The Boulton Bugle

For a while now I’ve been very keen to get my hands on Samsung’s phone/tablet hybrid, the Galaxy Note and the lovely folks at Three and Brando have duly obliged once again by loaning me one for a couple of weeks so here are my thoughts…..

The first thing you notice about the Galaxy Note is the sheer size of it, the Note has a 5.3” screen but once you actually start using it you soon get used to it although you do look a little ridiculous holding it to your ear to make/receive a call! It does pass the all important “can you put it in a trouser pocket and still sit down” test as well I’m glad to say!  

With regards to the screen, as with most Samsung phones it is stunning, a Super AMOLED screen with truly bright and vivid colours, no complaints on that.  Being a phone/tablet hybrid, the Note comes with a stylus, the S-Pen, this can be used with Samsung’s note-taking app, S Memo, for writing notes, drawing maps even creating works of art!  The stylus is comfortable to hold and responsive.

The Note comes with an 8MP back camera and a 2MP front camera, the 8MP camera is not quite as good as the camera on my iPhone 4S (in my opinion the best mobile phone camera there is) but still very impressive.

The screen also lends itself very well to browsing full websites rather than mobile versions which is great as you get to see the site the way it was meant to be and they look fantastic too!

A feature I did like is that it comes pre-installed with what I consider to be the best and most intuitive Android keyboard around, Swype, a nice touch.

As with most Android phones I’ve tried, the battery life is not great, with moderate use it will almost certainly run down before the end of the day and am sure that if I went on a day trip somewhere and used Twitter and checked in a lot on Foursquare it would run down to zero before the end of the day, I would add that I’ve taken all the usual Android battery saving measures such as turning off WiFi, GPS & Bluetooth, turning the brightness down etc.  This was the one factor that put me off from getting this phone as overall I really liked it, the size of it is not that much of an issue once you get used to it, the screen is stunning, the stylus responsive and the size of the screen is excellent for watching video but please sort out the battery life for the Galaxy Note 2!

For a while now I’ve been very keen to get my hands on Samsung’s phone/tablet hybrid, the Galaxy Note and the lovely folks at Three and Brando have duly obliged once again by loaning me one for a couple of weeks so here are my thoughts…..

The first thing you notice about the Galaxy Note is the sheer size of it, the Note has a 5.3” screen but once you actually start using it you soon get used to it although you do look a little ridiculous holding it to your ear to make/receive a call! It does pass the all important “can you put it in a trouser pocket and still sit down” test as well I’m glad to say! 

With regards to the screen, as with most Samsung phones it is stunning, a Super AMOLED screen with truly bright and vivid colours, no complaints on that.  Being a phone/tablet hybrid, the Note comes with a stylus, the S-Pen, this can be used with Samsung’s note-taking app, S Memo, for writing notes, drawing maps even creating works of art!  The stylus is comfortable to hold and responsive.

The Note comes with an 8MP back camera and a 2MP front camera, the 8MP camera is not quite as good as the camera on my iPhone 4S (in my opinion the best mobile phone camera there is) but still very impressive.

The screen also lends itself very well to browsing full websites rather than mobile versions which is great as you get to see the site the way it was meant to be and they look fantastic too!

A feature I did like is that it comes pre-installed with what I consider to be the best and most intuitive Android keyboard around, Swype, a nice touch.

As with most Android phones I’ve tried, the battery life is not great, with moderate use it will almost certainly run down before the end of the day and am sure that if I went on a day trip somewhere and used Twitter and checked in a lot on Foursquare it would run down to zero before the end of the day, I would add that I’ve taken all the usual Android battery saving measures such as turning off WiFi, GPS & Bluetooth, turning the brightness down etc.  This was the one factor that put me off from getting this phone as overall I really liked it, the size of it is not that much of an issue once you get used to it, the screen is stunning, the stylus responsive and the size of the screen is excellent for watching video but please sort out the battery life for the Galaxy Note 2!

Hello again and a very Happy New Year to you all! I thought I’d begin 2012 by sharing with you some of the things I personally am looking forward to this year in the categories of Gadgets/Technology, Movies/TV, Events and Sport so here goes…..

GADGETS/TECHNOLOGY

Four main items for me in this category, the gadget I’m most looking forward to is the Playstation Vita, Sony’s next generation Playstation Portable capable of PS3-quality graphics and featuring a touch panel on the rear as well as a front touchscreen, from what I’ve read about this machine so far, being a bit of a fan of portable gaming, I’m very excited about and have already pre-ordered one from Amazon along with the leading launch game, Unchartered : Golden Abyss to play on it, roll on 22nd February!

