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Showing posts from January, 2010

Don't Sweat The Micro SIM

Those of you planning on rushing out for an iPad when it launches in the spring might be worrying about availability of the new 'micro-SIM' which the 3G versions use for providing network coverage. Don't.

The micro-SIM is technically identical to the mini-SIM in current use with all UK networks at the moment. The only diffence is the shape of the plastic card that hosts the chip. A few swift cuts with a surgical scalpel or other sharp instrument and you can connect your iPad onto whichever network gives you the best data only deal. (T-Mobile in my opinion, but that may change if the iPad is taken up by UK networks).

Amazon Getting Heat For MacMillan Embargo

MacMillan decides that it doesn't like the pricing its current eBooks contract with Amazon so issues a not very veiled threat to kill the contract by reducing the books available to the Kindle service if it doesn't agree to a 50% price hike.

Amazon's response seems entirely reasonable to me and one which is entirely in line with MacMillan's corporate blackmail - drop the whole product line from its store. I think any retailer of any size would take the same action were it to receive a similar threat from a distributor.

So why am I seeing so many posts slating Amazon's actions? Do authors not see that 5% commission on the sales of four books at $10 is greater than that of one book at $15?

I doubt many consumers will be upset with Amazon's stand. I'm still pretty upset about having to buy a hardback copy of Dan Brown's recent novel because the eBook was about three times more expensive.

I've said it many times before, the costs associated with producing…

Hero Update Delayed Until March

Irish carrier Meteor has been quoted as confirming a delay on the release of Android 2 for the HTC Hero. Best case scenario is a March release...

Whilst I'm reasonably happy with my Hero on 1.5, it is frustrating that software which requires 1.6 or even 2.0 is starting to proliferate in the Market and users of what was the most popular Android phone, pre-DROID and Nexus, are denied access to them.

Come on HTC, time to show the Hero a little love as well... give us this update in February please...

Football: Togo Banned From Future African Cup Of Nations Tournaments

The African Football Confederation has banned Togo from the next two African Cup of Nations after the team was withdrawn from this year's tournament.

I can't honestly see how anyone can possibly see this as a reasonable action. The withdrawal was the result of the attack on the team's bus by Angolan rebels, an attack which left three members of the squad dead.

At best this is willful insensitivity, at worst a deliberate insult to the families of those who died and the nation they represented. Let's hope that FIFA intervene promptly and put a stop to this madness

Amazon v Macmillan: First Shots In The eBook War

Macmillan is one of the heavyweights of book publishing, Amazon sells more books than most of the rest of the retail sector combined. So when the latter removes all publications of the former from its site everybody loses, especially authors and readers.

At issue appears to be a new contract for the publication of books electronically. Macmillan appears to be looking for control of pricing, guaranteeing its income against discounting. I suspect that Google would like to retain control over pricing to ensure its sales volumes.

Given Amazon's success as a retailer you'd expect that they would have a better understanding of what's needed to grow the eBook market - something its keen to do with its Kindle service and reader. MacMillan will be trying its hardest to keep prices close to print books to protect their perceived value and avoid the concept of a 'publisher' being despatched to history.

This battle will probably run and run and I suspect that if Macmillan can sig…

In Defence Of Netbooks

So Steve Jobs thinks that netbooks failed to create a new third category of computing and 'aren't better at anything'. Shows what living under a rock with a group of more than half terrified yes men can do to your perception of the world order doesn't it?

From nowhere the netbook sector has jumped to 35 million annual unit sales and that number is just going to keep growing. I wouldn't be surprised if the sector grows by more than the iPad's projected figures in 2010 alone.

