YouView boxes improved with both iPlayer and Netflix

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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In the last week, there have been two very useful improvements to the YouView boxes announced. Firstly, the newer BBC iPlayer interface, which has already rolled out to many other set top boxes was made available on the YouView platform just under 2 weeks ago. Then, today, YouView have announced that Netflix is now available to a selection of the YouView set top boxes.

If you bought your YouView box from a retailer (and it is branded BT or Humax), you should find Netflix becomes available today, and, if you have a BT YouView box and you aren’t already a Netflix subscriber then BT YouView users will be able to subscribe and get the Netflix subscription charged to their BT bill (and there are rumours of an exclusive BT YouView offer from Netflix soon).

TalkTalk and Huawei YouView set top boxes are yet to receive the Netflix update, but it should be available in the New Year.
It’s very nice to see that Netflix will get integrated into the search facilities on the box for Netflix subscribers.

For those who aren’t yet a Netflix subscriber, or won’t get the update until next year, the new BBC iPlayer will at least offer you the last 30 days of BBC programmes (something that has recently rolled out to the website too), and BBC Connected Red Button services, which include BBC Sport video highlights.


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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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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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Maps Booster on sale now!

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Although not exactly going to break the bank at £3, Maps Booster is a very useful program to provide your Symbian phone with a fast cell ID / Wi-Fi based positioning information, and unlike the latest Ovi Maps (which offers a similar solution), it’s available to all apps on the phone through the OS’ positioning features.

However, right now (in the UK at least), Maps Booster is on sale in the Ovi Store, and is only £1; well worth it in our opinion.

Whilst you are there in the Ovi Store, why not download the UK Gadgeteer app as well, which provides access to the news stories directly on your phone; just search for “UK Gadgeteer” within the store and you should find versions for both S60 3rd Edition as well as S60 5th Edition.


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Google start rolling out navigation wider

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Last week, Google announced the wider rollout of their Navigation solution, and (for Android only right now, and only for v1.6 Android and above) have released v4.2, which now supports providing navigating in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland.  They’ve also now added support for Voice Search in French, German, Italian and Spanish (although some parts of the voice search are limited to Android v2.0 and above).

Of course, Google providing navigation support for the countries is only part of the solution; the other side of the solution is needing a data connection in those countries, and a lot cheaper than it’s available today.


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Interesting Android app for Londoners

Friday, May 28th, 2010

If you live in London (or just visit on a regular basis), you’ll know all about Oyster, and more importantly for those occasional visitors, the ability to save money on those underground / bus journeys.  However, what’s not always so easy to know is where’s the nearest TopUp location for the Oyster scheme.  Well, if you are an Android user, then the new OysterCatcher app from LongTap may well help you out.

OysterCatcher will display the nearest shops to you at the tap of a button. Using the phone’s GPS it will work out your location and using Google Maps it will clearly display where you are and where the nearest 10 top up shops are.

There’s nothing particular special about the application from one point of view (the data is available on the TfL website), but as the TfL website is not particularly mobile friendly, then offering this native application helps provide the integration between the data and useful access to that data.

If you want to try out the application (and it’s free after all), then head off to the Android Market Place and search for OysterCatcher.

Screenshot courtesy of AppBrain.


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OpenTable adds Nokia app

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I’ve been a fan of OpenTable for some while.  Although not a regular user of the service, it’s a service I know about and have in the back of my mind should I suddenly need a restaurant at short notice, especially when travelling.  Once you have an account with OpenTable (no money involved), you can then use their website to search for restaurants in your area and book a table, either for now, or in the future.  You can select the type of cuisine, and even see the rough pricing of the establishment (obviously it only covers places that take reservations, and only those linked to OpenTable, which can mean in some areas it’s only the pricier places).  Although they have the ubiquitous iPhone app, for other platforms such as Nokia they have a handy mobile optimised website to use instead.

Oh, and the advantage of booking through OpenTable? Although you will pay the restaurant as usual, you earn Rewards Points which can build up into cheques to spend at these restaurants.

