Archive for the ‘iPhone’ Category

Fresh in for review today from Satechi is the Bluetooth Button Series.

The series consists of three buttons, the Shutter Button, Media Button and Home Button.

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The Shutter Button, as you might expect, is for taking remote photos on your smartphone and is ideal for tripods.

The Media Button allows you to control your smartphone video or music apps.

The Home Button is simply a clone of your home button.

All three of the devices have a solid industrial design with what looks like brushed aluminium edging.

So, let’s get on with the review…

Shutter Button

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This will probably be one of the easiest things I’ll ever have to review. By pressing the button when you have the camera app open on your phone, it will take a photo for you. Simple and effective. It’s also responsive enough for you to hold the button down and take burst photos.

Media Button

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The Media Button is what had me most excited. It’s a simple enough device, using the Bluetooth AVRCP protocol to access Play/Pause, Previous / Next track and Volume Up / Down.

Many devices have the same AVRCP functionality as the Satechi but nearly always as part of an audio receiver set. What I mean by this is that audio is redirected over the Bluetooth A2DP protocol away from the source device, usually to a headphone socket on the media remote.

Take a look at the Sony SBH-20 which at first glance looks like a competing product. It has the same media controls but the unit is both an AVRCP and A2DP device using what’s called a ‘Bluetooth Audio Sink’. This means that all audio is redirected to the headphone jack on the SBH-20 the moment you press a button.

The thing that gets me about the Satechi Media Button is that this kind of device is so rare and yet it’s perfect for parties. Let me explain:

Let’s say you have a few friends over for a BBQ.

You have an iPhone connected to your home stereo via a headphone > auxiliary connection, a couple of the speakers placed near the windows and you’re playing your favourite music through Spotify.

You’ve started playing a playlist and left your phone in the house with the stereo out of harms way.

You could take the Media Button out into the garden with all the food and drink and just leave it on the table. Skip a track? No problem. Turn the volume up? You got it.

You cannot do this with something like the SBH-20 or any other AVRCP device I’ve found online for that matter. The second you press a button, the music from the stereo would stop, re-routed to a device that nobody is listening to.

It really is as far as I can tell, a unique product.

The price of it also means it’s not the end of the world if your mate knocks his beer over it. Until all phones are waterproof, I’d much prefer this scenario.

Home Button

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The Home Button is simply a remote ‘Home’ button. On my test iPhone 6 Plus, it does exactly what the normal home button does – a short press exits applications, a long press activates Siri. Double tapping takes you to the app switcher.

The only use I’ve found for this is in my car. I mounted it to my dashboard using the supplied adhesive pad and can now dictate to Siri and keep my eyes on the road. For this one purpose, I’ve found it invaluable.

The Shutter Button and Home Button are normally available for £19.99 at Amazon, with the Media Button priced at £23.99.

However, Satechi have provided Amazon discount codes of 15% for readers of TheTechSpy, valid until 24/07/2016.

Media Button: 88EWX7F8 
Shutter Button : X9E6I4CR
Home Button : Z7HQ2TVZ

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I think it is safe to say that now it is a normal sight in society to see the majority of people carrying a smart phone. Most of us carry around our whole lives in these little devices, which have private information, social network logins and our lives in photos just a few clicks away.

The other issue is that not only is there a sentimental value to the device with everything it has inside, but we forget of the actual monetary value and most of us walk around in public openly looking at our smart phones without a care in the world.

Imagine walking down the road, holding £500 in cash in front of you for the world to see….I am not sure that would last very long as thieves look to make an easy steal.

The good news is that you can protect yourself with certain tweaks which a lot of iPhone owners do not know about.

Before I start the most important thing to have is a pin number or passcode to lock the device. Make sure you ALWAYS have a passcode as this is the first line of defence to someone snooping through your device. Also make sure your device auto locks itself after a few minutes, this will ensure that if you put the device down and walk away it will lock on its own and will need your unique passcode to unlock it.

Find My iPhone:

Firstly, make sure you have Apple’s very own “Find My iPhone” app which can be downloaded from the app store, as this will allow you to track your iPhone if it has been lost or stolen. With this app you can remote wipe the phone to at least give you some peace of mind and put it into “Lost Mode” which allows you to locate and post a message when the phone is turned on. This can be accessed via the internet on any web browser through iCloud.com or on one of your other Apple devices with the “Find My iPhone” app installed.

