• Devices

    by Published on 03-14-2013 01:30 PM
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    Today Samsung is having their Samsung Mobile Unpacked event tonight at 7PM. They're going to have a stream of the event here.

    They're expected to announce the Galaxy S IV. There are lots of rumors surrounding the device including a 4.99" 1920x1080 (because 5" is too big), a crazy 8 core processor which is actually has 4 fast cores and 4 slow, low-power cores, 2GB RAM, probably 16 or 32 or even maybe 64GB of RAM.

    Specs are great but they're only part of the story. Anyone can release a phone with awesome specs. Great hardware needs compelling software in order to connect with consumers.

    Starting with the original Galaxy S Samsung became a leader in Android with each new version grabbing more market share Let's look back at what made each one great.

    Galaxy S:

    Back when the Galaxy S came out Samsung wasn't the leader in Android it is today. HTC had the first notable Android devices like the Dream (T-Mo G1) and Magic. They were also the first to release an overlay for Android which was very raw back then.

    The Galaxy S had a 4" 800x480 display which used Samsung's Super AMOLED technology. OLED displays had been around for a year or 2 before the S launched but this one had higher resolution and deeper blacks which really made it pop. The rest of the specs were similar to other high end phones at the time. 1Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 16GB RAM and a 5 Megapixel camera (but no flash unlike most other phones).

    On the software side, Samsung included their TouchWiz custom overlay and Social Hub. It launched with Android 2.1 and received 2.2 and 2.3 from Samsung.

    When the Galaxy S came out it was kind of infamous because both the design and software were very similar to the iPhone. It's notable competitors included the Apple iPhone 3Gs (came out before), iPhone 4 (came out after), Google Nexus One (before), HTC Desire (before), Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 (before) and Blackberry 9700 (before).

    Galaxy S II:

    By now, Samsung was really beginning to set themselves apart from other Android OEM's. The GS2 kept the original S' resolution but now the screen measured 4.3" and had a less grainy non-PenTILE Super AMOLED PLUS display. Other hardware was beefed up including a dual-core 1.2Ghz processor, RAM was doubled to 2GB the camera now captured 8MP along with a flash and 1080P video recording. Later versions added LTE and or NFC and or bigger displays with bigger batteries.

    On the software side, Samsung added a newer version of TouchWiz which took the Hub idea further and added a Reader, Music and Gamer Hubs. Samsung shipped it with Android 2.3 and it is currently on Android 4.1.

    Competitors included the Apple iPhone 4 (before), Apple iPhone 4s (after), Galaxy Nexus (after), HTC Raider/Vivid (after), HTC Sensation (about the same time), HTC Amaze (after), Motorola RAZR and the Blackberry Torch.

    The Galaxy S II also formed the basis for the original Samsung Note.

    Most of the Galaxy S II line was the focus of Apple's lawsuit against Samsung.

    Galaxy S III:

    Now Samsung is firmly in the driver seat. Not only are they the defacto leader in Android but they are also duking it out with Apple. Again hardware was beefed up. Some versions came with a quad-core processor while others had a dual-core which featured more efficient processor cores. RAM on some versions was upped to 2GB, with some getting LTE. The battery got a big boost, weighing in at 2300mAh

    The display now has 2.5x the resolution going from 800x480 to 1280x720 and measures 4.8". Samsung is back to using a PenTILE matrix display but the resolution is so high it's almost a moot point.

    Design wise the Galaxy S III has a much more organic shape compared with previous versions which while attractive, weren't particularly interesting looking.

    Somewhere between GS2 and GS3 Google finally got their act together and started offering stuff in Android Play so software-wise Samsung put less emphasis on their hubs. Instead, the latest version of TouchWiz has more usability focused improvements like using the front-facing camera to check if you're looking at the screen before it turns it off.

    Competitors include the Apple iPhone 4s (before), iPhone 5 (after), Galaxy Nexus (before), HTC One X (slightly before), HTC One X+ (after), LG Optimus G (after), Sony Xperia T (after) and Motorola RAZR HD LTE (after).

