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.

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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.

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.

10 things you didn’t know your phone could do


From monitoring your heart rate to matching paint colours, you’ll be surprised how many things ‘there’s an app for’.

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There are more than 30million smartphones in the UK and 60 per cent of mobiles are now smart, according to communications regulator Ofcom – but most of us barely dip into their potential functions.

From heart monitors where you place your finger on screen to apps that unlock your car, these are the ten best that you’ve probably never heard of…

1. Match paint colours


Want to paint your walls the same colour as your duvet – or replicate a colour you’ve seen somewhere else in your own home?
Well, ditch the Dulux catalogue and download the paint manufacturer’s free Let’s Colour Studio app on your iPhone instead.
All you then do is take a photo and let the app find the colour for you.

For £1, you can order a tester sample to make sure paint shade is just right.

2. Use your phone as a spirit level

Want to make sure the shelves you put up aren’t sloping?
Don’t rummage around your toolbox – grab your phone.
The free iHandy level app, available on iPhone and Android, is even better.
Just place your handset on the item you want straight and it works in the same way as a traditional spirit level, using the phone’s accelerometer.
However, it also measures the degrees precisely so you can get it bang on zero easily

3. Start your car

Fed up of going out on cold mornings and having to shiver as you drive off to work?
Well, download the Viper Smart App – on either an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry – and you won’t have to.
You’ll need to have attached a Viper SmartStart system to your car’s electronics, but the free app lets users unlock the car and turn the ignition remotely.
The app and SmartStart system also lets you track the vehicle’s movements – handy if you have teenage children borrowing your car.

4. Measure things

Don’t have a tape measure big enough to measure buildings?
No problem – get yourself the £3.99 Dot Measure Pro app for iPhone or the less- effective-but-free Smart Measure Pro app for Android – and your handset will do it for you.
All you have to do is point your camera lens at what you want to measure and, using trigonometry, it will calculate how tall and wide it is – and far away you are from it.

5. Design your dream room

Want to rearrange your furniture are worried to risk doing it in case it won’t fit?
Well, using the £1.99 Mark On Call iPhone app, you can expertly plan how you want your room to look and the technology will do the maths for you.

The app ‘measures’ furniture, then ‘fits’ it into a space – no more lifting and shifting in vain

6. Picture your dream home

Following on from Mark On Call, iPhone owners may want to visualise what the room space they have planned might look like.
To help them, the uDecore app creates an augmented reality image of how the chairs, tables and other furniture items might appear.

7. Monitor your heart

Want to know how much your heart races after an encounter with your fire-breathing boss? There’s an app for that.
Azumio’s free Instant Heart rate app – available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone – is so good it has won awards.
All you have to do is touch your phone screen for a few seconds and it will tell you how many beats per minute your heart is clocking.
It will also let you know where this fits in compared with your and everyone else’s average.

8. Change TV channels

Fed up of losing the remote? Now you can install it on your phone instead.
ThinkFlood’s £44.99 RedEye Mini dongle lets you change channels using your iPhone.
Just plug it in, download the software and then point at any TVand click to your heart’s content
The firm promises that an Android-compatible device is coming soon.

9. Turn lights on – and change their colour

Turning on light switches from your wall too much effort?
Then do it using your phone. All you need are three Phillips Hue bulbs for an admittedly massive £179.99 and either an Android or iPhone.
Then you can turns the lights on or off and – this is its party trick – change the colour emitted from the clever LED lighting.

10. Record TV shows

Forgor to set your Sky+ box to record a show?
Don’t worry – just download the satelite broadcaster’s free Mobile Record app and record and record it remotely from wherever you are in the world.

Samsung Galaxy S III sales blow past target, topping 30 million units in 150 days


Samsung (005930) mobile boss JK Shin said in September that the vendor hoped to sell more than 30 million Galaxy  S III smartphones in 2012. With just under two months left in the year, Samsung on Monday announced that Galaxy S III sales have already surpassed the company’s target, topping 30 million units in just 150 days. “The GALAXY S III continues to be a runaway favorite with customers around the world,” Samsung’s Shin said. “Meeting this sales milestone in five months sets another record for Samsung, and we are extremely proud and yet motivated to continue to provide our customers with products that they love.” Samsung had previously announced that sales of its flagship smartphone topped 10 million units in under two months and it took about 100 days to hit 20 million.

Future of Nokia hangs on Windows Phone 8 rollout


For Nokia, it comes down to this: Is Microsoft’s new phone software going to get it back in the smartphone race, or is it going to be too late?

After being the top seller of cellphones in the world for 14 years, Nokia failed to meet the challenge when Apple in 2007 introduced the dazzling iPhone that caught the imagination of design-conscious customers and rattled mobile markets.

