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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Nokia release Ovi Maps 3.06 updated beta

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Another update to the v3.06 Ovi Maps beta has been released by Nokia Beta Labs, and although it features a few new features, the key one must be that it’s now (finally) possible to download whole countries directly on your phone (although you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection).  However, this isn’t perfect, when I tried it, it kept given a “Map download failed” error after about 187Mb through the 216Mb UK download, which resulted in me having to use the PC after all.  When you first install the v3.06 beta, it will wipe your existing maps, as it needs a v3.06+ specific map data downloaded.  Once you have done this one though, subsequent betas (and hopefully the final released version) will be able to use the maps already downloaded.

Having the facility to download directly on the phone, plus having a “check for map updates” option on the phone itself is very useful, and a good move (and something a lot of people have been asking Nokia for).

The other features of this beta include:

  • New! Download street maps directly to your device! A new feature called “Update” on the main menu which allows you download Street Maps directly (via WiFi) to your phone without a PC! Please note that phones without WiFi (e.g. Nokia 5230) will not work.
  • New! My Position and Search are now integrated (now called Map). When accessed, it will show your last map view
  • New! Back button in Favourites
  • New! Long tap functionality to delete & rename collections & routes
  • New! Pop up for first time use – to inform user to download new map data (when upgrading 3.04 > 3.06 for the first time)
  • New! Improved behaviours of transit lines settings in map toolbox (no more grey out)
  • New! Compass calibration hint
  • New! Refreshed place details information view
  • Pinch to zoom interaction (Only available on Symbian^3 devices)
  • Visually refreshed main menu and icons,
  • New maps with public transport lines (as a new map layer) for subways, trams and trains in 80+ cities around the world. Just click the map toolbox icon and select Transit lines,
  • Improved search experience – find places and addresses around you – or anywhere in the world – fast and easily. Browse places or enter a keyword in the search box. Now with suggestions and “did you mean?” functionality,
  • New place pages with description, reviews, pictures and places nearby. Interact with places in a whole new way – you can check in, contact, navigate, save, rate, share, report or see place on the map,
  • Share a place – send a place to your friends via SMS or Email. The SMS contains the address and a link to the place page with description, ratings, contact, URL and a mini map. The link opens up on the mobile browser (also on non-Nokia devices),
  • Check in – keep your friends up-to-date with where you are and what you’re up to. Check in to places and share it with your friends on Facebook and many more social networks. See places you’ve been to in your check in history,
  • New Drive assistance mode with live traffic flow – after clicking Drive, you’re instantly in drive assistance mode with live traffic flow and more. Once you start moving, get safety camera alerts and speed limit warnings,
  • More folder with many rich content services relevant to your location. Personalise your Ovi Maps by selecting the services you’d like to keep on your main menu for instant access.
  • Traffic flow: In Drive mode, a number of improvements to the traffic flow colour scheme and layout.

(The items marked New! are new in this update; the others were available in earlier v3.06 beta versions)

I like the new facilities, and the way the menus are being rearranged, and this bodes well for the final release.  One word of warning; one of the known issues is that occasionally it will keep the GPS subsystem open (with the eventual battery drain); when I’ve seen this, I’ve found starting Ovi Maps back up and shutting it down again seems to have fixed, but it’s something to watch out for.  I also really like hitting the Drive option and being able to see my location on the map with traffic updates immediately available even without a destination set; this is another key feature for me, as I often want to use my phone’s SatNav simply for traffic without a route calculated.

Although the Share (location) option now supports a whole range of social networking sites, I would still love to see sites such as BrightKite and FourSquare integrated directly into the interface, but hopefully that will come in time.


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Nokia Situations

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I installed this to my phone the other day, and it’s already proving very useful.  Yes, there have been third party programs for doing things like changing profiles on a timed basis, and yes, apps that can make changes to the device based on the location (cell ID or GPS) have been around for a while, but getting them all built into a single app, and for free too makes Nokia Situations well worth a look.  The only downside I can see is that you can only specify one situation for each profile (of course, you can add new profiles to creates secondary situations), whereas many of the third party apps separate out the events from the profile, allowing more than one event apply to a particular profile.

However, it’s a good start, and given there are no ads, and no costs involved, it seems like it’ll stay on my phone, if only to set it to Silent overnight.


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Nokia announce Nokia Situations

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Although not as full featured as Tasker or Locale (both for Android devices), Nokia Situations enhances the built in Profile management with the ability to create custom profiles, and choose when these profiles are selected.  The screenshot above shows some of the range of options you can use to trigger the change in profile, and I’m especially pleased to see Network support, and not just GPS location, allowing location based changes without needing the phone to constantly use drain the battery by keeping the GPS running.

Although currently a Nokia Beta Labs product, it’s likely we will see this either integrated into future devices, or the app being made available in the Ovi Store to allow a wider coverage.

