Thursday, 29 July 2010
Well, is is something of a surprise, or not depending, Amazon has announced and placed on pre-order new versions of their eBook reading Kindle. Many people were speculating that any new kindle would feature a new e-ink technology such as the pixelQi tech which would allow colour as well as speed improvements. What we actually get is an improved - 50% extra contrast, 20% extra speed - version of the old kindle. More importantly on is side of the pond we also get regionalised versions with access to tap new British eBook store priced at:
£109 with WiFi, similar to competing Sony products, or
£149 with WiFi and unlimited 3G (provider not mentioned?)
Read on for extra commments
So, it's definitely a good thing that amazon are addressing other markets and I can certainly vouch for the ereading experience begin pretty damn stellar. My issue however is why do we need these dedicated devices?
When I purchased the iPad it was because I wanted the form factor for browsing the web around the house, a niche reason undoubtedly but nonetheless it fills that niche perfectly. As it happens it's also been great for adventure games and for quick access to email.
When I look at the kindle or similar devices, I don't understand the utility in comparison to a paper book. The main benefit, as I see it, is that you can a) purchase books anywhere online and b) carry an entire library with you.
Sadly I don't really have a need to purchase books on the spur of the moment, and doing so would mean missing out on the frequent book bargains I see as well as missing out on lending books and using a library. As far as carrying a library about with me, I don't exactly read slowly, but I do read one book at a time. Only on holidays do I tend to get through 3-4 books whilst in one place.
Hardly worth going digital compared to the clear value proposition of buying mp3 audio.
For me a dedicated device would need to have an awesome 300dpi colour screen to read magazines and the web also. Good performance in the sun, along with fast page transitions and a good UI. Of course if It did all those things it sounds more like a future Apple or Android tablet than a dedicated eReader. I'm typing this on my iPad, why would I want a device to do less if it doesn't impact on it's other abilities?
Monday, 26 July 2010
So, whats been going on? Not too much, but we do get the biggest event in PC gaming for years (according to lots of people it would seem) as the sequel to the perennially popular Starcraft finally drops. Can't say that I'm personally excited as it's a little to old fashioned for my liking. However, it's a Blizzard game so polish and presentation will be top notch. If you're a PC gamer it seems like a must try at least and it's out tomorrow.
We also have breaking news from Engadget that there is a new ruling in the states that would legalise circumvention of the DMCA for the jailbreaking or rooting of your mobile phone. This could be big news if it gives a greater degree of legitimacy to things like Cydia (the alternative independent app store for iPhone).
Finally, I note that Expansys is offering the new Acer Stream Android phone exclusively. I know these phones all look quite similar but this one does look like the illegal love child of several HTC sets; I keep expecting Acer to make a big splash into the phone space but they seem to lack any vision to do so. The handset is available to pre-order for £399. Not a bad price but it should have come in at £350 or lower to give people a real reason to pick it over an unlocked Nexus one or Desire.
Friday, 23 July 2010
Well, Apple are now allowing you iPhone 4 users to select a free case or bumper via a free app download. Installation was quick and ordering was as easy as a single button press. Delivery time stated was 3-5 weeks which seems pretty damn slow, not sure if they're just 'managing out expectations' or it really will be about a month before these things hit.
The selection is the infamous Apple bumper plus a small selection of snap on cases which protect the rear and sides from the likes of Belkin, Griffin and Incase. I've gone for an incase clear model personally buy would have loved an option which allowed easy placement into a dock.
Ho hum, everyone happier now?
Monday, 19 July 2010
Image taken from TechEBlog personally I didn't find the story confusing (though I had to pay attention the whole time), but there are plenty of people out there who seem completely confused by the whole thing.
In other news, BGR and Engadget amongst others have grabbed review samples of Windows 7 series, running on modified Samsung i8910HD's (the one time Symbian hot phone) and both are generally positive if hardly overwhelmed. Personally I still think that the Interface looks a little too 'Google', but some of the core functionality - widgets, notifications etc - look bang on, though some aspects, notably facebook integration are quite flawed at a policy level.
It's worth noting that it was none other than Joshua Topolsky (The man, myth and indeed the legend), who looked over the device for Engadget. For a guy who's on Apple's payroll (at least according to 99% of Engadget posters) AND is notoriously picky about his phones I find his positive attitude to the platform very encouraging.
