Apple iPhone 5S Smartphone Review

Apple iPhone 5S

Apple unveiled its latest version of their iPhone today; the iPhone 5S. I find it ironic that today's unveiling was September 11 (911 anniversity) . Although the unveiling of the new model was interesting, it was hardly of the hoopola level from a major event that I'm used to seeing.  There are some interesting things to note about the new iPhone 5S and that's where our smartphone review will be focused.

Overview

The 5S definitely has some interesting features, the most notable are the first ever 64-bit processor and a new way to implement login security. Out with the password, in comes a fingerprint scanner. Let's don't forget some notable camera improvements as well. Yes, it does indeed have some first in phones involved here. However, there's also one notable thing that did not happen. The screen is the same size as the previous model.  In fact, the physical dimensions are exactly the same size as the iphone 5. 

iPhone 5S features

  • 64-bit A7 processor/M7 Coprocessor – Included in this new processor is the OpenGL ES 3.0 standard, meaning better graphics performance.  Apple claims it's twice as fast as the previous model. Now I'll add the frosting to the cake here. This nifty device also contains an M7 motion coprocessor. That's a mouthful but what it does for users is nice. It will take in the phone's various sensors including the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. Not only will applications that need or use real-time data benefit from this, the net effect will be less of a battery drain since it's less work the processor has to perform; thus an increase in battery life. 
  • Touch ID fingerprint-authentication system – The Home button located on the lower part of the front casing is depressed. This engages a scanner which detects differences in electrical charges caused by the various curved lines of a fingerprint and stores this information digitally. It should be emphasized this is not an image; it's more like a digital signature. It's very secure in that it cannot be stored in the Cloud. In fact it is actually stored in a secure spot inside of the processor. Supposedly, it will authenicate through an iCloud as well as the famous Apple iStore. It may be natural to be a tad skeptical since one would think this new technology would use more battery power. Apple says that the battery will be equal to or slightly longer in battery time than the previous one.  They claim 10 hours of 3G/4G LTE browsing will be available.
  • Improved Camera – This new 8 Megapixel camera specifically designed for this phone has a five-element lens and it is bigger in some respects. The lens includes an f/2.2 aperture, which is larger than the one in the iPhone 5 and has 1.5-micron pixels, which is more than the previous version. Another Apple first is the dual-LED True Tone flash, which uses a white and amber colored flashed, for cooler and warmer temperature flashes respectively. The new iOS7 system has some programs that will definitely benefit from this new camera hardware.  Just before the shot, the white balance and exposure is automatically calibrated for improving the highlights and the shadow areas. The picture sharpeness will also be enhanced by an improved auto-focus. Image stabilization is enhanced by taking a series of photos, and mixing them together for an improved picture quality. And for you video lovers, you have a 1080p HD recording capability.
  • Technical Specs - The 5S has more 4G LTE bands available than ever. It can pick up on 11 or 13 LTE bands depending on which carrier you go with. With this many bands, if you travel frequently you will have a better chance of locking into a LTE signal with this phone, definitely a strong consideration if you need that extra speed while on the road. Location finding includes assisted GPS and GLONASS; wireless includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (802.11n 2.4GHz and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology. There is no NFC capability; why that is, I do not know. To my knowledge none of the iPhones have NFC. Maybe one day they will, who knows. The 5S comes in 16, 32, and 64GB versions at $199, $299, and $399.00 respectively. 
  • Applications - The suite of programs including iMovie, iPhoto, and iWork can be dowloaded for free if an iPhone with iOS7 was activated after September 1, including phones besides the 5S. If you activated before September 1, you can still download these apps but you will pay for them.
  • Colors – The size of the 5S is the same as the iphone 5, including the chamfered edges. The colors offered include a new gold color, which many say is more of a champagne color. The other colors are space gray and silver.

The phone has some nice technical improvements although the basic design of the phone has remained the same. It seemed as though Apple was more concerned with technical improvements over the physical looks of the phone. It does seem to have some appeal with its improved processor and coprocessor, although time will tell how much that actually improves the performance of this phone. We shall see.

 

 

HTC One Smartphone Review

HTC ONE

The Taiwan giant HTC has hit a home run with it's One smartphone. In the looks department, it outweighs many of its competitors, with its metal frame and awesome looking display. You would be hard pressed to find a nicer looking phone. However, the HTC One lacks perfection, as all smartphones do, and if we look at it carefully, we'll see a few larger than normal blemishes. Let's begin this smartphone review by looking at its basic features first.

Hardware

The phone checks in at just over 5 ounces, making it one of the heavier smartphone superstars. It's .37 inches thick, 2.7 inches wide, and 5.4 inches in height, so it's certainly not small.  You immediately notice that there are 2 grills on the front which equates to two speakers habitating this phone. The sound has good separation, using a feature called BoomSound, with built in amplifiers. The capacitive touch display, at 1920 x1080 resolution, is made of Gorilla Glass, which is very durable and its display has excellent quality. It's a pleasure to watch.  Populating the top edge include various sensors for light and proximity, as well as a notification LED.  The power button is near the top as well, which also doubles as an infrared sensor for remote control operation of your TV. There are 2 touch buttons beneath the screen, Home and Back.  The OS version with this phone is Android 4.2.2.

On the back side there are gyro and accelerometer sensors, with 4G/LTE, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP, A-GPS, DNLA and WiFi-N/ac (dual band).  The brains include a Qualcomm quad-core 1.6 GHz Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM.  There are both 32GB and 64GB memory versions available. The battery (2300 mAh) lasted 9 hours and 37 minutes when subjected to a video battery drain benchmark.

