Three offering a strong 4G commitment

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Three logo

Although we first covered this earlier this year (here), we thought it worth restating Three UK‘s position in respect of their 4G rollout plans and the impact on their tariffs. The plans are quite simple; coverage to start in London, Birmingham and Manchester starting some point in December, with more cities during 2014. The impact on tariffs is even easier; there isn’t any!

Three UK have stated that existing users will get access to 4G (assuming you have a 4G phone compatible with Three UK‘s LTE frequencies), and will continue to benefit from All You Can Eat data without any additional charges or payments. It is possible that your phone will need a minor software update to enable 4G, although many manufacturers are already rolling this update out in preparation, however, existing SIMs will work, and there will be no need to sign a new contract.

This compares very well to Three’s competitors; eg with EE and Vodafone, you need to move to a 4G tariff, and all the other networks seem to be charging a premium for 4G data.


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Vodafone showing innovation around phone signal

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Vodafone have started a new blog covering some of their activities, called Vodafone Social. Of late they have covered three items of interest, which if you haven’t seen, show they are aiming to keep at the forefront of technology and innovation. Firstly, they have documented how they have provided a whole village with signal, whereas it used to be a mobile “not-spot”; in fact, to show they are quite serious about this, they haven’t just build an open femto-trial in one village, but have now completed this in three villages; East Garston, Cranborne and Newcastleton.

However, if you are ever in London, you will be well aware of the new tall building, The Shard. As part of the visitor centre high up in the sky, Vodafone have also provided a similar solution to those visiting, and you can read all about that here.

If you think that’s quite impressive, I’m also impressed they’ve spent the last year working with East Midlands Trains to improve the signal strength of Vodafone customers on their Meridian trains, which feature a metallic coating (to protect commuters from the bright sunlight) but which also hinder phone signals, and have deployed another variant of the technology that Vodafone have embedded into the trains themselves to improve the signal, even when travelling at full speed. If you are interested, you can read about that here.

It’s well worth you considering putting Vodafone Social into your RSS reader, as it does give an interesting insight into projects involving Vodafone that you might never find out about.


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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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Everything Everywhere to launch contactless payments via mobiles

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Everything Everywhere (the name of the new merged Orange and T-Mobile companies) has announced that it is going to integrate contactless payments into mobile phones, and launch a payment service (in conjunction with Barclaycard) in Q2 2011.  Of late we’re heard that some mobile phone vendors are secretly (or openly) including NFC capabilities into new mobile phones, and it looks like EE plans to take advantage of these and allow the mobile phone NFC to be used for contactless payments.  This comes on the back of McDonald’s announcing it will be rolling out contactless payment support this year too.

It looks like 2011 may be the year that the idea of mobile phone payment systems truely take off.  The EE solution is being produced in conjunction with Gemalto, who will produce (presumably) new SIM cards with both the SIM and the payment capabilities on the same chip, allowing the phone to provide two functions.

Orange also stated they are planning an Orange Cash card, which will be a pre-paid contactless payment card.  In London, there has been a good take up of contactless payment machines, especially useful for sandwich shops; imagine having the ability to buy your lunch by simply waving your phone near the till! In terms of the current 40,000 machines, they are located at places such as EAT, Pret a Manger, Little Chef, and will soon roll out at Co-Op stores.  In fact, one of my local take-aways already supports contactless payments on their credit card machine, so I expect even more places to support it throughout 2011.

Having said that, there is one problem with the current implementation; in my local takeaway, having been told the amount to pay, I could happily insert my chip’n’pin credit card whilst they entered the amount and then I could enter my PIN; since they upgraded to the new machine, I have to wait until the amount has been entered and the machine will then and only then accept the credit card being inserted; so we’ll all have to get used to paying a bit more attention to the process.

This is the sort of integration UK Gadgeteer has always supported; bringing different technologies together to make a better experience.  More news later in the year as EE prepare to roll out the solution.

Picture courtesy of Orange UK.


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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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Real life information on travelling abroad

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

A lot of us will be thinking of booking holidays for 2011, and many of us will then plan to take our mobile phone with us when travelling abroad, as we’ve all grown more accustomed to having 24×7 access to friends and the internet on our phones.  However, there are many costs associated with travelling abroad especially in terms of data roaming charges.  Andrew Grill has complied, over 2 posts, a list of sensible and real world advice on what’s worth considering in advance of travelling to minimise your costs, whilst still allowing connectivity and the ability to use your phone.

Andrew’s posts are here (part one) and here (part two), and are well worth a read.


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London Barclays Cycle Hire now open to all

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Last week saw a major change to the way the Barclays Cycle Hire operates.  Up until now, you needed a key as part of having a membership to the scheme, but on Friday last week they finally opened up the scheme to pay as you go customers, who can now simply turn up and pay with a credit card (or debit card).  You’ll still need to purchase an access period (many people who opted for the key paid in advance for a access period of a year), and then you pay for your usage, although as with the membership key, the first 30 minutes are free.

