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REVIEW: Dux iPad Air case

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It's almost impossible to complete a daily commute in London without spotting someone using a sad looking phone with a badly bashed up screen.

Smashed iPads are spotted less frequently, but it has been done, and there's nothing sadder than squinting through a myriad of cracks as you try but fail to make out the latest episode of 'Game of Thrones' on the tube.

The Dux iPad Air case by STM bags promises military grade protection for your device to help you to avoid this very situation. This means drops from over 6 feet with no damage, and water resistance for clumsy days. It has been tested to 'meet or exceed' US Department of Defense Standard 810F/G durability tests, and hopefully that means it keeps your device totally safe.

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The case is quite heavy, and combined with the iPad feels weighty, but is still portable. It's very sturdy, and once you've put your iPad in it, there is no danger of it slipping out what-so-ever. The case adds a few millimetres to the outside of the device, but has very clear recesses exposing ports, speakers and microphones, and does not hinder their use. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the volume and power buttons, which are enclosed in the case and can be quite difficult to press at times.

This isn't too much of a problem in terms of the power button, as the felt lined protective screen flap switches the iPad on when opened and off when closed to preserve battery. This magnetic flap also wraps around the side of the case, making it less likely to pop open if dropped. Sometimes the flap doesn't lay snug against the case, but this is easily solved by positioning it properly. You can see the back of your iPad through the clear rear panel, and STM suggests using this as an opportunity for customisation by inserting pictures.

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I tested the case with my iPad Air, and was told by STM that they weren't able to reimburse me if I dropped my device and broke it whilst using the case - although they assured me that a breakage was very unlikely. I dropped it a couple of times, and was brave enough to drop it on its corner from desk height and everything was fine. The sturdy corners prevented any damage and the screen didn't crack. I didn't want to tempt fate any further, so that's as far as my testing went. There are videos of more rigorous tests on their website, and I've included one below to show how durable the case really is:


Video: STM on YouTube

One criticism of the case is that the folding flap isn't very sturdy when folding it back to stand the case up. The case is meant to fold back and clip magnetically to allow you to stand the case for watching videos or typing. This didn't really work for me, and the case fell over a few times. 

All in all if it's durability you're looking for this case lives up to its promise of protection, and would better suit an environment where users are out and about or in danger of dropping the device during use. 

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.


Huddle Note - File sharing for the future

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Huddle has launched a new app for enterprises to use as an alternative to Microsoft Office.

We've talked about Huddle before, and how it allow teams all over the world to work collaboratively on projects by sharing files and comments in the cloud.

Huddle Note iOS Screenshot 1.pngThe new Huddle Note application now allows teams to create, edit and store any content in the cloud, making sharing and cross-platform use easier. As explained by Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell, it's a way for employees to share ideas wherever they are in the easiest way possible, without having to use other application or software.

He said: "People don't want to waste time skipping between apps, battling with legacy word processors, and then uploading documents to the cloud to share them with co-workers - especially when they're quick notes such as brainstorm ideas and meeting minutes. 

"With Huddle Note, we're adding an easy-to-use and intuitive way to capture content in Huddle, giving people a simpler, faster, mobile alternative to Microsoft Office and other bloated legacy offerings."

New features in the app include: creating and editing documentation in the cloud, sharing any content instantly with others and commenting and feedback. The app also has Huddle security features and an audit trail of activity so you can see when your documents have been read by others.

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This move away from "Jurassic systems" (Mitchell's words, not mine) will give workers everywhere a chance to share their ideas and be more productive in an environment where there's proper support available. 

With the workforce slowly becoming more and more dispersed, with people working from home, abroad or even on public transport, it's exactly what people need.

The new Huddle iOS application is also free to download from the appstore, so why not give it a go yourself? 

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The many shapes of smartphones - the reason businesses should redesign their mobile web platforms?

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Could variation in the screen size of tablet devices be making it difficult for brands to design web experiences for smart phones? Netbiscuits, a mobile web experience software solutions provider, believes so. In an analysis of global web-user trends, they've found that the mobile screens of web users range from 2.36 inches to 10.1 inches, with a range of 26 unique screen sizes recorded in total. 

Even Samsung and iPhone devices, two of the three most shipped smartphone devices in the third quarter of 2013, account for less than 47% of the Netbiscuits Cloud Platform traffic recorded during the analysis, which indicates the diversity of handsets being used to access the mobile web. 

Companies of all shapes and sizes are currently trying to adapt their mobile experience to best suit users, a subject that Coca-Cola CTO Kevin Flowers spoke about in detail at Apps World Europe 2013 in October. Netbiscuits believe that this means that developing apps and mobile browsing experiences focused on just the top 10 most-used devices just won't cut it anymore. 

In fact, they think that if corporations don't stop trying to be 'all things to all people' then global experience of mobile-web surfing will be impacted in 2014 due to the varying size and performance of mobile devices being used to access the web. 

Daniel Weisbeck CMO and COO for Netbiscuits advises: "Now is the time for brands to really wake up and execute effective adaptive mobile web strategies that work on every device for every one of their customers." 

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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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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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Gadget Guide: Smartphones

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Computer Weekly's Gadget Guide on smartphones gives you a round up of all the latest smartphone news, previews, and reviews from Inspect-a-Gadget.

