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Video Review:BlackBerry Passport

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I've spent a few weeks using the BlackBerry Passport, which was launched at the start of October.

BlackBerry positions the Passport as a business device. It is instantly recognisable by its Qwerty keyboard and large 4.5 inch display. It also supports Android and provides direct access to the Amazon Android store.

Speaking of the Amazon store, it is no way near as complete as the Google Play store and I could not even find the Kindle app. That said, I was able to use the Android British Gas Hive and Nike+ apps.

I ended up downloading the APK Installer App from the Amazon App store to get access to Google Play, when I was then able to download the official Amazon Kindle App!

Side-loading still works if you are happy downloading the APK (Android app installer file) file directly. I actually downloaded apps for my Nexus 7, then used a file manager app to copy the APK files onto my NAS drive, which the BlackBerry Passport could access. There are several APK to BAR (BB10 app) converters available online.

As a BlackBerry Q10 user, I find a real keyboard essential for creating content. In fact this blog post was written on the Q10 earlier this morning on my way to work.

The Passport's keyboard is larger, so it should be easier to use. But having tried writing long articles on the Passport, I could not get used to the layout. The most annoying feature was in fact one of the new devices big highlights - a touch-enabled physical keyboard. When you touch the keys the keyboard acts like a touchpad, for moving the cursor. While this sounds fantastic on the spec sheet, in practice, it made working on the keyboard slower, especially if you tend to rely on the delete key to make corrections. I found I was correcting the wrong word more often than not, which slowed done my progress when writing text.

Among the best features of the Passport is the screen. I found reading on the Kindle app a pleasure, thanks to the high res screen on the Passport.

For business users, BlackBerry Blend is definitely a killer app. It is a unified communications and file manger application available on iOS, Windows, and Android - giving you an integrated way to share files, text messages and email across devices.

The BlackBerry Passport has the potential to replace your laptop, tablet and smartphone and I really wanted to like it. But, even though I am old fashioned and still rely on a physical keyboard, I simply could not type fast enough on the PassPort's.

That said, the screen is superb and Blend is excellent. Let's hope BlackBerry rolls out Bland across its smartphone range.

Amazon Fire smartphone - do we really need 3D?

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This week the first smartphone designed by online retail giant Amazon was revealed, and its Dynamic Perspective feature allows the screen to present images in 3D to the user based upon the position of their heads. The question is whether or not this is what people actually want or need. 

The Dynamic Perspective feature, which uses four front-facing cameras and infra-red LEDs all built into the screen of the phone, allows the device to perform functions such as automatic scrolling to prevent users from having to touch the screen, and screen tilt depending on the user's head position. 



Although these things may improve user experience, my main concern would be the feeling that you're being watched, as the phone monitors you to ensure that you are fully immersed in any activities you are taking part in, such as watching videos or playing games. 

Perhaps more worrying, then,  is the never-before-seen Firefly feature, which uses data that Amazon has collected on physical items, text, audio and text and audio recognition in order to allow users to scan products barcodes or QR codes in order to search on Amazon to allow purchases from its online store. 

This also works for TV programs or songs; Firefly will recognise things in the environment around you and allow you to buy it right then and there through the Amazon store. All through the touch of the built in Firefly button. 

Specs at a glance:

Amazon Fire

Processor: Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz 

Memory: 2GB RAM 

Display: 4.7-inch HD 

Camera: 13MP rear-facing camera, 2.1MP front-facing camera.

Whether consumers will see this as a genius invention or a ploy to make them spend more hard earned cash where it counts has yet to be seen, but its other feature - the Mayday button - is similar to that on the Kindle Fire and allows the user to video chat with a helpline whenever they need assistance with the device, which contributes to a good consumer experience. 

The device will be available in the US by the end of July, exclusively on AT&T, at a starting price of $199.

