Nokia 3 review: Welcome back Nokia!

When a tech geek switches from a flagship smartphone to a $150 Android phone, the change could cause desperation and sadness. Let’s find out what feelings the new Nokia 3 causes.

A week ago, I switched my main SIM-card from my Nexus 6P to a Nokia 3 Android smartphone. I downloaded all the apps I use and added all the accounts I need to make the Nokia 3 my daily driver for a week. The first boot took 3 minutes and I already started to feel desperate. However, after smashing the quad core Mediatek MT6737 with all the installations and usual first boot stuff, the performance started to settle to a usable level.

Using the Nokia 3 is very familiar to a Nexus user. All the new Nokias use almost stock build of Android 7.0 and they are confirmed to get the upcoming Android 8 update that I’m already running on my Nexus as a beta release.

Once all the options have been set up correctly, I started to wonder about the build quality. As it says in the box, the Nokia 3 should have an aluminum frame. Unfortunately, the paint on my black model feels very plasticky. It almost never feels cold to the touch. Also, the back panel keeps plasticky noise, not least because it is made out of plastic. The buttons feel clicky, and according to my material detecting thumb, are made of metal. Other noticeable physical features are the non-protruding camera lens, headphone jack on the top and micro-USB charging port and single speaker at the bottom. One microphone is at the top and another at the bottom. HMD Global has placed a Nokia logo at the top right of the Gorilla Glass covered front panel, another at back and their address at Espoo Finland also at the plastic back panel. The capacitive Android navigation buttons are placed below the display under the glass.

That leads us to the first elephant in the room, the missing fingerprint scanner. Nokia 5 and 6 both have a fingerprint scanner integrated to the home button. The Nokia 3 doesn’t. This is one feature that is missed at the $150 category. Luckily the power button is just where my thumb comfortably sits and the 5” display easily allows drawing the lock pattern one handed. Speaking of the power button, this is the first phone I’ve tested which allows me to take a screenshot with just one finger. The volume rocker is placed on top of the power button and just close enough.

The display. Well, it’s bad. I mean compared to the brilliant high-resolution AMOLED panels I’ve been using lately. The 5” 720p IPS LCD panel is grainy and washed out. Colors and contrast are just average. Touch sensitivity, not sure about that one. Is it just lag caused by the entry level SoC or is the display slower than my thumbs. Especially often this happens with the outermost keys like A and backspace. I just can’t type as fast as I do on my Nexus. Although, it’s not just this Nokia, I had the same issue with the OnePlus 3T last winter.

A big part of my smartphone usage is YouTube. Obviously, I tested that then. Speaker quality is decent and volume range suits most situations. The display is very average as said, and one quite annoying thing is the fact that the YouTube app automatically selects 144 or 240p resolution regardless of the network speed. Then the 720p needs to be manually selected.

The lag is present with this device. Pressing the home button sometimes causes the Google Assistant to pop up. Also, the GBoard sometimes records the same keypress two or three times. This causes some quite funny typos. What makes the experience bearable it that the lag usually shows in the same situations and I’ve already learned to expect it. When typing on Facebook Messenger and getting a notification on WhatsApp, the keyboard usually takes the next key three times. The other way around I get just two of the same letters. Also, switching from YouTube app to camera and back can take 10 seconds and usually the YouTube app reloads forgetting the video that I was watching. This is probably due to the 2GB of RAM.

I’d like to talk about something positive at this point. Battery life is just magnificent. Last full charge I got 3 hours of screen on time over 24 hours and even had 38% of juice left after that. Compared to my Nexus with last stable build I used, 2.5 hours and 20%. The Mediatek SoC just sips through the 2650mAh battery. Also, the 720p display saves a lot of power. During this, admittedly short test period, I’ve had 15-40% of battery left in the evening. Not once have I run out of juice before the end of the day.

The 5W charger included in the box is slow but I was able to speed the charging up by using some leftover 2 amp Samsung charger. Note that the Nokia 3 has micro-USB charging port, not a Type-C one. This is quite weird choice as the Type-C has pretty much overthrown the old connector in new releases. Probably a cost-cutting choice.

One area, where the flagship phones really stretch their legs is camera quality. The Nokia 3’s main camera is very average. Sometimes even bad. In the optimal conditions, the main camera is capable of producing decent images with HDR on. The front facer does its job way better than the main camera. Especially with HDR on. Selfies are actually quite decent. Of course, I’m spoiled by my Nexus 6P and Google’s magical camera software. Video quality is pretty much what one could expect. Maybe a bit better than the still quality. Of course, there is no OIS to stabilize the videos but focus seems to be better than in stills.

