Friday, 25 October 2013

The Binatone Brick

It's not often we get something in genuinely unique, based more on style than functionality, but this week we have just that. The Binatone Brick is modelled on the Motorola DynaTAC, which was unsympathetically nicknamed the brick, because of it's sheer bulk. Having said that, at the time, it was a massive leap from the car battery and curly cord affairs that were lugged around by the 80's 1%! This handset is, frankly ginormous by todays standards. You can, if you choose, put a sim card in it and use it as your main phone. Or if you prefer, you can connect it via bluetooth to your smartphone and use it separately. It wedges beautifully between your shoulder and head but is not a road legal handsfree kit.
It's compatible with the 2G network, so is capable of sending SMS messages as well as making and receiving calls. It has digital call quality so calls are clear and hiss free. Not only that, but, it has a memory card slot.... It includes a music player, although ironically, it doesn't have a headphone socket! However the speaker is clear and bright should you wish to listen to A-ha, Kajagoogoo, or Queen. This phone isn't subtle, if, in the highly unlikely situation you were ever turning this device on in an Airport, everyone around you would expect flight information to follow, it makes that exact noise; loudly! The menus are clear and simple, anyone who has owned a 'normal' phone in the past 18 year, will, without a shadow of a doubt, pick this up and use it genuinely easily. For some customers, with a sense of humour, this genuinely could be all that they actually need. In true retro style, the battery life is phenomenal. The default battery, (which looks like a cheap nokia clone) will last on standby for 1 month! As additional accessories, they have XL and XXL batteries which will last up to 3 and 6 months respectively! Half a year standby off one battery charge! It has a USB port in the side of the phone for charging. Finally, it also has on the top of the phone a Torch. It's clearly not for everyone only those who are comfortable being laughed at. But, as a novelty item, it's surprisingly competent. Do I want one. No of course I don't.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Samsung Galaxy Gear.

We had the Sony Smart watch in some months ago, however, it wasn't a great experience. To start, the watch looks cumbersome and plastic, the screen resolution was poor, the functionality clumsy and the effective usefulness virtually nil. I wore it for a day or two, then realised I looked like an idiot and it did nothing I want, so it's sat, unreviewed on my shelf ever since, gathering dust. Sadly now, I no longer use an android handset, but the Samsung Galaxy Gear really makes me wish I did. Sure it's not perfect, but look at it! Even James Bond never had a watch this cool. The appearance of the white strapped, rose gold version that we have is clearly a subjective issue, but so far, everyone that has seen it in our office is a fan. The screen is also strikingly clear. Set up is a little tedious if I'm being honest. Initially it had nil charge and, once we'd put it in it's bulky charging clamp bed, it didn't even appear to be charging; but it was. The odd clunky charging clamp bed enables the device to use NFC to communicate with a phone, however, the strap is pretty rigid and trying to use NFC to get the back of something like a Note close to the back of the unit is a pain.... especially if you haven't realised the strap will open fully (we really struggled). We also found, although NFC made the odd noise, it didn't allow us to connect as seamlessly to the device as it should have. Eventually we gave up and just connected it (via bluetooth) the traditional way. Then, the watch sprung into life. From the Samsung Gear app on your smartphone, you can choose the watch style, (analogue looks best), you can determine your location for the weather app and you can customise the appearance of the watch as well as set it up for notifications, transfer photos, set up the pedometer etc. There is really alot loaded into this watch to keep the most tech savvy geek entertained for all of Christmas day. Remotely controlling the tunes on your android phone is perhaps more impressive than it is genuinely useful? But swipe up on the clock and the voyeuristic magic really jumps into life. The Camera on the front offers 720p recording quality for video, or a 1.9mp camera, which produces better results than that sounds in our megapixel obsessed world. The main irk with the Sony watch was the lack of it's responsiveness, I'm not sure what processor was in it, or even if it had one, it seemed to work off hope. But this watch (if not immediately obvious, uses a touch screen) is quick to respond to gestures. I'm pretty sure we haven't fully explored the potential of this device, hell, we may only have scratched the surface, but already, it has that desirability that was missing from the Sony. This device is sleek and sophisticated, the Sony was trying hard, but ultimately falling way, way short of the mark. The unit has a microphone, it will allow you to send 'Siri like' voice commands to your phone, there's a massive array of digital clocks to choose from, some of which, combine the weather info. It alerts you to missed calls. S trainer tracks your progress on runs and tells you to speed up or slow down. You can preview messages from text or email, you can answer or decline calls from it, view your call log or photo gallery. Access facebook, your contacts and I am certain, that they'll be adding more functionality to it in the future.
A couple of things from the user manual that did grab my attention, firstly, it warns users not to keep it in their back pocket.... like you might with a mobile phone. I guess kids struggle to understand the concept of a watch, so maybe that is necessary for Samsung to point out and finally, for the more intellectually challenged, assuming that they can read the user manual, it also makes the point (seriously) "Do not bite or suck the device". I think that means, it's not a perfect gift for a 2 year old?
These warnings aside, the unit is uber cool. The watch is really smart, genuinely useful, cool and expensive, which makes it highly desirable. I like it, alot.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Microsoft Surface RT edition .... I tried.

