Down with downtime – Is the internet a basic human right?

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The key to improving internet access is making ISPs more accountable.

Next time your internet connection goes down you will wish you lived in Germany. According to a ruling by the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe access to the internet is now legally recognised as an “essential” part of life and Germans now have the right to claim compensation from service providers should their access be disrupted. The argument of the court went like this:

“Most people in Germany use the Internet daily. Thus, it has become an essential medium in the life of German society, the disruption of which has an immediate impact on the course of everyday life.”


A Life Offline
The decision was brought about following the lawsuit of a man who had his internet access erroneously disconnected for two months between late 2008 and early 2009. A telephone and fax service the provider offered also failed. The man resorted to using mobile devices and had already been compensated by the provider for their cost, but the lawsuit specifically saw him sue for additional compensation for the daily impact of lost internet, phone and fax services. Fax and phone (he had a mobile) claims were dismissed, but the internet claim was upheld though the exact figure has yet to be decided.

“Due to easy access to information, the internet has overtaken the role of mass media such as encyclopaedias, print press and TV,” said the court ruling. “It allows global exchange between the users, such as through the email, forums, blogs and social media. Besides, it is becoming more and more crucial for negotiating and striking deals as well as fulfilment of public service obligations.”

Reaction to the case has been predictable kicking off another round of ‘Is the Internet a Basic Human right?’ debates. The last time this happened was when Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, wrote the report “on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression” which came down heavily in favour of this viewpoint as well as net neutrality. Previously it was also stoked by Finland’s July 2010 declaration that broadband is a legal right and every Finn will be guaranteed a 1Mbit connection by law. The Finnish government followed this up by promising access to 100Mbit broadband for every Finn by 2015.

But there is a more interesting argument to be made… enforceable accountability.


Rights vs Reliability
What the German ruling opens the way to is a higher standard of internet access, not simply in raw speed terms but in reliability. It changes the rules for ISPs: get your infrastructure and backup services right or every one of your customers has the legal entitlement to compensation. Goodbye profits, hello angry shareholders.

Nowhere is this more crucial than the UK where the broadband infrastructure is bursting at the seams due to the density of its population. On paper the country has taken huge strides forward in recent years with ‘up to’ 80 and 100Mbit services becoming widespread, but their quantity has been heavily offset by their quality as forums and social networks are flooded with complaints over downtime and performance in peak hours.

I experienced this personally for nearly a year when my exchange was ‘upgraded’ to 100Mbit and quickly followed by relentless leafleting of the area. As a result my peak time speeds actually dropped to under 2Mbit and would regularly disconnect. At one stage I was told my connection would be unstable for three months and was advised to a buy MiFi. In the end I was given regular discounts on my bill, but it didn’t stop upgrade work being delayed on four separate occasions over nine months.

Had I and every other customer in the area been able to sue for daily compensation not just haggle a bit off our bill, I suspect fixes would have come in weeks along with safeguards to ensure it didn’t happen again…


This is a sample, to read my thoughts on how we can can learn from Germany and Finland’s progressiveness in the UK click here for the full article on TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 




Pioneer XW-SMA4

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Pioneer’s largest SMA speaker provides familiar pros and cons.

Score 7/10
Review Price £299.99

Class leading wireless options
Thumping bass and midrange
Relatively compact form factor

Uninspired design and build materials
Outmuscled by rivals
Lack of detail in higher frequencies

Key Features: AirPlay, WiFi Direct, HTC Connect, DLNA compatible; 2x 3in drivers, 2x 1in tweeters, 4in sub; Ethernet, powered USB and auxiliary inputs; 360 x 210 x 169 mm, 3.8Kg

Earlier this month we took a look at the Pioneer SMA3 portable speaker. It featured the widest array of wireless connectivity options we have seen to date, but we felt audio performance was lacking. Step forward Pioneer with the SMA3’s bigger brother, the SMA4, which offers a significant upgrade in audio specifications but at nearly the same price tag. Wait… what?


