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Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

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At this week's WWDC 2014 - the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future - Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.

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The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple's flagship iPad and iPhone devices.

There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.

Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.

Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.

Although this announcement isn't quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.

Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.


REVIEW: The iPad Air

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A lot of people have complained that the new iPad Air isn't different enough from the previous iPads to justify the asking price. After using it though, I think that it's just different enough in all the right ways. 

It's thinner, lighter and slicker than previous iPads, not far off an iPad mini in feel, with only millimeters in the size difference, plus the black matt 'space grey' finish now available gives it an air of sophistication that the silver of the iPad 2 just didn't have. It's light to hold, and can easily be operated in almost any situation, increasing portability. 

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At less than half a kilogram, it claims to be 20% thinner and 28% lighter than previous models, and it's a noticeable difference. The bezels are closer to the screen, bringing the width in without affecting the content. 

Now that it's smaller and lighter, it's easier to fit into even the most conservative of bags, and is ideal for taking notes in meetings, or for portable working if you're on your feet all day. It also has two antennae allowing ultra-fast wifi with download speeds of up to 300 Mbps, which is almost double that of the previous iPad, suitable for those looking for a device to integrate into a BYOD plan using desktop virtualisation. Or it's perfect for sending e-mails and surfing on the daily commute. 

Where WiFi is unavailable, the iPad Air is supported globally on data networks if you have a SIM for it, ensuring connectivity around the world. It can also be used to create a personal hotspot, connecting devices around it to the internet, which might be useful when others are using less powerful devices, or devices that cannot use cellular data for web access, so meetings can be set up pretty much anywhere.

The new A7 chip makes it twice as fast and graphically capable, and it certainly comes across that way. It also includes an M7 co-processor for that bit of extra juice. The battery also seems to last an age, especially in standby. 

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The touch screen feels oddly spongy, but is crystal clear, and perfect for graphical work or watching film and TV. The parallax blur effect that everyone has been moaning about was a nice novelty, not quite as exaggerated as I thought it would be, and even works when you set your own background. Staring at the screen for too long can hurt the eyes, but the brightness can be adjusted depending on taste and requirement. 

If you've been clever about backing up a previous device, the setup is simple. Only previously having an iPad 1, I was worried that the difference in iOS would be an issue, but the upgrade to iOS 7 came alongside the backup from iTunes. Unfortunately backing up from iTunes meant that some information had to be entered twice, such as the wifi password, but it's a small price to pay to get up and running quickly. The new control panel with iOS 7 brings all of your needs to the flick of one finger, a simple change that makes a big difference.

Upon entering the app store, I was directed to download a host of free Apple applications for business use, including pages, numbers and keynote, all for free to allow you to seamlessly transition to portable working if needed. Of course if you have iCloud, integration of e-mail and calenders is also available for reminders, appointments and e-mail on-the-go. 

iOS 7, although a big step forward, is refreshing in comparison to iOS 6. The vibrant colours, rounded edges, and plain stylisation makes for a trendy update. 

This gadget is a nice improvement on previous Apple products, or a good first tablet, perfect for the run up to Christmas. 

Thank you to Ebuyer for providing the iPad air for review. Take a look at Ebuyer's 12 days of Christmas competition starting on December 1st, where prizes will be given out every day for the first 12 days of the Christmas month. You can enter every day, and could even win your very own iPad Air.
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Apple announce new iPad Air, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro and free operating system

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There has been a recent rise in competition in the tablet market, including the new Nokia Windows tablet and Windows Surface 2. Analysts have also been speculating about the fall of desktop machines in favour of their portable counterparts, so it's not a big surprise that Apple has done its best to update the iPad with the new iPad Air and improvements to the iPad Mini. As well as these tiny tablet devices, Apple announced updates to its other ranges including the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. And to top it off, a free operating system. 

iPad Air

The new addition to the iPad family, the iPad Air is thinner, lighter, and has a sharper 9.7-inch Retina display. Weighing just one pound, the Air contains the new A7 chip for power efficiency, and has a battery life lasting up to 10 hours. How much will it set you back? Around £399 for the 16GB model. 

iPad Mini with retina display

The iPad mini with retina display has a 7.9-inch screen, and the new Apple-designed A7 chip. Around 3.1 million pixels will be packed into the Multi-Touch display, delivering an iPad experience in a portion of the size. The price to pay for having the upgraded display, however, starts at £319, around £100 more than the original iPad Mini. 
Mac Pro

The new Mac Pro promises to redefine pro computing, and has been dubbed the "most radical Mac ever". The new pro desktop includes the latest Intel Xeon Processors, dual workstation-class GPUs and ultra-fast ECC memory, but is one-eighth of the size of the previous generation for the starting price of £2499.

