Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

LG Optimus L3 E400 SunSpider and Quadrant benchmark

October 14, 2012

The Optimus L3 E400 is one of LG’s cheapest Android smartphones. Despite having been launched this year, the phone still runs the almost two years old 2.3 Gingerbread version of the Android mobile OS and LG apparently is not very interested in updating it to more current Android versions such as 4.0 ICS or 4.1 Jelly Bean.

As a low-cost offering, LG didn’t put in the L3 the latest and greatest hardware specs but bearing in mind this phone competes around the €100 price-point it can’t be expected to have much better specs than the ones it already has.

As usual, I’ve run the SunSpider javascript benchmark in the Android stock browser.

 

As expected, the result is nothing to be proud about at 4434.1 ms, worse than competitors like the previously tested Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman. Chrome would probably be faster, but unfortunately it isn’t available for the 2.3 Gingerbread version of Android which means the small LG can’t run it.

The Quadrant benchmark overall result is also average (1092 points). Considering the really low resolution of the screen at just 240×320 (~125 pixels per inch) I was expecting the Adreno 200 GPU to achieve better results.

In the end, performance isn’t just the selling point for this LG as other features (such as price, size or battery life) might have greater impact in the buying decision process.

 

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iOS 6 rant: YouTube and Maps

September 20, 2012

Previously I wrote a blog post about how Apple improved the browser performance on my iPad 2 with the new iOS 6.

Now that I’ve been using iOS 6 for almost a day I noticed two big drawbacks: YouTube and Maps!

Since the beginning of times Apple bundled with iOS a YouTube app. While it wasn’t the most advanced or feature complete YouTube app around (the Android version is arguably better), the app did the job well enough to be one of the most used apps by those who like to watch videos on the web.

Apparently the license to bundle the YouTube app with iOS ended and Apple didn’t care about renewing it or making sure Google had an iPad optimized YouTube app on the AppStore before getting rid of the current one.

There is an official YouTube app for free on the AppStore but it’s made for the iPhone and not for the iPad.

Meanwhile you’re supposed to use Safari to browse in the YouTube mobile website and it’s also possible to add the website bookmark directly to the home screen but it’s not the same as having a proper app! There’s also some third party YouTube apps available at the AppStore but then again the question remains: why take away a feature from iOS without offering a better replacement?

Unfortunately YouTube is just one of the problems with iOS 6 on the iPad: the new Maps app is also worse than the previous Google powered Maps app!

Above you can see the Google Maps app that was bundled with previous versions of iOS.

The maps data quality was pretty good and there was a feature that was much nicer to use on the iPad touchscreen than with the mouse of a desktop computer: Google’s StreetView!

The new Maps app from Apple is supposed to introduce a lot of new features:

  • Apple designed vector based maps
  • Turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions
  • Real-time traffic information
  • Flyover for photo-realistic, interactive 3D views of major metro areas
  • Local search results with Yelp photos, ratings, reviews, and available deals
  • Siri integration for requesting directions and finding places along a route

The thing is:

  • Features like Siri integration or turn-by-turn navigation aren’t available in my WiFi iPad 2
  • Real-time traffic information doesn’t work in my country
  • The 3D maps feature isn’t available in Europe
  • Local search in my country is really much poorer compared to Google’s database of POI

And of course, with the new app I lost the Google StreetView feature shown in the picture above!

Below you can see Apple Maps at the exact same place of the previous screenshots.

Besides losing some Google-related features there’s one thing that puzzles me: Apple bought last year C3 Technologies from Nokia. This company is the one behind Apple Flyover / 3D Maps and was the one that made possible Nokia Maps 3D feature that’s still available at the Nokia Maps website.

If you try last year’s Nokia flagship, the N9, you can check the exact same place I’ve shown before with the Nokia Maps app and, as you can see below, there’s a 3D model of the stadium.

So my question is: why does Apple only have 3D maps in the USA? C3 Technologies had Europe 3D data when it was part of Nokia so it’s kind of weird not to have this feature enabled at least in the main European capitals.

