BlackBerry Passport

Ok so I belong to a tiny (and shrinking) niche group of people preferring a physical keyboard to a touch screen – for typing on their mobile device. It’s probably because I have fat short fingers. Maybe it’s also because I am tired of using the back key to correct errors when typing on pure touch screen devices. Or having someone message me back asking what the F I meant after I press send.

This entire review/commentary on my six+ months experience using the BlackBerry Passport 10 is done on the device itself completed over a couple of days of morning trips on the subway while listening to music being played on the same device aired via Bluetooth. I wrote using Evernote.

Let’s start with the good news:

  1. Working with a physical keyboard is a welcome relief and having a slightly intelligent auto-correct/suggest software is a blessing. In all my years using different mobile phones, I find the BlackBerry’s auto-correct to be one of the best.
  2. The battery life is way better than my experience with Samsung Galaxy S2, Google Nexus 3, Sony Xperia, HTC, Nokia, Microsoft, LG and pretty much every pure touch screen smartphone out in the market. The only thing beating this is my old BlackBerry 9900 which lasts at least 3 days per charge and even though it’s ancient – I still use it as my Hotspot and telephone when on overseas trips. With the Passport I can average 1.5-2 days without charging. Enough said?
  3. The 4-inch square screen, I admit, took getting used to but I now find reading and responding to emails and messages or typing something long like this review very much so like working on a desktop or laptop: way better than typing on even an iPad or Microsoft Surface without the physical keyboard. Because it is a square screen there is no point for horizontal or landscape reading mode.
  4. The micro USB port for charging is a good choice in that it’s easy to find a spare USB cable around or even borrow one when I forget to take one with me. With my iPad or my wife’s phone – good luck with that.

And now the stuff I wish were better:

  1. When it comes to accessorizing your devices hands down to Apple and Samsung but I know it’s an economics story: the more people buying a device/model the greater the likelihood third parties will create accessories for it. Alas with the BLACKBERRY no longer the cool brand it once was, finding a case or a screen shield is like playing hide and seek (more hide at physical stores). So if you decide to own a Blackberry be prepared to be a simpleton. There is a silverlining: people will know you are using a Blackberry because your phone is naked in all its glory.
  2. Mobile apps: like Microsoft Windows phone mobile there are few native BlackBerry apps out in the web compared to Android and IOS. BlackBerry did finally create an Android runtime that runs on top of BlackBerry 10 OS but you lose some of the bells and whistles of the original Android app and in some cases, when the app regular calls out to Google Services the app belts out these annoying and random notifications. Yes you can now run many familiar Android apps – just that not all features are available and sometimes the apps will crash or thinks it’s crashing.
  3. Pocket-ability if there ever is such a word is also a bummer for men who like to wear tight jeans. The 4-inch frame is simply too big making it difficult to shove the phone into your front pocket much less take it out. And watch our when you sit. Forget the backpocket unless you are in the market to get a new phone.
  4. I know that I shouldn’t expect much from the camera. The front facing is 2MB and the rear camera is 13MP. To be honest, the in-built camera software is at times slow to auto-focus and it took awhile for me to get used to taking square photos.
  5. The physical keyboard which I love also took some getting used to because of its layout.

There are ways to get around the limited BlackBerry apps. BlackBerry included an Android runtime program into the OS. This means that you can, with a bit of work, get most of the Android apps you love. There are several options out there including sideloading, installing Snap or read up on Simon Sage’s how to install Android app to a BlackBerry. Installing the Amazon app store or 1Mobile Market app store – both have apps that work on BlackBerry most of the time.

A caveat when installing unpatched Android apps, if the app accesses Google Services, you will get an annoying pop-up saying the app can’t work because you don’t have Google Services. At the moment about 60 percent of the apps I am using on the BlackBerry Passport 10 are Android apps. So I’m happy.

Enough said?

Here are a few other screenshots.

One of the most useful gadget for me is a pair of headsets. Whether commuting to and from work or traveling overseas, my headset let’s me listen to music or watch a video.

But when you commute or travel it doesn’t take very long to realize that wires are a nuisance because tangles are part of the penalty of good sound. The thinner the cable the greater the tangles and the frustrations that come with it.

