Gadget Show Live – Tickets still available!

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

I was fortunate to be invited to the Gadget Show Preview / Professional Trade Show event yesterday, and it’s nice to see The Gadget Show Live even bigger and better than last year. Whilst last year everything was iPhone / iPad related, this year it was nice to see a wider range of devices supported by the various accessories manufacturers at the show, with Kindle and Samsung Galaxy Tablets also getting a look in.

Even better; if you haven’t already bought a ticket, I understand from the organisers that a limited number of tickets are still available for today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday), although the rest of the week is now fully booked, so don’t travel unless you already have tickets.

Along with the main Gadget Show Live Super Theatre (featuring a massive 360 degrees viewing screen), there are a number of smaller seminar type presentation areas, and a few stands are running their own presentations too. In terms of exhibitors, there are the big guys (LG, Samsung, Sony, Canon, Kenwood, Philips and Pioneer), the larger retailers (PC World, Scan), and even a couple of mobile networks (Orange and O2), both of whom are running Show special deals during the event. As always, there are smaller companies (such as OrbitSound and Bicygnals) who are often worth a look at their slightly more specialised items.

There’s lot of food facilities (though a little expensive), including Subway and Starbucks, and even a chance to try the new Volkswagen Up! car in the driving experience; equally, for gamers, there are plenty of XBox consoles to try out, and a fair few Kinect installations on various stands. If you have children, look out for LeapFrog for younger ones, or something more fun such as the Parrot AR.drone for the older children.

Although The Gadget Show have announced that as from the new series (soon to start) only Jason and Polly will be presenting, all 5 of the “current” presenters will be appearing at the Gadget Show Live this year. For details of the shows and a full exhibitor list, head off to the Gadget Show Live website for more details.

If you want to attend, head over to the Gadget Show Live website and buy your tickets in advance of travelling (if any are left!); also don’t forget NEC charge £8 per car for parking.


Mobile Operators implementing content control, but in different ways

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Some networks, such as Vodafone, have had content control systems for some time, but due to new regulations (see here), some of the UK mobile networks have had to implement content control over the last few weeks.  O2 came up with an interesting solution, but not one that has worked well, whereas 3UK have shown some sense in their handling of a content control system.

O2 put the content block onto all contracts, forcing all traffic through a content control server.  If you pay them £1 on your credit card, they will open up the content control, and then credit your account with £2.50.  This is similar to a similar arrangement on Vodafone, but caused a lot of fuss when introduced.  However, what’s now transpires is that if you don’t pay the money, the content control server sometimes struggles to work, and a few people are reporting a worse browsing experience.

3UK went the other way; although they have enabled the content control as standard on all PAYG phones, they have not enabled it by default on any contracts (given the contract often needs a credit card to purchase the contract, and a bank account to pay the direct debit, this makes a lot of sense); if you have passed a phone contract onto someone below 18, you can contact 3UK and ask them to enable the controls though (simply send a no-cost text with the word ‘Filter’ to 33333).  In a similar way, for PAYG users you can “prove” your age by using a credit card, but another option is to go into a store and show ID proving your age; a nice sensible option and shows a little joined up thinking.

It’s important to realise that all mobile networks must implement a system, but it’s interesting to see the different implementations.

Minor update: 3UK have said the removal of the existing content control options will take up to the end of June to remove for all existing accounts.


Ovi Store now support mobile billing

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Something not many people seem to have noticed, but Nokia have announced that many of the UK networks are now supported for billing within the Ovi Store; before, you had to either strike it lucky with your network choice, or use a credit card, but Nokia have confirmed that if you are a customer of T-Mobile, Orange, 3UK, O2 or Vodafone, you can now select to have any purchases added to your mobile phone bill instead.  It’s not clear if this agreement covers the smaller virtual operators such as Virgin Mobile or GiffGaff, but it’s certainly a good start, and adds an option commonly not available on other platforms.


Mobile Networks & Coming Soon Mobiles

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

It’s been a week of confirming mobile phones from the networks.  Vodafone have confirmed that they will be selling the Nokia E7 (although 3UK confirmed this a while ago, it’s now explicitly mentioned on the Vodafone website, as opposed to only being covered by the 3UK blog).

In other news, O2, Vodafone and 3UK have all confirmed they will be selling the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc as well, with two operators confirming they will be selling the Arc from April.


Improvements to an O2 Joggler

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Earlier this year, O2 were selling their O2 Joggler units for only £50 (they are still available, but back to the more common £100 price).  Many of us (me included) bought one at that time.  After an initial flurry of enabling telnet (allowing remote network access into the device), and using that access to install some other native apps (Google Maps, Google Calendar, Twitter, Flickr; though that last one never did quite worked properly), many of us either turned them off, sold them, or simply left them doing what they were designed for; running small apps.

