Archive for the ‘iOS’ Category

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So, iOS10 has finally dropped, it has bricked some iPhones but the majority have got away unscathed. We are still trying to decide what we think, but here are the changes this shiny new firmware will bring you;

iMessage – This is probably the biggest update in iOS10 with the ability to be able to draw messages with your finger and send the animation to someone else. You’ll be able to use rich links in Messages. Share a link and, as it would in Slack or Twitter, artwork and a precis of the article may be pulled in, so your friends can get an idea of what they are about to click on.

Bad news for the emoji haters as iMessage will now add emojis into predictive text giving you the option to swap full words for pictures. The death of the English language is nigh.

It has also been opened up to third party developers, meaning that there will soon be apps in the messaging service that can be used to order food, shop, book tickets and send people money within a chat. We are loving the iMessage Super Mario App.

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Voicemail Transcription – iOS is apparently going to put your voicemail into text so that you can glance at it without having to listen to it. It will be interesting to see how accurate this is.

Home App (HomeKit) – Finally the launch of the hotly anticipated HomeKit. Those of you with automated homes will be able to link most devices under one app which has always been an annoying thing with automation. HomeKit will allow you to quickly dim lights, tell Siri to turn up the heating and have access from the lock screen to do all of these. We are especially looking forward to seeing how this feature handles scenes which will allow at a click of a button or a few words to Siri and your room will be ready for movie night with a raft of set processes starting ie lights going off, Apple TV turning on and blinds closing.

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News – Redesigned and now looking simpler, the News app is the go-to for any news. Subscriptions have now been allowed so we assume Newstand will soon disappear. There is also a ‘Breaking news’ notifications from the app. You can toggle the feature from settings and even custom-tune the publications you wish to see pushed to your device.

Photos – Apple says it will use deep learning techniques to analyse faces, places and objects. The app can now draw together photos and videos that are linked by place, people and time and then automatically create reels and trip customisable short clips which Apple is calling ‘Memories’.

Siri – We have seen a deeper involvement with Siri in iOS10 with HomeKit making full use of voice control. But more interestingly it has been opened up to third party developers meaning that soon you will be able to ask Siri to check other apps other than Apple ones. A great step forward.

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Feature Changes; 

•’Slide to Unlock’ has been removed, and instead you’ll see ‘Press home to open’. This will prompt you to enter your pass-code or will unlock the phone if you use Touch ID.

• Deleting Stock apps has been a real issue for some people and now you can delete as you wish. Enjoy the power!

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• Apple will now keep track of where you park your car so you don’t have to bother. Apple maps will detect when you park and automatically drop a pin so that you can find it later.

• Bedtime is the new clock feature which you tell what time you want to get to bed on a given night of the week, and your phone will let you know when the clock strikes that hour to remind you to get some shut eye.

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• The update will bring with it more than a hundred new and redesigned emoji characters with multicultural and gender types.

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A couple of years ago, I reviewed one of the first generation of smart thermostats on the market in the UK. Long before Nest was available, the German made Tado was making significant inroads into our fledgling IoT marketplace.

Two years have now passed and Tado have released v2 incorporating an upgraded Smart Thermostat and an Extension kit for dual zone control. In my opinion this is sorely needed so I have big hopes that it works as well as intended.

Before continuing to review this upgrade, we need to look at a some statistics from the 2 years the 1st generation system has been in my property.

Straight energy saving comparisons between Tado v1 and the traditional method of heating that was pre-installed in my property (the legacy thermostat) are actually difficult to quantify for a number of reasons. We cannot compare money spent as we have fluctuations in energy prices which would cause us some calculation issues. Secondly, the weather. Of course this is being tested in Britain, weather changes all the time, so one year could have been considerably hotter or colder than the next so please keep this in consideration.

KW/h expressed in units are what are reported but for the purposes of this review I will refer to them only as units. I took an average of the three years prior to my time with Tado (with the same energy provider) and compared the result to the units used each of the two years with the device.

Here are my results;

Year 1: 21% less units used

Year 2: 26% less units used

As you can see, under my conditions, using Tado has saved a significant amount annually which would have easily paid for the price of the 1st Gen model in the first year.

