At this point, it’s tough to still describe French OEM Archos as an “up and coming” Android device maker; with several affordable, well-received Android devices under its belt, its fair to view it as the veteran Android vendor that it is.
Now, we get even more goodness from Archos, this time in the manifestation of a new high-end device: the Archos 50d Oxygen Smartphone.
On paper, it looks pretty impressive: Android 5.1, 2GB RAM, 1.3 GHz Octo-Core processor, integrated 4G plus a 5-inch IPS screen. Toss in expandable storage, rechargeable 2100 mAh battery, two (13MP/5MP) cameras and bluetooth smart functionality with dual SIM support, and one gets a true powerhouse.
Archos chief Loic Poirier talks about the new device’s premium leanings. â€œThe Archos 50d Oxygen is the epitome of sleek, functional and modern,â€ he says. â€œThe smooth exterior with gold accents emanates a truly high-end feel which make it an essential part of our Oxygen line.â€
The Archos 50d is due out in May 2016, and is slated to cost $149.99.
At this point, it seems fair to wholeheartedly include Huawei on the list of major Android OEMs, and as if to underscore that point, the China-based tech house has been coming to market with some nice Android smartphone hardware. One of its latest pieces, the P8 Lite hearkens to the strategy of being very price conscious, and we were eager to have a look.
We received the white unit to review (there’s also black and gold to pick from, the retail box has the device, charging materials and documentation); it’s a svelte object, packing a multi-touch 1280 x 720 HD screen on a 5.63 x 2.78 x 0.30 inch frame, and weighing in at 4.62 ounces. The white finish is accented by a chrome band which more or less separates the front from the back; the band houses the micro-USB and mics at the bottom, audio port at the top, and power button, volume rocker and sim slots and micro-sd slot on the one side.
The back feels textured, and the top piece on the front houses a subtle speaker grill, a 5 MP front-facing camera, which complements the primary 13 MP BSI camera on the back.
Under the hood, it isn’t shabby either. Out of the box, it comes with Android 4.4.4 OS. To run this , it sports a Snapdragon chip and Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU. It comes with 16 GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128 GB via SD card) and 2 GB RAM and a sealed lithium ion 2200 mAh battery. Wi-fi (plus hotspot), Bluetooth LE, accelerometer, NFC, proximity sensor, compass, ambient light sensor? Check (x7).
Based on specs alone, it seems competitive, and we couldn’t wait to put it through the paces.
Off the bat, from the on button press, the device is pretty snappy. Huawei overlays its skin over Android, and it is a gentle implementation that doesn’t distract too much from the core OS. The screen does do well; it isn’t a vivid as some high-end flagships, but it actually does pretty well in practice.
Google’s suite of mobile apps are front and center, and quite responsive; we rocked some heavy hitter games off the Play Store, and didn’t get any lag. The camera works well on conference calls, and the back one takes good snaps in the right lighting.
Call quality (via T-Mobile) was pretty good two. I used it over Bluetooth and without, and audio quality was better than anticipated; the audio and mic openings work well.
And then… we have the price. The $250 asking price is definitely one of the top features, making it a great no-contract mid-range offering.
Now, the aforementioned skin does take a bit of a shine off of Material Design, and the wi-fi direct capabilities are restricted to other Huawei devices.
In the end, the positives are clearly on the weightier side, and as an Android option, it holds its own.
One of the cool things about having a mostly open-sourced OS that can be used across manufacturers is that one can see it legitimately appropriated on varying hardware.
Which leads to one of my hobbies: raiding Kickstarter for Android-powered smartphone projects. I am a huge fan of crowdfunding — it is the ultimate ode to responsible consumerism — and seeing it manifested in new mobile technology pieces is somewhat gratifying.
UBIK hit the wires a short while ago with an Android project to adore: an unlocked smartphone named UNO. Interestingly, UNO has already hit the 75% funding mark; specifically, it has raised more than $150,000 of its $200,000 goal via more than 500 backers, which is especially impressive considering the fact that it still has more than three weeks of funding time left.
