Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category


The Apple iWatch takes a step closer to becoming a reality

By Stefano on February 11th, 2013

smartwatchA few months ago I wrote about how Apple might be sizing up your wrist for an iWatch. I also profiled the growing number of smart watches that are on sale that use Bluetooth technology to hook up to your phone and deliver social media updates, emails and more.

Well The New York Times has been chatting to a couple of anonymous Apple employees who tell us that the company is working on a watch type device and that its USP is that it will feature flexible glass that curves around your wrist. It might also have a flexible curved, and not flat screen.

Here’s what the NYT said

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

While it sounds exciting it doesn’t sound like an iWatch is on the horizon just yet. Apple is very good at watching as other people innovate  and then delivering a product that it superior in terms of design and interface to the existing products. It did it with the iPod and then again with the iPhone and iPad.

So look out for an exciting design with a unique interface (maybe it will be voice controlled) later in the year or maybe in 2014.

That is unless someone else doesn’t get there first. Olympus, Google and Nike are all working on wearable tech and I wouldn’t bet against Samsung presenting something intriguing later in the year. There’s more on the Apple rumours here.

The most recent smart watches are here.

Pic from this clever designer.

features, Gadgets, Gallery

Valentine’s Day – the stuff he actually wants. Gadgets, clothes and more

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013

For her – It is Valentine’s Day in less than a week and your bloke is, as we speak, preparing an amazing day which involves chocolates, flowers, a candlelit meal and chapter seven of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The last time this level of planning went into anything they called it D-Day.  So shouldn’t you show him how much you love him? Forget the crap socks and that soppy card you were thinking about and get him what he really wants. Here are few ideas to help.

For him – Oops, you better get a move on, garage flowers won’t cut it again this year. Might be worth sticking this list in front of her – if you have been a good boy that is.

Ion Audio LP2Go £50

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Vinyl to go for £50. This is a very small turntable, which as it doesn't have a large platter can be tucked away in bags etc. It has a built in speaker and can be powered by mains, battery or USB. Firebox


features, Gadgets

Out of the blue – Apple launches a brand new iPad

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

ipad-4-genIn today’s most surprising tech news Apple have launched, wait for it, a new iPad. But before we all get too carried away there’s no new design or extra features to tell you about.

The new model, which is aimed at serious iPad users and businesses, comes with a whopping 128 Gigabytes of storage – that is twice the previous top amount for an iPad which was 64 Gigbaytes

So if you have a large collection of music and/or videos or you are a creative user that needs to store a lot of content on your iPad this is going to be a good bet.

The new 128GB iPad 4 is slated to hit stores on Tuesday 5 February, in black or white. It will cost £639 for the iPad with Wi-Fi model and £739 for the iPad with Wi-Fi + mobile phone data network-friendly model.

“It’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and everyday they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

Bought a new iPad? Here are the top thirty apps to download first


All you need to know about Twitter’s hot new app Vine

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013


On Friday Twitter unveiled what could well be the hottest new app for a very long while. It is called Vine and is a video sharing facility that is iPhone only at the moment. Ok so it doesn’t sound that exciting, but here’s why you really need to check it out. It could do for short videos what Instagram has done for online images.

So how does Vine work?

Vine is basically an iPhone app. You downland the app and then either create an account – or sign in with your Twitter account. The app is split between two elements – creation and discovery. Creation enables you to shoot videos, discovery helps you to find videos about subjects you are interested in.

Just like Twitter Vine gives you a limit on the length of the content you can produce. Just like Twitter is up to 140 characters with Vine you get just six seconds. It doesn’t sound like much does it? But it works because of the very clever editing element incorporated within the app. You tap the screen each time you want to stop and start filming. The app then knits the various snippets of footage together.

This makes Vine really great for creating mini animations or shooting things from three or four different angles to get some perspective. Some enterprising types have been using Vine to show you how to create dishes with each stage lasting about a second.

It sounds cheesy, but in reality it is fascinating. Think of its as a mini movie or a GIF with sound.

