HTC also launch two Android Handsets

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

What a week last week was!  On top of the Nokia phone announcements, and the LG Optimus One phone we covered this morning, HTC also launched 2 new Android v2.2 phones last week.  Now, both of these look very interesting devices, so read on for more information on the devices…

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LG launch two new Android Handsets

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Last week LG launched two new Android Handsets, the LG Optimus One and the LG Optimus Chic.  However, for now we can all forget about the LG Optimus Chic, as there are no plans to release it in the UK.  However, the LG Optimus One is due in the UK, and due next month too (a note to Nokia: LG, like Apple, can launch worldwide and move from announcement to stock in shops pretty quickly, unlike you…)

So, the LG Optimus One is an Android v2.2 handset, and ships with a 1500mAh battery and a 3.2″ capacitive touchscreen.  There will be a carkit accessory available (at extra cost).  Although it’s a Google phone, one interesting addition from LG is the LG App Advisor which will recommend 10 highly rated applications every 2 weeks (although it will be interesting to see if this is still advising of new apps in a year or two…)

At 113.5 x 59 x 13.3 mm and weighing 129g it’s a pretty good size, although I note the screen is apparently only 256k colours.  It features a 3 megapixel camera, and has WiFi, Bluetooth, G Sensor, Digital Compass and an FM Radio.  It also comes with a 2GB microSD card.

Although I don’t see this as being the highest of specs, I suspect, like many LG handsets, this will be sensibly priced, and sell in quite large numbers, potentially on PAYG more than contract, and will provide many people with their first experience of an Android phone.  It’s out next month, although no word on price yet.

If you are reading this directly on the UK Gadgeteer website, you should also find a video from LG about the LG Optimus One.


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Samsung Tablet coming to 3UK

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

3UK have announced that they will be selling the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Tab, Samsung’s new Android Tablet.  In terms of specifications, the Samsung Galaxy Tab does have a fairly good spec:

  • Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • 1.2 GHz processor
  • 7” WSVGA TFT
  • Full HD (1080p) playback
  • Full Flash support
  • PC & TV compatibility via DLNA
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot for up to eight devices
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Phone/ SMS enabled
  • HSDPA/ HSUPA

Now, the big thing we all need to remember is that this may not end up as popular as the Apple iPad, but if well priced, it could certainly be very useful for those who can find sufficient Android app support, or who simply aren’t fans of Apple.

3UK have stated it will be available on 4 tariffs, and it’s likely there will be an upfront price for most, if not all, but 3UK have not yet announced what that upfront cost is.

If you are after a data only plan, it will be offered with:

  • 1GB for £7.50, or
  • 5GB for £15

on these plans, SMS will cost 10p, 3UK3UK and landline calls 10p per minute, and calls to other networks 25p per minute.

If you want a voice and data plan the two options are:

  • SIM10: £10 a month including 100 any network minutes, 2000 3UK3UK minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data
  • SIM15: £15 a month including 300 any network minutes, 2000 3UK3UK minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data

What’s interesting (and good) is that both these voice plans are SIM only contracts, with a 1 month rolling contract.  Again, this implies there will be an upfront cost for the device, but does mean if you want to stop paying after a few months, you aren’t tied into a long contract.

However, an even more key selling point is that the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with the ability to tether 8 devices (connect 8 other devices via WiFi to use the 3UK connection of the Tab), and even better 3UK are obviously confident over their network’s ability to cope as they are even promoting this function.

A tablet, presumably with the ability to add additional applications (although this will need confirming; Archos, for example has it’s own App Store, and the standard Android Market is unlikely to be available), and the ability to tether additional devices, plus a nice sized unit; this could sell very well for 3UK.

3UK have only stated this is “Coming Soon”, so we can’t yet confirm when it will be available.


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Archos launch 5 new Android tablets

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Archos last week announced a range of 5 Android Tablets, running from the £99 2.8″ Archos 28 tablet to the £299 16GB 10.1″ Archos 101.  In fact, the models have quite different specs, which are worth checking out:

The £99 4GB (or 8GB for an extra £10) Archos 28 (below) has a 320×240 pixels 2.8” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen, ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz, USB2, WiFi, Microphone, G-Sensor, is 100 x 54 x 9 mm and weighs 68 grams.

