First impressions: Samsung Galaxy K Zoom


K Zoom is surprisingly light for what it offers. It weighs just 200 grams and that makes a big difference in how well it feels in hands. At 20mm, it is also quite slim.

K Zoom is surprisingly light for what it offers. It weighs just 200 grams and that makes a big difference in how well it feels in hands. At 20mm, it is also quite slim.

SINGAPORE: Samsung is trying to break into the camera market with its Android-powered cameras for the last two years. It had some success but not as much as it would have liked to. Combining a smartphone and a camera in single device is not easy and on earlier occasions when we reviewed cameras we found that often cons outweighed pros in these devices.

Galaxy K Zoom looks like a device that may have more pros than cons.

The biggest difference between K Zoom and earlier Galaxy cameras is the design. K Zoom is surprisingly light for what it offers. It weighs just 200 grams and that makes a big difference in how well it feels in hands. At 20mm, it is also quite slim. While it was possible to carry earlier Galaxy cameras into pocket, K Zoom is the first device in the series that we feel would easily slip into the pocket, almost like a phablet.

Earlier Galaxy cameras were awkward to use as smartphones. The lens bulge was too big on them. But K Zoom can be used as a smartphone without too many compromises. The lens bulge in the device is surprisingly flat compared to what earlier Galaxy cameras had. Samsung claims that in K Zoom it is using a different (and unique) lens that retracts to form a very compact module.

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In terms of design, K Zoom borrows heavily from the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S3. The back cover of K Zoom uses the same matte finish plastic found on Galaxy S5. This feels good in hand. The overall design, with its rounded corners and a curved back, is similar to that of Galaxy S3. Ergonomically, the design is good and makes using K Zoom easier despite its bulk.

The device runs a modified version of Android kitKat. Unlike Galaxy phones, K Zoom has a hardware button for camera. When the device is locked and the screen is off, this camera button can be used to quickly access the camera app.

The device we checked out had good performance and we did not see any lag.

But the screen did not seem as nice as what users get on the high-end Galaxy phones. The screen shows vibrant and punchy colours (it is AMOLED panel) but the brightness and sharpness is not as good as what Galaxy Note 3 or Galaxy S5 screens offer. For the sharpness bit, the reason is simple: unlike the Full HD screen in flagship Galaxy phones, Samsung is using 720p screen in K Zoom.

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We took some photos with K Zoom in the low light scene. The performance seemed acceptable, though not exceptional. But question on image quality is something that we can only answer properly after using the device for a while.

In the past, Galaxy cameras have offers decent image quality. However, they have also carried a rather high price for what they offer.

The design of K Zoom is definitely attractive and practical. The performance seems good. We will take a better look at the image quality offered by K Zoom and the price is something that Samsung would reveal when it launches the device in India. However, even if the Galaxy camera offers image quality similar to what earlier Galaxy cameras had managed but comes with somewhat better price, we feel it may turn out to be a good competitor for the conventional cameras.

Micromax launches ‘Canvas Doodle 3’ for Rs 8,500


micromax_505_042214014248Homegrown handset maker Micromax on Tuesday launched its new six-inch phablet ‘Canvas Doodle 3‘ for Rs 8,500.

The Android Jellybean operating system based-device is powered by a 1.3 GHz dual core processor, 4GB ROM and 512 MB RAM (expandable memory up to 32 GB), Micromax said in a statement.

The smartphone features a 5 MP AF rear camera, 0.3 MP front camera, 2500 mAh battery and comes preloaded with M! Doodle, Bigflix, M!live, Getit, Kingsoft Office and Opera apps.

Using the M!Doodle application, users can doodle chats, animate, scribble smileys and write text over clicked pictures.

“At Micromax, we have always aimed to offer something new and different with every product launch with affordable innovation being our core DNA,” Micromax CMO Shubhodip Pal said.

The Canvas Doodle 3 further reinforces Micromax’s commitment to empower consumers with larger screen to help them express their imagination in a more creative way like never before, he added.

“With our foray in Russia and SAARC countries, we have charted a successful journey to become the 1st Indian hardware brand to go global. Our intentions are clearly to take Micromax to key international markets and further pursue our innovation story,” he said.

Nokia says Microsoft deal to be delayed by a month


microsoft_505_102513023351_032414044711Finnish handset maker Nokia on Monday said its $7.2 billion deal with software firm Microsoft is expected to be delayed by a month and will now be finalized by April due to pending regulatory approvals from some antitrust authorities in Asia.

