Category: Smartphones

Do you think we will end up with the smart watch on our wrists?

Article

Why You’ll End Up Wearing A Smart Watch | Gizmodo Australia

My Comments

With the increase in smart watches being developed by various companies including Google, Apple and Samsung, there has been optimism and doubt about whether we will start wearing these watches on our wrists.

What is the smart watch?

The smart watch is an extended-function watch that works with a smartphone as a wrist-based display for the phone. These watches are in a similar vein to the 1980s-era digital watch where the more functions it had, the more you could impress others with it. In a lot of cases, these functions served many practical uses like being able to time a process or log the duration of events like races.

It would tell the time using a customisable analogue or digital display but would be able to show up notifications from your smartphone. As well as being the clock, calendar, stopwatch and timer, it could also work as a remote control for your smartphone such as navigating the music that you are playing, selecting a contact to call or text or answering a call while you hear and talk to the caller via a Bluetooth headset. Another advantage that these would offer would be the ability for us to have a discreet glance at the watch if a message comes in on our phone.

Some doubters suggested that the smartwatch wouldn’t take off because of the fact that most young people don’t wear watches anymore. Instead they use the smartphone to tell the time or, if they have to have a watch, they would wear a quartz-driven dress watch. Of course, I would expect to see the smartwatch be considered as a wearable accessory to the smartphone and can evoke a level of curiosity from other people as we wear one of these watches just like it did with the digital watch.

What I would expect of the smartwatch would be to make use of Bluetooth 4.0 and similar technologies so it can run for at least 6 months on regular watch batteries. This is in addition to having a ladies’ form factor with similar functionality but appealing for the women to wear.

As well, it should be able to keep time independently of the host smartphone device yet use that device as a master clock for setting itself when initially started and when you cross time zones or whenever we change between standard time and daylight-saving time.

Personally, I would see these watches come on the scene as a viable practical mobile accessory for our phones rather than just a fashion accessory.

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Google Maps has now come back to the iPhone

Article

Google Maps is now available for iPhone | Official Google Blog

App Store location

Google Maps

My Comments

Previously, people who used the iPhone or iPad had the Google Maps provided as an integrated mapping solution for their devices. Then, when iOS 6 was launched, Apple decided to pull the Google Maps from the operating system and substitute it with a poor-quality mapping solution.

This has led to situations like people ending up in the wrong location and nearly dying, and the Victoria Police advising against using Apple Maps because of this poor-quality mapping.

There was so much criticism of this mapping solution that Apple had to bow to public demand and create an app group for third-party mapping apps for their iOS devices. Now, the Google Maps mapping solution has been made available to iOS 6 users through a downloadable app. This has the advantages of the Google Maps such as vector-driven maps, 3D views, turn-by-turn navigation and Street View but ported to the iOS platform.

For those of you who are still working with that trusty old iPhone 3GS, this app can work with that phone. Infact, any of you who are updating an iPhone or iPad to iOS 6 should infact factor in deploying Google Maps along with YouTube on the device as part of the update plans in order to gain the full benefit of these popular services on that iDevice. Similarly, when you buy that new iPhone or iPad, it may be a good idea to make these apps your first downloads from the App Store as part of commissioning that new device.

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Why purchase as much storage capacity as you can afford when you buy a computing device

Toshiba Tecra R950 business laptop

Toshiba Tecra R950 business laptop

Very often, I notice people who are buying a computer, tablet or similar device purchase the device based on the price without thinking of the issue of the unit’s secondary-storage capacity.

But in most situations, the cheaper variants of these devices have lesser storage capacity. This may not be an issue if the device is serving as a secondary computing device and you are likely to either use a auxiliary storage devices like external hard disks, removable SD cards or cloud-hosted / network-hosted storage with the device regularly. What can happen as you use that iPad or laptop is that the main storage capacity fills up and it feels as though there is a noose around your neck as there is less storage capacity on your device for you to store programs or data. In some situations, the device doesn’t perform as well as it should.

You also think of having to frequently purge your system of data that may be “put away” but is to be on hand for use at a later time. In some cases, this activity may cause you to dump data that you may later regret dumping.

Toshiba AT300 10" Android tablet computer

Toshiba AT300 10″ Android tablet computer

But you can avoid this with new computing devices especially those you expect to use as your main computing devices if you buy or specify as much storage capacity as you can afford. For example, I encouraged someone who was in the market for an iPad to think of the higher-capacity models because people tend to have them full of photos, music, email and apps very quickly.

In most cases, your device’s storage capacity can be a key bargaining point when choosing that device. For example, you may have something of AUD$100-200 between one storage class and another more capacious storage class for a tablet or a laptop. Some dealers may also try to offer the variant with more capacity for the same price as the model that you are after and have budgeted on.

