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Our first review of Microsoft’s Windows Phone noted that the basics were all in place: a stylish and innovative interface, smooth and fast operation, and a tight integration of Microsoft services like Xbox and Zune. But it was the first version of a major OS, and as we all know, those are never really great–just look at how far iOS and Android have come–so here we are again, taking a look at Microsoft’s first major update, known as Mango, which was released this week. It solves lots of the problems with had with version 1.0–though some still remain.

WHAT’S NEW

What’s new are essentially fixes to just about every issue users of the first generation of Windows Phones had. Multitasking, copy/paste, fast app switching, Twitter integration: all here. Plus tons of little details we hadn’t thought to ask for, like a very smart Groups concept that links certain contacts together for easy monitoring (like Work or Family), or the legions of pretty animations that are the hallmark of this OS.

WHAT’S GOOD

Lots of stuff! The basics of the phone are all great–the Live Tiles, halfway between an icon and a widget, manage to take the best parts of both, showing clear information like weather, unread emails, and media without having to go into the app itself. The OS as a whole is damned pretty, as pretty as iOS in its way, with flat, bold colors and a heavily text-based interface. The OS feels even faster than before, with hardly a stutter to be found. The app selection is surprisingly good; there may be fewer apps than Android or iOS, but the quality tends to be very high, and, to be honest, the catalog has just about every app you’d want.

Windows Phone 7.5 Lock Screen

The very pretty lock screen, which shows a lot of information at a glance (unread messages/emails, for example) and lets you control music when it’s playing.

WHAT’S BAD

Windows Phone 7.5 Multitasking

Side by side with a Palm Pre Plus, from which Microsoft aped the multitasking thumbnail interface for Mango. (We’re not upset, it’s a great idea and we might as well use it.)

Oh, and you can’t close apps from the thumbnail view, like you could with WebOS. That’s sort of indicative of a deeper problem with Windows Phone, that it’s completely inscrutable. In theory, that’s just another approach, designed to keep things simple– but if you’re going to give me this power user thumbnail thing with multitasking, let me be a power user! Along the same lines, I would really love some universal search. When you hit the magnifying-glass search button, you’re immediately taken to what’s basically a Bing web search app. It makes some small steps towards being universal, searching through the app Marketplace and such, but it doesn’t search your contacts or apps. It should. Fix, please.

The other thing that really bothered me, that seems like a minor thing but became a legitimate frustration, is the menu bar. On every other phone, in the history of the world, you could look at the top of the screen and see the time, battery information, and connection status. That’s not frivolous. Those things are important. Windows Phone does away with that. Sometimes, in some apps, you can see the time, and tap near it to see the battery life and connection status. In a lot of apps, you can’t. Using Twitter and want to know what time it is? Go back to the homescreen. Then go back to Twitter, and wait for it to reload, because it doesn’t support multitasking yet and had frozen into a hibernation state while you checked the time. This is really, really dumb.

THE PRICE

Windows Phone Mango is rolling out to currently available devices now–I used it on a Samsung Focus, which is about a year old–and new hardware will be coming out soon, including the first Nokia-made Windows Phone. Price will probably be around $200 with a contract, as with most phones.

THE VERDICT

You're reading Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” Review: Getting Closer Now

Wondershare Mobiletrans Review: 1 Click Phone To Phone Transfer

For those who are really smart when it comes to Smartphones, changing from your old phone to a brand-new phone will be a tougher task, indeed. We don’t merely mean the change you will experience in UI when you change from an iPhone to Android Smartphone or vice versa. More importantly, you will have to lose a lot of data, including all those contacts of yours and media files. Though some cloud-based solutions are available, they may not do well when you want to transfer data from one device to another, especially if the devices are running on different platforms. A tool from Wondershare is all set to make that task easier — Wondershare MobileTrans! Here, we’ve a brief review of the tool so that you can decide whether it’s worth going for.

About Wondershare MobileTrans

Coming to the installation aspect of Wondershare MobileTrans, it is a simple process when you have a good internet connection. Once you have downloaded the setup that weighs less than 1MB, the setup will download and install the tool in a few minutes, after which you can see a window like shown above.

What MobileTrans Can Do — Data Transfer & More

Data Transfer between Smartphones

Once you have connected both your Smartphones to the PC, you can select the source phone and destination phone from the list; you can hit the ‘Flip’ button if you want to twist it. Now, depending upon availability — some data can’t be transferred in some device combinations, like you can’t transfer apps between an Android and iOS device —, you can choose content that you want to copy. Once you hit the ‘Start Copy’ button, the process will be initiated and you can have your new Smartphone all your data in a few minutes. We find the process way too simpler as you have not any kind of dialogue boxes. On the other hand, MobileTrans gives a secure copying environment too.

