Stories in Reviews

Spotify’s new Android app looks fresh, we go hands-on

Today Spotify announced their impressive brand new music streaming app for Android. Since first released last year in the US I've been patiently waiting for them to update the application, and today they've done that and more. Spotify didn't just update their app, they've completely redesigned it from top to bottom and it now feels part of the Android 4.0 ICS family with the Holo theme and more. If you're a fan of Spotify or have been considering it, you'll want to stay tuned for my hands-on video.

LG Viper 4G LTE Review

The brand new 4G powered LG Viper 4G LTE will be available in a few short days. Starting April 22nd for the Now Network. Being the first LTE device not on Verizon or AT&T we wanted to give it a quick look. LTE still isn't quite available from the Now Network, as it replaces their WiMAX, but we've tossed the phone through the ringer anyways so read on below for our full thoughts and plenty of pictures.

HTC One V Review

It’s clear by now that HTC had a somewhat disappointing 2011. Their handset range was all over the place, so at MWC this year, they decided to buckle down and simplify things, introducing the One range. While we’ve already taken a look at the mid-range and high-end handsets, there’s still One more to look at: the HTC One V. It doesn’t have the horsepower of the other two phones, but it hopes to make up for that in terms of overall experience and affordability. Head past the jump for our full review.

Next Issue magazine app review

The idea of reading periodicals on a tablet-like device is in fact older than the current crop of tablets. But the reality has thus far left something to be desired, mostly because translating an essentially analog experience to the digital world is a major UI feat. Dealing with content that seamlessly integrates text and photos is a lot more difficult than simple words. The latest company to have a go is Next Issue Media, and they've got some of the biggest magazine publishers in the US behind them: Hearst, Meredith, News Corp, Time Inc and Condé Nast. The format and pricing of the Next Issue service present a compelling front, so we decided it deserved a full review.

Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 Review

Samsung isn't content with dominating the world of Android smartphones and tablets: they want the nebulous portable media player market as well. And more power to them, since they seem to be the only ones who do want it. Their Galaxy Player series is now in its third generation, and while the Galaxy Player 3.6 isn't anywhere near as capacious as the 5-inch version we reviews late last year, it's still got its fair share of charms. How does Samsung's latest phone-without-a-phone stack up? Let's find out.

Mugen Power 3900 mAh Galaxy Nexus extended battery review

Battery life of smartphones is something we all wish was better. Especially ones like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with a huge screen and 4G LTE. Last week I had the pleasure to test the Mugen Power extended battery for the Galaxy Nexus coming in at 3900 mAh -- a huge improvement over the stock 1750 mAh battery. I wanted to see if it would last the entire weekend. Read on below for my full results and plenty of pictures.

