Clever little device for displaying road speed

Friday, February 15th, 2013

This, the Snooper My Speed Aura, is a clever little device. Although it’s made by Snooper, a well established speed camera detector company, it actually has a more useful purpose than alerting you to speed camera locations (which it can also do…); it tells you the normal speed limit along a road. By utilising the Navteq road speed database and a GPS signal, it is able to tell you what it thinks is the normal speed for the road for your car (**), and that, to me, is a clever trick.

Actually, it can also detect speed cameras; it has access to the Snooper Aura speed camera database, so using the GPS can also alert you to whether there is a speed camera in the area, but the ability to tell you the speed limit of normal roads would give you confidence over whether you were speeding or not to being with.

Normally £130 (with lifetime updates to the Snooper speed camera database), it’s currently available from Halfords for only £90 (though they don’t keep it in stock, so you need to order it to be delivered to home or to a store which will take a few days, so this deal is not for those who want to buy it straight away.

It only comes with a windscreen suction mount, and I couldn’t find any third party mounts, though it might be possible to modify the mount to be able to mount directly onto the dash, and doesn’t seem to have a battery, so would need power at all times in the car, and the only other downside is that I haven’t tried the Snooper speed camera database to know how accurate it is (of course, you don’t really need to rely upon it with this particular device). In fact, you can buy it without the speed camera database (but the Halfords price with the camera support is still cheaper).

Even better, Snooper have recently updated the software inside the device, and any new devices bought this year have a new trick up their sleeve; you can specify what type of vehicle you have (car, truck, car towing) and it will adjust the speed to reflect your speed on the road, which I think makes the device even more useful, especially for those who occasionally tow, or have caravans, motorhomes etc.

On the screen above you can see it’s displaying a speed camera alert (you can turn off the smiley face if you want a more professional looking device!), when there are no speed cameras around that circle displays the current road speed instead.

** – sometimes it doesn’t know the exact speed for the road, so provides a suggested advisory speed. Also, when speed limits change the device may not know about the change, so you should always used devices like this as a secondary aide, and still pay attention to the road signs!

Although the device comes with lifetime speed camera updates, the updates for the road speed information does cost; it’s currently £10 per year, which seems not too bad, especially when you realise that covers the whole of Europe (where data is available), and not just the UK. I’ve no idea how often Snooper update their data though; their website says the £10 charge allows you to update “once per year”, which does sound a little infrequent to me.

Overall, a clever little device that concentrates on doing one thing, and seems to do it quite well. My only problem with it is the price; for the same price (actually slightly less), you could buy a device such as the Garmin Nuvi 30, with full European navigation as well as the facility for displaying the road speed limit (a function of most recent models from both Garmin and TomTom). In my mind, there are only two situations where the Snooper My Speed really shines; when you drive a truck or tow, so the ability to select vehicle type is important (satnavs that offer that facility are normally much more money), or where you have a built in satnav in your car already, and don’t need a second device, but would like to benefit from knowing the road speed limit at all times.


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Will 2013 bring more integration in gadgets?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.


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Nokia bringing “Anna” updates to older phones

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Nokia started a rollout of new firmwares to a range of S60 v3.2 (3rd Edition FP2) and S60 v5 (Symbian^1) devices yesterday which will bring a range of new features to these phones.

The main update is a new Web Browser, the same as will/is shipping in the Anna update for Symbian^3 phones.  This is much faster than the previous browser, and even in the short time I’ve had access to it, it does seem a much faster and better browser.

Additionally, Ovi Maps has been updated.  For S60 v3.2 devices, the latest version available is v3.04, but that does bring a range of new features such as WiFi and Cell ID positioning to help speed up the initial GPS fix.  For S60 v5 devices, this means v3.06, which also brings the ability to update the maps direct from the device (although the latest maps released by Nokia are still from back in February 2011; it would be nice to see Nokia moving to a quarterly map update schedule).

It should be pointed out that for some of the devices, the Maps update has been available from the Software Update tool built into the phone, and in this scenario, the main firmware update does not seem to include the Maps update.  If you have such a device, you have already got the latest Maps, and the new firmware does not modify that.

Finally, there is support for emoticons within Messages.  If you type characters such as : ) it will automatically turn it into a graphical emoticon.  Otherwise, you can select to insert an emoticon from the keyboard menu.

So, which devices will this be rolling out to?  Nokia have said:

S60 v3.2:

S60 v5:

My understanding is that the Nokia 5230, C6-00, E5, E52 and E72 all started to receive the firmware update from yesterday, with the other devices following over the next few weeks.

If you have a Symbian^1 phone, you can also download the Nokia Evolve theme from the Ovi Store (here), which will give the built in apps the same style of icons as the upcoming Anna update for Symbian^3 devices.

