Nexus 5 Tips and Apps to Get Started

Nexus 5 Tips

If you are planning on getting a Nexus 5, or have just received yours, this article is full of tips to get you on your way.

Being a regular Galaxy phone owner, it’s always been a cinch to migrate from one phone to another using the Samsung account back up and restore. When I’ve moved to another phone, like the Xperia Z, I use MyBackupPro, which does pretty much everything that the Samsung service does and more. However, after I used this app to transfer everything across the Nexus 5, the phone dialler app constantly force closed. So at this point in time looks like it’s not compatible.

Nexus 5 tips for messaging: Google contacts have come across from my Google account, which is fine, and instead I’ve gone with SMS backup and restore to at least get my messages moved over. However a word of warning, hangouts is now the default sms app, and you have to change the default to the sms backup and restore app in order to import your sms history. Remember to change the default back to hangouts again after you’ve loaded your SMS’s.

The other thing you should do is make sure your language setting is on English US, cos this is currently the only way to get the whole “okay google” voice activated search working.

Nexus 5 tips for installing apps: The next one is loading up your apps – if you’re restoring from an existing Google account you may end up with heaps of apps that you actually don’t want on your new Nexus 5. So what I do is install via a PC on a web browser from play.google.com. It’s quick and because you’ve just registered your Nexus 5, that unit will come up as the first smartphone – the play store will actually remotely install the app onto your phone as long as it’s online.  This is actually one of the best features of the Google Play store, and you can install only the apps you want rather than using the Google restore option.

Nexus 5 tips for backup: Now, because the Nexus 5 doesn’t have external storage, I’ve set up my dropbox account to get all my photos uploaded as soon as I’m on a wifi connection. Even if I delete the pic from the phone, or reset the phone from scratch, the pics are protected. And by pics I do mean images and video content. You can also do that with the built-in Google Photos app, but I haven’t used it yet to go through it with you.

Nexus 5 tips for customised ringtones: If you want to personalise your ring tone, again not as easy as the galaxy, which just required a long press on an mp3 file and use the set as function. On the Nexus you are limited to the preset tones built-in. So I downloaded an app called “Rings extended” which adds another option in the set ring tone area, allowing you to use your own mp3 files.

Speaking of files, the Nexus 5 doesn’t come with its own file management app. So you should download your own if you like seeing what’s on your phone, and being able to delete or add through the file structure. The one I use is ES file explorer. It’s easy to use and free.

By the way, another download I’d do right away is one for a torch that uses the led, and get a widget, not an app, so that you can activate it right from a home screen.

Nexus 5 tips for using widgets: The other widget I’d put onto the home screen right away is the toggle widget. I’m always turning bluetooth and wifi on and off and it’s much better to just have a widget to do that. So while I’m here I’ll kill two birds with one stone and show you how to easily get widgets onto the home page. Just long press a home screen, press the widgets symbol, scroll through and find that toggle widget, and then long press again to choose where to place it. Now to add a new home screen, and you can add as many as you want, Google have removed that restriction, just slide it to the far right of the screen and it will add a screen once you’ve passed the last one.

By the way, if you want to change your main home page then just hold a screen and move it to the far left, it then becomes the page that is returned to when you press the home button.

Nexis 5 tips for shortcuts: And lastly, if you haven’t used a Nexus before you may not be aware of the one finger two finger drag down. One finger down shows you notifications, and two finger shows you common settings like wifi, battery charge and brightness. Now these aren’t widgets but shortcuts to the settings for each aspect. I use it to check percentage of battery left because as of yet, there is no method to put the percentage remaining in the top status bar.

There are just some of the things I found when putting my new nexus 5 to the daily grind, hopefully it’s been useful to you. If you have any other tips or even a better way than what I’ve shown please drop a comment in the area below.

