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Apple announces iPad Air 2

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Apple has announced the new iPad Air 2. We won't lie, we were expecting a more innovative name...

Somehow as soon as an Apple event rolls around, everyone already knows what's going to happen. As predicted, just a month after the release of the new iPhone 6 and iOS 8 operating system, Apple has announced its new iPad, the Air 2. 

Apple skeptics will be mockingly asking "but what's new about it?" and loosely quoting Daft Punk I'll reply: "it's smarter, better, faster and smaller." 

That's right, although the iPad Air 2 supports the same screen size as the iPad Air, it's thinner than it's ever been at just 6.1mm thick, and weighs less than a pound. Apple claims this is currently the thinnest tablet on the market. 

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Both the Air 2 and new iPad mini 3 have new retina display screens, making images look more crisp and real than real life, excellent for fuelling your Netflix addiction. Or, of course, viewing and writing documents and presentations when working on the move. 

As with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the new iPads come equipped with improved Touch ID for secure access and use of Apple Pay authentication within apps. 

The device still offers 10 hours of battery life, and it's internals support an Apple A8X chip to boost CPU.


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Sadly, although I'm sure these new devices provide a better user experience than their predecessors, it circles back to a concept I looked at earlier this year: how far can hardware innovation really go

Can devices only continue to get thinner and faster, or is there something more to look forward to? We'll have to wait to find out. 

In the meantime, the Apple iPad Air 2 is available to order online from a starting price of around $499 (approx. £309) 

Specs at a glance: 
iPad Air 2 
  • Processor: A8x 64 bit processor and M8 coprocessor 
  • Dimensions: 240mm x 169.5mm x 6.1mm
  • Capacity: 16GB, 64GB, 128 GB
  • Display: 9.7 inch Retina display 
  • Camera: 8mpx back mounted camera, 1.2 mpg front facing camera
  • Battery: 10 hours heavy usage

REVIEW: Tesco hudl2 tablet

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If you wanted to buy a high-end tablet, for example and iPad Air or a swanky new Surface Pro 3 you're probably looking at a price tag of around £400 at the least.

But sometimes, you just don't have that much money to spend, especially if the new tablet is to keep your kids away from your corporate device.

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Image: Tesco

Tesco's hudl2 is available for £129, and Clubcard points can be used to push the price down further if that option is available to you.

From the first few moments of using it I knew we just weren't going to get along. It's a fully functional tablet, with nothing wrong with it, but the Android operating system has never been my favourite.

Despite my pickiness, the 8.3 inch HD screen is very clear, and would be good for viewing widescreen films or browsing presentations and notes, and with over a million Google Apps behind it you can make use of everything from video apps to file sharing and collaboration tools.

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Image: Tesco

The tablet does seem very Tesco heavy when you start using it, and is very geared towards making sure you can access Tesco services. You can use Tesco shop on the tablet, check Clubcard details, use Tesco Bank and Mobile, the list goes on. If you're not someone who needs these services, you can choose to remove these applications, but it's clear Tesco wants to keep you involved.

The feature that seems to be generating the most excitement is the parental controls, which allows users to create a locked-down profile for their kids to ensure they don't see or use anything they shouldn't.

On the not-so-safe side, I did get a couple of minor static shocks when I was using the device. I don't know if it was the tablet, or if I'd just been dragging my feet on the carpet that day.

In summary, this low-cost tablet bit more of a consumer product than a business device, but good for keeping your kids entertained. 

 

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Image: Tesco

Specs at a glance:

Tesco hudl2

Display: 8.3 inch 1920x1200 HD screen

Processor: Intel® Atom™ quad-core processor 

Operating system: Android Kitkat 4.4.2

Price: £129

Camera: 5-megapixel rear-facing and 1.2-megapixel front-facing

Memory: 16GB memory

Battery: 8 hours heavy use

Is the meeting you're in right now pointless?

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Apparently something we've all been suspecting is true - a majority of the meetings we're attending are not worth our time or effort.

According to a recent survey by Ovum and LogMeIn, 92% of employees in the UK stated the number of meetings they attend is going up, but 70% of the meetings attended were marked as a waste of time.

Over the last few years, smartphone shipments have been steadily increasing. Firms have been warned that employees will find ways to use their devices at work, and 26% of employees have used a personal device to get round technology barriers put in place by organisations.

So it's hardly surprising that 30% of UK workers admitted to playing on their smartphone during face-to-face meetings. But this figure is higher in the UK than in other European countries.

Ovum and LogMeIn's research found that many believe collaboration will help to reduce this problem, and with Juniper predicting employee-owned smartphones and tablets used as part of bring your own device (BYOD) policies will increase to over one billion devices globally by 2018, a BYOD and collaboration strategy has never been more important.

