Nakedmolerat’s Nokia Lumia 920 wrap up

, posted: 13-Feb-2013 16:54

This will be my last Nokia Lumia 920 post. If you have any questions, please post in the comment section below. Prior to being selected by Mauricio and Telecom New Zealand to get involved in this TelecomTech blog, I left Vodafone for Telecom. I paid hefty 'fees' for breaking the 24 months term plan. So you know I "invested" in this blog.

Telecom Network

Since moving to Tauranga, I have found that the Vodafone coverage is not great around here. In the building where I work, calls will drop when I am in the lift, walking in the hallway etc. Our work phone is on Telecom Smartphone Network. It does not seem to have the same problem. Because of the poor reception, my phone used to overheat at times and the battery dropped quite fast.

At our meeting room down in the basement, the Vodafone reception drops to 2G only. I needed to have a few attempts before I could send text messages. Calling was 'okay' but calls dropped as soon as you'd move.

This is the Telecom speedtest result:

I decided not to run a Vodafone speedtest because it would only fall back to their 2G network. Therefore the data speed would be markedly different and the test would be unfair. At Bayfair Mall, specifically at K-Mart, the Vodafone reception drops to 2G. With Telecom network, the 3G reception is still great - typical busy afternoon at the mall:

Looking at the NZ cell sites map, it could be because the Vodafone tower is a bit far from the mall. The other explanation would be Telecom 850 MHz WCDMA has better building penetration.

Overall, I am quite happy with Telecom coverage. One thing to note is that Telecom is way behind with their 'online' experience. I found it ridiculously difficult navigating their website compared to Vodafone or 2Degrees. If you are a Telecom postpaid customer, it is much better to ring their centre rather than trying to be independent. I started this thread and it seems like a major work is underway and we should be seeing some changes soon.

Nokia Lumia 920

So far, the Nokia Lumia 920 has been great. I haven't had many issues except for the fact that the phone is very slow at receiving updates. They should sort this out. I think that the phone should be receiving updates in the same manner that Windows Update is deployed.

It is also interesting to note how successful Nokia has been in Q4. They have moved from loss to making a huge Net Profit. This is partly due to successful Lumia devices. Engadget wrote an excellent article here.

Battery

Since my first encounter with Android devices, the first thing that I learned was to use Task Manager to kill the apps and clear the memory. The main reason for this was to extend the battery life. Out of the box, the Nokia Lumia 920 has a great battery life. After normal work hours 8am to 4pm, I still have equal or greater than 90%. At least 15-20 minutes of phone call, browsing and mails polling in the background. This is something that I wasn't used to after having used Android phones.

Wireless Charger

Many have pointed out that the wireless charger is a novelty. I personally love it and would not go back to using a conventional charger. It is so convenient especially at night time. I have two of these Nokia dt-900 charging plates. I use Otterbox cover and the cover for micro USB port can be left closed.

Office / OneNote

One of the perks of using a 'Windows' phone is that it comes with Office and One Note. I did not use Office as much to be able to write a review about it. At a quick glance, Excel looks quite good. It seems like you are able to do lots of editing, formula, graph etc. If anyone is interested, I can take a closer look at it.

OneNote however is great. It is just like other note-taking apps such as Evernote. You can have picture and audio embedded in it. You can also 'dictate' the note via Bluetooth. Overall, great app and it syncs flawlessly.

Apps

App availability is on the rise. In the last two months, I can see some of the apps that are well-established in other platforms starting to appear in the Store.

Conclusion

Overall, the Nokia Lumia 920 is a great phone. It is simple and easy to use. Few comments from my mates are that this phone is fast and smooth. Learning curve is exceptionally easy. Tiles and apps list! That's it. I have updated the phone to Portico manually and it seems like Microsoft is serious with the OS. New features are added together with bug fixes. I have decided that this will be my phone for some time! My apologies since I am not able to cover Music or Xbox games because I do not listen to music nor play games that much.

Lastly, thanks to Telecom for letting me to be a part of the TelecomTech blog. I look forward to further future participation.

About the author

Hi, my name is Fergus. I am a big fan of the nakedmolerat character in Kim Possible - Rufus. I work in  the health sector. I am also a volunteer firefighter when I am not working. I started using computers when I was five years old. I am the 'guy' that family and friends approach when they have issues with their computers. I am also an Android fanboy (Yes! I believe Android will takeover the world soon). It was such a great opportunity when Telecom New Zealand and Geekzone offered me to be one of the Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone reviewers. I hope my reviews are helpful to the readers.



