Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman hands-on impressions

November 28, 2011

Recently I had the opportunity to try one of the newest and cheapest Android phones from Sony Ericsson, the Live with Walkman.

When I tried it for the first time I had no expectations whatsoever because it’s being sold, as a prepaid cell phone in some European carriers, at a really low price that beats most, if not all, of it’s competitors (mainly Chinese companies like ZTE and Huawei).

What took me by surprise is that the phone turns out to be awesome!

I was completely convinced by the good build quality, by the rather nice camera (with 5 MP and 720p video recording) and ultimately by the performance. This low-cost Android handset has exactly the same hardware (SoC, memory, etc.) the more expensive Xperia brothers (such as the Arc and the Neo) have inside but because this hardware (SnapDragon 1GHz CPU, Adreno 205 GPU, 512 MB RAM) only needs to run a smaller (3,2″) and lower resolution display (320×480) the phone actually is as fast (or even faster) when compared to the older brothers.

If you run the Quadrant benchmark, as you can see below, it is able to score between low seventeen hundreds up to 1869, which is a great result for a phone that’s competing near the €100 price point!

I’ve also ran the SunSpider javascript benchmark and the result left me very impressed… again: 3342.7 ms!

Of course perfection is a thing one can always aim at but never achieve and this phone has one thing that keeps it from being perfect: the screen! I’m not complaining about the low resolution (which brings some performance benefits) but the contrast and the color reproduction is not really good (there is no mobile Bravia Engine) and the phone does not adjust the screen brightness automatically, so here you have the phone’s Achilles’ heel!

My conclusion after playing with it a couple of days is that this phone is actually a great bargain, does very well what most Android phones do (regardless of price), and even if the screen isn’t the greatest one around it’s still worth every penny!

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Thoughts on Android 2.3.5 for the Galaxy S

November 24, 2011

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using for some time now the Android 2.3.5 update for the Samsung Galaxy S and it deserves some comments.

Good news first:

– The previously reported Android OS battery drain bug is apparently gone! This just means the phone does not drain the battery all by itself in a dozen hours or so, which was a huge problem. The Android OS process is now at a more reasonable 6% share of the overall battery consumption.

– The browser scroll now works properly as in any other smartphone in the market

Unfortunately, there’s a few problems with this firmware:

– As I said in the previous blog post, the TouchWiz launcher crashes randomly.

– The phone process is also crashing a lot, especially soon after the end of a phone call, as you can see in the picture below.

– The browser may now present a correct scroll behavior but the stability is worst than before, which is not good because the browser was never the most stable app in Android.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it did compensate the lack of stability with improved performance, but running the SunSpider javascript benchmark returned a result of 6505.1 ms which is a regression compared against the 6305.4 ms scored by Android 2.3.3.

Apparently stock browser javascript performance optimization is not a priority for Samsung, neither is improving the stability of the official firmwares they release for the Galaxy S.

Manufacturer’s custom UIs for Android

November 20, 2011

Since a couple of weeks ago all the attentions turned into the new Android 4.0 release, called Ice Cream Sandwich, and the new Samsung flagship model, the Galaxy Nexus, but some may have noticed that Samsung is apparently rolling out for some European i9000 Galaxy S handsets the Android 2.3.5 firmware update, available through Samsung’s Kies software.

While it is great to watch Samsung still providing support for last year’s flagship model, it’s quite disappointing to realize that this phone, one and a half year after being released, is still plagued with some issues.

One of the problems is that the custom TouchWiz UI was never really rock-solid stable. Even after installing the latest Android 2.3.5, the TouchWiz launcher occasionally crashes as you can see below.

It’s not as bad as in Android 2.1 or 2.2 when I had to pull the battery off the phone because it crashed completely, specially after playing a game such as Angry Birds for more than 15 minutes, but I believe there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

I really do not understand what’s the point in not using Google’s Android standard launcher and spend time, money and resources working on a custom UI like TouchWiz, offering a less good user experience, decreased stability and increased memory consumption.

The only Android manufacturer custom UI that seems to offer some benefits in the UX department, in my opinion, is HTC’s Sense UI although the memory consumption is probably even higher than in Samsung’s TouhWiz, but maybe that’s why HTC’s are very generous in the amount of memory they usually pack inside their phones.

Another Android Market issue

November 11, 2011

After complaining in September about not receiving the Android Market automatic update to the 3.x version, in late October I finally received Android Market 3.1.5.

The new Android Market 3.x is noticeably slower in my Galaxy S compared to the previous 2.x versions, but I convinced myself it didn’t deserve a rant.

Today I received another automatic update of the Android Market app, this time to the 3.3.11 version.

I didn’t notice much difference from the previous version except one really annoying thing: I cannot install apps anymore!

