BlackBerry Priv review

BlackBerry Priv Review

We’ve been following BlackBerry’s journey from the top of the smartphone market to the bottom, and it has been extremely tempting on multiple occasions to declare the company effectively dead. Poor decision after poor decision has resulted in the company’s products – which were the absolute must-have status symbols of an entire generation – being seen now as relics from the distant past. There are holdouts, no doubt, but their number is diminishing every day.

`BlackBerry, the company formerly known as Research in Motion, has had many chances over the past few years to set its course right, but has instead launched one outlandish product after another; trying anything that might work. We liked the unusually shaped Passport (Review | Pictures), but it was never going to be a mass-market success. More recently, the Classic (Review | Pictures) represented a U-turn in strategy to cater to everyone who hated BB10’s touch interface, and the Leap (Review) tried to appeal to budget-minded fans but missed that mark spectacularly.

blackberry_priv_angle2_ndtv.jpgWe now have yet another strategy shift, in the form of the BlackBerry Priv. The company has finally caved to pressure and adopted Android, turning its famous business-first ecosystem into a collection of apps and services. However, priced at Rs. 62,990, this phone has its work cut out for it. Is the Priv finally going to give BlackBerry the success it so badly needs, or is still too little too late?

Look and feel
The Priv immediately feels like a super-premium device, but this is more about its build quality than its looks. At first glance, it doesn’t have the “wow” factor that, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge(Review | Pictures) has, but that changes the instant you flick the screen up to reveal the keyboard. It’s been a really long time since we had anything other than a flat candybar phone to play with, and everything about the mechanism from its sound to its smoothness feels really, viscerally satisfying. It’s way too easy to keep absentmindedly flicking the screen up and down when the phone is in your hands, and at no point did we have even the slightest doubt about the durability of BlackBerry’s design.

The front is nearly all glass, with curved edges on the sides. The screen itself doesn’t curve like the one on the Galaxy S6 Edge; the space to the sides is mostly the screen border. This means there’s no need to strain to read what’s at the screen’s outer edges, but you’ll still have to deal with reflections that are impossible to avoid.

blackberry_priv_left_ndtv.jpgA large BlackBerry logo is placed front and centre above the screen, with a programmable multi-colour notification LED the front camera further to the right. When the screen is off and the phone is plugged in, you’ll see a coloured bar indicating the current charge percentage along the screen’s right edge. Apart from this, there is no real way in which BlackBerry has integrated the curves into its software or user experience.

Beneath the sliding screen is a lip that lets you push it up with one hand. Unfortunately, we often hit the on-screen Android home button when trying to do this. The bottom of the phone’s lower half is thick enough to accommodate the phone’s loudspeaker. The power button is on the left and the volume buttons are on the right.

blackberry_priv_rear_ndtv.jpgThe phone’s rear has a carbon fibre finish which is smooth but still easy to grip. There’s a thick silver ring around the camera lens, which protrudes quite a bit from the rear. The two-tone LED flash is right next to it. The Nano-SIM and microSD trays are located on the top of the phone’s lower half, while the Micro-USB port and 3.5mm socket are on the bottom.

We were concerned about the Priv’s size and weight, especially its balance when open. While not ideal, BlackBerry has done well. What surprised us was that this phone is really uncomfortable to talk on – the protective ridge on top dug into our ears and no amount of adjusting made it any better.

The BlackBerry Priv is a high-end phone with suitably high-end specs, comparable to today’s top performers. Unfortunately, it has launched just weeks before the entire Android world will be refreshed, with every top company expected to launch a new flagship at MWC 2016 in late February. The Priv will look a lot like last year’s news very soon.

That said, the hardware is still quite strong. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, with six CPU cores, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage with the option of up to 2TB more using a microSDXC card, LTE support on Indian frequencies, NFC, GPS, and dual-band Wi-Fi ac. The display measures 5.43 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 1440×2560 pixels.

blackberry_priv_screen_ndtv.jpgThere’s a 3410mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0, but the bundlded charger does not support quick charging. The Micro-USB port on the bottom supports SlimPort accessories such as video output adapters. The camera on the rear has an 18-megapixel sensor, Schneider-Kreuznach optics, a two-tone LED flash, and optical image stabilisation. Video recording goes up to 4K at 30fps. The front camera is only 2 megapixels, so don’t expect great-looking shots or video calls from it.

Software and usage
Rather than fork Android, which other companies have attempted to do, BlackBerry has gone with the whole Google package, apps and all. The Priv runs Android 5.1.1 though a Marshmallow update should be released by the end of March. There are lots of tweaks and modifications, but surprisingly not a custom skin that might replicate the BB10 experience more faithfully. To the casual user, BlackBerry’s involvement in the software of the Priv won’t seem any deeper than other manufacturers go, with just a few preloaded apps and cosmetic touches.

blackberry_priv_android_ndtv.jpgThat said, there are security-centric features under the hood. BlackBerry knows what its enterprise and corporate customers demand – as we’ve been told, the name “Priv” comes from “privilege” and “privacy”. BlackBerry promises that it has “hardened” Android to protect your data and defend against malware and intrusion attempts. An app called DTEK gives you an overview of your security settings and what your apps have been up to.

