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

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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.

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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.

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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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Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun! - Not so fun for BlackBerry

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Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, has offered every Yahoo! employee a smartphone. "Choose from Apple, Samsung, Nokia, or HTC", she said, but specifically says "No!" to BlackBerry. 

It's another setback for BlackBerry which is trying desperately to cling onto its place in the smartphone market as the phone of choice in the corporate world. 

The memo which was leaked and picked up by the Business Insider, stated:

"We have a very exciting update to share with you today - we are announcing Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun!  As of today, Yahoo is moving off of blackberries as our corporate phones and on to smartphones in 22 countries*.  A few weeks ago, we said that we would look into smartphone penetration rates globally and take those rates into account when deciding on corporate phones. Ideally, we'd like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do."

In response to the news that Yahoo! was going to spend a few million dollars on smartphones for all of its staff, a PR person for Nokia announced over Twitter that it would throw in a wireless charging plate with every Lumia 920 the company bought, claiming the phone is "worth the wait" - desperate not to be left out hey Nokia?

Mayer has called the programme, Yahoo! Smart Phones, Smart Fun!, but I can't see RIM's board of directors chuckling over their morning lattes.

Mayer's move shows the direction that businesses could potential go in when kitting out their staff with the latest technology. And this is in the completely opposite direction to BlackBerry. 

Blackberry Curve 9360.jpgHowever, among reports of doom and gloom for BlackBerry creator, Research In Motion (RIM), there is a small ray of hope behind Mayer's thinking. 

In her memo, she stated: "Ideally, we'd like our employees to have devices similar to our users, so we can think and work as the majority of our users do." This is clearly the reasoning she didn't want BlackBerry included in the line-up because its popularity with consumers has been dwindling significantly. 

As a consumer device, BlackBerry hasn't been able to keep up in the race, but it is still a key communication device in the business world and shouldn't be brushed aside as a has-been. That all said and done, it would be great to see some innovation from RIM in the next quarter, but with dramatic revenue losses and job cuts left, right and centre I'm not holding my breath.

*Computer Weekly can confirm that while according to Business Insider all of Yahoo's full time and part time employees in the US, were sent the memo, the staff in the UK are still patiently waiting for their emails from Father Christmas, er, I mean Marissa Mayer.


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

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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.

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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!!

BlackBerry: Why ditching the consumer market is the wrong decision

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Image representing Research In Motion as depic...


I think RIM have hit the panic button. While I agree that they cannot compete with the likes of Apple, I still think that strategically they have made the wrong decision to pull out of the consumer market and have therefore signed their death warrant / put themselves up for sale.

Here are ten reasons why it was the wrong decision:


  1. There is no business market for smartphones

    Oh yeah! RIM, didn't you hear? The whole reason you're struggling is because of something called 'consumerisation'. This is when users want to take their personal phone and use it for work. Sadly their personal phone is usually an iPhone, so to say you're not competing with Apple in the consumer space is worthless because it's just space now not business or consumer.

  2. A large amount of their handset sales come from kids

    I don't know how it happened but kids love BlackBerrys. They BBM each other and they do not buy their handsets for anything to do with the enterprise.

  3. The Playbook is finally a good product

    Blackbery Playbook Tablet Review and Photos
    Don't get me wrong, when it was first released it was a bit of a joke but since the 2.0 update I think it's the best tablet after the iPad. Not only is the user interface great, it's easy to use, it's the perfect size, has great apps including Android apps now, cheap, rugged and great battery life. RIM should've redesigned it slightly and relaunched while Android stutters.

  4. Times have changed

    Whether RIM target the enterprise or consumer, they need to change their ways and respond quicker to trends. the reason they fell behind is because they don't understand what people want anymore.

  5. They should've focused on budget handsets

    BlackBerry can't compete with high-end devices, so why try? They could own the low-end of the market with solid BB handsets.

  6. They will be bought on the cheap

    Make no mistake, this announcement will send alarm bells throughout the industry and thee will be a few big-hitters that will look to take advantage of RIM's demise. Namely SAP.

