Posts Tagged ‘TheTechSpy’

ios-10-nimblechapps

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.

supermariorunstickers-2-932x698

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.

apple-homekit-for-secure-and-reliable-smart-home

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.

ios-10-siri

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!

ck2v-rfwuauc6oo

• 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.

ios-10s-clock-app-scores-dark-mode-and-a-nifty-sleep-analysis-feature

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

emoji

 

 

Advertisements

Apple used the stage on Monday to unveil the 9.7” iPad Pro. Clearly the unwieldly 12.9” iPad Pro isn’t for everyone and they know it. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a slightly upgraded Air 2. Make no mistake, it’s every bit an iPad Pro, packed with all the same features.

Untitled

When Apple launched the iPad Pro, a lot of people were put off by its size. At 12.9”, it was more of a coffee table tablet than something you would take around with you. Sure, it’s marketed as a professional tool rather than just a bigger iPad, but we’re pretty sure Apple wouldn’t mind ordinary folk paying more for the flagship model if it were only a little more accessible….

Enter the 9.7” iPad Pro.

smaller-iPad-pro-9.7-inch

Packing the same A9X chipset as the 12.9” model, the 9.7” model is remarkable due to the fact that they’ve managed to shoehorn all of the 12.9” features into a smaller chassis and yet sell it at a lower price point.

Apple seem alone in this new way of thinking. Let me explain:

Go into any computer retailer and take a look at the laptops. The specs and the prices of models seems utterly bewildering to most people. The reason is that there’s no real cohesion in pricing.

There could be a 15” model sporting an Intel Core i5 CPU coupled with a respectable GPU, SSD, with 16GB RAM for around £500.

Next to this, there could be a 13” model with the lower end Intel i3 CPU, integrated Intel graphics, 8GB RAM and a rotary HDD, priced at £599.

The reason? Well, components shrink with each new iteration. It’s the reason that Moore’s Law still holds – roughly every 18 months, you can double the amount of transistors on a chip. More transistors can perform more calculations, and smaller transistors require less power. It’s the reason that an iPad 2 is roughly on a par with a Cray supercomputer from 1995 in terms of raw processing power, yet you can hold it in your hand.

So, a 15” model may well have faster components and the price may be lower than its 13” counterpart, but that’s because the 15” has last generation components which are larger and more power hungry. You can also buy the 13” model with the same specs as the 15”, but you’d be looking at a considerable bump in price, possibly to £700-£800. And that’s because you are buying bleeding edge technology.

Back to Apple…

Apple make such a huge profit on hardware that they can afford to flip this system upside down.

As an example, an iPhone SE packing the same features as the 6S but in a smaller body is a manufacturing challenge and will be more expensive if both were launched at the same time. It may be that Apple have managed to reduce the die size of the A9 processor in the last 9 months and can now fit these components into a smaller body. That manufacturing process at a smaller size serves two purposes – 1) to produce the last generation CPU at a smaller die size, and 2) to ‘tool’ or prepare for the next generation CPU.

I’m aware that the bill of materials (BOM) for iPhones show that the larger screens cost a fraction more than the smaller screens, but this isn’t the real issue here. Don’t forget that the battery will be smaller too, so a reduction in power usage is required.

iphonese

They have launched the SE as a lower end model though, and that’s what’s interesting. In order to continue with this system, you will never see an iPhone SE launched at the same time as the larger iPhones. That’s because the next generation (iPhone 7 and 7+) will be launched in September with the latest chipset. In the following months leading to March, the manufacturing processes will be advanced enough to shrink these components to fit into the new SE model.

They did it with the iPad Mini 4 (a smaller iPad Air 2, but cheaper), and they’ve done the same with the 9.7” iPad Pro. It was a marvel only a few months ago what they’d managed to cram into such a thin 12.9” body. Now they’ve managed to fit all that tech into a smaller unit. Again, it’s cheaper, because Apple want to make it simple for people to decide entirely on display size.

This is only possible because of the obscene profits Apple make on hardware, but nevertheless, it’s an interesting flip on the classic PC pricing structure.

