Category Archives: android

What to buy? Samsung Galaxy S4 or Note 2?

Let me get the HTC One out of the way first.

HTC One is a great phone – infact it has everything right which all other manufacturers flounder upon. Great aluminium unibody design, fantastic CPU, an awesome custom Android skin, 1080p display, front facing dual speakers – and – the UltraPixel camera – which is THE correct step forward. However, it gets beaten hands down at two places – small battery and steep price in India. The battery is a small’ish 2300 mAh (see below why I call it small’ish) and cost ~= INR 43k (By contrast, SGS3 is INR 30k). The unibody design kills any scope of battery extension. (I handle my devices very carefully. They generally happen to remain intact even at 2+ years – but battery slowly caves in. If the battery is extensible, it gives the device almost another year to live.)

Hence – HTC One (though a super lovely phone) – is out of the race.

The other two great phones which are buy’able in the current time (as of April ’13) are Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Note 2 vs SGS4

I will compare these two devices on the factors which I value the most. I have derived these factors from my daily usage – which generally happens something like this…

  • Morning 8:30 AM to 10 AM 3G browsing (travelling, constant screen on)
  • 3G data for sync (at times wifi) till 6:30 PM
  • 10-20 calls of average 3 minutes each
  • Light browsing and emails on 3G
  • Evening 6:30 PM to 8 PM 3G browsing (travelling, constant screen on)
  • About 15 minutes of gameplay during the day
  • Rarely watch movies (~= 2 per month)
  • Heavy browsing, gameplay, apps usage from 9PM to 11 PM on wifi
  • Overnight data sync on wifi

Disclaimer : I recently owned a Note 2 for a couple of weeks. The comparisons done below are heavily drawn from that usage.

