Top 10 Photo Editors for Android

Hello again! If you’re new; welcome! Last time I covered the 5 best camera apps available on the Play Store, so today, I’m sharing the 10 (yes 10, because editing a picture is far more advanced) best editors for just that!

These are all available i the Play Store, some are free, some are paid, but they all work great 😀
So let’s just dive into it, okay? Oh yeah, the examples included are a bit narrow, but they give you a good look of what they look like. Surprisingly, many of them share the same layout.

  1. Afterlight is my go-to photo editor, it has a great amount of filters and plenty of basic tools for enhancing any photo. It’s design is simple and clean, and navigating is super fast because there’s nothing hidden away from you; what you see is what you get. For a single dollar, you get a great basic editor with great tools.
  2. SnapseedIf you’re not keen on spending money on a capable editor, and don’t want ads either, you should really consider Snapseed. it’s in my Top 10 free apps too, since it’s got everything an editor should have, and plenty more. It does have some limitations, but it’s close to nothing. Design is nice, navigating is a bit unique, but easily learned.
  3. OverNow here’s an app that’s a tough sell, but the sheer design and flow is brilliant. You can add professional, crazy, awesome, beautiful, and lovely stickers. As well as writing anything is an array of great fonts. Control color, opacity, size, or the angle. There’s plenty of room to be creative and enhancing your pictures with awesome text or cool stickers; they’re all classy and minimalistic. It’s fairly expensive for an app, but I see no other alternative in this high quality.
  4. Moldiv is yet another collage-app. However, once again, I’m adding this to the list for it’s quality of design (looks similar to Afterlight), and the amount of things you can do. there’s a free version, but if you want the full potential, and awesome frames and magazine-style collages, you need to shell out some dough. Aside from the huge amount of frames, Moldiv offer filters, basic editing tools, stickers, custom writing in different and nice fonts. It’s quite impressive, it’s filled to the rim with tools, and yet feels so simple. If you want something to cover almost everything, Moldiv’s a great way to get loads of features in one app.
  5. Repix is for adding a little extra to your great photos. Or maybe to have some fun with it. Repix offers many great effects that you manually brush over you photo. The effects are alive and moving, so it looks absolutely great, and gives it some natural detail. Bokeh, stars, birds, van Gogh styling, dots, stains, scratches… it has plenty of effects. Freely available, but pay for more effects. And it’s quite expensive all things considered, but well worth it in the long run.

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    From the left; Afterlight, Snapseed, Over, Moldiv, Repix.

  6. PicSay sligtly showing age, the interface is in Holo design, but the stickers, fonts and effects are something you’d probably be looking for back in the Android 2.0 era. However it does have plenty of features, lots of stuff to do and in good quality. I bought it 4 years ago, but I still find myself using it from time to time, because it has plenty of tools that are unique.
  7. PixlrPixlr is an app from Autodesk, and signing up through facebook gives you additional “essential” tools. It’s free and offers plenty of basic tools, making your photos the best they can be. Additionally, you can make collages, double exposures and add filters. Good alternative to Snapseed, especially if you sign up and get the extra free tools.
  8. Photo Editor by AviaryAdobe’s entrance to basic mobile photo editing, Aviary is connected to your creative cloud (if you activate it), giving you sync between your Adobe products. Aside from that, it offers all the basic editing tools and some nifty features like meme creation. It looks nice, has the tools, and has the connection. You can unlock exclusive features by connecting it to the Creative Cloud, and get future updates for free, if you make it before the deadline (20th of February 2015).
  9. PicsArt Photo Studio is a full package deal; offering editing as well as a social network for photographers. It’s free but has ads in editing, which you can pay to remove. Otherwise the app han all the basics, and additionally offers filters, stickers, picture-in-picture, and a store for expanding the tools. Plenty of useful tools, and simply a great free alternative, with the option to expand tools and connect with other users. Honestly though, we have Instagram or EyeEm for that, right?
  10. FragmentIs a special photo editor, and I’m not aware of any similar app. What Fragment does, it to make layered effects of a single photo. It has tons of patterns and figures, and you have full control of basic tools and coloring, placement and size. There’s plenty of room to get creative and give any photo a cool and great look, something that isn’t quite found anywhere else.
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    From the left; Picsay, Pixlr, Aviary, PicsArt, Fragment.

    Okay, that’s it from me! Be sure to share some of your thoughts on these apps. Maybe you use an entirely different (but awesome) app? Maybe I’ve given you a good idea of what to try out? Let me know! Photo editing is essential to making good photos great, fun, awesome, or just plain different. Get out there and take some photos where ever you go, and have fun with it! 🙂

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Top 5 Camera Apps for Android

Hello and welcome to yet another list of some of my favorite things on Android! This time around, I’m presenting 5 camera apps available in the Google Play Store. It’s a mix of both free and paid apps, and I think all the paid ones actually have a free alternative with some limited features, so feel free to try them out!
To be clear, this list does not contain camera apps that are preinstalled in some phones, like the Samsung camera app, or the HTC, or Sony version. It’s a top 5 list of camera apps available in the Play Store 🙂
All right, here we go!

