Sunday, November 09, 2014

One Plus One - Review

After four and a half years with Google's Nexus phones (Nexus 1 - 2009-10, Nexus S - 2010-12, & Nexus 4 - 2012-14) I decided to give the latest entrant in the 'pure Android' world a try. Technically 'pure Android+'. One Plus One (OPO) is a high end Android smartphone manufacturer from China that came out of nowhere in 2014 and with incredible specs, state of the art Android experience, and unbelievable prices, has taken the geeky world of phones by storm this year.

Let's get the basics out of the way first. The 64 GB Sandstone Black phone at 5.5" screen, and 162

gms feels large, but not heavy. The unique "sandstone black" material at the back feels distinct (like hard velvet as many have commented) and comfortable to touch. The device is massively powerful with a quad core Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz processor (compared to Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz of the Nexus 5), and to support that kind of power and large screen it comes with a 3,100 mAh battery which keeps the phone going on for an entire day, and sometimes more. Like the new Nexus line of phones the battery is not replaceable and inside the phone, and it doesn't have the option of an external memory card. However at 64GB of memory and more and more multimedia moving to the cloud I am not sure if anyone really needs more memory than that. Oh, did I mention it has a 3GB RAM? 3 GB. Your laptop may have a comparable RAM even today. In short, the phone is exceptional fast and has very nice touch sensitivity. Besides the great stuff inside, they've also paid attention to the details and have delivered a top notch packaging and branding experience (pictures below).

The "hard velvet" back
Because of the large size of the phone, the manufacturers have smartly placed the power and volume buttons mid way through the sides, so even someone with a small hand should be able to control those buttons. 

The camera is also a thing of beauty, with a 13 MP back camera and a 5 MP front facing camera. Of note is the 4K UHD video option. I have not seen such clarity in phone pictures so far. I maybe getting over my prejudice against the phone camera finally. Oh, it also has a Slow-Mo setting (60 fps) which does make for some interesting action videos - running, eating, crowds etc. And the OPO comes with some small but unique features such as switching on the flashlight by simply drawing a V on the screen, even when locked, or a circle to switch on the camera. Have shared some pictures clicked using the phone so far.

Green Lake, Seattle (HDR)

But the 3 things that have set the OPO apart so far are (1) the Cyanogenmod OS, (2) Invite Only distribution system, and (3) $350 price point.

Fall Leaves, Queen Anne, Seattle
If you've heard about the OPO then chances are you've also come across the term Cyanogenmod. While you can read the details right here in their own page, the description is precisely what they claim it to be "CyanogenMod (pronounced /saɪ.'æn.oʊ.dʒɛn.mɒd/) is an enhanced open source firmware distribution for smartphones and tablet computers based on the Android mobile operating system. It offers features and options not found in the official firmware distributed by vendors of these devices." Basically it provides the pure Android experience and enhances it by unlocking many features you won't get in the regular phones. An example will be the ability to set brightness at any level and not just 5 preset levels. Or adding options to the power menu. Or changing the navigation buttons at the bottom. Your Android, your way. Yes, you can install Cyanogenmod on any Android phone if you're comfortable with rooting, and updating the OS as and when they arrive. As this is the first "legit" phone to come bundled with Cyanogenmod you can get the latest Over The Air (OTA) updates to keep your phone and its features always up-to-date. As a long term pure Android user I am very particular against bloatware (unnecessary software that manufacturers add to their devices) and you can rest assured not to be bothered by them. And yes, it's as Android as it gets, you have full access to the Google Play store and all apps and services. They've also promised a 90 day update to the latest Android version, so that countdown for the Android Lollipop version has already started. 

Again, Green Lake, Seattle. HDR.

The 2nd interesting thing about the OPO has been the distribution system. Because of the extreme positive interest in the devices they have kept the distribution invite only, and getting the invites has been a matter of immense pride, fortune, and perseverance in the geek community. In fact, they opened the phone to pre-order on Oct-27 of this year and the demand brought their servers down. According to latest numbers they have sold 0.5M units since launch in May 2014 and have plans of touching the magic 1M mark with the holiday demand. The China based company has solid leadership with veterans from the industry and if the first six months are to go by you'll hear a lot more about them. They have famously spent $350 in marketing till date.