Next, is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, due for UK release at some point this year, rumoured January or February, I’ve seen this machine reviewed on TWIT TV’s excellent “All About Android” show and while it will not replace my beloved iPad it will complement it nicely and the Fire will be small enough to keep in my bag with me all day and use at lunchtime with my Three Mi-Fi! It looks packed with features and if the UK price point does come in at £150-£180 it could do well for Amazon, more details at http://amzn.to/rrCEyn

You may have heard already of Netflix, an American company offering unlimited instant streaming of movies and tv shows for $8 per month to PC, tablets, consoles and many other platforms.  Well the excellent news is that early this year they are finally launching here in the UK! They’ve already signed a number of content deals with film studios and tv companies and if they can offer the same choice for the same low price that US customers are enjoying I think they could have a hit on their hands, hoping too for a UK iPad app!

The final item in this category I’m looking forward to is Nintendo’s Wii U console, due for launch in the second half of this year and featuring an innovative tablet style controller enabling gameplay independent of the main machine and HD graphics for the first time on a Nintendo console which should make for greater realism in the games and a less cartoony feel, could this be the machine to revive Nintendo’s fortunes? We shall see…..

MOVIES/TV

TV first in this category, the first show I’m eagerly awaiting is the UK terrestrial tv premiere of Season 8 of NCIS due on Channel 5 in the first half of the year, this, for me, is the best US crime drama there is with great characters and terrific casting, and am extremely excited to see what happens after Season 7’s cliffhanger!

There are many other tv shows I’m looking forward but the other of note is due to premiere on January 15th and is from the excellent TWIT network, already providing me with two brilliant shows each week, ‘IPad Today’ and ‘All About Android’, this new show will be called Game On! and each week will cover the latest and best videogames across all platforms, a beta edition was made a few weeks ago and I have a feeling this will be another must-see show for me from an already excellent network.

Movies next, and there are four here I’m eagerly awaiting, the first is released on 6th January – The Iron Lady and stars Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher and is described by IMDb as ‘A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power’ – I’m keen to see this as Thatcher was PM during a large part of my childhood and therefore is the PM I can remember best, I can’t say I was a fan of her but the movie looks really good and there’s a great cast as well, more details at http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/

Secondly, due for release in February is Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace re-released in 3D, I saw the 3D trailer for this before seeing another 3D movie recently and, as I enjoyed the original 2D version greatly am excited about seeing the 3D remake.

Next, on 17th August comes The Bourne Legacy, the fourth in the Bourne series, sadly with no Matt Damon this time and a different director, the lead character this time is called Aaron Cross to be played by Jeremy Renner.  I love the first three Bourne movies and, despite the change in cast and director, still have very high hopes that this will be another thrill and action-packed ride.

Finally, on 26th October comes the long awaited third Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, entitled Skyfall, from what I’ve read about this so far, it looks to be a return to form for the franchise and will also once again feature the superb Judi Dench as ‘M’ and will also star Ralph Fiennes so a good cast again and a nice early birthday present for me before the 31st!

SPORT

As a major sports fan there are many events I look forward to each year but the first I’m excited about is Euro 2012, to be hosted jointly this time around by Poland and Ukraine, the draw for this threw up many exciting and interesting matches but the match I’m most keen on will be Germany v Holland, a massive rivalry and a fixture with a lot of history, this will not be a game for the faint-hearted! Also pleased to see Republic of Ireland in a major tournament final too although they have a very tough group to get out of! More details at http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuro/

Next comes the undoubted highlight of the year for any UK sports fan and that has to be the Olympic Games to be hosted by London for the first time since 1948! I was sadly not successful in securing any tickets for the events but do plan to watch as much of it as I can on tv and visited the Olympic Park recently on a coach excursion and the stadiums and venues are mighty impressive! At the time of writing (Jan 1st), 208 days to go till the opening ceremony!

Third, comes the NFL’s big game, the Superbowl, to be held this year in Indianapolis on Sunday 5th February, I always enjoy this game but for the last couple of years have had to make do with watching recorded highlights but this year have managed to get the day off work on Monday so will be staying to watch it live with my beer, popcorn and black coffee!  It’s a great spectacle and the half-time show is always worth a watch too, this year to be performed by Madonna.

Lastly, on 31st March at Wembley Stadium is the Aviva Premiership rugby union fixture between Saracens and Harlequins which I shall be going to, I’m looking forward to this firstly, because I’m a massive Quins fan and secondly, because it will be my first visit to the new Wembley!

EVENTS

And lastly in this post we come to two non-sports events I’m very much looking forward to attending, the first is always a highlight for me and that is Gadget Show Live on Saturday 14th April at the NEC, Birmingham.  I’ve been to this show every year since it’s inception and it’s just got bigger and better each year and have the bonus this time of a premium seat in the Super Theatre so will be nearer the stage to see all the presenters doing their stuff!

