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MWC FIRST LOOK: Sony Xperia Z2 and Sony SmartBand

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With Sony recently bowing out of the PC market in favour of pushing its smartphone arm, we expected big things from any new devices announced at MWC.

It seemed that the new Xperia Z2 is really an upgrade of Sony's previous phone. However, i's full little changes that make all the difference. For example, the Z2 uses a wider colour spectrum on its 5.2 inch screen than on previous devices. It uses TRILUMINOUS display technology to better show reds and greens, so images look really clear, and when next to an older smartphone, you can clearly see the difference in colour when looking at the same picture.

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It also has a capability called X-Reality which cleans up low resolution video by analysing a clip and filling in gaps and pixilation.

From a business perspective, the Z2 supports a new feature called Small Apps, which essentially allows the user to multitask by running an app in a small floating window, which could come in quite useful if you needed to look at two things at once in a meeting or presentation.

Obviously any Android business apps that take your fancy are available, as well as the Xperia calendar, Email and Contacts apps to keep everything in order. Plus, any data held on the internal SD card is secured by 256-bit AES encryption.

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It's still water and dust proof, it's light and thin, and it hits the spot for those in the market for a premium Android device. And the best bit? It also comes in deep purple. Perhaps Sony has made the right decision.

You can also use the new Sony SmartBand alongside the Xperia Z2, a life-tracking band that has an advantage over other health monitors.

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The band monitors pretty much everything you do in life and on your phone. It knows when you're walking, running, sleeping, cycling, gaming, driving, chatting. It has a small unit that sits in a rubber band which you strap to your wrist. The core unit can tell by your movement what action you're currently partaking in, and it monitors the applications used on your phone for data such as when you're talking or playing Angry Birds.


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The strap was slightly uncomfortable and a bit loose on my wrist, with two little prongs that press through holes in the wrist band to loosen and tighten the strap. The texture of the band was comfortable though, and it comes in a number of different colours.

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The core has to be taken out and charged once a week. The band is water proof, and the idea is to wear it 24/7 - even in the shower. As everyone in the world keeps getting busier, these devices that can tell us where we're going right or wrong are becoming increasingly more popular, and this band goes the extra mile in giving you more information about your day beyond how you slept, the steps you've taken and the calories you've burnt.

We're hoping to get these devices in for a full review soon, so make sure to check back. 

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CES 2014: What trends have we seen?

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The International Consumer Electronics Show has been showered with releases, suggestions and glances into the future of technology. From smartphones to smart homes the internet of things is big this year, as well as wearable technology and everyday gadgets that connect to the internet. So what trends have we seen in the CES announcements so far?

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Image: CES

Internet of things

There was a lot of talk about smart homes at CES last year, and with Samsung announcing a smart fridge that tells you if its light needs changing and Sleep Number demoing its "superbed", it seems that the time of the internet of things is well and truly upon us. But alongside these handy gadgets come the worries about what they will mean for the future of personal privacy. As Edward Snowden said in the UK's alternative Christmas message, people born within the next couple of years may not know what it means to keep anything private. Along similar lines, analysts believe that household items accessing personal data could mean datageddon, as these products will likely upload your information to their company's cloud database where they can be accessed lawfully or otherwise.

Wearable technology

Whether for the purpose of monitoring your health or as a tracker for your food, movement and sleep there have been a number of wearable gadgets announced at CES this year. The Sony "life logging" kit seemed the most excessive of these gadgets that obsessively monitors everything you do in life. The app records stats such as how long you spend on the phone, how long you spend sending messages and other actions, while the wrist gadget provides the user with data about their movements and calories they've burnt. The excuse for doing in this is self-betterment, with Sony claiming that knowing what you do in a day can help you make informed decisions about changing your life.  Other similar products offer calorie and movement counting, such as the Garmin Vivofit fitness band and a onsie to monitor your baby's vitals, leaving us wondering if any sneaky bit of chocolate or quick shortcut will be left un-monitored.

Technology we're not sure we needed

Along with all of the technological advancements, there are always gadgets that initially look cool, and then you find yourself wondering why exactly they have come to be. The first I noticed was the 3D food printer which left me in awe, and I instantly wanted to make chocolate in every shape possible. Then after I had thought about it for a while, I realised that it isn't something that anyone really needs, and it will probably put a lot of TV chefs out of business.