Finally, the price. This beast at $350 is something you could have only expected from the Nexus so far. But this year, after 5 versions of the ridiculously prices flagship phones at the $300-$350 mark, Google has joined the iPhone league and launched it at $649 (unlocked). The OPO on the other hand has taken up that sweet spot ($349 + shipping ($15) for their 64GB version). That's a price point very difficult to go wrong with the kind of specs they're providing.

After four days of usage I will give the phone a 9.5/10 (just had to deduct 0.5 points for the size, but you can say I purchased it knowing fully well). A fan already. Also a fan of the roasted chicken +Veni  cooked over the weekend:)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

To Sir, With Nerves

Happy birthday Sir. Happy 49th in fact. I was a year away from kindergarten when you started winning hearts with those dimples in Fauji. Today I know how thirty feels. But not quite how thirty feels with a DDLJ behind you.

9 years back I wished you. From my heart.

2 years back I wished you. Again from my heart.

This year I thought of sharing something with you that's helped me make friends throughout my life, and also something that helped me feel a bit like you, throughout my life.

Just as I had made my first trip to Mumbai, hopeful of bumping into you at some crossing, posting this here with the same hope of you finding this link floating around somewhere in the online world. Pardon the arrogance here!

All pictures courtesy Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

3 Friends. 3 Books. 1 Plug.

I feel like the Amar Singh and Baba Siddiqui of the Indian literature space with three friends coming up with their books at the same time. Although I have read only 1.5 of these, but having being an avid reader of their blogs and 140 character quips on Twitter I can confidently vouch for these works of fiction and trivia. 

1. Arnab Ray's 'Yatrik' 

One of the most well established names in the Indian blogging scene for over a decade now, Yatrik is Arnab's third book in five years. I got to know Arnab, much better known as Greatbong, through his immensely popular blog - Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind, and count him as one of my closest friends and more importantly favourite writers. His first book was a collection of short, hilarious stories based on the India of the '90s, while his second book was an Indian horror story that charted a new path for that genre of writing in Indian English. Yatrik is right up his alley mixing some sensational concepts with human relationships and emotions, a subject that he has dealt with much dexterity in many of his blog posts and his previous book - The Mine. I was fortunate to have read many early versions of the book over the last few years, and definitely feel it's an interesting story told in an engaging manner. As long as you don't go in with the expectation of the usual Greatbong style of humour, or any humour almost, you're in for a treat of a story.

Available (from Oct-1-2014) at 
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 221 + Free Shipping) & Flipkart (Rs. 260 + Rs. 40 shipping )
Kindle version: Coming Soon

2. Diptakirti Chaudhuri's 'Bollybook'

This guy loves Bollywood and trivia as much as I want to love Bollywood and trivia. Again, have known him through his blog - Calcutta Chomosome and his very active Twitter stream, and online merged with offline in a delectable dinner at Delhi Darbaar, CP. This is also his third book, after a beginner's and intermediate's guide to cricket during the 2011 World Cup and that second book - Kitnay Aadmi Thay (KAT) which made me a fan for zindagi, aur uske baad bhi. I haven't even read Bollybook, but have heard it has parts of KAT and a lot more. I can just tell you this much, if you have a passing interest in Bollywood and trivia, then I challenge you to find a better way to spend a few hundred rupees than this book. I just placed my order on the Kindle while writing this post, and can already think of quite a few friends who're getting this on their birthday's over the new few months.

Available at -
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 370 + Free Shipping), Flipkart (Rs. 374), Amazon USA ($62.78)
Kindle version: Amazon India (Rs. 370), Amazon USA ($6.69)

3. Parth Pandya's 'r2i dreams: For here or to go?'

Parth is yet another quizzer extraordinaire, lover of Bollywood, cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, the quintessential Indian, living abroad. We were acquainted through some quizzes held in Microsoft's Seattle campus and the one spectacular Bollywood quiz conducted by him where my wife & I managed to make it to the finals from a written round of over 50 teams. I have read some of his pieces through his blog and Facebook posts and this one post - "Why I Hate Helium?" convinced me to buy his book whenever he came up with one. Parth has a conversational, casual style peppered with vivid details and descriptions laced with some Hrishikesh Mukherjee brand of humour. He also conducted an interesting study on the term R2i (Return to India) on his Facebook timeline, triggering grieving comments from friends.  

Available at -
Physical version: Amazon India (Rs. 769), Amazon USA ($10.44), Pothi (Rs. 286 + Shipping)
Kindle version: Amazon USA ($7.99)
Also available on Kindle Unlimited.