Then there’s the £129 8GB Archos 32 (below), which has a 400×240 pixels 3.2” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (interestingly, Archos say the Archos 28 supports 16m colours, whilst this supports 256k colours, unless it’s a misprint), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth (note it’s missing from the Archos 28), pre-installed applications (Deezer, Ebuddy, Mewbox, Raging Thunder Lite, Touiteur, Quickpedia), TV out (again not on the Archos 28, and the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 105 x 55 x 9 mm and weighs 72 grams. It also has a camera on the back.

Next comes the £199 16GB Archos 43 (below), which has a microSD card, a 480×854 pixels 4.3” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (back to 16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Webbrowser, Email, Contacts, Appslib, Twitter, Wikipedia, Weather Channel, Ebuddy, Deezer, Mewbox, Racing Thunderlight, Weather Channel, World Newspaper), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 135 x 65 x 9 mm and weighs 130 grams.  This also adds an HD camera (although whether a 2MP camera producing 720p should really be called HD is another matter), and it has a built in kick stand for when you want to watch movies.

Importantly, all devices listed (the Archos 28, Archos 32 and the Archos 43 will be available in September), whilst the following two devices are due out in October:

Moving on further is the 8GB (£229) or 250GB (£269) Archos Archos 70 (below), which has a microSD card (only on the 8GB Flash version, not the 250GB Hard Disk version), a 800 x 480 pixels 7.0” TFT LCD with capacitive touchscreen (16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Aldiko, Ebuddy, Wikipedia, Avecomics, HubKap, Deezer, Mewbox, Raging Thunderlite (a 3D car demo game), WordNewspaper, Touiteur, Fring), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 201 x 114 x 10 mm and weighs 300 grams for the Flash version, with the Hard Disk version is 4 mm thicker and 100 grams heavier.  This doesn’t have the rear HD camera, but does have a front facing VGA camera instead, and it also has the built in kick stand.

Finally, there is the 8GB (£269) or 16GB (£299) Archos 101 (shown at the top of the article), which is pretty much the same spec as the Archos 70, except the capacitive touchscreen is 1024×600 pixels with a 10.1″ TFT LCD, and is 270 x 150 x 12 mm and 480 grams.

All devices will have access to Archos’ AppsLib App Store for downloading (and purchasing) additional applications for these tablets, but if you don’t need 3G capability (or you have a MiFi device) then many of these may well suit, especially with all featuring Android v2.2 as standard.

There’s much more information, pictures, and full specs over on Archos’ website here, where you’ll notice the 8GB Archos 32 (£129) is already available for sale.  I will also add there appear to be a number of other standard apps included with each device beyond those listed.


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Tasker for Android

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Just occasionally someone points out an application to you, and you go wow, that’s really useful; Tasker seems to be one of those such applications.  Designed along similar lines to Locale (which has so many plugins from different people now, and all charge for them, it’s difficult to see the good and bads ones anymore), it offers the ability to create rules and control a whole raft of different functions on your Android phone. It’s not free (it costs £3.99), but this seems well worth given the range of controls it has.

I particularly like the ability to make system changes when you run particular apps, so, for example, you can keep the GPS generally turned off (to preserve battery life), but then when you run Google Maps you can turn on the GPS, and turn it off again when you exit.  In fact, the range of triggers is fascinating; Application, Time, Day, Location, State or Event.

LifeHacker here has a tutorial on how to set up the auto GPS function, how to create an alarm in the morning (that also fires up your favourite apps), and to create a “Face Down” task which shuts off GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth, and makes the ringer quieter.

For even more options, this LifeHacker post goes further and discusses the following options: reading out SMS messages (for when you are driving), limited data usage overnight, pop up a menu of music apps when headphones plugged in, mark and find your parking place, and most importantly, it links to the Tasker Wiki, where a whole range of users have added information on their suggested profiles.

There’s also lots of information about the application, including a tour of some of the features on the Tasker website here, which is well worth a look too.

This is one very comprehensive application, which looks like it has the power to really customise the way you use your Android phone.


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New phones on 3UK

Friday, July 9th, 2010

3UK have announced this week that they now have two new Android smartphones that you can purchase on 3UK, and not just that, but you can get them on the new One Plan we covered here which offers fantastic value for money if you are a heavy mobile user.