The netbook sells on three levels: size, value and battery life. At the bottom end of the market you have cheap, cheerful and usable devices which give customers (who wouldn't have otherwise have considered a computer) a feasible option and they are lapping them up in droves. In the middle you have a slightly richer mix of features to price, with bigger screens and more capacity. These are the machines which are being bundled in with 3G service plans but are also flying out of the door. Th…

Windows Mobile 7 All But Confirmed For MWC

A 'slip' by a Microsoft exec pretty much confirms that the company will release its newest mobile OS at MWC next month. That would tie in with leaks from manufacturers who are expecting to ship new devices based around Windows Mobile 7 from the Autumn.

Can Microsoft do enough to stop the runaway iPhone train? Can it grab the attention of consumers? If it does they'll have pulled off a turnaround equivalent to the success of Windows 7 on the desktop.

Dell Mini 5 Breaks Cover Looks Impressive

TechCrunch managed to score an impromptu demo of the Dell Mini 5 from none other than Michael Dell himself. The Android powered tablet looks pretty good based on the very short clip below. Although we'll be waiting a while before we see it in an official capacity.

Is Zune Coming To Europe, Windows Mobile?

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Windows Media Player and its Windows Mobile equivalent have a come a long way in recent years, with improved features and synchronisation - and let's face it they needed to. Yet compared to the tight integration of iTunes, the iTMS and the iPhone its light years away from being good enough. On its own it is a good reason for music and video centric consumers to veer away from the Windows Mobile platform.

Recent leaks have pointed to the Zune's music store (a subscription based service) making its way across the pond and finally landing in Europe, whilst common sense would dictate that one of the key enhancements for the next version of Windows Mobile would be to integrate the Zune HD's media platform. At least Microsoft and its partners will have a competitive platform to tempt consumers with, even if there's little evidence that the subscription based music renting model works when compared to the iTMS model of purchase and own.

Where Zune Pass has real potential is in …

iPad Has iPhone's Limitations Too

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Engadget appears to be first up with a 'hands-on' of the new iPad as well as making some initial observations of the iPad's capabilities.

First downside: no multitasking. Although I'm guessing that will actually turn out to be limited multitasking for Apple applications but nothing for third parties. There's also no camera. So I'm guessing that iPad users won't be using it for iChat or Skype video sessions, even if the latter was available on the iPhone platform. Also missing: in-browser Flash, so not the real web at all. There's no support for USB devices, so you're stuck with Apple's dock connector for connecting peripherals and of course that means no mass storage device support too.

All in all, the more I see of the iPad the less I like it. By comparison the 7" UMPC slates that have been available and the newer Windows 7 slates look magnitudes more powerful and more usable. Not that any of that will make the iPad any less of a success - o…

F1: Alonso At Ferrari, Schumacher At Mercedes, Decisions, Decisions

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My Grandmother was a big F1 fan and being Italian she was a big Ferrari fan. The driver who embodied the spirit of Ferrari back then was Niki Lauda so when he returned to F1 with McLaren in the early eighties she was racked with split loyalties. Michael Schumacher's return to F1 with Mercedes means I now know exactly how she felt.

The German was instrumental in bringing Ferrari back to the fore and eventually took five consecutive championships with the team. His name is writ large in Ferrari history behind only the Commedatore himself. Everything about his will to win endeared him to me and many other Ferrari fans. Yet the arrival of Fernando Alonso at Ferrari is phenomenally exciting - and I'm torn between the desire to see the returning hero emulate Lauda and crown his comeback with a world title and the desire to see Alonso push Ferrari back to the top of the tree.

iPad: Its A Big iPod Touch

Did it justify the hype? I think not. Is it groundbreaking? Not exactly. Will it sell in bucketloads? Absolutely.

So will we see people carrying their iPads in public in their Apple designer cases? I expect they will, which will be what ultimately makes the iPad revolutionary and perhaps justify all the hype and talk.

For me its a disappointment - its no real improvement on my Samsung Q1 UMPC which is capable of so much more than the iPad. Although it is a slice cheaper...

Apple's Tablet Imminent - Will It Be Another Game Changer?

