Wireless Charger review

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Qi charging pad

Mobile Fun contacted me and asked me if was interested in looking at one of their wireless charging pads, the Qi wireless charging pad. This arrived the next day, and I put it into immediate service to see how well it worked. Using my Nexus 4, it has faultlessly charged on a regular basis without any issues.

The charging pad is clever enough to work out that the phone is charged, and will automatically shut off; this caused a small moment of concern when I first got it, as the Nexus 4 was already sufficiently charged that the pad appeared to do nothing. I find letting the Nexus 4 run down and then placing on the pad to be the best way (and sometimes turning the phone on, or at least using it just before is beneficial; without that, it seems to take the phone and pad a few seconds to spot each other, and that can means I would often stand there for a while until the charging light came on. By using the phone (or at least turning it on) just before always seem to start the charging faster.

My only other concern with the pad is something I’ve seen in the comments on the Mobile Fun website; the blue charging light doesn’t look too bad in the daytime, but at night is capable of lighting a room quite well, so this may not be to everyone’s liking. Personally, when charging has been necessary overnight, it’s actually not proved to be a problem, but it is something to be aware of.

The Qi Universal Charging Pad currently costs £29.99 from the Mobile Fun website (see here for a link to their devices), which is a good price for me. As the device is a Qi compatible charging device, it will work with a whole range of devices, including the Nokia Lumia devices with built in charging, or with charging backs fitted.

Thanks to Mobile Fun for providing the charging pad for review.

Disclaimer: Although Mobile Fun provided the charging pad, they had no editorial input into this article.


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Three now selling Nokia Lumia 610

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

3UK have announced today that they have started to sell the budget phone in the Lumia range, the Nokia Lumia 610. Now, this phone has less memory, and hence can’t run some of the multitasking features we all expect from Windows Phone; in particular, the Nokia Lumia 610 doesn’t support background tasks (especially those taking more than 90MB), fast app switching or live tiles updates (these mainly require background tasks). However, it’s available for £28 per month on the One Plan (24 month contract, but includes AYCE data and tethering support), or just £150 on PAYG, and this makes it a nice budget phone, unless you are a real power user.

Of course, the Nokia Lumia 710 is £200 on PAYG (or £32 per month on the One Plan), and that may well work out better value in the long run; the Nokia Lumia 610 does have touch buttons, whereas the Nokia Lumia 710 has real buttons (that’s a personal preference) but with the Lumia 710 supporting the full range of Windows Phone 7 features (and the new firmware that shipped last week adds the flip-to-silence and tethering options sorely missed on it), it does appear an overall better option.

However, another way of looking at it; what other device can you buy for £150 which offers free offline satnav features (Nokia Drive), free offline music (Nokia Mix Radio), and free public transport information (Nokia Transport, where data is available), and if bought on the One Plan can be used to provide you unlimited data for your other wifi devices, such as your tablet and PC?

If interested, head over to the 3UK website, where you can now purchase the phone, or, if you prefer, buy the Nokia Lumia 710.


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Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The last article was about Vodafone European roaming rates for PAYG customers, so I thought I would jot down some of the techniques I use to try to minimise my roaming costs when going abroad. I should note for my last trip abroad I used 30MB of data (over 4 days), and a handful of texts, yet kept my total spend below £10, and could not have spent more than £20, yet that spend actually got me a bundle of texts, calls and data for the UK leg of the journey, and whilst abroad I could have used upto 100MB without spending any more money!

So, what techniques do I use:

Firstly, I carried my primary UK phone number in a phone where I turned off roaming data whilst still in the UK. In fact, as I left the UK, I turned off mobile data completely. This phone I only use for emergencies, being contacted if needed. This limited usage kept the battery going for 2 days without a charge.

I then carried a second phone, in my case, an old Android phone from a year or so ago. This had been wiped clean and just had the apps needed, with most of the sync functions turned off (actually, I kept calendar / contacts syncing, and ran a couple of Social Network clients). Although I kept the syncing turned on, to minimise usage even further, I would turn this off, as it only adds to the usage, and most changes could wait until I returned. Again, roaming data was initially turned off.

This phone carried a Vodafone PAYG SIM, which I topped up with £20 before I set off. This topup gave me minutes, texts and 500MB of data in the UK. As I’m already opted in to Vodafone Passport, I knew that if I kept data to less than 25MB per day, my data costs would be £2 per day.

