Skype and FON working together, but not in the UK

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Skype and FON have announced this week that Skype user can now access the Internet through the Skype Access WiFi option.  Skype Access allows instant internet access via WiFi using the Skype application, where you are charged €0.12 per minute for access via your Skype Credit.  Right now, Skype and FON are providing access for free (until the end of 8th December) through any FON hotspot.  Did I say any? Ah, there’s a small limitation; this access is not available in Japan or the UK, although neither Skype nor FON are giving a reason for this limitation.

However, if you are travelling abroad, then this might be an option worth considering. Of course, if you already have a FON hotspot device, then you can already access these 300,000 FON hotspots around the world for free (and that does include the UK ones too).

I’ve been a fan of both Skype and FON for some time, and it’s nice to see them working together.  However, without UK support, this may not benefit that many people reading this at all.


HTC also launch two Android Handsets

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

What a week last week was!  On top of the Nokia phone announcements, and the LG Optimus One phone we covered this morning, HTC also launched 2 new Android v2.2 phones last week.  Now, both of these look very interesting devices, so read on for more information on the devices…



LG launch two new Android Handsets

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Last week LG launched two new Android Handsets, the LG Optimus One and the LG Optimus Chic.  However, for now we can all forget about the LG Optimus Chic, as there are no plans to release it in the UK.  However, the LG Optimus One is due in the UK, and due next month too (a note to Nokia: LG, like Apple, can launch worldwide and move from announcement to stock in shops pretty quickly, unlike you…)

So, the LG Optimus One is an Android v2.2 handset, and ships with a 1500mAh battery and a 3.2″ capacitive touchscreen.  There will be a carkit accessory available (at extra cost).  Although it’s a Google phone, one interesting addition from LG is the LG App Advisor which will recommend 10 highly rated applications every 2 weeks (although it will be interesting to see if this is still advising of new apps in a year or two…)

At 113.5 x 59 x 13.3 mm and weighing 129g it’s a pretty good size, although I note the screen is apparently only 256k colours.  It features a 3 megapixel camera, and has WiFi, Bluetooth, G Sensor, Digital Compass and an FM Radio.  It also comes with a 2GB microSD card.

Although I don’t see this as being the highest of specs, I suspect, like many LG handsets, this will be sensibly priced, and sell in quite large numbers, potentially on PAYG more than contract, and will provide many people with their first experience of an Android phone.  It’s out next month, although no word on price yet.

If you are reading this directly on the UK Gadgeteer website, you should also find a video from LG about the LG Optimus One.


Samsung Tablet coming to 3UK

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

3UK have announced that they will be selling the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Tab, Samsung’s new Android Tablet.  In terms of specifications, the Samsung Galaxy Tab does have a fairly good spec:

  • Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • 1.2 GHz processor
  • 7” WSVGA TFT
  • Full HD (1080p) playback
  • Full Flash support
  • PC & TV compatibility via DLNA
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot for up to eight devices
  • Bluetooth 3.0
  • Phone/ SMS enabled

Now, the big thing we all need to remember is that this may not end up as popular as the Apple iPad, but if well priced, it could certainly be very useful for those who can find sufficient Android app support, or who simply aren’t fans of Apple.

3UK have stated it will be available on 4 tariffs, and it’s likely there will be an upfront price for most, if not all, but 3UK have not yet announced what that upfront cost is.

If you are after a data only plan, it will be offered with:

  • 1GB for £7.50, or
  • 5GB for £15

on these plans, SMS will cost 10p, 3UK3UK and landline calls 10p per minute, and calls to other networks 25p per minute.

If you want a voice and data plan the two options are:

  • SIM10: £10 a month including 100 any network minutes, 2000 3UK3UK minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data
  • SIM15: £15 a month including 300 any network minutes, 2000 3UK3UK minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data

What’s interesting (and good) is that both these voice plans are SIM only contracts, with a 1 month rolling contract.  Again, this implies there will be an upfront cost for the device, but does mean if you want to stop paying after a few months, you aren’t tied into a long contract.

However, an even more key selling point is that the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes with the ability to tether 8 devices (connect 8 other devices via WiFi to use the 3UK connection of the Tab), and even better 3UK are obviously confident over their network’s ability to cope as they are even promoting this function.

A tablet, presumably with the ability to add additional applications (although this will need confirming; Archos, for example has it’s own App Store, and the standard Android Market is unlikely to be available), and the ability to tether additional devices, plus a nice sized unit; this could sell very well for 3UK.

3UK have only stated this is “Coming Soon”, so we can’t yet confirm when it will be available.


Fancy a cheaper Symbian Handset?

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Prices for phones will always drop over time, but whilst many of the network get to a point where they drop the product from their range, 3UK seem happy to continue to sell devices at some amazing prices.  Take for example last week’s price reductions; you can now pick up a Nokia 5230 or a Nokia E63 for £90 on PAYG, and both prices include a £10 TopUp, making the phone effectively only £80!