MacBook Pro

The new generation of MacBook Pro now has a lower starting price of £1099 and a high-resolution retina display. With the promise of performing up to 90% faster than previous MacBooks, it is also lighter with better battery life. It also now comes with free iWork and iLife included. 
OS X Mavericks

Apple also announced that the 10th major release of its operating system will be free to download from Mac App Stores. It includes features such as iCloud keychain, multi-display support to increase ease of using multiple screens, and Finder tabs and tags for better organisation of files, and is free to download now from Mac App Store.

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Top five most expensive iPhones: some of the most costly smartphones in the world

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The iPhone 5S and its golden Bond-style finesse has us all thinking about technology upgrades. The 5S is fancy, and 5C may be colourful, but if you're going to cough up for an stunning phone, you want it to be exactly that. Just an iPhone isn't enough; you want to own the most expensive, sophisticated and shiny iPhone on the market. So here are 5 of the most expensive iPhones in the world, whose price tags would shock even the richest among us:

Amosu Couture Gold Swarovski iPhone 5 

This luxury iPhone is the 5C of high-end iPhones, costing only £2999. It's covered in 24 carat mirror gold, and the sides and menu button are dusted with 600 Swarovski crystals. If that's not fancy enough for you, the phone comes with a case made of calf leather in a colour of your choice. It might seem decadent, but once you've seen the other phones on offer, this phone will seem like a child's model.

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Continental iPhone 5 Rose Gold Collection

As if covering an iPhone with gold wasn't enough, Continental have gone one further and covered an iPhone 5 in Rose Gold, giving it a pink tinge. They've then topped it off with diamond-cut bevelled edges and thrown on some diamonds for good measure. How much will it set you back? Only £12,499. Bargain. 

This isn't the only phone they do either, they offer phones covered in all sorts of different coloured diamonds. They also offer a 4S in vivid and fun colours, such as 'Wasabi Green' for £999. Unfortunately the introduction of the colourful 5C, and its reasonable price tag, has made these models a little redundant. 

Gold Genie Solid Gold Superstar iPhone 5S

Branded a "work of art", this phone by Gold Genie has a textured pattern printed into gold plating surrounding the phone's exterior. What it lacks in diamonds it makes up for in gold, as the casing is made entirely of solid 18 carat gold. Costing a massive £48,000, you'll be glad to know it also comes with a cherry wood display case to keep it in when you refuse to leave the house with it through fear of being mugged. 

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Gresso Time Machine iPhone 4

Although only an iPhone 4, this luxury handset is still pretty swanky. The back of this phone has been replaced with mineral diamond-coated glass, and houses six Swiss watches which keep the time of the six busiest business cities in the world. You'll never miss and international conference call again. This will only set you back around £3700. If you're looking for a fancier version, however, there's the Lady Blanche model, which features three watches and three insets containing diamonds, costing around £18,595. I think I know which I'd go for. 

Stuart Hughes Black Diamond iPhone 5 

Stuart Hughes are well known for their high-end iPhones, with one of their models including a platinum storage chest which is encrusted with rare stones such Opal, Rutile Quartz and polished bones from a TREX skeleton. Now they've outdone themselves with what has been dubbed the most expensive smartphone in the world. The £10 million phone is covered in over 100g of solid gold, 600 white diamonds and 26 carat black diamond. To top it off, the touch screen is made of Sapphire Glass.  If that's not luxury, I don't know what is. 

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What's the most you'd be willing to shell out for a 'luxury' iPhone? 

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Apple tightens security with iOS 7

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From an enterprise perspective Apple appears to be tightening up security and at the same time loosening it in iOS 7.