One word of warning though; it seems that this firmware update has a bug on all devices with homescreen widgets which will cause the very useful “Coming Next” widget to break and display an error message.  Nokia are aware of this (basically any attempt to access the Calendar from a Web Runtime Widget returns a blank response), and have indicated it will need a further firmware update for all devices to fix, so if your busy schedule relies upon the “Coming Next” widget, you might want to think long and hard before applying this update.

Overall, I’ve found a combination of the latest Ovi Maps, the latest Anna browser, and the Evolve icons does bring a good refresh to existing Symbian phones, and should extend their life a little further; it’s definitely nice to see Nokia releasing these software updates to elder phones; oh, and if you are a fan of Gravity (the all round best Social Networking client for Symbian) you’ll be glad to know the latest Alpha has an Anna-style application icon to match the rest of the icons.


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Nokia announces N9

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

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

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

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

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

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


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INQ Announce new Android devices

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

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

Software:

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

Hardware:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of INQ Cloud Q courtesy of Mobile Phones Arena.


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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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Nokia Bicycle Charger now available

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Although we first covered this device back in June (see here), the Nokia Bicycle Charger is now finally available for sale.  It’s available for around £25-30 in the UK, and comprises a dynamo, a bike phone holder, a charging cable (2mm Nokia charging port only) and some cable ties. When first announced, it was suggested it would retail for €15, which hasn’t worked out, as it’s a little more expensive than that now.

If you want this device though, head to either the Nokia UK Store, or MobileFun, who can both supply you the device.  As Spring and Summer approach, this may well be a useful gadget to have available for those longer rides in the countryside where keeping your phone battery charged can give you the freedom to use the GPS more.


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ViewRanger updates Android app

Friday, January 28th, 2011

ViewRanger, who produce a very feature rich mapping application (which can use multiple map sources, such as OpenStreetMap and more importantly, 1:25000 and 1:50000 OS maps) has updated their Android application. Currently the new version (v1.4.1) is in beta, but available direct from ViewRanger here. Although originally a Symbian app, ViewRanger have expanded to cover the Apple iPhone as well as many Android devices, although some features are yet to arrive on these platforms.

The new features include:

  • Support for selected Android tablets
  • Local and online searches
  • UI improvements

The full feature list is here.  If you are somewhere who spends time in the countryside and don’t currently have a device such as a Garmin GPS or the SatMap Active 10, then you should look at ViewRanger for your smartphone.


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Update for LiveView due soon

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

The Sony Ericsson LiveView device (which we first covered here), has proved quite a popular device, both in terms of sales, but also in the number of Android applications that have been written (or enhanced) to support it.  This is, overall, a good position for the device.  However, all is not well, with many users reporting disconnections (and difficulties in re-establishing a connection afterwards).  Sony Ericsson have confirmed that they are investigating these issues, and plan to release a firmware update for the hardware at some point during this month (January) which should resolve many of the problems people have been facing.

Sony Ericsson also produced this list of compatible apps that they have noticed in the Android Marketplace, some of which sound very interesting:

  • Moon Phase Pro: 3D interactive simulation of the moon.
  • LiveView™ HTC Music plug-in: Music plug-in for HTC phones.
  • OI Shopping List: Shop easily with your LiveView™.
  • FakeCall for LiveView™: Trigger sounds and vibration on your Android phone.
  • LiveView™ ContactCall plug-in: Lets you browse contacts and initiate a call.
  • LiveView™ for Cycle Hire: Quickly access and safely access docking station statuses for London’s TfL Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.
  • LiveView™ Weather plug-in: Show current weather forecast in your location.
  • SportyPal: Motivational training tool that gives you a view of your work-out.
  • Launcher plug-in: Display your application icons on the LiveView™.
  • Smart Training: GPS tracker tool, post your training record.
  • Where am I LiveView™ plug-in: Shows a map of your current location.
  • LiveView™ PowerAMP: Control any music player.
  • Gmail for LiveView™: Gmail notifications plug-in that also lets you read the first part of the e-mail.
  • Se-first.com news alert: RSS notifier for Se-first.com
  • Calendar plug-in: Gives you an overview of your calendar and you can scroll and dive into a daily agenda.
  • Twitter icon plug-in: Shows your Twitter icon or a QR-code so that you can spread your Twitter-url.
  • Mode plug-in: Profile manager that lets you switch between silent, vibrate etc.

In fact, I’ve also seen a few early beta versions of other apps that will make it even more appealing, which is good news for the £50 device.  First of all, though, we need to see that updated firmware…

Some information taken from Sony Ericsson.


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