Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Android Xperience

Xperia X10 shows Android is not a flash in the pan and is here to stay

The Androids are invading our planet, and they seem to be gradually getting the upper hand. As more and more humans become aware of the qualities of this new race of mobile devices, they are expected to deviate from the oft-taken path for a new way of life.
The new Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10 will only help convince people that there is a future for the new breed of mobile phones which have simplicity as their greatest ally. While others keep adding new features to their phones, Android seems to be cutting the clutter and making phones simpler. Swipe up the menu of the X10 and there is hardly anything there you don’t recognise or know the use of.
And you don’t have to get used to the Android OS, because what you will do naturally is what this system is made for. The X10 uses the Android Donut version 1.6 OS with a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, so things are only getting better. 

The biggest plus for the X10 is its 4-inch 480 x 854 pixels WVGA scratch-resistant touchscreen which I’m sure is among the largest, and clearest, out there. Another thing that you can’t miss is the swipe action that unlocks the screen so that you can get started. The X10 comes preloaded with a host of Google and Sony-Ericsson applications like Gtalk, Gmail and S-E Sync. But nothing caught my attention more than Timescape and Mediascape — the former shows a timeline of all conversations, while the latter does the same with video and photos that you have clicked with the phone. If these don’t satisfy you, there is the ever-expanding Android Marketplace to turn to for apps.
The other strong point of the X10 is its 8.1 megapixel camera with 16x digital zoom, auto focus, intelligent face recognition, smile detection and image stabiliser, all features usually associated with a standalone camera. The phone also harnesses the power of the new UX platform to tell the world about its picture taking capabilities by seamlessly integrating geotagging and send-to-web utilities. The camera also has a touch focus mode where all you have to do is touch the screen for the camera to lock on the subject and click. The recently shot pictures and videos conveniently appear in a tray below the screen for you to decide what to do with them. Plus, in the video mode, you can zoom in and out even when the camera is rolling.
Thanks to the extra-large screen, the X10 can double up as an entertainment console too. While Sony-Ericsson has always prided itself for its music playback capabilities, this one does wonders with video as well. Plug in the headphones and you will have no trouble watching a movie on this one.
If you don’t have movies loaded in the memory card, there is the YouTube app to directly access videos on the Net. You can switch on the 3D games if you are stuck in a blind spot with no Net access or Wi-Fi.
The touchscreen is responsive and you can easily type a message despite your large fingers and without fingernails that work like stylus. The predictive text input which is supposed to make life easier can be a bit irritating at times and is better switched off.
There is auto rotate, but I found that this makes the screen go blur for a few seconds before it regains its composure. I also felt that the touchscreen was a bit stubborn at times, but this is one thing we will have to get used to in India with all the oil and grime that tends to accumulate on things. I suggest you get yourself a screen protector with the phone.

The Xperia X10 weighs 135 grams and has a phone memory of 1 GB, but that doesn't matter much as Sony-Ericsson is throwing in an 8GB SD card in the kit. The battery seems cool as it lasted a whole day with lots of browsing and not many long calls. The X10 costs a princely Rs 35,795.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Swing along

Finally, a replacement for Wii, and it comes loaded with your PC

The ever-growing popularity of the Nintendo Wii seems to have set the cat among the pigeons, and it's only for the good of the consumers. While Microsoft has already done its bit in the direction with Project Natal, HP has taken motion sensor gaming to a mass level with Swing, a controller it will pack with all its Pavillion Desktop PCs in the future.
Well, the beauty of the Swing is that it will work on a regular desktop or laptop, provided you are using Windows Vista or above — I just couldn’t find the programme after I installed it on my 2004 vintage XP desktop. Though HP thinks its best suited for Windows 7, I got it to run on a Vista laptop with no trouble. Once you load the programme and the games you want from the DVD provided in the box, plug in the USB dongle which acts as the Bluetooth receiver for the handhold. The programme takes a few seconds to recognise the handhold, which shakes a bit to show it’s locked in to the computer. 
The Swing marries advanced wireless Bluetooth, which is easy to connect, reliable and uses lesser power than standard devices, with an accelerometer and gyroscope to implement the accurate motion recognition and motion tracking algorithm.
The unit, with a very comfortable shape which sort of snuggles into your hand, has a toggle near the thumb and an ‘A’ button — like the left click on a mouse — just below it. On the rear of the unit, also called the air mouse, is the switch-like B button which you will be using a lot for the games. There is also a Bluetooth button, to link to the PC, and a menu button at the bottom of the unit.

You can use the handhold to select the game of your choice — the box comes with nine free games — from those listed and proceed to play. The Swing can take multiple players, but you will need to buy more hand units for that.
The user interface and feel of the games reminded me a lot of the Wii, and at times it felt like a dumped-down version of the same. Still, without much additional paraphernalia, the Swing was able to recreate the gaming experience which most of us have started thinking was synonymous to Nintendo.

