Tag Archives: mobile tech

Appsolutely fabulous

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A pick of some of the best smartphone apps

IF you have a cellphone contract and recently got an upgrade, you’re likely to be in possession of a smartphone. A smartphone is basically any cellphone that has a complete operating system and is able to connect to the Internet and other devices wirelessly. To put it simply, a smartphone can be thought of as a handheld computer.

A fully functioning operating system allows users to install and run more advanced applications. It also provides a platform for application developers to create apps. There are now thousands of smartphone applications available across cellphone networks and brands — some free and others available for purchase. The Apple iPhone App Store alone boasts over 200 000 download-able apps. Many of them are utter rubbish, but there are a few gems among the rough that may be worth downloading.

Apps have become the building blocks for making your smartphone unique and range from travelling guides to learning how to do yoga. Also remember that there are several applications that do the same thing (some better than others), but this also means that an appealing application that appears to be exclusive to the iPhone, for example, may be found for your particular smartphone brand under a different name. What follows is a few particularly interesting and potentially useful smartphone apps.

eSkyGuide app logoApplication: eSkyGuide
Platforms: Blackberry and iPhone
Cost: $5 (roughly R35) per year

This traveler’s app allows you to look up flight schedules, airport codes and other critical travel information straight from your smartphone. This particular version also lists phone numbers for airlines, hotels, international emergency numbers and car rental services.

GoodFood app logoApplication: GoodFood
Platforms: Blackberry, iPhone and others
Cost: Free!

The GoodFood app is a popular restaurant guide for smartphone users. Using your smartphone’s built-in GPS, GoodFood automatically locates your position and shows nearby restaurants. It also displays the ratings for each restaurant submitted by other users of the app. “Find one with a high score, enjoy your meal and post your own rating to share with fellow travelers. – goodrec.com

The Essential Garden GuideApplication: The Essential Garden Guide
Platforms: Multiple platforms (also available for iPad)
Cost: $0.99 (about R7)

The Essential Garden Guide app is a comprehensive guide that covers everything you might need to know to start your very own garden of abundant produce. The app has been created from a collection of 15 years worth of contributions from renowned agricultural. It includes basics such as soil preparation as well as extensive information on all types of fruits and vegetables.

Fuel Saver app logoApplication: Fuel Saver
Platforms: Available on multiple platforms
Cost: Generally free

There are several fuel saving applications available for different smartphones that all aim to help users prevent wasting petrol. This particular version uses your phone’s accelerometer to sense when drivers are speeding, accelerating or braking too hard and other bad driving behaviour that uses excessive petrol. The app emits a series of beeps when bad driving is detected and is aimed to teach users how to drive in the most fuel-efficient manner.

Anti-mosquito app logoApplication: Anti-mosquito
Platforms: Samsung Wave and others
Cost: R11 (for Samsung Wave)

This app supports the belief that certain sonic frequencies repel blood-hungry insects such as mosquitoes. Also known as “Sonic Insect Repeller”, this app turns your smartphone into an insect reflector that is claimed to be effective, chemical-free and safe to use around children and pets.

Flashlight app logoApplication: Flashlight
Platforms: Available on multiple platforms
Cost: R11 (for Samsung Wave)

A handy little app that could help you find your way in the dark or get you out of any Blairwitch Project situation. Flashlight apps work by allowing you to switch your camera’s flashlight on for as long as you need or emits a strong beam of light from your entire screen. Very useful for finding lost keys in the dark or signaling for an emergency.

Teen dream machine

THE SAMSUNG CORBY: For nimble-fingered tech savvies

Samsung CorbyTHE iPhone has certainly set the standard for new cellular descendants with newer mobile releases favoring the larger, full-touch screen. There is also a major focus on making cellphones exclusive social networking devices.

Samsung has followed suite with the release of a few touch-friendly iPhone clones – one of which is called the Samsung Corby. The device is specifically aimed at the youth market and it’s easy to see why; it takes a tech-savvy youth to get to grips with it. However, touch technology is amazingly intuitive and it shouldn’t take long for anyone to learn to use a Corby – provided you have thin and nimble fingers and thumbs.