  1. Google Camera. Aahh, Google. So much you do right. The Google Camera is free, and while it doesn’t offer particularly advanced features, the app is simple and has some excellent exclusive features. 360 degree photospheres to capture an entire place in rich detail, endless panoramas (vertically or horizontally), wideangle shots, and fish-eye features too. Google Camera is quite handy to take photo’s differently than many other alternatives. Only works on Android devices running 4.4 and up though.
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  2. Lapse It. I do enjoy me some timelapse, and Lapse It is a great and simple way to make them. Control everything from taking pictures, to editing it afterwards (even adding music), lapse It is a complete package. Pro version availble for HD timelapses, and more settings.
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  3. Camera FV-5. If you have a DSLR camera, and feel as though your phone doesn’t resemble it enough, or it actually lacks several useful features you know how to use, Camera FV-5 will serve you well, offering advanced settings and controls similar to a real camera. Additionally, if you happen to have ” a real camera” running Android, Camera FV-5 support some extra advanced features.
    Screenshot_2015-02-10-13-37-07
  4. Camera Zoom FX. Are you looking for features? Then check this out! Camera Zoom Fx offers great tools to taking pictures, and different ways to take them. Real-time effects, (extremely) fast burst mode, filters to go with them afterwards, Camera Zoom FX offers plenty. Pro version unlock settings, features and filters. And additional plug-ins are available for it, expanding it’s functionality!
    Screenshot_2015-02-10-13-39-52
  5. A Better Camera. A Better Camera reminds me of the Sony camera app. It’s just more simple, looks minimalistic, and offers a good amount of features. it looks great, so that’s really what is going for it, so consider it if you want something minimalistic, but also offers good features.
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I love taking pictures, I now have a DSLR for that, but I always have my phone on me. So I want the best camera apps for my phone. i switch around regularly, but I find these apps to be the ones I come back to, and use the most. And I think most smartphones can take excellent pictures in the right conditions today, they may just lack some features and some refinement.

Next list will consist of the best photo editors for Android, so be sure to come visit again soon! Taking the picture is one thing, but being able to edit it just right, with the best quality is quite another. 🙂
If you have some suggestions for me, please leave a comment, follow me on Google+ to ctach my pictures, or on EyeEm or Instagram @the_arcticbear.

Top 10 Paid Android Apps You Should Consider Buying

I recently did a Top 10 Free Apps, today I have the direct (not so timely direct though) follow-up!
In the beginning of Android history, Android was known for having a bunch of free apps. Popular app on iPhone? There was probably a free alternative in the Play Store (formerly known as the Android Market). Quite honestly, Android was way more practical back then; design and integration wasn’t a priority. That time has changed now, and iPhone apps are also directly ported or redesigned for Android by now. The thing is though, quality apps can require you to spend a little money, and some apps are absolutely worth that price!
Here’s my top 10 paid apps:

