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Bang & Olufsen Playmaker

February 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

B&O makes an AirPort Express rival that supports DLNA, but gets it wrong…

Score 5/10

 

Pros
Excellent DLNA & AirPlay Streaming
Supports B&O’s proprietary audio cables
Touch sensitive volume and mute facia controls

Cons
Ugly design
Bargain basement build materials
No optical or 3.5mm auxilliary outputs
No way to switch output destinations
Chronically expensive

Review Price £349.00
Key Features: AirPlay & DLNA streaming; B&O proprietary cable connections; Phono Ports

B&O PlayMaker Introduction
Technology is a wondrous thing. It is evolves at a breakneck pace offering more for less every year and tech fans can find it a full time job just trying to keep up. Then again there are times when it confuses us and with the B&O PlayMaker this is one of those times…

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B&O PlayMaker Design
The head scratching begins the moment you take the PlayMaker out the box. B&O is famed for its radical design and swooping curves, but the PlayMaker is flat and square. In fact at 157 x 136 x 120mm, 512g and available purely in white it looks somewhat like a bathroom ceiling extractor fan. Hands-on this unflattering comparison continues as the PlayMaker is also constructed from cheap moulded plastic with a pop off back that reveals its connections. It looks like nothing from the current B&O range yet is odd enough to drawn people’s attention and cause them to ask: ‘what on earth is that?’

B&O PlayMaker Features
The answer to this question is quite straightforward: it is B&O’s answer to Apple’s AirPort Express and being a B&O device it comes with a neat twist: as well as adding AirPlay wireless streaming support to speakers it also caters for non-Apple owners with the addition of DNLA. This brings most modern smartphones, laptops and TVs out from the cold along with games consoles. A further nice aspect is the front of the PlayMaker is touch sensitive with a circular volume dial and central mute button which brings the wow factor common to much B&O kit.

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Setup is simple too. Much like AirPort Express, switch on the PlayMaker and it puts out an 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless signal to which you connect and provide the settings of your wireless network. You provide these via a browser-based setting page or B&O’s Android and iOS apps. Once recognised on the network the PlayMaker offers itself as an output to AirPlay and DLNA devices respectively. At which point you connect some speakers.

Sadly it is at this point we are scratching our head again. Predictably B&O fits a pair of its own proprietary speaker ports for the likes of the BeoLab 3 (review coming soon) but there is no standard optical output nor 3.5mm auxiliary as on an AirPlay Express, just phono ports. Furthermore as all B&O speakers are active (containing a built-in amplifier) the PlayMaker has not been fitted with its own amp meaning the phono ports will only work with other active speakers. Connecting to a HiFi is a solution, but for regular passive speakers you’ll need to connect the phono cables to a separate amp and the amp to the speakers making it somewhat messy and expensive (more of which later). 


This is  sample, to read about how the PlayMaker performs and which price is such a problem click here for 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

Nexus 4 & Galaxy Note 2: Living with a Big Screen Phone

February 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

What was with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and Google Nexus 4 is really like? I ask the question: does size really matter?

Back in January I argued it is time to embrace big screen phones and it drew a lot of response. The motivation came from being a long term iPhone user who has owned every model, but didn’t feel the urge to purchase the fractionally larger iPhone 5. It seems I am not alone in this, as iPhone 5 sales are reportedly not meeting expectations. The next step was logical: live with some large screen phones and report back about how I got on. That time is now.

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Lesson 1: Get a Grip
I picked two handsets for the test period, spending a week with each. The first was Samsung’s 5.5-inch Galaxy Note 2, the second Google’s 4.7-inch Nexus 4.

In hindsight I got the order wrong. Wanting to jump in head first with what is currently the largest screen on any smartphone was bold, but foolish. Day one saw me running late for a meeting and rushing down the street, motorcycle helmet in one hand, phone in the other, frantically trying to send an apologetic text message. The experience had me lamenting the absence of my iPhone 4S. But as is so common in early relationships the problem proved to be: ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.

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It turns out what moving to a big screen phone requires is learning new muscle memory. It isn’t about weight (the iPhone 4S is quite a porker in this regard), but grip. Wider screens result in a wider grip and this reduces the reach of your fingers, resulting in the much repeated ‘but you can’t use them one-handed’ speech.

