Garmin announce portable Head Up Display

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

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Today Garmin have launched a very interesting product, although before you get too excited there are a couple of issues; firstly, it’s not actually for sale yet, it’s likely to arrive in the UK around September October time, and although it’s not yet guaranteed to come to the UK, I think it is quite likely to arrive as even Garmin UK have been talking about it.

The Head Up Display is portable, although more on that later, and assuming you have the right SatNav software on your smartphone, will display turn information (lane assist), distance to the next turn, current speed and speed limit, and estimated time of arrival. It looks like it may also be able to warn you of upcoming speed cameras and traffic too.

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At something like £80 – £130 it won’t come cheap, but will offer two modes of operation; you can attach a reflective film to your windscreen for the best effect, but if you swap cars a lot, it will also come with a reflective lens panel (as above; there’s quite a large bezel to this, which is a shame, but a small price to pay). It appears to need constant power, but the power cord includes a USB port for connecting your phone charger to, allowing you to only need one power socket in the car. It connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone, Android device or even your Windows Phone, although your choice of SatNav software is limited; on iPhone you can use Garmin’s StreetPilot for iPhone or NAVIGON for iPhone whereas for Android and Windows Phone you are limited to only NAVIGON. Finally, it will auto adjust the brightness depending on the conditions.

I like this device. Given Garmin already have Bluetooth built into many of their hardware devices (for both handsfree calling and their Ecoroute HD product), I hope they are able to add support into their hardware devices for the HUD, but even so, this does look like an interesting product even if you can only use it with your smartphone.

We’ll provide more information closer to release time.


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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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Three now selling Nokia Lumia 610

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

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

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

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

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


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Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

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

So, what techniques do I use:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Windows Phone 7 & Multi Google Calendar Support

Friday, January 27th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Pre Order Nokia Lumia 800 now

Friday, November 4th, 2011

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

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

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

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


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Nokia World: something big from Nokia?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

We’re a week away from Nokia World, and from what I’m hearing, we might be in for a treat.  First of all, I believe Nokia will launch at least two Windows Phone devices.  This isn’t particularly surprising, given the leaks and snippets of information that have been released accidentally / intentionally from Nokia.

However, what might surprise people is that these devices may well be available within weeks for sale; yes, that’s right; it’s very possible you’ll be able to buy a new Nokia Windows Phone device in time for Christmas!

Also, similar to the new Nokia N9, I believe that at least one of these devices (if not both) will move to the new microSIM format, that (until the Nokia N9 started shipping) was pretty much limited to the Apple iPhone. I’ve already heard one UK network talk about making microSIMs available for not just Apple devices, and the hints I’m hearing are that Nokia is adopting microSIM across a wider range than just the Nokia N9.

I may be wrong, but I think Nokia World will bring a range of surprises, but mainly the start of Nokia’s comeback with the release of Windows Phone devices (which I also suspect may be actually available for developers to check out during the event).


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Symbian, Android or the latest iPhone; all available from 3UK!

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Over the last couple of weeks, 3UK have released (or will release) a fair range of new handsets, covering the main smartphone OSes; a couple of weeks ago, they released the Desire S running Android, which although not a great upgrade from the old Desire, is a worthy phone contender for someone looking for a new Android phone.

Yesterday they also announced the Nokia E7 (Symbian^3 with a flip out QWERTY keyboard) was now available, and today they have announced that from tomorrow you’ll be able to buy the long-awaited white Apple iPhone 4 on 3UK.

So, it seems whatever your smartphone OS choice is, you have an option to get one of the latest phones available from 3UK (although less popular, they also have BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 devices).  As always, head to the 3Store for more details.


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New firmware version for Nokia E7

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Since Nokia moved to OTA Updates with UDP (User Data Preservation), it’s been a lot easier, and a lot less painful to update a Nokia phone with firmware updates, and as a result, our regular feature for pointing out when specific operators released their specific versions of firmware updates has stopped.  This is partly because many of the UK mobile network operators have actually got faster at releasing updates, and hence the need to point out how bad they are has gone away.

Anyway, although only just starting to ship, the new Nokia E7 has received an update to v14, which is a fairly minor update.  The major update still due for the Nokia N8 as well as the Nokia E7 is likely to come in the next few months (it’s already available to selected sources, so is unlikely to be too far away), and then there will be a further UI refresh later in the year.

This last point is key; despite announcing a move away from Symbian to Windows Phone, Nokia is not going to ignore the many millions of current Symbian phone users, and still plans to provide updates over the coming quarters; how long this continues though is not yet clear.


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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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