Pioneer XW-SMA4 – Design & Features
Like a family of Russian dolls there is no denying the SMA4’s connection to the smaller SMA3. Both feature virtually identical designs and use exactly the same build materials.

From a superficial perspective this is a mixed blessing because while the SMA3 doesn’t have a significant wow factor at 320 x 180 x 145 mm and just 2.5Kg it does blend neatly into a room. This is less true of the 360 x 210 x 169 mm, 3.8Kg SMA4 though its minimalist curved rectangular shape means it is still an unobtrusive addition. Less welcome is the same matt black plastic case construction on the sides and rear which is again something more apparent with its larger size.

Happily where the SMA4 does score major brownie points is in maintaining the same class leading connectivity as the SMA3. Onboard is AirPlay, WiFi Direct and compatibility with DLNA and HTC Connect. Meanwhile at the rear is a powered USB port for quickly leeching AirPlay settings and charging devices, an Ethernet port for firmware updates and access to the vTuner Internet radio service and the compulsory 3.5mm auxiliary jack. Some will lament the lack of Bluetooth, but it is unnecessary as this selection accepts lossless streaming from virtually any mobile phone, tablet or laptop. We still pine for Miracast to unify all non-Apple devices, but it is unlikely to roll out in any scale until late in the year.


Pioneer XW-SMA4 – Performance
So far so similar, but where the SMA3 and SMA4 diverge other than bulk is in their core usage scenarios: the SMA3 is designed to be carried around and features an integrated battery while the SMA4 drops this in favour of greater audio grunt.

So where the SMA3 is equipped with a rather lacklustre 2.0 arrangement in the shape of a 3in driver and dual 1in tweeters, the SMA4 packs two 3in drivers, 2x 1in tweeters and a 4in sub. Pioneer says the end result of this doubles the (RMS) total output power of the SMA3 giving the SMA4 40W. On paper this total remains a long way behind heavyweights like the 160W B&W Zeppelin Air and 140W Monitor Audio i-deck 200, though of course Watts are far from the be all and end all.

So how does the SMA4 sound? Quite frankly like an enlarged SMA3. There certainly is greater bass response, but it carries the same sound signature with a focus on low and midrange frequencies at the expense of the high range. This tuning is promoted as a major selling point that was developed from the ground up by Andrew Jones, Pioneer’s chief speaker engineer, and his signature is even inscribed on the back – it is currently a very popular approach. This is a sample, to read about how the SMA4 performs, its value for money and my verdict read the full review @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia FS1

January 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Ferrari lends its brand to another Logic3 speaker dock, but is that enough?

Score 6/10
Review Price £399.00

Premium brand endorsement
Stylish remote control
Reasonably compact

Bland design
Mediocre performance
Limited to Bluetooth streaming

Key Features: 2x 30W drivers, 60W sub; Bluetooth wireless streaming; Advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP); Dedicated Ferrari app adjusts volume and bass; 320 x 140 x 120mm, 3Kg

Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia FS1 – Introduction
Many will claim Dr Dre to be the influence behind the raft of celebrity and brand endorsements in technology in recent years, but Ferrari is not amongst them. The Italian supercar maker has been endorsing gadgets since the time Dre still produced albums so its continued collaboration with Logic3’s audio products should come as no surprise. Instead the focus is on whether the Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia FS1 is worth the significant premium the Ferrari brand inevitably brings…safe-image

Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia FS1 – Design
Out of the box the first thing to say is it doesn’t look like a Ferrari. Obviously I don’t meant this literally, but rather in terms of wow factor; it cannot be denied that the FS1 is surprisingly low key, certainly when compared to the like of the Merdian F80. From the front the curved design doesn’t have any of the radical styling we have seen from the likes of the NAD VISO 1, B&W Zeppelin Air or Ceratec CeraAIR Two and it doesn’t court controversy like the Monitor Audio i-deck 200 or Libratone Live.

Instead it’s the rear where we find the anticipated Ferrari bling. But striking though the white and red with silver ‘exhausts’ look is, it is still relatively low key and is of course hidden when in normal use.