Then there is the noise when traveling on subway trains, buses, trams, ferry boats and cars. Let’s not forget that people create just as much noise – on trains, in elevators, in the office, etc.

My first answer to this was the BOSE Quietcomfort headset. Very nice noise reduction feature, comfortable over the ear headset. Despite the rather thin cable, it was reasonably compact for travel. Only things I didn’t like were the cable and the synthetic leatherette covered earmuffs which crumble over time. Replacements were darn expensive when you consider what these are made of.

Then I opted for a Plantronics Backbeat wireless headset because I realized quickly that I wanted to wear a headset for when I am in the gym or at the sports grounds. The freedom of no wires came with a sacrifice: the design of the in-ear headset was such that noise was barely reduced. At subways and buses I often have to cup an ear to hear the music. In-ears are marketed with noise isolation features but for my purpose and daily situations this feature is all but useless.

I spent the better half of a year searching for s suitable wireless headset with active noise canceling. Had a look at models from Beats by Dre, Sony, Panasonic, Sennheiser, BOSE, and B&O to name a few.

Then I saw a pair of Parrot headsets.

The metal frame was wrapped in synthetic leather, the ear muffs covered my ears entirely, it came with wireless (BlueTooth) and active noise-canceling feature. I had a choice of colors (tired of black and afraid of white). The stainless steel frame gave the impression it would last long enough. Did I mention that it had a removable battery pack and, perhaps the coolest feature of all is touch sensitive controls for play, pause, stop, skip forward, and skip backwards. It detects incoming calls and pauses music to allow for the call to take place.

It uses a standard micro USB port for charging, takes about 2-3 hours to fully charge. When charging a light above the power switch blinks a slow pale red color. When fully charged it turns white.The Parrot headset comes with a cable to connect the headset to the audio output of any device for when Bluetooth is not allowed, like inside an airplane.Some oddities in the design. The power button is on the right ear piece. It is facing the back so when the headset is worn you use your thumb to power it on and off.

There is also a sensor on the right ear piece which detects when the headset is removed and pauses the music. When worn it resumes the music automatically.Perhaps the biggest deviation in the design of the Parrot headset is its dependence on software. This is likely the first in a generation of headphones that depend on software for its operation.

The Parrot Pik 2.0 software let’s you customize the noise canceling feature from zero to maximum, change the equalizer setting to one of 6 preset settings or to your specific liking, and also controls the surround sound effect. It also comes with 5 presets based on the preferences of 5 artists: Clara Moto, Rone, Andrew Watt, La Roux and The Magnificent.

My 2 biggest gripes about the Parrot is battery and short arms. The manufacturer rates battery life at 6 hours but in my experience it’s more around 4 hours of continuous play. I suspect it also has to do with the volume, equalizer settings and whether you have it on maximum noise cancellation.

The arms are short making this very tight fit for people like me with big round heads.

As I said this is likely the first generation of headsets to software to enhance the listening experience. I have no complaints there. The headset that I bought is second generation already and I have seen ads for the third generation.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Just be warned. It can be expensive unless you are used to buying brands like Sennheiser, Shure, etc.

 

I have been using a Microsoft Surface 3 for about three months now. Its arrival comes on the heels of my disuse of two tablet devices I’ve owned for sometime now: Nexus 7 (first gen) and iPad 2. Both I barely use for other than the occasional surfing the web. I don’t even use them for reading ebooks.

My Nexus 7 was great for its portability but it had 2 flaws: a cold boot takes over 25 seconds to start (a mystery never resolved). What annoys me is that I have to hold the power button for nearly half a minute counting and praying my finger doesn’t slip else I would have to restart the process again. The other flaw is that operating system (OS) upgrades have resulted in deteriorating performance to the point where even just to key in the password is painfully slow as the device isn’t responsive at all. Imagine driving a Tesla at 5 km per hour. Granted I’ve not had a chance to drive a Tesla but I swear walking would be faster.

The other tablet I have is an iPad 2. Yes, it’s old but when you consider that the only applications I ever use it for are web browsing, Evernote and watching videos on YouTube – I don’t think these activities warrant a hardware upgrade. I am sure the folks at Apple will disagree. I don’t even sync it to my laptop anymore because if I did it would take me all night and part of the next day to update the photos (no video, no music, not even apps). Truth be told since upgrading to IOS 8, the feel-good experience just isn’t there. The one good news is the iPad 2 performs better than my Nexus 7 even after I’ve upgraded it to IOS 9, Apple’s latest IOS.

