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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sony Xperia Z3+ India launch expected next week

The Sony Xperia Z3+ could be unveiled in India next week, as the company has started sending out invitations for a June 26 press event that will be held in New Delhi.


For those who aren't in the know, the Z3+ is the global version of the Xperia Z4 smartphone available only in Japan. It is already up for pre-order in Europe, and is expected to go on sale on the same date - June 26.
It's worth mentioning that the June 26 press event in India comes exactly a month after the company unveiled the Xperia M4 Aqua Dual and Xperia C4 Dual in the country.
Via 1 | Via 2

Micromax to launch a flagship phone tomorrow

Micromax has sent out media invites for the launch of a flagship smartphone tomorrow in New Delhi, India. The invite image carries cryptic text - "Mystery prisoner found locked in. Can he escape his destiny?" Also there is mention of Jailbreak on the image.

Though there are barely any official hints on what could be in store, the rumor mill point towards the Canvas 5 smartphone. We've been hearing reports of that one since last October.
While the details are scarce, Micromax’s new Canvas 5 flagship should feature a 1080p display, the new MediaTek Helio X10 (MT6795) mobile chipset coupled with 2GB of RAM and a 16MP rear camera. There will be a front facing 5MP camera and the smartphone is expected to be packaged in aluminum chassis.
We will have to wait until tomorrow to see if those rumors are correct, though.

Fairphone 2 unveiled, Android powered with modular design

You may have heard of "blood diamonds," but conflict minerals are a problem for smartphones too. That's what Fairphone set to address in 2013 with a crowdfunding campaign, and now the Amsterdam-based company is back with the sequel.
It's a highly modular design you can take apart with a screw driver and easily replace components. Screen replacements are possible on most phones, but you can replace the CPU, camera, microphone and other parts of the Fairphone 2 by ordering new ones and swapping them. This isn’t Project Ara, you get a traditional-loooking phone, but everything is designed to swap out a lot like a desktop computer.

The phone will launch with Android 5.1 Lollipop, but the company plans to make a lot of its software open source to enable easy development of custom ROMs.
The body of the phone is rubberized while the 5" 1080p screen on the front is guarded by 0.7mm thick Gorilla Glass 3. The innards are a bit behind modern flagships with a Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB RAM and an 8MP camera, but you get 4G LTE, two SIM slots and a microSD slot.
An expansion port is left on the back for sensors enhancements to come in the future. Fairphone CEO Bas van Abel says swapping components of the phone is a bonding experience since you take responsibility to maintain it, leading to a deeper relationship.
This modularity should also allow the Fairphone 2 to be upgraded with newer hardware, something like Samsung's Evolution Kits for their Smart TVs.
The Fairphone 2 will be available in Europe in Autumn 2015 at a steep €525. You can sign up for the pre-order (which starts this summer) here. Keep in mind that Fairphone sources components from conflict-free mines, while sources where human rights are trampled offer lower prices.
There are still some conflict minerals used in the Fairphone 2, but the company is working to cut those out of its supply chain. You can read more about what Fairphone is doing to improve the lives of workers.
By the way, the original Fairphoen sold out earlier this year, 60,000 units in total. The original crowdfunding campaign moved around 10,000 at €325.
Source | Via

Samsung might stay away from in-house GPU for now

Samsung has a lot to brag about on today's mobile scene. The Korean tech giant has managed to stay firmly on top of the ferociously-competitive market for quite some time now, so, it is definitely got a working formula for success. A big chunk of it, at least in recent years, has been the move away from generic chip architecture and towards the in-house development of Exynos technology.

Samsung's silicon has proven to be quite powerful and versatile and consequently a major market hit. But, despite all the custom-tailored technology that goes into the Exynos SoCs, it is a fact that Samsung still relies on standard ARM graphics for the chips. The move towards custom graphics cores seems only logical and has, in fact, been the subject of a lot of rumors and speculations. Industry sources, however, now hint that Samsung has delayed work on custom mobile graphics, by as much as five years.
Earlier reports suggested a possible AMD buyout, a step which would fuel the in-house GPU development significantly. That possibility is still on the table, but it is unlikely that Samsung will step away from ARM's Mali chips in the foreseeable future. And frankly, it has good reasons for sticking with the industry standard.