It’s not too hard to see why the upcoming device is garnering the support of tech enthusiasts willing to put their cash where their mouths are. It’s Kickstarter website also doubles as a portal with which the company keeps a pulse on fan sentiment. One result of this feedback led the company to reduce the price point of the device from $345 to $298.
UBIK is also using incentives (like including a free case with a pledge for the UNO for sharing the campaign on social media), and has added a stretch goal that bundles a free tempered glass screen protector if 150% funding mark is reached.
So, what does the UNO bring to the table? Of course, one gets our favorite mobile OS, specifically stock 5.1 Lollipop, one piece no-bezel frame, 5.5 inch 1920 x 1080 Gorilla Glass display, an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB onboard memory (expandable to 64GB via microSD), 20MP main camera and other consumer-friendly trappings like NFC and Bluetooth. In other words, it doesn’t seem to be sacrificing the extras due to price.
This is one folks will really want to keep an eye on.
KPHONE is bringing a new device to market with premium trappings called the K5.
Key features of the KPHONE K5 include:
â€¢ 5â€ HD IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass
â€¢ Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system with Google Play
â€¢ Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
â€¢ 13MP auto-focus back camera and 5MP front-facing camera (full 1080p video)
â€¢ Built-in dual SIM card slots
â€¢ Networks supported: All GSM networks, AT&T and T-Mobile
KPHONE VP of Sales, Retail Channels talks about the influence of BYOD. â€œWith the growth of â€˜bring-your-own-deviceâ€™ plans from cellphones carriers, KPHONEâ€™s first smartphone, the K5, is uniquely positioned to quickly become a leader in the unlocked smartphone market,â€ he says. â€œBeing one of the largest cellphone manufacturers in China means that the team at KPHONE understands what it takes to succeed in this competitive market: great design, high-quality products, strong manufacturing capabilities and a focus on your customers.â€
According to the presser, the new device should be available in October 2015, with “aggressive” pricing.
Love of the OS, appreciation for the extended Google ecosystem… even a hyper anti-Apple sentiment get cited as reasons. Critically, one can enjoy the diversity of product as well as as apps availability across carriers.
One element that increasingly becomes part of the device ownership narrative is price; the ability to get a device at just about any price point is, well, priceless. And, to be fair, we are not talking about just anything at any price; we expect quality, even when we pay what might be considered a good price for an Android smartphone. Now, obviously, the ability to have OEMs battle to bring the best devices to market at the lowest cost is a function of the Android landscape, but we’re not complaining.
NUU is a device manufacturer out of Hong Kong that is making waves with its unlocked devices which are now available in North America. We had a chance to formally check out its budget NU2S Android phone, and off the bat, it odes take on the term “value” head on.
The loaner NUU sent us came in standard retail furnishing; in the box, one gets the device, charging cable and adapter, cleaning cloth, screen protector and documentation. In hand, the black NU2S is quite handy, and doesn’t even come close to phablet territory; officially, it comes in at 5.25 x 2.6 x 0.36 inches, and only 4.8 ounces. It comes in the familiar slab style, with a bottom bezel housing capacitive navigation buttons. Up to the top, there is 2MP camera (in addition to the 5MP one at the back), and a 2000 mAh battery.
It comes with 512 MB RAM and 4GB internal (which can be buttressed with up to 32G of external memory), and packs a quad-core processor. Screen-wise, one gets an IPS screen boasting 960 x 540 ppi. And yes, one gets Android 5.0.
It feels good in hand, slight but not silly, with serious stylings that offset the light materials.
In use, the device works really well. Downloaded applications work smoothly, and the screen is great at full brightness. Phone-wise, the dual SIM is a nice feature, and calls work well on T-Mobile’s network, at still and on the go; no dropped calls, and clarity was great. It worked well to receive calls (we didn’t test two SIMs).
The HotKnot functionality is cool, allowing folks to transfer information by physically touching phones. It has a casting feature built in to the unit.
For folks looking for ALL the bells and whistles, the NU2S might be a tough decision. The screen isn’t as vibrant as what is seen on the major flagships, and the cameras could be sharper. There are not a whole lot of third-party custom accessories that I could find either. The relatively small number of uninstallable stock apps is admirable.