Anyway, on to the Microsoft Surface 3. Before this machine I was looking to upgrade from both Nexus 7 and iPad. But I was weary with the so called latest and greatest. The secret to Apple’s innovation is the experience. Apple made sure of this by keeping everything in-house: from product design, hardware and software. It didn’t license the hardware design to others. It opted to keep everything to itself. Yes it outsourced manufacturing, distribution and parts of retailing, but for the most part when you order an Apple product – it is all Apple. It kept a few apps in-house but third party apps and accessories were allowed to thrive in the Apple ecosystem.

As I said Apple’s winning formula is experience. So if you are into content consumption – music, video, reading digital books and surfing the web – then Apple is good enough for the job. More recently, the company made, what I think is, a wise decision not to tither its customers too tightly to iTunes when upgrading the device’s content so kudos to Apple for waking up to the reality that we can’t be all slaves to iTunes.

The one area that Apple failed to monopolize is productivity. For people like me, who just want our Microsoft office suites – mostly Word and Excel, with some PowerPoint – we still need a way to bring us back to a Windows environment. Hence Macbook users rely on Parallels Desktop to make this possible. A friend was asking me if I’d consider buying a Macbook Air/Pro. I declined reasoning I’d have to buy Parallels Desktop and Microsoft software to use on the Macbook. WTF?

I have a colleague at work who swears by Apple and I get a lot of flak from him for using Microsoft Windows and Office. I tend to just ignore his rants about Microsoft’s security vulnerability issues. Of course he is all tight lip about IOS and Mac OSX vulnerabilities.

Anyway I have digressed enough. The reason for this blog post is to give you my experience with the Microsoft Surface 3. Before I got this loaner from Microsoft, they had me try out the Surface Pro 3. I wasn’t too thrilled about the Surface Pro 3 because (1) it got hot relatively quickly; (2) it wasn’t significantly lighter than my Lenovo Thinkpad X250 work laptop; and (3) the much venerated Surface detachable keyboard isn’t a novelty to me. I had an old HP Tablet PC T1100 – which despite its heft was cutting edge at the time – circa 2003. It featured a detachable keyboard that turned heads every time I took it out to work. The website I help build – www.enterpriseinnovation.net – was partly built from my writings, research and postings using the TC1100. So I give credit to HP for a very good machine.

Anyway back to the Surface 3.

Learning curve

To be honest the Surface 3 is not the lightest tablet in the market today. It took getting used to opening the kickstand. The physical design is boxy with edges that make it standout in a market of tablets that follow the iPhone/iPad concept of rounded curves.

The power/sleep and the volume buttons sit in the same area – upper left corner in landscape mode. Because of this I often mistakenly press the power/sleep button when I want to press the volume rocker switch. This is more a nuisance than anything else.

I noticed that when the keyboard is magnetized to the bezel of the Surface, it is difficult to reach the Windows button on the lower left corner. But this should not be a problem as long as I remember that there is another Windows button on the center-right side of the bezel (landscape mode).

Takes getting used to

I flip between the Surface 3 and my work laptop – the X250. The problem with this is that I get used to the combination of touch screen with trackpad on the Surface, so much that I end up most times inadvertently touching the screen on the X250 when I need to reach a particular point in the screen.

Putting the screen on something akin to sleep is not a good idea as it still consumes power and you end up getting surprised with a low battery indicator. Always best to shut it down.

Other observations

The Surface 3 uses an Intel Atom processor which means that it is not advisable to use this machine to do video editing. Video playback and some not-so-graphics-intensive games should have no difficulty running on this machine. Yes, you can still multi-task unlike the iPad (and iPhone) where most applications are in suspend mode when you shift to another app. On the Surface 3, you can copy files, watch a video and read emails concurrently – really!

Biggest gripe

For a tablet the Surface has a short battery life of a little over 5 hours. For a tablet this is bordering heresy. The supplied charger is rated at 2.5A so charging via your phone’s charger will be a very slow experience.

