Thursday, 16 April 2015

Galaxy S6 Impressions

I've had my hands on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 for some time now, and here are my impressions. I'm not going to do pretty macro shots or camera quality comparisons. Others have. Also, I tend to drone on once my fingers get going. Luckily there's a TL;DR of sorts towards the bottom.

Everybody else commented on the superb build quality and all that. And yeah, it's nice. Looks good, the sides are nicely rounded with just a bit of an edge, so it's not completely slippery. It's not as nicely built as the M9 or a Sony Z3 - or the iPhone 6 it so blatantly tries to imitate, for that matter, but it's easily the nicest phone Samsung ever built.

Everybody also commented on the lack of a removable battery, external sd card and waterproofing. Waterproofing is very useful in a country like mine where it rains more often than not, so I'd like to have seen that. I've never changed a battery in any previous phone, though. Ever. And using an external sdcard has been a hobbled experience for the last few major Android versions. So yeah. I mean, to each their own.

The camera is awesome. It opens really quickly when doubletapping the physical home key, focus is fast and accurate and the photos are gorgeous. It's a very competent point-and-shoot solution, and there are tons of special "pro" features if you want to get creative with your shots. I'm not sure if this camera is better than the recent Sonys but I'd say the image processing is better. The S6 produces consistently good results. Totally approved.

The screen is nice too, but I'm not as blown away as other reviews I've read. My device is not as color-accurate as I've come to expect from the praise of others - in fact it has a slightly greenish tint. I hate to sound like a Sony commercial, but again, other top shelf phones have had very nice looking screens too, albeit at 1080p, but to be honest: I can't tell 1440p from 1080p on a 5.1" screen in any real world scenario. The 1440p spec is functionally useless, and comes at the expense of battery performance.

Because oh dear. The battery on this thing is wildly inconsistent. I am getting around 14 hours of total battery life after unplugging with anywhere between 3 and 4½ hours of the rather more interesting screen-time. So the truth is somewhere between "horrible" and "not bad, I suppose", which I'd be less than happy with if I'd built myself a flagship. Coming from the Sony Xperia Z2/3, I'm used to seeing at least 5-6 hours of screen-time and charging every 2-3 days.

Some would interject that having adaptive fast charge eliminates this issue. Which is only a half truth and utterly beside the point. While being able to add a substantial charge in minutes is extremely useful, there's nothing like just stuffing a charged phone in your pocket in the morning and going about your day without a care in the world or a charger in your other pocket, knowing it will most certainly last.

The S6 doesn't last and in comparison to my Sony Z3 and Z2, using the Galaxy S6 feels like watching one of those treasure hunter diver movies, where you involuntarily hold your breath while the protagonist tries to make it to the surface without her oxygen tank. Mmmmm, Jessica Alba.

And speaking of pretty... No Samsung review from me without mentioning touchwiz. Touchwiz has long been an atrocious, battery depleting, resource hogging eyesore of useless bloat, gimmicks and glitter. It still is, and all the shit is there. It's mostly hidden away, and most of it is disabled by default, which I suppose is progress. The S6 does, however, come with a generous offering of preinstalled apps, most of which cannot be uninstalled. Some of them can be "disabled"... I've never really understood what that would accomplish, as they seem to zombie back to life every time Google Play autoupdates.

If at least I could have S Health not waste battery on monitoring my every step, I'd be happy. That's my main gripe with any intrusive OEM overlay - they lack an "I don't give a shit" function. It's an archaic practice. No means no.

All in all though, Touchwiz doesn't really intrude on my daily use, and doesn't seem to slow the phone down. The phone is really fast and fluid, and I haven't made it drop a beat at anything except browsing various news sources in Google Chrome. I suspect that's more of a Chrome issue. Everything looks nice enough and the fingerprint reader works well.

Here's a thought for you, though. If you grab the latest and greatest phones from Google, Sony or Motorola, you largely get the naked Android experience, which has been pretty good since the introduction of Android 5 late 2014.

If you're coming from that to the Galaxy S6, you're in for an experience so utterly alien that you might as well pick up an iPhone. With the iPhone, you'd also be getting a very alien user experience, but you'd be having it on prettier hardware. Lighter, thinner, slightly smaller (or larger (6plus)) with an even better camera and most certainly better battery life.

If I had to make a TL;DR conclusion of sorts, I'd say the S6 is rather good, but also slightly disappointing. It's fast, pretty, well built and takes great photos. The UI is alright and mostly convenient, and the screen is...nice. Everything comes at the expense of battery life. It charges quickly and wirelessly and all that, but for convenience there's no match for not having to lug a charger around at all. It's also rather expensive.

