The Very Best Point-and-Shoot Killers Around

Smartphone camera have come a long way from where they started out oh so many years ago. Today, the shooters fitted to the back of your daily drivers have sent what was once a staple in almost every place, the point and shoot cameras, to the retirement home.

Today we look at the five shooters who are currently ruling the roost in the smartphone market.

5. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The 16 MP main camera is the best camera that has graced the back of a Samsung device till date. If you’re a fan of vibrant, larger than life colors, then this is the camera for you. Images shot are sharp, full of detail, and even low-light photography is quite nice thanks to Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). Videos shot are also quite brilliant and the ability to shoot in 4K is as always a welcome addition.

4. iPhone 6 Plus

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iPhone 6 Plus

Yes, the one with the much hated bump. The iPhone 6 Plus totes an 8 MP iSight camera with OIS (the reason for the bump) which, combined with software tweaks, makes this one of the best cameras around. Shoots are highly detailed and low-light photography is also very good. Ultra-slow-mo video (120fps at 720p) is also present here.

3. Sony Xperia Z3

Sony Xperia Z3
Sony Xperia Z3

The best camera on any Android device till date. Sony has been using the 20.1 MP sensor for a while now and they’ve tweaked to perform at its absolute best here. Shots taken in daylight are full of detail with true-to-life colors. Low-light shots are also quite impressive despite the fact that the Z3 lacks OIS. Videos are also quite brilliant thanks to Sony’s excellent software stabilization and the ability to record in 4K is brilliant. The ability to take photos and videos and videos underwater is a party trick that really takes the Z3 to a whole different level of cool.

2. Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia Lumia 930
Nokia Lumia 930

Nokia’s photography prowess has really shone through with the Lumia line of Windows devices. With the 930, Nokia once again made the smartphone optics department its stomping ground. The 20MP camera with OIS is a brilliant shooter in any lighting condition. Pictures are sharp and extremely detailed with vivid colors. Low-light shots are also extremely good. Video capture is top-notch.

1. Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020

Zoom Reinvented. With these words, Nokia changed the way modern smartphones were viewed , especially when taking photographs. That 41 MP camera is a behemoth and can easily give DSLRs a run for their money. This is a phone that’s built for one thing: taking brilliant photos.

@DennisA_James

Content Editor @ProdNote

The Nexus Story: Is the new Nexus 6 really worth the price it commands?

HTC Nexus One
HTC Nexus One

The Nexus line of devices when they first started out with the Nexus One by HTC was directed at the developer crowd. However, lawsuits and a rather humongous price tag of $529 saw it getting shelved in a rather small period of time.

Samsung Nexus S
Samsung Nexus S

However, less than a year later, Google teamed up with Samsung to bring the Nexus S to life. It featured a larger screen(4.3 inches versus 3.7), and the other specs matched the flagships around the mobile world, it was the first device where we saw Google really concentrating on Android as a UI.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The next device in the line-up was the Galaxy Nexus, another collaboration with Samsung, saw the arrival of Android 4.0 ICS, which saw Android really change its look to something we see today. Also the screen size increased once again, from 4.3 inches to 4.65 inches.

LG Nexus 4
LG Nexus 4

The arrival of Jellybean saw the arrival of the Nexus 4 from LG. Borrowing heavily on the Optimus G it featured another increase in screen size, a glass sandwich construction and the appropriate specs. It was however built to be an affordable hi-end smartphone. This saw the Nexus line change its spots, bringing the average Joe to the Nexus family thanks to the aggressive pricing of the Nexus 4.

LG Nexus 5
LG Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 continued in the same vein as its predecessor, bringing power-packed specs in a larger frame along with a larger and better display at a price that made its rivals quiver in fear and also brought about the rise of an upstart (the OnePlus One.)

Motorola Nexus 6
Motorola Nexus 6

However, all that changed with the arrival of the super-sized Nexus 6, made with the help of a former Google company, Motorola. Based on Motorola’s 2014 version of the Moto X, the new Nexus bad boy was a far cry from the previous two generations. Instead of leveling with the crowd, it steamrolled past them as it went for the jugular of its rivals from Cupertino, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Boasting a huge 5.96 inch Quad HD display, a top of the line Snapdragon 805 with 4 Krait 450 CPU’s steaming about at 2.7 GHz aided by the Adreno 420 GPU and 3 gigs of RAM, the behemoth was a brick through the window of Apple’s hallowed grounds. It was Google telling them in the most unsubtle of ways that anything you can do, we can do better.