Don't get me wrong, I love Windows mobile OS. In terms of favourites, I'd place it higher than Android, which I know many people quite justifiably disagree with. I have no beef with Microsoft, I love my X-Box too. I like Microsoft, I just despise Windows and think it's long overdue a massive makeover, to make it simpler and easier to use and less prone to system errors. iPad's just don't do system errors. Ironically iPhone's and Windows phones both 'just work'. Mac OSX isn't perfect, but it's a damn sight less imperfect and I am genuinely excited about Mavericks, which, I hope, will be even less imperfect.
My first look at a surface was at a meeting last week, when the geekiest of us, proudly produced it to show us some photos from years gone by. We found we couldn't swipe from photo to photo, instead we had to close the window down.. view the old familiar Windows Explorer underneath, then click to open the next photo. I wasn't impressed then... but now I've had a chance to have a proper play and make a proper judgement call.
The Surface has gotten several team members excited. They love the form, they love the flip out stand, and they like the SD card slot and the USB port. I too am a fan of all of these things, but not a fan that the unit doesn't come with the genuinely nice keyboard/cover. But then we dig deeper and the problems start to appear. I'm not the first person to test this and the first person told me how they liked it. I'm happy for them, so I asked.. what device would it replace?
I use my iPad for casual web browsing, controlling the Sky box, streaming music around the house and viewing pictures on the retina display. I use my Mac, for music and photo storage, video editing and general spreadsheeting and work purposes. The answer was unclear how the Surface would fit in or replace either of these gadgets. The device is advertised as 32gb, but the OS is a frankly gargantuan 16gb, so only 16gb is left for storage! The display is a blocky, low resolution last generation display. Text is not crystal clear, it's not what we're used to on tablet devices or even smartphones of this genre. Dare I say it, it's downright ugly to my eyes. I admit others said that they thought it was ok, and admittedly, it's no worse than an ipad mini, although it isn't a patch on a retina display.
Nevertheless, the problems started before we'd even studied the display. Turning the device on, took some 10 minutes. Why? The dreaded windows updates were happening. 100% complete was displayed on the screen for at least a couple of minutes. My patience hadn't even begun to wear thin. Nevertheless, we waited for it to boot up.
After boot up, the wonderful Mobile-esque tiles appeared. I have to admit. I like this sliding about simplicity to Windows 8 machines, it looks nice, it looks simple, it looks like something you'd want to use. Here's the problem. It didn't connect to Wifi. We tried, we poked around, but we were told there was no wireless device installed. Only one option in this instance.... (after a fruitless poke around in device manager) as Moss would say... "have you tried turning it off and back on again". Alas, this was, still is, and always seems to be the right way to resolve a windows error. It worked.
We booted up internet explorer and I typed www.google.co.uk... at least I thought I had, then I had another error message that asked me what I wanted about:tabs to do? The responses were 'yes' or 'no' and I didn't really understand the question. So, thinking positively, I hit yes. Nothing happened. Back to the address bar and I typed in www.google.co.uk again.
This loaded in a reasonable time and I hit the new apps button and headed for google news. I clicked on the first story, which didn't open, we waited, and nothing happened. I clicked again, nothing. About the 4th or 5th time and the page went blank. Then the news story eventually loaded. I hit back and the same page reloaded. Again, same thing. I hammered the back button, but the same story about Ed Milliband kept reappearing. I went back to the address bar and, out of curiosity, simultaneously loaded up the same page on my iPhone. news.google.co.uk. The pages loaded in about the same time on both machines. I clicked a different story and the iPhone was marginally quicker, just a second or so. The back button problem reoccured on the surface, on the iPhone the story opened on a new tab.
A couple of times during the test, we ended up at the desktop. Or... the reality of the Operating system behind the problematic device. Under the skin of the surface, this is just another incarnation of Windows. On the slick surface, no pun intended... when you click 'all apps', there's a link for disk cleanup and disk defragmenter. On a device with a solid state drive, this OS is still so dated, that it needs these two applications? Seriously?
This is the fundamental problem of the surface, is that the beauty is only skin deep. It's ironic that they've named it so appropriately.
Windows ought to start with windows mobile and work it up into a fully fledged tablet from that OS. A tablet based on Windows Mobile would be so much better than a tablet based on Windows. It's outdated, the scars run too deep for customers who lived through 1998, Me, XP and Vista! Disk defragmenter, device manages, services, control panel and cleanup are all so fundamentally outdated that they have no place on a modern computing device. Drop Windows Microsoft and catch up with the rest of the world.
I genuinely wouldn't use this, even if I were given one. I would sell it as brand new and still sealed to some poor sod who would have been better off doing his research properly.
Incidentally the RT stands for Real time, although I'm not sure why. Not impressed. At all.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Google Music and Apple hardware