Nokia have also created 4 versions of this, which is also good to see.  Firstly, there’s the Symbian^3 version (Nokia N8), an S60 5th Edition for phones with homescreen widgets (Nokia N97, Nokia N97 Mini, Nokia C6-00), remaining S60 5th Edition phones (such as the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic), and even a S60 3rd Edition FP2 (Nokia E72, Nokia E5); it’s good that Nokia are remembering they are still releasing new phones with S60 3rd Edition installed.

If you are interested in this application, head over to Nokia Beta Labs for more information.


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Garmin launch golfing GPS watch

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Although Garmin have already launched their first golf gps unit (the Garmin Approach G5), they recently added another unit, the Garmin Approach G3, and have now added a third golfing device, but this time it’s a watch! The Garmin Approach S1 offers a great range of features, especially if you don’t want the hassle of carrying around an additional device like the G3 or the G5.  It works out where you are on the course using its inbuilt GPS receiver and displays precise distances to the front, back and middle of greens ensuring you keep to time, on track and on par. It also comes preloaded with nearly 5000 European golf courses across Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.

“Rugged and waterproof, Approach S1 weighs only 1.8 ounces, has an ultra-thin backlit display, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts up to eight hours in GPS mode and up to three weeks in watch mode – making it perfect for the boardroom, the bunkers and all points in between. In addition to the wide range of preloaded courses, Approach S1 features an easy-to-set alarm and automatic time and time zone detection, making it the perfect companion for travellers.

Once in golf mode, Approach S1 quickly acquires satellites and displays a list of nearby courses. Once a course is selected, three distances to each hole will always be provided – front, middle and back of the green – with those details being updated automatically and adjusted depending on the angle of approach. During the course of play, Approach S1 displays the hole number and par, and it automatically transitions from one hole to the next.

Once golfers begin a round in golf mode, they can easily transition between time of day and distances to green, and they can access the menu to measure the distance of their last shot to improve their game or shore up bragging rights. Acting as a GPS-enabled odometer, Approach S1 helps golfers track the total ground they’ve covered on foot during each round (or even on a walk over lunch) so that they can see the true health benefits of leaving the cart in the clubhouse.

Golfers can go to www.garmin.co.uk/approach to check if their course is among those available for the Approach S1. At www.garmin.co.uk/approach, golfers can also learn more about Garmin’s Approach G5 and Approach G3 touchscreen handhelds that feature preloaded course coverage and detailed vector mapping unlike anything used before on a golf course.”

A very interesting device, which should sell for around £179, although there’s no word on availability, I’m hearing rumours it’ll be on sale in time for Christmas.


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Garmin expand their Forerunner range

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Garmin have released two additional Forerunner devices, the Garmin Forerunner 410 and the Garmin Forerunner 210.  These double the range (currently the Garmin Forerunner 110 and the Garmin Forerunner 310XT).

The Garmin Forerunner 410 takes the best parts of the previous Garmin Forerunner 405 and improves the design.  “In addition to the enhanced touch bezel that lets runners quickly scroll and select features on the run – in all types of weather – Forerunner 410 alerts runners before transitioning into power-save mode and allows users to manually shut down the power in preparation for long breaks in training. The new touch bezel provides unmatched reliability in sweaty, rainy conditions, and it processes information even faster than before. When your workout’s done, Forerunner 410 keeps working by wirelessly uploading data to the Garmin Connect™ online training community when in range of your computer. It works via ANT+™ wireless technology and the USB stick that comes with your watch. No wires, no manual uploads, no sweat.

Forerunner 410 lets you customize up to three training pages with more than 30 different types of data. You can even determine how many data fields are shown on each screen — whether you see one big field, two or three smaller fields. To get the most information during a run, you can set up your training pages to display and automatically scroll through the data you want, then lock the bezel before you take off. And when you set up advanced workouts on Forerunner 410, your running watch becomes your running coach by displaying detailed training plans and workouts while you’re on the run.”

The Garmin Forerunner 210 is a more budget device, but don’t let that deceive you.  “As easy to use as the popular Forerunner 110, Garmin’s new Forerunner 210 is ideal for runners who simply want to step outside, acquire satellites and start their workout. Forerunner 210 provides real-time data such as pace, distance and time by using a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with Garmin’s HotFix® technology to quickly acquire and sustain satellite reception. For runners who want more training capabilities, Forerunner 210 lets you create customized interval sessions and see your pace for each interval. You can also set up heart rate alerts to notify you when you are above or below your targets. If you’re using the 210 with Garmin’s featherweight foot pod (perfect for running indoors or out), you will later be able to see your running cadence, or steps per minute, when you upload your data to Garmin Connect. Available in a stylish glossy black-on-black design, Forerunner 210 looks fashionable on the run, in the office or out on the town.

Lasting up to 8 hours in GPS/training mode and up to three weeks in power-save mode, Forerunner 210 can be an everyday watch even on an off day of training. Users can save time by charging the battery and uploading workout data to Garmin Connect at the same time through an easy-to-use USB connection, which also is used to upload free software updates quickly from www.garmin.com.”

