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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Mobile World Congress roundup

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s Mobile Web Congress, where many (but not all) device manufacturers announce their new products for the next few months. Of course, many are well into planning future products, but right now, there’s been a lot of products announced (ie launched, not yet actually available), and I thought I’d summarise the devices that caught my attention the most…

So, in no particular order…

Nokia PureView 808

This device can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s running Symbian (but the newest version of the OS, which makes it much closer to Android), yes, people still feel Symbian is past it’s best, but this device has a major selling feature; that 41MP camera!  One of the best features is to use all those megapixels not to produce a very hi res photo, but to reduce the resolution of the end picture.  This can either be because it’s a low light situation, and having much bigger groups of pixels collecting the light will make for a better picture. The other reason is to allow for a decent quality digital zoom without any interpolation going on. As the successor to the Nokia N8, I believe this phone will sell well. Nokia have indicated that this is not a one-off device, and we will see future devices with equally high megapixel counts. For some, this may be good enough to actually replace a low to mid range camera too…

New Nokia Lumia devices

On top of the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710 launched last year, we now have the Nokia Lumia 900 and the base model, the Nokia Lumia 610. The Lumia 900 was expected (as the US version was already launched), but I suspect this will be popular as it’s the current top of the range model, with a slightly larger screen than the Lumia 800. Personally, I don’t feel WP7 needs such a large screen, and many people will cope much better with the rest of the range. The Lumia 900 should ship around May time.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is the new base model, and will need the slightly updated Tango version of WP7 to operate. With a slightly lower spec than current WP7 models, there may be the odd application which will need some tweaks between now and June to work fine on this device, but it’s going to allow the networks to sell an even cheaper WP7 device (this could be very popular on PAYG). Microsoft and Nokia’s aim is to get WP devices below £100, which I don’t quite think they’ll manage with the Lumia 610, but given in all other respects it’s got the same capabilities as devices like the Lumia 710, it should sell well.

Nokia Application Updates

Nokia Drive will be updated in the next few weeks to v2. This will add speed camera warnings and full offline searching and routing, functions critical to anyone who travels abroad and wants to minimise data roaming bills by turning off data completely. The current version allows you to download maps for multiple regions, but needs an online connection for routing, re-routing and searching. By allowing the data stored within the maps to be used, this nearly brings Nokia Drive inline with the functionality of the Symbian version. What’s missing? Traffic data and automatic re-routing, although I’ve heard this will be coming in v3, but I have no knowledge of a release date for that version.

Nokia Public Transport will also be released. Back at Nokia World last year, I was very impressed by this application (at that time running on Symbian, but as I reported at the time, it would come to WP7), and the new WP7 version does seem to be well thought out. Two minor issues with it; firstly, it’s an online application (which in the future will allow real time data to be included within the information presented), and currently I understand that although it includes Tubes, Busses, DLR and possibly even Trams, for some reason the various London train lines are still not included. Of course, within Central London, this is not a major problem, and the app in fact looks like it could shine in the suburbs when the train lines break, and only non-train options remain available!

Asus Padfone

Finally, a non-Nokia device; the Asus Padfone was first shown off last year, but is now ready for production. It’s an Android phone (ICS, 4.3″ screen) which can be placed inside a screen dock to create a tablet device. By only using one device it means you can have both a phone and a tablet, but only need one mobile phone contract, and you won’t suffer annoying sync issues between the devices (although Android is good at syncing contacts and calendar, most other apps have no sync capabilities). By placing the phone in the 10.1″ screen dock (Station), you’ll benefit from the battery within the dock to recharge and keep the two devices going for much longer than the phone would last on it’s own. There’s also a keyboard dock (very similar to the Asus Transformer tablet keyboard dock) which has another additional battery which will increase battery life even further.  The keyboard dock also adds a memory card slot and a USB port, which really does give the impression (like the Asus Transformer) that it could replace your laptop.

This is due to be made available in April, although prices are not yet available. I suspect the keyboard dock will be an optional accessory, but I suspect (and hope) most networks will offer the phone with the main Station dock as standard.

Overall, this was a good year for MWC, and I think we’re going to see some very nice devices released and available over the next few months. I’m putting together a separate post on the HTC devices that have been released this week.


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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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Canon announce PowerShot G1 X

Monday, January 9th, 2012

This is an interesting camera for lots of reasons, beyond the actual technical specification. Canon hinted last year that people didn’t always want interchangeable lens on cameras, and with more camera companies releasing MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) devices (especially after Nikon’s launch last year of the Nikon 1 Series), Canon seemed to be behind the times in this area.  In the short term then, the PowerShot G1 X is designed to be their equivalent; I guess Canon’s thinking is that most people buy a MILC and stick with the standard lens, so why make it removable…?