Review: gDoc Binder

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I first came across gDoc Binder at CES on a table Windows PC. The software enables you to digitally create a ring binder of documents, which can be formatted and organised as you would with a real-life ring binder. The table PC showing off the product in Las Vegas really helped demonstrate the ingenius user experience of the product, you could swipe through pages just as we are now used to when reading books on tablets.

gDoc binder officially launched on the 5th of March, and I've been playing around with a copy for a couple of weeks now. I've been trying out the traditional desktop experience. The instruction manual (which is a gDoc) was really useful in setting up, but it was really easy to get going.  You start off with a template, choose how many tab dividers you want and create.


You "open" the binder by clicking on the cover once, and it opens to reveal a traditional looking ring binder along with a table of contents. Now this is where I began question the desktop user experience opposed to the tablet - the way the binder opens and pages turn is a little clunky on the desktop and also to mention that the graphics are a little Windows 95 for me.


The good thing is that it supports over 32 different file formats, including PDF and word documents. I found that inserting files took a little while to load, but once it got passed the first couple of documents, it sped up. You can also drag and drop documents as well as multiple files, but it did have a little trouble with over ten documents.

The table of contents also automatically updates with the file names of the documents you insert.

I found the tablet view quite intuitive, being able to drag it into different positions and angles, and it also demonstrated to me again how I think this works much better as a tablet application. It currently exists as a Windows 7 and 8 PC and tablet application, with other operating system applications hopefully in the pipeline,



You can also create documents within your ring binder using the gDoc software - but for myself this wasn't particularly useful as I could just as easily import my word documents. You can share the binder in an email in a XPS document

The company recently won a KnowList Award for the professional service industry in the Technology Innovation category. The award was granted to the developer version of the software which allows IT departments and consultants to customize the software for clients, such as adding connectors into existing document management systems.

During the awards it was noted that the judging panel felt that gDoc provided a "tangible benefit" to the legal profession in managing their documents. By using a familiar and natural concept, users found that it saved time when producing closing bibles and court bundles.

"gDoc Binder makes it easy to review and track an entire matter in a completely natural way because it is based on the familiar paper binder concept that has worked in the legal sector for centuries. I've been looking for an electronic file that you can flick through and mark up for years but there's been nothing available until now," said Robert Cohen, IT Director at City firm Speechly Bircham.

When you consider companies who have to import hundreds of documents this would save time and space. And just think at the end of the day, how much physical shelving space you are saving.

It would just be nice to soon see the enterprise benefitting from the same graphics quality as consumers are now used to, because at the end of the day, there is a continuous cross over in expectation.

The company is offering the software for $10 which gives you the ability to create 10 binders. Available to buy from the gDoc Store and Amazon.

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First look at the Kindle Paperwhite

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I interview my colleague, Cliff Saran, who has just got his hands on a new Kindle Paperwhite. He gives me his first impressions.

Apple launches the iPad "fun-size" (mini)

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Last night at an event in California, Apple revealed a 7.9in tablet, the iPad mini, which fits in the hand.

The newest device to join the Apple ranks is 7.1mm thick, weighs just over 300g, (around half the weight of a standard 9.7in iPad), yet it only two inches smaller.


No retina screen to be seen here though, as the mini has a 1024 x 768 pixel display, which is the same as the iPad 2. And before I get any stroppy comments I should point out that the mini does have 31 extra pixels per inch (163 ppi) than the iPad 2 (132 ppi), but doesn't come anywhere near the newer versions of the iPad with 264 ppi. 

It also shares the iPad 2's dual core A5 chip and 10 hours battery life, but unlike the iPad 2 however, it requires a nano sim and the lighting adapter for charging, just like Apple's new iPhone 5.

It does however, also have 4G capabilities, allowing it to run on EE's 4G network in the UK. Along with a new-new iPad (4) which was announced last night, which will also be 4G-enabled.

So it does just seem like a shrunken down iPad at first glance, but the thing that baffles me is that it isn't even a shrunken down new iPad. It's a shrunken down version of what we can now call old technology, the iPad 2 plus 4G and a couple of extra pixels. However Phil Schiller said last night that it is an "entirely new design", so I will reserve judgement until I get my hands on one to review.