 

Asus Transformer Infinity First Look

We’ve been following the Asus line of Transformer products ever since they were released, from the first Honeycomb tablet to include a keyboard dock, to the Slider, and then to the Transformer Prime, which set new benchmarks for the Google OS line of tablets. Now, we have the latest model - the Asus Transformer Infinity.

Asus Transformer Infinity Tablet
Anyone up for a quad core high definition super bright super-slim tablet?

 

This release is an important one, not just for Asus, who have been flexing their innovative muscles in the Android tablet domain since the introduction of the category, but for the tablet market as a whole. Why? The Asus Transformer Infinity can truly go up against the new iPad, the incumbent market leader in this category, and offer a substantial answer to all of the iPad’s propositions.

As you’ll see in the following videos, the Asus Transformer Infinity has great hardware, software, a robust operating environment and is supported by a maturing app store in the form of Google Play. Asus have addressed areas like wireless connection issues and GPS performance to produce a tablet all-rounder.

Asus Transformer Infinity GPS
The Asus Transformer Infinity has a plastic strip on the top rear to maximise GPS performance.

 

The hardware component of the Asus Transformer Infinity is far from flimsy, with a metal casing ensuring no flexing or bending on any part of the device. Despite the screen upgrade (which we’ll get to in a moment), the tablet on its own does not gain any weight, staying at 586 grams, exactly the same as its Prime predecessors.

The Asus Transformer Infinity also retains the ports that made the Transformer series so attractive, with Micro-HDMI and Micro-SD slots on the tablet body, and a further full size USB port and SD Card slot on the keyboard dock component.

Asus Transformer Infinity with keyboard
The usefulness of a tablet with a keyboard cannot be fully appreciated until you have to type an full length article about one.

 

Inside the Infinity is an upgraded quad core Tegra 3 chip, quoted at 1.6GHz but benchmarked at 1.9GHz. The OS is snappy, with Android functions and App commands all working unhesitatingly.

Just in case we thought we were being a little biased because of our fondness for the Transformer line up, we thought it prudent to quantify this and to see just how the Asus Transformer Infinity could handle the pressures of the job compared to another fairly popular tablet… say, the iPad?

This is where we became REALLY intrigued. Not only did the Infinity beat the iPad in many benchmark tests, but some by a huge margin. The graphics test, which saw the Prime pale beside the iPad in our earlier experiences, still showed Apple to have a command in that particular area. When it came to browsing, Java script handling and computational processing, the Asus Transformer Infinity swept the field.

The other big news was the high definition display. The big visual test was to see (literally) if there was a marked difference in the Infinity’s screen and the iPad’s highly praised display. And yes, there was a huge difference – the Asus Transformer Infinity was way brighter. Other than that, at normal viewing proximity, both screens delivered great detail and clarity. At massive zoomed enlargement, the iPad didn’t stray from its perfected image, and the Infinity showed some signs of pixelation. But that’s not how we view a tablet in normal circumstances.

If we seem a little lathered up in our praise of the Asus Transformer Infinity, it’s because this release shines a bright light to a competitive market across ecosystem platforms, where hardware vendors are creating innovative new products. As we always say, competition is a great thing for the industry and the smartphone, tablet and Ultrabook markets are hotbeds of design and technology fusions.

Asus Transformer Infinity lid closed
The future of mobile computing in our hands?

 

If you have any questions, please leave them below and we’ll find out the answers for you.

Until next time!

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200: A Closer Look

After the popularity and interest in our video (that can be found below) and the article on how Toshiba have stopped selling the AT200 in Australia, which you can read here Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before it Begins, we thought we’d take a closer look at Toshiba’s new slimline tablet, as it will still be available around the world for some time.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

Just released globally, the Toshiba AT200 sets new standards in lightness and thinness for tablet devices.