Even though the mobile optimised website works fine, OpenTable have just announced that they have released a Touch device based app into the Ovi Store to give an even better experience.  This app will allow you to book tables in the US, UK & Ireland, Canada and Mexico, which is a nice range of countries, especially for a transatlantic business traveller (who, if they have any sense, will also have a TruPhone Local Anywhere SIM in their phone giving them a local UK and US phone number terminating on the same handset; see here for more details).

What’s even nicer about this announcement is that OpenTable have realised that Nokia is not moving all devices to the S60 5th Edition, and hence touch devices; we’ve already seen the launch of the Nokia C5 and Nokia C3, showing non-touch devices are here to stay for a while, and OpenTable recognise this, and have stated they will have a non-touch version available “in the coming weeks”.

The features of the app include:

  • Search for restaurants by name
  • Find nearby restaurants (ie based on your current location) and see real-time table availability
  • View restaurant profile pages with detailed information such as photos, menus, maps and OpenTable diner reviews
  • Refine by cuisine, price, points and availability
  • Send Reservation details via SMS to friends

If you are interested in OpenTable, head to the OpenTable website, or download their touch app from here.  If, of course, you have another platform, then head here for details of their Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Palm applications.


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Google now offering Navigation in the UK

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

For many Android users, they are finding out today that Google have enabled Navigation within their Google Maps application on Android.  This adds:

  • Business search
  • Traffic alerts and auto re-routing around problem areas
  • Satellite and ‘Streetview’ views whilst navigating
  • Layers with ‘points of interest’
  • Voice activation
  • Low data use:  typically 200KB for a 20km route. Data is pre-cached and navigation continues if internet access is lost.

That last point is very interesting; one of my major issues with Google Maps (and why I often promote other solutions such as the free Ovi Maps on Symbian instead) is the need for a constant data connection, which simply isn’t always possible in the UK.  Now, it seems, Google agree, and can support navigation (at least) continuing without that data.  Of course, what would be even more interesting is if they offered these same facilities on Symbian and took on Ovi Maps directly.

As can be seen from the screenshot above, the software offers multiple choices when initially calculating the route, and clearly shows the traffic on each route (if available) with colour coding; this is a nice touch.

One downside though; this needs Android 1.6 or above, which rules out many devices, including the hugely popular HTC Hero, still stuck on Android 1.5 (it seems it’s not just Symbian phone that suffer firmware delays).  We’re hearing that this update will be available for the HTC Hero, but we’re hearing different dates; HTC have hinted at a firmware release within the month, whereas Google seemed to state this new navigation wouldn’t be available for the HTC Hero until June.  Equally, we’ve heard that the HTC Magic will not receive any OS updates at all, leaving them to potentially never have access to this new version.

Some content, including the new features courtesy of The Really Mobile Project, and the screenshot is courtesy of David Carrington on Flickr.


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Possible alternative to using Google Maps on Nokia

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Maps Booster

I’ve always liked Google Maps, not for the quality of the maps, nor the fact that everything is repeatedly downloaded (but at least the mapping is as up to date as possible), but because it does Cell ID and WiFi location as well as pure GPS location.  Towards the end of a long day, when the battery is starting to run out (or I am nervous it soon will), one nice option is to use Google Maps (instead of Ovi Maps), and my location will be pretty accurately found on the map without the need to enable the battery-draining GPS.

This single feature of having access to a rough location without needed to fire up (or wait for) the GPS has made Google Maps a shortcut on my Nokia homescreen, whereas Ovi Maps is simply left dormant in the main menu.  Well, could I have found a solution for this…?

Something I missed when it launched last year was that Skyhook Wireless (the company behind the Cell ID and WiFi location information on the iPhone) have released a little application called Maps Booster for Symbian.  What this does is add an additional positioning server option deep within the positioning subsystem of the Symbian OS, which, when turned on, will provide, through the standard positioning interface, a rough location to all GPS-aware apps (so Ovi Maps, but also things like Garmin’s SatNav software, or even third party apps).  Now, for most scenarios, I set Google Maps to work without enabling the GPS, and by configuring your Nokia device in the same way, you could, once Maps Booster is installed, do the same thing.  The only downside would be you would need to go deep into the Symbian menu structure to turn on the GPS (it’s easier to get to within Google Maps).