However, a small community of users have persevered and actually released a whole range of updates and additional applications for the Joggler.  I’m not aware of many developers stepping up and releasing apps; it’s more the community have worked out how to get other existing apps to work on the devices, or they have worked out ways to tweak the device for better access.

Whilst I was manually installing apps, I heard of a user who was creating a set of scripts called “Pimp my Joggler”, or PMJ.  This took a lot of the hassle out of enabling telnet and installing those apps.  Like many others, having already done the hard work and worked out ways of enabling things, it didn’t offer a great deal extra (especially after Quinten released his script to enable telnet from a USB memory key).

Since then, other users have also joined in, and suddenly there is an impressive tool that’s well worth installing on your O2 Joggler; Plug’n’Pimp.  This doesn’t have a lot of similarities with the early tools, which are still useful, and shouldn’t be dismissed, but what is does offer is an easy way to upgrade and install a couple of really useful applications as well…

It installs from a USB memory key (you put the files in to the root directory, insert the USB key into the USB socket, and power up the Joggler).  Once complete, it will use the built in Messages application to confirm it has been successful (and again for other software updates).  The first nice feature is that you access the Joggler using a web browser to manage this new application.  Once there, you can install a number of new applications:

  • BBC Live player; giving you access to a range of BBC channels to stream live (UK only)
  • A PDF reader
  • Opera Mobile; see more below
  • Squeezebox Server; a version of the home audio media player
  • SqueezePlay; see more below
  • An SWF Manager; to allow a wider range of SWFs files to work on the Joggler

I’ll come back to a couple of those tools in a while.  As well as those, you can install a number of tools onto the Joggler:

  • Driver pack; improved drivers (including a better wireless driver, and adds support for NTFS)
  • Screen Off; a button to turn off the screen
  • Restart; a button to restart the O2 interface
  • Samba support; this allows the Joggler to be able to access Windows / Samba shares over the network

You can also tweak some of the settings of the device (such as Brightness, enabling and disabling auto-dim).  The key reason why I like this app though it that it will check for updates to itself and the various installed applications for you, and allow you to keep everything up to date without needing to constantly be checking around lots of different forums and websites and then manually applying lots of updates to the O2 Joggler.

For me though, two apps have stood out; Opera Mobile and SqueezePlay.  Opera Mobile; yes, a full web browser on the device, which is the one function that everyone was annoyed that it was not included from day one.  Being Opera Mobile, it’s designed for a full touch interface, and has access to a QWERTY keyboard whenever input is required.  You can even turn on advance features like Opera Turbo, to use compression to require less data to access websites.  Opera Mobile also supports a wide range of Opera Widgets, and these all seem to work fine on the Joggler, so there’s a Wikipedia widget included straight away, support for Instant Messaging, even, and many more available for download.

Finally, for me, but I appreciate not all, there is SqueezePlay.  For those who have a Slim Devices (now Logitech) Squeezebox, you’ll be well used to the “Squeeze” name.  SqueezePlay is the dekstop audio client of the Squeezebox Server, and uses the same UI as used in the latest generation of Squeeze products.  Once installed, this auto discovered my Squeezebox Server, and immediately had access to all my home audio music.  As it’s the same program, it also supports third party apps and additional plugins to offer even more functions, so there’s a Flickr plugin and even a Facebook client!  As it uses the standard functions, you can extend this even further; I’ve got a map of the world showing the areas of the world in daylight as the screensaver for when in SqueezePlay, which comes from a plugin extension.

With these additional apps installed, my O2 Joggler has received a new lease of life; due to it’s speed, it’s never going to be the main web browser in the house, but with the ability to fit into my whole house audio music system, and the ability to easily access particular websites and snippets of information, it’s suddenly looking a lot more useful.  I’ve not gone as far as to move the Squeezebox Server onto the Joggler itself; but with the ability to access large external USB disks or network shares, this is certainly possible!

For more info on Plug’n’Pimp and many other customisations and tweaks, head over to the Joggler.Info forums, whose users and FAQs provided key information to allow me to install these additional apps.


Kindle 3 released with a proper UK variant

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Last week Amazon released (a little earlier than everyone was expecting) a new Kindle model, the Kindle 3.  Not just is the device better in many ways (and cheaper!), but Amazon have also launched a UK Kindle Store, and a UK Kindle 3 directly using a UK mobile SIM.  Currently, a Kindle 2 International or Kindle DX International will have a US mobile SIM built into the device, and hence will roam onto the UK networks (although it could roam onto multiple networks, the Kindle does seem keen to stick with O2), whereas the Kindle 3 will have a UK Vodafone mobile SIM built into the device (which is still sealed, so there’s no access to the SIM or the battery).  What’s interesting is that with the release of the v2.5 firmware, all International Kindles in the UK have had access to the “full” internet experience (as opposed to the launch wikipedia-only access), so actually this internet access isn’t that different to the experience available to existing users.

