The Biggest Tech Stories of 2011 & Why

December 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

We take a look at the 10 biggest tech stories of 2011 and round-up the rest in what proved a year of shocks.

 

The Biggest Tech Stories of 2011 & Why

It is hard to sum up the technology landscape in 2011, but the word which dominates our minds is “shock”. So here in no particular order (except for one) are what we found to be the biggest developments of a turbulent 12 months. 

Microsoft Partners With Nokia
Just one month had passed before one of the biggest shocks of the year: Microsoft’s exclusive agreement to put Windows Phone on all Nokia smartphones. No figure for the deal was formally announced, but industry talk puts it at an initial £1bn with numerous clauses that could see this figure skyrocket. The price was understandable given the risk is all on Nokia’s side having found its feet too late and it could easily become one of the biggest stories of 2012 with persistent rumours Microsoft will simply buy Nokia’s phone division in the coming months.

94%7C0000218a8%7C3bf7 nokia The Biggest Tech Stories of 2011 & Why

A deal would make sense for all sides with Nokia absolving itself of its troubled unit and returning to its networking history and Microsoft finally evolving its business model to challenge Apple’s hardware/software unity. Our money is on a deal being done and Finland not worrying too much.

Google Buys Motorola
Microsoft wasn’t the only company suggesting it has long term hardware ambitions. In August out of the blue Google bought Motorola for $12.5bn. Like Microsoft the Android owner insisted the buy had nothing to do with starting its own handset line, but Google hasn’t been slow in showing manufacturers “how to do it” in the past. With the company’s frustrations growing at the ubiquity of Android skins we wouldn’t be surprised to see continue an iPhone-esque strategy of releasing at least one flagship handset on an annual basis. Of course the real motivation for the purchase was said to be patents and with Motorola having over 17,000 we wouldn’t doubt that. The deal saw Google both strengthen its legal stance and protect partners while gaining new hardware capabilities at the same time. A smart deal by a smart company.

Continue Reading to find out why Patent Wars, Riots & Social Media, PSN Hacking, Facebook Timeline, Android 4.0, Windows 8 supporting ARM, Carrier IQ & The Death of Steve Jobs all made our list as well as a look at the Best of the Rest

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

How Technology Changed Christmas

December 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

Our desire for technology is insatiable, but that creates both pleasures and problems…

 

How Technology Changed Christmas

Chances are you’ve read, watched or listened to one of the many versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but we suspect even The Ghost of Christmas Future would feel a little lost by all the technology which will surround us tomorrow.

According to T-Mobile its customers will send 95 million texts on Christmas Day – an average of 3.9m per hour and up 15m on 2010. Remarkably this figure relates to just its UK users, excludes partner Orange and, lest we forget, T-Mobile is only one of five major networks in the UK and the second smallest.

94%7C00002185d%7C7b2b orh616w616 T Mobile Heck the calls How Technology Changed Christmas

 

Yet SMS is positively old hat when it comes to modern technology and social media will predictably be the fastest growing area. According to a poll by mobile app Celebalike, one in three Brits surveyed will update their Facebook status or use Twitter on Christmas day – a scary percentage considering the age of these services and those traditionally outside their demographic. Even more telling is the poll finds six in 10 will shoot video and snap pictures on Christmas Day and over half plan to post them online.

Whether this is indicative of a more open, sharing and communicative culture or one with a growing sense of self importance and inanity will depend on your stance towards social media in general. Regardless today it is unlikely the Ghost of Christmas Future could pay anyone a visit without its arrival being tweeted, texted, documented, recorded, uploaded, shared, liked and retweeted. Within a few hours there would probably be a video remixed to Nyan Cat

Continue reading

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

The Gadgets NOT to Buy This Christmas

December 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

The festive season is a minefield of ageing and immature products. I tell you what you should avoid and what will prove a sound investment.

 

The Gadgets NOT to Buy This Christmas – Tablets

Christmas is coming and if you know your tech then you know the golden rule: buy your gadgets as late as possible. The logic is simple: prices are always falling and new products are announced every week. At TrustedReviews our reason d’être is helping you make wise purchasing decisions and there is no easier way of doing that than by checking out our 2011 Awards winners. That said sometimes it is equally important to spell out what NOT to buy so if you don’t want the gloss knocked off your presents within months of purchase we suggest extreme caution with the following categories…

Apple and Android Tablets
Our first category is also likely to be the most controversial. Tablets are seen as the must-have product this Christmas, but despite being comfortably into their second generation of devices we suggest you wait a little longer – no matter which device you have your heart set on.
94%7C000021768%7C79e0 ipad2 The Gadgets NOT to Buy This Christmas
Yes, believe it or not, this is doubly true of the iPad 2. Apple’s all-conquering tablet has redefined the sector, its array of tablet-specific apps is unparalleled and despite rivals with better cameras and faster hardware it still performs as well as any. The problem is the iPad 2 is now 10 months old and Apple refreshes its products roughly every 12 months. This means buy an iPad 2 this Christmas and you’ll be looking on enviously by February/March. Is the iPad 3 worth waiting for? We can tell you what you need to know and all signs point to yes, so stick to gift certificates.