Both devices feature Garmin heart rate monitor allowing you access to lots of information over your training program.  Prices aren’t yet available, although I would expect the Garmin Forerunner 210 to be over £200, and the Garmin Forerunner 410 to be well over £300 (possibly £350).  The Garmin Forerunner 410 should be available pretty quickly, but the Garmin Forerunner 210 may not be available until Q4 2010.


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SociallyApp updated

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Despite being an avid fan of Gravity on Symbian, I also use SociallyApp (a free Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIN / FourSquare client for Symbian) on my phones as it offers access to slightly different functions, and has a couple of advantages.  As such, I was pleasantly surprised to see there was an unannounced v2.05 update available to download from their website (since then, they have announced it).  One key new feature this version brings is a feature within FourSquare; if you move more than 2km from your last recorded position, it offers you the chance to login, and although it lists 3 or 4 obvious choices for login, even if you say yes it still takes you to the standard FourSquare Places page within the client to choose the actual location to checkin.  Although there’s no automatic checkin option, it is a nice feature to remind you to checkin without being too intrusive.

I also note for those who don’t want it (I know I turn off many of the Desktop Alerts as, with more than a handful of followers, it becomes too much to keep a track of), there is an option within the Settings to turn it off.

If you are looking for a free Twitter client, then I find the regular updates to SociallyApp to make it a worthwhile contender to Gravity, although Gravity is still a better all round twitter client (covering functions such as twitter lists which seem missing completely from SociallyApp.  Even with Gravity, it’s worth considering running SociallyApp alongside it (maybe set to not auto update) for features such as copying Facebook photos to the local Contacts addressbook, copying Facebook birthdays into the local calendar, and the ability to display the most recent Social Networking update by the individual when they call (and on some phones the latest version can also provide a full screen picture of the caller, which is a nice touch).

It’s also nice to report it’s well designed to work with both portrait and landscape devices, and can even use the GPS for FourSquare on S60 3rd Edition FP1 (something that Gravity can only do from FP2 onwards).

If you’ve not tried it, then head to m.sociallyapp.com from your phone and download the new version.


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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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Canon launch new DSLR & add Eye-Fi support

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Others have already covered the launch of the Canon EOS 60D last week, but one thing that caught my attention was the Eye-Fi support that Canon have added into this camera.  Although not the first Canon to support Eye-Fi, it’s nice to see Canon bringing Eye-Fi support to their DSLR range too.  If you don’t know, Eye-Fi are SD memory cards with additional features such as built in WiFi for automatically uploading photos, and some even have limited GPS support too.  For the WiFi upload to work, the camera must be turned on, and the main function of including Eye-Fi support in the camera’s firmware is that it can keep power to the memory card until the transfer is complete.  The support often also includes the ability to configure some of the details of the Eye-Fi card too (although I wasn’t able to confirm what level of control Canon offer).

So, the Canon EOS 60D takes the Canon EOS 50D and builds on it, adding a number of new features; the main features of the camera are:

  • 18 megapixel self cleaning sensor
  • supports EF and EF-S lenses
  • shoots at up to 5.3fps
  • 63 zone metering with 9 AF points
  • captures 1080p video at up to 30fps
  • the tilt and twist LCD screen of many Canon compact digital cameras is included
  • the built in flash can act as a remote Speedlite trigger

The Eye-Fi support is quite key on this device; previous EOS DSLRs supported Canon’s Wireless File Transmitter, whereas Canon have stated the Canon EOS 60D is not compatible with the previous WFT devices, and no new WFT device is planned, therefore the only self-contained solution available to users is the Eye-Fi option.  In fact, Canon have also announced a number of new PowerShot cameras with Eye-Fi support too, and Nikon’s new D3100 supports Eye-Fi too, so it looks like this is the “must have” new feature for this year…

The Canon EOS 60D will go on sale in the next few months and has a UK retail price of £1099.99 (inc. VAT), although I expect that will quickly drop to a lower level.


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Automatic FourSquare Check In

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Future Checkin, a third party Apple iPhone application that utilises the FourSquare API provides an interesting feature.  If you provide it with a list of your favourite places, then it sits in the background (now that iOS4 allows background tasks), and when you arrive at your destination, it will check in for you!  However, to save battery, it’s not instantaneous, and checks the GPS on a configurable basis, and then (to prevent it being used to cheat your way to mayorship status), it only checks you in once every four hours, and never to the same place twice in a row (plus you need to have been at the location for over 3 minutes).

Apparently the author is planning to add Gowalla support too (once they release their API).

If you are interested in the (non-free) application, then search for Future Checkin in the Apple App Store.

If you are an Android user and feeling left out, then try a search for HopScotch, which claims to offer a similar automated checkin facility for Android devices (and although maybe not quite so feature rich as Future Checkin, is free).

Symbian users, of course, are left out in the cold 🙁 For you, it’s manual checkin only (using either the free SociallyApp, the very powerful and useful Gravity application, or there is a new beta of a FourSquare touch only client we covered earlier this week).

Some information courtesy of TechCrunch.


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