Just read a pretty misleading article on Google music and how it doesn't really 'gel' for people with Apple hardware, so I just wanted to set the record straight. For anyone that read the easy cheap networking post using Apple products, you'll be aware that pretty much most of the networked devices I have are Apple. For this article we only need to consider the 2 x Airport Express (Aex) units and Apple TV (Atv) devices. I also use a Mac an iPhone and an iPad.
I use iTunes on the Mac pretty extensively for arranging and syncing music between the iPad and iPhone. Music I have is a mix of stuff bought through iTunes and MP3 ripped from old CD's. I boot up Google's Mac software 'Music Manager' which uploads my iTunes folder to Google Music. It doesn't offer 2 way sync, so if I delete an album from iTunes, it remains on Google Music. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing (sometimes I regret deleting an album, and as it's not eating into any storage space I pay for or need, it's all good).
On the Mac, I can obviously still use iTunes to stream to either the Atv or either Aex devices in other rooms. So Google musics limitations here, have nil effect. On the iPad, and the iPhone, I use the superb gMusic app. Which is airplay compatible. So, I have no problems streaming the music from either iOS device to any of the networked devices in the home.
Seriously, Google Music really does offer a premium service, even to Apple advocates, that it makes Match totally redundant for me. While Google continue to offer this service up for free, I have literally zero reason at all to consider lining Apple's pockets with any more of my hard earned.
Hats off to Google for this one, I can carry my whole library around with me on any of my devices, so long as I have a decent wifi or 3G connection. Which for the most part, I do.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Creating a flexible media orientated home network, easily and cheaply using Apple Products.

The wireless future was supposed to make sharing films, photos, music and documents easier.

Computers with various operating systems, mobile phones, would all be able to store and share information around the home, streaming from screen to screen or to a networked device from a networked storage device somewhere else in the same building. For many, this hasn't happened as easily as they thought. Setting up a 'workable' and enjoyable home network can be a challenge. But it doesn't have to be, there are easy and cheap work arounds for most of the problems. Surprisingly, many of these come from Apple.

Let me explain my setup before I explain how it works, so that you can decide whether this is what you're looking to achieve. I'll explain the technology I use, the settings or programs I use, where appropriate and the connections between the devices that makes it all possible.

  • We can wirelessly stream music to THREE rooms in the home. Living room, Bedroom and Cinema room. This can be simultaneous if we want so we can have the same music in sync, in every room.
  • We can browse a film library, pick a film or an old home or holiday movie and watch it on any computer, the iPad, or on Apple TV.
  • We have a shared home storage device, which allows us to deposit files for other people to move onto their machines.
  • We have wireless backups for the Macbooks. (Windows machines would work as well).
  • We have a networked Xbox, which is upstairs, away from the main router, but has enough throughput to download HD films, via lovefilm or netflix, or iPlayer or Xbox Movies etc.
  • We have wireless printing on an ordinary (non wifi) printer, which also works from the iPad.