This is true… at first. With time you realise a big screen phone doesn’t sit dormant in your palm while your fingers move, it moves up and down your palm to allow your fingers to reach things. It’s awkward to start with (and far more so on the Note 2 than the Nexus 4) but, like forming chords on the guitar, quickly becomes second nature.

Lesson 2: Typing Nirvana
Much is made of the fact big screen phones can’t be used for typing one-handed, but in practice I found this simply wasn’t true. Most simply, apps are available that will shrink a keyboard and lock it to the left or right side of the keyboard, depending on whether you are left or right handed. This will accommodate even the smallest hands.

For long-term iPhone users the other real game changer is keyboards like Swiftkey and its ‘Flow’ system, which simply requires users to swipe between letters and to the spacebar without ever leaving the screen. This lets you keep a grip on the phone and simultaneously type with ease. Android 4.2 introduced a similar system, but until it incorporates the spacebar and better customisation to your writing style (Swiftkey has the option to scan your emails and social media to learn your vocabulary and abbreviations) it will lag behind.

Needless to say when typing two handed, via Swiftkey or not, these larger screen sizes also make things easier than their smaller screen equivalents while being less unwieldy than a tablet.

NExus-4 (1)

Lesson 3: Promising Productivity
With the biggest queries addressed the upsides of a big phone came to the forefront. Most notably – you can get more done, more quickly. Muscle memory can work against you with an iPhone too and it is amazing just how accustomed you become to continually moving things around to complete each task.

The iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen means writing emails or instant messages requires regular scrolling to check the original message, browsing requires continuous zooming and swiping around a page and consistently turning to landscape mode and apps are more cramped. These aren’t eliminated with a big screen phone but you do them far less, simply because you can see more at any one time. Returning to an iPhone felt exhausting by comparison, it was like returning to work on desktop PC with a 14-inch monitor.

Lesson 4: Better Battery Life
This is far from universal, but the trend on phones is the bigger the screen the better the battery life. This is a sample, to read about how big screen phones can impact your tablet needs, actually start to feel quite small and learn how they changed my viewpoint on all future phone purchases click here for the full feature @ TrustedReviews.

 

 

 

Braven 570

February 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

A portable Bluetooth speaker, speakerphone and battery pack in one for under £100? Yes it’s good.

Score 8/10

Pros
Strong audio performance
Excellent speakerphone call clarity
Will recharge your smartphone
Much cheaper than similarly equipped rivals

Cons
Battery life could be better
No AptX streaming
Loses aluminium body of 650 model
Review Price £99.99

Key Features: 6W speaker output; 10 hour battery life; Noise-cancelling microphone; Mobile device charger

Earlier this month Braven burst onto our radars with its excellent 650 Bluetooth portable speaker. Our only real gripe was cost so can Braven now address this with the cheaper 570?

Braven 570 – Design
It may be early days for Braven, but it has clearly established its style. The 570 looks almost identical to the 650 with the same rounded rectangular form factor and drilled speaker grills front and back which give it a minimalist, almost industrial look. That said this finish is where the first evidence of cost cutting is apparent as the 570 drops the aluminium finish of the 650 for matt moulded plastic polymer. Then again the polymer doesn’t look cheap, is impact resistant and means it is available in a range of colours with green, blue, purple, red, silver and black on offer. A further benefit is a weight drop which sees the 570 clock in a whole 88g lighter at 312g despite having virtually identical 6 x 2.5 x 2in dimensions.

BRAVEN-570-Main-B (Medium)

Braven 570 – Features
When it comes to features we also remain in familiar territory. The 570 can stream audio via Bluetooth or 3.5mm jack, operate as a speakerphone for calls and cleverly charge a mobile device from its USB port. It charges itself over microUSB to avoid confusion. Interestingly the 570 packs the same pair of 40mm drivers, 40mm passive subwoofer, class D digital amplifier (delivering a total of 6W) and matching output level of 95dB at 0.5 metres.

But there are differences. On the audio side the 570 loses support for the AptX codec carried by the 650. AptX drastically improves the quality of audio streamed over Bluetooth, though notably it is required on both destination and source to work. In this regard most Android handsets have adopted AptX, but Apple has not added it to iPhones – perhaps in an effort to protect AirPlay speaker support – so if you are a Cupertino fan the omission makes no odds.