So… in the battle of budget smartphones ($100 on Amazon), this one manages to outperform its financial station. It’s sleek, and easily carries a reasonable portion of the load carried by more renown device heavyweights. In the end, all folks want is a great phone at a great price.
For Android smartphone aficionados, every OEM has something about it. We do associate things to different OEMs — some good, some bad. Personally, I love being able to see unbranded hardware and more or less guess who makes it based on some design cues. Since Android is blessed wit device makers that have backgrounds in varied consumer electronics ventures, it’s interesting to see how their Android smartphones extend the brand.
Sony definitely has a rep in consumer electronics, and its Xperia line is the embodiment of that reputation in te personal computing space. Specifically with the Sony Xperia Z3v, one of its latest devices, Sony shows us how even the sleek can get, well, even sleeker.
The review unit Sony sent to us helps one conceptualize the design. Physically, it is clearly a Z3 variant, and it unashamedly hearkens to the Z2. We style is deliberate, with regal cuts, glass front and back with plastic exo-core coming in at 5.85 x 2.89 x 0.35 inches; it packs a 5.2″ Full HD 1920 x1080 pixel screen that is actually fun to look at. At first glance, one might be forgiven if they wonder where the ports are; te device is seemingly devoid of them except for the 3.55 mm audio port — the rest covered by plastic tabs, such that one needs to pull said tabs up and out to do stuff like charge the device or use the sd card port.
The wake/on button and volume rocker are placed on the side, which does help with single-handed use. We also get 20.7 MP camera in the back and a 2.2 MP snapper in the front.
Under the hood, Sony does pack a lot of goodness… 3 GB RAM 32 GB memory (tested version), Snapdragon chip, and just about every connectivity option one can think of, including MHL and Miracast support. When it’s all said and done the Z3v is a connectivity powerhouse.
The included software suit isn’t bad, with mainstays like PS Remote Play tucked in for Playstation folks. Sony’s cover skin is thin, but I did find the Amazon integration interesting: the included suite of Amazon apps can’t be completely uninstalled. If this is truly the last time we see the music app labeled as Walkman, it could be said it went out repping the brand quite well.
Of note is the SmartWear compatibility; we had an opportunity to try it out with the Smartwatch 3, and they worked quite well together. Of course, all Google apps are included, with the backing of the Google Play Store.
The whole package is smooth, even at a non-contract price of $599 (on Amazon). The software and hardware come together quite nicely, and it is definitely a testament to Sony being able to make (and improve upon) nice hardware.
When it comes to figuring out why Android has become the mobile force it is, one can cite many reasons. For consumers, the choices the platform provide are immense. For manufacturers, the draw of having a ready-made mobile OS backed by Google is hard to ignore.
What the last couple of years has shown is that when the OS is taken care of, manufacturers can then begin to battle on price. There have always been cheap Android devices, but now, that does not mean one must get a sub-standard device any more, or worse, a sub-standard looking device.
In the Sprint’s Sharp Aquos Crystal, we see a pleasantly blatant attempt to meet the one concept with the other, and a great opportunity for a formal review.
Leading off, it looks striking. Even before the screen is turned on, its easy to glean a regal feel with regards to the appearance. It comes with a grey-chromish finish on the front, and a black, textured rubbery back piece that covers the sealed battery compartment and SD card slot. On the top, there is an audio port and power button; the volume rocker is on the left side, micro-USB and mic on the bottom, and the right side is bereft of accoutrements.
The screen, you ask? Slow your roll. We’re getting to that.
Back to that screen… the first thing one notices is the end-to-end display that covers most of the front of the device. Outside of the bottom chin, the device sports close-to-non-existent bezels on the other three sides. We’ve been hearing about and seeing thinner bezels, but this is quite remarkable to see. The bottom chin houses the LED, FFC camera and sensors. We’re talking about 1280×720 LCD HD goodness, here.
With the 5-inch screen on, the display is especially vibrant, and while it isn’t the most vivid display on the market, it is yet another indicator that it is folly to assume that this device would have cheap elements.
