BQ launched the first Ubuntu phone to the market with Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, but it felt quite low end with a 540 x 960 display and 8GB storage. They company has now announced another version with the same processor, but larger 5″ display with a higher resolution (720p) and 16GB storage.
BQ Aquaris E5 HD specifications:
SoC – Quad core Cortex A7 @ 1.3 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU up to 500 MHz (likely Mediatek MT6582)
Audio – 3.5 mm headphone jack, microphone, Ambient noise cancellation,
Camera – 5MP front-facing camera, 13MP rear camera with autofocus and dual flash
USB – micro USB OTG port
Sensors – Brightness sensor, Proximity sensor
Misc – Notification LED
Battery – 2500 mAh LiPo battery
Dimensions – 142 x 71 x x 8.65 mm
Weight – 134 grams
Many new products are either only available in the US or in China, but for once people living in the European Union, Switzerland, or Noraway can have bragging rights, as BQ Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition is only available for pre-order in these countries. Price? 199.90 Euros on BQ website. Shipping will start on June 22.
I’m eagerly waiting for the day when Ubuntu convergence becomes reality, and I can run Ubuntu on a smartphone which I can also use as desktop PC. But Canonical is not the only company working on convergence and Microsoft has announced Continuum for Phones as part of Windows 10, that will bring desktop mode and support for dual independent displays to next-generation Windows 10 phones.
To switch a Windows 10 smartphone to desktop mode, you’ll simply need to connect it to a desktop display, and Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and it will automatically switch to a standard Windows 10 desktop on the big screen where you’ll be able to run apps like Microsoft Office, and other Universal Windows apps, as if it was running on an actual PC or laptop.
The dual screen feature will allow you to check your emails on Outlook on a TV, while your kids watch a movie on the phone screen for instance, and you’ll also be able to answer a phone call without affecting your current work on the desktop. Microsoft also claims this is only possible on new hardware thanks to Qualcomm chips, which probably explains why Continuum won’t work on existing phones.
The requirement for “Universal Windows app” means only apps from the Windows store will run on the phone, and classic desktop app won’t run, until they’ve been ported and available from the Windows store, which overtime should be the case for most apps. If Continuum really works as promised, Microsoft Windows smartphone market share may rise significantly in the future, that is unless Android and iOS also have planned for desktop mode.
The road to convergence is a long one, and although you still can’t really use a smartphone as both a phone and your desktop computers, Ubuntu 15.04 “Vivid Vervet” releases brings us closer to this goal, as the Linux based operating systems now supports not only the traditional PCs and servers, but also the Cloud and IoT platforms thanks to Ubuntu Snappy, and phones such as BQ Aquarius E4.5 Ubuntu Edition.
Most changes for Desktop users are under the hood with Upstart replaced by systemd, the Linux kernel is now up to version 3.19, and many packages have been upgraded to a newer version. You can download i386 (32-bit x86) and amd64 (64-bit x86) desktop or server ISO images, and for the first time Ubuntu Snappy for generic amd64 platform, as well as an ARMHF image made for BeagleBone Black, which AFAIK is the very first time Ubuntu formally releases an image for an ARM based device. Ubuntu 15.04 for BQ Aquarius is not available for download directly from Ubuntu website, but the smartphone will soon receive an OTA update.
Developers will also find out that “Ubuntu Developer Tools Center” have gone through various changes, and has now been renamed to Ubuntu Make. Ubuntu 15.04 might also be the last version where we’ll use apt-get and .deb packages, as Ubuntu developers have announced the switch to Snappy (personal) package manager in the development branch of Ubuntu 15.10.
LeTV has launched three new smartphones namely LeTV S1, LeTV S1 Pro, LeTV Max with zero bezel on its sides, a new USB type C reversible connector, and powered by Mediatek Helio X10 octa core Cortex A53 processor (S1) and Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 big.LITTLE octa core Cortex A53 & A57 processor (S1 Pro & Max) combined with 3 to 4GB RAM, and up to 128GB internal storage.
LeTV smartphones specifications:
Cellular – 2G, 3G and 4G LTE TD-FDD LTE with dual SIM supports for all model, but exact bands depending on model variants.
S1 – 13MP rear camera, 5MP front-facing camera
S1 Pro – 13MP rear camera, 4MP “ultrapixel” front-facing camera
Max – 21MP rear camera, 4MP “ultrapixel” front-facing camera
USB – 1x USB 2.0 / 3.0 (S1 Pro only?) type C connector with support for MHL 2.0 / 3.0 (S1 Pro only?)
