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Tag / mobile phone

Throughout the years I’ve had the chance to own quite a number of mobile phones, and gotten my hands to try on even more. The one feature that has always interests me is the camera.

Ever since I had my very first “camera phone”, the next phone I looked at has always been the one with a superior camera. So when I had a chance to give the Huawei P9 a test drive, I was pretty excited.

Huawei P9, sleek design, USB C, Leica dual lenses
Huawei P9, sleek design, USB C, Leica dual lenses

You see, the P9 isn’t just any regular Android phone with a camera. It is the first that comes with a dual-camera sensor designed by Leica. For the uninitiated, Leica makes the most legendary cameras & lenses and almost every photographer would love to own a Leica in their arsenal, including myself. By having Huawei tapping into over 100 years of Leica photography expertise to design & optimize, the expectation of its performance is rather high.

The dual sensor set up at the rear is rather unique, one to pick up RGB (color) information, while the other monochrome (B&W) sensor picks up details. Information from both sensors are then combined using Leica’s merging algorithm to create an output that has the best of both worlds.

swiping left, right, or bottom up on camera reveals different options
swiping left, right, or bottom up on camera reveals different options

That is the technical aspect of the camera, two 12 megapixel sensors working together, but what really impressed me more was the user interface of the camera.

Most Android phones utilizes very simple camera UI, with some having a few modes or features accessible in the menu. What Huawei has done with P9’s camera UI is very sleek. Swiping left, right, up, and down reveals different sets of features/short cuts that allows anyone to take pictures just the way they want without having to fiddle with different settings which may require in depth photography knowledge.

film/filter mode, and pro mode
film/filter mode, and pro mode

Swiping to the right brings out the different shooting modes, such as monochrome, night shot, HDR, video, slow-mo, time lapse, and even Huawei’s signature “light painting”.

Swiping left shows the different camera settings, including adjustments for resolution, photo grid, GPS tag, different film modes, and so forth.

Bottom up brings out the PRO mode. This is a feature every serious photographer would appreciate. Here you can adjust shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, and even focusing mode. These are features that used to only available on a semi-pro SLR set up.

On top of the camera UI screen have yet a few more short cuts allowing access to wide aperture effect (my favorite), flash settings, slow-mo video, and swapping for front camera.

wide aperture effect is one of my favorites
wide aperture effect is one of my favorites

traffic at night, Huawei P9

sunset on Federal Highway, Huawei P9
works very well in low light condition too

In all, these make for very fast operation in getting to what you want the camera to do. There’s no fiddling with multiple levels within the menu to adjust one setting. Everything is available within a swipe and a click or two, to me this is the strongest point of the phone, one which I learned to really appreciate.

impactful B&W mode is great for street photography
Impact B&W mode is great for street photography

The photo quality from limited shots I took were pretty good, my favorite features of the camera were the “impact monochrome” and the “wide aperture” mode. The monochrome is very useful taking street photography while the latter allows simulated “bokeh” effect that can make a subject really standout in a photo, similar to one taken with expensive fast professional lenses on an SLR.

egg benedict, close up
close up shots are very good too

Since this is actually a phone and not just a camera, several other important specification you may be interested in are as follow:

  • Screen: 5.2″ 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Battery: 3000 mAh, fast charging
  • OS: Android OS, v6.0 (Marshmallow)
  • CPU: Quad-core 2.5 GHz Cortex-A72 & quad-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A53
  • Storage: 32 GB, microSD slot
  • Connectivity: USB-C, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, Wifi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Sensors: fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass

 

Earlier we talked about the best mobile plan currently for those big data users, the instagram addict, the serial YouTube surfers, or like me, someone who actually stream NFL games on mobile, and together with the recent auto-play video feature on facebook, these activities can really chew up your data quota in a jiffy.

So of course, having more is better, but you want data that you can actually use, right?

U Mobile on iPhone 6
U Mobile on iPhone 6

So this week, I got a chance to test drive U Mobile’s network on an iPhone 6 to see how it actually perform, to see if the P70 plan with its 7 GB quota is fast enough for everyday use.

I loaded the sim card, which comes in 3-in-1 size to suit every phone model, and fire the baby up.

instagram is usually the app that uses most data for me
instagram is usually the app that uses most data for me

Within the minute, the phone is connected to U Mobile’s 4G LTE network, I was at the office at KLCC. First thing to load is of course, the all important Instagram application.

For the purpose of this test drive, I also installed the Open Signal App from the Appstore to properly gauge the performance of U Mobile’s network. Applications installed from Google Play Store without a hiccup, so far so good.

