Will 2013 bring more integration in gadgets?

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Above is the new Canon Powershot-N camera, an interesting camera as it’s designed as an any-way-up camera, due to the square nature of the camera (although the screen only tilts upwards and technically it’s not quite square!). The any-way-up operation is achieved by two rings around the lens, one acting as the zoom ring, and the other the shutter button. Unless the information displayed on the screen also spins though, I suspect the majority of pictures will still be taken with the camera in the conventional position.

However, instead of including a GPS module within the camera (as Canon started to on their higher end models last year), they have used the WiFi link that you can establish between the camera and your smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android only supported) to feed the camera with the gps location information from the smartphone / tablet instead. This WiFi link also allows you to easily transfer the pictures to your device, and then onwards onto Social Media sites, and photo sharing sites (the Canon Image Gateway offers 10GB of personal storage, and the software has a direct upload to Facebook option, but I suspect once the picture is on the smartphone / tablet there will be plenty of ways of getting the picture onto other sites via the OS or specific applications for those sites). To top off the range of new features, the device can be charged via USB (historically Canon cameras have needed the battery to be removed and placed into a charger, so providing in camera charging is also something I’m glad to see).

With a 8x optical zoom, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor, and only measuring 78.6 x 60.2 x 29.3 mm (when lens retracted), yet still supporting Full HD video recording, this is an interesting new device which will be available in Black or White when it’s released in April around £270.

For completeness, I should mention that this same GPS integration is available on a range of other new Canon products announced this week (the Canon IXUS 140 and Canon PowerShot 3500IS in particular), in fact, what’s interesting is that you may not even need to maintain the link throughout the day whilst shooting your pictures, as Canon say “At the end of each day, Wi-Fi can be activated to pair the captured images on the camera with the location data recorded from the smartphone.”

Also announced today are two new Garmin EDGE cycling trip recorders, the Garmin EDGE 510 and Garmin EDGE 810 cycling devices. By utilising the Garmin Mobile Connect app, these devices are capable of additionally supporting live tracking, social media sharing and real-time weather updates as well as the more traditional functions of accurately track speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, ascent and descent (and supporting heart rate monitors and other ANT+ sports devices such as speed / cadence sensors). The Garmin EDGE 810 would be my preferred device, as it additionally supports the ability to load maps onto the device, which can either be obtained from Garmin or by utilising data such as that produced by OpenStreetMap at no charge for personal use.

Again limited to iOS and Android only, Garmin Mobile Connect allows these devices (via Bluetooth) to

  • share all the details of their rides with friends, family and social media contacts
  • allow cyclists’ friends and family to follow their races and training rides in real-time
  • allow for wireless uploads of completed activities from the Edge 810/510 as soon as cyclists finish recording an activity to the Garmin Connect website

The Garmin EDGE 810 will be available in the next month or two in 3 UK versions, just the unit for £380, the unit plus a heart rate monitor and a speed / cadence sensor for £430, or the unit will the sensors and a data card loaded with European maps for £480.

Back to the original point; a couple of years ago we all wanted each and every device to come with a SIM card slot to allow us to connect it to the Internet, but unlike tablets, devices such as these aren’t going to be used every day of the year, or even every month, and suddenly the cost of the additional hardware support and maintaining a mobile phone contract for them does seem a burden, so by allowing them to connect to the internet via an existing mobile device suddenly makes a lot more sense, and with many of the UK mobile networks offering unlimited data offerings (whether or not these devices would fall foul of no-tethering clauses in contracts I’m not sure; for many of the functions, the devices are simply getting information to and from the smartphone, as opposed to direct onward internet access), then I can see devices like these becoming more common, and integration between different gadgets really taking off.

Having said that, with only iOS and Android support in both ranges of devices at launch, it is starting to look like other OSes (Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10 etc.) could potentially lose even more market share once people start buying other connected devices for use whilst out and about and need their smartphone to support those peripheral devices.