A couple of handy hints though:

  • Barclays Cycle Hire accepts Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards and Visa Electron, but the scheme doesn’t accept Maestro, Amex, Diners or JCB card.
  • Registered Barclays Cycle Hire members won’t be able to use the same payment card for casual PAYG use. If a member would like to use a cycle hire bike as a casual user they will need to use a different payment card to that which they used to register as a member.

Don’t forget many mobile platforms have one or more apps that will help you find the hire points.  We covered a small selection here when the scheme launched, although there are now more.


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London Underground trialling Wi-Fi on platforms

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It appears that from today, London Underground are starting a trial of Wi-Fi, which will cover both the station and the platforms.  Before you get too excited, firstly it’s only one station (Charing Cross Station), and it’s not free either (being part of the chargeable BT OpenZone system).

Having said that, it will offer free travel updates to all Wi-Fi users, and of course, many users (most but not all BT Broadband customers, and many iPhone owners) have some inclusive OpenZone minutes as part of their contract, so it will be very useful for many.

The trial will last 6 months, although it’s likely to expand (in my opinion) and become a key feature across multiple stations.  There are no plans for coverage within the tunnels.

More details on the TfL website.  Picture (c) Transport for London 2005.


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A good week ahead for mobile devices?

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Although one can never be really sure about what is coming, and what’s going to be released, it’s fair to say that this week maybe a good week for people interested in hearing what’s coming in terms of services and devices over the next few months.

Firstly, and the biggest event, is the two day Nokia World, which is not just likely to include the announcement of at least 3 phones (I suspect a QWERTY touch device running Symbian^3, and a number of other mid-range devices), but is also their premier developer conference, and hence it’s likely we’ll see some hints as to any new directions and services from Nokia over the next 6 months too.  Nokia World runs from tomorrow (Tuesday) until Wednesday, although I expect the key announcement will be made today or tomorrow.  I’m meeting up with a large crowd of Nokia fans this evening, so it may take a day or two to research through the news from Nokia and post it.

Starting at roughly the same time as the keynote speech is an event from LG phones.  This is likely to announce the launch of the LG Optimus One and the LG Optimus Chic, although at this stage there is little more information from LG about these phones, except I wouldn’t be surprised to see some mention of Android within the specs.

Finally, a big player in the mobile marketplace, both with a foot in the Windows Mobile camp as well as the Android camp is HTC, who have an event on Wednesday.  What’s interesting is that this event is being co-ordinated via Facebook, and is in London!  Although there are rumours of either a Windows Mobile 7 or Android phone launch, it’s a first come, first served event, and with over 700 people stating their intention to attend the event (and the venue not supporting that many people), some are going to be disappointed.

So, although I don’t yet have any confirmed information of the exact models of phones to be launched, it’s likely that there’ll be something of interest for most people launched this week…

More news as I have it.


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Is innovation returning to Symbian?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Some people may argue that innovation never left the Symbian developer space, but let’s be honest, of late it’s been more productive to release new products and services for either an Apple product, or Android, and this still continues to some degree; eg we’ve seen London Cycle Hire applications for Apple and Android, but still nothing for Symbian (although there is a new mobile optimised website at cyclehi.com which should work on desktops and mobiles, and is well worthy of a bookmark).

Let’s also not forget that some developers (such as the Jan Ole Suhr at Mobileways, the author of the excellent Gravity Social Networking client for Symbian) have never left Symbian, and have continued to develop really useful applications for the platform.

However, in the last few weeks, I think we’re starting to see a change; firstly, we have Sym4Square, a FourSquare client developed for the touchscreen phones which has now been formally released (see here for information about the beta).  This isn’t the first app to support FourSquare on Symbian, but is the first dedicated app, and seems a pretty complete app too.

Then, we can’t forget Swype, a very popular third party keyboard for Android phones (which allows you to swipe from key to key, and it tries to work out which word you are selecting), has just gone into beta for selected Symbian^1 (aka S60 5th Edition) devices over at Nokia Beta Labs.  It is key, in my opinion, that apps like this are produced, to show that these features can and will be provided for Symbian too (it’s not clear whether is uses the builtin dictionary, or relies upon it’s own, but it certainly seems to maintain it’s own custom dictionary file, and not use the Symbian custom dictionary, which is a real shame).

Finally, again something we’ve already covered (here), but the first platform with a full Online Shopping application (covering the whole end to end process) from Tesco? Symbian.

With Nokia World a week away, and a fair few hardware rumours already out there, it will be interesting to see if Nokia can return to the forefront over the next year…


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