U Mobile 4G Network coverage

Now U Mobile has recently been very aggressive in upgrading and expanding their 4G coverage in the country. Many parts of Klang Valley, from Ampang to Cheras, Damansara to Shah Alam, and even Skudai and Port Dickson are now covered under their 4G umbrella. You can check the coverage on u.com.my/4G 

test driving the iPhone with U Mobile at various locations
test driving the iPhone with U Mobile at various locations

To be more systematic in evaluating the network, I’ve conducted some tests at several somewhat random places with the for download speed, the most important indicator for me. Open Signal is used for this purpose:

  • badminton court at Kampung Kayu Ara – 12.9 mbps
  • Sunway Pyramid by the ice skating rink – 14.3 mbps
  • by the i-City intersection in Shah Alam – 10.5 mbps
  • Sup Hussin, Setapak (best sup kambing & they even have sup lidah!) – 27.0 mbps

LTE connected, set, go!
LTE connected, set, go!

From my personal opinion, I think the 4G coverage is currently good enough for probably over 90% of my usage, which is more than satisfactory, 3G speed is pretty decent and would be able to do what I need to accomplish if and when I’m out of the 4G coverage.

In the couple weeks of testing, network hiccups only happened a couple times (solved by disable/enabling data), and video streaming on NFL Game Pass and YouTube application were pretty smooth as well. I find no huge difference between U Mobile and other mobile networks I’ve used in the past.

Having said that, 4G coverage for U Mobile outside Klang Valley is still somewhat of a work in progress, so for those residing in other areas, your experience may vary. Then again, the value offered is pretty much unbeatable if you are OK with 3G speed (which is sufficient most of the time).

So if you are looking for a data centric mobile plan and don’t want to break your bank, do check out U Mobile, after all, it’s doesn’t require any commitment.

And finally it’s here, arguably the most anticipated mobile phone launch of the year – Samsung Galaxy S4 is now officially available in Malaysia at all major telcos. I was there at the launch last Saturday to catch a glimpse of the gadget at Celcom Blue Cube, Sunway Pyramid and the Samsung store at Lowyat Plaza.

great fan fare at Samsung Galaxy S4 launch, Sunway Pyramid
great fanfare at Samsung Galaxy S4 launch, Sunway Pyramid

The launch was a huge fanfare, there were clowns, jokers, jesters, people in stilts, drummers, dancers, magicians, singers, and there were balloons, ice creams, music, and everything that you could imagine. I’ve never seen Sunway Pyramid so alive especially at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday.

There were a huge line of people queuing up to be the first Galaxy S4 customers. Celcom’s plan for the new phone was as low as RM 1,338 and  there’s a “Spin the wheel” game to reduce another RM 200 to RM 750. What a deal.

I sneaked into Blue Cube to get my hands on the S4 before everyone else
I sneaked into Blue Cube to get my hands on the S4 before everyone else

Having worn a blue shirt and holding a camera has its upsides, we were allowed to get into the shop to play with Galaxy S4 before everyone else has the chance.

At the first impression, I thought the phone was bigger, but holding it up confirmed that while the 5″ Full-HD display is indeed larger, the overall phone dimension remains to be about the same as it’s older sibling, the Samsung Galaxy S3. Pixel density is much higher and I must say that the Super AMOLED display is indeed gorgeous.

color me fancy? with Lydia, Nana, and Ashley
color me fancy, multicolor S4 backs? with Lydia, Nana, and Ashley

I expected that with the Exynos 5 Octa (Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7), the phone should be very fast, and it certainly did not disappoint on that front. Swipe, pinch, zoom, and operating pretty much any application I tried without any visible lag.

While processing power is great, it also comes with a bigger 2600 mAh battery to keep the juice flowing as well.

the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4, now available at major telcos in Malaysia
the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy S4, now available at major telcos in Malaysia

I hoped to try the S Translator but it was perhaps a bit too noisy at the event, and with the phone yet to set up with 3G etc, so we didn’t get to try that. The Air View/Air Gesture seems to work well, though I should have brought my riding gloves with to fully test its effectiveness.

Redmummy & Moudini the Magician, Nazwan of beautifulnara
Redmummy & Moudini the Magician, Nazwan of beautifulnara

One of the fun features that comes with Galaxy S4 is the ability to use both the front and rear cameras at the same time. I thought that’s a gimmick at first, but after testing it I find myself really liking the way it is implemented.

Basically when you take picture of a place/scene, you can simultaneously snap a photo of yourself encased at a corner like a “stamp”. I think it gives the photo a sort of post-card feel and is great for documenting your travel. Less of those awkward “selfies” if you ask me.

Hope to get my hands on the phone for a more extensive review soon. In the mean time, Samsung Galaxy S4 is available now at RM 2,199. Do check out  www.samsung.com/my for more.