Firstly, they are now offering the HTC Wildfire, which is a cut down version of the HTC Desire.  Although cut down might imply “cheap”, and it’s fair to say it doesn’t have the spec (or the price) of the HTC Desire, but it’s actually still a very capable Android device; in fact the only compliant I’ve heard about it is that moving forward over the next year or two, the screen maybe too small to allow major OS upgrades, as Google has now specified a minimum spec (including display resolution) for the future, and the HTC Wildfire falls a little short.

Having said that, it still rivals many other phones, and is still a better display than many other phones of last year! The 3.2″ screen is still a good size, and the 5 megapixel camera is still better than many, and it offers Android v2.1 with HTC’s Sense UI too.  All the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc. are there too.  Also interestingly, although it’s available now in “Metal Mocha” colour, it will also be available on 3UK in Red from August, and the Red colour will be exclusive to 3UK.

If you aren’t an HTC fan, then there’s always the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro, which again, is a smaller smartphone (the “X10 Mini” part), but features quite a key differentiator; the “Pro” means it also features a QWERTY keyboard!  This is a slide out keyboard (in the same way as the Nokia E75, Nokia C6 or Nokia N900), and although it blatantly doesn’t feature the HTC Sense UI, it does feature some key Sony Ericsson UI customisations instead.  These include the ability to specify 4 corner navigation and 3 homescreens, and it also features Sony Ericsson’s Timescape, which brings together your Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages and calls into one place.  This sounds an interesting feature, although with many of these manufacturer applications, it may be a little limiting to the “serious” social networker, especially if it can’t be expanded to support other social networks.

The Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro is available in Black from 3UK, and also in White, which will (like the Red HTC Wildfire) be a colour exclusive to 3UK.

If you want either of these phones on the new One Plan, they are available for £30 per month (24-month contract), and remember that comes with 2000 cross network minutes, 5000 3UK3UK minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB data; if you want to buy them on PAYG, the HTC Wildfire is £199 and the Sony Ericsson X10 Mini Pro is £249, both very competitive prices in their own right!

I like the way that whilst historically 3UK were not able to arrange model exclusivity agreements, they are now sufficiently recognised by the manufacturers to at least able to negotiate colour exclusives, and you never know, maybe this time next year, we’ll see a worthy smartphone launch exclusively on 3UK


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Nokia release new firmwares

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Last week Nokia released 3 key new firmwares.  Firstly, the Nokia E71 (and I suspect the Nokia E66 and Nokia E63, as they seem to share a common base and seem to get updates at the same time) was updated to v500, although at the time of writing, this was not yet available for either the generic EURO1 codes nor the operator branded versions in the UK, but hopefully it will become available over the coming weeks.

v500 contains the following updates:

  • Maps v3.03 Lite which has Free Navigation support
  • Music Player upgrade
  • Quick Office v6.2 which has Office 2007 support
  • Ovi Store upgraded to 1.6.0.18 and Download! Removed
  • Ovi Suite included in Memory card
  • Functionality improvements in E-mail configuration
  • Qwerty keypad improvements
  • Emergency call termination with RSK key corrected
  • Corrected Bluetooth link drop when an outgoing call is made in a carkit
  • Corrected localization issues in world clock
  • Fix provided for selecting desired mailbox when multiple mailboxes are configured

Probably more important is the Nokia N97 firmware update to v22, and the Nokia N97 Mini firmware update to v12.  Given the Nokia N97 is always accused of not having enough memory and space on the internal C: drive, then having to install Ovi Maps (over 10MB) to that area is always a burden. Well, this new firmware at least includes v3.03 Ovi Maps within the firmware, removing the need to have that additional 10MB application install (although we note that v3.04 is now out with the added cell ID and Wi-Fi based positioning, so without using a third party app such as Maps Booster, there is still, ironically, a need to install Ovi Maps in addition to the version in firmware for some of us).

The other new features include:

  • Ovi Maps v3.03 with free Navigation built-in
  • Nokia Messaging stub built-in
  • Default screen brightness raised to 75%
  • Default theme now the jet black ‘Nseries 2’, giving longer battery life than the previous ‘Nseries 3’
  • RAM optimisations
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes, including “Default Nokia tune is played as ringing tone for incoming calls instead of the one user has defined in Profile settings. Also sometimes device has stopped alerting for incoming calls. Both issues are now fixed” which has plagued a good few users.

