Call of duty modern warfare "Overwatch" map

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s “Overwatch” map out now


Activision Blizzard’s content campaign for acclaimed first person shooter continues with the addition of a new map.

Call of duty modern warfare "Overwatch" map

Overwatch Map

The latest DLC in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’s Content Drop campaign is the “Overwatch” map. It is available now for Call of Duty Elite premium members on Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE.

Overwatch is a new map that is set on a construction site atop a New York City skyscraper and it’s the third DLC in a planned twenty new Content Drops that will be rolled out once a month over the next nine months.

The map is laid out over two levels with the central bridge and side routes, with no safety barriers around the perimeter adding a new level of danger for the player during combat.

Following the release of Overwatch, publisher Activision Blizzard is planning to push Elite Drops four to six for premium members on Xbox LIVE in March.

According to an Activision Blizzard spokesperson, the upcoming DLC is expected to consist of a multiplayer map called “Black Box” and two new Special Ops Missions, “Black Ice” and “Negotiator”.

While the content will be made available first on Xbox LIVE, premium members on Sony’s PlayStation Network will be able to access the content before non-premium members on their console.

Non-premium Call of Duty Elite members are able to purchase the new content via the Modern Warfare 3 Content Collections.

For the full calendar of upcoming Modern Warfare 3 DLC, go to: www.callofduty.com/contentcalendar.

Advertisements

HP’s New Gaming PC – HP HPE h9 Phoenix


HP tries its hand at another gaming desktop PC with the HP HPE h9 Phoenix line. Now that HP’s Voodoo PC division is for all intents and purposes in cryogenic freeze, the h9 Phoenix is Hewlett Packard’s answer to the mid-level Acer

Predators and Dell XPS 8300 systems in the high-end multimedia and gaming desktop PC space. It has some aggressive styling cues and (some) high-end components, but it’s still more sedate than systems from Alienwar

e or the old HP with VoodooDNA brand.

Design and Features

The HPE h9 chassis uses the same internal structure as the multimedia-oriented HP HPE h8 tower, though the h9 has newly styled exterior panels that give the system a more assertive look. The side panel is perforated and lit so you
The h9 Phoenix has a plethora of options for AMD FX or Intel four and six-core processors, four DIMM slots with a capacity of 16GB of DDR3 system memory, support for 250W graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia, up to three hard drives, options for SSD, top mounted USB 3.0 ports, HP Beats Audio, HP LinkUp software, 7.1 surround sound capability, and optional liquid cooling. Other options include HDTV tuner, wireless keyboard and mouse, Bluetooth, and up to two DVD or Blu-ray drives. can show off the liquid cooled processor, the front panel comes with menacing red accent lighting, and the top panel features a “landing pad” on the top of the system to park your smartphone or media player and headphones. The top also features a pair of super speed USB 3.0 ports for syncing and charging. It will certainly stand out on a store shelf compared to the basic HP Pavilion PCs, but the h9 Phoenix is still understated compared to systems like the Acer Predator. To really stand out, HP needs to take a page from their history and release a truly stunning system like the HP Blackbird 002 or the Firebird.

The HP HPE h9 Phoenix starts at $999.99 for a system with an eight-core AMD FX-8100 processor, 8GB of system memory, 1TB hard drive, 1GB AMD Radeon HD 7670 graphics card, Blu-ray reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, 15 months of Norton Internet Security, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Look for a review soon.

htc sensation

HTC Sensation lineup gets Android ICS in late March


 

htc sensation

HTC just gave us some welcome extra information on the planned Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich updates for their smartphone portfolio.

The wait is almost over for the owners of the original Sensation, the Sensation XE and the Sensation XL. The Sensation and Sensation XE will get the ICS treatment by the end of March, while the XL update will follow shortly after.

HTC promises to release more information on the update schedule in the following few weeks, so stay tuned.There is more good news – HTC EVO 3D, Incredible S, Desire S and Desire HD updates are also in the works and will be released later this year. That’s as specific as HTC got, but just knowing that the updates for those are on the way is still pretty exciting for their owners, we guess.

Q3 enterprise adoption: iPhone slips, Android gains, iPad owns the tablet space


Along with Apple’s quarterly results earlier this week, there’s another report hitting today that covers a growing segment of the mobile device market: Good Technology’s roundup of device activation statistics, compiled from the company’s range of Fortune 500 clients that use Good’s service to provide secure email and calendaring to handsets and tablets. (See previous results here.) The results this time around: interesting but not that surprising. You can see the full PDF report here.

iPhone and iOS activations continue to lead the field, with iPhones representing 61% of all smartphone activations on Good’s platform and iOS devices generally covering 70% of activations (a drop from the 78% share in the previous quarter). Android smartphones, however, picked up some ground on the iPhone over the quarter, showing improvement month over month. Android phones finished the quarter with about 39% of smartphone activations, passing iPad activations again (28.3% vs. 26.3% of the total) after the iPad overtook Android last quarter.

Good’s assessment of the iPhone/Android shift is largely in line with Apple’s spin: customers put off iPhone 4 purchases in anticipation of a new iPhone release in the fall, which is exactly what we got. Good SVP John Herrema did get a look at preliminary data for the iPhone 4S launch weekend, and given the observed 25% bump in activations over the quarterly average for the iPhone 4, he’s confident about an iPhone surge: “Looking forward to Q4, 2011, we expect… the iPhone 4S to be the catalyst for an Apple rally.”

