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May 20, 2012

Samsung GALAXY S III Android 4.0.4 ICS ROM Leaks, Includes S-Voice, TouchWiz and More

The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S III is expected to arrive on the market at the end of the month. However, those who managed to grab one long ahead of official launch have already leaked its Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich ROM.

The folks over at SamMobile have been given the official ROM of the smartphone, which includes all those exclusive apps and services that make the Galaxy S III a unique device. Android tech-savvy who are into creating custom ROMs rejoice as Galaxy S III's ROM is now available for download, although it requires quite a long time to acquire it due it is large size. It appears that the ROM is about 785MB in size, so make sure you have a fast Internet connection, otherwise you're in for a very long waiting time.

However, those who only want to try out the S-Voice application can download it separately, though it's Samsung's cloud compute servers are reportedly acting rather erratically and only responds to whomever it wants. Still, there seems to be a general consensus that those who own Samsung devices will not have any troubles in getting the application working. Until those in the know rip the ROM apart and post download links for more apps and services within the Galaxy S III software, everyone is free welcome to play with S-Voice. Keep in mind that some of these apps are only fully functional with Samsung devices, so those who own other branded smartphones might encounter some issues.

We're expecting that more apps will be extracted from this leaked ROM, including Smart Stay, Pop-up Play, Direct Call and other, so stay tuned for more updates on the matter. For more details on how to download and flash the new Android 4.0.4 ICS ROM for Samsung Galaxy S III head over to the original thread.

“Inexact” Chips Are 1500% More Efficient than Today’s Processors

Researches from Rice University in Houston, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Switzerland’s Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and the University of California, Berkeley have recently made public their achievements in “inexact” computing.

What the researchers did was practically give up on perfect accuracy and see what happens when you design a chip that will give you “good-enough” results. Many of you might wonder what good could that do and how could “inexact” results be acceptable. Well, a simple answer might be a comparison between a pin-point accuracy of a “flying” bullet and the “acceptable” target miss by a missile. When shooting a “flying” bullet or any other small and accurate projectile, the objective is to accurately hit the desired target. 

When firing an intercontinental nuclear missile, a target miss of 10 meters might actually be acceptable while being completely unacceptable for a pin-point small projectile. The same can be said about facial recognition. All state security and intelligence agencies are running a lot of facial recognition software every second of every day. Facial recognition is an approximate matter and the likely results are finally displayed and agents and experts decide if the pictures are indeed representing the same person. Around 84% of Facebook’s initial funding came from In-Q-Tel, an investment fund for the CIA. So there is clear interest from state agencies into such technologies.

The way these chips achieve such high efficiency is “pruning.” This is basically a way of giving up some functional units of a CPU that are used very rarely and mostly for verification purposes. “Pruning” also gives up most of the performance gains for energy efficiency. If the researchers see that one special way of achieving a result yields an increased performance, they will confine the voltage of the chip to a lower level while keeping the previous performance level. So if there is one optimization that allows the chip to computer more or faster, the concept chooses a smaller voltage target that would allow the same result rather than enjoying the higher performance at the current voltage.

“In the latest tests, we showed that pruning could cut energy demands 3.5 times with chips that deviated from the correct value by an average of 0.25 percent. When we factored in size and speed gains, these chips were 7.5 times more efficient than regular chips. Chips that got wrong answers with a larger deviation of about 8 percent were up to 15 times more efficient,” said study co-author Avinash Lingamneni, a Rice graduate student. As you can see form the picture below, the image on the left is perfectly rendered while the next two are produced with an allowed relative error of 0.54 and 7.58 percent respectively. Obviously, the second and third imaged are clearly acceptable and discernable. This is quite good news for those into image recognition. It’s a good thing they bring higher efficiency, but the likely applications don’t sound too friendly.

Intel Has No Competitor for AMD’s Trinity

We were delighted to report about AMD’s Trinity performance in the new and long anticipated computer game, Blizzard’s Diablo III. We’ve mentioned the imbalance between AMD’s chip and Intel’ processor regarding the power consumption and especially the price, but it seems there’s much more to that.

AMD’s top performing Fusion mobile part is called A10-4600M and works at a base frequency of 2300 MHz. The processor can Turbo up to 3200 MHz and is packaged in a 722-pin micro-PGA socket called FS1 (FS1r2). The processing cores are kept fed with data by 4 MB of level 2 cache. That’s 512 KB of level 2 cache for each core. Unlike AMD’s FX processor line, there is no level 3 cache, but being a Fusion processor, AMD’s A10-4600M comes with an integrated graphics processing unit (iGPU) that runs at a default of 497 MHz with the option to Turbo up to 686 MHz when all the 384 Shaders are subjected to a heavy 3D task. All of this is done with a maximum heat dissipation of 35 watts and this is exactly what Intel is lacking.

