Google Galaxy Nexus With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

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Google Galaxy Nexus

The next generation of Google’s Android platform with their flagship phone model has been announced in Hong Kong on 18 Oct 2011. This is the fourth major version of the open mobile platform code-named Ice Cream Sandwich.

Here is my take on the new features and capabilities being shown now.

New look and feel – The new font is very pleasing to look with its slight curves at the ends of letters. I’ve always favoured the darker theme starting with 3.x and this version will do well to give that kind of sophistication to the device.

Face Unlock – Should be quite secure, knowing that face recognition technology can differentiate between a live human face and a photo. My concern is whether the front-facing camera is fast enough to be enabled and unlock the phone compared to existing methods. What about lighting conditions, cultural limitations, and when you are not in a comfortable position to use your face?

Android Beam – Now this is the future of sharing with friends physically near to you. It has always been a hassle to go through the vast data network just to go between devices a few feet away. Bluetooth transfers are not platform-agnostic and tends to be slow.

Voice typing – A useful feature we all know as dictation. Has to be real-time and not have to wait for it to “think” after finishing a sentence. Still, I’ve yet to see any such voice recognition technology being able to understand all variants of English. I remember IBM used to do this quite well with your own voice being trained first. Compared to Siri on the iPhone 4S, I think this lacks that extra ability to get your phone to do simple tasks without typing, such as create reminders and search for short answers.

Google+ – We already got that everywhere, Google.

Browser – Good to improve on the tab management. I find myself going to the menu too often to move between tabs. This is not difficult to implement, what took you so long?

Gmail – Offline capability is important, as much as people use this on their desktops. Bring it to Google Docs too!

Mobile Data Management – Eh, 3G Watchdog?

Single-Motion Panoramic Camera – Simple trick of recording your shot in video then stitching the best frames together to make that panorama effect. Nothing new or useful here (how often do you look or print a panorama?).

Vibrant high-definition display – 4.65″ sAMOLED with 720p screen? Sorry I don’t intend to carry a TV in my pocket and I don’t think I’ll grow bigger hands any time soon.

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Nokia 8110

Contour Display – Nokia 8110, no thanks.


I’m not greatly impressed by the feature list. While it is good to leave hardware buttons in the past, ICS lacks new ideas on the way we interact with the device. Why don’t we make more use of the sensors such as the gyroscope, compass, GPS and microphone?

Location-based services are very useful these days, if you can develop the smart apps for it. Videos and other data-intensive apps need the ability to download via wi-fi and in the background, managed by the Android system.

Use the display in new ways, such as a means to communicate or as a dashboard in the car. We need better graphic API with lower cost of C/GPU usage. I’m not interested in having a 2GHz chip in my pocket when the GUI staggers along!

What are your thoughts on this phone and Android 4.0?


Google Galaxy Nexus

Unwrapping Ice Cream Sandwich on the Galaxy Nexus

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iPhone 4 Features & Against Android Phones


I have been doing video calls on my Nokia phones over 3G/3.5G although the compression ratio may be high and video quality is not as good as FaceTime. Front-facing cameras have been around for years on phones so Apple is not breaking new ground here.

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iPhone 4 Top Half

The notable difference here is that Apple is offering this technology in open source format, so I hope this does not only work between two iPhone 4 units for long which sounds more like a marketing strategy now.

Android phones can use Skype and Fring for this with any other phones with the same app.

Retina Display

This technology is very impressive, possibly making the iPhone to have the more defined display quality on a portable electronic display, but I’m not personally bought on this.

To me, the phone is a daytime companion that handles my communication and multimedia needs. It should complement my daily routine, not be in the centre of it. There should be a practical physical size limit to a display on the phone because our hands and pockets don’t grow continuously. Thus, how much more resolution can you fit into the same display size? At 300dpi, does it really make a difference in viewing text and images? Personally, I’m not going to spend more time than necessary staring at my phone’s screen, which is no more than an hour.

Battery runtime is also directly and significantly related to display properties. I’m happier with a small but comfortable size with efficient lighting. This is where I believe AMOLED displays used in most Android phones outshine Apple’s.

Perhaps this is attractive to folks who read a lot on their devices, especially during transit.


Nothing new here too. I’ve seen Android phones with over ten apps running simultaneously with negligible performance impact.

However, the Android design by default does not require apps to close when they are no longer needed, which takes a mind set change to get used to. This remains to be seen how iOS 4 handles this.

I wonder if double-tapping on the Home button for this will soon wear it out?

HD Video Recording and Editing

Again with the same reasons for Retina Display, I don’t want to spend time messing with my videos on my phone. My life doesn’t revolve around the phone. If I want to enjoy 720p or 1080p video, I’d do it on my large wide screen display with hi-definition audio without sticking my hand up the whole time.

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iPhone 4 Camera

To record HDV, I’ve got my videocam with a better sensor and optics.

