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Apple should fear new, ruthless Google

May 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 I/O 2013 suggests Google will become the biggest company in tech and it is difficult to see how rivals can compete…

In spy stories there is always an all-seeing organisation. We learn its influence touches almost every aspect of our lives and it knows everything about us. But its true power is never really known until we learn the most important element: how it is all connected. This week Google spelt it out.

The Google I/O 2013 keynote took nearly four hours. It was exhaustive, at times oddly paced and to those with their hearts set on shiny new gadgetry, rather underwhelming. And yet Google spilt its secrets. The once-vague, even fictitious connective tissue supposedly running through the labyrinthine organisation turned out not only to be real, but brilliant. We now have a vision of quite possibly technology’s strongest ecosystem.

Fixing Fragmentation
From the outset the theme of the I/O 2013 keynote was to reverse common perceptions. Google argued it is actually the computing world and its devices that are fragmented, rather than Google itself, and Google is the only company that can pull all the pieces together. The irony wasn’t lost given fragmentation is the stick rivals have long used to beat Google, but instead it was saying ‘choose whatever platform you like we will fix the rest’.

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To demonstrate this it pitched open APIs that enable real-time multiplayer gaming across Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads. It promoted services running on different OSs that all look and run in near identical fashion. It also claimed Chrome is now the most popular browser in the world across PCs, Macs and Linux.

Did this approach convince? Partially. Google has a long history of creating semi-open platforms and its touting of Chrome comes just a month after it declared the browser would fork the open source Webkit engine at its heart. That said, what it did show was a side its biggest rivals, Microsoft and Apple, have little to no ambition of entertaining. Score one, Google.

Practice what you preach
But reaching out to other platforms is pointless if you can’t unify your own. To this end I/O 2013 saw Google announce numerous measures.

First was the merger of all its instant messaging clients into a single new Hangouts service (available cross platform, naturally). Next came Google Play games services, which enable real-time multiplayer, leaderboards, cloud saves and achievements across Android. Leaderboards, saves and achievements will also be available to iOS and through a web browser.

Equally practical and symbolic were new smart notifications. If you own multiple Google devices they will soon detect which you are using, alert you once and dismiss further notifications elsewhere. This is simple and long overdue, but not available on any rival platform, and creates a much more pleasant multi-device experience.

Google even pulled out a party piece: a Samsung Galaxy S4 running stock Android that will seamlessly receive the latest Android updates. Little information was given about global availability of the unit, how many will be made or how long the partnership will last, but it projected the vision of a company getting its most troublesome partner back under control.

The struggling Google TV platform got an update too and notably the primary benefit is to enable future versions of Android’s firmware to be applied to any Google TV product within “weeks rather than months”. Google’s claims were gaining credence.

Bring on big data
And yet cross platform support and unity were merely setup jabs for what Google knows is its knock-out blow: data. Google has built everything around its foundation of search and it took its indexing, algorithmic and predictive data so far forward at I/O 2013 it is hard to see how Bing’s minority share of the market or search-less, data licensing rivals like Apple can react.

For starters, using what it already knows Google is integrating voice activated search into Chrome and Chrome OS, training users to say ‘OK Google’ when they want information. As if the verb ‘to google’ were not already ingrained enough.

Meanwhile Google Now’s predictive powers will add real-time public transit updates and smart reminders to its ability to second guess your needs for transportation, flight and hotel bookings, sports scores, birthday alerts, weather updates, currency conversion and language translation.

The seemingly innocent Google Music All Access even gets in on the act. The Spotify rival not only gives Google the jump on Apple, which is yet to launch a full fat music streaming service, but it also has advantages in tracking real time user listening habits and it can make recommendations based on their past Google Music purchases.

Most concerning for rivals, however, are Google’s new data mining techniques.

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In its headline redesign of Google Maps, arguably the company’s finest service is now also a data-gathering colossus. New Google Maps learns every user’s travel patterns, offers check-ins, encourages reviews of local businesses, integrates the reviews of your friends and works as a discovery tool pinpointing nearby alternatives to the businesses you search for. It also incorporates company promotions and can differentiate physical activity (walking, running, cycling) as you travel your route which will generate yet more revenue streams.

