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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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Age UK to launch simple mobile service for the elderly.

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While phones are getting smarter and smarter, our elderly are quite rightly getting more and more confused. Age UK has launched a simple to use mobile phone service aimed at our older generation which I think is a great idea.

Now, before some of you out there get all angry at me for being ageist, I can think of a several of older relatives who would find this gadget very useful.

The Age UK My Phone is a lightweight, credit-card sized mobile phone weighing a mere 40g. It comes with a maximum of eight pre-customised buttons in order to quickly contact family, friends or emergency services. 

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All the user has to do is push the button of the person they want to call to be connected to them, and to receive a call there is a single answer button. 

No it's not glamorous, but for an elderly relative, perhaps living on their own, this could be a very good investment. It can be used at home or easily popped into a coat pocket when out and about. 

The Age UK My Phone is launching in 200 Age UK shops across England. The service is powered by Cognatel a mobile services provider that is integrated with the Vodafone network.

"According to recent research, over two-thirds (68%) of those aged 65 plus use a mobile phone and this drops to just over half (52%) amongst those aged 75 plus, so it's not surprising that many older people can often feel excluded from the benefits this technology has to offer. Our aim is to drive real change in the delivery of products and services for the ageing population. With the over 65s being the country's fastest growing demographic," said Helena King, head of affinity at Age UK.

The handsets are priced at £55, with 30 day rolling price plans which can be cancelled with 30 days' notice. The battery lasts for up to 120 hours.

The manufacturer, Cycell, also produce the same device without the Age UK branding, called OwnFone. This device would be ideal for children to have quick contact with a parent without running up a huge bill chatting to friends.  

Although, as my colleague Jennifer Scott, pointed out back in August, it would also be really useful to replace expensive handsets at festivals or while out jogging.

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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: Apple's iPhone 5 and why I seem to be the only one who's not impressed

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There were three reactions to the launch of Apple's newest device, the iPhone 5:

  1. Hype, rumours and excitement prior to the launch
  2. Disappointment in regards to the lack of innovation when it was launched
  3. And way too much loving sentiment and claims of the "best phone ever" when reviewers got their hands on it
As an Apple user I was intrigued to see what they would release, then disappointed on launch, but I'm afraid I don't follow the crowd when it comes to all the gushing sentiment.

I was lucky enough to have the iPhone 5 land on my desk in work a week ago on launch day while other humans and celebrities were queuing down the road in Regent Street. When I opened the box, yes, I was initially impressed that it had slimmed down and was much lighter to hold. But that's where it all stopped for me.

The amount of reviews I have read with the word "beautiful" to describe the device, you would think I was reading a romance novel. One article used the adjective five times, twice in one sentence - ever heard of a thesaurus?

There is a divide in the Computer Weekly office, you seem to either love the iPhone or hate it. I personally land on the side of love, I have had my iPhone 4S for three months and my iPad 2 for a year and, my iPad in particular, I couldn't live without. That said, I still can't seem to justify the extended enthusiasm and amount of praise this new Apple product has received.  

I was angered by the lack of innovation, and unlike others, an upgrade to the A6 chip and superficial changes can't take that away.

Wireless charging from the Nokia Lumia 920?? NFC capabilities like the Samsung Galaxy SIII to jump-start the use of mobile money?? These are two examples where mobile devices are making changes to the industry, but without the King of smartphones Apple jumping aboard, there's little hope for innovation to take off on a mass scale. 

THE REVIEW

Pros - larger screen, thinner, lighter, 4G capabilities
Cons - lightening connector, Apple Maps, aluminium backplate

Looks:

A major difference to the look and feel of the iPhone 5 it is bigger yet has shed a few pounds. Rather like the supermodels gracing the catwalk at London Fashion Week, the device has been stretched and is longer, thinner and lighter than ever. It weighs 112g and is 123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6 mm.

It now also has a silver aluminium backplate which aids to its significant weightloss. While it does offer more grip, I find it very cold to touch and there have been complaints from users where the aluminium shows up scratches much more.

Screen:

Yes the screen is ever so slightly sharper, meaning that the apps are brighter in contrast. But it still took me lining up my iPhone 4S against the 5 looking so close at the screen that my nose bumped the "beautiful" glass to notice this. After reading one review which described how they thought the removal of one layer of glass felt like you were touching the pixels on the screen, my eyebrows couldn't actually raise any higher into my hairline.