Data Backup & Restore

Another noteworthy feature that you get along with data transfer is the ability to backup data into your PC & restore it when you want. You can backup your contacts, text messages, calendar details, call logs, apps, music, audio files & videos and all the data is stored in a compressed format that is less-weighing too. In addition, it lets you restore your data not only from MobileTrans backup file but also other backup methods such as iTunes Backup, MobileGo, iCloud, BlackBerry, Samsung Kies etc. We tried backing up a Moto G and the process was way too quicker and its backup file is portable enough.

Erase Data

Device Compatibility & Support

Wondershare MobileTrans lets you backup or transfer data from a BIG number of devices, from various Smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Huawei, LG and Google. When it comes to platform, it offers a integrated-level support for the following platforms:

Symbian 60, Symbian 40 and Symbian^3

Android v2.1 and later [Full support for v5.0 Lollipop]

iOS 5 and later, including iOS 8.1

BlackBerry OS 7.0 and later

Despite all these, device requirements of Wondershare MobileTrans are low enough and it supports Windows 10 for that matter. It is to be noted that the set of data you can transfer depends upon the combination of devices. If your source and destination devices are running Android, you can transfer almost everything. There are some limitations when it comes to backup section too. Having that said, MobileTrans lets you copy data from an iCloud backup to one Samsung Smartphone 😉 — impressive, huh?

User Interface

Our Verdict

For $19.95 and taken its productive features into consideration, Wondershare MobileTrans is an effective and must-have tool for serious Smartphone users, especially professionals. The installation and UI are just awesome and you’d love to transfer.

Windows Phone 7 Series Hands

Windows Phone 7 Series hands-on

Microsoft have officially launched Windows Phone 7 and with it the Windows Phone Series, promising we’ll see the first devices on the market in time for the holiday 2010 shopping season.  Windows Phone 7 marks a new, more end-user aware phase for the platform, with Zune and Xbox integration, together with stricter controls over the overall end-user experience: third-party UIs, such as HTC Sense, will not be allowed (though OEMs will be able to add into the new WP7 UI), and while they’re not yet revealing the details, Microsoft have a long technical specifications list for handset manufacturers that will better standardize the platform.

There are no handsets debuting today – though HTC, Dell and Qualcomm are among the manufacturers onboard – and all of the demo devices are unbranded, generic models specially built by ASUS.  Still, they’re a decent example of what we can expect: a large, multitouch-friendly capacitive touchscreen with a glass front, three front-panel buttons (back, Start and search), GPS and a rear-mounted camera.  They also have a front-facing camera, though there won’t apparently be support for it natively in Windows Phone 7, and OEMs are limited to what hardware controls they can add; it’s pretty much down to volume buttons, camera shortcut and power.

Windows Phone 7 Series hands-on video:

The on-screen Start button has been retired, and the hardware Windows flag now takes you directly to a blocky homescreen.  Each app on the screen is dynamically represented, pulling in the user’s content and constantly shifting; the gallery icon, for instance, transitions through recent shots from the camera.  Microsoft contrasted it to the iPhone OS, where the extent of user app customization is rearranging the icon layout on their homescreen; Windows Phone 7, meanwhile, pushes up constant reminders of the user’s content.  Swiping to the right, however, gives instant access to the entire app list, again something prompted by user requests for easier access.  Microsoft have created six “hubs” – People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace and Office – which collate similarly themed content.  So, the Music + Video hub resembles the Zune HD UI, and if you install a media plugin, such as Pandora (which Microsoft also announced today), it will integrate in here.  The Games hub links in with a user’s Xbox Profile, and you can modify your profile, view those of others, and play games (though Microsoft haven’t announced a list of titles yet).  The People hub pulls in updates from across the phone and various linked services – though we only saw Windows Live and Facebook mentioned – and you can post your own updates and read those of others.

Microsoft are retiring not only their “Windows Mobile” nomenclature but ActiveSync and any other desktop sync app they’ve used in the past.  Instead, the Zune desktop manager software is being rolled-out worldwide, and that will be used to sync Windows Phone 7 devices.  Both wired and WiFi sync will be possible, which is long-overdue.

Confirmed carrier partners includes AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, while manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm are on-board.  Those partners won’t be able to change the onscreen QWERTY keyboard – which is one of seven layouts (including numeric) Microsoft have developed – but they will be able to add on a hardware QWERTY.  For the moment, since Microsoft have screen aspect ratio specifications, they’ll have to be landscape rather than portrait QWERTY devices, too.  In the display units Microsoft showed us, the accelerometer wasn’t working properly, but final devices will flip automatically between portrait and landscape on-screen keyboard layouts.

We had a chance to try out some of the prototypes – though not take photos or video yet – earlier on today, and first impressions are reasonably positive.  Microsoft were at pains to point out that it’s still an in-development build, and indeed we saw various bugs and slow-downs.  Often these would take place when opening an app, with data being pulled in but no on-screen indication of that taking place nor its progress.  The touchscreen on the development device seemed responsive, as was the onscreen keyboard, and the animations are smooth.  The browser supports pinch-zoom and will eventually reflow text on a double-tap.