I tried my hand at bowling but hurt my foot as the ball kept falling on my toes and not on the track. I don't know what I was doing wrong, but nothing went right with this game for me — my first shot at the bowling game on Wii was a huge success.
Then I shifted to tennis where I fared considerably better, but that was before I realised that all players have just two shots whatever you try to make them do — the Wii tries to recreate your hand movements better. But the visuals here were much better than Nintendo.

My best game, however, was reserved for fishing — I’ve always been good at it — where I kept hooking the biggest fish, rewriting the record books. It helped that I was the first person to make any sort of record with this game. I also overlooked the fact that this game needs the skill factor of a toddler to win.
But with this game I realised that motion sensing was almost real-time and every tiny nibble on the bait was relayed to the handhold as a small vibration, as if to tell me it was time to pull.
I fooled around with the rod just to see how it was responding and was happy that every little movement made it to the screen.

That doesn’t mean there were no issues. At times, during the tennis game, the arrow kept getting stuck to some parts of the screen and I had to literally peel it off. This could have been because I was playing on despite the error message that my computer was not compatible for the game.
Nevertheless, the Swing is a very playable gaming unit and even better if it comes. HP Swing is now available only on purchase of new HP Pavilion desktops and you will have to pay additional handling charges of Rs 1,999.
Finally, we have a fit replacement for the Wii.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kites Review (Tweets from the hall)

My kites review (or running commentary), in tweets

Hoping kites is not just patangbaazi... Verdict in 3 hours
#kites The roof is closed, don't know how they are going to show the movie
#kites vegas has a great beach and reef
#kites and everyone speaks hindi in vegas. Kabir bedi is the goonda raj of the city... This is crossover, bullshit
#kites vegas main barish hota rahta hai:..and we thot vegas in the middle of a dessert
#kites kabir bedis son is a psycho, he just killed a poor station master...
#kites now, bedi jr hits a tourist. The us police work him by the way... Simple
Us freeways are hell with hrithik around #kites
#kites and they actaullay waited for the wedding to get over for u know what
#kites american pistols have great range... J ka viru mar gaya
#kites j shot, the girl behind is crying... Think she is hrithik's sis or roshan's financier
#kites thank god i had mexican for lunch, anything else and i wouldnt have been able to stomach this
#kites censors watching so villain 'says shut the hell up'
#kites mori killed herself by jumping of vegas beach into sea. Film over. Muchos gracias
#kites. Where is the refund counter?
#kites j too jumps in. And they live happily ever after, under water. Now its actually over.
#kites my revenge, watching shrek in 3d to get over the crossover hangover
This is the official launch of the Don't let the Kites fly campaign
#fakingnews #Kites becomes first Indian movie to win Razzies

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The cutest one

I hate the word, but just can’t think of anything better than cute to describe the soon to be launched Alcatel ICE3 — pronounced Ice Cube. Initially, I thought they’d sent me a mascara box instead of the phone for review. It was only with a closer inspection that I realised that this was actually a clamshell model which opened up to reveal a full Qwerty keyboard and a 2.4” 65k colour TFT screen. When switched on, the small LCD on the outer shell shows the time, flickers new messages, missed calls and battery status.
The homescreen has a quick menu sidebar which gives you easy access to the contact list, messages and the browser. Interestingly, clicking on the right/left buttons on any of them shows more options, like bookmarks when you are on the browser.

The full menu is on the right click button — there are actually two left and two right buttons on both sides of the main cube button — which gives you all regular menu settings as well as apps like FaceBook, the Opera Mini browser, Twitter, instant messaging and the like. In fact, all these apps can be moved to the homescreen too, an option that makes this an ideal phone for social networking junkies. Plus the phone also features E-mail POP3, IMAP4 to keep you linked 24/7.
The ICE3 also features a 2 mp camera on the outer shell, plus the option of easily sharing you photos with friends and contacts. The phone has a decent MP3 Player and a very sharp FM Radio. But the phone does not have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. In fact, everything from charging to download will have to be done through the single USB jack, which is both good and bad. While this leaves the phone body relatively unblemished with just one cavity, it also means you can’t boost your music experience with a better set of headphones.

The inbuilt memory is 80MB and phone can take in Micro SD cards of up to 8GB. The company claims its Lithium 850 mAh battery has a talk time of up to nine hours and a standby of 450 hours, but that will have to be put to test. The phone also features the now standard EDGE class 12 downlink, GPRS Class 12, WAP 2.0, Bluetooth stereo 2.0 (A2DP), USB 2.0 and JAVA MIDP 2.0.
The width of the phone —it is about a centimeter wider than the Nokia E series and BlackBerry — will take some getting used to, and might even put off some prospective buyers. On the bright side, this also means you have more real estate on the homescreen. But the designers need to work on the display and fonts a bit as they remind me of an early generation Motorola.
The ICE3 is cool with great performance and contemporary features, but is still a bit girlish for my taste. However, there is no doubt that the phone, Alcatel’s return to the Indian market, is great value for money at Rs 6,500.