Two months on with the Nokia Lumia 920

, posted: 11-Feb-2013 12:29

I take my daughter to her gymnastics class every week and for these two hours a week I generally listen to music on my Nokia Lumia 920 while either Wi-Fi hotspotting my laptop while I catch up on some work or web surfing on the phone, tasks that have generally seen a fairly rapid discharge of battery and plenty of heat generated. My previous phone used to get uncomfortably warm under these conditions and you could literally watch the battery meter drop. The Nokia Lumia 920 on the other hand merely gets warm rather than hot.

One aspect I always found on my Android devices was if the screen was on you could pretty much watch the battery level drop down. Battery life was a mixture of minimising power consumption while screen was off or processor was on idle and then trying to control your screen on time.

Windows Phone 8 it gives you nowhere near the diagnostic abilities or system control of Android. You have little option but to just go with the flow and hope it works. Good news is it does work and it works well, no need to fiddle or fine tune CPU speeds or battery voltages, or shut off the functionality of a smartphone all in an effort to get a solid days use out of it.

I chuck it on the wireless charger overnight, put it in my pocket in the morning and never concern myself about battery life and at the end of the day it usually has anywhere between 30 & 50% battery remaining. This is with wifi, location services, two push email accounts, data etc all constantly on.

Below is some screen shots from Battery Sense App, the graph represents 7 days charge/discharge cycle.

Another aspect I found relatively impressive is the Nokia's music player ability. I had made mention of this already within a thread on Geekzone and drew some fairly rapid responses from fellow Geekzoners. Let's be clear: I am talking about the out of the box experience with supplied ear buds, not back to back testing with high end replacement ear buds/headphones and/or associated headphone amplifiers or the like. For two hours of listening a week I can't justify the expense.

I had an SGS3 and by comparison the Nokia with its supplied ear buds versus the Samsung and its supplied ear buds there simply is no contest. The Nokia has an acceptably nice sound in its standard form and with a tweak on the seven band EQ it can be made to sound damn good for a straight out of the box solution.

I would expect the larger population would be more than happy with it. In the bigger picture the Samsung has a distinct advantage in having a highly rated DAC as well as the ability to output a digital signal via USB however the audible benefits of these features come at a cost which most will not care to bear.

Back to topic, navigation through the Nokia Music app is in a very familiar and typically Windows Phone 8 format, with simple concise fonts and the usual side scrolling menus. As I mentioned earlier there is a seven band graphic equaliser with the usual presets plus ability to set your own curve. I am yet to find a touchscreen equaliser that offers pinpoint precise adjustment and this is no exception with my fat fingers. Give me a simple three or five band parametric equaliser without on screen slides and I would be far happier but I seem to be in the minority of consumers here.

I should mention that there is only the ability to set one custom curve. This is not exactly a dealbreaker but worthy of mention none the less. One relatively unique feature is "Dolby Headphone for Mobile Devices" setting. This is a pseudo 5.1 surround sound effect. Traditionally I am one for leaving effects like this switched off however in keeping with my general findings of the Nokia Lumia 920 it just works and adds to the experience so I leave this feature on. The Windows Phone app allows you to sync playlists directly from iTunes which is fantastic as I use iTunes. I just created a playlist of the albums I wanted on the phone and synced it across. A point to note here is that Windows Phone 8 doesn't like AAC files so this could be a problem depending on how you encode your tracks. Syncing from Windows Media Player is also possible and probably the better option however I cannot comment as I don't use WMP.

It has now been two months since I switched from Android to Windows Phone 8 and to a certain extent I am struggling to find the right combination of words to accurately and succinctly explain the journey. I went into this experience hoping for some good things but with relatively low expectation. Fast forward two months and I can quickly recommend Windows Phone 8 or the Nokia Lumia 920.

Let's break a summary down into the four key areas;

Operating System - Windows Phone 8 is a very intuitive and logical OS. It is slick and has a very consistent feel, never slowed by background processes, apps blend smoothly in and out of the core OS with a strong family feel to them. The user experience just feels so natural and intuitive. There are no OEM skins to contend with. The home screen with its resizable tiles actually works really well in practice offering plenty of customization, live tiles add an extra dimension negating some need for notification bars although in reality most live tiles only update every 30minutes while push notifications work in real time. Be aware though that tiles do not offer direct shortcuts, only a shortcut to relative setting. In my opinion the more rigid and locked down nature of the Windows Phone interface is mitigated by the overall stability of the OS. No more chasing rogue apps to understand what is hogging resource or chewing through battery, it just works and works well.