Misc – IR remote, Qualcomm only: Le Hi-Fi audio, fingerprint reader (Max only)
S1 & S1 Pro – 3,000 mAh
Max – 3,400 mAh
Dimensions & Weight
S1 – 147.8 x 74.2 x 9.5 mm / 170 g (Plastic)
S1 Pro – 148.4 x 73.8 x 9.4 mm / 177 g (Alloy)
Max – 167.1 x 83.5 x 8.95 mm / 204 g (Alloy)
LeTV Max Smartphone
All three phones will run Android 5.0 (LeUI ROM). Since Helio X10 is only based on Cortex A53, we should expect Snapdragon 810 to be faster, but relatively recent (leaked) benchmarks show the Mediatek processor to be faster in GeekBench 3 ,maybe because of a higher clock frequency (TBC).
However, Snapdragon 810 has some other advantages like support for USB 3.0 and MHL 3.0.
LeTV S1 will be released on April 21 for 1499 RMB ($242) and up, LeTV S1 pro on May 19 for 2499 RMB ($402) and up, but LeTV Max availability and pricing are currently unknown. Further details are available in Chinese on LeTV website.
This post has nothing to do with embedded systems, but I’ll document some of the changes I made to the website in the last few days for better mobile support. Recently Google sent me a message recommending to “Fix mobile usability issues found on http://www.cnx-software.com” via Webmaster Tools, and a user recently complained about readability from his smartphone. So I had to fix this issue.
Desktop vs Mobile (Click to Enlarge)
This involves WordPress cache plugins and WPtouch Mobile Plugin, the latter automatically generates a mobile version of the website as shown on the right in the screenshot above. In theory, it’s very easy, you simply install WPtouch Mobile plugin, and mobile user agents get served the mobile page while other get the desktop version. But when you mix it with a cache plugin, it can become more complicated, and desktop user may be served mobile pages, and mobile user may get desktop pages. The easiest way to work around this is have a list of mobile user agents that the cache plugin simply ignores, but the downside is that mobile pages are not cached, and add load on your server.
In the past, I’ve tried different cache plugins including W3 Total Cache, Super Cache, but I’ve found they would not always work as expect, so last year I finally settled on Quick Cache Lite (Now Zencache Lite) which I’ve found to work reasonably well. The only problem is that the free version does not have a user-agent exclusion list, which is why so far I did not enable WPtouch Mobile on CNX Software. W3 Total Cache supports this for free, but since I know changing cache plugin can be a real pain, I decided to upgrade to Zencache PRO for $39, as I figured out that overtime it should probably pay for itself.
User-Agent Exclusion Patterns in ZenCache PRO
So I copied a list of mobile user agents into the exclusion patterns options of the PRO version, and it worked fine, but that meant that mobile devices did not get served cached file, and the server had to generate the files from PHP/Mysql. Then I found another option called “Dynamic Version Salt” that allowed to generate a different version of the cache based on some PHP code or cookies.
Dynamic Version Salt in ZenCache PRO (Click to Enlarge)
There’s even a code sample to generate cache for iPhone user agent:
ZenCache will store cached files into WP_HOME/wp-content/cache/zencache/cache/http/domain.com/YYYY/MM/DD/ directories with the default URL, let’s say for example hello_world.html. Version Salt will allow to detect a mobile user agent, and if would will create a new file called iPhones.html into hello_world.html.v directory.
The example is fine, but we need to support multiple user agents. After some research, I found the fucntion to use was preg_match_all, and the code to paste into the field above is:
WPTouch list also includes MSIE 10.0, but after playing with User Agent switcher in Firefox and Chrome, I noticed this was also used by Internet Explorer 10 in Windows, so I removed it from the list above.
So far it seems to work pretty well, however the “Mobile | Desktop” option of WPtouch will not work, as mobile devices will also be served the mobile cache, and mobile users need to select the option “Request Desktop Site” or equivalent in their browser if they want to see the desktop version.
Last week I provides specs, took some pictures, and run Antutu benchmark on Iocean M6752, a 64-bit ARM smartphone powered by Mediatek MT6752 octa-core Cortex A53 processor with 3GB RAM, 16 GB eMMC, and a 5.5″ FullHD display. I’ve been using the device as my main smartphone for over a week, and I’m now ready to write a full review for the phone.