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From an enterprise perspective iOS 7 includes a per application VPN and managed applications that have authorisation to open email attachments. In a recent blog post Srinivas Krishnamurti, a VMware senior director on the Horizon Mobile programme says the email lock-down feature in iOS 7 will enable  IT to prevent data leakage from and negates the need for a separate email application for corporate use.

the built-in fingerprint scanner has the potential to boost enterprise security - through two-factor authentication using a biometric fingerprint. But the scanner will only authorise iTunes transactions. Potentially, it could be opened up to third party developers such as to secure internet banking, but, as one of my colleagues mentioned, Apple appears to be playing its cards close to its chest. What it probably wants to avoid is another fiasco like what happened when it ditched Google Maps last year.

Now the bad news...Well, AirDrop is one of of the shiny new features in iOS 7, to enable people to share content with friends easily over a peer-to-peer wireless connection. There is clearly a big risk of data leakage here, and there is a very real risk that your wireless network could be spoofed 

Apple launches iPhone 5S and "cheaper" 5C model

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Last night, with the pomp and ceremony we've come to know from big technology launches, Apple announced the latest additions to the iPhone family.

An upgrade from the iPhone 5 - the iPhone 5S, as well as a new, yet "cheaper" model, the iPhone 5C.

But sadly, yet again, the company has failed to wow me in terms of innovation.

The iPhone 5S

Now available in 'space gray' (black, with a bit of grey), 'silver' (white with a silver back panel), and now 'gold' (I think you mean champagne - and no, just no!), this is the first time the iPhones have defiantly stepped away from tradition.

The aluminium backplate was a small step away from the typical black and white, which was first seen on the iPhone 5, but these say to me that Apple wants to appeal to its user's character.

But at the same time I feel it has also cheapened the brand by introducing a champagne colour to its flagship model the 5S, and an array of pastel shades for its 5C.

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The colour is not the main focus of the iPhone 5S, this device has come with fingerprint technology which will allow users to unlock their phones with a touch of their finger.

But while the technology debuted on the iPhone 5S could revolutionise smartphone security, Apple has no plans to allow the Touch ID sensor to be used for more than unlocking phones or verifying iTunes purchases, say US reports.

The technology is built into the home button and is made from laser-cut sapphire crystal which directs the image of your fingerprint  to a capacitive touch sensor, which reads beneath the outer layers of your skin to get a detailed print.

While this seems like a futuristic piece of innovation from the technology giant, in fact the Motorola Atrix launched a phone with a fingerprint sensor two years ago - c'mon Apple, pull your socks up. I want to see real innovation, not copycat skills that will be sent stratospheric due to your brand name.

While staying the same weight and size as its predecessor, the iPhone 5S sees a new A7 chip with 64-bit architecture, as well as an M7 motion coprocessor, which Apple claims makes it twice as fast than the previous generation models, while preserving more battery.  

More expensive than the iPhone 5, the handsets will cost £549 for 16GB, £629 for 32GB and £709 for 64GB.

The iPhone 5C

Well, the 'C' in iPhone 5C certainly does not stand for cheap.

It was a first for Apple to launch two iPhones at the same time, Tim Cook announced the 5S and 5C would allow the company to serve even more customers.  

"Apple's never had an offering for the mid-range smartphone market, leaving Samsung - with a phone for every budget - to clean up. The 5C could well be the trump card needed to trounce Android's hand," said Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com.

But at £469 for 16GB and £549 for the 32GB model, I don't consider that mid-range.

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The iPhone 5C is "for the colourful" with five pastel shades of green, blue, yellow, pink (or red depending on your eyesight) and white. Coloured handsets and cases has been popularised by the mid-market smartphone, with Apple staying clear away from novelty. But the phone might catch the eye of the Chinese market. 

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum said: "The cheaper iPhone is critical for expanding the addressable market, because many people in China and elsewhere simply can't afford to buy a current generation iPhone, especially when it's not subsidized. However, the key risk for Apple in launching a cheaper iPhone is that it may cannibalize sales of the high-end phone."

Both devices will be running out-of-the-box the new operating system iOS7, and will be available from the 20 September. 

Keep reading the Inspect-a-Gadget blog for a hands-on review coming soon.

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MessagEase - the alternative touch keyboard

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We started off texting using a numerical keypad on our Nokia 3310s. Slowly and painfully keying out "How r u m8?" by repeatedly sequencing through a group of letters sharing a button with a number on your handset. 

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Next came predictive text, where our phones acted clever and would try to guess what you were typing through single key presses. But this didn't always go to plan. 

One of the decent things BlackBerry did was popularise the QWERTY keyboard, so we all went back to typing out full words on our smartphones, fingers frantically moving across the screens.