There is also a reality that as time passes on, the cost of data storage does reduce for a particular capacity due to Moore’s Law.

So if I buy or specify a computing device for someone, especially if the device is expected to be a main or sole computing device, I would make sure that there is as much hard disk, SSD or other storage space as you can afford.

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Google-written YouTube client for the iPhone now available from the App Store

Article

YouTube releases standalone app for iOS, tablet-tailored version in the works – Engadget

From the horse’s mouth

Introducing a new YouTube app for your iPhone and iPod Touch | The Official Google Blog

iTuned App Store Download link

My Comments

Apple are intending to remove the integrated YouTube player from iOS 6 as part of “stripping off” all things Google from the iOS platform. But Google have responded by developing a standalone player to be distributed through the iTunes App Store.

The version that is currently being premiered is pitched at iPhones and iPod Touch devices but Google are working on a “large-screen” version that is pitched at the iPad tablet.

There is an Integrated user interface for content discovery, where one can browse or search for videos. This includes access to the YouTube Channel Guide as well as an improved search-as-you-type engine. Even the ability to share YouTube videos through the “usual suspects” (Google+, Facebook, Twitter and email) has been improved.

The repertoire of videos avaliable to users with this YouTube client has increased, with users being able to view the Vevo music-video library like most of the clips that defined music video in the 1980s like this Dire Straits clip.

Of course, those of us who run iOS 5 on our Apple mobile devices could download this if we want the improved YouTube experience on the device. Also, this may provide a “coarse” user experience for the iPad until the iPad version is released.

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Two-screen TV viewing a strong trend

Article

The Future Of TV Is Two Screens, One Held Firmly In Your Hands | Fast Company

My Comments

There is something that is becoming a reality with TV. It is where our TV-viewing sessions are involving two screens – one large screen carrying the main video and one smaller screen that we are holding in our hands.

This has been brought about by the popularity of the tablet, laptop and smartphone which are serving the second-screen role.

Some of us may think it is just for checking email or the activities of our Facebook Friends or Twitter followers. But a fair bit of this activity is to do with the content itself.

For example, one could be using GetGlue, Fango or other TV-related social networks to find out who is watching this show and what others have to say about it. Similarly, one could be checking the show’s Website and looking at other information and commentary that exists there. These are activities that may not work well on the big screen.

Similarly, most big-screen applications cannot support multiple concurrent logins for social-network or similar uses; and they are typically require “pick’n’choose” or “SMS-style” text entry.

In the case of news, a good quote for this is that “the revolution doesn’t have to be televised”. Here, one could be checking other news resources to verify the veracity of a news story, which can be very difficult during election time. This is augmented through comment feeds and Tweet feeds that are set up during news events like the one I participated in during the UK parliamentary inquire in to the News Corporation phone hacking scandal where I was dropping Tweets in to the feed from a Fujitsu laptop that I was reviewing. Similarly the scoreboard apps that I have mentioned about previously could simply work as an always-live scoreboard display during a sporting event and some sports like cricket or racing may benefit from these apps further by displaying supplementary scores like track position or bowling scores.

Of course, the commercials as we know them will be hamstrung by the two-screen viewing experience. This is more so as the traditional goal of eyeballs at the screen during ad breaks is reduced more. Here one could be following up information on the second screen while the ads play on; as well as visiting the kitchen or bathroom or stoking up the log fire. But the information that one could be following up on can relate to what was in the TV program; or it could be to follow up on something that was advertised during that ad break or a previous ad break.

As I have noticed and observed, this concept of two-screen TV is hard to adjust to for some people, especially the older generation who are more interested in focusing directly on the screen. It may be us simply glancing down at that smartphone or tablet so we can know further what is going on with some events.

I see this as becoming an interesting chain of events as we integrate in to an online and highly-interactive media-consumption life.

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Repost–USB Audio in Android Jelly Bean to mean more in the way of accessories

I am reposting this to make sure that the link to the product review is working properly for RSS, email and Facebook subscribers

Article

Gear4 speaker dock supports USB audio for Jelly Bean at Google I/O 2012 (hands-on video) — Engadget

My Comments

Sony CMT-MX750Ni Internet-enabled music system main unit

An iPod-enabled music system that can also benefit from Android’s new USB Audio interface

Apple iOS users have had the advantage of also having a USB single-wire or docking connection between their iOS device and accessory equipment, with the ability to channel the sound data, the control signals and power to their device using the same connection. This has built up the iPod / iPhone accessory market very strongly with the accessories allowing the user to start and stop the music or move between tracks and folders on their iPod or iPhone using the control surface that the accessory provides.