Price points

You can preorder the device online from Friday 26th October, and it goes on sale from November 2nd. Prices start at £269 for a Wi-Fi only 16GB version, and £369 for 16GB with Wi-Fi and mobile capabilities. The 64GB iPad mini with Wi-Fi and mobile capabilities will set you back £529.

Christmas competition

And at that rather hefty price point, will Apple be able to beat off the Christmas competition?

Amazon Kindle Fire: 7 inch, Wi-Fi only at £159 16GB/ £199 32GB released on Friday.


Google Nexus 7: 7 inch, Wi-Fi only at £159 8GB / £189 16GB

Nexus 7 - family shot - with content.png
More than £100 cheaper than the standard iPad mini, will consumers avoid the Apple logo brainwashing and try out some other "mini" tablet brands? With Amazon's existing infrastructure of media products, and success with its Kindle sales, I expect this to be a strong contender this quarter.

Even the Microsoft Surface tablet, which will be released along with the new Windows 8 operating system on Friday, could be a contender. Could Microsoft's assault on the tablet market alter the playing field, and change the way businesses use tablet computers? Its own Surface tablet running Windows 8 RT will cost £399 for 32GB.

Thumbnail image for surface1.jpg
"Fun-size" final thoughts

7.9in touchscreen compared to 9.7in touchscreen, we're only talking two inches smaller. It's like a handbag size magazine, conveniently fits in your bag. But if your favourite magazine wasn't at the newsagent in the smaller size, you would just pick up your normal magazine, surely? 

Additionally, the standard iPad at 9.7in is already a good size for productivity and watching video, if you reduce the screen by two inches surely you are just making it more difficult to perform tasks? Perhaps Apple should have invested their time, money and efforts in making the 9.7in feather-light and more innovative? 

Apple used to be the leaders in technology, but here it is having to play catch up and follow in the footsteps of Google and Amazon for fear of missing out on a mini market opportunity.

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T3 Gadget Awards sees the iPhone 4S winning Work Gadget of the Year

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t3 logo.jpg
I was lucky enough to attend the T3 Gadget Awards last night, a lavish affair, I was told to "dress to impress" and was welcomed with endless champagne and a slap up three course meal.

But enough with the bragging - it was all to celebrate the best technology with twenty categories including Innovation of the Year, Work Gadget of the Year and App of the Year.

The iPhone and business

The iPhone 4S won Work Gadget of the Year (the iPhone 5 was released too late for consideration in this year's award), much to my dismay and confusion. Last year the BlackBerry Bold won this category. And this year the iPhone 4S managed to edge out the competition of the Epson PX830FWD, Logitech Performance MX Mouse, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime, BlackBerry Bold 9900 AND Samsung Galaxy Note.

What continued to baffle me was that with the other category winners, as the person representing the gadget made his or her way up to the stage, there was a short announcement explaining why the product/company/person had won the award. With the iPhone 4S winning the Work Gadget of the Year, there was no announcement. Obviously everyone would just instantly accept that Apple would win. Apple can do no wrong. No questions asked.

Now I understand that BlackBerry as a company hasn't had the best year, but what advancements has Apple made from the iPhone 4 to 4S which makes it a better business device over the BlackBerry Bold?

You could argue that BlackBerry has taken too long to release BlackBerry 10 which has seen its use as a business gadget decline. Now Computer Weekly has been told that it will launch in January 2013, will this shake up next year's awards?

T3 justified Apple as the winner of this category due to the apps and accessories available for the product (see below), but shouldn't the winner then be all the third party companies who have been beaten into submission to comply with Apple's rules and regulations in order to release apps and accessories? And the business user also has to BUY these extras, they don't come with the £500 device. And now that the iPhone 5 has been release with a different connector, accessories must be bought all over again. 

Despite being superseded by the iPhone 5, Apple's iPhone 4S has been one of 2012s standout gadgets and, as a testament to its versatility it picked up the T3 Award for Work Gadget of the Year. The Retina Display might trounce the displays of other smartphones but what makes this the best business accessory is the sheer amount of apps, accessories and extras available for Apple's smartphone.