Before I left the UK, I used those bundled texts that came with the topup to alert a few key people that if they needed me over the next few days to use this number in preference to my normal number.

Once I arrived, I was greeted with text messages to both phones informing me of the rates (which, given it was before the new 1 July 2012 roaming limits are imposed, were somewhat of a shock (eg £3.07/MB for data!). I then turned on roaming data on the Vodafone SIM, and then used the normal data on/off functions to control my usage. I had a data counter installed (I use 3G Watchdog Pro, which included the ability to create a widget on the homescreen which monitored and reported my roaming usage) to ensure I was kept aware of my usage.

So, with careful use of data, I kept within the 25MB daily limit Vodafone include with the Passport option, sent and receive a few texts (11p per text, but coming out of the £20 credit), and spent under £10 all in. Given the phone only had a £20 credit, even if something went wrong with the Passport data options, or I suddenly started making lots of calls (or my phone had been stolen; though I’m not sure a two year old Android phone would have been that worthy), my absolute roaming spend was limited to that £20 topup. I appreciate the UK networks have now introduced roaming cost caps to limit bill shock, but this method truely limited my costs to a fixed amount.

In addition, I ran mapping software which allowed me to download the maps beforehand, so I wasn’t paying for Google Maps type data transfers of map data all the time (and in fact, since travelling, Google Maps on Android now has a formal offline feature for downloading the maps, but not the turn-by-turn navigation). I didn’t need to drive / travel any great distance, but if I had, Nokia Drive on Windows Phone (or Symbian) still makes a lot of sense as it provides true offline navigation.

Most importantly, as I was travelling with my family, by having an old phone without every latest bit of software installed, and a need to keep data usage down, I mainly had the phone for emergencies, and enjoyed the holiday.

If you are travelling abroad this summer, you will firstly benefit from lower roaming rates within the EU, but either way, spend some time thinking about the costs and researching it before you leave, and make sure you plan a way that works best for you; this is even more key when you leave the EU, where the caps and new low rates won’t apply. With many of the networks now offering bundles and good rates on PAYG SIMs, it’s well worth considering taking a second phone (or simply an old phone in the cupboard) to best save money and keep down the risk of bill shock.


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Looking for something different for your Lumia 710?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

The company I Aint No Saint Paint are now producing custom back covers for the Nokia Lumia 710. Although right now they only have a limited range of flag based phone covers at £19.99 each, I’m sure in time they will expand to have an even wider range. These are replacement back covers for the Nokia Lumia 710, as opposed to additional hard cases, but I think they offer a unique way to customise your phone.


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Three abolish out of bundle data charges

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Three have announced a refresh of their price plans as from tomorrow. Although The One Plan remains, all other plans seem to have been modified. However, the big news is that Three have abolished all out of bundle data charges, although this looks to be at the expense of newer lower limits.

The plans come in two flavours, Essential and Ultimate; all plans come with data, although the Essential plans only have 250Mb included for free. Should you run out of data (and you’ll get a text to tell you this), we assume your data will get cut off, instead of automatically incurring fees, but you can then add either another 250Mb (for £2) or add All You Can Eat data for £5, with both of these options lasting up to 30 days, and without any commitment to pay again in the next month.  This idea of allowing more data on an occasional basis seems a good move to me, although I would personally have preferred to see a slightly higher data bundle.

However, all the Ultimate plans have All You Can Eat data, so no worries there over your data usage. Again, I assume that The One Plan remains the only new plan available where you can tether (connect your PC to your handset and access data).

The plans are (with example handset prices; some handsets will cost a higher monthly charge, and all plans are for 24 months):

Essential Ultimate The One Plan
100 300 500 100 300 500 1000
Data 250MB All-you-can-eat data
Minutes 100 300 500 100 300 500 1000 2000 + 5000 Three-Three minutes
Texts 5000
Samsung Galaxy Ace

£15

Samsung Galaxy SII

£27

iPhone 4S 16GB

£36

HTC Wildfire S

£20

Samsung Galaxy Ace

£18

Samsung Galaxy SII

£30

Sony Ericsson

Arc S

£25

iPhone 4S 16GB

£36 (£49 upfront)

Samsung Galaxy SII

£34

Nokia Lumia 800

£30

iPhone 4S 16GB

£36 (£69 upfront)

Samsung Galaxy SII

£36

iPhone 4 8GB

£36


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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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Windows Phone 7 & Multi Google Calendar Support

Friday, January 27th, 2012

I’ve recently got a Nokia Lumia 800, and for all the nice features the phone and Windows Phone 7 has, one annoying feature was the lack of multi Google Calendar support; when you add a Google Account to the phone, it only syncs the primary calendar associated with the account; I have 4 or 5 main Google Calendars, and subscribe to a number of iCal feeds too, so this really didn’t provide me with the full Google experience I need.