If the rumour mongers are right (and the number this time seems to have doubled from last year) Steve Jobs will finally pull the longed-for Apple Tablet from up his sleeve tomorrow.

Expectations are high, but there's little consensus about what the tablet might be. Some are going for scaled up iPhone whilst others are saying full blown OS X. We're heard that it will have a 7'' or 10" screen and even the name is in dispute - iPad? iSlate? I guess we won't have to wait long to find out.

Whilst everyone has been focussing on what it will do and how it will do it they seem to have missed one key point: this Apple tablet will be a game changer in exactly the same way that the iPhone was three years ago.

Those of us who hare been using tablets for many years now will say to ourselves 'yes, that is the way to do it' and wonder why no-one thought of doing it before.

A lifetime on from the failed promise of Microsoft's UMPC Apple are going to turn a market …

Toshiba TG01 Review, Part One

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Smartphones are an intensely personal thing, with one person's priorities being another's trivial tasks. The TG01 has something of a chequered reputation earned, in part to it being released with Windows Mobile 6.1 due to Microsoft's delay in releasing 6.5. This review will examine how the device stands up now that Toshiba is able to ship it with the operating system it was originally designed for.

Taking a look at the hardware first and what's inside. Power comes from a Snapdragon processor running at 1Ghz, sports 256MB of ram and 512MB of flash for storage. Expansion comes in the form of a micro SD slot. Exceptionally Toshiba has included USB host facilities on the TG01 meaning that you can plug in USB mass storage devices including some external hard drives which draw low power or have a seperate facility for power. Keyboards also work out of the box, drivers are available to support a number of other devices including mice and game pads.

That micro USB connector will…

Motorola Confirms DEXT Upgrades

Looks like Motorola has had a change of heart on its Android update policy which means that the DEXT handset will be getting an update to Android 2 at some time in the future.

That's a positive step which makes the US company the only one to have committed to delivering system upgrades for all its handsets.

The DEXT has now hit Orange's PAYG tariff at £299 which makes it about £100 cheaper than a SIM free Milestone. Although I'm not sure I'd trade the Milestone's faster processor for the DEXT's better keyboard and £100 in my pocket.

Free Navigation With Nokia Symbian Phones

Nokia has been under pressure in the mobile market for some time now as Apple, RIM and Google have started to eat away at its top end smartphone share and Samsung, LG and others have hit its feature phone share.

Now the Finnish giant is looking to leverage its purchase of Navteq and begin to fight back. It will offer free navigation, on ten handsets initially, through Ovi Maps. This trumps the Android 2 offering of free Google Navigation by storing map data on the handset so that navigation can be used irrespective of phone service or roaming charges.

Is it a winning strategy for Nokia? I don't think it is. After all satnav software for the iPhone or Android isn't exactly a massive purchase and Symbian lags so far behind in all other respects that the carrot of free navigation isn't the crowd puller that it might otherwise have been. That's not to say that Nokia's offer won't persuade customers to upgrade to Symbian from the feature phone they would otherwise ha…

Why No Pay As You Go Pre?

So Palm and O2 are struggling to get customers for the Pre. Given that its so closely priced to the iPhone that isn't a great surprise. What is surprising is what little action is being taken to drive sales forward. The only incentive being offered at the moment is a free Touchstone and charging back cover - good for those who want one, but unlikely to sway any buying decisions.

The ideal solution for both network and manufacturer is to start offering the Pre on Pay As You Go - at least making it accessible to more customers.

Having made such a big deal about the Pre at launch it looks like O2 has lost interest and Palm could be dead and buried in the UK at least.

How Stupid Does Your Mobile Network Think You Are?

Very stupid indeed I'm guessing. Why? Because they are about to make a big push to bring femtocells onto the market and will expect customers to pay for the privilege...

A femtocell is a GSM cell reduced in power and size which uses your broadband connection as backhaul to the mobile operator's network. They are designed for use in buildings where the mobile network coverage is poor to fill in holes that would otherwise be dead zones for mobile uses.