Most of AMD Trinity reviews have compared AMD’s mobile flagship with Intel’s top performing mobile solution right now and that’s the Core i7-3920XM. It all good that AMD’s Trinity gets around 50% better results in Blizzard’s Diablo III, but the most important aspect is that AMD’s APU does that at a huge frequency disadvantage when compared with Intel’s CPU, on every side. The Ivy Bridge mobile part works at a base frequency of 2900 MHz with a turbo option to 3600 MHz. This is a clear frequency advantage for Ivy Bridge of 26% on base frequency and 12.5% when in Turbo mode.

While AMD’s iGPU has a default frequency of 497 MHz, Intel’s HD4000 starts from 650 MHz and that’s a 31% frequency advantage, but it can turbo up to 1300 MHz, showing a whooping 89% frequency advantage versus AMD’s Turbo mode of only 686 MHz. Therefore it’s surprising to see AMD’s Trinity win real life benchmarks with considerable better results despite Intel’s frequency advantage of 31% to 89%.

It’s clear that Intel’s finer manufacturing process of 22 nm has paid off and that their CPUs are able to run at much higher frequencies while consuming acceptable amounts of power. We’re sure AMD would have raised the frequency of Trinity and would have shown us an Ivy Bridge “killer” if it could have, but they are still building Trinity in the same 32 nm manufacturing process they’ve used for Llano, albeit a more mature 32 nm. Considering the manufacturing process disadvantage along with the resulting working frequency disadvantage, we can only draw the conclusion that AMD’s Trinity is, in fact, a much more efficient architecture than Intel’s Ivy Bridge.

AMD’s APUs are able to do more while using less power despite the less advanced manufacturing process. It is obvious that Dirk Meyer’s bet on more INT and less FPU while hoping for a future GPU based FPU amelioration, was a good idea. The 17 watts AMD Trinity model that will soon surface will cement AMD’s position as a true mobile competitor for Intel and this is practically the first time in AMD’s history that they’ve managed to beat Intel at the mobile game. There was some friction between the companies during the Pentium 4 vs Athlon K8 period, but those were simple cherry picked desktop CPUs and were not a specifically mobile architecture. 

During those times, because of Intel’s hot and bad performing Pentium 4 architecture, AMD’s K8 would easily beat the competition at any level, mobile, desktop or server. Once Intel’s Centrino mobile architecture stepped up in the ring, AMD never had a true mobile competitor. Now they do have and, surprisingly Intel has no match. Their i7-3920XM mobile Ivy Bridge consumes a maximum of 55 watts while being likely 400% more expensive. That’s 57% higher power consumption for likely 400% more money as, we’d like to remind you again that Intel’s Core i7-3920XM sells for more than 1000 USD (783 EUR).

There is no quad core Ivy Bridge processor in Intel’s mobile line-up that consumes 35 watts so practically Intel has no real competitor for AMD’s Trinity.

Vodafone UK Intros BlackBerry Curve 9320 for £135 (215 USD/165 EUR) on PAYG

UK-based carrier Vodafone has just added the BlackBerry Curve 9320 to its portfolio of smartphones. Customers who are looking for a bargain can check this one out as the carrier offers the smartphone for just £135 (215 USD/165 EUR) on PAYG (pay as you go).

In addition, customers who prefer to commit to a long term contract can grab the BlackBerry Curve 9320 for free on pay monthly price plans from £15.50 per month. However, Vodafone UK offers several rewards for customers who choose to purchase the smartphone on PAYG. According to the carrier, “every Pay as you go customer is also automatically opted-in to Freebee Rewardz. Every time a Pay as you go customer tops up as little as £5, they'll receive a voucher code via text message, which they can use to 'grab' an instant reward or bank them as 'grow' points, to save up for something bigger.”

It appears that customers will be able to choose from a wide range of rewards, such as discounts from brands such as Thorntons and BLOCKBUSTER, or even music downloads and free minutes. To add more excitement to the offer, Vodafone UK allows customers to choose to take a “mystery reward.” The latter could contain anything “from a smoothie maker to an iPhone.” It is also possible to collect points towards vouchers and experience days. BlackBerry Curve 9320 runs the latest BlackBerry 7.1 operating system and offers users the advantages of 3G connectivity on Vodafone UK's network. 

The smartphone is equipped with 512MB of ROM, 512MB of RAM and microSD card slot for memory expansion (up to 32GB). Furthermore, the handset sports a small 2.44-inch display that supports 65k colors and 320 x 240 pixels resolution. Other highlights of the budget-friendly smartphone include: built-in FM Radio, Mobile Hotspot support and pre-loaded apps for Facebook, Twitter and Social Feeds 2.0. Check it out here.

