You know how whenever you pick up an Android phone, it comes preloaded with Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube and other key Google apps? Well, it's not like that everywhere in the world. In fact, in China it's quite common to find Android phones that have no native Google apps on them.
Need a little help getting through your next big math exam? MicroBlink has an app that could help you study more effectively -- perhaps too effectively. Its newly unveiled PhotoMath for iOS and Windows Phone (Android is due in early 2015) uses your smartphone's camera to scan math equations and not only solve them, but show the steps involved. Officially, it's meant to save you time flipping through a textbook to check answers when you're doing homework or cramming for a test. However, there's a concern that this could trivialize learning -- just because it shows you how to solve a problem doesn't mean that the knowledge will actually sink in. And if teachers don't confiscate smartphones at the door, unscrupulous students could cheat when no one is looking. The chances of that happening aren't very high at this stage, but apps like this suggest that schools might have to be vigilant in the future.
You know how there were hints that Google Play Music was about to get a Material Design makeover? As it turns out, that's just a small piece of what's in store. Google has updated its Play Music Android, iOS and web apps with a new Listen Now page that focuses on context-aware music stations from the company's recent acquisition, Songza. Provided you're an All Access subscriber, you'll get to stream curated playlists that fit the time of day and your likely activities -- you may get relaxing playlists to take the edge off your commute home, or uptempo tracks for morning exercise. The page also improves discovery with cards that suggest both new releases and stations based on what you like. Google's redesign should be available today in all 45 Play Music countries, so have at it if you're an avid listener.
Iterative products are just a way of life these days. We get a new slightly updated device every few months, sometimes every six months, sometimes even every year, Sony have mastered the iterative product cycle, releasing new products every six months ensuring they stay current. A manufacturer finds a new niche or use case and sometimes it’s a hit with the consumer, the Sony Z1 Compact was one such phone, for a while to buy a small compact Android device meant you’d have to compromise on specs, build quality and design. A few companies had tried something different but none had really made a success with them. Sony last year decided to offer a high spec device in a small chassis that would appeal to those people who wanted the latest flagship spec and high performance, but didn’t want a huge great 5″+ device that needed two hands to operate. This year they’ve gone and updated it, on paper it’s basically the same as the larger Xperia Z3 that was announced a few weeks ago at IFA, only a few minor details are different. Anyway I’ve been using one for a few weeks now, thanks to getting one pre-ordered with Clove, I ordered the red one, I just wanted something a bit different and it kind of matched my watch. So onto to the review, as always starting with my good and bad points.
- Great size, great feel in the hand, great design.
- Great build quality.
- The display despite being 720p is sharp, colourful and bright.
- Feels really quick through the UI.
- Software is pretty intuitive.
- Micro SD slot.
- Water and dust proof.
- Great sound quality with either speakers or headphones.
- In the right conditions the camera is great.
- Some of the Sony software is really rather nice, such as the Gallery and Walkman apps.
- The camera seems to be a little bit off in certain conditions.
- Front speakers distort at high volume.
- Flap longevity is a concern after having to replace my Z2 flaps recently.
- The Sony launcher and bundled software is getting a little much.
The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact or Z3C as I’ll call it from now on, is a great looking piece of kit. It is a mix of nice soft touch plastic, some underlying metal and two panes of glass. I was quite surprised when I took the Z3C out of its box, mainly because small devices always surprise me and also that the edges were made of plastic. I had seen them on various hands on videos from IFA but seeing it in the flesh was quite a shock. Not that the translucent plastic doesn’t look nice, I just expected something a little bit more premium feeling.
The sides of the Z3C are made of a soft touch translucent plastic, which is convex so if you were to drop the phone it might protect the phone much like a bumper case would. I did say might though, you’d more than likely smash the glass if you dropped it.
The left hand side house two flaps and the magnetic charging point. The top flap houses the Micro SD slot and the Micro USB charging port. The bottom flap houses the Nano SIM slot. Both flaps are opened from the ends with this generation as opposed to the sides. This might help phantom opening, I don’t really know yet.
The right hand side of the phone is where you find the various buttons, arranged in the same order as before, the round power button at the top, volume rocker just below that, some may say almost too close to the power button and then the camerabutton at the bottom. The camera button still triggers the camera from sleep or within any app, which is quite handy. The volume and camera buttons are made of plastic this time round, in the same colour as the side panels, if anything these buttons add to the “Not as premium as I’d hoped for” feeling I have with the Z3C. If they were metal like the power button it’d be better.
The top and bottom of the phone don’t really hold many surprises; the top has a microphone and the headphone socket. The bottom has another microphone hole.
The front of the phone is pretty basic, the Z3C now has front facing stereo speakers, which are inset from the edge. The back of the phone is a sheet of coloured glass, which feels nicer than last years plastic back. The back bares branding for Sony,Xperia, NFC and also the camera and flash are in the top left.
Overall the Z3C looks nice, it feels nice and you can use the entire screen with one hand, which is always fun.
