CORTANA is here!

She’s finally here. The A.I that helped Master Chief kick a** in HALO, is finally on Android. For those of you who don’t know who, or rather what CORTANA is, read along.

CORTANA is Microsoft’s take at a personal voice assistant, much like Siri and Google Now. Earlier limited to only Windows phone devices, Microsoft has finally revealed a beta version for Android. Open up the app and CORTANA gives you a list of What’s trending, top news, your local weather forecast, etcetera, courtesy of “Bing”. CORTANA is surprisingly good at recognizing voice commands. You can ask her to set an alarm, take a note,set a reminder or even call someone. Much like the features already existent on Google and Siri. But does CORTANA do it better? Not exactly. She’s still in beta, so there are some issues with it. Hopefully there’ll be a more stable build in the coming days.

CORTANA seems to be promising. But, will she be? Only time will tell.

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Virtual Reality With a Cardboard!

What is Virtual Reality? The most basic definition: Reality that is virtual. Imagine entering your computer and free-flowing through the contents. That is Virtual Reality.

The VR Cardboard: Now this is what I used to step into the world of virtual reality. The most crude device to experience VR. Snap your Droid in the cardboard, open up the cardboard app, and you are ready to go.

How does it work? The cardboard is fitted with 40 mm distance lens to give that 3D effect. Since you cannot touch your phone’s screen while wearing the headset, google came up with a smart idea of using magnets. Yes, magnets. Your phone comes with a magnetic sensor which is used in navigation and for the compass. There are two magnets, one of which is free to move in a constricted fashion to provide a sliding switch. The change in magnetic field due to the sliding of the magnet is identified by the phone as a stimulus to “click”.

Is it good? Heck yeah! I have never used a VR headset before and was genuinely impressed by the ingenuity of Google. Although Google does not officially provide cardboard in India, there are many third-party sellers that do. It cost me a mere Rs. 425 (shipping costs included) to procure one of these.

Will it work with my phone? The basic requirement for cardboard to work are two sensors: the Gyro sensor for head tracking and the Magnetic sensor for the button. Although, the magnetic button has been reported to be finicky to operate and not compatible with all the phones. The reason for this is usually the placement of the sensor in the phone. It did not work with my Xiaomi Mi4 even though the phone has a fully functional Magnetic sensor.

Thoughts. This is the best VR experience you can get which won’t break your bank. The best thing about the cardboard is that you can make it at home using the instructions provided on the Cardboard website. It’s the best deal you can get!

Buy at: GetCardboard.in

Bleep! The next big IM?

wpid-screenshot_2015-05-14-12-47-45.pngWhat is Bleep? An instant messenger. Just like the WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, etcetera.

What’s the difference? Developed by BitTorrent which has been strictly against snooping by other parties. BitTorrent released Bleep for all platforms a day before. What makes Bleep stand apart is the fact that your messages are not stored on a central server. They are encrypted and decrypted directly on the local machine. This means that no one except the sender and the receiver get the messages. Also, the messenger does not require you to create an account or enter any kind of personal details. It uses only a nickname along with a unique identifier key. There is another nifty feature known as “Whisper”. When using whisper, not even a local record of the chat is saved. Whisper a message and it’ll be destroyed 25 seconds after it has been viewed.

That sounds great! Yes, it does. Moreover, its not just available on mobile, but also on Windows and Mac. This is a great IM when it comes to protection of privacy.

WhatsApp beware!
Download it here: Bleep

The Yu Yuphoria: Euphoria Indeed?