When it comes to the iPad versus the larger universe of tablet devices, the story remains that there is no “tablet market” — the iPad is the only game in town as far as big companies are concerned. The report summary puts it thusly: “To say iOS tablets dominated adoption in the enterprise is to understate the case…. Android tablet activations within Good’s customer base remain in the realm of a rounding error compared to what we’re seeing with iPad and iPad 2.” iOS tablets made up more than 96% of all tablet activations in the quarter.

As always, it’s important to note that Good’s data does not cover RIM’s Blackberry devices, as they are supported by RIM’s proprietary server infrastructure; Windows 7 phones and tablets are also not tracked by the company.

Latest smartphone market share numbers: Apple is flat, Google going strong


Summary: Mobile analytics firm comScore has released the latest quarterly numbers for smartphones, and there are some telling changes that reflect the mobile space. Android keeps growing while others remain flat.

Mobile analytics firm comScore released its latest quarterly numbers for smartphones, and there are some telling changes in the mobile space. Apple’s iOS market share numbers have remained largely unchanged, with only 0.5 percent growth in the quarter ending March 2011.

Google’s Android continues to grab market share with a 6 percent growth over the same period. Google’s growth corresponds closely with the drop in share by RIM, a significant 4.5 percent. The big drop by RIM has Apple’s iOS getting close to overtake the BlackBerry. Android keeps growing while other platforms are remaining relatively flat or declining in market share.

On the OEM front, the new statistics show the only handset maker in the top five to show growth in share is Apple, likely due to the release of the iPhone 4 with Verizon. Even with this significant event, Apple’s market share grew only 1.1 percent. Apple was the leader in growth, however, with other firms remaining flat or showing slight declines. The top five OEMs in market share were Samsung, LG, Motorola, RIM and Apple. The top three are OEMs using Android, indicating it is still the platform garnering the most sales to consumers 13+ as surveyed.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich and Galaxy Nexus:


Google and Samsung launched the latest Android OS Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus smartphone Wednesday morning in Hong Kong.

 

We’ve broken down the long-awaited phone and OS’s new features, so that you can see exactly what is now brought to the table. Our pick for most impressive new feature is that glorious camera, which includes native features ranging from filters to panorama shooting.

  • Big, fast and powerful: the Nexus Prime has a 4.65-inch display and LTE, runs one of the fastest 4G networks in the world and has a dual core 1.2ghz processor.
  • Everything about this phone is smoother. There’s a new font optimized for HD, software buttons replace hardware buttons and the keyboard’s improved.
  • Your face unlocks the phone, as facial recognition replaces a traditional pass code.
  • The new and improved camera has zero shutter lag, autofocuses, takes low-light photos, stitches together images into seamless panoramas and shoots 1080p, time-lapsed video. You also have lots of instant editing options such as removing red eye, adding a “hipster” filter or cropping.
  • The phone gives you a detailed analysis of your data usage, down to the very app sucking up all your bytes.
  • Android Beam eases sharing between phones — simply bump your phone against another Android to transfer videos, maps or other content.
  • Gmail and Google calendar have slick new looks and are integrated into the OS.
  • The People app innovates your contacts list, linking individuals with all of their social profiles.
  • You can multitask and view your recent apps.
  • Developers can download the SDK starting immediately. The phone will ship to the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia in November.

What do you think of Ice Cream Sandwich? Is it a game changer from Gingerbread or does it merely add some new bells and whistles? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Hands on review:

Apple iphone 4s review


 The iPhone 4S is a superior smartphone, offering groundbreaking voice control, a fast dual-core processor, and a fantastic camera.

The iPhone 4S is a triple threat, and not just because it’s available on three out of the four major U.S. carriers. Thanks to an A5 processor, Apple’s sequel for AT&T (starting at $199 for 16GB, $399 as reviewed for 64GB) is considerably faster than the iPhone 4. Second, the iPhone 4S sports a much sharper and brighter 8-megapixel camera, which records full HD video. And then there’s Siri, a voice-enabled assistant so advanced she nearly sells the device by herself. Ask Siri, “What’s the best smartphone?” and she’ll tell you, “The one you’re holding.” But is the iPhone 4S really a step above everything else on the market? We’ll answer that question.

Design

If HTC or Samsung shipped a flagship smartphone that looked identical to its predecessor more than a year later, they’d be ridiculed. The problem for them is that the iPhone 4S is still the best-designed device on the market. From the glass back to the stainless steel band that wraps around the outside, this handset looks as elegant and feels as solid as ever.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Back View

On the other hand, the iPhone 4S isn’t the thinnest or lightest smartphone on the market anymore. Apple’s device measures 4.5 x 2.3 x 0.4 inches and weighs 4.9 ounces, compared to 5.1 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches and 4.8 ounces for the Samsung Galaxy S II, whose screen is nearly an inch larger. Still, the Galaxy S II feels cheaper because of its plastic body. And the iPhone 4S’ more compact dimensions make it easier to use with one hand.

Display

At 960 x 640 pixels, the iPhone 4S still sports the sharpest screen out there, although HD panels are on the way from the Android competition. Icons, text, photos, videos, and games look gorgeous on Apple’s Retina display. The iPhone 4S’ screen also continues to outshine nearly all the competition in terms of brightness.

In fact, this display is brighter and whiter than the iPhone 4’s. As a result, we could make out more details in darker scenes of a Fringe episode, but some other images (such as photos taken in sunlight) looked a bit washed out. When we used our AEMC Lightmeter, the iPhone S notched 549 lux, versus 511 for the iPhone 4. The Sprint Galaxy SII only registered 284 lux.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Some may find the iPhone 4S’ 3.5-inch display cramped compared to handsets with 4.3- or 4.5-inch screens. You simply don’t have to zoom in as much to read content on web pages with a 800 x 480-pixel phone such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, and you have more surface area for a larger keyboard. Nevertheless, Apple’s multitouch keyboard remains top-notch; we still have no problem typing accurately in portrait mode.