BRAVEN-570-L-B (Medium)

More significantly the 2000mAh battery capacity in the 650 is downgraded to 1200mAh which sees a fall from 20 to 10 quoted hours on a single charge. The knock on effect is the 570 won’t be able to fully recharge any of the leading smartphones such as the iPhone 5 (1440mAh), iPhone 4S (1430mAh), Galaxy S3 (2100mAh) and Note 2 (3100mAh).

Braven 570 – Performance
So how does it sound? Given the 570 uses the same components as the 650 we have a device that lives up to its bigger brother. The 570 packs a surprising amount of punch that belies its 6W rating and is powerful enough to fill a medium size bedroom or hotel room. If used primarily for talk radio or podcasts the 570 will work in larger rooms too.

In terms of audio quality the 570 also pleases. Despite their proximity the little speakers do a good job of outputting stereo while bass, mid and high ranges are all well balanced. Distortion does occur (primarily in higher frequencies) at maximum volume, but not to a level that destroys listening enjoyment. Given the lack of AptX where the 570 cannot match the 650 is performance over Bluetooth, but in truth while it has a massive impact on larger speaker systems it isn’t a deal breaker for drivers of this size. Only using the audio output hooked up to a proper Hi-Fi will reveal the loss of detail.

BRAVEN-570-F-B (Medium)

This is a sample, to read about how the 570 performs and why it is such a serious contender for your cash click on the link to 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

Dell Investment Sees Microsoft Go Backwards to Move Forwards

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Microsoft has to reinvent the PC if it is to succeed in a post-PC world.

Did you ever get the feeling you’d won the race only to realise you’d been competing in the wrong event? Welcome to Planet Microsoft. For the last 20 years the Redmond-based giant has held a near 90 per cent lion’s share of the PC market and just as it got cocky it realised it should have been competing in the ‘Post PC’ era – whoops. Windows Phone and a more tablet-friendly Windows 8 have been its attempts at a response and the jury remains out, but by investing $2bn to help take struggling PC maker Dell private this week it also revealed another strategy: back to the future.

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You built a time machine… out of a Dell-orean?
The aim of the Dell deal is to buy time. Microsoft has realised its assault on the post PC market will take time and in the meantime it needs to protect the market it has won. Ultrabooks have yet to win the hearts and minds of the masses and it needs to make people fall in love with their PCs again, effectively stalling until Windows Phone is in a position to capitalise. The Dell deal buys it an ally in this department and Microsoft pulled no punches in its motivations:

“Microsoft is committed to the long term success of the entire PC ecosystem and invests heavily in a variety of ways to build that ecosystem for the future,” it said in a statement. “We’re in an industry that is constantly evolving. As always, we will continue to look for opportunities to support partners who are committed to innovating and driving business for their devices and services built on the Microsoft platform.”

The deal mimics the one Microsoft did in 2011 with Nokia as it paid out billions to take advantage of another struggling giant and secure a Windows-only future for its Windows Phone platform. Of course the obvious question is…
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Does Loser plus Loser plus Loser equal Winner?
Remarkably the answer is ‘potentially, yes’. Despite their recent hardships both Nokia and Dell have long been famed for hardware innovation (remember Dell’s Adamo (above), 5in Inspiron Duo and Streak or Nokia’s Communicator, N95 and more recently the 808 PureView?). Yes both are also known for their uninspired budget offerings, but the innovation is crucial to Microsoft’s fight to break into mobile and keep desktops and laptops appealing while budget roots mean both companies are experienced in manufacturing to scale and have ruthlessly efficient supply chains already in place.

Apple has long had these elements and it did no harm to Google picking up the manufacturing side of Motorola in its $12.5bn 2011 takeover deal to secure the company’s patents. This software and hardware setup now seems the minimum required to compete in the ruthless mega-corporate world of creating operating systems… at least if you want to be a major player.

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But It’s Perilous
The trouble for Microsoft is while the Dell and Nokia deals get it back in the game, it is a game it is far from certain to win. At the same time Microsoft was announcing its Dell investment research company Canaccord Genuity revealed Apple and the Google-fuelled Samsung accounted for 103 per cent of the mobile phone industry’s profits. 103 per cent! How do you attain such a number?  This is a sample, to read about the maths behind 103% market share and Microsoft’s vital third third of the device click on the full editorial @ TrustedReviews

 

I’m Watch

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Tremendous promise, but poor implementation lets down this smartphone-syncing smartwatch.