I used a Nokia E63 for roughly 6 months, and the only real issue I found with the QWERTY device was the lack of GPS, which was solved pretty much completely by purchasing Maps Booster from the Ovi Store (see here and here for a review, and I note it’s on sale even cheaper now); in fact, even on phones with GPS, I often rely upon either Maps Booster, Google Maps, or the latest versions of Ovi Maps to provide cell and/or WiFi location information as this really does satisfy the majority of my location needs.  Occasionally I need true GPS (when driving), but at £80 (plus a few pounds for Maps Booster) it’s definitely worth considering.

The Nokia 5230 (covered before here) is also a worthy device for £80.  This device, as well as supporting a touchscreen, which is becoming a key feature for many people, does have the GPS that the Nokia E63 does not have.  However, as the Nokia E63 is an E-Series device, it includes WiFi, which is the one key feature many will find missing from the Nokia 5230.  If you can survive on 3G alone (and many people can), then the Nokia 5230 may well make a nice budget phone.

Of course, 3UK have a whole range of phones available from budget models right up to top of the range models, so head to the 3Store to see what else they have!


Archos launch 5 new Android tablets

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Archos last week announced a range of 5 Android Tablets, running from the £99 2.8″ Archos 28 tablet to the £299 16GB 10.1″ Archos 101.  In fact, the models have quite different specs, which are worth checking out:

The £99 4GB (or 8GB for an extra £10) Archos 28 (below) has a 320×240 pixels 2.8” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen, ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz, USB2, WiFi, Microphone, G-Sensor, is 100 x 54 x 9 mm and weighs 68 grams.

Then there’s the £129 8GB Archos 32 (below), which has a 400×240 pixels 3.2” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (interestingly, Archos say the Archos 28 supports 16m colours, whilst this supports 256k colours, unless it’s a misprint), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 800 MHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth (note it’s missing from the Archos 28), pre-installed applications (Deezer, Ebuddy, Mewbox, Raging Thunder Lite, Touiteur, Quickpedia), TV out (again not on the Archos 28, and the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 105 x 55 x 9 mm and weighs 72 grams. It also has a camera on the back.

Next comes the £199 16GB Archos 43 (below), which has a microSD card, a 480×854 pixels 4.3” TFT LCD with resistive touchscreen (back to 16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Webbrowser, Email, Contacts, Appslib, Twitter, Wikipedia, Weather Channel, Ebuddy, Deezer, Mewbox, Racing Thunderlight, Weather Channel, World Newspaper), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 135 x 65 x 9 mm and weighs 130 grams.  This also adds an HD camera (although whether a 2MP camera producing 720p should really be called HD is another matter), and it has a built in kick stand for when you want to watch movies.

Importantly, all devices listed (the Archos 28, Archos 32 and the Archos 43 will be available in September), whilst the following two devices are due out in October:

Moving on further is the 8GB (£229) or 250GB (£269) Archos Archos 70 (below), which has a microSD card (only on the 8GB Flash version, not the 250GB Hard Disk version), a 800 x 480 pixels 7.0” TFT LCD with capacitive touchscreen (16 million colours), ARM Cortex A8 processor at 1GHz with DSP, USB2, WiFi, Bluetooth, pre-installed applications (Aldiko, Ebuddy, Wikipedia, Avecomics, HubKap, Deezer, Mewbox, Raging Thunderlite (a 3D car demo game), WordNewspaper, Touiteur, Fring), TV HDMI out (again the cable is an optional extra), Microphone, G-Sensor, and is 201 x 114 x 10 mm and weighs 300 grams for the Flash version, with the Hard Disk version is 4 mm thicker and 100 grams heavier.  This doesn’t have the rear HD camera, but does have a front facing VGA camera instead, and it also has the built in kick stand.

Finally, there is the 8GB (£269) or 16GB (£299) Archos 101 (shown at the top of the article), which is pretty much the same spec as the Archos 70, except the capacitive touchscreen is 1024×600 pixels with a 10.1″ TFT LCD, and is 270 x 150 x 12 mm and 480 grams.

All devices will have access to Archos’ AppsLib App Store for downloading (and purchasing) additional applications for these tablets, but if you don’t need 3G capability (or you have a MiFi device) then many of these may well suit, especially with all featuring Android v2.2 as standard.

There’s much more information, pictures, and full specs over on Archos’ website here, where you’ll notice the 8GB Archos 32 (£129) is already available for sale.  I will also add there appear to be a number of other standard apps included with each device beyond those listed.


Canon launch new DSLR & add Eye-Fi support

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Others have already covered the launch of the Canon EOS 60D last week, but one thing that caught my attention was the Eye-Fi support that Canon have added into this camera.  Although not the first Canon to support Eye-Fi, it’s nice to see Canon bringing Eye-Fi support to their DSLR range too.  If you don’t know, Eye-Fi are SD memory cards with additional features such as built in WiFi for automatically uploading photos, and some even have limited GPS support too.  For the WiFi upload to work, the camera must be turned on, and the main function of including Eye-Fi support in the camera’s firmware is that it can keep power to the memory card until the transfer is complete.  The support often also includes the ability to configure some of the details of the Eye-Fi card too (although I wasn’t able to confirm what level of control Canon offer).