Windows 8’s Touch Optimizations Target All Form Factors

Windows 8 is the first flavor of Microsoft’s platform to arrive with optimized support for touchscreen displays, but meant to deliver a new, unique experience to users looking for increased mobility.

With tablet PCs gaining more and more ground on the market, Microsoft has focused on ensuring that devices running under its upcoming platform will deliver the expected experience and that they will be successful. Thus, it started the development of Windows 8 back in 2009 with focus on offering support for both touch input and for the use of the traditional keyboard and mouse input methods. The process of optimizing Windows 8 for touch involved bringing improvements to touch on the desktop as well, Jensen Harris, director of Program Management for Microsoft’s User Experience team, notes in a blog post

Thus, users will not have to choose between taking advantage of either the keyboard and mouse or touch screens, especially since touch hasn’t evolved to the point where it can fully replace the traditional input methods. Moreover, people still have to learn to take full advantage of keyboard-less devices, and are still dependent on non-touch notebooks or desktop PCs. However, that might change, and Windows 8 provides full support for touch to enable this evolution. “Within the new UI and WinRT apps, touch is promoted to an equal citizen alongside mouse and keyboard. Just like you can use a PC with mouse and keyboard only (or just keyboard,) you can also have a great experience using the UI with just touch,” Harris states. 

“In other words, we aspired to design a user experience that is new, worked for touch-only devices as a first and only input method, and when a mouse and keyboard are added, these can be used exclusively or with touch. Keyboard shortcuts are there alongside gestures—you pick based on your preference and the capabilities of your PC.” Harris also notes that Microsoft focused on designing Windows 8 to work the way users want it to. Users will be able to take full advantage of the operating system in any situation, whether only through touch or only through keyboard and mouse, or a combination of the two. 

Windows 8 will offer support for touch in all form factors, and users will be free to use the input method they like the most. “This is what we mean when we say Windows 8 provides a no-compromise experience,” Harris notes.

HTC J Arrives at KDDI in Japan on May 25th

Japanese mobile phone carrier KDDI is getting ready for the release of new smartphones in the country, and HTC J will be one of them. 

The handset is expected to arrive on the local market on May 25th, roughly one week from now. The HTC J is nothing more than the Japanese version of One S, specifically tailored for the local market with support for WiMAX, mobile TV, and for Japanese mobile wallet services. It also sports an IR port. 

The smartphone packs a dual-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 application processor inside, and sports an 8-megapixel photo snapper on the back.  Additionally, it arrives on shelves with Beats Audio technology inside, while running under Google’s Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich platform, with the HTC Sense 4.0 UI loaded on top of it.

Microsoft Explains Windows 8 UI Goals

When released in a final flavor later this year, Windows 8 will bring along a new approach to using the PC by introducing a wide range of touch optimizations. 

The platform will arrive with a wide range of changes when compared to what previous versions of Windows had to offer, including an always-on, always-connected approach to the user experience. In today’s world, users are looking for increased mobility when purchasing a new PC, and are also interested in enjoying access to various services at all times, and Windows 8 was designed with these principles in mind. The company also provided an insight on some of the main goals that it set when starting the development of Windows 8 and its Metro UI back in 2009, when Windows 7 was still RTM. 

Jensen Harris, director of Program Management for Microsoft’s User Experience team, explains in a blog post that one of the main focuses in designing Windows 8 was on making it fast and fluid. “Fast and fluid represents a few core things to us. It means that the UI is responsive, performant, beautiful, and animated,” Harris explains. “It means that the most essential scenarios are efficient, and can be accomplished without extra questions or prompts. It means that things you don’t need are out of the way.” Additionally, this means that the UI has to offer a “feeling of fluidity,” so as to make the use of Windows natural and pleasing, especially when on a tablet PC with touchscreen capabilities. 

Additionally, Microsoft focused on ensuring that users will benefit from increased battery life when using a Windows 8 PC, a goal achieved by reducing memory consumption and CPU and GPU usage while maintaining performance levels high. Windows 8 Metro apps will enter a sleep mode when the focus is not on them, to extend battery life. The use of CPU of memory for an app can be reduced to zero without loss of data. The app will resume exactly in the same place when the user brings it to the front of the screen. However, in Windows’ multitasking tradition, Microsoft included Snap in Windows 8, so that more than one app can be used simultaneously. Through it, users can run any two WinRT-based apps side-by-side. 

Metro apps and Live Tiles
Applications have been also optimized to take advantage of the new approach to user experience, being optimized for a specific set of scenarios that they are great at, rather than offering a wide range of features that are hard to find and use. Moreover, by taking advantage of the WinRT environment, these applications have been designed to work both with mouse and fingers so that they would prove great on any Windows 8 PC, including touch-enabled tablets. 