The handset maker , which is facing multiple tax cases in India, added that the proceedings in the country will not affect the timing of the deal.

Last September, Nokia had announced it would sell a substantial part of its devices and services (D&S) business, including assets in India, to Microsoft for $7.2 billion by March 2014.

“It now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its D&S business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014,” Nokia said in a statement on Monday.

Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction, it added.

The two companies have received most of the required regulatory approvals, including clearances from the European Commission and the US Department of Justice, it said.

“However, the transaction is pending approvals from certain antitrust authorities in Asia, which are still conducting their reviews,” Nokia said.

The handset firm said it is confident the deal will close, resulting in the sale of substantially all of its D&S business to Microsoft.
Nokia reiterates that ongoing tax proceedings in India have no bearing on the timing of the closing or the material deal terms of the anticipated transaction between Nokia and Microsoft,” the Finnish firm said.

Microsoft said in a statement the completion of the deal will mark the first step to bring Microsoft and the Nokia D&S business together.

“We are nearing the final stages of our global regulatory approval process. To date we have received approvals from regulatory authorities in 15 markets on five continents.

Currently, we are awaiting approval confirmation in the final markets,” Microsoft General Counsel and Executive VP (Legal & Corporate Affairs) Brad Smith said.

This work has been progressing and the firm expects it to close next month, in April 2014, he added.

“Our acquisition will accelerate our mobile-first, cloud-first imperatives. We’re looking forward to accelerating innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones and introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones,” Smith said.

Last week, in another setback for Nokia, the Tamil Nadu government slapped a Rs 2,400 crore tax demand on the company related to devices sold from its Chennai factory.

Nokia has approached the Madras High Court challenging claims made by the Tamil Nadu government.

On March 14, the Supreme Court had refused to lift a restraint on the sale of its Indian assets in a separate case related to payment of tax dues.

The apex court dismissed Nokia’s plea against a Delhi High Court order directing its parent company to give an undertaking it would fulfil the conditions related to payment of tax dues.

The apex court’s decision not to interfere with the high court order had put hurdles for Nokia transferring its Chennai plant, which is a part of the deal with Microsoft.

Nokia’s Chennai factory employs about 8,000 people, 20 per cent of them women, and about 30,000 sub-contractors.

Right phone, wrong price


Samsung Galaxy Grand 2 is a decent device and a worthy successor to the Galaxy Grand, but over-priced.

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SAMSUNG GALAXY GRAND 2

Price: Rs 24,890
Rating: 4/5
Specs: 5.25 inch display; 8MP rear camera; 1.2GHz quad core processor; 1.5GB RAM; 8GB + microSD card slot; Android 4.3; 2600 mAh battery; 163 grams

Most new smartphones these days are successors of previously launched devices. So too the Samsung Grand 2. The Samsung Grand was a popular phone and did fairly well in the market.

The Grand 2 comes with a 5.25 inch display and 1280 x 720 p resolution. The phone can be held in a single hand but I could not type on it with one hand. It has a plastic body but the back panel has a frame with faux chrome finish that makes it look better than its predecessor.

The Grand 2 also packs a 1.2GHz qualcomm processor, coupled with 1.5GB of RAM. Samsung has not increased the internal storage. It continues to have 8GB onboard storage with only 5.19 GB accessible for use.

Some have complained about the slowing down of the Grand, but I didn’t face any such problems with the Grand 2. The Touch Wiz user interface looks similar to to those of the past. I still prefer to load a third party launcher that speeds up the phone.

Some of the software in the flagship phones of the company are present in this one too. These include multi-view window, S-Voice assistant Group Play, etc. The phone supports most video and audio formats by default. It played full HD video .

The primary camera onboard is an 8MP shooter that does an impressive job. It can also capture full HD videos for sharing on social networking. The battery lasted me a day without recharge.

BAG IT OR JUNK IT:
A decent device but over-priced.

Use Whatsapp on Android? Your chats are not so secure


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If you use WhatsApp on an Android phone, you should be careful about what you talk about or share on the instant messaging app.

NEW DELHI: If you use WhatsApp on an Android phone, you should be careful about what you talk about or share on the instant messaging app. Using a few scripts and a rogue app, anyone can peer into your chat logs and see what you talk about with your friends.

A Dutch security consultant has found that WhatsApp chat logs saved on the SD card of an Android phone can be read by other apps because of the way Android allows sharing of data between apps.