Windows Phone 7 UI Demo:

Press Release:

Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 7 Series

New phones designed for life in motion to debut at holiday 2010.

BARCELONA, Spain – Feb. 15, 2010 – Today at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the next generation of Windows® Phones, Windows Phone 7 Series. With this new platform, Microsoft offers a fresh approach to phone software, distinguished by smart design and truly integrated experiences that bring to the surface the content people care about from the Web and applications. For the first time ever, Microsoft will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience on a mobile phone, exclusively on Windows Phone 7 Series. Partners have already started building phones; customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores by holiday 2010.

“Today, I’m proud to introduce Windows Phone 7 Series, the next generation of Windows Phones,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. “In a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience. We believe Windows Phone 7 Series is a phone that truly reflects the speed of people’s lives and their need to connect to other people.”

Designed for Life in Motion

With Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft takes a fundamentally different approach to phone software. Smart design begins with a new, holistic design system that informs every aspect of the phone, from its visually appealing layout and motion to its function and hardware integration. On the Start screen, dynamically updated “live tiles” show users real-time content directly, breaking the mold of static icons that serve as an intermediate step on the way to an application. Create a tile of a friend, and the user gains a readable, up-to-date view of a friend’s latest pictures and posts, just by glancing at Start.

Windows Phone 7 Series creates an unrivaled set of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs. Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:

* People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.

*Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user’s photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person’s entire picture and video collection.

* Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.

* Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user’s PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.

* Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.

* Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world’s leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.

Availability

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Google Pixel 3 Review: The Best Smartphone Camera Around (For Now)

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I shot this with a DSLR. Stan Horaczek

This year has been one of refinement for flagship smartphones. In August month, Samsung announced its Galaxy Note 9 and, while it’s powerful and has a few interesting new hardware tweaks—including a liquid cooled processor—it didn’t exactly revolutionize the Galaxy universe. Then Apple announced the new iPhone XS models, which provided a similar refinement to the iPhone X that came before them.

Now, we’re nearing the last stop on the 2023 new flagship smartphone train with Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. And like its competitive siblings, the Pixel 3 doesn’t disrupt that trend. There are changes and new features, of course, but if you’re expecting a profound smartphone revolution, better luck in 2023. What we’re left with, however, is an excellent offering from Google and one of the best Android phones around—mostly thanks to its impressive camera.

What is it?

The Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL are Google’s own hardware babies. They follow the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which sprang forth almost exactly a year ago.

The form factors haven’t changed much, but the screen sizes have shifted. The Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch OLED screen, while the Pixel 3 XL extends its display all the way to the top corners of the device, pushing it to 6.3inches while cutting out room for the front-facing cameras in a notch.

Set the Pixel 3 down next to an iPhone XS Max and it’s easy to get them confused unless you notice the microphone slot at the bottom of the Pixel. In other words: 2023 phones have a“look” and the Pixel adheres to it rigorously.

Is it really “the best camera ever?”

Let’s get this out of the way first: I really do think the Pixel 3’s camera is the best I’ve used on a smartphone. It’s won’t replace a DSLR for anyone who knows how to use one, but the Pixel 3 is an excellent all-around imaging device that genuinely impressed me at times. Sure, it frustrated me at others, but the AI and computer processing that cranks away every time you take a photo feels like the future of cameras, at least outside of the hardcore enthusiast market—even if all that AI sometimes gets in your way by “fixing” something you tried to screw up on purpose.

Goolge has continued to press the concept of computational photography. Instead of trying to squeeze every last possible bit of quality out of tiny camera modules using traditional methods, Google is using that single rear-facing camera to capture as much data as it can and then crunching it all together to make an image that looks good, even under bad circumstances.

Photo features

Last year, Google introduced its Pixel Visual Core technology, which has a dedicated chip to process image data. In the Pixel 2, every time you pushed the button to take a picture, the camera would snap 10 individual photos and then mash the information from all of them together into a single image. It underexposed some of them to keep the highlights from blowing out, while it overexposed others to bring out details the shadows. It compared the photos to look for digital noise that shouldn’t be in the photo. Not only was it looking for mistakes you made, but it was trying to compensate for the physical boundaries of digital camera gear in general. Google calls it HDR+.

High dynamic range images sometimes look unnatural and cartoony (I find the Samsung Galaxy cameras the worst offenders in the smartphone world, but that’s also due in part to their AMOLED screens). Apple has started doing a similar thing with its photos in the iPhone XS line, which also now has a dedicated image processing chip. On the whole, however, I tend to like the look of the Pixel 3 images better because they seems slightly more natural right out of the camera.