When the keyboard is elevated (i.e., sticking to the side of the tablet), it makes a hollow clacking sound. So when I am on a flat surface I try to put the keyboard flat on the table. It makes for a better typing experience – just feels more solid.

I used to think that as I age I would prefer to use a computer with a bigger screen, and for the most part I do. But you lose out in portability as you get bigger. Sure it looks nice from the outside but imagine carrying a 12” (or bigger), 1.37 pound tablet around all day and it won’t be long before you begin to feel the weight of it in your wrist, your hand, your arm, and your back. To be fair this the same complain I have carrying my iPad 2 around. At some point reading a book on the iPad or watching a video while holding the slab starts to take toll on the wrist.

Overall experience

I’ve grown accustomed to the Surface 3 being my weekend computing companion because there is just so much you can do on your mobile phone – granted I am using a BlackBerry Passport with its 4 inch square display – I love reading emails on it. I rarely take out the X250 at home – mostly when I need a file or I need to edit a video. Just about everything else I can do on the Surface.

What I need now is a way to remotely access the X250 from the office using the Surface 3 and I am a happy commuter.

Is the Surface 3 worth the price? Microsoft sells it online for HK$3,888 for the basic unit with 128GB storage. Its half the price of the Apple iPad Air 2 albeit you sacrifice the so-called cool, mystique that Apple shrouds its devices with.

Microsoft chose the path of all around productivity with its Surface and this is what you need to remember when comparing the two brands.

The iPad Air is, hands down, the sexy device to show around. It’s great for content consumption and a little bit of content creation – just a little. The Surface is the everyday workhorse. It may be ugly compared to the iPad Air but it just gets the work that. For me that is what I need.

Apple recently released the Apple iPad Pro – what I refer to as the Surface Pro-clone. I think Apple is realizing that people really need to work and the MacBook Air is too under powered for serious work while the Macbook Pro is too heavy to carry around – seriously! As for the iPad Air? Really you have to ask?

My daughter heard this comment:

“Why don’t you buy the iPad Pro? Sure it’s useless and expensive. But its cool!”

Enough said!

Microsoft Surface 3

I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world.

In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success.

However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.

In the darkness, I look at the green lights from the life supporting machines and hear the humming mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of god of death drawing closer…

Now I know, when we have accumulated sufficient wealth to last our lifetime, we should pursue other matters that are unrelated to wealth…

Should be something that is more important:

Perhaps relationships, perhaps art, perhaps a dream from younger days …

Non-stop pursuing of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me.

God gave us the senses to let us feel the love in everyone’s heart, not the illusions brought about by wealth.

The wealth I have won in my life I cannot bring with me.

What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love.

That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on.

Love can travel a thousand miles. Life has no limit. Go where you want to go. Reach the height you want to reach. It is all in your heart and in your hands.

What is the most expensive bed in the world? – “Sick bed” …

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.

Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.

When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – “Book of Healthy Life”.

Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends…

Treat yourself well. Cherish others.

When I got the Canon G1X as a birthday present I thought I was getting an upgrade from my G10. To be honest I’ve had my G10 for over three years and remain very happy with it. G10 photos when taken with the external flash are reasonably good. So why would one consider upgrading to the G1X? Indeed except for the new sensor and better video shooting quality, the G1X actually looks like a downgrade from the G12.

WHAT I LIKE

The G1X features a large CMOS sensor that is just 20% smaller than those found on digital SLRs. This 1.5” CMOS sensor is about 6 times larger than that found in most digital compact cameras. So the theory is that you should be able to get better, sharper shots with the G1X compared to other cameras. Alas the CMOS sensor is the primary and mostly significant saving grace of this camera – it’s mostly downhill from here. Ok, before I list out the litany of misfires, the G1X is able to capture 14-bit RAW image files (if you are into this) and, like the other G series, can shoot in lower resolutions of 7MP, 2MP and 0.2MP for those occasions when you have to sacrifice quality just to be able to take some photos. It can take 16:9, 3:2 and 1:1 aspect ratios in addition to the standard 4:5.

