Recently in Mobile Category

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. 

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Photo: Amazon.com

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.


Microsoft announces new Windows Surface 3

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Microsoft announced the new Windows Surface Pro 3 tablet at an event in New York today. 

 

The device, which is 12 inches, is designed to fit perfectly into user's lives, with Surface product manager Panos Panay claiming that this could be "the tablet that replaces the laptop." 

 

The Surface Twitter feed was inundated with updates, labelling  the tablet an "entertainment powerhouse" due to its 2160 x 1440 resolution and Dolby sound capabilities.


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The new kickstand is multi-position, so you can angle the tablet any way you want to if placed on a table, although an emphasis was made about the "lapability" of the device, which apparently means it can be used to comfortably complete work from your lap.


As the tablet runs Windows 8.1 Pro OS, you can use all of the features and applications that you are used to, with the added ability to use the new stylus to generate hand-written documents in OneNote. 

 

Specs at a glace:

Surface Pro 3

  • Size: 12 inches
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1440
  • Weight: 800g
  • Thickness: 9.1mm
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Memory: Up to 8GB of RAM
  • Battery: Up to 9 hours
  • Storage: Varies from 64 GB up to 512 GB

 

The device includes features such as a redesigned keyboard that is larger than the previous model and includes an improved trackpad. The device also comes with an accompanying stylus dubbed the Surface Pen to make writing easier. Looks like this device might not only replace the laptop, but may also wipe out pen and paper altogether.

 

The new Surface is 800g, only 9.1mm thick, and is built to apply to Satya Nadella's vision of "empowering people to do more and be more."  

Znap mobile payment platform

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Payment methods have been slowly evolving for over the last ten years, from cash, to cheques to cards. Now you can even pay in cheques using a smartphone and use contactless card payment in supermarkets.

Despite these advancements, the payment process can often be a cause of pinch points in shops and other venues, causing queues and bottlenecks.

Znap aims to provide a solution to these issues, and I have to admit it's an efficient system that feels futuristic, and has cool sound effects to boot.

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Znap could fall under the m-commerce category, since all payments take place on your phone. Znap has gone one further, claiming to be 'omni-commerce' because the solution offers a bridge between different commerce channels, as well as offers merchants a means to fully interact with consumers through their likes and dislikes to cater deals and offers towards individuals.

Once you download the Znap app and set up an account, you can add the details of any credit or debit card you have. Then you select a four digit PIN to act as a verifier when using the app. Once this is done, you can use the Znap system wherever possible to pay for goods or use vouchers. These are just some of the solutions where Znap could be used to increase ease of payment and consumer-merchant interaction:

Supermarket

Znap can integrate with a POS system. Once items have been scanned by the shop assistant, the customer can scan a QR code at the till or use NFC touch technology to view their shopping list, apply any coupons they may have saved through Znap and then pay for the whole shop through their phone.

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This system can also be used for self-checkout. As you arrive at the supermarket you check in using a unique QR code and then scan goods on your phone as you're walking around the supermarket, using a checkout QR code to pay by the same method at the end.

Travel

If there's a long queue at the standard check-in desk at an airport, a Znap QR code could be used to register for a fast pass to join a different queue to reduce waiting times. Then once you arrive at your hotel, if you have bought your hotel reservation through Znap, location functionality within the app can detect your location and send a message to your phone informing you of your automatic check in, and directing you to your room where your phone can be used as your room key through the Znap application.

Paying bills

Your bills will come through with a Znap QR code on them ready to scan. Once scanned, Znap will allow you to enter the amount of the bill you wish to pay and make the transaction on your phone. The payment will be associated to you so if you share a house, you can prove that your section of a bill has been paid. It will also inform you if the bill has already been dealt with, so you don't end up paying a bill twice or overpaying.

Sales shopping

You see an advert for some jeans you like with a Znap QR code underneath. You scan the QR code and select what size or style you want, and whether you want the jeans delivered or to pick them up from a store near you. If you select pick up, you can pay and then go and get your ready-packaged jeans later when you're in the right area.

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Sports arena - How Znap is being used at Twickenham

These methods were put into practice at Twickenham where the Rugby Football Union elected ZNAP as its supplier for an m-commerce solution following a trial at the QBE Internationals. Sports fans were able to order and pay for their drinks and food beforehand through Znap, and were then able to approach a special till where they could collect their drinks, queue free with no extra staff needed.

These solutions not only offer consumers an easier way to pay, but allow merchants to turn over customers faster, and offer individual customer-focussed deals that are tailored to the habits of that particular consumer.

With the number of consumers shopping on their smartphones ever increasing and queues putting shoppers off of physically entering shops at all, this could be the next step in commerce that the industry really needs to get people back on the highstreet.

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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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How can your phone make your job in IT easier?

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Today we're expected to work longer hours, often at home as well as in the office. Although it might not seem like much, having the right app on your phone, or the right phone in general, can take a small load off of your shoulders and make your life just that little bit easier. So here's a list of portable must-haves depending on your job title. 

