Tag Archives: Android Apps

The Samsung Galaxy Y Duos and Y Pro Duos

The problem we have been having as Kenyans is lack of a dual-SIM high end phone. Most dual-SIMs tend to be on the lower end, non-smartphones, and if you’re lucky some kind of Edge connection.

Samsung (I am now firmly #teamSamsung) has the perfect phone for you: an Android smartphone with Dual-SIM capability. If you have been wondering how to try other networks for data, voice, SMS without losing the functionality of your smartphone, you can now do that very easily; while maintaining your previous line. That’s how I got to try out Orange data, which I’m still using.

The Galaxy Y Duos and the Galaxy Y Pro Duos. Image from fonearena.com

I have used both phones, and will review both in one post so you can pick one that’s most suited for your needs. First though, here is what they have in common:

Android v2.3 Gingerbread

Both phones come installed with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which gives you good performance and a fluid user experience. It means your phone is easier to use, very responsive and looks good too! You are also likely to find a wider range of apps compatible with Android 2.3 and above.

Camera

Both phones have rear cameras with 3.15 MP producing up to 2048×1536 pixels photos. With good lighting, the photos can be of good enough quality.

You can check out some photos I took with the Galaxy Y on this post about Harambee Stars:

A view of the Kasarani Stadium during the match. Photo taken by the galaxy Y Duos

Battery Life

This is a very important feature in a smartphone; even more crucial in a smartphone that is dual-SIM. What drains your battery most is that constant communication with the network that your phone must maintain, unless you have a phone with a huge screen (like the S II) where the screen becomes the chief battery consumer.

Both phones have standard battery, Li-Ion of about 1300 mAh. They can last up two days of both networks on, and data switched on. You can survive a full-day of intensive use.

Memory

Both phones have an internal memory of 160 MB (which can be quickly filled up by apps), 512 MB ROM, 384 MB RAM.

The external memory (memory card) is expandable up to 16GB, but the phone comes with a 2GB memory card.


What Android Offers

(If you understand Android, you can skip this part.)

A lot of people, I have discovered, still don’t understand the hype around smart-phones in general and Android in particular. Here is some of what Android offers:

  • Wi-Fi

    If your office/coffee joint/hotel has (free) wireless internet, you can also connect to it on your phone and download apps, update your apps etc. This is especially important if you have applications that are big (5MB upwards), or if you require to do something with a fast internet connection. Wi-Fi networks can do up to 300Mbps (theoretically), while 3G networks offer up to 42 Mbps (theortically). Just know wi-fi offers you faster speeds than 3G networks most of the time!

  • Ability to use your phone as a modem

    With an Android phone, there is no need to get a modem. Your phone can act as your internet access point. This can be done via USB (takes less power, connects to only one computer) or via wireless hotspot. If you create a hotspot, you can support up to 8 devices on your internet (devices can be computers, other phones, or tablets).

  • Multi-tasking

    The ability to multi-task is one big advantage of smartphones. It means if you receive a text while surfing, you don’t even have to stop what you are doing to read your text. E.g. if you are surfing on facebook with opera mini and you get a text, you can pull it down from the notifications bar, read the text, press the back button and you are exactly where you were before the text. Unlike the basic phone where you have to close down opera mini completely to read the text, and may even have to log in again.

  • Gmail Backup

    In order to use an Android phone effectively, you must have a gmail account. Yes I know Google wants to “own” you and your data, but it’s worth it. You can the download apps from Google Play (formerly Android market). It also backs up all your contacts on your gmail account so if you change phones, all you have to do is “sync” your gmail account and your contacts are in your new phone. Why do you think I switch phones so easily? :)

  • Access to Millions of Apps and Games

    If you can think of any app, it’s already been done. It’s like rule 34 for porn (don’t Google that). Bible apps, apps to read and edit office documents (powerpoint, pdf, word, excel), apps to prank your friends, apps to track your phone etc. Try them out.

    One of my best Google apps is the map!!! You can navigate to anywhere in the world, check out your village via satellite, even see cars packed on the street at the time when the satellite picture was taken. You can ask for directions to anywhere, and most of Nairobi is mapped (except Liddos- don’t Google that either, but that is a story for another day!!!)

    This was a screenshot I took while I was navigating to the Railways Museum for Binyavanga Wainaina's book launch. It had very precise directions!

    You can rotate the map to navigate better, you can even get walking directions. Make sure you are oriented in the right direction and do look up so you don’t bump into people!

  • Android offers this and much more..


What Dual-SIM offers

Now imagine you have all that on Android, and now you have a DUAL-SIM phone so you don’t have to carry around two phones. You don’t need a modem since you can tether with whichever SIM card you prefer.

Both SIM cards are active at the same time. You can receive calls/texts on either simultaneously. However, for data, you have to choose which SIM card to use.

A screenshot showing which SIM card you would like to use for data.

When replying to texts or calls, you can choose which SIM card to use. This can be done by easily selecting the SIM card from the drop down, or for the Pro Duos, there is a dedicated button to switch SIMs. You easily get the hang of this phone in a short phone.