The overall shape is a practical and compact one with dimensions of 320 x 140 x 200mm and reasusrringly hefty weight of 3Kg. Meanwhile its rounded front packs in 2x 30W 2in drivers and those silver vents on the back are outlets for the rear facing 60W sub woofer.


Ferrari by Logic3 Scuderia FS1 – Features
The Scuderia FS1 isn’t exactly brimming with features but instead takes a focussed approach. Connectors including a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, video out for Apple devices and a USB charging port, all of which are positioned on the underside along with a downwards firing sub vent. On the top of the dock are the power and volume buttons and a mounting slot wide enough to take an iPhone or iPad.

Interestingly when it comes to plugging in your iDevice Logic3 has opted for the Apple dock connector rather than the newer Lightning connector. This could be due to unfortunate timing, but equally it illustrates the dilemma being faced by dock makers: the older standard has millions of legacy devices in the marketplace and can use an adaptor while there is no adaptor for Lightning back to the dock connector, but choosing it risks looking behind the times. As it stands there is no right or wrong answer here and it highlights why Apple is now pushing third parties to focus on wireless speakers, which incidentally this dock does have, though only in the form of Bluetooth not Airplay.

Where there is a clear case of misjudgement, however, is Logic3’s choice of build materials. The dock may not scream Ferrari in terms of design, but it also doesn’t project it in build quality either (well unless you’re thinking of the F40’s famously flimsy body). For example, the front grill hides a considerable seam running down the middle of the dock and the metallic angled top is actually plastic, as are the volume and power buttons – none of which feels premium to the touch.


We do like the remote control though and its minimalist design with daring scarlet back is a nice differentiator from the dull, black plastic remotes supplied by many. Still we can’t help thinking the care that went into this should’ve been spent on the FS1 as a whole. This is a sample, to read about how the FS1 performs and what alternatives may offer better value for money read the full review @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Death by 1000 Clicks: Goodbye High Street Tech

January 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The collapse of Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster was both inevitable and overdue.

Between them they had amassed 938 stores, 9,760 employees and 198 years of high street trading, but it took just eight days for it all to come crashing down. On the 9th, 16th and 17th of January Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster respectively entered administration. They had no financial, executive or historic connections other than their co-existence in selling media and technology primarily through retail stores. The Mayans may have been wrong about the world ending on 21 December 2012, but it seems they predicted within near pinpoint accuracy the demise of tech on the high street.

HMV-sharesGraceless Falls
The trio’s fall from grace has been spectacular. Just 3 1/2 years ago HMV’s stock price peaked at 149 pence per share, but it had crashed to around 10p a little over 12 months later then flat-lined until the day receivers were called in. Poor Christmas sales were deemed the final straw after record labels admitted to propping it up with stock and loans for months.

Jessops fight for survival has been more drawn out. The widespread adoption of digital cameras hit the company’s core photographic film business hard, but it successfully repositioned as a digital camera retailer for a period before seeking refinancing in 2009. On the back of this its share price collapsed and was deemed “worthless”. Stocks were suspended in 2010 and a painfully slow death has followed.


As for Blockbuster, it struggles on for now. Its dive into administration currently affects only UK outlets, but the overall outlook is bleak. Once purchased for $8.4bn in 1994 the company was worth a mere $320m when it was sold again in 2011 – $87m of the asking price came from assumed liabilities. It has had plans to pull out of Europe since 2010 and current owner Dish admitted just days before its UK operations went into administration that significant store closures will soon begin in the US.

More to the point however Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster are just the latest in a long line of tech or tech-impacted stores to have disappeared from the high street in recent years. Other significant casualties include retail exits for Woolworths (January 2009), Zavvi (February 2009), Borders (2009) and Comet (December 2012).


Death by 1,000 Clicks
Needless to say the blame from their demise is being pinned firmly on online retailers. On paper this makes perfect sense. Online stores have far fewer overheads with no retail presence, a fraction of the staff and stock is held in less costly warehouses or ordered on-demand. Their virtual existence makes it easier for them to redesign and evolve their business models too.