Hardware - The Nokia Lumia 920 is a very easy handset to get along with, it is solid, well-built and just feels like a quality device. This is a phone that feels as durable as the old 2110s, 5110s, 6210s of yesteryear. The call quality is fantastic and let's be honest this is the core function of a phone. I'm not talking about the network quality (of which I might add the Telecom network has performed flawlessly since making the switch), I am talking about the voice at the other end of the line. It is real nice to just be able to make a call and hear the other party crystal clear, no screeching or having to hold the phone off my ear as my ear drum warbles!

Software/Apps - There has been plenty of discussion here, Windows Phone 8 is a newcomer, Windows Phone 7 never quite brought the party to the table so the net result is the app store is in its infancy. There are a number of key apps that some people cannot do without and subsequently this becomes a deal breaker for converting to Windows Phone 8. One such app for me was Dropbox, an app I used extensively on Android. I tried a third party app that is available but it simply did not cut the mustard. Given the options I took the approach of trying to work around this issue and soon discovered that SkyDrive offered all the same functionality that I required plus being part of the Microsoft suite integration into Windows Phone 8 is second to none, including automatic camera upload, local folder, desktop folder option. In all honesty I have found sufficient apps to cover my requirements without feeling like I am missing out on something critical. That said, I have also bought a Windows 8 Hybrid tablet which is never too far out of reach so I am more tending to spread my demands across both devices depending on which is better suited to the task.

Ecosystem - The jury is out on this one. I like the SkyDrive suite, it is simple concise and easy to use however the overall levels on integration between devices is lacking by Google standards. Google Chrome's ability to synchronise bookmarks between devices is one of those nice touches that is hard to live without, the Microsoft ecosystem is just not as developed as Google's. Again it is not a deal breaker more just a quirk. Windows Phone 8 does not necessarily offer the same apps as Windows RT/8, even the tiled start screen layout feels quite different to Windows Phone 8's tiled homescreen, tiles are not resizable the same. But for anyone that uses Microsoft Office on a regular SkyDrive is just a win win situation, being able to open and save files directly from the cloud is a fantastically simple solution. Sure Apple and Google offer similar products but let's be honest their options are toys compared to the power of MS Office.

A simple car analogy to express this is to compare Android to a high performance Japanese car: out of the box it is a relatively impressive package, it can be modified fairly easily to offer big gains, the trade off is you end up with something that is potentially unreliable and a combination of parts that possibly will not all play nice with each other leading you on a trail of constant fiddling trying to get the ultimate solution is up there with finding the end of the rainbow. Windows Phone 8 and in particular the Nokia is more like a European performance car, it may not be the biggest/baddest/fastest car out there but commands respect, is a pleasure to drive, offers more than enough performance for its intended use, it simply works as intended, when required, no fiddling or tweaking required.

If you are an Android user that is a bit over erratic battery life, rogue apps that cause havoc, forever chasing that elusive latest update or that smooth and consistent UI experience then Windows Phone 8 and Nokia Lumia 920 could be just what you require. If you are an iPhone user that has become bored with iOS than Windows Phone 8 could be just what you are looking for - appstore aside Windows Phone 8 offers a refreshing alternative to iOS without some of the inherent flaws of Android.

The Nokia Lumia 920 is an absolute top notch quality handset which I honestly do not see myself replacing until Nokia offers its successor. I truly hope the platform obtains the momentum and following it deserves. In my opinion it has the real potential to become the perfect business/social hybrid smart device offering a simple but smart solution that just fits into one's daily life.

About the author

wade_thumb1_thumbMy name is Wade, I am probably best described as a slightly demanding tech savvy consumer who is fast approaching an age where one needs to start planning one's mid-life crisis. I'm a family man with two extraordinary daughters, as well as a fabulous and understanding (most of the time!) wife, hobbies include home theatre and car audio. work in supply chain within the manufacturing sector. I have a vested interest in simplifying and enriching both my work and personal lives through technology. I live in a household filled with the usual plethora of Apple devices however my weapon of choice has become Android and the Google ecosystem. Windows Phone is a somewhat unchartered territory for me. Having no prior experience with Windows Phone or SkyDrive, I am very much looking forward to immersing myself into this ecosystem and understanding how it stacks up for my needs.



