Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Nexus is a Lexus

Hear me out on this one.

When Google finally released ‘their’ very own phone, the Nexus One, today, the internet was awash with talk of how Google have finally rose up to Apple and are ready to take the iPhone head-on. It’s all very impressive, but why do I feel like anybody who’s rushed ahead and bought one has been taken for a bit of a mug?

courtesy of engadget.com

Ever since the first shaky leaked photo hit the internet, the main focus has always been on the software itself. I defy anybody to say that the Nexus One (pictured above, courtesy of engadget) is the best-looking device they’ve ever seen. It looks very plastic and, to be honest, prototype-ish. It gives me the same impression as the Nokia N82 in terms of its design, it just looks unfinished. It has to also be said that Google haven’t actually made the hardware: it has been built to specification by HTC, already the leading manufacturer of Android handsets.

I get the feeling that the device is being pushed as an engineering statement. They want to show the world what they can do with the next stages of the Android platform, and they also want to introduce a new way of buying devices – Google Checkout. The phone comes SIM-Free for the time being, with subsidies via network carriers coming in Spring 2010. They have also set up target shipping to the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong. At $529 (roughly £330 excluding shipping costs) it can be a pretty big gamble to those interested in buying it.

This is where my slightly strange link with a Japanese car manufacturer comes in. Recently, Lexus – well known for making bland, albeit exquisite luxury cars – surprised a lot of people by bringing out a supercar. No, really.

The Lexus LFA

It’s called the Lexus LFA. With around 550 bhp and a top speed of 202 mph, it’s clearly very impressive. Also impressive is the way they’ve made a V10 engine take up the same size of a V8, with the weight of a V6. Every part of the car is tweaked to make it as aerodynamic as possible. But at £340,000 not a lot of people are going to be driving it, and Lexus still aren’t going to make any money on it. So what is the point in its existance?

Well, much like the Nexus One, the Lexus LFA, I feel, has been created to show the world what their respective teams can come up with. Google with its software, and Lexus with its engineering. We’ll surely be seeing their USPs in other things in the near future. Especially so with Android, as the Nexus is only running 2.1 of the OS, meaning sooner or later it will be available to every Android handset out there. At this moment in time the Nexus One is a simple showcase of what is to come.

If you buy one now, you’ll kick yourself when the Nexus Two comes along. You heard it here first…

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Satio reveals a worrying trend

Sony Ericsson were once one of the most popular handset makers in the world. They had a long string of hit after hit, culminating with the (still superb) Sony Ericsson K800i. With the still-growing popularity of the Walkman series of phones, they’re one of the best-known feature phone manufacturers in Europe. However, is all of that about to change, and with horrific results?

Image by Slashgear

News surfaced today that the Carphone Warehouse is to stop offering the Sony Ericsson Satio, due to instabilities within the software. Naturally, SE are working quickly on a fix and Carphone Warehouse will restock the device when it’s up and working properly.

You would assume that this is not that big of a deal then, as some phones (most notably Nokia’s) seem to be released too early for most people’s liking, with the first set of phones being seen as ‘test’ devices – advanced prototypes, if you will. However, it may surprise (and worry) a few of you to find that this is definitely not the first Sony Ericsson device to be recalled on a massive scale.

a worrying trend

In the past 3 years, there have in fact been 3 Sony Ericsson devices recalled by the manufacturer and “issues” with the handsets have been acknowledged.

The first recalled device was the Sony Ericsson K850i, spiritual successor to the K800i. It was nowhere near as good as its predecessor, featuring fiddly touch-sensitive soft keys, slow interfaces, and a pretty average 5mp camera that didn’t improve much upon the 3.2mp offering on the K800i. Around 6 months after it was released, the phone was phased out of the networks stores and Sony Ericsson were inundated with devices being sent in by angry users complaining of the non-working soft keys and buggy firmware.

Next to suffer the public’s wrath was the C905. Another flagship camera phone, it was an 8mp offering that was actually very impressive. It still has one of the best cameras seen on a phone despite having 12mp competition around these days. Sadly, the firmware was the problem this time – with Sony Ericsson recalling the devices earlier this year.

And now we come to the Satio. This too is a flagship phone, although its intended to be a jack-of-all-trades. While not only being a master of none, the phone doesn’t feature a 3.5mm headphone jack as seen on all high-end phones these days, and the UI is a heaily adapted version of Symbian, more commonly seen on Nokia devices. While most recent Nokia devices are having a few small issues with firmware and such, with the N97 being the biggest case of this (suffering both firmware and hardware issues, which have been resolved now) Sony Ericsson have reported the software being the issue. This would suggest that the problems lie in the software they themselves have included.