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Yesterday Micromax launched the Yuphoria under Yu Televentures for INR 6,999 and will be available exclusively on Amazon India via Flash sales. The first sale being on the 28th of May, registrations for which are now open.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Display: IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, Gorilla Glass 3, 5.0 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels (294 PPI)

Connectivity:  Dual-SIM, LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0

Processor: 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410 quad-core 64-bit

Ram: 2 GB

Camera: Front: 5 MP, Rear: 8 MP with Flash

Storage: 16 GB Internal; expandable up-to 32 GB

Battery: 2230 mAh

OS: Cyanogen OS 12 running on top of Android Lollipop

Build & Battery: The Yuphoria comes with a metal banding across the sides of the phone which is supposedly carved out of a single piece of metal. Unlike its predecessor, it has a pocket-friendly screen size. This time YU went with the on-screen navigation instead of capacitive buttons. It sports a rear speaker engineered by AAC Technologies. It has a removable battery of 2230 mAh which is more than sufficient for the power-saving Snapdragon 410.

Display: A 5 inch, 720p display with a pixel density of about 294 PPI is the ideal display at this price point. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 usually found on high-end devices.

Camera: An 8 MP rear camera with AF and flash coupled with the 5 MP camera in the front, is the best you can get at this price point.

Internals: Powered by the Snapdragon 410 coupled with 2 GB of RAM, this phone will have no issues surfing through day-to-day tasks and even a moderate level of multi-tasking. Powered by the Adreno 306 GPU, the phone should have no problems running any popular titles at low to medium, if not high, graphics settings. The phone comes with 16 GB of Internal storage, of which only 12-13 GB will be available to the user. But the storage can be expanded by the use of an SD card which is a big plus point.

Operating System: Runs Cyanogen OS 12 on top of Android 5.0.2 out of the box. Cyanogen gives you the liberty to tweak and tinker your phone as much as you like. It has a myriad of customization options with very little constraints.

Connectivity: The phone has DUAL Sim card slots with LTE with Bluetooth 4.0 and the usual WiFi configuration.

This phone is a steal. It gives tough competition to the month-old Redmi 2, the Moto E, Moto G (2nd Gen), and the Lenovo A6000. It is going to give every other brand in the sub 10k segment a run for their money.

On-paper, this is the best deal. But will it translate to real-world performance? Hopefully, it will.

Available in two colours, Buffed Steel and Champagne Gold you can register for the sale at: Amazon India.

Photo Courtesy: fonearena, Amazon India 

‘The Powerwall’ By Tesla.

models-powerwall@2x Last Thursday, Elon Musk revealed – The Powerwall! Imagine a big mobile phone battery.

What is it? A big battery. Yes, you read that right. A big lithium-ion battery.

What does it do? Stores energy, of course.

What?! The Powerwall acts as a hub for storing the energy acquired from the solar panels. What the Powerwall does is, it provides electricity to power your home during outages.battery-specs-imperial@2x We have a generator/inverter for that. You probably do. But the inverters are mostly run on acid-based batteries which use your fuel/electricity to charge up; take a lot of place; require lots of maintenance. Whereas the Tesla Powerwall uses energy harnessed by solar panels; sticks on your wall; requires close to no maintenance. But it can also store the electricity from your main line, when the per unit price is the cheapest.

Interesting. Yes it is. Available in two variants, the 7kWh and the 10kWh the Powerwall is priced at $3000 and $3,500 respectively. The Powerwall offers continuous power at 2kW with a peak power output of 3kW. Enough to run all your appliances.

And if you feel 10kWh is less, just stack two of them up. Yes, that is possible. Get two of the 10kWh Powerwalls and stack them up. Voila! You now have a 20kWh Powerwall!powerwall-battery-group@2x Lastly, this is a great step towards energy management. And this will be one of the best things to happen in India, if at all it comes to India.

From the physicists point-of-view : Should You Buy A Tesla Home Battery?

Find Your Phone!

Lost your phone? Worry not. Google will help you find it. Google has come up with the near perfect tracking solution for your smartphone – The Device Manager (trying to be inconspicuous about the app’s true abilities).

What is this app? It is an application that lets you track multiple devices from your browser and smartphone. It tracks all the Android devices connected with your Google account.

How does it work? In case your phone gets lost, you can make it ring remotely from any browser, by typing “Find my phone” in google search. In case of theft, it gives you option to wipe your data and reset the phone remotely. A very handy utility.