The below infographic from LogMeIn explains how the UK compares to other European countries when it comes to attending meetings that aren't worthwhile:

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IFA 2014: Samsung's first business tablet

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Samsung is well known for its consumer offerings, providing everything from TVs to connected fridges. So the technology firm surprised us all today when it announced its first ever business-focussed tablet designed for use in enterprises. 

The ruggedised Galaxy Tab Active has been developed for portable use in work environments with a focus on B2B industries such as retail, logistics and transport. 

Other tablets, such as the iPad Air, have features built in to make it easier for employees to use their devices at work, but they are still clearly consumer products. The Tab Active takes that one step further and combines features such as 8-10 hour battery life, KNOX and extended support, with an anti-shock cover. 

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Photo: Samsung

To make absolutely sure the tablet appealed to business customers, Samsung ran workshops with Fortune 500 companies to find out what was needed from a tablet for professionals. This is what they came up with:

Durability
When professionals are carrying around their tablet, they want to be able to drop it. This is what I've learnt from releases of products such as the Panasonic Toughpad. Suddenly when a device is used for work as opposed to personal tasks, we need to be able to make sure it will survive a nasty fall. The Galaxy Tab is shock-resistant, waterproof and resistant to dust and other nasties that can get stuck in cracks, so should be safe to use in every environment.

Replaceable battery
When you're out and about all day, you want to make sure your device is going to last in case you can't charge it. This device has 8-10 hour battery life and an easy to change battery to ensure the devices doesn't run out on you. It also has a built-in pogo pin charger to stop connectors getting mashed.

Hardware features
The built-in camera on this devices can be used as a barcode reader for use in the retail or logistic industry. The tablet also features NFC technology, comes with an input pen for ease of use and a cover designed for people who need to wear gloves when doing their jobs. 

Support
Support is something that a lot of firms can struggle with when implementing a BYOD solution, as it can be difficult to get ongoing support contracts for the devices that employees want most. But, like most Samsung devices, the Galaxy Tab Active will have KNOX to ensure security. The device will also have an extended 3 year warranty and Mobile Care Service, and remote Smart Tutor Service to get technical support.

Specs at a glance
Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Display: 8" WXGA(1280 x 800) TFT LCD
  • OS: Android Kitkat (4.4)
  • Memory: 1.5GB LPDDR3 + 16GB internal memory MicroSD up to 64GB
  • Size: 126.1 x 212.9 x 9.75mm / 388g

Love your smartphone? Huawei thinks you could love it more

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At Huawei's most recent innovation day in Milan, there was a lot of talk about innovation in Europe, research and development centres, and the highly anticipated 5G. 

Quite clearly very passionate about the technology, chief Huawei device designer Joonsuh Kim told me that the main aim for him was to make people fall in love with Huawei devices. Kim hopes to provide consumers with something other than just technology.

He said: "Literally we are touching the consumer's heart. That means you can feel that you are emotionally engaged with a Huawei device."

To Kim, the device is all about user preference, and he believes that once consumers start adapting to their devices, they will want to use them for everything. 

He states that even though the Huawei brand may not be big yet, it's starting to get through to consumers. Its aim it to deliver users with a "pleasant surprise" through usability, comfort, and a perfect combination of hardware and software.

When building the concept for a phone, Kim considers several user scenarios to make sure there is always a device that caters to what consumers want - including the ability to have multiple SIMs, a more professional device which is lighter for increased portability, low-cost devices, or a personal-only device.  

The design team make sure that the hardware appeals to the user they are targeting, providing particular features to appeal to different types of audience such as business professionals, young users and entry-level users. 

Kim also believes that using Huawei's knowledge and connectivity in networking, it can be a leader in 5G when the time comes. 

During a presentation on device innovation, Kim used Angelina Jolie as an example of a perfect human being (following up by commenting that although she might have been considered the most attractive woman in the world, that was several years ago... ouch) and that aesthetics are very important when targeting the appropriate market. 

It just goes to show that even the smallest tweaks in design can make the biggest difference to consumer behaviour.

Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

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At this week's WWDC 2014 - the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future - Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.

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The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple's flagship iPad and iPhone devices.

There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.

Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.

Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.

Although this announcement isn't quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.

Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.


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."  

REVIEW: Dell Venue 8 Pro

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The tablet market is stronger than ever, with a 68% increase in tablet and hybrid device sales over the 2013 period.

Although Apple still remains in the top spot, there are plenty of alternatives to the ever popular iPad, including the Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet.

This 8 inch tablet, running Windows 8.1, comes with a full Microsoft Office suite of applications and is an easy to use platform upon which to experience windows 8.

In this video, we give an overview of the device and its specs:



The size of the tablet is small enough that it comfortably fits in one hand, with an appealing rubber-like texture on the back which makes it easy to grip. It also is very light at just under 400g, as well as its small size making it easily portable for working on-the-go such as on the tube or at home.

The usual Windows button, which would normally be located on the front of a Windows tablet, is a physical button at the side of the device, which impeded use a little, and I found it easier to use the swipe-menu feature to navigate instead.