The other clever part is that as the movies are only six seconds they don’t use a lot of data, meaning that you don’t need to worry about data charges.

So what else are people using it for?

If you got to the discovery part of the app you can then type in things you are interested in to see what type of videos people have uploaded. In many ways it is a fascinating glimpse of the web in general in that there are lots of pet videos, images of kids and quirky animations from creative types. You can also type in NSFW and get to see people in various states of undress just like our old friend Chatroulette.

I searched for Arsenal and found clips of recent goals, while looking for Morrissey delivered some interesting snippets from Smiths videos.

You can also make friends on Vine and get to see you friends’ videos when they are uploaded.

How does it work with Twitter and Facebook?

Once you have shot the video you get the option of sharing it on Facebook and Twitter as well as Vine. Make sure you tick the boxes because if you don’t at the current time there is no way of going back and grabbing it again. The videos are then attached to your tweets in the same way that Twitter grabs videos. They are run wit hthe sound down so to hear audio you have to flick a switch.

Where do I see the videos?

You can search on the app or using twitter (use hashtags like #myfirstvine). If you want to get a quick glimpse of what people are uploading go to the Vine Peek site and you are presented with a series of the latest Vines, these are not filtered though so you might get to see things that you might not approve of

Does it work on Android phones?

At the moment no. It is iPhone only, though it will work on an iPad if it has a camera. Twitter says it will roll out an Android app shortly. In the meantime there are some Vine alternatives here. Personally, and I am an Android user, I will wait for Vine to happen.

features, Gadgets

All you need to know about big screen phones aka Phablets – and the seven models that have been released so far

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

In 2010 Dell released a new phone with a monster sized five inch screen called the Streak, and it went on to change the way we think about mobile phones. But not in the way that Dell had hoped.

The early models were filled with glitches and consumers didn’t really seem ready for a phone with a screen that large. Even Dell admitted defeat pulling the plug on the devices (it had also unveiled a 7 inch version) in 2011.

But a seed had been planted.  Just as Dell was putting the Streak out to pasture Samsung surprised everyone by issuing its own huge screen phone – the Galaxy Note. It was a tentative launch too with Samsung stressing the handset’s stylus capabilities (it comes with a pen that lets you do many interesting arty things, hence the name the Note) as much as the five inch screen size.

At first reviews were a little lukewarm, but as time went by it was clear that there was a demand for a phone with a five inch screen and Samsung has gone onto sell millions of Notes. The big differences between the Note and the Streak is that the Note’s screen is much brighter, more vibrant and higher definition and its processor is so much quicker and better suited to web surfing and gaming. The fact that the Note was much skinnier than the Streak was also a key factor too.

A year and a few months on it is obvious that the Galaxy Note has had a huge impact on mobile design. For starters it has helped nudge the standard size screen for a mobile up a inch or two. Samsung’s own best selling Galaxy S3 has a screen of 4.8inches, and even Apple is rumoured to be working on a phone with a screen that is pushing five inches.

The Note also gave birth to a new mobile phone sector – the Phablet. It is is a moniker that many tech journalists, quite justifiably IMO, hate but it clearly describes a product that is a cross between a phone and tablet.

Here then is all you need to know about Phablets, from which you might consider buying one through to profiles of the seven models that are currently available (or at least coming in the next month or two).

What is a Phablet?

As the name implies it is a hybrid between a phone and a tablet. It can be used to make and receive calls, but its selling point is a big screen that makes it perfect for gaming, surfing the web and more. Wikipedia states that the size of the screen of a Phablet is normally between 5 and 7 inches. There are a cluster of phones that have screens not too shy of five inches – the 4.8inch screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3 being one – but these aren’t considered Phablets.

Why would I want one?

Personally I think that once you have used Phablet you can never go back to phone with a smaller screen. In particular phones with anything less than a four inch screen suddenly seem kind of ridiculous. Honestly. The large screen significantly enhances a person’s web surfing, gaming and ebook reading experience. It is tricky to read an ebook on a 3.5inch screen, not so on five inch one. As the phones are high -end models they tend to be stacked out the with the latest operating systems and fastest processors too. The phones currently all run the Android operating system and have access to apps via the Google Play store.