Wade’s Nokia Lumia 920: the hardware

, posted: 29-Jan-2013 08:00

Up to now I have tried to stay exclusively on the topic of Nokia Lumia 920 and Windows Phone 8  but I have to address the white elephant patiently waiting over in the corner of the room; how does it all compare with the competition and with that I lead into some potentially controversial and opinionated areas of discussion.

As a (former) Android user the inflexibility and closed system of Apple just didn't make sense at all. I accepted that there are associated benefits of such an ecosystem in being able to control the hardware it allows for high levels of optimization. However the flipside of this is you get one chance a year to get excited about new hardware releases and then it is a 'one size fits all' mentality. Android on the other hand is living proof that everyone wants something different from a smart device.

You could say that Microsoft have taken a relatively unique approach in enabling its hardware partners to make competing hardware so we, consumers, have handset choices in a similar sense as Android users do, but by enforcing a minimum set of hardware requirements they are able to put some mechanism in place to ensure they have a way to control the end user experience.

This hardware/software control is probably one of the key benefits of the Apple ecosystem allowing for high levels of optimization. Below is the minimum hardware specification required by Microsoft:
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor
  • Minimum 512MB RAM for WVGA phones; minimum 1GB RAM for 720p / WXGA
  • Minimum 4GB flash memory
  • GPS and A-GNSS; GLONASS is supported if OEMs decide to include it
  • Support for micro-USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone jack with three-button detection support
  • Rear-facing AF camera with LED or Xenon flash, optional front-facing camera (both need to be VGA or better) and dedicated camera button
  • Accelerometer, proximity and ambient light sensors, as well as vibration motor (magnetometer and gyroscope are optional
  • 802.11b/g and Bluetooth (802.11n is optional)
  • DirectX graphics hardware support with hardware acceleration for Direct3D using programmable GPU
  • Multi-touch capacitive touch screen with minimum of four simultaneous points
From my research it would appear the hardware manufacturers have interpreted this into a low level and a high level series of offerings. In a very general sense (I am sure there will be some exceptions) the two streams of handset follow the below basic specs:
Entry LevelHigh Level
  • Dual Core 1GHz Processor
  • Dual Core 1.5GHz Processor
  • 800x480 pixel Display (WVGA)
  • 1280x768 pixel Display (WXGA)
  • 512mb Ram
  • 1GB Ram
  • 8GB Mass Memory
  • 16GB Mass Memory
  • 5MP Camera
  • 8MP Camera
What is very impressive with Windows Phone 8 is that the actual user experience between an entry level phone and a high level phone is very similar. In fact I would go as far to say that the average consumer would not be able to pick a discernible difference between a $400 handset and a $1000 handset as far as slickness of OS.

But don't take my word for it, next time you are out and about shopping, drop into a Telecom store and have a play with their range of Windows Phone 8 handsets. Not only will you notice very little if any difference in the "buttery" smoothness of the various handsets, you will also note that between the handsets there is a consistency in user experience regardless of handset manufacturers.

Basically any Windows Phone 8 user can pick up any Windows Phone 8 handset and feel completely at home. Android handset manufacturers take note, no OEM skins. So before we even discuss what makes the Windows Phone OS great we have:
  • Consistent user experience across all handsets
  • No OEM skins
  • Optimized software to hardware
  • All Windows Phone 8 handsets run the same OS (Not the same OS but with some features deactivated, Apple)
What is yet to be proven is the upgrade path for Windows Phone 8 and this could well make or break the OS but only time will tell. OS updates are probably the single biggest issue the Android ecosystem face and I do not expect to see a solution to this any time soon, the horse has bolted on that one.

Apple's updating process really has to be looked at as the benchmark. Sure it has hiccups but overall it is quick, painless and hassle free. With the knowledge of the successes and fails of the incumbent's updating processes and the frequency of the small Windows Phone 8 updates already received I have faith MS will get it right, they really have no other option, they have to make it succeed.

Another aspect of smart devices to consider is the larger ecosystem. While cross compatibility is a necessary evil for all players the integration offered can dictate your purchasing decisions. On one hand Apple's iPad offers a near identical user experience to an iPhone.

