Archive for 2014

By November 6, 2014 Read More →

HTC Confirms Android 5.0 for M7, M8

B1jghMACUAE4s3DGreat news for owners of HTC’s flagship devices, the HTC One M8 and last year’s HTC One M7. In a tweet HTC USA have confirmed that:

We have the Android Lollipop code. We’ll be updating the HTC One (M8) & (M7) within 90 days from today. #HTCAdvantage

Which means that we’ll see Lollipop on the M7 and M8 by the beginning of February 2015. This will be deployed as an over the air update starting with SIM free devices first. No precise details on the deployment to various carriers and how long we’ll have to wait here in the UK as yet but it’s certainly a step in the right direction!

Posted in: News, Phones
Tags: ,
By November 5, 2014 Read More →

Cruise ships take a Quantum leap forward

QuantumJust last week Royal Caribbean International took delivery of their newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, from Meyer Werft Yard.

Now you may well be wondering why we’re talking about a cruise ship, and to be honest, when Royal Caribbean invited us aboard a few weeks ago, I too wondered

But Quantum of the Seas is all about technology and is the most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean say it’s the world’s first Smart Ship, with “boatloads of bandwidth” which allow the cruise line to offer unprecedented connectivity – 500 times more than any other cruise ship; easy-to-use systems that expand guest choices and simplify schedules, plus, RFID technology that speeds up the boarding process and allows guest to track their luggage every step of the way.

Tracy and I were able to spend two nights on Quantum, to experience all of this technology for ourselves. This equated to two days of liberally using words like ‘Awesome’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Incredible’ and ‘Brilliant’.

So let’s starts with a few facts and figures…

  • Registry: Nassau, Bahamas
  • Built at Meyer Werft, Papenburg, Germany
  • 168,666 GRT
  • 1,141 feet (348 meters) long
  • 136 feet (41 meters) wide
  • 28 feet (8.5 meters) draft
  • 22 knots cruising speed
  • 16 guest decks
  • 18 total decks
  • 16 guest elevators
  • 4 bow thrusters with 4,694 horse power each  
  • 4,180 guests (double occupancy)
  • 4,905 guests total
  • 2,090 of Royal Caribbean’s largest and most advanced staterooms ever
    • 375 Virtual Balcony staterooms — interior staterooms offering expansive real-time views of the ocean and exciting destinations through virtual balconies
    • Up to 16 Family-Connected staterooms — perfect for multi-generational families or groups of friends, these staterooms provide separate bedrooms and bathrooms for all 
    • 12 new Studio staterooms with balconies and 16 Studio Interior staterooms, both for single travelers  

  

The use of technology starts before you even step aboard

About 10 days before we were due to set sail, Royal Caribbean sent me my “reservation number” and asked if we would complete the online check in. This process is very similar to online check in for an airline where they go through and take all your relevant information including passport and visa details. Although, as we were going on a cruise-to-nowhere, a visa was not required.

During the process you are also asked to take or provide a headshot which is then used as part of the boarding process. If you were going on a cruise which stopped at other ports the photo is used to identify you when you leave and board the ship as they scan you in and out with your WOWband or smart card. If you are not happy providing your own photo they can also take one at the port as part of the check in process. The last part of the online check in was to set up your onboard charging account. Once you have this set up it means that once onboard just a quick scan of your band and you can pay for anything!

The other big part of the pre-planning Royal Caribbean have introduced comes from their change from a traditional main dining room to their new ‘dynamic dining’ system. Once I was checked in I could then go and make restaurant reservations for our 2 nights along with entertainment reservations for the shows. The system will also handle the shore excursions and spa appointments in the future. What’s really nice is once you have something booked it tells you if you are going to have a clash and you can view everything in the really well laid out planner. Once onboard all these reservations will then transfer to your Royal iQ app and will also save guests from standing in lines and trudging from place to place on the first day of the cruise. As Royal Caribbean say, ‘you get the first day of your vacation back’.