Two weeks later on 28th April, I shall taking the new WB Harry Potter Studio Tour London at Leavesden Studios near Watford, as a Harry Potter fan I cannot wait for this as I’ll get the chance to see and explore all the actual major sets used in all the movies, this is going to be amazing, if you’re at all a fan, you gotta do this tour! More details at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/

Phew! Well I hope that’s given you an insight into just some of the things I’m looking forward to this year but above all of those things I look forward to continued good health and being successful in my job, Happy New Year one and all!

The lovely folks at Three and Brando have sent me another phone to trial for 2 weeks and this time it’s the wonderfully named HTC ChaCha (HTC Status in the USA) otherwise known as ‘the Facebook phone’ due to its’ main selling point of easy Facebook integration via a dedicated blue Facebook button, pushing this button enables the user to quickly post a status update or upload a photo without having to access the main app and it works pretty well.  The ChaCha is not too heavy a phone, and as with most HTC phones is of good build quality – as you can see from the photo above the phone curves slightly just below the centre of the handset.

The phone itself runs version 2.3 of the Android operating system and packs a 5 megapixel camera with flash and autofocus which takes really decent photos, easily good enough quality for uploading to Facebook or Twitter.  The ChaCha’s screen is quite small for an Android phone which doesn’t always work well but HTC have done an excellent job of designing it with their HTC Sense customisation so nothing appears cluttered at all.  The full QWERTY keyboard is excellent, well spaced and laid out and very responsive.

One feature I especially liked was on the lock screen – there is a ring at the bottom centre of the screen which you pull up to unlock the phone, however it is also possible to have up to four apps on this screen (by default these are Phone, Mail, Camera and Messages) which can be opened by dragging any of them onto the ring and then they open! Very clever and useful!

The ChaCha comes packed with pre-installed apps, some exclusive to HTC and some I’ve not seen on an Android phone before (and I’ve tried a fair few!) – there is an FM radio, a separate dedicated Facebook Chat app,  HTC’s Friend Stream for aggregating your friend’s Facebook and Twitter posts, an excellent app for keeping up with the latest News stories, and lastly two apps I’ve not seen before on an Android phone a Stocks app providing up-to-date stocks and shares info from Yahoo! Finance and an RSS reader which syncs with your Google Reader account.  Also included is HTC’s own (and frankly, in my opinion rather poor) Twitter client called Peep, personally I prefer TweetDeck, and their Weather app which is really rather impressive, I particularly liked the sound effects when it updates! It also includes an attractive Weather widget for the homescreen.

All the usual standard pre-installed apps are also included such as Calculator, Calendar, Camcorder, Clock and Alarm, Gmail, Web browser, Maps, Navigation and Places from Google and lastly, YouTube.

With regards to battery life, I easily managed a full day out of the ChaCha with moderate use but I would imagine if you were a heavy user you’d struggle before the end of the day.

To conclude, I really liked the ChaCha, it’s feature packed with a couple of pre-installed apps I’ve not previously seen on Android, excellent Facebook integration and a decent camera too.  As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews I’m currently considering my options for my phone upgrade next April and impressed though I was with the ChaCha, my number one choice at the moment is still the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (see previous review) mainly due to the bigger screen, the large choice of games optimized for the Play and slide-out gaming controls, sorry HTC!

My grateful thanks again to Three and Brando for loaning me the ChaCha, appreciated as always!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve had another mobile to trial courtesy of the lovely folks at Three and Brando and this time it’s a phone I’ve wanted to get my hands on since it first launched – the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, “the world’s first Playstation certified smartphone” – I’ve been keen to try this as it’s currently my choice for my upgrade next April and because it’s the first Android phone I’ve had a go on which is running Android 2.3, so here goes…..

The first thing I noticed about the Play is that, due to the slide out joypad and Playstation-style controls, the phone itself is quite chunky but is still easily pocketable, is a decent weight and feels good to hold.  The internal memory is 400MB and a massive 16GB SD card came with my trial model (although the web says an 8GB card is supplied, the maximum SD card allowed is 32GB) and I particularly like the fact that Android 2.3 supports installing of games and apps directly to the SD card allowing for many more to be installed unlike on my current Android phone where I install 6 games and apps and get the ‘low memory’ warning!

Thanks to it’s 1GHz Snapdragon processor everything on the phone is smooth and fast as you’d expect from a high-end Android phone and the screen is bright and sharp meaning games, websites and apps look fantastic.  All the usual pre-installed apps and widgets are here but for many people interested in this phone the main attraction will be the games and the slide-out joypad and controls (pictured above) – the only niggle I would mention is that with the controls out the left and right shoulder buttons are a little tricky to get to but this doesn’t spoil gameplay too much.  Pre-installed on the phone is the original Playstation version of Crash Bandicoot – the Play can run emulations of original PS One games although there is a black border either side on these – also available from the Android Market are the excellent Demolition Derby and Wipeout.  Also pre-installed are 4 regular Android games – Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, FIFA ’10, Star Battalion and The Sims 3 although additional content has to be downloaded once over Wi-Fi before they can be played but this only took a few minutes to do, all these games are excellent and make good use of the Play’s joypad and control buttons. 