Dual-Core Performance

In a move that surprises no one, Apple packed the iPhone 4S with the same A5 dual-core processor that’s inside the iPad 2. The result, according to the company, is up to two times the overall performance and up to 7 times the graphics muscle. The iPhone 4S notched a GeekBench Score of 612, versus 357 for the original iPhone 4 running iOS 5. That’s a 1.7X difference.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

In the GLBenchmark, which measures graphics performance, the iPhone 4S turned in similar scores to the iPhone 4 in some tests but outpaced it by a wide margin in others. For instance, in the GPU Skinning test, the iPhone 4S notched 1,781 to 859 for the iPhone 4 (a 2X difference), and there was nearly a 4X delta in single-textured fill rate.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)Now for real-world results. The A5 chip makes the iPhone 4S faster at rendering web pages. It beat the iPhone 4 when loading the full desktop versions of both the NYTimes (4 vs. 8 seconds) and ESPN.com (5 vs. 10 seconds) over Wi-Fi. However, the iPhone 4S had only a one-second edge on mobile sites such as CNN. The newer iPhone also starting playing HD YouTube trailers slightly faster, loaded Pandora about 3 seconds faster, and it took 6 seconds less to load the first level of the Asphalt 6 game.

You’ll see the biggest performance boost with the iPhone 4S when playing demanding 3D games and editing video in iMovie. When we tried Infinity Blade, we enjoyed less lag when battling foes, similar to the bump we saw between the iPad and iPad 2. More games optimized for the A5 chip are on the way.

AirPlay Mirroring

There’s one other benefit of the iPhone’s dual-core processor, and that’s mirroring capability via AirPlay. That means you can stream whatever is on your iPhone 4S’s screen–whether it’s a home movie, game, or slideshow–to an Apple TV. Apple says games such as Real Racing 2will let up to four players compete on the big screen at the same time. No other smartphone can do that.

To test out mirroring, we connected the iPhone 4S to an Apple TV on the same Wi-Fi network, double-pressed the home button, and swiped to the left twice. Then we hit the AirPlay button and selected Apple TV. Photos looked crisp and colorful, and Asphalt 6 streamed smoothly enough to make turns and stay in the race–and get a little dizzy. However, we noticed some audio stuttering and pixelation, especially when we performed a turbo boost. 1080p videos took a while to buffer, but looked brilliant when they started playing. We could make out the text on a taxi door from about 10 feet away.

iOS 5

Although the iPhone 4S’ iconic interface remains just as simple as ever, the underlying iOS 5 (also available for the older iPhone 4 and 3GS) packs a ton of welcome new features. Some of these enhancements play catch-up with Android and others surpass it.

Although you access the new Notification Center the same way you view notifications in Android–a swipe down from the top of the screen–Apple’s dashboard looks cleaner and more modern. iOS 5 also integrates weather and stocks in the Notification Center, giving it a more dynamic feel. When you have incoming alerts, you can set them as banners that appear at the top of the screen, as opposed to in-your-face boxes that take up the center of the display. The iPhone 4S can also show notifications on the lock screen, such as new messages, enabling users to swipe to open the associated app.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Another helpful new feature is Reminders, which you can use to create a list of tasks. You can set the app to remind you either on a certain day or when you arrive to a specific location, such as “Take out the trash” when you get home. Unfortunately, you can only use addresses that are already stored in your contacts, and tasks don’t integrate with the iPhone 4S’ calendar.

Apple has finally started to catch up to Android in the social networking department with Twitter integration in iOS 5. You can tweet a web article, photo, map location, or YouTube video directly from the associated apps. When you go to share that content, you’ll see a thumbnail of it on the right side and three blank lines where you’ll compose your tweet. Before sending, you can add your location. Twitter also integrates with Contacts, so you’ll see a contact’s profile pic when you open their contact card.

Sadly, iOS 5 doesn’t integrate with Facebook in the same ways, something Android phones have been doing for years. Instead, you’ll need to use the dedicated Facebook app.

Other highlights of iOS 5 include the ability to access the camera from the lock screen, Newsstand for magazine and newspaper subscriptions, built-in photo editing tools, and (finally) the ability to sync iTunes content with your Mac or PC over Wi-Fi.

Siri

Up until now, voice control on phones has been limited to very specific pre-programmed commands, limiting its appeal and functionality. Siri is different. This breakthrough service–exclusive to the iPhone 4S–was designed to understand natural language and gets better at understanding your voice over time. What can you do with this virtual assistant? A lot more than you might think.

To activate Siri, you can either long-press the home button and then start speaking or simply bring the phone up to your head as if you were having a conversation. Actually, you are; with Siri you can string together queries that no other smartphone would understand, and she’ll respond and interject when appropriate.

For instance, you could say, “What steakhouses are near me?” and Siri will ping Yelp for recommendations (pictured below left). Then you could say, “How about Mexican?” and she’ll grab that information. Notice we only said “Mexican” and not “Mexican restaurants.” This assistant understands context. In our case, Siri said, “I found 12 Mexican restaurants, six of them are fairly close to you.” If you tap the result, you’ll be brought to the Maps app. We wish we could jump right to Yelp.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Another example of Siri’s amazing intelligence is the ability to create appointments just by saying, “Schedule lunch with John Monday at 1 p.m.” Siri first asked me which John, presenting a list, and then she informed us that we already had a meeting schedule for that time. So we said. “Move it to 2 p.m,” Calendar entry made. That’s impressive.

