Mobile World Congress roundup

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

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

So, in no particular order…

Nokia PureView 808

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

New Nokia Lumia devices

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

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

Nokia Application Updates

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

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

Asus Padfone

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

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

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


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3UK Providing Office 2010 cheap for students

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

3UK have launched a range of Student special deals to coincide with students going to college. If you are a student and you purchase a Standard USB dongle, the Premium USB dongle, or go for the Samsung NC110 Netbook then you can get Microsoft Office 2010 Student Edition for just £4 extra per month. Unlike other student Office deals (such as software4students.co.uk) you will need to have an .ac.uk email address (and if you want Outlook, Publisher and Access included in the deal you need to activate before 25th October).  However, being able to spread the cost of the Office software over 24 months may appeal to many.  For the rest of us (including those with non-university children in education), head over to software4students.co.uk who have plenty of other offers.


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3UK Improve laptop trade in offer

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Back in May this year 3UK launched a trial laptop trade in scheme (see here); not just does this continue to be available, but 3UK have just widened the criteria to qualify for the scheme.  The amount is still £150, but the criteria is now:

  • Up to 5 years old (originally 3)
  • Screen size over 12″
  • Be undamaged (although some wear and tear should be accepted)
  • In working order, with battery and all cables

With the greater age range, that old laptop sitting at home may suddenly be more useful to help fund a new laptop.  If you are interested in this deal, head off to the 3UK website where more details can be found.


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Vodafone update inclusive roaming data

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I’ve covered Vodafone‘s data roaming before, but in the last day or two they have improved the deal.  Whereas before you could get 5MB per day of data roaming (within Europe, for £2/day or £10/month) they have now increased the limit to 25MB per day.  This makes the offer even more appealing, as most people are capable of keeping their phones below 25MB of data per day; before the 5MB per day limit seems designed to prevent accidental use of roaming data, but at 25MB per day I think it’s now designed to be actively used.

A few warnings and conditions of course; it’s opt-in (although recent PAYG users are automatically offered the service); without it the rates are higher, so well worth checking you have the facility. Outside of Europe, the cost is higher (£5/day with no monthly deal), and the costs are higher again for laptops / tablets.  However, if you have a recent £40/month or higher contract (often including 900 minutes or more) then you may actually get Data Traveller included with your contract (this also applies to SIM only contracts).

Thanks to Ben Smith at Wireless Worker for spotting the new tariffs.


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3UK launch laptop Trade In scheme

Monday, May 16th, 2011

3UK have launched a laptop Trade In scheme.  In simple terms; if you buy a new laptop from 3UK and you then send them a laptop which is up to 3 years old, they will send you £150.  There are T&Cs attached to this (it must be working and complete with battery and accessories), and it can take a month or two for the money to arrive, but it’s well worth considering and factoring into the cost of a new PC if you are thinking about it.  I understand this is a limited offer, although 3UK have not yet said when it will end.

For more details, head here.


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Vodafone improve data roaming deals

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Although some details are still a little sketchy, it appears Vodafone has now launched some much better data roaming rates, and if you are a frequent traveller, then the rates appear to be even better.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that the data roaming rates only apply to certain countries (most, but not all of Western Europe); if you want to know more, then access this map which shows all the details of which countries (and which rates apply).

So, in many countries (including France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Austria) you can benefit from 25MB of internet data per day for just £2 per day.  In most other European countries (including Isle of Mann, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Finland) that same £2 per day gets you 5MB of data per day.  If you are a frequent traveller, then you can pay £10 per month to get the same amount of data per month.

You’ll need to opt in to the Vodafone Data Traveller, although if you are a PAYG customer, you can utilise it for free.  Equally, if you are on a recent price plan that costs £40 or more and get at least 900 minutes, then you can automatically get 25MB of data roaming per day at no extra cost.  For others, you’ll need to call 40062 from your phone to opt in.

These rates and deals will apply from 1 December 2010, and only apply to using your phone to access the Internet; they do not apply Mobile Broadband or using your laptop.

With the proliferation of people using their phones for data, and travelling abroad, it’s nice to see Vodafone offering some inclusive data allowance whilst roaming, which will benefit many people.  Of course, last year we saw 3UK remove their “3 Like Home” offer, so it’ll be interesting to see how they respond…


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3 MiFi – Final Looks

Monday, August 9th, 2010

I’ve already covered many of the key benefits to the new 3 MiFi unit (in my first looks), although I will restate that it’s a joy to use now it’s a single power button to set everything up, and the wireless encryption key being only numbers makes it easier to quote to people to share the connection.  For the full review, click on the full article below.

