Multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon teased for IFA

qualcomm-htc-teaser-710x532

A recent tweet from Qualcomm teased that during next week’s IFA in Berlin, Qualcomm will reveal a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon powdered Smartphone.

The fact that Qualcomm is revealing a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon via phone is not surprise at all. Especially since HTC has been teasing its multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon phone, the HTC Desire 820, for quite sometime now. This adds to HTC’s new, and dominant, 64-bit Snapdragon line-up, with the first Qualcomm powered 64-bit device being the HTC Desire 510. The Desire 820 is also expected to be revealed during IFA.

Qualcomm’s tweet also came with a teaser image. The one posted above. The exact tweet stated “We’re thinking about your future: a powered multi-core 64-bit smartphone is headed to .” Many are claiming that this device looks like an HTC device, and that the phone Qualcomm is revealing is the HTC Desire 820. But we’ll just have to wait and see.


AndroidGuys

Samsung innovation

This coming week, we will be introduced to the latest in a line of reasonably successful phablets. The original Samsung Note arguably helped shape the “phablet” space when it debuted three years ago. It was in and of itself an innovation. Sure, it’s just a smartphone with a big screen, but sometimes the simplest innovations are the biggest (no pun intended) and most successful. And yes, it’s at this point that I grudgingly have to admit that a heart monitor is an “innovation”. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go vomit.

Samsung has done its share of trying out new things over the years. This isn’t to say that any of these endeavors have been successful, but they were attempts at innovation. After all, “innovation” doesn’t necessarily equate with “successful”. The most obvious example of Samsung innovation is the Galaxy round. Sure, it looked like a half-flattened Pringle, and it curved too much and the wrong way. But it was an innovation that could have long-lasting effects in the industry.

galaxy note 4 teaser videoTurn it up! Bring the Note!

Which brings us to the Note 4 announcement this week. Some reports have indicated that Samsung’s Note 4 might feature a wrap around screen. This would certainly be an innovation and it would do a lot to break Samsung out of the boring reputation it has been developing over the last two years. Not since the GSIII has Samsung really put out a product that disrupted the industry. Will a wrap around screen disrupt the industry again? I don’t know, but I somehow doubt it.

But Samsung is an industry leader here. The latest statistics put Samsung in pretty firm control of 43% of the Android smartphone world. That’s one company almost holding a majority by itself. That leaves the rest of the Android space to clamor over the leftovers. Even if HTC or LG really innovated, say with a dual focus or even laser focused camera, who is going to notice?

No, Samsung has to be the innovative force in this industry to push the boundaries and show what’s possible with a screen, or with a stylus, or with software. The Note 4 is Samsung’s opportunity to do it, lest we be forced to wait another 6 months and deal with yet another boring Samsung smartphone.

sgs5And yet…

When you look at the numbers, it’s exactly those boring smartphones that are selling, and selling butt loads. The Samsung GS4 and GS5 have not matched the sales of the GSIII, this is true, but they’re beating the pants off the Round and even their respective Notes. The Galaxy Notes are successful devices, but not as successful as their smaller brethren.

So, maybe it behooves Samsung to stay the course and keep putting out “boring” smartphones and leave the innovation to the outliers, the GS4 Neos and whatnot. As the saying goes, “never mess with a winning streak”. Maybe it’s in Samsung’s best interest to put more vanilla into its ice cream cone and leave the more exotic flavored cones for the “experiments”.

After all, if one of those outliers does strike lighting, that lightning receptacle could always be worked into the next Galaxy flagship. It makes sense not to change up a good thing. Why jinx it? Maybe Samsung is looking at its decreased sales and wondering where it needs to pick things up to get the phones flying out the door again.

The marketing machine

In the meantime, the marketing machine can keep churning out airports and billboards and Apple insults like there’s no tomorrow. It’s not like those things are going to change. Maybe Samsung has absolutely no motivation to innovate with its two flagships. I guess the consumer market will dictate that.

So what do you think about all this? Samsung is going into its fourth flagship without a whole lot to get excited about. Are you excited? Maybe that Snapdragon 805 SoC or that fourth gig of RAM blows your skirt up? Or do you really need to see Samsung up its game on this fourth generation? Sound off below – do the innovation soldiers have to be out in full force or are you more in the “steady as she goes” camp?