  7. Innovation is important

    Yes we know that, but while innovation is crucial in the consumer market, it's important in the enterprise too! Apple are encroaching on this market and while BlackBerry lead it they will have to take big strides in order to keep it that way.

  8. The enterprise is slipping away from them

    To bank everything on the enterprise is a very risky strategy especially when you look at points 1, 4 and 7. Yes they have a foothold but things change so quickly in this industry that to completely, openly rule out the consumer market could be a shot in the foot.

  9. This announcement works against them

    Announcing anything negative is a PR nightmare. It signals your demise which then adds to your demise. Stock prices will go down and suddenly you're unpopular and on a slippery slope to oblivion.

  10. OS 10 might've worked

    It has been delayed time and time again but from what we've seen of it, OS 10 actually looks kind of good. It might not have saved them but had they released it earlier, who knows! After spending so much money and time on it they should've at least waited to see.

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? 

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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?"

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

5 of the best smartphone collaborations

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News of the upcoming BlackBerry Porsche (or P'9981) has inspired me to create a list of other 'special' or limited edition phones. 

It's going to be in two parts. First, this part will outline five of the best (for various reasons) smartphone collaborations and the second part will look at five of the worst. 

So, kicking things off, here is the BlackBerry Porsche: 

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The most shocking thing about this handset is not what it looks like but how much it costs. £2000 pounds. 

£2000 is a lot to pay for any phone, for that amount of money you could get a run around car! Instead, what we have here is, in Faisal's words, a phone that looks like an 80's calculator. 

It doesn't even come with RIM's new BBX operating system. What it does come with though is a forged stainless steel frame, hand-wrapped leather back cover, Wikitude World Browser augmented reality app experience (not a clue?), 1.2GHz processor, HD video recording capabilities, and 8GB of onboard memory.

As for the Porsche's input? Well apart from the nicely engraved name along the top of the screen that lets everyone know how rich and, in my opinion, how stupid you are, there is an exclusive Porsche Design UI running on the handset. 

I know I said that this is five of the best yet I've gone on to heavily criticise the BlackBerry, so let me explain. In terms of build quality, memory and processing speed the P'9981 is head and shoulders above devices on the upcoming worst list. 

Next up, the HTC Sensation range with Beats Audio. Specifically the XE model. 

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The XE is a solid Android 2.3.4 smartphone, equipped with a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor and HTC's popular Sense UI. The urban styled handset differentiates itself from the pack with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology.

Beats by Dr.Dre seems to be taking over the audio market so it is came as no surprise to hear it would be making the move to smartphones following HTC's decision to buy a sizeable stake in the company. 

The device comes packaged with a pair of iBeats earphones, which cost a pretty penny if you were to go out and buy a pair, and the fact that I've seen a few people complain that the music player comes with the bass boost enabled tells you all you need to know. 

Moving on, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation certified smartphone, is third on my list. 

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Another Android 2.3.4 (although an update to 4.0 is looming) handset, the Xperia Play is equipped with a 4" touchscreen, a 1GHz Scorpion processor and 512 MB of RAM. 

Thanks to Sony Ericsson's little Android tweaks, this smartphone would still have been a decent device before the PlayStation integration came along. 

Having already used an Xperia Play for gaming, I know the touch sensitive flat joystick replacements, PSP like gaming buttons and a super-sensitive accelerometer all make for an impressive experience, whether your playing Crash Bandicoot or Pro Evo. 

In conceptual terms, this fourth smartphone collaboration is genius. Take a Motorola Droid (the old model, not the new super thin RAZR), add a bit of Star Wars magic and the end result is the Droid R2 D2!

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This Droid packs a 3.7" touch Screen, slide-out qwerty keyboard, 1GHz processor and 5MP camera. However, there is no hologram projector. 

If you think the only difference between the R2 D2 and a normal Droid handset is a plastic back cover and a Star Wars wallpaper, you are sadly mistaken. Oh no, the R2 D2 also comes with official Star Wars sounds (lightsabers etc I'm guessing) as well as an exclusive "The Best of R2-D2" movie with original Cantina music. Wow. 