The bottom line is that Tado deliver on their promise.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the new upgraded version.

smart_thermostat_hardwareTado with cool white LED display

I opted for a professional to install it for me, firstly as I did not want to mess around with my heating system but more importantly I wanted to see how Tado handle the entire upgrade.

As the equipment arrived with instructions on how to install, my first thought was that Tado had got a little mixed up as the instructions advised me to register the device before booking my installation which sounded a little odd as I already had a Tado system in the house.

But I should have had more faith in Tado because my new devices were registered and a professional installation were booked in an instant by following the instructions.

I will say that I think that Tado could improve on their communication with their upgrade  customers, specifically that the proper procedure is to register new devices first which will eventually allow you to book an engineer install further along in the process.

Each step felt like it was leading up to a manual setup which I did not want.

Secondly they could just advise the user that your old setup will run alongside the new one until the professional fits the devices which does become apparent at the end of the process.

But with all that said, Tado continue to impress me with not only the devices but the way they make setup so easy to follow. You may have a nagging feeling that the setup process will eventually lead you down the wrong path but if you stick with it, you will have no problems. Tado know what they’re doing and I could name a few tech companies who could take a lesson or two from these guys.

The only thing that seemed to cause the engineer some trouble was pairing each device.

I think this was more due to the engineer’s lack of knowledge rather than Tado’s design as one call to Tado themselves and it was fixed remotely in a matter of minutes.

If you can take anything from this review – call the Tado support team if you have any problems – the service really is second to none.

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Anyway, back to the devices. The first generation Tado thermostat has been replaced with a similarly looking white plain thin box. When discussing the aesthetics with my wife, she hit the nail on the head when she said “the box just disappears into the wall, you wouldn’t even notice it day to day” and that is exactly what a thermostat should be. Clever but invisible.

But don’t be fooled by the boring exterior, one press of the front button and the device wakes to show the temperature set in a very cool white LED. Each press flips to a new display showing the current mode:

Heating Status (On or Off)

Temperature

Hot water setting (if you have configured the system for this)

The next two pages show the conditions. Two touch sensitive led little arrows allow you to change the settings on each page.

Tado has been set up in my property to control two zones and my hot water tank. I can control each zone independently from the device or my iPhone.

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Above is the photo of the first page showing the main temperature in that room and of course below the set point temperature which is where the heating will come on if the room temp drops to that level. You can see at the bottom the fact that Tado tracks where it’s users are, which in my opinion is the best thing about this system. It is simply brilliant that the system knows when I am just round the corner and may need the heating ready for when I get back as the room temp is below the set point temp, but equally if we are 20 miles away at work, the system knows not to do this as it will take at least an hour to get home.

Equally zone 2 also operates in the same manner and can be set independently from zone 1 which is downstairs for us. The system allows you to set times when the system will operate, so for example in zone 2 we only need it to work in the evening as we normally go up there to relax and watch TV. But because of the timing feature, if we were home during the day this zone would not be heated as it was outside of the time range we had set. This is all very versatile and will fit around any family household but again is all very easily over-ridden by going manual on the app or simply clicking the button on the thermostat which with a few finger presses lets you override.

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Tado are a very interesting company and have already signed up to Apple’s HomeKit. The eagle-eyed amongst you would have noticed the Tado logo in the HomeKit presentation in Apple’s WWDC earlier this week which means that not only are the company working with the whole HomeKit which will become available in Autumn 2016, but it should also allow the device to be able to work alongside the other brands that were also on screen in the pic below.

IMG_0579Apple HomeKit Brands

Imagine what this means for a moment, if Tado get this right you will be able to have the device interact with brands that are nothing to do with Tado themselves. For example temperature spikes as it is in Manual Mode in error – flash my Philips Hue lights red to notify me. Or even better, use Tado’s geo-fencing properties to know when I am coming home to ensure heating is on (Tado), lights downstairs are on and ready (Philips Hue) and the garage door is now open (Fibaro Z-Wave Sensors). This will be subject to the Extension Kit being upgraded by Tado as I have been informed this will not be a simple software upgrade as the Extension Kit came out before Apple’s certification process.