There’s also one question left in my mind: what about StreetView? If Apple doesn’t want to borrow that feature from Google perhaps they should start recording street level footage of the main cities to compete with Google!

Nokia chose that path and the result is Nokia City Scene. Below there’s the Eiffel Tower:

If you compare with Apple Maps you can clearly see the difference.

I hope Apple sort this out soon rather than late because currently in Europe they are lagging behind the competition in location-related apps and services.

Chrome vs stock Android Browser

September 7, 2012

Since I’ve recently installed Android ICS on the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman, I’ve been able to install the Google Chrome mobile web browser that’s available in the Google Play store.

Chrome brought the fast V8 javascript engine to the Android platform, so it’s supposed to be much faster handling benchmarks like the SunSpider test.

As I wrote in the previous blog post, the Android ICS stock browser did it in 3099.8 ms, which was an improvement over the Gingerbread stock browser.

I’ve now run the same benchmark in Chrome.

As you can see above the test was completed in 2886.9 ms. Although there’s a definite improvement over the stock browser, the 200 ms advantage is not as big as I thought it would be.

I believe Chrome will eventually replace the current browser and become the default one in future versions of Android.

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman performance with Android ICS

August 30, 2012

Sony Ericsson promised that all the 2011 Xperia line along with the Live with Walkman model would get updated to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

They took their time and the carriers also took an extra time before releasing the firmware to the carrier-locked devices. Recently I was finally able to go through the ICS update process with the Live with Walkman I’ve posted a short hands-on a while ago.

The update process is pretty straight forward as long as you know how to use a computer, since Sony Ericsson (now only Sony without the Ericsson part) demands the user to connect the phone to the PC Companion Windows software or to the Bridge for Mac app in order to get Android 4.0. Apparently the update it too big to be handled as a simple OTA (over the air) update!

Sony also warns on their website that Android 4.0 is heavier than the older 2.x versions and that might have a negative impact on how the smartphone performs.

I’ve installed the official Android 4.0.4 update and ran the Quadrant benchmark to check if the update had any impact on the performance figures.

The score is, as the manufacturer warned, lower than before: 1381 is indeed not as good as the score Android Gingerbread achieved, around eighteen hundred points.

I’ve run the test twice to see if there was any improvement in the second run but, as you can see below, it just got a little bit worst, achieving 1362 points: disappointing!

I also ran the SunSpider web-browser javascript benchmark and fortunately, unlike the Quadrand score, the results improved as you can see below.

Now the test is completed in 3099.8 ms which is better than the old result (3342.7 ms)!

Overall, and despite the bugs and the performance hit, I do recommend updating because newer apps require Android 4.0 ICS to run, like Google’s own Chrome web browser!

Android vs Girlfriend

August 11, 2012

What is, probably, the most popular feature people use all the time in their mobile phones since the late 90s? SMS!

It’s so popular that nowadays millions of people can send SMS for free in a lot of countries, even with prepaid plans.

It’s those kind of features I always believed it was no secret for phone manufacturers, SMS has been around almost since the beginning of times, or, in my case, since my first mobile phone, a Nokia 8110 that you can see below still writing a SMS!

I’ve been using Android devices since 2010 and there’s one thing I believe most people will agree with: it’s the most complete mobile operating system feature-wise!

The thing is that, although Android can do pretty much everything, some of the basic stuff – like SMS – Android appears to have some trouble doing flawlessly:

