First Look at the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in New Zealand

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launched in New Zealand on Friday the 26th of September.  Here’s the “First Look” and discussion with Matty McLean and Alison Pugh on Breakfast on the morning of the launch (copyright TVNZ 2014).

iPhone 6 Clip

Click the image or this link to visit the TVNZ website to view.

Having spent 48 hours with both handsets I’ve been asked by a number of people which one I prefer.  Right now I’m enjoying the iPhone 6 more than the 6 Plus which is a surprise to me as I’m a fan of larger format phones.

The iPhone 6 just seems to be more manageable in the hand, and there aren’t enough special features built into the 6 Plus to warrant the larger size.  Sure it’s great for photo and video viewing, but is the portability trade-off worth it? I’m not sure.

Oh and yes, it’s still flat despite having been transported in my jeans pocket. I guess NZ is going to have to try harder to get on the #bendgate bandwagon.
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Windows Smartphone Review: Nokia Lumia 930

wp_ss_20140809_0002[1]The Nokia Lumia 930 is the latest flagship smartphone from Microsoft and what a classy little device it is.  It’s designed to provide a high-end alternative to the current crop of Android and iOS suspects and it manages to do that really well.

The phone is quite a good looking beast, with a 5 inch full HD display with a Gorilla Glass 3 touch-screen on the front and a polycarbonate panel on the back.  The aluminium bezel that encircles the phone adds to the premium look and feel.

The Lumia 930 comes with the latest Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, giving business users easy access to the productivity tools that they use most such as Office and Outlook.

But it’s not all work, work, work; the Lumia 930 offers a seamless experience across your phone, tablet, Windows PC and Xbox devices – making it easier to access your favourite shared files in more places.

Hands On Testing
Windows Phone 8.1 gives you the option of customising the home screen with your own background image.  Depending on your configuration you’ll get a series of opaque and see-through live tiles on the home screen.

The 5 inch full HD screen is bright and vivid and it even managed to look good outdoors in the late winter/early spring sunshine.

If you’re considering moving to Windows Phone you might worry about the perceived lack of apps.  I was pleasantly surprised however to find a lot of the apps I regularly use were available in the Windows Store.

I was quickly able to find and install Shazam, Instagram and even a pretty good Snapchat client. The Windows phone version of Facebook is much better looking in my opinion than Android or iOS. That was a surprise – but a good one.  If you’re looking for newer, hotter apps though, you might have to put them on your wish list.

Camera
Nokia phones are renowned for their quality cameras and the Lumia 930 has a great 20mp PureView camera.  As a OneDrive (Windows cloud storage) user I was happy to switch on the photo sync setting but I was surprised to find that only low resolution photos were being backed up.

The phone captures both a high and low resolution version of every shot so after a bit of digging around in the settings I was able to turn on automatic syncing of the larger pics via Wi-Fi.  Why Nokia didn’t make it easier to save the large lovely photos from the phone I don’t know.

Storage and Battery
As with most smartphones there are some small compromises to make. The Lumia 930 has 32 GB of storage but no micro SD card slot.  In this day and age with cloud storage and streaming music services that’s not such a big deal, but I personally like being able to swap files between devices via removable media.  It’s much tidier than having to use USB to micro USB cables and simpler than Bluetooth.

Also, there’s no removable battery so you’ll need to keep an eye on your power levels.  While the phone has wireless charging capabilities, the charger is an optional extra.

Final View
Within a couple of days of moving to Windows Phone I was more than happy to use the Lumia 930 as my main phone.  Rather than find the software a compromise, I found it a pleasure to use – the personalisation abilities and the live tiles make it fairly personal and immersive experience.

While not all of the apps I would normally use were available (no ANZ banking app for example) many of the native Windows Phone apps such as Bing Translator were great to use.

In summary – if you’re in the market for a top smartphone and you haven’t given Windows Phone a try, the Lumia 930 deserves a test drive at the very least.