Here’s my hands on video of the Z3C as well.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact – Hands On:
Spec wise the Z3C is pretty much perfect. With only really the screen lacking in any way. Although saying that you can’t tell it’s a 720p display, it’s bright, colourful, crisp, viewable from all angles and fairly readable outdoors.
- Display: 4.6″ display (1280×720 pixels),with TRILUMINOS and X-Reality tech built in.
- Processor: Qualcomm Quad-core Snapdragon 801 at 2.5 GHz.
- GPU: Adreno 330 GPU.
- Internal Memory: 16 GB (about 11 GB free out of the box).
- RAM: 2 GB.
- Rear Camera: 20.7 MP camera with auto focus, 8x digital zoom, IS0 12800 maximum, Sony Exmor RS.
- Front Camera: 2.2 MP, HD 1080p for video.
- Sound: Sony 3D Surround Sound technology (VPT), Clear Audio+, xLoud Experience, DSEE HX, High-res audio.
- Connectivity: GSM GPRS/EDGE (2G), UMTS HSPA (3G), LTE (4G) (not available in all markets), aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 3.5 mm audio jack with Digital Noise Cancelling (DNC), DLNA Certified, NFC, GLONASS, Native USB tethering, ANT+ wireless technology.
- Battery: 2600 mAh non removable, Talk time: up to 14 hours, Standby time: up to 920 hours, Music listening time: Up to 110 hours, Video playback time: Up to 10 hours.
- Dimensions: 127 x 64.9 x 8.6 mm.
- Weight: 129 g.
- Extras: Micro SD slot up to 128 GB (inc SDXC), PlayStation(r) Certified for PS4 Remote Play, Waterproof and dust tight (IP65 and IP68).
Sony have skinned their Android devices for years now, in my eyes it has always been one of the least offensive skins around. These days the Xperia Launcher and skin feels very much like the stock Android launcher but with some nice icons, some cool wallpaper and a few themes to change the overall style. When I use a Sony device I never really feel the need to use an alternative launcher. Which, for me is saying something.
The Sony skin ever has nice touches like notification badges on icons like messaging, calls and Facebook. The contacts app even has Facebook integration which is always handy to populate those blank faces in the contact list.
Sony do however though pre-install quite a lot of apps. This sounds bad, but it isn’t all that bad, the Sony Gallery app, the Walkman app the LifeLog app and the File manager app are all really nice apps. They haven’t done everything quite as nicely though, you also get a Garmin Sat Nav app, AVG Anti Virus, a load of camera lenses, the Kobo ebook app, a variety of Music and Video apps from Sony, the Sony update centre, the Xperia Lounge and a few others apps which all in all I don’t feel add anything to the device. I wish manufacturers just published their apps on the Google Play Store and let you install them if you wanted. Yes things like the Launcher really need to be pre-installed but the Kobo ebook app, Garmin Sat Nav and AVG Anti-Virus just feels like they’ve took money from the app developers to pre-install those apps.
Sony have added some features to the Xperia Z3 compact that make it a pleasurable experience, such as the launcher now has larger icons, more in keeping with the icon size in the Google Now Launcher, which on a smaller device really is quite nice. I also spotted something useful when you go to turn the phone off, normally on a Sony device you get power off, airplane mode and take screenshot. Now on the Z3C you also get restart and record screen, which will take a video of what you do on the phone, so if you are demonstrating how an app works to someone you can take a quick video save it and then send it them. Not exactly a deal breaker, but it is nice to see mainstream manufacturers add features that have previously been used in custom ROMs.
Overall I was pleased with the software experience on the Z3C, little things like the customisable drop down power toggles, the nice Walkman app, the speedy launcher and the pop up small apps really make theZ3C a nice phone to use. Even nicer is that you can do everything using just one hand.
Other notable stuff
The rear camera is rated at 20.7MP, which on paper or said out loud sounds great. In reality it can be great, sometimes, if the lighting is just right. Most photos will be in Superior Auto mode, which takes shots at 8MP. The idea is that it taking the photo with a lot of pixels and having the camera resize them to 8MP means in theory you should get a better picture. Sometimes you do get some great pictures, it’s just sometimes you don’t. I found low light shots noisy and out of focus, shots with movement out of focus, towards bright sun over exposed and a bit washed out, macro shots a bit hit and miss as the auto focus chose to not focus at times.
As I said though, if you don’t take shots in the above situation you’ll no doubt take a great picture, I’ve taken quite a lot of photos with the Z3C as I took it abroad recently and it’s certainly capable, you just have to be aware of various settings and quirks. Such as putting the camera in manual mode to take actual 20MP shots or not pointing it at the sun. As an aside the 20MP images don’t really look any better than the 8MP shots I’ve took.
The front camera is predictably poor, I found most shots either out of focus, noisy or over exposed. It’s just a bit like the rear camera as regards lighting and you can’t tap to focus. it just focuses on whatever it likes. Here are some ill advised selfies.