The first thing you’ll notice on the Android homescreen is the trademark red BlackBerry “splat” badge on app icons, letting you know that you have notifications. While eye-catching, you lose the ability to see how many notifications you have in each app. The badge has also been incorporated into the notifications on the lockscreen and in the pull-down shade: a strip of icons along the top lets you see alerts for each individual app or phone function, and for some reason there is a numerical count next to each one here, even though they’re much smaller.

blackberry_priv_screens1_ndtv.jpgIn addition to widgets and app icons, you can have shortcut icons on the homescreens as well. These are very handy, but could confuse some users. These help you perform specific actions, and have descriptive names such as “Check battery level”, “Turn Wi-Fi on/off”, “Schedule BBM meeting”, and “Text contact”. This still doesn’t quite make up for the relatively sparse selection of quick toggles in the notifications shade.

One very neat feature is that you can call up homescreen widgets related to specific apps by swiping up or down on their icons. This lets you quickly pull up your Chrome favourites or VLC’s playback controls, see messages between you and a particular contact, or even check the contents of your Google Drive. It’s really convenient and lets you avoid cluttering up your homescreens. The app drawer scrolls vertically, and there are tabs for widgets and shortcuts beyond what you choose to have outside on the homescreens.

blackberry_priv_screens2_ndtv.jpgThere’s also a semi-transparent tab on the right, and if you swipe inwards from the edge, you’ll be taken to a screen that shows you your upcoming calendar events, unread messages, to-dos, and favourite contacts. You can turn it off if you like, or swap it to the left. It doesn’t serve very much purpose since it duplicates a lot of other functionality.

You navigate through the OS just as you would any other Android phone. That means BB10’s confusing gestures have thankfully been dispensed with, but also that you don’t get to quickly dip into the BlackBerry Hub to check activity. The hub still exists, but as an app, not a seamless part of the underlying OS. It’s a powerful way to sort through emails and messages, especially if you juggle between multiple accounts and services, and it really does make use of the large screen. However, the floating buttons everywhere are really distracting.

blackberry_priv_version_ndtv.jpgLong-pressing the on-screen Android home button brings up a row of shortcuts to the device-wide search function, Google Now, and the BlackBerry Hub respectively. Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to trigger this accidentally, especially when trying to slide the screen up to reveal the keyboard.

It seems as though BlackBerry put a lot of thought into porting its native experience over to Android, and in some ways it feels as though this is what BB10 should always have been like. Frankly, some of the little touches are so nice that we hope Google steals them and bakes them into Android natively. On the other hand, other manufacturers have done more to take advantage of similar hardware, such as allowing split-screen multitasking or floating windowed apps.

blackberry_priv_top_ndtv.jpgThe keyboard
The Priv’s biggest draw is obviously its keyboard, but there is definitely a bit of a disconnect between the device’s hardware and software when it comes to actually using it, because BlackBerry has tried to cater to its legacy users as well as new ones who are already familiar with Android. You can also assign shortcuts to each letter and activate them just by long-pressing that key, like on any classic BlackBerry. Shortcuts within the Hub also work as expected.

As far as typing comfort goes, the keyboard is excellent. It isn’t as large or spaced out as the legendary Bold series’ keyboards, but it has the right contours and you can get used to it in no time. It flexes a little in the centre, but that won’t slow you down.

blackberry_priv_anglekeyboard_ndtv.jpgThe main problem is the keyboard layout – it has the classic BlackBerry four-line layout with numbers in a block on the left rather than across the top. The Alt key is where you’d expect Shift to be, and Shift is on the bottom row. Enter and Backspace are also in different positions. All this will suit BlackBerry users just fine, but the problem is that this layout is not reflected in the soft keyboard – if you want to just quickly tap something out, you’ll have to use the more standard BB10 layout.

The Priv’s keyboard also gains the trackpad-like abilities which we first saw and loved on the BlackBerry Passport. You can swipe to the left while typing to backspace entire words, and double-tap to move the text cursor around, which are both wonderful features. You can also swipe down to pull up the on-screen Symbols panel, or swipe up to “fling” autocomplete suggestions into your text.

blackberry_priv_right_ndtv.jpgSpeaking of autocomplete, the Priv shows suggestions overlaid on keys when using the soft keyboard (BB10 style) and in a Passport-like bar across the bottom of the screen when using the physical keyboard. This makes other elements on screen jump around when it pops up.

Another thing to consider is that with a standard 16:9 screen, the Priv becomes very, very tall with the keyboard out. BlackBerry has managed to get the balance just right so it isn’t top-heavy, but you will have a tough time reaching for buttons and fields on-screen with your thumbs positioned on the keyboard. You can swipe around to scroll, and sometimes use Enter or Backspace to do things, respectively, but there’s no cursor and no way to select things and navigate around without constantly shifting your hands around. One-handed use is completely out of the question.

blackberry_priv_camera_ndtv.jpgThere are definitely people in this world who still refuse to give up their old QWERTY phones, and many more who have had to settle for a touchscreen but would go back given half a chance. The Android world has been sorely lacking physical keyboards for a long time. BlackBerry might have found itself a profitable niche here, but we’d advise anyone interested in this phone primarily for its keyboard to give it a test run at a store before spending a lot of money on it.