    The Galaxy S III is going to be tough act to follow. Samsung is really going to have to dig deep to find new features to grab consumer's attention. That said, they've built up enough of a brand that even if the GSIV is a dud, people will still flock to buy it. ...
    by Published on 03-05-2013 08:34 AM
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    The White House has agreed to act on legalizing cell phone unlocking! Thanks to everyone who signed the petition.

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/res...hone-unlocking ...
    by Published on 02-27-2013 08:57 AM
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    Recently, I reviewed the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X. So I was pretty excited when I got the Samsung ATIV-S. All represent the best you can currently get on Windows Phone.

    If you were to compare the 3 phones on paper, the ATIV’s advantage is that it has the biggest screen, the biggest battery and most notably; a microSD card slot. Still, shopping for anything based on specs alone is the worst thing you can do. After all, things can be more than the sum of their parts. ...
    by Published on 02-25-2013 03:30 PM
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    Sony just announced the Xperia Tablet Z. It's a 6.9mm thin (iPad 4 is 9.4mm thick) tablet with a 10.1" 1920x1080 display (2048x1536 on iPad 4). It weighs 495g (iPad 4 is 652g).

    Probably the most interesting thing about it is that it's water and dust resistant.

    Under the hood is a quad-core 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4, 2GB of RAM. It's available both with and without LTE. It's currently running Android 4.1.2 with an Android 4.2 upgrade coming later.

    You also get built-in infrared so you can control your TV plus other devices. The camera has a resolution of 8MP. There are stereo speakers with four 'speaker halls'. You can use MicroSD that are up to 64GB in size.

    I'd consider getting it just for the water resistance alone - now I won't be bored when I take a bath. How about you? ...
    by Published on 02-25-2013 03:29 PM
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    Samsung just announced the Galaxy Note 8.0. It's a 8" tablet with 1280x800 display (169ppi), 1.6Ghz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 5MP camera and Android 4.1.

    Since it's a Note it comes with Samsung's S-Pen. You also get a bunch of S-Pen apps plus multi-view and pop-up video.

    Do you think it's a good alternative to the iPad Mini? ...
    by Published on 02-21-2013 11:23 AM
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    100k signatures and climbing.

    Thanks to everyone who supported this petition!

    To view and sign the petition click here

    Discussion thread here
    by Published on 02-19-2013 10:51 AM
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    HTC just announced their HTC One.

    Hardware-wise it has a 4.7" 1920x1080 display with a mind blowing 468 PPI pixel density. 1.7Ghz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of RAM and a 2300mAh battery. It will be running Android Jellybean.

    It will be coming to TELUS, Bell, Rogers, Virgin Mobile Canada, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Cincinnati Bell and Best Buy (in the US). North American availability is 'late March'. Both black and silver will be available in North America each with either 32GB of 64GB of storage. Exact configuration is up to the carrier.

    It's wrapped in a beautiful aluminum unibody. The only fly in the ointment is the 2300mAh battery. What was HTC thinking? Unless the One is able to capture screen presses and turn them into energy 2300mAh will probably lag behind what everyone else is shipping. The trend is moving towards 3000ish mAh which for some people, means full day usage. 2300mAh will get you close but probably won't last the day.

    HTC is trying to differentiate their product but emphasized 3 aspects of the One: HTC BlinkFeed, the Camera which has HTC Ultrapixel with HTC Zoe and the built-in speaker with HTC Boom Sound.

    HTC BlinkFeed displays sources from your favourite content on the home screen. This includes sources like Associated press, Al Jazeera, Facebook, etc. You can choose from over 1400 content providers.

    HTC Ultrapixel refers to the sensor. The sensor itself can capture 300% more light. It's able to do this because it has a larger pixels. According to HTC, many 8MP cameras contain 1.4x1.4um pixels. the One's sensor has 2x2um pixels. That means each pixel on the One's sensor is 2x the size of a standard 8MP sensor. The sensor itself is 1/3" in size.

    Bigger pixels can mean less noise plus more dynamic range. A greater DR can mean better light sensitivity. Of course, bigger pixels can also mean lower resolution. The One's sensor has an effective resolution of 4 megapixels.

    Now I think that Megapixels are one of the most misleading ways to measure image quality. My observation is that the public as a whole seems to realize this too now since the number of megapixels hasn't been changing much in recent years. Still, you get some who wonder why their point and shoot takes inferior pictures to a SLR because the P&S has more megapixels.