What’s also interesting is that Canon have put quite a large (in physical size) sensor in the camera, allowing it to compete well against it’s competitors, even if it’s not got the highest megapixel value (in fact, a number of camera companies are saying the megapixel war is over for a while, and the numbers of pixels does not need to increase to increase quality; something we’ve seen from the likes of Canon before).

The camera has a 1.5-inch (18.7 x 14mm) 14.3 megapixel High-Sensitivity Canon CMOS sensor, with a 4x zoom lens (28-112mm 35mm film lens equivalent), Full HD recording, and has the DIGIC 5 processor as seen in previous Canon DSLRs.  What’s also interesting is that at the wide end, the lens has an aperture of f/2.8, which will help get even more light into that new sensor.  Also, it’s worth noting that the sensor is roughly the same size as the Micro Four Thirds sensor used by Olympus and Panasonic, both of which are bigger than the Nikon 1 Series sensor.

Although no UK price is yet confirmed, the camera will cost $800 in the US, where it goes on sale in February, so it shouldn’t be long before it’s available in the UK.  Pricing could be just under £550, although I would suspect it’ll settle a little lower than this once it’s been available for a few months.

Having said that Canon have been making noises about whether people actually need interchangeable lenses on these compact sized cameras, the rumours are that if Canon do decide to release a MILC device, it will be in 2012.  Obviously it won’t be well suited to the existing EF and EF-S lenses (although an adaptor is likely to allow people to slowly migrate across), so would need a new range of lenses to work with it.

My only concern; last month, Panasonic started selling the DMC-GX1, which is commonly called the GX1, so we now have the GX1 competing with the G1X; that’s bound to lead to some confusion…


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Nikon 1 system and why it’s important

Monday, October 10th, 2011

A few weeks ago, Nikon announced their new 1 System, a compact digital camera system with interchangeable lenses. The new Nikon 1 has two models (at the moment), the J1 and the V1, with the V1 adding an electronic viewfinder (EVF) as well as both having 3″ LCD screens. Nikon have announced the new 1 mount, which means an all new range of lenses to go with these new cameras (although Nikon plan to release an adaptor to allow existing lenses to be used in the future).

Today, there are 4 lenses available:

  • 1 NIKKOR VR 10-30mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6
  • 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8
  • NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM

Nikon are claiming this new system is the smallest and lightest range of cameras.  In my opinion they are not perfect (it seems the V1 which has the EVF doesn’t have a built in flash), and at £799 for the Nikon 1 V1 with the 10-30mm lens, it’s pushing DSLR territory.  However, for me, this is important; the Olympus PEN range (and the new Olympus E-P3 is well worth looking into as well) along with the other Micro Four-Thirds devices haven’t been popular with the semi-pro camera users, but with this move by Nikon, I think these smaller cameras with interchangeable lenses will now get more attention. Even more interesting will be when Canon show their hand and compete in this marketplace (given Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and now Nikon are in this segment, Canon can’t be long away from joining in); combining a compact system with interchangeable lenses along with Canon’s own CMOS sensors and they could easily lead this market segment in the same way they lead the DSLR marketplace.


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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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Gadget Show Live happening soon; a few tickets left

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The Gadget Show Live 2011 takes place from 13th April to the 17th April at the NEC this year.  The Gadget Show Live team tell me…

“The Gadget Show Live has quadrupled in size since it began in 2009 and this year expects 100,000 visitors through the door. It features 250 of the world’s leading electronics firms, including Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, JVC, Nintendo and LG, and features many UK product premieres. New tech includes the latest smart TVs from Sony, Panasonic and LG, which boast not only the usual HD and 3D capabilities, but also a raft of streaming content and online applications.

Visitors can participate in numerous free features, including the new HUB Theatre, an entire hall dedicated to the Game Zone, the Future Technology Project and a larger interactive Test Track. There will also be a one hour long, live theatre version of the TV show in the newly designed Super Theatre (three times a day).

NEW TECH AND GAMES

As well as watching the new smart TVs, visitors can also try out the latest 3D photography and video equipment, such as the new high definition 3D camcorder from JVC (Everio GS-TD1). They can also watch a 3D printer re-creating real objects (on Bits from Bites stand, in Future Tech Project and in The HUB Theatre).

In addition, they can listen to the new Zeppelin Air from Bowers and Wilkins, which has the ability to wirelessly stream music for iPhones, iPads and computers running iTunes. They can also watch through the new augmented reality (AR) video eyewear from Vuzix, which enables 3D video viewing in real time, whilst overlaying the video with home-made 3D content.

A full on tablet war is predicted with all the leading contenders to the crown on show. The best in home computing can also be found with the full HD touch screen VAIO L-Series from Sony and the new multi-touch enabled AKOYA desktops from MEDION. For the house proud, there will be the new compact and lightweight robotic lawnmower from Husqvarna, the new lightweight cordless vacuum cleaner from Dyson – the Digital Slimô – and the next generation of domestic servants from iRobot.