Pocketnow

Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual predecessor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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All About Windows Phone

Multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon teased for IFA

qualcomm-htc-teaser-710x532

A recent tweet from Qualcomm teased that during next week’s IFA in Berlin, Qualcomm will reveal a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon powdered Smartphone.

The fact that Qualcomm is revealing a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon via phone is not surprise at all. Especially since HTC has been teasing its multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon phone, the HTC Desire 820, for quite sometime now. This adds to HTC’s new, and dominant, 64-bit Snapdragon line-up, with the first Qualcomm powered 64-bit device being the HTC Desire 510. The Desire 820 is also expected to be revealed during IFA.

Qualcomm’s tweet also came with a teaser image. The one posted above. The exact tweet stated “We’re thinking about your future: a powered multi-core 64-bit smartphone is headed to .” Many are claiming that this device looks like an HTC device, and that the phone Qualcomm is revealing is the HTC Desire 820. But we’ll just have to wait and see.


AndroidGuys

Bandi Namco’s Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend Launches on Mobile

Jewel Fight 650Bandai Namco Games has released its latest game on iOS and Android devices. Developed by Invictus Games, Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend offers match-three puzzle combat, as players are taken to Wildmoon, a world of fantasy, where they’ll choose from three classes (warrior, rogue or mage) and take to battle against AI enemies in both a single-player story mode, as well as a multiplayer challenge arena.

In Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend, players complete dozens of levels in the game’s story mode. The world is under the threat of an army of goblins, wolves and other beasts, and players must clear the land of these creatures before it’s too late. Players will encounter level branches along the way, where they’ll have the option of challenging one of two enemies. Making a choice in one direction makes another set of levels unavailable.

During each level, players are asked to make matches of three-or-more like colored symbols, which correspond to their character’s attacks. A warrior’s slashing attack, for instance, can be charged by making matches with blue or green gems. When the action bar is filled, the character automatically attacks the enemy. However, this works for both hero and foe.

That is, an enemy’s attack bar may be charged by making matches with yellow and blue gems. That being the case, users would want to avoid making matches with those colors of gems to stop the enemy from attacking. In our particular example, both characters benefit from blue matches, so it’s up to players to decide whether or not to take the risk of actually creating those matches.

Users can heal their characters with premium healing potions during battle. While there’s no traditional energy system in the game, play is kept to a slower pace due to the fact that heroes don’t regain their health automatically after battle. Instead, it recharges slowly over time. Gamers can ignore this and jump into their next battle instantly, but it will be more challenging as a result.

Gamers collect coins as they battle, and can use these to purchase new weapons, armor and accessories for their character. These can increase a player’s stats, including health points, attack or defense. After they’re purchased, individual items can also be upgraded for an even larger stat boost. The hero will also level-up with earned experience points, increasing their stats automatically over time.

Outside of single player mode, users can enter the arena to compete against other real players. However, this competition is for high score only, as users are challenged to fight off as many waves of basic enemies as they can to earn points. The players that defeat the most enemies during each timed tournament win premium currency prizes.

Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend is available to download for free on iTunes and Google Play.


Inside Mobile Apps

Review: Nokia Lumia 530

Score:
72%

The Nokia Lumia 530 is here – and, showing the long time scales upon which phones are developed, there’s no mention of ‘Microsoft Mobile’ anywhere on the box – you actually have to remove the battery to see the first evidence of Microsoft’s involvement in the hardware. It’s the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range and in some ways it shows, but there’s still plenty of value for money for buyers.

After the release of the sub-£100 Lumia 630, I went on record as saying that the 630 was originally the 530 internally at Nokia and the model got bumped up a notch in the naming system at some point, so convinced was I that the 630 was the 520’s spiritual predecessor. It turns out that I was wrong – regardless of where the 630 sits, spiritually(!), the 530 is now the new bottom end of the Windows Phone range from Nokia/Microsoft, compromising intelligently in all but one case from the best selling 520’s specifications, in order to achieve a lowest street price of as low as £40 on pay-as-you-go in the UK, at launch, and no doubt regularly under £50 across the board as we get closer to Christmas.

Regardless of what negatives I might come up with below, it’s worth stopping to let the price sink in for a moment. Remember that all the Windows Phones now include full offline voice-guided sat-nav, full Office editing software, plus a smartphone UI that’s arguably more responsive than any other in the mobile world.