Similarly the stun gun iPhone case promises safety wherever you go (apart from the UK, where you're probably going to get arrested for owning one) and yet if the world has come to the point where you have to turn your smartphone into a weapon in order to feel safe, it's probably not going to help you that much in the long run.

In summary, this year's CES has proven that the world is moving into an age where everything is connected. Whether this will be to our convenience or our detriment, I'm sure we'll soon find out. 

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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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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.

CES 2013 HANDS ON: Sony Xperia Z

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Inspect-a-Bond-Gadget: Sony Xperia T smartphone

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xperia2.pngIt's not bomb-proof, it doesn't have a miniscule gun that pops out like a Swiss Army Knife and it won't mix you up the perfect vodka martini - shaken not stirred of course. And will it help you attract a beautiful lady...? Errr probably not. Not to say it isn't a very nice looking smartphone, but come on, us girls, even the geekiest ones, don't fall for the bulging outline shape of a smartphone in a man's pocket.

The Sony Xperia T, is the new Sony flagship smartphone device running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

Sony has spent what we can only guess is an extortionate amount of money on product placement, to pop this beauty in the hands of another beauty, Daniel Craig, in the newest James Bond film, Skyfall, which was released in cinemas last Friday.

Just so you can get excited and say you have 007's phone.

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So what did I think of the specs?

It has a 4.6inch display, weighs a light 139g and is only 9.4mm thick. My first impression was that this seemed like a very masculine phone, being almost 10mm wider than the generic smartphone (based on the iPhone 4S), even my very long fingers had a bit of difficulty stretching around this device

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The impressive 13MP camera also shoots HD video and with 16GB of internal memory, and an option to expand using a microSD up to 32GB, that should keep even provide Bond-style sleuths with enough memory to capture evidence.

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Snap-happy on Oxford Street


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It's very clean looking with no physical buttons on the phone screen, with a scalloped back panel which feels very secure to hold. It's available in black or white, but I much prefer the black, surely a more classic look, Bond would approve of?

With no physical buttons on the screen, it has a smooth, classy feel, but did disorientate me when using features such as the camera as the home "button" disappears and I find it difficult to escape the confinements of camera app. 

Quite a few apps are readily-installed on the device, such as Facebook, Chrome, Amazon, YouTube, NeoReader, unfortunately I couldn't seem to delete the unwanted ones which then cluttered up folders.

Battery has up to 450 h (2G) / Up to 410 h (3G) stand-by, up to 7 h (2G) / up to 7 h (3G) talk time, and up to 16 hours music playback. Pick it up for a smooth £449.00, or free on a the Vodafone Red Business plan with unlimited minutes and texts and 2GB of data for £35 month


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Hands on: the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and the Tap 20

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Last night, Sony showcased several of its new products built specifically to run Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, to be released later this month.
 
The two devices that stood out for me were the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and the Sony Vaio Tap 20, here's what I thought after getting my hands on them last night. 


Running full Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro, this hybrid tablet easily transforms from ultrabook PC into tablet mode for on-the-go computing. It's a very rigid device which with a simple click changes from PC to tablet as many of the new products in the market are now capable of doing.

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Typing was a little difficult as the backlit keyboard is so compact, but I'm sure it wouldn't take long to get used to it like with any other tablet.

The pointing stick additional mouse was not particularly easy to use, the movements were stiff and on the traditional Windows viewing it was difficult to use for the smaller button functions. However being a touch screen it seemed a little redundant anyway
The full HD screen was very responsive and the screen easily flipped into tablet and ultrabook mode. However, its mere five hour battery life could be a problem, so Sony offers an additional sheet battery, which clips to the underside of the device. 

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Looks wise, it was very streamlined, but quite oblong. When I picked it up I was surprised at how light it was as it looks and feels quite bulky due to it being considerably longer than other tablets I have handled. And although light, I still had a worry that the smooth screen might slip through my hands and I might drop it. 


This is the "portable" desktop, cleverly the all-in-one has a three hour battery life so you can disconnect the power source and take it through to a meeting with you.

It's very big at 20 inches, and hefty at over 5kg (so try not to drop it!). It's not the type of device you can easily slip into your bag, but use it as a desktop and occasionally take it into a meeting to show off a presentation to a small-ish audience. The device has the elegance of a Mac and its screen is beautiful. Additionally the stand allows you to have the device upright like a traditional desktop, flushed onto the desk or any angle in between.