Pixel 3 also adds a new low-light shooting feature called Night Sight, which goes beyond typical HDR to take even more frames with every shutter press. Night Sight captures up to 15 images, some of which are long exposures up to 1/3 of a second to let light soak into the sensor. It’s nearly impossible to hold a camera steady for that long (human hands start showing signs of shake around 1/30th of a second) so the Pixel uses its internal motion sensors to track how your hands shake and corrects for it.

Night sight works, to an extent. One thing that typically suffers in dark environments is color performance because more digital noise hampers tone reproduction. Cameras have made big strides like this in recent years—have you noticed how much better low-light scenes look in movies and TV shows lately?—thanks to improved camera tech, and Google is doing a somewhat impressive job using computational photography.

Google outright said this is a solution that would help you never have to use your smartphone “flash” again, which is good because the included LED light source on the camera is, well, bad like every other smartphone flash that has ever existed.

A scene from a dark train station with contrasty lights is a challenging setting to capture photos, but it’s clean in terms of noise and there’s lots of detail in the train and the foreground, which is much darker. Stan Horaczek

After the shutter fires

Google’s helpful AI doesn’t quit working when you take the picture, either. The Top Shot feature kicks in when it detects a face in the scene. If you have the “motion” feature enabled (which is similar to the iPhone’s Live Photos, which provide short videos along with your still images) it will analyze the other photos it took and try to find one where the person is smiling and not blinking. It will then suggest that you replace the shot you took with the good one.

I got mixed results from this, as well as some mixed feelings. One of the fundamental parts of photography is deciding which shots you show to the world as your finished work. We used to do it by making prints of a sheet of negatives (called a contact sheet) and then selecting the one we think looks best. Now, the AI robots are helping in that process and it can be hard to argue with them. After all, the AI is comparing your photo to nearly a hundred million reference photos and telling you which one is best, so who are you to argue?

Top Shot ultimately seems like an extension of what Google has been doing in its Google Photos app for years. It tries to find your “best” photos and brings them to the surface. This is even present in Google’s other products like the Home Hub, which acts like a digital photo frame, but only tries to display the highest-quality images from your library as determined by an algorithm.

While these are both examples of AI in action, it’s an important distinction that one happens while you take the picture and the other happens afterwards. They’re both guiding our perceptions of what it means to take a “good” picture.

Two images: The first shows portrait mode turned on, while the second shows it with portrait mode turned off. You get both options later when you’re editing your photo. Stan Horaczek

Portrait mode

Blurry backgrounds in pictures of people are hot right now thanks to the proliferation of portrait mode and Google equipped the Pixel 3 with the next generation of that tech.

Unlike the iPhone, Google doesn’t have a telephoto lens to use for its portrait mode. Typically, with a DSLR, you’d pick a telephoto lens for a portrait because it won’t show the same kind of distortion on a person’s face that a wide-angle lens would. The iPhone and other smartphone cameras have a specific telephoto module for this purpose, but those cameras come with drawbacks. The sensors are typically smaller, which makes them create more noise in the images, especially in low-light. And the zoomed-in field of view makes it hard to take a photo without motion blur.

Google, however, stuck with a single main camera for the Pixel 3. It’s using what it calls dual-pixel tech to capture distance information with just a single camera module. On the whole, I found the Portrait Mode on the pixel more subtle than it is on other phones like the iPhone—and I prefer that. Right now, I see way too many overdone Portrait Mode images that look like a blurry mess and, while you can abuse the privilege on the Pixel 3, it’s harder to do and more natural looking.

Even when you adjust the amount of blur on the Pixel 3—a new feature in this model—the difference between maximum and minimum effect is clearly more subtle than the smeary backgrounds offered by other phones.

Google says you an use Portrait Mode for objects and it’s right. The left is the Pixel 3 while the right is the iPhone XS. The Pixel image looks far better to me, even if it is under exposed. Stan Horaczek

Zooming

The last bit of AI magic Google’s algorithm gnomes perform inside the Pixel 3 is Super Res Zoom, which allows you to give the appearance that you were closer than your wide-angle lens lets on.

Interestingly enough, this feature actually relies on your shaky hands to work. When you zoom in and take a picture, the camera takes several photos, each of which has a slightly different view because of the small shakes in your hands. The camera then compares that data and uses an algorithm to fill in more details about the scene than you’d get from a single shot.

The fact that it needs that camera shake to work is fascinating. In fact, if you shoot zoomed in on a tripod, the Pixel 3 actually uses the moving parts in the lens to give you slightly different perspectives so it can do its comparison.

Digital zoom has a bad name in the camera world, and for good reason. It typically results in a degraded image with more noise and visible artifacts that make the photo look jaggy. Those things are true here, but Google has done an above-average job of smoothing that over.