Why wouldn’t I want one?

Cue the Dom Jolly jokes. They are obviously larger than most smartphones. However even the Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5inch screen fits comfortably in to a pocket of a pair of jeans. Their size also makes them slightly trickier to use than smaller handsets in that they are difficult to use one handed – to get the best out of them you  need to keep a tight grip on the phone while operating the touch screen with the other. To be honest I think most Phablet owners wouldn’t consider these drawbacks at all.

Could I buy one instead of a tablet?

Personally I love my iPad, but it stays mainly in my home. In contrast my Galaxy Note travels with me everywhere. I appreciate the bigger screen of my ten inch iPad when it is nearby, but then again I often just reach for my Note. In theory then it does kind of double as a tablet but one that you take with you everywhere.

How big are they going to get?

Well the discontinued Dell Streak was available with a seven inch screen. Currently the biggest Phablet you can buy in the UK is the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 which has a 5.5inch screen. The Huawei Ascend Mate may follow soon and that has a 6inch screen. There are lots of rumours of even larger screens. Samsung are also reported to working on two new models – a 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 3 and even a 7.7-inch screen or 7.9inch depending on which rumour you want to believe . They will be most likely be unveiled at Mobile World Congress at Barcelona in February.

Maybe at some point in the future it will be commoun to carry round a seven inch Phablet which is hooked up to a smart watch and a headset. The Phablet will act as a hub connecting with the other devices using Bluetooth. You will use the watch to get social media updates and text messages and the headset to make and receive calls. When you want to play games, watch TV or get online you’ll get the Phablet out.

What about Apple, Nokia, BlackBerry? Are they working on Phablets?

There are already rumours of an Apple  iPhablet (although CEO Tim Cook has denied this) and I’d be very surprised if Nokia didn’t unveil a Phablet that runs Windows in next month. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Samsung Galaxy Note 1

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It wasn't the first Phablet - that accolade was arguably scooped by Dell and its Streak - but the Galaxy Note, which was unveiled in late 2011 and went on sale in numbers in the UK in early 2012, was the first big screen to go mainstream. At its launch Samsung focused as much as the stylus (and the creative opportunities that it offers) as much as the big screen. But it soon became clear that gamers, hardcore web surfers and ebook readers were drawn to its very impressive 5.3inch screen. The phone's eight mega pixel camera is excellent too. It has gone on to sell millions and spawn a host of imitators that appear on the following pages. If you want to buy one in the UK now is a good time. You can pick one up on contract for as little as £20 per month. They can often be found in second hand stores too as some original owners have upgraded to the second version. Prices start at just under £300.





Is Apple now gunning for your (ahem) trainers? iSneakers anyone?

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

Kudos to Apple Insider for unearthing a really interesting patent recently filed by Apple. We all know that the company is keen on wearable tech and we have made predictions before about the possibility of an iWatch. The patent though refers to a mart shoes system that would be embedded in the heel of a foot that would include sensors that would relay information to another device – possibly an iPhone.

It could undertake a number of roles too. On one level it could tell you when your heel was damaged or being worn out which is highly useful information for athletes.  Alternatively it could be marketed as a high-tech consumer product aimed at runners.

Tech Digest writes

Sensors could include motion trackers, pedometers and weight-sensitive pressure sensors, letting wearers track how far they’ve walked, how fast they run, how much they weigh and when they should next consider buying a new pair of smart shoes as the current pair begins to wear out.

Most intriguingly there’s also the suggestion that the kinetic energy created whilst walking could be converted into power for the smart shoes, possibly removing the need to ever charge the shoes’ electronic components.

There is a potentially massive market for apps that track fitness related data. Already we have seen the huge success of next generation intelligent pedometers like the Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband and Fitbit Flex. These smart trainers could take fitness data collection to another level.


