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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.
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Last night in a highly anticipated launch in New York, Samsung unveiled its latest flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S4, which many are saying could be the iPhone's closest competitor yet.
The device is running Android Jelly Bean and will offer peace of mind through its Knox security software.
The new device is closing in on the territory of the Galaxy Note II, with a 5-inch Full HD Super AMOLED screen.
While the phone has joined the giant screen trend, it has not sacrificed this on the scales, weighing a mere 130g and with dimensions of 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm.
It's ready for 4G and EE have announced that it will be offering the device on its super-fast 4G network. It also holds a whopping 13MP camera with 4128 x 3096 pixels and an LED flash.
The device runs on an Exynos 5 Octa 5410 chipset, and features a Quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 & quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7
One of the big rumours around this device was its ability to recognise your eye movements and scroll through the page accordingly. This Smart Scroll feature was indeed announced last night, the software tracks eyes and wrist movement in order to scroll through emails. Additionally its Smart Pause functionality works in a similar way: watch a video and take your eyes away from the screen and it will recognise this and pause the content.
"The debut of nifty eye motion-sensitive controls to allow users to pause video and scroll through pages using eye movements alone is smart, and for commuters crammed in trains - or just those who love a bit of futuristic tech that makes their lives easier - this novel feature will really help the Galaxy S4 to stand out," said Ernest Doku, Telecoms from uSwitch.com
Is it nifty or just a consumer gimmick? And more importantly, will it truly work? We will have to wait to get our hands on a review unit until we can be sure.
Business travellers will find the translator function useful. Samsung claim that its "S Translator" feature will understand and translate nine languages including Brazilian, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin American Spanish and Portuguese. This feature can translate from speech-to-text and text-to-speech, while also recognising 3,000 phrases stored in the phone, in case you are without data connectivity.
Businesses will also welcome the new built in Knox software to tackle the poor security record of the Android OS.
Knox provides securing booting when the S4 starts up, enhancements to Android that separate data from applications and Tima, a technology Samsung said offers continuous monitoring of the system.
Knox also allows the IT department to separate work from personal use. The S4 presents the user with a different environment in work mode, which Samsung claims is separate from the personal use environment. It offers an encrypted file system, virtual private network and mobile device management support.
Speaking to Computer Weekly, Tony Cripps, devices and platforms analyst at Ovum noted that, with Knox, Samsung is offering enterprise-grade mobile security, which makes it an alternative to Blackberry Enterprise Server.
"Samsung can also take advantage of any reluctance by businesses to deploy applications and data on Apple iOS devices," Cripps said.
While the hype over recent innovative smartphones such as the BlackBerry Z10 and the Nokia Lumia 920, may have died down. It seems that excitement of the latest Galaxy may have continued the two-horse race between Samsung and Apple. But will the two companies put their patent battles behind them? I doubt it - it's just too easy to throw money around in the court room, than to spend it on actual innovation.
Available in white and black, the devices should be entering the market at the end of April.
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.
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.
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.
Spending a week in Sin City for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was surreal and exhausting. It never sleeps, and as a technology journalist in Las Vegas covering the biggest tech show of the year - neither do you.
So CES is over and now that I'm no longer jet lagged -proven by being able to make a cup of tea this morning, without adding coffee - I thought I'd piece together five lessons learnt from a week under the neon lights:
- Boundaries of the phabet are getting smaller and smaller. Phones are progressing to 6-inch screens, like the Huwaei Ascend Mate which was launched at the show. While tablets are also shrinking to 7-inches, where will the line be? I'm guessing we will find out at Mobile World Congress in February.
- Start-ups are way more interesting than the big players. Why spend hours queuing for the Samsung press event, which is basically just a glorified press release, when you can spend your time getting lost at the Eureka Park in the Venetian, chatting to start-ups? Much more interesting discovering something new and tangible than the massive big companies launching yet another degree of clarity for the television set.
- Massive SLR cameras and wheely bags should be banned from press scrums; unless you can remember you manners and not punch me in the face with your oversize camera, or PICK UP your tiny bag to avoid people tripping over it. Seriously, tripped over twice and my Welsh roots failed to help me rugby tackle journalists who thought that the possibility of breaking Lenovo's newest table pc two seconds before its major competitor was worth bruising me in the face for.