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Where with the Duo, I can imagine the touch screen being used more than the trackpad, with this device, I think it would take a far bit of conditioning to get used to the massive screen in front of you having touch screen capabilities. Just now, I pretended to touch my current screen as an experiment, but hurt my bicep after a few waves (probably saying something about my fitness than anything else). But I feel to use comfortably with your elbows on the table, you would have to have the screen much closer than normal, which may lead to "square eye" problems. It will be interesting to see how these devices are used in the near future.

Otherwise, I think this device is superb and I want to add it to my Christmas list. But I'm pretty sure I'll be sadly, but hastily crossing it off once pricings are revealed. 

Both products are due to hit the shelves as Windows 8 is released on the 26th October. 

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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.

iPhone Vs N97
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!!

Unveiling of the Sony Xperia Miro brought forward by Facebook users

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Sony recently gave (what it called) "power to the people". 

Actually, what it really did was allow people to click a button bringing the launch date for a mystery handset forward a few seconds at a time. 

Granted I'm a miserable sceptic but I'm sure it will have done all the necessary calculations and worked out a new time launch date, and that time is now, I've received a press release about it and everything.  

Here we have the Sony Xperia Miro. 

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I have no idea what Miro stands for and a Google search left me even more confused, apparently it is a tree native to New Zealand that is used for lumber and often features in interior carpentry. 

Think Sony may be on to a winner with that name, I mean, that's what everyone wants from their phone, an interesting wooden interior feature.  

Anyway, the real facts:

Screen: 3.5" 320 x 480 pixels
Under the hood: 800 MHz Qualcomm processor, 4GB RAM (just over 2GB usable)
OS: Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 
Camera: 5MP, auto focus, digital zoom and flash. Front facing VGA cam. 
Battery: Talk time up to 5hrs, standby time up to 470 hours. 

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So, what's new?

Well Sony is boasting about increased Facebook integration on this handset, making it easier to like, comment and share. They have also developed a variety of illuminations for the different notifications you will receive. 

Other than that, it seems to be business as usual for the latest addition to the Xperia family, with it's xLOUD technology and DLNA connectivity for effortlessly streaming media. 

They also announced the Tipo, essentially a budget version with lower specs and limited features.

Both handsets will be available in a range of colours, showcasing Sony's commitment to increasing its focus on styling. 

Black, black and pink, white, white and gold are the colours of choice for the Miro.
As for the Tipo, classic black, classic white, deep red and navy blue. 

I have no idea what the difference between black and classic black is, maybe its old paint so they've cleverly called it "classic". Good marketing that.  

Looks to me like Sony is just ironing out all the creases in its Xperia range, offering little tweaks and developments with each new handset whilst also trying to span as much of the market as possible. 

That worked for Nokia.......... back in the late 90s and early 00s. I can't see these handsets being snapped up by everyone but they at least have enough appeal to warrant a space in the market. 

The evolution of the Galaxy Note?

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Honestly, I know the last two posts I've done have been about patents and this will be a third in a row, but I'm not obsessed. They're just very newsworthy. 

Defensive statement out of the way, on with the news. 

I came across this patent from Samsung while browsing the web yesterday. 

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It is a concept sketch that was included in a patent filed over a year ago, in March 2011. The application was made for an "ornamental design for a mobile phone". Intriguing I hear you say. 

As well as echoing the Sony P tablet design, with its dual screens, it also bears a striking resemblance to the Galaxy Note. Although, is the Note an ornamental mobile phone? I've always just though of it as either a miniature tablet or a gigantic phone. Never a tabphone though, no one should ever use that word. Ever. 

Like the Note, this concept design comes with (what looks like) a stylus. All of this makes me scratch my head, stare at the ceiling, ponder and then deliberate as to whether this could be a route that the next or third generation incarnation of the Note could go down. 

The clamshelled Sony P tablet hasn't really been much of a hit with consumers or businessmen, whereas I have seen the odd Note coming out of a businessman's bag or pocket on the tube. As a side note, I'm sure most suits would have to have their pockets altered by their tailor to allow the gigantic Galaxy hybrid to fit. Am I right? 

However, with Ice Cream Sandwich and TouchWiz at their disposal, Samsung have carved out a much sturdier fanbase in the Android marketplace than Sony so consumers and businesses alike could be more inclined to warm to a dual-screened Samsung phone/tablet offering. 

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