Score 6/10

Pros
Stylish, chunky design
Responsive touchscreen
4GB integrated storage

Cons
Unreliable Bluetooth connection
Poorly designed apps
Limited battery life
Expensive

Review Price £299.99

Key Features: 454MHz processor; Bluetooth sync with iPhone/Android; 1.5-inch 240 x 240 pixel screen; Android OS with Droid 2 UI; 450mAh battery
Manufacturer: i’m

I’m Watch – Introduction
Apple or Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry isn’t likely to be your only major phone related decision this year: ‘smart watch’ or ‘smartwatch’ looks set to be another. This naming differential isn’t officially in place but, with largely independent smartwatches and normal watches which simply relay smartphone notifications set to be big in 2013, it really should. And making a case for the former is I’m Watch.

First demoed at CES 2012, I’m Watch made its proper debut at CES 2013 (see our preview in the tab above). It claims to be a fully functioning Android-based mobile device on its own with touchscreen display and apps. It also has the ability to connect to an Android handset or iPhone to take calls and certainly makes a striking first impression.

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I’m Watch – Design
The heavy set metal design is straight out of a Dick Tracy comic. It is curved to fit the wrist and front and centre is a 1.54in LCD display with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution for a reasonably sharp 220ppi. It won’t match the best smartphones, but it is clear and colours are bright. On the right side is a back button (a double press acts as a home button) and mic while the left side has a speaker and 3.5mm jack which surprisingly also doubles up as the power jack. The thick rubber strap is durable too with a metal coupling that suggests it won’t fall apart any time soon. In fact the watch as a whole has a chunky charm about it that catches the eye.

Of course what also catches the eye is the size of the I’m Watch. At 80g it isn’t as heavy as it looks, but with the watch face itself coming in at 52.9 x 40.6 x 10mm it is on par with the largest sports watches and the thickness in particular can be problematic to shirt cuffs. In practice we found the this bulk made the watch a little strange to wear at first, but we fast got used to it and while it isn’t waterproof we had no reservations wearing it to the gym.

I’m Watch – Features
Unlike current hot products such as the Pebble and MetaWatch, I’m Watch is far from a thin client. It runs a heavily customised version of Android dubbed ‘Droid 2’ and comes with its own selection of apps including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram clients as well as staples like stocks, weather and news. The majority of these are free but third party apps can currently cost up to €2.50.

im-watch

Interestingly all apps are selected and configured on the I’m Watch website using its ‘I’m Cloud’ portal, which you also use to register the device. The site is well designed, clearly laid out and has a finger friendly mobile version, but we can’t help thinking it would be easier to have a local Android and iOS app – especially as the website requires you to login with your username and password each time.

Furthermore the I’m Watch isn’t quite as independent as it first appears, requiring a Bluetooth connection to your handset to apply settings changes, install app downloads and access the Internet. This is a slight drain on your phone’s battery life, but more to the point the lack of an app means content is not simply downloaded to the phone and passed to the watch. Instead it must access the Internet directly and this requires setting up Bluetooth tethering. In the iPhone’s case you have to permanently run a personal hotspot to achieve this which does have a significant impact on battery life. We found you can typically expect a 30 per cent hit, so you’ll need to recharge before the end of the day… This is a sample, to see exactly what my big problem with the I’m Watch is click on this link to 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

It’s Mine: crime prevention now cheap as (micro) chips

February 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Advancements in pet chipping may well protect all our precious possessions and at a minimal price…

Chips

“It’s a dog’s life” has long been a phrase for hardship, but Alan MacFadyen believes your prized possessions are envious. MacFadyen is co-founder of new UK crime prevention company It’s Mine Technology and he claims the common practice of microchipping now has the potential to turn the tables on petty crime.

It’s Mine means this in a remarkably literal sense. It is taking the latest revision of tiny rice-size 8mm x 1.4mm pet microchips and shipping them with an applicator that allows them to be fitted into clothing, bags, briefcases, laptops, phones, tablets — just about anything. The chips have a unique ID which customers register on Immobilise.com (the national mobile property register used by the police) and each chip has a 20-year lifespan. A tamper proof label is supplied with every chip as a deterrent to potential thieves and a cue to police officers.