Performance and camera
The BlackBerry Priv handles itself very well, and we wouldn’t have expected anything less considering its pedigree. Day-to-day tasks posed no problem, and we found ourselves much more at ease moving around Android than we ever did with BB10 – though of course BlackBerry loyalists will need time to get used to it. The only problem was that the middle-rear of the phone got hot even when we were doing absolutely mundane things like setting up email accounts.

blackberry_priv_boxlower_ndtv.jpgBenchmark scores were good: we got 60,780 in AnTuTu and 22,271 in Quadrant. 3DMark’s Ice Storm Extreme preset was maxed out, and the Unlimited preset gave us 19,288. Similarly, we saw 24fps in GFXbench which reflected the smooth gameplay we were able to get in 3D titles such as Dead Trigger 2. There’s more than enough horsepower for all your business and road warrior needs.

However, BlackBerry is also touting the Priv’s entertainment capabilities, and in light of that we have to say the screen was great in terms of sharpness, brightness, and colour reproduction. However, reflections on the curved sides made it difficult to enjoy gaming and movies except in darkened rooms. The speaker on the bottom is excellent, pushing loud, rich sound that didn’t distort even at high volumes.

blackberry_priv_camsample_day2_ndtv.jpgblackberry_priv_camsample_day3_ndtv.jpgblackberry_priv_camsample_night1_ndtv.jpg(Tap to see full size images)The camera app is a bit cluttered, and requires multiple taps to do basic things like switching to video recording. We liked the fact that the slide-out keyboard gave us a good grip when taking photos, and the spacebar acts as a shutter too. You get live filters, a panorama mode, a timer, and an option to crop to 1:1 square photos. Picture quality was good, but not especially impressive considering this phone’s status as a flagship. Daytime shots felt a little washed out, and fine details didn’t quite make it when examining photos at full size.The front camera is quite awful, but 4K videos taken with the rear camera looked good.

Battery life was excellent. We ran through at least a day and a half with multiple email and messaging accounts active, a bit of gaming and video playback, and plenty of 4G data usage. Our video loop test lasted for 9 hours, 32 minutes before the Priv needed to shut down.

Will long-time BlackBerry users be happy transitioning to Android, or will they lose what they cherish most? That’s the unfortunate question that anyone still clinging to their Bold or Curve will have to answer for themselves. The Priv isn’t quite the single-minded business tool that its predecessors have been, and while we understand the tradeoff in favour of versatility, the Priv doesn’t do very much that other high-end Android phones don’t already do. The massive advantage of native Android apps makes the Priv more attractive than BB10 devices, but not more so than, for example, the Samsung Galaxy S6 which now costs about half as much. In fact, without today’s conveniences such as a fingerprint reader and a decent front camera, the Priv actually comes across as a little old-school.

blackberry_priv_box_ndtv.jpgFor you to choose to spend Rs. 62,990 on this phone, you’d have to be majorly invested in BlackBerry’s keyboard and promise of security, or just really be a fan of the brand. That also means that there’s very little to tempt those who are perfectly happy with their iPhone or Android phones. The target audience of die-hard BlackBerry fans who are willing and able to afford this much seems like a minority within a minority, and it might not be enough to pull this company back from the brink.

If BlackBerry had trimmed some features and delivered an Android phone with a keyboard at a lower price point, we’d have been far more enthusiastic, and the company might have found itself some new fans. However, everything launched since the Z10 seems pointlessly overpriced, chasing an audience that might not even exist. All predictions of BlackBerry’s demise have thus far not come to pass, but we’re not sure how long that can continue at this rate.

Missed the news? Here’s a list of all phones launched at MWC 2016 on one handy page – or catch our full Mobile World Congress coverage.

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv

R 62990

  • Design

  • Display

  • Software

  • Performance

  • Battery life

  • Camera

  • Value for money

  • Good
  • Physical keyboard
  • Vast Android app ecosystem
  • Fantastic materials and construction
  • Good screen
  • Bad
  • Extremely expensive
  • Weak front camera
  • Slightly unwieldy
  • Lacks many current-day features
Read detailed BlackBerry Priv review
Moto G (3rd Generation)(White, 8 GB)
₹ 9,999
Lenovo Vibe K4 Note (Black) : A70101a48
₹ 11,999
Blackberry Priv
₹ 62,785
Tags: Android, Android Blackberry, Blackberry, Blackberry Priv, Blackberry Priv battery, Blackberry Priv camera,Blackberry Priv features, Blackberry Priv keyboard, Blackberry Priv price, Blackberry Priv price in India,Blackberry Priv review, Blackberry Priv specifications, Blackberry Priv value for money, Priv

Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Deadpool Is the Ultimate Date Movie for Your Bromance

Of late, you’ll find Deadpool just about everywhere, and he’s become one of those characters that even non-comic book fans will recognise. Deadpool also has an excellent video game to his name that manages to mix together humour and mayhem with elan. As a movie character though, he’s had a less successful past – we were first introduced to the character in the (honestly bad) X-Men Origins: Wolverine – where he was played by Ryan Reynolds, who did a fair turn as wisecracking Wade Wilson, and then the film stitches his mouth shut so he can’t speak. It was a really bad decision that soured people on the character.