The Game Zone (an entire dedicated hall in association with GAME), will include a major outing for the Nintendo 3DS, a live professional gaming tournament with a £5,000 cash prize from Alienware, plus their new 15 inch gaming notebook. New game launches include the first UK viewing of DiRT3 from Codemasters (released 24 May), the new Duke Nukem game from 2K games, EA’s Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed plus the European finals of the new Mortal Kombat beat-em-up from Warner Bros.

TECH OF THE FUTURE

The Future Tech Project is an unforgettable chance to experience technology of the future. This area includes 3D printing and robotics from Warwick University, mind controlled computing (www.neurosky.com) and even eye controlled computing, seen for the first time in the UK from Waterloo Labs (part of National Instruments).

There will also be a blurring of the real and virtual world with the latest augmented reality creations from T-Immersion, plus smart textiles and intelligent clothing from CuteCircuit, and wireless kitchen gadgets and food that can heat itself whilst still in its packaging (using the eCoupled countertop from Fulton Innovation).

NEW FREE HUB THEATRE

The new circular theatre offers free access to six daily presentations, led by Stuff TV’s Lucy Hedges and Radio One’s Aled Hayden Jones. They will do the hard work of filtering down the headline news and best tech at the show. Sessions will cover The Future Tech Project, T3’s hottest gadgets, a review of tablets and smart-phones, home gadgets and a music gadget review.

LATEST E-BIKES AND PERSONAL TRANSPORT DEVICES

The first street-legal electric bicycle, the Grace One, will launch at The Gadget Show Live – it’s a carbon neutral e-motorbike which can travel up to 28 mph (UK limit is 15 mph) and requires no driving license or registration, but you must be over 14. A huge range of vehicles, such as Segways and the latest electric bikes from Create, Dumco and Pacific, can be test-driven at the 1,000 square metre Test Track. There will also be a kids transport area with vehicles from Razor and the UK’s top professionals showing off their tricks on the Remote Control Demo Area.

Furthermore, those lucky enough to have a ticket for the Super Theatre will be blown away by a high-energy version of the TV show. Three times daily (each show seating 4,500 people), the presenters will demo the latest tech, whilst the audience participates to win prize – they’ll also see a Jason-cyborg and Suzi Avatar on stage.

…And if all of that isn’t enough, visitors can also find how to make the most of the latest digital cameras in the Photographic Workshop and check out the best in new 3D kit in the new 3D Theatre.”

If you are interested in attending, then there are still some afternoon only (2pm to 6pm) tickets left, which you can purchase at http://www.gadgetshowlive.net/. UK Gadgeteer is hoping to attend and report back on the useful and worthwhile stands to visit.


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Samsung Galaxy Tab updates

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Whilst Mobile World Congress is going this week, many manufacturers will be launching new phones and devices, and Samsung is no exception.  Along with the Samsung Galaxy S2 (Android phone), they have announced their new tablet; the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. This has a large 10.1″ 1280 x 800 screen, and runs Android 3.0 (Honeycomb). The features include:

  • 1GHz Dual Core Processor
  • Dual surround sound speakers
  • HD recording and Full HD playback
  • 8 megapixel rear and 2 megapixel front cameras
  • 599g
  • Google Services (including Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Latitude, Google Books and Google Talk video chat)
  • Flash support
  • A-GPS (Google Turn-by-turn navigation)
  • WiFi (802.111 b/g/n)

This is a nice high tech device.  Of course, for many, a 10.1″ device is just too big to carry around, and for those, the existing Samsung Galaxy Tab should suit just fine (with the smaller, but still impressive 7.0″ 1024 x 600 screen).  The smaller Tab is also lighter (380g), but is “only” running Android 2.2 (Froyo).

If you are interested in the existing 7″ Galaxy Tab, then 3UK announced on Friday that they are now selling the device with a very competitive data contract; for £25 per month (24-month contract), you’ll get 15GB of data each month to use on the device (there is also an upfront cost of £199); however, compare that to say, Vodafone, who would charge £25 per month (18-month contract) plus £499 upfront, and you just get 3GB of data each month.

Also, if you are looking to buy a Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000 (the 7″ device) soon; you might want to hurry up; Samsung UK is offering a promotion whereby they will provide you with 50 MP3s (from emusic.com), 15 movies (from Samsung Movies), 7 Games (from Gameloft, although 2 are pre-installed), and £25 worth of eBooks (from W H Smith); however, you need to register your device’s details with Samsung before the end of this month (28 February 2011). I should point out terms and conditions apply to this promotion, which do need checking before you commit to the device solely on the basis of this offer.

If you already own the Samsung Galaxy Tab P1000, 3UK are now offering PAYG Pre-loaded Tablet SIMs, which have from 1GB to 12GB of data pre-loaded onto them for use with a tablet.


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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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