This seemingly oddball idea has actually been a long time in the making. “More than 10 years ago I was a consult to Orange’s Futurescape team which looked at technology up to 10 years out,” says MacFadyen. “We looked at chipping then, but the technology wasn’t there. Chips were 3-4x the size which made them obvious and risked damaging items. They were also too expensive.”

Price is what It’s Mine hopes will at last take the original vision mainstream. Whereas microchipping costs up to £30 per pet, It’s Mine ships a chip and applicator for £12.99 with subsequent additional chips costing £11.99 or with one, three, five or ten additional chips costing £11.99, £22.99, £39.99 and £67.99 respectively.

But does it work? Certainly in pets the results are very strong, with the Dogs Trust reporting in 2011 that microchips were responsible for 32 percent of all owners’ reunions with their lost animals. By contrast the current outlook for reuniting owners with their possessions is bleak. Transport for London (TfL) says on average one in four items found on the network is restored to its owner and the National Bike Registry points out that while 48 percent of all stolen bicycles are recovered only five percent are successfully returned.

Other perks? MacFadyen says if chipping became ubiquitous it would make thieves think twice because the chips are extremely hard to find, difficult to remove without damaging an item and would greatly impact the black market where a fear of chips in items would weaken demand. There is an upside to law enforcement too with officers easily able to prove items are stolen after an arrest and use their origin to better track crime patterns.

Paul Ekblom, professor of Design Against Crime at Central Saint Martins College and a former crime researcher for the Home Office, says the logic behind chipping is sound… This is a sample, read the thoughts of a professor of Design Against Crime and former crime researcher for the Home Office in the full article at Wired UK

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. 

Wired – In Bloom: Spotify rival promises streaming Nirvana

February 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Media & Copywriting

Bloom fm might be about to crack the streaming music sector, a market previously dominated by Spotify… I investigate for Wired UK:

Bloom-logo

“We were talking names around the table and we misheard someone who said ‘balloon’,” says Tum Nguyen, the co-founder and leading software engineer of music industry hot topic Bloom fm. “Of course he was joking,” adds Nguyen quickly, “but as soon we all heard ‘bloom’ we said that’s fantastic because even before we came up with a name my design brief to the team was: I want it to feel like I’m running around a field of flowers and picking up music”.

It is an amusing anecdote, but the haphazard way the music streaming service fell upon its name is the exception to the rule of an otherwise meticulously planned second coming. The reason is Nguyen and fellow Bloom fm co-founder Oleg Fomenko have been here before. The duo were behind mflow, a short-lived music download service which rewarded users with discounts for recommending artists, albums and tracks. It was first desktop- then browser-based, but closed in January 2012 with a mysterious message on the homepage: “Over the past few months we’ve been working on a top-secret new project… we can’t share this grown-up mflow with you until we’re confident it’s better than anything you’ve used before.” Early signs suggest it might be.

What Nguyen and Fomenko learnt was to change everything. The standard business model of desktop first, a premium for access on mobile, restricted streaming and a focus on self discovery was inverted. Bloom fm launched last month solely on iOS, it offers unrestricted streaming and focuses on automated discovery. If you login to Bloom fm with Facebook it aggregates what you list as your favourite bands and starts playing with a single tap on the homepage.

“It had to be mobile first,” Nguyen tells Wired.co.uk. “Soon everyone is going to be doing most of their computing through their phones. It became a principle of how we approached everything [and] because we focused on mobile first we were able to simplify the design a lot. We didn’t allow ourselves to get carried away adding a million context menus and a million options, but we managed to design an app that is fully functional without being in your face and not knowing which button to press.”

We are back to the name again. The happy accident of hearing “bloom” instead of “balloon” inspired a unique structure for navigation of the service akin to a sunflower with the genre or artist in the centre and the surrounding petals offering sub-genres or similar artists. Tap a petal and it is brought to the centre with a new array of surrounding petals, tap the centre and you begin playback. It is simple, organic and importantly it is fun to use. In fact it feels almost childishly innocent as you both discover artists and create bespoke radio stations in the same playful way. Yet this hides a hard and potentially revolutionary heart.