Social features
On the plus side the Corby is certainly a very social phone. It is fully Facebook, Twitter and MySpace compatible and can be used to upload content to a variety of sites, such as YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. One is also able to receive updates and live feeds via Facebook, MySpace and Twitter through a simple pop-up SNS (Social Networking Service) notification feature.

With a Corby, users can upload photos and videos and view such content on these sites through a feature called Communities. However, community access is only granted after an extensive disclaimer is displayed, which includes the clause that any content uploaded may be accessed and used by third parties. Be warned that there is a risk of being spammed with adverts once your personal details are divulged.

The screen
The 2.8-inch QVGA screen is large and crystal clear – something that Samsung certainly gets right. I thought the screen would get smudgy after a few hours of fingering and was surprised to find that it didn’t leave a single fingerprint behind. Apart from three buttons found on the front, the phone is entirely operated with the screen using one’s fingers and thumbs.

This may pose a problem for some as the Corby does not favour users with fat fingers. You have to use your thumb to type / touch anything comfortably and I’m sure that the average thumb is not as small as most of the keys on the touch-screen. A better option is to use a stylus (a phone-poking pen with a thin, touchy tip). Yet the Corby comes with none.

What’s on the menu
The Corby has an elaborate menu – two and a half screens worth. These all have a function and purpose but Samsung could have easily gone for a minimalistic approach by combining some of these. For example, there are separate synonymous icons for “Google” and “Internet” as well as separate “stopwatch” and “timer” functions. I guarantee that consumers would agree that less is more and imagine that a lot of the Corby’s multiple functions would go unused.

Apart from the 27 pre-installed widgets an additional 75 are available for download from Samsung’s online Widgets Store (not unlike the iPhone App Store). The Corby makes use of quad band connectivity to download content and browse the web, which is no 3G experience but is still sufficiently fast.

Nonetheless the Corby is easy enough to navigate and it doesn’t take long for all the mysterious symbols to start making sense. There does, however, seem to be a slight misunderstanding between the scroll and the zoom functions – often confusing themselves with each other. What also lacks is an on-screen QWERTY keyboard – making message-making rather difficult.

Other features
The Corby has an impressive memory and can support up to 8GB of external storage. Battery life is said to be 9 hours of talk time and an incredible 730 hours of standby time. It has a camera yet this is a mere 2 megapixels and has no autofocus or flash. It does have a “smile shot” function which is becoming all the rage – i.e. the phone will only take a photo of a person when he/she is smiling.

There are two unique features belonging to the Corby, namely “one finger zoom” and “smart unlock.” As the name suggests, one finger zoom enables consumers to zoom in and out with one finger, while smart unlock is a feature which enables users to unlock the phone by drawing a letter on the screen. One can choose from 9 letters with which to secure their phone from teenaged trespassers.

The verdict
The S3650 Corby would definitely appeal to youngsters that are keen on technology and consider themselves as active social networkers. It is also a phone for those who like to personalise and customise and comes with extra covers slanged “fashion jackets”. The relatively low price of R1500 implies no fancy stuff, but the wide range of features and downloadable content is certainly relevant to the target audience. Tech-savvy and mobile-intuitive traits required.

Related Reviews:
Samsung S3500: Budget Bundle
Jet-setting with the Samsung Jet

Bring on Broadband Baby!

NEWS: Motorola ships 10 000th WiMAX access point base site

WiMAX leader’s second WiMAX shipment milestone follows shipment of one millionth CPE device, helping further its efforts to bring broadband everywhere.

Motorola, Inc.’s Home & Networks Mobility business announced that it has shipped its 10 000th 802.16e WiMAX Access Point (WAP) base site. This milestone shipment represents more than a 40% compound annual growth rate since Motorola’s first WiMAX access points were shipped in 2007.

Motorola’s WAP portfolio includes a variety of solutions designed to meet specific needs for coverage and capacity. The 2.3GHz, 2.5GHz, and 3.5GHz models currently shipping include the WAP 400 with 2×2 antenna technology and the WAP 450 – a higher power 2×2 unit. In addition, the WAP 800 in the 3.5GHz has the versatility to support both coverage and capacity models with 4×8 beam-forming antenna technology.