The choice of games available for the Play is growing all the time and a really impressive selection is currently available for further purchase (at the time of writing Asphalt 6, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six : Shadow Vanguard HD are free) including such excellent titles as Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Need for Speed Shift from EA, PES 2011 from Konami and several Gameloft titles including Modern Combat 2, Assassin’s Creed Altair’s Chronicles, NOVA 2, Backstab and Brothers in Arms 2 – to access the current range you simply turn the phone to landscape and slide out the controls, the currently installed games are on the left and the other side allows you to purchase additional games - this phone really is like having an arcade in your pocket and that’s before you even discover the many thousands of apps and games in the Android Market!  I must also mention that even the BBC iPlayer is pre-installed!

Moving on to the phone’s camera, this is a 5MP affair with 2592 x 1944 pixels, autofocus and LED flash – I was really impressed with this camera, it takes sharp, crisp, clear high quality photos even under low and artificial lighting conditions.

To sum up, this is by far the best Android phone I’ve yet tried, it’s fast, powerful, feature packed with an excellent and constantly increasing choice of games and having the slide-out PS-style controls really adds to the gaming experience – I am really sorry to be returning this phone but on the bright side I only have to wait till April to get one of my own!  :-))        

Well the lovely folks at Three and Brando have once again given me another mobile phone on a fortnight’s trial and this time it’s the Samsung Galaxy Ace - an Android phone running version 2.2 of the operating system, and after immediately thinking “this looks a lot like an iPhone 4” started to put it through it’s paces…..
The phone comes supplied with a choice of two back covers, a shiny white one and a ridged black one which provides excellent grip and stability when the phone is placed on a shiny surface - nice touch.
A mention firstly for the Galaxy Ace’s screen - it’s a really impressive display, a 3.5” HVGA TFT LCD affair - sharp, bright, colourful and extremely responsive with only the very minimum of pressure required.  All the usual pre-installed Android apps are supplied and also included are trial versions of Brickbreaker Revolution, Bejeweled and Tetris.  I was particularly impressed by the fact that a full version of the excellent Seesmic Twitter app comes pre-installed but not the latest version (this can be updated via the Android Market however) and also the free version of Shazam.  Also supplied is ThinkFree Office, a MS Office-compatible suite of programs so the Galaxy Ace is certainly well equipped.  Also supplied is Samsung’s own SocialHub app for displaying texts, Facebook and Twitter updates all in one place.
My current mobile is the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini which I had, until now, considered to be pretty powerful and zippy but with an 800 MHz processor under the hood of the Galaxy Ace and it being the first Android phone I’d tried running 2.2 was curious to see if the existing apps I had installed on my X10 Mini experienced an improvement in speed and response on the Galaxy Ace so I logged in and installed TweetDeck (my Twitter app of choice), Foursquare, Friendcaster (excellent and far superior Facebook app) and also tried the improved GMail.  GMail in particular showed a dramatic increase, the GMail app on my X10 Mini takes forever to update and display new messages but this took literally a few seconds on the Galaxy Ace.  The other three apps were also considerably faster and a lot more enjoyable to use, in fact everything on the Galaxy Ace positively zips along!
The supplied web browser is excellent featuring full pinch-to-zoom, always a handy feature for viewing full web pages.  Moving on to the Ace’s camera, this is a 5MP camera auto-focus affair with LED flash and the test photos I took with it were crisp and certainly of decent enough quality for e-mailing, displaying on a computer or in a digital photo frame or uploading to Facebook and Twitter.
A widget I found especially useful was the Program Monitor (I’m assuming this is a supplied widget with 2.2 only as I don’t have it on my X10 Mini), which is effectively a built-in task killer, enabling you to stop background apps/games from running with just a touch of one button, an excellent widget to supply.  The battery life is excellent, with fairly moderate use I got about 2 days battery out of it before the message was displayed advising me to connect the charger.
To sum up, I really liked the Galaxy Ace as an Android phone, it looks great, the screen is fabulous and responsive and thanks to the processor it’s a powerful phone too and extremely well equipped, I would have no hesitation in recommending this phone, it’s a pleasure to use and thanks once again to the kind folks at Three and Brando for loaning it to me, it’s gone straight into my list of mobiles to for possible upgrade next April when I’m eligible to do so on my contract.

Well the lovely folks at Three and Brando have once again given me another mobile phone on a fortnight’s trial and this time it’s the Samsung Galaxy Ace - an Android phone running version 2.2 of the operating system, and after immediately thinking “this looks a lot like an iPhone 4” started to put it through it’s paces…..