(more…)


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The return of 3UK’s 15GB MBB deals

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

3 logo

INQ £15 Texter 18month contract

A while ago, 3UK dropped their 15GB per month contract tariffs for Mobile Broadband.  Well, if you felt that 5GB per month was not enough, then we’re pleased to let you know that the 15GB per month deals are available again on the 3Store.  In fact it seems for many options, the 15GB per month replaces the 5GB per month option at the same price, so this is even better value than before! It should be available for Mobile Broadband, 3UK MiFi and laptop deals (and even the 3UK iPod Touch Bundle), although as with many things 3UK -related, you are likely to find these are all 24-month contracts, and not the more traditional 18-month ones.


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SanDisk MicroSDHC Review

Monday, April 19th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, SanDisk kindly supplied me with a SanDisk Mobile MicroSDHC memory card for review.  Although it’s difficult to review something that “just works” I can say it seemed nice and fast when used in a camera (via an adaptor I already owned).  I also used it in a mobile phone where there was less apparent speed increase over the original memory card, but I do wonder if this was being limited more by the phone than the memory card.  Also, the phone rarely does fast reading / writing from the card to notice a difference; whereas with the camera, it seemed faster in both writing new pictures to the card, as well as playing back and reviewing pictures already taken.

As it’s designed for use in a mobile phone, the Sandisk Mobile MicroSDHC card came on its own, which is understandable.  For most people this will be fine, although providing an adaptor to allow the MicroSDHC card to be put into a laptop’s / netbook’s SD card slow would have been nice, for fast transfer of photos and music.  Having said that, I mainly upload photos from my mobile phone direct to online websites, and downloading / updating my music collection on my phone is a rare occurrence too, and often performed over Bluetooth for simplicity, so maybe the lack of an adaptor isn’t so bad after all (plus the memory card will obviously work with existing adaptors).

So, if you are in the market for a new memory card, don’t just go for the cheapest; think about whether you should invest in a device to keep your data safe, and then look at brands such as Sandisk.  Oh, and the Sandisk website also has a compatibility facility for entering the details of your device, and it will tell you which products are compatible with it (although I note it assumes you will buy the correct size, so for example if you select a device with an SD slot, it only shows you SD cards, not miniSD or microSD devices).

Thanks to SanDisk for the review memory card.


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Nokia Booklet 3G Review

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Nokia Booklet 3G

ZOMG It’s CJ has just published it’s review of the Nokia Booklet 3G, and it’s a very impressive review, covering all areas of the device, with a massive number of pictures too.  It’s well worth a read to find out more about this High End (although only medium spec) stylish netbook.

I was fortunate to be able to spend half an hour with a Nokia Booklet 3G a couple of weeks ago, and was quietly impressed.  The device was light, stylish, and very nice to use.  It’s not perfect though; due to the nicely sized keyboard (with a nice gap between each of the keys), the screen looks quite small in the top, and in fact, I wonder if Nokia will increase the screen size within the current laptop frame sometime soon.

The particular unit I tried also suffered from a small irritant in that the screen hinge was too loose, and allowed the screen to move too easily, making it difficult to walk around with the device in one hand (yes, not the best way to carry a laptop, but something that many people will do).  At times it felt like the screen would not stay put, although it never moved on it’s own it didn’t feel right (and speaking with others, this fault does not appear to afflict other models).

However, the main problem I found was the 1GB of memory made Windows 7 a little sluggish, and again, hopefully a memory upgrade will come soon to improve the device.  I wasn’t able to test the 3G functionality, but having 3G and HDMI built in does make the device very useful, and the battery was rather impressive too.  One other minor issue was that after being used solidly for over an hour, the CPU was making the case a little warm.

All in all, if you are after a very stylish device with a similar design ethos to a Macbook, but running Windows, then this device is worth a look; if you don’t need the latest greatest kit, I would suggest possibly waiting until the next version comes out to make it a truly all round device.

Thanks to the team at WOM World Nokia for letting me have a play with the Booklet (and thanks for the hospitality when I dropped in unannounced).


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