Siri integrates with several of Apple’s applications, including phone (for making calls), iPod, dictating messages, Reminders, Maps, Email, Weather (pictured bottom right), Stocks, Clock, Address Book, Web Search, and the new Find My Friends. We especially liked being able to set an alarm just by saying it aloud.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

In addition to Yelp, Siri pulls in answers from WolframAlpha, the scary-smart online knowledge engine. For example, you can say, “What is a 20 percent tip on $90.33 for five people?” and Siri will give you the amount of the tip, total per person, and amount with tip. Siri also easily answered what movie won the Oscar in 2001 (Gladiator).

At times, though, Siri disappointed. She gave us directions to the nearest Longhorn Steakhouse, but only text on a map. iOS still doesn’t provide spoken turn-by-turn GPS directions out of the box. In addition, while Siri can take dictation in any text field, she can’t read your messages aloud. We’d also love to see Apple open up APIs for Siri so more developers can leverage this assistant’s potential. We can’t wait to be able to say things like, “What’s my flight status?”, “Book a table for two at Masa on Friday at 9 p.m.”, and “What’s the score of the Eagles game?”

At one point during our testing, Siri refused to work, responding with an “Uh oh.” Rebooting the phone didn’t help, but turning Siri off and then on in Settings fixed the issue. Overall, Siri is much more than a novelty, and we can’t wait to see what Apple does with the feature next.

iCloud

iCloud confuses a lot of consumers; it’s not just an online locker. Perhaps the best way to explain iCloud is how it works with photos. When you snap a picture with the iPhone 4S, the Photo Stream feature will automatically upload it to iCloud and then push it to your iPad, Mac, and Apple TV without you having to lift a finger. The images appear in those other places almost immediately, like magic. While we wish Photo Stream worked over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, it’s a good example of why iCloud makes life easier.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Photo Stream stores only the last 1,000 pics you snapped, and you can’t delete them once they’re uploaded. That’s annoying, so you’ll want to make sure to delete any duds or embarrassing images before they reach iCloud.

With the iPhone 4S, iTunes is also in the cloud (pictured above right). When you purchase music or videos on your computer, you can download them again to your phone without paying for content twice. You can also automatically download music, apps, and books to all of your iOS devices at once (if you turn on that feature under Settings/Store). iTunes Match is coming soon, and it will scan your music collection for tracks you haven’t purchased and add them to the cloud–no uploading required–for $24.99 per year. You can also sync your existing iTunes collection to your iPhone 4S over Wi-Fi.

iCloud also backs up your iPhone 4S; it keeps your calendar, mail, and contacts in sync across devices, and help you find your phone (just as before).

Apple includes 5GB of storage for free, and purchased content (music, apps, books, TV shows) and Photo Stream don’t count against that cap. But you can upgrade to yearly subscriptions of $20 for 10GB, $40 for 20GB, or $100 for 50GB. Photo Stream stores only the last 1,000 pics you snapped, and you can’t delete them once they’re uploaded. That’s annoying, so you’ll want to make sure to delete any duds or embarrassing images before they reach iCloud.

Camera and Camcorder

Apple boasts that the 8-MP camera inside the iPhone 4S is the best around, but it’s not just about having more pixels. The phone has a new custom lens with a larger f/2.4 aperture paired with an even better backside illumination sensor and a new Hybrid IR filter. Just as important, the iPhone 4S starts nearly two seconds faster than the iPhone 4 and the shot-to-shot time was much snappier. In fact, the iPhone 4S narrowly beat the Sprint Galaxy S II in this category and was speedier than the Amaze 4G. (The Amaze 4G’s camera started up fastest, though, thanks to its dedicated camera button.)

When we took a shot of a painting indoors, the iPhone 4S trounced the Samsung Galaxy S II and HTC Amaze 4G–both great camera phones. Apple’s camera delivered a clearer and far brighter image. When we took all three handsets outdoors to shoot a pumpkin and other Halloween decorations, the iPhone 4S outclassed the Amaze 4G but was neck and neck with the Galaxy S II in detail–right down to a sculpted flower on the side of a pot. Still, the orange was slightly brighter on the iPhone 4S shot.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

To help you make your photos look their best, iOS 5 includes a Grid feature to line up shots, as well as HDR functionality for avoiding overexposed or underexposed shots. After you take the pic, you can use the new Edit button and then engage Auto Enhance, remove red eye, or crop photos. The Amaze 4G goes further with some of its features, such as its Panorama mode and Burst mode.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

The iPhone 4S’ 1080p camcorder is yet another reason to leave your point-and-shoot behind. When we recorded a three-year-old having fun on a playground, we could easily make out the intricate design of a slide’s exterior and the folds in the boy’s cargo pants. The audio was a little soft at medium distance, but loud as the subject moved closer.

In a separate video we shot alongside the Galaxy S II and Amaze 4G, the iPhone 4S did a better job handling transitions from darker to lighter areas, but the S II delivered comparable detail and smoother footage when tracking moving objects.

Apps and Media

The App Store now has an unprecedented 500,000 apps, 360,000 of which are for the iPhone. But some of the most compelling apps for the iPhone 4S are made by Apple, including the new iMessage (pictured below left). This BlackBerry Messenger rival sends messages instantly and for free to any iOS device running iOS 5. And you can share a lot more than just text; iMessage supports photos, videos, and web links. It took only 25 seconds to send a picture over Wi-Fi. You can also see when someone is typing a reply.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Apple’s new Find My Friends app (a free download, pictured above right) leverages iCloud to help you pinpoint family members and others who own iOS 5 devices with this feature enabled. You can invite friends and family right from the app. And if you’d rather not broadcast your coordinates at all times, you can choose to share your location temporarily by entering a specific day and time.