Once installed, do the following to turn the service on;

  1. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on iCloud
  3. Tap on Find My iPhone.
  4. Turn On the option for Find My iPhone.

Recently I lost my rucksack on the train which had my iPad inside. On returning home I launched “Find My iPhone” from my iPhone and was quickly faced with all of my Apple devices in a list. I could see the iPad in question had not been turned on yet, so I clicked on the device in the list and put it into “Lost Mode”.

Lost Mode

This allowed me to firstly set a tracker on it which meant I would be notified as soon as it was turned on and its location. I then could set a phone number and a message allowing the person who turned it on to know who owns the device and how to get in contact. If you think you could be near the device you have lost, you can also set a loud tone to sound which will allow you to find it if it is in close vicinity and will annoy the person that has it.

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Three hours after putting it in Lost Mode, I was notified that the device had been switched on and of course the location of the device and within minutes I got a call from National Rail staff telling me that they had the device and that I could pick it up.

Now this does rely on two things, firstly that your iDevice has a connection of some sort as this is how it pushes info back to you and secondly that the person who switches it on actually gets in contact to return the device. If they do not get in contact, we recommend giving the details to the police as you will now have a location. At the very worst you will be able to erase all of the data on that phone through the app.

Safeguarding Your iDevice:

Now, criminals have got tech savvy and have realised that merely switching off location services disables the tracking feature which police can use to track the phone down, so here is how to stop them doing this;

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Hit General
  3. Select Restrictions – at the point you will be asked to set up a pass code, do this!
  4. Click “Enable Restrictions”
  5. Scroll down and look for Deleting Apps and toggle the switch to “Off” – This stops people deleting “Find iPhone” which aids in locating the phone after its been stolen.
  6. Scroll down to the section labelled Privacy
  7. Click on Location Services and then click “Don’t Allow Changes” – This stops location services from being disabled without your pass code.
  8. Lastly, scroll down to the Allow Changes section and click on Accounts, then hit “Don’t Allow Changes” – This will stop anyone disabling your iCloud account and will allow the phone to be tracked as long as a Sim card is in the phone. Even when a thief puts their own sim card in, your details cannot be taken off even with a system wipe.

This makes it impossible for your phone to be disabled, so if you do encounter the worst and your iPhone is stolen, call the police and hand over your iCloud account details and let them track your phone.

Hot in for review at The Tech Spy offices this week is the Yale Easy Fit SmartPhone Alarm.

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This is Yale’s top of the range wireless alarm and being part of their ‘Easy Fit’ range promises to be a breeze to install thanks to all components being pre-paired. So, let’s get on with it….

Unboxing

Included is the control panel, keypad, siren box, dummy box, 1x standard PIR room sensor, 1x camera PIR, 1x door contact, Ethernet cable and all fixings.

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Pre-installation

The first step was to plug the control panel into my router using the supplied Ethernet cable and power it on. Next, I downloaded the Yale app to my iPhone and once installed, I created myself an account.

I was then prompted to enter the control panel’s MAC address to register the alarm and the app immediately picked it up. So far, so painless.

Installation

The siren box was the first thing to go up, and it really was as simple as drilling four holes in the exterior wall, screwing it in and switching it on. If you’ve ever had a wireless alarm where the components need pairing before installing, you will know my relief that the siren box remained silent during install!

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With every wireless alarm I’ve installed in the past, the siren has gone off at some point while I’ve been 20ft up a ladder. Let’s just say that it’s not a pleasant experience and I dread it each time. Granted, that may have been me not pairing the siren correctly or triggering the tamper switch accidentally, but either way. I had no such problems this time.

The PIRs, door contact and keypad all have ‘knockout holes’ for screwing to the wall, but these need to be drilled rather than punched through. It’s simple enough however and took 5 minutes.

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The keypad was mounted by the front door and the door contact was easily mounted on the UPVC  patio door using the supplied adhesive pads.

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The standard room PIR was easily affixed to the corner of the living room wall with just a couple of rawlplugs and screws, as was the Camera PIR in the kitchen.

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And that’s it!

Testing

On opening the app (I am using the iOS version), you will prompted to login to your Yale account. Unfortunately this isn’t a one-time occurrence – you will be prompted to login every time you open the app unless it has recently been suspended to the App Switcher.