So, what’s new and different with the new device…

  • Firstly, it’s available (from 27th August)
  • 21% smaller and 15% lighter, and has a 20% faster refresh of the e-Ink screen
  • There are two models, the Kindle 3 WiFi, and the Kindle 3 3G/WiFi, which uses Vodafone as already mentioned
  • The Kindle 3 WiFi will only come in Graphite, whereas the Kindle 3 3G will come in White or Graphite
  • The same 6″ screen size of the existing Kindle 2, but with the better contrast of the Kindle DX screen
  • Storage up to 4GB
  • Prices are £109 for Kindle WiFi and £149 for Kindle 3G, with neither having any ongoing costs
  • Minor changes to the keyboard (improving the 5 way cursor), and providing “previous page” buttons on both sides of the device
  • The buttons (especially the next / previous page buttons) are quieter
  • Updated web browser technology, to make every element faster
  • Whereas before numbers were accessible from the top row of keys, you can now use the Symbol feature (which doesn’t turn off after the selection of the first symbol).  There are rumours that you can also use Alt-Q (for 1) etc., although the numbers are not marked on the keys
  • Battery life now listed as 10 days for 3G version, and a month for the WiFi version
  • There’s a microphone at the bottom, marked as “for future use”

Another interesting feature; a light for reading at night! No, not included with the Kindle 3, but the all new leather cover from Amazon includes a built in light (and what’s more, it gets powered directly from the Kindle via contacts in the hinge mechanism); personally on my Kindle 2, I have an M-Edge case with the M-Edge e-Luminator light which works well, but building it into the case is even nicer (and cheaper).

The Kindle Case should be available in Black, Orange, Brown, Pink, Blue, Green and Red (do watch out, the case will also be available without the light!) for £49.99 in the UK.

So, what about the pricing?  The Kindle 2 was roughly £200 last Christmas, so the price of the WiFi version is nearly half that, and I think that will make the Kindle 3 WiFi a plausible Christmas present, and with devices like the 3 MiFi, there’s no need to pay extra for the 3G version.


iPhone 4 on 3UK and T-Mobile from today

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Don’t forget that you can now get the Apple iPhone 4 from 3UK and T-Mobile, who have both released the phone for sale today.  If you are thinking about getting an iPhone 4 on either network I wouldn’t hang around; O2 are still reporting having supply problems even now, so I suspect both these networks will have limited allocations, and those are going to go very fast!

I’ve already stated my opinions of the fact that 3UK have been able to carry this phone, but it’s nice to see that instead of being months after all the other networks, they are now considered “important” enough to have the same release date as one of the original big four networks.

Update: In fact, 3UK have stated they will be removing the iPhone 4 from sale from 5pm this evening due to stocks starting to run low.  Depending exactly how many devices get sold in the next few hours will determine whether it comes back on sale on Monday (however briefly until stocks run out completely).


giffgaff clarify free internet

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

We’ve covered giffgaff before, including making reference to their “unlimited” data, where we stated there was a 100Mb fair usage limit.  giffgaff have now clarified the situation, and we can confirm that this fair use limit does not always apply, and there are currently two options; unlimited data and free data; so what’s the difference…

If you just use the traditional TopUp system to buy credit then currently you can get “free” data.  This free data, which is subject to a 100MB per day limit was supposed to become chargeable from the end of this month, however, for O2 (the parent network) to implement the billing support was a major project, and O2 apparently offered giffgaff the choice between upgrading the O2 data network for everyone *or* providing the billing support, and giffgaff chose the network upgrade.  As such, giffgaff will start charging for their “PAYG data”, but not until the end of October (ie after both projects have completed).

However, as part of explaining all of this, giffgaff have also confirmed that if you buy a “GoodyBag” (most of which come with “unlimited” data) then their is no hard and fast fair use limit; I suspect they still reserve the right to cut off someone who is running the connection 24×7, but in general, you can use more than 100MB a day without immediate impact.

giffgaff have said they may need to change this unlimited option in the future, but for now it stands, even though O2 no longer offer an equivalent tariff.


iPhone 4 on 4 networks

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 4.  Today, all the 4 main networks have confirmed that they will be selling the iPhone 4 from June (24th), with many offering pre-orders from around the 15th.  So, that’s O2 (obviously), Vodafone and Orange (already selling the iPhone 3GS), and now T-Mobile who will all be carrying the iPhone 4 later this month.  It’s nice to see T-Mobile step up and offer the iPhone at last, although with all prices likely to be pretty much identical, even with 4 networks there’s no real competition on this phone.

Still no agreement or update from 3UK on their plans though.