“The WhatsApp database is saved on the SD card which can be read by any Android application if the user allows it to access the SD card. And since majority of the people allows everything on their Android device, this is not much of a problem,” Bas Bosschert wrote on his blog.

“What do we need to steal someone’s WhatsApp database? First we need a place to store the database,” Bosschert explained. “Next thing we need is an Android application which uploads the WhatsApp database to the website.”

When an Android application is installed, whether from the Play store or through an APK file, which is an installer file for Android phones and can be downloaded from various sources, the app requests for permissions to use network and SD card etc.

To explain his hack, Bosschert set up a web server and then created an Android application that required several special permissions on a user’s phone. But because Android OS allows applications to access various parts of the phone – this is why users can conveniently share almost everything through any app on Android phone – Bosschert’s app had no difficulty gaining access to WhatsApp data.

Bosschert wrote that the code that allows his application to access WhatsApp data and then upload it to his web server can be added to a popular Android app by a rogue developer to fool users and steal WhatsApp chat logs.

The older versions of WhatsApp were so insecure that they didn’t even encrypt their data stored on SD card. The data from older versions of whatsApp could be read by anyone once it was uploaded on the web server. Even the data from newer version of WhatsApp, which uses encryption, can be accessed with ease.

“The WhatsAppp database is a SQLite3 database which can be converted to Excel for easier access. Lately WhatsApp is using encryption to encrypt the database, so it can no longer be opened by SQLite. But we can simply decrypt this database using a simple python script. This script converts the crypted database to a plain SQLite3 database,” wrote Bosschert. “We can conclude that every application can read the WhatsApp database and it is also possible to read the chats from the encrypted databases.”

Bosschert joked, “Facebook didn’t need to buy WhatsApp to read your chats.”

The security issue apparently doesn’t exist on iPhones or Windows Phone devices because on these smartphones, apps have limited access to storage and other phone hardware. The more flexible access to phone hardware allows Android apps to talk to each other and helps a user quickly share content between apps. This is very convenient compared to what is possible on iPhone or Windows Phone, where it is difficult to share content between apps. But it also exposes data to rogue apps.

Google says that it keeps an eye on apps inside its Play store and removes apps if they pose any security risks. But this doesn’t negate the fact that theoretically it is possible for a rogue app to do more damage on Android because of the open nature of the OS compared to iOS, which uses silos. Google also advises people against installing apps that don’t come through Play store. By default Android phones are set to not install apps downloaded outside the Play store.

How Apple plans to go ‘local’ in India


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Apple plans to go local with a vengeance, setting up small, neighbourhood shops in big cities and tier II markets.

KOLKATA/MUMBAI: Apple plans to go local with a vengeance, setting up small, neighbourhood shops in big cities and tier II markets, in a bid to get closer to potential buyers as it pushes ahead with an India-specific strategy aimed at trying to grab market share from dominant rival Samsung.

The shops will be set up by Apple distributors Redington and Ingram Micro besides existing trade partners and follows the revival of the iPhone 4 for sale in India and other emerging markets, which gave buyers who covet the brand the option of a phone that costs much less than latest models. Apple has also directly approached some trade partners and retailers regarding the setting up of the neighbourhood stores.

Samsung is widely present in the Indian retail market place, offering smartphone and tablets through more than 1,000 Smartphone Cafes. Apple is late to the game, only having seriously focused on India in the last two years but having since then given the local management a freer hand. Apple India has sought to push phones and tablets through exchange and finance programmes, besides reintroducing the iPhone 4, which is defunct elsewhere.

The company has also reintroduced the iPhone 4, which is defunct elsewhere.

Apple has informed distributors and trade partners in recent meetings that it is looking to set up exclusive 400-600 sq ft stores in neighbourhoods and some popular high-street locations. They will focus on mobility products such as iPhones and iPads, besides entry-level Mac computers and iPods, said three of Apple’s trade partners aware of the plans.

“Apple wants to focus more on its entry-level models in these stores such as iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPad mini and iPad 2, which are essentially in the sub- 30,000 segment and also its largest-selling products in India,” said a senior executive of a leading trade partner of Apple.

“The company feels these products are also attractively priced over competitors such as Samsung and Sony, and hence, being closer to the consumer will help to increase the conversion rate,” he said.

