IFA Berlin 2015, one of the largest annual global tech shows, is again the launch base for the world’s coolest technologies.
Although IFA covers a broad spectrum of technologies and trends at home, work and play, the first two days are particularly exciting as global tech giants announce their newest technologies.
One hot item showing at IFA, are smart watches, with some 40 million to be sold this year. Half of that is expected to be Apple Watches. That still pales in comparison with the 1.5 billion smartphones that will ship this year.
Hi folks, this is a follow-up on my first quick impressions, published last Friday, on the launch of new “super camera phones” in the Canadian market today. My take on how good the camera is on the just released Samsung S6 Edge +, Note 5, Moto X Play, joined be the recent LG G4 and Sony Xperia 3, has not changed. But here is a deeper dive on what makes these camera phones so good.
Happy Friday folks. Say “cheese” to the newest wave of top quality camera phones, with two new models available in Canada, starting today.
These phones are the best money can buy, although one is surprisingly affordable. They are basically great for any cutting edge challenges mobile users will run into today. But today’s blog is about camera quality and what features make them shoot better pictures.
They are all Android-based but will likely be joined by Apple’s scheduled iPhone 6 “s” update, weeks away, with a still rumoured 16 megapixel camera, long overdue.
What makes these phone cameras so good, leaving the fancy marketing mumbo jumbo aside?
It’s not just the megapixel number. The size of the photo sensor and the quality of the lens determines the picture quality. Additionally, camera processing software, often third party, can make or break a photo, especially in poor lighting conditions.
The speed of the lens, is more about bragging rights rather than final picture quality. Unlike traditional digital camera lenses that feature adjustable apertures and shutter speeds for proper exposure, phone cameras have a fixed large open aperture. The LG G4 currently features the fastest f 1.8 aperture, while most phones range from f2- f2.8.
Here’s my take from a photographer’s perspective on this new breed of phone cameras.
NEW PHONES ARRIVE FOR NEWCOMERS AND HARDCORE BUSINESS
Motorola continues its production in high gear with a flurry of new affordable phones over the past year. It heats up the competition in affordable phones you can buy outright with no plan.
The LTE-capable Moto G features IPX7-rated protection and scratch resistant Corning Gorilla Glass for the 5” HD display. Its water proof in up to 3 feet of water—for up to 30 minutes. It has an all-day battery and the 13 megapixel camera can turn on with the flip of your wrist. The 5” HD display and Quad Core processor to keep up with today’s mobile demands. It feels nice to hold with careful edge wedging and a non-slip front surface. The Moto G is available in more than 60 countries throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In Canada it’s available for as low as $200 outright or free with a two year plan at TELUS, Bell Mobility, Koodo, or Virgin Mobile and soon at Wind Mobile.
TELUS recently launched more than 8,000 free WiFi hotspots in B.C. and Alberta. The service is free to TELUS customers and non-TELUS customers. But TELUS costumers will have advantages.
The Wi-Fi network integrates seamlessly with TELUS’ 4G wireless network, automatically shifting TELUS smartphone customers to Wi-Fi and helping them moderate their use of wireless data.
You will find TELUS WiFi at 7-Eleven, Fountain Tire and Vancity credit union.
It’s also in BC Place and TELUS World of Science in Vancouver; the Saddledome and TELUS Spark in Calgary; TELUS World of Science in Edmonton; the Richmond Olympic Oval; and throughout the Whistler village and ski resort. TELUS is currently installing Wi-Fi in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Victoria International Airport.
Last week I attended the much anticipated New York launch of the ASUS ZenFone 2, a new flagship phone that is heating up the competition between Chinese-made contract-free smartphones with all the bells and whistles and leading edge performance.
The Zenfone 2 features a 13 MP camera with ASUS-exclusive PixelMaster camera technology, a much improved ZenUI user interface, Dual-SIM (well yes but only one will take 4G SIMS) ) Dual-Active (DSDA) capability, and a new performance level against ANY phone.
Why? Under the hood of the Hull HD 5.5 IPS + screen is a 64-bit four-core Intel Atom Z3580 (‘Moorefield’) processor with up to 4GB RAM and an Intel LTE-Advanced XMM 7260 modem. ASUS convincingly showed how the world’s first 4 GB RAM smartphone could juggle between four memory intensive games, pausing between all four and not missing a beat when switching between them.
The BlackBerry Leap, available today for as low as $0.00 with plan or $349 CAD outright, has lots of BlackBerry DNA. Minus a real keyboard for a large 5-inch screen and some careful nip and tucking on the hardware side has made the Leap an affordable quality mid-tier smart phone. BlackBerry likes to market it for the young professional, meaning start-up companies who want BlackBerry device enterprise security advantages at a lower hardware cost. But I think it will also attract BB fans who have skipped a few upgrades.
Don’t let the price fool you. It has design smarts and functionality.
For starters, it feels just right to hold with a non-slip back and sides so it won’t slip from your hands, lap or dashboard. You can add micro-SD memory and oversized battery will easily make it last till the next morning.
The 8 MP main camera is welcome with more shooting control features and better than average picture quality. The images are crisp with good colour contrast, but the Full HD video does lose some smoothness in fast scenes – otherwise acceptable in normal shoots. You can snap a picture while in video mode too. Nice.
I like the selfie quality keeping you and things you are close to or holding in sharp focus on the first shot, as all phones should.
The Leap has a 5-inch touchscreen with a responsive keyboard, similar to higher tier siblings, including the unique feature of flipping accurate predictive words that appear on the keyboard upward to the text box. If you master this flip thing you will be a speed demon typist.