Toshiba love being able to set new records and try new products that are a little left of centre.  Although some products aren’t successful in the mainstream, like the Libretto W100 Dual touch screen device, they do point to a company willing to take some risks to push the envelope.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is such a product. To call it the Ultrabook of the tablet world might be taking it a little far, but it does seem to go hand in hand with theZ830 as a companion in the thin and light mobile computing category, read that article here Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabook First Look . At only 535 grams and 7.7mm it is currently the world’s thinnest and lightest tablet, matching the boasts of its Ultrabook sibling.

The overall design is of two slivers of silver being sandwiched together, with a black line running the entire way around the middle of the edge, except for the buttons and ports. It’s a stylish design and seems to be inspired in some part by its Ultrabook, with no tapering, just a consistent thickness all around.

The back plate has a metal finish with the Toshiba logo embedded, just in case there was any question as to what brand this eye catching tablet was. The back panel also holds the 5 megapixel camera. The front camera is 2MP.

What a great business model Gorilla Glass has now, becoming the go-to company for scratch and impact resistant display. The AT200’s 1280 x 800 display is protected by the Corning company’s mobile/tablet product.

Toshiba have kept the controls and ports very minimal but still manage to provide all the necessary outputs to satisfy most needs. The connection on the bottom of the tablet is for power and connection to a PC via USB, and the proprietary cable comes in the box.

It probably would have been easier to avoid duplicating the onboard connectivity of their previous 10.1”, the AT100, but they’ve gone all out and retained a full set of outputs.

The left hand side contains all the connections I mentioned earlier – headphone jack, micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD. It is interesting that Toshiba can provide such a comprehensive connection suite in a product with such dimensions, beating both the iPad 2 and Tab 10.1, both of which offer only a single proprietary connection that can be accessed with various add-on cables.

Interestingly, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 uses a Texas Instruments dual core processor, which is comparable to the Tegra 2 or A5 processor used in iPads and other Android tablets. This may mean that another tablet with Tegra 3 may be on the drawing board down the track.

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Software-wise, the Toshiba is still rocking the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, and no word on upgrades just yet. Given the amount of exposure Ice Cream Sandwich is getting now, read our article here Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet. I’m sure this question of ICS upgrade will be on the lips of any prospective AT200 owner.

In line with their pedigree in the commercial and enterprise space, rather than focusing on entertainment, Toshiba have included a few productivity apps. This includes Thinkfree Office for Word, Excel and Powerpoint compatibility; Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager (which surprisingly some tablets still don’t have out of the box), the popular Evernote and McAfee security.

When you look at the types of apps on board and the styling of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200, you do get a sense that this is more of an executive’s secondary or third device rather than a casual gaming and entertainment tablet. The absence of Ice Cream Sandwich may turn some users off, but we’ll ask Toshiba for an update on that and come back with details when available.

In case you missed it the first time around, here’s our video of the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200:

What do you think of the AT200 from Toshiba?

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 Ends Before It Begins

Toshiba Australia very kindly sent us a shiny new Android tablet to play with and we produced a segment, as seen below, and liked a lot about this new tablet. The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is the thinnest and lightest 10.1” tablet in the market, beating all other tablets on thinness and weight. The AT200 has its own look and feel that separates it from its competitors.

However, late Friday we were informed that as of this week, the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was going “End of Life” in Australia. This meant no more units would be brought into the country to sell.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Samsung also announced a fairly sizeable price reduction across the board for its 10.1 Galaxy Tab range, which now puts it at $100 under Apple’s iPad, you can read that article here Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop .

The AT200 was originally pegged at $579 for its 16GB Wi-Fi only model, which would have put it directly up against the iPad, and $100 more than the repositioned Samsung.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 was, on paper, a pretty likeable machine. It weighed only 535 grams and was 7.7mm thin, eclipsing any other current tablet. Like its predecessor, it managed to retain a comprehensive set of connections -– headphone jack, Micro USB, Micro HDMI and Micro SD.

Toshiba Android Tablet AT200

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 offered great connectivity and a sharp looking body.