The same is true for Android tablets. There are notable highlights such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer, but none come with the latest and most important version of Android to date: v4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Furthermore while Google has already shipped the first ICS handset in the shape of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus we await a timeframe for ICS tablets and formal commitments from many tablet makers that their existing products will be upgraded.
94%7C000021767%7C45b3 Transformer Prime The Gadgets NOT to Buy This Christmas
If you must go down the tablet route the safest bet is the exceptional Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. Launched this week it combines powerful hardware with stylish and practical accessories and Asus has committed to bringing ICS to the Prime as soon as possible – however the tablet will only be available in the UK from January.

To learn why you should also avoid LCD eBook readers, 3D televisions and more and to learn what areas are safe to splash the cash continue reading

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Sony Tablet P

December 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Update: Also find my thoughts on the Tablet P for Mobile Choice here

Sony has created a radical dual screen, clamshell Android tablet. Can it possibly work?

Sony Tablet P (Overall: 6/10)

Key Features

  • Two 5.5in, 1,024 x 768 screens
  • Android operating system
  • Curved clamshell design
  • Nvidia Tegra 2 Platform, Dual Core 1GHz CPUs

Sony is weird. This isn’t an insult, but objective fact. Daring to be different, challenging convention and stubbornly standing its ground has resulted in numerous industry changing products and created a multinational conglomerate with over $150bn in assets and nearly 170,000 staff. On the other hand it can be really weird…

The Tablet P is a perfect example of Sony at its most creative and most infuriating. The smaller brother of the more conventional Tablet S, the Sony Tablet P takes what we know about tablets and rips up the rule book. Consequently we have a tablet which has two screens, folds in the middle and adopts a landscape clamshell form factor more associated with older smartphones like the Nokia Communicator. However bizarre the Tablet P make look, however, the methodology is simple: maximum mobility.

73ad19%7C3ae1 P1030161 Sony Tablet P

At 180 x 158 x 22mm this means the Tablet P, while still too big for a trouser pocket, can just about be carried in a jacket or coat. That said at 372g the Tablet P isn’t the lightest tablet around as the more conventional Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus weighs a mere 345g. As such we don’t completely buy Sony’s claims about revolutionary portability, but that makes it no less interesting.

The Tablet P gets even more interesting up close. The company has opted for a sandblasted aluminium look for the P’s curved exterior and while the build materials are actually plastic it feels hard wearing and well built. The rear also comes off to reveal a welcome removable battery and a microSD slot and the hinge is extremely sturdy, opens and closes with a gentle magnetic pull and should last well beyond the device’s lifetime.

65bdcd%7C7f5c njrs68r4 Sony Tablet P

Continue reading

HTC Rhyme

December 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Is HTC’s latest attempt to smartphone that appeals to women successful, or even necessary?

HTC Rhyme Android smartphone

Pros: Slick design, unique accessories make the Rhyme stand out from the pack, and *whisper it* there is female appeal
Cons: Poor camera, mediocre call quality, overpriced for the performance it musters

Look and Feel star red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar white2 HTC Rhyme
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Features star red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar white2 HTC Rhymestar white2 HTC Rhyme
Performance star red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar red2 HTC Rhymestar white2 HTC Rhymestar white2 HTC Rhyme
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star big HTC Rhymestar big HTC Rhymestar big HTC Rhymebigstar half HTC Rhymestar white big HTC Rhyme
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Verdict: The HTC Rhyme would be a welcome and unique mid-range phone, but unless you find a cheap contract deal it’s far too expensive for what it offers

Approaching women. Just the phrase is enough to make grown men tremble. When young, the most common solution is to pretend it isn’t an approach at all, and since it was formed in 1997, it’s clear HTC is one terrified teen. According to the Taiwanese firm, the HTC Rhyme isn’t targeting women. It just so happens to come in purple/dark pink, have matching accessories and bundle a ‘Charm’ indicator for your bag that provides soft glowing pink notifications to signal incoming calls and messages. What? Clearly the Charm could be for a briefcase!

 

Rhyme 6V Plum(1) HTC Rhyme

Fashion sense

To HTC’s credit, while it may hide the Rhyme’s true audience under a pile of politically correct marketing rhetoric, it doesn’t talk down to them. The Rhyme keeps pace with the Taiwanese manufacturer’s increasingly adept design aesthetic, creating a smartphone that cleverly blends the flat fascia and rear with heavily rounded corners and gently curved sides. This produces a handset that is equally pleasant on the eye as in the hand. It is what an iPhone 4S might feel like if it were left in a stream for a thousand years.

