Garmin announce portable Head Up Display

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

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Today Garmin have launched a very interesting product, although before you get too excited there are a couple of issues; firstly, it’s not actually for sale yet, it’s likely to arrive in the UK around September October time, and although it’s not yet guaranteed to come to the UK, I think it is quite likely to arrive as even Garmin UK have been talking about it.

The Head Up Display is portable, although more on that later, and assuming you have the right SatNav software on your smartphone, will display turn information (lane assist), distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, and estimated time of arrival. It looks like it may also be able to warn you of upcoming speed cameras and traffic too.

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At something like £80 – £130 it won’t come cheap, but will offer two modes of operation; you can attach a reflective film to your windscreen for the best effect, but if you swap cars a lot, it will also come with a reflective lens panel (as above; there’s quite a large bezel to this, which is a shame, but a small price to pay). It appears to need constant power, but the power cord includes a USB port for connecting your phone charger to, allowing you to only need one power socket in the car. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, Android device or even your Windows Phone, although your choice of SatNav software is limited; on iPhone you can use Garmin’s StreetPilot for iPhone or NAVIGON for iPhone whereas for Android and Windows Phone you are limited to only NAVIGON. Finally, it will auto adjust the brightness depending on the conditions.

I like this device. Given Garmin already have Bluetooth built into many of their hardware devices (for both handsfree calling and their Ecoroute HD product), I hope they are able to add support into their hardware devices for the HUD, but even so, this does look like an interesting product even if you can only use it with your smartphone.

We’ll provide more information closer to release time.


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Will 2013 bring more integration in gadgets?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Above is the new Canon Powershot-N camera, an interesting camera as it’s designed as an any-way-up camera, due to the square nature of the camera (although the screen only tilts upwards and technically it’s not quite square!). The any-way-up operation is achieved by two rings around the lens, one acting as the zoom ring, and the other the shutter button. Unless the information displayed on the screen also spins though, I suspect the majority of pictures will still be taken with the camera in the conventional position.

However, instead of including a GPS module within the camera (as Canon started to on their higher end models last year), they have used the WiFi link that you can establish between the camera and your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android only supported) to feed the camera with the gps location information from the smartphone / tablet instead. This WiFi link also allows you to easily transfer the pictures to your device, and then onwards onto Social Media sites, and photo sharing sites (the Canon Image Gateway offers 10GB of personal storage, and the software has a direct upload to Facebook option, but I suspect once the picture is on the smartphone / tablet there will be plenty of ways of getting the picture onto other sites via the OS or specific applications for those sites). To top off the range of new features, the device can be charged via USB (historically Canon cameras have needed the battery to be removed and placed into a charger, so providing in camera charging is also something I’m glad to see).

With a 8x optical zoom, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, and only measuring 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm (when lens retracted), yet still supporting Full HD video recording, this is an interesting new device which will be available in Black or White when it’s released in April around £270.

For completeness, I should mention that this same GPS integration is available on a range of other new Canon products announced this week (the Canon IXUS 140 and Canon PowerShot 3500IS in particular), in fact, what’s interesting is that you may not even need to maintain the link throughout the day whilst shooting your pictures, as Canon say “At the end of each day, Wi-Fi can be activated to pair the captured images on the camera with the location data recorded from the smartphone.”

Also announced today are two new Garmin EDGE cycling trip recorders, the Garmin EDGE 510 and Garmin EDGE 810 cycling devices. By utilising the Garmin Mobile Connect app, these devices are capable of additionally supporting live tracking, social media sharing and real-time weather updates as well as the more traditional functions of accurately track speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, ascent and descent (and supporting heart rate monitors and other ANT+ sports devices such as speed / cadence sensors). The Garmin EDGE 810 would be my preferred device, as it additionally supports the ability to load maps onto the device, which can either be obtained from Garmin or by utilising data such as that produced by OpenStreetMap at no charge for personal use.

Again limited to iOS and Android only, Garmin Mobile Connect allows these devices (via Bluetooth) to

  • share all the details of their rides with friends, family and social media contacts
  • allow cyclists’ friends and family to follow their races and training rides in real-time
  • allow for wireless uploads of completed activities from the Edge 810/510 as soon as cyclists finish recording an activity to the Garmin Connect website

The Garmin EDGE 810 will be available in the next month or two in 3 UK versions, just the unit for £380, the unit plus a heart rate monitor and a speed / cadence sensor for £430, or the unit will the sensors and a data card loaded with European maps for £480.