It also had a pretty inclusive set of software on its Honeycomb OS. This included Thinkfree Office, Splashtop for remote desktop access, a file manager, Evernote for spontaneous information gathering and McAfee security. One uncertain factor was when it would be upgraded to Android 4.0.

Our understanding is that the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 is still alive and well in other regions around the world, so it appears to be a local decision not to continue this model on this continent. The Australian market is sometimes used as a litmus test for new products and technology for vendors as it’s fairly isolated and we’re a proud bunch of early adopters. This could indicate a subtle shift in Toshiba’s overall strategy in the tablet space.

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So where could Toshiba be heading, given this was a benchmark product in form factor at the very least? My initial guess is a ramp up to develop a strong Windows 8 tablet as part of its overall Windows ecosystem offer.

Toshiba released a touch screen all-in-one model last year, so they now have desktops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, and potentially tablets that would put them in a healthy position to offer Windows 8 across virtually all device types, except for mobile phones. Given Toshiba’s strength in the Australian market, such a strategy could be extremely beneficial.

After all, Android has evolved from the mobile platform whereas Windows has developed from a desktop/server platform, giving it a very different set of development challenges. Given Toshiba’s long history supporting Windows as its dominant operating system, there is no doubt they will come out with a strong offer at the launch of Windows 8.

The Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 cancellation and Samsung’s price move are two significant news events in one weekend for tablets. We are still to see the iPad 3 resolve into a real product from the conjecture and rumour that is feeding the hype before the announcement.

It’s going to be a real interesting few months for the tablet industry.  We will see more Tegra 3 products released, ICS deployed and upgraded on more machines, and the new iPad 3 awake from its secret slumber. In the second half of the year, Microsoft will make its move with partners like Toshiba champing at the bit to get into the market with Windows 8 on multiple hardware options.

Watch the video below or read our article on the Toshiba Android Tablet AT200 a Closer Look for more information.

Does Toshiba’s announcement change your mind about Android, and are you waiting for Windows 8 on a tablet?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop

Here in Australia, Samsung have officially moved price on their entire Galaxy Tab 10.1 range this weekend, with the 16GB Wi-Fi model now only $479 RRP. Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price repositions at RRP levels across the range:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only: $479
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only: $699
  • 16GB Wi-Fi/3G: $629
  • 64GB Wi-Fi/3G: $829

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price is now pegged $100 below the comparative iPad models in both capacity and Wi-Fi/3G respects. This looks to be a move to continue the momentum gained through the media-supported hype around the Tab 10.1 and the legal stoushes with Apple here and overseas.

Once the Tab 10.1 was allowed to be released in Australia, Samsung embarked on a massive publicity campaign, complete with cheeky advertising callouts, including the phrase “The Tablet Apple Tried to Stop”, capitalising on the court’s decision to lift the ban on selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 until the final verdict was decided.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price has just come down in Australia.

Samsung's advertising directly referenced their legal battles with Apple. Even without their own campaign, the amount of exposure the Tab 10.1 received was massive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price drop can also be seen in context of other hardware offers in the Android tablet territory, and actually makes sense when comparing like-for-like systems.

Take, for example, the Asus Transformer Prime, the only tablet in the market with the Tegra 3 processor today. The RRP for the 64GB version of the Prime is $899. From the RRP of $699 for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, one could add $100 for the addition of the keyboard dock, and a further $100 for the Tegra 3 processor upgrade.

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Of course, there are other market forces and activities hanging in the air that may begin to coalesce in the next few weeks. Rumours are building around a possible iPad 3 announcement, and Samsung themselves appear to have a new 10.1” model, the Galaxy Note 10.1 which looks to combine the functionality of the current Galaxy Note with the screen size and dimensions of the Tab 10.1. Given the number of units sold of the Note, and the development of S-pen based Apps, a 10.1 version of the Note could be very interesting and open the “creative mobile” market even further.

For now, we have the price drops which should stimulate sales of the 10.1 Galaxy Tab, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information on new models as they are announced.