Yet here we are again, with Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool a second time, in an all-new origin story that actually works really well. This time around, Reynolds’ Wilson gets to keep talking throughout the film, and it’s a good idea because he carries the movie with his non-stop wisecracks. What’s more, Deadpool is true to the comics, and fans of the character – whether they know him from the comics or from the games – will definitely not be disappointed.

deadpool_and_fight.jpgFor Reynolds, who was not just connected with Deadpool’s previous disastrous appearance, but also with 2011’s objectively awful Green Lantern movie, this new version of Deadpool was a shot at redemption, and he’s certainly made the most of the opportunity. The movie, which is written by the same writers as Zombieland, also takes digs at both the earlier Deadpool and Green Lantern through fourth wall breaking jokes. Deadpool’s character has always directly addressed the reader and the movie doesn’t shy away from this, with jokes about actors playing the parts.

As a result though, the film leans very heavily on humour – from the exaggerated jokes in the opening sequence, which is one of the most visually spectacular parts of the film, to the non-stop running of the mouth of most of the characters. Unfortunately, this means that things like plot and narrative take a back seat. Despite that, the movie is well put together, and even if you’ve never heard of Deadpool before, it has a good chance of leaving you laughing and enjoying the movie.

deadpool_and_vanessa.jpgHowever, as anyone who’s seen the Deadpool trailers would know, the humor has a very particular tone. It’s kind of like the “Scary Movie” of superhero movies, where a lot of the jokes are simple references, throwaway nods to the audience to say, “see, we know this cool thing you like,” instead of actually doing anything with the reference, and that can wear a little thin over time. The film also treats violent sociopathy as comedic fodder – much like Zombieland actually – and that can be a hit or miss thing for people as well. If you thought Zombieland was hilarious but could use some more jokes about testicles, then Deadpool hits the sweet spot; and we were definitely laughing, but the humour is not for everyone.

Speaking of not being for everyone – Deadpool has an A rating in India, unlike most of the other superhero films that play it safe for the broader teen audience. As a result, there are some visuals of gore and nudity, along with a lot of language, that you definitely won’t find in other superhero films.Censorship can be an issue in India, but we can confidently say Deadpool film hasn’t been cut to pieces until it loses all sense, and you can definitely watch the movie in the theatres.

deadpool_and_guns.jpgWhether you will enjoy it is a different matter – as we said, the film relies very heavily on humour, and the actual narrative feels a little predictable. The various characters do their parts, and can be quite enjoyable – Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead from the X-Men have small parts through the movie and are enjoyable to see, while sidekick Weasel can be quite funny as well. But although Deadpool keeps joking about being nothing like other superhero movies, the actual film plays out exactly like any other origin story. And while Vanessa might have a scene where she pegs Deadpool, this doesn’t make her a stronger character who’s different from what we’ve seen before either as she doesn’t really have much to do beyond looking beautiful, and becoming a damsel in distress.

There’s a lot that can be said in praise of the movie, from its stylish aesthetic to its enjoyable soundtrack to the fact that the movie is upbeat and funny through its entire run. Ultimately, Deadpool feels like the ultimate date movie for your bromance.


Samsung Gear S2 Review

Samsung Gear S2 Review

The smartwatch concept isn’t exactly new anymore, but it’s not every day that you see one out in the wild. This might be because a lot of people believe that watches need not be smart, while others see them as expensive toys that might be a lot of fun to have, but that no one really needs. Either way, we still get a lot of attention when people spot our fancy smartwatches, and it’s usually interesting looking at the curiosity on people’s faces.

(Also see: You Don’t Need a Smartwatch, But Here’s Why You Should Buy One Nonetheless)

Although there have been plenty of launches by smaller companies, such as the Intex iRist and Wickedleak Alpha, the market is still dominated by Pebble, Android Wear, the Apple Watch, and Samsung’s Gear range of devices. Predominantly Tizen-powered, the Gear range is responsible for some truly innovative and path-breaking products, including the Samsung Gear Live and originalGalaxy Gear. Up next from the Korean electronics giant is the new Samsung Gear S2, which was launched alongside the Gear S2 Classic.

Running on Tizen OS, the Rs. 24,300 Samsung Gear S2 has a lot going for it. It’s compatible with Samsung and non-Samsung Android smartphones, and has an innovative rotating bezel that helps users navigate around the interface. Whether it has what it takes to bring more people into the smartwatch fold is the million-dollar question, and one we hope to answer with our review.

samsung_gear_s2_main_ndtv.jpgDesign and display
There’s no doubt that round smartwatches look better, and Samsung has gone with that train of thought for the Gear S2. It’s Samsung’s first smartwatch with a round dial and screen, and looks absolutely fantastic. The casing of the watch is primarily metal, which gives it a solid, premium feel. The grey version (our review sample) is beautiful to look at, thanks to its dull finish and modern styling. This is a smartwatch that achieves the perfect balance between looking like a traditional wristwatch and a piece of modern electronics, thanks to its futuristic look and feel.

