Zoes, Highlights and sharing
The HTC One debuts a new type of photo in HTC Zoe. Zoe mode, enabled by tapping the Zoe icon in the camera app, records 19 or 20 still frames at 4MP and three seconds of 1080p video at the same time, resulting in a “slice” of time being recorded rather than a single frame. At a practical level, this can help you catch time-sensitive shots, as each Zoe records five frames before the shutter is pressed, and 15 afterwards. And it’s also fun to view Vine-like snapshots of each photo.
But another main reason to shoot in Zoe mode is the phone’s automatic video highlight capability. The gallery app automatically arranges photos into events based on location and date, and the HTC One conjures up 30-second highlight reels for these events -- complete with background music and filters -- based on Zoes, videos and stills. Video highlights are generated on-the-fly, and there’s no way to disable this feature, though you can ignore it by viewing photos in a traditional folder arrangement.
In each event, pictures, videos or Zoes can be tagged as “Highlights,” which is supposed to tell the app to use them in the reel. This feature wasn’t working correctly in the firmware version we were using, though, and the gallery app continued to pick out shots at random for highlight reels. HTC says it’s aware of this bug and is working on a fix.
Videos, stills, Zoes and highlights can be shared through HTC’s (somewhat confusingly-named) Zoe Share service, which is essentially a web-based sharing system tweaked to handle the HTC One’s unique imaging output. Using Zoe Share on the HTC One is quick and easy -- a few taps to select the content you want to upload, and you’re done. Zoe Share then gives you a URL you can share using Android sharing intents via email, social networks and so on.The interplay between Zoes, Highlights and Zoe Share is probably the most unique and interesting part of HTC’s new photographic equation. The implementation isn’t quite perfect, but we can see how these features will be both enjoyable and useful to most smartphone photographers.
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In summary, HTC’s UltraPixel experiment shows promise, but on the HTC One it isn’t a resounding success. Nevertheless, at the very least we’d call the HTC One’s camera satisfactory, and there’s no denying that it excels in certain areas. What’s more, features like Zoes, highlights and Zoe Share are examples of real innovation in mobile imaging.
The bottom line
To pull itself back from the brink, HTC knows it has to produce something special. And the HTC One is exactly that. It’s an exquisite piece of design and engineering. From the hardware to the software, HTC’s new handset incorporates some of the very finest design work in the industry. It’s the best-looking, best-feeling phone we’ve used -- nothing beats the feel of HTC’s curved brushed aluminum chassis. The new Sense has been pared back, sped up and redesigned in ways that make it a huge improvement on earlier iterations.
The majority of HTC’s “buzzword” features also deliver. The BoomSound speakers offer unparalleled bass and clarity for smartphone speakers. Sense TV is a really useful app for dual-screen viewing. BlinkFeed isn’t perfect, but the implementation is good for a “version 1.0” feature.
We’re not overly keen on HTC’s two-button setup, though we’ve learned to live with it over the past week. On a related note, we’d still like the on-screen menu bar that occasionally pops up to die in a fire, though not all the blame for this crime against user experience design lies with HTC.
If there’s something to be disappointed about, it might be the much-vaunted “UltraPixel” camera. Which is not to say it’s bad per se -- in fact, it’s pretty good. But it’s a long way off being the silver bullet to cure all your mobile photography woes, and though its low-light performance is fantastic, it lags behind the competition in some other areas but only just but in low light it rips the others apart.
In spite of this, is it HTC’s best phone yet? Without question. And on balance, is it the best Android phone you can buy? For the moment, absolutely. Well see how the Samsung Galaxy 4 (the SG3s as some are calling it) stacks up but on initial impression it looks in most areas like the HTC One is a clear winner
It's been just a month and a half since Nokia dropped updates to the Drive navigation and Transport public transit apps it created for Lumia Windows Phones, but the company is apparently hard at work on the next versions. WP7forum claims to have new details on the apps and screenshots to back them up. Nokia Drive 3.0 is reported to be able to "learn" your preferred routes as you drive, provide live tiles with live traffic information, manually adjust routes, and change the color scheme based on the time of day. Transport 2.0, meanwhile, is said to support 87 countries, add local search, search history, and performance optimizations. No word on when either update will arrive, but we'll be sure to let you know when we hear more.
At first blush, we were a little disappointed that Samsung didn't intend to push the design envelope with its new flagship. That's not to say we were repulsed: it just looks a lot like an amalgam of all the Galaxy phones we've seen in the last year. It flies closer to the Galaxy Nexus than the Galaxy S II, with a shape and contour all too similar to Google's first Android 4.0 handset. In the hand, the 4.8-inch screen is counter-balanced by the thin bezel, resulting in a shape that is still comfortable to hold. It feels very light, a mere 133g (4.7 ounces -- just a smidgen heavier than the HTC One X), and measures 8.6mm (0.34 inches) deep across its central waistline. (That's right, there's no more chin.)