Apple’s iPhone to get even bigger screen. Is the iPhablet (big screen phone) set to follow?

By Stefano on January 21st, 2013

I remember when I first heard that  Samsung was about to produce a phone with a five inch screen  – the Samsung Galaxy Note.

From the moment I saw it I knew that my iPhone’s days were numbered and that I wanted a phone with a screen that size.

A year on and I have absolutely zero regrets about buying the Note. I did worry that I might miss an iPhone app or two. But to be honest, apart from one London Coffee app that I used quite a lot but isn’t available on Google Play, I have never suffered iPhone app envy.

So today brings news from China Times that Apple is apparently considering  launching a phone with a 4.8inch screen called the Math.

Here’s what Tech Digest had to say

According to China Times, the iPhone Math will measure 4.8 inches in size, nearly an inch bigger than the current iPhone 5, and will be positioned as an alternative to large screen “phablet” devices from Samsung, LG, HTC and Sony.

While little is known about the device (and all should be taken with a pinch of salt) the source also claims that the handset will pack in an 8MP camera, provided by Largan Precision.

Firstly is a 4.8inch screen device a Phablet? Not really. You could argue that given the success of the Samsung Galaxy S3 that 4.8inches is emerging as standard screen size for smartphones. Phablets have screens of more than fine inches, well according to Wikipedia anyhow.

If it is true then it shows once again that Apple is prepared to offer bigger screens on its phones and maybe a true Phablet will follow.

Apple needs to move quickly. It has gifted a whole market sector to several of its rivals, and although brand loyalty should ensure that the iPhablet is a runaway hit, Apple will be seen as followers rather than innovators.

It also runs the risk of the whole Phablet market being dominated by Samsung. So catching up, even with Apple’s huge marketing muscle,  is going to be no easy task.

I have owned quite a few Apple products in my time, but I would say that I am pretty agnostic about the brand as a whole. I will buy the best product rather than the buy a product from a specific brand when it comes to tech. Quite often this has been Apple, but not always.

However when I swapped my iPhone for the Note a lot of die-hard Apple friends of mine were very cynical and put up the following objections. If you look at these now I think that they are all about loyalty to a brand rather than thinking logically about the way the phones might develop.

1 You don’t need a phone with a screen that big

Well actually you do, or at least some of you do. As phones have evolved the amount of time we spend using them for making calls has diminished compared with texting, messaging, reading ebooks, surfing the web and more. Once you have used a Phablet the iPhone’s screen seems incredibly small and fiddly. There really is no going back. The future of smartphones is all about bigger screens and this is something that seems to have passed Apple by.

2 You look stupid making a phone call with it

Yep, Dom Jolly. Heard that joke so many times before. Yet I noticed on the bus the other day that larger screen phones – including the Samsung Galaxy S3 in this list – actually outnumber iPhones now, so it really isn’t an issue. Besides as I said before we are making fewer  calls on our mobiles than we used to.

3 Where am I going to put it?

Most men could easily house a six incher in their pockets -every pun intended. The Note is actually quite slim too so it doesn’t feel especially obtrusive. I appreciate that many women won’t carry a huge phone in their pocket, but then don’t a lot of women carry  their mobiles in handbags?

In short I think that the arguments are over and that when Apple does produce a Phablet, as it inevitability will, all the doubters from 2012 will be zealous converts to the Phablet cause.

The future for smartphones

Finally it is worth pondering exactly where will smartphones go in the future? Could screens get any larger? At CES we saw the Huawei Ascend Mate with its six inch screen. Might a seven inch phone be on the cards? Well no, and yes. Samsung is certainly rumoured to be thinking about a 6.8inch Note.

Running in tandem  with the development of bigger phones is the growth of smart watches that hook up to mobiles wirelessly via Bluetooth and display messages, social media updates etc and even allows the user to make calls.

Having played with a few of these I can vouch for the fact that we are a long way from the smart watch going mass market. The watches are just too fiddly and not especially easy to use. Ironically what they need is a company who are brilliant at user interfaces to make them work – know of anyone?