As with all firmwares, you will need to decide between the impact of applying a new firmware (and the need to wipe the phone and start again with all your contacts, bookmarks, application and settings) against the fixes provided by the new firmware.  As always, expect to wait longer (and potentially forever) for operator branded versions to arrive; for example a 3UK Nokia E71 is still on v300, having never released v400 (or v410) for their devices, so the chance of v500 being released is quite small (it’s not all 3UK; an Orange N97 will still be stuck on v10, as they have never released v11, v20 or v21, let alone the new v22).

Nokia E71 firmware information courtesy of Symbian World, Nokia N97 Firmware information courtesy of All About Symbian.


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Nokia Sports Tracker news

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A couple of fairly major changes have recently happened with Nokia’s Sports Tracker application, which might actually benefit those who like and use the application in the long term.  A while ago, Nokia sold the application off to a new company (which does appear to be staffed by some ex-Nokia people) and they have established a new website and a new application.  Right now, you can’t use the full service in the way you could with the old Nokia based solution, but it’s coming.

As of 30 June 2010, Nokia will shut down the old Sports Tracker website.  However, you can pre-register at the new website, and there’s an option to import your journeys and records from Nokia.  Right now, you can’t view them, or do anything else with the website, but it will come.

The new team have released new versions of Sports Tracker for both S60 3rd and 5th Edition, and although these will in time have the capability to upload your details to allowed them to be viewed and shared on the website, again, this needs the website to be fully functional.

However, good news; at one point, Nokia offered one phone with a bundle of a Heart Rate Monitor (via Bluetooth).  At the time, everybody pointed out that it would be good if the heart rate monitor was also available to those who already had that phone (or any other supported phone); well, although Nokia never managed it, Sports Tracking Technologies have done so, and have this week created an online store where you can buy a heart rate monitor for €69.90 + delivery (they accept PayPal as well as credit cards), although shipments won’t start until 1st July, so even if you order today, you’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive.

From a personal viewpoint, I note this version uses OpenStreetMap for the maps, and I think that’s a wise (if only short term) approach. The Nokia solution used maps which had to be downloaded (even though many devices had local Ovi Maps installations); although towards the end, it did at least share this download map cache with Nokia FriendView.  I think moving to OpenStreetMap is a good idea, as it reduces any costs of providing commercial mapping, although I do hope that in time Sports Tracking Technologies are able to link into the Ovi Maps SDK and use the maps where present on the device.

It’s nice to see this application being developed further and the support of a heart rate monitor will make the whole solution more attractive to many sports enthusiasts; however, if you have ever used the old Sports Tracker website don’t forget you need to register and import your old information within the next week.


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Dell Streak available tomorrow from O2

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

This is a very interesting device, and one I had the fortune to get a sneak peek Hands On with last week.  This is a 5″ tablet phone, which I have to say is a little large to hold up to your ear when on a call, so you might want to budget for a Bluetooth Headset to not look quite so silly, or simply add this to your existing phone with a data only contract (more later).  However, it’s running Android, and features a very nice touchscreen, which can take the knocks of every day life (I saw the blunt end of a knife be punched into the screens of 2 devices and neither suffered any problems with the touchscreen still working fine straight afterwards).  Obviously Dell & O2 don’t condone this level of abuse, and do warn that there are still certain angles where a drop onto a hard floor will still cause serious damage, but at least it’s a little tougher than many, and features something called Gorilla Glass to provide that protection.

The device I saw had a range of additional Android applications installed onto them, so although I can’t comment on what comes as standard with the device, they seem to have full support of the Android Marketplace, and hence there is a whole raft of additional applications that can be installed.

Although I didn’t get long with the devices, they seemed to be coping with many demos without a major impact on battery life, although that obviously needs a longer trial to establish whether it can last more than the common single day of usage.

O2, however, are offering the phone on a whole host of tariff options, ranging from the 30-day rolling Simplicity contracts (the Dell Streak 32GB will cost £399 upfront on all Simplicity contracts) to the high end £60 per month “unlimited” everything 24-month contract (where the device will be free).

24 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £35 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £60 Free Free

18 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £50 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £65 Free Free

The Smartphone tariffs above offer unlimited texts, data and Wi-Fi at thousands of BT Openzone and The Cloud hotspots as well as a wide range of minutes.

12 month simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £15 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £45 £349 £399

30 day simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £50 £349 £399

Again, it’s nice to see Wi-Fi at hotspots included even on these tariffs.

