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South African Nokia N9 Launch – We Were There

Published by on Sep 26th, 2011, 9 Comments

As you may know by now, I’m Android fanboy, so the fact that I specifically asked to cover the Nokia N9 launch last week Thursday, says something about how special this device is. Climbing a nondescript flight of metal stairs, I emerged into the DIS Daylight Studio, Nokia South Africa’s stunning venue for the N9 launch. Free drink in hand, looking around the room revealed a few very important faces (and a few less important one, like myself).

After a bit of networking, things kicked off with a slightly cheesy video about design inspiration and some stunning choreography, after which Nokia’s Senior VP of design, Marko Ahtisaari, took the stage. Marko is the man behind both the industrial, and user-experience design of the N9 – something that, as I’ll explain later, goes hand in hand. He explained how the design revolves around a single gesture, the “swipe”, and how the elegant simplicity of the Harmattan User Interface came about as a result of the competition’s design paradigms (iOS and Android were the examples used) still not being, in Nokia’s mind, optimal for a device that is “small enough for your pocket, but big enough for your hand”. As Marko explained these principles, and demoed the software on the phone, the passion and expertise that went into the Nokia N9′s overall design and experience was evident throughout, although there may have been a slight hint of bitterness – Nokia has already decided that MeeGo, the operating system that the N9 runs, has no future in the company.

After the presentation, I sauntered over to the N9 Showcase, and spent a few minutes with the device. (more…)

South African Android Application Showcase

Published by on Sep 23rd, 2011, 9 Comments

Owning an Android device means that you’ll try out a large number of applications over time. Sometimes there are so many that writing a single post for each and every one of them doesn’t really make sense – so we’re introducing a new series of posts that will showcase a few applications at once. This first iteration looks at a few South African centred applications, either developed locally, or targeting the local market.

 

BatteryFu (Free)
Probably one of the first applications to come out of South Africa, BatteryFu by local developer Toby Kurien helps you get more out of your device’s battery by periodically toggling mobile data (or Wi-Fi) – so your device is only connected and checking your accounts for a short period of time. A novel idea, and one that apparently works very well.

BatteryFu features:

  • Lean and fast (see download size!)
  • APNdroid support (use if data is not switching off)
  • Widget: tap icon to toggle, tap text to config
  • Data while screen is on, with screen off delay
  • Data while charger is plugged in
  • 3rd party app support (using intents)
  • Travel mode (wifi off)

 

 

 

Computicket (Free) (more…)

Review: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v (P7100)

Published by on Jul 25th, 2011, 3 Comments

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v (also known as the P7100) is a piece of hardware with an unfortunate story behind it. That little extra “v” means that this Vodafone exclusive differs from the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that will start appearing on South African shelves in the next month or two. Will you be worse off with the 10.1v than the retooled, sleeker 10.1?

The long, drawn out story is that Samsung had already begun the production run for their just announced 10.1 when the iPad 2 was unveiled (click here to see our review of the iPad 2). Samsung was so impressed by the form factor of the new iPad, that a decision was made to retool the 10.1 to make it the thinnest tablet yet. Some deals were made, and it was decided that the “old” 10.1 was to be a Vodafone exclusive, under a new name – the 10.1v (hey, they had to do something with the stock). Now that the sleeker, retooled 10.1 has surfaced, Vodafone has decided that they’ll offer both the 10.1v and the 10.1 (at least until 10.1v stock runs out). So, have you been shortchanged if you’ve already gotten yourself a Tab 10.1v? Will it be a bad idea to pick up a Tab 10.1v if the price comes down? The answer might surprise you.

Physical Features
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v measures 246.2 x 170.4 x 10.99 mm (2.39 mm thicker than the retooled 10.1) – this sounds bigger than it looks. At 589 grams, it’s much lighter than expected. This isn’t a bad thing, though. It’s easy to pick up and comfortable to hold for extended periods of time.

The solid sheet of Gorilla Glass covering the 10-inch display, front camera, and proximity sensor is set into a grey metal rim, with the power/lock button, headphone jack, and one of the pair of stereo speakers on the left side of the device. The right side holds the SIM slot and the other speaker. The bottom is home to Samsung’s proprietary dock connector in the center, and a volume rocker and microphone can be found along the top of the device. The buttons are pleasantly responsive, but you won’t find yourself accidentally locking the device or adjusting the volume. That being said, the position of the volume rocker isn’t optimal. I’d have preferred it on the right hand side of the device – within easy reach.

The back is a hard, textured black plastic that looks (and feels) very durable. There’s a slightly recessed oval in the center of the back that holds a silver disc that sports the Samsung logo. Apart from being a nice aesthetic touch, this recession also gives you a more secure grip. The main camera and its accompanying LED flash also lives on the back of the device.

Both the form factor and the materials used to construct the Galaxy Tab 10.1 are pleasant enough, but it does feel a little cheap compared to something as solid as the Motorola XOOM.