It isn’t all good news though. HTC describes the Rhyme as having a unibody design, but the 3.7-inch screen and bezel are clearly separate from the rest of the metallic fascia and the rear is in three parts.  The lowest of these slides off to reveal the (non-removable) battery, microSD and SIM card slots. The problem is it’s so flimsy it could be snapped in one hand.

Specs

Thankfully, the Rhyme isn’t all show and no go. Squarely positioned as a mid-market device, HTC has equipped it with a single-core 1GHz processor, a healthy 768MB of RAM and 1GB of internal storage bolstered by an 8GB microSD card for the 32GB compatible slot. The record and snap brigade are sated with a five-megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash as well as a VGA front-facing camera and 720p HD video recording. DLNA is thrown in too so you can wirelessly stream media to DLNA compatible TVs, consoles and DVD/Blu-ray players.

Meanwhile, connectivity is decent too. Continue reading

 

How Apple & Google Failures Will Revolutionise TV

December 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

Why your television is a mess and how two struggling products are now odds on to fix it…

How Apple & Google Failures Will Revolutionise TV

Your television is a mess. It may look gorgeous, the picture quality may be jaw dropping and the price a bargain, but the whole sector is so badly unfocused, so entrenched in industry dogma and so distracted by gimmicks that even the most influential players will soon be swept aside by products initially deemed failures. Their most likely names? Apple TV and Google TV.

Need proof? The arrogant language from Google chairman Eric Schmidt this week was telling. Speaking at the Le Web conference in Paris he made the sweeping statement that: “By the summer of 2012, the majority of the televisions you see in stores will have Google TV embedded in it.”

Critics laughed, but they missed the point – whether Google TV achieves a 51 per cent or greater share in the next six months is immaterial. The point is Google believes the sector is such a lame duck it can use an abject failure to walk over multimillion dollar television platforms in the blink of an eye.

Schmidt isn’t alone, none other than Steve Jobs was on his side. “He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant,” explained Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson recently. “‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.’” Continue reading

94%7C0000215ee%7Cf164 orh616w616 apple tv How Apple & Google Failures Will Revolutionise TV

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

There’s an App for That: Spotify’s Ambitious Battle Plan

December 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

Why a seemingly small announcement could prove to be a defining moment in the music industry.

There’s an App for That: Spotify’s Ambitious Battle Plan

Where was the video streaming? Can’t we even alphabetise our playlists yet? And when are the mobile apps getting a much needed overhaul? There was a lot of grumbling to come out of the hyped ‘What’s new with Spotify’ press event this week, but the repercussions may prove anything but a damp squib. The game has changed: Spotify is not only trying to alter the way we enjoy music, but it has finally declared war on the industry big boys.

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You can read our full report on press event, though here are the Cliff Notes: Spotify has opened up its software to free third party apps. Unlike 2009′s Libspotify which allows Spotify functionality to be built into other devices (like receiversTVs and even Tivo), this allows third party apps to run within Spotify itself. Want to see real time song lyrics to your Spotify tracks? There’s an app for that. Want to see local concert information for all bands in your playlists? There’s an app for that. This phraseology is deliberate because like iOS or Android, Spotify now has its own app store and that means it is no longer a service, but a platform.
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 Theres an App for That: Spotifys Ambitious Battle Plan
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“Once you take a look, you’ll see why we believe this is truly the beginning of something game-changing for digital music,” proclaimed Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek. “We think this will lead to integrations that keep Spotify beautiful and simple, but layer in great musical experiences designed to be social and fun.”
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It is easy to see where Ek is coming from. On the one hand the idea is very simple: losing focus and becoming bloated is a well walked path for software companies and this both allows Spotify to concentrate on what it does well and – from a cynical perspective – get others to fix its feature and functionality shortcomings. On the other hand the idea is hugely ambitious since for a platform to succeed you need global developer support. Does Spotify think it is Apple, Amazon or Google? No and it doesn’t have to be because Spotify has perfectly timed its partnership with Facebook. Continue reading
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Soundfreaq Sound Stack (SFQ-03)

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

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Can a £299 dock really compete with docks nearly twice the price? You better believe it!

Soundfreaq Sound Stack (SFQ-03) review

Overall

8/10

Scores in detail

Design
7/10
Features
8/10
Sound Quality
9/10
Value
9/10

Features

  • ‘Dub Sub’, dual driver, dual bass setup
  • Wireless audio streaming
  • UQ3 Spatial Enhancement sound technology
  • Powered USB port charges any device
  • iPad compatible

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Unique ’2.2′ dual driver, dual sub setup
  • Wonderfully precise, detailed sound reproduction
  • Charges both Apple and non-Apple products
  • iPad compatible
  • Value for money
Cons
  • Bluetooth streaming rather than lossless
  • Love/Hate design

As phones become our music players of choice the race to make the best dock to show off their audio prowess intensifies. Categories are already becoming clear: under £100, under £300, up to £500 and above. Quality products can be found in each range, but where this dock breaks the mould is its determination to fight above its station.