Now, there's MessagEase, a new text input technology designed particularly for smartwatches, smartphones, wearables, tablets, and smart TVs. The keyboard is designed for two finger usage - capitalising on new technology's small retail estate. 

The video below shows how the nine large keys can be used with only two fingers. It looks rather baffling - but so did predictive text messaging when it first came out.

Ready as an app for iOS, Android and Windows 8 tablets, the technology could revolutionise typing if it can get on the smartwatch bandwagon - a screen which is particularly smaller than what we are all used to. 
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Top five BYOD problems and app solutions

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Since the advancement of mobile technology, an office environment has become less and less important in business. Everyone would rather use their mobile or iPad to do their work and the need for corporate issue devices has become less important.
 
But Bring Your Own Device schemes aren't without their problems; employees often overwork or compromise the security of office data. So here's a list of common B.Y.O.D issues, and apps that can help to fix them. 
 
1.      Mobile device management and data protection

Security is the top priority for firms when considering external devices to be used for company business. If mobile device management is not handled properly, this can lead to stresses such as restricting the apps that employees can use on their own phones, which could lead to discontent.
 
This can be resolved by an app that acts as a virtual machine to allow the employee to connect to the office network within a secure environment, such as AppSense's MobileNow or the VMWare Mobile Secure Desktop. This allows the corporations a level of control over security and the device being used and the employee can still use their device as normal; safe in the knowledge that they can do whatever they want with it.

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2.      Device and data loss

Losing your device can be stressful enough without the added possibility of comprising any company data. That's why it is always handy to have an app that will help you find your lost device, such as Find My iPhone. There is also a risk of losing data. Corporations have many safe-holds in place to ensure that work is easily recovered if it is lost; something that many home-users don't consider. If you don't have a device that allows automatic cloud backup then looking into a way to keep data safe is highly advised, even if that is in the form of something as simple as SkyDrive.
 
3.      Over or under working

Bring Your Own device schemes work well for companies, as they allow employees to utilise their time and ensure that they are working whenever possible. But this can cause issues when the employee feels that they are putting more than their fair share of time, especially as the ability to work anywhere often means time spent at home is also spent working.
 
Similarly, when using your own device at work instead of a company-issued machine, there's the temptation to check personal e-mails and get sidetracked by whatever you might use your device for at home. An app such as HoursTracker can easily resolve this, as you can log the hours that you have been working, and what you have been working on, so that you can find out exactly how much time you spend working, and how often it exceeds the amount of time spent in the office.  

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4.      Lack of structure

Merging work life and home life can make it difficult to keep track of projects and tasks due to the lack of re-enforced work structure. As they say "Tidy desk, tidy mind" so understandably if half of your work is done away from the desk, it wouldn't be unusual to find it hard to organise your workload. Applications that already exist on most phones can help with this, such as a calendar. For a more project-oriented app, there's the LiquidPlanner, which allows projects to be planned, and scheduled amongst users, and notes and documents to be shared, to ensure that both employees and corporations are maximising their productivity.
 
5.      Lack of monitoring

Companies will want to have as much control over devices as possible, especially as data exchanged via devices brought from home could lead to a security risk if misused. But this can be an issue with employee owned devices, as they will want to have the freedom of using their device without interference from the company that they work for.

Innovations such as the Samsung Knox and the Blackberry Balance could be the future of B.Y.O.D technology, allowing one device to act as two separate devices, using an app that provides a complete work space which is separate from any personal use of the device, providing the perfect work and home balance. 

Perhaps this is a glance into the future of business?
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Can a redesign restore faith or do some people just want something different?

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Relying on your name, brand and reputation is a dangerous tactic, one that Nokia and Blackberry know all too well.

Some of the absolute garbage and speculation I read regarding next generation products makes me want to walk across a field of lego pieces while setting mouse traps off on my fingers, all so the pain can help me forget what I've just consumed with my eyeballs.

However, when a company does actually make a significant change, like Apple when it revealed the redesigned "EarPods", can it bring old customers back, as well as tempt new users?

In comparison to the old earphones, the EarPods supersede them in every aspect, ascetics, build quality, sound quality and even name stupidity! For me, the old earphones were one of the worst things about the previous generation of iPhones and other iDevices.

I mean, there are other options out there on the market. Like with any product there are alternatives, varying in features and price point.