Nokia 3 is not a bad smartphone. In fact, it’s brilliant. I can’t imagine any of the custom UI devices at same price point being even remotely as capable smartphones. Using the stock Android is a genius move by HMD Global. Why spend resources making software if Google already provides such a good one. Other manufacturers are using old Android versions and sluggish custom UIs as the new Nokias bring the relatively quick and responsive stock Android experience.

However, don’t expect too quick of a return to the business market as the stock Android still doesn’t have a mobile device management program. Samsung and Apple will then keep their lead at business market. Hopefully Google changes this in the future so that the last companies using Lumias get to keep the same logo in their devices.

Nokia is rumored to launch a whole bunch of new Android phones this year. If that’s true, Nokia’s lineup going forwards looks absolutely fantastic. Nokia 3310, 3, 5 and 6 might get bigger brothers later in the year and HMD Global will bring the stock Android to all price brackets. Finally, some competition in the Moto-zone.

All in all, the Nokia 3 is very capable cheap smartphone. I can see it having its place in numerous pockets around the world, especially in countries where the Nokia name is still famous. The Nokia 3 is now the phone I suggest for the people who want a cheap smartphone. At this price point, there hasn’t been much of a traffic on my suggestion lists. Now, the stock Android is there and hopefully to stay.

So, did I survive the week? Yes, easily. But of course, I’ll switch back to my Nexus and wait for the upcoming Pixel 2 to really replace my Nexus. Display and cameras are the main reasons, fingerprint scanner and performance coming close behind. I have been spoiled by the flagships.

Welcome back Nokia! Hope you will succeed!

As a postscript, unfortunately, I must return to the weaker things, Nokia support. I discovered an annoying software bug in my Nokia 3 during the testing. However, Nokia doesn’t have any channels to submit a bug report. I tried their support chat app but they just politely asked me to get in touch with service because it’s a hardware issue. In their support website, Nokia doesn’t even have the Nokia 3 listed just yet, so no support there. The community forums are also still under construction. This will hopefully and probably change in the future.

LG G6 released

g6-screenshot

The MWC 2017 is live and LG is the one to open the game with the G6. 

As expected, LG is the first to adopt the 2017 trend to make longer displays. The LG G6 has 2880 x 1440p display with 18:9 aspect ratio, glass and metal design and no camera bump.

The 5.7″ display has rounded corners and uses IPS LCD technology. It also supports Dolby Vision and  HDR 10 technologies. Under the hood, the 3300 mAh battery provides juice to the Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The body is IP68 certified against water and dust. The physical size is 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm and 163g which LG claims is normal for a 5.2″ phone.

The rear cameras have 13MP sensors, one with 125° lens and F2.4 aperture and the other with 71° lens, F1.8 aperture and OIS. The front facer is 5 megapixels with F2.2 and 100° lens.

Google finally releases the Android Wear 2.0 along with new LG Watches

watch-sport-and-style

The long awaited Android Wear 2.0 update is finally here. The LG Watch Sport and Style are the first devices to launch with it. 

The Android Wear 2.0 update is the first major update since the launch of the OS. It brings many new features and promises to make the most of every minute. Possibly the biggest new feature is the new way to use apps. There is now a Play Store app for the watch and the apps are installed directly to the watch. That means way better app experience for the iPhone users.

The watch faces also get new features. They now bring more information and actions from apps. The Google Fit can now – finally – really track your pace, calories, distance and heart rate. The messaging has been improved drastically as the new Android Wear 2.0 brings keyboard, handwriting, emoji drawing and Smart Reply alongside the voice dictating. Google Assistant is also built into the OS as is Android Pay.

The new LG Watch Sport and Style are the first devices to launch with Android Wear 2.0. The Sport variant is the more high-end one with a larger 1.38″ P-OLED display, 768 MB of RAM, 430 mAh battery and IP68 certification.

The Style has a 1.2″ P-OLED display, 512 MB of RAM, 240 mAh battery and IP67 protection. Both watches are made out of metal and have Snapdragon Wear 2100 SoC, 4 GB of Storage and a bunch of sensors. Although, the Style doesn’t get the heart rate sensor.

The LG Watch Sport is priced at $349 and Style at $249. Sales will start on 10 February in the US.

The Android Wear 2.0 will be available for the supported watches in the coming weeks.

Current watches getting Android Wear 2.0 include: ASUS ZenWatch 2 & 3, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, Casio PRO TREK Smart, Fossil Q Founder, Fossil Q Marshal, Fossil Q Wander, Huawei Watch, LG G Watch R, LG Watch Urbane & 2nd Edition LTE, Michael Kors Access Smartwatches, Moto 360 2nd Gen, Moto 360 for Women, Moto 360 Sport, New Balance RunIQ, Nixon Mission, Polar M600 and TAG Heuer Connected.