The app will however keep the username and password fields populated with the last successful credentials, which makes this a little less frustrating, but only if you’ve ticked the ‘Remember me’ box.

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Hopefully with a software update, the app will skip this login page entirely and just use last configuration settings to take you directly to the main page. For now though, it’s just another page that needs to be loaded and clicked through before you can remotely arm or disarm the alarm.

Once logged in, the next step is to check that all of the accessories (devices) can be communicated with successfully.

Here you can see the 5 devices that ship with the alarm as standard:

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You may notice that the Status column appears blank for every device. This is a little confusing at first, but blank means ‘Good’. If a device was offline, you would see a yellow exclamation mark in this column. I’ve tested this by taking devices well out of range and also by removing the batteries. A green tick would be more informative than a blank cell and this is something I will suggest to Yale.

The Walk Test

The Walk Test is an essential part of the install process that verifies the sensors actually pick up movement (or a contact break in the case of the door sensors). This involves pressing the Walk Test button at the bottom of the device page and then, quite literally, walking around the house. The PIRs should pick up any movement and an audible chirp should be heard from the control panel.

The door contact and normal PIR worked as expected, but I couldn’t get the camera PIR to pick up any movement as I walked around.

Try as I might, I could never get the camera PIR to pick me up. Biting the bullet, and going against every urge I had, I eventually succumbed to calling Yale’s support line. I explained the problem and they ran me through some tests, including re-pairing the device to the control panel, but to no avail. They promised to send me a replacement PIR which duly arrived a couple of days later for me to pair with the alarm and try again.

Even with the new PIR, it just would not pick me up on the Walk Test so I called Yale again. Their support representative informed me that the PIRs ‘sleep’ for 90 seconds after the last detected movement in order to conserve battery power and would therefore need a short period of time before registering any movements on the Walk Test. I tried this too, but even after 4-5 minutes of waiting out of sight, the camera PIR still wouldn’t register any movement.

They advised that for a proper test I should arm the system and then try to enter the building through the area monitored by the camera PIR.

Success! An immediate trigger of the alarm! Testing of the other area covered by the normal PIR also worked along with the door contact. So it transpires that the alarm is actually in full working order but the instructions regarding the Walk Test could do with updating. The camera PIR isn’t configured to trigger a Walk Test event – possibly due to the fact that there is much more hardware inside and still running off AA batteries –  but it does work normally when the system is armed.

I also received a photo taken by the camera PIR during this ‘break-in’ which is stored on Yale’s server and accessible in the app:

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Yale will keep a list of the last 100 images for you, which is more than enough and these can be passed to the Police in the event of real burglary. It should be noted the the camera PIR is assisted by a flash rather than any form of IR-assisted imagery.

The alarm supports up to 20 zones which can be individually assigned home/away/burglar/entry modes depending on what the normal method of access to your property is.

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Let’s be honest though, the real reason for this alarm though is the remote arm/disarm. The amount of times that I’ve forgotten to arm my alarm long after I’ve left the house unattended for the weekend is staggering and I’ve been left contemplating turning around to go back or begging a family member to pop around to arm it. Well, forget those days, the future is here. It really is as simple as this screenshot would suggest:

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Hit Arm to arm, Disarm to disarm, what could be easier?

Conclusion

A solid, modern, smartphone enabled alarm. 8/10

Pros

Once installed, rock solid.

Responsive and helpful customer service.

Cons

Confusing installation instructions.

App doesn’t auto-login.

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Nowadays our lives are dominated by screens. Whether it be your PC, Laptop, tablet or smartphone, we are all focused at some point in our day on them.

Although this seems like a bad thing, one thing is for sure, environmentally this is great, as paper is slowly becoming less of a part of our lives.

I am not sure if this is the same for you, but this does mean with all that finger poking at screens and mouse clicking, I almost feel like I have forgotten to hold a pen, as when I go to write a note it feels like I haven’t held one in years which I have to say I do miss.

But of course with most things recently, somebody comes along to bridge that gap and today we focus on OTM Technologies who have started crowdfunding Phree, the digital input device.

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This is the “write anywhere” device which lets draw, write, annotate on pretty much any surface. It will connect to all of your devices over a Bluetooth connection and is compatible with apps like Office, Evernote, OneNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard, Viber and more. So you can sketch or jot down ideas, thoughts or even take down details instantly.