The recently announced 4×4 WAP 650, which is an easy field upgrade from the WAP 450, offers operators 30% reduction in total cost of ownership compared to average 2×2 base stations. Each new generation of the WAP product line is designed with improved energy efficiency to be eco-friendly and reduce operating costs. For example, there is a more than 100% relative energy efficiency improvement from the first to second generation radio frequency (RF) unit.

“This shipment milestone is further evidence of the success we’ve achieved in delivering mobile WiMAX,” said Bruce Brda, senior vice president and general manager of  Motorola Home & Networks Mobility. “Motorola, the No. 1 market share leader in WiMAX, is committed to 802.16e mobile WiMAX and to the future path of WiMAX 802.16m. In fact, Motorola is on the IEEE 802.16m Task Group m leadership board and helped design the 16m standard.”

Motorola has been a pioneer in developing mobile WiMAX since 2005 when it was one of the first companies to declare its support solely behind 802.16e. Motorola now stands poised to help launch the next iteration of this mobile broadband technology, 802.16m – also known as WiMAX Release 2, with continued development of its WiMAX portfolio.

Motorola has more than 35 WiMAX contracts in every region of the world, in 2.3 GHz, 2.5 GHz, and 3.5 GHz, including the recently announced deal with Imagine in Ireland. Its WiMAX customers, which range from Greenfield to mature operators, are delivering fixed, nomadic, and mobile service to meet their unique market needs and business requirements.

For more information on Motorola’s WiMAX solutions, please visit www.motorola.com/wimax. For updates visit www.mediaexperiences2go.com or follow them on Twitter at www.twitter.com/motomobilemedia.

iPaint on my cellphone

SOME of the latest hype arriving in the wake of the new iPhone 3G S is an Apple application for the device called Brushes, which allows users to do more than just doodle on their iPhones. The images are “painted” freehand, using fingers and thumbs.

The app allows users to make use of various painting tools and brush sizes and pick up previously applied colours using the eyedropper tool.

The standard “pinching” gesture, which has become a feature of the iPhone, can be used to zoom in for detailed work, and there’s an undo and redo function on the Brushes app as well.

Professional artists, such as Susan Murtaugh, have applied themselves to the task of creating iphone art and some of their works have received such vast amounts of global attention that there are plans afoot for exhibitions in bricks and mortar art galleries.

In a new craze sweeping the world, iPhone and iPod Touch users are producing extraordinary 'paintings' on their Apple devices. All the images were created using an application called Brushes and 'painted' freehand using fingers and thumbs

In a new craze sweeping the world, iPhone and iPod Touch users are producing extraordinary 'paintings' on their Apple devices. All the images were created using an application called Brushes and 'painted' freehand using fingers and thumbs

Brushes, created by Steve Sprang, also records every brush stroke while you are painting - allowing you to watch how your painting builds up

Brushes, created by Steve Sprang, also records every brush stroke while you are painting - allowing you to watch how your painting builds up

Artist Susan Murtagh said: "It took me a little while to get the hang of it but once I figured out my work flow it was almost like painting on canvas"

Artists Susan Murtagh said: "It took me a little while to get the hang of it but once I figured out my work flow it was almost like painting on canvas"

"It's easy to use - just take your finger and doodle. Next thing you know you've made the background blue and you're doodling in orange - it's fun"

"It's easy to use - just take your finger and doodle. Next thing you know you've made the background blue and you're doodling in orange - it's fun"

Mike Miller, a 32-year-old from Colorado, America, thinks he had mastered the art of digital painting after a week of practice. He added: "The more I use the application, the more it feels the same as the real thing"

Mike Miller, a 32-year-old from Colorado, America, thinks he had mastered the art of digital painting after a week of practice. He added: "The more I use the application, the more it feels the same as the real thing"

Priced at £2.99 Brushes can be downloaded through Apple iTunes

Priced at £2.99 Brushes can be downloaded through Apple iTunes

Fellow digital artist Mathew Watkins finds "painting on the iPhone more immediate and pleasurable than painting on the computer with mouse or pen tablet"

Fellow digital artist Mathew Watkins finds "painting on the iPhone more immediate and pleasurable than painting on the computer with mouse or pen tablet"