Back to the original point; a couple of years ago we all wanted each and every device to come with a SIM card slot to allow us to connect it to the Internet, but unlike tablets, devices such as these aren’t going to be used every day of the year, or even every month, and suddenly the cost of the additional hardware support and maintaining a mobile phone contract for them does seem a burden, so by allowing them to connect to the internet via an existing mobile device suddenly makes a lot more sense, and with many of the UK mobile networks offering unlimited data offerings (whether or not these devices would fall foul of no-tethering clauses in contracts I’m not sure; for many of the functions, the devices are simply getting information to and from the smartphone, as opposed to direct onward internet access), then I can see devices like these becoming more common, and integration between different gadgets really taking off.

Having said that, with only iOS and Android support in both ranges of devices at launch, it is starting to look like other OSes (Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 etc.) could potentially lose even more market share once people start buying other connected devices for use whilst out and about and need their smartphone to support those peripheral devices.


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Olympus launch new SLR style MILC

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Last night Olympus launched a new range of digital cameras; the OM-D range (although right now, it’s only one model, in Black or Silver). The Olympus E-M5 is a Micro Four Thirds MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) which harks back to the styling of the OM film range of twenty odd years ago. That slightly large hump above the camera doesn’t contain a prism (like an SLR would), but instead features an EVF (Electronic ViewFinder), and the same accessory mount Olympus use on their PEN range allowing a range of devices to be attached (Macro lights, Microphones, Bluetooth Transfer device).  Fuji has had success with it’s retro styling digital cameras, and I think this particular model comes with a high enough specification to be able to carry it off.

This is a semi-professional camera, with dust and splash proof seals, and also like many professional cameras, comes with the option of a vertical grip (also weather sealed). Actually it’s a two part grip, firstly providing an additional landscape shutter button and grip (making the small camera easier to hold for those with big hands), and then the vertical grip element, with shutter button, two customisable buttons, a main control dial and storage for a second battery.

One downside to the camera is that it does not feature a built in flash, but Olympus are shipping the camera with a small external flash (also weather sealed), so at least it’s not an additional expense, which used to be true of many film SLRs until built in flashes became common. Although not fully articulated, the rear touchscreen will tilt up or down allowing you some freedom in taking pictures above your head or at waist height; you can’t tell from the pictures, but at 121 x 90 x 42mm (without the grip or lens attached), this is quite a small device and could be popular for street photography.

This is a camera I like. With the 12-50mm weather sealed lens kit, it’s going to retail in the UK for around £1150, but with the added bonus that if you pre-order the camera (it’s due to be released in April), official UK dealers will be offering the HLD-6 grip for free as part of the deal (between the lens and the grip and all key components being weather sealed, this makes the package well worthy of consideration when compared to the price of other MILC devices).

If you want to read the full technical specifications, then Olympus has created a special microsite at olympusomd.com where you can see more pictures and the full specs.


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Polaroid develop Android Camera

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Now this is an interesting device, launched in the US at CES this week.  It’s not a phone, but rather an Android camera, so it’s got better optics than a phone would have, with a 3x optical zoom lens (36-108mm equivalent) and has 18 scene modes to take advantage of the 16 megapixel sensor. It has a Smart Album facility which will store pictures by date, location and people. With built in WiFi, Bluetooth (and “optional cellular data”), it can upload the pictures for you, saving you the need to connect the camera to a PC to share the pictures; there’s even some simple editing capabilities in the camera (cropping, red-eye removal, resizing and color correction).

Like many cameras, it uses a memory card, and like many phones, it uses the microSD card format, allowing upto 32GB of pictures to be stored on the device.

No price was announced for the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera, and Polaroid only stated it would be available “in 2012”; also no confirmed availability for the UK, but we believe it should be available in the UK at some point.


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Nokia announces N9

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Yesterday Nokia announced the new Nokia N9.  In the process, they concentrated on the features and capabilities of the device, without going into a lot of detail of the underlying OS (Harmattan, which is a variant of MeeGo), or the types of apps the device will support (mainly Qt).  However, as a very striking device with no home button (you access the homescreen via a swipe pattern), this has the capability to be a popular device later this year when it’s released.  With Nokia’s recent statement of shortening the time between announcement and release, all I can say for definite is that it will be out this calendar year, which is still a great improvement on previous announcements.