This is my transportation of choice lately, the Aprilia Shiver 750 middle weight naked bike that I procured not very long ago. I’ve been riding it to work most of the days and even took it up for a trip to Penang for “Cheng Beng”.

Aprilia Shiver with tail bag

Riding certainly carries a higher risk, and thus I make it a point to wear proper protection gears at all time. A mesh jacket with armor  proper fitting full-face helmet, riding boots, and of course, a pair of gloves.

And my friend, I can’t tell you how often I wish that my phone’s touch screen can work while I have my gloves on.

Well, the new Samsung Galaxy S4 can, and that brings us to today’s topic – the little things in life that can be solved by the new Galaxy S4.

Samsung Galaxy S4 air view

The Air View and Air Gesture functions will be one that’s very neat! Motioning the device to accept calls while the phone is mounted on my bike’s handle bar (with bluetooth headset) without having to remove my gloves will be a godsend. Hovering over emails to get a preview of the content will be way cool as well.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Smart Pause

Watching cooking video while cooking is finally practical with with the Smart Pause feature. How many times do you wish you can pause the video while chopping/stirring at the kitchen without touching the screen? When you look away, the video stops, this is a function I can certainly appreciate.

S Voice Drive is supposed to be a way for you to be able to make calls, find directions and such while driving by interacting with the phone via voice. While this certainly works when you’re driving (and keep both hands on steering wheel), I think motorcyclists can certainly benefits from this especially as a navigation device. Can’t wait to test this out myself.

For the lazy (or the really sleepy), Smart Scroll lets you scroll by just tilting the screen from side to side. This could be a neat little feature that I’ll just have to try to see how useful it is.

S4 is coming soon, I need to get my hands on one and see how well these features work. Can’t wait.

Yes, for once, the rumors are true, Maxis is bringing in iPhone 3G. We might be little later than some of our neighbours perhaps, but it’s finally arriving on our shore in a legit manner and fully supported by the most popular telco in the country.

http://www.maxis.com.my/iphone is up and running, this is the real deal.

Maxis iPhone 3g

I actually know quite a few people who uses the original iPhone (on EDGE network) as well as at least one who holds an iPhone 3G. One of my friends loved it so much that when he had to send his iPhone back to US for warranty (he somehow damaged the SIM card slot), he bought another one just to use it while waiting for the original to travel around the globe.

Which brings us to the whole problem of using a non supported phone (be it iPhone or otherwise) and the hassles they bring when something is not working right. I too have learned my lesson and stopped buying any “AP” sets or imported phones without original warranties.

The good news is, on March 20, we will be able to get our the original iPhone 3G fully supported by Maxis right here in Malaysia!

Maxis iPhone 3g

The most important question on everyone’s mind would be: “Well how much does it cost?”

Frankly speaking, it isn’t any different with most other countries, and certainly a lot more attractive than getting one of those “imported sets” from your friendly hand phone sellers. For once, you will be able to send it back within for warranty period if anything goes wrong, and you can also upgrade the phone whenever new patches or software releases are available instead of resorting to dodgy ways of making the phone work.

There are plans for 12/24/6 months to choose from, and I think the iValue2 RM 155 for 24 months plan probably suits me the most. Pay less than RM 1.3k for the 8GB model, more than 11 hours of talk time included, and the 1GB/month data usage should be well sufficient for me (I’ve used less than 200 MB on my Nokia 5800 thus far), even though the superior web browser on iPhone might make me a heavier data user, 1GB/month would still be enough. Go to rateplan site for more choices.

Maxis iPhone 3g games

Personally I love the glorious screen of iPhone (480-by-320-pixel) and it’s excellent browser with multi-touch support. The zooming function is especially handy when it comes to viewing websites, something that I am still waiting for other mobile phone manufacturers to catch up. There’s also support for corporate emails and MS Exchange sync functions that I rely on managing my calendar, and of course, a tonne of other applications from iTune store.

Then I asked my buddy shiang who is in love with his iPhone 2G on what are some of the best games on the platform. I think the response speaks for itself.

Maxis iPhone 3g games

Fieldrunners is a game good enough to get into top 10 of Time.com‘s best game list. Described as a fast and furious tower defense game, this application actually looks pretty awesome.

Maxis iPhone 3g games

Another recommendation is the very familiar childhood game of everyone: Monopoly! This should be pretty awesome with it’s multiplayer capability that so many handheld gaming device tried to push but just never got there. Shiang’s description of  “roll dice.. you shake the phone..  how much u shake the phone affects the roll one” cetainly sounds interesting.

Of course, other than games there’s also GPS, video capabitities, camera, and many other goodies  you find in a high end phone. The only probable downside (you decide!) is the capacitive touch screen which does not work well with long finger nails, so your girl friend might not be able to check your SMS.

The official launch is 20th March 2009. It is going to be interesting!