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  1. AutomateIt is an automation app for your smartphone. Your smartphone has a lot of cool sensors built in; a GPS, an accelerometer, a fast processor, data from contacts, cell recievers, wifi, I could go on. What AutomateIt does, is to open a world of posibilities. You can set it to recognize certain wifi signals for example; the movie theater’s wifi, and automatically set your phone to silent. Or you could set a preset setting, for when you open an app (open music app -> set volume to x). Every night at 11 pm, set ringer to silent, and set to normal by 8 am. these are just examples, and there’s plenty more to do. The app has a section for recipies, where people share their unique automations. It’s super easy and effective, there’s a free version with some limits, and a paid version. Try it out! It’s super fun to play with! If you’re looking for something more advanced, I highly recommend Tasker too.
  2. Knocklock is something very simple. Here’s the thing; I love touchscreens. Especially how it feels to just gently touch the screen for actions. I’m never going to have physical buttons again on any phone, but there technically still is; the power button and the volume buttons. The power button specifically, is kind of pointless to me; I only use it for turning my screen on/off. Knocklock is a little spot on the screen which acts as the power button, double tap it, and your screen goes off. Combined with a phone with double-tap-to-unlock, you almost never have to use the power button, so it’s all a touch experience. You may find it useless, but this is absolutely so nice to just have, when you first get used to it. Free version available, but with limited options!
  3. Link Bubble is brilliant on different levels. Basically it opens up links as small bubbles, and loads them. Sounds simple enough, right? It is. Trust me though, the impact is big! Imagine browsing Facebook, or twitter, or just about anything, and you stumble upon a link you want to open. Then you open it, and leave the place you are, and wait for it to load, read it, and then there’s another link. Before you know it; you’re far away from where you began. With Link Bubble, you’re never sent away, and you can continue to browse, while the page is loading in the bubble, resulting in you being more productive (well, maybe not productive, but you simple get more done, and wont wait around).
    The browser itself is quite limited compared to other browsers, and it’s due to the nature of it, but it’s smart by having a very simple way to open it in Chrome (or whatever) if you want to, or sharing it. It can even see if there’s a youtube video included, which you can watch immidiately. Super effective and in high quality. You won’t regret this purchase (trial versioan available).
  4. Lecture Notes is a powerful note-taking app with tons of settings and back-up solutions. There’s options for folders, digital pens, paper styles and much more. It’s a complete replacement for the physical paper. And you can add additional features like voice and video recording. There’s a trial version available. I highly recommend this for students with a 8″+ tablet, or just people who wants notes with lots of options. It works on a phone too, with all the same features, there’s just less room to do it on.
  5. ez PDF Viewer is PDF viewing for those seeking advanced features. While most would be fine using just a PDF viewer, ezPDF goes far beyond that with features like annotations, filling out forms, notes, cutting, voice recording, Google Drive plug-in. I’ve always appreciated having it installed, since it can fill out documents, documents for school or just legal stuff, taking care of it on the go is great. There’s a trial, a lite, and a pro version available. The Lite is $1, but if you want the advanced features, the Pro is the one to get.
  6. Manga Rock is a reader for Manga books. Manga is a cartoon style in asia, and there’s thousands of comicbooks available. With Manga Rock, you can view entire books and chapters on the go. You can also download them for offline viewing, but you are restricted to a few if you don’t pay. Plus you get rid of the annoying ads on the bottom, not to mention you just part ways with $5 to get a huge amount of entertainment!
  7. Archos Video Player is by far the nicest video player for android. It has good features, a great design, online connection with popular movie-sites. There’s plenty free video players, but hardly one as nice as this. Remember to install all the codecs on the side, which will enable the player to play virtually any file.
  8. Afterlight is a photo editor. Now I know I recommended Snapseed the last time, and Snapseed’s free, but Afterlight has plenty of filters Snapseed doesn’t, and frames too. Ones that play really nice with Instagram. The design is good, the features are great and many, so for a single dollar, you get a great photo editor.
  9. Tondo/Naxos iconsYou probably have a nice phone. Nice meaning; it can do a lot. It may not be the best out there, but it’s nice. I think it should look as nice (at least).
    If you followed my previous advice, you’ve installed a 3rd party launcher. One that supports custom icons. There’s an abundance of icons available on the Play Store; free and paid, but my two favorite ones are Tondo Premium (which is extremely hard to find, so follow my link) and Naxos (squared). I like these, because they are colorful and very simple. Perfect for a modern smartphone, signaling simplicity and style, as well as personality. We might disagree on what our phone’s should look like, but you can go in and search for icons you prefer. This will make any phone look more complete and consistant (even more so than the iPhone, without copying it).
  10. Endomondo/Runtastic is for sport activities. I highly recommend a healthy lifestyle, even if it is just casually doing sports (any sport). It has absolutely positive effects on our mind and body, so having an app just for that, may just help keeping you active. Any of these two can track a lot of sports for you, keeping you in the know of how well you’re doing. Helping developers who wants to help you track your sport just seems like a nice gesture, and you get rid of ads and even some Pro features along the way.

That’s it, all 10 apps I recommend having and spending a little bit on, to help you get through your busy day. There’s obviously way more apps I’d like to share with you, and those are in the works as well. But these are sort of basic apps i need on my phone, that just makes it nice and capable in many ways. Be sure to follow my blog, or follow me on Google+ for regular updates!
If you have any apps you’d think should’ve made the list, please comment below and tell me why it’s so good. It’s always great to get some feedback and simply get different perspectives 🙂

As a final note, I’d like to say that we should support the developers for their hard work and creative ideas. These apps aren’t all that expensive, and considering what they give you, it’s a small price to pay for some quality work. We should move on together, from demanding free apps with lots of features, to being greatful for what they give away, and showing appreciation by sending a few dollars their way. It’s a win-win situation, as we both get what we want; awesome apps!

Top 10 Free Apps To Get, Straight Out Of The Box

Everybody’s got a smartphone, right? Right, almost. Over 1 billion smartphones across the world are active today, and sales and availability for them is reaching further and further, which is awesome in so many ways! However, it’s not a rare sight to see people have a smartphone without necessarily knowing what it can do, and what apps you can take advantage of (for free!). So in light of that, here’s my top 10 free apps, you need right out of the box!