Less heralded, but potentially even more valuable is I/O’s evolution of Google Wallet. The Paypal rival is being fused into Gmail, enabling cash payments to be made seamlessly by email. It is US-only at launch, but a widespread roll out not only finally finds a strong usage case for the service, it helps Google build data on spend patterns and money transfers around the world.

In the battle for smart devices, it is hard to see how the company with the most user data can fail to provide the smartest.

Hiding Hardware
And on top of it all came healthy doses of self awareness. This is a sample, to read about the raft of hardware and software Google still has up its sleeve and how its data logs could make the company stoppable click here for 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

 

What is the future for broadcast television?

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Google claims YouTube has already beaten traditional TV, but has it?

Eric Schmidt is known for making bold predictions, but they are never bolder than when he talks about television. Despite this his track record isn’t good. Most notably in December 2011 the Google chairman proclaimed that by the summer of 2012, Google TV would be inside the majority of televisions on sale. He wasn’t even close. Undaunted Schmidt was at it against last week saying YouTube has already defeated television. Remarkably he may be a little closer this time…

Billions not millions
Certainly the statistics seem to back him up. In March YouTube surpassed one billion monthly users, that’s roughly one of every two people with an internet connection. Berstein Research also says YouTube ad revenues will rise nearly 40 per cent from $1.3bn in 2012 to $2bn in 2013 and top $15bn “in the next several years”. Meanwhile YouTube is said to be on the verge of announcing a bespoke subscription service to supplement the rental and ad-supported models it already provides.

Typically Schmidt had to take it several stages further. He dismissed YouTube’s one billion monthly users as just the start: “Wait until you get to six or seven billion” he enthused. 7.084bn is the current estimate for the total number of living humans on Earth according to the United States Census Bureau.

20130124AppleTV-sales

Streaming taking off
But Schmidt has a point and YouTube is just the tip of the iceberg. Amazon Studios, Netflix, iTunes, Hulu and Lovefilm are becoming the big movers and shakers of the video world, with most available on smart TVs and the first two already testing pilots and releasing entire original series online. Even heavyweights in the more mature music streaming sector are becoming interested with Rdio launching Vdio this year and Spotify said to be prepping a video extension of its service.

The popularity of media players only emphasises this point with Apple TV sales having grown exponentially in the last two years and there is a flood of successful rivals including Roku, Western Digital’s WD TV series, Boxee and yes, slowly but surely, Google TV. This is all before any boom the long rumoured Apple television could cause on arrival and the release of the media-centric next generation games consoles, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720.

Throw in that even full size laptops are now ditching DVD and Blu-ray drives and the motivation for users to adopt streaming services to replace them puts another nail in the coffin of traditional broadcasters. Broadcasters who last year, in the UK alone, faced a £350m drop in advertising revenue despite the windfalls of Euro 2012 and the London Olympics.

Demanding on-demand
Of course as technology wades into a new sector it is typical to point out how that sector remains belligerent in its determination not to change, but happily broadcasters are bucking the trend.

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Their sensible approach has been to give viewers the best of both worlds. Almost every major broadcaster now offers an on-demand ‘catch up’ service and some are even premiering shows on-demand first. BBC iPlayer is the most obvious reference point, but speedy evolution of Sky Go also demonstrates the Murdock empire is prepared for a future beyond fiddly satellite dish installations and digibox wiring.

Infrastructure and licensing
So with youthful pretenders and the established order both moving in the same direction what could possibly stop yet another online revolution? Unfortunately a lot. This is a sample, to read about what fundamental problems still exist and what can be done about click here to 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

TomTom Rider v4 2013

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

TomTom’s fourth generation bike sat nav is the most expensive product in its portfolio, but sadly it disappoints…

 

Pros
Fast, accurate route planning
Tough, durable construction
Motorbike specific UI & features

Cons
No HD Traffic support
No external speakers
No spoken directions when paired with a smartphone
Expensive for the feature set

Review Price £349.99

Key Features: 4.3-inch, 480 x 272 touchscreen; Bluetooth pairing; Waterproof

What is the TomTom Rider v4?
This is TomTom’s fourth generation dedicated motorbike sat nav. It has a more rugged construction than regular TomTom units to cope with wind buffering and exposure to the elements. It has a custom motorbike-specific user interface allowing it to be operated with gloves. Marketing materials often refer simply to the ‘TomTom Rider’ so be sure to check you are buying the TomTom Rider v4 edition that is new for 2013.

