percent using search engines and 68 percent using an app. Seventy-two percent of users also report using their phones while consuming other media like listening to music, 44 percent; watching TV, 33 percent; reading a book, 16 percent; and reading a newspaper or magazine, 22 percent.

The study offers a peek into the quickly rising use of mobile devices to access the Internet. It’s just a peek because local usage scenario would likely be slightly different. For instance, the study said 89 percent of US respondents use their smartphones to stay connected with 82 percent saying they check and send emails with their phones and 63 percent using it for social networking. The numbers will likely be the other way around for Filipinos, who are among the world’s most active group of people in social networks.

Continue reading →

Google Docs on Android in Samsung Galaxy Tab

In the cloud? What if it goes up in smoke?

I wrote this column in Google Docs, the Internet search giant’s free online office suite. I thumb-typed a rough outline on an Android device—a Samsung Galaxy Tab—before I finished the first draft on my favorite desktop, which runs Ubuntu Linux, and edited the final piece in my office PC, which runs Windows XP.

All the time that I worked intermittently on this article during free time from desk work, I did not know precisely the physical location of this digital file nor the number of its copies and iterations. All I knew was that it was in Google’s data centers–precisely where I do not know nor care.

Saving digital office files in the correct location is among the first things you are required to learn on the job, whatever the industry or the size of the company. In our newsroom, file location is something seared into your brain the very first day on the job. Unless you saved your article in the designated folder, editors cannot access your story in the modern-day filing tray called The Local Network.

Google Docs on Android in Samsung Galaxy Tab
Writing using Google Docs on the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab gets updated to Gingerbread

I just upgraded my Samsung Galaxy Tab (Model GT-P1000) to Android 2.3.3 or Gingerbread. Ever since Samsung announced the tab was getting Gingerbread, I’ve been regularly checking whether the firmware was already available for the Philippines.

Gingerbread offers a streamlined user interface “for simplicity and speed.” Here’s a listing of the firmware’s improvements.

Samsung Galaxy Tab upgrade to Gingerbread from Froyo

GINGERBREAD UPDATE. The Galaxy Tab gets upgraded to Android 2.3.3 or Gingerbread, which offers improvements on the user interface, power management among a slew of other features. Click on photo to enlarge.

“The user interface is refined in many ways across the system, making it easier to learn, faster to use, and more power-efficient. A simplified visual theme of colors against black brings vividness and contrast to the notification bar, menus, and other parts of the UI. Changes in menus and settings make it easier for the user to navigate and control the features of the system and device.”

It also comes with a keyboard “redesigned and optimized for faster text input and editing” as well as improvements in copying and pasting text. Gingerbread also offers improved power management, built-in Internet calling, downloads management and offers “user access to multiple cameras on the device, including a front-facing camera, if available.”

Continue reading →