Another area in which the Gear S2 trumps other options is its perfectly round screen. Although the stunning Moto 360 (2nd Gen) is also round, otherwise beautiful design is marred considerably by the ‘flat tire’ at the bottom of the screen. The Gear S2 has no such problem, and the entire look is boosted considerably by the quality of the screen itself. The 1.2-inch 360×360 pixel Amoled screen is incredibly sharp, with realistic colours and black levels that are by far the best we’ve seen on a smartwatch. Although not quite as bright as we’d like, the S2 does get fairly bright and isn’t quite as bad under direct sunlight as we were expecting.

One of the key differentiators between the Gear S2 and other smartwatches is the rotating bezel controller. The dial rotates in both directions to let you navigate around the interface, moving from screen to screen. Turning it quickly can get you to the far end of the menu fairly quickly, and this naturally makes navigation simple. The bezel itself offers excellent tactile feedback as well, and it makes using the watch so much easier and more intuitive. This is a much better option than using the touchscreen to move about.

samsung_gear_s2_buttons_ndtv.jpgOn the right side of the watch are the home and back buttons. The lower button doubles up as the power button when long-pressed, and also brings up the app menu when short-pressed. Selections are made by tapping the screen, so the use of the buttons was fairly limited for us. The microphone is located between them and can be used to give voice commands to the S Voice app, or dictate voice replies to text messages.

The strap that is included by default with the Samsung Gear S2 is made out of rubber. Although it is detachable, it’s a proprietary design and only straps made especially for the Gear S2 will fit onto the watch. If this is a problem for you, we suggest you go for the Samsung Gear S2 Classic, which comes with a detachable leather strap and allows for standard 20mm straps to be fitted. Apart from this, the differences between the S2 and S2 Classic are purely aesthetic. The former is larger and slightly heavier with a modern and smooth look, while the latter looks more traditional, with a patterned rotating bezel and traditional lugs.

The back of the Gear S2 has the heart-rate sensor, along with some basic branding and regulatory text. The releases for the strap clamps are also here, and the entire watch weighs a rather comfortable 47g, with a thickness of 11.4mm. The rubber strap goes well with the IP68 water resistance, which means you don’t have to worry about taking the watch for a swim or getting it a bit wet in the rain or wash basin, though you should avoid doing so as much as possible. On the whole, the Samsung Gear S2 is comfortable to wear and use.

samsung_gear_s2_back_ndtv.jpgApps and watch faces
The smartwatch uses the Samsung Gear app to control and maintain the connection between the watch and the smartphone. The app itself is plain and functional, allowing you to change watch faces, control notifications, change other settings, reorder the app screen layout, remotely control the watch, and send music and photos to its internal storage. You can also use the app to access the Samsung Gear App Store, which has the current catalogue of apps that can be used with the watch.

A couple of key issues that we had with the app store were the fact that its default language is Hindi in India, and we found no way to change this. We assume this is because the store relies on your location to set the language, but it was disappointing that it couldn’t be manually changed to English. Although we are able to read Hindi and could navigate around the store, it’s silly for Samsung to assume that everyone will be okay with this.

samsung_gear_s2_notifications_ndtv.jpgThe store itself is bare in terms of quality apps, since Tizen doesn’t have anywhere near as many as Android Wear. Of the existing roster, a large number are paid, which won’t go down well with customers who have already paid a substantial amount for the watch. Most of the available apps are watch faces, and a lot of these seemed poorly designed and tacky to us. Essentially, there’s very little on offer in terms of third-party apps, but most of what you need is already in place.

Nike Running, ESPN, HERE Maps, CNN and Bloomberg do come pre-installed on the watch, although a couple of these require you to install companion apps on your paired smartphone. You can also initiate calls directly from the watch, although you won’t be able to use it to communicate directly, because of its lack of a speaker.

Samsung’s own watch faces are good, though, and the faces that are pre-installed on the watch are beautiful. There are also specialised faces for the Nike Running, ESPN, CNN, and Bloomberg apps which push information straight to the face itself, such as fitness information, news or sports scores. There are also a few faces designed by Italian design house Atelier Mendini, which have a bit of artistic flair. Our personal favourite was Samsung’s default basic face, as it went best with the modern look of the Gear S2.

samsung_gear_s2_music_ndtv.jpgSpecifications, software, and performance
The Samsung Gear S2 is powered by a dual-core Exynos 3250 SoC, which has been built specifically for Samsung’s wearables. The watch also features Bluetooth 4.1, NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity, plus 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage (only 1.9GB is user-accessible) and a 250mAh battery. The device has an accelerometer, gyroscope heart rate monitor, barometer, and ambient light sensor, and is available in two colour options: grey and silver. Certain functions such as setting up Wi-Fi on the watch will require manual inputs, and the watch pops up an on-screen T9 keyboard in those situations, which is fairly easy to use despite its size. Other inputs can be made using voice recognition.

Samsung has been using the Tizen operating system to power most of its wearables for a while now, and the Gear S2 uses the latest version. There are some visual and functional similarities between Tizen and Android Wear, but it’s fresh. The primary difference between the two is the fact that Tizen has a circular interface, while Wear usually moves vertically, with horizontal swipes to move within individual apps or screens. The circular aspect goes well with a round smartwatch and also works well with the rotating bezel for navigation.