TomTom Rider v4 – Design
Take the TomTom Rider v4 out of its box and the first thing you notice is the weight. Its rugged construction means at 353 grams the Rider is 40-50 per cent heavier than most TomToms and it is twice as thick – 53mm to be precise, or roughly as thick as a doorstep sandwich. It still feels good in hand, however, and is small enough to store easily.

Furthermore, it’s very durable. It is largely unchanged from previous editions, but the matt black finish is practical and scuff resistant, while a hood helps shield the TomTom Rider v4’s 4.3-inch screen from sunlight. This only works from some angles, but TomTom has fitted the Rider with a sunlight readable screen in any case.

Given the Rider will be exposed to the elements it also carries an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of X7. The seven represents water protection and specifies that the Rider can withstand limited immersion in water, so even the heaviest of down pours shouldn’t be a problem. The X is irrelevant as it represents dust and if water cannot get in, neither can dust.

It is true that the Rider is far from the most attractive sat nav in TomTom’s product line, but it is certainly the most practical and durable.

TomTom-Rider-angle-menu
TomTom Rider v4 – Features
Interestingly, the TomTom Rider v4 is both heavy and light on features. For instance, the screen may be sunlight readable, but it is also low resolution at just 480 x 272. It remains easily readable, but feels light years behind the high density displays seen on modern smartphones and even some car sat navs.

Next to tally in the cons column is the absence of Live services, since the Rider lacks the integrated modem seen on the Live range. The knock-on effect is TomTom Places (a web-based search for businesses) is entirely absent, though Live POIs can be added manually via the company’s long running ‘Home’ PC and Mac software. It also means there is no support for HD Traffic, TomTom’s dynamically updating traffic monitoring software.

As such if there is a major hold up one morning, you’ll ride straight into it. This is less of a problem for bikers than car drivers since bikes filter, but it is still a notable omission from a premium device.

On the plus side, the Rider is customised heavily for motorcycle riders. The home screen features the addition of “Plan winding route”, which aims to pick the most enjoyable twisty method of getting somewhere rather than the most efficient.

Itineraries are also featured more prominently on the Rider than a standard TomTom sat nav, given bespoke routes and advance route planning are a major part of enjoying a motorbike for most riders. Itineraries allow the easy insertion of multiple way points in any route and they are also backed up by TomTom’s own route software. Itineraries can also be shared over Bluetooth with other Rider sat navs, which is a nice touch.

TomTom-Rider-Manage-Itineraries-midres

TomTom is keen to point out its tie in with motorbike-centric route making software ‘Tyre’ as well. Tyre integrates with the Rider so created routes can be uploaded directly to the Rider when it is connected into a PC. But note that Tyre is freeware and also works in this fashion with Garmin’s competing 350LM and 660LM motorbike sat navs.

Another tick in the plus column is the Rider’s Bluetooth lets it pair with a headset for spoken turn-by-turn directions and it can pair with a phone to sync contacts and make phone calls. Countering this the Rider doesn’t allow for spoken directions through earphones connected to a paired phone (like the 660LM) and it pair with both a headset and phone simultaneously to allow calls via a headset resulting in an either/or situation. Unlike Garmin’s sat navs, the Rider also has no external speakers.

That said we end on several pluses with many core TomTom features present and correct. These include Advanced Lane Guidance for turnings, IQ Routes, which provides a database of average road speeds at specific times of the day, near limitless POIs and an extensive speed camera database.

TomTom also bundles free lifetime European map updates and its long running ‘Home’ PC software allows the Rider to receive software updates, purchase additional country-specific maps and install daily map alterations.

This is a sample. To read about how to setup the Rider v4, how it performance, what value it offers for money and my final verdict 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. 

 

Samsung is hurting Android

May 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Android’s biggest supporter has become its biggest problem. We take a closer look at what Samsung is really after…

 

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Last week our HTC One vs Samsung Galaxy S4 head-to-head concluded that Samsung no longer makes the best Android phone. But after developments this week, I wonder whether Google wants Samsung to continue making Android phones at all.