People who used Google Android devices were limited to an analogue or Bluetooth audio link between an amplification device and their smartphone or tablet with support for transport control if the phone was connected via Bluetooth. They typically had to run a separate USB cable if they wanted to supply power to the Android device from that accessory.

Now the latest iteration of the Android platform, known as “Jelly Bean” and version number 4.1, supports USB Audio. This is similar to how a USB speaker system or external sound card can work with most desktop operating systems. It can then allow a large manufacturer base to develop “Android-friendly” audio playback equipment like speakers, Internet radios and hi-fi amplifiers / receivers in a timeframe that allows the device to be “ready-to-market” quickly.

What could be looked at

Communications audio

There are some questions I have about this kind of setup. One is whether the USB Audio functionality in Android Jelly Bean can allow for communications audio as well as audio content from the media player program. This would be of importance with automotive applications where the USB Audio link could be used as an alternative to Bluetooth for hands-free telephony in the car.

Device control

The other issue to look at is exposing the accessory device’s control surface as a control point for the Android device’s communications and media-playback functions. This situation would be of importance for accessory devices which have other audio or video sources like broadcast tuners, optical-disc players or USB Mass-Storage device connection. In the automotive context, it also extends to nearly all car infotainment setups that allow the user to make or take a call using the controls on the dashboard.

Here, it could be feasible for the accessory to control the media player or phone user interface using either the screen on the Android device or using the controls on the accessory. Here, it could allow for “basic” transport control and metadata display on the accessory device while advanced “search and play” can be performed on the Android device. Similarly, call-progress control can be managed using controls on the dashboard with the ability to, when the car is parked, commence a call on the Android device’s touchscreen.

Similarly, MirrorLink or similar techniques culd allow the accessory device to be configured or controlled in an advanced manner using the touchscreen on the Android device. It could come in handy with A/V equipment which may need specific configuration and setup procedures or Blu-Ray players that may expose “second-screen” interactivity functionality on the handset.

Conclusion

At least, Google have integrated commonly-accepted open standards to add functionality to Android in a manner as to rival the established Apple mobile-device platform and stimulate a healthy competitive design environment.

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DLNA now part of Nokia Lumia WP7 phones with Play To app

Article

Nokia’s Play To app now available for Lumia devices, enables DLNA-connectivity – Engadget

“Play To” DLNA App for Lumia’s Already Available in Marketplace | My Nokia Blog

My Comments

A feature that Microsoft should have provided as part of the Windows Phone mobile operating system but provides as part of the Windows 7 desktop operating system is the “Play To” function. Here, it allows you to push pictures, audio content or video content from your device to a DLNA-compliant network media player that can be controlled by other devices.

A question I have pondered about this operating environment is whether one could play content held on the phone or on a DLNA-compliant network media server through that smart TV or network-capable home-theatre receiver using one of these phones. Now the question has been answered with this app being available for the platform.

But, personally, I would like to see this available on the Windows Phone MarketPlace as an app for any WP7 phone and work in a “full” manner with network and local content. This means that it could download content from a DLNA NAS to the phone, play out content to a DLNA device, upload photos and video content to a NAS with DLNA upload functionality as well as cause content held on a media server to be played on a media-renderer device. This could them prove the Windows Phone 7 as part of the industry-standard media management landscape.

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A vehicle hands-free kit offering access to apps on your iPhone

Articles

Clarion Next Gate hands-on (video) – Engadget

Clarion Next Gate puts iPhone control, app integration on your windshield | CNet Reviews

Clarion Next Gate brings iPhone apps (and distractions) to your windshield | Engadget

My Comments

The CTIA mobile-technology show in the US has become a launch-pad for Clarion’s “Next Gate” car hands-free kit.

The kit works in a similar manner to Pioneer’s “AppRadio” concept, where an iPhone that has a specific handler app is connected to the car-audio system and selected apps are exposed to the car-audio system’s touchscreen display and control surface.

But this unit implements it in the form of a “walk-up” hands-free kit that has the main unit temporarily mounted in the car and powered from the vehicle’s cigar lighter and connected to the auxiliary input of an existing car stereo. 

There are a few questions that need to be answered concerning these car-audio setups. One is why the device doesn’t support a Bluetooth device class or application to permit this kind of “remoting” of specific applications held on a platform smartphone, such as Internet-audio, navigation and traffic-information apps from an external control surface. This may help with people who may not want to bother cabling up the smartphone to this device.