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Smart Cover case for Nexus 7

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

I picked up a Google Nexus 7 Tablet a few weeks ago, and I knew straight away I wanted a case to protect it. I also wanted a case that featured a “Smart Cover” facility; ie the ability to auto wake / auto sleep as the cover opened and closed (although not advertised with this feature, it was discovered the Nexus 7 had the support built into the hardware, and ever since, many of the 3rd party case suppliers have been supporting the feature).

So, Amazon was a logical choice (mainly for ease of purchase and keen pricing), and I selected this particular case as above; it acts as a Smart Cover case, but also can fold up to create a small stand for the tablet (it uses landscape, which the stock launcher doesn’t support, so look at purchasing Ultimate Rotation Control from the Play Store too, and setting it on Force Auto).  The case provides protection around the back of the tablet (the tablet clicks into the back panel) and the cover works well. This particular Amazon seller provides this Nexus 7 Case with a screen protector (currently untested) and stylus (tested and functional, and very similar to the iPad cheap stylus you can pick up).

At £8 (price may vary) including shipping, I thought the Nexus 7 Case was good value; the case arrived within a couple of days, so I assume this is a UK seller too, and the choice of colours allows you to select one to match other devices or simply select black.


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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.


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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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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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Gadget Show Live suggestions

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

I headed to a special Preview Day today at the Gadget Show Live yesterday, and can report that’s it’s going to be a good show this year.  The first year it was run I felt there were a few too many small companies selling fairly useless gadgets, but whether it’s the economy or not I don’t know, but this year there were very few useless gadgets to be seen.  Equally, two years ago everyone was selling iPhone docks, and although there were still a variety of iPad accessories, it generally felt a much more balanced show.

If you only get an hour or two to attend, my suggestions for companies to visit include:

  • LG, if only to view their ultra slim OLED TVs, which look very impressive
  • Samsung, for having a wide variety of options from TVs, home appliances and the Galaxy Tab
  • 3View, for having a Freeview PVR with a range of additional functions, such as BBC iPlayer
  • Revo, for having a decent range of good looking and quality sounding DAB radios
  • Viewsonic, for promoting their risk free ViewPad trial (which we covered here)
  • Orbitsound, for their range of impressive speakers (both portable and for your TV) using their airSOUND technology

A couple of others companies caught my attention with new gadgets, and I’ll cover those later.  I will say that although Samsung had a massive banner running the length of one of the halls advertising all 3 Android Tablets (the Tab, the new 8.9″ and the new 10.1″ tablet), they only seemed to have the original Galaxy Tab on their stand.


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Risk Free ViewSonic ViewPad 7

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

If you have been thinking about trying an Android tablet, but didn’t want to have to deal with the unit if you didn’t get on with it, then you might want to try the ViewSonic ViewPad 7.  Although it retails for around £325, you should be able to pick one up for around £290.  For this, you are getting a decent Android tablet with 800 x 480 7″ screen, Android 2.2, 3G and Wi-Fi support, plus all the regulars (Google Maps, Google Mail, Bluetooth, microSD card support, front and back cameras), but the important part is the current offer by ViewSonic.  You see, they are so confident you will like the device that they are offering a (limited time offer) full refund of your money after 30 days if you don’t get on with the unit.

There are a whole range of T&Cs attached to the deal, but they will (subject to the device being in original box and in good condition with proof of purchase), refund your full outlay including up to £10 more for the postage cost of sending it to them.  The most important limitation is that you must purchase the device before 30 April 2011 to qualify.

I’m impressed with this kind of no-risk offer, and recommend you consider it.  Full terms are available here and thanks to Mobile Industry Review where I first spotted the deal.  If you do go with the deal, I’d recommend either the 3UK SIM Internet Only SIM Free contract (30 day rolling contract, £5 per month with 2GB of data), or 3UK‘s One Plan to go with it.