A feature I like with some of the EOS cameras is the ability to shoot HD video. The G1X shoots 1080p Full HD at 24fps. You can downgrade this to 720p and 640×480 VGA if the need arises. Finally with an ISO range of 100 to 12,800 in standard mode, the G1X ups the ante in light sensitivity compared to its predecessors. For instance, the G12’s top setting is ISO 3200.

Thankfully, Canon kept the built-in 3-stop Neutral Density filter allowing you to shoot at slower speeds in bright conditions. The G1 X supports HDR mode that can automatically capture and then blend three images at different EV values for enhanced dynamic range. This is a cool trick to have when you are not absolutely sure what the best light setting is for a particular scene.

One of the things I liked with the G11 and G12 was the vari-angle LCD monitor. This allows you to shoot at odd angles. You can also fold it back towards the body to protect it from scratches when the camera is not in use.

Like my old G10, the G1X offers multiple exposure options including Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual. In addition to full automatic mode, it has 13 individually selectable Scene modes and a selection of digital effects.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Here we go. The G1X’s optical zoom has been downgraded from 5x on the G12 to 4x. So if you’re a budding paparazzi this camera may not be your default compact of choice.

Few compact cameras with the exception of the Canon G series come equip with an external viewfinder. This feature is great for shooting in bright conditions. However, the G1X only covers 77% of the frame and at a slightly offset angle from the true lens view. So you will need to remember this when composing the shot otherwise you may inadvertently crop your shot.

One of the attractions of compact cameras is the small built for easy portability. Unfortunately, Canon forgot this concept when they created the G1X – it is noticeably bigger than the G12 and arguably stretches the definition of ‘compact’. The lens of the G1X is huge as it juts out of the body by around 35mm rather than sitting flush like my old G10. I understand this is because of the larger sensor used – It requires a wider image circle, which in turn requires a larger lens.

Having used the G1X for sometime now, I noticed that the camera is sluggish when going through the menu of controls and features. Unfortunately this sluggishness is not limited to when skimming through the control menus.

The G1X autofocus speed is very slow for an expensive camera. In good light and with a target that is a reasonable distance the AF was unable to lock (and therefore shot). This becomes progressively worst as lighting conditions degrade. I’ve been disappointed on several occasions when I need to shot a moving object. This inability to focus on a target gets even more serious when taking macro shots. Let me make it simple for you – if you like taking macro shots a lot, this isn’t the camera for you.

This slow speed extends to burst mode. Once again the G1X fails miserably here. For an advanced compact camera like the G1X and with a heritage like Canon you wonder what were the engineers thinking when they were designing the G1X.

CONCLUSION

I will be at fault not to give credit where credit is due. The G1X takes very good images when the settings and conditions are right. For the prosumer photographer, the ISO performance of the G1X will be its saving grace. Canon engineers have done their homework here with the G1X delivering almost noise-free images from 100 to 3200. You do start to see some noise at ISO 6400 and 12800 but, come on, this is a compact camera – not a DSLR.

As someone who has been taking photos for more than 30 years, the G1X fails in so many other ways that you can argue, Canon cannot be forgiven for letting these technical slips go unnoticed. So many factors influence the outcome of a shot. End of the day though if the camera can’t focus, the shot can’t be taken, and you’ve lost that fleeting memory. What do you do?

I am guessing that some of these deficiencies can be corrected with a software tweak. So far, Canon hasn’t been forthcoming on this.

PHOTOS

If you want one of those video reviews, try this one:

Most everyone needs a phone these days. While there are those who still prefer a feature phone over a smartphone, the plummeting prices of smartphones should eventually kill the feature except for those who really prefer a physical keyboard.

But how cheap is cheap? If you check out Chinavasion you can spot really cheap smartphones for prices as low as HK$574 for the DOOGEE Voyager DG300 handset. How can a manufacturer sell a smartphone at that price and still make money? Your guess is as good as mine. But there is a good chance that they trim the fat around to come down to a bottom-basement price. Whilst Chinavasion claims this dual core Android 4.2 phone features a 5-inch IPS Screen, 960X540 QHD display and MT6572 1GHz CPU, and comes with a full year warranty. I am just not sure if anyone has ever tested that one year warranty.

I know from experience that getting support for your Samsung gadget at their local service centre is like going to the dentist – painful.