And those of you cribbing about the price should remember that the cheapest of the iPhone 6 family is still a few grand more expensive than the 64 GB version of Mountain View’s behemoth. Comparing the two is like comparing chalk and cheese. The  more you look at them, the more you wonder, if the fruity thing really is worth that much more.

We’ll leave that for you to figure out.

@DennisA_James

Content Editor

@ProdNote

The Top 5 Phablets of 2014

Phablets are all about screen real estate and 2014 saw a host of them being released into the market, each trying to outdo the other. We list 5 of the very brightest and the fittest screen monsters who made it to our list of the top phablets of 2014.

5. The LG G3

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This phone fashioning the 2K display is LG’s best yet. The build was a little plasticky and the the infamous back buttons from G2 didn’t really add to the features of this LG flagship. That said, the engine room was what made this phone a great candidate on this list. Sporting a Snapdragon 801 clocking at 2.5 GHz on each core and 3 gigs of RAM to play with, this phone was a definite winner.

4. The iPhone 6 Plus

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The smartphone manufacturing giant faced some stiff competition from the Android army this past year. It’s got arguably the best camera (despite holding only 8 MP) among the forces. But something that even we failed to understand is the fact that Apple, who under Steve Jobs studiously avoided the phablet (to the extent of even making fun of them) category, went on to join the big-screen bandwagon after having fought a lone battle for so long. While the “bendgate” did get the phone a lot of attention, it’s the specs and the beautiful screen which really make this phone a true blue phablet.

3. The Google Nexus 6

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One of the classier tablets of 2014. Google went all guns blazing with the specs on this one. 3GB of RAM mated with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 chipset(Quad-core 2.7 GHz) and 32 and 64 GB storage options mean that the Nexus could eat the competition for breakfast. Then there’s the joy of owning a Google flagship for all the OTA juice one is entitled to ‘before-anybody-else-can’.

2. The OnePlus One

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It made it to the top of our Definitive List of the Top 10 Phones of 2014 and with a good reason. One could feast on a juicy 64 GB piece of art for just $350, making it the cheapest phablet in the list. The only problem being the (almost nightmarish) invite system. The specs included a Snapdragon 801 clocking at 2.5 GHz on each core and 3 GB of RAM to slide around. It runs the latest Cyanogen (CM11) and although the recent fiasco with the Micromax may have made things a little ugly and uncertain about the OS, the future looks very bright for Oneplus.

1. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4

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For what we call the ‘King of Phablets’, the Note 4 takes the cake, the baker, and the bakery. Let’s start with the specs: A Snapdragon 805 chip clocking at 2.7 GHz for every core. 3 gigs of RAM provide plenty of breathing space. It hosts a 16 MP camera which supports 4K recording. The build is considerably better than the previous versions too, albeit plasticky. Samsung certainly outdid itself with this badass of a phone. Although they can do away with Touchwiz altogether, the Note 4 is clear winner among phablets.

Honorable mentions: The Oppo Find 7 and the Find 7A and the Redmi Note 4G make it to the list of also-rans. These guys also made quite an impact although not enough to raise enough dust among the stalwarts.

@dangertoon for @ProdNote

The Xiaomi Mi Note: Disrupting the Smartphone ‘Apple’ Cart Yet Again

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From being called out the ‘Apple of China’ to taking potshots at the Cupertino’s Iphone 6 and 6 Plus, Xiaomi stepped out onto the world’s stage in Beijing today and went premium with the Mi Note and the Mi Note Pro.

Beijing today saw the world’s most valuable start-up push away the budget tag as it went after the premium smartphone segment. Almost nonchalantly, Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun walked onto the stage and set about revealing his latest devices to great adulation from the loyal ‘Mi fens’ (a nickname for Xiaomi fans.)

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The devices that really set the cat among the the pigeons were the new Mi Note and the Mi Note Pro. The Mi note is a follow up to the Mi 4 launched last year and features the same specs in a larger frame. The screen size has increased from 5 to 5.7 inches and the camera is a newer 13MP sensor that of course sits flush within the 3D curved Gorilla Glass 3 back (unlike the protruding iPhone 6 Plus camera).

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The usual suspects, like a Snapdragon 801 Processor and 3GB of RAM, dual 4G sims and 16 and 64GB storage variants were also present. A combination that should satisfy the needs of any smartphone user.