Comparison factors

  1. The S Pen
    • If you haven’t used the S Pen – you won’t miss it. BUT once you have gotten used to it, the ability to whip out the S Pen and tuck it back within the phone as and when you need it – is a feeling which just can’t be beaten. Being able to scribble your thoughts on the device is so much more easier and thought provoking than typing on any notes app. Free flow of line diagrams, doing quick calculations, etc give you such a feeling as if you are using a white board.
    • S4 completely misses this point. Note 2 is the winner here. Exactly for this reason, LG Optimus G Pro is out too. If I need to carry such a big phone – it has to have a stylus :)
  2. Battery
    • I have trolled this thought so much now that I have watched almost every SGS4 review on Youtube which was uploaded in last 1 month. Here is my take on the situation… India is going to get the Octa core version of SGS4. In this model, the super powerful A15 quad will do the heavy lifting while the very power efficient A7 quad would do the mundane tasks like syncing data, running simple apps, etc. This big.LITTLE architecture from ARM is expected to make the same battery last upto 20% longer. The Note 2 has 3100mAh battery. When I had the Note 2 for a couple of weeks – I used to reach home with about 40-50% battery left.  I am assuming that on a more heavy workload, this could go down to 15-20%. By that calculation, I roughly need about 2500 mAh battery in a day (which will still leave me with a comfortable 20% when I reach home). The, SGS4 effectively seems to have about 3120 mAh (20% extra on 2600 mAh because of bigLITTLE architecture) – which seems just right.
    • Hence both Note 2 and SGS4 seem to be pretty neck to neck on battery consumption for my daily workload
  3. Screen resolution & size
    • SGS4 has got a beautiful & crisp 1080p Super Amoled display while the Note 2 has an equally beautiful (& big) 720p display. I think jumping from my Galaxy S1’s 480×800 display – both new devices are fantastic. The difference from S1 to either of SGS4 and Note 2 is so huge that whichever device I pickup – its going to look super nice. Though having a 1080p display beats any other resolution :)
    • However – in my everyday usage, I rarely come across content that is 1080p. I am yet to watch a 1080p youtube video on my laptop (the reason is a blog post for another day). So – consuming 720p content on a 1080p display… hmm.
    • I don’t have a perfect eyesight. I need spectacles to focus & clearly see things which are far off. I like the text big when trying to read it (specially on a small device like a phone) – I just feel comfortable with that size. So with this perspective, the Note 2’s screen is just perfect. Its big & has lesser resolution than the SGS4 screen – making text look larger. And since its a physically bigger screen – it shows almost the same content as the SGS4 screen (like on a browser).
    • I have not yet held an SGS4 in my hands (because its not yet released in India) – but typing on the Note 2’s keyboard was a flawless experience. It was big enough & wide enough for the key taps to happen at just the right places. And even with an extra row of numbers on the top of keyboard – there was still enough space left on the screen to look at what you are typing into.
    • Moreover, when using the S Pen, Note 2 never felt like a cramped place.
    • Note 2 fits well in my hands and my pocket. Thought – its not intended for a single handed usage.
  4. Price
    • In India – SGS4 is going to launch at about INR 45k while Note 2 is running at about INR 32k. That’s a steep INR 13k difference. Imagine how many more accessories I can by with this extra INR 13k. I anyways will need to buy a INR 0.5k worth screen guard and a INR 1k worth flip cover – whatever be the device selection.
    • Note 2 clearly has the price advantage here.
  5. The year of Quads (& Octa)
    • Jumping from a single core SGS 1 to a quad core Note 2 was a big difference. It was a similar shift as was going from 480×800 to 720p resolution – as was going from 1500 mAh to 3200 mAh battery. The speed is more than good enough. Whatever an Octa core do – Quad core can do just well – well enough for me not to notice any difference. Anyways I don’t play that many games – so GPU performance is not a question here. I just want to be ready enough for Key Lime Pie – which is expected to be built for the quads.
  6. Hardware sensors + IR blaster
    • SGS4 is full of gimmicky sensors which I am any ways going to turn off. I have no intention of controlling the page scroll by waving my hands across the screen. Why not just use the screen itself? I consider this an absolute waste of battery. Even when I had the Note 2 earlier – I used to switched off all the sensors.
    • IR Blaster – though is a nice to have – but really? Think about it for a minute. When I am watching the TV, in 90% of the cases, my wife controls the remote :) – and almost 50% of the times its the dinner time. Do I really want to use my phone to switch channels when my hands are all greasy? I also have apprehensions on weather the IR blaster software included in SGS4 will work with Airtel IP TV.
  7. Camera : 13 MP vs 8 MP
    • Let me cut though the chase here. I own a DSLR. Whatever photography I do – is with the DSLR. The mobile camera is just to capture some spur of the moment shots – for which 8 MP is more than enough. If I look at my gallery, 60% of my shots are white-board captures. Who needs a 13 MP to capture these white boards! :D
    • Moreover, besides the jump in MP – whatever the SGS4 is touting – can be easily done with Note 2 via software improvements.
    • I am yet to do a beauty shot with any of my phones – which is good enough to be used as my wallpaper. I do tons of such shots with my DSLR.

Conclusion

SGS 4 is a fantastic device – has tons of new hardware upgrades which any mobile junkie would want to get hands on. But at the same time, it has a steep price as well. In comparison, the Note 2 is an equally well built & battle tested device (with my own approval stamp on it). I consider the Note 2 as the best executed device Samsung ever launched till date (ofcourse, India is yet to experience the SGS 4 in flesh). Its hardware & software comes together so well that it was my first mobile device for which I had no intentions of replacing/disabling the OEM’s OS modifications. I used to love – how pulling out the S Pen pops up the note taking app in popup mode & turns it off the moment you put the S Pen back in. LOVELY.

The question then boils down to – do I really need the latest & greatest of the hardware spec (which is anyways going to be outdated in 6 months)? – or do I need to find a fast & good enough device for my usage needs? …& save INR 13k in the process.

I am going to buy the Note 2 & skip the SGS 4.

Update : 13 May 2013
After playing with the S4 in Samsung shops, I realized that the phone was constantly overheating. I have made a short video describing the problem.

Share your feedback on what do you think about Note 2 vs S4

Why I will buy a quad core tablet this year

About 15 months ago, after much research, I bought my Samsung Galaxy S GTi9000 – and it was one of my best buy decision so far. Back then, the GTi9000 was the pack leader in Android smartphones & besides a few hiccups, my device did not fail to impress me.

