Archive for the ‘Smart Phones’ 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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Top Home Automation

We live in the digital age, which means living in the dark—technologically—is an outdated idea. Since you should always be in the know when it comes to what makes your home and lifestyle easier and more convenient, here are a few of Modernize’s favourite home automation apps that will make your life just a bit easier.

Apple HomeKit

Apple’s HomeKit is a revolutionary framework that enables you to configure various accessories in your home. You can control these compatible devices right from the app, so the possibilities are nearly endless.

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One of our favorite HomeKit-friendly accessories is Elgato Eve Room. This smarthome sensor helps regulate air quality, humidity, and temperature. Tap Siri to assess your current air quality and conditions, and she can make necessary changes to keep you comfortable.

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iDevices switch allows you to remotely turn switches on and off. Whether it’s electronics or lamps, you won’t have to worry about leaving something on all day. Just click a few buttons, and you can rest assured knowing your home is safe.

SmartThings

SmartThings is another app that turns your phone into a remote control. Just connect compatible devices to the platform, and you’ll be able to monitor it all from your iPhone. The great thing about this app is that it lets you know if there’s a problem, and devices can communicate to create a stream of information.

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Did you leave the door open? Don’t worry. You can regulate your A/C so you don’t waste that precious (and expensive) cool air.

WeMo

Reduce your carbon footprint by monitoring electronics through Belkin’s WeMo. We all have “oops” moments, so if you leave your curling iron on, you can safely shut it off with your smartphone. You can even set up your coffeemaker to start your cup of joe right when you roll out of bed.

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WeMo allows users flexibility to automate as much as they want. The customizable app makes it easier to live and eliminates worry when you make mistakes.

Nest

Nest is an innovative home automation app that controls your thermostat, which conserves energy and your beloved paycheck. There’s no use wasting A/C or heat when the temperature fluctuates and you’re not home. You can easily control your home’s temperature on the go, so you don’t run into any surprises or high bills.

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Nest is a great first step if you’re not quite ready to fully automate, and some energy companies offer incentives for connecting your thermostat to Nest.

Philips Hue

You can control the lights in your home from your phone, too. Whether you’re having a party, hosting a party, rounding your friends up for book club, or just simply spending time with family, you can adjust the tone, color, and contrast of your lights to create soft mood lighting.

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Go festive around Christmas time with reds and greens, or spooky at Halloween with eerie orange and black light. You can control every bulb through the Philips Hue app. Guests will “ooh” and “ahh” about the added decor element!

Convenience and Reassurance

Home automation apps give you the peace of mind to leave the home and come back to a safe place with a perfect temperature. You can really cut down on energy costs and excess waste, which saves you money and reduces your carbon footprint. The days of worrying about what device you left running are over!

Our guest blog written by Kelsey Meyers from Modernize 

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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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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Home automation is becoming a bigger and bigger topic every week as “The Internet of Things” grow. With more and more devices coming to market, thanks to the likes of not only the tech giants out there but crowd funding like Kickstarter, we can now enjoy the control of things like light switches, thermostats, power sockets and even our media centres.

Now don’t get me wrong, it has been a childhood dream of mine to be able to control things in the house through Home Automation and even going that step further when the house ends up doing it for you as it knows you are home….but with all these new devices one thing stands out that could prematurely end this whole revolution before it has started.

Every one of these new devices, comes with an app. If I am in my house and I want to turn a light on, I can unlock my iPhone, click on the app and simply choose the light I want on. Cool? Yes…but surely it was easier to just get up and switch that light on? I then decide it is getting a bit cold, so I click on another app and this allows me to turn the heating on in my house providing me with a comfortable environment. It is all good, but technology here has made my life harder, which is not the point of it at all.

Smartthings, crowd funded via Kickstarter, were one of the first to try and put this right. The idea was to put all of the devices under one app, so they could all talk to each other and of course you only had to go into one app to control them all. This idea was the step forward “The Internet of Things” needed, allowing each device, even if it was from a different manufacturer to work with each other, so if a sensor was triggered as you arrived home, you could have it switch on the heating and turn the entrance lights on.

My only issue with this is that you still need to open an app. The guys over at Athom have designed the Homey, which is a spherical shape device that sits in your house and you can talk to. Now of course it has the app, as this makes it easy to set up and of course collaborate the tech, but when you walk into your kitchen you can ask the device to turn lights on Siri-style, or turn the tv on to a certain channel….this is home automation!

App

Homey talks to pretty much all devices and here are a few things it can do;

“Homey combines your devices and the internet, allowing for smart scenarios:

When you get home, your lights fade on, your thermostat is already set to a comfortable level and your favorite music is streamed to your receiver.

When you need to wake up, the curtains or blinds are opening, your morning tune is playing on your stereo while the weather for today and your e-mails are being read to you. The smell of fresh and automatically made coffee gets you out of bed.

When you’re in the supermarket, you decide it’s going to be pizza tonight. You tell the Homey app to pre-heat your oven by switching it on. If you have a smart fridge, your grocery shopping list is sent to you.

When you want to watch a movie, the blinds close, your lights dim, your music fades out, the TV is set to the correct channel and your media center plays the movie.”

Homey

The list of products the device communicates with at the moment is enough for us to take notice as normally with these types of ideas they are very thin on the ground. But I am sure you will agree, Homey is everyone’s Homey;

LightwaveRF
Airplay
Sonos
Nest
Hue
Spotify
Logitech
Bose
Philips
Samsung
Gmail

We love this device and even at $229 with an arrival time of June 2015, we still think this is well worth the investment. We just hope that no one else beats them to the market first, especially as Apple tonight announced its home automation project HomeKit.

The idea of virtual reality has been around for a very long time, but few have been able to perfect the idea like the boys at Oculus Rift.

This company not only smashed through its Kickstarter campaign goals but still has investment flowing in with Facebook purchasing the company and now Samsung working with them to create a headset for its own media.

Of course, in any great market, others will strive to take a piece of the pie as the public is hungry for the new technology. The gaming industry is worth nearly $80bn, and some games gross more than some films nowadays so the fruit is there for the picking.

Oculus may be seeing its first real rival from China in the form of ANTVR. Still small and mobile enough to do what it wants without the huge corporate board that Oculus has with Facebook peering over its shoulder demanding results.

The ANTVR Kit includes a customisable remote, which is compatible with all games. The coolest form the remote takes is the hand gun which I think most of us will enjoy, giving you that "Time Crisis" type feel which we all enjoyed back in the 90's arcade scene.

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The controller can be a simple joy pad, or happily transform into a joystick or steering wheel making it very versatile.

The headset is equipped with Full HD display (1920x1080, 1.03 megapixel per eye) and will give an IMAX style viewing environment with its large screen. They creators have even thought about glasses wearers making sure there is enough room inside to still wear them. It supports all the mainstream platforms including PC, Xbox, PlayStation and Android devices. All you need is a standard HDMI signal to use the headset as a screen.

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The headset can be wireless, but currently it is an expensive add-on which we don't really think you need. We do like the idea of the "shotgun style" bullet reload to change the batteries in the device.

This is certainly a formidable rival for Oculus, it's price point is pretty much the same and it looks no lesser quality than its bigger brother and presents Oculus with a spin....the cool controller.

Starting at $300 with an estimated delivery date of September, we really cannot wait to test these out for ourselves.

Over on Kickstarter