    While 4 megapixels is probably sufficient most of the time, it will allow less flexibility if you need to crop. Since there's no zoom lens and you can't always get closer this is one of the downsides.

    Like last year's One series the One comes with a f/2.0 lens.

    When you snap a picture the One X takes 20 pictures plus a 3 second video clip.

    There's a 8 frame per second burst mode. While 8 fps is plenty, part of me is a little disappointed it's not higher since the processor only has to chew on 4mp images. When you do the math, that's 32mp of imaging data per second. Last year's One X did 8MP at 5fps; that's 40mp of data. Still, it's a very minor complaint.

    There's also optical image stabilization. This should be a huge advantage for video and also low-light photography and in my opinion is one of the best things about the camera.

    Speaking of video, there's also video HDR feature which increases the dynamic range of video from ~54db to ~84db. This means better low light video. My only complaint is that the video HDR records 1080p at an oddball 28 frames per second. This might be hard to edit initially.

    Lastly, HTC BoomSound addresses one of my biggest complaints about HTC phones with beats logos on them. When I see the beats logo I figure they'll be loud. While HTC has addressed the loudness of the headphone amp with their second crop of 2012 phones they still came with anaemic speakers that you can't hear in public. Now BoomSound means that there are dual, stereo speakers in front with a more powerful amplifier. I wasn't able to attend the event due to health problems so I'll have to try this feature out later.

    Another feature is that there is a built-in infrared port for remote control. While most smartphones are able to control recent TV's and other devices via Wi-Fi, typically they're not able to turn them on which limits their usefulness. With an infrared port you should be able to control everything just like you do with a regular remote. Neat.

    From a marketing perspective, I wonder whether too much stuff has too many names. I mean you need some marketing names that don't really mean anything - retina, touchwiz, etc but the One has HTC Zoe, HTC UltraPixel Camera, HTC BoomSound, HTC BlinkFeed, Sense Voice, HTC Sense and Beats. There might be too many names here to connect with consumers.

    Part of me also wishes HTC would ditch the One name. While I'm really glad they've moved away from giving their phones real names (Raider, Amaze, Legend, etc) Simply calling their phones 'One' makes it harder for them to describe the positioning of their phones. Is the One X better than the One V? What about the S?

    The 4 megapixel camera seems like a great idea. Megapixels mean almost nothing after all. Still, it's a risky move. There's a reason why everyone else is using more megapixels. But is it the right time now?

    All, in all, the HTC One looks like a really strong entry. In typical HTC fashion, they screwed up one feature. Last year it was the One X's 16GB of storage. This time around will it be the 2300mAh? Still, Infrared and a more usable camera are pretty enticing upgrades. I'm also glad that while HTC includes Sense, they're introducing other new features.

    Will it connect with consumers? Certainly, HTC has done a top-notch job. ...
    by Published on 02-14-2013 09:24 AM
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    Just got word that the Sony Xperia ZL is coming to Canada beginning in April.

    It will be available on Rogers, Bell, Mobilicity, Wind, MTS and Videotron.

    It's the first in what should be many phones from Android OEMs in 2013 with quad core (or more) processors, 5"+ screens with resolutions of 1920x1080, 13MP cameras and 2GB of RAM.

    It will be available in black. No word on pricing. My guess would be that it will be priced at around the Galaxy Note 2's level. ...
    by Published on 02-08-2013 02:37 PM
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    It’s been a tough 2 years for Blackberry users. Around 3 years ago, Android and iOS were really starting to eat into Blackberry’s market share. 2 years ago, Blackberry (then known as RIM) promised to deliver their next generation OS. Since then, the shipping date was postponed multiple times while Blackberry's market share plummeted.

    Heck, things got so bad that there was a point when I figured we’d never see the new version of Blackberry. Either RIM would get carved up and sold, or they’d go out of business, or maybe they’d even adapt another operating system.

    So, I’m really pleased to present to you my Blackberry Z10 review. The first phone running the new Blackberry 10 operating system. ...
    Published on 02-05-2013 02:26 PM
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    Now that the Blackberry Z10 is available in Canada have you given it a try yet? Post your thoughts, questions and impressions of the Z10 here!