Despite the fact that you will pay for the cell itself and also for the broadband connection that facilitates the service you won't be using it for free - bundled minutes and/or call charges will still apply.

The biggest joke of all? Your femtocell will provide service to your network's other customers and allow them to advertise greater network coverage all at your cost.

Take my advice and avoid these like the plague - at least until the networks wise up and ship them for free with a discount on your monthly line rental.

Windows Mobile 7 Striking Out On Its Own

A couple of credible sources are suggesting that Windows Mobile 7 may have some surprises in store when it (eventually) arrives. The biggest - and most worrying (or pleasing depending on your View of WM6) - is that there will be no backward compatibility with previous versions of Windows Mobile. That means no legacy applications, effectively throwing away one of the biggest mobile software catalogues that exists.

The second surprise is that Windows Mobile 7 is not based on Windows CE but utilises a completely new code base. Which presumably means a complete restart for Windows Mobile's developer community too. All well and good, but considering how the Palm WebOS app catalogue is looking, I think the likely outcome is that most developers will move across to Android or iPhone and seek their fortune there.

If this turns out to be true - and given the sources that doesn't sound unlikely - Microsoft may just be about to score an own goal of Vista proportions.

Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ Review

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The Acer Aspire 1810TZ is a full laptop in a netbook sized package. An 11.6" screen and 1.3GHz processor don't sound immediately promising but when that processor is a dual-core Pentium and its paired with 3GB of memory the last thing you'll be worrying about is performance. This is no netbook its an ultra-light laptop which really impresses.

The 1810TZ manages to achieve some of the portable computing ideals which only 18 months ago seemed unrealistic. In short Acer have packed into its little frame a powerful CPU and enough memory to comfortably cope with Windows 7, a large enough hard disk to carry all your media, a battery which achieves the dream of all day computing with 10-12 hours runtimes and a screen which packs high resolution into its 'right-sized' dimensions.

Some weeks my needs for a laptop are restricted to a couple of hours browsing and word processing each evening - the week I've just had for example. The Acer came off charge last Friday aftern…

Sony-Ericsson keeps The Faith

Pictures are leaking of a new Sony-Ericsson smartphone which looks like an attempt to take on the Blackberry crowd in what would probably be the company's first corporate focused handset.

The new handset - allegedly called Faith - packs a 2.4 inch touchscreen above a QWERTY keyboard and looks like the illegitimate offspring of a Nokia E71 and a Blackberry Curve. Bizarrely, having suggested that the X2 would be the last handset they would ship with Windows Mobile onboard, the pictured handset is clearly running Microsoft's latest operating system, a version of 6.5 rather than 6.5.3. That could indicate that this is an old picture of an outdated handset which never reached release.

Or it may indicate that SE are ready for one last tilt at doing a smartphone. Although this phone doesn't strike me as the way to do that. Still if it manages to do the basic things it will still be a step in the right direction and I'm all for that.

Nexus One Sales Good, Not Amazing - Much Like The Nexus

Given the almost biblical levels of hype which preceded its launch 20,000 doesn't sound like a whole heap of sales for a phone with Google's backing and a new (to most American's anyway) sales pitch.

Far from stealing the iPhone's thunder the Nexus seems to have reinforced just what a difficult job Google has to overturn Apple's lead in the smartphone market.

The Nexus isn't a hugely different handset when compared with the Droid and Liquid; packing only an incremental update to Android with features which will reach other devices in time. Given how average the Nexus is it seems strange for Google to have nailed its colours to its mast. Having failed to deliver on the back of so much hype next time around its going to be disproportionately more difficult for Google to engage the buying public.

I should imagine that the contrast with whatever Apple decides to launch later in the month will be illuminating...