Dell Streak available tomorrow from O2

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

This is a very interesting device, and one I had the fortune to get a sneak peek Hands On with last week.  This is a 5″ tablet phone, which I have to say is a little large to hold up to your ear when on a call, so you might want to budget for a Bluetooth Headset to not look quite so silly, or simply add this to your existing phone with a data only contract (more later).  However, it’s running Android, and features a very nice touchscreen, which can take the knocks of every day life (I saw the blunt end of a knife be punched into the screens of 2 devices and neither suffered any problems with the touchscreen still working fine straight afterwards).  Obviously Dell & O2 don’t condone this level of abuse, and do warn that there are still certain angles where a drop onto a hard floor will still cause serious damage, but at least it’s a little tougher than many, and features something called Gorilla Glass to provide that protection.

The device I saw had a range of additional Android applications installed onto them, so although I can’t comment on what comes as standard with the device, they seem to have full support of the Android Marketplace, and hence there is a whole raft of additional applications that can be installed.

Although I didn’t get long with the devices, they seemed to be coping with many demos without a major impact on battery life, although that obviously needs a longer trial to establish whether it can last more than the common single day of usage.

O2, however, are offering the phone on a whole host of tariff options, ranging from the 30-day rolling Simplicity contracts (the Dell Streak 32GB will cost £399 upfront on all Simplicity contracts) to the high end £60 per month “unlimited” everything 24-month contract (where the device will be free).

24 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £35 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £60 Free Free

18 month smartphone tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
100 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £149 £249
300 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £59 £149
600 Unlimited Unlimited £40 Free £89
900 Unlimited Unlimited £45 Free £59
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £50 Free Free
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £65 Free Free

The Smartphone tariffs above offer unlimited texts, data and Wi-Fi at thousands of BT Openzone and The Cloud hotspots as well as a wide range of minutes.

12 month simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £15 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £45 £349 £399

30 day simplicity tariffs

Included minutes Included data & Wi-Fi Included texts Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
300 Unlimited Unlimited £20 £349 £399
600 Unlimited Unlimited £25 £349 £399
900 Unlimited Unlimited £30 £349 £399
1200 Unlimited Unlimited £35 £349 £399
Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £50 £349 £399

Again, it’s nice to see Wi-Fi at hotspots included even on these tariffs.

However, maybe the biggest area of interest will be the Data Only options, where the device isn’t actually used as a phone at all, but instead, concentrates on it’s capabilities as an Internet Tablet…

Contract length Included data Included Wi-Fi Monthly cost Streak 16GB cost Streak 32GB cost
24 months 3GB 500MB £25 Free* £99
24 months 3GB Unlimited £30 Free £49
18 months 3GB Unlimited £15 £349 £399
18 months 1GB Unlimited £10 £349 £399
1 month 3GB Unlimited £15 £399 £449
1 month 1GB Unlimited £10 £449 £449

* The 16GB Dell Streak is free on a £25 a month 24 month tariff until 30 June 2010, after which it’ll cost £49.

Although there’s quite a jump from the £15 per month 18-month contract to the £30 per month 24-month contract, with the smaller outlay of the phone itself, it works out roughly the same cost (within £10) over 24 months on both.

The specs of the device (taken from Dell) include:

  • A sharp 5-inch capacitive multi-touch WVGA (800×480) display for a great full-screen experience watching video or browsing the web
  • Fast 1GHz Snapdragon ARM-based mobile processor from Qualcomm
  • 5 MP autofocus camera with dual LED flash that offers easy point & shoot capability and quick uploads to YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and more
  • VGA front-facing camera enables video chat functionality down the road
  • A user-removable (and replaceable) battery
  • A 3.5mm headphone jack means many of you can use the Dell Streak as the music source (and more) in your car
  • Integrated 3G + Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + Bluetooth 2.1 (think headsets, external keyboards, stereo headsets, etc.)
  • UMTS / GPRS / EDGE class 12 GSM radio with link speeds of HSDPA 7.2 Mbps / HSUPA
  • A user-accessible Micro SD slot expandable up to 32GB. That means you can store  lots of movies, music, photos or other kinds of files.

On the software side, here’s what you can expect:

  • A customized multi-touch version of the Google Android operating system that features Dell user interface enhancements
  • Access to over 38,000  apps (and growing) via the Android Marketplace
  • Microsoft Exchange connectivity and integration through TouchDown
  • Google Voice support
  • Integrated Google Maps with voice-activated search, turn-by-turn navigation, street and satellite views
  • Quick access to activity streams via integrated social network app widgets like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

The only downside I can see to the device right now, is that I believe it ships with Android 1.6, although it’s likely that Android 2.1 or 2.2 will become available as an update, but not until later in the year (we’re hearing September).  The device as it stands, though, will be available tomorrow from O2 Stores and the O2 website.

I should point out as part of our “Not Unlimited” campaign, that I doubt that any of these “unlimited” references actually get you unlimited service, but O2 have not yet provided the detail behind what the actual unlimited limits are.