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CIOs spend a majority of their time trying to drive a company's technology forward, but that could prove hard to do if they themselves are not sporting the latest technology. After all, who's going to listen to someone's advice if they aren't willing to take it themselves? So the phone of choice for a CIO could be the Samsung Galaxy S4. The cutting edge of technology, it has a high hardware rating, an attractive body and lightning fast CPU. When you're seen with this phone, all of your future tech suggestions will be taken seriously. 

A data centre manager's job is never over; not a moment goes by when you're not worried about a meltdown or overheating. Or having nightmares about data loss and water damage. The Intel Data Center Manager Mobile Client can help you to rest easy at night allowing them to check information collected by the DCM server at all times. 

A network administrator is always looking for new ways to test network capabilities and how to push network usage to new heights. There's a an app you can download called the CNS Remote Admin by Commercial Network Services which allows you to monitor who's logged into the network, what processes are running and, best of all, it's free and available on iPhone and Android.

Many developers wouldn't be caught dead with an iPhone, so it might be difficult to decide between a Windows Phone and an Android phone. Luckily the use of Android SDK software allows you to install an android simulator on your computer, so you can use a Windows Phone as your personal phone, whilst emulating an android phone on your computer, giving you the best of both app-developing worlds. 

Tech support can feel like a 24/7 job, as people are always quick to complain about issues that need resolving as soon as possible. So the OTRS app allows you to access your tickets and keep track of jobs you have been assigned to. It won't stop everyone from expecting you to help them non-stop, but it will at least help you to keep track of all of the tasks you have lined up. 

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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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Moto X - could self-design become the new smartphone trendsetter?

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Motorola invented the very first mobile phone in 1973 - these guys have been around the block a few times, so Google's $12.5bn acquisition of the company last year may not have been the most craziest of decisions.

While us techies are crying out for innovation from the smartphone giants - begging for payments, near-field communication, SLR-quality cameras and the next "biggest thing", Google has analysed what a mobile device means to a person today. 

Especially the millennials, who are growing up with a smartphone attached to their hands 24/7, the Facebook, SMS and Twitter notifications bleeping out around the clock. These devices are personal.

Smartphones are a fundamental part of their lives.

And it's not just the teenagers, most adults would be completely lost without their phones - just remember how you struggled to find your way around a city the last time your battery went flat.

Technology is at the core of everything we do.

And while Apple and Samsung have been the trendsetters in this space placing their white and black rectangles into the palms of Westerners everywhere, perhaps it's time for the consumer to choose what their phone looks like today?

The Moto X is the design for everybody: "I'd love this device to be the equivalent of the person who walks into the party, and it's not the intimidating person in the corner or the performer, but the one is who is comfortable there," said Jim Wicks, head of design at Motorola.

While only available in the US this summer, the Moto X will offer 2,000 variations to the device in terms of colours, covers, and engravings. And this I think could just be the beginning for design and the smartphone.

The cost of 3D printing has dramatically fallen in the past year, with models predicted to be in the average person's home in the not-so-distant future. We will soon be designing our products and printing spare parts to our machines in our living rooms.

But this will change our attitude to design and manufacturing, creating two issues:

  • If we can design spare parts will we keep our technology for longer by being able to personalise it and fix it when it breaks?
  • Or will it become even more disposable because we can just cobble together a new one at home?


With people becoming more aware about what 3D printing could mean for the industry, it has given way for self-design businesses like Makie Dolls to spring up. Makie Dolls are transforming digital production. The dolls are produced by the customer digitally and the digital model is then manufactured by a 3D printer to the required specifications which can vary to include, hair colour, eye shape, and clothes.

So if the self-design trend is about to kick off, maybe Google has just got their timing right on the launch of this phone.

Or will we continue to become mindless sheep following the crowd forever more?

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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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Buffalo Powerline 500AV Adapter

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For a small to medium business having trouble with Wi-Fi connections, this is a problem which can actually stop you dead in your tracks, or at least make you much less mobile than you would like to be.

If you have a conference room that isn't able to connect to the network or your office space might be on different levels causing connectivity issues, the solution can become costly and disruptive.

I had a similar situation at home, where my home router was just not powerful enough to travel a distance of several metres through walls and upstairs. The Buffalo Powerline Adapter came to the rescue, no need to drill holes and extend cables, or even buy a stronger router.

This solution was definitely a "plug-in-and-go" product. The box comes with two chunky units: use the Ethernet cable to plug from your router into the first unit and then plug it straight into the wall, I then took the second unit upstairs and plugged it into a second outlet. Within two minutes I was streaming HD content in areas of the house which were previously complete blackspots.

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The units both come with individual access codes, so theoretically it can act like setting up a guest network for your business.

The technology runs the internet at top speeds of 500 Mbps through the home electricity grid - pretty clever if you ask me. And the whole solution couldn't be easier to set up.

At a price of 46.99 including VAT, it is a very cheap answer to your connectivity woes.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Mobile category.

Microsoft is the previous category.

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