    Personally, I've been using one for a few days now for most part, Blackberry has done what they needed to do to make a compelling device. It's not perfect but they've differentiated it enough that it's an intriguing alternative to it's competitors.

    They've also done a decent job with their app ecosystem. Yes, it's still starting out but it's not totally dead like the Playbook's was when it first launched.

    Hardware wise, the Z10 doesn't disappoint but at the same time, it's not absolutely cutting edge either. They've done enough, in the hardware department that most people aren't going to complain about it unless they spend all their time looking at spec sheets and reading reviews rather than using it.

    Menu keys anchor of the experience of Android and iOS, so the lack of menu soft keys (and on-screen softkeys) can be a bit confusing at first.

    I really like how they've taken Blackberry's signature (the messaging) and made it one of the cornerstones of the experience without making it feel like they're forcing it down your throat. Actually, the messaging (email, text, Facebook (including groupchat), Twitter, LinkedIn, BBM) is bundled in with your calendar, and phonebook into a feature called 'Hub'. To access the Hub you swipe up and then without letting go, swipe to the right. It's an interesting idea that's intuitive to use.

    Even better is that the hub has hooks for programmers. I was looking around the App store and noticed that there's a GTalk app from Blackberry which presumably hooks up with hub.

    The other Blackberry signature is the keyboard. These days, everyone has a good keyboard. If I was to rate them, I'd say Android 4.2's is the worst (say it's 8/10), Windows Phone is a 8.5 while the iPhone gets a 8.6. With that in mind, the Blackberry's is 9+ easy.

    Whether you use the 'brute force' method like me where you type as fast as you can and let the auto-correct sort it out or if you type slowly the Blackberry keyboard works really well.

    I've always found that Blackberry's came with inferior cameras. The camera isn't class leading but it's not terrible either.

    One feature I like is the Z10's share feature. Yes, the same one you find on Android. Blackberry even took the share icon! Anyways, it allows you share files and media with other devices - even via NFC!

    Battery life is phenomenal Part of the reason why is because Blackberry doesn't allow the screen to get insanely bright (like on the iPhone 5), the other is because the screen has auto-brightness which you can't turn off. Even some heavy users will be able to use it an entire day.

    Another feature I like is the file share feature. It's not the same as the share feature I mentioned earlier. This one lets you access your Z10 via SAMBA (Windows file sharing). You can copy files to the Z10 wirelessly.

    I copied some 720p mkv and 480p DIVX avi's to the Z10 and noticed that it has decent codec support! No need to use handbrake first like on Windows Phone or iOS! There is (what I assume is) a bug where the video player's maximum volume is very low. Hopefully they'll fix that soon.

    Due to health reasons I've been bed-ridden the entire time I had the Z10 so I wasn't able to use it outdoors and test RF. Sound quality is average, maximum earpiece volume and speaker phone volume are both good - similar to the iPhone 5.

    I'll have a full review in a few days. It's hard to review a phone from bed.

    Any questions? What did you think about the Z10? Honestly, Blackberry has done all they could do - it's better than I was expecting.

    -Howard ...
    by Published on 01-31-2013 10:21 AM
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    Just heard that Canadian stores are getting their Blackberry Z10 stock now ahead of the Feb 5th launch.

    I've talked to a few stores and it sounds like while they're getting a lot of stock - 7 times as many Z10's as they got iPhone 5's - It sounds like most of the units are earmarked for pre-orders. So there's a chance that the Z10 may be scarce come launch day.

    Anyone got a Z10 pre-order in or thinking of picking one up launch day? ...
    by Published on 01-30-2013 08:17 AM
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    Just wanted you all to know that we'll be at the BB10 launch today. We'll be covering it live here:

    http://www.howardforums.com/showthre...7#post15046877 ...
    by Published on 01-24-2013 08:16 AM
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    Just got word that RIM's BB10 device will be launching on Feb 5th. It will be $650 no contract and will be available in black or white.

    Dealers should be getting stock Jan 30th.