The phone comes supplied with a choice of two back covers, a shiny white one and a ridged black one which provides excellent grip and stability when the phone is placed on a shiny surface - nice touch.

A mention firstly for the Galaxy Ace’s screen - it’s a really impressive display, a 3.5” HVGA TFT LCD affair - sharp, bright, colourful and extremely responsive with only the very minimum of pressure required.  All the usual pre-installed Android apps are supplied and also included are trial versions of Brickbreaker Revolution, Bejeweled and Tetris.  I was particularly impressed by the fact that a full version of the excellent Seesmic Twitter app comes pre-installed but not the latest version (this can be updated via the Android Market however) and also the free version of Shazam.  Also supplied is ThinkFree Office, a MS Office-compatible suite of programs so the Galaxy Ace is certainly well equipped.  Also supplied is Samsung’s own SocialHub app for displaying texts, Facebook and Twitter updates all in one place.

My current mobile is the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini which I had, until now, considered to be pretty powerful and zippy but with an 800 MHz processor under the hood of the Galaxy Ace and it being the first Android phone I’d tried running 2.2 was curious to see if the existing apps I had installed on my X10 Mini experienced an improvement in speed and response on the Galaxy Ace so I logged in and installed TweetDeck (my Twitter app of choice), Foursquare, Friendcaster (excellent and far superior Facebook app) and also tried the improved GMail.  GMail in particular showed a dramatic increase, the GMail app on my X10 Mini takes forever to update and display new messages but this took literally a few seconds on the Galaxy Ace.  The other three apps were also considerably faster and a lot more enjoyable to use, in fact everything on the Galaxy Ace positively zips along!

The supplied web browser is excellent featuring full pinch-to-zoom, always a handy feature for viewing full web pages.  Moving on to the Ace’s camera, this is a 5MP camera auto-focus affair with LED flash and the test photos I took with it were crisp and certainly of decent enough quality for e-mailing, displaying on a computer or in a digital photo frame or uploading to Facebook and Twitter.

A widget I found especially useful was the Program Monitor (I’m assuming this is a supplied widget with 2.2 only as I don’t have it on my X10 Mini), which is effectively a built-in task killer, enabling you to stop background apps/games from running with just a touch of one button, an excellent widget to supply.  The battery life is excellent, with fairly moderate use I got about 2 days battery out of it before the message was displayed advising me to connect the charger.

To sum up, I really liked the Galaxy Ace as an Android phone, it looks great, the screen is fabulous and responsive and thanks to the processor it’s a powerful phone too and extremely well equipped, I would have no hesitation in recommending this phone, it’s a pleasure to use and thanks once again to the kind folks at Three and Brando for loaning it to me, it’s gone straight into my list of mobiles to for possible upgrade next April when I’m eligible to do so on my contract.

Firstly, apologies for the stock photos above, I did try to take a photo of the screen with my own digital camera but it wasn’t satisfactory enough to use and I wanted you to see the live tiles on the screen!

Courtesy of the nice folks at Three and social media agency Brando I’ve been lucky enough to be trying out a Samsung Omnia 7, one of the new Windows 7 phones for the past 2 weeks and as my trial time is almost at an end thought it was time to post my opinion of it so here we go…..

The phone itself is quite large but is very slim, a good weight (138.5g) and feels good in the hand. Upon switching on for the first time, you cannot fail to notice the frankly stunning 4 inch WVGA Super AMOLED screen, amazing, the colours truly leap out at you, it’s so bright and sharp, better than any other phone screen I’ve ever seen!  It is also incredibly responsive and requires just the very minimum of pressure.

One very tiny thing to mention is that the connection on the phone for the battery charger is protected by an easy to access slide across cover, thus stopping it from getting clogged up with dust and dirt, an idea of genius from Samsung, other handset manufacturers take note…..

As you can see from the photos, the main screen is made up of tiles, the colours of which can be customised from the Settings menu.  There is a phone tile for accessing voicemail and a clear and easy to use on screen keypad for making calls, a People tile for your contacts (these can also be synchronised with web e-mail and Facebook contacts) and also features a What’s New section which can be set up with your Facebook News Feed and various others for Internet Explorer, Calendar, Photo Sharing, Photos, Music & Videos and the Marketplace.  Additional tiles can be quickly and easily added if required.

A tile I particularly liked was one called ‘Now’, this features up-to-date weather data from AccuWeather.com (with beautiful weather symbols) for a place of your choice (although was slightly disappointed not to find my town, Hastings, even though it does feature in the AccuWeather Android app), News Headlines from Reuters and Stocks and Shares from Yahoo! Finance, all are fully customisable - a useful feature.