I know some camera enthusiasts who are still bummed about the lack of a true telephoto lens options, but considering the downsides that come with it (smaller sensor, noisier images), I’m OK with digital zoom in this case. It still isn’t perfect, but if you’re posting photos on Instagram, you have to zoom really far before anyone would even start to notice.

It’s a subtle thing, but the Pixel 3 portrait mode will blur things in Portrait Mode both in front and in back of the subject. Those flowers in the bottom left were sharp in the original image. Stan Horaczek

Front-facing cameras

While the rear-facing cameras are the most interesting part of the device for taking pictures, the wide-angle front-facing camera is a feature I found myself appreciating more than I expected. In addition to the typical front-facing camera, the wide lens offers a much bigger field of view. So, if you want to make a video of yourself talking while capturing other things happening in the background, this is a great way to do it. What about the rest of the phone? In my experience, the assessment that this phone is mostly a camera rang fairly true. The experience of using the Pixel 3 is a lot like using the Pixel 2. It now charges wirelessly (even through a case!), and the screen is noticeably different, but it ultimately works like a flagship phone.

Who should buy it?

At this point in time, I still think it’s kind of crazy to buy a smartphone simply because it has the “best” camera. If you can’t take a good picture with a modern smartphone camera, then it’s a matter of skill and understanding how pictures work more than it is about the hardware. But, I like the Pixel 3 a lot. In fact, I’ll have to think hard when it’s time to upgrade about whether or not this is the device that finally makes me jump ship from Apple for my personal device. And right now, the Pixel 3 is the best Android phone around. At least until the next one.

Another challenging spot involves dark and very bright images, but the Pixel 3 handles it well. Stan Horaczek

Infinix Zero 5G 2023 Review: Impressive But Flawed Budget Phone

Pros

Great performance 

Quality display 

Impressive main camera 

Reliable fingerprint sensor 

Cons

Frustrating software 

Underwhelming battery life 

No ultrawide or telephoto cameras 

Our Verdict

The 2023 version of the Infinix Zero 5G is a budget phone that ticks a lot of boxes, but poor software and battery life mean it’s only worth considering if you happen to live where it’s being sold.

Best Prices Today: Infinix Zero 5G 2023

Retailer

Price

Infinix

$239

View Deal

A host of Chinese companies are making smartphones these days, but Infinix is one you might not have heard of. The firm only began life a decade ago, and has primarily focused on Asian and African markets. 

An updated version of the Zero 5G for 2023 is another device that won’t be coming to the West, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. A combination of premium performance specs, a large display and triple rear cameras suggest it could be a real force among budget phones, with an approximate price of US$240.

From a performance standpoint, it’s one of the most impressive phones you can buy for the price. But some key shortcomings in other areas make it harder to recommend. Here’s my full review. 

Design & Build

Glass back and sides

Looks premium but feels cheap

Great side-mounted fingerprint sensor

Infinix has made a phone which isn’t particularly innovative, yet still manages to catch the eye. That’s particularly apparent from its design, which resembles a premium handset despite more affordable materials being used. 

But despite a reflective finish, it’s very obvious that the back of the phone is plastic rather than glass. It makes the Zero 5G feel a lot cheaper than it looks, but this is a wise compromise for Infinix to make. 

Opting for plastic means it’s less fragile and more durable than most premium handsets, to the extent that you won’t need to apply the clear silicone case included in the box – unless you want to. 

Opting for plastic means it’s less fragile and more durable than most premium handsets

The white model I tested is also impressively resistant to visible fingerprint smudges, although they may be more noticeable on the black version. If you’re looking for something more colourful, a bright orange finish is also available. 

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

There is a slight rear camera bump, but Infinix has done a good job of blending it into the back of the phone. It doesn’t protrude like on some other phones, and using it face up on a table is still easy.

While the sides of the Zero 5G are also plastic, you’ll find three key design features here. Arguably the most significant is the power button, which doubles as a physical fingerprint scanner. It’s easy to set up, fast and impressively reliable – everything I could’ve hoped for. Some will view it as a downgrade compared to an under-display sensor, but these tend to be hit-and-miss on budget phones due to cheap components.

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

The SIM tray includes slots for two SIM cards and a microSD card for storage expansion. Having the option for all three is rare, and a big plus for this phone. 

Talking of rare features, the Zero 5G also has a 3.5mm headphone jack. Even budget phones are ditching them these days, but the option for wired audio will still be appreciated by many people.

Of course, the front of the phone is where you will find glass. The 6.78in display is housed within some impressively thin bezels, although there is a much thicker chin. Infinix has opted for a central hole punch selfie camera which allows for rapid unlocking using your face, but it’s much less secure than the fingerprint sensor. 

As the display size suggests, this is a large phone. One-handed usage is almost impossible, while at 201g it’s not exactly light. But considering the big-screen competition, this isn’t a big surprise. 