“We found only 12 percent [of people] have tried streaming on their mobile in the UK,” Fomenko tells Wired.co.uk. “We thought it was mainstream, but when the penetration of smartphones is approaching 80 percent you realise there is an unbelievable number of people out there who have not been reached for a variety of reasons. We believe those reasons are beauty, ease, not confronting people with a search bar when they enter the app and,” he pauses “…price.”

While beauty and ease will undoubtedly attract admirers, the harsh reality in a world long used to free illegal downloads and in the midst of an unrelenting global economic downturn is new players require compelling prices. £5 per month for desktop and £10 per month for desktop and mobile access has become a predictable norm, but Bloom fm breaks from this with a system it dubs “borrow, enjoy, return”. Unlimited, genre and artist based radio stations are free, but to “borrow” music (aka download it for offline access) prices start at £1 per month for 20 tracks that can be swapped at any time. £5 per month increases this limit to 200 tracks, £10 gives unlimited borrows plus full on-demand streaming of artists and albums.

“I chose Bloom as my digital service to watch in 2013 and the real unique thing is the £1 per month pricing tier,” says Paul Smernicki, director of digital at Universal Music UK. “There’s a massive underserved market of people who aren’t quite interested enough in music, people who are sitting on the fence about whether to use a licensed or unlicensed service and people who are considering moving away from physical purchases and a pound is cheap enough to tempt them all… The only way you can really experience the best of Spotify is a £10 subscription, that isn’t the case here.”

Fomenko takes this further saying in 2008 the average spend per person per year in the music industry was £60 and that figure has been falling ever since. “It would be closer to £50 now,” he argues “and we are looking at a migration onto mobile where the lowest price point is £120 per year. There is a lion’s share of users out there who will never spend that level of money so we need to start introducing tiered subscriptions that cater to different categories that will actually engage all those people who are bringing the average down.”

Nguyen confirms when Bloom fm launches on other platforms, including a web-based player for computers later in the year, prices will not increase for these additional points of access. “We believe we can carry on the current subscription model, the simplicity is paramount so we don’t want to complicate it.” He adds “It was vital to create a £1 entry point that is actually useful, when we pitched to labels that was the tier we gave their executives to try. People can afford it and as their music needs increase there is a natural progression.”

There is room for natural progression for Bloom fm too…

This is a sample, to read about the challenges still facing bloom and where executives believe the market is heading click the link to review the full feature on Wired UK

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. 

BlackBerry is the New Palm (& that’s a good thing)

February 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Far from an insult, BlackBerry 10’s similarity to WebOS is what offers it a ray of hope…

Reading the headline I can hear the cat calls now: ‘Hang on a minute Kelly…’ ‘Patronising much?‘ ‘But we quite like what we’ve seen so far…’ And to you all my response may be surprising: the headline is a compliment.

A Case of History Repeating
Firstly let’s look at the parallels, because they are quite astonishing. In general terms both companies were founded in the 90s, released their first smartphones in the 00s (18 months apart), primarily targeted business customers with the hook of mobile access to their email and both ultimately fell victim to the touchscreen revolution started by the iPhone in 2007 and carried on by Android.

RIM-Sends-Press-Invites-for-BlackBerry-10-s-Unveiling-on-January-30-20131

And it goes on: in an effort to fightback Palm rebranded from PalmOne to Palm and wrote WebOS – an entirely new platform built from the ground up. It was designed to appeal to both business users and consumers with much touted touch gestures that originated from the bezel. It released a pair of phones which kept their physical keyboards so as not to alienate long term Palm users and a tablet, the TouchPad, which bombed spectacularly due to a lack of app support.

In an effort to fightback BlackBerry has rebranded from RIM and written BlackBerry 10 – an entirely new platform built from the ground up. It is designed to appeal to both business users and consumers with much touted touch gestures that originate from the bezel. It has released a pair of phones, one of which kept a physical keyboard so as not to alienate long term BlackBerry users and prior to this it had launched a tablet, the PlayBook, built upon the foundations of BlackBerry 10 which bombed spectacularly due to a lack of app support.

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Market Forces
Of course there are differences. Palm’s period of success was much smaller, occurring arguably from just 2004-2007 so it never reached BlackBerry’s level of sales or became the same pillar to the business community. Palm also fell into heavy debts whereas Blackberry, despite sizable losses, remains debt free. Yet significantly when Palm unveiled WebOS in 2009 it was universally acclaimed and there was a genuine sense of goodwill that people wanted it to succeed.