Under the hood, this device rocks a Qualcomm MSM8926 Snapdragon 400 chip matched to 1.2GHz Quad-core CPU, with 8GB of internal memory and 1.5GB of RAM; that internal memory can be buttressed with up to 128GB of external memory. The device sports an 8MP main camera, and the aforementioned bottom-nestled FFC is rated at 1.2MP. This is all sewn into a 5.16×2.64×0.39 inch frame weighing less than 5 ounces.
In hand, it feels comfortable, quite light and easy to hold.
Performance-wise, it feels smooth on the Android 4.4.2 that it ships with, with an experience that feels especially close to stock Android. It does carry Sprint bloat, but some are removable on stock devices. Call quality is okay, and Sharp is able to leverage the stated Direct Wave technology quite well. The photos taken are fairly sharp, and side features like Harman/Kardon audio technology is a great addition. Add in wi-fi calling, 4G and more and it’s easy to see why Sprint may have a marketable feather in it’s cap.
One will have to do without NFC, though; the 2040mAh battery seemed to struggle to make it through the day and is not easily user serviceable. I also think the call quality could be better, and it does take some getting used to the edges.
But yeah, one of the biggest attributes is price. At $239 sans contract on Amazon, the Aquos Crystal does not have to beg to be loved. No, it’s not going to knock the current slate of flagships off the throne, but it works well to be comfortable in its own skin.
Samsung has come along way with regards to Android OS. The reception of its first forays were somewhat mixed, even up until the the galaxy line appeared on the scene. Back then, there was a different king of Android, and Android, believe it or not, was the underdog.
But then, seemingly overnight, Samsung struck gold. How in the world did the the company rebound from early missteps to create a platform fiefdom? Well, look at what is did.
It landed a modest hit with the Galaxy S2. The S3 lifted the device maker to stratospheric levels; Samsung was smart enough to ensure model variants were available on all networks, unlike the competition, which had devices on limited networks. The S4 continued the tradition, and the latest flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S5 arrived looking to maintain the status as the Big Man on Android’s Campus. The S5 probably best shows how the Korean device maker manages to stay atop a crowded mountain.
We had a chance to look formally look at a Samsung provided unit on Sprint’s network. By now, most of the specs are known, but this doesn’t prevent one from enjoying the personal reveal. It rocks a 5.1 Super AMOLED screen on a 5.59 x 2.85 x 0.32 polycarbonate body that weighs 5.11 oz. The edges are slightly (dare I say?) rounded, with the white finish braced occasionally with metallic-looking accents around the ports. It sorts a 2MP camera on the front and a 16 MP one on the back. On the bottom front bezel, the ubiquitous home button resides, flanked by a new capacitive recent apps button on the left and the back button to the right. The micro-USB port is centered on the bottom, and is notably covered, which hints at the limited waterproof functionality. There’s LED, speaker grills, and audio jack at the top, and the volume rocker is on the left while the on button is on the right.
Internally, we get a variable Quad-core chip, and beside the usual sensors (accelerometer, proximity, etc), we get a heart rate monitor. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS, infrared: check.
The screen is addictive; turning it on is a pleasure. It comes with skinned Android 4.4.2, and had all the basics with regards to Google Apps. Touchwiz is a bit more palatable in this iteration, but there is a fair amount of bloat included; still, the S Health feature is a pleasant feature I enjoyed exploring.
Performance-wise, the S5 lived up to expectations, with smooth performance and no lag.
And there you have it. Samsung just does it. It created a product line that is nimble and familiar at the same time; standard base core with the Apple-esque yearly refresh. It pretty much has its own store, and somehow, even TouchWhiz feels less annoying over time. Couple all this with Samsung’s propensity to provide devices and accessories in practically every conceivable product category, it’s easy to invest in its system.
Bottom line? Samsung makes itself relevant to everyday consumers.
It’s the LG G3. Need one say more? Some reviews are just meant to be.