Lumia 530

The only flies in the ointment here come from competition within the Lumia range – last year’s 520 is just as cheap now, if you can find it, and offers a higher specification all round, while the newer 630 is as up to date as the 530 in terms of OS and chipset, but with much better display and camera. And, being controversial, I’d argue that the old Lumia 620 and 625 are even better than any of these, again for not much more money. Though ‘old’ is the operative word here, in that the 530 has a newer chipset and will be supported/available for longer.

But let’s consider the Lumia 530 on its own merits. it feels very solid in the hand, with display nicely centred in the front face and the body of the phone sitting in the usual ‘bucket’ shell for low end Lumias. The big advantages are that different colours can be used for these, even swapped day to day if desired, plus there’s the possibility of having a replaceable battery (not always a sure thing, as the 625 showed, though) and easy microSD and SIM access without having to deal with side-loading trays.

One normal disadvantage is that the solidity of the phone suffers from this two part approach, but the Lumia 530 is very solid indeed, with no creaks or uncertainties whatsoever. The front glass isn’t Gorilla Glass (so that’s the first design compromise driven by the build cost), but is smooth enough to use and I thought I detected an oleophobic coating – it’s certainly less sticky than the 520’s screen. 

Lumia 530 buttons

The three side buttons (volume up/down, lock/power) are part of the shell and obviously perfectly colour matched. The ‘bucket’ here is nicely curved, matching the typical human hand very well – contrast this with sharp edges on the Lumia 520 and 630, for example. The camera on the rear has a slightly raised edge, protruding beyond the plastic shell, ensuring that putting the phone down on a dirty surface shouldn’t pollute the camera glass too much.

Lumia 530 back

Getting the back shell off isn’t trivial – you either use strong nails or push on the camera glass (and then remember to wipe the latter later!) – but reveals a standard BL-5J battery (the same as in the 520) and microSD and microSIM bays – inserting anything into either of these means removing the battery. Which isn’t a massive problem but do note that a further cost cutting measure on the Lumia 530 means that there’s no ultra capacitor onboard to keep the system clock going in the meantime. So, after perhaps putting in a new microSD, you have to manually set data and time. Or, at the very least, check that this comes across OK from your mobile network.

Lumia 530 inside

None of this will be an issue to the target buyer, of course. Most newcomers to smartphones and non-geeks are rarely aware if their phone even has a microSD card and most are oblivious to the fact that SIM cards can be taken out of phones!

Lumia 530 lockscreen

Turning the Lumia 530 on and going through the usual Windows Phone 8 set-up sequence (account, wi-fi, and so on), it’s evident that the 530 has the first generation virtual controls (back, Start, search), with no way to swipe away the navigation bar. As things stand, the 4″ screen is thus reduced down to 3.93″ all the time, though it’s very likely that a firmware update in the near future (probably to ‘WP 8.1 Update 1’) will enable this navigation bar to be hidden and then swiped up again later, when needed.

The flexibility of having a software-filled navigation bar is partly used here, in that the icons rotate as you rotate the handset, so that they’re always ‘right way up’, but without a way to hide them altogether, the current experience is a little frustrating. At least there options in Settings to set the background colour or to make the nav bar transparent – in practice this rarely worked as I thought it should, but there’s zero point in getting upset because this functionality is all going to be improved shortly anyway.

The next – and biggest – compromise for the sake of build cost has been to use a cheap TFT display rather than the IPS panels on the likes of the Lumia 520 and 630 (the latter with an additional ClearBlack Display-lite linear polariser, itself a far cry from the full CBD circular polarisers seen on the top end and mid range models). Indoors, for casual use, this isn’t an issue, with content on screen being clear and crisp enough (FWVGA, so 854 by 480 pixels, with RGB pixel layout), albeit with some ‘tearing’ as content is swiped around (no ‘PureMotion’ enhancements here, and quite a slow screen refresh rate).

The problems come when you venture outdoors, with the reflectivity of the plain glass and the relative lack of power of the TFT panel being more of an issue. With the brightness set manually to ‘High’ (in yet another compromise for the recent low end Lumias, there’s no ambient light sensor, so everything’s under manual control), the 530 is workable outdoors in all but direct sunlight. However, when the sun’s out and you want to be enjoying the fresh air and perhaps taking a few photos of family and friends, the screen is at its hardest to see, making framing snaps harder than it should be. Sometimes it’s even hard to see the shutter firing icon. And no, there’s no physical shutter button either, in common with many other low end devices now.