However, maybe the biggest area of interest will be the Data Only options, where the device isn’t actually used as a phone at all, but instead, concentrates on it’s capabilities as an Internet Tablet…

Contract length Included data Included Wi-Fi Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
24 months 3GB 500MB £25 Free* £99
24 months 3GB Unlimited £30 Free £49
18 months 3GB Unlimited £15 £349 £399
18 months 1GB Unlimited £10 £349 £399
1 month 3GB Unlimited £15 £399 £449
1 month 1GB Unlimited £10 £449 £449

* The 16GB Dell Streak is free on a £25 a month 24 month tariff until 30 June 2010, after which it’ll cost £49.

Although there’s quite a jump from the £15 per month 18-month contract to the £30 per month 24-month contract, with the smaller outlay of the phone itself, it works out roughly the same cost (within £10) over 24 months on both.

The specs of the device (taken from Dell) include:

  • A sharp 5-inch capacitive multi-touch WVGA (800×480) display for a great full-screen experience watching video or browsing the web
  • Fast 1GHz Snapdragon ARM-based mobile processor from Qualcomm
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with dual LED flash that offers easy point & shoot capability and quick uploads to YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and more
  • VGA front-facing camera enables video chat functionality down the road
  • A user-removable (and replaceable) battery
  • A 3.5mm headphone jack means many of you can use the Dell Streak as the music source (and more) in your car
  • Integrated 3G + Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + Bluetooth 2.1 (think headsets, external keyboards, stereo headsets, etc.)
  • UMTS / GPRS / EDGE class 12 GSM radio with link speeds of HSDPA 7.2 Mbps / HSUPA
  • A user-accessible Micro SD slot expandable up to 32GB. That means you can store  lots of movies, music, photos or other kinds of files.

On the software side, here’s what you can expect:

  • A customized multi-touch version of the Google Android operating system that features Dell user interface enhancements
  • Access to over 38,000  apps (and growing) via the Android Marketplace
  • Microsoft Exchange connectivity and integration through TouchDown
  • Google Voice support
  • Integrated Google Maps with voice-activated search, turn-by-turn navigation, street and satellite views
  • Quick access to activity streams via integrated social network app widgets like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

The only downside I can see to the device right now, is that I believe it ships with Android 1.6, although it’s likely that Android 2.1 or 2.2 will become available as an update, but not until later in the year (we’re hearing September).  The device as it stands, though, will be available tomorrow from O2 Stores and the O2 website.

I should point out as part of our “Not Unlimited” campaign, that I doubt that any of these “unlimited” references actually get you unlimited service, but O2 have not yet provided the detail behind what the actual unlimited limits are.


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SanDisk MicroSDHC Review

Monday, April 19th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, SanDisk kindly supplied me with a SanDisk Mobile MicroSDHC memory card for review.  Although it’s difficult to review something that “just works” I can say it seemed nice and fast when used in a camera (via an adaptor I already owned).  I also used it in a mobile phone where there was less apparent speed increase over the original memory card, but I do wonder if this was being limited more by the phone than the memory card.  Also, the phone rarely does fast reading / writing from the card to notice a difference; whereas with the camera, it seemed faster in both writing new pictures to the card, as well as playing back and reviewing pictures already taken.

As it’s designed for use in a mobile phone, the Sandisk Mobile MicroSDHC card came on its own, which is understandable.  For most people this will be fine, although providing an adaptor to allow the MicroSDHC card to be put into a laptop’s / netbook’s SD card slow would have been nice, for fast transfer of photos and music.  Having said that, I mainly upload photos from my mobile phone direct to online websites, and downloading / updating my music collection on my phone is a rare occurrence too, and often performed over Bluetooth for simplicity, so maybe the lack of an adaptor isn’t so bad after all (plus the memory card will obviously work with existing adaptors).

So, if you are in the market for a new memory card, don’t just go for the cheapest; think about whether you should invest in a device to keep your data safe, and then look at brands such as Sandisk.  Oh, and the Sandisk website also has a compatibility facility for entering the details of your device, and it will tell you which products are compatible with it (although I note it assumes you will buy the correct size, so for example if you select a device with an SD slot, it only shows you SD cards, not miniSD or microSD devices).

Thanks to SanDisk for the review memory card.


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