There are also spare ethernet ports at either end of the house for anyting else that we need to connect.

So, if this sounds like something you'd like, here's the equipment thats used.
Standard ISP provided Netgear router. This is the first device into the house and wifi is disabled on it. Fortunately this router model comes with 4 ports in the back, which enables me to hard wire it to a number of key devices. This is connected directly to......
Powerline hub - The first step in order to retain flexibility is to be able to blast this fast data connection around your house. So don't worry if you can't plug these other devices (listed below) where I've plugged them in, having powerline adaptors means you can take your fast data connection to another mains socket somewhere else in the house.
The whole purpose of a powerline hub is to connect it up to another one, this other powerline hub is connected to an older 500gb Apple time Capsule, which I picked up for £130.

This 'dumbell' setup means I have 4 ethernet spare ports at one end of the powerline hub, and 4 upstairs with the time capsule. It also means I can move the Time capsule to somewhere where noise isn't an issue as it can be heard when it starts backing up.

Connected by ethernet to the main router at one end is.....
Apple Airport Express £60. This is the only aspect of the setup that isn't in the ideal location. I actually use this for streaming to the bedroom, which meant running a headphone cable through the roof into the bedroom. But for the sake of the network, I wanted the Airport express close to the router, to create the first part of the wifi network downstairs. This device CREATES the wireless aspect of our home network downstairs. It's configured through Airport Utility using basic settings.
Also plugged into the router is Apple TV £100 this is connected to the main Amplifier in the living room as well as the TV, obviously?
Sky TV is plugged into the router as well, although this serves little purpose for the sake of the network flexibility.
Finally, plugged into the USB port of the Airport express, is a cheap Canon printer. Both of the Mac's see this as a network printer as this is what the USB port of the Airport Express was designed to do. However for the iPad and iPhones, I need to run Handyprint server, which can be completely hidden, and runs in the background on any or all of the Macbooks.

At the other end of the house, plugged into the second powerline adaptor the Time Capsule extends the network created by the first Airport express. This is made simple by the Airport utility app that can be configured on either of the Macbooks in the house. Also plugged via ethernet into the Time Capsule is;
Second Apple Airport Express. Wifi on this device is disabled as well, as the time capsule extends the network already. 
The X-Box is plugged into the TC too, but for no other purpose than fast internet, it isn't used to enhance our network.
Finally, plugged via USB into the time capsule, is a 500Gb Buffalo USB drive. This model is great because it has an auto wake function, which, when it's not being used, means it just powers down and waits for a USB signal to hit it. Then it wakes up.

The USB drive plugged into the Time capsule can be found in Finder on both of the Macs. Data can be shared at this central location easily on either machine and transfer speeds are fast, no matter where they are in the house, thanks to the powerline hubs, maintaining a great internal network speed.

From the iPad, FileBrowser, available through the app store can scan the network and see the Buffalo drive, which enables it to stream any of the films on the Buffalo USB drive, or music, or photos to the iPad. Furthermore, it supports Apple TV, so films can simply be thrown to the TV.

I use Handbrake to create MP4's from my DVD collections and I use Smart convertor pro (from the Apple App Store) to convert other media types to MP4. Both Handbrake and Smart convertor have Apple TV defaults, so conversion is simple. I rarely run into any problems, and I've noticed of late, Handbrake has also been ripping the 5.1 surround sound properly too!

The iPhones act as a remote, to stream music, either off the Macbooks or Google Music to each or any room in the house. Plus they can obviously stream their own stored content as well. Video can be streamed off the iPhones, to Apple TV and the latest Macbook Air, will mirror to the Apple TV. If you want, you could watch a movie on the iPad in the bedroom, and have the audio coming out of the speakers, using Airplay. Filebrowser is also available for the iPhones and will enable you to gain access to any of the content off the USB drive plugged into the Time capsule. Youtube, or Vevo can be streamed to the Apple TV from the iPhones or iPad.