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Gadget Show Live happening soon; a few tickets left

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The Gadget Show Live 2011 takes place from 13th April to the 17th April at the NEC this year.  The Gadget Show Live team tell me…

“The Gadget Show Live has quadrupled in size since it began in 2009 and this year expects 100,000 visitors through the door. It features 250 of the world’s leading electronics firms, including Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, JVC, Nintendo and LG, and features many UK product premieres. New tech includes the latest smart TVs from Sony, Panasonic and LG, which boast not only the usual HD and 3D capabilities, but also a raft of streaming content and online applications.

Visitors can participate in numerous free features, including the new HUB Theatre, an entire hall dedicated to the Game Zone, the Future Technology Project and a larger interactive Test Track. There will also be a one hour long, live theatre version of the TV show in the newly designed Super Theatre (three times a day).

NEW TECH AND GAMES

As well as watching the new smart TVs, visitors can also try out the latest 3D photography and video equipment, such as the new high definition 3D camcorder from JVC (Everio GS-TD1). They can also watch a 3D printer re-creating real objects (on Bits from Bites stand, in Future Tech Project and in The HUB Theatre).

In addition, they can listen to the new Zeppelin Air from Bowers and Wilkins, which has the ability to wirelessly stream music for iPhones, iPads and computers running iTunes. They can also watch through the new augmented reality (AR) video eyewear from Vuzix, which enables 3D video viewing in real time, whilst overlaying the video with home-made 3D content.

A full on tablet war is predicted with all the leading contenders to the crown on show. The best in home computing can also be found with the full HD touch screen VAIO L-Series from Sony and the new multi-touch enabled AKOYA desktops from MEDION. For the house proud, there will be the new compact and lightweight robotic lawnmower from Husqvarna, the new lightweight cordless vacuum cleaner from Dyson – the Digital Slimô – and the next generation of domestic servants from iRobot.

The Game Zone (an entire dedicated hall in association with GAME), will include a major outing for the Nintendo 3DS, a live professional gaming tournament with a £5,000 cash prize from Alienware, plus their new 15 inch gaming notebook. New game launches include the first UK viewing of DiRT3 from Codemasters (released 24 May), the new Duke Nukem game from 2K games, EA’s Need for Speed: Shift 2 Unleashed plus the European finals of the new Mortal Kombat beat-em-up from Warner Bros.

TECH OF THE FUTURE

The Future Tech Project is an unforgettable chance to experience technology of the future. This area includes 3D printing and robotics from Warwick University, mind controlled computing (www.neurosky.com) and even eye controlled computing, seen for the first time in the UK from Waterloo Labs (part of National Instruments).

There will also be a blurring of the real and virtual world with the latest augmented reality creations from T-Immersion, plus smart textiles and intelligent clothing from CuteCircuit, and wireless kitchen gadgets and food that can heat itself whilst still in its packaging (using the eCoupled countertop from Fulton Innovation).

NEW FREE HUB THEATRE

The new circular theatre offers free access to six daily presentations, led by Stuff TV’s Lucy Hedges and Radio One’s Aled Hayden Jones. They will do the hard work of filtering down the headline news and best tech at the show. Sessions will cover The Future Tech Project, T3’s hottest gadgets, a review of tablets and smart-phones, home gadgets and a music gadget review.

LATEST E-BIKES AND PERSONAL TRANSPORT DEVICES

The first street-legal electric bicycle, the Grace One, will launch at The Gadget Show Live – it’s a carbon neutral e-motorbike which can travel up to 28 mph (UK limit is 15 mph) and requires no driving license or registration, but you must be over 14. A huge range of vehicles, such as Segways and the latest electric bikes from Create, Dumco and Pacific, can be test-driven at the 1,000 square metre Test Track. There will also be a kids transport area with vehicles from Razor and the UK’s top professionals showing off their tricks on the Remote Control Demo Area.

Furthermore, those lucky enough to have a ticket for the Super Theatre will be blown away by a high-energy version of the TV show. Three times daily (each show seating 4,500 people), the presenters will demo the latest tech, whilst the audience participates to win prize – they’ll also see a Jason-cyborg and Suzi Avatar on stage.