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We had particular trouble using the on-screen keyboard, but there are a number of different accessories available to make this tablet easier to use when out and about, including a wireless keyboard, stylus and a tablet cover that doubles up as a stand, but it will cost you extra.

The display, which is HD 800p, is vibrantly coloured and good for watching videos or looking at documents and presentations, and with the full Office suite available all of your work is at your fingertips.

Although the battery life lasts all day when in use, it seemed to run down just as quickly when on standby, and I would have expected it to last longer.

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The processor is quite powerful considering the tablet's size, with an Intel Atom Z3740D Processor, so the apps load quickly. The dual-band Wi-Fi also ensures that web pages load quickly, although it can only be used where there are Wi-Fi hotspots or a reliable connection as the device has no SIM capabilities.

The tablet also features wireless display technology, allowing videos, photos or presentations to be streamed from your tablet to the nearest compatible TV using a Miracast secure direct connection.

Specs at a glance:

Dell Venue 8 Pro

    • Display: 8 inch HD 800p
    • OS: Windows 8.1
    • Camera: Front 1.2 MP, Rear 5 MP
    • Hard Drive: 32GB/64GB eMMC Hard Drive
    • Memory: 2GB Single Channel DDR3L-RS 1600MHz
    • Processor:  Intel  Atom Processor Z3740D (2MB Cache, up to 1.8GHz Quad-Core)

As far as small affordable tablets go, this is definitely one of the best for getting work done on a commute. The review unit was supplied to us by Ebuyer, where you can currently buy the Dell Venue Tablet Pro for £239.99.

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MWC FIRST LOOK: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+

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Over the last year the news has been filled with stories of Lenovo's success and it seems that they are slowly climbing their way to the top of the technology ladder.

The company even saw its smartphone sales increase by 102% over the course of 2013. So it's not surprising that during MWC, Lenovo has a whole new range of products to get excited about.

I focused on the new Lenovo Yoga table, since it will be available in the UK, and it was nice to take a look at something a bit different.

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The tablet has a cylindrical battery running along one edge of the device, which not only provides up to 18 hours of battery life, but also acts as an extremely comfortable handle for holding when reading documents or books and taking pictures.

There is a kick-stand built in, which has been extended for flexibility of angles, allowing the device to stand upright when viewing content such as videos or presentations, but it folds away nicely when you're not using it, and doesn't get in the way when you want to pick up and hold the device.

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The camera has been upgraded to an 8 megapixel camera, which takes pretty good photos and coupled with the battery/handle it's easier to take pictures than on traditionally shaped tablets.

Specs at a glance: 

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+

    • Processor: Snapdragon 1.6GHz
    • Camera: 8MP Front Camera
    • Memory: 2GB
    • Storage: 32GB
    • OS: Android 4.3

The Bluetooth keyboard has been updated, and also functions as a cover for the tablet with a strengthened back plate that slides across the screen to protect it from damage and also to make it easier to carry both parts around in a bag. It also puts the tablet to sleep when you slide the cover on, which ensures that it doesn't get activated in your bag and saves battery.


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The tablet and keyboard are also charged via micro USB as opposed to the previous proprietary charger, and the Yoga has a micro USB port with OTG capability, so it can be used to charge other devices when you're out and about.

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They might not be market leaders in the tablet sector, but this device is stylish and has enough features to set it apart from other devices in the same vein. 


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CES 2014: Panasonic announce new Toughpad FZ-M1

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Panasonic's range of rugged devices has always been at the forefront of portable technology for rougher working environments, and it looks like the new Toughpad will be no different.

Toughpads have previously come in a range of sizes, including  7-inch, 10-inch and a massive 20-inch. The new Toughpad is a 7-inch model designed to be easily portable for people working in industries such as transport, retail and emergency services. With a 4th generation Intel Core i5 vPro processor, this fanless tablet is designed to provide high performance with low heat generation and power consumption.

Panasonic FZ-M1 Toughpad.jpg

The Toughpad FZ-M1 weighs 540g and the strengthened glass houses an LCD touch screen with an anti-reflection layer to allow working inside and out. The touchscreen can also process up to ten finger touches at once. With optional business expansion models including NFC, smartcard reader and battery hotswap capabilities alongside the standard USB 3.0, headset and microSIM, the tablet can be adapted to suit the industry it is needed in. 

And now for the justification for its "tough" label: the tablet can be dropped from 5ft, heated to 50°C, cooled to -10°C and is dust and water resistant. It might not be massively pretty, but it does what it says on the tin.

Specs

Resolution: 1280x800

OS: Windows 8.1 Pro (Windows 7 version available)

Processor: 4th generation Intel Core i5 vPro

Memory: 4GB (8GB optional)

Dimensions: 7-inch tablet, 18mm depth

The Toughpad FZ-M1 is due to become available in February 2014 for a starting price of £1,183.

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