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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Last.fm moving to subscription radio only for mobiles

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Although it’s been something that many have foreseen for some time, and of course, outside of the UK (plus US & Germany), they’ve been charging for some time, but Last.fm have now confirmed that you will need a subscription (at £3 per month) to continue to listen to Last.fm radio on many mobile and hardware devices.  The change happens on 15th February, and the list includes:

  • Google Android – free app; subscription required for radio in US, UK and Germany
  • Apple iPhone – free app; subscription required for radio in US, UK and Germany
  • Microsoft X-Box Live (also with Kinect) – App free with X-Box Live Membership in US and UK
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 7 – Free in 2011 in US and UK; subscription required for radio in Germany
  • All Logitech Squeezebox products – subscription required in US, UK and Germany
  • All Sonos products – Free until mid-summer 2011 for US, UK and Germany; subscription required thereafter
  • Revo AXiS, Ikon, Domino, Heritage – subscription required in US, UK and Germany
  • Roberts Stream 63i, 205, Colourstream, 83i – subscription required in US
  • M3 Muvid Products – subscription required in Germany
  • Teufel Audio Raumfeld – subscription required in UK and Germany
  • Selected Onkyo AV receivers – subscription required in US, UK and Germany
  • Denon and Marantz selected AV receivers – subscription required in UK and Germany
  • To be fair to Last.fm, many of those devices we’ve covered here before (including the PURE Sensia and Revo units) have needed a subscription from the day they were launched, so the headline change has already affecting many users.  Last.fm have stated:

    “On the Last.fm website an ad-supported, free-to-listeners model is what supports our online radio services in the US, UK and Germany. In other markets and on emerging mobile and home entertainment devices, it is not practical for us to deliver an ad supported radio experience, but instead, we will migrate to what we believe is the highest quality, lowest cost ad-free music service in the world.”

    Some people are likely to stop using Last.fm at this point, however, many others will consider the charge (less than £40 for the year, and still less than other services such as Spotify) worthwhile.


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    T-Mobile reduce Internet usage across all tariffs

    Monday, January 10th, 2011

    Although it’s not 100% clear, it looks like T-Mobile has decided to reduce the amount of Internet data allowance each handset has to quite a low level (in fact, one of the low levels available from the main networks).  Whereas before T-Mobile had a high fair usage limit (often 3-4GB before they got upset and warned users), or stated a limit around 1GB (but without enforcing it), they have just published this information (here) stating that the limit is now 500MB across all contracts (old and new) as from 1 Feb 2011.  When other networks have tried this in the past, they have often accepted that it warrants a change in the T&Cs, and allowed people to cancel contracts early, however, we are hearing that T-Mobile are not letting people out of contracts over this change.

    Let’s be clear, for many users this simply won’t be a problem; 3UK recently told me that over two thirds of their users use some of the 150MB data allowance provided whenever you topup, but most did not exceed that limit, nor needed to buy any additional internet allowances, so it may well equally be that many T-Mobile users will never reach the new lower limits, however, there will be some who use devices such as Android phones, which are constantly syncing data (email, calendars etc.) and using online navigation solutions (such as Google Maps), and uploading photos or videos directly from the handset who will find the new lower limit a struggle.

    Other networks seem to offer 500MB on their lower tariffs, moving up to 750MB and then 1GB for the higher tariffs (or specific tariffs, such as for the iPhone), so this does seem to be a rather low limit across all tariffs, and there are still statements on the T-Mobile website implying that there are a range of allowance for Apple iPhone devices.

    In fact, if you head to the Fair Use Policy pages (here), these still list figures of up to 3GB as applying to new contracts, so it’s definitely not clear what rates will apply for someone taking out a contract today, but it’s fair to say that it looks like T-Mobile may be reducing everyone’s allowances from next month.

    T-Mobile have privately let me know that even if you go through the 500MB limit (and they’ve said very few customers do use more than that on a monthly basis), you should still be able to browse the web and read email even at the limit.  It’s ironic that T-Mobile have introduced these new lower limits only a few weeks after 3UK started to remove limits from some of their high end iPhone tariffs…


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    Improvements to an O2 Joggler

    Monday, November 8th, 2010

    Earlier this year, O2 were selling their O2 Joggler units for only £50 (they are still available, but back to the more common £100 price).  Many of us (me included) bought one at that time.  After an initial flurry of enabling telnet (allowing remote network access into the device), and using that access to install some other native apps (Google Maps, Google Calendar, Twitter, Flickr; though that last one never did quite worked properly), many of us either turned them off, sold them, or simply left them doing what they were designed for; running small apps.

    However, a small community of users have persevered and actually released a whole range of updates and additional applications for the Joggler.  I’m not aware of many developers stepping up and releasing apps; it’s more the community have worked out how to get other existing apps to work on the devices, or they have worked out ways to tweak the device for better access.