Royal Caribbean guests can go from “sidewalk to ship” in 10 minutes with no check-in counter, no forms to fill out and no lines to stand in. The average check in time on the day we boarded was just 7 minutes!

 

RFID Technology

WOWBand

WOWBand

RFID technology is becoming more commonplace and Royal Caribbean are certainly using this to its advantage in a number of key ways.

During the boarding process, RFID tags are placed upon your luggage. This allows guests to track their luggage in real time on their smartphones and monitor their bags’ progress through key points en route to the stateroom.  On departure, the process is reversed.   

Quantum of the Seas also has new RFID ‘WOWband’ wristbands, which can be used as your room key or can be used to pay for onboard purchases, make reservations, find your photos in the onboard photo shop etc.

Simplicity and efficiency are also at the heart of two new apps that put guests in charge of their cruise choices: Cruise Planner, which allows guests to research and book dining reservations, shore excursions, spa appointments and more before their vacation begins; and Royal iQ, available as a downloadable app and provided at freestanding iQ stations around the ship.  Royal iQ allows guests to manage details during the cruise, includes a convenient calendar that provides at-a-glance views of their program, and keep in touch with one another and home via phone and text capabilities.

 

WiFi onboard

Connectivity on cruise ships has always been hit or miss and bandwidth is a big issue. This is set to change with Quantum of the Seas though, as Royal Caribbean International teamed up with O3b Networks, a global satellite provider, who developed a new technology. This new satellite network delivers “fiber-optic bandwidth.” Quantum of the Seas features O3b fiber-like Internet service which will provide more than 500 times the bandwidth that you’d experience from a regular on-board connection.

The O3b fiber-like Internet service was first piloted on Oasis of the Seas in December 2013 and has also been since introduced on Allure of the Seas. The new system fitted to Quantum of the Seas will provide O3b coverage as the ship approaches the east coast of the United States.

Royal Caribbean International is now testing a variety of pricing. While the prices are highly subject to change, the current pricing offers guests $29.95 per hour, $99.95 per day, and $189.95 for unlimited usage on a 7-night cruise for one device.

You may read elsewhere in the press that there was ‘no Wifi coverage’ on Quantum during the inaugural sailing but that’s just sensationalism. There was indeed WiFi on board but there isn’t O3b satellite coverage in Europe as yet. This will be ready in time for the launch of the next Quantum Class ship, Anthem of the Seas, when she commences service from Southampton in April of 2015.   A fact that was made clear to members of the press both before and during the inaugural sailing.

 

 

Ripcord

Ripcord by iFly is just awesome! This offers guest the chance to experience skydiving in a wind tunnel and is the first of such to be installed on sea-going vessel.

Following a short briefing video and time with an instructor, guests are provided with a jumpsuit, goggles, helmet and ear protection. Your group is then taken to the wind tunnel where you get to take it in turns to experience what it’s like to freefall skydive.

With a series of hand gestures and physical guidance from an instructor it doesn’t take too long to get the hang of the basic positions but it looks like a lot of training would be needed to get really good at it. Fortunately, you’ll be able to buy packages to give you a certain number of training sessions with an expert.

I’d recommend keeping each session fairly short to begin with though, it takes a lot out of you!

DSC_0233 IMG_5406 DSC_0281

 

North Star

If skydiving seems a little bit too energetic for you then there’s another way to experience some sights aboard Quantum of the Seas with North Star.

North Star is “an engineering marvel that transports guests more than 300 feet above the ocean”. Guests board a large glass capsule at the end of a large boom arm and are then hoisted high in to the air for unique views of both the ocean and the ship itself.

Here you can take some exceptional photographs and I’m sure it will be even more amazing to be able to take photos of some of the cruise destinations and North Star is able to operate both at sea and in port.

 

DSC_0229 DSC_0245

IMG_5415 IMG_5518

 

Sea Plex

So heights may not be your thing but if you’re still looking for some fun then there’s plenty to be had at Sea Plex.