You can also get a number of Apps from the Android app store that will allow streaming to Airport Express and Apple TV from an Android device.

So, in a nutshell, thats how everything connects together. Everything works pretty swimmingly. If you have any questions. Please ask. There's a diagram below to help illustrate how it all connects together along with a key to show which cables are used and where.





iPhone 5 vs Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Z is the current hottest Android handset on the market. There's no doubt on paper the unit trounces most of the competition. But does the best of Android beat the best of Apple? Well, for starters, there is the size difference to consider. The iPhone 5 is clearly much bigger than the older 4s. The 4s and all of the other handsets were marketted on the fact that you could use them with one hand. That is to say, you could still comfortably reach the upper left hand side of the screen, with the thumb on your right hand. The same can be said of the iPhone 5. Yes, it is a little longer, but it's no wider. So the one handed promises Apple made are still true. Not true of the Xperia Z. Not true at all, it's vast by comparison and it can only be described as a two handed machine. If texting while holding a pint is high on your agenda, you shouldn't even consider the Xperia! On the other hand, if you want the highest screen resolution, then perhaps surprisingly, (considering Apple's superior method of marketing Retina displays) the Xperia Z is much clearer. Don't get me wrong (at all) both of these units have fine, fine displays, but there are times, when for example you see a rendered sphere on screen, when the 'invisible pixels' claims of Apple simply scream of hype. The Z boasts a whopping 440 Pixels per inch on it's screen, where as the iPhone 5 has but 326. Having said that, both of the screens look exceptional and for normal everyday use, and even film watching in HD, you'd be hard pushed to notice a difference, certainly not a difference that would trigger buyer remorse.
The Camera's on both of these units are good. Nothing that would concern either one buyer that they've bought the wrong unit. Both are capable of producing great looking pictures. (The MP race doesn't interest me, and I applaud HTC with their upcoming ONE for looking at pixel quality over resolution. Time will tell if they've produced a better camera as a result. If you need convincing, the Macbook pro 15" with it's retina display is 4MP and no one complains that it's 'blocky'... do they?). Anyway, these both have good camera and video. Lets leave that one there.
The Z worries me with the sheer volume of water liquid ingress stickers that lie underneath every slightly poorly fitting seals, it's as if Sony don't have a great deal of faith in the phones ability to repel water. The phone is being marketed as water resistant. Indeed, I've seen the unit submerged on a number of Demo's and it does appear to have better water resistance than pretty much everything else out there. But it doesn't look like a handset designed to be waterproof from the outset. Not only that but the clauses for the water resistance aspect in the user guide state things such as salt water isn't covered. The touchscreen won't work underwater and there are no dedicated keys to trigger the camera, or video underwater. This is NOT intended to be a phone for use IN water. This is where I believe Sony have missed a trick. Instead of simply adding a few rubber sealed flaps onto what is essentially an ordinary smartphone, they should have designed something more JCB like in its construction, capable of genuine underwater photography and video. I've a £50 Kodak camera for specifically this purpose and we've captured some of our best holiday footage on it! This would be an incredible USP for Sony, but this phone.... isn't it. The most I would recommend the Z for is, perhaps, taking a call in the rain, where as, with the iPhone, you'd have to leave it, or slide it inside your hood. The Water resistance doesn't swing it for me either. So we've established that these two units are pretty different devices and you're sure to have your favourite operating system. If you can't make your mind up, consider these options.
If Malware worries you to a degree where you're paranoid, buy the iPhone.
If being able to use the device in one hand is high on your priorities, get the iPhone.
If you have Airplay devices all over your house get the iPhone 5, if you have DLNA equipment all over your house, get the Z.
If processor speed, screen resolution and bragging rights are your thing, get the Z.
If you have an incessant habit of getting phones wet, get the Z.
If you prefer the design of the Z, get that one, otherwise, if your prefer the iPhone looks, get that one.

These really are two completely different handsets, and I appreciate no easy decision when comparing between one or the other. My choice, would be the iPhone 5, but I do appreciate, other people will disagree. If the Z was properly waterproof though, things would be different.