The increase in height from 3.5 inches to 4 has allowed an extra row of apps which is useful as it creates less screens to scroll through. More importantly it now introduces a 16.9 aspect ratio

There is also no difference in the response time of scrolling through the device and opening apps. Except for the camera which opens a fraction of a second quicker than the 4S, but not at the speeds of the Motorola Razr i which boasts being able to open up the camera in under a second.

Spec:

Available in 16/32/64GB storage as well as 1 GB RAM, no expandable memory, but 5GB of iCloud is offered for free as standard. It features an upgrade to an Apple A6 chipset, with a dual-core 1.2 GHz CPU.

4G:

First device in the UK able to connect to the super-fast mobile broadband, 4G. However at the moment you have to be an EE customer to be able to use this. Other operators should be allowed to offer 4G services within the next year. 

Camera:

The camera remains as an 8MP camera, but takes slightly better shots in the dark. However, take an image of the sun or a bright light and you will find a purple haze around the light, or a "purple halo" which many iPhone 5 users are complaining about. Again, this is an area where the upcoming Nokia Lumia 920 may trump over the iPhone 5.

Battery Life:

The iPhone 5 has 25 hours extra on the iPhone 4S, bringing it up to 225 hours standby and up to 8 hours talk time. 

Call Quality:

I found the call quality very clear and when compared to the iPhone 4S, it wasn't as tinny and there was less echo from the surrounding area of the person you are calling. 

Earphones:

The earphones have been redesigned and are much more comfortable to wear than the previous design. They sit securely thanks to the rounded tip that fits inside the opening to your ear. Those genius people in Apple have also moved the headphone socket to the bottom of the device, mirroring its iPod touch devices, which is much more convenient as the wires don't tangle up as much. 

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iOS6:

The iPhone 5 comes preloaded with Apple's new operating system, iOS6. However, the OS is still available to existing Apple users (with functionality varied depending on the age of your device.

I took a look at the new iOS6 last week and despite the major issues with Apple Maps which have stopped some users upgrading their device all together, I was pretty impressed with the features that I was able to use including extended use of Siri, a Do Not Disturb function and passbook.

While there has been serious problems with Apple's Maps app, I would think they will be working around the clock to update Maps to actually show stations, roads and err places very soon.

Summary:

The iPhone 5, like its predecessor, is a pleasure to use and hold. Yes it's a great piece of kit, yes the company produces amazing, game-changing pieces of technology. But why does one slight upgrade and a few "dramatic" changes cause such a furore in the technology space?

If you fancy yourself an iPhone, definitely get the 5, but I won't be cancelling my 4S contract and paying an extortionate amount just to get my hands on something that millions of others have also got. When the time comes, I will upgrade to the latest model, but will everyone please calm down?!

The iPhone 5 is available on Vodafone business tariffs including the 24 month Vodafone Red Business data plan. This is available for £45 per month (ex VAT) and provides a free device, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data and a dedicated landline number on your iPhone.


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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!!

Vodafone announce (expensive) data plans for the iPad

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ipad_herosml.pngQuick post to say that Vodafone have released their data plans for the iPad which seems expensive compared to your mobile phone contract/payg.

I get free unlimited data with my phone contract and you can get free unlimited data with an iPhone on O2 so this seems way too much!!!!

Plans:

Data

Fee

1GB

£10

5GB

£25


Both data plans will be available for 30-day periods, giving customers the freedom to activate or cancel a plan at any time.

Vodafone Gets Friendly with 360

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Forget the BlackBerry Storm2 9520 that Vodafone rolled out on the 26th October (free on a two year, £30 a month contract). Forgot it? Aces. There's some brand new pretend-iPhone goodness coming in the shape of the Samsung 360 H1 on the 30th of October.  As I type this, Vodafone are unveiling their new 360 service and the Samsung handset to tech journalists at a secret location in West London - but you can virtually try it out right now.

Click on "Try Vodafone 360 for Yourself" and you'll get to play with a Flash powered 360 phone. Unfortunately, it doesn't make calls like the real thing. Nor is there a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" style facility to reach into the monitor and grab the handset for yourself. I know, because I tried. 

The Samsung 360 H1 is the first phone to offer Vodafone 360, a web service that integrates contacts from social networks Facebook, Windows Live and Google. You can follow your friend's status updates, organise them into groups and pick up email from personal accounts.

First impressions? The iTunes Cover Flow style address book interface looks pretty fancy and the Samsung 360 H1 is a high-end phone to bundle into a contract - but I prefer to search for contacts rather than flick through them. The 360 will be available on contract plans starting at £35 a month.


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