Minuscule over massive: Xperia mini and the Xperia mini pro

Bigger is better, they say – or is it? When it comes to technology and gadgets, minuscule is usually chosen over massive, so when Sony Ericsson tells you that they’re launching the world’s smallest HD recording video smartphone, you’ve got to open your eyes and ears and take notice.

The phone manufacturer have unveiled two new additions to their Xperia smartphone range – the Xperia mini and the Xperia mini pro.

Xperia-Mini-Pro

They both run on Google Android’s Gingerbread 2.3 via a 1GHZ Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, meaning that they are self-proclaimed “turbo charged” pieces of well-oiled machinery.

The jewel in the crown, perhaps, amidst all the app-laden japery, is that the Xperia mini holds the moniker of the world’s smallest Android smartphone with HD video recording. The Xperia mini pro, however, errs on the side of the office pen-pusher rather than the avid videomaker, with a fold-out keyboard and pre-installed antivirus and office software.

The enterprising chaps at Sony Ericsson have also unleashed ‘Facebook in Xperia’, which will allow users of the new smartphones even greater interactivity with Facebook whilst on their phone. Want to tell people about the song you’re listening to on the phone’s media player? Well, you can ‘like’ it straight from the player. It claims to offer a high level of integration between the social networking website and the phone’s functions, but we’re left however pondering how often it might actually be utilised.

Out of this world? The Samsung Galaxy S II

The very slimline (8.49mm and the slimmest in the world according to Samsung) Android handset features Android 2.3 Gingerbread as well as a speedy dual-core 1GHz Samsung chip along with a generous 1Gb of AM.

While reviewers loved the original Galaxy S, some were not so keen on its design, which made it look like an iPhone wannabe. This time round, Samsung has gone for a case with square corners, but now it looks rather like an iPhone 4.

Samsung-Galaxy-S-II

That aside, one of its standout features is its new screen – a Super AMOLED Plus, which we’re assuming will be even better than the original Super AMOLED display – it’s supposed to be both less reflective and more sharp than its predecessor.

The screen is a good size – 4.3 inches – which should make for a decent web surfing experience – and with that Android 2.3 OS, things are looking up for the online browser. One of the good things about Gingerbread is its ability to support Flash, which widens the web experience further.

That big screen should also make it a top device for viewing movies, which can be played back at 1080p high definition. For still shots the Galaxy Samsung S II also has an 8-megapixel snapper with LED flash. (It’s a shame there’s no dedicated camera button, though.) You’ll be able to share all your media using DNLA and Wi-Fi.

Android 2.3 has plenty to recommend it, as you’ll have seen from previous reviews – not least the excellent App Market, and Google maps, for a great navigation experience. And with that powerful processor on board, the Samsung Galaxy S II should be well up to powering all these advanced features.

The phone also features the 3D TouchWiz UI, which adds 3D transition effects and is touted as the next step in the development of the UI. It also features the latest incarnation of
Samsung Kies 2.0 & Kies air, which allows the handset to sync with a computer over a Wi-Fi network. The other new technology that features is NFC (Near Field Comminication), which when it is available more widely will allow you to use your phone for contactless credit card payments and travel (rather like an Oyster card).

On the apps front there are a few new treats – most notably the Music Hub, which allows you to access the 7digital music store,  which lets you redownload purchased MP3s to your phone should you ever lose it – and there are some free games on offer from the Game Hub.

The Samsung Galaxy S was enormously popular, and with its powerful processor and advanced features, it looks like its successor should be just as high on consumers’ wishlists. We’ll have to wait until May to see it on the shop shelves, when it looks like it will be on sale for a few quid more than £500.

For a full list of specs for the Galaxy S II head here:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1: Honeycomb is looking sweet on Samsung’s latest tablet

While I’m sitting in grey old London, some luckier gadget geeks are lording it up in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress 2011, where tablets are popping up like nobody’s business.

Latest to make its appearance is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, a far bigger version of Samsung’s 7in version.

Galaxy-Tab-10

The biggest news about the Galaxy 10.1 is its operating system – Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb), which is the first incarnation of Android that has been specially designed for tablets. Having been offered a ticket to nowhere more exciting than Euston station this morning, I’ve been eagerly catching up with glimpses of everyone else’s hands-on experience with this latest toy, and it appears that the new OS is rather akin to Windows XP in both look and feel, as well as boasting a touch interface.

In face, it relies totally on the touch interface as there are no hardware buttons at all (which may or may not sit well with you) – although semi-permanent navigation buttons sit at the bottom of the screen.

Naturally, the Galaxy Tab 10.1’s closest rival will be the iPad, so can it beat the competition? Well its screen resolution is better (1280 x 800) and the AMOLED screen appears to be stunningly bright, and it has stereo speakers too. However, in terms of build quality, it seems clear that Samsung has done a bit of corner cutting as it is far more plasticky than Apple’s flagship product (although this does in turnmake it lighter).

It has an 8MP camera rear-facing camera (although we suspect that will be rather awkward to use) and it also has a 2MP front-facing camera for video calls. However, its textured back (a feature of Samsung’s phones too) makes it easy to hold in one hand and type with the other, while the dual-core 1GHz Tegra 2 chip under the bonnet makes for a really speedy user experience.

The Samsung Galaxy 10.1 will come in both 16GB and 32 GB versions and should be available in March, although there is no word on pricing as yet.