On top of this Tado support have told me that the devices themselves also have some unused sensors inside which they may use at some point in the future. This intrigues me as it shows they are future proofing themselves. They have also now signed up to IFTTT, the popular website which again connects devices.

We are looking forward to testing the individual radiator controls as this is the logical next step to total heating management in the modern home allowing you to control individual radiator temperatures per room, but these are due Q3 2016.

To conclude, Tado is a no-brainer for me, if you haven’t got one, then start looking into it as it should quite rapidly save you money in an area which seems to be getting more and more expensive.

The system is solid, with even more solid support to go with it. It will fade into your wall as you forget it is even there and I think this is exactly what it is designed to do.

 

TheTechSpy Rating: 10/10

 

Following the successful launch last year, Photofast have raised the bar again with their new CR-8800. The MemoriesCable, for those of you that don’t remember, gave a new lease of life to iOS devices with low storage capacities and provided users – for the first time -with the ability to transfer files between iOS devices and an external storage medium.

The cable could also be plugged into any computer via USB to transfer content to the built-in memory and to be honest, it worked brilliantly. The companion app was a delight to use, with powerful copy tools, backup features and even a built in video player seemingly capable of playing all video codecs.

I couldn’t think of many drawbacks –  it really did bring removable storage to fixed storage iOS devices and it felt ground-breaking.

But there was one drawback.- only made so glaringly apparent by this new unit – and that’s true removable storage. More on that shortly.

Let’s get on with the unboxing!

The unit is very nicely packaged in a clear plastic box reminiscent of CD jewel cases:

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Anybody remember CDs? No? Nevermind…

The unit is absolutely tiny, only a little bigger than the micro-SD cards it uses:

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For comparison, here is the unit next to a 64GB Samsung Micro-SDXC card and adaptor that I bought for testing:

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Once plugged into your iPad/iPhone, iOS will prompt you to download the companion app, or, if already installed, to launch it.

The app used is the same, excellent One app from Photofast, first seen on the TechSpy in our MemoriesCable review:

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The same functionality is here as before, and I’m not going to go through all the features again, as we already have it in detail.

 

So what does the CR-8800 bring to the table over the MemoriesCable ?

True removable storage.

In my review of the Mio MiVue 518 dashcam, I had to use a USB card reader and a laptop to view the recorded videos on a larger screen. It was cumbersome but how often would I need to do that anyway?

The GoPro use case is much clearer. Let’s say I’ve gone out for a day mountain biking and I’ve recorded footage of my exploits on my GoPro. In the past, I would have had to finish for the day, go home and put the SD card into my computer before I could select and edit the clips.

Now I can do the selection and editing without a computer. Armed with just the CR-8800 and an iPhone / iPad, I can spend all day biking and recording, instantly discarding bad shots and editing good ones in the field (so to speak).

Other more mundane uses include DSLR video imports and AVCHD camcorder video imports, neither of which are possible using Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera Adapter.

At only £32 at the time of writing, the CR-8800 is a steal. It’s well designed and comes backed with an established app with an extensive features list.

The CR-8800 is available now on Amazon

The Tech Spy rating:  9.5 /10

As an exclusive offer, The Tech Spy readers can get 15% off using the code: tts15off

 

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4” iPhone – iPhone SE

There’s clearly a lot of Apple’s customer base that have felt neglected or ignored since the decision to move to 4.7” and 5.5” displays. In the last year, Apple have sold 30 million 4” iPhones despite them housing yesterday’s technology – the iPhone 5S, the 5C etc. But now, in an attempt to win over those customers Apple have introduced the iPhone SE. It brings the 4” model bang up to date with the latest technology, which is exactly what those with smaller hands have wanted. For all intents and purposes, it’s a smaller version of the 6S, minus 3D touch, housed in a slightly modified 5S body.

The line-up now looks like this:

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TheTechSpy thoughts:

This is another savvy move from Apple from a business perspective, akin to the financial rewards of dropping the 32GB storage configuration of iPhones.

The iPhone SE replaces the 5C and 5S models at the lower end of the range but sporting almost the same specs as the flagships models. The iPhone 5C was a failed experiment in response to the overwhelming demand from the public for a lower cost iPhone, housing iPhone 5 components – which were already a year out of date – in a plastic body.