Display & Audio

Impressive 6.78in IPS LCD screen

120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling

Decent single speaker, plus 3.5mm headphone jack

Let’s talk about that 6.78in screen, then. It’s a 1080×2460 IPS LCD panel, giving the Zero 5G 2023 a tall 20:9 aspect ratio. 

This is fairly typical for an Android phone these days, but that’s impressive given the phone’s budget starting price. Everything is crisp and detailed, delivering a vibrancy that makes scrolling social media and watching videos particularly enjoyable.

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

Navigating the phone is fluid thanks to a 120Hz refresh rate. You can set it to 60Hz (to save battery life) or an auto mode which switches between the two – the latter is the best option for most people. 

However, despite having 240Hz touch sampling (how many times the display can register touch input per second), the Zero 5G doesn’t feel as responsive as many other phones I’ve tried. 

In terms of brightness, I recorded an impressive maximum of 513 nits during testing. Winter in the UK isn’t exactly the best time to test outdoor visibility, but I had no problems using the phone while out and about. 

You can connect headphones via the 3.5mm headphone jack or USB-C port, but it’s not necessary for casual use. There’s only one downward-firing speaker, but it offers clear and detailed audio – even at high volumes.  

Bass is slightly lacking, though, and it’s easy to cover with your hand in landscape mode. A large earpiece means call quality is solid, but it’s a shame you can’t also use it to play media. 

Specs & Performance

MediaTek Dimensity 1080 + 8GB RAM

Good performance, even while gaming

256GB storage, can be expanded up to 512GB

The Infinix Zero 5G 2023 is powered by MediaTek’s Dimensity 1080 chipset. It’s a step down from flagship Dimensity 9000 Series, but still designed for use in mid-range phones. Appearances in the likes of the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra (from £699/€749) and the Xiaomi 12T Pro (£699/€749) give you an indication of its calibre given the Infinix costs about $240.

Alongside 8GB of RAM on the only configuration available, performance is much better than you’d expect from a budget handset. It breezes through web browsing, texting and scrolling social media with ease, and the quality of the display makes it great for watching videos too. 

Impressively, that even stretches to gaming. Casual titles were always likely to be within reach, but the Zero 5G can also handle some of the most demanding games on the Google Play Store. The experience playing Call of Duty: Mobile or Asphalt 9 can’t quite rival flagships or dedicated gaming phones, but gameplay remained smooth and responsive throughout my testing time. 

Performance is much better than you’d expect from a budget handset

Moving between tasks is where you may notice some slowdown, while navigating menus isn’t always the fastest. But these seem to be related to software rather than a lack of performance. Among budget phones, you’ll struggle to find something more capable. 

That’s reflected in the benchmarks below, where the Zero 5G compares favourably to similarly priced phones: 

The Dimensity 1080 chips includes 5G support (sub-6GHz and mmWave), while you also get Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2 and GPS. However, there’s no NFC, so the phone can’t be used for Google Pay. 

In terms of storage, the 256GB on board will be enough for most people. If you need more, the Zero 5G also supports expansion via microSD card – up to an extra 256GB. Very few people will need more than this, and it’s great option to have. 

Camera & Video

Solid 50Mp main sensor

No ultrawide or telephoto lenses

Decent 16Mp selfie camera

Like so many modern smartphones, the Infinix Zero 5G 2023 is equipped with triple rear cameras. However, that disguises the fact that the hardware has actually been downgraded compared to the 2023 model. 

The main sensor is now 50Mp rather than 48Mp, but the 13Mp telephoto lens has been replaced by a measly 2Mp macro. A third 2Mp depth camera remains, but it means you’ll be relying on just one sensor most of the time. 

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

As a result, the Zero 5G is less versatile than many phones when it comes to photography – including plenty of budget handsets. I don’t mind doing without a telephoto lens (and relying on digital zoom), but the lack of an ultrawide sensor is harder to accept. If you’re someone who regularly takes landscape or group photos, you’ll really miss it too. 

These omissions are a shame, because the rest of the camera experience is excellent for the price. That 50Mp main sensor produces clear, crisp photos with decent dynamic range. It struggles with exposure at times, but colours are generally accurate and true to life. 

The (camera) hardware has actually been downgraded compared to the 2023 model

Without those other lenses, it usually performs best where there is a clear subject in the shot. Buildings and statues were a real highlight, with that depth sensor enabling an attractive portrait-style background blur. 

Close-up shots using the macro lens also offer superb detail, even if you probably won’t use it much. A software-based night mode does a good job of brightening the image while still preserving key details. 

On the front, a 16Mp selfie camera is also very good, although you’ll want to turn off the beauty mode that’s enabled by default. There’s even a portrait mode here (relying exclusively on software), although it struggles with the common issue of edge detection. 

You can see what I mean in the camera samples below:

On the video side, you can capture in up to 4K at 30fps. The default 1080p at 30fps will be fine for most people, although the lack of any image stabilisation means footage with any movement doesn’t look steady at all. 