HD2 Available On Virgin Mobile

Here's something of a turn up for the books: Virgin Mobile, purveyour of some pretty nasty phones, will be selling the HTC HD2. As far as I know its the network's first smartphone (if you discount Symbian and the awful HTC Lobster, which I do) and its an impressive way to start.

Headline deal is the two year £30 per month contract, which nets you the phone, unlimited texts, unlimited internet and 800 minutes - not a bad deal compared to other network offerings.

Windows Mobile And Snapdragon Make A Good Team

The powerful Snapdragon processor that drives the Toshiba TG01 does something impressive to Windows Mobile, making it fast, responsive and a pleasure to use. Applications that stuttered on older devices fly on the newer processor, especially on the Toshiba, which is the fastest phone I've had the pleasure of using.

Its a feature of both Snapdragon powered phones I've tried which suggests that built in to a more mainstream device (both the TG01 and HTC's HD2 unashamedly target power users) Microsoft could still take the battle to Apple and Google.

Microsoft's biggest battle will be winning back customers put off by some of the dubious devices that damaged their reputation in the past.

Palm Sales Poor In The UK And Ireland

Palm and O2 have been very quiet since the launch of the Pre in the UK other than a brief suggestion that it had been a hot seller in the few days after launch.

Now Mobile Industry Review are suggesting that the reason for this is to cover up just how disappointing sales have been: in Ireland sales since launch have (allegedly) been a dismal 220 units. Sales in the UK have been similarly 'impressive' if the unnamed source is to be believed.

I spoke to my contact at O2 who said that whilst sales staff are still supposed to be pushing the Pre as a flagship device there's been a tacit understanding that its performance is far below that claimed and users are steered towards less 'troublesome' devices.

Doesn't sound promising for Palm and its long term future does it? I guess its also the reason why O2 will now give you a Touchstone and charging back cover free when you buy a Pre.

Toshiba TG01 May Have Me Eating My Words

A little bird tipped me the wink that the previously unloved Toshiba TG01 had been transformed by the switch from WM6.1 to WM6.5. Coupled with the rather impressive price drop it might be in my interests to try one out. Having been very harsh on Toshiba and the TG01 recently that sounded unlikely.

Despite some sceptism on my part (in my experience there's no such thing as a magic fix to a bad device) I decided to investigate further. I'm glad I did - the Windows Phone TG01 is really quite something.

After a brief play in a local Orange shop (my nearest one refused to allow me to test the device before buying) I dropped an entirely reasonable £149 plus £10 for the mandatory top-up in exchange for this rather lovely device.

Why is it so good? Speed. In fact its so fast in some areas you wouldn't believe me if I told you - web browsing with Internet Explorer Mobile is one such area. Its quicker by some margin than the HD2 I tried yesterday for example. That's another Snap…

Mifi Popularity Points To User Compromise

The Mifi is a great product, bringing network connectivity to places and devices which have no other solution exists. Its ability to grab a 3G signal far surpasses that of the USB dongles used by most mobile broadband customers.

However if you look around the web you'll find any number of people using it to compensate for the shortcomings of their mobile phones. Neither the iPhone nor Android allow usable tethering to a laptop. Which means that you're carrying around an extra device for no reason at all. Hardly a great advert for convergence is it?

Windows Mobile has many options for providing this functionality - by default it supports Bluetooth and USB tethering and you can buy an application that turns your phone into a 3G/Wifi bridge - working exactly the same way as the Mifi for a tenth the cost.

Again its interesting to see how users are willing to make thing more difficult for themselves by failing to do adequate research into the products available in the marketplace...

The End Of The XDA?

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O2's site has noticeably lost its XDA section and there are no XDAs available to purchase (online anyway, not sure if that's also true of the retail side). That's sad, especially when you think how much O2 did to bring the smartphone market into existence with a range of (mostly) HTC sourced XDAs which usually broke new ground.

Particularly memorable devices were the XDA IIi (first smartphone sporting wireless) the XDA Exec (a mini-tablet with the best keyboard to adorn any smartphone) and the XDA Zest which brought speed, features and functionality to the masses at a very affordable price.