The device is a relative powerhouse, with a 2.5 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon processor; the Sprint variant we received packs 3GB of RAM, and has expandable memory that can take advantage of those otherworldly 128GB microSD cards. The 3000 mAh battery is user-replaceable, and the device has a 13 MP snapper in the rear and a 2.1 MP for videochat and selfies. All these under-the-hood goodies fit into the 5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inch frame, and the whole unit weighs a slight 5.26 ounces.
Physically, the device feels exceptionally light in hand. The 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass LCD display allows for a small, logo-bearing bezel at the bottom of the front, and a prominent speaker grill shares space with the front-facing camera on the top front of the device. The bottom houses the 3.5 mm audio port and micro-USB port, and the sides are interestingly bereft of buttons as, is the top. For returning LG fans, this won’t be too alarming, because they’d probably be aware of LG’s design paradigm which calls for the back of the device to be used. It works well here, with the on button sandwiched by volume controls right under the rear camera.
But back to the screen. It actually feels as though folks might continually turn the device off… if just to turn on the device again. It’s a vivid temptress, and seems especially happy to sow off its 1440 x 2560p credentials. If one has never had the urge to consume media on a handheld, this might just have one trying.
The device comes with Android 4.4.2, which is expected, and sports LG’s skin, which is not displeasing. Some of the tweaks that are incorporated and shown during setup are simple but engaging. Take the knock code, for instance, which allows one to set a pattern with which to wake the device. That’s smart. How about the ability to configure the virtual button layout and presentation? Nice touch. I especially liked the picture quality, even though I think the lasers are more buzzy than truly functional.
One exceptionally useful feature is the dual window functionality. We’ve seen this on other devices, and LG’s implementation is no less impressive, it allows the device user to have two apps run simultaneously, as in “YouTube-running-in-the-back-while-searching-Chrome-for-lyrics-in-the-forefront” simultaneously It works well, is easily toggled, and brings extra multitasking to an already stocked device. The obviously gripe is the relatively limited number of apps that work with this feature.
Now, folks who have handled the flagship device of one Android OEM in particular might feel a bit shafted by the materials used in this device. Still, it’s insane not to think it’s one of the top devices on the market now, and fully worthy of superstar status.
When one thinks of Android OS, it’s easy to get lost in aura of the big OEMs; Android’s rue strength is that just about anybody can come play, and as such, we get to see several lesser known manufacturers compete on specs, size… and even price. Enter the Yezz Andy A6M.
The review box reveals old-school ideals on the part of Yezz. It was stocked: headphones, AC adapter, USB cable, leather smart cover two back covers (red and white to go with the installed black one), documentation and even a cleaning cloth with screen protector. Nah, gestures like this are a thing of the past with most of the better known OEMs, and it made a good impression. Yes, I admit, it made the product feel just a bit more glamorous.
In hand, the device is fairly large, leaning more towards phablet with regards to size. The screen is large, but doesn’t go end-to end, with a 6-inch capacitive IPS panel, in a 6.1 x 3.37 x 0.35 inches frame, and weighs 6.67 ounces. The micro-USB charging port is flanked by 3.55 mm audio port. The power button is on the right side, and volume rocker to the left; it also utilizes a 2400 mAh user-serviceable battery. It might not have luxurious stylings, but it is a light device that isn’t too hard to wield, and is comfortable in landscape and portrait. The screen does take some getting used to, what with the 540 x 900 pixels display.
But what about under the hood? The A6M boasts 4GB ROM and 512 GB RAM, and it can be expanded with up to 32 GB of microSD card storage. It has a 1.3 GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6582M chip, and has other basics we expect in smartphones: Bluetooth 3.0, wi-fi and GPS. The main camera is a 13 MP piece (4128 x 3096 pixels) that shoots video at 720p at 30 fps. It also sports the requisite 5MP front-facing camera. The review unit is a dual-SIM
When it comes to the software, this device uses Android 4.2.2, and it takes care of the biggest issue by including Google Play and other Google Apps out of the box. There are some proprietary apps included, like the Yezz App Store; it actually has some major titles therein. A couple of stock apps (like Skype) can’t be entirely deleted, which is a bit of a bummer, but for the most part, it handled just about every game I threw at it adequately.