Ultimately I can't shake the feeling that the Galaxy S6 tries too hard to be an iPhone, and it's not nearly as good at being an iPhone as the iPhone is.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sony Xperia Z2 impressions


Denmark was one of the first markets to receive the Z2, and I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of the first devices to hit Danish soil. So I've had about a month to play with it. Here are my impressions.

The photo album that goes with it: http://c0.dk/HooolmXpZ2Photos

Monday, 10 March 2014

Charity umbrella changes

As you can see on my PLANTATION PROJECT page in the menu above, I have discontinued my support for the project.

The institution itself becomes privatized starting April 2014, which means that they are no longer limited by how public-sector institutions are allowed to fund their activities. I'm not going to go into legalese specifics, but their opportunities for allocating existing budgets, and raising extra funds will be vastly improved, and I feel that their staff, board members and parent base should be able to lift that burden on their own.

I still keep my "Android money" separate from my personal income, and I am looking at other worthy causes to support - but for the sake of honesty and transparency towards donators and supporters, I'd feel weird not disclosing that I do longer support this particular project.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sony Z2 pre-thirst

After what seems like a decade of tech blogs stating every January that this is going to be the year that Sony breaks back into the top, they've gone and presented the Sony Z2 smartphone at MWC2014.

And while renders, write-up and hands-on experience can be very different things, the Z2 is the only thing from Sony to make my testicles tingle in any noticable fashion since the Sony Ericsson C905.
(Don't judge me. I'm old, and it was a different market back then.)

Anyway, the Z2 has decent specs, a more than decent camera, and if the Z1 Compact is a herald of things to come, Sony's not currently fucking up the naked Android too badly with their UX.
Besides that, it's waterproof and looks pretty damn good.

A very sharp contender for my summer holiday plaything.

(via Android Police where you'll find additional info and specs as well)

Friday, 3 January 2014

Improvised FAQ on Android 4.4 KitKat / CM11 / etc.

"So, Hooolm, are you going to update your Theme Chooser themes for KitKat ROMs ?"

Yes and/or Maybe.

"What's keeping you?"

It depends what direction the major players like CyanogenMod and AOKP take with KitKat. As it stands, most of my Theme Chooser themes are useless with CM11 et al, because the KitKat battery icon isn't composed of images, but generated via code. That code is unreachable via the Theme Chooser, and so are the /layout XML files that might allow me to change the references back to what it was before.

I flash CM11 nightlies on my HTC One to keep track of what's happening, but until at least that changes, I see no point in trying to adapt something like Freehand or LEDed to KitKat.


"But...but...how about the kanglings in Romania who..."

Yes, I understand that some of the "fringe players" have tried making the battery icon themeable, but I'd need a significant user base (like CM) to target. If I push a version to Google Play saying "Updated for KitKat" , I'm going to have a thousand 1-star ratings from CM11 and AOKP KK users saying, "Heeeey - the battery still looks stock. I can't believe I paid for this ******* **** !!!1!eleven..,,,!"

U MAD BRO?

Nah, but it's beyond my control, and my current focus is on making and maintaining sweet icon packs - primarily because they are fun and because they challenge my creativity rather than my book-keeping abilities :-)



Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Android 4.3 / CM10.2 changes

I'm aware of them, and I'll fix them asap. I'm unfortunately without my computer at the moment..

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Freehand updates

I'm updating the Freehand variations for the Theme Chooser present in ROMs based on Cyanogenmod, AOKP and so on.

I've tried to get the most important system resources up to date with the latest CM10.1 and AOKP jb-mr1 builds.

The major change, though, is that I've pulled out all the launcher icons. The reason for this is twofold.
First off all the theme chooser engine is not at all ideal for distributing icon packs.
While it doesn't exactly suck, the Nova/Apex/Go/ADW/ActionLauncher themes are much better suited to the task, it's easier to handle app support, and therefore quicker to update.

Second, the introduction and more wide spread availability of 1080p devices with resolutions nudging up on 500ppi meant that the previous icons started looking a little bleak.

Therefore I've rebooted the Freehand icons, redrawing them in much higher resolution and releasing them as Launcher themes, usable by anyone running a custom launcher, not just rooted phones with custom ROMs.

So if you'd like a set of freehand icons to go with this theme, please check out the Freehand icon packs/launcher themes here...



As you'll notice, they aren't free. To preempt any objections, I'll say simply:

1. None of the old icons could be reused, and the packs represent a completely new effort.
2. Drawing one icon takes at least a couple of minutes, and up to 30 minutes, depending on complexity.
3. All proceeds from the sales are funneled straight into charity.

Regards,

Holm