  1. Google Now. Your phone technically has this app pre-installed, and will update as soon as you give it permission from the Play Store. However, you need to launch the Google Search app, and activate it’s true power: Awareness of where you are, what you’re up to, and what you need. Besides being a voice-assistant, Google Now will notify you with activities ranging from sports, transportation, news, weather, scheduled meetings, as well as movie-tickets, airplane plans and information. Google Now is extremely convenient to activate and is super simple to use. Activate it. Now.
  2. SwiftKey Keyboard. Every time I get a new phone or tablet, I install SwiftKey right away. It’s free, it’s fast, it learns, it’s super smart (3 languages simultaneously), and is connected to the cloud, meaning you can change your phone, but your way of typing is never lost.There are perfectly good alternatives, some may fit you better, but I highly recommend SwiftKey.
  3. Aviate Launcher from Yahoo. Aviate is similar to Google Now, but for your homescreen. You can choose your absolute favorite apps to be on the front page (which is usually up to 10). This keeps the front page far less busy. To it’s left you have what will change throughout the day. Morning at home? Your phone will show you the most relevant apps. In the car/bus/train? The phone will show you the most relevant apps. At work? The phone will show you your most used apps for work. Shopping for groceries? … You get the point. Aviate knows, and will change accordingly. It’s fast, it’s beautiful, it’s simple, and it’s powerful like that. To it’s right you can have big folders (automatically categorized, or manually if you prefer) with other frequent apps, and to the far right, all your apps are in alphabetical order, so nothing is ever more than 3 flicks away. Brilliant!
  4. Google+ (Photos). Yes, the social network everybody seems to ignore is very handy to use. Even if you won’t use it for social networking. Google+ is packed with unique features, of which backing up photos is included, you just have to activate it, and choose which directories to back up. Camera photo’s and videos, the download folder, image editor apps. Anything going into your phone that is an image or video, google can back it up. You have 15 GB free to use, and if you just back up in 4 mega pixels (or lower), photo’s don’t use any of that space, which means you can upload an unlimited amount of photos in good quality. Additionally; Google can edit and fine tune those photos for you, automatically, and it works very (very) well! It also makes cool effects, like animated GIFs, collages, multi-shot photos, panoramas, and filters. All automatically and for free!

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    It’s no secret I’m a heavy user of Google services and apps, but I think they provide some of the best features and services around. Be sure to check out other apps they have in the Play Store!

  5. Google Drive/Dropbox/Box/any cloud storage. If you use the cloud in any way, with any product, you should get the client for Android. With it, you have access to any file you have in the cloud. It’s just that simple, have files you need every now and then, without taking up space on the phone itself. I use it as a game directory for example, for my emulators, and my private library of animated GIFs. Always available when I need them!
  6. Snapseed. Snapseed is a powerful mobile editing app for images. It’s simple to use, have a lot of features, and it’s free. It’s no Adobe Photoshop, but consider it a mobile Adobe Lightroom. If you want stickers, collages, or something similar, you need a different app, but for image editing, Snapseed is great.
  7. AppSales. I love sales on the Play Store, and AppSales keeps me posted on any app or game on sale, and you can even tweak it so it only bothers you with certain apps that qualify. You can see pricing history, percentage of savings, and you can put apps on it’s watchlist, so it’ll notify you if a paid app you want goes on sale. It’s free, and given you can save quite a bit, depending on apps, you should get it.
  8. Timely. We all need to get up in the morning (or at some other point), so why not have a great alarm clock? It’s free and it’s beautiful. It has a decent amount of features too, like syncing with other devices. Animations are gorgeous, navigation is easy, sounds are easy on you. What’s not to like?
  9. Inbox by Google/Mailbox by Dropbox. Emailing is still a thing, the trouble is, it can be pretty cluttered. You should get a powerful email app! Either of these feature unique features that makes categorizing, reminding you, and keeping your inbox at zero. An inbox in control, is an inbox you can more easily work with. Either of these are free, though at the moment, Inbox is on an invite basis (leave a comment below if you want one, I have a handful to spare).
  10. The Cleaner. Your Android smartphone is multitasking, apps run in the background, and it’s not always easy to actually close those apps. The Cleaner is simple to use, will regularly advise you to clean up the RAM and cache on your device, which should keep it nice and fast. It also monitors your app usage, providing you with a list of apps you don’t really use, so you can consider deleting it.

That’s it! The top 10 free apps I highly recommend with any new phone you get, or simply don’t have installed yet. I personally use all of these apps, and they sure help me get through the day. 🙂
I’ll be back soon with another top 10 about paid apps, because we should all contribute to a developer’s hard work and services. Free is always nice though, and all of these apps are available and great to use, even if you don’t pay for the small extra features.

What are your favorite apps, or most important apps to install when you get a new phone? Leave a comment down below!

News And Plans For 2015

Happy New Year, I hope last year treated you well and I hope it continues for the year to come 🙂
I want to take the time to plan the contents I will be producing this year, and share some general ideas, plans, and news with you, that will be included in this blog.

First up; I want to write more. I really enjoy researching around and write my own thoughts on ideas I may have. And since my studies will change into the more humane part of technology this summer, I think it’s an excellent way for me to already get into the field now, and make some thoughts about it already. I have a few ideas ready to be made that are very basic, so I aim to write them off as soon as possible, so stay tuned for content soon about basic Android topics.

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credit to Juza @ http://www.juzaphoto.com

Secondly, I got a wonderful gift from my mother; a Canon 70D camera, with 3 batteries, and 3 lenses. I don’t plan to review this device though, as I’m no photography expert. I just enjoy taking pictures, and people say I have a knack for motives, so I hope to improve my skills.
What this means however, is I can now make quality videos (I just need a decent mic now). I’m considering to make video reviews alongside writing reviews, but I really want to make it so they compliment each other, rather than I overlap them with a bunch of the same information. I do not prefer watching reviews like that, so I will avoid that and work on taking the two contents from two different perspectives. After all, they are two very different mediums.
I will also be shooting my own photographs for my reviews, showing interesting details or the overall look of it. I hope you’ll enjoy those!