A screenshot showing how easy it is to switch between which SIM card to use for voice and SMS

You can also choose whether to use 2G networks (which saves battery life), or for one SIM card to be on 3G (I advise you keep the data SIM to be permanently on 3G, and your voice/SMS line to be on 2G). I currently use Orange for Data, which I covered in this post.

If you are running low on battery, you can turn off the data SIM, make it inactive, so you can still use voice/SMS for another two or so hours.


Recommendation

So why would you pick either phone?

The Galaxy Y Pro Duos

Check out the detailed specifications here

The Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos. Image from phonesarchive.com

This phone is both QWERTY and touch-screen enabled. It’s suitable for someone who doesn’t like touch-screens or finds it cumbersome to type on touch-screen (sausage fingers LOL! Sorry for using LOL but it warrants in this case, I always picture someone typing one letter after another on the touchscreen).

It has a front-facing camera, great for taking self-portraits! This means you can do Skype with video calls.

It has a dedicated key for quickly switching between networks.

Cost: Kshs. 18,000

The Galaxy Y Duos

Check out the full specifications here

The Samsung Galaxy Y Duos and how it looks in your hand. Image from wiserbuddy.blogspot.com

Personally, I prefer an all-touch phone because it is sleek. Fits easily in my hand. Looks cooler. But that is just me.

The advantage with this phone is the screen size, it is much larger because it has no QWERTY.

I do miss the front camera though.

Cost: Kshs. 16,000

My Week in Tech: Conferences and Meetings

Aside from my classwork and side-hustle, as a tech blogger I get invites to some conferences and meetings among other events.


Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd: Mobile Web East Africa Conference

Though the title name of the conference had ‘mobile web’ in it, the focus was much wider than just mobile web applications; everyone knows the mobile phone is the next frontier of technology in Africa, and the question is how can we harness it to improve our lives. Conferences are great for bringing stakeholders in the industry together, so they can interact and perhaps come up with solutions for the current challenges.

A view of the conference in session at Southern Sun Mayfair Photo from http://johnkaranja.com/

Among the discussions was the role of women in technology, which was discussed on Day 2. Some organizations of women in tech in Kenya include AkiraChix and Divas4Tech. Societies where there is (near) gender-balance in all disciplines tend to be more developed than those where there are glaring gender disparities.

For more on the conference, see

John Karanja’s blog: Notes From Mobile Web East Africa

Afrinnovator’s live blogs

humanipo.com: Day 1 of Mobile Web East Africa


Saturday 25th: Microsoft’s Windows Azure Pre-Launch and MXit

logo from their website

On Saturday, I was at the iHub to do some work before the AFC Vs Oserian match (where AFC leopards won 2-0 propelling us to the top of the Kenya Premier League table); and also to attend an event where Microsoft guys from the Nairobi office explained to us about Windows Azure, a cloud platform from Microsoft that will be available locally. I will write more on cloud services later, but just so you know, that’s the future of data storage and other services.

On MXit (For Developers)

There are about 100,000 Kenyans registered on this mobile chatting platform. You can say it is the biggest social network in Africa with 12.5 Million active users, and by active users it means people who have logged on to Mxit in the last seven days, and stayed on the platform for 45min to an hour.

These guys were in Kenya (met them at iHub) to raise awareness on an API they have built where developers can make apps on the platform. Check on their site for more details.


Monday 27th: Safaricom and ICT Board Launch the Connected Kenya 2012 Conference

You notice the link is from last year’s conference? This conference is now in its 4th year running, and it’s huge! Takes place annually in coast. This year it will be take place from April 2nd-April 5th.

The conference was launched formally on Monday morning, where I got to meet CEO Bob Collymore (remember the Ideos?), ICT board CEO Paul Kukubo among other tech bloggers, IT journalists and officials from Safaricom/ICT board.

Last year's connected Kenya summit. Image from biztechafrica.com

Tuesday 28th: Launch of the WEEE Center/Computer Aid Intl E-Waste Partnership

So this morning, I was at yet another breakfast meeting, where the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Center (WEEE center) was launching an E-waste partnership with the above said co (ok, tired of typing).

This is the only center in East Africa that manages E-waste, and with support from the government, they are now involving several universities and colleges.

During the meeting, Dr. Kate Getao was in attendance, and I figured, wouldn’t hurt to say hi to someone whom I’ve admired for a while- being the first woman PhD comp science holder in East Africa. Needless to say, I wish I hadn’t. Maybe she’s just not that social :-(

How to Make The Most of Your Droid

I am talking about your Android phone/gadget, possibly a Huawei Ideos U8150 that you are using to read this post. A lot of people complain about the battery life of the phone, and the data-consuming nature of the device that can make it costly.

Android is Cool, no?

Saving Power and Data

  • Turn off background data: Go to settings–>Accounts and Sync–> and uncheck Background data. This saves your battery life and ensures no unnecessary updates will take place. However, to view your email if you are using the native gmail app, you have to refresh to synch mail.

