Nexus 4 case review

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

rearth case for nexus 4

As well as the Qi Universal Charging Pad that Mobile Fun sent me (reviewed yesterday here), they were also kind enough to send me a case for my Nexus 4. One of the main reasons for this was to see whether or not the case would have any effect on the capabilities of the charging pad, and I’m pleased to say it performed without any issues with the case on. In fact, the Nexus 4 was never charged on the charging pad without the case.

The case provides a good all round protection to the phone. For the sides, it’s a little like a bumper case, but made of a stiffer material that feels nice and strong around the device, and the back of the phone (slightly prone to damage) is also protected with a clear cover allowing you to still see the rear of the phone.

One little thing that’s not mentioned on the Mobile Fun website is that you can customise the case. If you have a picture or design that is slightly smaller than the back of the case, the case comes with a sticky sheet that can be used to attach the picture inside the back of the case to be displayed.

I also like the way the front of the case is slightly proud of the phone’s screen offering protection against scratches when laid face down. Actually, there are also little lugs that ensure the back is equally protected when face up. The case has cutouts for the sockets (microphone, USB, headphones) at the top and bottom, small missing sections in the back for the speaker and the camera, whilst the power and volume buttons are protected, but the new buttons built into the bumper around the edge work just as well as the original buttons.

Generally, I found it a very nice case, that did not seem to add a lot of bulk to the device, especially given how much protection it offers. At £14.95 I also think it’s a very good price. Of course, Mobile Fun have a whole range of cases for the Nexus 4 available here.

Just like the wireless charging pad, the Nexus 4 case has performed without any issues, and I thank Mobile Fun for offering the case alongside the charging pad for review.

Disclaimer: Although Mobile Fun provided the case, they had no editorial input into this article.


Permalink

Smart Cover case for Nexus 7

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

I picked up a Google Nexus 7 Tablet a few weeks ago, and I knew straight away I wanted a case to protect it. I also wanted a case that featured a “Smart Cover” facility; ie the ability to auto wake / auto sleep as the cover opened and closed (although not advertised with this feature, it was discovered the Nexus 7 had the support built into the hardware, and ever since, many of the 3rd party case suppliers have been supporting the feature).

So, Amazon was a logical choice (mainly for ease of purchase and keen pricing), and I selected this particular case as above; it acts as a Smart Cover case, but also can fold up to create a small stand for the tablet (it uses landscape, which the stock launcher doesn’t support, so look at purchasing Ultimate Rotation Control from the Play Store too, and setting it on Force Auto).  The case provides protection around the back of the tablet (the tablet clicks into the back panel) and the cover works well. This particular Amazon seller provides this Nexus 7 Case with a screen protector (currently untested) and stylus (tested and functional, and very similar to the iPad cheap stylus you can pick up).

At £8 (price may vary) including shipping, I thought the Nexus 7 Case was good value; the case arrived within a couple of days, so I assume this is a UK seller too, and the choice of colours allows you to select one to match other devices or simply select black.


Permalink

Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The last article was about Vodafone European roaming rates for PAYG customers, so I thought I would jot down some of the techniques I use to try to minimise my roaming costs when going abroad. I should note for my last trip abroad I used 30MB of data (over 4 days), and a handful of texts, yet kept my total spend below £10, and could not have spent more than £20, yet that spend actually got me a bundle of texts, calls and data for the UK leg of the journey, and whilst abroad I could have used upto 100MB without spending any more money!

So, what techniques do I use:

Firstly, I carried my primary UK phone number in a phone where I turned off roaming data whilst still in the UK. In fact, as I left the UK, I turned off mobile data completely. This phone I only use for emergencies, being contacted if needed. This limited usage kept the battery going for 2 days without a charge.

I then carried a second phone, in my case, an old Android phone from a year or so ago. This had been wiped clean and just had the apps needed, with most of the sync functions turned off (actually, I kept calendar / contacts syncing, and ran a couple of Social Network clients). Although I kept the syncing turned on, to minimise usage even further, I would turn this off, as it only adds to the usage, and most changes could wait until I returned. Again, roaming data was initially turned off.

This phone carried a Vodafone PAYG SIM, which I topped up with £20 before I set off. This topup gave me minutes, texts and 500MB of data in the UK. As I’m already opted in to Vodafone Passport, I knew that if I kept data to less than 25MB per day, my data costs would be £2 per day.

Before I left the UK, I used those bundled texts that came with the topup to alert a few key people that if they needed me over the next few days to use this number in preference to my normal number.