…And if all of that isn’t enough, visitors can also find how to make the most of the latest digital cameras in the Photographic Workshop and check out the best in new 3D kit in the new 3D Theatre.”

If you are interested in attending, then there are still some afternoon only (2pm to 6pm) tickets left, which you can purchase at http://www.gadgetshowlive.net/. UK Gadgeteer is hoping to attend and report back on the useful and worthwhile stands to visit.


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Moving from Symbian to Android; first impressions

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Last week I picked up an Android mobile phone.  With Nokia’s planned move to Windows Phone, I wanted to see what options are out there for something a little better software wise than Symbian until Nokia release their first Windows Phone.  For those interested, I personally don’t think it will be that long until we see something; internally Nokia had phones running Windows Phone available for staff to look at within days of the announcement, and although they may not be shipping large volumes until next year, I believe they will be announcing and planning to ship models this year.

So, after a few days with an Android device, what are my initial reactions? Actually, it’s some of the little things that have been built into Nokia hardware and Symbian software that I miss, like a hardware unlock switch on the side of the phone (especially useful when in the car).  Having said that, the Symbian default browser is rubbish compared to Android’s default.  In terms of applications, there seems to be multiple choices to achieve anything on Android, which although gives choice does seem to make it more difficult to choose a good product; some aren’t kept up to date, and, as with all mobile platforms, there are few that truly stand out.

We’ve covered a number of “stand out” Android apps over the years (see here for reviews of some), and these were some of the first to get installed, including purchasing some that I know will come in handy over time.

So, what have I missed; some apps such as Gravity and ViewRanger (I need to arrange to transfer the maps so this is just in the short term).  Equally, having many more options for widgets (of different sizes) on the homescreens is a pleasant change, plus access to apps where the developer hasn’t yet (or may never) release a Symbian app.  Also, as a heavy Google Calendar user, having my calendar updates available within minutes instead of hours is a pleasant change; in fact, I have some services that feed into additional Google Calendars which then appear on the phone; given it can take Google a few hours to update the calendar in the first place, it meant it could often take a couple of days to appear on my Symbian phone; reducing that time down to the same day is an impressive start.

Oh, and Ovi Maps. Offline maps, and more importantly, offline satnav means a lot to me, especially when we aren’t yet at a universal position with unlimited data rates, so I’ve missed this.  Strangely, I’ve also missed the other services built into the Ovi Maps client; Qype, TripAdvisor etc.; yes, I can install separate apps, but it did seem neat all wrapped into one application.  The traffic information was pretty good too, plus the walking mode, where it would vibrate just before reading out a new instruction (given you time to bring the phone close enough to your ear to hear it) was pretty useful too.

Having said that, on my phone, it was nigh on impossible to get both Ovi Maps and Gravity running together as both take a fair chunk of memory, so hopefully the new phone will make this easier.

Will I stay with Android, or move back to Symbian? I think I may well move my main phone number over to an Android phone, but I suspect I’ll still carry a Symbian phone with me for some while…

I’ll provide more details on my experiences soon, including long term usage of an Android tablet too!


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Fancy 2GB mobile data per month for £5?

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Whilst browsing the 3UK website a couple of days ago, we noticed a small minor change to one of the SIM Only tariffs on the 3UK website.  The SIM Only Internet tariff, which costs £5.11 per month (1 month rolling contract) now features 2GB of data per month (previously it was 1GB per month common to many other 3UK tariffs).  Interestingly, it also features free voicemail.

Now, this might not suit everyone (calls are 20.4p per minute to UK landlines & mobiles, texts are 10.2p each, picture messages are 25.5p each), but if you want a backup SIM, or a data only SIM (maybe for a spare phone, or even a tablet) then this does look like very good value.

Of course, if you want to spend more, the 3UK One Plan (SIM Only) gets you 2000 cross network minutes, 5000 texts, 5000 3UK-3UK minutes and All You Can Eat Data (ie with no limits at all) for £25 per month (12 month contract).

These are both SIM Only deals, where you need to supply an unlocked 3G capable phone, but both are very good value contracts in our opinion.


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