When Apple announced the 5C, it felt like they knew they were missing out on the low end smartphone market – the largest volume segment – but were just clutching at straws. The 5C always felt misplaced and doomed to fail (and that has proved to be the case), but worse, it dragged Apple’s premium brand image down.

Apple now know for certain that the premium reputation and standing of their products is not something that should be diluted, and with the iPhone SE that concern has been addressed quite emphatically.

There is only one thing that TheTechSpy team need in the morning to get them going and that is a good cup of coffee.

Whether it’s a cappuccino, flat white or even a swift espresso, most of us feel better with that little hit of caffeine to get the old grey matter sparking.

So you can imagine, when one of coffee’s giants Nespresso announced the release of a new coffee machine which now includes a little smartphone connectivity, we were more than interested.

Nespresso Prodigio is one of a handful of connected home coffee machines that we have  seen….and my is it a beauty.

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Nespresso have always been an elegantly styled company and this machine is totally in line with their brand. I couldn’t see this machine out of place in any home and the fact it is a small form factor helps as it would be perfect for an apartment.

Now, the techie side….this machine is not yet connected to the internet of things, but that’s not to say that they will not do this in the future. It all works through a Bluetooth connected app which allows you to see water level, when the machine needs descaling and also when you need to buy more capsules (which you can order through the same app). All these notifications will be useful to any person using this on a daily basis.

But what we really wanted to see was some sort of remote use, which when you think about is a little pointless as at present my ordinary bog standard Nespresso machine only has one button to press after putting a pod in and turning it on. But if we looked at all tech like this, I think we would see a lot of devices would not even exist under this premise.

The app allows you to remotely make a cup of coffee at 3 set sizes, which potentially has some good use. If I am honest, after a week of waking up at 5.15am I would probably be fed up with opening an app and making a coffee like this, but where it would get interesting is if Nespresso worked with IFTTT which would allow you to set a chain of actions, for example when my alarm goes off start brewing my espresso or when I get in from work start making a coffee.

I think this machine is cool, but it represents the advancement of technology in a sector that normally would not be associated with this. That is the important thing here, that companies like Nespresso are realising that this is needed. The firm’s managing director Francisco Noguiera said that the machine is to “showcase the latest coffee technology” and to “listen to the consumer need for greater convenience and personalisation of products” which in my opinion although true, this machine is a little half hearted in that sense.

The device in its current state is merely a talking point when friends come around, but if we set aside the actual tech it is a beautiful looking machine albeit a little overpriced at £200+.

Would I go out and buy this? No, for the first time in a long time I think I will stick with my existing unconnected Nespresso machine which merely asks me to turn it on and then make a choice of 4 buttons as to which coffee I want.

Once again, we look forward to the future of this booming sector.

TheTechSpy

 

 

 

 

Following on from our review of the D-Link Smart Home Plug, we have decided to take a look at the other products in the ‘mydlink Home’ range. In this review, we’ll be looking at the Monitor HD video camera.

The PIR Sensor will be covered in an upcoming review.

Introduction

The Monitor HD is a 720p video camera that can be used anywhere in the home. The camera has night capabilities with IR LEDs capable of illuminating  up to 5m, and so for the purposes of this review, I will be installing it in my nursery as a baby monitor.

First impressions

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It’s a nice looking camera with a gloss white finish which should compliment most interiors. On lifting it from the box, the first thing that hit me was just how incredibly light it is. This may sound odd, but before I even start to use it, I want to weigh the thing down!

Setup

Sure enough, after plugging the mains cable in and positioning the camera where I wanted it, the slight curvature of the mains cable angled the camera away. It took a few attemps to get it to sit still in the right direction. Fortunately you can mount it on a wall using screws and D-Link kindly provide a drilling template in the box should you wish to go down that route.

As with the other products in the range, the camera has a WPS button on the side which when pressed in combination with the WPS button on your  router, will connect to your home Wi-Fi network.

D-Link advertise the camera as for use exclusively with it’s mydlink Home app (available on iOS or Android). Indeed, for most people, this will be what they use and it will be more than satisfactory. However, after digging a little deeper I discovered that it’s capable of operating as a standard IP camera over HTTP/S, RTSP and UPNP. It’s worth noting this as I don’t think D-Link are doing themselves any favours by ignoring traditional IP camera sales when it works so well.