At first the material and color used on the back cover feels a little strange, but I quickly got used it, and the build quality seems pretty good, and the phone is very light. I must have made one or two calls during the week, and I mainly use my smartphone to check emails, run social network apps, browse the web, play some casual games like Candy Crush Saga, watch YouTube videos, and make Skype calls, and for these tasks I could not really fault the tablet for any of these applications. I was not a believer in Full HD display for smaller phablet screen, but now that I have tried, I can say the 1920×1080 display looks significantly sharper than the 720p display on my older ThL W200 smaprthone.
Battery life is decent, although it might be a challenge to get a day of battery life at time. I also noticed the charge drop from 100% to 85% overnight with cellular and Wi-Fi enabled at night, which still seems a little more than I would have expected. The phone boot in about 20 seconds, and I have to say overall I could not fault the phone during my week of testing, except for GPS.
Benchmarks: Antutu, Vellamo, and 3DMark
I’ve alread shared the Antutu results last week, but here’s it is again today. With 37,008 points in Antutu 5.6.2, Iocean M6752’s score is not quite as high as the latest flagship models Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Meizyu MX4 or OnePlus One, but it’s still pretty good, as it places it between Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5 both based on Qualcomm Snapdragon 800.
Antutu 5.6.2 Results (Click to Enlarge)
It’s always better to run a few other benchmarks, as Antutu score is easily cheated, so I also ran Vellamo 3.1 and 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme benchmarks.
Vellamo 3.1 and Ice Storm Extreme Benchmark Results
I used A1 SD Benchmark to test the performance of the internal storage. The results are pretty amazing, with 114.17 MB/s read speed and 77.79 MB/s write. However the utility reported “cache reads”, and this should obviously overstates the performance of the flash, but this is probably due to the 3GB RAM available in the system allowing for lots of caching.
Read and Write Speed in MB/s
Despite the probably inaccurate results, the flash is certainly fast, as the phone boots in 20 seconds. For reference, Infocus CS1 A83 tablet, second on the chart, boots in 15 seconds, and HPH NT-V6 (Rockchip RK3288) in 20 seconds, so the flash performance should still be at near the top.
Wi-Fi performance was tested by transferring a 278 MB file over SAMBA using ES File Explorer three times, and I placed the smartphone were I normally place TV boxes and development boards for a fair comparison.
Wi-Fi Performance in MB/s (Click to Enlarge)
Wi-Fi performance is excellent, as M6752 phone managed to transfer the file @ 4.1 MB/s on average (32.8 Mbps) only outperformed by two other devices, including one with 802.11ac Wi-Fi that’s not available with the phone.
It would have been nice to test 3G and LTE download/upload speed, but I don’t even have a 3G SIM card, and LTE is not supported yet where I live.
Rear and Front Facing Cameras
The 14MP camera does an excellent job, just as good if not better than my Canon point and shoot camera, and better a very clear during day time, but as usual still pictures and videos in low light conditions are not very good. The auto-focus works well, and close shots including small text are clear. The flash also does it job at night for close subjects. Video records only at 1280×720 by default, and I have not found a way to change the resolution in the camera app. Still picture default resolution is 4096×2304.
You can check photos samples, as well as video samples shot during day time, at dusk, and a night below that should be watch at 720p resolution. The original day and dusk videos are recording in 3GP format with H.264 video coded at 30 fps amd AAC stereo audio, but the night video drops to 17 fps.
The 5MP front-facing camera is OK, as long as the subject is not moving too much, and I’ve also used it in a Skype call without issues. Here are a few samples. Resolution is 2560×1440.
I installed Antutu Video Tester to test video playback on the smartphone, and results are mediocre with only 382 points against 700+ for the best device out there.
Antutu Video Tester Results
Many audio formats are not supported including wmav2, dts, ac-3, and flac. The processor also does not support 4K videos at all. It might be possible to improve video playback by installing thrird party media player apps like MX Player or Kodi.
I probably used the phone 3 to 5 hours a day browsing the web, checking email, watching YouTube video and playing some games, and a full charge in the morning would take me to the evening for sure, but maybe not up to late at night.
I used LAB501 Battery Life app to test battery life for web browsing, video playback (720p), and gaming. I started from a full charge until the battery level reached about 15%, with Wi-Fi and Cellular on, and brightness set to 50%:
Browsing (100% to 14%) – 303 minutes (5h05).