More at www.samsung.com

Google and Samsung Nexus S review of reviews

Another month, another potential iPhone-killer. Normally they fall short of grabbing the Smartphone Crown with some pretty basic mistakes – a plasticky-feel to the case, for instance, or a poor camera. Sometimes they’ll even forget to include HD video recording, or iPhone-beating features like a micro SD expansion slot. Will the Nexus S, Google and Samsung’s collaborative effort, fall into this trap? Read our review of reviews.

Google-Nexus-S

Contour Design

T3 are quick to praise Google’s new baby, explaining that “the Google Nexus S is a gorgeous phone. It sports what’s called a ‘Contour Display,’ where the glass is curved slightly to fit the contours of your face.”

Originally designed to improve the user experience, Pocket Lint think that it won’t “make any difference in daily use … [however] looking good is good enough. And look good the Nexus S does.”

There’s universal praise for the phone’s aesthetic between reviewers, but it’s equaled by condemnation of the phone’s build quality. T3 sum it up: “Pick up the phone and the build is disappointing, it just feels very plasticky – far more so than the similarly priced HTC Desire HD and Apple iPhone 4.”

4.0” AMOLED Screen

While the design may be the first thing a user looks at, the screen is what holds their attention. Luckily, the Nexus S has done well. PC Pro sings its praises: “the 4in 480 x 800 screen uses Samsung’s Super AMOLED technology, which means it’s eyeball-searing in its brightness and amazingly colourful.”

We’d elaborate, but almost everyone knows that AMOLED equals awesome screen. Is it better than the iPhone 4? That’s too big a debate for this article, but we’d say that the iPhone’s higher pixel density beats marginally improved colour reproduction (sorry, Nexus S!).

Android 2.3 – Gingerbread

If the reviewers’ consensus is that the design and the screen are much improved over the original Nexus, then the operating system is a minor tweak. On paper Gingerbread offers plenty of modifications, but in the real world our journalistic friends found three bragging points:

Tech Radar: An improved task manager means that “Android keeps an eye on which applications are running in the background and shuts them down if they step out of line.” Electric Pig adds that the new task manger also lets “you see what those [badly-coded, battery-hogging apps] are, and kill them.”

Pocket Lint: “The new keyboard makes it easier to get to numbers, punctuation and special characters using multitouch. Previously you’d have to toggle between character sets, now you simply press and hold the button to access the character set you want, as if using a “shift” or “alt” button on a conventional keyboard.“

CNET: “The Web browser in Android 2.3 seems faster than ever, and it rivals the speed of the iPhone 4’s browser. The Web pages we tested loaded quickly and accurately, and you get the bonus of Flash Player 10.1 support, so you can see every website just as it was designed to look.”

Hardware

Tech Radar sums-up the innards: “A Samsung 1GHz Hummingbird processor in the background (which offers up some fantastic speeds) we weren’t surprised to see judder or freezing kept to a minimum.” And this is with only 512MB RAM – less than the HTC Desire. It’s not all good, however – “One thing we’re very disappointed with Samsung and Google about on the Nexus S is the lack of external microSD expansion. Yes, 16GB of internal storage is good-ish.”

Camera

The first real split of opinion surrounds the Nexus S’ camera. Most people have garnered behind Electric Pig: “The five megapixel camera takes unspectacular, washy images without any of the clarity we were hoping”.  Pocket Lint disagrees: “The camera performance is respectable in good light and copes surprisingly well indoors too.” Although they’ll admit that “the flash brings a slight green cast to things, blowing out close subjects and lacking the power to reach any distance.”

Luckily, the two camps reformed in disgust of the VGA camcorder option. Electric Pig: “you’re restricted to VGA video recording – that’s right, no 720p HD for you. Oh, and notifications aren’t automatically silenced while recording.” Eep.

Buy It

Thankfully, CNET took care of this paragraph for us:

“The Nexus S will be available from 20 December for free on a £35-a-month contract, or £550 without a contract, exclusively from Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy. Either way, the phone will come unlocked so you can use it on any network.”

Conclusion

It seems like if you want the best Android phone, you know where to go – the Nexus S is mostly brilliant. Plan on storing a lot of files, however, or want to capture life’s precious moments in high-quality, and you might find yourself reaching for the HTC Desire HD or Samsung Galaxy S. Which is weird, because you’d think that Samsung would have noticeably improved on their previous product.

Nexus S: Google and Gingerbread – just in time for Christmas

While mobile phone reviewers are still pleasantly surprised when they encounter a phone that incorporates Android’s 2.2 version, the Google Nexus S is taking things to the next level, offering Android 2.3.

‘Gingerbread’ as it is called, is not the only new thing on the phone – it also boasts new hardware, NFC. NFC you ask? It stands for Near Field Communications apparently, It’s a short-range wireless technology already used in Japan and lets you use your phone as a travel ticket, to make small payments and scan over adverts to get more information about a product. You could, for example, scan a film poster and view a trailer for the movie on your phone. Nifty. You can expect to see it filtering on to the likes of BlackBerry and Nokia handsets next year.

Google-Nexus-S

The Nexus S is Google’s second foray into the mobile phone market – its first failed to set the world alight, and as Google has chosen to distribute solely through Carphone Warehouse, which doesn’t have a huge slice of the market, we wonder if history is to repeat itself.

However, maybe customers will be lured by what its makers claim is the world’s first 4in curved touchscreen display, as well as front and rear facing camera. It has been built with the help of Samsung and is part of the Galaxy S range of phones.

Gingerbread is likely to appear on most Android phones in the next few weeks and months, so if you don’t want to splash out the just-under 550 quid, you might just wait for Gingerbread to hit other Android devices.

In the UK, the Nexus S will be free on £35 per month contracts or unlocked for £549. It is likely to be available after December 20, but pre-orders are being taken now.