So just to reiterate, you can view the video/audio stream in the mydlink Home app, or any IP camera app. The initial setup of the camera and any firmware updates will need to be done in-app though.

Firmware updates are applied in-app, automatically…

 

 

Performance

Here is a full colour daytime shot taken from the nursery window:


And a full colour daytime shot in the nursery:


This is a split view showing the D-Link DCS-935L operating as a traditional IP camera alongside a Foscam IP camera on the fantastic LiveCams Pro app.

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Top: D-Link DCS-935L (IR LED on). Bottom: Foscam 9804W  (IR LED on).

Extras

Audio is provided via a built-in microphone, but there’s no 2-way baby-soothing audio functionality.

Summary

As a starter camera, I can honestly think of nothing  better due to its integration with the mydlink Home app and the provided setup wizard.

It really is the kind of thing you could buy for your grandmother and she’ll be able to configure it for herself. Dig a little further though and D-Link have provided the features to make this a good investment as a standalone IP camera too. It’s a product that will grow with you if you’re new to this sort of thing.

 

TheTechSpy rating: 8/10

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The PhotoFast 32GB USB 3.0 MemoriesCable for iPod, iPhone and iPad arrived for review last week and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

This little Lightning to USB cable houses storage (16/32/64/128GB) on the cable itself, allowing you to easily transfer files between iOS devices and your computer.

I’ve longed for an easier method of backing up photos and video on my iPhone and iPad for years now but have never found anything that fits the bill. PhotoFast think they have cracked it. Have they? Let’s find out…

When you first plug the cable into your iOS device, a popup will inform you that the accessory requires an app from the App Store:

The companion app for the hardware is the new PhotoFast One app, not that you need to know the name of it because clicking App Store on the pop-up will take you directly to it. It’s a nice touch.

Once the app is downloaded and installed, any subsequent cable insertions generate the following pop up. If you click Allow, you will be taken directly to the app.

The app itself is very well designed and packed with features. There are clear sections at the top of the screen for accessing In-App Storage and External Storage.

At the bottom of the screen are buttons for Music/Photos/Video, YouTube (downloader) Google Drive (browser) and Dropbox (browser).

Swiping to the right takes you to a second page almost entirely dedicated to backup buttons.

I tested the Contact Backup option first and it saved all 600 of my contacts to a .vcf file in a matter of seconds.

Next up was the Photo Backup, some 693 photos in my camera roll, all saved in under 2 minutes.

It’s all very impressive.

To test the transfer speed side of things, I copied a 1GB test file from my PC (using a USB 3.0 port) and was able to achieve write speeds of ~19MB/s. Read speeds of ~33MB/s were consistently achievable.

The app isn’t just for backups and file transfers though. It also has built-in music and video players which can be used to stream content from the cable storage. In fact, the video player is compatible with MP4, MOV, M4V, MKV, AVI, FLV, RM, RMVB, WMV, VOB and 3GP formats.

The Settings section is also full of features, including the ability to protect the app with a passcode or Touch ID.

There is even an option to completely encrypt the storage, although this will render the cable unusable on a computer. If you are just transferring files to and from your iOS devices though, this may be a valuable option.

The Auto Backup feature is what really interested me for the simple reason that Apple are bordering on the sadistic with their 5GB free iCloud storage limit. Granted, Apple are trying to upsell to their paid plans but 5GB is used up in no time, usually due to iCloud photo backups.

This is where Auto Backup comes in. Every time you open the app, an incremental backup can be performed.

So now I plug the MemoriesCable into my wall charger and iPhone before I go to bed, and the app takes care of backing up my photos, contacts and calendar items, all while charging.

I have set my iCloud backup to ignore photos now and as a result, I can backup daily to iCloud with no more of the annoying ‘Storage Full’ messages I usually wake up to.

All in all, this is an excellent product that really unshackles Apple devices and their famously non-expandable memory.

PhotoFast are currently running an Indiegogo campaign from the 3rd – 24th August, where units can be obtained for significantly lower prices than RRP.

More details here: http://igg.me/at/PhotoFast

TheTechSpy rating:  9/10