In terms of phones supported, it looks like most S60 3rd Edition FP1 and FP2 devices are supported, along with S60 5th Edition devices, including devices such as the Nokia E63, which doesn’t have a built in GPS, thereby providing a nice rough location service to this device in the same way Google Maps does.

Oh, and if you were wondering where it appears on the menu, on newer devices it’s Applications->Location->Positioning->Positioning Methods, whereas for elder devices it’s Tools->Settings->General->Positioning->Positioning Methods.

I’m looking to install this app, and see whether it allows me to convert from Google Maps to Ovi Maps.  However, as with all things, it’s not that easy…

  • Maps Booster can only be installed from the Ovi Store, and costs £3 (although that seems perfectly acceptable for the functionality)
  • Of course, that’s £3 per Symbian device due to the way the Ovi Store works (purchases are by device, not by user account)
  • Moving away from Google Maps will lose access to Google Latitude, and with Nokia’s FriendView service now shut down, Latitude is a well used feature on my phone.
  • There are rumours that there is a small incompatibility between the latest firmware on some Symbian devices and Maps Booster, which prevent it from appearing in the Positioning Method list, preventing it from working.  Ironically, that’s the same firmware that is needed to get the new free Ovi Maps working…
  • Also, don’t forget to keep a copy of the install file once downloaded from the Ovi Store, else you might end up paying again if you need to hard reset your device, although we understand the Ovi Store should offer you a re-download option for this software now.
  • Ironically, by enabling the feature, it can cause some minor problems with Google Maps, which doesn’t seem to like the “inaccurate” GPS positions; of course, leaving GPS turned on should produce a good solid fix in time (or leave the GPS option within Google Maps turned off, and then it will use it’s own database for the rough location).
  • Is Google Search actually better than the Ovi Maps search function, and hence apart from when I plan in advance, will I end up back with Google Maps anyway?
  • It’s been suggested it’s not best used when driving, where GPS support is really needed, as it has a delay on updating the position; however, it should excel whilst walking in cities (where the GPS may struggle due to tall buildings and where they are loads of WiFi networks to locate you).
  • Finally, it’s not clear how much data the app uses, and whether it has any local caching, or whether it always needs a data connection; if so, don’t forget to turn it off (along with so many other applications) when roaming, where, ironically, again, it could be the most useful…

If you head to Skyhook’s Coverage page here, and scroll across to the UK, you can see there are whole areas of the country which are pretty accurately mapped with Cell Towers and WiFi, which should ensure this software offers a nice alternative to GPS, especially when the dreaded battery is running out…

I’ll hopefully report back in a month or so and let you know how I get on (now, if only Nokia would give me free Ovi Maps navigation for my main everyday device)…


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Google updates Maps on Android too

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

GMaps Android What's nearby

Last week we covered the news of the new v3.3 for Symbian and Windows Mobile, and today Google has launched v3.3 for Android as well.  However, it’s not quite got the same feature set, with some additional features, and some missing features too.

Firstly, they now have the “What’s Nearby” feature, which lists nearby businesses, and can often provide useful information on cafes and restaurants nearby.  To access this, just long press on the map and tap on the bubble, and look for “What’s nearby?” in the menu.

Secondly, they have added a range of Labs features (in essence, Beta features that you may want to use to make the program a little better); these include:

  • A scale bar on the map
  • Showing a terrain layer which adds a level of height and the ability to see a shaded relief map
  • Search for popular categories
  • Turn the blue dot into a compass to show which way you are facing when stationary
  • Added Layers support to be able to see Traffic, Satellite mapping, Latitude users, and Transit lines (eg the London Underground)

There’s also a “Report errors in the map”, but that’s definitely US-only, so won’t be available in the UK.  It’s worth noting there is no mention of the star / favourites syncing that comes with the v3.3 on Symbian and Windows Mobile.  It’s not clear whether any other of the Labs features are US-only, but it’s nice to see Google still managing to innovate and provide new features into the products, even if it’s not consistent across their full platform range.


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