Source: Google

DRM is good, blocking hardware bad

kaby-lake

There’s no denying that DRM is good and needed. But how did it become Microsoft’s and Intel’s cashing playground?

Digital rights management (DRM) is a generic term for technologies that control one’s access to content. After years of hard fight, it looks like the pirate side has won. They have the content and they have the ways to share it. Something needs to be done so that the content creators get their bread to the table and it looks like Microsoft and Intel (AMD) have it figured out.

They have decided that there will be a hardware and software wall between us, the viewers and the content. For example Netflix 4K. To watch 4K videos from Netflix, you need Windows 10, Edge browser and a Kaby Lake 7th generation Intel CPU. Absolutely ridiculous.

They claim that it’s because of the H.265 10-bit decoder built into the Kaby Lake processors. Skylake only has 8-bit decoder which hasn’t got the performance. That’s horse s**t. Why did the Skylake have it then, if it can’t be used?

My PC runs games at 4K 60fps. I have a 4K display and a GTX 1080 that has the H.265 10-decoder, why isn’t that compatible? I’ll tell you why.

Money.

The monopoly companies like Intel and Microsoft are just cashing in without thinking about the future. Peeing into the customer’s morning cereal is never a good thing.

Intel even changed the chipset from Skylake to Kaby Lake to force customers to buy the new Z270 motherboards and that way, a new Windows 10 licence from Microsoft. Luckily, most of the Z170 boards can be updated to support Kaby Lake.

That still leaves the cost of the CPU. The Kaby Lake chips have better thermal solution than Skylake and because of that, they can clock higher. That’s the difference. Why would anyone with an Ivy Bridge or newer upgrade? The performance gains are minimal and the retail value of the old one has collapsed.

Why didn’t Intel just draw the line between Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge? They say it’s the hardware decoder. Why is there the software wall with Windows 10 and Edge then? Why don’t just ask the Windows OS to check if you have an Ivy Bridge or newer? Why can’t you just check with the Windows that the user is not running any recording software and just freaking show the content?

The Microsoft’s and Intel’s answer is hardware. It’s a hardware decoder that can decode the encoded stream so that the content can’t be captured. And how does this prevent the pirates from capturing the content from the video cable? And why is the Edge browser needed then?

Money is the real answer.

Taking a commonly known issue and turning it into a short term profit, that’s what Microsoft and Intel are doing here.

Don’t forget that the same restrictions apply to the UHD Blu-ray. The disks that the new version of XBOX One can run with an ancient AMD CPU. It’s not a hardware problem, it a problem with selfishness.

Will the next iPhone be fully wireless?

apple-keynote-2017-invite

The leaked invitation for the 2017 Apple event suggests wireless charging. Of course the image can be fake. 

However, could the iPhone 7s, 8 or 10 be fully wireless? Last year, Apple showed the world that it’s willing to make its customers life difficult by removing ports. The MacBook Pro removed all the usual ports like MagSafe, USB type-A and SD card reader and added a couple of USB type-C ports. The new MacBook Pro still carries the Pro add-on despite losing all the Pro it had.

Later in the year, Apple removed the headphone jack from the iPhone. This way they were able to make it water resistant and sell more Lighting headphones. The sound was supposed to be better and some fanboys and audiophiles can definitely hear the difference when closed into a noise free bunker. Everybody still listens the normal quality streamed music, not the fancy high bitrate stuff.

Now that everyone has a Lighting cable, it’s time to make the iPhone completely wireless by removing the charging port, creating a new wireless charging standard and forcing everybody to buy a few new chargers. That would be so typical post-Jobs Apple.

Making the iPhone cable free would mean that the data cable is also gone. This could be justified by safety, as there would no longer be a way to the storage via USB. All data transfers would be wireless. No more movie downloads from iTunes via USB-cable.

And imagine what that would mean to our charging habits. If the phone has to stay on top of a charging pad for hours because of  the slow amps. How would Apple get around that?

I’ll tell you how, with a cable. They’ll just add a wireless charging pad with magnets at the end of the cable instead of a Lightning jack. That way you can keep using the phone while charging and that way its way different from the others for Apple to patent it.

Of course they will make their own standard. What did you think? Apple is the only company so selfish that they make their own everything. Can’t use USB, can’t use 3.5mm headphones, now can’t use existing wireless charging standards. Now the other manufacturers need to buy Apple’s wireless charging standard because they have patented magnets and others can’t use their wireless charging phones while charging.