Nokia 820 Windows Phone

I like Windows operating system. Both of my young kids are using windows phones and they just seem to know how to use them. One has the HTC Radar and one has the Nokia Lumia 800. In all honesty, the Lumia gives us the most headaches with the seemingly unfixable turning on/off bug that makes it nigh on impossible to switch back on after the battery becomes fully depleted, having booked the phone in for repair, it seems to be ok now; touch wood. The Radar, on the other hand, has been pretty much faultless. The Lumia 820 is a lovely unit though and so far, we've yet to hear of any similar software glitches. In the hand it feels like a high quality product. Again though, this new trend of 'bigger is best' makes it just a smidge too large for it to be comfortably used with one hand. Not only that, but the matt edges don't allow for a good grip and it's a heavy unit. So I suspect one to two may have been inadvertently 'launched'. The new Windows OS is lovely to use though, and the kids corner is a great idea to let your kids stay entertained whilst knowing they're not going to delete all of your contacts. Nokia Maps remains as one of the strongest USP's, it's free, it's excellent and the competition really should be challenging them. The best thing though, without a shadow of a doubt is the wireless charging system. My suspicion is before long this will become the new standard which will allow for more innovation in the coming years. Just drop the handset on the optional charging pad and hey presto, your phone is charging. Whats more this charging pad also works with other handsets that have wireless charging abilities. So before long you'll have furniture that has a charging pad on top (or two). Desks at work, tables in restaurants, everywhere you would logically place your handset to rest, could wirelessly charge your smartphone! In that respect, the 820 is revolutionary!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Elgato EyeTV iPhone TV tuner

We've had this unit in for a while and never really used it. It retails at around £80 and should be capable of receiving freeview TV broadcasts through a supplied antenna. Inside the box we found a USB cable, a small magnetic based antenna and a small telescopic aerial. We downloaded the elgato eyeTV tuner app and booted it up. It asked us to plug the device in, but it already was. Here comes disappointment number 1. It's not powered from the iPhone socket. We plugged a USB lead into it and the red light came on. The app recognised this fact and we scanned for TV channels. Unfortunately, indoors, we found nothing. So, I took the unit, along with my Mac that was powering it, outside and I stood in almost zero temperatures to scan again.... and again. But alas, with no joy. Disappointment number 2!
 Undeterred and with almost child-like enthusiasm and optimism, I took the magnetic aerial out, plugged it into the device and plonked it on top of my car. Where I sat, in freezing cold temperatures again, scanning for the 5th or 6th time. Then the progress bar froze, then BBC1 appeared, then BBC2, then 77 other stations, some of which were radio. However, it appeared that all of the Freeview channels had successfully tuned in. Once the scan was complete, I was offered a list of channels to choose from. I tapped the first and the Antiques roadshow came up, then I swiped from left to right (it was a guess that worked) and BBC2 appeared, Life on Earth. The quality was really good and the controls easy to understand. You can also rewind up to 30 seconds of live TV and record programs to watch later. I found Dave and (obviously) Top Gear. Dave ja vu, Cbeebies, BBC News, they all seemed to be here. But by now, my hands had turned blue, so I declared it a success and went back in to warm up. Does what it says on the tin, eventually. It also transmits to Apple TV. Is it worth £80? Perhaps if you're a TV junkie. I know people like that, but even they think it's expensive.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

iPhone 5 bending and scratching.

I honestly thought on the first day of launch, when our demo iPhone 5 showed a scratch on the metal band that this would be a massive problem. Then I saw the problems with the units bending and I thought that this would be a disaster too. An aluminium band as the main support around the outside of an iPhone? Compared to a steel band on the iPhone of old! Surely some mistake!? It's so light by comparison, but at this cost?
Well, no, although we have has a couple of people complain about the black paint chipping on their black iPhone 5, it's had very little actual impact. In relation to handsets bending, we've had no complaints at all. None, not a single one, not even an insurance claim. And we've sold lots and lots and lots. Well done Apple. It seems it's all good.

The New Blackberry Z10 and Blackberry 10 software.