Sea Plex offers the largest indoor active space at sea and is a distinctive and flexible sporting and entertainment venue offering more first at sea experiences, guests can experience a circus school with flying trapeze, or play basketball on a full-size regulation basketball court. By night, the first-ever bumper car and roller skating offerings deliver fun and excitement. Or, guests can dance to music orchestrated from a floating DJ booth which hovers above the activity below.

 IMG_5400 IMG_5401 

 

Bionic Bar

One of the coolest additions to Quantum of the Seas are the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar.  

These masterpieces of technology can create and pour your favorite mixed drink in just a few seconds right before your eyes. Tablet computers allow patrons to select their desired drink for an extensive list while electronic screens at either side tell you how long you’ll have to wait for your drink and where you are in the queue.

Unfortunately the Bionic Bar was plagued with teething problems during our time on Quantum of the Seas but we were able to see it operational on a number of occasions and it certainly is a talking point. It also ensures that you get your turn to order from the bar fairly and the robots don’t ask for tips!

Quantum of the Seas launch photos

 

Of course, it takes far more than a bionic bartender and skydiving to make a truly smart ship and items mentioned in this post are just a few of the more obvious, customer-facing innovative technologies that you’ll find aboard Quantum of the Seas. Below the surface there’s plenty more to talk about from the on-board waste reclamation to the air-lubrication system…

Tracy and I were lucky enough to see much of what goes on behind the scenes on Quantum of the Seas and spent some time with Captain Patrik Dahlgran, Capt. (Felix) Srecko Ban, Captain Gus Andersson and Richard Pruitt (Vice President of Safety and Environmental Stewardship).  But that’s all for another post!

 

By October 30, 2014 Read More →

Four Lessons on Retail Shopping Apps

It is not unusual to see strangers on the street staring at their mobile phones or tablets or looking busy reading something. When attending concerts, you may have seen several dots of light emanating from handheld devices. Like you, they may have been trying to take pictures or recording the song at that juncture. There is no denying that we are moving fast into the digital age. Mobile phones have not only changed the way people communicate. It has also changed the way individuals live and shop.

Many are still using laptops and desktops at home, but handheld devices are becoming computers on the go. The internet has revolutionized mobile technology and shopping app. According to Tech Crunch, research firm Forrester expects online retail to grow at a 10 percent compound annual rate, with the money involved to reach $279 billion by 2015. A Nielsen study found that at least 48 percent of children between 6-12 years wish for an iPad for the holidays. The Nintendo Wii U comes in second, then the iPad Mini. The focus might all be about fun and games, but they want the flexibility of mobile devices more and more than fixed gaming consoles.

Adults in the US also have this affinity for mobile devices with just over a third of the population owning a tablet, according to Pew Internet. Not only do these tablets and mobile phones provide a means of contacting friends, family members, and colleagues. They have become computers on the go. Tablet devices are becoming a prime choice for shoppers looking for both necessities and luxury items. The key is for business owners like yourself to harness this information. This way, you can start integrating online storefronts into your current setup. Shopify has the technical capability to help ease your company into the digital age.

Ease of Navigation

Online stores can take their queue when sales are not picking up as expected. Marketing the site may have been the easy part. But if sales remain low, you may have an online store that is keeping customers from hitting the buy button. Does it take the customer forever to complete the transaction? Are their way too many next buttons to go through that customers end up abandoning the sale? Try timing how long it takes to complete a transaction. Ask friends to go to the site to do beta testing and ask for their opinion.

Clutter-free Web site

You may have several items to sell, so organizing them in different categories helps. You can even opt for a setup where customers can go to a page to answer some quick questions. This will help narrow down the item choices to what they want to take a look at and then buy as soon as it fits their requirements. Understanding that it takes a savvy developer to help you get that website right, you also need to know how the final look should come out. Some retail businesses point to costs as the main reason for not getting this one right. One must prepare to take on the extra cost for now to reap more profits later.

Smarter Shopping Cart

Although online shoppers may appear to be buying items in an instant, they do prepare for them. This means they go to websites to check out the items and compare it to a competitor site. This will include shopping based on the pictures posted, prices and shipping options. Taking all these factors together, they then make the decision to buy online. The problem is that they may close a website by accident without saving their shopping cart. This will mean going through the entire process again and worst case, they just end up at the last online store they were looking at. But if you have an app that allows customers to add items toa wish list, they will likely find their way back to your store again.