We also had some screen shots emerge at Engadget of Symbian 4, which looks uncannily like Android to my eyes. I just wish that Nokia could have pushed the Symbian foundation to do this back when the 5800 was coming out. Symbian is a very solid but its taken far too long to brush up and embrace touch functionality. I do understand calls to still have good button based phones but, personally, I'd like to have my cake and eat it with devices like the Motorola Charm.
We also had this week:
HTC, RIM and Nokia attacking Apple over Antenna issues, all very 6 to one, half a dozen to the other.
Boxee Box first production unit; probably not very interesting this side of the pond without Hulu
And finally; top Home theatre website, AVForums have finally restarted their excellent hardware podcast, thanks guys!
Saturday, 17 July 2010
It's not very good.
Seriously though, purchased from play.com for the princely sum of 17 British pounds reduced from an alleged 79. For the newly reduced price it's not too shabby, but the sound is thin from the 'isolated drivers for improved stereo performance' which I think is a marketing way of saying it's in stereo. Overall the sound balance is, as usual, for small speakers; more comfortable with the top end and provides a sound on a par with my £10 creative labs PC speakers. Build quality is good though for the money, though the remote control proves to have a range equal to that of an outstretched arm.
A bit of a mixed bag overall, fine for undemanding kitchen use, but I wouldn't want to sit down to listen to it.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Well then , there ya go. Apple to give out free cases for the iPhone 4 but only because of all the fuss as there isn't a real problem. To be fair Apple do have a point it's hardly news that other phones have exactly the same issues, I think when there are this many people with exactly the same phone, build quality this fine and sooo much hype; you get this kind of media reception.
Also I was half surprised that Jobs didn't outright blame the media, wouldn't have been smart, but I wouldn't have been surprised.
Still, I didn't want a bumper but a choice of cases sounds good to me...
Hi there all, had the pleasure of spending a few days with the Motorola Milestone as well as the Motorola Dext (which doesn't merit inclusion in the title apparently), and thought I'd share some thoughts. I didn't get a chance to take many pictures due to my Canon failing me but I did get a really good chance to play around with them and used them both exclusively for a couple of days each.
The Milestone was released with much fanfare on the Verizon network in the States under the moniker of 'Droid' with the advertising focusing heavily on all the things that 'Droid does' that the iPhone doesn't. Perhaps surprisingly - especially when you consider that most prospective purchasers probably don't understand what multi-tasking means - the Droid was a pretty big success.
Over on this side of the pond though, it's name changed to the Milestone, and with it's wallpaper and styling changed from the hyper aggressive Droid's you'd be forgiven for thinking it wasn't released at all.
Without the backing of one of the big carriers you're most likely to find the Milestone available sim-free online, and that's a real shame because this phone really does fill a gap in the market. It is the first high end Android device to pack a keyboard since the original G1 and is one of the few non HTC made handsets to boast the OS.
Well, I was quite taken aback, considering all the press had indicated that this was very much a 'man's phone' and given it's slab like and chiselled appearance I was expecting the phone to be almost breeze block size. The Milestone is actually about the same size as an iPhone when viewed straight on and it's depth is surprisingly svelte as well, considering it's full slide out qwerty keyboard.
The screen is a sharp and responsive 854 x 480 capacitive touch screen which only suffers a little due to the fact that the actual LCD element seems to be a lot further below the glass (by several millimetres ) than on many other devices, though this is purely a cosmetic issue. Otherwise, no complaints here.
The slide out Qwerty has tightly packed but well laid out buttons, not a lot of depression but I rather liked their soft touch feel. Not a cracking keyboard but certainly usable even if way below the standards of the best HTC and Blackberry keyboards. Of course the best HTC keyboards and Blackberry's tend to come saddled to Windows and Blackberry phones...
There is also a d-pad to the right of the keyboard, never really needed to use it much, but it works fine and it's presence has allowed Motorola to drop a trackball or other pointing element from the front of the phone. The top part of the phone has four touch sensitive buttons for the common android features. Around the rear we have the 5mp camera, of which more later and some nice design decisions with a swanky looking speaker grill and plenty of soft touch coated metal.
Overall there is a lot to like here, sumptuous materials, good solid casing and it feels nice in the hand.
At the time of review the Milestone is running Android 2.1, with the popularity of the Droid I would imagine that this will be a phone well supported into the future, if only by the likes of XDA developers - the popular modding community.
To my mind Android 2.1 has everything you could want from a modern mobile OS in terms of feature set:
Sat Nav included
Notifications that aren't badly handled
the list does go on..
