Archive for the ‘Technology’ 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…

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.

 

 

Spotify Mobile now live!

spotify

Spotify on the App Store

As of now, Spotify Mobile is available for download from the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace for iPhone, iPod touch and all Android handsets.

Download of the software is free, but to use the application you are required to have a premium spotify account. Hopefully this will eventually change to only requiring premium for local downloads, as I feel being required to pay £9.99 a month is a bit too much considering how much I use Spotify. Fellow blogger David Gilson has written up a nice debate article about the pricing scheme on his blog.

Features include full access to all of Spotify’s library, streaming of said music, and also a nifty little feature that lets you download and store a playlist locally so you can listen to it even while offline. The app also live syncs any playlist additions or amendments.

So what are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone or Android device and a premium account on Spotify, this may well be your killer app!

Spotify have also just announced, on their blog, that they are developing the Mobile application for S60 devices. This is fantastic news for me, considering my next phone may be the Nokia E55. S60 demo video is embedded below:

If you’re still looking to get into Spotify, I have 5 invites remaining to give away, more details here.

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

Spotify Invites

NOTE: Anyone requesting an invite from the US may need to search for proxy solutions to get around the lack of availability there. Apologies to anyone affected and good luck – it’s worth it!

As it has been quite a while since I’ve needed to use Spotify (thank you Leeds Festival, for providing me with new musical tastes), I haven’t been aware that I actually have 5 invites to give away.

If you want to sign up to the service using one of the invites then drop an email to kingbeaneq [at] yahoo [dot] com. Invites will be given out at a first come, first serve basis, and this post will be updated when there are no longer any to issue out.

Regular posts will be returning soon, I’m just really busy at the moment preparing for life at University!

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?

How Xbox LIVE Games on Demand can improve

I’m here to offer some constructive criticism on how I think the Games on Demand service can improve itself. A new Dashboard update was rolled out to the public yesterday (August 11) and, among some other trivial tweaks, Microsoft introduced a new ‘Games on Demand’ service, where you can download full Xbox 360 games right to your HDD without the need for physical media.

GoD

There’s a few issues with the service though. I’m going to address a few of these, and offer my suggestions as to what they can do to improve them.

Firstly, they need to do something about the pricing structure. Games such as Assassin’s Creed are on the Marketplace for £19.99. In fact, all Xbox 360 games on the Marketplace are this price. Even worse, the US prices are $19.99, meaning they’re paying roughly £12, which is STILL more expensive than a physical copy of the game! (game deal provided by Frugal Gaming)

I’m happy that they haven’t gone with the ridiculous points system for the games, as they do on the Arcade, Add-On and Avatar marketplaces because I don’t have to pay more than I have to, and then have a silly amount of points that I can’t get anything with — but they really need to think about the pricing structure. Nobody’s going to pay double the price for a DRM copy of a game that you can’t sell or trade in once you’re done with it. Want to take it round to your friend’s house to show him what he’s missing? Sorry, you’re either going to have to take your 360 along for the ride or he’s going to have to buy it. (well, he could come visit you too I suppose…) What I’m trying to get to is: variable pricing structure – it’s ridiculous to think that a flat-level price is a good idea.

My next issue is with the size of these games. These games are on DVD, output in 720p/1080i HD. I tried installing Halo 3 onto my HDD to make my 360 run a little bit quieter (most of the noise comes from the disc drive spinning). I can’t really say that I was surprised when I discovered it would take up 6.3GB – needless to say, my 20GB HDD just didn’t have enough space on it. I assume that all the other game downloads are of equivalent size, which means that unless you have the 120GB HDD that made its début with the Elite, you’re going to run out of free space very quickly. Considering most games have add-ons, map packs, etc. and can take up around 2GB without even being installed on the HDD makes this even worse.

Microsoft require you to use proprietary storage mediums on their system – to store game data and the like you need to have either an HDD or a Memory Unit (akin to the PlayStation’s memory cards)

360HDD

The largest HDD you can get is the aforementioned 120GB model. The Xbox 360’s main (and only) ‘rival’ in this generation, the PlayStation 3, uses standard 2.5″ SATA HDD. So theoretically you can get as much storage as is available at the time – 500GB onwards if you so desire. The prices for Microsoft’s proprietary HDD are also atrocious — for less than the price of a 120GB Microsoft HDD, you could have 500GB in your PS3. Until they allow us to use external data storage, I can’t see their Games on Demand service being a big hit – because at this moment in time, all you’re doing by purchasing content from it is crippling both your wallet and your 360. And that’s not good for anybody!