Sense User Interface / BlinkFeed

I'm not sure why smartphone manufacturers install their own interactive interface over the generic Android one. Perhaps they want to leave their brand "signature." This phone definitely continues this trend.  The HTC user interface, Sense, has been upgraded and users that have HTC phones understand how intrusive the interface can be. They will be glad knowing that it's not as bad with this phone. The home screen, BlinkFeed, establishes itself as the first thing you see, as its tiled look quickly reminds you of an RSS feed. Okay, this can be quite fine if you like that as your home screen, but it becomes an annoyance when you realize it can't be disabled, one of the HTC quirks.

Cameras

The front camera is mounted up at the top next to the sensors, and is 2.1 megapixel, at 1080p. The rear camera is a 4 megapixel lens with 2688 x 1520 pixel resolution including an autofocus.  Other camera features include a picture capture during video recording, image stabilization, touch focus, and face detection.  Recording video is at 1080p with stereo audio. The camera takes pictures with acceptable color and detail, but when you zoom in, the quality fades.  The HTC Zoe feature, when enabled, provides a selection of various images taken (up to 20), and produces a short video using the shutter. When in the video mode, you get acceptable quality and the focusing is better. 

Benchmark Speed Test

Benchmark speed test results show the Snapdragon/Adreno chipset in the One decidedly beats 2 other phones: the Tegra 3 found in the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the previous HTC One X. This is one area where the HTC One shines, and shines brightly. It is the fastest smartphone that has been tested. You will not experience much delay in anything you do with this phone. Now, the downside to the speed is that the phone does get warm. In fact it gets very warm and the metal case certainly does not help this effect. This usually occurs when the phone is really being put through its paces.

4G LTE Connectivity

The phone tested on a Sprint network was dismal. Average download speed was 0.45Mbps and upload speed at 0.46Mbps.  An AT&T network was also used with much better results. Downloads on LTE were at an average 24.6Mbps while uploads peaked at a very respectable 12.6Mbps. It should be noted that in a number 0f places in the U.S. Sprint has yet to replace their existing network with 4G LTE and this was the case with this particular test.

Standard Features Missing

There are 2 major features missing that some users may feel as untouchable, as most users are used to seeing these features in a smartphone. One is that you cannot open the body. Consequently, you cannot remove the battery nor are you supposed to. The other quirk is that there is no SD card slot, thus no allowance for expansion.

Overall, the HTC One is an excellent phone and should be a consideration if you're ready for a phone replacement. It's easy to operate, has a great display,  the two-speaker sound is outstanding, as well as superior speed performance. If you can handle the 2 missing features mentioned above, this phone will provide for your needs very well and then some. Keep this phone at the top of your shopping list.

 

 

 

Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone Review

SAMSUNG GALAXY S4

The famous Korean smartphone producer, Samsung, has done it again in good style with their Galaxy S4 offering. This smartphone, in traditional Samsung style, is loaded with features and the pro's far outweigh the con's, making this one of the top picks of the year. With a full HD display, an improved processor, and some additional sensors distinguishing it from the S3, let's take a closer look at what makes this phone such a rockstar.

Big and Improved Display

Just when you thought the 4.8 inch screen of the Galaxy S3 couldn't get any bigger, you will be excited to know Samsung has outdone that with a 5-inch screen size, and the phone uses the display real-estate well, with full HD resolution. Inside of this 4.6 ounce beauty, you've got a number of good things going on.

Hardware Improved

Joining it's 2GB of memory, the processor has been improved with a faster 1900MHZ Quad-core, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T system chip, and it takes the phone through its paces nicely. There is a place for a microSD chip, which is great for multimedia add-ons, but not good for apps. You must install apps into regular memory.  While we're on that subject, even a 16GB memory version only has half of that amount available due to preinstalled apps that you cannot delete. They are on the phone for the long haul, although if you're going to be stuck with something, it might as well be these since you can't find them anywhere else. You get the Android Jellybean OS 4.2.2 version with it, and it does traffic directing very nicely. USB 2.0 is via a microUSB port, for charging and data. Battery life ends at around 17 hours.

The 32 and 64GB variants come with an octacore design, which is actually two quad-core processors (1.6 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 and 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7). The battery life ends at 10-hours, substantially less time than the quad-core version.

Features

  • The rear camera has changed considerably, increasing from 8 to 13 megapixels. You'll need to use the 4:3 aspect ratio if you want to take 1080p videos and the microSD chip certainly allows for the additional memory needed.  The front-facing camera checks-in with two megapixels. You can use the camera in a number of other modes as well:  auto mode, night, action/sports, panorama, and eraser,which takes several sequential shots and can erase a moving background object.
  • Searching and mapping do very well with the S4, and if you travel overseas frequently, you'll find you can store all of your locations easily.
  • The Smart-stay technology, which senses if your eyes are watching the screen, has been improved on the S4. Combined with Smart Scroll,  the screen can scroll by moving your head or tilting the screen. Users who are commonly doing other things with their hands while talking will love this feature. 
  • Air Gesture is a great feature that is engaged by waving your hand in front of the screen to answer a call, as well as change music tracks, and move from photo to photo.
  • WatchOn is a nice feature that turns the phone into a multi-purpose remote control, although from time to time it does get lost, and the setting numbers have to be reentered.
  • LTE works well, and although this mode wasn't what you would consider consistent, slipping down to 4g at times, it worked well while in LTE. Going wireless is strengthened by using a dual-channel configuration.
  • Sensors are plentiful. Besides the temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors, there are ambient light and proximity sensors, with a infrared sensor used for the remote function, rounding out the list. The sensors have colored indicator lights that illuminate when in use.

As mentioned above, since the 16GB version only has a little over 8GB of usable memory, you might want to consider a higher-capacity version such as 32/64GB. The Galaxy S4 has a lot of great things going for it that more than compensate for its weaknesses. This is definitely one phone you need to consider when renewal time rolls around for you.