- Sparkly iPhone cases. This is consumerism at its highest. Almost blinded me as much as the gambling machines at the casinos, if I see another pink diamante piece of plastic, even this Disney Princess might throw up.
- Smoke and electric shocks. All that static built up from walking miles over carpeted floors has to discharge somewhere, when you open a door to a hotel you tend to get little shocks, which surprised me and soon got quite annoying. Also smoking isn't against the law in the city, combine that with the air con, jet lag and late nights and expect to have very uncomfortable eyeballs unable to withstand contact lenses.
Sony has unveiled its new flagship smartphone handset at CES in Las Vegas, the Xperia Z. The smartphone comes with a full HD screen, Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor and it comes ready for 4G use.
It is also waterproof, so no need to worry about sending text messages from the confines of the tub. Sony claims the device will survive in up to one metre of water for 30 minutes, which would come in handy when you want to clean your phone - just rinse it in the sink.
The device screen is 5-inches, which borders on the phablet territory of the Samsung Galaxy Note, which stands at 5.5-inches. This is a screen increase of 0.4-inches from its predecessor, again being another screen in CES to be increasing in size rather than shrinking.
Despite its larger size, the device is nice and slim and feels great held in the hand. Its predecessor, the James Bond 007 device, aka the Xperia T, had a scalloped back panel and a matte finish. The scalloped back is now gone and the Z also goes back to preferring shine and fingerprints - I think this makes it classier and more modern looking.
This picture shows the Xperia T on the left and the Xperia Z on the right
The device also features NFC, opening up possibilities of the mobile wallet (once banks get their acts together to enable a service). While you wait for that to happen, you can use the device to eliminate wires while enjoying music, one tap and you can connect to headphones or your home entertainment system.
Sony has included a few overlays to the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system that it runs on, such as hold the homescreen button to skip straight to Google, and quick start buttons for apps of your choice, such as notes.
Additionally, Sony has included a nice feature for quickly browsing images from your gallery while still on the homescreen - Timescape allows you to flick through images to easily access the one you need quickly.
This version of Android's operating system comes with Office Suite and I found the keyboard of the Z comfortable to type with.
Sony is hoping to regain some traction in the market, but will this device take attention away from Samsung and Apple? From my short-lived hands on experience, it's nice enough, but I don't think it has as many selling points as the flagship devices of its competitors to make a noise in the market.
The device is also available in as the Xperia ZL with a lower screen resolution and a matte finish on the backing. This is also not water resistant.
I got my hands on the beautiful premium Chronos laptop today at CES. The SuperBright 15.6-inch full HD touchscreen display almost glistened, it was so crystal clear. I'd taken a quick look at the lower end non-touch screen 1366 x 768 resolution version a few minutes earlier and when looking at the full HD version, even against the back drop of the many dazzling lights at the CES convention, the difference was far superior.
This Chronos had a full aluminium casing and keyboard (the non-touchscreen is only aluminium on the top shell), and it really does have a stunning finish to it - if you like silver.
This full Windows 8 laptop comes with a i7 Core CPU, up to 16GB of system memory as well as a 1TB HDD hard disc drive.
It is a large laptop, the keyboard including number keys on the right, which did make the machine quite heavier than its ultrabook competitors at 2.35kg, however it was very thin at 20.9mm. Because it didn't feel like an ultrabook to me, I then felt as though I was missing out on a disc drive.
The Chronos also comes in an Ultra version which has the same beautiful screen but at 13.3-inches and is a couple of millimetres thinner, with a smaller hard disk drive at 256GB SSD.
Maybe it's just because my trusty Samsung laptop decided it was too old to carry on and passed away the day before CES, but my love for the Chronos seemed to just grow the more I played around with it. I finally let it go after receiving one too many dirty glances from other techies wanting a hands on experience also.
If Samsung are correct in predicting that BYOD will be the norm by 2014, please let one of these land on my work desk soon.
No pricing at the moment, but the machine feels very expensive and superior - I would expect a lavish price tag to match.