Lumia 530 sunlight visibility

From left to right, Lumia 530, 630, 920. ‘Plain glass TFT’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display ‘lite’ linear polariser’ vs ‘IPS LCD with ClearBlack Display circular polarisers’…. In truth, the 630’s screen looks to fare well here, though other angles reveal the truth.

Particularly interesting on the imaging front is that Nokia has gone for a 5MP fixed-focus camera, rather than the 520’s auto-focus component. Now, as a photography purist I should be horrified, but in exactly the same way as I felt for EDoF back in the day (2008 era Nokia), for the market demographic who will be picking up the Lumia 530, i.e. ‘normobs’ with very little photographic ambition in the grand scheme of things, a really good fixed focus camera might actually do a better job than an auto-focus one. After all, how many of us have seen people struggling with blurry out-of-focus images on their cheap smartphones? Usually because they assumed the shot was taken when actually the software was still focussing, and so moved too early. With a fixed focus camera unit, the user just points and taps and they’re done. Zero focussing delay, zero things to go wrong.

The proof is in the pudding, of course. Now, we’re still only talking about a smallish 1/4″ sensor and no doubt little expense has been lavished on maximising image quality at any stage, but even so the results are pretty good for a smartphone retailing at the very bottom of the price spectrum. The depth of field, in good light, is from about 30cm to (effectively) infinity. As light levels drop, the depth of field reduces, of course, with distinct blurring at the distance end of the scale.

Here are some Lumia 530 camera samples, click on each to download the original JPG for your own analysis:

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

With depth of field that’s as reasonable as this, one has to wonder why Nokia bothered with the whole ‘EDoF’ experiment in 2008/9… Even moderate macros (e.g. the budlea flower above left and the guinea pig below left) come out quite acceptably.

Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download Sample photo from Lumia 530, click to enlarge or download

On the right, a real low light shot, it was pretty dark, as you can see by the shop lights. In fact, the supplied Nokia Camera application would let me shoot more realistically – this was just on defaults….

Of extra note is that, as on the Lumia 630 and 520, there’s no LED flash. The thinking is that LED-lit snaps on such low end camera hardware wouldn’t be enough to produce great results, so why bother, but it’s a shame that ‘torch’ functionality is not then possible – there are many such utilities in the Windows Phone Store that make use of a LED flash component in this way.

Video capture is at 480p, i.e. the same vertical resolution as the Lumia 530’s screen. So something of a bare minimum that works well when played back on the phone, but it’s obviously going to look blocky and sub-optimal on even the most modest desktop and TV panels. Happily, most target users will never do this, so 480p is one of the compromises that makes sense here.

Again I have to emphasise that the display deficiencies mentioned above also come back to bite the user when taking photos or videos outdoors, since it’s very hard to see the interface itself or indeed the subject, i.e. what’s being photographed. Especially given that conventional wisdom is that the sun should be roughly behind you when snapping a subject, exactly the conditions under which it’s hard for the TFT screen to be visible.

Other components have been well chosen too – the mono speaker in the 530 is very loud, just as in many other budget Nokias. Fidelity may not be top notch, but podcasts, speakerphone, sat-nav instructions are all very loud and very clear. The one design gotcha is that the speaker is set to output through a small hole in the back cover, a hole that it’s way too easy to block, with the palm of your hand or by putting the Lumia 530 back-down on a flat and/or soft surface.

As with the 520 and indeed the more expensive Lumia 630, the front facing camera is eschewed in the 530 – which makes no sense, in today’s selfie-obsessed world and with Skype video calling built so tightly into Windows Phone nowadays. All very strange, surely a cheap FFC would only add a dollar to the build cost?

I mentioned the lack of an ambient light sensor above already – also missing is a proximity sensor, so there’s no auto-shutoff of the display when you hold the Lumia 530 up near your face to take a call. Nokia/Microsoft has thought of possible issues though, with a software optimisation detecting unintentional face contact with the screen and turning the display off while contact is maintained.

As a Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone, the pros and cons of the marque are well known to AAWP readers. 8.1 isn’t perfect, but it’s a smooth UI that’s hard to bring down, especially for inexperienced newcomers to smartphones, those who wouldn’t know their multitasking from their location tagging. With the OS stepping in at every stage to make sure things keep moving, even with 512MB of RAM there’s just no slowdown, whatever applications or web pages you hit the phone with.