For one, ARM has proven time and time again to be a reliable partner, staying on the cutting edge of innovation and delivering comparable and often better performance than competitors, such as Adreno and PowerVR. Still, Samsung might already be working toward custom GPU's in the long run. The company has allegedly managed to lure engineers from NVIDIA, AMD and Intel to spearhead the research, so, the possibility of an entirely in-house developed Exynos chipset is still very high, albeit probably not in the next five years or so.
Source | Via

Xiaomi may omit the charger in future phone bundles

Remember how the EU has been pushing for standardized chargers for smartphones for years to reduce environmental footprint due to having a separate charger for each new generation device you pick up? Well, the industry seems to have settled on the microUSB 2.0 interface for now, though there's still a huge variation in the output from charger to charger.
However, regardless of whether you plug your phone in a regular computer USB 2.0 port with 500mA output or a beefy 2A dedicated charger, current will still flow into your smartphone and the battery will charge, whether it's in a day or an hour. And seeing as how you probably already have a few of those lying around from previous devices, Xiaomi CEO is considering shipping future smartphones without a charger in the box.

To avoid potential uproar when consumers receive their next Xiaomi device, Lei Jun has asked the big question on Weibo, and is gathering user opinions on the matter. He is taking the environmental standpoint, though some may argue that the company is simply trying to cut costs. With a Xiaomi charger priced at CNY 19.9 or $3.20, and likely costing a tenth of that to manufacture, there's little merit to that claim.
There are practical considerations however, which may lead you to think it makes sense not to have a charger bundled. For example, if you have a smartphone, a tablet, and say, a smartwatch, that means having three separate chargers occupying three power outlets. Or you can grab an aftermarket charger with three USB ports and free the rest of the outlets, and also render three bundled chargers useless. Not to mention the trend towards power strips, which incorporate USB charging ports, with Xiaomi itself offering one with three AC outlets and three USB ports.
On the other hand, with the constant increase in battery capacity, fast charging has become a coveted feature, and it typically requires a special dedicated charger. Omitting it in the retail package and forcing you to use a legacy charger will increase charging times and won't be ideal.
There's obviously a middle ground to be found, and entry-level smartphones could ship without a charger, since they typically come with smaller batteries. On the other hand, power-hungry flagships could come with a fast charger included, as a couple of dollars will make little difference in the overall cost anyway. Adopting a no-charger policy across a company’s lineup may be a bit extreme at this point.
Source (in Chinese) | Via

Apple Watch in-store pickup now available worldwide

Apple Watch is available exclusively online since its launch in April. Apple just couldn’t produce as many Watches as people wanted, so it focused on delivering the first batches to its online customers only. Later Apple detailed the retail availability - the Watch is supposed to hit the shelves across the international Apple Stores on June 26.
Today Apple launched an option to reserve an in-store pickup for the Apple Watch. The reservation & pickup option is available across the globe, on markets with Apple Retail Stores. You need to register, enter a valid Apple ID and a local phone number and make an appointment within 30 minutes upon receiving a special code on your email address.
After you are done with your reservation, you can go to your selected retail Apple Store and get your Watch. Naturally not all models are available for in-store pickup, while all Editions are online exclusives only.
The same page is live on the Australian, German, French, USA and UK Apple Stores, among others. It seems Apple is prepping for the promised retail launch on June 26.
Source | Via

T-Mobile begins selling Microsoft Lumia 640

Nearly a week after a leaked internal memo revealed that the Microsoft Lumia 640 will be launched by T-Mobile on June 17, the carrier has started selling the device.