    For someone like me with over 20 apps that always want to update themselves or send me notifications, background data is always turned off otherwise my phone will be buzzing constantly. Gtalk, market updates, facebook chat, Google+ notifications, foursquare pings etc

  • Turn off 3G Networks/Turn Off Data Mode: Go to Settings–>Wireless and Network–>Mobile Networks–>Uncheck Use Packet Data.

    You can turn off data mode so that even those apps that use the internet even with background data off will not do so. Or you will not accidentally download info, or when using an app that’s offline like a game, no Google Ads will appear.

    You can also set the phone to use 2G networks, which use less power.

    For the Galaxy S II, turning on/off data network mode can be done by long-pressing the power button, then selecting the activate/deactivate data network option.

Useful Apps
You have to have a gmail account to be able to log into the Android market. From here, the sky is the limit as to the number of useful, entertaining, useless but entertaining, cool but useless, uncool and uselful, informative apps etc. You can download anything.

Because of the amorphous nature of the Android market, some apps maybe of wanting quality, and some may be malware. Check out the publisher before installing an app.

Some apps come installed in the phone, others you have to download/buy. I find Google maps very useful. If your Droid has a flash camera, download flashlight, an app that lets you use the flash as a torch.

SoundHound is another cool app which identifies songs playing, searches for them on YouTube, fetches the lyrics and other information. You can even sing to it!

Other apps I have include: WhatsApp (awesome for chatting/texting), Facebook for Android, Twitter for Android, Foursquare For Android, Google+, Tumblr, linkedIn, QQ Player (for all your videos, plays most formats including avi), Angry Birds, Dictionary, Racing Moto, Bible, Google Sky Map, My Days (for ladies only), Tweetdeck, Skype, Talking Tom, Opera Mini for Android, Dolphin Browser, Workout Trainer, Wikipedia, Bartender, AroundMe, SDA Sabbath School, Zword, Matatu, Documents to Go, WordPress for Android, Pixlr-o-matic, WeAreOpen, Mocality, Racing Moto (an awesome game)… etc

Let me know in comments which cool apps you have/use. I’ll download them.

Upgrading the OS

You can upgrade your OS manually or automatically. To do it manually, you have to root your droid and go through some process I don’t want to try. Anyway I will get someone who has done it to do a guest post.

To upgrade your OS automatically. Go to Settings–>About Phone–>Software Update–>Check for Update. If there is an update for your phone OS you can then download it.

Make sure you back up any data saved before you try any upgrade.

Tethering

All Android phones are capable of providing internet to like up to 8 devices around them. So you don’t need a modem if you have a droid.

You can tether wirelessly, providing a wifi hotspot where 8 devices can connect to. You can also tether via USB where only the comp can use the internet on your phone and it drains less power from your battery than wireless tethering. Make sure you put a password for your wireless hotspot, lest someone snoops on your connection!

To tether go to Settings–>Wireless and Network–>Tethering and Portable Hotspot–> Choose your option whether USB or Portable Hotspot.

Once you have done this, go to Your computer and you can connect and start surfing. Make sure you have bought sufficient data bundles from Safaricom (actually this is the only internet I use on my phone)

In Summary

The cool people use Android
There is so much you can do with your Droid (doesn’t matter whether low-end or high-end), like editing photos/videos, editing/viewing office documents (Excel, Word, Powerpoint etc), please feel to explore your phone and make the most of it.

The native Android browser is one of the best mobile browsers around and you can even blog on it, though the screen size is a problem. Try out various keyboards and pick one you are comfortable with.

P.S.

As you have realized, I never end a post without a P.S.! Anyway, do not forget to vote for my video here. Please do me this favour, the registration process is a short one.

Garage 48 Nairobi Winners

The Garage 48 event as I explained in my earlier post is an event where people come with ideas and implement them (or at least functional prototypes) in 48 hours. The event was held at Strathmore University and there were a total of 10 teams that were registered.

Garage 48 participants at the Strathmore Auditorium code away.

Overall Winner: Kamata Cab

It’s an application that enables you to search for a cab and depending on your location gives you a number of recommended cabs that you can take.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kamata-Kab/299086353439768
twitter: @kamatakab

Funniest App: Mistari

This was an app for pick-up lines. I hope to check it out soon. Maybe I can give those lines a try.. just to see if they work for girls trying to interest boys too!

Twitter: @mistariapp

People’s Choice: KuzaBiz

I think this depended on voting on Facebook. From what I understood this app provided not only financial solutions but also advise to enable people to grow their businesses.

Twitter: @Kuzabiz
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KuzaBiz/219928824736662

Best Implemented App: Routify

This app was mapping traffic routes in Nairobi, so you can decide which is the best route to your destination. I hope they can release a downloadable version soon!

Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/pages/Routify/245824678796946

Mcalc – Best Public Service

Hi the Mcalc is a multi platform application;mobile web,desktop and j2me.Its designed to meet the needs of the average farmer all the way to top NGO’s. The application will help new and upcoming farmers to make the best decision about how to optimize their farms.It will also be an information portal that will also provide NGO’s with the latest statistics.

My Award: We Are Open

Okay so I was at the event for a day and checked out the applications. All were good.. but sometimes because of time and presentation, it means different results than those expected.

So this app tells you of the open places around you.. imagine it is a Sunday morning and you need an open pharmacy, or Sunday evening and you need an open barber shop, or it is 3am and you’re so hungry.. etc.

Twitter: @WeAreOpen48

Worth Mentioning: AfricanHands (an app that markets local crafts) and Julisha ( a notification app though I think they needed to redefine their scope and focus on one area)

The other applications were Darasani (a fun tool for sharing knowledge that supports multiple classroom activities) and Afya Bora (a mobile application that allows users to send health related queries to a short code and receive a response from a medical officer)

As you can see, there were five winners and I have awarded and mentioned the other five, therefore everyone is a winner!

P.S.

The world mourns the loss of yet another one of its revolutionary leaders, just recently Wangari Maathai and Dr. Grace Ogot left us(she of The River And The Source novel). RIP Steve Jobs. Maybe someday I will finally own a Mac Air. Someday.

The Galaxy S II Review: Part II

Sorry this post is long overdue. Apologies for those who have been waiting rather impatiently.

Read part one of the review(hardware) here. I forgot to mention a couple of things: The phone screen is of gorilla glass technology, very damage-resistant. I don’t mean you go take a needle and test it out, but within the confines of what I will term ‘normal’ usage. A friend was telling me how she dropped her Ideos in water (cold, not boiling, though I have no idea what temperature has got to do with it) and it still works! Only the buttons work though, the screen display is okay but it is now touch-resistant. A whole new dimension to the expression you can look but you cannot touch.

A second thing I forgot to mention is the delicate-looking nature of the device is deceiving. Because it is light, if it falls it does not shatter to pieces! I deliberately dropped it on rough concrete this afternoon and it came away with a few scratches! It has also fallen many times, mostly from the couch/bed to the floor. I don’t mean you get a hammer to see how resistant it is!

Software Review

Onwards then.. To the Software Review of the Phone. It runs on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, which can be upgraded to 2.3.4, but even with 2.3.3 I have no complaints so far. The hardware specifications, operating system and apps/functionalities combine to make Calypso(name of phone) the best phone on earth currently.

General Look and Feel, Responsiveness

Assisted by the beautiful screen, anything rendered on this phone looks amazing. The pixel density may not be the highest in the market, but you can’t tell from the quality of the display. It supports multi-touch (pinch to zoom in/out), and when you pinch the current screen you get a view of all the 7 available screens where you can put your apps.

The Screens.. currently populated with numerous apps!

Tilting to Zoom

The phone is gravity sensitive. If a call comes in, you can turn it over to mute it. If you are playing music and you turn over the phone, sound goes off. Apps can rotate left or right. Not upside down though!

Another cool thing is when you want to zoom pics/browser, you can tilt the phone down to enlarge or up to down to decrease size.

Touchwiz 4.0

Basically this is a customized way of providing touch-features on the phone. When someone calls you, you can choose to accept, or reject with a text message. This is so cool, as it brings a host of useful messages that you can immediately send.

The text messages you can use when rejecting a call

When you have a contact number, you can swipe left to create a message to them, or right to create a call.

The Samsung keyboard on the S II is terrific; considering the size of the screen, and the accuracy of the touch-screen, you can type really fast on it. I have found that I prefer to type in portrait rather than landscape, it’s a fairly wide (but very slim) phone and it strains my thumbs to type in landscape.

Notifications, Shortcut Bar

The notifications (missed calls, messages, updates, incoming emails etcc) come to the top bar and you can pull it down to view them.

The notifications bar and you can see the shortcuts up there.

In addition, there is a shortcut bar at the top for switching on/off wifi, bluetooth, GPS, Sound, Auto rotation. When you press the power button, you get fast options for switching on/off sound, data network, flight mode or power.

To capture a screenshot, you press power and home button simultaneously. No need to scout the Android market for an app!

Rotating Map

This is the only phone as far as I know, where you can get a hold of the map and turn it in any direction you want! I don’t mean auto-rotation when you tilt your screen, I mean literally just holding and turning the map in any direction! This can help you make sense of the directions especially where you find yourself walking towards your left yet your map is pointing right. It uses Google maps, which I dare are the most detailed for Kenya.

The map of Africa upside down..

Hubs

There is a music hub, where you can download music; a social hub (which is not very useful) and a reader’s hub, which is simply awesome.

Looks like a real bookshelf.. almost!

It comes with a PressDisplay for reading digital editions of newspapers (the Daily Nation and EA Standard are available, though you only get like 7 free copies). You read the paper just as it is in print!