Of course there is already a standard available to the market for this kind of remote control of smartphones from a dashboard-based control surface. This is in the form of MirrorLink, valued by an increasing number of other vehicle infotainment companies operating in the OEM and aftermarket space, and Samsung is running with this standard in their latest Galaxy S III smartphone.

But Clarion and Pioneer may prefer having these devices work as a discrete user interface to the apps themselves and the data they expose rather than the phone as a device. This may provide the ability for the device manufacturers like them to have greater control over what apps appear on these devices.

If the direct-app-link approach is preferred for vehicle-smartphone integration rather than the “terminal” approach offered by MirrorLink, the industry could work on a standard for facilitating this kind of link.

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Samsung Galaxy S 3 intending to compete against the next iPhone

Articles

Samsung Galaxy S III | Samsung Galaxy S 3 | The Age Technology

Samsung Galaxy S III signup page goes live | Engadget

Samsung launches new services for the Galaxy S III: Music Hub, S Health and more |  Engadget

Samsung Galaxy S III vs Galaxy S II and Galaxy S: meet the family | Engadget

My Comments

There was a sense of hype being built up around Samsung’s latest Galaxy smartphone that was to be launched in London today (5 May 2012) but I was wondering whether it really had a lot more to look forward to.

It is an Android Ice Cream-Sandwich phone that works with the user in a natural manner such as supporting “Smart Stay” which works with eye-tracking to keep the display on while you are looking at it; as well as a “direct call” option which starts dialing the number on the screen if you pick it up to your ear; as well as voice-recognition that is intended to answer Apple’s Siri in its capabilities.

Oh yeah, it is still with an AMOLED screen but larger and with high resolution, but not as large as the Galaxy Note “PDA-size phone”. It also has the expectations of a desirable smartphone such as an LTE variant; Bluetooth 4.0 “Smart Ready”, near-field communication.

What is in my favour for the Galaxy S II is that it has inherent support for MirrorLink so that it can use the display and control surface of a compatible automotive infotainment system as its display and control surface. The 8Mp rear camera also impresses me due to implementation of auto-focus.

Samsung are also running a comprehensive accessory suit including a wireless charger and an AllShare wireless link to video display equipment.

The press reckons that the Android-based answer is the HTC One X but they see this also as Samsung coming up with a phone that beats the Apple iPhone and has cause for Apple to work harder on the next iPhone iteration. It certainly is an example of the way mobile-computing has come of age, in a similar way to how GUI-driven desktop computing has come of age in the late 1980s when GUI operating environments appeared for computer platforms other than the Apple Macintosh.

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The full-featured wristwatch has come back thanks to Sony

Articles

Sony unveils ‘Dick Tracy’ Android wristwatch

Sony unveils the SmartWatch, syncs with Android phones | News.com.au

From the horse’s mouth

Product page – Sony UK

My Comments

Since the late 1970s, some Japanese firms like Seiko and Casio introduced multi-function digital wristwatches. These typically had an integrated calendar, alarm clock and stopwatch as well as the time display with a seconds count; and showed this information on a liquid-crystal display. There were some economy models that came with just a time display and a calendar.

Infact, through 1980-81, these were a “must-have” and people could impress each other by showing that new digital watch they had bought. They would even step their watch through the functions that it could do.

Through the 80s, manufacturers gradually added extra functions to these watches such as hourly chimes, musical alarms, phonebooks, four-function calculators and even games as a way of differentiating their product. This trend started to peel off through the 1990s due to various factors such as an effective “innovation ceiling” for this product class as well as the mobile phone becoming a commodity.

Even now, the smartphone has displaced the wristwatch as a personal timepiece, with some people wearing a quartz analogue watch as a “dress watch” or not using a watch at all. This is due to the smartphone implementing a clock that works off an Internet-based or mobile-network-based master clock and setting up for daylight-saving automatically. They also have the same functionality as the most tricked-out 1980s-era digital wristwatch, if not more.

There have been a few attempts at implementing a digital watch that works as a remote terminal for a smartphone but Sony have released the latest in the form of the “Smart Watch”.

This is an Android-powered wristwatch that is paired with an Android smartphone using Bluetooth technology. The phone runs a special communications app that allows it to be a display and control surface for that phone. You control this watch using its OLED touchscreen rather than pressing one of the buttons on the side of those watches, There is the ability to upload apps to the watch via the communications app so you have the right functions on your wrist.

At the moment, there needs to be work done on providing a level playing field for data communications between smartphones or similar devices and remote-display devices like these watches. Devices like watches would also need to keep the time independently of the phone when they are offline from that phone so they can do what a watch does best.

This could become an interesting return to the watch just like what has happened in the 1980s where the desire for many functions on your wrist made this accessory earn its utility value rather than fashion value.

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