But they will get there in the end. So maybe one day you will have a smart watch, or even some other wearable item, that you use for the basic consumption of messages etc, but with a large screen – maybe even 7 inch device – for surfing the web, reading books, gaming and even a little bit of work.

It is a combo that would suit me perfectly.

features, Gadgets

The 12 gadgets that will shape the year – the very best of CES 2013

By Stefano on January 14th, 2013

So CES, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show, has been and gone for another year. And what a blast it was too. In some respects it was the most interesting show in a while, largely because it saw a lot of new emerging technologies from smart watches through to high-end 4k TV sets.

Along with our pals at Tech Digest we have gone through the hundreds, make that thousands, of products and picked 12 that we think will be then ones that will shape 2013.

I don’t think any will have the impact of say the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle or even Samsung’s early 3D TV sets, but they provide a template which a number of makers will take and refine to deliver the iconic gadgets of the future.

Without further ado then – here is our top twelve.

12 Sony Walkman W273

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Sony used CES 2013 to highlight how it has re-invented an old friend. It is reviving the Walkman in the guise of the W273 - an MP3 player for active types. The lightweight player is waterproof too so you can take it swimming. It has 4 Gig of storage, works with iTunes and each battery charge gives you eight hours of power.


CES 2013 – all the hottest devices from day two – Samsung re-invents the TV, Sony brings back the Walkman and more

By Stefano on January 8th, 2013

Day two of CES – the world’s biggest gadget show – is the time when the big companies unveil their latest wares to journalists and bloggers. This year, with no real presence from Microsoft I(or Apple for that matter who never go to the show) the spotlight fell on Samsung and Sony and both have delivered intriguing new products.

Samsung claims to have re-invented the TV while Sony has revived an old friend the Walkman. Also new on day two was an innovative paper based tablet PC, a Bluetooth dongle that should ensure you never lose your phone again and a very cool wearable camera.

Check this lot out then

The hottest devices from day one are here

If you want even more CES 2013 check out TechDigest

Samsung F 8000 - Is this the future for TV?

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This is the biggie - the TV set that might define how we interact with tellies in the future. This LCD set is available in sizes from 40" to 75" and is less than a quarter of an inch. However its key feature is its Smarthub interface that replaces the traditional ‘electronic programme guide’, or channel list. It analyses what you watch and makes suggestions as to what you should see next. It also has voice control and users will be able to swipe between screens (there are five presented each time the set is fired up) as they do on tablets or smartphones. No news on launch yet.

Accessories, Gadgets

CES 2013 – Onkyo debuts its first ever headphones range

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

Japanese company Onkyo has always been big in home cinema and hi-fi and it has rustled up a pretty impressive iPhone dock or two.

Now it is having a crack at a new market – headphones. At CES it took the wraps off a new range designed to be paired up with smartphones and take personal listenting to a new level

Coming first in March are two closed-back on-ear models the £179 Onkyo ES-HF300 which features an audiophile-grade cable and the £149 Onkyo ES-FC300, which is available in three colour options and is packaged with a tangle-free flat profile elastomer cable

The phones sport two wide-range 40 mm titanium drivers and come with Onkyo’s unique ported bass sub-chambers, which apparently help define a deep, muscular bottom-end response. The aluminum driver housing (shaped to resemble the volume control on Onkyo’s hi-fi and A/V components) and single aluminum hanger presents a clean, understated profile.

The ES-FC300 is available in three finishes: black with red cable, white with white cable, and violet with violet cable. It features an elastomer cable with a flattened cross-section to minimise tangles.

There are also aluminum in-ear models due in April – the £129.99 Onkyo IE-HF300 and £99 Onkyo IE-FC300. Powered by a 14.3 mm dynamic transducer, Onkyo claims that these in-ear headphones balance silky bass with an open and natural mid range. The IE-HF300 is packaged with the audiophile-grade 6N copper cable, while the IE-FC300 comes with red, violet, or white tangle-free elastomer cable.