Have you been holding off for a drop of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, and does this announcement get you over the line to become a Galaxy Tab owner? Let us know your thoughts below.

Google Lab Adds Gesture Control in Android Web Browser

We have been spending a fair bit of time discussing the Android Web Browser experience on the Android 4 tablet platform, courtesy of the Transformer Prime. We even had a chance to check out the Chrome for Android Beta browser.

The fundamental issue here is that even though the stock Android web browser and the Chrome browser are great examples of browser environments and functionality, they don’t address the issue of how touch screen interfaces differ incredibly from standard desktop environments.

The stock Android web browser on Ice Cream Sandwich tablets gives a little insight into what they are developing over at the Google labs. It’s a great example of innovative gesture design.

(note:  one of our readers @Diesel, has kindly pointed out that this Labs feature is actually also available on Honeycomb Tablets, which is terrific news for owners of Android 3.2 tablets.)

If you own a tablet that happens to have been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, then simply select the stock browser, press the menu button on the upper right hand corner, and go to settings. The last option you’ll then see on the left hand side is the Labs button. Select Labs then tick the Quick Controls box.

When you return to the browser, you’ll be able to see the entire page with no top or bottom area compromise. Sliding your thumb in from either the left of or the right presents a semi circle with icons denoting certain functions. These provide instant access to common commands, such as bookmarks, deleting current tab, adding  a new tab, back, forward, and refresh.

Menu options on Android Web Browser

Using the left hand thumb, hovering over each icon will display the relevant options.

The tab select button is an interesting space to flick through currently open tabs vertically, easily navigating to your open page of choice. Even though this is a hidden little gem in the software, it also gives an indication of what functions may appear on progressive releases, and perhaps eventually on Chrome for Android web browser.

Tab Control on Android Web Browser

The right hand thumb has the same options in mirror image. Here the Tabs are selected vertically.

After using this “Easter Egg” feature on the ICS Android web browser, it becomes pretty clear that there has been a fair bit of thought into making it useful for both left and right-handed people. The browser has also been made more efficient by placing commands in the natural areas where hands would be holding the tablet.

For Chrome to really take the lead in mobile browsing, adding an option to control the online navigation could position Chrome for Android into the ultimate mobile internet browser.

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Here’s the Ritchie’s Room video showing some of the cool features of the experimental Lab Android web browser.

 

 

Would you shift your mobile browser to Chrome if it included gesture functionality similar to what we’ve shown, or is it still too clunky to be a real feature? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

CES 2012: Samsung Galaxy Note Smartphone

One of the more intriguing products to come out of the CES was one that has already been released overseas  but hasn’t yet seen the light of day in either the US or Australia. This was the new Samsung phone, the Galaxy Note, a Smartphone that straddles the space between phone and tablet – and does it very well.

For creative types and business people on the go, the Galaxy Note could be the answer to Multiple Device Syndrome.

Sales in the regions where it’s been released has now reached over 1 million units, so it certainly has found success so far in Europe, India and parts of Asia. With the Note expecting to be released early this year in the States and Australia, it was worth visiting the Samsung stands to have a look.

Samsung’s stand was massive at the CES, and a large portion of it was devoted to the Galaxy Note – there must have been over two dozen working units for people to play with. In addition to the stand, Samsung had set up a separate booth in another area of the convention centre where freehand artists were using Galaxy Notes to sketch up caricatures of attendees. I would have loved to have done that just for this article, but the line was unbelievably long.

So what makes this new Samsung phone so different that it has captivated such an audience? To start with, there is no tablet or Smartphone quite like it. From the screen to the stylus, it has managed to position itself away from any direct competition and sell itself on unique propositions.

Depending on how you look at it/use it, it’s either the largest mobile phone in the world, or the world’s smallest tablet. The screen size, at 5.3 inches, actually negates the need for a secondary device when you’re out and about. This is because the actual quality of the display is enhanced by the very first HD Super AMOLED screen on the market.