The iPhone 4S’ selection of third-party apps continues to be unparalleled. Even though Android has many of the same apps, Apple’s continue to be more polished. A good example is the redesigned Facebook app (pictured below left), which has a slick slide-out menu bar. The iPhone 4S also taps into a better selection of games, including console-like titles such as ShadowGun.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

While Android phones have started to close the gap with media integration, only the iPhone 4S lets you buy music, books, magazines (Newsstand pictured above right), movies, and TV shows with a single account. It’s hard to beat that sort of convenience, though we wish Apple would pull a Spotify and/or Netflix and offer subscription plans for tunes and video.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T) Speedtest

Data and Web Surfing

Thanks to a new dual-antenna design, the iPhone 4S can switch between two antennas for sending and receiving data. The reason we wanted to review the AT&T model, though, is that only this version supports HSDPA data speeds up to 14.4 Mbps. In one New Jersey location we saw download speeds as high as 5.3 Mbps, but overall the phone averaged 2.2 Mbps, far below competing devices that offer true 4G speeds. Both the T-Mobile Galaxy SII(12.6 Mbps) and the Motorola Droid Bionic(11.6 Mbps) were more than five times faster, and the Sprint Galaxy S II was about twice as speedy. The AT&T Galaxy S II averaged 4.5 Mbps down in one NYC location.

When surfing the web, the iPhone 4S was also slower than bonafide 4G smartphones. It took the handset 10 seconds to load the mobile version of ESPN, 12 seconds for CNN Mobile, and 23 seconds for the full version of NYTimes.com. By contrast, Verizon and T-Mobile’s latest 4G phones take less than 5 seconds to load mobile sites and 10 seconds or less for the full NYTimes.

The good news is that you’ll see faster page load times than offered by the iPhone 4 (thanks to the A5 dual-core processor), and Safari now sports a cool new Reader feature that strips pages of ads and blows up text to make articles easier to read. Want to keep on top of multiple stories you want to get to later? Add an article to the new Reading List, which is separate from Bookmarks.

Call Quality and Battery Life

After making multiple calls over three days, we’re happy to report that the iPhone 4S dropped only one call. Audio quality on our end of the line was fuzzy during pauses, but otherwise clear and plenty loud. Other callers said we sounded “just fine,” which is pretty good compared to earlier AT&T iPhones.

The iPhone 4S has a rated battery life of 8 hours of talk time, an hour more than its predecessor. However, the standby time is 200 hours, down from 300 hours on the iPhone 4. In our daily testing, the iPhone 4S had impressive endurance despite packing a dual-core processor. After using the phone intermittently from 7 AM until 5 PM, the device still had 38 percent of its charge left, so you should be able to get through most, if not all, of an average work day on a charge. We’ll update this review once we’ve run our formal battery test.

Apple iPhone 4S (AT&T)

Verdict

Yes, it’s a dead ringer for the iPhone 4, but the iPhone 4S serves as a reminder that true innovation is never skin deep. With Siri, Apple has managed to make voice control not only natural but cool. The sharper and brighter camera, smooth 1080p camcorder, and zippier dual-core processor all solidify the iPhone 4S as the best phone on AT&T. iPhone 4 owners in the middle of their contracts are likely better off waiting for the iPhone 5, as iOS 5 and iCloud will extend the life of your device.

Those looking for a bigger display might prefer the Android-powered Samsung Galaxy S II, which offers a larger screen and some key features the iPhone 4S lacks, such as true 4G speeds (on Sprint and T-Mobile) and Facebook integration. Where the iPhone 4S pulls ahead is ease of use, app selection, and an ever-growing army of accessories. And then there’s the features only Apple could pull off. You know, the kind that get people excited about talking to their phones again.

Pros


  • Dual-core powerhouse
  • Siri is a game-changer
  • Fast, bright, and sharp camera
  • iOS 5 and iCloud built in
  • Relatively long battery life

Cons


  • Lacks 4G data speeds
  • No Facebook integration
  • Photo Stream only works over Wi-Fi

LG DoublePlay Phone Touts Two Screens for Multitasking Fiends


We 21st century humans are busy creatures. Bombarded by a constant stream of data flowing into our smartphones, we struggle to respond to text messages, tweets and e-mails in a timely fashion. But LG’s latest smartphone, exclusive to T-Mobile, may provide a solution.

Dubbed the DoublePlay, the handset boasts a 3.5-inch touchscreen display for viewing content, and a slide-out qwerty keyboard that should appeal to the dwindling numbers of BlackBerry faithfuls among us. And, in a strange twist of industrial design, the DoublePlay also comes with another 2-inch touchscreen that splits the keyboard in twain, and serves as a second app dock for fast task-switching.

At first glance, the second screen seems like sheer novelty. T-Mobile pitches the dubious idea that the additional screen is perfect for the world of “fast-paced social networking.” I can’t say I’ve ever been struck with such an urgency to tweet that I’ve required a second screen to do so, but perhaps my wit isn’t as sharp as yours.

Nonetheless, the DoublePlay allows instant access to up to eight apps docked on the second screen, eliminating the need to mash the home button over and over to access your app menu. It’s a nifty time-saver for those obsessed with multitasking, and even the non-obsessive tweeters and texters among us should find the second screen helpful.