  • The first time I heard someone complaining about SMS problems in Android was with a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini Pro: apparently when running out of memory, the phone would stop some essential services and daemons including the SMS one, which meant the phone was unable to receive SMS messages with low memory available. Since this model has a really small amount of internal memory this problem occurred frequently as the user installed a couple of apps. This phone ran Android 1.6 so at the time I thought it was those kinds of youth problems early versions of any software would suffer. It may be related to this bug reported on the public Android bugtracker.
  • My first Android device in 2010 was a Samsung Galaxy 3 (GT-I5800) running Android 2.1. I had to return it in the first month because after a week or so of intensive texting it would eventually stop receiving SMS messages from the contact with who I exchanged most messages. After a factory reset it would start receiving all those pending SMS it wasn’t able to receive before, but after a couple of hundreds of exchanged SMS it would stop receiving them again! A couple of months after returning the phone I stumbled upon some internet forum threads talking about this bug, like this one.
  • The next Android device I had was the Samsung Galaxy S (GT-I9000). Although SMS apparently worked better compared to the Galaxy 3, I used it for more than a year and had a couple of isolated incidents, things like sending the message to the wrong contact despite having selected the correct one, or opening the wrong thread after receiving a new SMS! These bugs were eventually acknowledged by Google and fixed in a subsequent release of the OS. The Galaxy 3 bug was also present but I only noticed it once or twice, it was much less noticeable than before, so there was some improvement!
  • Since late last year there’s another really annoying bug I’ve seen more and more friends and acquaintances complaining about, not only with Samsung phones but also with other manufacturer’s devices, like Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro (running Android 2.3). Android mixes SMS: when you receive longer messages it will join a part of the new text with some part of an older random SMS, resulting in the most weirdest and non-sense texts I’ve ever read. This bug has been reported for quite some time and is still awaiting solution.

The problems, in my experience, usually arise when you text a lot with a specific contact (e.g. your wife), so you might think everything is normal because you can text all the other contacts fine but don’t receive this specific contact messages or receive everything mixed up.

This might not be a severe bug needing urgent attention but is for sure a source of headaches:

  • It’s not funny when your loved one sends you a text asking to pick her up somewhere and you just don’t show up or even answer the text because you’ve never received it in the first place: you will eventually get an angry call from the other not so happy person!
  • If the message comes through mixed with other texts you might get the (wrong) idea that the person you’re texting is either drunk or smoking weed… which may or may not be funny depending on who the other person is!

The funny thing is that, although I hear a lot of people complaining about this kind of problems with SMS in Android and despite some discussion around this on the web, the media did not wrote articles on this, despite having done so when, for instance, Windows Phone had that major problem with some specific SMS disabling the messaging service and shutting down the phone. These Android bugs might seem minor stuff compared, but I’m sure they have affected a lot more people than the Windows Phone one!

In the end, the whole Android SMS system seems to me much worst compared to other mobile platforms. I’ve never ever had a problem with SMS with other non-Android phones, so I don’t really understand how after all these years Google has yet to sort this out!

Google Chrome now available for Apple’s iPad

June 29, 2012

Google just launched the Chrome browser for the iPad on Apple’s AppStore.

While it’s good to have another option in iOS to browse the web, does Chrome beat Safari performance-wise?

Unfortunately, Chrome is not able to take advantage of the fast javascript engine Apple built into iOS, so the SunSpider javascript benchmark result is, at least, disappointing: 7240.4 ms is just a bad result compared to Safari’s 1800 ms result.

I guess Safari will keep being my browser of choice on iOS.

Firefox 14 lacks Android 3.x HoneyComb support

June 28, 2012

Mozilla just launched Firefox 14 for Android and I was eager to discover if the latest version was any good.

Unfortunately, unlike what’s written in the system requirements webpage, Firefox 14 is in fact not available for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.2 as you can see in the picture below.

This might be related to what some people call “the Android fragmentation”, but it’s really unfortunate that a less than one year old Android tablet is not able to run the latest software like Google’s own Chrome browser…

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 SunSpider Browser Benchmark

June 15, 2012

Recently I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, last year’s Samsung flagship tablet that runs Android HoneyComb (3.2).

This device was, probably, the main iPad 2 competitor, so I was curious about how it performed. I ran the SunSpider javascript benchmark on several different browsers I found on the Play Store.

One of the browsers I was most curious to try was the Google Chrome browser that recently got an Android version but unfortunately it only runs on the latest 4.0 ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) version of Android so it was a no-go.