Talking of pricing, it’s interesting to see that Apple are offering a 32GB configuration in addition to 128GB and 256GB. That’s not offered on the 12.9” which seems to add weight to the theory that Apple consider the 9.7” as a semi-pro device aimed at both professionals and wealthy consumers alike.

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.

10990-3538-141103-HomeKit-l

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.

eve

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.

photo-main

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.

wemo

 

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.

maxresdefault

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.

hue

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 

I have never really liked the idea of a dash board camera as slowly we are letting everything we do be subject to a lens. Already we are recorded when we walk down the street and some of us even in our own homes, but now we are even letting the humble lens into our cars.

But as I found out, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

We were lucky enough to get sent the MiVue 658 WiFI to test in a real world environment and I have to say we were pleasantly surprised.

Before I even talk about the camera itself, I have to admit having the camera there made me think a number of things. Firstly, if these take off, which we can already see they are, I can see these becoming mandatory or a requirement from your insurance company.

Think of it….you ring up or go online to get your next quote and they will either supply it to you or give you money off your quote if you say that you will be using one.

Forgetting the obvious fact that this will pick up any accidents that may occur and later I could use as evidence against somebody else, this device really made me drive differently as suddenly I realised that if a crash was to occur my actions for the first time were actually going to be subject to investigation via the footage.

So its a good thing that we start with the fact that this dashboard camera comes with speed camera locations inbuilt and will warn you of any cameras that you are approaching. This comes as standard in the box and with free monthly updates for the life of the device which is very cool.Unboxed

So let’s take a look at the device in a little more details;

658 wifi

Design:

This is a very neat little camera and pretty unobtrusive on your windscreen. I think this is best placed near your rear-view mirror as most of us are used to having something there, so to have a small device like this below would not distract you and is probably best placed for filming.

I really like the design, but I have to admit the suction cup mount is a little annoying. The actual USB charging cable is threaded into the mount itself so you have to pull the camera away from the dock which normally ends in you pulling the whole dock away from the windscreen. I would have much preferred a Sat Nav style dock.

mivue 658 back

The other annoying thing is the extra long charging cable supplied which comes with a car style 12v adaptor fixed on one end and a mini USB on the other. The 12v cigarette style adapter is far bigger than most of the supplied adapters which come with Sat Navs today and I really cannot see why it has to be so big. I think a USB on the other side so that you can use the cable in your own multi USB adapter would have been better as the majority of car owners will want smartphones and sat navs being powered at the same time and will want to use this when they get home to charge or take data from outside of the car.

Key Features:

This dashboard camera is jam-packed full of tech. This is the real top end with GPS, camera locations and WIFI included. With all of this said, when you turn the device on, you get a real pointless “Welcome” spoken out loud….not sure why, but they have….let’s move on.

Let me start with the speed camera locations, this is superb, a nice notification to let you know at just the right distance that you are coming up to a camera and it even shows you the distance counting down. The only thing that was a little weird was when in a 30mph zone, the traffic sign is shown on screen, but for some reason it shows a speed sign with 29 in it (which as a sign doesn’t exist in the UK). Very odd, but I am sure it is easily rectifiable with a firmware upgrade.

WIFI connectivity is a very cool feature. I do like the ability to have the phone connected and instantly be able to download the footage just recorded to your phone. If you have your smartphone connected via WIFI all the time, then by clicking the orange button on the right of the dashcam screen it will instantly backup the footage to the MiVue App. Even though you are connected via WIFI, your phone is still able to receive data over 3/4G allowing you to use the phone normally.

With the help of the inbuilt accelerometer, if you have a collision the device automatically creates a 20 second video clip and transmits it to your phone’s MiVue app for safe storage and if you feel like uploading to social media the app makes it very easy. Oh dear!

The device accepts a micro SD up to 128gb which helps when you are filming in such a high quality and using things like Parking Mode, which are triggered with movement and can be used in the car while you are not present. You can also use the dashcam in Photo Mode which allows you to remove the device from its dock and use it to take photos of any damage that may have occurred in an accident. The good thing is here is that GPS coordinates are also stamped onto the photo for further evidence of the accident.