    Whilst I was manually installing apps, I heard of a user who was creating a set of scripts called “Pimp my Joggler”, or PMJ.  This took a lot of the hassle out of enabling telnet and installing those apps.  Like many others, having already done the hard work and worked out ways of enabling things, it didn’t offer a great deal extra (especially after Quinten released his script to enable telnet from a USB memory key).

    Since then, other users have also joined in, and suddenly there is an impressive tool that’s well worth installing on your O2 Joggler; Plug’n’Pimp.  This doesn’t have a lot of similarities with the early tools, which are still useful, and shouldn’t be dismissed, but what is does offer is an easy way to upgrade and install a couple of really useful applications as well…

    It installs from a USB memory key (you put the files in to the root directory, insert the USB key into the USB socket, and power up the Joggler).  Once complete, it will use the built in Messages application to confirm it has been successful (and again for other software updates).  The first nice feature is that you access the Joggler using a web browser to manage this new application.  Once there, you can install a number of new applications:

    • BBC Live player; giving you access to a range of BBC channels to stream live (UK only)
    • A PDF reader
    • Opera Mobile; see more below
    • Squeezebox Server; a version of the home audio media player
    • SqueezePlay; see more below
    • An SWF Manager; to allow a wider range of SWFs files to work on the Joggler

    I’ll come back to a couple of those tools in a while.  As well as those, you can install a number of tools onto the Joggler:

    • Driver pack; improved drivers (including a better wireless driver, and adds support for NTFS)
    • Screen Off; a button to turn off the screen
    • Restart; a button to restart the O2 interface
    • Samba support; this allows the Joggler to be able to access Windows / Samba shares over the network

    You can also tweak some of the settings of the device (such as Brightness, enabling and disabling auto-dim).  The key reason why I like this app though it that it will check for updates to itself and the various installed applications for you, and allow you to keep everything up to date without needing to constantly be checking around lots of different forums and websites and then manually applying lots of updates to the O2 Joggler.

    For me though, two apps have stood out; Opera Mobile and SqueezePlay.  Opera Mobile; yes, a full web browser on the device, which is the one function that everyone was annoyed that it was not included from day one.  Being Opera Mobile, it’s designed for a full touch interface, and has access to a QWERTY keyboard whenever input is required.  You can even turn on advance features like Opera Turbo, to use compression to require less data to access websites.  Opera Mobile also supports a wide range of Opera Widgets, and these all seem to work fine on the Joggler, so there’s a Wikipedia widget included straight away, support for Instant Messaging, even ping.fm, and many more available for download.

    Finally, for me, but I appreciate not all, there is SqueezePlay.  For those who have a Slim Devices (now Logitech) Squeezebox, you’ll be well used to the “Squeeze” name.  SqueezePlay is the dekstop audio client of the Squeezebox Server, and uses the same UI as used in the latest generation of Squeeze products.  Once installed, this auto discovered my Squeezebox Server, and immediately had access to all my home audio music.  As it’s the same program, it also supports third party apps and additional plugins to offer even more functions, so there’s a Flickr plugin and even a Facebook client!  As it uses the standard functions, you can extend this even further; I’ve got a map of the world showing the areas of the world in daylight as the screensaver for when in SqueezePlay, which comes from a plugin extension.

    With these additional apps installed, my O2 Joggler has received a new lease of life; due to it’s speed, it’s never going to be the main web browser in the house, but with the ability to fit into my whole house audio music system, and the ability to easily access particular websites and snippets of information, it’s suddenly looking a lot more useful.  I’ve not gone as far as to move the Squeezebox Server onto the Joggler itself; but with the ability to access large external USB disks or network shares, this is certainly possible!

    For more info on Plug’n’Pimp and many other customisations and tweaks, head over to the Joggler.Info forums, whose users and FAQs provided key information to allow me to install these additional apps.


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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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    Fancy a cheaper Symbian Handset?

    Monday, September 6th, 2010

    Prices for phones will always drop over time, but whilst many of the network get to a point where they drop the product from their range, 3UK seem happy to continue to sell devices at some amazing prices.  Take for example last week’s price reductions; you can now pick up a Nokia 5230 or a Nokia E63 for £90 on PAYG, and both prices include a £10 TopUp, making the phone effectively only £80!

    I used a Nokia E63 for roughly 6 months, and the only real issue I found with the QWERTY device was the lack of GPS, which was solved pretty much completely by purchasing Maps Booster from the Ovi Store (see here and here for a review, and I note it’s on sale even cheaper now); in fact, even on phones with GPS, I often rely upon either Maps Booster, Google Maps, or the latest versions of Ovi Maps to provide cell and/or WiFi location information as this really does satisfy the majority of my location needs.  Occasionally I need true GPS (when driving), but at £80 (plus a few pounds for Maps Booster) it’s definitely worth considering.