There is Kobo for reading books; oh it’s a pleasure. I have been reading Pride and Prejudice (I realized I never finished the book during my first attempt), and when you swip to go to the next page, it flips the page as if you were reading a real book. Don’t be tempted to lick your finger so you can easily flip to the next page as you do with a hard copy book! You can also highlight paragraphs, add notes… and refer to these later.

Zinio is for reading mags. Same as the PressReader but now for digital magazines… most are not free though!

AllShare

With the Allshare, when a number of Samsung devices are connected on a common wi-fi, you can browse their media content! Like you would on a local area network, where you can browse the public files of another computer. I admit some of these features are better shown than told!

Kies air

This is for transferring files to/from the phone to the computer. All you need is to just plug and play! You can see the phone’s internal memory and memory card.

Voice Search/Voice Command/ Voice Talk

Voice search is fairly common to all Android devices. Same as voice command. However, it’s never that accurate and it takes time to process (processing is over the internet). The only thing it can do accurately so far is when I tell it to ‘Play Music’. Immediately it goes to the last played song and continues from there!

Conclusion

The Galaxy S II. Image from engadget.com.
This phone is the BEST Android phone in the market, that is a fact. However it will not suit anyone, we all have our different needs. Some might think it uncomfortably thin, others might find the screen a bit too wide, or the price (Kshs. 60K+) out of range.

I also cannot do justice to its software features, they are better shown than told, trust me. So the next time you see me, ask to be shown.

With time if (actually when) I discover new cool stuff, I shall let you know. Currently, I am enjoying playing Racing Moto.. a game of high quality graphics, no lag in response (what with a 1.2GHz dual core processor), speed and adrenalin, I have to beat the high score on Calypso. I’m out.

P.S. I recommend this review on engadget again.

P.P.S. There are hunderds of thousands of apps in the Android market. Currently I have no less than 30 that I do use from time to time.. Be careful of malware though, see who the publishers is and the reviews before downloading an app.

P.P.P.S (last one I promise!). iPhone 5 is set for release on Oct 4th. I read it here

The Samsung Galaxy S II Review: Part 1

Part I of the Review: Physical Specifications

Okay this phone is awesome and I’ve decided to split the review into two parts: hardware specifications/software capabilities so that we don’t end up with pages and pages of review! I have tried giving it kingly names it but the only name that sticks is Calypso. So let’s review Calypso.

When it comes to mobile phones, the Samsung Galaxy S II hardware specifications beats any phone alive today; and that is including the iPhone 5 that is still under conception. When is the due date, I wonder?

Size and Weight

The Galaxy S2 facing down. Sweet looking Calypso.. image from my libraries.

This phone is super light, at only 116g. It feels featherweight in my hands. Coupled with the fact that it’s ultra-slim; at only 8.5mm it’s the slimmest phone on earth, beating the iPhone 5 (leaked specs) by .1mm and the Xperia Arc by .2mm and making the iPhone 4 look like a fat housewife at 9.3mm.

At first I though it was kind of big to be put into a pocket (125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm), but even when wearing my most fitting jeans, it slides smoothly into the pocket. I guess the slimness helps!

Screen Size and Display

It has a 4.3 inch Super-AMOLED screen. This is a big screen by any standards, and watching/reading anything on it makes it a wonderful experience.

A view of a screen shot taken showing all the seven available screens.. and a view of the app icons on each so you can easily navigate to the screen you want.

Super-AMOLED screens consume less power (presumably than the retina display of iPhones), and you can imagine a screen like that would drain a lot of power. Coupled with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels and supporting up to 16M colours, things look better on the phone than they look in real life!!

Watching movies and videos is a pleasure; so is viewing pictures. In fact, even if the picture looks bad and the video has a low resolution, it still looks good on the S2. Especially if it’s a movie that’s pirated; you know how bad it looks on the comp but now since one is viewing it on a smaller screen it ends up looking HD. (P.S. I watched Rango on it.)

Battery Life

The iPhone 4′s standby talk time is 300 hours. The Galaxy S2′s standby time is 710 hours! The battery life is a significant improvement over its predecessor, the Galaxy S. I have realized that using data over a 3G network consumes a lot of power. With the S2, I think you can comfortably watch up to 3 movies of approximately 1.5hrs each. I mean I watched Rango (1.5hrs) and there was hardly any change in the battery level.

With my regular use (I’m never without my phone for longer than 2 minutes), the phone is able to last almost 24 hours. I think though, that higher series Nokia phones still win on battery life.

Battery facts:

Stand-by Up to 710 h (2G) / Up to 610 h (3G)
Talk time Up to 18 h 20 min (2G) / Up to 8 h 40 min (3G)

Processor Speed and Memory

It has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM. Theoretically, it’s capable of running the Windows 7 OS! I must admit though, that I am hardly using all this capacity! Unless I open like 30 apps running at the same time, or download a lot of stuff while playing HD videos, I don’t know when I can utilize 100% of the power availble for this phone!