Android on the other hand can offer a varied outcome. While the individual apps will not necessarily differ you will always be aware of the mixed parentage of the devices.

Microsoft throws a curve ball here with two options, Windows RT and Windows 8. RT is basically a tablet OS with a Microsoft Office package included, the other full blown windows 8 OS that is able to run the RT tablet OS in parallel. A large number of the tablet apps are not available to Windows Phone 8 and vice versa. To me there appears to be a surprising lack of cohesion between the phone and tablet OS.

That said Microsoft has one huge advantage that neither of the other two camps can offer and that is tablet hybrids. These devices offer tablet and ultrabook versatility as well as Windows RT tablet mode and full x86 windows OS. Personally I am not sure on the longevity of RT, the cost differential between RT and win8 tablets is not significant and the win8 tablets just offer so much more bang for buck IMHO.

All players offer cloud based solutions to tie your phone/tablet/PC together and I have to admit I have very little experience with Apple's offerings other than originally setting up the wife's account for her phone and iPad. I am most familiar with Google's offerings and am using these in a commercial sense on a daily basis. Google offer a fairly extensive package offering a relatively basic productivity suite, instant chat, G+ social networking, Picasa and probably a few more I have forgotten.

We need to keep in mind that Google's revenue stream is largely populated by marketing and advertising, they want your information either directly or passively and it doesn't take long for the ecosystem to extract all sorts of information out of you as you go about your daily tasks.

As far as integrating and synchronising all this data between your desktop, tablet and phone it is probably safe to say that Google offer the most complete package bar none. Android and Google go hand in hand fitting like a glove. I have on a number of occasions started a chat conversation on my desktop, carried on via mobile then come back to the desktop all on the one thread, seamless.

Microsoft's offering is called SkyDrive, it is essentially a web based email, cloud document creation and storage package. As I am using a hybrid of Google and Microsoft I am not fully utilising SkyDrive, I am only using the document creation and cloud storage functionality. First impressions were that it is overly simple. The layout is simple, concise, devoid of pretty much anything including advertising. Its real claim to fame is the ability to create or edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote within the web browser.

Google doc's use a semi compatible but proprietary format so you lose functionality and formatting in the conversion process. There is no competition here, SkyDrive wins this round. Want to create an MS Excel spreadsheet on your iPad? No problem: log into SkyDrive through your web browser. Want to make a change later on, grab your Windows Phone 8 and edit/create documents on the fly within the mobile office suite. The spreadsheeting capabilities on the Nokia Lumia 920 are far more feature rich than Google's own system. Another win for SkyDrive is the simplicity in which you can open a document within the web browser of your PC and choose to either edit it within the web app or use the full power of MS Office (assuming it is installed on PC and is MS Office 2007+).

Where SkyDrive powers ahead of the competition is that you can open a doc via browser, edit it in MS Office and save direct to SkyDrive. Try doing this with Google Drive and it is just a disaster opening up the floor to all sorts of duplication issues as you have to download file, manually open document in MS Office, then save file locally, then upload back to Google Drive.  Google Docs is very good for very simple documents but it runs out of steam very quickly.

Another great feature of SkyDrive and Windows Phone 8 is the option to automatically upload your pictures from phone to cloud. I used Dropbox to achieve this on Android and it is a fantastic feature knowing that every picture you take is backed up. The news is not so good for us at the moment though as Microsoft have restricted the quality to a heavily compressed version of the original, only the USA gets the ability to upload at full resolution at this stage. Hopefully this will change and in the meantime the workaround is relatively simple: setting your phone to USA region seems to bypass this limitation.
  • SkyDrive offers simple concise UI, No adverts
  • Cloud based document creation using a basic version of the familiar MS Office Suite via web browser on virtually any device
  • Seamless integration with MS Office on both Phone and Windows Desktop
  • Windows phone 8 offers automatic uploading of photos to SkyDrive
For me the transition to Windows Phone 8 was relatively simple, I retained my Gmail account as my primary email/calendar/contacts, I still have Google Chat via a 3rd party app, I migrated my personal Google Docs to SkyDrive, use InSync on my desktop and by placing a copy of GDocs within the local SkyDrive folder I have a partial solution in being able to access work GDoc's via Skydrive via the web. I lost a some of the Google integration features like adding GPS co-ordinates to meeting requests etc but overall I am not hugely disadvantaged by using a windows phone compared to an Android phone to access the Google ecosystem. Nokia maps and navigation get the job done, Bing search and voice control both offer similar levels of functionality to their Google counterparts.