With that in mind, I happen to attend the launch of the Lumia 535 Dual SIM smartphone from Microsoft. The company calls this an affordable smartphone with advanced features like a 5-inch, 960 x 540 screen; Snapdragon 200 processor; 5MP cameras front and rear

Manufacturer. Wait! That reads like the DG300 above. So why would I buy the Lumia 535 phone? For one thing, you are paying for all the extra things that come from a branded phone.

One benefit of buying a Microsoft smartphone is longevity. The Lumia series are generally classed as durables following their Nokia heritage. Microsoft has also made it a point to upgrade its Windows Phone operating system regularly and so far, most of the early Lumia phones can be upgraded to the new OS – like the iPhones.

The Lumia 535 Dual SIM retail’s for HK$1,298. You can probably get it for free from your “friendly neighbourhood” local carrier.

Like its more expensive siblings the Lumia 535 has a sharp display even if it’s only a 960×540 resolution. You can see the phone when out and about. The 5-MP front facing camera with a wide angle lens makes this a selfie lover’s dream particularly for those on a tight budget. Most smartphones across any price range are handicapped with their cameras – front or rear – particularly when you want to capture a wide shot. The Lumia 535 doesn’t suffer from this condition. It’s therefore great for group selfies.

I understand that operators in Hong Kong want their customers to move over to 4G – to get consumer addicted to using more data – but the reality is that 3G phone is good enough for just about anything a regular user would ever need – PERIOD!

The Lumia 535 may look like it is skimping on storage – given the 8MB in-built storage – but Microsoft made sure you can expand this device to 128MB – something other higher end smartphones refuse to do. The back cover is removal so you can change the battery – again something many of the more expensive phones simply can’t do.

In Hong Kong where government statistics claim that people have more than two phones on average – the Lumia 535 Dual SIM may find life as a second phone. Certainly, if you are not into Microsoft but fancy an affordable full featured phone, the Lumia 535 Dual SIM gives you all you will ever need and it may likely outlast any Android smartphone you buy in the market – branded or not! As an ex-Android user, I find it disappointing to be left in the lurch each time Google updates its popular phone OS. Vendors like Sony, LG and Samsung take their time to upgrade their phone’s OS – if at all. In this regard both Apple and Microsoft live up to their responsibility of creating products with a longer-than-average shelf life.

Lumia 535_Back_Cyan Lumia 535_Back_Green Lumia 535_Back_Orange Lumia 535_Marketing_01

The first time I saw the Nokia Lumia 1020 was during its maiden product launch in Hong Kong. I must admit I was drawn by the rather inspiring video showing the work that went into the camera. Sure it was a shameless work of marketing but from a real mechanical shutter covering the 41MP sensor to the optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanics, this is – in my view – a class all its own.

I’ve read comments complaining about the 1020’s hump housing the 41MP camera and flash. Seriously, has anyone ever looked at the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom? Compared to the 1020’s ‘hump’, the S4 Zoom is like a camel’s back!

This is a short review as I plan to follow it up with a review of the various software add-ons that Nokia introduced alongside the new hardware.

Display: The Lumia 1020 comes with a 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 touchscreen display. Like its 920 and 926 siblings, the Lumia 1020 comes with a Clear Bright screen that you can easily see in outside bright conditions. Apple, LG, Samsung and Sony should figure out how they can deliver the same experience with their smartphones as Nokia’s smartphones including the 1020.

Audio: The 1020 has two microphones (top and bottom). The top mic, which sits next to the SIM card tray and the 3.5mm headset jack is for noise cancellation.

Buttons: The right side of the 1020 has a volume rocker, power and standby button and a dedicated camera button (other smartphones allow you to program one of the buttons to become a camera button but they have no dedicated camera button out of the box).

Weight: Despite the added components for OIS and the 41MP sensor, the 1020 is actually lighter (158g) than its sibling the 920 – its slimmer (130.4mm x 71.4mm x 10.4mm) too.

Connectivity: The 1020 comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and LTE.

Other internals: With the release of the 64-bit A7 processor on the iPhone 5S, you’d wonder why Nokia would handicap the 1020 with a measly Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core 1.5GHz processor. The reality is that combined with a decent 2GB RAM, the 1020 is actually fast. The Windows Phone 8 OS hasn’t slowed down the 1020 either. In fact, it’s still a relatively fast camera/phone.