    Who's excited? I'm pretty pumped for the launch next week. Anyone going to get one? Is your iPhone/Galaxy for sale right now? ...
    by Published on 01-22-2013 12:56 PM
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    Just got word that Microsoft will releasing the Surface Windows 8 Pro on Feb 9th in the 'States and Canada. It's Tablet that runs full Windows 8.

    I have a Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T tablet that's running Windows 8 and a Asus Vivo Tab RT running Windows RT and to me, if you're going to get a Windows tablet right now a Windows 8 one makes more sense. I've only played with them for a few days but with Windows 8 and RT Microsoft has taken Windows and turned it into a touch friendly platform.

    The thing is, while they haven't converted EVERYTHING yet. I'd say 80% of the touch related stuff comprises about 30% of Windows. So 20% of the time you have to use the other 70% of the 'still touch-enabled but not that touch friendly' stuff. There's a reason why Microsoft leaves the classic desktop behind. Sometimes you have to use it.

    Since RT isn't backwards compatible with x86 it makes more sense to buy an x86 tablet at this point. Now, if Microsoft can get a lot of support behind RT things may change but to be honest. The difference between RT and regular Windows 8 is so confusing I don't think consumers understand the difference.

    In case you didn't know, RT runs on the ARM architecture - just like your iPhones and Galaxy S. Windows 8 is for x86 processors - just like your old laptop/desktop. Doesn't sound too complicated but it's not easy to explain to regular users.

    The Surface Windows 8 Pro will come with a 10.6" 1920x1080 display and either 64GB or 128 of storage. It will weigh 2lbs and feature an Intel Core i5 processor with 4GB of storage. You'll get 802.11abgn, dual 720p cameras and a 42 watt hr battery.

    The specs look solid - more so than the Samsung ATIV I have right now though the ATIV is probably cheaper.

    10.6" is a good size display. The ATIV has a 11.6" which is too big to use comfortably. The extra resolution will be welcome too as the ATIV looks slightly coarse at times.

    4GB of RAM and Core i5 are also big steps up from the ATIV's meager 2GB and wheezing ATOM processor. 64GB of storage is adequate if you don't crazy loading media and programs on it. 128GB is probably a better bet. The dual 720p cameras is weak when most Android and iOS tablets have 5MP+ on the back but I guess it's still adequate. The 42wh battery is also probably well sized for what you get.

    My only concern is the Surface Pro's weight. The ATIV weighs 1.7lbs which is borderline too heavy. The Surface is smaller and weighs 2lbs which some may find makes it tiresome to use.

    Microsoft will also be releasing a 64GB version of the Surface RT that doesn't come with the keyboard plus there will be new Touch Covers and a Wedge Touch Mouse Surface Edition. ...
    by Published on 01-15-2013 10:42 AM
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    Just got word that Rogers will be getting more colours for the Nokia Lumia 920. Right now it's only available in black but 'in the coming weeks' it will also come in red, white and yellow.

    *update - I made incorrect statements about some 920 colours being painted* ALL colours of the 920 are made unpainted. When you drop a black 920 and it chips the material underneath the surface is the same colour so it wears better.

    You can order the new colours for the Lumia 920 via Roger's Reservation System. Rogers is also doing a contest for the new colours on their blogs Redboard and Fil Rouge

    Personally, the yellow is pretty sharp and I lusted over it the moment when I first saw it back in Sept. Anyone want to trade my black for a yellow one? ...
    by Published on 01-14-2013 09:35 AM
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    Just got word that multi-view support is coming to the Samsung Galaxy Note II. This feature was previously found on international ...
    by Published on 01-08-2013 09:59 PM
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    Huawei just announced the Ascend W1 Windows Phone 8. It's a midrange device that's aimed at Nokia 820 and the HTC Windows Phone 8s.

    It's a HSPA+ device with a dual-core 1.2Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8230 processor. The 820's has a similar processor that's clocked at 1.5Ghz while the 8s' runs at 1Ghz. You also get 512MB of RAM and a 800x480 display - just like the 820 and 8s.

    There's a 5 megapixel camera on the back and a VGA front-facing camera. There's 4GB of storage which can be expanded with MicroSD cards. 802.11 abgn WiFi and considering it's specs, it's got a relatively large 1950mAh battery.