There is absolutely no lag when it’s switching on, readying contacts, launching apps, phone/message/contacts search, loading videos, music.. As Idd Salim said on his blog while reviewing the Galaxy Mini, a low-budget Android phone: The new Samsung phones ni kama madem wa Campo. Una-touch, inafungua. Una-touch, inafungua. No delays

It has internal memory of 32GB or 16GB to store your music/pics/videos/documents.

There is a memory slot that can support up to 32GB of data. Awesome! Currently I’m underutilizing it with a 2GB mem card.. any takers? My birthday is coming up soon :-)

Camera and Video; Music Player

The rear camera is 8 Megapixels with flash; which can be auto or manual. The pictures it takes are crystal clear and beautiful. There is also a front camera with 2MP meaning you can have video calls/Skype.

A waterfall at the Tribe Hotel where I attended some event recently.. looks good, doesn't it?

The camera has autofocus and zoom. However, autofocus is not available on video mode unless you upgrade the OS.

The music player is.. average!! I mean it’s alright, but it could be better. You can never hear the bass and if you increase the volume, it’s like all you get is the high pitch and not an increase in quality. The earphones help though. They are the kind that you can insert deep into your ear canal, making the music penetrate any ear wax in the way of the audio waves :-)

The S2 earphones..

Other physical features:

Micro-USB slot, 3.5mm audio jack, just the usual standards. The loud speaker is not really loud; but it’s good enough.

The phone has no other buttons except the middle button, but the area beside the button is touch-sensitive and on the left is the menu-function and the right, the back function. These function-buttons come alive when the phone is active.

The Galaxy S2. Image from androidzoom.com

P.S.

Here is the phone’s full specifications on GMSArena.

Here is a comprehensive review: very detailed on engadget.com

P.P.S.

Software review coming soon.

P.P.P.S.

I like the name Calypso.

The Samsung Galaxy S2: Preview

Lately, I seem to be obsessed with smartphones! Maybe it’s because they seem to offer just about everything (Google rule 34).. as I said there are apps to do just about anything you can think of.

I will now unleash the best phone on earth! The ultimate phone! The king of phones! It deserves a kingly name.. like Arathon. This phone is my precioussssssss.

The packaging of the S2.. sleek and compact!

There are many features that make it the best phone on earth. Its competitor is the iPhone 5 which is yet to be released. The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc is trying to catch up with it… but it’s like running after a Kenyan athlete in the long races, if you know what I’m saying.

The Samsung Galaxy S2
The Samsung Galaxy S2.. Arathon.

I just got the phone yesterday and so far so good though I can’t give a comprehensive review until next week or so.

Here’s a list of its features that makes it great so far:

  • It has a huge screen of 4.3 – inch and a Super AMOLED Plus cutting-edge Gorilla Glass HD display with a pixel count of 480X800.
  • At 8.5mm it’s very thin, and very light!
  • 8 megapixel flash camera featuring image stabilization, face and smile detection and geo-tagging. It has a 2MP front-facing camera too!
  • It incorporates a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor with an impressive 1GB RAM. In other words, it performs better than my laptop with 1GB RAM and an intel celeron processor!
  • Internal memory available for your music is 16GB, and you can add an external memory card of up to 32GB
  • It runs on Android 2.3, currently my favourite phone OS
The Samsung Galaxy S II. Image from gsmarena.com

Some call it the S2, others the S II.. it doesn’t matter. Check out all its features on GSMArena.

This device is yours for the asking price of around Kshs. 60,000.

5 Reasons Why Nokia Still Got It

Low-End Phones

Nokia still controls over 90% of the market share of low-end phones; the mulika mwizis. If you need to buy a phone for a (aged) relative living in the rural area, you’d buy a Nokia. In fact, your first phone was probably a Nokia. Nowadays, I don’t see cheap Motorolas very much. I think Nokia and Samsung are the only ones releasing low-end phones into the market. Let’s not forget counterfeit subquality Chinese phones.. with the CCK directive to eliminate these phones from the market, the next alternative for cheap quality phones is Nokia. If your phone gets stolen and before you get enough money to buy your next phone, you’d probably buy a mulika mwizi.

The phones are called a mulika-mwizi because they have a torch.. which you can use to locate candles on the days of frequent power outages.

Nokia 1200.. an example of a mulika mwizi

If you are reading this blog, you are probably among the earliest adopters of technology so the buzzword ‘smartphone’ is all you look for. However, majority of the Kenyan population, mostly in the rural areas, have no idea what a smartphone is and don’t want to know. (Or they may want to know.. who wants to do research? Any i-Hub researcher reading this? What do people in Kenya rural know about smartphones and are they interested?)

Battery Life & Camera(sometimes) & Ease of Use

Again with access to electricity in rural areas still a challenge, Nokia phones have a reputation for long battery life. I don’t know how long it will take for Kenya to have a widely distributed, reliable supply of electricity but in the meantime, a phone that has a long battery life is still an asset.

Even in the cities and major towns, power outages are still an issue.