As for the price, the handset carries a tag of $129.84 without any agreement. It is also available on a regular 2-year contract, where-in you'll have to pay $5.41 per month.
It's worth mentioning that the Lumia 640 is already available on Cricket, and is expected to arrive on AT&T sometime this month.
Source | Via

Apple iPhone 6S to pack Force Touch display, stronger aluminum

KGI Securities' Ming-Chi Kuo might be a name that doesn't ring a bell, but the guy has a good track record of guessing the next iPhones right, well before the official announcement. Today he supplied us with a new portion of details about the upcoming iPhone 6S generation.
According to Ming-Chi Kuo, the next iPhone will offer a major change - Force Touch display. The tech is already available on the latest MacBook 12" and MacBook Pro lineup, as well as on the Apple Watch. If true, this will offer an entirely new way of interactions with the iOS 9. It will add some extra 0.2mm on all sides of the iPhones though.
The iOS 9 beta version is now available, while public previews are on the way. The developers are already digging through the code of the upcoming OS and already begun unraveling some interesting facts as mentions of a LED flash for the FaceTime camera. If a Force Touch addition is indeed coming with the iPhone 6S, the iOS 9 code should spill the beans on it rather soon.

Another suggestion Ming-Chi Kuo makes is Apple will be using the Series 7000 aluminum for the iPhones. It is up to 60% tougher than the current aluminum alloy and is already in use on the Apple Watch Sport.
Finally, the next iPhones may launch in Rose Gold in addition to the current paintjob trio - Space Gray, Silver and Gold. This rumor has been around for a while and it may as well finally become a reality.
The next generation of iPhones should go official in September. The Fall will also mark the release of the iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan.
Source | Via

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Xiaomi Mi 4i review: 10.Conclusion