I need more cores per CPU

Using the device for everyday activities, I do feel that a single core processor is a bit lacking at times. Agreed that there weren’t enough choices at that time – but today there are. The hottest fad in mobile/tablet industry is “Quad Core” – however I consider it a real deal!

While performing the most simple tasks – such as browsing, watching movies/pictures, using feature rich home screen replacements, etc – you can actually feel the single core CPU becoming the bottleneck. The snappiness just isn’t there. However fast is your CPU, any CPU bound process can potentially hog a single core CPU – thereby blocking all the other processes waiting for the CPU. The more CPU hungry a process becomes, the bigger queue of pending processes it creates – eventually leading to the big bang domino effect.  This, when compared to the multi core CPU, the load is distributed across the cores – thereby letting more processes use the CPU’s simultaneously – hence more snappiness in usage. I would any day prefer Dual core 1Ghz CPU instead of a Single core 2Ghz CPU (considering everything else remains constant).

Speaking of multiple cores, Nvidia’s Tegra 3 architecture (ARM Cortex A9) has done an amazing job. They’ve managed to fit not just 4 cores in their Soc, but added a fifth companion core as well, totaling the count to 5 cores in the SoC. The 4 primary cores can run upto 1.5Ghz  and are transparently commissioned when demanding apps need them – while the fifth (& smaller) ~500Mhz companion core keeps humming along for all the mundane tasks like screen refresh, background services, etc. The sheer ability to act like a 500Mhz device when the raw computing power isn’t needed can potentially save a ton of power. Check AnadTech for a more detailed architecture review of Tegra 3.

Tegra3, 4+1 cores

Probably a couple of months down the line, even Samsung will come up with their Exynos quad core CPU (ARM Cortex A9) which promises upto 25% performance boost and about 50% battery savings as compared to the current line of Samsung CPU’s. Great times ahead!

Why I don’t care about the ARM Cortex A15?

A lot of folks are eagerly waiting for the ARM Cortex A15’s to start hitting the retail shelves – infact are salivating over this! These SoC’s will beat the A9’s hands down, running at just half the capacity, consuming just half the battery! And until very recently, I was also in this category.

However, during the past few days, I’ve been re-evaluating my thoughts. What exactly do I need an A15 CPU for?
– Do I play a ton of GPU hungry games? NO
– Do I want to capture videos more that 60 fps? NO
– Do I need to perform video editing, image editing on my device? NO

The real deal here is to understand my usage pattern and what are my daily requirements. These include
– Enough snappiness to support tons of widgets
– Heavy internet browsing, ability to keep up with upto 10 tabs per session
– Watching HD movies
– Excellent multitasking
– Good battery life (atleast for a day)
– Basic games (sometimes GPU intensive ones)
– Lot of reading from PDF’s, ebooks
– Tech shelf life of atleast 2 years

Hence, I think, for the above mentioned requirements – either Tegra 3 or Samsung’s Exynos quad core SoC’s would be just perfect.

I don’t need the fastest CPU… I just need it to be fast enough for me.

A new Phone or a new Tablet?

I’ve been split among these options from quite some time. However, thinking on the above lines and anticipating the required expenditure – I’ve come to the following conclusion..

Instead of going ahead and buying a new quad core phone (which will cost me a fortune here in India) – I will keep my SGS GTi9000 (it is already running an alpha build of CM9) and will maximize its usage as a phone. Even in the quad-core era, its still a great device – with a screen which I absolutely love.

During the May/June interval – I will look out for a budget (~$300) quad core 7-8 inch tablet with 3G – which will serve my needs for data consumption, reading, etc.

I am very eagerly waiting for the ASUS to launch their 7″ ASUS Memo 370T with Tegra 3 (I just hope it will have an option for a 3G radio). Also, considering that with so many device launches, Samsung has nearly perfected their Android manufacturing/delivery/maintenance cycles (look at Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab 7.7, the awesome S2)  – I am really really anticipating a good 7″ to 8″ quad core tablet from them. That said, I hope that since CPU, GPU, OS are no more the entry barriers to the tablet industry – more hardware manufacturers will show up in the great tablet wars of 2012.