I got my hands on a pair of Thinksound ts02's and Sony XBA-C10's in order to broaden my musical option horizons and answer my question.

Immediately you can see that Thinksound are an eco-friendly company, with the packaging made solely from 100% recycled materials. Even the earphone casings, which look very striking, are made of renewable wood.

The second noteworthy thing about these audio offerings from Thinksound is the weight, up there with the lightest earphones I've ever slipped into my lugs at 12g.


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The ts02's earphones also come with a mic, but unlike the EarPods, it doesn't have a volume control. Another noticeable difference is that the mic didn't pick up the sound as well as it should. The ts02's are a world apart from the Apple equivalent costing substantially more at around £75 but bringing a much more wholesome and well-rounded sound to the table.

The Sony product sits in the middle price bracket at around £39 but they come without a mic. They come off as mildly futuristic with a hollow ear loop to hold them securely in place. To look at you'd think they were uncomfortable but that was only the case when worn for extensive periods.

The XBA-C10s blow the EarPods out of the water in terms of noise cancellation and actual in-ear comfort but they did leave me a little disappointed, they look like they deliver more of a punch than they do.


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The balanced armature driver tucked away inside the earpiece does however mean they come out on top of the Apple EarPods in terms of overall sound quality. Mainly thanks to the 100dB/mW sensitivity which ensures minimum distortion as you crank up the volume.

The EarPods suit many people down to the ground, those who want adequate and functional performance, with the ts02's matching up best with the environmentally conscious looking for something a little different, and finally, the Sony earphones are ideally built for use in hectic workplaces or the gym.  

So back to using Apple as the example for the original question, I was very surprised that (back in September) they redesigned and substantially improved their earphones in the first place and it did restore a little faith. Ultimately though, the improvements were only such that there are still more appropriate options out there catering to specific tastes, many of which merit the increased costs. And you've just been introduced to two examples above.

The moment when Energenie saved my day

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We are all scarily dependent on our smartphones. When my phone gets down to 5% battery life as I leave the office, I get that panicky feeling rise up in my chest. What would I do if it went completely flat? Would I even be able to complete my journey without the tube map and what about level 38 of Candy Crush? What if I've left my keys in the office, how would I phone anyone to let me into my flat? Oh it's ok, I'll just tweet my marooned state. No I won't - my phone has gone dead.

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In the business world, where more and more companies are moving to either kitting out their staff with the latest smartphone or allowing BYOD programmes, we are finding ourselves extremely limited by our phone battery lives. Even the BlackBerry Z10 only just stretches into the second day's charge, but really when you're hammering its shiny new OS, you have to charge it every day.

From the moment I leave my flat to travel to work in the morning, I  feel constrained by my battery life, I have a USB lead in my work computer, so I can easily charge my iPhone at my desk, but if I'm out for a full day, I know I have to ration my usage.

At the last big even I went to, I spent a few hours on the train in the morning and by 2pm I had 15% battery left. As a reporter, I needed my phone, not only to keep on top of emails and phone calls, but also to take photographs and record videos from the event. I would need the National Rail app to work out when my return train was going to depart, google maps to get around, not to mention emails to keep me entertained on the train home.

My saviour was the Energenie ChargeSleeve for iPhone 4 and 4S. I was at an event where Energenie were showing off its products, and to be completely honest I had been given a ChargeSleeve to review a few months back, but never got around to doing it. Boy, did I wish I had it in my bag that day as my battery dropped like a stone in water. Instead I wandered up to the stand red faced and sheepish and asked if I could borrow one for a quick fix. Luckily Energenie had one going spare.

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Your phone fits within the sleeve and the 1, 8 00mAh battery allows for a full recharge of your device. It does make your phone a little longer and thicker, but I preferred that it still felt like my iPhone after a couple of weeks on the ice cream, rather than messing about with wires, USB ports, and a rectangular box in order to get an emergency charger working. I could even make phone calls without worrying about the wires getting trapped or pulled out of the device. The only issue is that carrying around the ChargeSleeve when you don't need it, is like having another phone in your bag.

The product comes with a USB to MicroUSB cable to recharge your ChargeSleeve. I've most certainly learnt my lesson, and until they start making operating systems that aren't such a drain on your smartphone, portable emergency chargers are certainly the way forward.

Energenie ChargeSleeve for iPhone 4/4S £29.99


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