Generally speaking, Nokia cameras are better in comparison to other phones.. like Huawei Ideos for instance. I hear the N8 with its 8MP camera is awesome. (Been told it’s actually 12MP. I know digital cameras with less resolution)

Nokia phones have the easiest interface to use. Perhaps because we are already used to them since most of our introductory phones were Nokias.

Customer Care

There are a number of Nokia shops in town where you can take your phone for repair if it has issues. Nokia also established a VIP customer care center where I hear you are served coffee and snacks as you wait to be served. Nokia is the only phone company whose marketing manager I know personally, the lovely Dorothy Ooko. Even the general manager Kenneth Oyolla is friendly and professional.

If my Samsung developed issues, I wouldn’t know where to go… maybe the shops are around and I just haven’t Googled for them.

P.S. If you are wondering what Nokia did for the hunger crisis.. they gave a total of 26M towards the effort. They just didn’t shout about it to the rooftops.

Support of Local Developers

Nokia recently trained a number of young developers to make apps for its ovi store. They gave them an allowance during the training, and provided all the support they needed.

In addition, Nokia has been providing free marketing for apps by local developers. You wake up one morning to find your app on the billboard, how awesome is that? If you’re a developer that is. Among the billboards I’ve seen is the apps for Around Me (for places around you), Tell a Secret (duh, for telling secrets) and CDF Monitor App.

The Future?

Okay, so everyone is talking Android. Every smartphone being released into the market is running on android, except the iPhone of course.

Nokia will be moving to Windows Phone OS. In a sea of android, a Win Phone will be the unique one. You will stand out. Unfortunately, this is the only advantage I can see. I can’t speak much about the Win Phone OS except it is restrictive… something android is not.

Perhaps Nokia can release a series of touch-phones in the $100-$200 range.. smartphones that will give Huawei and Samsung android phones a run for their money.

We wait with bated breath.

The Samsung Galaxy Mini- My Review

Meet Lexxy, my new Samsung Galaxy Mini. Goodbye BI- Black Ideot, my lovely ex. Thanks to Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore for that one! (Although I did change BI’s cover to yellow).

The Samsung Galaxy Mini
The Samsung Galaxy Mini. If you look closely, you can see I used the yellow-covered Ideos to take a photo of the Galaxy and it's reflected on the screen of the Galaxy.

This is a phone I’d call the smartphone of Africa. It’s affordable and offers a lot of features for its asking price of Kshs. 12,999. You can find it in Safaricom shops where you get 200MB of data recurring every month for 3 months.

The phone runs on the Android 2.2 platform, which is basically the same as the Huawei Ideos U8150. I would actually it’s closest competitor is the Huawei Ideos which retails for much cheaper and offers almost everything that’s possible on the Android platform, if only with a number of compromises. So my review will compare the two phones. Besides, it’s only natural since my ex is an Ideos.

Android 2.2

Both the Ideos and The Galaxy Mini run on the android 2.2 platform, giving both access to hundreds of thousands of apps available on the android market right now. They range from photo editing apps, to social networking apps, to document viewers/editors, media players/converters.. basically everything you can think of. It’s like the rule 34, but now for apps. At this point you might wanna Google rule 34 but I digress.

There is also a Samsung Apps market but truth be told I haven’t checked it out because everything can be found on the Android market.

Common Features

Both phones have GPS, GPRS, 3.2 Megapixel Cameras (although the Samsung produces much better photographs than the Ideos, much better), Wifi, 3G, HSPDA for data access, tethering and hotspot, microSD support of up to 32GB (both come with a 2GB memory card), micro-USB port/cable, 3.5mm audio jack (so you can use most earphones, it’s like the standard in Kenya), 600MHz processor, 200MB, radio and the other usual features.

Let us just say that most of the differences are in the hardware of the phones.. If you want to see a full list of the features, please check out the GSMArena description; Samsung Galaxy Mini and Huawei Ideos U8150

Colour, Size and Screen Resolution

The Samsung Galaxy Mini is bigger but slimmer and lighter than the Huawei Ideos. The Ideos comes in pink, yellow, blue and black BACK covers, the rest of the phone is black. The galaxy mini comes in black/silver back colours with a lime green trim.

An Ideos fits perfectly in my hand but the mini is a bit of stretch. Also because of size, it’s faster and more accurate to type on the mini than on the Ideos so all those people with the fat-fingers-vs-touch-screens-syndrome will have an easier time :-)

The Samsung Galaxy Mini. Image from gsmarena.com

The screen resolution is the same for both: 240 by 320 pixels. HOWEVER, since the screen of the galaxy mini is bigger, it appears pixelleted (I hope this is a real word). This is when you can actually see individual pixels of the display!

So the galaxy mini’s screen compensates by having a higher contrast of colours and brighter display. Still… it makes me kind of miss my smooth-looking Ideos display.

I read a blog review that said the galaxy mini has the lowest resolution and Android phone can actually sink to!

Battery Life/Talk Time

The mini (by now I can drop the galaxy part) has almost double the talk time of the Ideos. With my usage, I used to get low-battery warnings every 3 hours, but with the mini it’s like 6 hours. So just know that the mini’s battery is roughly twice as better as the Ideos, and by better I mean longer lasting.