I wouldn’t need this on Android as well, but in both cases it would be nice if they can wirelessly send the video playback to a TV.

The geeks at xda-developers just hacked the Nexus One to record in 720p video

5-Megapixel Camera with LED Flash

Come on… LED flash? Just how long does it take for manufacturers to use ultra-low light sensors and wireless flash?

Wait a minute, are we talking about a camera or a phone here? Right.

9.3mm Thick

Being the thinnest smartphone isn’t a good thing. Do you want to hold a sheet of paper to your face? Steve, we live in a 3D world and our hands are actually big squishy stuff that grab things.

Aluminosilicate Glass Front and Back / Stainless Steel Band

The technology in the band is impressive, but the length and shape of it is not. Together with the two glass pieces, I have doubts on the durability of the construction. The iPhone 4 just feels like a window frame to me, which protects against two axes of pressure.

Now, the HTC Legend and a long-forgotten xda are superior here. They are aluminum enclosures which support pressure from all three axes. Aluminum is lighter, typically by three times. The Legend is even machined out of a metal unibody, like the Apple PowerBooks.

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iPhone 4 Stainless Steel Case

Steel does present better strain rate sensitivity and fatigue performance, but is attracted to magnetic fields. In the case of the phone, this probably has a detrimental effect on the wireless sensitivity since electromagnetic waves are used here.

The fact that Steve Jobs even announced the multi-color Bumper accessory gives me second thoughts on the glass-cum-steel sandwich design and durability.

Dual-microphone Noise Suppression

This is a great feature which is found in the Google Nexus and HTC Desire phones. Clever technology that works well.

One gripe that is common to all phones about dual microphones – it benefits the other parties. Why can’t it be used to cancel ambient noise around me by feeding it to my listening speaker?

The location of the speakerphone on the iPhone 4 is weird. On my Nokia N78 and many other phones, there are stereo speakers on either side!

What do you think? Comment below.

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Upgrading from the Nikon D40 DSLR

A detailed but tough road to deciding what to upgrade to from the Nikon D90 digital SLR.


The Nikon D40 digital SLR camera was the most successful entry-level camera for anyone who is interested in having more control and hopefully better quality over their digital photos than what point-and-shoot cameras can provide.

Nikon D40 digital SLR cameraThe portable size, high pixel ratio and large rear LCD are the most strong points about the camera. Its affordable price makes it possible for a lot of people to shoot quality photos and quickly capture the moment with its short focus lag.

Two years after enjoying the power of SLRs such as this D40, I am ready (itching) to look for a newer and more powerful model.

With the Nikon D90, I saw these advantages/improvements that are worth considering this model:

  • wider lens compatibility (not just limited to AF-S)
  • higher continuous frame rate
  • top LCD and more configurable buttons/dials
  • more AF points (11 versus 3)
  • CMOS sensor for higher contrast and vivid colours
  • high ISO (>=1600) performance

I tried searching online for a direct comparison between the D40 and D90; frame and lens being the same but just changing the body. Ronald Suello did just this and demonstrated the obvious advantage of high ISO performance with the newer cameras such as the D90.

Nikon D90 digital SLR cameraFor some of the above items, I’m able to find a compromise or workaround. However, the frame rate, sensor strengths and hard controls cannot be ignored. These limitations of the D40 are what make me think of upgrading.

Does this upgrade path guarantee better photos for the same photographer? I don’t think so.

The perpetual argument in the photography world – what makes a good photo, the photographer or the camera? – can never be easily concluded. I think a practical way to validate the answer is to ask: what am I shooting photographs for? Are the photos going to sit in some mass storage, displayed in a digital photo frame, printed for display, or printed for publications or exhibitions? Once we have figured the answer to the above, we can then evaluate whether the price we pay for the equipment is balanced with the level of photographic quality achievable.

Second, may I propose: why do people decide on a SLR based on the features offered? Do they satisfy the people being photographed or the photographer? I would think manufacturers and the mass market have conditioned such features like buttons, dials and functions to be important, but only to the one behind the lens! Does such consideration affect the photograph? No, but rather it satisfies the photographers’ needs and/or wants, the ability to do something that another model cannot.

Nikon D40 and D90 side-by-sideIn my case, I know I don’t shoot for profit, at least it’s improbable that my stock photos can recover all of my expenses. 90% of the time I’m shooting people, and 80% of that are on kids, those fast-running two-legged things. Compared to what photographic technology we’ve had 10 years ago, these people whom I shoot will have far better photographic memories of themselves than before. I reckon they won’t bother about or even tell the difference between a sharp and noiseless photo over the others.

Capturing the moment forever on a frame, with whatever photo capture device you have on hand, is priceless.

All that said, I’m still thinking… if I can sell that D40 body for a third of the D90, that’s a good 33% discount on a damn good SLR. Plus, the 2009 performance bonus and my birthday (Feb 12!!!) should sufficiently justify whipping out my wallet… :)

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