RRP of $999 from Vodafone
Website: http://www.nokia.com/nz-en/phones/phone/lumia930/

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Nokia Lumia 930 with Windows Phone 8.1 OS. You can use a background image which “peeks through” some of the home screen’s live tiles.

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Indoor shot with the Nokia Lumia 930

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Indoor shot with the iPhone 5s

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Daylight shot with the Nokia Lumia 930

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Daylight shot with the iPhone 5s

A Glass Act – the Sony Xperia Z2 Shines Bright.

The new Sony Xperia Z2 is a high end smartphone with almost as much glass fronting it as a modernist office block.

It’s a slab of super smart tech wrapped in a minimalist, buttoned-down, waterproof and dustproof housing.

The sheer glass panels on the front and back scream out several things including “quality”, “premium” and “expensive”.

Interestingly, the screen – the massive 5.2 inch screen – is not this phone’s main selling point.  Instead Sony describes the Z2 as the world’s best camera and camcorder in the body of a smartphone.  By saying that, they are drawing your attention to the 20.7 megapixel camera which can capture video in full 4k resolution, four times greater than the 1080p HD of the Xperia Z1.

The Z2 is looking to compete in the rarefied atmosphere at the high end market and it needs that imaging advantage to differentiate itself from the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8.

I’m not a fan of the term phablet (a cross between a phone and a tablet) but that may well be the best term to describe the Z2.  Its 5.2 inch screen is large for a phone and it is knocking on the door of tablet territory. Despite its size, it’s not actually that heavy, which is just as well because no one likes a phone that makes their suit pockets sag.

For my money, the standout feature is the HD IPS LCD screen.  Photos are awesomely sharp and detailed and the colours are eye popping.  It’s a big improvement on the previous TFT screen from the Xperia Z1.

The proposition: “The Xperia  Z2 combines the best of Sony’s waterproof design, display, sound, camera and camcorder experience and a growing ecosystem of companion products.”

The verdict: If you’re in the market for a high end phone with superior audio and video smarts, the Z2 demands your attention.
Hardware and Software Features:

  • Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) operating system.
  • 5.78 inch tall with a 5.2 inch display.
  • Water and dust resistant (ip78).
  • IPS LCD 1080 x 1920 resolution display.
  • Faster processor.
  • 16 GB built in storage.
  • Micro SD card slot.
  • NFC capable.
  • Magnetic recharging with optional extra charging stand.
  • Noise cancellation (with compatible headphones).

The Xperia Z2 is available in black and in white through Vodafone stores nationwide from Monday 19 May. RRP $1049 or $0 on Vodafone Red 129 – includes 2.5GB data, plus unlimited talk and TXT to standard New Zealand and Australia numbers.

Scroll down for photos and links to YouTube feature videos.

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The Z2 – requires adult sized hands to hold it, but just look at those lovely colours.

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Fun effects: The AR effect allows you to superimpose scenes over your chosen victim/photo subject.

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Youtube Clips Explaining the main features of the phone:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sl02KinSr8&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – Xperia Z2 Overview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYsuFWBIf3g&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgRGoKpUrIHsliuYQ9Yd9QdX – Waterproofing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbW-4Ui0z6U&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – 4k recording capabilities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56HvMdYoc7c&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – Creative effects with the Xperia Z2

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One very attractive family – the full Sony range for 2013/14

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been virtually drowning in Sony goodness.  The Japanese electronics giant not only released the smooth and shiny Tablet Z for review, they also threw in the new NEX-6 compact system camera to record it on.  Then the mobile division managed to provide some “hot off the press” units of the new Xperia Z1 smartphone which had just been announced at IFA 2013.

As if all that weren’t enough, Sony NZ then held an open house and showcased their upcoming products, from 4K TV’s, through portable boom boxes, action video cameras and head mounted 3D viewing screens all the way through to the unique and innovative QX100 lens cameras. Phew!

All of this goes to show one thing, Sony is not sitting back in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Apple.  They have upped their game with some very desirable technology and applied some much needed consistency to their product family.