It features the same efficient multi-direction screen finger swipe to navigate between individual email or messaging accounts, a hub that shows all your communications, to open apps and an icon view of screen apps.
The screen reacts quickly to your commands, and although one notch down on “sharpness” and DPI tech terms, sharp enough with crispness and detail.
The Leap doesn’t have NFC but that will unlikely hold it back on upcoming store purchasing schemes.
BlackBerry’s BBM, available, in iOS Android OS, is superior to competitors allowing you to not just type, but use your phone and video through a WiFi connection, bypassing the phone’s cellular data connection.
As with its current siblings, the Leap has two sources for apps, BlackBerry World and Amazon Appstore with not as many apps as a full-fledged Android or iPhone but more than you would ever need.
The Leap’s legendary security features actually kick in when it is part of an IT managed company. Consumers still have to rely on their emails and texts to go through their cellco’s servers. But BalckBerry’s Donny Halliwell points out that the BlackBerry has never been jailbroken and its Blend feature lets you keep in touch with Mac and Windows laptops.
The Leap has the potential to find itself in the hands of frugal business users and fans on a budget looking for value.
Available at Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless, Sasktel, TELUS, WIND Mobile, ShopBlackBerry, and select Tbooth wireless and WIRELESSWAVE.
BlackBerry has also introduced three new Accessory Value Bundles for the Leap that include an unlocked BlackBerry Leap with accessories for additional savings, like the clever Flex shell and a sync/charging pod. Check out the BlackBerry Leap Efficiency Bundle, BlackBerry Leap Travel Bundle and BlackBerry Leap Power Bundle are available on ShopBlackBerry.
Two new phones are in the marketplace with a common goal but two vastly different stories.
The HTC One M9 with Android 5.0 Lollipop continues the tradition of the M8 with top-tier design and performance improvements. It is one handsome smart phone.
A 20 megapixel camera and sapphire glass lens makes the M9 a serious contender for good quality photos from a phone. The familiar all metal curved case tapering to thin long edges is still there, making the M9 an easy phone to hold, but it does heat up more than the average phone, especially when watching YouTube vids.
To me the highlight is amazing sound with two front-facing Dolby Audio surround speakers making the M9 the best boom-box in a pocket.
HTC spared no expense with a brilliant 5.0” FHD TFT LCD 1920 x 1800 (real sharp) screen and an Octa-Core Snapdragon 810 Processor powered by a generous size 2900 mAh battery. It comes with 32GB memory but thankfully, it features a micro SD card slot which nowadays can accommodate up to a 200 GB memory upgrade. Nice.
Check out my Global TV Sunday Morning News Tech Talk segment today.
Microsoft’s new Surface 3, is available now for pre-order. It’s touted as the portable work and school successor to its very well received Surface Pro 3 which has impressive sales. Although Microsoft touts similar DNA to the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 has very little in common with its older sibling.
Perfect size for portability and long battery life. The docking station is a good idea as is an always connected 4G LTE model. The 3:2 aspect screen ratio on a 10.8 – inch screen is smart for documents and magazines. Keeping three positions for the kick stand is welcome as is the free one year trial of Microsoft Office 365 Personal. The free upgrade to the yet unreleased very excellent Windows 10, we all get in the first year.
The full-size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort, microSD card reader and Micro USB charging port are smart too.
Now the bad news:
The Surface 3 at $639 is too pricey to start with. Third party makers can easily beat that with better features and processors, not the Intel Atom the Surface 3 comes with and more than 2 GB RAM. That doesn’t include the optional Surface 3 Type Cover, $159.99 and full feature Surface Pen for $49.99.
Microsoft is riding on the success of its Surface Pro 3 which commands a hefty price but worth it.
I still can’t see where the tablet version of Windows comes in. It’s still an orphaned touch OS and the more it gets out of the way in the new Windows 10 OS, as it does, the better. That’s not from me. I rarely run into raving Windows tablet users, still griping about the original Windows 8 and patched up Windows 8.1 with “that other screen view with big icons that comes out of nowhere.”
Microsoft’s idea of a universal OS in Windows 10 is a smart idea, insofar as having apps that run on your desktop laptop or Windows Phone. But the tablet part cannot stand up to iPads or Android Tablets. I think one of the wisest things the late Steve Jobs said was that tablets (iPads) and laptops have totally different uses.
Microsoft’s challenge to be in every day consumer lives is making the software giant give a little “free” here and there.
Canadian students can get a free Office 365 Education for Students providing their district school board or individual school (from K-post-secondary institutions) has purchased Microsoft Office for use by its staff. Parents and students can check www.microsoft.ca/freeoffice for details. The software will work on multiple devices for each student and includes classroom collaboration. But not shared with four other users.
But if the students move to another school that uses the popular Google for Education with free forever Office-like tools, they will lose their special Office 365.
Microsoft hopes planting early free seeds to potential future customers of the future is a good idea. As an Office 365 user myself, it’s difficult to break away for competitive free office software.
I must say, with all this free software, especially on phones, one gets spoiled and annoyed at having to pay companies like Microsoft for software. But there is a price for free software. You give up your privacy and your phone literally gets dragged from the additional goings on. Check out this eye opening recent research on what FREE phone software does to your phone.
Interestingly, unlike competitors, Microsoft’s free Office Mobile App has minimal involvement with your smart phone. It only accesses information directly needed by you when using the app.
Would you pay a couple of bucks for phone software that just leaves you alone? For years Microsoft insiders have been telling me, the time will come when the option of paying a descent price for software with no ads or secret sharing of your phone user stats might get traction again.