As you’d expect being a Microsoft product, full and excellent mobile versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint are available for viewing and creating documents.

The phone’s GPS is fast and accurate at determining your location although for the first couple of occasions after turning the phone on it did think I was the other side of the county in Haywards Heath but after that was 100% accurate.

Setting up e-mail is a breeze with Windows Phone 7, all you need to know is your e-mail address and password and the phone does the rest, syncing your messages and contacts into the ‘People’ tile on the main screen.  Once required e-mail accounts are set-up separate tiles for each are shown on the homescreen which update in real-time each time a new e-mail is received.  There is also a mobile version of Outlook which can also be used.

The app store on WP7 is called ‘Marketplace’ and for such a new operating system has a very impressive selection of free and paid games and apps already.  I decided to try :

Facebook

Seesmic

Twitter

Foursquare

and also downloaded the Absolute Radio, WeatherBug, and YouVersion Bible apps, all are excellent and integrate well.  Have to say though that, for Twitter, I preferred Seesmic over the official Twitter app.  It was, however, a little annoying that, unlike Android, you can’t have Seesmic or Twitter running in the background and set to check for new tweets at a pre-determined interval which would have been handy, but this is a minor gripe and should not detract from otherwise great apps.

An area where this phone really shines is photo and video - it features a 5MP camera with 4x digital zoom, auto focus and anti-shake and takes sharp and crisp photos even indoors under artificial light.  You can also record full HD 720p video with a frame rate of 24fps.  The photos I took and the video I recorded were of the highest quality and definitely good enough for this phone to replace your normal digital camera and camcorder.

The phone’s inbuilt web browser is the mobile edition of Internet Explorer which is extremely fast at loading and rendering web pages and features ‘pinch to zoom’ for larger sites.  Thanks to already mentioned stunning screen on the Omnia 7, websites look fantastic.

Lastly, the music player is provided by Microsoft’s Zune and can be synchronised with your music on your PC (or songs and albums can be purchased and downloaded from Marketplace) and also features an FM radio and podcast player.

To sum up, this is the first ever Windows phone I’ve ever tried and was massively impressed, it’s totally unlike any other mobile operating system I’ve ever used before, with a great UI and user-friendliness (have never had to refer to the user manual once!) but let down by the fact you can’t multi-task or have apps running in the background which would have been useful for something like Twitter.  Up till now I’ve been firmly an Android fan and still am, but am a definite Windows Phone 7 fan now as well, so much so that am actually seriously considering shelling out for a sim-free Windows Phone 7 next year, although will probably stick with Android as, for me, it still has the edge and you can play Angry Birds!  :-))

My grateful thanks once again to Three and Brando for the loan of the Omnia 7, I had a blast with it!

Just the one update but it’s a cracker, Nokia’s new short film, The Commuter has just been released, filmed entirely in HD on a Nokia N8 mobile phone, the only way to describe it is total genius, should win many awards for sure!  WATCH IT!!!

Well the day I’d been waiting for for ages finally came last Sunday – the day I was able to go to my local 3Store for an upgrade on my mobile phone.  I’d decided some time ago that I wanted an Android phone, the question was – which one?  I had a shortlist of several possibilities but in the end I plumped for the dinky little Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini.
I hesitated in going for this initially due to it’s size (barely the size of a credit card) and wondered how easy the screen and on-screen keyboard would be to use and how easy applications would be to see.  In the end I needn’t have worried, the on-screen keyboard is no problem at all to use and the touchscreen is fast and responsive as is scrolling through lists of contacts, tweets etc.  
This phone is in fact a miniature marvel, everything loads pretty much instantly and the internet seems much faster than it ever did on my previous phone, the LG Viewty KU990i.  The build quality is excellent and it feels really good to hold thanks to the curved back cover designed to fit nicely in the palm of your hand.  Pre-installed on the phone are Google Mail, Facebook, Spotify, Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow store, RoadSync, Google Maps and Sony Ericsson’s own Timescape app allowing for Facebook, Twitter updates, missed calls and text messages to all be viewed in one place, so plenty of apps all ready to use from the outset.  Also included are the usual mobile features such as calculator, stopwatch, photo album, and rather impressively for a phone of this size, and an excellent  FM radio complete with RDS.
As with all Android phones more apps are available through the pre-installed Android Market, you should be aware though that not all applications are available for this particular phone due to it’s size.  I had expected this but it was still a disappointment not to be able to install excellent apps such as USA Today, New York Times, the Skyfire browser and the official World Rally app.  That said, the vast majority of apps that I’d wanted to install I was able to and am more than happy with what I have.  There is plenty of room for apps as well thanks to the supplied 2GB MicroSD memory card.
The X10 Mini’s camera is a 5 megapixel, auto-focus affair with flash and digital zoom and takes crisp, bright and sharp photos, I was extremely impressed with this camera for a phone of this size.
The battery life as with most Android phones is a problem, however by turning off Wi-Fi, turning down the screen’s brightness, turning off automatic syncing of Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts, and installing two excellent apps called Advanced Task Killer Pro, which closes down apps running in the background which drains the battery quicker, and JuiceDefender you should be able to get 12-15 hours out of it on one full charge.
Overall, despite the expected disappointment of some apps not working on this phone, I’ve no regrets at all about picking this phone in favour of other, bigger Android phones.  It’s powerful, fast, responsive, packed with features and brilliantly designed.  If you’re looking for a small, truly pocket-sized Android phone you really won’t be disappointed with this pocket powerhouse!  I absolutely love it!         RATING : 4/5 (1 point off for the non-availability of some apps)