Cameras, Gadgets

CES 2013 – Panasonic’s HX-A100 wearable camera

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

I wondered how long it would be before a major consumer electronics player got in with a wearable camera that enables the user to record their every step, and true to form Panasonic has got in there first.

Announced at the company’s event at CES in Las Vegas this morning the HX-A100 Wearable Camcorder is designed to let users easily capture and share images of everyday life such as sports and events.

The camera comes with an Earhook that enables users to shoot hands-free without a helmet. There’s also a Multi-Mount option for mounting the camera to a helmet or backpack.

The camera is waterproof has built-in Wi-Fi , so for example users can broadcast live video with simultaneous Full-HD recording or upload recorded images using a smartphone or tablet.

The camera also has host of image-enhancing technologies, including a bright F2.5 lens, the BSI Sensor, and Advanced Image Processing LSI. there’s also an Image Stabilizer to suppress blurring, and a Level Shot function to automatically correct tilted images. Other features include a Wind-cut option and slow-mo video in SD quality. Battery life is a reasonable 140 minutes of shooting on one single battery charge.

No news on pricing and availability.


CES 2013 – all the hottest devices from day one – Lenovo’s uber tablet, two huge phones, new Canon camera and more

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

So CES 2013 is finally under way. Well it actually kicks off in earnest tonight (UK time) with a lot of the big guys (Sony, Samsung etc al) unveiling their key new 2013 products.

A few companies, including some biggies, have already broken ranks and tipped us off about their latest gizmos. Here then are the best 12 products we have seen so far, and they include some huge smartphones, an outrageous tablet that can moonlight as a coffee table, some clever new cameras and more.

ZTE pic from Unwired View

Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC - world's biggest tablet?

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The IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC from Lenovo is a beast of thing. The world's largest tablet (if you can call it that) so far, it is a 27-inch touchscreen PC/tablet hybrid that's as much a coffee table surface as it is a computer. It is a giant Windows 8 slate and you can fold its built-in stand away to lay the device flat, acting like a giant tabletop tablet. You can also carry it around, but at 7.7KG I guess you won't be going too far. It is due in the spring and will cost around £1,500


CES 2013 key trend #1 Phones get even bigger. The Phablet hits six inches, nope make that seven

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

Those far eastern companies do love a competition or two. A few years back LG, Samsung and their Chinese rivals were all about creating the biggest Plasma TV. One would unveil a 70inch beast at a trade show only for their rival to hit back with an 80 inch screen at the next and so it went on. Then it was LCD TVs and now it is OLED screens.

About the same time as they were expanding the Plamsa the very same companies were trying to make the mobile phone as tiny as possible. Not any more though.

The key trend in mobiles in 2012 was all about the Phablet (part phone part tablet) and getting larger screens. I remember when the first big screen (five inches) phone the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 came out and some tech journalists made crass jokes about Dom Jolly. Well they look pretty silly now. Even Apple upped the screen size of the iPhone and as for the Galaxy Note (5.5inches screen no less) – well the second version has already sold over a million and Samsung reckons will notch up 20 million within six months.

As a Galaxy Note owner I can vouch for the fact that they are unrivaled for looking at websites, reading Kindle books and watching video. I barely miss my iPhone, and if anything, have the pocket space for an even bigger handset.

Samsung are also reported to working on two new models – a 6.3-inch Galaxy Note 3 and even a 7.7-inch screen 9or 7.9inch depending on which rumour you want to believe) phone. There is a chance that we might see these at CES 2013. If not they will be most likely be unveiled at Mobile World Congress at Barelona in February.

In the mean time the biggest phone in the world mantle is likely to be picked up by Huawei. Tech Digest reported this morning that the company was going to unveil its six inch screen handset at CES.

The Huawei Ascend Mate which (paired with the fact it’s a “monster” 6-inches in size) sounds unfortunately close to the name of a sex toy.