Video (100% to 12%) – 255 minutes (4h15). So good for about 2 full movies on a charge.
Gaming (100% to 15%) – 166 minutes (2h46)
So this confirms the 2,300 mAh battery will be depleted pretty quickly, at least compared to the results I got with Infocus CS1 A83 tablet with a bigger 3,550 mAh battery, but also a larger 7″ screen.
It took the phone 3h30 to fully charge from 0% to 100%. You can however get a 90% charge is about 10 hours, so the last 10% may take a lot of time.
I could pair with my other mobile devices without issues, and transfer pictures in either direction. Bluetooth Smart (BLE) also work, as I could retrieve fitness data from Vidonn X5 smartband.
When I ram Google Maps, and GPS test app at home (with Wi-Fi on), GPS seems to worked pretty well. But then I went for a short run, and checked GPS “performance” with Nike+ Running. This is a road around a stadium, so the tracking should look like an ellipse. Just for yourself…
I did wait for a GPS fix before running, and the phone was placed on my left arm, so it should have had line of sight to GPS satellites during the run. GPS is the weakest point of this smartphone. I just used the default settings, and I have not tried some Mediatek GPS hacks yet.
Candy Crush Saga, Beach Buggy Bleach, and Riptide GP2 all played very smoothly, even with high graphics details thanks to the Mali-760MP2 GPU.
The touchscreen supports 5 touch points according to Multitouch app.
The smartphone has stereo speakers on the back, but they sound quite poor, and are nowhere near the good quality I get with Infocus C2107 tablet, so if you plan to use that smartphone to listen music with other people, you’ll definitely want to use external speakers.
If you want to get more details about the phone, I’ve filmed a video going through the user’s interface (mostly settings), showing some benchmark results, tryout a largish PDF in acrobat reader, playing Candy Crush Saga and Beach Buggy Racing, and more. The fisheye effect in the video is due to my using an action camera (SJ1000).
Iocean M6752 is really a great smartphone for the price, with a large and sharp screen @ 1920×1080 resolution, excellent Wi-Fi performance, a fast processor, lots of RAM, provides performance close to flagship models from better known brand, and most features works very well. Unfortunately, GPS does not seem reliable, video recording seems to be limited to 720p30, video playback is not so good (according to Antutu Video Tester), and it would be nice to have a couple extra hours out of the battery.
Relatively fast 64-bit ARM processor
Lots of memory (3GB RAM)
Clear and crisp 1920×1080 display
Outstanding performance for internal storage and Wi-Fi.
Pictures looks good in good lighting conditions, both for close ups and landscape shots.
Good gaming performance
OTA update (first time ever I get an OTA update on one of my Android phones…)
GPS is a disaster. It will lock relatively fast, but may not be very reliable.
Antutu Video Tester score is a little low (<400) mostly because of audio codec failures, and 2160p videos are not supported.
A slightly longer battery life would be nice, although it should be good enough from morning till evening.
Video recording might be limited to 720p, and quality is pretty poor at night.
Rear speakers do not sound very good
GearBest provided the Iocean M6752 smartphone for review, and if you think this might be a phone you’d like to get, the company offers the phone for $219.99 including shipping with Coupon “Iocean”. Other sellers include Tinydeal, Geekbuying, and Coolicool with price starting at $222.99.
A few companies have started or planned discounts for April’s fool, Father’s day, and maybe even March Madness, the basketball tournament currently taking place in the US.
GearBest launched their “March Markdowns” event occurring between March 16-31, and offering 81 discounted items, a spin the wheel game where players can win a One Plus One smartphone, two ZTE Blade S6 smartphones, as well as some other smaller items and discount points.
They have deals for smartphones, watches, RC cars and quadcopters, mini PCs, and other accessories.
Some interesting deals for Android media players include:
You can also try to use GBCCN coupon to get 10% discount. This is however not cumulative. For example, Ugoos UT3S will sell for $116.80 with the coupon.
Meanwhile, Geekbuying also have their own April’s fool festival with discount for scary gadgets, RC toys and smartphones, but nothing for mini PCs. They also have a Coupon Zone with some interesting deals for development board like Firefly-RK3288, Radxa Rock Lite, Orange Pi, and Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, as well as Zidoo X9 media player & recorder, but unfortunately the coupon were short-lived as they already expired. I’m not sure if it’s a page to monitor for further deals, or this was just a one off. You can still get Zidoo X9 for $115.99 with the older BFCIGPHO coupon.