Additionally, I’d like to share some thoughts on what devices I want to buy this year, giving you a rough idea of what content I’ll be making.

Apple is releasing their Apple Watch this year, and it will surely make a big splash in wearable technology, what I hope is that Android Wear further evolve and mature. I’d really like to get a smartwatch again (I had the Sony Smartwatch 2 a few years ago), and I’m just waiting and seeing where this will go.

I also want a new tablet, my Galaxy Note 10.1 from 2012 is finished. I have an eye out for the Nvidia Shield tablet, and seeing they just announced their new Tegra X1 chip, I assume a new tablet is in the works coming this summer. Nvidia has proved to be an excellent producer of tablets, bringing great hardware, with clean Android software for a reasonable price, and as an added bonus, they’ve updated their software extremely fast.
I am however considering a Sony tablet, as I’m very pleased with their products as well.

In old, but still relevant, news; Windows is getting on my nerves. I simply don’t need all it’s features and software anymore. So this year will be the year I’ll switch to Chrome OS, and with the switch belongs a new laptop; a Chromebook. I have a good feeling we’ll see excellent additions to the family this year. I’m currently interested in the Chromebook 13 from Acer, which was made with Nvidia and has a Tegra K1 chip, we’ll see if anything new shows up with the new X1 though.

A little side-note; I’m thinking about switching things up with Squarespace, the service seams like a great way to make a website and post content. Maybe i can make it about photography and essentially this blog. I’ll be sure to update on that later. If you want to see my mobile photography (mixed with photos from the 70D), you can find me on Instagram or EyeEm @the_arcticbear.

So far, 2015 will be a very interesting year for me. I’m hoping the changes will result in some changes for the better, but I will have to put in a solid amount of work into it.
A new direction in education, new perspectives in how technology and humans work, new (wearable) devices, and an Operating System based on the cloud. That makes me see a lot of new potential in my self and how I use computers. I hope you’ll join me for that!

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review

It’s hard to watch Sony struggle so hard in the mobile space, especially considering they bought out Ericsson and revamped their entire line, offering quality hardware with good and evolving software. The Xperia Z series is still Sony’s bet on flagship devices, and a lot has happened since the original Xperia Z from February 2013. Sony has reiterated the line with incremental upgrades every 6 months or so, which lands us on the current Xperia Z3 line, including the Xperia Z3, Z3 Compact, and the Tablet Z3 Compact. All of which run very similar software, and runs on very similar hardware as well. So let’s dive into the Z3 Compact.

The hardware

The Xperia Z3 Compact is beautiful, let’s be clear on that. The device is built in high quality with Sony’s classic Omnibalance design, which results in a device that is square, with rounded corners – everywhere. Visually this is very stunning, and the emerald blue variant I have suits it extremely well (the frame of the device is made of plastic, but it shares the color and has a see-through effect, leaving a design that reminds me of a marble), but it does sacrifice durability, comfort, and grip. Both the front and back are made of glass, which are shatter-proof, but can hardly take a hard fall. You have to be willing to give these up, to enjoy it.

I highly recommend the colorful variants of the phone if you’re into colors, as that frame just really makes the phone extra special to look at, but still keeps it subtle.
If you do want the phone, but think about gripping and protection, consider a case for it (but I highly recommend a snug one, that is tightly packed around it).
The phone offers regular charging through micro USB, and it has a magnetic port for charging. This sadly isn’t included in the box, because it really makes charging the device easier (especially since all ports, beside the AUX, is sealed behind flaps, making it waterproof). The magnetic charger also works as a small stand, so consider buying it for convenience and having a dock handy. Other than that, the phone offers the typical inputs and buttons. The power-button and the volume rockers are all found on the right side of the phone, and an aux-port on top. Additionally, Sony has made a camera-button as well, on the bottom right side, perfect for snapping pictures. All buttons have a nice clicking feel to them. Destinctive resistance, and good quality.

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The display

Sony’s flagships have always been criticized for it’s screens, especially on the original Z and the Z1. I’m happy to say the screen is absolutely beautiful; color reproduction is spot on and vibrant, the screen is seemingly on the glass, the density is high. The only drawback is viewing the display at an angle, it doesn’t wash out, but it does get less bright, which in turn will lessen the quality of the experience. As a user of the device, it’s a non-issue, and I haven’t heard complaints about the screen from friends when viewing something together.

The speakers

The Z3 Compact has stereo(!) speakers in the front(!!). These points are king. Ever since HTC made the HTC One (M7) with it’s front facing Boomsound speakers, everyone’s been jealous. Speakers up front makes sense, and stereo sound is just an absolute minimum. So why hasn’t more manufacturers done this? I don’t know, but Sony stepped up and it’s awesome.