I'm not sure whether this signals the end of the road for the XDA or just a brief lull whilst the iPhone grabs headlines. I hope its just the latter and O2 have a new XDA waiting in the wings to replace the disappointing (sales wise anyway) Palm Pre very soon...

Keep Taking The Tablets

Looks like Web tablets are going to be the thing in 2010. Apple's imminent launch of a tablet has been predicted for any number of years now, but leaks from reliable sources seem to pin the end of January as the launch date of something to be called either iSlate ot Guide - most commentators are now reporting this as fact. Super iPod or MacOS X tablet? We'll have to wait and see. Shipping dates of March are being mentioned now, however there's no hint of price. I'm guessing a UK price of around £400 for an iPod variant or around £700 for a MacOS X version.

Apple may not have things all its own way however, as leaks are starting to suggest that tomorrow may see Google announce its own tablet, manfactured by HTC and sporting Chrome and/or Android operating systems.

Given that there are already a small but varied selection of Windows powered mini-tablets out there, there may well be a tablet in your future.

Android V Windows Mobile: A Summing Up

Well I promised to give Android a fair trial and, two devices and three months in, I feel like I can say I've done that much. Until version 2 of Android is shipping on more than just one device I'll reserve final judgement, but at the moment my gut feeling is that Android manages to offer the shortcomings of Windows Mobile without most of the benefits.

Google have fallen down with their version control: at the moment you can buy phones with three different versions of Android. That will become four when the Nexus One ships later this month. This is exacerbated by two side issues. Firstly third-party software isn't necessarily compatible with all versions of Android (not even Google's own packages) and secondly most Android buyers are under the impression that they will get version upgrades for their phones - which just isn't true.

The variety of software for Android is growing fast - it may even surpass the iPhone in time - yet ironically the marketplace has incred…

Make A Speedy Hero

One of the big bugbears with the generally very good Hero is its lack of speed, in day to day use I've found it about as sluggish as the iPhone 3G which preceded it.

However since applying the latest ROM update I've noticed that things slow down in relation to the number of widgets running on the home screen, in much the same way that older versions of Windows Mobile suffered when too many plug ins were added to the Today screen.

Removing the additional widgets gave the Hero a much needed speed boost. Taking it a step further and removing the Sense widgets too makes it fly.

So if you value responsiveness over aesthetics you know what to do...

Palm Hits 1000 Apps For WebOS

Here's some good news for Palm - something it could really do with at the moment. Engadget have released a WebOS version of its reader application for iPhone, bringing the available applications in the (US) App Store to 1000.

Now that doesn't sound much when compared to the iPhone, Windows Mobile or Android, but it is a significant milestone for the little guy battling to stay alive on the sidelines. Of course if Palm took the decision to bundle the classic emulator with the Pre and Pixi they'd be able to claim all the old PalmOS apps as well, which would be a much healthier number.

I'm still sorely tempted by the Pre - and if the Pixi were to arrive in the UK sporting the Wifi that now seems likely on the US Verizon model - although I can't help but question its price point in the UK: an 8GB Pre costs just £89 less than the iPhone 16GB 3GS at the same tariff point - and even with the iPhone's shortcomings I know which phone I'd rather have under those circum…

Xperia X10 Available To Pre-order

Sony-Ericsson's first foray into Android looks to be getting ready for its first faltering steps into the limelight. Play.com has it listed on its store and has even gone as far as to set a price.

Its not a good price though... in fact at £529 its significantly none than either the Motorola Milestone (£449) or the Acer Liquid (£330).

That either means that Sony-Ericsson are planning on delivering a truly great handset (which would make a nice change) or Play are looking to capitalise on some early availability by gouging its customers.

It will be interesting to see how this one stacks up - especially given SE's poor past performance. This is one phone that I'll certainly not be considering for early adoption!