Display
The Tab’s 10.1-inch TFT Capacitive display, running at a resolution of 1280×800, is more than adequate. It doesn’t bring any technological breakthroughs to the table, but it’s definitely on par with what’s out there at the moment.

Brightness is good, and colour reproduction is quite faithful. The responsiveness of the (multi-point capable) touch sensor sometimes felt like it couldn’t keep up, but this may be a software issue. There was also, unfortunately, a little backlight bleed visible with dark colours.

Performance And Battery Life
The Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor, paired with a GeForce GPU (all held together by NVidia’s Tegra 2 chipset) is mostly the same configuration found in all of the other Honeycomb tablets out there at the moment. In-app performance is generally very good, with almost no lag present. Games run with relatively high frame rates. The general Honeycomb interface, however, does feel a little laggy and slightly unresponsive at times. This may be down to the fact that this tablet is still running Android 3.0. All in all, though, the Galaxy Tab 10.1v’s performance is nothing to scoff at.

The 10.1v is powered by a massive 6860mAh Lithium-polymer battery. It takes ages to charge, but the inverse is also true. To say that this battery is impressive would be an understatement. With moderate use, getting more than a week’s worth of battery life was easy. (more…)

Bandwidth Blog’s Hands On Review: Motorola XOOM Tablet

Published by on Jun 13th, 2011, 2 Comments

 

The Motorola XOOM was the first device to sport Google‘s brand-spanking new Android OS designed specifically for the tablet form factor: Honeycomb. We’ve managed to get our hands on one, and spend a few days with it before it lands on South Africa’s shores.

The version we got to play with is Verizon branded, and is meant to work on Verizon’s CMDA network (and later, with an upgrade, on their 4G LTE network) – which means that we reviewed this unit as if it is the Wi-Fi only version, which is probably the version we’ll see first over here. We’re very familiar with the iPad pre-iOS5, so we’re not at all new to “tablet computing”. How did the XOOM fare with our preconceptions of what the tablet form factor has come to be? Read on to find out…

Physical Features
The Motorola XOOM is built like a tank. With dimensions of 249.1×167.8×12.9 mm, and a weight of about 700 grams, it’s solid and quite heavy. That being said, it doesn’t feel bulky or as awkward to hold as we expected at first. It may be that the extremely high quality of materials makes up for the heft of the device.

The gunmetal-black aluminium frame holds an uninterrupted sheet of Gorilla Glass. There are no buttons on the front at all, just the Motorola branding on the top left corner (and the Verizon branding on the opposite corner, which we wont see on local versions). Also present is a front-facing camera and red LED (to let you know when the camera is active) above the display, a light sensor below it, and an awesome white LED strip along the right side for notifications. All these little extras blend in so well that you only see them when you’re really looking (or one of the LEDs are lit up).

Along the top-left side of the XOOM are volume buttons that are quite small, and quite hard to push, so you’ll find yourself hunting for them first, and then, once you’ve found them, you’ll have to push multiple times, with varied pressure, before anything happens. A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located on the top of the XOOM, and along the bottom lives the mini-HDMI, micro-USB, dock and charging ports, as well as a microphone, off to the side. Yep, you read that right. The XOOM can’t be charged via USB, you need to plug it into a wall-socket with a proprietary charger.

The frame that holds the display seamlessly continues along the back, and although the it may feel like the soft-touch plastic we all know and love, it’s actually aluminium that mimics this texture. It feels like it’s going to last for ages. The top edge of the back that holds the stereo speakers, camera, LED flash, and power button, however, is made from a very durable soft-touch plastic so as to not interfere with reception, which is separated from the aluminium by a subtle seam. You have to look very closely to tell the plastic and aluminium apart.

All in all, we can’t really fault the XOOM’s hardware, build, or materials. They’re top notch, and make up for the bulk. Unfortunately, the extra weight means that, unless you’re going to be resting the tablet on something, your arms will tire quite quickly. The one big problem we did have, though, is that this thing loves fingerprints. Both the glass front, and the soft touch back looked manhandled within seconds of picking up the XOOM. (more…)

South Africa Gets Paid Applications in the Android Market

Published by on May 17th, 2011, No Comments

For a while now, all signs pointed to Google gearing up to finally give us South Africans access to paid applications in the Android Market. Tweets that appeared with vague time lines were quickly deleted. Paid applications started appearing in search results of the Web version of the Market, with prices in Rands, but no way to actually buy them. Then, on the 11th of May, sometime during day two of Google I/O 2011, it was nonchalantly announced that an additional 99 countries would be getting access to paid applications in the Android Market. South Africa appeared in that list, so over at ZADroid we checked, double checked – and confirmed that Google had indeed thrown the switch.

Apart from extending access to paid applications, Google has upgraded both the Web interface and the Mobile client for the Android Market, both looks- and functionality-wise, drastically improving application discovery (which was a major shortcoming of the Market), by adding the following: (more…)

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