It’s true that there are some games which still require 1GB RAM, but these shouldn’t appear in the Store for devices like the Lumia 530 and so new users shouldn’t be confused. 

Internal storage capacity is just 4GB, with 1GB free out of the box, untenable (as on the HTC 8S) in the pre-Windows Phone 8.1 age, but add a meaty microSD (16GB or 32GB are now very cheap indeed) and all downloads and installs happen on the extra silicon. No card is supplied in the box, which is a shame, as it will require some extra buying effort on the part of the new user. I can’t help but wonder why a trivial 4GB card (under a dollar now?) wasn’t included in the package – or at the very least a piece of paper saying ‘Your phone requires a microSD card if you want to do stuff!’

Battery life was splendid here, helped enormously by both the efficiency of Windows Phone 8.1 and the relatively small screen limiting the ambition of which applications were used day to day. With what amounts to a sub-4″ display, lengthy web browsing and social network sessions are unlikely, with the fixed focus and low-res video capture camera, this is unlikely to be called on that often too, and the biggest power drain overall for the target market will probably be games. 

Lumia 530

Verdict

As I was writing this review, news came of the first sub-£40 pay-as-you-go offers on the Lumia 530 in the UK. It seems that pricing breakthroughs are where the Lumia 530 is at – and will continue to be. Sub-£50 Android phones are uniformly horribly built and specified, so the Lumia 530 seems to have the bottom end of the market well and truly sewn up, with only a few compromises mentioned above (display, chiefly, plus the lack of a front facing camera) perhaps available to irritate.

The Lumia 530’s main competition sits at a slightly higher price point – the Motorola Moto E, for example, at £80 or so, with very similar specifications (a very slightly higher resolution screen and auto-focus camera are the main differences) and Android 4.4 on board. You could argue a winner between this and the 530 for a long time and not get anywhere – it’s as much a choice of which OS, UI and ecosystem someone wants to join.

At (say) £40 or £50 on PAYG (in the UK) and a nominal £7/month on contract, the Lumia 530 is pretty much unbeatable. And, despite the lack of Gorilla Glass, it’s also pretty durable, with the solid plastic build, plus the front face protected by a thin ridge of black plastic that goes all the way around the screen. So – add it all up: low cost, durable, an OS that’s hard to abuse, good for casual gaming, colourful back cover options. This is the perfect first smartphone for a kid or teenager, say anyone under 14, in Western markets.

The sheer number of compromises in the 530’s specifications had me predisposed to dislike it, but the cheerful colour and easy replaceability won me over. Not for myself to use, or any other AAWP readers personally, but I’ll bet you can think of at least one person in your family tree for whom the 530 will be absolutely perfect.

Reviewed by at 6:47 UTC, August 31st 2014

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All About Windows Phone

iPhone 6, Moto 360, Windows 9 comments & more – Pocketnow Daily Recap

Pocketnow Daily gets an average of 300 to 500 comments a day, and sometimes even a thousand. We’d like to thank you all for participating in our question of the day, and we love your feedback so much, that we decided that since we can’t respond to ever single one of your comments, we should at least feature a couple in a weekly video.

This is the Pocketnow Daily Recap. Since we only have 3 minutes on every Daily video to go through the hottest news, the weekly recap will serve as a more extensive discussion where we also include your thoughts on the subject. Sadly, for the sake of time, we can’t guarantee that your comment will be featured, but if you want some tips on what we look for the most:

1. Keep it short
2. Stick to the point
3. Try to get some likes on your comments, which usually happen if you nail the first two tips above

We hope to make this a weekly show, and we also hope you enjoy it as much as we love reading your thoughts and comments every day.

Pocketnow Daily shows:
Moto 360 price, iPhone 6 RAM, Sony Compact Tablet & more – Pocketnow Daily
iPhone 6 LTE-A, HTC One M8 for Windows, Pebble WebOS team & more – Pocketnow Daily
iPhone 6 protruding camera, Moto Quark, Sharp Aquos & more – Pocketnow Daily
Galaxy Note 4 special buttons, iPhone 6 128GB, Moto tablet & more – Pocketnow Daily
HTC Nexus Tablet date, Windows 9 date, Gear 3 leaks & more – Pocketnow Daily


Pocketnow

iPhone 6, Moto 360, Windows 9 comments & more – Pocketnow Daily Recap

Pocketnow Daily gets an average of 300 to 500 comments a day, and sometimes even a thousand. We’d like to thank you all for participating in our question of the day, and we love your feedback so much, that we decided that since we can’t respond to ever single one of your comments, we should at least feature a couple in a weekly video.