As one Jessops store (above) and countless news stories have made abundantly clear the abilities of governments to effectively tax online businesses is far more difficult as well. All these savings result in prices the high street cannot match and a buying experience which can be completed from the sofa. No travel, no parking, no queues.

So who put HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops to the sword? It would be easier to list who didn’t, but iTunes, Spotify, Netflix, Lovefilm and Amazon were the main protagonists while innumerable ‘etailers’ wielded painful blows.

AppleStore (1)

Let’s Meet IRL
The conclusion would therefore seem clear cut – online beats offline – except for one giant anomaly… This is a sample, to read about the remarkable success of Apple’s retail stores with mindblowing earnings per square foot, why this changes nothing for most retailers and why we shouldn’t feel sorry for them read the full article @ TrustedReviews


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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Pioneer XW-SMA3 Portable AirPlay Speaker

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Portable with lots of wireless connectivity, but audio could be more dynamic.

Score 7/10
Review Price £250.00

Wide variety of wireless connectivity
Up to five hour battery life
Plenty of bass

Lack of detail in high frequencies
Dull design, cheap build materials
Not very loud

Key Features: AirPlay, WiFi Direct, HTC Connect, DNLA compatibility, ; Integrated battery; 2x 77mm woofers, 1x 25mm tweeter; 2x 10W amplifiers; Splash proof

Pioneer XW-SMA3 – Introduction
Nearly two years ago we reviewed the Arcam rCube, it blew us away and we hoped it would usher in a new wave of high performance, portable speakers and docks for the home and garden. It never happened. Instead the market split into larger home-based products like the Zeppelin Air and Monitor Audio i-deck 200 while portable products primarily became smaller, cheaper but sonically weaker travel speakers, with the Pasce Minirig and Libratone Zipp rare high quality exceptions. Now Pioneer has stepped up to give the rCube a seemingly long overdue rival in the shape of the ‘Pioneer XW-SMA3-K’, which retailers are understandably shortening to the ‘Pioneer SMA3’ or even just ‘Pioneer A3’.

pioneer-a3-angle-original (1)

Pioneer XW-SMA3 – Design
First impressions are somewhat underwhelming. Take the SMA3 out of the box and you find what looks like a black, deep roasting tin with a speaker grill. Furthermore while you can at least expect aluminium construction from a roasting tin, the SMA3 demonstrates an unhealthy obsession with plastic. Front, sides and back are made up of matt black plastic, which gives it as cheaper feel than we’d expect at this price.

It isn’t all bad news though. On the plus side the plastic fetish does lead to a light weight (3.3Kg), particularly as the SMA3 packs in the aforementioned rCube-battling battery and it is compact too at just 320 x 180 x 145 mm. Furthermore the practicality continues as Pioneer covers the rear ports of the speaker with rubber seals. These look ugly when peeled back to connect cables, but they can be removed altogether then pushed back in should the SMA3 be taken outdoors as they have the useful benefit of making the speaker splash proof.


Pioneer XW-SMA3 – Connectivity
The SMA3 is the first portable speaker of this size we have found to offer protection against water, but it is also the first in a far more interesting area: wireless connectivity. Where other speakers pick between AirPlay, WiFi Direct or DLNA the SMA3 is the first speaker we have seen to be compatible with all three and it also throws in support for HTC Connect for good measure.

Perhaps strangely Pioneer has chosen to omit Bluetooth, but this selection will allow any device with WiFi to connect to the SMA3 and enjoy high quality, lossless audio streaming. Given Apple’s frustrating refusal to licence AirPlay to Google or Microsoft and with Miracast unlikely to gain momentum for some time yet, Pioneer’s do-it-all approach is extremely welcome.


Away from the wireless hijinks, Pioneer keeps things simple. An Ethernet port offers a wired Internet connection for firmware updates (the latest of which adds vTuner Internet radio), along with a USB port for leeching AirPlay settings straight from your phone or tablet or directly charging devices. Rounding it off is a 3.5mm auxiliary jack and a power socket. Pioneer also supplies a tiny, basic remote control. Power, playback control, volume and input buttons are all that it has, but given the wireless pretensions it won’t likely get much use. This is a sample, to learn about its performance and which rivals potentially offer better value for money read the full Pioneer SMA3 review @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 




It Is Time to Embrace Big Screen Phones

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Criticism directed at the new wave of 5in smartphones is outdated and short-sighted.