Well the day I’d been waiting for for ages finally came last Sunday – the day I was able to go to my local 3Store for an upgrade on my mobile phone.  I’d decided some time ago that I wanted an Android phone, the question was – which one?  I had a shortlist of several possibilities but in the end I plumped for the dinky little Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini.

I hesitated in going for this initially due to it’s size (barely the size of a credit card) and wondered how easy the screen and on-screen keyboard would be to use and how easy applications would be to see.  In the end I needn’t have worried, the on-screen keyboard is no problem at all to use and the touchscreen is fast and responsive as is scrolling through lists of contacts, tweets etc. 

This phone is in fact a miniature marvel, everything loads pretty much instantly and the internet seems much faster than it ever did on my previous phone, the LG Viewty KU990i.  The build quality is excellent and it feels really good to hold thanks to the curved back cover designed to fit nicely in the palm of your hand.  Pre-installed on the phone are Google Mail, Facebook, Spotify, Sony Ericsson’s PlayNow store, RoadSync, Google Maps and Sony Ericsson’s own Timescape app allowing for Facebook, Twitter updates, missed calls and text messages to all be viewed in one place, so plenty of apps all ready to use from the outset.  Also included are the usual mobile features such as calculator, stopwatch, photo album, and rather impressively for a phone of this size, and an excellent  FM radio complete with RDS.

As with all Android phones more apps are available through the pre-installed Android Market, you should be aware though that not all applications are available for this particular phone due to it’s size.  I had expected this but it was still a disappointment not to be able to install excellent apps such as USA Today, New York Times, the Skyfire browser and the official World Rally app.  That said, the vast majority of apps that I’d wanted to install I was able to and am more than happy with what I have.  There is plenty of room for apps as well thanks to the supplied 2GB MicroSD memory card.

The X10 Mini’s camera is a 5 megapixel, auto-focus affair with flash and digital zoom and takes crisp, bright and sharp photos, I was extremely impressed with this camera for a phone of this size.

The battery life as with most Android phones is a problem, however by turning off Wi-Fi, turning down the screen’s brightness, turning off automatic syncing of Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts, and installing two excellent apps called Advanced Task Killer Pro, which closes down apps running in the background which drains the battery quicker, and JuiceDefender you should be able to get 12-15 hours out of it on one full charge.

Overall, despite the expected disappointment of some apps not working on this phone, I’ve no regrets at all about picking this phone in favour of other, bigger Android phones.  It’s powerful, fast, responsive, packed with features and brilliantly designed.  If you’re looking for a small, truly pocket-sized Android phone you really won’t be disappointed with this pocket powerhouse!  I absolutely love it!         RATING : 4/5 (1 point off for the non-availability of some apps)

Things I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Portal for on the 3 network that you may not have thought of

Well courtesy of the lovely folks at ThreeMobileBuzz I’m currently trialling the Samsung Galaxy Portal Android phone and this time, I thought I’d post my brief thoughts on the phone then go into detail about some of the things I’ve been using it for on the 3 network.

The phone uses the latest current version of the Android operating system, 2.1, has a very sharp and responsive touch screen, and, as with all Android phones an on-screen keyboard which takes a little getting used to but once you’ve got the hang of it is really pretty good.  The camera is a 3.2 megapixel affair with flash and digital zoom and takes perfectly usable and acceptable photos.  The only thing I didn’t really like was the truly awful battery life but I suspect this is the same on most Android phones.  Web browsing using the 3 network is, as always, a pleasurable and fast experience.  I really liked this phone, so much so, that it’s probably the phone I shall get when my upgrade is due in two weeks time.  Rating : 4/5 (1 point off for the battery life)

Right, now on to detail some of the things I’ve been using the Galaxy Portal for during my trial:

Using GPS to check-in on Foursquare

I’m a relative newcomer to services such as Foursquare but have really embraced it while using the Galaxy Portal and during my previous trial of the Nokia E72.  For those who don’t know about Foursquare, it’s a cross between a game and a location-based social network.  Upon installing the Foursquare Android app, it uses the phone’s GPS to list places nearby (if the venue you’re at is not listed, you can add it manually) and you can then check-in at the venue you’re currently at.  If you check-in at a place or venue more times than anyone else you become mayor of that place and you also earn badges for various things.  So far in the few weeks I’ve been using it, I’ve become mayor of no less than five places and earned 4 badges!  You can also add your friends if they are using it so they can see where you are and vice-versa.  I must also add that the GPS on the Galaxy Portal on 3 is very fast and extremely accurate at determining your location.  Great fun and a great app.