Operating System: The 1020 ships with Windows Phone 8 called Amber which includes some new features like double tap the display to turn it on, or flip your phone over to silence it. Live tiles work as expected.

Apps: Nokia’s choice of Windows Phone as its operating system means it is handicap by the perception that it doesn’t have a sufficient number of apps on it. That could be a handicap if you are want to run all 875,721 apps currently available on Android or the 900,000 apps for IOS. But the truth of the matter is that the average user will only use about 30 apps over the lifetime of the device. I haven’t been able to find a listing of how many solitaire apps are on either platforms.

A real problem to date with the apps though is the lack of a centralized notification system. What happens is you have to scroll down just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

I have a Samsung S3 and have 20 apps on it – a smorgasborg of tools and a smattering of games. But recently I observed that my phone has started to significantly slow down and while no one – neither the folks responsible for Android or the tech support people at Samsung – can give me an adequate explanation for what is happening, I have surmised that its partly due to incompatibilities between some of the apps and the OS itself. Sure, we get free upgrades on a regular basis but you start to worry at some point whether all your apps are optimized to both the hardware and the OS. Chances are – they are not!

The 1020 comes with a Xenon flash giving you a white balance closer to daylight compared to the blue hue you get when using the LED flash on most smartphones. The Xenon flash comes in handy when you are shooting photos at an event – range is good. The result is better than most phone, and some digicam, flashes out in the market today, including the high-end offerings out in the market today.

Camera: Make no mistake Nokia is very much focused on the digital imaging experience. The Nokia Pro Cam software is intuitive and comes with controls like manual focus and exposure you can find in prosumer cameras. Of course, you can always rely on the everything auto setting – it works too!

A unique feature of the 1020 is its default setting of creating two files for every shot you make – a 5MP oversampled photo and a 34MP (16:9) or 38MP (4:3) photo. The 5MP is for use on Twitter, Facebook or sharing via e-mail. The 34MP and 38MP is for downloading into a computer for editing or printing.

Do you really need a 34MP shot? I saw a demo where you are zoom to any part of a 34MP shot and get a consistent detail on virtually any part of the image – it’s like magic, and its freaky scary.

Limitations: The 1020 comes with a maximum of 32MB storage and no option for external storage – so you wonder how many 5MP and 34MP/38MP shots you can store on the 1020 before you have to start connected the device to your laptop or SkyDrive to offload photos. It also has a 2000 mAh battery and no option to swap batteries so you will have to buy one of those external, portable battery packs to charge your 1020 on the move. There are two options available. In Hong Kong, Nokia is offering an external case that comes with a built-in battery – the Camera Grip or by making some adjustments. There are two options available.

Continuous photo shooting for extended periods is also a problem. I’ve observed erratic performance when it comes to shooting photos in rapid succession. The camera takes a second to focus and shoot – sometimes it works a little faster, sometimes it doesn’t. So action photos and instances that require you to get a shot at just the right moment may not happen with the 1020.

WHAT I LIKE

The 1020 is a camera first and a phone second. It is, for me, the answer to having both a camera and a phone day-in, day-out. It won’t replace my Canon G1X or my old Nikon D70 but I don’t have to carry anything extra with me every day. The 1020’s 5MP photos are simply better than my Samsung S3 or my wife’s iPhone 5. Lossless zoom is a nice freebie courtesy of the 34MP/38MP with the zoomed-in photo is a blessing. The 1020’s battery is not bad.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

I love the Live Tiles but the lack of notification is a something I’d like to have.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a solid smartphone to own – and can hold its own against even the more technically souped up spec of the likes of Samsung S4, iPhone 5S or Nexus 5. There is a small learning curve to get off Android or IOS and ride the Windows Phone 8 bandwagon but I don’t think I know 70% of what my S3 running Android 4.2 today. So I can’t rightly complain about Windows Phone 8.

I think that the most popular apps will eventually come into the Windows Phone 8 platform – it’s just a matter of time. Microsoft does need to work to attract developers to help. For its part, Nokia has been working to deliver value to the Lumia series on its own.

I will stop here with this review and leave the review of the more exotic photoshooting experience for another session.

PHOTOS
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