I imagine these sold well at comic book conventions. 

The final phone in my top five is the Acer Liquid E Ferrari edition. 

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Acer aren't really famed for their smartphones and, to be honest, the Liquid E only made the list because I couldn't find any other decent collaborations. 

Shipped with Android 2.1, but up-datable to 2.2, and powered by a 768 MHz Scorpion processor, the Liquid E is by no means a world beater. In fact, media playback is lousy, the camera is poor and the phone as a whole is quite slow. Quite ironic really considering it is a Ferrari edition. 

Considering it's hardware specs, the asking price of around £300 is ludicrous. The selection of  Ferrari sounds and wallpapers are so-so but it's the plastic case with an air intake-style vent and the carbon fibre-wrapped Ferrari logo where things start to improve. 

Acer have also taken the time to try and make some personal changes to the Android OS, with small spinning wheels at the end of each of the five home screens being the main example of this. 

The Ferrari Bluetooth headset is what sealed the Liquid E's place on this list.

Well thats a wrap for now. 

Next week I will be listing five of the worst smartphone collaborations so keep an eye out for that. 

RIM Blackberry: Tech companies that won't exist in 10 years

Faisal Alani | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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3575347235_fe3f88e670.jpgWhat's the story?

The company that had the business market sewn up made mistakes in the consumer market. Normally that wouldn't be such a big deal but they've taken their time moving with the times while Apple and Google have marched ahead looking for world dominance.

Meanwhile their share of the business market has started to fall as lines between business and pleasure blur.

Today there is still a place for Blackberry as kids BBM each other and adults have their Blackberry as a 'second phone for work', if Blackberry don't move with the times (and quickly) they're in danger of being left behind in both the business and consumer markets.


Biggest mistakes:

1. Not releasing a (good) smartphone OS quickly enough

The latest range of Blackberry smartphones are good but not great. The OS is finally something RIM can be proud of but they've definitely taken too long to get it out the door while Apple and Android have started to dominate.


2. Ignoring the business market to focus on consumers

This has cost them big time. Not so long ago it was unheard of to use a work phone that wasn't a Blackberry, now companies have started to look at iPhones for their staff.

Blackberry still dominates entirely but they haven't made many advancements in this field to really shut the door on their rivals.

While they couldn't stop consumers demanding iPhones for work, they could've added more reasons for businesses to fight back.

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3. The Playbook

As a tablet, I genuinely think it's really good. But as a RIM product it doesn't know what it wants to be and ends up nothing at all.

Let me explain.

  • Kids buy Blackberry handsets for BBM.
  • Adults use Blackberry for email.
  • The Playbook has neither natively.

While you can get around both of these issues, it's still a big mistake to miss them out.


4. Blackberry app market

Have you seen the apps in the Blackberry market? No? Well you're not missing much.

There's a handful of really good apps and that's about it.

As we know, apps are the basis of the iPhone's success and it's what users want from a smartphone.

RIM have made various attempts to try getting developers to fill the market but it's been no use.

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Potential savior:

The business market. Short and simple.

RIM's devices still lead the way and are still the safest and most secure devices available to companies to push out.

Couple that with their smartphone and tablet developments and you'll hope that they can keep their majority share in this market.

Potential disaster:

If RIM continues to focus their efforts on the consumer market then they could find themselves in big trouble.

It remains to be seen if they can match Apple and Google in this market but it could lead to their downfall.

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Verdict: Reinvent

Not exactly reinvention, more a going back to what you know. If Blackberry continues to struggle with the consumer market then they'll go back to business. Literally.




Video: RIM Blackberry Playbook shows off HTML5 and Flash

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With CES 2011 getting under way RIM decided to remind us of their tablet offering for this year.

The Playbook wowed many and in this video shows how well it copes with Flash and HTML5, a slight dig at some of it's rivals.

We should see Toshiba and Vizio confirm their tablet offerings this week at CEs and a whole host of others throwing their hats into the ring. Should be very interesting.



>>See our CES 2011 coverage <<

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