Android device manufacturers are scrambling to differentiate themselves from one another in today’s extremely crowded mobile market. Some companies are attempting to carve out identity by adding more screen real estate, and, to this extent, the DoublePlay is akin to Kyocera’s take on an Android handsetfrom earlier this year, as well as Sony’s unreleased clamshell tablet, the S2.

In addition to the 2-inch touchscreen, the DoublePlay boasts a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor running Gingerbread, the latest version of Android (hopefully it will be upgradable to the forthcoming Ice Cream Sandwich OS release). The phone also sports what looks on paper to be a decent camera: 5 megapixels with support for 720p HD video capture.

T-Mobile is also boosting its group and cloud text messaging services, which now essentially let you text multiple contacts across different platforms. So, for example, if one buddy is working from his PC while another is on a tablet, you’ll be able to text both friends from your phone. For better or worse, T-Mobile is essentially taking apps like Pinger and Google Voice’s texting capabilities and replacing them with its own, carrier-branded versions.

We don’t yet know the Doubletake’s price or release date, but it’ll be available in time for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of LG

Article courtesy http://www.wired.com

Windows Phone 7.5 review


Introduction

Some people are wary of buying a first generation product – and with good reason, there’re always kinks to sort out. That’s what Windows Phone 7.5 is here to do. The long expected Mango update finally puts iron to fabric in a bid to get rid of the said kinks.

There are game changers like multitasking and Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. There are smaller things like custom ringtones. There are improvements to the core apps along with a host of new features.

There isn’t a hub left untouched. Each has at least a few minor improvements, adding up to a much more complete and functional OS than Windows Phone was at the beginning.

You have to keep in mind though that the OS is still only a year old. There’s been plenty of time and software versions for the competition to finally get things nailed down. And we tend to forget how bad it looked for them too in the beginning.

Before you dig into the review, you might want to re-read our original Windows Phone 7 review, as we’ll be focusing on the changes since then for this one.

Anyway, will version 7.5 put Windows Phone squarely on the map and make it the third horse in the smartphone race? Let’s look at all the changes in detail and find out.

Core changes

When Windows Phone 7 was announced, multitasking was the glaring omission. Well, v7.5 comes to fix that.

It still isn’t true multitasking; things are being done the iOS way. Apps not in the foreground are suspended, but the OS has ways to take over and carry out the task for them.

The exact details of that are for developers to worry about, what the user needs to know is that once apps are updated to support multitasking, they won’t be able to tell the difference.

We only worry that this logic can be too restrictive for some apps, but we’ll see how things pan out. Of course, there will be a transitional period when some apps will support multitasking and others won’t. We’ve been there with the iOS, when it first left the realm of single-tasking – it’s not that bad.

Anyway, to switch between apps you press and hold the Back key (that’s right, the Back key, not the Windows key). The app switcher itself looks similar to that of Symbian or WebOS: thumbnail snapshots of the apps, ordered chronologically left to right.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Press and hold the back key to launch the app switcher

You can scroll the list horizontally to select an app and a tap will bring you back to exactly how you left it. Usually, the last 5-6 apps are here. You can’t “kill” any of those apps, this is more of a history of the recently used apps.

Eventually, as you open more apps, the old ones start to drop out of the list. Once an app is gone, you have to launch it again the old fashioned way, which has the drawback of starting it over from the beginning.

These contrasts with iOS, where apps retain their state until you explicitly kill them. It’s not a perfect solution, but it works much better than what we had before (the countless back clicks were a slow and clumsy solution). Plus, apps with active background tasks (e.g. streaming online radio) will keep on working.

Multitasking can be disabled from the settings to save battery. There you’ll also find a list of all installed apps that support multitasking.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Multitasking can be turned off to preserve the battery • You can check which apps support mutitasking

Check out the app switcher on video:

The Live tiles, the basic building blocks of the Start screen of Windows Phone have been revamped. Now they are quicker and offer more info.

For example, the Pictures tile shows an animated slideshow of your images. The Group tile (Groups is a new feature to boot) lists friend updates.

The application list has grown a virtual Search button, which makes finding apps easier for those with many apps installed.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
The Group live tile shows the latest update from the group • Easy searching in the app list

Windows Phone 7.5 can be controlled through voice only – you can dictate a text, have the phone read out the reply, you can initiate searches and so on. Other OSes are doing it too (*cough*Android*cough*) but voice commands are a big part of iOS (and a loudly touted one at that), so WP7.5 can brag about it too.

Windows Phone 7.5
Voice commands are go

Another change to the core functionality is that you can now manage the phone remotely via a browser over the Internet. That includes features like install, reinstall or delete apps and keeping track of your Xbox Live stats. WP7 had a free phone location service from the start and it’s still here.

People hub

The People hub from Windows Phone 7 was impressive, but the 7.5 update makes it absolutely brilliant. Part of that is due to the better social network support, complete with Twitter and LinkedIn.

One of the new features of the hub is Groups, a handy way to organize your contacts, with “text everyone” and “email everyone” features. All the status updates from the grouped contacts are pulled in from their various social networks, and you get access to their online photo albums too.

Groups can also be pinned to the homescreen for easier access.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Groups handle everything from mass messaging to SNS updates

The rest is pretty much the same. You still get the clever way of jumping to contacts starting with a specific letter, the What’s new tab that aggregates status updates from all contacts and the Recent tab, which lists only recently viewed contacts.

And deeper social networking support makes things even better. When viewing a contact’s profile, you get everything from call, text, send email, write on wall, mention on Twitter and so on. The contact photo, along with the latest status update, are visible on top.