Once I arrived, I was greeted with text messages to both phones informing me of the rates (which, given it was before the new 1 July 2012 roaming limits are imposed, were somewhat of a shock (eg £3.07/MB for data!). I then turned on roaming data on the Vodafone SIM, and then used the normal data on/off functions to control my usage. I had a data counter installed (I use 3G Watchdog Pro, which included the ability to create a widget on the homescreen which monitored and reported my roaming usage) to ensure I was kept aware of my usage.

So, with careful use of data, I kept within the 25MB daily limit Vodafone include with the Passport option, sent and receive a few texts (11p per text, but coming out of the £20 credit), and spent under £10 all in. Given the phone only had a £20 credit, even if something went wrong with the Passport data options, or I suddenly started making lots of calls (or my phone had been stolen; though I’m not sure a two year old Android phone would have been that worthy), my absolute roaming spend was limited to that £20 topup. I appreciate the UK networks have now introduced roaming cost caps to limit bill shock, but this method truely limited my costs to a fixed amount.

In addition, I ran mapping software which allowed me to download the maps beforehand, so I wasn’t paying for Google Maps type data transfers of map data all the time (and in fact, since travelling, Google Maps on Android now has a formal offline feature for downloading the maps, but not the turn-by-turn navigation). I didn’t need to drive / travel any great distance, but if I had, Nokia Drive on Windows Phone (or Symbian) still makes a lot of sense as it provides true offline navigation.

Most importantly, as I was travelling with my family, by having an old phone without every latest bit of software installed, and a need to keep data usage down, I mainly had the phone for emergencies, and enjoyed the holiday.

If you are travelling abroad this summer, you will firstly benefit from lower roaming rates within the EU, but either way, spend some time thinking about the costs and researching it before you leave, and make sure you plan a way that works best for you; this is even more key when you leave the EU, where the caps and new low rates won’t apply. With many of the networks now offering bundles and good rates on PAYG SIMs, it’s well worth considering taking a second phone (or simply an old phone in the cupboard) to best save money and keep down the risk of bill shock.


Permalink

Windows Phone 7 & Multi Google Calendar Support

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I’ve recently got a Nokia Lumia 800, and for all the nice features the phone and Windows Phone 7 has, one annoying feature was the lack of multi Google Calendar support; when you add a Google Account to the phone, it only syncs the primary calendar associated with the account; I have 4 or 5 main Google Calendars, and subscribe to a number of iCal feeds too, so this really didn’t provide me with the full Google experience I need.

I discovered there was a way of getting multi calendar support, involving a desktop PC, mucking around with browser settings (and user agent settings), which allowed you to access a Google sync configuration page where you could add multiple calendars.  This worked, and I was really happy.

However, Google have now confirmed that if you access the m.google.com/sync page direct from your Windows Phone (using IE9 on the phone), it will allow you to select your WP7 device, and then add multi calendars to be included with the next sync.

Once done, go to the Settings / Accounts, press and hold the Google account, and select Synchronise.  If this does not bring down the additional calendars, you may need to remove the Google account and add it back again.  Also, once you have done this, you can go into the Calendar settings and change the colours of each calendar to bring them closer to the colours you have adopted within Google Calendar directly; that way a quick glance at your calendar, and you should know what’s going on.

So far this has been the only “showstopper” that has stopped me enjoying the device; yes, it’s not perfect, and there are still lots of little things for Microsoft / Nokia to sort out, but now allowing multiple Google Calendar support is a good start (for me!).

Update: I’ve removed a minor comment regarding Nokia Drive, as Nokia are kindly in contact with me around my comments with the app.


Permalink

Google adds true offline maps to GMaps

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Although only for Android at this stage (and to be honest, I’m not sure half of the newer features will ever make it to Symbian), the latest Google Maps Android client includes support for downloading maps for offline usage.  This is only the first generation of this, and I’m sure Google will implement more features around this as time goes on.  At the moment, it’s a “Labs” feature, which allows you to choose whether or not to turn it on, but having done so, you can then long press any location on the map and the Places page that you can select has an option to download maps.

This downloads a map approx. 10 miles around the chosen spot (though it’s a square area, so not exactly 10 miles).  If you change your mind, you can go into the Cache settings to delete the download.  Right now, this version will only download the base maps and landmarks, so a lot of detail is missing (and obviously no satellite maps), but it’s a good start, and combined with a few well placed favourites (starred places), this should be better than no maps at all whilst travelling, especially abroad, where you don’t want the roaming charges.  However, don’t plan for that trip abroad too far in advance; Google Maps will automatically delete the data after 30 days, so you need to do this just before travelling.