Simple tweaks like audio profiles and the smart cover (which allows data to be shown through the opening on the included case) are welcome features.
The screen is not going to be it’s shining point. Beside other high end flagships, it is clearly less vivid. I did catch lag in some places, and there are some extras like NFC functionality that are not present. The rear camera is passable, but is best used in bright light.
All in all, it is a decent device for the price. It may not have the hardware cache of the flagships from the big boys, but at its price point, it can be allowed not to.
As we mentioned earlier, LG Electronics largely elbowed its way to Android prominence with it latest batch of devices. We had an opportunity to formally look at LG’s G Flex, and the experience was just as eye-opening.
Gotta admit, the internals are juicy. It sports a 2.26 GHz quad-core Snapdragon chip, and packs in all the radios and stuff one would expect in a high-end Android phone: Bluetooth 4.0 LE, wi-fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, GPS. The cameras are definitely not slouchy, with a 13 MP autofocus snapper in the rear and a 2.1 MP unit in the back. Top of the line requisites like LTE and a 3,500 mAh battery are present to partner with the 32 GB memory.
Cool innards aside, the physical presentation is where it will most likely stand out initially for most. It cuts an imposing figure, and wears the label “phablet” (yeah, I said it) quite well, embodied in the 6.32″ x 3.21″ x 0.31″ and stated 6.24-ounces frame. But it’s The Curve that visually defines this phone. The phone features a tangible parabola that tapers uncompromising into the 1280 x 720, 6″ HD flexible OLED Gorilla Glassed display.
The device is sleek, with its signature curved chassis and slim profile being easy on the eyes. The USB port is centered at the bottom, and the sides are delightfully bereft of buttons, as the ON button is placed on the back. The grey finishing defines it quite well, and the device feels natural in the right hand despite its non-diminutive size.
And y’all just have to forgive me for getting a bit caught up in the screen. It’s supposed to be indicative of the future of curved displays, a feature that is supposed to be enhance the enjoyment quotient. Coupled with the excellent screen, the whole structure does seem to work, though I feel those looking for something that changes the fabric of life as we know it might be a little let down. In other words, the flexible screen (along with the self-healing capabilities of the back) works well, but might not yet be a set-apart feature just yet.
The software suite also sets it apart. There is the needed Google suite, but above and beyond, that LG makes the crafty (and daresay, necessary) move to ensure customers have an opportunity to get immersed in LG’s massive consumer electronics ecosystem. Like the G Pad, the Flex works with other select LG devices and electronics. Miracast compatibility is another plus, and the device comes upgradeable to Android KitKat. In real-life use, the device is quite fluid, and doesn’t stutter under heavy lifting, and everything runs smooth.
Pauses? Folks coming from the G2 or other bigger flagships, might not be as enamored; I would have loved a bigger battery, and I will whine about available accessories. Still, it’s the first phablet I have ever wanted to be around for an extended period of time.
I don’t know how, but it appears that the dead have come back to life! These zombies aren’t human, however, they’re androids. That’s right, androids have come back from the dead, and they want brraaaainnnnss! But there’s no need to panic, because the zombies aren’t real, they’re just a part of this week’s Theme Thursday!
This week’s theme, Undead Android, is a real thriller, featuring zombies that have invaded your smartphone and begun feasting on icons.
Undead Android is a premium theme for US$0.99 and is designed to run on ADW Launcher. ADW Launcher is a highly customizable home replacement for Android smartphones and tablets. All you have to do is install ADW Launcher and then download this theme to change your background, dock, highlights and icons. From there, you can customize icon placement, the number of screens and add custom shortcuts. It’s extremely easy to do and can really spruce up the look of your phone’s interface. Or, in the case of Undead Android, turn it into a bloody mess of brain-hungry undead androids.
You’ll be able to proudly display your love for Android AND zombies at the same time with 85 icons that are being, or have been, munched on by undead androids, smattered with blood and cartoon gore. You also get 5 docks and 8, blood-soaked wallpapers to show even more zombie love.
Currently, the premium version of Undead Android will get access to new icons first, but the designer promises that the updates will eventually roll over to the free version as new icons come to the premium version.