What happened?
In an unprecedented move Samsung announced a deal on Thursday to make an established, high profile Android app incompatible with every Android smartphone except its own. The app in question is ITV Player, the catch up service for ITV – the UK’s largest independent terrestrial broadcaster.

Needless to say the news wasn’t phrased like that. Samsung celebrated the agreement, noting the rise in people wanting to use their mobile devices for video and an ITV spokesperson blamed the fragmentation of Android as a key motivation in its decision. It wasn’t, it was money.

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If ITV wanted to avoid fragmentation it would have chosen to make its app compatible with only pure versions of Android – something available to any rooted Android handset, and which discourages fragmentation. Meanwhile Samsung may recognise the demand for such an app, but it has just removed this option for millions of non-Samsung handset owning ITV app users. ITV said it plans to (re)launch for app for other Android devices “in the future”, but didn’t put a date on it.

Was this a one-off move that Samsung doesn’t intend to repeat elsewhere? Don’t be silly. Will such moves cause even greater fragmentation of Android? Absolutely. Will it damage Android? Absolutely. Not only has the deal put the platform’s fragmentation again in the headlines, but now it is also headline news that its key apps can be bought up to make this even worse. Everyone hurts except for Samsung, and Google hurts most of all.

Yes rivals could start doing the same thing. But Gartner states Samsung sells more Android smartphones than HTC, Sony, ZTE, Huawei, Motorola and LG combined and Samsung could easily outbid the competition for anything it wants. Big app developers can also cash in on this trend with incentives to make sure their apps are made with compatibility for Galaxy ranges first, and what Google has coded second.

But why would Samsung want to hurt the goose that lays the golden eggs?

Weak Android = strong Samsung
Here is a dirty secret: it is in Samsung’s interest to damage Android.

Each successive generation of Samsung’s Android phones has been more laden down with TouchWiz customisations and non-removable Samsung apps than the last. In the Galaxy S4, for example, 7GB of its internal memory is taken up its custom apps and highly tweaked version of Android. This is 1GB more than the Galaxy S3 and more than twice the size of a clean Android install partition. Samsung has been building an operating system on top of an operating system.

It is a classic Trojan Horse tactic. Android had unstoppable momentum, Samsung fought hard to become the chief beneficiary of it and now it wants an Apple-like control of its destiny. When Samsung adds software to its Android phones it believes it improves them, when Google updates Android with similar features it enables the competition to catch up.

Fragment Android and you stop the competition improving and mainstream customers learn only Samsung’s Android phones are worth buying. Only Samsung has the resources to keep improving a stalled OS – though the tactic only works long term if you have an exit strategy.

Samsung wants to be like Apple
The exit strategy is called Tizen. Tizen is a mobile operating system built by the Linux Foundation, but primarily funded by Intel and Samsung. It is open source by nature, but the two primary investors have scared away rivals.

Conveniently Tizen is covered with TouchWiz so to the casual observer it looks identical to Samsung’s Android phones. It can also easily run Android apps with a code tweak and Samsung would also have big-name natively-coded apps if only it could tie up some deals with… oh wait.

So break down Android to hurt rivals, switch to Tizen with all of Android’s app goodness (plus exclusives) and promise customers the unity Android was never able to deliver. Samsung needs to hurt Android now if it is going to create a big enough crack in it to open up room for another operating system in the market.

Samsung has a track record. It failed to do this once with Bada (which is actually merged into Tizen) and will inevitably follow through more strongly this time. A high profile Tizen phone has already been promised by September.

Of course Tizen is just part of the puzzle. Having its own platform is one thing, but Samsung has also learnt from Apple that the ecosystem around it is equally important. As such Samsung’s market leading televisions, monitors and laptops have all been gaining features that make them exclusively work better with Samsung’s phones. There are audio docks specifically for Samsung phones too. The pieces are all in place.

Do no evil
None of which means we should feel sorry for Google… This is a sample, to read why Google is actually getting a dose of its own medicine and which there now only looks to be one way to fight back click here for 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

 

Western Digital WD TV Play

May 10, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

An excellent value media player, but compromises have been made.