The application is available to download on the Play Store.

Xiaomi Mi 4: The User’s Point-Of-View

This is a review; but not the usual kind. I won’t be talking about the specifications or the benchmarks but rather the actual real world performance.

It has been more than 2 weeks since I got the Xiaomi MI 4. And here’s my experience.

Build: Absolutely stunning! The phone looks and feels great. It has super-thin bezels. Oh yeah! No fat lines around the screen! The phone has the right size and feel. Pocket-friendly(literally)! The screen at 5 inches is easy to use with one hand. The only qualm – the back cover. It is glossy, slippery plastic. It keeps sliding off any surface I keep it on. You can use some after market back covers though. And by back covers, I mean the actual back cover, not a case or a bumper.


Display: 1080p. 441 PPI. Need I say more? The display is vibrant. The viewing angles are great. Reading books, playing games and watching movies is a delight.

Speaker: Decent. Not much to say here. Don’t expect it to be a primary speaker for your party.

Camera: 13 MP shooter on the back: Takes noisy pictures and takes quite some time to focus. Colours are warm. Low-light pics aren’t impressive. The flash does help in taking some decent night-time pics. I wouldn’t bank upon the HDR mode for those really vibrant pics. Supports 4K video, but the phone lacks the space required for storing it. (I got the 16GB version.)

8 MP shooter on the front:  This is a delight. Selfies look great! Low-light pics suffer. But the camera is way better than most other phones on the market. Hardware aside, the camera UI is intuitive and easy to get around. It has in-built filters for those artistic sepia and funny fish-eye images.

Performance: Snappy! Oh yes, the Snapdragon 801 coupled with 3GB of RAM inside this phone is more than capable enough to handle anything thrown at it. I have never felt the need to switch to “Performance Mode” from the “Balanced Mode”. Games are easily playable at the highest graphics settings.

Battery: Another delight! Lasts a day with medium usage. I charged my phone to a 100% on the 14th of April at around 7 PM. The usage included about 14-15 hours of WiFi on-time, 8 hours of 3G data on-time, 15-20 minutes of game-play and about 4-5 hours of total screen time and I still have about 30% to go at 8.45 PM, 15th of April. Total amounting to 1 day and an hour.

MIUI v6: Visually Brilliant! It has taken inspiration from you-know-who and made a fully functional, intuitive and eye-catching UI. No app drawer unlike many other droids. The theme store gives you options to customize your device the way you want. MIUI has gone from an alternative to stock, let’s-flash-this-ROM to a full fledged official ROM. And it has excelled at it.

Issues: The RAM usage. MIUI seems to be using a lot of RAM. There have been times when i was left with only about 500 MB/3 GB. That’s about 2.4-2.5 gigs of RAM usage. Even with a bunch of apps open, this shouldn’t be the case. Why is this an issue? Because it still runs KitKat. And KitKat was supposed to be the version with a great amount of memory optimizations making it easy to run even on phones with only 1 GB of RAM. The culprit here seems to be MIUI, can’t say for sure though. And when this phone gets Android L, it will definitely be eating more RAM than it eats now. Hopefully, Xiaomi will look into this issue. Being a software issue at a system level, this will not be a problem as far as daily usage is concerned.

NO Encryption: This might be a huge issue for people whose offices require them to have encryption on their phones to access company e-mails. It is an inherent feature of android. There seems to be no explanation as to why Xiaomi decided to remove encryption.

The heating. Yes, it is true. This one does have a tendency to heat up. The most during game-play. Nothing that will burn your hands, but still hot.

The Verdict: It’s a great phone when it comes to day-to-day or even cpu or graphic intensive tasks. Other than the heating problem, the phone is great. But not exactly a steal at 20k. Cause there’s One Plus One (16gb) for 1K less and also the Huawei Honor 6 at 17999. But it is definitely a great phone. The issues I have pointed out will probably not be an issue for the normal user. And hence the phone is a good deal as compared to other flagships.