Payment Options

The customer has finally decided to buy the item, except there’s one drawback – the payment method. It could be that the customer gets redirected to another site to encode their credit or debit card information. This raises security questions for some customers and might make them abandon the sale. It could also be that you only accept card payments, but they may only have a checking account available. Again, this could appear as another dead end to the customer.

With the booming industry in online retail selling, many companies have found ways to post their online stores. What some of these businesses missed out on is the customer experience that could spell the difference according to Tech Crunch. Do some research on which developers to go to for your online store to get a piece of the market share. It may entail some cost, but you can get a quick turnaround for your buck if you do this right. Cutting corners may work if the risks are not as high. Get this right, so your efforts will be worth it.

Posted in: Editorial
By October 28, 2014 Read More →

Getting the most out of the Microsoft Surface

8583948813_4bbbb18bac_qRecent innovations in technology and the internet have seen us increasingly consuming more media on the move. The Microsoft Surface is kicking up a storm as the new laptop-meets-tablet hybrid on the tech and entertainment market. Boasting the key perks of each device; with the light weight of a tablet and the processor of a laptop, can the Microsoft Surface really do it all?

 

Key Features

Featuring a 12 inch screen, a fourth generation Intel Core processor and up to nine hours of battery life, the Microsoft Surface certainly packs a punch in the world of technology. Home to three ports and an optional keyboard, it takes the lead where earlier tablets have failed.

Keep it private

Unlike standard tablets, the Microsoft Surface allows for greater security with the regular 4 PIN passcode strengthened by a personalised picture password, meaning you don’t need to worry about sensitive information or even your kids picking up the device and having a go.

Personal touches

Once you’ve downloaded your preferred apps, you can then re arrange and even re name these on your home screen for quick and easy accessibility. You can also link your tablet up to multiple email accounts, social media feeds, networking and business messengers, allowing you to access both your work and personal emails on the go from one device.

Enhancing accessories & tips

Setting up your new Surface with Microsoft security software means that if your tablet is lost or stolen, your data will be encrypted and away from prying eyes. If you’re using the tablet for anything other than writing quick emails then consider purchasing a detachable keyboard as it will make your time much more productive.

As with all modern, powerful technology, battery life is the bane of your tablets performance capabilities. Never get caught short again by purchasing an external battery pack, these light and compact chargers will come to the rescue at your time of need!

To conclude

Although the Surface comes with a higher price tag than your standard tablet, it’s easy to see why. Microsoft has strived to create a tablet-laptop hybrid which shows off the ‘Windows experience’, allowing the user to access everything they need from one portable device.

If you’re looking at purchasing the Surface do some research, as the newer model may better suit your requirements.

 

Image by Jason Howle, used under the Creative Commons license

 

 

Posted in: Editorial, Tablets
By October 27, 2014 Read More →

Unboxing Inateck 2 in 1 Micro USB Cable + Apple Lightning Adapter Cable

vlcsnap-2014-10-12-16h42m44s189Inateck have provided us with a 2 in 1 Micro USB Cable + Apple Lightning Adapter Cable 1.2m (4ft.) This is ideal for charging your iPhone 6/ 5/ 5s/ 5c /iPad 4/ iPad air/ iPad mini mini2/ iPad 4th gen, whilst also providing a cable for a MicroUSB based device. The cap on the top can also slip onto any other MicroUSB cable in the event his cable, like so many Apple charge cable, doses.

You can purchase from Amazon, here.