If you're researching the wide range of smartphones in the market head over to our guide for the low-down on the devices you just can't live your life without. 

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Samsung launches mobile wallet app, but my pocket is still not satisfied

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The last day of the mobile-fest that is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and Samsung have announced a mobile wallet app for users to keep all their coupons, vouchers, tickets and membership cards in one place.

When Apple launched Passbook there was excitement in the air (for all of 24 hours), at the thought that this was the mobile manufacturer's first tentative steps into the domain of NFC and mobile payments.

A safe option is to start with mobile couponing wallet, similar to Passbook, which is what Samsung has launched today at MWC. However, these schemes are only as good as the volume of partners and brands involved.

What is the point in having my Starbucks points in my mobile wallet, if my Costa card isn't? (Although, in regards to Starbucks, what's the point in having a mobile strategy with a postal service for your coupons?But I digress...

The same goes for flights, it's great to have my Lufthansa boarding card on my mobile ready to scan at the gate, but what if the following week I travel with a budget airline which doesn't? The CO2 I huff and puff while riffling through my draws for my travel wallet would probably equate to the CO2 I'm plunging into the atmosphere. But I digress again...

Samsung partners so far include: Belly, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Lufthansa and Major League Baseball Advanced Media - that's not going to get you far in day-to-day life without your wallet? However, the company did say that they were still in development, so we can keep our eyes peeled for more announcements which will later go unnoticed as they won't make enough noise in the industry on their own. 

I understand that the concept of the "mobile wallet" doesn't necessarily mean leaving your traditional wallet at home (yet!), but surely we should be aiming high for that type of lifestyle, knowing that we will fall short, to what will hopefully be a happy medium with plenty of brands to choose from.

I know these things take time, but in the UK we're already so far behind in the realms of NFC, it actually seems like science fiction rather than possibility. 

Early this week at MWC, Visa announced a partnership with Samsung to accelerate mobile NFC payments. 

Visa will include its payWave NFC applet on the next generation of Samsung NFC-enabled handsets. As part of the alliance, Visa will also partner with financial institutions to push forward global mobile payment solutions.

Maybe we're starting to get somewhere after this week, but until then, pass me my Radley purse.


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BlackBerry 10 hijacks your iOS and Android device thanks to Blippar

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This week BlackBerry are shining in the spotlight of the press in the mobile world, thanks to the launch of its new operating system, BlackBerry 10, and early indications seem that it is reviewing quite well.

Clever marketing from augmented reality company, Blippar, has allowed iOS and Android users to experience the BlackBerry 10 experience right on their handsets.

Using the Blippar app, I "blipped" a landing page, which then swirled and whizzed through space while loading. After about ten seconds I was redirected to my web browser which then offered me an interactive experience. 

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While BlackBerry 10 technically doesn't "hijack" your iPhone or Galaxy, it does provide a good insight into the perks of the new operating system.

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If you want to experience BlackBerry 10 first hand, without paying out the big bucks (yes, the handset does seem to be quite pricey), download Blippar on your handset, open www.bbtakeover.me on your desktop, and Blip away.
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CES 2013 REVIEW: Tech Tips precision stylus

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Pop the piece of plastic on the end of your finger tip and make sure you practise for a little while. It's a bit tricky to get the angle right in order to make a connection with the screen, but these Tech Tips from a US start-up company try to compensate for sloppy handwriting and difficulties when clicking on tiny webpage links while using your smart device.

This fairly good idea, if not quite implemented as well as I would have liked, trying the tips out on my iPhone with a screen protector, proved a little sluggish (see video). My colleague tried them on a Samsung Galaxy S3, which worked considerably better, however the hard keys at the bottom of the device - which still require sensitivity to work - didn't work as well as your actual finger when being used with the Tech Tips.


The tip of your finger gets a bit sweaty from the plastic and it is not that precise when writing - so my handwriting wasn't great, but it was better than when using your finger tip.

However, it is great when you're on a website which has not been optimised for mobile use and the hyperlinks are really tricky to select with the pad of your finger.

Another problem is, how do you measure your finger tips to know what size to ask for, small, medium or large?

Capacitive touchscreens do not actually detect touch, but instead detect the presence of an electrically conductive object. Tech Tips have included this technology into small pieces of plastic to produce an electrical conductor that smart devices will recognise.

The company is looking to have discussions with UK distributors in the coming weeks, and Tech Tips will also be available on Amazon within the months.

At this point the individual retail cost for a single Tech Tip stylus is $3.49n (£2.17) and $9.99 (£6.21) for a multi-pack of four.

The company has also demonstrated Nano Nails - fake nails which include this technology. I don't wear fake nails myself, but I can see these as a really great idea that could take off as my friends tell me how difficult it is to use their phones when wearing ludicrously long pieces of plastic.

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Image: Tech Tips Nano Nails

Still in beta mode, the Nano Nail doesn't have official pricing as yet, however, they are expected to be around $10-12 (around £7) for 4-5 pack of nails. The company is currently still in the process of testing out the technology, for instance a set of nails which were worn for a week needed touching up with the nail polish, and Tech Tips is currently looking to see how the technology withstands to nail polish remover.

What other objects conduct the electrical impulses needed to work a touchscreen device? 

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