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Personally, I can really see this being used in meetings, quickly jotting down notes and minutes to view digitally at a later date, but I have to say I do like the idea of being able to just pull this out and start writing anywhere.

One thing that really surprised us was the fact that not only is it an awesome digital input device, but it will also function to take calls as a headset and to briefly see texts and write to reply back to them…..now that is cool!

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The carry case will charge Phree on the go. The cap attaches magnetically to the body of the case to form an adjustable stand for any smartphone. Just place your phone in the stand, begin writing or drawing off-screen with Phree – you have an instant mobile workstation that actually works. Phree can be ordered with or without a case.

The dimensions are as follows L x 142mm, W X 18mm and a Weight of 30 gr with a touch swipe display on board the pen. Phree at the moment comes in 4 colours, but the designers will run a survey to properly deduce what colours people want.

We love this and have not seen anything like it. It is is fully funded on Kickstarter and you can currently nab yourself one for $189 with a case.

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Bluetooth is a wonderful thing, and since the likes of Apple have created AirPlay, our devices can connect to others to release our playlists from the palm of our hands. 

The problem most of us face, is having to move on with the times….yes we all have the iPod, iPhone or Android handset, but our sound systems do not connect wirelessly, pushing us to connect our lovely portable devices via AUX and leave them by the sound system’s side. 

OK, you could go out and buy a whole new sound system, plenty of Samsung, Onyko and Pioneer Amps now include AirPlay, but you will have to part with around £500 for the pleasure. 

In come the guys at Audioengine who bring us the B1. This little device is an adapter designed solely for Audiophiles (doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t get involved), with high-fidelity output that directly connects into your sound system. It lets you stream audio wirelessly via Bluetooth from your smartphone or Bluetooth enabled computer with superb sound quality. 

The B1 is housed in aluminium which oozes quality and sets to warrant the price tag. It measures 1″H 3.5″W by 4″D and has an adjustable antenna on the front. On the back panel we find the RCA stereo output for your receiver, a 24-bit digital optical output, and a micro USB port for power through the included power adaptor. The RCA cable is included in the box. 

B1 Rear

Under the hood, the B1 includes a 24-bit upsampling DAC (digital-to-analog converter) which provides the high fidelity music. This device will work beautifully with high quality music files and will play them at their best. A lot of the other devices on the market tend to make your music sound worse, this device will never degrade what you have and that is the beauty of it. 

The B1 supports the aptX codec and both the A2DP and AVRCP Bluetooth profiles and is simple to set up, with the iPhone 5S taking just seconds to pair. Inside the box you get a small drawstring carrying pouch in addition to the USB cable and power adaptor if you want to travel with it. 

This device performs well, sounds great and is the epitome of wireless audio for 2014. If you like your music and find that nothing out there does your playlist any justice, then give the B1 a go…..this is a force to be reckoned with!

£140 here in the UK or $189 for the US. 

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As you can imagine TheTechSpy not only sees a lot of gadgetry pass in front of its eyes but also gets to play and review some of these products.

Of course, you get to see some of these wonderful devices appear on our blog, but not all devices we see cut the mustard when it comes to something we are passionate to talk about.

One of these products is the portable battery. It seems like everyone and his friend is queuing up to offer their take on portable power. We see such a variety of different types and quite frankly are bored of testing these products which basically are all the same and have now real definition to make them stand out from the crowd.

Most of the batteries sent to us lay here in TechSpy Towers looking very sorry for themselves as we really see no point of bringing these to your attention…..until now!

From the minute we started dealing with Zendure, I have to say the service has been impeccable. This aside, when we received the products you immediately see the difference between this and every other battery we have come across. The packaging has been thought about which quite often gets left when it comes to crowd funded products, so it shows an element of professionalism right from the start as the company displays no characteristics of a start-up.

Zendure kindly sent us not one, but two batteries to take a look at and we instantly fell in love. Firstly we were sent the Gridder One, which is an 8000mAh portable battery which is water, dust and shock proof. Straight from the off you can see with the design of the product and its packaging it is being aimed at the outdoor type with its IP65 rating. Like all of the batteries the company produces, they allow you to charge your device while the battery itself is being charged which is very useful indeed.

The Gridder One feels like a rugged product and even has little doors to protect the USB sockets within which do not feel like they are going to break at the first instance. The device has small LED’s on its side to show how much charge is remaining and to go with the rugged design, its LED can be turned on to perform SOS signals when you are in some real trouble.