 

  • Material: PVC and PC; Length: 1.2m / 4 feet. The extraordinary flat cable design prevents pesky cable tangle
  • Charge your device with your computer or a USB Car/Wall Charger! Sync your device with your computer to transfer music, videos, files and backup your data
  • High durability with transparent and robust protection heads at both plugs,robust durable for stable and reliable transfers. Both for data transfer and charging
  • Plug and play; freely convert between micro B and adapter with lightning plug
  • Compatible devices: smartphones and tablets with lightening or micro B connection, e.g. iPhone 6/5/5C/5S, iPad Mini/iPad Air, Android phones and tablets etc
By October 23, 2014 Read More →

Unboxing Inateck 4 Port USB3.0 Hub With 1 Port Charging

vlcsnap-2014-10-18-22h12m13s239Gareth unboxes Inateck’s 4 Port USB3.0 Hub With 1 Port Charging, the cheapest USB 3.0 hub on around. This hub is equipped with both a 5V 4A power supply and built-in surge protection, 4 Port USB 3.0 + 1 fast charging port (5V 2A) for SamSung tablets and smart phones etc. 

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 supports transfer rates up to 5 Gbps – The actual transmission speed is limited by the setting of the device connected; Backward compatible with USB 2.0/1.1. Support 4 ports USB interfaces for Desktop/ Notebook/ Ultrabook/ SATA HDD Docking Sation/ Digital Camera; Compatible With Windows XP / Vista / 7/8 /MacOS X 10.8.4/ Linux. High Performance with VIA VL812 Chipset; Slim Size – Easy Carrying and Experience; Safe and reliable; Build in Overvoltage/Overcurrent/Leakage and Short-Circuit protection unit. Plug and play; Supports hot swapping. No install driver needed; LED indicators display the status of DC power supply and USB connections.

You can grab one from Amazon.co.uk here for only £19.99

 

By October 22, 2014 Read More →

Be Bond: try these gadgets

james-bond-gadget-caseThe bomb will explode in 40 seconds, so you better hurry up, Bond. You run through the metal corridors of the underground lair, eliminate four henchmen with your Walther PPK and chuck a defusing device at the bomb, seeing its timer stop at 00:07 seconds.

With that, the queen suddenly materialises in front of you, clutching a medal of honour and giving you a wry smile and a subtle wink. “Your majesty!” you exclaim, as you kneel on the ground.

It’s at about this time that you wake up, clutching your bedside lamp and saluting at your still-sleeping girlfriend.

If this is an experience you recognise, then it might be time to get those master spy fantasies out of your system.

With a few of these gadgets, you’ll be able to live your life like the suburban Bond you long to be. And stop saluting at your girlfriend in your sleep – it’s weirding her out.

Maintain an eagle eye

Just a decade or so ago, trying to hide a security camera was like concealing a woolly mammoth under your jumper. With their mass of wires, hefty lenses and loudly whirring rotation mechanism, they were about as subtle as a Brian Blessed cosplay convention.

How things change. Now, surveillance cameras can be concealed in replica Coke cans, BIC lighters, Blu-ray players and pretty much anything else you like.

Whether you’re meeting an ex-KGB informer, rendezvousing with a double agent or want to prove to your girlfriend that you did say to meet at eight, not quarter-past nine, these hidden surveillance cameras can be invaluable for the home. 

Glass yourself

Google Glass, that pair of hi-tech spectacles, has been making waves in the press, and rightly so. This versatile piece of kit could put Q out of a job, if he’s not careful.

You can essentially have the entirety of the internet in your eyes with Google Glass. Whether that means you want to Google someone’s name to think of new conversation topics or record the world around you, the possibilities are endless.

Some have criticised the device, claiming it’s leading our already dwindling attention spans to their death knell. But don’t let such negativity bother you – the Glass is the next step in technology.

See through the night

Do you ever stare into darkness and wonder what’s going in the inky black of the night? Then, ignoring the fact that you’ve got too much time on your hands, night vision goggles are perfect for you.

Even the cheaper end of the scale now allows you to see in complete darkness. Perfect for camping trips, reconnaissance missions or sneaking around your house with the lights off (everybody needs a hobby), pick up a reasonably priced pair and enjoy the pleasures of the night.