Battery & Charging

5000mAh battery

Mediocre battery life

33W wired charging, no wireless

The Zero 5G 2023 is equipped with a 5000mAh battery. It’s a decent capacity, albeit something we’ve come to expect from modern phones. 

Some testing suggests it holds up well, with an above-average time of 10 hours and 48 minutes in PCMark’s battery test. That aims to simulate real-world usage via several different scenarios, but unfortunately my experience wasn’t as impressive. 

The combination of a large display and that 120Hz refresh rate meant it depleted much more quickly, to the extent that a full day’s usage was only just within reach. This did include lots of mobile data, high brightness and GPS, but I was still expecting better. 

Of course, these concerns will only be relevant if you use your phone for several hours each day. With lighter usage, you can end the evening with charge to spare. 

When you do run low, there’s a 33W USB-C adapter included in the box. This is still considered fast charging, even though it’s lower than many rivals these days. I recorded 22% in 15 minutes and 42% in half an hour from off, with just under 90 minutes required for a full charge. 

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

There’s no wireless charging, but that remains relatively rare on budget phones. 

Infinix XOS 12 skin over Android 12

Poor, unintuitive software experience

No word on Android 13 update or specific update promise

The Zero 5G 2023 runs Infinix’s XOS 12 skin over Android 12. Unfortunately, this software experience is the main reason not to buy the phone. It’s a real departure from the so-called ‘stock’ version of Android, and not in a good way.  

One of the first things you’ll notice are the oversized app folders, with a ‘Suggestions’ one on the home screen simply showing four of your recently used apps. After you turn on the phone, it cycles between random emojis. 

… a real departure from the so-called ‘stock’ version of Android, and not in a good way

Like Xiaomi’s MIUI, notifications appear from the top left, while quick settings requires a swipe from the top right. But navigating both is far from intuitive – there’s a real learning curve, even if you’re familiar with Android already. 

Then there’s Infinix’s version of the Google Discover feed, available to the left of the main home screen. It’s a far inferior version of the real thing, with a cluttered ‘Hot News’ section (with almost every headline cut off) and generic ‘Important Days’ widget among the most notable features. 

Anyron Copeman / Foundry

Infinix is even using it to display motivational quotes, which change each time you swipe over. According to the phone, you should ‘earn money with your mind, not your time’ and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  

As jarring as this software experience is, it’s possible to eventually tweak it to your liking and keep most of the annoying apps out of sight. But it’s still a big step down from most other Android skins. 

Updates are another real concern, with no specific commitment from Infinix regarding software support. That means it’ll likely be the baseline two years – a long way behind the leading Android manufacturers these days. 

As for an update to Android 13? There’s no word on when the Zero 5G 2023 will get it. Infinix is usually one of the last companies to push a major new version of Android to its phones.

Price & Availability

Infinix doesn’t say exactly how much the Zero 5G 2023 would cost in the West, but it’s not particularly relevant as the phone won’t be available there. 

The company’s rough figure of $239 (approx. £194/€219) for 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is decent, and puts it firmly in budget phone territory. See if you can buy one via the Infinix website, where you can select a country.

Few rivals can compete with the Zero 5G 2023 on performance at this price, but several offer a more well-rounded experience – including longer battery life and superior software. 

Verdict

The Infinix Zero 5G 2023 gets a lot right, but shortcomings in key areas will make you think twice about buying one. 

Highlights include excellent performance from MediaTek’s Dimensity 1080, a chip you’ll usually find in much more expensive phones. Alongside an excellent 120Hz display and impressive 50Mp main camera, there’s a lot to like here. 

However, mediocre battery life and a poor software experience are hard to ignore, while a lack of other lenses limits its photography potential. 

With the phone not being sold in the West, there’s no reason to go out of your way to buy one. However, if you live in a country it’s available, the Zero 5G 2023 is still worth considering. 

Specs

MediaTek Dimensity 1080 

8GB RAM  

256GB storage (microSD expandable up to 256GB extra) 

6.78in 120Hz IPS LCD display  

50Mp, f/1.6 main camera  

2Mp macro camera 

2Mp depth sensor 

16Mp, f/2.0 selfie camera  

5500mAh battery  

33W wired charging  

5G  

Single speaker 

Wi-Fi 6  

Bluetooth 5.2  

Android 12 with XOS 12 skin 

168.7 x 76.5 x 8.9mm  

201g 

Cisco Voip: Getting To Mobililty

Cisco Systems has made a couple of announcements about mobility of late.

The first one, issued at the end of April (read it here), snuck past us initially, but we caught up with it. It describes a partnership with Nokia that “extends the rich Cisco Unified IP phone capabilities to Nokia Eseries dual-mode smartphones over Cisco Unified Wireless Networks, to offer users a seamless mobile experience in the enterprise environment and public cellular networks.”