I think lastly we have to look at video quality as if this is bad then the device might as well go in the trash. Overall I am extremely pleased with the quality and would happily use this in my own car. Registration plates can be a little hard to see with motion, but with a few well timed pauses on the footage I was able to pin point the exact registration.

Here is some video footage from the device;

Video During the day

Video in Dark Conditions

Key features:

All in all I think the quality is fine and like the fact that the speed and GPS coordinates are stamped onto the footage so that you do not have to dig around in the software looking for them. Of course it could be sharper as motion blur does at the first instance make it harder to look at finer details, but once downloaded to your phone or PC you can easily find out what you need as the internal stabilisation has done its job.

Along with having great quality video footage this device is more importantly easy to use. I couldn’t see many people having to dig out the manual and that is important in something that is going to be used in this manner.

You can buy these now at £159.99 on the internet and we think this is well worth a try especially if you drive for a living.

TheTechSpy Rating 8/10

It still amazes me that with all the tech stuffed inside our phones and all these expensive materials used to build them, they still break so easily.

We all know someone who is walking around with a cracked iPhone screen trying to find the cheapest way to get it fixed. I once saw an iPhone 5 fall off of a colleague’s desk straight onto the carpeted office floor. It dropped no more than 80cm to the floor and the result….a completely cracked screen.

So when this particular case was brought to our attention, we had to have a little look.

front

The Quadlock case is called this due to its locking mechanism which attaches the specially designed case that you put onto your phone, directly to the mount. This in turn can then be attached to different hosts and one thing is for sure, once locked in place (which is very easy) the phone is very securely attached indeed.

10732959266_ff67c80f14_k

The first thing I thought about when I opened the packaging was how I was going to live with having the case that Quadlock supply constantly on my iPhone 6 as it would just be annoying replacing it every time I went out for a run or cycle. I started to instantly dismiss the idea of ever owning a kit like this.

But after two weeks of having the case on my iPhone, I really like the feel of it. It has beefed the phone up in the right way and I actually find myself holding the phone more because of it. Even as a standalone case this would protect your iPhone, but I do wonder whether dust and dirt will eventually collect inside the lock section. But in two weeks of use this hasn’t happened and on further inspection it would be quite easy to clean.

I have had no issues docking the phone on my nightstand with the case on, as it is unobstructive and really doesn’t increase the size of the iPhone that much at all.

As you can see from the front it looks like a normal case which even has a small lip to ensure that if you place the phone down on its screen, it won’t actually touch the surface protecting the screen from scratches.
Quadlock make an attachment for cycling, running, driving and of course even selfie taking. I have got the cycling attachment which fits onto the middle of the handle bars by two very strong bands. The company supply two sizes of band to cater for most bikes. The size I have gone for was quite tough to put on but I would say this is a good thing as the attachment is now sat firmly in place and that baby is going nowhere.

10988851504_52cac3d13d_k

Top

You secure the phone into place by pulling the little blue sleeve down (shown in the picture) which is on a spring so immediately snaps back into place. The Quadlock easily slots in and holds the phone firmly. This is very well designed and I would be perfectly happy cycling with this in front of me with no worries of it ever coming off or even sliding with any turbulence you may encounter on your ride.

1

Along with the case and lock mechanism, the company even supply a nice rubberised clear case which can be attached to the whole setup to protect the iPhone even further while cycling. I suppose if you were out cycling and it was raining this would aid protection from the elements, but I will admit I have not tested it with rain so cannot confirm.

9945376915_1821a92219_k

The Quadlock can be purchased for all iPhones from 4 to 6 Plus and the Galaxy S4/5, so it would be ideal if you were using the phone for directions and its GPS capabilities.

I do like the idea of being able to use this on a run and even to hold my phone in my car rather than the traditional annoying phone holders due to its ease, rigidity and solid feel, but you will have to get used to your hand going behind the device to unlock it out of place where the gap is quite tight.