Swiping down from the watch face/home screen shows you battery level and connection mode, as well as controls for music, Do Not Disturb mode and brightness settings. To the right of the watch face are apps and controls, while the left has unread notifications, which disappear if you swipe them away on the watch or open them on your phone.

Default apps include the step counter, schedule, weather, music controller, heart-rate monitor and fitness tracker. You can also add the Flipboard-powered news widget, calendar, alarm, S Health and world clock, as well as shortcuts for apps installed on the watch. The full app screen also has all the apps within easy reach.

samsung_gear_s2_heartrate_ndtv.jpgTapping launches an app, after which scrolling and movement can be done either using swipes or the bezel. This is admittedly far better than the way Android Wear handles navigation, and it’s surprisingly easy to get used to. The apps that are pre-installed on the Gear S2 are excellent, and beautifully designed for the device. Fitness fans will like the fact that the watch has fairly accurate sensors for counting steps, measuring heart rate, and tracking activity.

There’s also a function where the watch buzzes you if you’ve been sitting still for too long, to remind you to take a short stroll. The heart-rate sensor can also be set to automatically measure your pulse at set intervals without you knowing, thereby giving you regular readings which can be seen and analysed on the S Health app. The app also shows you information on steps taken and activities, including sleep tracking.

The Samsung Gear S2 is currently compatible only with Android smartphones running Android 4.4 and above with at least 1.5GB of RAM, although the minimum requirements are relaxed slightly to Android 4.3 if you have a Samsung device. Certain features such as Message, Email, and Samsung Pay are only available on Samsung smartphones. The company has also announced that iOS support for the Gear S2 is on its way, but this won’t be till later this year.

samsung_gear_s2_charging_ndtv.jpgWe used an HTC One (M8) running Android 6.0 as the connected phone for the duration of the review, and most of the Gear S2’s functions worked well. However, there were occasional connectivity issues, with the watch sometimes losing its pairing with the phone. At other times, the Music app refused to properly control music playing on the phone, but these issues were usually resolved by restarting the watch. The Gear S2 isn’t anywhere near as unstable as Android Wear devices when it comes to maintaining its connection, and general performance is zippy and smooth.

Battery life is comparable to Android Wear devices, running for about two days on a full charge. This is one of the biggest problems with smartwatches, but one that cannot be fixed without reducing the features or aesthetics of the watch. Charging is quick and convenient, as the Gear S2 uses a wireless charging cradle, similar to the one we saw with the Moto 360 and Moto 360 (2nd Gen). You simply drop the watch onto the cradle, and it starts charging. The cradle has a notification light that lets you know that the watch is charging or if the charge is complete, which is useful.

Samsung tries a lot of new ideas when it comes to electronics, and many of its projects have turned out really well. The Korean company has seen success with its smartphones, tablets and TVs already, and has now cracked the budding smartwatch segment with the Gear S2. It’s beautifully designed, has a superb screen, performs well and has a lot to offer for everyone. It is, in our opinion, the best smartwatch you can buy today.

However, it currently has a rather poor list of supported apps, has slight issues with connectivity, and is relatively expensive at Rs. 24,300. As with other flagship Samsung products, you’re paying a serious premium for the quality on offer, and for this reason the Samsung Gear S2 is not for everyone. If you can afford it and use an Android smartphone, this is the smartwatch we suggest you buy. It’s absolute magic on your wrist.

Price (MRP): Rs. 24,300


  • Beautiful, solid design
  • Superb screen
  • Rotating bezel is awesome
  • Tizen interface
  • Decent watch faces


  • Poor selection of apps
  • Minor connectivity issues
  • Expensive

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 4.5
  • Performance: 4.5
  • Value for money: 2.5
  • Overall: 4


Moto X Force Review

Moto X Force Review

Smartphone screens are brittle, expensive, and downright depressing when broken. We’ve heard countless stories of how the smallest drop has shattered a screen, followed by the heartbreak of having to shell out a lot of money for repairs and then having to live with a ‘fixed’ smartphone. According to Motorola’s own statistics, 51 percent of smartphone users have shattered or cracked their display at some point.

Manufacturers have tried to do their part to make such damage less upsetting for customers, such asSamsung’s offer of a one-time screen replacement during the first year of purchase. Additionally, Apple may soon accept phones with broken screens as part of its trade-in program. While these may be some consolation to victims of a broken screen, why not dream of better?

That’s where the Rs. 49,999 Moto X Force comes in. The phone comes with what the company calls a ‘ShatterShield’ display, and Motorola assures buyers that the screen of the phone is ‘shatterproof’. It’s designed to take a pounding, including being dropped onto solid surfaces from heights and at angles that would result in gaping cracks through a typical smartphone’s screen, and shivers down the spines of the owners of said smartphones. Motorola further backs up the guarantee with a four-year warranty on the display, which covers accidental damage. And above all, this is a flagship smartphone with all the bells and whistles you’d expect to see. We review the ‘unbreakable’ Motorola Moto X Force.