So, the Canon EOS 60D takes the Canon EOS 50D and builds on it, adding a number of new features; the main features of the camera are:

  • 18 megapixel self cleaning sensor
  • supports EF and EF-S lenses
  • shoots at up to 5.3fps
  • 63 zone metering with 9 AF points
  • captures 1080p video at up to 30fps
  • the tilt and twist LCD screen of many Canon compact digital cameras is included
  • the built in flash can act as a remote Speedlite trigger

The Eye-Fi support is quite key on this device; previous EOS DSLRs supported Canon’s Wireless File Transmitter, whereas Canon have stated the Canon EOS 60D is not compatible with the previous WFT devices, and no new WFT device is planned, therefore the only self-contained solution available to users is the Eye-Fi option.  In fact, Canon have also announced a number of new PowerShot cameras with Eye-Fi support too, and Nikon’s new D3100 supports Eye-Fi too, so it looks like this is the “must have” new feature for this year…

The Canon EOS 60D will go on sale in the next few months and has a UK retail price of £1099.99 (inc. VAT), although I expect that will quickly drop to a lower level.


Vodafone launch their MiFi competitor

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Launched last week, this is the Vodafone Mobile WiFi R201, which is designed to rival 3UK‘s MiFi device (or Novatel’s Intelligent Mobile Hotspot (also called MiFi, but outside of the UK).  The Vodafone offering, being brand new to the market is currently only available on a contract, but I suspect it will be released as a PAYG option in due course to provide true rivalry to the 3UK MiFi.

The unit will currently cost you £15-£25 per month on an 18 month contract (with most tariffs having a small upfront charge too), offering 3-5GB of data per month, although unless the Vodafone network is key to you, the 3UK MiFi has more competitive pricing (you could nearly buy the 3UK unit on PAYG for less than the upfront charge on the cheapest contract, so if you don’t need a lot of data every month, it can work out a lot cheaper!).

The Really Mobile Project have managed to get their hands on one of the devices, and have written up their opinion (especially useful as it compares it directly to the 3UK MiFi v2), so head here to read it.

Overall, it’s interesting to see true competition in this market with a choice of 3 key units now, and all offering a similar one button experience to use.


Tasker for Android

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Just occasionally someone points out an application to you, and you go wow, that’s really useful; Tasker seems to be one of those such applications.  Designed along similar lines to Locale (which has so many plugins from different people now, and all charge for them, it’s difficult to see the good and bads ones anymore), it offers the ability to create rules and control a whole raft of different functions on your Android phone. It’s not free (it costs £3.99), but this seems well worth given the range of controls it has.

I particularly like the ability to make system changes when you run particular apps, so, for example, you can keep the GPS generally turned off (to preserve battery life), but then when you run Google Maps you can turn on the GPS, and turn it off again when you exit.  In fact, the range of triggers is fascinating; Application, Time, Day, Location, State or Event.

LifeHacker here has a tutorial on how to set up the auto GPS function, how to create an alarm in the morning (that also fires up your favourite apps), and to create a “Face Down” task which shuts off GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth, and makes the ringer quieter.

For even more options, this LifeHacker post goes further and discusses the following options: reading out SMS messages (for when you are driving), limited data usage overnight, pop up a menu of music apps when headphones plugged in, mark and find your parking place, and most importantly, it links to the Tasker Wiki, where a whole range of users have added information on their suggested profiles.

There’s also lots of information about the application, including a tour of some of the features on the Tasker website here, which is well worth a look too.

This is one very comprehensive application, which looks like it has the power to really customise the way you use your Android phone.


BlackBerry 9800 Torch coming to 3UK

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Some people are BlackBerry fans, and others aren’t (personally, after using one for 15 months I fall into the latter category), but the new BlackBerry 9800 Torch seems to be trying to turn that round, and offer a solution for everyone.  As well as the traditional QWERTY keyboard (although now provided on a slider), it also features a touchscreen featured on some of the newer BlackBerry devices, and it also has the optical trackpad now common to most new BlackBerry devices too.  Add in the obligatory GPS, WiFi, 3G, 5 megapixel camera and 8GB of memory, and the latest BlackBerry OS6 featuring some inbuilt social networking functions, and it seems to be a nice all round device.

I’ll admit my main problem with BlackBerry devices is the limitations enterprise companies place on the device (normally preventing the installation of applications, which also prevents other things such as themes), but of course if you buy it as an individual, you won’t have that restriction, and will be able to customise the device with the correct apps needed to enjoy the experience.

Even better, despite the device only being launched last week, 3UK have already announced they will be selling the device later this year.