I have to say it’s a good start, but it still seems a little bit hit and miss, and until it’s a more controllable feature, I’ll be sticking with other apps that use complete offline maps.  Also, if roaming, don’t forget that the GPS uses a little 3G data to get the initial fix, so unless you turn that off (or turn off data completely), you won’t avoid all roaming costs, and, to be honest, an Android device seems to use more data that others due to the background sync options that you need to be careful over roaming costs.

One option is to get inclusive roaming data as part of your contract, and many of the higher Vodafone contracts already include Data Traveller which does just that, or you can add it to a lower priced contract (see here for more details and here for an update).

As always, this is available from the Android Market.

Screenshot courtesy of Google, where you can also get more information.


Permalink

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.


Permalink

TomTom make Live HD Traffic data available on desktop

Monday, March 21st, 2011

TomTom are now providing access to their HD Traffic data via a browser, allowing users access to the data without being in the car, and allows potential new customers to see how effective their data is before becoming a customer.  The data is available here, although you’ll need to select your country, and then zoom in to see how accurate it is.  Certainly local to me something seem very accurate, with local rush hour hotspots being picked out (presumably via their link with Vodafone allowing them access to anonymised mobile speed records), although some things (like a 3 month road closure for roadworks) don’t appear.

In the face of stiff competition from the likes of Nokia’s Ovi Maps and Google Maps for Mobile, it’s nice to see TomTom trying new options to support and encourage users.


Permalink

New “mapping revolution” coming?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Every year a range of hopeful companies launch new products and solutions at the SXSW event in the US, hoping to be the next big thing.  Some successes have come from SXSW, for example, FourSquare.  We’ve been notified of a company who are planning to launch a new mapping solution (designed for mobile phones) that they say “will change the way you think about your location”.  We’ve not much information to go on at the moment (nor whether it will be a US-only service), and there’s a very good chance it will launch as a limited beta (although we understand there’s already an iPhone application due for release to coincide with the launch), but if it does release, and is worthy of further mention, then we’ll provide more information next week.

They provided an additional quote: “it is going to (hopefully) blow away all other mapping apps on your phone… particularly the ol’ google maps.”

Very interesting, and more news next week as it becomes available…


Permalink

Ovi Maps updates

Friday, February 25th, 2011

There have been 3 key Ovi Maps updates in the last week and a bit, and I thought it was worth recapping on all of them.  Firstly, these only apply to the Touch devices, so although other devices such as the Nokia E71 still have free Ovi Maps, it’s not yet clear whether it will ever see these updates, which would be a shame if the elder devices were abandoned.

Many users have been using the v3.06 Beta that was available via Ovi Maps, and one feature this version added was the ability to check for, and update the mapping data directly from the phone.  Well, for those running this Beta, two weeks ago Nokia released updated maps.  Unfortunately some of us suffered crashes when trying to update, which left the phone without any mapping, and no ability to update to the latest maps.  This was resolved by using Ovi Suite on the PC to apply the “latest” maps (although this took you back to the Q4 2010 maps, which were released with the original v3.06 beta).  However, a little while later, Nokia resolved the issues, and it was possible to update to the Q1 2011 maps (either on the phone or via Ovi Suite).  I can’t say that there were any major updates in my local area, and in fact a major road project (the new A421 between Bedford and Milton Keynes) was missing from these February 2011 maps, despite the road opening in November 2010 (and Google Maps managing to get the new mapping available the same day the road opened).  Although I can understand minor road updates not making it into their database, one would have thought a key update like this would be there; let’s hope it’s there for the next map update.

Then, Nokia formally released the v3.06 Ovi Maps, which is now available in the Ovi Store.  Due to the way Nokia doesn’t really handle updates, it depends on the phone whether or not you will be notified that the update is available (phones that support applications within the Software Update application should see a notification, either on the phone or in Ovi Suite).  Other phones will have to go and pick up the update manually.  It’s worth noting that this version was slightly newer than the last beta, so it was still worth upgrading to.

However, yesterday, Nokia went one stage further and released another Ovi Maps v3.06 beta version.  This version is still newer than the Ovi Store version, and adds the ability to use the CheckIn facility to checkin to both FourSquare and Qype locations.  Bringing support for FourSquare makes a lot of sense, and seems to work pretty well in the testing I’ve managed so far.

So, if you have a Touch Symbian device, it’s well worth looking at all of these updates; a combination of application and mapping data updates continue to make Nokia stand out from the crowd with their free SatNav application, but there’s a risk the Nokia-owned Navteq mapping data is falling behind TeleAtlas (and hence Google Maps) in terms of quality of the UK major road network.


Permalink

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.


Permalink