Apple wants to set up these smaller stores in areas where people have high disposable incomes, there’s a strong penetration of smartphones and a large student population such as Pune, Vizag, Guwahati, Durgapur and Gangtok. Apple has not set any expansion target for the small-format stores.

Apple declined to comment on queries regarding the plan. “We wouldn’t comment on rumours or speculation,” said Apple spokesman Alan Hely at regional headquarters in London.

The company has reached out to existing trade partners and multi-brand retail chains with its small-format store proposal, said the people cited above.

One of Apple’s premium resellers, Currents Technology Retail, recently set up two such stores in Kolkata and Panchkula in Haryana. Currents is distributor Redington’s own retail format.

Not all partners are enthused by the plan. One leading electronics retail chain decided not to take up the offer as profit margins on Apple are already among the lowest.

“After offering consumer discounts, the margin on iPhones and iPads is 2-5%, whereas it’s 7-10% for Samsung and other brands. Hence, it makes sense to continue with a multi-brand retail model where we can make more money,” said a senior executive at the retail chain.

An executive with another trade partner said Apple’s distributors want to ensure that the format will be viable, which could mean that the plan unfolds slowly.

Apple had around 2% volume market share of the Indian smartphone market in the October-December 2013 quarter, far behind market leader Samsung at 32% share and Micromax at 21%, according to market tracker Canalys. Apple’s value share, however, is higher due to the price of its phones, with the iPhone 5c starting at 41,900. That’s why reintroducing the iPhone 4, at a price that could go as low as 21,000, made sense for India.

Thanks to its marketing push, Apple India’s 2012-13 revenue rose to 3,030 crore from 2,003 crore in the year earlier. But that lags considerably behind Samsung India’s 27,000-crore revenue, although this includes television and home appliance sales as well. Samsung India’s mobile phone and tablet business is estimated to account for around 55% of total sales.

Apple wants to make sure that it doesn’t miss out on a burgeoning market.

Nokia’s new Android smartphone


BARCELONA: By design, Nokia’s new Android smartphones will underwhelm users of high-end phones. The Nokia X line was created with emerging markets in mind, so the company emphasized keeping prices low, meaning the user interface is relatively simple.

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The home screen resembles the one on Nokia’s Windows-based Lumia phones, even though it’s Android underneath. But Nokia added a Fastlane feature, a screen with quick access to your most-used apps. You get to it by swiping from the left or right edge of the home screen or tapping the back button at the bottom.

The basic Nokia X phone costs 89 euros ($122) and has a 4-inch screen, measured diagonally, and a 3-megapixel camera. A X+ version with an SD storage card costs 99 euros, while an XL with a 5-inch screen and 5 megapixel camera goes for 109 euros.

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In the brief time I’ve had with the Nokia X at this week’s Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, I have found the Fastlane feature to be a good start. It’s something I would like to see on more phones, including Nokia’s Windows devices.

I hate to spend time customizing gadgets, getting the icons for the most-used apps on the main home screen. The nice thing about Fastlane is that you don’t have to spend any time on that. Your favorite apps are just one swipe away – sort of.

The top of Fastlane shows you what’s coming up, whether that’s alarms about to ring or future events in your calendar. Below that are your recently used apps. The ones you just used will be at the top, so you don’t have to scroll down.

For some apps, you get information that normally comes with notifications, such as previews of text messages or alerts that three people have tried to reach you on WeChat, a Chinese social network. You see small versions of recent photos and can tap for the larger version in the photo gallery app. You see calls you missed, songs you heard and websites you visited.

It could get overwhelming, so you can block certain apps and certain notifications from appearing in Fastlane. In the settings, you can also add a shortcut to one social network, such as Facebook or Twitter.

Nokia-X-Dual-SIMThat’s where Fastlane can improve – understanding better which apps I use most over a period of days or months and creating a section at the top for those.

This week, for example, I was too busy to check Facebook, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use it regularly. But in Fastlane, Facebook would drop toward the bottom in a matter of days, unless I happen to choose it as my one shortcut.

Why not make sure the most-used apps are stored as favorites at the top of the screen? Nokia says it’s considering that.

Likewise, if I haven’t used something for months after using it daily, Fastlane can assume I’ve grown tired of it and automatically remove it. Myspace anyone?

Nokia doesn’t plan to make Fastlane for its Windows phones, and I doubt it’ll extend it to rival Android phones, such as my Samsung Galaxy S III. It’s something it wants to keep exclusive to its own phones to compete.