Up front, under the 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3, sits a 5.5 inch Sharp/JDI LCD display that Xiaomi claims has a contrast ratio of 14ooo:1. Above that display sits a 4MP camera with extra large pixels (HTC One M8 Ultrapixel camera anyone?)

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The Mi Note supports hi-fi  audio thanks to the Sabre ES9018K2M high-end DAC which is supported byAnalog Devices’ ADA4896 and TI’s OPA1612 amplifiers. With such good audio support around, Lei Jun popped out the new Mi headphones. The headphones (an obvious dig at Apple’s newly acquired asset Beats Audio and their flagship the Beats Studio)  at CNY 499 (roughly Rs. 5,000) are an absolute steal when compared to other headsets sporting the same sort of specs.

And just when you thought they were done with all the puns and suprises, ‘Mi fens’ were greeted by yet another device, the Mi Note Pro. Sporting a Snapdragon 810 Processor, 4GB of RAM and a Quad HD display, the Note Pro sets it sight on another Note device, Samsung’s highly praised Galaxy Note 4. And given the horsepower under the hood, it sure looks like it’ll give the better known Samsung a real run for its money.

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The Mi Note goes on sale in China immediately with the 16GB version going for CNY 2,299 (roughly Rs. 23,000) and the 64GB variant priced at CNY 2,799 (roughly Rs. 27,900). The Mi Note Pro goes on sale at the end of March for CNY 3299 (approximately Rs. 32,900). All three devices run MIUI over Android 4.4.4 Kitkat.

The Oneplus One: A Retrospective on Last Year’s Contentious Flagship Serial Killer

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The Oneplus One has undoubtedly been the most talked about phone last year. It’s been in the news for reasons good and bad. It’s been touted as the biggest “flagship killer” till date. Here’s a take on the phone’s journey so far.

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The Invite System

The only phone in the market that follows the (infamous) invite system to obtain one. Many have questioned the phone maker’s decision to keep the invite system going. Let’s put it this way: it might just be easier to find the holy grail than finding an invite code to buy a Oneplus One. The invites are only available to share for current One owners and they too get the codes in a random, bizarre manner. This makes the Oneplus One highly “unobtainable”.

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The Cyanogenmod Fiasco

A very unique feature of the Oneplus One is the ROM it carries under its belt: Cyanogenmod. The ROM, known for its bloat-free and pure “vanilla” style treatment of Android, is treated with a very high regard in the open-source community. That the One would come shipped with the latest Cyanogenmod (CM11 KitKat) was nothing short of a brilliant move for both partners. Cyanogenmod getting to unleash itself on a device with such brilliant specs meant we would be witnessing a true blue Android phone in a long time since the HTC HD2.

Things, however, didn’t go as planned, or so it seems. Everything about this partnership changed with the Indian user market interest in both the phone and in Cyanogenmod as an OS. Micromax announced the launch of its Yu series starting with the Yureka which would feature Cyanogenmod. The Oneplus Ones being sold in the Indian market alongside meant an obvious conflict of interest for Micromax. A case was promptly filed and an Indian court brought out a ban on the sale of Oneplus One in India. This led to a fallout between Oneplus and Cyanogenmod and both the companies have since been like warring housewives. Micromax-Yureka-Launch

The latest Oneplus One OS alpha update is conspicuously missing Cyanogenmod and is a simple vanilla update of Android’s Lollipop.

The One

This brings us to the phone: the One. And boy is it a phone. Under its hood, it packs a Snapdragon 801 with each core firing up at 2.5 GHz. It’s got 3 GB RAM for it to play around with. It comes in a 16 GB Silk White and a monstrous 64 GB Sandstone Black version. The battery packs in 3100 mAh and the back camera sits pretty with six lenses and a 13 MP sensor.

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These specs would sound more typical of a 2014 flagship charging upwards of $500. But the Oneplus One takes home the cake with just this aspect more than anything else: the price. The 16 GB version retails at $300 and the 64 GB costs just $50 more retailing at $350.

What now?

The Oneplus One has spoken and spoken quite a bit. It has a weird and painful invite-to-buy purchase system which is both questionable and frustrating. The ban on the One’s sale in India has now been lifted but invites are still a trickle. It’s literally given other flagships like the Note 4, the HTC One M8, the LG G3, the Nexus 6, the Motorola Moto X, the iPhone 6, and the Sony Xperia Z3 a serious run for their money. The Oneplus’s attitude has also encouraged other startup manufacturers like Xiaomi to bring out their devices in the fray (Redmi Note 4G).