This is the Pocketnow Daily Recap. Since we only have 3 minutes on every Daily video to go through the hottest news, the weekly recap will serve as a more extensive discussion where we also include your thoughts on the subject. Sadly, for the sake of time, we can’t guarantee that your comment will be featured, but if you want some tips on what we look for the most:

1. Keep it short
2. Stick to the point
3. Try to get some likes on your comments, which usually happen if you nail the first two tips above

We hope to make this a weekly show, and we also hope you enjoy it as much as we love reading your thoughts and comments every day.

Pocketnow Daily shows:
Moto 360 price, iPhone 6 RAM, Sony Compact Tablet & more – Pocketnow Daily
iPhone 6 LTE-A, HTC One M8 for Windows, Pebble WebOS team & more – Pocketnow Daily
iPhone 6 protruding camera, Moto Quark, Sharp Aquos & more – Pocketnow Daily
Galaxy Note 4 special buttons, iPhone 6 128GB, Moto tablet & more – Pocketnow Daily
HTC Nexus Tablet date, Windows 9 date, Gear 3 leaks & more – Pocketnow Daily


Pocketnow

Bandi Namco’s Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend Launches on Mobile

Jewel Fight 650Bandai Namco Games has released its latest game on iOS and Android devices. Developed by Invictus Games, Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend offers match-three puzzle combat, as players are taken to Wildmoon, a world of fantasy, where they’ll choose from three classes (warrior, rogue or mage) and take to battle against AI enemies in both a single-player story mode, as well as a multiplayer challenge arena.

In Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend, players complete dozens of levels in the game’s story mode. The world is under the threat of an army of goblins, wolves and other beasts, and players must clear the land of these creatures before it’s too late. Players will encounter level branches along the way, where they’ll have the option of challenging one of two enemies. Making a choice in one direction makes another set of levels unavailable.

During each level, players are asked to make matches of three-or-more like colored symbols, which correspond to their character’s attacks. A warrior’s slashing attack, for instance, can be charged by making matches with blue or green gems. When the action bar is filled, the character automatically attacks the enemy. However, this works for both hero and foe.

That is, an enemy’s attack bar may be charged by making matches with yellow and blue gems. That being the case, users would want to avoid making matches with those colors of gems to stop the enemy from attacking. In our particular example, both characters benefit from blue matches, so it’s up to players to decide whether or not to take the risk of actually creating those matches.

Users can heal their characters with premium healing potions during battle. While there’s no traditional energy system in the game, play is kept to a slower pace due to the fact that heroes don’t regain their health automatically after battle. Instead, it recharges slowly over time. Gamers can ignore this and jump into their next battle instantly, but it will be more challenging as a result.

Gamers collect coins as they battle, and can use these to purchase new weapons, armor and accessories for their character. These can increase a player’s stats, including health points, attack or defense. After they’re purchased, individual items can also be upgraded for an even larger stat boost. The hero will also level-up with earned experience points, increasing their stats automatically over time.

Outside of single player mode, users can enter the arena to compete against other real players. However, this competition is for high score only, as users are challenged to fight off as many waves of basic enemies as they can to earn points. The players that defeat the most enemies during each timed tournament win premium currency prizes.

Jewel Fight: Heroes of Legend is available to download for free on iTunes and Google Play.


Inside Mobile Apps

Multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon teased for IFA

qualcomm-htc-teaser-710x532

A recent tweet from Qualcomm teased that during next week’s IFA in Berlin, Qualcomm will reveal a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon powdered Smartphone.

The fact that Qualcomm is revealing a multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon via phone is not surprise at all. Especially since HTC has been teasing its multi-core 64-bit Snapdragon phone, the HTC Desire 820, for quite sometime now. This adds to HTC’s new, and dominant, 64-bit Snapdragon line-up, with the first Qualcomm powered 64-bit device being the HTC Desire 510. The Desire 820 is also expected to be revealed during IFA.

Qualcomm’s tweet also came with a teaser image. The one posted above. The exact tweet stated “We’re thinking about your future: a powered multi-core 64-bit smartphone is headed to .” Many are claiming that this device looks like an HTC device, and that the phone Qualcomm is revealing is the HTC Desire 820. But we’ll just have to wait and see.


AndroidGuys