Other winners

A stand out from the crowd winner was certainly, Asus. The company won the Computer and Tablet of the Year with the Asus Zenbook UX31 and the Google Nexus 7 by Asus respectively. Additionally, Asus secured the Design Award Winner category with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime as well as the Tech Brand of the Year award. The overall Gadget of the Year was also awarded to Asus with the Google Nexus 7 impressing the judges and T3 readers to win its second award, demonstrating that there is certainly room for a 7 inch tablet in the market. 

BBC's technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, swept away with the Tech Personality of the Year award, while the Outstanding Contribution To Technology Award was handed out to Lord Alan Sugar.

Rory Cellan-Jones posted this picture 
to Twitter last night after winning his award

Great night T3, thanks very much, there were some very worthy winners including the Google Nexus, Rory Cellan-Jones and the Samsung Galaxy S3 for Phone of the Year, but I'm sorry I can't agree with you that the cool consumer brand of the year, Apple, deserves the award for the best business product. 

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Testing out 4G speeds on the EE network

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EE, the new brand for mobile operator Everything Everywhere, offered a sneak preview of 4G speeds yesterday.

I was given the Huawei Ascend P1, HTC One XL and the Apple iPhone 5 to test out the speedy mobile broadband, which the company is soon to make available in the UK. 

Additionally I was given an iPhone 5 locked to 3G to compare speeds. So for the purpose of this test, the white iPhone 5 is on the 4G EE network, while the iPhone 5 in black is on the 3G EE network.

And generally the 4G speeds did impress, check out my video tests below:

4G vs 3G on Apple devices 

Testing 4G on Android devices 

Streaming YouTube on 4G vs 3G 

Downloading Angry Birds over 4G on a HTC One XL 

Downloading the Amazon app over 4G on a Huwaei P1 Ascend 

However, during my experiments I discovered that downloading anything through the iTunes store was taking an unusual amount of time on 4G. I found that it was taking up to three minutes for a single song and the seconds seemed to increase rather than decrease on the download bar.

This is quite likely that the handful of Apple devices EE was using to demonstrate 4G speeds were all connected to the same account which was being used by five different people at the same time. It could also be an Apple/4G compatibility problem - Apple failed to provide comment by the time of publication. 

So while there are claims that upgrading to 4G will be seamless, I don't think we can expect not to have a few bumps in the road.

EE has announced that from today, 4G ready handsets including the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, HTC One XL and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE will be available to buy on Orange and T-Mobile 3G price plans. Once the superfast EE network launches in the coming weeks, Orange and T-Mobile customers with 4G ready handsets can then choose to move across to the new 4G EE network or remain on the existing 3G network.  

Four years in the making: The best of the best.

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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karate-kid2.jpgHaving created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.

Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event
I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.

iPhone Vs N97
This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.

HTC Desire HD Review
David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.

Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.

What is the best mobile OS around?
At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?

This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.

The most ambitious video we ever tried.

Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken
There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)

Video review of the wiimote like Gyration Air Mouse
This video is pretty much when I realised that I can be funny. What people don't realise is that filming didn't take long but discussions between David and I on what was funny took forever.

He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".

Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate
I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off. 

David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.

Video: I heart iPad - Dating website matches man to iPad
What do you do when you get your hands on an iPad before the UK release? Write a review. Then what? Make a video about having a special relationship with it. Yep, not sure why.

The HTC and Google story: A love affair and a tragedy
Lord knows what compelled me to write this. Had I taken more time to craft it, I think it could've been great but when I read it now I feel it's rushed. Still good, where the idea came from I'll never know.

Video: Flip Mino HD review
This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.

Video: Zeemote review - Is this the future of mobile gaming?
I did this video because Zeemote said that they'd give me a free phone if I reviewed it. So...

GeeklyWeekly Sexy Halloween Special
Wow, how bad is this video? It doesn't even have anything to do with gadgets!!