The 2012 will truly be the year of Quads!

 

Why I will pick Samsung Galaxy S i9000 over Nexus One or HTC Desire

Ok, so I have to admit it – the first time I saw the Samsung Galaxy S i9000 in flesh and blood – I was quite taken aback by the build quality of the device. When compared to the mighty Nexus One, it almost felt cheap’ish. Back cover of the device is done in plastic!!!

“Cummon Samsung!! Your device is priced at INR 28,000 and you couldn’t use decent buid material…?” – was the first thought that crossed my mind.

A few days went by and I was still trying to get hold of a Nexus One or an HTC Desire – the only way to get them in India was to get it from the US. Done that way, the phone warranty wouldn’t be worth a penny! And I’ll have to rely on “importers in Gaffar market” to get the work done – no confirmation on if the device is in 100% working condition until I shell out the complete price – N1 is priced at about INR 28k and HTC Desire at INR 25k (no idea why INR 3k cheaper).

SAD story!

Thankfully, it ended when I first read about the TV out functionality in Samsung Galaxy S i9000 on AndroidAndMe.com. That was when I first went to see the device in real – and was taken aback by the cheap feeling build quality.

However, yesterday, after reading all the reviews and user experiences about SGS i9000 on xda-forums, I decided to give SGS i9000 another shot.

  • Can I keep aside the build quality for a second and look at the hardware packed inside?
  • Can I learn to appreciate a lighter device? – I’ve always had a heavy device in my pockets (E61, E72, G1, etc…)
  • Can I trust Samsung to release a Froyo update for the device?

My answer to (most of) those questions was yes.
And yesterday, I was out in the market again – looking for another hands on with the SGS i9000.
And this time, with an open mindset towards the build quality.

I was not disappointed.

Here are a few points which prompted me to reconsider Samsung Galaxy S i9000 – over  Nexus One or HTC Desire

Super AMOLED, 4 inch Screen
Oh man! If you have ever used a Super AMOLED screen, you just cannot (I repeat, just cannot) go back to a regular AMOLED or LCD display. The screen is so bright and vivid that you just cannot miss it. Also, the 4 inch screen size Samsung has used – is just perfect. Not too huge (unlike EVO 4G or Droid X) or small (N1 or HTC Desire) – although screen size is more of a personal choice.

Technically, this screen enables a slimmer form factor, gives a wider viewing angle, is 20% brighter, is 80% less reflective & uses 20% lesser battery.

SGS screen as compared to iPhone

More powerful (Graphics) processor
Though all of the said devices (SGS i9000, N1, HCT Desire) pack a 1 Ghz processor and dish out a very snappy performance, they do have subtle differences (infact, quite some differences). They have different Graphics Processors (GPU).

  • Nexus One - Qualcomm QSD8×50 with Adreno 200 GPU can render 22 million triangles/sec
  • Samsung Galaxy S – S5PC110 with PowerVR SGX540 GPU can render 90 million triangles/sec

More triangles per sec => more GPU output => SGS  GPU is 3 times more powerful as compared to Nexus One’s GPU – hence smoother experience in games, movies and general UI navigation.
Also, the SGS’s Humming Bird processor is built using a 45 nm die – which should consume less power than the N1’s processor which is using a 65 nm die.

Check out this Youtube video which does a head to head comparison of the GPU’s on Nexus One & SGS – a must watch! Also, how SGS’s GPU blows away HTC Desire’s GPU in Doom 2 test.

TV Out capability
I am getting tired of constantly converting all my movies from MKV or AVI format into MPEG1/2 & use a USB stick to watch on my 32 inch Sony Bravia. A 300 megs movie in MKV format is converted to almost 3 GB size in Mpeg2 format – which is ridiculous!

Hence, the TV out capability in SGS i9000 is like god-sent!
Imagine a scenario, where I sync up SGS with the movies in my computer via WiFi and use TV out to directly mirror SGS’s screen on the TV – full HD playback with 720p resolution. No more conversions and copying. Yay :)

TV out in SGS
TV out in SGS

With bill and warranty
Since this phone is available from gazillions of authorized Samsung dealers, there is not even a slightest chance of me buying this phone from the grey market. I am getting this device will bill, with warranty – tax paid!