"Physically drawing on the touch screen is the same method I use on pad and paper, except it isn't messy and fits in my pocket"

"Physically drawing on the touch screen is the same method I use on pad and paper, except it isn't messy and fits in my pocket"

Classically trained artist Susan Murtaugh, from Wisconsin, America, is already selling prints of her digitally-created art for around 15 pounds

Classically trained artist Susan Murtaugh, from Wisconsin, America, is already selling prints of her digitally-created art for around 15 pounds

The world at your finger tips

REVIEW: The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick

Monique Tyrer

ALTHOUGH I missed my monthly phone fix from Vodashop Midlands this month, the outlet provided something different to satisfy my techno cravings that was just as fun to review — the Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick.

Slightly longer than your average USB flash drive, this handy Internet stick gives you a mobile Internet connection via your phone’s sim-card for either your laptop or desktop computer, allowing you to work from anywhere through a speedy Internet connection.

The “plug and play” capabilities of this nifty device work on both Windows and Mac computers through three different network connections — HSDPA, 3G and GPRS. The light on the stick also flashes a different colour to let you know which signal you are connected to, although all the connections are faster on average than a normal dial-up.

The Vodafone Mobile Connect USB StickThe installation data is stored on the actual USB stick itself, so there is no need to worry about installing the software with a CD, which means you can take your Vodafone Mobile Connect USB Stick with you anywhere and install it on a number of computers — a truly mobile solution for business and pleasure on the go.

The installation process was painless, and within a few minutes, the stick was ready for use. The stick also doubles as a flash drive to store information, with an additional microSD card slot available that can hold cards of up to 4GB.

Once the programme was installed, Internet browsing was quick and painless, and viewing websites such as YouTube was no problem for this small, but powerful, device. Downloading information was also really fast, and I was impressed with how this broadband USB stick had no problem handling the data.

With the programmes that come with the device, I was able to send and receive smses from my laptop, as well as view information such as signal strength, length of connectivity and the volume of data being received or sent.

This is really handy to monitor your usage, as you are charged according to how much data you use.

Monique Tyrer writes for the Natal Witness newspaper and other publications in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Article supplied by Mall Talk.

Archived in Gadgets & Tech

Your digital life in your pocket

REVIEW: The OQO 02 ultra-portable PC

Windows Vista seems to be what all the ‘cool’ geeks are investing in nowadays; however, the hefty hardware requirements that the operating system demands is a bit of a problem for the less successful geeky entrepreneurs.

Yet their remains hope fellow geeks! The fully Windows Vista-compatible ultra-portable PC has been released as the ultimate solution for those who find that a smart phone simply isn’t enough while a lap-top over-caters for one’s needs.

“Fast,” “intuitive,” “helpful,” and “sexy” are not terms often associated with Windows devices, but technology reviewers argue that the ultra-portable PC mimics many of the functions of a full PC, via an advanced touch-screen interface, which they are describing as “potentially revolutionary”.

The OQO 02, as one of the newest ultra-portable PCs, belongs to a new generation of miniaturised Windows computers that can run the same software as Windows desktops and laptops but are designed to be used from the couch, conference room, or from an airplane seat.

OQO engineers are even prophesising that 2008 is the year when US computer buyers will turn to ‘ultramobile PCs’ as a practical alternative to beefier desktop and laptop computers.

It’s not size that counts, but how you use it
The new OQO 02 is a mere 14 centimeters wide, 8 centimeters high, and 3 centimeters thick, making it small enough to fit in your jacket pocket or purse.

It comes with a 1.5-gigahertz processor, an 800-by-480-pixel touch screen, a slide-out keyboard, and three kinds of wireless connectivity. It is able to run standard Windows programs from the Firefox browser to Adobe Photoshop.

With regards to connection speeds, it may not be as fast as a home DSL or cable Internet connection, but is much faster than previous generations of cellular data networks.

The OQO 02

Target market
Manufacturers of OQO devices have focused sales on the professional user rather than the bored teenager, and have already attracted business customers who need small PCs for field inspections and similar mobile activities.