Every time I try to install something I just get the message pictured above that says that an error has occurred while trying to download the app because there is not enough space available on the device memory.

The thing is that, as you can see below, I have plenty of space, I have gigabytes of free memory so this is clearly and unfortunately just another Android bug…

Is Android ICS going to support Flash?

November 9, 2011

Adobe announced it’s going to halt the development of Flash for mobile platforms.

Adobe’s Danny Winokur wrote “We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook.”

I don’t know if I understood correctly the sentence above but in my understanding it is apparently said that upcoming new mobile OS versions (such as Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) won’t have Adobe’s Flash Player!

I believe this might be huge news and most tech news websites didn’t exactly emphasized this!

Full Flash support was one major feature of Android Froyo (and Gingerbread), was used several times for marketing purposes and as a selling point when compared against iOS and Windows Phone amongst others!

Maybe I misunderstood Adobe’s announcement and it will in fact be possible to install Flash 11.1 on Android 4 ICS because if it’s not, in my opinion, it will be a big disappointment for a lot of Android users that are eagerly waiting to buy the next Nexus phone.

I think the lack of Flash might in fact have an effect on how Android products are compared to the competition. This might make some customers that were in the past looking for a Flash-capable Android, look for an iPhone or those new Nokia Lumia because the Flash argument is now simply gone!

Fancy (broken) widget

November 7, 2011

One of the cool features of Android is the ability to pin a widget in one of your smartphone’s home screens.

Fancy Widgets is one of my favorite widgets available in the Android Market, it’s free, and allows you to quickly look at the time, the weather and even at your battery level. It replaced Samsung’s Daily Briefing widget that’s now missing from my Galaxy S since the Gingerbread update.

It also allows you to choose from different themes available to download from the widget configuration app and you can make it look as you want it to look.

Unfortunately not everything is perfect and sometimes the widget just goes nuts as you can see below!

I hope the developers figure out how to solve this rather unpleasant looking bug, since it makes me reboot my phone or remove the widget and add it again in order to make it look great again!

Android browser kinetic scroll bug

October 31, 2011

One of the reasons why I started using other Android browsers was because of the kinetic scroll bug the Gingerbread update brought to my Vodafone branded Samsung Galaxy S.

As you can see in the video below, since the Android 2.3.3 update, the stock browser has a different kinetic scroll behavior. Instead of slowing down smoothly, the scroll now stops suddenly after a brief moment since the start of the scrolling, which I find annoying as hell…

Opera Mobile 11.5 SunSpider benchmark

October 28, 2011

Since I’ve been disappointed with the overall performance of the Android stock web browser, I started using some of it’s competitors in order to discover if they were any better.

Lately I’ve been using the Norwegian Opera Mobile which was recently updated to version 11.5. It has some cool features like Opera Turbo, that can be configured to only be activated when you’re not using WiFi, and allows you to save some bandwidth by compressing the web-pages, passing them through Opera own proxy servers, which is nice if you have limited traffic in your data plan.

The SunSpider javascript benchmark is also significantly faster on Opera Mobile, especially if you compare it to the Android stock browser. In my Samsung Galaxy S it ran in just 3080.9 ms, which is about half of the time the stock browser took to complete the same test (6305.4 ms).

There is, however, “a price to pay” for this great performance: (lack of) stability!

As you can see above, sometimes Opera Mobile crashes, which is kind of a common thing for me with Android devices, but not acceptable anyway.

If Opera improves this, I believe this is one of the best browsers currently available for Android!

Other SunSpider 0.9.1 results

October 19, 2011

Recently I had the opportunity to run the SunSpider javascript benchmark in some devices with different operating systems, so here are below the results I’ve got.

Samsung Galaxy S – Android 2.3.3: 6305.4 ms

HTC Desire S – Android 2.3.3: 7611.9 ms

HTC 7 Trophy – Windows Phone 7.5: 9590.7 ms

Apparently all this three devices are considerably slower then the A5-powered iPad 2, but none of them is powered by a dual-core processor as the Apple device is, so I was expecting this difference.

Another important fact is that the Windows Phone HTC device is powered by a 1st generation SnapDragon clocked at 1 GHz while the Android HTC device is powered by a 2nd generation SnapDragon clocked at the same speed, so that might be one of the reasons why the WP7.5 device was slower than the Android one.

The Galaxy S was faster than the SnapDragon-powered HTC, but I don’t know if that’s only because of the Samsung Hummingbird SoC or if there is some optimizations Samsung did at the firmware level to enable this faster performance.

Lufthansa android app bug

October 12, 2011

I’ve never been able to use properly the Lufthansa app available in the Android Market.

I’m unable to search the timetables by origin and / or destination airport.

I’ve tried the iOS Lufthansa app and it works like a charm.

Am I the only one having this problem?