5 gadget predictions for 2012

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Don't worry, I'm not going to get all emotional and misty eyed about 2011. Sure, it brought us the first handheld 3D gaming console, a plethora of dual-core smartphones and an on-going battle between Samsung and Apple that looks set to continue well into 2012 but I'm now more interested in what 2012 will bring. 

Here are five educated (I have a degree that backs this word up) guesses on what we can expect in 2012:

1. Quad-core processors in smartphones and tablets

Dual-core portable devices became standard fare this year. However, now that NVIDIA has introduced its Tegra 3, the first Quad-Core processor for hand held products, this looks all set to change in 2012. 

ASUS and its Transformer Prime, which is now embroiled in a legal battle with Transformer toy maker Hasbro, became the first to offer a Quad-core tablet. 

I'm sure we will have a lot more lightening fast tablets and phones to look forward to in the coming months but the speed at which these advancements are being made is frightening. Could we possibly even see an Octa-core processor for smaller devices in 2012? 

2. A Windows 8 tablet

Developer previews of Windows 8 were made public late this year and it's the first Windows OS that is optimised for touchscreen use. 

Dell are rumoured to be working on a tablet that will run Windows 8, with reports even suggesting that it could have been released before the end of the year but obviously that hasn't happened. 

I'm sure there will soon be a whole host of manufacturers keen to stuff their hardware full of Microsoft goodness. I can just picture them now, queueing up in an orderly fashion at Microsoft HQ, "Please, Bill, can we have some more......Windows?"

3. The iPhone 5 and iPad 3

I think it would be naive to predict anything other than continued domination from Apple in the coming year.

Its products are even more heavily anticipated than the day that Piers Morgan is no longer permitted to beam his smug face onto all our TVs. 

Both devices are rumoured to have thinner and lighter form factors but with larger, retina, displays, improved quality cameras and A5 processors. 

4. An Amazon Phone

According to reports, Blackberry makers RIM yesterday rejected an approach from Amazon to take over the troubled company. Microsoft and Nokia, who themselves are in a spot of bother, were also rumoured to be interested. 

The Kindle, which has become insanely popular, I mean you can't get on a tube train without seeing at least 3 per carriage, and LoveFilm have gone from strength to strength since Amazon acquired and released them. 

Surely, a foray into the smartphone market is just around the corner? Amazon have all the resources required to make it a success and it could end up becoming an excellent middle ground device.

5. Siri to get bigger and better, as well as an Android alternative

Although the initial reaction to the launch of the iPhone 4S was disappointment, Siri turns out to actually be rather good. 

Sure, it isn't fully functional in the UK yet, but it is voiced by the guy who does the voice-over for The Weakest Link so you have to take the rough with the smooth. 

In 2012, I expect Siri to become an expert in almost every field. With a little leg work, Siri can already do things like start your car but I expect processes for tasks like this to become even simpler. 

Many houses now come ready fitted with iPads, used to control the lighting, music and various other things and I think that is the future for Siri. Wake up, ask Siri to make you a coffee and either via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, Siri will pass the command on to the lowly, voiceless coffee maker. 

I'm quite confident that come this time next year at least 80% of the above will have proven to be accurate. You can call me Mystic Meg, actually, please don't, I already have enough distressing nicknames. I'm looking to reduce them in 2012. Hopefully there will be an app for that by then. 

Colour Kindle now Possible

Karl Hodge | No Comments
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E Ink, the company that makes displays for Amazon's Kindle, has started manufacturing a 4096 colour screen. It has all the readability advantages of its existing electronic ink displays.

The Triton colour ePaper display is still based around the outfit's 16 shade monochrome screen, but has a clever RGB filter fitted over the top.

At the time of writing, only one e-reader with E Ink's colour screen has been confirmed - a Chinese device with 800 x 600 pixel resolution.

Amazon's Kindle has been an amazing success for the online retailer, with the latest model its fastest selling ever and the most gifted gadget on the site.

The iPad has proved that magazines can make the transition from print to digital, while still charging for content. If device costs can be kept low (the current entry level Kindle costs just £109), a colour Kindle would be a very attractive proposition for this new market. 

See the Triton technology in action below:


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