Our Score 6/10

 

Pros
Attractive, intuitive UI
Wide range of integrated streaming services
Very cheap

Cons
No support for DTS audio
Poor navigation for local media
Remote has questionable layout
Review Price £55.00

Key Features: Local & network media playback; Netflix; BBC iPlayer; Spotify; Bulit-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet; USB & HDMI

Time was media players were about one thing: codecs. And time was one little media player ruled them all: the original WD TV. With the world quickly adopting streaming across both music and video, however, the war has moved on. Now WD TV maker Western Digital is back with the WD TV Play, which it claims excels at both while hitting a new price low.

WD TV Play – Design
If the premise is ambitious, the design certainly isn’t. The ‘hockey puck’ box is now as much a staple of the media player market as smartphone slabs and ‘unibody’ laptops. This isn’t to say Western Digital has done a bad job. Certainly the Play knocks off the Apple TV, but its curves are similarly graceful and it could just as easily fit in a coat pocket as under your TV.

wdfWDTV-Play-1-

In fact, if we had a gripe about the Play it is that it feels too light. This comes down to build materials with Western Digital cutting costs by using cheap plastics. We also aren’t convinced by the mixture of finishes with the matt black top clashing with its gloss sides, but the hint of blue created by the entirely blue base does win us over.

Apple would no doubt call the Play a cheap copy and it may well be, but we’ve seen far worse.

WD TV Play – Features
While the Play cuts costs on the outside, it doesn’t where it counts. Sticking to its roots, the Play supports a vast array range of codecs. For video lovers there’s AVI, MKV, MPEG4, MP4/MOV and WMV9 to name but a few, while music lovers get numerous formats including MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, FLAC, OGG and Dolby TrueHD. There is also JPEG, GIF, TIF, BMP and PNG image support as well as a wide selection of playlist and subtitle formats.

Looking to the future the WD TV Play embraces a significant number of streaming options. We may lose its Hulu and Pandora support in the UK, but staples like YouTube, iPlayer and Netflix are joined by SlingPlayer, WVimeo, VUDU, DailyMotion, Spotify and CinemaNow. There are also widgets for Accuweather, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Flixster and more. If you don’t own a smart TV, the WD TV Play gives you a potentially decent stand in for very little outlay.

WDTV-Play-1

Connectivity is also good. Squeezed into the Play’s dainty dimensions are HDMI, Ethernet, optical, auxiliary and USB ports plus 2.4GHz 802.11n WiFi. The greater speed of 5GHz 802.11n WiFi would’ve been welcome (as would 802.11ac), but it isn’t a grave omission.

There are multiple control options, too. The WD TV Play comes with a fairly uninspiring remote with overly spongy buttons, but Western Digital also supplies virtual remotes via iOS and Android apps. More of which later.

WD TV Play – Setup
Boot up the WD TV Play and what immediately strikes you is how far media player user interfaces have come. The home screen takes inspiration from the Windows 8 start screen with large, colourful tiles and a favourites area to which you can pin as many apps and services as you like.

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Setup is simple since each service takes you through a setup wizard on first start, though usernames and passwords are best done through the smartphone apps as they provide access to a full keyboard. We also found the apps easier to use in general as they have dynamic layouts, a dedicated services section with quick access icons for every service and the ability to toggle between a standard control dial or touchpad for navigation.

By contrast the physical remote is limited and fiddly. Notably, the back button is positioned right below the power button (which caused us to accidentally switch off the Play on multiple occasions) and a dedicated Netflix button, which is only useful to Netflix subscribers and cannot be customised.

That said getting the WD TV Play up and running is nigh on foolproof, which means getting to your content is only minutes away…  This is a sample, to read about the performance, value and to read my final verdict click here to read my 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. 

 

The Cash Cow is Dying: Mobile Networks Face Bleak Future

May 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

4G will revolutionise tech, but rip apart mobile networks’ businesses…

I say I say I say, what’s the difference between a telecoms company and an ISP…? Nothing!

Technology jokes may not be the best, but in five to ten years everyone will understand this punchline. How we use our mobile phones is rapidly changing and in order to keep up mobile networks are being forced to spend billions shooting themselves in the foot.

WhatAppening
The latest evidence for this comes from research company Informa, which revealed this week that use of instant messaging apps has overtaken SMS for the first time. According to its data nearly 19 billion messages were sent per day on chat apps in 2012, compared with 17.6bn SMS.