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The second battery in Zendure’s arsenal is the A2, which is the smallest of the range. Made with a ABS/PC composite for its reinforced shell the company demoed the device’s durability by driving a car over it and it withstood the pressure.

The A2 is a 6000mAh battery and looks like one of those cool Samsonite cases that you see at airports. Again, I could bore you with more talk of the effort put into the packaging, but I think this particular product speaks for itself. The battery has the ability to output 5v 2.1A which is enough to charge your iPad at a very reasonable speed.

The size and feel of this product is what makes it so desirable. You can charge this while it is charging your device via the USB socket and also turn the charging on and off by the button at the top of the battery.

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I have extensively tested both batteries and both seem to perform alike. the 2.1A allows you to charge an iPhone 5s from 60% to 100% in just over 40mins which in real life testing is probably the best we have seen.

The testament to this product is with all the devices that we have seen over 2013-2014, the A2 is the first I personally have wanted to own and use on a day to day basis. Its the one that I would have gone out and spent my hard earned cash on and not looked back. This battery takes pride of place in my bag I take to work and even sits happily in my suit jacket pocket.

This company is one to watch, get your orders in for Fathers Day as they are selling for around $60.

 

 

Apple today had the 2014 WWDC and it did not disappoint. The firm for the first time streamed the conference live which not only saw them run through the new updates to its line-up but also welcome Dr Dre to the companies employment force.

Here are the major updates:

OSX Yosemite

* Notification Centre – Now all of your apps will be able to appear here instead of just Apple’s own.

* Markup in Mail – This feature allows you to annotate and draw on a picture or PDF within an email to send to somebody without even leaving the app.

* Spotlight – Updated to sit front and centre of the desktop and now it can search through contacts, internet and all of your documents. Federighi showed off how the feature can now make recommendations for movie times, nearby restaurants and even offer measurement conversions. Apple’s even worked Spotlight into the address bar of the revamped Safari browser, again to give users a one-stop shop for search across the web and local files.

* AirDrop – Yosemite now works with iOS, so iPhone owners can easily transfer files to the Mac and back.

*Handoff – The OS recognises work being done on iOS that a user might want to continue on the desktop. Once an action is detected on iOS, Yosemite will create an icon on the desktop to remind the user to complete the task. This sensing ability also extends to creating a tethered connection, as a user’s iPhone will now appear as a connection option in the WiFi drop down.

* Calls from your Mac or iPad – Now tethered to your iPhone, the other devices can receive/reject calls and even create calls by clicking on contacts or even website contact details.

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iOS8 – Due in Autumn but available straight away to developers

* Notifications – When you are in an app and your get for example an iMessage, you will see the usual roll down notification, but now without leaving the current app you are in you can answer the message. This will work across Facebook and Calendar and will be offered out to developers to use in their apps.

* Mail – Taking on a “Mailbox” style, allowing swipe to delete, tag or flag.

* Spotlight – As with the upgrade to the OSX, Spotlight on iOS has also been upgraded. Now allowing you to search for songs in the iTunes store, movie times and locations.

* QuickType – An improved keyboard which now guesses what you are about to type with no just spelling but full phrases.

* iMessage – Apple taking on Whatsapp with plenty of upgrades to the iMessage app. Now allowing you to remove others or yourself from a group chat, set do-not-disturb if you are in a group chat but don’t want to see it all now and messaging with audio and video straight from the app. You can also reply to an audio message directly from the lock screen by holding the phone to your ear to listen to the message and then record your own in reply. You can now also issue a self-destruct on messages to make them time sensitive like Snap Chat.

* Continuity – This allows you to receive calls across all of your devices, but also lets you pick up where you left off from on a different device. So for example, you begin an email on your iPhone but then decide that you wish to finish it on your iPad, you just flick the screen on the new device and there it is.

* Family Sharing – A welcome addition for most parents, this allows you to share purchases among 6 members of the family, from films to music and also allows you to share your photos, calendar and documents with each other. If your pride and joy decides to buy something, the app automatically messages your device asking for your permission first.

* Health Kit – Looks a little premature to release this, but this app will collect data from all of your health apps and collate them. Eventually they want to be able to share this with your doctor and probably integrate it with the iWatch.

* Siri – Last but not least, Siri has got Shazam support and will now be able to tell you what song is playing by just listening to it. Of course it will then link you to be able to buy it.

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