If you had your eyes on MeegoPad T01, but were waiting for a small discount, I’ve been informed Meegopad T01 with 32GB eMMC can be had for 5% discount (~$105) with “3MiniPC5″ coupon on DealExtreme. It might also work with other SKUs, but I have not tried.
Finally, WeTek is planning a 24-hour discount for Father’s day on March 19, 2015. They’ll provide a code on Facebook and other social media platform to get 20% discount and free delivery on WeTek Play Android set-top boxes and accessories purchased on WeTek.com.
The makers of Neptune Pine smartwatch have unsurprisingly decided to make another smartwatch which they called Neptune Hub. Why Hub? Because although this smartwatch can be used standalone, its quadcore processor can also control a smartphone, a tablet, and an HDMI stick, probably over Miracast. So they’ve taken the opposite view to other companies in the market which are using the smartphone as the brain of your smartwatch to some extends.
Cellular Connectivity – GSM/3G/LTE with nano SIM card slot
Connectivity – 802.11 Wi-Fi, 60Hz WiGig 802.11ad, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS / A-GPS
Audio – Microphone and speaker
Sensors – Accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, digital compass, heart rate sensor, vibration motor
Battery – 1,000 mAh
The watch will run Android 5.0 Lollipop, and it’s rather big, but in this case it might be an advantage, as it can hold a 1,000 mAh battery, about half of what you’d get in a smartphone, but thanks to the much smaller screen, it’s expected to last just as long. The watch can make calls, send/receive SMS, be used as a fitness tracker, and pretty much anything you could do on a smartphone.
However, there are certainly cases where you’d need a larger screen as browsing the web, watching videos, or reading e-books is not quite enjoyable on a 2.4″ screen. But Neptune got you covered with three “dumb” devices, which are probably Miracast displays.
Neptune Pocket Screen
It looks like a smartphone, but it’s not quite as smart, and the processor is not even listed in the specs, but other smartphones features are there:
Display – 5″ capacitive touchscreen @ 1280×720
Camera – 8MP rear camera with LED flash, 2MP front-facing camera
Audio – In-ear speaker, loudspeaker, microphone
Connectivity – 60GHz WiGig 802.11ad
Sensors – Accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, vibration motor
Battery – Rechargeable 2,800mAh battery
Without a powerful processor, the 2,800 mAh should last for a while. I was quite interested in Miracast when the first devices hit the shelves, but after trying it I was rather disappointed with image quality and lag, but WiGig should greatly improve both:
Neptune Hub uses WiGig, a revolutionary wireless protocol operating in the 60GHz frequency band, to interface with other displays and devices. WiGig provides multi-gigabit speeds of up to 7Gbps, with non-perceptible latency. This is the key technological enabler for the Neptune Suite to be realized, as previous streaming protocols simply did not have the throughput or the latency levels required to make this feasible.
Neptune Tab & Neptune Keys
If you need a tablet sized screen, Neptune Tab is what you need:
Display – 10″ capacitive touchscreen @ 1920×1080
Camera – 720p front facing camera
Audio – Loudspeaker, micrphone
Connectivity – 60GHz WiGig 802.11ad
Sensors – Accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope
Battery – Rechargeable 7,000 mAh battery
Wigig again, and a sizable battery. If you need a keyboard, the tab can clip into Neptune Keys to convert the tablet into a laptop.
Neptune Dongle & Headset
That’s probably a pretty standard streaming dongle that connect to the HDMI port of your TV or monitor and provide a full screen experience. No specs were provided.
The Neptune Suite is completed with Neptune headset, a pair of wireless headphones, that can be use as a necklace when not in use, and which can also be used to charge up to three devices simultaneously including itself from a single power outlet.
The company launched the project on Indiegogo yesterday, and has already well passed its $100,000 funding target with close to $800,000 raised so far. Neptune Suite rewards with Hub, Pocket Screen, Tab, Keys, Dongle and Headset currently goes for $599 + shiping, is expected to retail for $899. The project appears to be quite challenging, and probably not without risk, especially since delivery is scheduled for February 2016, so it’s still early development, but at least the company has experience with its previous project.