94%7C000021454%7C07df orh616w616 8 Soundfreaq Sound Stack (SFQ 03)

The ‘Sound Stack’ comes from newcomer Soundfreaq and will not launch in the UK until 2012. It is projected to cost between £249 and £299 yet the company claims it can stand toe-to-toe with docks nearly twice the price. Marketing bravado is nothing knew, but the most interesting aspect to the Sound Stack is Soundfreaq may have a point. Soundfreaq, a self-described “global co-op of craftsmen, designers and engineers… working outside the limitations of a traditional corporate structure… to develop products from the ground up”, has been working on the Sound Stack for two years. As such it displays many qualities which we suspect wouldn’t have made it through corporate board meetings. In short, inside and out, the Sound Stack is unusual.

Most apparent of these is the design. Breaking drastically from the curves and smooth edges currently en vogue, the Sound Stack is all straight lines and 90 degree angles making it more of a homage to the 1980s. We’ve found reaction to this is mixed with a love it/hate it aesthetic where a multinational corporation made have played safe. Another surprising aspect of the Sound Stack is its weight. Audio has long traded in weight as a sign of quality components, but despite dimensions of 440 x 160 x 190 mm, the Sound Stack weighs just 4.7Kg it is 300g lighter than the portable Arcam rCube. There are other decisions which also seem strange as you look deeper… Continue reading

94%7C000021455%7C3d3d orh616w616 9 Soundfreaq Sound Stack (SFQ 03)

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

Kobo Vox e-book reader

December 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

The move away from e-ink eReaders is gaining momentum, but with the Amazon Kindle Fire at one end and the Apple iPad 2 at the other we really could do with more competition. Sadly, despite Kobo’s powerful online eBook presence, this isn’t it…

Update 07/12/2011: Now also read my thoughts on the Kobo Vox for TrustedReviews.

Kobo Vox e-book reader review

01 December 11

Wired Rating

3/10

Wired: Essentially a very cheap Android tablet with access to millions of e-books, many of which are free

Tired: Second rate build materials, a shockingly poor display, wearying performance and unresponsive navigation

Price: £169.99

Why do you want an e-book reader? It sounds like a trick question, but your answer is vital. If you said “to read books” look no further than traditional monochrome e-ink readers such as theAmazon Kindle. If you said “to read books and…” the Kobo Vox is aimed at you.

Designed to go head-to-head with Amazon‘s much-hyped Kindle Fire, the Kobo Vox is part of a new wave of e-book readers aimed at people who find reading isn’t enough. Consequently these devices are hybrids that keep e-books and e-book purchasing at their core, but add aspects of tablet functionality such as app stores and multimedia playback while keeping the price low. On paper this sounds like the best of both worlds. The trouble is we’re not dealing with paper anymore.

Design
This material difference becomes apparent before the Vox is switched on. At 192.2 x 129.5mm the Vox has a conveniently small footprint, but at 13.4mm deep it is almost twice as thick as both a standard Kindle (fourth generation) and the iPad 2. At 400g it is also more than twice the weight of the Kindle, two thirds the weight of an iPad 2 and actually heavier than Samsung’s 345g Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus Android tablet.

In all fairness to Kobo, the Vox is essentially a stripped down tablet and it runsAndroid 2.3 “Gingerbread” so these figures shouldn’t be surprising. What does surprise is how disappointing the Vox is in hand, with lacklustre build materials and poor-feeling construction. The exterior of the Vox is a mess of unflattering plastics. The facia is reflective piano black, the screen itself is plastic not glass and lacks an oil-resistant layer to ward off fingerprints. The sides switch to a matt black finish with a plastic power button and volume rocker — both painted silver to look like metal — while the rear changes again to a rubber textured diamond pattern. Superficially the pattern itself is pleasant on the eyes but much as the facia picks up every fingerprint, the rear shows off every bump, scuff or scratch which doesn’t bode well for its long term durability. Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading

Geemarc CL8400 Mobile Phone for Hearing/Visually Impaired

December 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

A scan of my review of the Geemarc CL8400 for the excellent What Mobile magazine. Smartphone owners need not apply, but with its amplified ringer and large, readable text, everyone knows someone who could benefit this Christmas from such a thoughtfully made phone…

The image below enlarges if clicked on. A PDF of the review can be downloaded here.

What Mobile Geemarc CL84001 Geemarc CL8400 Mobile Phone for Hearing/Visually Impaired

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

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