Photo: AP Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gives his presentation at the launch of Microsoft Windows 8, in New York, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Windows 8 is the most dramatic overhaul of the personal computer market’s dominant operating system in 17 years.

The Finnish company hit a downward spiral that has led to shrinking sales and market share, plant closures, thousands of layoffs and downgrades by credit agencies to junk status. On Friday, research firm IDC said that in the July-to-September period, Nokia slid for the first time off the list of the top five smartphone makers in the world. It’s still the second-largest maker of phones overall, but sales of non-smartphones are shrinking across the industry, and there’s little profit there.

The ailing company’s CEO, Stephen Elop, sees Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 software as a chance to reverse that trend, describing it as a catalyst for the new models. On Monday, Microsoft Corp. is hosting a big launch event for the software at an arena in San Francisco. The first phones from Nokia, Samsung and HTC are expected to hit store shelves next month.

The launch of Windows Phone 8 follows on the heels of Windows 8 for PCs and tablets, which Microsoft released Friday. That operating system has borrowed its look from Windows Phone, meaning Microsoft now has a unified look across PCs and phones — at least if people take to Windows 8. The company has also made it easy for developers to create software that runs on both platforms with minor modifications.

Analysts are calling this a make-or-break moment for Nokia. “Nokia is placing a huge bet on Microsoft and if the gamble doesn’t pay off, the losses can be high,” said Neil Mawston from Strategy Analytics, near London. “It’s putting all its eggs in one basket and that’s quite a high-risk strategy.”

In February last year, Nokia announced it was teaming up with Microsoft to replace its old Symbian and next-generation MeeGo software platforms with Windows. This move was made in the hope that it would rejuvenate the company and claw back lost ground.

Eight months later, they produced the first Nokia Windows Phone. Consumers didn’t warm to it, and it soon became clear that these phones, based on Windows Phone 7, were going to become obsolete. They can’t be upgraded to Windows Phone 8. Lumia sales slumped to 2.9 million units in the third quarter after reaching 4 million in the previous three months.

“Retailers withdrew marketing and promotion because no one wants to sell customers a device that ages in a few months,” says Michael Schroeder, analyst at FIM Bank Ltd. in Helsinki. “Had there been a seamless transfer to Windows 8 from the old (Lumia) devices, sales figures would have been much higher last quarter.”

Mawston gives Nokia until April to prove it’s still in the race. “If Nokia does not have more than 5 percent of the global smartphone market by the end of the first quarter 2013, alarm bells will be ringing,” Mawston said.

Analysts estimate Nokia’s current global smartphone market share to be some 4 percent — down from 14 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, uncertainty clouds its new venture with Microsoft. “We’re a bit in the dark here,” Schroeder said. “Right now we can’t really say anything about Nokia’s future. Everything depends on how the new devices are received in the market.”

Nokia says its Lumia 920 and 820 phones are just the beginning of a new range of Windows Phone 8 devices, but early evaluations suggest they lack the “wow” effect necessary to make a dent in the smartphone market.

Also, Windows Phone 8 lags behind in the number of third-party applications available. There are some 100,000 available. Google’s and Apple’s stores have six or seven times as many. “It’s a perception thing really,” Mawston of Strategy Analytics said. “Like in supermarket wars, if you have a store with lots of shelves with lots of apps, then consumers will choose you over a smaller store that has a smaller offering — even if you can’t use all those apps.”

Analysts expect 700 million smartphones to be sold worldwide this year. While network operators and retailers may welcome a third software system to challenge the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, it is the consumer who will ultimately decide Nokia’s and Windows Phone 8’s fate.

Beside the smartphone challenge, Nokia is feeling the pinch in the lower end with manufacturers in China and in Asia producing cut-rate non-smartphones — Nokia’s former domain. Earlier this year, Samsung overtook it as the world’s No. 1 mobile phone vendor, ending Nokia’s reign that peaked in 2008 with a 40 percent market share.

“Dumb” phones continue to be the backbone of Nokia operations, including in India where it’s a top seller. With strong and extensive distribution networks and a brand well-known in emerging markets, all might not be lost for the company that grew from making paper and rubber boots to being the biggest manufacturer of cellphones.

Mawston says that in theory, Nokia and Microsoft have a good chance of success as they offer an across-the-board system that stretches across home computers, mobiles, laptops, tablets as well as in the office, backed by Nokia’s strong distribution and hardware and Microsoft’s multi-platform software.

“If they can exploit that underlying market platform … and tie it all together in a good hardware portfolio, then potentially Microsoft and Nokia could be a very, very strong partnership — a bit like bringing together Batman and Robin,” Mawston said. “But, in practice, whether they can execute on that reality still is a great unknown and remains to be seen.”