Saturday 16 December 2017

Digital Life: Rumours of the Facebook phone are greatly exaggerated

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The internet was ablaze with rumours earlier this year that Facebook was on the brink of unveiling its own phone, a handset that would conquer the world the way the social network already has.

But like much online scuttlebutt, the truth was rather more mundane. Facebook was merely co-operating with several manufacturers to make phones with deeper integration of social networking. Head honcho Mark Zuckerberg promised instead there would be dozens of "Facebook phones" this year.

The first cab off the rank is the new HTC ChaCha, an Android phone, which bears more than a passing resemblance to a BlackBerry except for the subtle little Facebook button below the full QWERTY keyboard.

In most ways, it's a typical Android -- slick, attractive and smart. The keypad is one of the best of its kind, making slamming out a quick message a cinch.

But HTC chose a landscape-shaped screen instead of the usual portrait orientation, which noticeably hampers how much information can be seen at one time. It's a problem that affects everything from web pages to, ironically, browsing Facebook.

And what of the much-vaunted social-networking features? Excellent keyboard aside, it amounts to little more than one-click access to posting status updates or sharing photos via the dedicated FB button. That's hardly enough to justify calling it a "Facebook phone" by my reckoning.

The ChaCha will please keen texters and Facebook addicts, but there are better Android smartphones out there. It costs €80 on an 18-month O2 contract, or €260 on pre-pay.

In an overcrowded camera market, it takes a lot to stand out these days. When you pick up the Canon EOS 1100D camera, it's instantly forgettable on aesthetic grounds. Bulky, black and a bit bland, like many of its stablemates in the semi-pro SLR market, the 1100D wins no beauty contests.

A starter model aimed at amateur snappers looking to a step up a level, the Canon does its talking where it counts -- in the quality of its pictures.

It ticks all the usual boxes at this grade -- high-def video, LCD preview screen, etc -- and attempts to be a little more user-friendly than other Canon models.

But press that shutter and the resulting images are where the 1100D earns its stripes. Excellent performance in low light (up to 6400 ISO) and superb quality in normal conditions give it a leg-up over rivals from the likes of Nikon.

At €600 with an 18-55mm lens, it's no casual purchase, and if you're a complete novice you might be better off with the cheaper Nikon D3100. But in the right hands, the Canon's pictures are worth it.

Irish Independent

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