I often found that with my Samsung Galaxy S III I always found a need to play with it, be it checking battery life, current ram usage, all sorts of things, mainly because I could. There was always a challenge to update to any new firmware and a far fetched dream of getting the latest version of Android on the handset. Android seemed to consume large chunks of my free time. Occasionally the phone misbehaved so I spent time trying to find the problem and fix it, be it a rogue app or app update or firmware issue.

The Nokia is a somewhat boring phone by comparison, day in day out it just keeps working, never missing a beat, just consistently doing what it does, I don't feel the need to constantly monitor it or massage extra performance out of it, it just does what it is intended to do and blends into my life, I can't really ask for more.
About the author

My name is Wade, I am probably best described as a slightly demanding tech savvy consumer who is fast approaching an age where one needs to start planning one's mid-life crisis. I'm a family man with two extraordinary daughters, as well as a fabulous and understanding (most of the time!) wife, hobbies include home theatre and car audio. work in supply chain within the manufacturing sector. I have a vested interest in simplifying and enriching both my work and personal lives through technology. I live in a household filled with the usual plethora of Apple devices however my weapon of choice has become Android and the Google ecosystem. Windows Phone is a somewhat unchartered territory for me. Having no prior experience with Windows Phone or SkyDrive, I am very much looking forward to immersing myself into this ecosystem and understanding how it stacks up for my needs.



Samsung Galaxy Note II – More Than Just A Giant Phone (part 2)

, posted: 24-Jan-2013 12:08

A few weeks on with the Samsung Galaxy Note II have done nothing but cement it as not just a viable smartphone, but an enjoyable one too.

Gaming

I am not a big gamer, but I do like to dabble, mainly in the popular-for-adults and popular-for-5-year-old type games - mainly Spy Mouse, Draw Something, Where's My Perry, Where's My Water, Angry Birds and a few others. Whilst trying to steer clear of reviewing individual games, I will say this about a few of them:

Draw Something is a completely different game to play with a stylus. The stylus on the Note 2 makes for an amazing gaming experience, beating finger-touch smartphones and tablets hands-down. All my playing partners regularly comment on my drawings since the Note 2 arrived.

Spy Mouse (and other similar games) are a joy on such a big screen - plenty of detail, lovely and bright, my 5 year old and my 3 year old love to sit with me and play these games, and a large screen really makes that much more comfortable, in terms of being able to maintain a longer viewing distance much more comfortably than a small screen.

Duke Nukem 3D and other 'bigger' games all come to life as well, with on screen controls not obliterating such a big area of the screen, leaving plenty of viewable square centimeters.

Camera

A lot of smartphone camera reviews will bore you to death with endless colour tone comparisons, and massively blown up enlargements showing you degradation in such detail that you would think it was a professional SLR camera review. The Note 2 camera is "great". It's up there with it's peers from both it's own Samsung stable, as well as HTC, Motorola, Apples iPhone, and 8MP Windows Phone devices. Hindered slightly by the lack of a dedicated camera button (so are many of its competitors), you will want to make sure that you have got shortcuts on your lock screen, and your home screen, to ensure quick access to the camera app.

Samsung's own camera app is a joy to use, with many of the features you would expect in a mid-range consumer point and shoot digital camera. Especially helpful is the ability for the camera to take a snap with a voice command, eliminated the fiddlyness of poking at a touchscreen in very bright sunlight, or from an odd angle - get your group together, and call out "SAY CHEESE" and the Note 2 will take your snap for you.

Extremely quick access through uncluttered toggles on the main camera screen to things like front/rear camera selection, flash on/off/auto, shooting mode (including Smile Shot & HDR), colour modification (Sepia, B&W, negative and more), and the main settings menu is great, although I would still like to see more smarts around the auto flash, as it tends to fire more often than it should, favouring a sharp image over the natural tones attainable in slightly lower light without flash.

With manual focus, ISO and WB controls, metering options, guidelines, GPS tagging and more, there is enough to satisfy the tinkerers.

Having said that, simply taking great photos, without getting bogged down it settings is nice and easy.