The device has some very good (even if not the absolute highest) specs:

  • 3.9-inch AMOLED screen (854 x 480)
  • 16GB or 64GB of storage, 1GB of RAM
  • Polycarbonate shell that’s coloured all the way through the material
  • 1 Ghz processor
  • Quad band GSM and Penta band WCDMA (3G)
  • Bluetooth 2.1, NFC, and GPS
  • 8 megapixel which can capture 16:9 720p video recording
  • 116.45 x 61.2 x 12.1mm and weighs 135 grams

The introduction of NFC is also interesting; although the hardware may support NFC payments in the future, there is no software support for that right now; in fact, Nokia is rolling out NFC within a range of accessories too allowing you to perform Bluetooth pairing of two devices by placing them close together and NFC will sort out the pairing.  This is a nice use of technology to improve the user experience.

More information on pricing and availability on UK networks later in the year when it’s released.


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Risk Free ViewSonic ViewPad 7

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

If you have been thinking about trying an Android tablet, but didn’t want to have to deal with the unit if you didn’t get on with it, then you might want to try the ViewSonic ViewPad 7.  Although it retails for around £325, you should be able to pick one up for around £290.  For this, you are getting a decent Android tablet with 800 x 480 7″ screen, Android 2.2, 3G and Wi-Fi support, plus all the regulars (Google Maps, Google Mail, Bluetooth, microSD card support, front and back cameras), but the important part is the current offer by ViewSonic.  You see, they are so confident you will like the device that they are offering a (limited time offer) full refund of your money after 30 days if you don’t get on with the unit.

There are a whole range of T&Cs attached to the deal, but they will (subject to the device being in original box and in good condition with proof of purchase), refund your full outlay including up to £10 more for the postage cost of sending it to them.  The most important limitation is that you must purchase the device before 30 April 2011 to qualify.

I’m impressed with this kind of no-risk offer, and recommend you consider it.  Full terms are available here and thanks to Mobile Industry Review where I first spotted the deal.  If you do go with the deal, I’d recommend either the 3UK SIM Internet Only SIM Free contract (30 day rolling contract, £5 per month with 2GB of data), or 3UK‘s One Plan to go with it.


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INQ Announce new Android devices

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

INQ announced they would be moving to Android many months ago now, but we now have pictures of the first of the two devices that they have now formally announced.  The first is the INQ Cloud Touch, which should be available (exclusively at Carphone Warehouse and Best Buy for a limited period) in April 2011, which is a traditional touch based Android phone (see above).  Planned to be available in Black, Red and White, the INQ Cloud Touch has the following spec:

Software:

  • Android Froyo 2.2 platform
  • Built with a modular approach making upgrade to Gingerbread easy
  • Instant Messaging for WLM, G-Talk and Facebook Chat
  • Free push email across major domains, including Microsoft Exchange
  • Info Key to quick access to key handset functions
  • Fast unlock for quick access to key functions
  • Backup and sync, plus firmware upgrades to later software releases

Hardware:

  • Processor: Qualcomm 7227 chipset, 600MHz
  • Triband HSPA (7.2/ 5.76Mbps), Quadband GSM, EDGE + WiFi
  • Size: 3.5” inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen display with extended 10mm touch strip
  • Memory: 4MB with option to add more
  • 5 MP autofocus camera
  • 1300mAh battery
  • WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, GPS, FM Radio, accelerometer, compass, ambient light and proximity sensors
  • MicroUSB charging, 3.5mm audio jack.
  • Accessories included: 4GB microSD Card, Travel Charger & USB Cable, Stereo Headset, Quick Start Guide

Although not in the name, INQ have continued their long running Social Networking Support and built in some good Facebook integration into the phone; “Facebook comes alive with a homescreen Visual Media Feed for video, pictures, web pages and newsfeed.

There are one-touch links to Facebook Chat, Friends, Messages, Wall and Notifications. Facebook Single Sign On is activated across the phones and people can check in to their favorite shops, restaurants and clubs with Facebook Places, also active on the homescreen. Facebook Events fully integrates with the Google Calendar on both devices.

The phones are the first mobiles to use the Facebook social graph API, making it easy for people to follow updates from the friends they interact with most.”

Also, the phone will come with the Spotify client, with all relevant Spotify features being available to subscribers.

However, the other phone also looks very interesting. The INQ Cloud Q brings together the same software with a touchscreen based Android handset, but it also includes a QWERTY keyboard in the BlackBerry-style widescreen candybar format.  When we had the choice of the INQ Mini or the INQ Chat, many people went for the Chat as it offered all the same facilities, but with the benefit of the QWERTY.  Obviously, the Cloud Q has a different touchscreen to the Cloud Touch, so it’s not as clear which will be more popular, but yet again INQ are introducing a range of less expensive phones with the same facilities as the top end models from other manufacturers.

Photo of INQ Cloud Q courtesy of Mobile Phones Arena.