(Also see: The Moto X Force Shouldn’t Exist in 2016)

Look and feel
Motorola’s current lineup of smartphones tends to stick to a formulaic look, and the Moto X Force follows this trend. The Moto X name now has four current-generation models: the Moto X (2nd Gen),Moto X Play, Moto X Style and Moto X Force. All of them have similar aesthetics and styling. However, the Moto X Force, being the flagship, has a bit more going on than the rest.

The key differences are visible at the back, with the ‘ballistic nylon’ rear panel that we first saw on last year’s Moto Turbo (Review | Pictures). One key advantage of this is that the phone’s back panel is effectively scratch-proof, and it also looks rather good. Near the top are the camera, flash, and the Motorola logo. It’s a beautiful look that goes well with the rest of the device.

Although the edges feel a bit sharp, the Moto X Force is still easy to hold, thanks to the natural grip that the nylon back offers. However, thanks to the large screen and heavy frame, the device feels unwieldy and is hard to use with one hand.

moto_x_force_back_ndtv.jpgThe frame is entirely metal, and feels rather solid and sturdy. On the right are the power and volume keys, the bottom has the Micro-USB port and some regulatory text, while the top has the Nano-SIM and microSD tray, and 3.5mm socket. The front has two speaker grilles at the bottom, along with the flash, earpiece, and front camera at the top. There are no capacitive soft keys, with the phone relying on on-screen keys instead, similar to the current Nexus range of smartphones. There is also no fingerprint sensor, which may be a put-off for many users, considering the price of the Moto X Force.

The display of the phone is a 5.4-inch, 1440×2560-pixel Amoled screen, with a 540ppi density and 69.8 percent screen-to-body ratio at the front. It has a slightly warm tone to it, but is brilliant when it comes to colours and brightness. Black levels are truly fantastic, and the phone tends to bring out the best in high-resolution videos. As expected, it’s also incredibly sharp, and it’s hard to detect individual pixels even when looking at it up close. At this price though, we’d expect no less.

moto_x_force_position2_ndtv.jpgWe now come to the key feature of the Moto X Force, the ‘shatterproof’ display. The display is made with a rigid aluminium core, flexible Amoled screen, and dual touch panel layers (which is a redundancy in case one goes bad). Along with the solid metal frame, this gives the phone the protection it needs to prevent the screen from shattering when dropped or put under pressure. We tested the durability of the screen thoroughly, and despite multiple drops at different angles and from different heights, it indeed did not shatter. The Moto X Force is also water-resistant and can handle getting a bit wet. We’re happy to say that Motorola has put its money where its mouth is with this one.

However, let’s be completely clear that while the screen indeed seems ‘unbreakable’, the rest of the phone is not built for excessive abuse. The frame scuffs easily, and too many drops may even dislodge the nylon panel at the rear. We also started hearing some minor distortion from the speaker that we hadn’t heard earlier. Although the majority of the components inside the phone are solid-state and can take some abuse, that doesn’t mean that the phone in its entirety is indestructible, and reasonable care is still advised. Having said that, it’s still one of the more durable, hardy, and solid phones we’ve ever used.

moto_x_force_side_ndtv.jpgSpecifications and software
When a smartphone costs nearly Rs. 50,000, there are some obvious expectations from the specifications sheet which the Moto X Force does live up to, with top-end innards. Powering the smartphone is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC, which is currently Qualcomm’s flagship smartphone SoC. There’s also 3GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. Keep in mind that the 64GB option costs a bit more at Rs. 53,999, and that you can add expandable storage up to a theoretical 2TB, although the current highest capacity for microSD cards is 200GB.

The single-SIM smartphone also supports 4G connectivity, with support for the FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE bands currently used by operators in India. The phone has a non-removable 3760mAh battery, and comes with a massive 25W charger. Along with Qualcomm’s Fast Charge technology, this ensures that the phone can go from zero to 100 percent in less than an hour, which is incredibly useful. The only issue we had with the charger is that it doesn’t have a detachable USB cable, so you’ll need a separate cable to connect the Moto X Force to a PC. The phone also supports wireless charging, but you’ll need to buy a separate accessory for this. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC. The phone is truly fully loaded and fairly future-proof.

moto_x_force_main2_ndtv.jpgThe Moto X Force runs Android 5.1.1 out of the box, with Motorola’s slightly tweaked version of stock Android on top. This is a major disappointment, as users would expect a company like Motorola to launch its newest flagship phone with the latest version of Android. Although we can expect software updates, there’s no official word on when just yet. The user interface is pretty much identical to stock Lollipop, although updating the default Google Now Launcher brings a few Marshmallow-esque changes to the interface.

Update, February 21: Our Moto X Force review unit has received the over-the-air update to Android 6.0, and is now running the latest version of the operating system. Changes include Doze Mode, app standby, links and permissions, the abiltiy to use expandable storage as internal memory, Now on Tap, Do Not Disturb Mode and more.