We had a play with the Galaxy Note at the Samsung stand at the CES and the two things that stood out for me were the physical dimensions of the Note as well as the emphasis on the stylus. The stylus is key to Samsung’s marketing of the Note, and they are building a whole sswap of apps designed specifically to take advantage of the Stylus, which actually hides away in the Note when not in use.

The stylus reintroduces a way of using a phone/tablet that hasn’t been seen since Palm Pilots were all the rage. However, the screen resolutions and applications that are available these days make the Note a compelling product for those you might call “creatively mobile”. That is, those that like to doodle away and design or edit and enjoy these activities even while on the go.

The stylus can be used for many different things, from freehand drawing, word recognition, editing and cropping, and a whole bunch more depending on the app. I can envisage powerful business reasons to use this new Samsung phone with this tool as well – I’d love to be able to highlight images or phrases on a document and visually communicate this to my contacts instead of typing/describing what I need.

Advertising briefs, presentation drafts and proposals can all be shared with better visual understanding of what needs to be achieved. Fit out a marketing team with these and they’ll never look back. So to me, the business potential for the Note is enormous once people understand how to take advantage of the tools, and the apps that are being rolled out.

The only uncertainty factor in my mind is the first thing that struck me when I first laid eyes on one:  would I really carry such a large device around as my main phone all the time? Compared to an iPhone, it’s gigantic, and next to a Galaxy S II it still appears oversized. I can see the benefits of the screen size – for reading documents, browsing the web, even for entertainment such as gaming and video watching, it combines all the features of a Smartphone and a tablet. But would I handle such a large device in my pocket all day, everyday?

That question will have to be left until we get a sample back here in Australia to test and report back. Until then, here are two short videos on the Galaxy Note from the Samsung stand at CES.

This one shows some of the functionality of the Note, particularly using the Stylus:

 

This video shows the video playback of the Galaxy Note:

 

We look forward to a more in depth review when a Note becomes available to us. In the meantime, tell us what you think… would you hand in your small smartphone and large tablet for a mid-sized smartphone that has tablet functionality and other enhanced features?

CES 2012: Intel Smartphone Reference Design Demonstration

At the Intel Keynote at the CES, CEO Paul Otenelli made quite a few major announcements, some of which will start to bear fruit later in the year. Of the big pieces of news to come out of that event was Intel’s foray into the Smartphone category – providing chipsets for manufacturers as an alternative to existing suppliers.

We were impressed with the performance capabilities of the reference design - if this manifests in a vendor-based smartphone, Intel has a rosy future in the smartphone market.

Intel are not dipping their toes in the water either – they are launching with Lenovo in the Chinese market. This does make a lot of sense – because manufacturing will most likely be based in China, speed to market and scalability will be competitive advantages from day one.

As a chipset manufacturer, Intel could simply provide the processor feature set and engineering samples and leave it to the builders to start from scratch. However, Intel actually develop full working samples of devices to inspire and create a performance baseline that brands can use as a template.

At the Keynote, there were actually a few Reference design models – one for Smartphone, for tablet, and for Ultrabook. The Ultrabook reference design was interesting in its capability to shift into a touchscreen tablet.

Outside of the keynote, the only reference design model that was publicly demonstrated was the smartphone, and it was an impressive display. If this is truly how smartphones built with Intel architecture will be perform, then Intel can’t ignored as a viable alternative for manufacturers looking to improve the experience of their products for customers.

With 4G network infrastructure being built, high definition content becoming the norm, and smartphones increasingly taking share in the mobile phone market, Intel look to be in a good position over the next year.

Check out these live demos of the Intel Reference Design on the Intel stand at CES.

The first one is a spec introduction and web browsing demonstration:

 

The second one shows a gaming example:

 

This last one demonstrates high definition video playback:

 

Would you consider a smartphone if it has an Intel sticker on it?