Archos 101 G9 Turbo review

Archos has always had a focus on video-optimized and flexible hardware, since long before their "tablets" started shipping with Android. With the current generation of mobile hardware, they can add even more media prowess to their utilitarian designs - in at least one case, even without a major overhaul. The 101 G9 Turbo edition gets its elongated title from the boosted 1.5Ghz dual-core processor. Some relatively quick coding from Archos' software department has also given later models Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box, with Google certification - in other words, it's exactly what you want when you hear the words "Android tablet", at least from a software standpoint. Is it enough to overcome more well-publicized competitors? Hardware Archos is kind of like the Jeep of portable media player manufacturers. You'd have a hard time calling any of their current products "pretty", though "tough" isn't exactly the right word either - the 101 G9 is made from rather ordinary glass and plastic. A better word would be "utilitarian", a philosophy that extends throughout the hardware. On the left side of the tablet you'll find a plethora of ports: mini-HDMI, MicroUSB, MicroSD (unlabelled, and right below the MicroUSB port), a standard headphone port, and a plastic dummy peice that slides out to reveal a full-sized USB port. In Europe this plastic piece can be replaced with a separate 3G modem, but no carrier on this side of the pond officially supports it. Even so, you can plug in a flash drive or external hard drive to augment the tablet's 8GB of storage. Controls are simple and unfortunately less than ergonomic. The power button hides between the ports on the left side while the tiny volume buttons sit along on the right. Neither are ideally placed - when holding the tablet in either hand I tended to accidentally tap them with my palm. The front of the tablet is bare aside from a lot of grey bezel and a 720p front-facing camera, the only one on the device. On the back of the tablet is a large and very loud speaker, the plastic USB port cover and... a kickstand. I love kickstands on mobile devices. And while this isn't the first I've seen, I'm always happy to use them. The small plastic stand folds out at about a 35 degree angle, and stays put when fully extended or retracted. That said, it's only truly useful when watching video or using the 101 G9 Turbo in "desktop mode" with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. The reason for this is its placement, almost on left edge of the device. When extended, the tablet will rock back any time you touch something on the opposite side of the screen - like, for example, the essential Search and Voice buttons on the launcher, or the primary button in the Google Play Store. A center placement might have solved this issue. Software This is Android as it's meant to be experienced: pure Ice Cream Sandwich, with no overlays, bloat, bells or whistles. Even with the advancements in the likes of TouchWiz and Sense, there's nothing that beats unadorned Android for speed, stability and flexibility, at least in the opinion of this reviewer. Yes, there are extra apps included, but none of them are unwelcome (which is more than I can say for ridiculous carrier fare like AT&T Navigation). What games are here are fun, and even if you don't want them, you can remove them completely. But hold your horses: in among the likes of Evernote and Nook are Archos' custom Music and Video apps, two programs that you'll want to keep around. Not only are they surprisingly well-made, they're considerably faster than Google's alternatives, though they don't integrate with the Google Play Store. Music comes pre-packaged with about two dozen free and popular songs, while the Video app has a collection of movie trailers. If you've got a bunch of hi-definition, DRM-free video files sitting around (I won't ask where you got them) Archos' video app can play 1080p h264 vids without a hitch, though of course you'll have to use and HDMI cable to make the most of it. Media and Performance Considering Archos' history and the additions of the Turbo model, this section will be of the most interest to those considering the upgrade over the standard 101 G9, which also gets an Ice Cream Sandwich software update. And considering that the tablet is running the latest and certainly greatest version of Android, the 1.5Ghz TI OMAP 4460 and 1GB of RAM are much appreciated (this is the the same combo as the Galaxy Nexus, but clocked a little higher). It's not a speed demon by any means: the Quadrant score is just below 2400, a little lower than I'd expect. But based on my experiences in the pack-in games and with Grand Theft Auto, it should be fine for all but the most demanding of gamers. Through the standard Android interface and especially when playing video, the 101 G9 shines. Full Google certification means that you've got access to the likes of Gmail, YouTube and the Google Play Store, along with the nearly limitless media options this provides. The one thing I found myself wishing for was access to Video On Demand, which of course isn't available as an app - but thanks to the Flash Player I was able to watch a few episodes via the Android browser. The combination of a loud speaker and kickstand would make the 101 a perfect video tablet - if it weren't for the somewhat lacking screen. Even at full brightness it's duller than most and there's a good bit of light leakage, which isn't helped by the glossy nature (something that's admittedly shared with all modern touchscreens). That said, the utility of the kickstand, the 10.1-inch 1280x800 screen and the excellent video decoding of the included Video app go a long way towards making up for this. The full-sized USB port is great if you've got a large collection of videos that you want to quickly access via the tablet. For the bigger USB drives you'll need an adapter - there's only a few millimeters between the port and the tablet housing to accommodate an external gadget. And for a tablet with so many USB options (including trickle charging) it's disappointing to see the MTP standard used instead of the more reliable USB mass storage. Battery and Value The 101 G9 lasted didn't last quite as long as I'd hoped a device this large would: got between 7 and 8 hours of web browsing and music on a charge, which of course went down when I added gaming and video. That's more than enough to get through the average plane flight, no matter what you're doing, but I've come to expect more longevity from a WiFi only tablet. The 8GB version comes in at $329.99, which I feel is a little pricey. But for the 250GB version (which houses a traditional hard drive instead of flash storage) at $389.99, it wins the price wars by virtue of being the only contestant in that capacity class. If you need monster storage space without adding any external hardware (and don't mind slightly diminished performance in some areas) it's a good deal. Keep in mind that both versions are frequently on sale at various retailers. The smaller Archos 80 G9 is considerably less expensive, though the screen goes down to 1024x768. Wrap-up  Archos tablets are strange beasts, cousins to the ASUS Transformer tablets in their focus on capability over style. They're also cheaper, though not by much in the case of the 101 G9 Turbo. The component upgrades are enough to make it worth the extra money versus their older counterparts, but the build quality, screen brightness and battery life may make it worth the extra dough to step up to a more premium manufacturer. There are two exceptions: one, those who love watching video, and lots of it, from a lot of different places. Archos' integrated video player is second to none, and its options for storage expansion can't be beat. The second exception is someone who absolutely must have vanilla Android, and the latest version at that - and doesn't want to modify their tablet to get it. Though the 101 G9 has only been out for a few weeks, it received its first maintenance update from Archos while I was using it. Long story short: there are prettier, thinner, and cheaper machines out there, but none of them offer the combination of hardware features and blessedly clean software that the Archos 101 G89 Turbo does. If you want pretty, get a Galaxy Tab (or, you know, an iPad). If you want a machine that specializes in video and doesn't get in the way of Android, give some serious consideration to Archos. [youtube AG3zyCqnGhA] [timeline] [gallery]

Instagram for Android Review

It's finally here! Instagram has launched for Android today, and all you amateur photographers and social media fanatics should be plenty happy to give it a try. The hugely popular photo filter and tweaking app for iOS is finally available for the Android masses, and we're taking a hands-on look below for your viewing pleasure, and compare it to ICS.

HTC One S Review

The 2012 hero phone strategy for HTC hits its thinnest point with the HTC One S, a device that brings the full power of the HTC One series made to compete with the best of the best. This device runs Android 4.0.3 right out of the box, has Sense 4.0 (made specifically for the Ice Cream Sandwich environment) and has hardware that backs up the promise of the user interface. This beast is backed up by no less than the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.5GHz dual-core processor, otherwise known as Krait and MSM8260A in this case, and ushers in a new era for smartphone cameras as well with not only assistance from the Snapdragon but another chip by the name of HTC Image Chip. Will this member of the One family live up to the new HTC promise?

HTC ONE X Review

2011 was not HTC's year. Despite what appeared to be a strong start at Mobile World Congress in February 2011, by the tail-end of the year HTC had seen its device sales slump and rivals like Samsung steal its innovation crown, no small shock for the company which had long been known as the Android backbone. 2012, then, sees HTC become the challenger again, and the HTC One X is the powerhouse of that attack. Packing a quadcore Tegra 3 chipset in European form, it's a big, fast answer to those who said HTC had let specifications slip. Question is, does the One X do enough to leave HTC in a solid position ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5?