These are very worrying times for Sony Ericsson I would imagine. Not many manufacturers have to recall 3 devices in the same number of years – and the more this happens, the less confident consumers will be in choosing their handsets over someone else’s. At least they seem to be on form with the Xperia X10 (running Android) and Kurara (another Symbian device) – although I wouldn’t like to speak too soon.

 

Do you own a Sony Ericsson device? Are you satisfied with how it performs, or have you had plenty of issues with it? Feel free to leave your stories in the comments section.

 

 

T-Mobile has Pulse

I was surprised to find this morning that there’s a third Android handset making its way to T-Mobile. T-Mobile UK’s official twitter page posted a tweet about an upcoming handset called the Pulse (below)

tmobilepulsefront

Front view of the Pulse and its bespoke Canvas UI

It’s the first Android handset on T-Mobile to be produced by a manufacturer other than HTC. Instead the Pulse is being built by a company called Huawei. It’s also the second time in almost as many weeks that a new Android handset has been released on a network out of the blue (Samsung’s first Android handset, the Galaxy, is available on O2 now)

The Pulse uses the same QualComm MSM7200A chipset as the current “flagship” Android phone, the HTC Hero, offering 528mHz of processing speed. Further comparisons reveal that the screen is larger than the Hero’s – 3.5″ instead of 3.2″, and the Pulse has 2GB of on-board memory, which is larger than the paltry 288MB in the Hero; memory is expandable to up to 8GB using MicroSD.

The alleged 210 minutes talk time is pretty poor for a touchscreen smartphone, and there’s no standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which seems like a backward step for any smartphone in 2009. There’s a 3.2mp camera on the back, without an LED photolight or Xenon flash, so low-light shots are likely to be noisy. The camera features autofocus and video capture software.

tmobilepulseback

As you can see, the 3.2mp camera has no flash

In other news the Pulse also sports its own customised layer on top of the standard OS – HTC began this with the Sense UI on the Hero, and now T-Mobile have produced their own UI called ‘Canvas’, featuring up to 6 customisable home screens.

The Pulse will be the first Android handset to be released on Pay-As-You-Go. T-Mobile announced that the Pulse will cost £180 from October, whilst you can either pay £5 a month for internet access, or up to £1 a day depending on usage. This pricing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, so I’ll clear things up once I know more. Contracts may be offered but pricing has yet to be resolved. I think T-Mobile will have quite a lot of success with this handset on PAYG however, £180 on any kind of smartphone is a pretty good deal, the closest “smartphone” I can think of at a similar price is the 5800 XpressMusic from Nokia, and even then it isn’t a true smartphone, per se. It even costs £15 more on the same network!

In all, it looks like a very good, low-cost entry into the world of smartphones for the more mainstream audience.

The complete T-Mobile Android family

The complete T-Mobile Android family

So THAT’S where old dashboards go…

Sony today announced (well, confirmed what everyone knew already) its new iteration of the Sony PS3. It’s supposedly slimmer than the original black monolith, so they went with the name ‘PS3 Slim’. Original.

A Side-by-Side comparison. Courtesy of Engadget

A Side-by-Side comparison. Courtesy of Engadget

My thoughts? Well to put it into a single word: Fugly. I don’t like the matt plastic, there’s no longer any chrome trim, and the touch-sensitive buttons on the front look like stickers. It all looks really childish.

It also reminds me of the plastic you find on the dashboards of old cars – are Sony stripping our old cars of all their plastic trim before they get scrapped? It would appear so!

The price drop is equally uninteresting – The Sony PS3 now has a whopping price reduction of… £50! Yes, it’s no longer £300, RRP has been cut to £250 (presumably because the Slim costs them no money to make, because they’re recycling old car dashboards). If you actually looked around, you could have already gotten an 80GB PS3 for £250, which is why I was wondering why news coverage was talking about long-awaited price cuts…

What annoys me the most about this development is that it will be extremely difficult for me to get a good price for my 80GB PS3 (which I bought, brand new, for £220 last October), so I’ll just have to set it up in the living room as a Media Centre before I leave home in Autumn.

Feel free to leave your comments, do you like the new styling of the PS3 or do you prefer the “Fat” version, like me? Do you even care?