Media Player/Radio

The Ideos has a weak media player.. if I can use the word weak. The mini has a robust music player/radio that makes listening to it so enjoyable, it is loud without compromising quality. Almost like listening to a surround hi-fi system when your earphones are plugged in.

Notifications

So whenever I got a call/text/gchat, the Ideos indicator light flashed green. If I got a violet flash, that was a WhatsApp chat. If the battery went low, it flashed red. If it was charging, it continuously glowed red, and as it neared full, it glowed green.

However with the mini, I have to swipe and unlock the screen so I can see my notifications. I miss that feature on the Ideos.

Start-up Time

Remember how we used to switch on computers, go make a cup of tea and come back to find it still hasn’t finished booting up? Well, the same happens with the Ideos. It takes more than a minute to come back to life! Something I definitely don’t miss. This can be an agonizing wait in an age where we love instant stuff..

The mini has a much more friendly waiting time. Less than 15 seconds (okay I didn’t time it but the time factor is ignorable-if I could say that).

Other differences include:

Colour-differentiated text threads on the galaxy mini which makes them look better than the Ideos ones.. but I think this might be a theme thing I’ll confirm.

The extra green/red buttons on the Ideos are missing on the mini but that doesn’t affect much really.

The mini supports multi-touch, meaning you can pinch to zoom in/out of a document on the browser or a picture.

The mini supports more screens than the fixed 5 screens of the Ideos. You can add/delete screens which you can’t do on the Ideos.

The camera for the mini is better, clearer.. however, it has NO ZOOM! I don’t expect an optical zoom but it should support a digital zoom like the Ideos though with the poor quality Ideos camera maybe it doesn’t matter. Both cameras have no auto-focus or flash.

In Conclusion

To read a detailed review of the galaxy mini, read this blog.

Is the Galaxy Mini Better Than The Huawei Ideos?

Yes. It’s bigger, slimmer, lighter, faster, longer-lasting battery, better camera etc. There is a slight hardware improvement from the Ideos. Also, the Ideos is now too common, probably your watchie is spotting one! I know people who want affordable style, a smartphone but not an Ideos. This is the phone for you.

The Galaxy Mini is retailing for 13K while the Huawei Ideos U8150 goes for 8K. Depending on your budget, make a choice!

A Visit to Craft Silicon

This past Friday, we took time off our busy schedule and got into the Strathmore bus to visit the Craft Silicon Campus. Craft Silicon is said to be the biggest Kenyan IT company. Started over 10 years by the CEO Kamal, they now export software to over 40 countries, mostly Asia, Middle East and some countries in Europe/Africa. (P.S. I was trying to look for Kamal’s second name, and when I checked out their About us–>Management, it is under construction! Let’s check it next week and see if that’s the situation! Hmm.. anyway, Google tells me it’s Budhabatti.)

Craft Silicon’s core business is providing software solutions for the banking industry. These include banks, micro-finance institutions etc.

Kamal visited us one time at Strathmore and talked to us about his company.. that’s a story for another day though. He’s a simple guy who doesn’t like dressing up. He told us how the work-place at Craft Silicon is ideal for developers.. the set-up sounded like what Google offices offer. He said how you can even drink at work as long as you deliver (I don’t know if he was joking at this part.. said you can even find beer bottles lying around!). There’s a gym, a basketball court, etc. It’s a free space where you can come in at any time and leave at any time as long as your work is done.

Then he told us we could go visit any time.. we made arrangements, and on Friday, landed at the Craft Silicon Campus. I was impressed.

Situated in Westlands, just near Deloitte, the campus has one big glass building, a parking lot full of cars (every developer there drives?), and a separate building that has a gym. There’s the basketball court and swimming pool. Next to the pool is a coffee bar that looked cozy especially in the current cold Nairobi weather!

The Craft Silicon Campus
The Craft Silicon Campus

Kamal welcomed into a large meeting room, then gave a short presentation about his company and what they do. He then talked about ELMA, which I will blog about later. In short, it’s a mobile application that does almost everything.. from banking transactions to payment of bills to news updates. Download it on your phone from here

We were then given a tour of the place. The first floor is where developers do their thing, the second floor is for non-tech staff and the third (and topmost) floor has an eating space and a kitchen. It’s a very spacious place..

Craft Silicon From Another Angle

The place was very quiet though. We didn’t get to see the techies at work typing away. They must be very disciplined or the work environment is not as free as touted.. I’m believing it’s the latter. The whole time we were there, we hardly saw anyone walk around, shoot a basketball, or swim (ha, not with the cold weather! We should visit on a sunny day!)

The Swimming Pool.. I love swimming! That's the coffee bar in the background

Here’s a picture of the interior of the coffee bar.

The Coffee bar. The staff kindly let me take a pic of them.

All in all, it was a fun visit, and if any of you want to work at CS, check out their careers page.