We don’t have time to cover off all of the above so in this post I’ve included two video reviews (for the tablet and new smartphone) and a few images from the open home event.  Hopefully this gives you a taste of what you’ll find in your local Sony store (or in leading electronics shops nationwide) and I encourage you to go in and have some hands on time with any of the products that take your fancy.

This photo: If you want to show people how loud your car stereo is, this is the perfect venue. (Sony Open Home at Orams Marine Village, Auckland)

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Photo: A first hands on with the innovative QX100 lens camera. Yes that’s an Xperia Z1 Android phone, and that zoom lens on the front? Well yes that is the lens camera which transmits the photo to the phone by wifi direct.

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(more photos after the jump).

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Going hands on with the Galaxy S4 a day before release

After weeks of pre-release publicity and virulent excitement, the new Samsung Galaxy S4 goes on sale worldwide in just a few hours time.  Rather fortunately, I didn’t have to join a queue to get my hands on one; a press review unit made its way over to The Gadget Guy mansions late this afternoon.
Now, one afternoon and evening is not really enough time to properly review a phone. I find it usually takes a week or more of regular real-world use before you pick up on a smartphone’s real strengths and weaknesses.  So, this is a limited review, for the time being anyway, and one in which I’ll really only skim the surface and give you my first impressions after a few hours of playing with the S4.
Right-o, let’s have a look under a few main headings.

Look and Feel:

Compared to its predecessor, the S4 feels easier to hold.  While the S3 had a curved edge, the S4 has flatter sides which counter-intuitively makes it feel more comfortable in the hand. The shiny plastic back is still slick, or slippy if you prefer.  The first accessory I bought for my S3 was a sleeve which reduced its slipperiness. I feel the same solution will be needed for the S4.
It is nice and light, and despite having a larger display  than the S3 (5″ versus 4.8″) it feels marginally more compact.
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Image: A Samsung sandwich.  Photo shows from top to bottom Galaxy S3, the new S4 and a Galaxy Note 2.
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Image: Spot the family resemblance. From left to right, Note 2, S4, S3.

The Screen:

Big, bright, brash and bold, the screen reminds me of what I loved about the earlier S2. Not everyone is going to be fan of the saturated colour or the vivid brightness, but if you have a problem with it you can always turn it down or just choose a more sedate setting.
The HD screen is fantastic. Even with a strong magnifying glass (a recent purchase – these eyes ain’t what they used to be) its hard to see the pixels.
Jumping back to the physical attributes, it’s worth noting that the sides of the device form a slight ridge around the screen which should mean the screen itself won’t come in contact with any flat surfaces you place it on.
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Image: Hard to see in this photo but the S3 has a slightly dimmer output at full blast than the S4.

The Smarts:

With the S4 you get a great form factor, powerful processor, high spec camera and a hi-def screen. What more could you want?  Apparently you want a range of novel features that make the phone appear to have landed here from the future.  Following the instructions in the bundled handbook I took a tour of some of the S4’s smart features.  Yes, it’s interesting that you can hover your finger over content to expand or view it, but really, if your fingers a millimetre from the screen why not just touch it?  If I’ve got sticky fingers I probably won’t be handling my phone let alone getting it into a position where I can hover a digit over it.  I’ve been wrong about stuff before of course and there’s a chance I’ll grow to  use and maybe even value it.

There’s a function which allows you to nod to scroll down a web page.  This worked for me 50% of the time. With a bit more training (of me or the phone – I’m not yet sure which) this could be a feature I would use.

Finally, I tried to test the smart pause function which apparently pauses a video if you stop looking at it. For some reason I couldn’t get it to work but it’s not a feature I would consider compulsory.

So, my first impressions are good and there’s a lot of areas I want to have a better look at (the camera, the editable notifications, group play for sharing content, the S Health app for example) but that will have to wait.

In the meantime if you’d like a more comprehensive view of the phone’s features you can view this run down of the S4’s features from the local Samsung team. Either that or get in store and get your hands on one tomorrow for yourself.