Posted in: Editorial, Gadgets
By October 22, 2014 Read More →

Nexus 9 UK prices revealed

nexus-9-release-date-578-80The HTC built Nexus 9 has now arrived on the Google Play store and Amazon here in the UK with prices starting from £319 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version. Other variations include the 32GB pushing the price to £399 and adding LTE connectivity continues to increase the price to £459. This is more in keeping with Google’s Nexus 10 pricing over the last few years. Many are furious at the iPad-esq pricing and it’s easy to see why. Google have made much headway with their cheaply priced Nexus 7 over the last three years and most had hoped for the Nexus 9 to mirror this. It features a 8.9-inch display, supported by a 2.3 GHz 64-bit Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and a 6700mAh battery, high specs for a high price. Oh yeah, it’s made by HTC, who make expensive devices.

Pre-orders for the Wi-Fi only version opened on October 17 – Google is promising that units will leave the warehouse in 2-3 weeks. If you order, expect it on November 3rd. If it doesn’t arrive, just wait longer.

 

Posted in: News, Tablets
By October 21, 2014 Read More →

Unboxing Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Unboxing Samsung Galaxy Note 4Gareth has gotten his hands on, and unboxed Samsung Galaxy Note 4. This latest Phablet offering from Samsung is due to spark all manner of uncomparable iPhone 6+ vs Note 4 debates, battle and stand offs. Here Gareth, a Note veteran,  unboxes the phone and takes a couple of days to adjust to the features and form some some early opinions of the feature set.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 specification:

  • Dimensions – 153.5 X 78.6 X 8.5 mm / 176g
  • Display – 5.7” Quad HD Super AMOLED (2560 x1440)
  • Processor – 2.7GHz Quad Core Process
  • Memory – 3GB RAM + 32GB Internal memory
  • Supports microSD up to 128GB
  • Network – 2.5G (GSM/GPRS/EDGE) : 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • 3G (HSPA+ 42Mbps): 850/900/1900/2100 MHz
  • 4G (LTE Cat.4 150/50Mbps) or 4G (LTE Cat.6 300/50Mbps)
  • Camera – Front Camera 3.7MP + F1.9/ Selfie (90º), Wide selfie mode (120º)
  • Rear Camera 16M+ Smart OIS/ Fast AF, Live HDR(Rich Tone)
  • OSAndroid 4.4 (Kitkat)Connectivity – Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2X2 MIMO)Download Booster
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth® v 4.1 (BLE),ANT+ , 
  • USB2.0, MHL 3.0
  • IR LED (Remote Control)
  • Battery3220mAh Fast Charging
  • S Pen – 15g, Hovering 15mm, Pressure level 2,048
  • Sensor – Gesture, Accelerometer, Geo-magnetic, Gyroscope, RGB ambient light, Proximity, Barometer, Hall Sensor, Finger Scanner, UV, HRM

By October 20, 2014 Read More →

ALCATEL ONETOUCH introduces the IDOL 2 MINI S

image001Alcatel Onetouch has launched the IDOL 2 MINI S 4G LTE smartphone through Carphone Warehouse. This good looking Android smartphone has been built with performance and usability in mind. Its brushed metallic finishing and diamond cut perfectly complement its Quad Core processing power and a sharp IPS display to create a smartphone perfect for style-conscious consumers. With an 8 megapixel rear camera for HD video capture and crisp photos with image stabilisation enhancements, the IDOL 2 MINI S is a premium choice without the price tag.

With a screen size of 4.5”, the IDOL 2 MINI S is compact and fits in the palm. Despite its size, the IDOL 2 MINI S doesn’t compromise on the user experience. Innovative, user-focused features like One Finger Zoom ensure that it can genuinely be used with one finger.

The IDOL 2 MINI S is available in Slate from Carphone Warehouse priced at £12 per month on pay monthly. 

image001

IDOL 2 MINI S

  • 4.5” qHD IPS display
  • 8.5 mm thin
  • Quad Core 1.2 GHz
  • 4G LTE – Cat 4
  • 8 Mpxl 1080p main camera
  • 2 Mpxl front camera
  • Android 4.3 (4.4 FOTA)
  • NFC
Posted in: News, Phones