    The Nokia 5230 (covered before here) is also a worthy device for £80.  This device, as well as supporting a touchscreen, which is becoming a key feature for many people, does have the GPS that the Nokia E63 does not have.  However, as the Nokia E63 is an E-Series device, it includes WiFi, which is the one key feature many will find missing from the Nokia 5230.  If you can survive on 3G alone (and many people can), then the Nokia 5230 may well make a nice budget phone.

    Of course, 3UK have a whole range of phones available from budget models right up to top of the range models, so head to the 3Store to see what else they have!


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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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    HTC Hero – the Good, the Bad (and the Ugly?)

    Monday, July 12th, 2010

    After a good few weeks of using an Android phone for the majority of tasks I perform (except receiving calls), how have I found the phone? Thanks to 3MobileBuzz, I’ve had an HTC Hero on loan, and although not the newest of phones, it’s still interesting to see whether it can handle all my needs.  In fact, just before the phone I wrote down the 30 most important tasks I currently use my Symbian for just to remind me the sorts of applications and tasks I needed the phone to perform.

    So, a small caveat; as the phone came preconfigured with a SIM, Google Account and Spotify Premium account, I haven’t used the phone with my Google Acount (ie Mail, Calendar etc.) and I haven’t used it for receiving calls (as none of my friends know this phone’s number). Finally, as a loan phone, I have limited myself to *free* Android apps.

    The Good – In nearly every task I’ve thrown at it (including a few extra ones), it’s excelled, and the phone has worked well.  Applications have been available to help with the task at hand.  Spotify (in both online and offline mode) proved to be a useful application (although quite why, when you have a track in the local cache, it continues to consume online data I don’t know).  In the majority of tasks I wanted to perform, there was a free app to help out (something that’s not true of Symbian, although it’s close), and in many cases, the best app appeared to be the free app too.  Apps were available to integrate into the phone; although it’s against the T&Cs to export phone numbers from the Facebook site, the Facebook widget was at least able to offer to dial numbers direct for you.  The phone was not too heavy, and easy to use one-handed as well as with two (and not suffering from the way I held the phone 😉  Many options were configurable, or 3rd party tools are available to help achieve a little tweak here or there.

    The Bad – Not every app though performed well; a few have crashed regularly, making it feel a little like when you beta test software; some of the apps that crashed had 1 or 2 updates during the time, yet still continued to crash.  Whether or not this is a result of the phone still being on Android v1.5 I don’t know, but this is at least being fixed (hopefully) this month.  Another thing missing (not that Symbian is any better, but the iPhone is) was that there was little consistency in the UI between the different programs from different authors, and little consistency between the widgets available too.  Also, although everyone berates Symbian for constantly asking you which connection you want to use, there were a few times when I actively wanted to use 3G over Wi-Fi (accessing 3UK‘s Planet 3 website or knowing that I was too far from the Wi-Fi for it to work reliably), and this level of control is not available.

    So, overall, I enjoyed the phone, and the Capacitive screen made me realise what an impact this has on the whole UI, and whether even the newest phones from Nokia which continue with Resistive screens can be as much as a success (of course, the new Nokia N8 is Capacitive).  Having said I enjoyed it, the third party apps crashing regularly did put me off a little.

    The ugly? It may have been this particular phone, but it struggled to hold a connection to my Wi-Fi.  Whenever it lost it (even when in the same room), it brought home that the 3G radio signal was equally awful (The HTC Hero seems to have a reputation for having a poor 3G antenna design especially in poor signal areas), meaning I was often left without net access at home (although in many other areas where the 3G was stronger it performed well).

    Would I buy an Android phone? Yes, but more likely the HTC Desire (also available from 3UK), which offers a later OS version and is more powerful, but I would like to see some improvements in the overall experience.

    Thanks again to 3MobileBuzz for the loan of the 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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    Looking for an Android UK Traffic App?

    Thursday, June 17th, 2010

    This application (“UK Traffic Checker”) is now available in the Android Market for free. It’s been developed by Dale Lane, who has produced small programs which we’ve covered before, and this one is no exception.  It’s main job is to not just provide you with access to UK road traffic data, but it also allows you to enter details of a regularly performed journey (such as the daily commute to work), and you can then schedule the program to update, so you can see an accurate traffic picture before you set off sitting there ready for you.

    This is a nice little application, and worthy of a look at.  Although other application provide traffic data (if only the well used Google Maps), the ability to have the data ready for immediate access seems worth it to me.  If you want to try the application, either search for “UK Traffic Checker” or “Dale Lane” in the Android Market.

    Photo courtesy of Dale Lane on Flickr.


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