There are very few reviews of Blackberry smartphones on these pages. To be blunt, they wouldn't be very favourable. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm not REALLY a fan. In fact, I've hated them, even the handsets that have been given to me, with a connected sim card, with the blackberry service enabled. I loathed them all. The Playbook was ok, I quite liked that. But it wasn't quite as easy to warm to as an iPad. This, well, it's a different beast altogether. Firstly, it's too big for me to to use as a day to day phone. I wouldn't have one for that reason alone. Which, is something of a shame, as the handset is an absolute corker. Within 10 minutes of flicking back and forth between the HUB, the last used apps and the main menu. You'll feel at home. It's a very easy handset to get used to quickly. The Icons are very Apple-esque, but the transform effects are very slick. It's a nice handset to use. The cameras face detect and smile feature is a blast. It's well documented all over the internet, but I can confirm it works as well in real life as it does in the promotional videos. After using it for a short while, it feels like your main menu is on the right, your 'hub' or message centre is on the left, and the main screen is your 8 last used apps, each of which fill 1/4 of the screen, over 2 vertically stacked pages. The App store is still a little flaky. Although Blackberry tell us that the apps are simple for developers to port onto the blackberry store, so take up should be good. Having said that, all of the popular apps ARE pretty much available now. Facebook, Twitter, etc.  But at the time of writing, many apps like springpad and Sky are not. The text input is perhaps the best on the market. Android does have third party apps that make text input easier, but they're not always free, and they take more time and effort to get working. The blackberry tect input is 'straight out of the box' fresh. The way it works is that it predicts a few words that you're likely to type, and displays them above the relevant first letter of that word. You simply swipe up off the letter to select it. It sounds good and looks good on the advert. But it works even better in real life. I do think Blackberry have finally got it right on this one. Not everyone will want one, but I hear more and more people moaning that iOS is becoming a little stale, they fancy a change. So perhaps this will take more of the Android and iOS market than initially thought? For me, it's good, but it's not something I would choose to spend my own money on. But unlike previously, I'd respect someone's opinion for choosing Blackberry. This is a really nice handset, very intuitive to use and with some great features. Smaller Blackberry 10 devices will be worth a second look! Blackberry also went up in my estimations when they chose Elephant by Tame Impala for their TV advert! Kudos!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

EE LTE Data allowance

Just seen a friend of mine hit 50Mbps download on EE just outside Liverpool.

He has a 3Gb monthly limit on downloads. So in theory, this means he could use all of his data allowance in just over a minute.

But I'm exaggerating, In all honesty, it would probably take him at least 10 minutes. To use ALL of his data allowance... for the whole month. Things need to change. Someone will get stung very quick. Very high data speeds and low, low data allowances do not mix. Watch this space.........

Oso Space-Mount

The Oso mount claims to have a unique type of suction cup, that will stick to more surfaces than most other in car mounts. In an 07 civic, there is a very flat part of the dashboard, which is ideal for mounting a phone. But, it's textured, so most mounts won't form a vacuum. The Oso mount on the other hand has a very soft and sticky circle, with a depressed rubberised centre. And, I must say, it works; it works brilliantly. The suction cup will fit to pretty much any, relatively flat, plastic surface, even the more textured part of the dashboard is flat enough for the circle to form a very very tight grip. If the suction cup becomes too clogged up with dust from moving it too frequently, you simply rinse it under a tap, which returns the sticky surface to its original state. The clip design is simplicity itself, quite why more car mount manufacturers don't supply a simply bulldog clip is beyond me. So, you'd assume, with a superb suction cup and a great clip design the mount would be perfect? Er....no. Sadly, the middle bit is way too thin and far too flimsy. There is way too much play in the mount and it can easily be bent back and forth with a gentle push. Furthermore, although the clip design is good, it's far too narrow, meaning that when you touch the screen at the top or bottom (or left/right if you've got it mounted horizontally) the device you're using will shift. I haven't tested it, but I suspect from the V shape of the clamp, a handset such as a galaxy (mini) would have a more firm grip, as the edge would seat deeper in the rubberised section. As if that wasn't enough, the ball and socket joint is pretty much useless. To encourage it to grip better, I have shoved a puncture repair rubber circle in it, which has worked, but not brilliantly. Truth be known though, I'm suffering buyers remorse. Like every other mount I have, to reduce vibration, it's going to need to be wedged against something else in the car to stop it. Shame, flawed genius. I'll wait for a mark III or IV and a more solid construction.

Simple laptop buying advice.