As the Xperia Z3 Compact has the latest and greatest Qualcomm processor it’s going to benchmark pretty high, here are the scores
3DMark – 19117
Antutu – 45490
Quadrant – 20770
The battery on the Xperia Z3 Compact is pretty impressive, I was amazed that with light usage I could basically use it for two or three days, turning it off at night. I ended up with 2 days powered on with about 4.5 hours screen on time. It really is a great battery, obviously under heavy load you’ll kill it in a day as you’d expect, when I synced everything for example.
Sound quality is an important part of my opinion of a device. I was actually surprised at how good the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact sounded. Using a set of decent headphones you get a really good sound, with decent bass. If you want to buy HD music you can via the Sony Music store and you’ll need compatible headphones, the provided ones are just basic in ear Sony ones. Sound from the speakers was good as well, with more depth and volume from the newly positioned front stereo speakers. They weren’t HTC Boomsound sort of loud or quality, but they were better than my Z2. At high volumes they tend to distort a little almost rattling the glass screen.
Overall sound wise I was impressed.
Overall I really liked the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, I hoped it would be a little Android powerhouse and in that respect I wasn’t disappointed. The design and the quality of the Z3C is top notch and I often found myself inexplicably staring lustfully at the phone. I did however feel a bit let down by the camera on the Z3C, in low light or bright light the auto mode just did too much processing, leading to odd colours and digital noise in the shot. In normal light though the camera was spot on.
A big thanks to Clove for supplying the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact you can pick one up here for £349 inc VAT.
That’s right, you will be able to order (well pre-order) one of the most frustratingly difficult to order phone of 2014 on 27th October. As posted on the OnePlus Forum the invite system will be bolstered by the option to put down cash no matter who you are or what contacts you have!
Like a lot of the moves OnePlus have made in their first year this whole process does seem to be a bit tentative, a bit experimental but it is surely a step in the right direction and will enable a lot more people to experience a damn fine phone at the cost of a mid-level, ‘ok’ phone. The OnePlus has received many, many, MANY reviews and I’ve been holding mine back in the hope of presenting something a bit new, a bit different. Although my review is still to come suffice to say I am very impressed with the device and would definitely recommend getting one if you have the opportunity, even if you end up selling it on as by the sounds of it OnePlus will not ramp up into world-wide production this side of Christmas. If this interests you you can click here to read more on the OnePlus Forum and here to bookmark the order page.
Are you going to pre-order the OnePlus One? Is it too late, the glory and intrigue have gone? Let us know in the comments field below…
Even though they are hardly top of the range, you have to admire Archos. The French company keep the bottom to mid-range end of the market afloat, releasing a variety of smartphones and tablets. Never one to shy away from the latest tech, Archos have now announced their own VR headset.
The recently announced Carl Zeiss glasses, which we mentioned last week, only work with phones up to 5.2″, not so the Archos – for those of you packing trouser snakes the Archos glasses will cater up to 6″. Even more excitingly, it will work with all operating systems, so Archos claim. They list this as including iOS, Android and Windows Phone, though it isn’t clear if Blackberry will be supported.
The VR glasses will be available from November and will be priced at £25. Archos’ full press release is below, just remember what happened to Icarus though kids…
Coupled with a smartphone (up to 6 inch, all operating systems including Android, Windows Phone and iOS), ARCHOS VR Glasses will: ?
* Transform gaming and more with the upcoming ARCHOS Bluetooth game controller ?
* Turn videos into 360° 3D videos and allow users to be a real part of them ?
* Make it possible to achieve Icarus’ dream and feel like flying thanks to drones ?
* Send people to time travel to ancient Egypt, actually giving the feeling of being there
Compatible with all Virtual Reality applications (more than 100 as for now), ARCHOS’ latest wearable product is also made to free users from reality thanks to its lightweight yet robust material.
With the upcoming ARCHOS Video Player update, users will also enjoy 3D videos in a stereoscopic mode on their mobile, creating the illusion of seating in a 3D movie theatre.
Optimum requirements for an immersive experience are a full HD 5” smartphone with quad core processors (or higher) and motion sensors such as an accelerometer and a gyroscope.
Can you remember the Oppo Find 7/7a? I had one earlier in the year and whilst being fairly impressed with it, it only ran Jelly Bean with the Color OS skin on top. Well Oppo have pushed out a new ROM for the Find 7/7a which is KitKat. Yes that’s pretty much about the time Android Lollipop was announced.
It’s not all good though as this ROM doesn’t feature unified storage like they rolled out recently. If you’re a Oppo Find 7/7a owner you’ve got three choices of official ROM. The stable one, the unified beta test version and now the KitKat version as well. Apparently the beta test version will soon become KitKat leaving only two ROMs.
Hats off to Oppo for still developing software, it’s just the speed. This should have arrived six months ago and they should be working on Android Lollipop now. Oh well.
The update includes a load of other bugs fixes, just over to the link below for more information.
Source – Oppo Forums