The Oneplus One has won a hard-fought battle. It’s made the competition sit up and take notice. Oneplus plans to announce the Two early this year and rumors have already started flying around. It’s been a great last year for the phone market and 2015 is already looking exciting.

@dangertoon for @ProdNote

Mini Flagship Devices: This is Sony’s domain

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The Samsung Galaxy S5 mini. The HTC One Mini 2. The LG G3 Beat. The Sony Xperia Z3 compact. These are all devices from major manufacturers in the Android world that claim to be a small sized version of their flagship brethren.

Out of this lot only Sony’s offering is the real deal – a flagship smartphone in a smaller body. However, the rest of the lot are really something else altogether.

Samsung, HTC and LG all have name-dropped their flagship devices for these newer smaller sized devices and all of them are a testament to how marketing a mobile phone works these days.

All three devices are a showcase of compromises. All are powered by the lower powered processors ( a big drop from the Snapdragon 801 powering the bigger devices), all of them have camera modules that are not quite as good as the flagship’s and all of them have been deprived of the major features which really made the flagship’s tick.

So are any of these three devices worth your money? The answer quite simply is NO. All three of them may cost you half as much to buy as their flagship contemporaries but, all three of them are not even half the phones that the S5, One M8 and G3 are.

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If you really want to get a device that has a smaller footprint than the larger sized flagship but has the same specs under the hood, then Sony is the only option available to you. The Xperia Z3 compact is a powerhouse that packs the same silicon and 20.7MP optics and premium build that are present on the Z3 but is almost half an inch smaller than the big guy. You also save around 4 grand on the Z3 when you buy it from the shops.

If you’re looking for a slightly less expensive option the Z1 compact is still around. At 25,000 rupees it still has the specs that would give most smartphones today a run for their money.

So, if you’re looking to buy a compact flagship these days, remember, Sony’s got you covered.

@DennisA_James

Content Editor

@ProdNote

The YU Yureka: What is the Zeus All About?

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It’s been a long journey for Micromax since the company came into existence in 2000. In the last 15 years, it’s gone from an unknown company to the second largest mobile phone manufacturer in India.

Last year, rumors started popping up about Project Eureka, Micromax’s new device running CyanogenMod OS, the supercharged, bloat-free android ROM which runs on millions of rooted devices all around the world.

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Project Eureka was finally revealed as the YU Yureka on the 17th of December, 2014. YU was introduced as Micromax’s new sub-brand, which would be selling their devices online. The Yureka was YU’s first collaboration with CyanogenMod Inc, the people behind the custom ROM.

However, even before it was announced, the device had already gained quite a lot of notoriety, thanks to Micromax suing the other company selling a CyanogenMod device in India, OnePlus. OnePlus’s device the OnePlus One, the smartphone billed as the flagship killer had only just landed on Indian shores, but court case has seen them all but abandoning CyanogenMod as an OS.

The launch event saw Micromax going after yet another rival, the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi. Xiaomi had been slowing down Micromax’s rise to the top thanks to the insane pricing of its devices.

Micromax decided to take them head on with the Yureka, which they billed as the Zeus (Greek God of Thunder, the most powerful of the Greek godhead) of all phones. Xiaomi’s game of flash sales and low prices was copied with no apologies given.

The Yureka is super-phone in it’s own right. With 2 gigs of RAM, an Octa-core 64-bit Snapdragon 615 processor, 4G LTE connectivity, a 13MP main shooter and a 5MP selfie cam tucked in together with a 5.5 inch HD display, the device if it was coming from some other manufacturer would have cost at least 20K (ala the HTC Desire 820).

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However, in a bid to get back at Xiaomi, Micromax priced the Yureka at just 8,999 rupees, a grand cheaper than Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 4G. Xiaomi’s Tuesday 2 p.m. flash sale time has also been hijacked.

The first of those sales takes place tomorrow and with just 10,000 devices on sale and over 3,00,000 people registered, fastest finger first will be the name of the game when the clock hits 2’o clock tomorrow afternoon. Micromax will be testing the waters tomorrow and with all the hype about the device, they could soon be raking in the moolah.

@DennisA_James

Content Editor @ProdNote