At the start of 2011 Samsung unveiled the latest in a long line of affordable smartphones called the Galaxy Ace. Now a year later the Galaxy Ace Plus has arrived, improving a few features and refreshing the software to make an impact in 2012.
The Galaxy Ace Plus is still very much targeted towards the more affordable end of the market, but a year is a long time in the fast paced mobile industry, so you get quite a lot for your money with this model. It features a 3.65 inch touch screen display with a resolution of 320×480 and a 1GHz processor, both of which are better than the equivalents you would find on the original Galaxy Ace.
On the rear of the Galaxy Ace Plus you will find a five megapixel camera and flash while storing all of your photos, videos and apps will be possible thanks to the ample onboard memory capacity of 3GB, which is surprisingly generous given that many budget smartphones are lacking in this area. There is a microSD memory card slot should you wish to make the Galaxy Ace Plus even more cavernous when it comes to storage.
Android 2.3 is preinstalled on the Galaxy Ace Plus and Samsung has given this operating system a lick of fresh paint with its own TouchWiz user interface, so you can customise the homescreens with various useful widgets and quickly access the apps which you use most regularly. Given the hardware components of this model it is unlikely that Samsung will upgrade it to run Android 4.0, but for most users this will not really be much of an issue as it already offers more functions that you might normally expect.
Connectivity comes in the form of Wi-Fi and 3G for fast web browsing along with Bluetooth 3.0 for linking the phone to your peripherals and GPS for geotagging photos and other loc ation-based services.
It is perhaps worth pointing out that while the screen may be of a decent size, measuring in at a little larger than top end models like the iPhone 4S, the resolution may slightly let down the Samsung Galaxy Ace Plus because it is going to afford a little less clarity than certain rivals. However, Samsung has its sights set on capturing the attention of the budget conscious user who has been scoping out deals on HTC mobiles like the Wildfire S, by making the Galaxy Ace Plus look more attractive when stacked up against comparable competition.
Amazon has held sway over the eBook Reader market for some time thanks to the popularity of its Kindle devices, now it has entered the tablet market to take on Apple with its Kindle Fire. This is an Android-based tablet which is half the price of the bog standard Wi-Fi only iPad 2 and so from the point of view of affordability it looks like Amazon has won the battle. However, there is much more to the Kindle Fire than its price and an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base will not part with their cash based on costs alone.
Many similarities have been rightly drawn between the Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and the BlackBerry Playbook. Both have seven inch touchscreen displays with crisp resolutions. Both have a chunky black bezel surrounding the screen, although the Kindle Fire`s display is actually aligned slightly off-centre when you give it close scrutiny. Both are about 420 grams in weight, although the Amazon offering does pip the BlackBerry to the post in this respect. Dual core 1GHz processors are also found in each. However, with no integrated cameras and a different operating system the Kindle Fire will not feel all that similar to the Playbook once you turn on the power.
Android 2.3 is the platform which Amazon has chosen to use in tandem with the Kindle Fire. Anyone with an interest in the mobile market will realise that this is actually Google`s smartphone software, rather than being the tablet-specific Android 3.0 that you can find on the likes of the Motorola Xoom. However, Amazon has done so much work to Android 2.3 that it is barely recognisable and thus does not suffer because of its roots on much smaller gadgets.
The interface of the Kindle Fire is mostly built around the idea that it can act as a storefront for various products and services from Amazon. It is easy to browse and download books, games, music and videos direct to the tablet, many of which will require payment of some kind. Since the Android Market is not accessible you can only choose from apps and programs which Amazon approves, although this is not as much of a limiting factor as it might initially seem, particularly when you consider just how cheaply you are getting hold of this high end hardware.
Icons, apps and services are assigned to a carousel which replaces the traditional Android home screen setup on the Kindle Fire. Dragging your way around the carousel feels intuitive and it is filled with content which you have accessed recently and regularly, so it should always be easy to find your favourite function.
With built-in Wi-Fi connectivity the Kindle Fire will let you browse the internet on the Amazon Silk program, although there is no 3G option which might have given users more freedom to travel and surf even if it increased the basic price of the device.