CES has always been an event for the faintly ridiculous (just look where it takes place) and the 2013 show was no different. Ultra High Definition 4k screens were promoted with no solution to content and astronomical prices, virtual reality glasses were pushed years ahead of practical viability and phones are now ridiculously thin when any sane consumer would rather they had a few more millimetres and decent battery life. Then again what is currently being derided in many quarters as the most ridiculous trend of CES 2013, 5in smartphones, is actually one of the most sensible. But to understand it requires a fundamental change of perspective.

Why is a smartphone a ‘smartPhone’?

‘Smartphone’… ‘smart-phone’… the name is so misleading advertising standards really should step in and hunt down those responsible because the emphasis is completely wrong. Just look at the ingredients: a sat nav, MP3 player, PMP, web browser, digital camera and mobile phone are combined and the term ‘phone’ is the one that is kept. Time for a reality check.


Back in June 2012 O2 reported making phone calls had become only the fifth most popular activity on a smartphone. Above it came web browsing, social media, listening to music and playing games, suggesting ‘smart-any-ending-but-phone’ would have been a better name. In fact phone calls are predicted to drop even further with emails, texting, video and eBook reading all just a few minutes behind daily phone usage in the research. Quite simply the device in your pocket is a small computer that just happens to make phone calls and it even does this badly due to the number of competing antennas inside which enable its wide ranging functionality. These days we should simply use the term ‘mobile’, after all position (‘desktop’, ‘laptop’) hasn’t done badly so far.

Five Star

Which brings us back to the five inch handsets unveiled at CES. The Sony Xperia Z, Huawei Ascend D2 and ZTE Grand S (above) all took centre stage and will be joined by the HTC M7, LG Optimus G2 and possibly the Samsung Galaxy S4 when they are officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress next month. They can hardly be described as phones and we shouldn’t worry trying to shoebox them as such. Just look at the details: commonalities other than their screen size include Full HD 1080p resolutions, quad core processors, LTE support and while Huawei admitted its D2 was a little chunky (9.4mm thick, 170g) both the Xperia Z and Grand S are substantially slimmer than a 3.5in iPhone 4S (7.9mm and 6.9mm vs 9.3mm) and roughly the same weight (circa 140g). Each is light years on from the once comical Dell Streak.


Why have mobiles gone in this direction? Easy: they are designed to specialise at the things O2 explained we do most at the expense of phone calls. In fact they will be better at everything on O2’s list with the debateable exception of texting. Manufacturers have made mobiles in response to our usage habits even if we hadn’t recognised them yet. Calls were already beginning to take a back seat, enlarging handsets just expedites it.

Hello! I’m in the library. The LIBRARY!

Or will it? When critics attack ever larger mobiles the most common stereotype harks back to images of the giant phone sketches from Trigger Happy TV with a comically oversized handset held up to our ear looking ridiculous while we are obnoxious. Tackling the obnoxiousness remains a challenge, but on the move – where large mobiles are most inconvenient – headsets and earphones with integrated mics are now prevalent.

At home we have these options as well as switching to the speakerphone. Putting a phone to our ears has never been ideal, it leaves us one-handed with arm ache and is nothing to be held onto at the expense of progress. Again bigger phones simply expedite this.

Look ma, one hand!

If there is a genuine criticism of this shift to larger screen sizes, however, it is the inability to use them with one hand… This is a sample, to learn how to get around this problem as well as how this trend affects Apple read the full editorial @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 


Beats Pill

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Sales are guaranteed, but is Beat’s first portable speaker any good?