The What’s new tab works like its namesake in the People hub, but only shows updates from the specific contact. Pictures is where the contact’s Facebook albums are.

The most interesting addition is the new History tab. The complete history of exchange with a contact is in one place listed by day. Everything but status updates is listed here – calls, texts (actually threads from the Messaging hub) and emails.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Looking at the profile of a single contact

The Me card is your own profile. From here you can post status updates, set chat status, check into locations (there’s more location goodness coming on later). You can also change your profile picture (only for Facebook and Live though, not Twitter).

Another tab in the Me card lets you view notifications (e.g. Twitter mentions) and, finally, What’s new lets you view your own status updates.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
The Me card manages your social networks

Messaging hub

Messaging was heavily retooled for version 7.5.

Threads are the building blocks of all non-email messaging. Although a sort of conversation view, threads mash together SMS, Facebook and Windows Live messages.

That’s the thing about Windows Phone: the Messaging hub removes the old division between texts, IMs, social messages. The other hubs do the same for the other functionality, making the whole thing simple yet powerful.

Anyway, Messaging is separated into two tabs – threads and online. Online shows you who’s online with the people you’ve talked to most recently on top. This makes finding someone to talk to very easy.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Viewing all threads and who’s online • A single threads combines messages from SMS, Facebook, Messenger

Threads is where this hub’s impressive features kick in. A new thread is created for each person you start a chat with. Messages are displayed as speech balloons and a label on the left shows the type of message – text, Facebook or Live Messenger. Labels are placed only when the conversation moves to a different platform so it’s not cluttered.

You can choose which platform to use to send a reply and the text box will remind you what you’re currently using with a message like “chat on Facebook”. Individual messages can be copied (the whole message is copied to be pasted later, you can’t copy only a part of the message), they can be deleted or forwarded. Whole threads can be deleted too.

You can’t attach anything to Facebook messages, you’ll need to use MMS for that.

The visual voicemail functionality is also part of the new OS (that is dependant on the carrier and your plan). It works as you would expect, by letting you read your voicemail messages instead of listening to them.

There are extensive methods to chat on social networks but we’ll get to that in another chapter.

Here’s a quick demo of the messaging and SNS prowess of the People and Messaging hubs:

Email

Conversation view was expected – it lists emails between you and a contact chronologically, grouping them by subject. It’s the display style that Gmail popularized and is the best way to keep track of a conversation over email.

Each email conversation is listed with a subject and number of messages, plus how many of those are new. A tap on a conversation expands it to show the messages plus a line from each message.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Email has Conversation view

You can tap on an individual message to read it, as well as skip messages back and forward to navigate the conversation. We expected to be able to swipe between the messages, but that wasn’t the case.

Another highly requested feature was a unified inbox for email – and Windows Phone 7.5 delivers. You can now link multiple inboxes (and unlink them individually later), so that you have a single place to check for new messages.

Linking several inboxes will also automatically combine their live tiles. You can browse individual folders for each account, which lets you view messages from only one email account even if it’s linked.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Linking inboxes

Calendar and Office updates

The business side of Windows Phone has its own list of cool updates in version 7.5.

The Calendar can view sub-calendars for each account you have and you can give each a different color to make it easier to tell apart. You can also disable sub-calendars if they’re getting in the way.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Calendar supports multiple online calendars and sub-calendars

To-dos can be created too. Those can only be synced with Live accounts, and not a Gmail account for example. Each to-do can have a priority reminder, due date and notes. Later, to-do’s can be sorted by priority.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
To-dos are part of the calendar too

As for the Office hub, SkyDrive integration is one thing that was improved. Now, docs are automatically synced between the phone and your computer through SkyDrive. In case you missed it, Microsoft are offering free 25GB of storage with each SkyDrive account (but individual files are limited to 100MB).

Windows Phone 7.5
Office Hub supports multiple online locations

There’s more – the Locations tab replaces the old SharePoint tab. This lets you browse Office docs stored on the phone, in SkyDrive, through SharePoint or in Office 365 (a paid service that includes Office web apps).

The Excel section of the Office hub got better too – it grew the all-time favorite Auto-sum function and you can now tap and drag to select multiple cells.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Excel has been touched up

OneNote now has a To-Do feature that turns the selected line into a to-do item that can be checked off.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
OneNote can make one very flexible check list

Changes to multimedia handling

The Pictures hub has been polished up a bit in Windows Phone Mango. There’s a new People tab, which lets you browse photo albums by individual contacts or groups.

Photos can be shared via MMS, email or on a social network. You can pick one network to be available for quick sharing, which requires one tap less.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Sharing a photo

You can set a single photo as a background for the hub (it used to be the last photo viewed) or you can set it to shuffle different photos.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Picking a background for the Pictures hub

And of course, the point of hubs is that they are the go-to place to do things, instead of apps. New functionality allows apps to integrate into the Pictures hub, so for example, a photo effects app can make its options available right in the hub. Devs need to enable that into apps however.

Windows Phone 7 used to be quite restricted when it came to sharing – it’s still not perfect (it still downsizes photos before emailing them, for one) but you can now share videos too, either via email or on Facebook.

While uploading photos to Facebook or Windows Live, the OS will detect any untagged faces and allow you to tag them before proceeding with the upload.

One bit of nuisance in the original version of the OS was its insistence to forget any custom camera settings – e.g. the video call camera would always launch in VGA resolution selected. Now you have a dedicated save settings button. You can go back to the defaults at any time if you’re not happy with the changes.

Windows Phone 7.5
Saving the camera settings

With Windows Phone 7.5, the Music+Videos hub also saw its functionality extended. Creating playlists on the phone is one of the new features (add songs to Now playing and save the list as a new playlist).