Translation: With the help of some software from Cisco, Nokia’s dual-mode handsets will be able to place and receive phone calls over Cisco wireless LANs—when they’re in range—and save money on cellular minutes. In enterprise telephony parlance, this bit of technology will ‘port the desktop phone number’ to the Nokia device over Wi-Fi.

It’s nice to see Cisco taking the first steps toward mobilizing its formidable IP telephony capabilities. And in characterizing this dual-mode capability as “mobile unified communications” (a stretch in our view), the announcement constitutes at least a tacit endorsement of the idea that mobile phone users in the field should have access to the same communications resources they enjoy at their office desk.

But if the company wants to be a serious contender in anything that could legitimately be called mobile unified communications, Cisco is looking at a serious game of catch-up, as a generation of smaller, more nimble competitors has already got a formidable head start.

The first to take on the challenge of the dual-network telephony were the so-called fixed/mobile convergence (F/MC) vendors—startups such as Kineto Wireless and the other members of its Unlicensed Mobile Access coalition (UMA) or BridgePort Networks and other members of the Mobile Ignite trade group.

These companies figured out how to identify the “best available network” for a call and how to engineer automated, on-the-fly handoffs between carriers’ cellular networks and local wireless LANs for mobile users. (With Cisco/Nokia solution, it appears, the user can manually select Wi-Fi or cellular.)

These technical solutions (which relate only to voice, not other communications modes) have been available for years now, although as they are carrier-centric solutions—that is, they are deployed in carrier networks—and the carriers by and large have not seen fit to deploy them yet, they are not currently an option for many would-be adopters.

There are, however, several enterprise-centric solutions that chúng tôi has written about in some detail. Technology from DiVitas Networks, OEM provider FirstHand Technologies, and (to a lesser degree) Siemens Communications, not only goes beyond basic F/MC to mobilize PBX functions and/or other key modes of enterprise communication, they are fully available for deployment now.

For Cisco to get to the place where these providers sit today—again, with a level of functionality that could be reasonably termed mobile unified communications—will not be easy.

Providing extended communications features, such as PBX functions (hold, forward, extension dialing, etc.), e-mail, conferencing, corporate directory access, and the like over cellular networks is not a trivial problem.

Doing this over Wi-Fi is relatively easy, DiVitas CEO Vivek Khuller told chúng tôi in a recent conversation, “because you are in control of the network and it’s an all-IP network. However to provide the same feature set over cellular is not a trivial task. That requires coordination—both on the client side and on the server side—between two disparate networks: cell voice and cell data,” Khuller said.

“When you combine all three together—cell voice, cell data, and Wi-Fi—it gets even more difficult,” Khuller continued. “There could be three people on a single call; one on cell, one on campus Wi-Fi, another on public Wi-Fi—three very different networks, controlled by three separate entities. How do you now manage that call—without echo, latency, with everybody having equal features?”

From DiVitas’s perspective, the task is far easier if that functionality was a fundamental goal of the product’s initial design—from the ground up. It’s tougher to do as an add-on to an architecture that didn’t envision it at the outset.

Which brings us to Cisco’s second announcement (last week), of the Cisco 3300 Series Mobility Services Engine or MSE (read the release here).

If you don’t know what a Mobility Services Engines is, don’t feel bad. Neither did we. If we’ve got it right, this is an appliance-based middleware platform that will serve the ambitious goal of normalizing and integrating the entire spectrum of networking technologies, both wired and wireless, allowing the sharing of both data and application functionality among devices, regardless of their network connections.

The “platform offers an open application programming interface (API) for consolidating and supporting an array of mobility services across wireless and wired network,” according to the company. That is, software applications—and other appliances—will be able to access resources provided by the MSE.

Cisco will be releasing an initial four software offerings for the MSE platform, one of which—Cisco Mobile Intelligent Roaming (MIR), due out some time in the second half of the year—can facilitate (but not actually execute) handoffs when devices roam between networks.

“If we know that network performance is changing in a way that impacts the application, it might make sense to transition to another network. MIR can provide that intelligence to other platforms that actually trigger the roam,” Chris Kozup, Senior Manager, Cisco Mobility Solutions told our sister publication Wi-Fi chúng tôi in an interview.

Actually bringing about the connection transfer requires another device or gateway, and one member of Cisco’s technology “partner ecosystem”—Silicon Valley startup Agito Networks—announced (in conjunction with the MSE release) that its RoamAnywhere Mobility Router will integrate with the Cisco Engine to provide customers with a full-blown solution for seamless cellular/Wi-Fi handoff.

So, before the end of this year, Cisco VoIP shops will have the tools needed to begin to provide communications capabilities to far-flung mobile workers. For better or worse, it will involve one or more additional devices in the network infrastructure that customers will have to manage and troubleshoot.

This article was first published on chúng tôi

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