One of the great features here is the video camera - part of the same camera app, video can be shot in 1080p High Definition. Whilst not approaching the quality of dedicated digital HD video cameras or SLRs with HD video, the Note 2 is great for capturing family moments, kids sports or productions, or other random moments.

Where it suffers greatly is fast-moving (especially sideways) subjects, where despite smooth video, the moving subject itself may appear a little choppy. I first notice this effect when using the Note 2 as a dashboard event camera with the "Dailyroads Voyager" app from the Play Store.

Integration provided by apps like Dropbox are a great feature on Android, with all photos automatically syncing to a private folder in my Dropbox account, so no more syncing required. As soon as my phone is in a Wi-Fi zone, all my photos zip up to the cloud, and down to my laptop, without me having to do anything.

The final word on the camera is that for non-photography buffs, it is good enough to replace a compact digital point & shoot, if you don't do much zooming (the Note 2, and most smartphone cameras do not have optical zoom). Personally I really enjoy photography, and love using my Canon DSLR, but the Note 2 is the camera I am always carrying, so as the adage goes, it is in fact my best camera 99% of the time.

Audio

The audio quality of the Note 2 is excellent. Phone calls on Telecoms Smartphone Network are crisp and clear, the speaker in the earpiece has ample volume without distorting. Callers have reported excellent sound quality at their end too.

The microphone works well for phone calls (including Skype), or for recording voice, but like any smartphone, isn't suited to recording louder audio sources - e.g. acoustic guitar, where the audio become muffled and choppy as the volume of the audio source increased well beyond normal speaking volumes.

The speaker is on the lower back panel of the Note 2, and provides good quality audio at reasonable volumes. At night, as a low-volume bedside music source (I often use Pandora internet radio, and a sleep timer app), the quality is excellent - crisp and clear audio, with good range. However, music playback at normal daytime levels quickly degenerates into fairly typical smartphone territory - no bass, and a lack of depth to the music, so you will want to make use of the middle-of-the-road earphones that the Note 2 ships with - they are surprisingly comfortable, and as good as any $40 earphones you could buy separately).

As a speakerphone, the speaker performs well, and is clearly tuned to reproduce human voice frequencies well, and in a suitable windscreen mount, is perfectly usable as a speakerphone whilst driving, as tested in my Commodore (not know to have the most quiet of vehicle interiors).

With Bluetooth 4.0 on board, and the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, there are plenty of options for good quality audio playback, I have the Note 2 paired to a Bluetooth audio adapter connected to my home stereo, allowing excellent quality music playback, with the Note 2 happily in my hand, in my pocket, or on the coffee table - at arms reach to tell Pandora how much I love Manic Street Preachers, or where they can politely put James Blunts rendition of Four Seasons In One Day (Crowded House).

I hope you enjoyed reading about something other than size, weight, and processing power. Keep checking back on the Telecom Tech Blog for further posts about Galaxy Note 2 features that matter.

About The Author
 
My name is Tony Hughes. I am an I.T. & telecommunications consultant based in Hawkes Bay.  I am a musician, I love to play guitar (acoustic or electric), and enjoy playing the bass as well. I geek around with mobile devices, Ubuntu, Debian, the Raspberry Pi, Linux in general, and web technologies. I have an operating system installation habit of about one a week for which I do not require help. Just more operating systems.



Wade’s Lumia 920 wireless charging and camera impressions

, posted: 14-Jan-2013 11:28

Well we are now nearly a month down the track with this blog review series and I have to say I am liking this Nokia Lumia 920 more and more. I am still very much enjoying Windows Phone 8, the phone is behaving impeccably, battery life is outstanding - currently showing 31% battery left, time since last charge one day eight hours and under similar usage this far exceeds any of my previous smart devices.

Firstly I want to thank Telecom New Zealand for allowing me to part of this experience. Just when I think it couldn't get any better than being given a flagship handset for a brand new OS to trial, they come to the party with a Nokia DT-900 wireless charging plate.

Most will recall the pre-release hearsay gossip that the Apple iPhone 4S would have wireless charging, then along came the Samsung Galaxy S3 with a firm promise of a wireless charging option in the future, next was the Nexus 4 which while being QI wireless charging capable requires an optional third party charger, so to the best of my knowledge the Nokia is the first manufacturer (at least in the local market) to offer a handset capable of wireless charging as well as being able to supply a matching QI compatible wireless charger.