All in all we love this product, not only is it a nice case within its own right, but it also serves the purpose it was built for allowing you to travel with your smartphone safely in play.

It’s the right price for a solid product, well done Quad Lock

TheTechSpy Rating – 8/10

We review the BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit – a hybrid PowerLine adapter kit which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and Wi-Fi access point.

u_10026909

Introduction

Ethernet bridge PowerLine devices are some of the most simple networking devices there are. In a nutshell, they allow you to connect one Ethernet-cabled network device to another over your home ring main [read: mains sockets]. They are typically completely Plug-and-Play meaning there’s no configuration. It’s a convenient and relatively inexpensive means of networking your entire house:

img-bb-extender

They are however, nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for the best part of a decade, but the proliferation of Wi-Fi in everything from TVs to games consoles has meant that they’ve seen a decline in usefulness in most homes.

From a technical perspective, the ‘Ethernet Bridge’ type of PowerLine adapter should therefore be an absolute cakewalk to review.

The BT 500 Broadband Extender Kit though is a hybrid device which combines a traditional Ethernet Bridge and a Wi-Fi access point.

41AGijkOd6L (1)

Why might you need one?

Reason 1 – Wi-Fi problems

Like most people, I own a lot of Wi-Fi enabled devices. For the most part, they work well, but I do have issues with signal strength in my house. I live in a 1930s semi with solid internal walls and it means I get next to zero signal in the bedrooms from my router downstairs.

Reason 2 – Ethernet-only devices in remote locations

I already use a pair of 80Mb/s Netgear PowerLine adapters to provide a network connection for my Ethernet-only Foscam IP Camera. The camera can capture video at 720p but it struggles with my setup because the 80Mb/s quoted is a theoretical maximum that can never be achieved in the real world. Having tested it before starting this review, I can see that it tops out at 8Mb/s, just 10% of it’s advertised maximum. This is the reason I can only ever watch stuttering video at 10 frames per second from my camera.

REVIEW

Setup and test conditions / notes

The tests will be run exclusively from a laptop and not from a phone or tablet as this will allow for both Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections.

We will be using Virgin broadband, capable of 100Mb/s. The router is located downstairs in the living room.

The house was renovated a couple of years ago and was completely rewired including new sockets and consumer unit (fuse box). Bear in mind that PowerLine adapters transmit and receive data through the mains so their performance is entirely dependent on the quality of your home electrical wiring. Below are my results but your mileage will vary.

Speed tests

Firstly, I ran a speed test on both my existing LAN and Wi-Fi for benchmarking purposes.

This is the result of my laptop plugged directly into the router via Ethernet cable:

This is the result of my laptop connected to the router over Wi-Fi (in the same room):

4607968526

That’s the benchmarking out of the way, now let’s get on with testing these things!

I plugged the Broadband Extender into the mains socket closest to the router and connected them with the supplied Ethernet cable.

I then plugged the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot into the furthest mains socket away from the router (the kids’ bedroom) and connected it to a laptop via Ethernet cable. I chose the furthest socket away because unlike normal Ethernet cabling, the length of mains cable that data must travel through makes a huge difference to the speed of the connection. Closer sockets will give better speeds.

This is the result of my laptop plugged into the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Ethernet cable:


That’s pretty staggering and very close to the magical 100Mb/s !

This is the result of my laptop connected to the Mini Wi-Fi Home Hotspot via Wi-Fi (in the same room):


Pretty good too considering the Virgin Wi-Fi topped out at 56Mb/s. It’s certainly a lot better than not being able to use Wi-Fi at all upstairs!

Conclusion

All in all, a very good product from BT. I really didn’t think I’d be seeing nearly 100Mb/s over a PowerLine adapter any time soon, but it seems like we are nearly there.

If you have the need to connect an Ethernet-only device from one room to another or have Wi-Fi dead spots in your home, this is a great purchase, especially at £39.99 from Amazon.

TheTechSpy rating – 8/10

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.

image

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

image

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

image

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

image

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

-pc