There are just too many 3rd party Lighting cables. This time Apple will make sure that the phone only accepts the real Apple $89 wireless charger. Just add wireless tag of some sort that confirms it’s the real deal. They will make some serious cash with that.

Aside the wireless charging, what phenomenal new innovations will the next iPhone bring? Well, OLED display. Finally the Apple users can enjoy the black that’s actually black. The phone can be made thinner because the individual pixels light themselves up and don’t need the backlight module. Also, the display might be curved, never seen that before either.

With all these innovations, Apple is probably going to make what Samsung did with the Note 7… no no not that… the order number skipping thing. The next iPhone is called iPhone 10. Because it’s 2017, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone of course. And don’t forget the price, it’ll obviously go up.

HTC U Ultra comes with two displays

htc-u-ultra

HTC has just released two new smartphones, U Ultra and U Play. The U Ultra is the company’s new flagship.

The U Ultra moves away from HTC’s typical metal unibody designs. Sides are still metal but the back is now stained glass. The main Quad HD display comes at 5.7″ and the secondary display on top of the main has the resolution of 160 x 1040. The Super LCD 5 displays are covered under Gorilla Glass 5 with the exception of the 128GB model that gets sapphire glass.

Between the glass sandwich, the U Ultra has a Snapdragon 821 SoC with 4GB of RAM. The 64 or 128GB storage is expandable via microSD cards of up to 2TB. The battery capacity is 3000mAh. The main 12 megapixel camera has the aperture of F/1.8 and OIS. The front facer has 16 megapixels with F/2.0 aperture. The U Ultra will launch with Android 7.0.

The U Ultra does not have a 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the phone comes with decent USB Type-C headphones and BoomSound is back with the setup familiar from the HTC 10.

There are four color options, black, blue, white and rose gold.  Pre-orders will start mid-March at $749 for the 64GB option. The 128GB sapphire version will come later.

htc-u-play

HTC also released the U Play mid range smartphone. It comes with 5.2″ Full HD Super LCD display, MediaTek Helio P10 SoC, 3/4GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage and a 2500mAh battery. The U Play will be available at the end of Q1 2017 at $440 for the 3/32GB model.

Source: HTC U Ultra product pageHTC U Play product page (UK)

Nokia 6 goes official

nokia-6

The Nokia name is back with the new Nokia 6, built by HMD Global. The phone will be available in early 2017 but apparently only in China. 

The Nokia 6 will be available exclusively through JD.com in China. No word on global availability yet. The price is around $245 or 233€ (1699 CNY).

The Nokia 6 features an all aluminium unibody design, 2.5D Gorilla Glass and a 5.5″ Full HD IPS display. Powering the pixels, the Nokia 6 has a Snapdragon 430 with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a 3000mAh battery. The Android Nougat operating system seems to have a skin on top of it.

Cameras are 16 and 8 megapixels, the main one featuring F/2.0 aperture and phase detection auto focus. The Nokia 6 also has Dolby Atmos support and dual amplifiers. The home button also acts as a fingerprint scanner.

Source: HMD Global, Nokia 6 product page

Google reveals Pixel smartphones

pixel

Google has announced the highly anticipated Pixel smartphones. Like previous Pixel devices, the new smartphones are made by Google.

Google is now a hardware company. The Nexus lineup is gone, and the Pixel smartphones take their place as Google’s showcase for new Android versions. The new Pixel phones run the latest Android 7.1 Nougat.

Both Pixel and Pixel XL have very similar specifications. Only the display size, resolution and battery capacity are different, obviously. Both have an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 821 SoC, 4 GB of RAM and 32 or 128 GB of storage. The Pixel has a 5″ Full HD display as the XL gets a larger 5.5″ Quad HD display.

Google wanted to point five things that differentiate the new Pixel phones from the competition.

  1. Google Assistant. The Pixels are the first smartphones to ship with Google Assistant.
  2. Photography. The Pixels have the best smartphone camera of all. Tested by DxOMark
  3. Storage. The photo and video storage on these devices is unlimited, thanks to Google Photos
  4. Communications. The Pixels ship with Google Allo and Duo preinstalled.
  5. Virtual Reality. The Pixels are the first Google Daydream capable smartphones.

Personally, I’d say that the camera is the biggest feature of these. You can read the DxOMark camera review here. The new Pixel phones got the score of 89, one more than Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and Sony Xperia X Performance. The camera hardware isn’t all that impressive, 12.3 megapixel F/2.0 camera. No camera bump btw. However, Google compensates the average hardware with very clever and powerful software.