Score 6/10
Review Price £169.99

NFC Bluetooth pairing
Clear conference calls

Music reproduction is weak and lacks bass
Exorbitantly expensive
Limited battery life

Key Features: 4x 1in 3W drivers; Bluetooth connectivity; Call conferencing ; Up to eight hours battery life


As we leap head first into 2013 it is impossible to reflect on 2012 without admitting the huge effect Beats By Dre has had on the audio sector. It is hard to walk down the street, use public transport or follow a footballer’s tweets without regularly seeing a pair and the company has finally got consumers thinking more carefully about what they feed their ears. It is somewhat ironic then that we have yet to be entirely convinced by the sound quality of any of this fashion brand’s products.


Beats Pill – Design

The New Year gives us another chance to re-evaluate, however, as Beats is expanding beyond earphones and headphones with its first Bluetooth portable speaker due for release in mid January. It is dubbed the Beats Pill and only the most cursory of glances is required to explain the naming. Dr Dre designers have conjured up a long 190mm cylindrical form factor with a 45mm diameter which weighs in at just 310g and houses no less than four 1in drivers.

Despite Dre’s fashion sensibilities it is hard to describe the Pill as a good looking product. It certainly isn’t ugly, with a metal front grill and matt rubberised base and back testament to excellent build materials, but it doesn’t quicken the pulse. Adding some street cred is the dominant central Beats logo which initiates Bluetooth pairing when held down for 3 seconds and turns red when the speaker is in use. The Pill also packs NFC so you can pair an NFC equipped smartphone just by tapping it on the speaker, which is a nice touch (pun very much intended).


On the top of the Pill are ‘+’ and ‘-‘ labelled volume buttons and at the rear is a power button, Bluetooth indicator, micro USB charge port and 3.5mm auxiliary input and output jacks. Somewhat lost in the design is the subtle mic pinhole just below the main Beats branding. This allows the Pill to double up as a conferencing device for taking calls, an increasingly popular and potentially useful element of functionality for wireless speakers.

Beats Pill – Audio Performance

So what does it sound like? According to the marketing blurb the Pill “produces powerful sound [making it] easy to enjoy soaring highs and deep, booming bass in every room of the house” as well as on the move.


This is big talk and comes from a brand famous for the bombastic signatures of its headphones and earphones. To this end the Pill packs in no less than four 1in drivers. These offer a combined 12W of output (4 x 3W) and while watts mean little it does suggest it should give established models like the 5W Jawbone Jambox something to think about as well as running the class leading 15W Pasce Minirig close… This is a sample, to learn why Beats has missed the markets and what better alternatives are available read the full review @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 


BB10, Ubuntu, Firefox, Tizen, Sailfish… Is there room for another mobile OS?

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Five serious contenders want a crack at iOS, Android and Windows Phone in 2013.

In recent years the keyword to the biggest technology launches has been “refinement”. Phones, laptops and tablets have become faster, slimmer, lighter and their software platforms have continued to evolve while amassing the support of third-party developers.

Interestingly, 2013 is shaping up to be somewhat different. Yes the refinement will continue through headline-grabbing Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices, but for the first time in a while a significant number of fresh platforms will also debut. Which begs the bigger question: is there still space for anything new?

android-apple-hybrid-logo (1)

New yet Old
Of course “new” is a relative term. The contenders are Tizen (the Linux Foundation), Firefox OS (Mozilla), BlackBerry 10 (RIM) and Ubuntu (Canonical) all of which come from established industry players while dark horse the Sailfish OS from Finnish start-up Jolla is built on the ashes of the failed Nokia/Intel operating system MeeGo. In fact all could be summed up equally well as by companies with scores to settle.

Open Secret Sauce
Furthermore all but one (BB10) share another core commonality: they’re open source. This term has been much bandied about over the years, but in essence it means free redistribution and access to core code, design and implementation. Partners can pay for support, but ultimately they are free to use the product and modify it anyway they see fit. Aka the Android model.


Like Android these open source platforms are also highly flexible and suitable for wider purposes than phones and tablets. Desktop and laptop computers, Smart televisions, household appliances, navigation devices and mobile entertainment systems in everything from cars and ships to aeroplanes are all potential areas for take-up.