Final words

The Xiaomi Mi 4i bridges the gap between the flagship Mi series and the Redmi lot, a likable gadget but not in the sense of a pet - it may be an affordable phone but not underpowered and full of compromise. No, on paper everything seems near perfect for the Mi 4i.
And for the most part, the Xiaomi Mi 4i lives up to its promise. Its 5" 1080p screen is great and the imaging department is quite capable as well. Both the 13MP primary unit and the 5MP selfie cam produce good images with great detail and subtle processing. The thoughtful design results in a great handling experience, the connectivity options are above average, and the battery backup is solid.
Xiaomi Mi 4i
Among the few things the Mi 4i didn't get right video recording stands out, alongside the speaker quality and loudness. The higher clock speed of the CPU cores is causing some excessive heating. Occasionally, the Mi 4i would get dangerously hot and Xiaomi must've been aware of that. A firmware update arrived while we were testing, which did slightly improve the situation although at the expense of some performance.
This is the first Xiaomi phone to run Lollipop, but the MIUI 6.0 skins it inside out , so you'll be hard-pressed to spot many differences compared to, say, a Mi Note running KitKat and MIUI 5. The new stuff is under the hood, battery and performance optimizations. The OS is silky-smooth, while the latest MIUI is beautiful and capable.
Let's check out our key test findings.
  • The Xiaomi Mi 4i has great build quality and attractive design.
  • The 5.0" IPS screen is bright and offers great contrast and colors, and the sunlight legibility is above average.
  • We rated the dual-SIM battery endurance at 64h, while the single-SIM rating is 67h.
  • Great connectivity options including LTE and dual-SIM. NFC is missing though.
  • The simplified MIUI interface is based on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, has better flat looks, and offers rich customization and security options. You may need to download Google's default apps separately though.
  • The Snapdragon 615 chipset isn't top of the line, but sounds great for a mid-ranger. Unfortunately, the high-res screen cripples the overall GPU performance - this isn't a phone for gaming.
  • We rated the loudspeaker loudness and quality as below average.
  • Video player has rich video codec support, as well as seamless 1080p video playback. It only lacks subtitles support.
  • Audio output quality is excellent, the Hi-Fi output is the loudest we've met
  • The camera is quite good, with sharp and detailed images, great dynamic range and noise is kept in check. Built-in HDR mode does a nice job, too.
  • Video recording quality is so-so: passable 1080p videos, no 60fps option.
  • The front 5MP camera is great for selfies, but lacks auto-focus - that's not necessarily a bad thing as it allows for a much shorter shot-to-shot time.
Snapdragon 615-powered smartphones are multiplying by the day and the Mi 4i isn't short of competition. We've had the chance to test a few of those and we can say choosing the right one isn't a simple task.
Recently we reviewed the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua, a water and dust proof 5-incher, with great design, powered by same S615 chip and matching the camera - but not the screen - resolution. While the 13MP images aren't as good as Xiaomi Mi 4i's, you can shoot underwater too, which is nice.
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual
Sony Xperia M4 Aqua • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua Dual
The stunning Oppo R1x is another 5" smartphone running on a S615 chip, with unique gemstone effect on its back and superb handling. It is a near perfect match for the Xiaomi Mi 4i, except it cannot quite meet its bargain price and thus you must really like the premium design to consider it.
Oppo R1x
Oppo R1x
The Samsung Galaxy A5 will give you a 5" Super AMOLED screen, but it comes with sub-par resolution and a less capable Snapdragon 410 chipset. The camera, video recording and multimedia performances are excellent, as is the battery life. The slim design with metal frame is nice, but we aren't sure those are worth the sharpness sacrifice.
The Lenovo Vibe X2 is another stand-out mid-ranger with enough horsepower under the hood. It's another match for the Mi 4i - a 5" 1080p display, a 13MP rear camera, an 8-core processor and Android Lollipop. Lenovo has been giving us a lot of great phones lately, so the tri-color Vibe X2 is a must-check before making any decisions.
Samsung Galaxy A5 Samsung Galaxy A5 Duos
Samsung Galaxy A5 • Samsung Galaxy A5 Duos
Finally, if you need an even more affordable Xiaomi, the Redmi 2 would serve you great too. Opting for the original and more expensive Mi 4 is also an option, but it heats up too, so you won't be avoiding those issues.
Xiaomi Redmi 2 Xiaomi Mi 4
Xiaomi Redmi 2 • Xiaomi Mi 4
Overall, most people are likely to have relatively low expectations of a phone like the Xiaomi Mi 4i. Some of them will probably be surprised at it actually over-delivering. Not if you've had any experience with Chinese brands of Xiaomi's level. Affordable without feeling cheap, the phone does most things quite well: design, including the interface, connectivity with dual-SIM support and excellent still images. Not everything is perfect but when you're not paying over the odds mistakes are very easy to forgive.
Special thanks to for providing the review unit.

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Xiaomi Mi 4i review: 9.Web browser

MIUI Browser

The Xiaomi Mi 4i comes with the feature-rich MIUI Browser, now with new flatter looks. It does a great job browsing, it syncs with your Google account and supports downloads, there is a night mode, too. It is as almost fast as Chrome, but does not support Find on Page.
On the positive side, it has a built-in Reading mode, which isn't available in Chrome. It enlarges the text font and strips away unneeded elements, leaving only the article you are reading in focus.
The aforementioned Night Mode, which is something we really miss in Chrome. It inverts the background and font colors and is easier on the eyes at dark rooms.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Mi Browser • Night Mode • Reading Mode
Unfortunately, the MIUI Browser, even though updated, still had issues with some pages and our battery-test browsing script. That's why we suggest you install Chrome, at least as a backup, just in case you need to avoid crashes or you need to find something on a page. Plus it can sync with your Google account easily.

Other pre-installed apps

The Xiaomi Mi 4i offers a great file managing app called Explorer, which lets you browse the files in its internal storage and groups them by type.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
The MIUI v6 also offers a Security app. It can scan your phone for malware, manage your blocklist, manage or restrict your data usage, configure battery behavior, clean some RAM, it can also manage the permissions of your installed apps.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Security app
The custom and now flat Calendar looks good, syncs with your accounts including Google, and offers Day and Month views.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i features the WPS Office suite, which supports creating, viewing and editing office files (docs, xls, ppt).
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
WPS Office
There are also the standard sound recorder, notes, flashlight, calculator, clock, and weather apps, among others, that are a given in any self-respecting Android package nowadays.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Voice recorder • Notes • Calculator • Weather
We really liked the new Compass app. It has very nice and clean interface, shows the directions and doubles as level. If you lift the phone up then you'll get a nice augmented reality view with real-time directions.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Compass app - compass, level, VR directions
Once again, if Google Maps, Drive, or any other Google-related app isn't installed on your unit, you can get it for free from the Play Store.