    It will be available blue, red, black and white though whether it gets picked up here and in what colour remains to be seen. ...
    by Published on 01-08-2013 09:32 AM
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    Huawei just announced the Ascend Mate. It has a gigantic 6.1" 1280x720 HD IPS+ display. Is it similar to the Nexus 4 and LG Optimus G display but only bigger? The other big number is the huge 4050mAh battery. That's almost as big as the batteries in many 7" tablets like the Nexus 7, Playbook, Kindle Fire, etc.

    Powering all this is a custom Huawei processor with a 1.5 GHz quad-core Hi-Silicon K3V2 + Intel XMM6260 GPU. I've never heard of the Intel XMM6260 but the K3V2 is a Cortex A9 design so it probably won't be as fast at non-graphic duties as a Quad-core Krait.

    Other specs include 2GB RAM (very nice), Android 4.1 and 802.11 ABGN dual-band WiFi. Like the Ascend P1 and D Quad XL it's listed as having penta-band support. Hopefully they'll bring out an LTE version for North America.

    Software-wise there's a one-handed mode which looks familiar, limited multi-window support (reminds me of the Xperia T). Guiding wizard is Navigation that uses the camera to overlay the directions over what you actually see. I've seen Navigation with augmented reality before but it was only a demo. I hope it works well because it's a feature I've been waiting for.

    The specs are interesting. It's got the biggest screen out there but it's not a 1080P display which makes me think it's a mid-upper range device rather than a range topper.

    Anyways, it looks like a great device for the 'mine is bigger than yours' crowd. Can't wait to check one of these one and lord of the poor saps squinting at their Note II displays. ...
    by Published on 01-08-2013 09:16 AM
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    Huawei just announced the Ascend D2. It's the latest phone from an Android OEM with a 5" 1920x1080 display. It has a pixel density of 443PPI which is higher than most of last year's 4.x" 1280x720 displays which weighed in at around 3xxPPI. Huawei calls it a "super Retina display".

    It also comes with a 13MP camera, 2GB RAM, Android 4.1, 32GB storage (yeah!), no MicroSD (boo!), a 3000mAh battery (why does the HTC Droid DNA only come with a 2100mAh?), dual-band 802.11 ABGN (finally) and is available in blue and white (sound familiar?)

    It's also listed as being water resistant but I'm not sure how water resistant it will be. Will I be able to use it while I shower?

    I'm not sure how the banding is going to work but according to this page it only supports HSPA. My guess is that the North American version will be HSPA only too but with more band support.

    The dimensions are listed as 140 mm x 71 mm x 9.4 mm. 9.4mm is a bit thicker than the Xperia Z's 7.9mm but from my experience, anything under 10mm is thin enough. If the extra 1.5mm allows for the 3000mAh battery then I'm all for it.

    Under the hood is a Huawei custom quad-core processor. It's listed as a "1.5 GHz quad-core Hi-Silicon K3V2 + Balong V7R1 ". I recently reviewed the Huawei D Quad XL which had the same processor core but a different GPU. If this is indeed the same processor then it should provide similar non-graphic performance as other Cortex A9 chips. That means performance will be adequate but will lag A15 (not sure if any current or 'coming soon' phones have an A15) and quad-core Qualcomm Kraits.

    Looks like a nice device. The 3000mAh battery is a really nice surprise as is the water resistance. Can't wait to try this one! ...
    by Published on 01-07-2013 08:09 PM
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    Sony just announced the Xperia Z at CES. It sports a 5" 1920x1080 display, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, NFC and 13 megapixel camera. It's only 7.9mm thick

    The camera has a Exmor RS sensor which supports HDR video (high dynamic range). Sony says it allows for clear images against a strong backlight. I wonder if it also helps in low light?

    Also interesting is the fact that it's water and dust resistant (IP55 & IP57). IP55 means that it's able to be submerged in up to 1M of water for up to 30 mins. Does this mean I can use it while I'm taking a bath or shower?

    Sony didn't reveal the size of the battery but it does have 'Battery STAMINA' mode which shuts down certain apps when the screen is off and turns them back on when you turn the screen back on.

    Sweet phone. Anyone gonna get one or are you going to wait to see what other OEM's 5" 1080P devices are like? ...
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