Detractors will label this approach as desperate mudslinging, but it is hard to dismiss the appeal of free software that can be customised anyway you like for any use you like. This is especially true when Mac OS/iOS is Apple-only, all variants of Windows carry a hefty licence fee and Android requires enough payments to patent owners to make it a significant investment.

Individual Merits
Yet the individual merits of these various platforms extend far beyond their potential as patsies for large corporations. Looking briefly at each:


Tizen has the triple appeal of being open source, created around open standards and built by the Linux Foundation, the largest consortium to govern and promote the development of all flavours of Linux. In addition Tizen’s development is overseen by the exceptionally powerful alliance of Intel and Samsung to ensure delivery. In fact Samsung just this week confirmed it will release multiple Tizen handsets during 2013.


Firefox OS is built by open source, non-profit champion Mozilla and much like Google’s Chrome OS it strips the complexity of an operating system back to the web browser. Unlike Chrome OS, it is also optimised for touch and it negates the need for an app store through core HTML5 integration which allows any HTML5 application to directly access the device hardware. At once this creates millions of ‘apps’ from existing webpages and utilities. It could well be the operating system Chrome OS should’ve been.


Ubuntu is arguably the most ambitious platform. Canonical is not making a mobile version of the popular desktop OS, but rather evolving Ubuntu to automatically optimise itself for different screen sizes. As such it is a single operating system that can switch UIs depending on the screen size to which it connects. Consequently developers only need build a single app with different UIs and Ubuntu uses open standards for their construction. The snag is while betas will emerge this year, the final version (Ubuntu 14.04) won’t launch until April 2014.

This is a sample to read about Sailfish OS, BlackBerry 10 and the challenges they all face breadking into the market read the full editorial @ TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 


Carbon Audio Zooka

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

 An early Kickstarter success story, this is a portable speaker cum tablet holder.

Score 6/10
Review Price £79.99

Unique, durable design
Effective tablet stand

Weak, tinny audio performance
Expensive for performance level

Key Features: 2x 30mm side-mounted drivers; Up to eight hours battery life; Bluetooth connectivity; Doubles as a tablet stand; 254 x 86 x 51mm, 980g

It may only be January, but following the commencement of its international roll out in October many are already claiming ‘Kickstarter’ will become the buzz word of 2013. The crowd funding website has already financed a diverse array of endeavours from independent films and Oscar-nominated documentaries and critically acclaimed albums to enthralling video games and exciting gadgets (including the MetaWatch) and another of its major success stories has been the strangely named Carbon Audio Zooka.

Carbon-Audio-Zooka-Wireless-Bluetooth-Speaker-I (1)

Having hit triple its funding target early in 2012 the Zooka has generated a lot of attention for what is essentially a Bluetooth portable speaker, even being stocked in Apple stores around the world. The reason for this is simple: design. We’ve seen some quirky models in the past, but quite simply the Zooka looks like no speaker you have seen before.

The overall form factor is essentially a flattened tube which is slit open almost to the middle and speakers are housed at either end. The slit is crucial as it allows the Zooka to also act as a stand for a tablet. Gripping a tablet from the side raises it to a convenient typing angle, gripping it at the bottom positions it upright for watching video thanks to a screw-in kickstand. In addition the slit also lets the Zooka sit on top of a laptop making it easy to carry around while positioning the speakers at head height. Like all the best ideas the concept is simple, yet brilliant.


Furthermore Carbon Audio has mastered the build materials. The Zooka is moulded from silicon which first enables the crafting of this unusual shape, but secondly makes it extremely durable while the matt finish is highly resistant to finger prints. It is a product that is designed to be handled. On the flipside the Zooka is quite substantial at 254 x 86 x 51mm and almost 1Kg (980g), but this does mean tablets are kept still in use even if laptop screens require a reasonably strong hinge.

One quirk is the cut out arch which differentiates the front of the Zooka. This is specifically for iPads so it doesn’t obscure the iSight front camera and with most tablets and laptops placing their front facing cameras in the centre it should work for other brands too. Connectivity couldn’t be simpler: there’s the aforementioned Bluetooth, microUSB for charging, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for wired connections and raised volume, Bluetooth and power buttons.