As a mobile journalist, Bob Rosin – marketing vice president of OQO, put the practicality of the ultra-portable PC into context, saying:

“If you’re a mobile professional, you need to be connected to the Web and access applications as part of your daily life – so your computer needs to be small enough and light enough that you’re willing to take it with you when you leave your desk.”

Unique features / characteristics
But what makes the OQO 02 special when compared to older ultra-mobile PCs? Well for many the most appealing thought is having the power of a full Windows PC in the palm of their hand. That aside, some manufacturers are working on simplifying onscreen interfaces so that users can get more things done with fewer gestures and clicks.

Users also have the ability to zoom in on an area of detail and to scroll vertically or horizontally with the brush of a finger along the screen, eliminating the need for a mechanical thumbwheel found on many PDAs.

Similar devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and are operated solely via a touch screen. However, these have not been marketed as office appliances, but rather as entertainment devices enabling users to browse the Web and access videos, music, and photos.

Is it all too good to be true?
The OQO 02 is not without its flaws. Battery life is an issue, which totals a miniscule 4 hours worth, which reviewers argue is not long enough to keep a businessperson busy for the duration of a transcontinental flight. Another issue is the small screen and keyboard, which is a problem for people with poor eye-sight and large thumbs.

Currently ultra-portable PCs such as the OQO 02 are seeing poor sales (going from anywhere between R7000 to R14 000), but manufacturers feel that the product will take off once they become more general-purpose devices. Being able to browse the web while simultaneously controlling the TV and stereo system from the couch, for example, appears to be where the major marketing potential lies.

Links
Just for fun: A portable portal into another world?
Related Info: Your life at the touch of your finger
Read full review: Smaller Is Better, Say Makers of Ultraportable PCs

A whiff of the modern cellphone

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THE cellphone has become one of the most widely used digital technologies in everyday life. However, current cellular innovations appear to be both exciting and potentially dangerous at the same time.

one smelly phoneThe Health Concept Phone (pictured) is equipped with eNose technology, which effectively allows it to electronically “smell” what you eat and keep track of your food intake. It is able to ‘recognise’ food (and other things) by its unique chemical signature. Recommended for people who have a habit of eating with their eyes closed. Similar phones have the ability to emit a whiff of your significant other’s scent every time he or she phones.

New cellular features (and what one can actually do with a modern cellphone) are taking the lead in incorporating the latest and greatest technical innovations. Interestingly, cellphones equipped with such state-of-the-art technology are becoming increasingly popular in countries such as South Africa as opposed to those who one might refer to as the ‘digital elite‘.

The most striking (and perhaps most frightening) ideas are to create cellphones that come closer to human nature than we might like to believe. Electronic giant Samsung is planning to create cellphones that have “artificial chromosomes” built in them, and will be able to ‘think’, ‘feel’, ‘evolve’ and even ‘reproduce’. The concept seems close to the earlier invention of the Tamagotchi – a digital creature that adjusts its ‘life’ according to the personality and actions of its owner.

Other companies have already customised phones for social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, which they say “effectively allows you to carry your social life in your pocket”. No human contact needed.

The notion that we are living in an expanding visual and digital culture is becoming more apparent by the development of such technologies. Perhaps the most exciting cellphone feature that manufacturers are focusing on at the moment is video. Several companies are talking about making it possible for millions of people to simultaneously stream live video and TV channels via their phones. Music fans may receive the most recent music videos by their favourite bands instantaneously — a concept being coined as ultrareality.

As exciting as these developments sound the luddites (technology pessimists) will tell us that this is not all cream and cake. And no, these are not all hippies that protest against technology, but clued-up intellectuals who know what they are talking about. An article published in the Washington Times describes how digital experts in the Middle East are making use of cellphones to trigger off road-side bombs. James Bond films also illustrate how cellphones are, rather accurately, used in the spy industry for corruption purposes.

The pace that such developments are taking do have the danger of blinding one to their negative possibilities, however, the idea of getting a whiff of your significant other’s scent through your phone every time he or she calls is both crazy and exciting.

Links:
Mobbed by Mobile Media
Top popped on what cellphone technology can do for us
Cell-phone technology – an explosive tool for insurgents

Semi-related post:
Backup options for lost or stolen phones