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Is this going to be a popular phone?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

This is the new Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, announced last week, is one of their top Android models for 2011.  Featuring Android v2.3, it has a high specification, including:

  • 8 megapixel camera
  • HDMI port, Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi, USB, 3.5mm audio port
  • 480 x 854 pixels scratch resistant 4.2″ touchscreen with 16m colours
  • 125 x 63 x 8.7 mm weighing 117 grams

However, one of the key things about the announcement (and the likes of Nokia should take note here); the phone is due to be available within the next two months; not the 8-12 months we often wait for the latest Nokia model; Sony Ericsson have said it will be available in Q1 this year.

Personally, I think this phone will turn out to be a popular model throughout the year.


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Parrot announce new portable car Handsfree kit

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Parrot, well known for producing a range of useful handsfree kits, have announced a new unit.  This will attach to the windscreen, and hold the phone (it can be positioned vertically or horizontally to match the phone; especially useful for using the SatNav feature of many phones), and then connects to the phone via Bluetooth to provide the Handsfree kit.  Most phones should fit (it adjusts between 56 and 70mm wide), and it has a 2W amplified speaker system for both the Handsfree and the SatNav information.

As well as being able to be plugged into the car, it has a secondary socket which allows you to plug in a charging cable to charge the phone directly from the unit (it comes with mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple cables); if the Handsfree is just running itself, the battery should support up to 10 hours talk time (and about a week on standby).

Many of these kits benefit from a microphone positioned closer to the driver, and the Parrot Minikit Smart has a built in retractable microphone.  As with many previous Parrot kits, it will store up to 2000 contacts per smartphone in it’s own addressbook, and can store the records of 10 phones (although this is not a multipoint car kit, so it can only be connected to one phone at a time); it can use these records to allow (with no training) to hit the green button and say the name, and it will attempt to work out who to call, without needing voice activated dialling enabled within the phone either.

I would like to see Parrot adopting multipoint technology, as it does seem the one area where other manufacturers are starting to have a lead over Parrot, but in all other respects, this is a nice looking car kit, and especially good that it can charge the phone too.

This new unit should be available from good Parrot stockists this month (ie in time for Christmas) at £99.


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Sony Ericsson LiveView

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I can’t decide if this is a really cool gadget, or completely misses the point.  The new Sony Ericsson LiveView allows you to connect the device to your mobile phone, and access key functions of the phone without actually using the phone itself.

It comes with a wrist strap, so I guess Sony Ericsson’s plan is for you to wear this instead of a watch, and have the ability to access information on your phone as well as having a clock.  It has a 1.3″ 128×128 pixel OLED screen, 4 touch buttons (on the edges of the screen) and 2 real buttons (power & menu), and supports a wide variety of phone functions:

Music player control Play, pause, next, previous track and volume adjustment. Track title display
Social Networking Services Display Facebook™ updates. Display Twitter™ updates
Messaging Display incoming texts. Display RSS feeds
Calls Show phone number for incoming calls. Mute ringer for incoming phone calls. List of missed calls.
Other Calendar reminders. Find your phone. Display time and date.
Connectivity Bluetooth™ technology. Micro USB connector. Bluetooth™ range approximately 10m
Screen 1,3”colour OLED display, 128×128 pixels
Compatibility Compatible with the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10 mini and Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10 mini pro and most other brands on Android 2.0 and above. For updated compability chart see www.sonyericsson.com/liveview
Facts 1)2) Size:3.5 x 3.5×1.1cm. Typical consumer battery usage time: 4 days
Availability and versions Available in selected markets from Q4 2010
Colour
  • Black
Standard kit content
  • Sony Ericsson LiveView™
  • Clip
  • Wristband
  • MicroUSB charger
  • User guide

However, instead of the usual “tied to their proprietary OS” nonsense, it appears this device is designed for Sony Ericsson’s Android phones (and more specifically their X10 Android phones); it also needs Android v2.2 or above, so is currently limited to the X10, X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro.

Interestingly, Sony Ericsson will release the LiveView Android App, and have already announced the API which would allow other developers to link into the device via your phone (in fact Sony Ericsson has said the application will be able to notify you of other applications that take advantage of the LiveView APIs).  As a starting point, it will be able to control your music, read texts, see incoming calls, and allow you read your latest Facebook and Twitter news.

Don’t have a Sony Ericsson phone? Sony Ericsson have also stated that the device will also be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S and the HTC Desire, making it even more interesting…

Due in Q4 (so just in time for Christmas), although with no pricing, it’s not yet clear whether this is a must have gadget or not.


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