Another important aspect of the Windows 8 interface is the use of tiles, designed to deliver information in a single place and to offer fast access to apps, services and the like. Live tiles are shown on the start screen, and users have the possibility to personalize them as needed. In fact, Microsoft claims that user’s entire PC experience will be encapsulated in the one view that the Start screen has to offer. “Even content from within apps can be pinned to Start: people, mail folders, accounts, websites, books, albums, singers, movies, clients, sports teams, cities, etc. Everything you care about is efficiently available and up-to-date at all times,” Harris notes. 

In Window 8, apps can also be linked to work together, making tasks such as sharing content much easier than before. Apps will also be able to pick from, share with or save to other applications in Windows 8, Microsoft explains. With the upcoming platform, people will also be able to sign it to their PCs using an online account, which will sync all customizations between all of their Windows 8 computers. 

Advanced customization options
Microsoft also claims that the forthcoming operating system flavor will keep one of the important features of Windows versions between it: the possibility to tweak almost all aspects of the OS. Settings in Windows can be easily modified through accessing various control panels or through using command-line tools, as experience users already know. According to Microsoft, this aspect is an asset of Windows. 

“Our intention is not to lock down Windows, but to provide a platform that meets consumer expectations for how a device should work,” Harris explains. Windows 8 will put the most used settings at hand through the new UI, will deliver updates in the background, without affecting the user experience, and will also prevent apps from altering system settings for the most part. However, those who would like to have increased flexibility and customizability on their Windows 8 devices will be able to find all the features that Windows 7 came with in the upcoming platform as well.

“These settings are still there, and they still work. The Control Panel and gpedit.msc and PowerShell and all of the other places you do expert customization of your PC are still there for you. People who don’t have the knowledge to use these advanced settings effectively can just enjoy their devices,” Harris continues.

Galaxy S III Gets Rooted Before Hitting Shelves

Galaxy S III, Samsung’s latest flagship device, is set to arrive on shelves in less than two weeks from now, and is expected to become highly popular right from the beginning. 

In fact, the device already attracted a lot of people on its side, and the latest reports suggest that over 9 million units have been  pre-ordered all around the world so far. One thing that should make the phone even more appealing than it might have initially seemed is the fact that it can be easily rooted. 

It fact, there is one developer who claims to have managed to root the device, using a simple trick. He explains it all in a post on XDA-Developers. Apparently, Samsung used the standard boot.img format for Galaxy S III, which made the rooting and repackaging much easier than expected. Moreover, the handset vendor is said to have used the recovery partition as well, thus allowing for recoveries to be flashed separately from the kernel.

The developer did not release the "insecure" kernel, fearing that it might be traced back to leaks, but said that the process is so simple that any user/developer with knowledge in the area will be able to root the device in several minutes when it is released. He also says that Samsung hid the boot partitions, and that Triangle Away did not work. While no warning triangle was displayed at boot-up when flashing the modified kernel, a custom kernel flash counter was displayed in download mode.

All in all, it seems that Samsung has made it even easier for users to benefit from boot access on its Android handset. Although other vendors don’t take a similar approach in unlocks, Samsung has taken users’ side on this one. However, it should be noted that the root was achieved on a development firmware and not on the final release, and that Samsung might make some changes in the official software for the device.

HTC One XT Arrives in China with Quad-Core CPU and TD-SCDMA 3G Support

HTC’s new Android flagship smartphone has just arrived in the Mainland. However, the device was launched as HTC One XT and comes with full support for China Mobile’s 3G TD-SCDMA network.

Other than that, there are no other differences between the HTC One X and the Chinese version, so expect this one to be powered by the same quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, complemented by a ULP GeForce GPU and 1GB of RAM. In addition, the smartphone sports a hyper-vibrant 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD2 capacitive touchscreen display that supports HD (720 x 1280 pixels) resolution, and features Corning Gorilla Glass coating for extra protection.

HTC One XT is now available for purchase via China Mobile for a whooping suggested retail price of 5,688 RMB (900 USD or 705 EUR).

Black Nokia 808 PureView Coming Soon in China

Although we already learned that Nokia plans to launch the PureView 808 in China, we’ve received new evidence that the smartphone will soon make its way in the Mainland.

MyNokiaBlog reports that the Nokia 808 PureView in black has just been spotted at Tenaa China, which is a regulatory telecommunications equipment certifier. While there are no other details regarding the smartphone’s availability, at least we now know Nokia 808 PureView is one step closer to being released in China.

Unfortunately, the smartphone won’t be available for purchase in all regions. However, Nokia fans will be able to grab this one through unofficial channels even in countries where the Finnish company does not plan to release the PureView 808. Nokia recommended a 450 EUR (600 USD) retail price for the PureView 808, but the smartphone will be more expansive in some countries. Stay tuned for more info on the subject.

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