By contrast the response to the first BlackBerry 10 phone, the BlackBerry Z10, has been muted, acknowledging innovations but sceptical about its potential to attract customers from iOS, Android or even Windows Phone. When WebOS launched in 2009 the smartphone market was still formative enough that a small company might just succeed through innovation alone. Launching in 2013 BlackBerry 10 arrives in a market which saw over 700m smartphone sales in 2012, where 90 per cent of the market is dominated by two players and a third is struggling to gain a foothold despite a turnover of nearly $74 billion and workforce of 94,000 employees. This is a sample, to read about what I think is BlackBerry’s most plausible route to success click this link to 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

I finally spend time with B&O’s new flagship speaker and it was worth the wait!

Score 9/10
Review Price £1,699.00

Pros
Jaw droppingly powerful
Rich, balanced bass, midrange and high frequency performance
Stylish, unqiue design

Cons
Expensive, if not unreasonably so
B&O setup app glitchy
Wall mount an optional extra

Key Features: Airplay and DNLA wireless connectivity; 8in subwoofer, 2x 3in midrange drivers, 2x 3/4in tweeters; 480W output; Touch-sensitive controls; multiple colour options for legs and fabric

There are few more contentious topics in technology than fashion. For some it is a fundamental prerequisite in anything and everything they buy, for others it is a superfluous luxury symptomatic of an excuse for high prices and a lack of substance. Bang & Olufsen’s staggering BeoPlay A9 is unlikely to convince members of either camp to change sides, but they should at least be able to agree on one key aspect: there is no lack of substance here.

03

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9 – Design
We could spend quite some time on this section, but as pictures famously tell a thousand words we don’t need to tell you the A9 makes quite the first impression. Both minimalist in styling yet attention grabbing in its shape, the A9 will blend into a room and draw attention to itself in equal measure.

Part of the reason for this is size. The A9 is a whopping 700mm in diameter, stands 908mm tall and weighs 14.7Kg – the latter two figures include its striking wooden legs. Interestingly enough the A9 has a sunken carry handle at the rear so it can be moved around the home, but we suspect it will find a primary place in the home or workplace and stay there. That said placement is surprisingly flexible as the A9 has three audio modes (wall, corner and freestanding) and there is no unsightly power brick to hide because the transformer is built in.

Up close and personal build quality is predictably strong. The actual construction materials are no great shakes given moulded plastics are used front and back, but they are durable with tasteful matt finishes, well put together and held in place with a steel brand. In any case the front is typically covered by material with white, grey, black, brown, green and red covers available (white is included by default).

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A nice touch is the top edge of the A9 hides tactile volume controls which work with just a swipe of the hand right or left. We can’t imagine this will be your primary method of volume control, but it is fun for showing off the device to friends.

As for the legs themselves they are carved from single pieces of wood and screw into the base. Beech, oak and teak options are offered at the point of sale. If you aren’t a fan of the legs the A9 can be wall mounted, but this requires an optional mount attachment which costs £89. Despite this consider us thoroughly impressed.

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9 – Features & Setup
AirPlay is the headline feature B&O is pushing with the A9, but it isn’t solely for Apple devices. DLNA is also in there while those who insist their audio sources are tethered will find optical and phono ports meaning the A9 is equally comfortable being used for home cinema and music. One strange omission is a 3.5mm jack and while not vital on a speaker such as this we’d rather have one than not.

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Setting up the A9 is a breeze, at least in theory. Like all AirPlay products the A9 has integrated WiFi and B&O has opted for the modern approach of fitting a powered USB port so it can grab settings to your network off your phone. There is also an Ethernet port should you wish to connect the A9 directly to your router. Choose this method and you’ll be up and running in a few minutes, but opt for B&O’s BeoPlay setup app and you could be in rather more trouble.

We found the app continually wouldn’t recognise the A9 telling us it was an “unsupported product” and a quick Google search finds we are not alone in that problem nor is it restricted to the A9 with the Beolit 12 & BeoSound 8 also suffering the same problem. Ironically disregard the walk-through app and you won’t have a problem. Let’s hope an update is on the way. This is a sample, to read how the A9 performs (and trust me it is well worth it!) as well as a look at its value for money and my overall verdict read the full review @ TrustedReviews


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