Video codec support
Samsung has done a great job in the multimedia department. Besides replacing Android’s stock media player, with their own custom implementation – which in my opinion, rocks! They have also added support for a ton of video (MP4/DivX/WMV/H.264/H.263 formats, plays .avi and .mkv wonderfully well) and audio (MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3/FLAC) codecs.


Now can one ask for more? :)

16 Gigs On-board memory
The device comes preloaded with 16 GB of memory – which is more than enough for me to store my music, photos and occasional movies. That saves me another INR 2k on a 16 Gig Micro SDHC. However, that being said, I am planning to give apps2sd a shot with an 8 Gigs Class 6 Micro SDHC.

1500 mAh Battery
A brilliant screen and demanding data requirements will only make the phone need more and more electron juice. And Samsung did it just right – by adding a 1500 mAh battery. Any lesser and the phone would have not been able to complete even one day on a single charge. Nice!

Bundled Apps…
Though, this is not important – never the less, its a factor. I think Samsung is the first Android mobile manufacturer which has decided to include a decent file explorer in the package. Though this can be done in an instant via the Android Market – but the fact that Sammy has thought this out for you – is wonderful. Samsung Galaxy S i9000 comes preloaded apps like Swype, Road SMS, Layar, Aldiko Ebook reader, All Share, Daily Briefing, Memo, Mini Diary, Social Hub, Write & Go, Car Home, and many more!

TouchWiz UI 3.0
I am really looking forward to the custom skin on top of stock Android 2.1 – I’ve always had the stock installations – so this should be fun to play with.

Checkout the detailed review (with screenshots) of the Samsung Galaxy S i9000. Feel free to let me know about how you feel about this device via the comments.
UPDATE
A lot of folks have complained that this device is slow & its GPS sucks! I believe, this is just the software.
And if this is just the software, this can always be fixed. Folks at xda-forums have already found fixes.
Next up – my unboxing video and more! Stay tuned :)

Just ordered an Android G1…

Just two days ago, I expressed my opinion on why its a good time to look forward to the Android G1 – specially when Google is selling it as an unlocked dev-device on which developer images can be run without any hiccups.

Yester-night, I finally made up my mind. After registering for the Android Market with Google for $25, I ordered the Android G1 Developer Dev Phone 1 (called ADP1).

android_g1_shipment

The shipment is expected to be delivered within 3 days via FedEx ground shipping – the delivery address is a US address :) (wink wink) – and that saved me cool $172.71 (for shipping + import fees).

Again, many thanks to Shekhar Govindarajan for writing an excellent post, explaining Android & related costs – in India.

Android G1 (though this one is T-Mobile branded) (image courtesy, Gizmodo G1 review)

Interestingly, this time I’m all equipped to do my own reviews of the device – starting right from ubiquitous unboxing reviews to rooting the G1, installing mods, etc. Stay tuned!

The package is expected to reach me on 12th May 09… and all I can do by then… is – Day Dream! :)

Why I might just buy an Android G1…

I’ve been waiting for almost 4 months now – after the Palm Pre was announced… however, a realization is now kicking in…

This weekend, I was all over Android – G1 – checking out numerous videos on youtube, reviews, phone specs, forum discussions, etc. Next obvious thing was to check that was it available in India?

There were many news threads about HTC launching the G1 in India with Vodafone/Airtel – and some of these were dated as long as in December. 4 months have passed since – and the Android is still not available in India on any of the carriers.

If I try to draw an analogy from this & what happened to the iPhone (its 2G version never even saw the daylight in India, the 3G version came almost a year late in India)… the Palm Pre, if has an exclusivity deal with Sprint – it might take cool 5-6 months before it even gets announced in India with a carrier. Add another 1-2 months for it to actually be available.

My E61 is already dying… & waiting another 8-10 months isn’t something I am looking forward to.