To be honest plugging a cord into a phone once every day or two isn't exactly a trying task so at a glance wireless charging sounded more of a novelty than a necessary technology but how wrong could I be! The action of just putting your phone down on to the charging plate as you would put your phone on the coffee table/kitchen bench/desk is a no brainer, it's not some sci-fi mumbo jumbo, it is a logical solution to an existing problem.

There's not much more to say other than this really is a compulsory buy for Lumia 920 owners plus it has a 6ft long cord which is most convenient. I should add that the charging plate appears as well built as the Lumia 920 with great attention to detail such as the rubber ring embedded in the top surface so that at no stage is there any potential for scratching of either the plate of the phone.

At present the #1 feature for me has to be the camera. Initially i thought its performance to be a bit lack lustre, maybe it was the Nokia marketing machine at play throwing around terms such as "Carl Zeiss Lens", "Pureview" and "Image stabilization", maybe I was expecting something beyond mind blowing. I am familiar with the camera performance of both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Apple iPhone 4s and let's be honest both are very capable devices so maybe I was expecting too much out of a device that on the face of it is not hugely different.

Ironically the camera only started to strut its stuff for me when I was trying to take a pic of the Lumia 920 for my previous blog with my Galaxy S3. I must have taken some 30 odd pictures under all sorts of conditions to get a half decent close up of the Lumia 920. I then tried taking a picture of the Galaxy S3 using the Lumia 920 and got the pic I was originally after first time around. A few nights later we had the most incredible red sunset so I thought I would try and snap a pic of it. I couldn't believe the resulting picture it actually did the sunset some justice, for the next ten minutes I must have looked like a crazed tourist, no doubt the neighbours thought I was crazy!

The Lumia 920's low light capabilities are pretty darn good. Below is a side by side comparison between the iPhone 4S and the  Lumia 920, both set to auto and no flash, no tricks. As you can see in the below photos the difference is huge:

 

 

For the average consumer this is probably all the camera they will ever need. In daylight it produces vibrant pictures with an almost HDR depth of colour. The Lumia 920 just seems to get it right even on the automatic settings so great photos are truly just a point and shoot exercise that anyone can achieve every time. I should also add that part of the hardware requirement for Windows Phone 8 is a dedicated shutter button which is a welcome blast from the past. Another noteworthy point is the position of the lens within the phones body, it is nicely away from the edge meaning you are far less likely to accidentally snap a pic with a corner of finger showing!

The menu structure is maybe overly simple and at a glance possibly appears lacking however it integrates seamlessly with "Lens" apps and the feature list soon starts looking a bit more complete, full resolution panoramas (which in practice works very well other than being having to take pictures left to right), or multi shoot with automatic best picture selection.

The best news is there is a looming update for the Lumia 920 which amongst other things addresses a couple of weaknesses with the camera (soft focus and backlight flaring) which means a great thing is only going to get better. Telecom, feel free to drop the Windows Phone Portico update on us sooner rather than later!!

About the author

wade_thumb1My name is Wade, I am probably best described as a slightly demanding tech savvy consumer who is fast approaching an age where one needs to start planning one's mid-life crisis. I'm a family man with two extraordinary daughters, as well as a fabulous and understanding (most of the time!) wife, hobbies include home theatre and car audio. work in supply chain within the manufacturing sector. I have a vested interest in simplifying and enriching both my work and personal lives through technology. I live in a household filled with the usual plethora of Apple devices however my weapon of choice has become Android and the Google ecosystem. Windows Phone is a somewhat unchartered territory for me. Having no prior experience with Windows Phone or SkyDrive, I am very much looking forward to immersing myself into this ecosystem and understanding how it stacks up for my needs.



TelecomTech's profile

Telecom New Zealand
Auckland
New Zealand


Telecom Tech is a different type of blog. We're sponsored by Telecom New Zealand, but most of the posts here are from every day users like you.

We choose tech savvy Geekzone users to "test drive" the new handsets from Telecom New Zealand.

The team will post firsthand reports on using these smartphones on New Zealand's smartphonenetwork. Make sure to keep an eye on this blog. Who knows who might be our next "test drivers"?

   

Catch up on previous Telecom Tech reviews - read about the Nokia Lumia 1020Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung Galaxy Note II, Nokia Lumia 800, Nokia Lumia 710 and HTC Sensation.





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