However, it’s not all great. The quality of the speakers are mediocre. I assume it’s because it’s waterproof, but while loud enough, they offer a flat and somewhat high-pitched sound. It’s not annoying or horrible, but it’s far from HTC’s speakers. But again; front facing stereo speakers = win. Period.

The software

The Xperia Z3 line shipped with Android 4.4 Kitkat; right out of the box the software is nice and clean, and the start-up guide is very helpful at setting the device up with your Google account, Facebook account, or your Twitter account. If you’ve seen the Xperia home before, you know what to expect here. It’s very similar to stock android, with a few minor changes in the user experience, and mostly just a visual overhaul. Generally the Xperia phones are lighter in colours and have a hint of a metal look, but Sony does offer themes you can download and install, if you’d like some variation to your phone, or generally give it more personality.
The performance is great, offering prompt app launches and smooth animations. I did however experience that the amount of RAM wasn’t enough, when I jumped between too many demanding apps. Specifically when I edit photos from one app to the other, the software stutters and a reload of the homescreen will occur. It’ s a bit of a mystery why the Compact has “only” 2 GB of RAM, while the Z3 has 3 GB of RAM. Though arguably, this doesn’t happen often, as I said, it’s only when I’ve had several camera and editing apps open that it struggles.

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Beyond that, I’ve experienced the software to be extremely stable. In fact, the only thing that’s been unstable (force closing or freeze) is Google’s new Inbox app, which is a new emailing system. So i suspect it’s to do with that (it only closes if I want to open an email with an attachment).

PlayStation Integration

Sony has pushed the PlayStation integration even further with the Z3 line (which will also expand into earlier iterations of the line). If you have a PS4 system, an update has been available which makes it possible to stream games from the PS4 to your Xperia Z3 (any model). It is recommended to buy a little clip for the controller, so you can basically have a portable(ish) PS4 with you, this only works over wifi though. It would have been awesome, if you could stream over a 4G connection (provided you had data enough for that). I have tried to test it, but alas, my friend’s wifi router wasn’t up for the task (or so Sony tells me in the setup). It’s a shame, and I can’t tell you how well this works.

If you still haven’t got a PS4, you can take easy advantage of your PS3 in a way. You can connect a PS3 controller to the phone; the first time through USB (USB adaptor is included in the box), and after that, it’s connected by default, which means you can use it wirelessly (just like on your PS3). This basically means you can play any game that supports a controller with your PS3 controller, including various emulators. So you have tons of games and systems available that are quite playable too. To be clear though, this doesn’t stream PS3 or PS Vita games, it controls supported Android games.

The camera

Let’s talk about the camera, it’s no secret that Sony is a big player in this department. Most smartphones today uses Sony sensors. The Xperia Z3 Compact uses a Sony Exmor RS sensor with a resolution maxing out on 20,7 megapixels. That’s a large number for a phone, and it’s actually not entirely true. The camera app that comes with it do support 20.7 MP, but the “Superior Auto” function is actually set at a more modest 8.0 MP. In this, you simply point and click, Sony will do the settings for you, and it actually works really well. The phone has a shutter button on the right side of the phone, which also is a 2-fase button (Press lightly to focus, press firmly to take a photo). Holding this in will make the phone burst as fast as it can. You can change this in settings, whether to take photos in full quality, or to take faster photo’s (but in lower resolution). With high quality, you take roughly 2-3 pictures a second, and in the faster setting you get around 5 photos a second, still in good quality, so consider that (There’s also the action shot feature, which takes 30 pictures before and after you take a photo, so  you can get the absolute best photo).

The camera app offers tons of features, from silly AR apps (that are great at parties or with kids) to defocus features, slow-motion, motion shots, record live to youtube, motiongraphs, you name it, Sony’s got it basically. It’s great to experiment with, and fun to use, so I recommend playing with these features.
The Manual mode offers everything you would expect of a regular camera, you can change setting like exposure, ISO, resolution, lighting conditions and so on. It’s in this setting you can tweak the resolution to 20.7 MP, but it will limit the camera to some settings.
I would like to dive deeper into this later, so I really can show off it’s features and advantages, I’ve taken some photoshoots around town, and the results are positive, regardless of the time of the day.

Overall, it’s a feature-packed camera, that’s easy and fun to use, delivering photos in high quality. There’s always reviewers saying the camera lacks color and vibrance, and it’s actually true, but a little editing (or Google auto edits through Google+) fixes this easily, it’s nothing ruining great photos though and the screen on the phone is excellent, so I don’t mind at all.

The battery

Sony has begun bragging about their battery life, and has since the Xperia Z line improved on this with every upgrade. By now, they say it will last you 2 full days. That’s quite the statement, and honestly, I can see why.