A glossy plastic coats both the front face and flat battery cover, with a particularly attractive finish on the Pebble Blue option, making it our early favorite over the Marble White. A slightly different (but still glossy) plastic follows around the edge of the device. Thankfully, the absence of a metallic chassis does nothing to hurt the feeling of quality or solidity in the build.
The phone retains the physical home button, though it's now slimmer and generally less visually obvious. It's flanked by a pair of capacitive buttons that light up and disappear, and as expected there's the camera module, flash and loudspeaker at the back.
The 8-megapixel camera looks to be very similar to what we've seen on both the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note -- which means it's a pretty capable shooter, although we're withholding judgment until we can test it out it in a mix of scenarios. Instead of shaking up the camera hardware, Samsung's pushed forward with the software interface -- something we've gone into more detail here. In brief, the new camera app supports dual still and video capture, adds face tagging for existing contacts and boasts improved face identification and tracking.
The screen is a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display. The bad news? The lack of a "Plus" in that name means it's PenTile, which means that pixelation is still visible despite the 306 ppi density, due to the sharing of sub-pixels. The good news is that the resolution is still really good, and should suffice for all but the most eagle-eyed -- although if you're still not sure you can check out our own microscopic comparisons right here. It's also nice to see that the panel is cocooned in Gorilla Glass 2, besting its relative's fortified face, and it also offered great viewing angles.
The Galaxy S III's beating heart is Samsung's new 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor, aided by a fresh GPU that is supposedly 65 percent faster than the companion Mali 400 graphics chip on the Galaxy S II. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to give GTA III a blast, nor run our typical benchmark apps, but in any case the model we played with was not final hardware. That said, we were able to grab a quick SunSpider browser performance score of just under 1,500ms, putting the phone below HTC's polycarb-clad wonder -- but lower is better, by the way. Whizzing around the native apps and web browser was as pleasant as we expected, pinch-to-zoom pinged into action, while multimedia playback was effortless, irrespective of the software additions that Samsung has thrown into the mix (more on those in a second).
The phone houses a removable 2,100mAh battery, with a wireless charging option already in the works. Next to the battery and space for a micro-SIM, you'll find an increasingly rare microSD slot, whose absence was one of the main criticisms leveled at the Google Nexus, not to mention the HTC One X. This expandability sits alongside 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, depending on which variant you buy. Other connection options here include Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi Direct, DLNA, an MHL-compatible micro-USB port and headphone socket, with NFC connected to the battery unit.
Samsung's pitch to us focused heavily on the software. Pure Android enthusiasts may wince at the sight of TouchWiz (overlaid on top of Android 4.0.4) and from the brief time we played with the device, Ice Cream Sandwich looks a lot like how it arrived on our updated Galaxy S II -- it's not close to a stock Android experience. Instead of messing with its UI, Samsung has concentrated on specific apps -- and plenty of new gesture functionality.
Five icons populate the base of the screen, including the app drawer, while the homescreen itself has a more typical four-icon-wide berth. "Inspired by nature, designed for humans" is the winsome philosophy behind the Galaxy S III. In terms of the nature thing, this basically means that the phone comes loaded with some splashy water graphics and sound effects as well as plenty of seasonal wallpapers (including some new smart wallpapers like a background news feed).
The built-in keyboard is perfectly functional; at this screen size there's simply a greater likelihood of hitting the letter you're after. The menus and icons are all drawn in Samsung's TouchWiz style, though there are some new additions, including lock screen app shortcuts. In fact, the lock screen is where Samsung's new "intelligent" smartphone starts showing its gesture antics -- part of its "designed for humans" mantra.
We're live at Huawei's Ascend D series announcement, where the manufacturer's just taken the lid off its first quad-core smartphone, the Ascend D quad. The device sees Huawei challenging top-tier Android manufacturers with a device offering super high-end specs in just about every area. Read on to find out what we thought of the phone, along with the first video of it in action.
Central to the D quad's power is its quad-core CPU, a custom part created by Huawei and its partners -- this promises high performance power when needed, and energy efficiency when idle. Physically, the device is your typical black slab -- unassuming enough to be easily mistaken for the Galaxy Nexus, but good looking, and it feels good in the hand thanks to the soft touch back. The Ascend D quad is pretty thin, but not excessively so -- Huawei's already got that based covered with the Ascend P1 S. Interestingly, though, it's offering a version with an extended battery as standard alongside the regular D quad -- the D quad XL, promising multiple days of use on a single charge.
In terms of software, Huawei has kept things pretty close to vanilla Android. There are a few changes to be sure, but the manufacturer hasn't messed with Google's well-crafted user experience. In our brief time with the device, what we saw was a very fast smartphone that also works well as a gaming device. We got a brief look at Riptide, and the combination of the 330ppi 720p display and that quad-core CPU resulted in a beautiful, fast gaming experience.
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