Nevertheless I tried several other browser as you can see below:

The stock Android HoneyComb web browser scored 2304.4 ms, so this can be seen as a base line for the other third-party browsers.

Dolphin browser (version 8.2.1) completed the benchmark test in 2439.7 ms, which is a little worst than the stock browser regarding javascript performance.

Mozilla’s Firefox, version 10.0.5, performed surprisingly good, running the test in 1883.4 ms, result that almost competes with the iPad 2 Safari result (that was around 1800 ms)!

The Firefox Beta, currently available at the Play store in version 14.0, performed worst than the stable v10 version, completing the benchmark in 1983.4 ms.

Opera Mobile, currently at version 12.0, ran it in 2094.7 ms which, compared to Firefox, is not brilliant although better than the Android 3.2 stock browser.

Finally, Skyfire 4.1.0 ran it in 2276.2 ms which is about the same as the stock browser, so, not a result to be particularly proud of.

Although packing a Tegra 2 SoC and more RAM, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not beat the theoretically less powerful iPad 2, that’s still the king of my SunSpider tests on tablets, with a result as low as 1744.0 ms achieved with iOS 5.0.1.

Android lag

December 30, 2011

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of buzz on the web around the Android lag issue: some Google engineer started the controversy with a post on Google+ and then other devs wrote their own opinion on that.

First of all, I believe that if this subject was discussed widely on the web, it probably means that the problem exists! I want to emphasize this because first I was led to believe by some online forums that it was an issue exclusive to the Galaxy S I had. Apparently this might affect the whole platform and, as a consequence, more or less, every single Android device.

Second, the conclusion I get from all the posts I’ve read is that Android, unlike iOS or Windows Phone, does a lot of different stuff all at the same time instead of focusing on the screen response to the user when the screen is touched. It seems pretty obvious to me that the screen responsiveness is a major thing on a touchscreen device user experience. Google apparently doesn’t share entirely this view with their competitors and believe that, at some point in the future, the hardware will be so powerful that this problem will sort itself out.

In the meantime, I felt curious about everything I’ve read and made a short video where I try to see what’s the approach Google and Apple took on this by playing some CSS animation on both OS stock browsers.

By the way, on a side note, after watching this video I noticed something I didn’t before: recording the video at the same time, on the same place, connected to the exact same wireless network, the iPhone 4S shows a much higher level of signal reception compared to a very poor signal showed by the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman.

Is the iPhone WiFi signal level too optimistic or is the Sony Ericsson antenna really bad?

Samsung Galaxy S will not be updated to Android ICS

December 24, 2011

I’ve just read that Samsung officially confirmed it won’t update their 2010 flagship Android smartphone to the latest version of Android that was announced by Google a couple of months ago.

Although the i9000 was announced in March, it was first released in June of 2010 but only in a limited number of markets. For instance, in the country where I currently live in, Vodafone only launched it in late October of the same year.

This means a lot of people bought this phone, often attached to a 24-month contract, in late 2010, being currently within the first year of ownership.

Since Samsung will not continue to provide further support, most of these people will have to wait another year with a flagship phone running an older version of Android until they can renew their contracts and get another phone (probably not from Samsung again!).

This goes against the 18-month update commitment Google said they were trying to push along with their partners and makes me wonder if it’s really worth to buy an expensive high-end Samsung Android device, given their poor track record of updates.

On the other hand I do really understand why Samsung made this decision: their core business is to sell new smartphones!

Samsung probably guessed that most of the, let’s say 15 million, Galaxy S customers don’t really care or know what version of Android they are currently running, and the few that do really care about this are probably savvy enough to visit the XDA forum and sort this out unofficially with the community.

As I recently wrote, I sold my Galaxy S for a bunch of other reasons some weeks ago. If there was any doubt remaining in my head about if selling it was the right thing to do, after reading this disappointing news, I’m really glad now that I did, since this would be the ultimate “nail in the coffin”.

Merry Christmas!