It’s the first phone I’ve owned that lasts me all day. From 7 AM to 11 PM, it will last me all day with moderate to heavy use. With moderate use checking email once or twice a day, browsing the usual social media apps, shoot a couple of photos, the battery will land just under 50%. However, with heavy use, taking more photos, editing them, browse 9gag (sorry), take notes, play games every now and then, watch some youtube (you know basically doing everything a smartphone can do), the battery will see the end of day with around 10-20%. Considering the battery is only 2700 mAh big, it’s quite the achievement anyway. It has to do with the software, and the screen’s size and resolution. It’s a winning combination.

Mind you, I have Stamina Mode enabled, with a few tweaks that permits a few apps to work all the time, otherwise, the phone is pretty idle when the screen is off. This does not impact performance, but it will provide longer standby times. Pure Stamina Mode, with no tweaks will even keep the device running longer too, since all apps will be restricted, but that setting has some caveats if you do use some sensors and data collecting. Sony devices also sports Ultra Stamina Mode, which will turn off all internet connections, including 4G/3G and wifi, and even will limit what you can actually do with your device. It basically turns your smartphone into a regular phone. With this feature enabled, you can expect beyond awesome battery life and standby times (we’re talking about a week or 2 in standby). Useful if you just want to be reachable by phone or SMS, and use it as a camera.
In the end; yes, it can last 2 days on a charge, but it depends on a little tweaking and usage control. However, I can’t ignore the stats; it lasts me all day with power to spare almost regardless of use. I’ve gotten 8 hours of screen-on time with this device, lasting from 7 AM to 10 PM.

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Conclusion

I can keep this short. The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact offers great features, great battery, great camera, great software, and a great design, with practical design too. Offering flagship specifications, at a lower price than many others, it’s hard to go wrong with it. It’s a well-rounded device, with only a few drawbacks, and some stand-out features that elevates it too. If you want a quality phone, and it shouldn’t be too big, I can’t see a real competitor for this device, only the iPhone 6. But if you want Android, and you want one of the best devices out there, and size isn’t too important, go for the Xperia Z3 Compact. It’s a solid 9/10 from me, bearing in mind you can’t take points away from it being fragile, because you will know this, going into it.

The Sony Xperia Z3 Compact impresses me a lot. My expectations were fairly high, but I did expect it to have more drawbacks. That’s not the case though, it delivers a premium device with premium software. Sony has made not only a good phone, they’ve made a truly great phone.

Nintendo 2DS Review

Introduction to the Nintendo 2DS

The Nintendo 3DS was released over 3 years ago, and at first, the handheld console struggled to sell units. The targeted market (being mainly children) didn’t have enough of a reason to get games that demanded more horsepower, and the next two years Nintendo lowered the price of the 3DS again and again. It proved to work wonders as the sales went up for the 3DS, and more games were released for the console. The fact is though; the handheld console market is fading away, people are more and more interested in playing games on their smartphones and tablets, which also do so much more. So what Nintendo did, was to release an even cheaper alternative to the 3DS; the 2DS. The 2DS is everything a 3DS is in specifications, but is built with less quality, as well as cutting down on a few hardware enhancements.
That is the device I’m reviewing today, we’re about to learn what Nintendo has done to appeal to a broader market.

The Nintendo 2DS in it’s box

Hardware

Performance and Specifications
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way; the 2DS houses almost the same hardware, so it can play all 3DS titles, except they aren’t in 3D, but in 2D. Simply put, the 3DS has a screen that displays an imagine for both eyes, so it looked as if it was in physical 3D. The 2DS doesn’t have that screen, so instead you have a traditional LCD screen.

The 2DS is powered by a dual core processor based on the ARM11 architecture, a Digital Media Professionals PICA200 GPU, 128 MB FCRAM, 6 MB VRAM and 2 GB internal memory (of which 1.5 GB are available for the user) . Connectivity includes Wi-Fi and an SD-card slot. A single speaker is available for the sound output, but supports stereo through the 3,5 mm jack. It also sport 3 cameras. Two in the back for 3D images (which you can view on a 3DS – if you happen to have one of those too), these are also used to measure distance in certain games. There’s a camera up front too for games that support that. All three are at a modest 0.3 megapixels, but they get the job done.

The performance in real life is perfectly good, nothing awful. Loading and jumping around the system, though, isn’t particularly fast either. It does shine in how smooth the system is, when it’s used for browsing and navigating through whatever you might do. The only program that suffered here was the YouTube app.

Build Quality
The Nintendo 2DS is build of plastic, there’s no way around it. It’s pretty much your standard plastic in good quality. It feels good enough to the touch, and in all feels sturdy enough to take a little beating. That however, is where things start to go down. The way it is put together has left some room for cracking noises and some flimsiness. The display is only ok, with some acceptable colors but pretty bad brightness and contrast. Viewing angles are not really considered either. It is fine to play with, and it is a cheap handheld, so it’s passable. The brightness of the screen itself goes from 1-5, 1 being for low-light and 5 for use outdoors. Both ends works well, but outside you have to think about reflection on the top screen.
The responsiveness of buttons however is good, though a little loose. The D-pad is moving a bit, and is a bit small, but I haven’t had any issue using it in games or menus. The home-button is also something different, every other button is nice and responsive, easy to press, but the home-button is hard and doesn’t feel that responsive, it’s a shame.