So I decided (actually, am still deciding) that an Android G1 would be a good replacement…  & the following comparison helped me in taking the decision in favor of the G1…

  • Hardware specs match the Palm Pre & iPhone 3G
    • + better camera
    • + digital compass
    • + hardware/software keyboard
    • - Bigger size
    • - weird looking shin
    • = capacitative touch screen, accelerometer, GPS
  • Cloud based services, tight coupling with Google’s services
  • Pretty big App Store (10k apps expected by Oct 09)
  • Alternative App Stores are already springing up…
  • Runs Linux (2.6.x kernel) & can be rooted.
  • Excellent dev/setup documentation by Google
    • - Java based dev environment
    • + Planning to try JRuby on the G1

Now with Google selling developer handsets, unlocked, for USD 399 + USD 25 (registration charge) + Shipping – I can actually try getting a device as soon as less than 15 days.  I read on Shekhar Govindarajan’s blog that the total cost of his Android G1 (shipped to him in Delhi in 3 days flat, on March 20, 2009) was USD 571.71 (INR 28,472) – which included USD 147.71 as shipping+taxes (INR 7356).

If I can manage my Android G1 in just USD (399+25), and that too in next 15 days, it won’t be that bad a deal. The iPhone 3G retails in India at INR 30,000 and the Palm Pre wouldn’t be anything less either. Worst, they both are going to be carrier locked.

I – in any case, need a “real smart” phone. My Nokia E61 – though was the smartest in its category when I bought it – it doesn’t really feels smart anymore. Specially not with iPhone, Android and WebOS around.

Plus, I miss a decent camera, a GPS & a linux OS – which I can keep on playing around with – till I fry a chip on the device :)

Talking about App development on the Android – I’m not a big Java fan. Coming from Ruby background, I’d love to try porting JRuby on the platform and hence give RAndroid a shot :)

I agree that the G1 might look a bit clunky & feel a bit big in the pocket – but it sure has a decent hardware and a damn good OS. Moreover, with a price tag of (probably) just about 20k INR – this shouldn’t be a bad deal.

I hope it works out as planned :)

An update

> I read that Google had announced that dev-phones won’t be able to access paid apps…

Yes that is true. You cannot access paid apps. These apps don’t even show in the listing/search while using the “Market” app on the dev phone. There should be some hack but I didn’t care to search for it because I do not intend to buy apps (atleast not immediately) after buying such an expensive phone. ;-)

> – Would I be able to install Cupcake on the G1? & still be able to access Android market from my handset?
As of now only unofficial builds of Cupcake are available. These are the builds built by hackers/developers out of the Android sources. Besides Market, they lack Google Phone Apps (Gmail, Calendar, Contacts etc,). Hence I did not update to these builds. I’m addicted to Gmail Push and using the phone for my daily personal and business use (my company’s Email is hosted at Google Apps).

Coming to Cupcake, there is no final release yet and hence Google has blocked access to Market. I assume that once there is an official release, we will retain all the goodies (including free apps access but barring the paid apps access). I’m saying this because I have updated my phone from Anroid 1.0 (that it shipped with) to Anroid 1.1 (the official release found at http://www.htc.com/www/support/android/adp.html) and everything is working as before – including free apps access via Android Market but no paid apps access.

> – I’ve read some (rather confusing) threads on using 3G on G1 in India – some frequency issues. Were you able to test 3G on your handset by any chance? A handset which uses the cloud to push/pull information – would really work best with a 3G connection…

No havn’t tried 3G yet.

> – Is the dev-phone, exactly the same hardware as T-Mobile’s G1? Just w/o the branding & unlocked…
Yes exactly the same. It even has accelerometer (which was not mentioned in the specs of ADP1 on Android Market). Oh yes, one difference, it has a nice back cover, kinda artistic, design :-)

> – Was there any problem with the handset that you noticed? I’ve seen lots of iPhones in real, but none G1’s… All I know about G1 is from the web reviews & videos…
No hardware related problems. Software wise, it lacks bluetooth file transfer. I also noticed that while roaming it did not automatically switch networks and instead the radio (phone network) went off. I need to test this more. It could just be a settings issue.

Many thanks to Shekhar Govindarajan for replying to my questions. I hope that these answers help everyone trying to make a decision.