I’ve also been using the Gowalla, Rummble and Brightkite apps, all are similar to Foursquare.

Using your Galaxy Portal as a travel planner

There are several apps on the Android Market that can be used for planning travel journeys, some of the best I’ve discovered are :

London Tube (Visual IT Ltd) – This provides live London tube running information, a full London tube map and best of all, a full journey planner for London Underground and Docklands Light Railway, the route results it produces are incredibly detailed and informative.  An essential app for the regular London Tube user.

Catch That Bus UK – I’ve not yet tried this app as it’s a paid app (£1.79) but will be installing it once I get my own Galaxy Portal very soon.  It gives real-time bus departure information for an amazing 370,000 bus stops across the UK and also shows bus stops at your current location (again, using GPS presumably) and also allows you to search using place name or post-code.

National Rail Enquiries – Again this is a paid app (£4.99) so have not yet tried it but will be very soon.  It provides information on train fares, a journey planner across the entire UK rail network, directions to stations, real-time delay and platform information at stations and a widget displaying live departures from the station of your choice.

Cab4Me – a free app which uses GPS to list nearby taxi companies and their contact phone numbers, handy if you’re in a strange town/city and need a taxi!

Getting real-time sports scores

There are a number of apps for this but the best I’ve come across for Android is the free SportsTap app, this provides real-time score updates for NFL,MLB,NBA,NHL,College Basketball and Football,Motorsports,Golf and Tennis as well as all the major soccer leagues and the Champions League and Europa League.  The information provided is very detailed and refreshes automatically, handy if you’re following a particular match.  You can also set favourite teams using the app.  The information appears very fast using the Galaxy Portal on the 3 network.

Uploading photos to Twitter or Facebook on the move

The Facebook app is pre-installed on the Galaxy Portal and includes an option to take a photo on the phone’s camera and upload it straight to Facebook.  There is no Twitter app pre-installed, however I have been trying out the official Android Twitter app (only available for version 2.1) and Seesmic, both are excellent apps but my personal preference is still Seesmic.  Using these Twitter apps you can also take a photo and upload it to Twitter using the photo sharing website of your choice such as TweetPhoto, TwitPic or yFrog.  This is a quick and extremely easy process on the Galaxy Portal on 3 and once the photo is attached to your tweet you can also post a tweet describing your photo.

Google Calendar & Gmail

A feature I really like on the Galaxy Portal (and indeed all Android phones) is automatic syncing of your Google Calendar and Gmail accounts.  You can enter an event or appointment into Google Calendar either on the web or the pre-installed app and within a few seconds it will be synced on both, very useful.  There is also a Google Calendar widget available for the homescreen which displays your next appointment/event.

There is also an excellent Gmail app pre-installed which again features automatic syncing meaning automatic delivery of your e-mails to the phone.

I would however recommend, to conserve the battery life, that you disable the automatic syncing and do a manual sync as and when required as having the automatic sync enabled does run the battery down quicker.

Downloading and streaming podcasts

I’m a keen listener of podcasts and was pleased to see Google have released a free app called Listen which makes it possible to download and listen to podcasts on your phone either using 3G or Wi-Fi, the podcasts download quickly on the 3 network and the sound quality, even over 3G, is excellent.  The app is nice looking and easy to use.  A paid alternative podcast app is DoggCatcher ($6.99, it’s shown on the Android Market in $) which I shall probably use when getting my Galaxy Portal as it looks to have more features than Listen, however Google Listen is a perfectly usable app if you don’t wish to pay for a podcast app.

Alternative web browsers

Lastly, if you’re not entirely happy with the pre-installed web browser, a number of alternatives are available, the best two, in my opinion are Opera Mini 5 and Skyfire, after lengthy trials of both, I’ve settled upon Skyfire as my browser of choice.  It’s very smart and simple to use and a neat touch is the option to display websites either a full desktop, Android or iPhone versions if different versions of that website are available.

Well, that’s mainly what I’ve been using this brilliant Android phone for during my trial, still got another week of it to enjoy yet!  Grateful thanks as always go to ThreeMobileBuzz for the loan of the phone, can’t wait to get one of my own in two weeks time!