Interestingly this research is also half baked. Informa only took WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, Viber, Nimbuzz, Apple iMessage and KakaoTalk into account leaving out arguably the two biggest: Facebook Messenger and China’s dominant TenCent service.

So SMS is losing, but at over 20 years old it should be losing. What’s more interesting is the bigger picture. People don’t prefer apps over SMS, they prefer data over everything else.

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Megabytes not mega minutes
Data is the revolution mobile networks are forced to inflict upon themselves. Their heyday was the 2G era when the number of cross network minutes and SMS was the defining element of your contract. What they didn’t see was the danger in 3G.

In spending an astonishing £22bn on 3G licenses in 2000 UK telcos, like telcos around the world, thought they were opening themselves up to a lucrative new world of restricted content portals, MMS messaging and video calls. In reality 3G bred the smartphone, which opened up the web and bred the “app store”.

Mobile networks tried to fight back. Network-specific app stores were pre-installed on handsets to try and grab a slice of their revenue and Orange and O2 famously vetoed the Nokia N97 because it dared to integrate Skype into the main dialler.

Even now truly unlimited data contracts are resisted by most networks for fear the higher quality, geography-free nature of VoIP will take off like messaging apps. Whatever their self serving attempts, it seems inevitable.

Pandora’s Box is open and it cannot be closed. Understanding their fate, mobile networks bid just £2.34bn for 4G licences this year knowing it will slash their last major revenue stream and premiums for 4G contracts will evaporate as competition increases. They fight to chop off their own heads.

Take up and roaming
All of which has led to something of a celebration. Mobile networks are about as popular as estate agents, and even Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission, couldn’t resist a dig on hearing Informa’s research: “The cash cow is dying. Time for telcos to wake up & smell the data coffee.”

The trouble is mobile networks know they are dying, just as we all know we are theoretically dying with each breath… This is a sample, to read about remaining the barriers to full data conversion and the potential diversification options for telcos click here to read my 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

The Next Spec War Must Be Battery Life

May 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Technology’s next great innovation must be battery life, or reap the consequences.

Robert Scoble made an interesting observation this week: “The battery life is a real problem… one six-minute video I did took 20 per cent off the battery”. The influential tech blogger was talking about his experience with Google Glass, the wearable form factor Google hopes will ultimately replace our phones, tablets and computers.

Not with battery life like that it won’t.

Low Battery

Of course Glass remains a prototype device, but the observation only further highlights that battery life has become the technology industry’s biggest dirty secret. Today’s latest and greatest smartphones are no better at getting us through a day on a single charge than smartphones a few years ago and cannot hold a candle to dumbphones 10 years ago. Tablet and laptop designs are 70 per cent filled by batteries and after a few years their performance diminishes dramatically.

The impact is seismic. Daily life is restricted to predictable pit stops and travelling involves packing a suitcase full of cables that make a mockery of the eye-catchingly thin devices they are powering. Forget megapixels, megahertz, CPU cores, screen sizes and apps, amps are where it’s at.

Solar, fuel cells and wireless charging

To this end technology has to step up and theoretically it is. Recent weeks have seen a number of breakthroughs which claim they can solve technology’s obsession of squeezing ever more power into ever thinner form factors.

_67068962_batterygxdThe most exciting comes from scientists at the University of Illinois. Researchers there claim to have developed ‘microbatteries’ with microscopic internal three-dimensional structures that make them 1,000x more capacious than existing lithium batteries. They are also powered by fast charging cathodes and anodes which lead researcher William King claims could reduce charge times to a few seconds.

Solar isn’t standing still either. Last year photovoltaic manufacturer Amonix became the first company to convert more than one third of incoming light energy into electricity – something which had proved a glass ceiling on solar for a decade. It hopes to go beyond 50 per cent efficiency in the next few years.

Fuel cells are also finally showing signs of life. In March researchers at the University of Calgary found a way to dump the expensive and toxic materials in fuel cell catalyzers and replace them with common metals. Meanwhile wireless power options are increasingly offered in flagship handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S4, Nokia Lumia 920 and Nexus 4. While wireless charge points have become a fairly common site in airports and are expanding into restaurants and coffee shops making it easier to top up batteries in our existing devices.

Format wars

But inevitably there are buts, lots of them… This is a sample. If you want to read about the problems facing future technologies and what manufacturers can you right now to fix it click here for 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

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