Tag Archives: etisalat

On Galaxy Note II

The Note started as a controversy, but in the end, it was a resounding success. Contrary to many initial reactions, people actually liked the big screen. More than 10 million were sold. I’ve been using the Note for over 8 months and was constantly asking myself, is it even possible to come up with a better phone? Turns out, it is. Welcome the Samsung Galaxy Note II.

Yes, it is!

Thanks to It’s About Gadgets by Etisalat, I got the chance to use the new monster for a week. And, ugh, I forgot to take any photos or screenshots, so all the photos in the posts will be stolen ones from the interwebs.

The initial reaction when I got the Note 2? This guy is fast! Of course, it goes without saying that Note 2 is one of the fastest phones currently on the market (specs here, comparison with Note here). With a quad-core 1.6GHz Exynos processor and 2GB RAM, it’s got more power than my previous laptop. The transitions are pretty slick. Could play Max Payne without any lag whatsoever. Note that (no pun intended) I tried everything in the stock TouchWiz launcher and without many third-party apps running in the background, so yeah, you get my point.

Samsung Galaxy Note II

Jelly Bean comes pre-installed in Note 2 with better camera, actionable notifications and all. (Even though the Note comes with Gingerbread, it’s upgradeable to Jelly Bean.) There’s this pop-up video player thingy and other fancy apps.

All the nonsense aside, let’s talk about the size. The Note’s screen was 5.3″, whereas it’s 5.5″ in Note 2. However, it’s less wide than the Note. Which means it feels better in the hand. Several of my friends who hated the original Note’s dimensions said they like the new design. Then how come the bigger screen? Yes, Note 2 is longer than the Note. It’s like some idiot took the Note and pulled it from either side. This has made the resolution to go down to 720×1280 (as opposed to 800×1280 in the Note). And less pixel density. I personally prefer what it was like in the original Note.

Note 2 (on the left) vs the Note

S-Pen functionality is much better with the Note 2. There’s some kind of sensor in the S-Pen slot, so when you take it out or put it back in, the phone knows. Taking the stylus out automatically takes you to a screen with many S-Pen-capable apps. Also a notification icon appears in the top bar saying that the pen is not on the slot, reducing the chances of losing it (as happened with my Note. Had to buy a replacement and it wasn’t cheap). It detects when you hover the pen above the screen as well. For example, if you hover the pen over the pictures in the Gallery (or events in the calendar), they will quickly zoom in and zoom out once you move the pen away. And stuff.

Hovering the pen over Video Player’s progress bar

Regardless of how much I hate the new screen and the dimensions, I prefer the Note 2 to Note. I would buy if I could. Apparently you’d be able to grab one from Etisalat itself in a few days. And there’s this small video interview I had with them about Note 2 which will be available in their Youtube channel in a few days.

UPDATE: Here’s my interview with Amitha on the Note II.

BookHub.lk – Sri Lanka finally gets an ebook store

Bookhub.lk banner

Bookhub.lk was launched two days back, and Sri Lanka has finally got a proper ebook store. Proper I say because the project is backed by two giants: Etisalat from the mobile world and M.D.Gunasena from the book industry. There have been previous attempts like pothpath.lk (which isn’t a store after all), but Bookhub is fortunate enough to have the backing of good sponsors.

Even though initiated by Etisalat, the books aren’t restricted to its users. You have to visit the bookhub.lk website and register for an account to purchase books. You can either pay with your credit card or Etisalat credit. Then you open up the bookhub e-reader app (which is only available for android for the moment, but apparently a PC edition and an iOS edition are on the way), and download the purchased books to the device. And you’re good to go.

The downloaded ebooks reside in their own directories with separate files for content, styles, images and meta data. The content is in OPF files, so if you zip such a directory and rename it as an ePub you’ll be able to read the book with any e-reading app or device. This also means that there’s no DRM and you can share the books with anyone once downloaded.

And talking about the android app, it sucks (see footnote). The user interface isn’t friendly and the menu options don’t work. You have to enter login details every time to download the books (so please choose an easy-to-type password while registering). Text rendering isn’t perfect, but readable. When you touch the edge of the screen to flip through the pages, several pages turn instead of one. I emailed the developers yesterday about this but still they haven’t replied. Later I learned that I can properly flip the pages if I touch the screen very… gently and take the finger back asap. It’s like a beta app; or an alpha one rather.

Main interface
Main interface of the app
Downloading books
Purchased books can be downloaded in one tap
alice in wonderland
Alice in Wonderland. Text rendering isn't perfect but readable.
Aladin. It's not just text.
Dhaaraa. The only book I'm going to read from the available ones.

The store only has about 25 books for the moment, some Sinhala ones and some English. There will be tamil ones in the future as well. As for the English ones, all the books currently available there are ones from the public domain. Pride and Prejudice costs 400 rupees, which is ridiculous. You can get it for free from Project Gutenberg.

Regardless of the shortcomings in the app and the current state of the book store, the project is likely to be a success. The Etisalat website reports,

The content will go beyond novels, potentially including any locally published material such as educational publications, magazines, children’s books, religious texts, business journals, etc. Going forward the parties involved also commented on the possibility of adding newspapers and school textbooks to the eBook store.

This is likely to fill a huge gap by making local books available for the digital media and and the userbase will most probably grow once the store is able to boast of a considerable amount of titles. I just hope the prices wouldn’t make it cheaper to buy the paperbacks.

P.S. I almost forgot the most important piece of information: all the books currently in the store are available for free for the week starting from Monday, 26th of March. So hurry up and grab if you’d like to give the service a try.

EDIT: Just hours after this blog post, the Bookhub.lk android app had been updated. Several issues have been fixed. It now remembers your login credentials. Page turning is less buggy now. There are still many lags and quirks, hope they’d get fixed soon as well.