Recent Features

Where's the character? Fall in love, not into utility

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As an industry watcher, the world of smartphones has never been more competitive or better value. It's also duller than ditchwater. And, apparently, growth has now stopped and sales are in decline... With IFA 2016 just over in Germany, where yet another batch of almost identical 5" touch slabs were announced, I'm tempted to suggest that now really is the time to look for character in our smartphones. Where are the USPs? Are they now relegated to older, almost retro, devices, while new products fall over themselves to stay anonymous?

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All About Rafe Blandford(!)

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In a break from traditional content, here's something that the 361 team recorded a few days ago... It's AAS & AAWP editor/publisher/owner Rafe Blandford's 'origin' story. Packed with details that even I didn't know and with a few chuckles along the way, this is a must-listen hour of chat for anyone who reads the sites. 

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Flash back: 8 things the Lumia 950 and the Nokia N95 have in common

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Now, go with me on this. I'm contending that the current Microsoft Lumia 950 and the 2006 Nokia N95 have a lot in common - more than you might think. It's just that there was something about the 950 in my hand as my main smartphone that reminded me of a feeling I'd not had for a decade. Then it hit me. Ten years ago I'd had the ground-breaking N95....

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Why are we stuck at 75% (screen-to-body ratio)?

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Despite the various pros and cons for 'touch' over the years, we're firmly in a mode in the tech world now where touch makes the most sense, in terms of text input, controls and general interaction. So why haven't we seen screen sizes increase to fill most of the front area of our phones? I examine the history of the form factor, in terms of screen-to-body ratio, and wonder whether we can't have our cake and eat it, in terms of phones that are manageable yet with monster displays...

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Video sound capture tested: 808/1020/950/Marshall

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One of the requests in the comments recently was to test audio capture when shooting videos. And, as it happens, I'd been thinking about doing this for a while anyway. So I headed out with six smartphones and tried to shoot video and audio in as controlled conditions as possible: in a quiet garden, by a windy, noisy road, and in a rock-level music setting. That should be enough to set the best from the rest, I thought...

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Xenon or triple LED? Investigating camera phone flash capabilities

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One of the most popular sub-topics in my features on camera-toting smartphones is low light and night time capabilities. Now, partly this is about arty shots of sunsets, churches and fountains, but more usually in the real world this is about friends and family in living rooms, pubs and events. Which usually means relying on your smartphone camera's flash. With LED flash now coming in 'triple' form and with many differences in processing capabilities under the hood, I thought some tests were in order. Will Xenon, the original winning tech, still come out on top?

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DxOMark? We need a real world 'Mark' for smartphone photography - 'realMark', anyone?

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Ah yes, the professionally-rated best camera phones of the world. In this case, DxOMark calling the shots. Here's a quiz: what have the still cameras in the Nexus 6P, Xperia Z3+, iPhone 6s, Blackberry Priv and Nexus 6 got in common, as tested by DxOMark? Answer, they're all way ahead of the Nokia 808 PureView and Lumia 1020 for still photography. Eh? What? I contend that DxOMark's testing is rooted in cloud-cuckoo-land and that a new 'realMark' is needed. (© Steve Litchfield, 2016!)

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Iterating on zoom: smartphone approaches through the years...

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Almost as soon as cameras started to arrive on smartphones (the Nokia 7650 was the first - I still have mine!), bright minds started to wonder if it would be possible to not only snap a scene, but actively zoom the shot before capture (as you would on a standalone camera). Early approaches were terrible, of course, but then we had a succession of interesting approaches, most of which are grouped in the photo below. And, a decade later, in late 2015, is there a consensus, a winner?

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