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Xiaomi Mi 4i review: 8.Camera review

Great 13MP snapper

Xiaomi Mi 4i features a 13MP camera, equipped with a dual-tone LED flash, a somewhat surpring upgrade over the Mi 4's basic LED flash.
Xiaomi Mi 4i
The camera interface is fairly simple, though it has certainly changed since MIUI v.5. Now you have three panes - the default one shows the viewfinder with a virtual shutter, flash trigger and front camera key. Slide to the top pane and you'll get a choice of 12 filters with live previews. A slide to the bottom hides the advanced modes such as Panorama, Refocus, Delay Shutter, Highlight tones, Hand-hand twilight, and Manual.
The HDR switch is now placed next to the virtual camera shutter and offers Live HDR, Enhanced HDR, and Off modes.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Camera UI
The Manual Mode offers you manual settings for white balance and ISO. The Face Detection switch is within the additional settings.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
More camera settings
The Xiaomi Mi 4i resolves plenty of detail and the noise levels are kept very low. The white balance is pretty accurate and we like the lively color rendition. The dynamic range is above average, too. Overall the processing is really mature and we consider those samples among the best 13MP ones we've seen so far.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i camera samples
The HDR mode is available in Live and Enhanced modes, but we suggest using only Enhanced. While you won't be seeing the HDR effect in real time, the results are much better. The Enhanced mode is conservative enough and rescues both the highlights and shadows without making a flat contrastless mess out of the image. Those aren't the best HDR photos we've seen, but they certainly are among the better ones.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
HDR off • HDR live • HDR enhanced
Panorama shots are available too. You can capture both landscape and portrait panoramic photos with a 180 degree field of view. Shooting is easy but the stitching takes a while to complete. The end result is rather disappointing though - the landscape shots come in 2250x400px pixels while shooting in portrait mode results in the more usable 1980x720px. The image quality is quite poor.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Xiaomi Mi 4i panorama samples in landscape and portrait modes
Xiaomi Mi 4i features a 5MP front-facing camera for high-res selfies. The images come out nicely detailed. This camera is among the best front snappers we've met - with excellent color rendition and the high level of resolved detail.
Xiaomi Mi 4i
A 5MP camera sample taken with the front camera

Photo comparison tool

The Xiaomi Mi 4i is more than capable of pulling its own weight in our Photo Comparison tool. You can see it puts up an excellent fight against the other snappers we've tested and comes on top even against some far pricier options.
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
Xiaomi Mi 4i in our photo quality comparison tool

1080p video recording

Xiaomi Mi 4i camcorder has the same UI as the still camera. It supports slow-mo (the result is a 720p@16fps video) and time-lapse videos with customizable snapping interval.
Xiaomi Mi 4i Xiaomi Mi 4i
Camcorder UI
The Xiaomi Mi 4i is capable or recording up to 1080p@30fps. The bitrate of the video recordings is poor at about 15 Mbps, while audio is captured at 96 Kbps with 2 channels (stereo).
The resolved detail in the videos is modest at best. The colors and contrast are good and the framerate is smooth and consistent at 30fps. The dynamic range is above average.
And here is a 1080p video we've uploaded on YouTube.

Video quality comparison tool
Here the Xiaomi Mi 4i enters our video comparison tool. There are plenty of 1080p camcorders you can compare it with. It resolves an average level of detail, but contrast and colors are good.
Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool Video Compare Tool
Xiaomi Mi 4i in our Video quality comparison

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