Just like on the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, the software and interface is bare bones and free of too many frills. This helps in performance and the Moto X Force is an absolute flier and a pleasure to use. The only real differences compared to stock Android are Motorola’s small additions to the software, including the Connect app which lets you use the phone with Motorola accessories and connected devices, dedicated apps for gallery and messaging, and the excellent Moto app which controls the Moto Voice, Moto Display, and Moto Actions tools.

moto_x_force_main3_ndtv.jpgOnce set up, you can configure the phone to react to a customised voice command, which will bring up the voice assistant. This can be used to tell the phone to do anything, from carrying out Google searches to placing calls, sending messages and opening particular apps. Voice recognition is fantastic, and the app works excellently. Additionally, you can give voice commands even from standby mode, and this makes the phone incredibly easy to use without using your hands.

You can also set up Assist, which uses the phone’s sensors to understand when you’re sleeping or driving, and optimise you phone during those activities. It can additionally be set to recognise certain actions to trigger the flashlight or camera, or to activate Moto Display when you reach for the phone. Moto Display itself is excellent, making use of the Amoled screen to only partially activate and show you your notifications without having to unlock the phone. All of these actions work perfectly to trigger their functions, and this makes the Moto X Force unbelievably intuitive and easy to use.

The Moto X Force has a 21-megapixel primary camera with dual-tone LED flash and variable focus, and 5-megapixel front camera with single-tone LED flash and fixed focus. The rear camera can record up to 4K-resolution video at 30fps, while the front camera records up to full-HD resolution video. The rear camera is also capable of recording slow-motion video at 720p.

The camera app is a bit tricky to use, because of what we feel is an over-simplification of its functions. There is no dedicated capture button; instead, you simply tap anywhere on screen or press one of the volume keys to capture photos. Buttons in the bottom corners allow you to switch between the front and rear camera, and shoot video. There are no other controls on screen, but you can bring up some controls by swiping from left to right. This menu allows you to control HDR, flash, focus and exposure, picture ratio and video resolution, among other things. Swiping from right to left brings up the gallery, while swiping up and down control the zoom. We often accidentally triggered the shutter when we were trying to swipe or attempting to control focus and exposure, and a lack of optical image stabilisation meant that we had to compose our shots very carefully and often shoot in burst mode to get good results.

moto_x_force_camerashot2_ndtv.jpg(Tap to see full-sized image)The camera itself is great, provided you’ve taken the trouble to compose the shot properly and kept your hand stable. Even a bit of movement has a tendency to ruin pictures, so careful shooting is advised. Once you get it right, the Moto X Force will produce some excellent images that are sharp, detailed and bright, with vibrant colours. The front camera also takes good pictures, and the presence of a flash makes it possible to get great selfies even in dark spaces.

Videos are excellent no matter what mode you shoot in, and 4K and slow-motion video are both naturally entertaining to watch. Low-light pictures are decent as well, and close-ups are among the best we’ve seen. The camera is pretty much on par with that of the Nexus 6P, and is only brought down by the trickiness of the software and the need for a steady hand.

moto_x_force_camerashot1_ndtv.jpgmoto_x_force_camerashot3_ndtv.jpg(Tap to see full-sized images)Performance
Considering that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC is one of the best in the world, performance on the Moto X Force is fantastic. As previously stated, the bare bones interface and performance-tuned software play a large part in this, as does the 3GB of RAM. Whether it’s loading web pages, playing games or running heavily encoded videos, the Moto X Force performs flawlessly. Resource-heavy apps such as the camera, popular social media platforms, Whatsapp and Netflix work perfectly well. Overall, we felt that the Moto X Force didn’t quite perform as well as the Nexus 6P, but it certainly came close.

moto_x_force_bottom_ndtv.jpgBenchmark scores are incredibly high as well, with the Moto X Force registering scores of 81,822 and 36,667 in AnTuTu and Quadrant respectively. These scores are considerably higher than those of the Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Review | Pictures), and are slightly higher than the similarly-specced LeEco Le Max (Review | Pictures) managed too. GFX Bench and 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited also returned high scores of 40fps and 24,698 respectively.

The Moto X Force has a strong antenna, and is capable of holding onto both Wi-Fi and 4G networks with ease, where other phones struggled. Call quality was superb as well, as was audio performance through both headphones and the internal speakers. However, the stereo effect was slightly lacking, as the speakers are next to each other. Battery life is excellent as well, with the phone running for 14 hours, 42 minutes in our video loop test. Even in day to day use, the battery would easily last through the day despite heavy use which included 4G connectivity.

The Moto X Force is undeniably a force to reckon with among smartphones. This is a powerhouse of a smartphone with good looks, a superb screen, great performance and an excellent camera. Above all, it has a killer feature that’s currently exclusive to it: the Moto X Force’s display is truly shatterproof, and as a result, the phone can take a pounding like no other. If you have a habit of dropping your phone often or have had to deal with expensive mobile phone repair bills in the past, you should seriously consider the Moto X Force.

Unfortunately, these features come at a considerable price. Despite the obvious advantages of shatter-proof construction and the high-end specifications and performance, Rs. 50,000 is far too much money to pay for an Android smartphone. Additionally, the lack of dual-SIM connectivity and a fingerprint sensor may be a put-off to many, so the Moto X Force isn’t quite as perfect as it seems. However, it’s still one of the most innovative and interesting smartphones we’ve used, and one that fully lives up to its claims.

Moto X Force in pictures