..sadly so do the little issues. Android might lead the way with features but it still almost everything a little less polished than everyone else. The Multi-tasking is't as slick as WebOS, the copy and paste, music playback etc are inferior to Apple. Only in terms of live widgets does Android lead the way.
Of course if you are willing to overlook these, mainly aesthetic, issues you have a phone which can do pretty much anything required of it. Sadly, for myself I wanted audio out via the dock connector which it can't do (a fairly specific use case).
Overall, the software isn't quite as good as the hardware (which still feels very modern) but, this is likely to improve as we edge closer to the third iteration of the android OS - Gingerbread (gotta love those names).
Conclusion, and how it all comes together
Well then, performance; Phone calls on the /Milestone were good and the audio was always clear though I did get the odd echo at my end, it didn't happen often enough for me to isolate it to the device itself. The rear speaker is pretty excellent and makes for good voice conferencing. Camera wise we have a reasonable performance but nothing to remotely trouble even an old point and shoot. Pictures are soft and waxy and low light performance is routinely terrible. (think sub iPhone 3GS or Nexus one). The camera won't worry the iPhone 4 or anything made by Nokia or SE.
The built in GPS works well with the new free android SatNav program, which is a great bonus, although I found the compass to not work very well in the Google maps app. It would be nice for Google to rectify this in future software as I really like the iOS implementation.
Overall then a great phone and one that feels like an 8/10 type of device. It is currently available from Expansys sim-free for £349 which makes it pretty good value if you want to buy a full smartphone off contract.
Right then, a few words about the Dext..
I pretty much ignored this phone on release, it's got barely better specs than the significantly older HTC G1, it's loaded (down) with Motorola's MotoBlur skin atop Android and the industrial styling is fairly prosaic.
Yup, nine out of ten. I spotted this phone for £90 locked to Orange in CEX (a swap/trade/buy shop), they had plenty, this was not a popular phone. I purchased and unlocked it, which cost a measly £3, the phone also was boxed and in near mint condition.
So for £92 you get a full 480x320 capacitive touch screen so you can access all the Android store apps. GPS so effectively a fee sat Nav, along with bluetooth and 3G/WiFi. You also get rather stunningly good build quality with plenty of metal, a phone which feels comfortable in the hand with good reception and call quality. What else? Oh yes, a really nice hardware keyboard and a 3.5mm jack for headphones on the top and a fairly decent 3MP camera.
If you're still making do with a crappy non-smartphone or need a decent spare phone, I think you may have just found it..
Oh the unlock was provided by fonezone in about an hour.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
A lovely phone, just look at the size of it! I was also pleasantly stunned by the fact that you really can whack that glass screen as hard as you like with no ill affects. Wish the iPhone 4 could say the same.
Oh, and yes that is a very unfortunate first frame on the video!
More detail after the jump...
Well, there is no denying this is one beast of a phone:
The general reaction from most people is a subtle combination of ‘wow’ and ‘dear god!’, but as geeks we can’t afford to be put off simply because someone thinks we look stupid (it’s never stopped me before).
In the hand the Dell streak feels solid and has little to no flex which makes it feel extremely well engineered, the back of the phone is a soft touch metal which gives a feeling of quality whilst not showing too much in the way of marks or smudges. The back is also easy to remove to access the battery, sim slot and microSD card.
As noted in the video there is a double depress camera shutter button which is great though is does require quite some force to take a shot which can lead to camera shake (though you can, of course, just use the on screen shutter button)
Around the front we have touch sensitive controls which are ok as well as the 800 X 480 screen which, when switched off, gives the appearance of having no bezel. It looks cool and even confused the dell product designers enough to draw a bezel-less screen on the packaging.
Overall, great design, though the phone isn’t exactly comfortable to hold to your ear due to its girth as well as it being totally flat. But this phone isn’t about phone calls..
Terrible, not so bad for the other end by dreadful for your end, flat, tinny and lifeless whether through the earpiece or rear speaker. This is a phone that loves Bluetooth headsets.
The Streak runs Android 1.6 with a possible upgrade to 2.2 by the end of the year. This can’t come soon enough frankly as this phone is crying out for more oomph. My other issue is that the dell customisations to the UI have focused on functionality whilst in landscape mode and personally I feel this has caused many of the strange quirks of the system. Stock Froyo on this device would be great, of course that’s down to the modders; I suspect that this device won’t attract that sort of attention though.
7/10 with current software, probably a 8/10 with Froyo
A great phone that is perhaps more suited to geeks or vertical markets than real people. You can’t deny though, it’s certainly a statement.