I discovered there was a way of getting multi calendar support, involving a desktop PC, mucking around with browser settings (and user agent settings), which allowed you to access a Google sync configuration page where you could add multiple calendars.  This worked, and I was really happy.

However, Google have now confirmed that if you access the m.google.com/sync page direct from your Windows Phone (using IE9 on the phone), it will allow you to select your WP7 device, and then add multi calendars to be included with the next sync.

Once done, go to the Settings / Accounts, press and hold the Google account, and select Synchronise.  If this does not bring down the additional calendars, you may need to remove the Google account and add it back again.  Also, once you have done this, you can go into the Calendar settings and change the colours of each calendar to bring them closer to the colours you have adopted within Google Calendar directly; that way a quick glance at your calendar, and you should know what’s going on.

So far this has been the only “showstopper” that has stopped me enjoying the device; yes, it’s not perfect, and there are still lots of little things for Microsoft / Nokia to sort out, but now allowing multiple Google Calendar support is a good start (for me!).

Update: I’ve removed a minor comment regarding Nokia Drive, as Nokia are kindly in contact with me around my comments with the app.


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Pre Order Nokia Lumia 800 now

Friday, November 4th, 2011

If you want to be one of the first to own the new Windows Phone Nokia Lumia 800, then it’s now available to pre order from Vodafone in the UK.  The phone will be free, but it comes with a 24-month contract, which offers 900 cross network minutes, “unlimited” texts (likely capped at a few thousand), 750MB of data per month, and you’ll get 2GB of BT OpenZone Wi-Fi included too.

When I last checked, you could still get delivery planned for Wednesday 16th November, ie the first day the phone will be available, although you should check with Vodafone whether this is still the case when you order.  If you are wanting to port your existing phone number, you need to let Vodafone know about when you order, as unlike some of the other networks, you cannot do this afterwards.

One benefit of Vodafone is that you “Test Drive” their data networks with pretty much no limits over the first 3 months, and then choose whether you need to increase the included data allowance.  Also, it’s possible you will be eligible for a £60 voucher discount (£10 voucher each month for 6 months to spend at places like Amazon and Starbucks); this and other information will be made available via a joint Vodafone / Nokia website here.

It looks like most of the other networks will be carrying the Nokia Lumia 800 as well, but not all are (yet) offering pre order options.


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Updates from Nokia World

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Courtesy of Nokia, I’ve been invited to attend Nokia World this year. I’m there already (hopefully!), but full articles are always difficult when mobile, so I’m hoping to still bring major updates from the event, but these will be provided via Twitter (@UKGadgeteer).  If possible, pictures may additionally be available via UK Gadgeteer‘s new Flickr account, with a catch up article covering the main points at a later date.


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Nokia Map Update

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Back in July I mentioned that Nokia had released a map update for Nokia Maps for v3.06, but not v3.04 (as used on some elder devices such as the Nokia E71).  However, someone mentioned to me the other day that Nokia had updated the maps again. Sure enough, a quick check via the Maps Update function confirmed new maps were available, so I downloaded them via my PC (I don’t have quite enough spare space on the phone to download them directly).  These new maps are dated 26 September 2011, a little over two months since the last update.  As this was the third map update this year, it will be interesting to see whether they have moved to a more regular two-monthly update process, or whether they simply release one update per quarter (ie the July update was just very late).

Also, although the elder v3.04 Maps client doesn’t have a built in Map Update facility, I still connected my Nokia E71 to my PC, and it also offered a map update.  I’m not sure exactly when the update was released, but based on the map data (there’s one major new road near me that’s appeared in both these updates that was not included in the July update), it looks like the maps for the elder client are also very recent.

If you have a Nokia Symbian phone, don’t forget to update the maps every now and then.


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