The HDR+ is now always on, as it has no shutter lag. Also, the camera and the camera app are the fastest to open and take a picture of any smartphone. Google’s algorithm chooses the best photo of all the photos taken with the Smartburst. You can check the camera quality from the DxOMark review linked above.

The Pixel phones will be available for preorders today in some markets, US for example. Google has teamed up with Verizon in the US but one can also get the phone from Google Store. More markets will join later. There are two basic colors available, Quite Black with black front and back and Very Silver with white front and silver back. The Verizon exclusive Really Blue is really really blue with white front. Prices start at $649 for the 32 GB Pixel.

Source: Google

Apple reveals new iPhones and Watch

iphone-7

Apple has made their yearly update to the iPhone lineup. They also updated the Apple Watch.

Design of the iPhone 7 is very similar to its predecessor. The biggest visual changes are the new Jet Black (Fingerprint Black) color and the mat black color that replaces the Space Grey. The camera lens is larger and still protruding and the antenna lines have been redesigned to be a little less visible.

The displays are still the same IPS LCD displays but like every year Apple has been able to squeeze just a little bit more brightness and color reproduction out of that aging display technology. They had to leave something for next year, I guess.

Under the hood, the updates have been more noticeable. The new A10 chip now has four cores, two high-performance and two power saving cores. This has bumped the battery life by 2 hours on the iPhone 7  and 1 hour on the Plus model. The 2 GB RAM has been proven to be enough on iOS. The base model storage is finally 32 GB, the upgrade options being 128 and 256 GB.

The iPhone 7 Plus has the typical Plus upgrades over the standard model. It has a bigger 1080p display, bigger battery and camera improvements. For the last two years the camera improvement has been OIS but the iPhone 7 also has it. The Plus model gets a dual camera setup. One camera is typical 12 MP F/1.8 shooter that can be found on the back of the iPhone 7 but alongside it there’s another camera with narrower lens. This combined with some software magic provides what Apple calls a true 2x optical zoom. The FaceTime camera has been updated to 7 megapixels.

The fingerprint sensor home button has been updated to Force Touch with no moving parts. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are now IP67 certified against water and dust and as predicted, Apple has ditched the 3.5 mm headphone jack. Luckily the new iPhones ship with Lightning headphones and a 3.5 mm adapter. It looks like recharging the phone is not possible while using headphones. The earpiece now acts as second speaker creating some kind of a stereo experience.

The 32 GB iPhone 7 costs $649 and the 7 Plus $769. 128 GB upgrade adds 100$ and 256 GB $200.

watch-2

Apple also updated the Apple Watch. The new series 2 models are swimproof which means 50 meters of water in normal terms. The sluggish chip of the original model has been updated to S2 dual core one and the graphics performance has been doubled. Probably the most wanted new feature is the built-in GPS. The pricing remains pretty much the same. The series 1 model is updated with the S2 chips and gets a price drop.

Source: Apple

LG V20 goes official with Android Nougat

v20-colors

LG has released the new V20 smartphone, the first device to ship with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box.

Last year’s V10 was one of the best phones of the year but got almost no attention from the big audience. The V20 aims to change that but uses quite similar feature set. The V20 is targeted for power users, audiophiles and spec monsters. It certainly isn’t for everyone with its bulky size and drastically customized Android experience.

The LG V20 packs a 5.7″ 1440p IPS LCD display and an additional 1040 x 160 display on top of the main one. The additional display can show shortcuts, options, memos and more. The SoC package is typical for a 2016 flagship with Snapdragon 820 CPU, Adreno 530 GPU and 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. The 64 GB internal storage is expendable via a microSD card. Android 7.0 Nougat has been heavily customized by LG.

The body of the V20 is made out of aluminium but still has a user replaceable 3200 mAh battery. The rear panel opens like a door when pushing the side button that looks like a camera shooter button. The V20 also has MIL-STD-810 shock certification. Charging is done via a USB Type-C and the fingerprint scanner is placed on the back.

The V20 has three cameras. Two rear cameras and a front facer with two modes, normal and wide angle. The rear cameras are a 16 megapixel normal camera and an 8 megapixel wide angle shooter. On the video side, LG is the first to adopt Qualcomm’s new video stabilization.

LG has focused on audio. In some markets the V20 will ship with Bang & Olufsen headphones and sound tuning. The V20 can record better audio, although the 24-bit / 48 kHz or 192 kHz doesn’t make any difference for most people, probably for no one.

The V20 will ship in three colors, black, silver and pink. There’s no information about pricing or availability.

Source: LG