The night I became a pirate

Tonight it became known to me that a certain controversial political party had extended its arm to this country.

piratepartyOriginating in Sweden earlier this year, the Pirate Party are actively campaigning for changes in Copyright structure, Patent Laws and Freedom of Speech. The main goal is to allow the non-commercial sharing of digital content without crippling restrictions, otherwise known as DRM. Whilst doing this they want to make sure that the creators of the content get the fair payment they deserve, instead of it all feeding down the greedy rights holders, otherwise known as the record and film companies.

They also want to remove some of the unecessary patents on potentially life-saving drugs. As I wish to pursue a career in Pharmacy, I am strongly interested in this. I feel that it is our right as healthcare professionals to ensure that such drugs are accessible to those who need them – we shouldn’t control the distribution of drugs just based on the depth of the recepient’s wallet.

You can get more information, or sign up and become a member at the Pirate Party UK’s official website.

Before I go, I’ll just leave you with a quote from the bottom of their page:

“Outdated laws must change, and will change. The only question is when will we change them. Join our cause, and help make this change happen now!”

Developer Opression? There’s an App Store for that

appression

The Apple App Store. Quite possibly the main reason the iPhone is outselling most of the competition. Over 50,000 Applications, with over 1 billion downloads since it launched last July. It’s quite simple to develop applications for the iPhone, as Apple supply an SDK. You can upload whatever you want to the App Store, but Apple ask that you don’t upload “objectional material”. This is where the problem lies.

Since its launch there have been many controversies regarding certain applications. One of the most common reasons for app disapproval tends to be foul or offensive language that search features within the applications can return. These search features are more often than not provided by something other than the application itself (read: the internet) so it leaves me utterly bewildered why Apple can block some applications for this reason despite its own web browser being capable of the same ‘heinous crime’ </satire>. The first application that I know of that fell foul of Apple’s double standards is Tweetie, but since there’s been so much coverage over it and the application has since been approved without alteration I don’t see the need for me to comment further.

NinDic

One of the most recent issues the App Store has had to face is with the Ninjawords Dictionary App, from Matchstick Software. Over two months it was rejected three seperate times because people were able to look up objectional material and words. In the end the application was approved, but only after all such words were removed, including standard words that can have an objectional meaning (ass, etc.) and even then it was still slapped with a 17+ rating, meaning anybody with parental controls on their iPhone/iPod may not be able to download it. Meanwhile, Dictionary.com have an application on the app store, free to download, with all the objectional words included – go on, download it, search away!

That’s my main problem with the whole fiasco – you had to actually do a search for the objectional material. If you’re consciously searching for such words, then you’re hardly going to find them objectional, are you?

As far as I know, Ninjawords is still censored on the App Store. But this week Apple approved another app, that’s loaded with “objectional material”: Texts From Last Night. Just take a look at the picture preview Apple offers up:

TFLN

Everyone can see this image, without even downloading the application. On those grounds, shouldn’t Apple have banned its own App Store? Apple need to change their approval methods, instead of approving and rejecting similar apps like Hitler playing with a Yes/No spinner.

The Daily Fail Strike Again

Every day, there is one way to guarantee that the rest of your morning will be spent pissed off, or utterly flummoxed at the new lows some people will stoop to. The people concerned are the journalists and publishers of the Daily Mail, and once again they’ve astounded me at the utter lunacy of the things they’ll actually waste precious time on reporting about, for the displeasure of the rest of the nation.

Chris Moyles, Radio 1 DJ and genuinely funny guy – the antithesis to all things Daily Fail, was reported to have been in trouble with his BBC bosses after they recieved a whopping FIVE complaints about a joke he made on his radio show regarding Will Young’s birthday:

“He also joked about Will, celebrating the singer’s birthday by singing
to the tune of his song Evergreen in a camp voice. He warbled: “It’s my
birthday, gonna wear my new dress tonight.”

If you’re wondering what other ‘joke’ he said, he mentioned something about everyone who appears on “Who Do You Think You Are?”, a documentary where celebrities look into their family tree, ends up visiting Auschwitz at some point:

“Unlike a lot of the Who Do You Think You Are? shows I didn’t go to
Auschwitz … pretty much everybody goes there, whether or not they’re
Jewish… they always kind of end up there, you know, if they just pass
through on their way to Florida or something.”

unsurprisingly he recieved no complaints about this, because it’s not a joke, it’s an off-hand comment with no offence in it whatsoever. But I’d really like to speak to the moron who thinks that recieving FIVE complaints about some small joke is worth the time and effort to publish in a paper and get us all ridiculously pissed off about it.

You wonder why people think we’re a load of moaners, and we wonder why the UK’s going down the shit. I’m going to buy the Daily Mail tomorrow, just so that I can take pleasure in burning it.