While its design is what has given the Zooka so much time in the limelight, its audio prowess is crucial and here is where questions are raised. Carbon Audio has given little away about the speakers except to say they are dual 30mm drivers with a frequency response of 150 – 20,000Hz and a sound pressure level (SPL) of 80db at a distance of one metre. That said even these limited figures set off alarm bells. For a start 150Hz isn’t particularly low for bass frequencies and 80db is in the sound bracket of dishwashers and electric razors and this is where the Zooka falls down… This is a sample, to read more about the audio performance why a reasonable price tag isn’t actually good value and what are the better options read the full review @TrustedReviews

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 




Japan and Out – The End of a Tech Powerhouse

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

There’s been a significant shift in power at the tech top table. I explain where the balance now lies…


Sony, Nintendo, Panasonic, Canon, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Citizen. Japan’s roll-call of its biggest companies reads like a who’s who of technological innovation, but increasingly they are being looked upon as the old guard, as dinosaurs well past their best. Instead today’s biggest and most progressive brands appear to be coming from Taiwan and South Korea. The former boasts Asus, Acer, HTC and Foxconn, the later is home to the might of Hyundai, Kia, LG and Samsung. Is it the end of an era?

Certainly a power shift is underway. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have traditionally endured difficult relations with one another both politically and economically. Korea in particular has felt the might of Japan having been under Japanese rule from 1910 until the end of the Second World War in 1945. Subsequently Japan only established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1965.

Even as recently as five years ago Japanese brand loyalty was such that it saw Samsung pull out of the Japanese electronics market while other famous global brands from the Bank of America to Tesco have found it an impossible nut to crack. Even Xboxes don’t sell! The motto appeared clear: the world needed Japan, Japan didn’t need the world.

Now it is all change. Sony’s inability to find a solution to the popular ecosystems of Google, Apple and Microsoft combined with an unwillingness to compete on price has handed the momentum to younger, hungrier rivals like Acer, Asus and HTC (founded in 1976, 1990 and 1997 respectively). It has also opened the door to the economies of scale afforded by LG and Samsung. Sony lost $5.7bn last year and doesn’t plan to return to profitability until March 2013.

It has been a similar story for Nintendo. After the initial success of the Wii it has struggled to compete with console rivals seeing sales fall to such an extent that it reported its first annual loss in three decades in February. The launch of the new Wii U will bring hope of a turn around, but in October it still slashed annual profit forecasts by 70 per cent.

Conversely South Korean heavyweight Samsung continues to challenge Apple as the technology success story of the century. It is now firmly established at the world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer while it is also number one globally in televisions, laptops and displays and number two in tablets to Apple and semiconductors to Intel.

As for Taiwan both Acer and Asus are now inside the top five largest personal computer manufacturers despite their relatively short histories and HTC has leapfrogged both RIM and Nokia in the smartphone sector this year.

This turnaround isn’t just evident in technology. In the car industry over the last 10 years Hyundai has overtaken Mitsubishi and Suzuki and is now challenging Toyota, while the rise of South Korean success has seen the so-called ‘Korean Wave’ hit Japan – a reference to the increase in popularity of South Korean entertainment and culture.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is how all three countries are dealing with this change in fortunes: with cooperation. Inside Japan fierce rivals Sony and Panasonic have formed an alliance to better compete on the world stage and Japan and South Korea recently declared they would strengthen their economic ties as the two agreed to reduce the size of their so-called ‘currency swap’ loans from $70 billion to $13 billion.

Meanwhile Japan has found new impetus through progressive environmental innovation which has seen Toyota and Nissan lead the way in electric cars and Citizen reinvigorate itself through its hugely popular range of ‘Eco Drive’ solar powered watches.

It all remains far from a revolution, but it does suggest the old dog can still learn new tricks…

Then again, with Chinese mobile giants Huawei and ZTE also set to become household names in 2013 on the back of government subsidies and an unmatchable cheap labour force – those tricks better be good ones…

Reprinted with kind permission of MSN Social Voices

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 should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

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