The resistive touchscreen also works well, but of course not as nice as those we are used to in smartphones, the capacitive variant. All in all, good for a cheap console, but still leaves you a tad underwhelmed, and if you use it with your fingers, you have to press a little to get a response.

Fit and Feel
The 2DS is built quite differently than the 3DS. While the 3DS uses a clam-shell design, the 2DS is just a square flat surface, with rounded corners. This isn’t necessarily a drawback for the 2DS, because it ultimately means the device’s button setup is slightly higher than on the 3DS, which means an older child and an adult can better hold the device in their hands. When held so you have all buttons accessible to your fingers, the device feel very natural to an adult’s hands, and when you play games it is just as good. Everything is accessible in a very comfortable way, so much so, that I recommend the 2DS to adults, more than the 3DS. Unless of course, one wants the 3DS XL or the 3D effect. But if you’re not, the 2DS fits very well in your hands, if you are maybe of 12 years of age or older.
This design however, makes the 2DS prone to scratches and marks, which the 3DS clam-shell design prevents. Be sure to take care of it, or buy the bag designed for the 2DS.

The design is simple but with a few nice touches. It’s thinner at the bottom, and round on those edges all around, and thicker on the top with rounded corners for your fingers. I have the White/Red combo, which makes it a bit of a beauty. The whole console is white, but red around the edges, and a single fairly thin red strip on the back, where the Nintendo logo is discreetly placed. It’s well designed, of good quality, it’s just a shame it isn’t built that well. I wouldn’t scare away from it, but just keep that in mind.

2DS at and angle, to see the curves and change in thickness.

Software

Design and User Experience
The software that includes the menus and user experience is very soft and light. The 2DS operates smoothly and fairly fast, depending on what you’re doing/playing. Everything the 2DS offers in software is nicely explained so that everybody capable of reading and understanding what they read, can operate it. It’s simply laid out in the Home menu, where you can find every game or app you have. If there’s one thing I don’t really like about the Software included, is how much the 2DS offers. There’s StreetPass and… well, frankly I can barely remember the rest, it all seems unnecessary and a bit complicated. I’m sure you can get into it, and use it with ease, I just can’t seem to see the benefit, and it shows up in some games and services. And then you have to activate it and use it. But aside from that, it’s very easy to look at and navigate.
The 2DS has two screens of course, and it’s typically used that way, so the bottom display is where there’s action, where you navigate, and the top display shows the visual stuff that makes the menus and games a complete package of game and what actions to do, Nintendo and game developers use these very well.

Available Services
The 2DS comes with services out of the box, and even a few mini games. You can also go to the Nintendo eShop and find a few extra apps (not to mention a lot of games). These include making Mii’s (virtual representation of yourself and your friends/family. Used in games.), Letters, note taking for games, Mii Maker, Mii Garden, YouTube (through eShop) and a web browser. The mini games include a shooting game; AR Games, in which you use some included AR cards and put them on a table. The tble comes alive and stuff gets out and you have to shoot targets. You can also pose different Nintendo characters and take pictures with the dual cameras. The other game is called Face Raiders, with uses the 2DS’ sensors and cameras to shoot flying heads of you or your friends. Both simple and pretty impressive fun.

The Mii Maker and Mii Plaza are some kind of social game and collectible game, this works with how many steps you take (that’s right, in sleep-mode, your 2DS can count how many steps you take if you carry it around, through your day), which you can use to get virtual goods, and trade with people you meet along the day. The 2DS apparently detects these automatically. All in all, out of the box, with no games bought, you can have a few hours of fun, if not more. Just to get a taste of what the 2DS can do with it’s 3D cameras and different sensors.

The 2DS turned on with the home menu shown, including the stylus.

Final thoughts and conclusion

I must say that I think Nintendo did the right move. With a healthy catalog of games already in existence, but wanting a wider audience, Nintendo managed to put together a cheaper version of the 3DS, without going too much down on quality. It’s actually mostly minor details and the fact is not a clam-shell design, which can be viewed as an advantage.

This reduction in price have made it more accessible for people who were on the edge of buying a 3DS for it’s catalog of games, but didn’t want to spend that much on the console. Some people say it’s just a 129€ Pokémon machine, but the truth is, Nintendo offer classics from the NES, SNES and N64, besides playing regular DS games, and of course all of the Nintendo 3DS’ offerings, which means Nintendo actually offer games for everyone, and plenty of it. Making it cheaper is a gateway for Nintendo’s products and services. Handheld consoles may be in decline, but it’s clear that Nintendo still offers modern and simple solutions where games are in high quality on the go. Only very few smartphone games even compare to what a 3DS/2DS offers. So the 2DS still has an advantage that mobile isn’t going to overtake just yet, and Nintendo only secured that further with the 2DS.

In conclusion; good (enough) quality, great games within a huge catalog, and good software, makes the 2DS a great and cheap console you should consider if you like gaming on the go and smartphone games aren’t enough, or precise enough, yet.