Indeed, the Android-running Ascend Mate’s rumoured spec sheet looks set to get you hot and bothered, with the 6-inch device sporting a 720p resolution, powered by a speedy 1.8GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a sizable 3,800mAh battery, all squeezed into a 9.9mm chassis.

The story originally broke here.

Then we shouldn’t forget LG and HTC both of whom have the potential to unveil an even larger handset at CES.

Finally CES wouldn’t be CES without some Taiwanese company sneakily trumping everyone with a product that appears out of the ether, so here’s to the eight inch phablet.


CES 2013: It is gadgets week at Brandish

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

Aaah Las Vegas. Think Sin City and you are probably picturing Elvis in his jump suited burger-addicted 70s prime, Tom Jones cooking up a storm for the laydeez and a thousand British boxing hopefuls returning home with their tales between their legs.

Vegas is, on a slightly less glamorous tip, the home of the convention and every week in every year you can find everyone from pest control experts through to photo copies sales guys nervously wandering their way round the hidden parts of hotels in a bid to check out the latest gear and drum up new business.

The one convention though that even the hard-bitten locals would like to crash is CES, the Consumer Electronics show, which kicks off on Monday. For half a week the convention centre and several nearby hotels are turned into an Aladdin’s cave of gadgets, tellies, intelligent cars and more as the world’s leading tech manufacturers pitch their vision of the future to journos, bloggers, dealers and anoraks.

Over the years the show has witnessed the launch of the digital camera, the MP3 player and more recently smart televisions and oh, the Angry Birds board game. This year promises to be a corker with several new technologies starting to mature and are now ripe for innovation and development.

Away from the aircraft hanger style halls where the big names parade their wares are the smaller halls and the back rooms where enterprising far eastern companies come to pitch their offerings. Sometimes these companies can throw up something that has the big guys looking over their shoulders in that it delivers innovative features, clever operating systems and most important of all ultra competitive prices.

Over the coming week we will be keeping a beady eye on CES rounding up the latest coverage from our sibling sites Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny. It is going to be one hell of a trip.

Gadgets, music

The MP3 player is dying, but vinyl record sales are through the roof

By Stefano on December 27th, 2012

Got an MP3 player? Chances are you don’t use it a great deal as it has been kind of superseded by the Swiss Army Knife of gadgets – the smartphone. With Spotify on mobile devices as well as the seamless integration of iTunes on the iPhone, there doesn’t really appear to be much of a need for standalone MP3 players.

And their decline has been confirmed by figures today from research organisation Mintel which says that sales of MP3 players have fallen by nearly a fifth to £381 million this year compared to 2011. Mintel predicts that sales will halve again by 2017 and virtually disappear within five years.

Samuel Gee, a technology analyst at Mintel, told The Telegraph that the decline in MP3 sales is “unlikely to reverse”.

“It is impossible to talk about the current PMP market without extensive reference to smartphones. The devices have directly contributed to the sharp decline in the value of PMP sales.”

He added that MP3 players are being “steadily outshone” by increasingly affordable new technologies, like smartphones.

I am guessing here, but it would seem that the one MP3 player that still sells well is the iPod nano which maintains a significant share of young women and pre-teens.

One music format which appears to be making a very real comeback is vinyl records. In a wonderful article in The Guardian John Harris put the case for vinyl records and highlights their recent rise in popularity.

We await conclusive British figures for 2012, but last year there was a quantum leap in sales of new vinyl albums, which were 44% up on the figures for 2010. Anecdotal evidence suggests the consumers responsible are not just hard-bitten types – men, usually – of a certain age, but much younger people. And the phenomenon extends across the industrialised world: the same pattern is evident in the UK, the US, Australia, Germany – and even cash-strapped Spain.

Harris makes the point that digital music leaves us in a state of twitchy impatience – hands hovering over the mouse which will move us to the next track. This obviously isn’t the case with vinyl records.

We’ll look at the demise of CD and whether that is a good or bad thing, later in the week. In the meantime I am off to give the above record a spin.

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