Smart DJ (part of the desktop Zune software) can create playlists automatically, again right on the phone. And another thing – you can subscribe to podcasts (both audio and video). You could do that with the desktop Zune, but this way you avoid the extra step of syncing with your computer.

Bing is better at finding things

When you search on Bing, one of the things that might be offered as a relevant result is an app from the Marketplace. For example, searching for “travel” will offer a travel tool app. This feature is called App connect.

Windows Phone 7.5
App Connect in action

Bing also grew two new search modes – song recognition and barcode scanner. Those are features popular with apps, but with WP7.5 you get those natively as part of the OS.

The camera scanner can also snap a photo of text, perform OCR and translate it into another language.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Track recognition • Barcode scanner

Brand new web browser

The Internet Explorer on Widows Phone was updated to the latest version for the 7.5 update and it improves the user interface.

The URL bar is always visible (but the status bar at the top of the screen is auto-hides, so you don’t actually lose any screen real estate) and next to it is the refresh button. You can, of course, bring up the extended settings, which offer a great deal of options.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
The new Internet Explorer interface

The URL bar also serves as a search bar, which is a handy shortcut for looking things up if you’re not sure which site exactly will do the job.

The browser makes the controls in web pages look just like their equivalents in native apps. So, a web app can look just like a native app with practically no extra effort from the designer.

The six tab ceiling hasn’t been lifted – it’s not too bad, but competing OSes don’t have such limitations. We were also hoping to see text reflow, but no luck on that either.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
More options • 6 tabs max • Settings

What has changed is performance – the new browser relies on hardware graphics acceleration to provide smoother graphics (and video) and animation and the JavaScript engine has been retooled as well.

Microsoft are so confident that they’ve set up a page specifically for testing the performance of your phone – both JavaScript and graphics. You can find the page here.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Internet Explorer does a Test Drive

Don’t be afraid to pit the phone against even a desktop browser – the tests are pretty demanding and if you’re not running a recent version of the major desktop browsers, your computer will surely break a sweat.

And here’s a quick video tour of the new Internet Explorer Mobile:

Maps with driving directions and local search

Maps is a core part of the Windows Phone experience and there’s a new feature that makes version 7.5 a must-have – driving (and pedestrian) navigation for free.

Now, it’s not quite voice-guided navigation. Here’s how it works: first you set up a route and listen to the first instruction, then when it’s time for the next instruction, the phone will beep and highlight it. If you tap it, the phone will read it out to you, but only then.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Maps now gives driving and walking directions

The Maps app uses a big font with white letters on black background that make reading easy. It still requires you to take your eyes off the road though, it won’t put SatNav apps out of business.

But it can come handy (especially if you’ve got a co-pilot) and until Nokia joins the Windows Phone team, it’s the best that the newest OS from Redmond can offer (oddly, WP6.5 had voice-guided navigation in the States).

Real-time traffic information is also available.

That’s not all the new Maps can do for you though. The app will locate nearby points of interest with the new feature called Local Scout and it will even show you indoor maps of malls.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Local Scout helps you find something to do, something to eat or buy nearby

Local Scout has a tabbed interface to sort the various points of interest – eat+drink, see+do, shop and highlights. You can pick items from a “I care about” list to get the relevant options only.

Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5 Windows Phone 7.5
Looking over info and reviews for some interesting destinations

Miscellaneous improvements

It’s an odd thing to brag about, but Windows Phone 7.5 lets the user choose a custom ringtone. Don’t laugh, iPhone users had to go through the same in the beginning.

Another thing that WP7.5 enables is Wi-Fi hotspot functionality. To enable sharing, you have to pick a name for the network and then the security level, open or WPA2. Keep in mind that it’s up to the carrier to enable this feature, so you might not get it even if you install 7.5.

One thing that must have annoyed security-conscious people is WP7’s inability to connect to Wi-Fi networks that don’t broadcast a name (hidden networks). That’s no longer a problem with version 7.5.

The Games hub got an update too, now you can edit your avatar, track your Xbox Live achievements and get messages from Xbox Live contacts.

Final words

Windows Phone 7 failed to wow consumers, but it’s part of Microsoft’s long-term plan and they are not rushing anything. It will soon be joined by Windows 8, which shares the Metro UI, the live tiles, the ARM CPU support and will be sprawling across PCs and tablets in no time.

When that’s done, Microsoft will be offering a complete ecosystem – from your phone, through your tablet, to your computer at home or at work. That’s exactly what Apple have had going on for quite a while and this way of doing things has had a lot of vocal proponents.

Still, WP7 lacked key functionality, which deterred potential consumers. Version 7.5 however brings things that will appeal to businesspeople, social networking buffs and people who like a novel software experience.

If you’re using Microsoft software (chances are you’re using at least Office at work), WP7.5 offers the smoothest, most well-rounded experience. The rich bundle of several social networks and IM clients and emails and texts is beautifully organized too.

And let’s face it, the Windows Phone interface is the only UI around that’s truly different – iOS, Android, even Symbian are becoming harder and harder to tell apart. The only thing that held it back was the lack of multitasking and now that’s been sorted out.

Speaking of apps, two tech giants (Microsoft and Nokia) are hard at work to attract new developers to build even more apps and introduce even more services to the platform.

Second generation Windows Phone handsets are already on the way and they stand a good chance of stopping the market-share downward spiral. It will take years to catch up to Android and iOS, but Windows Phone 7.5 is a big step forward.

For more reviews visit http://www.gsmarena.com/