Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Review: SeeSaw bouncing between back-catalogue and catch-up TV

SeeSaw front pageSeesaw is a UK-only video on demand service, which has its origins in the ill-fated Project Kangaroo, whose technology was bought up by transmission company Arqiva. The service was launched with new branding as “SeeSaw”.

SeeSaw’s revenue currently comes from unskippable advertising that appears before and in the middle of programmes. However, premium content is said to be coming to SeeSaw later in the year. SeeSaw is limited to residents of the UK only, but on their FAQ pages, they state that viewers do not need a TV license.

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Hands-on review: 3's INQ Chat 3G – Twitter, Facebook, Skype and more

Picture 2Back in August, I was pretty bullish when Hutchison-owned INQ announced the INQ Chat 3G, a follow-up to the INQ1, the company’s so-called Facebook phone.

The updated device adopts a BlackBerry-esque form-factor in favor of the INQ1’s candybar, adding a full QWERTY keyboard to support a host of social messaging capabilities, including ‘push’ email (via Gmail), Facebook access, Instant Messaging through Windows Live Messenger, Skype, and a Twitter client that provides ‘always-on’ connectivity to the micro-messaging social network so that updates are pushed ’straight to the homescreen’.

That’s a lot of functionality for a fairly low-cost device – it retails for £99 on a pre-pay (PAYG) tariff on 3UK – leading me to describe the INQ Chat 3G as taking aim at overpriced QWERTY touting smartphones.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago, however, that I actually got my hands on the phone. Read on for my thoughts…

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Review: Motorola DEXT / CLIQ – another social networking play with MotoBLUR

dextIt seems that 2009 is the year of the comeback handset. Palm saw its Second Coming with the Palm Pre (review). Sony Ericsson relaunched with the Symbian-powered Satio (for what good that did them) and a new slogan. And Motorola, after years in hibernation and having completely missed the smartphone boat, unveiled its first Android-powered device, the Motorola DEXT as it’s known in Europe or CLIQ in the states.

The DEXT isn’t just any old Android handset, either. Shunning the standard out-of-the-box Google OS experience, the device introduces MotoBLUR, the handset maker’s own social networking UI layer and service. A unified address book that syncs Google, Facebook and Twitter contacts, updates pushed to the home screen, support for photo sharing via various third-party sites, with all of a user’s settings and data backed up on Motorola’s own servers.

It’s closest in its thinking to Palm’s Synergy feature, but also reminiscent of INQ, HTC’s Sense, Vodafone 360, with a bit of Nokia’s Ovi Share thrown in. In fact, as 2009 draws to a close, social networking integration is fast becoming just another tick-box requirement rather than a headline feature outright. On the other hand, no one has yet to perfect the concept, Motorola included, so there’s still plenty to play for. But before we dive into MotoBLUR, let’s take a look at the phone’s hardware.

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Review: HTC Tattoo (vs HTC Hero) – Android's mass-market future?

htc-tattooFirst, a quick confession: I had no intention of reviewing the HTC Tattoo. Why? On paper at least, it’s a poor man’s HTC Hero. Yes it does feature the same HTC Sense UI, which greatly improves on the stock version of the Google-led operating system, but the Tattoo lacks some of the hardware features to match. However, following a mix up with a courier and a serendipitous email from HTC’s PR firm, a Tattoo for review was sent my way.

What I’ve come to realise in the few weeks that I’ve had the device on loan is that the HTC Tattoo, while not especially exciting in itself, points to Android’s mass-market future, and why rival platforms, along with the plethora of dumb-phone OSes, need to sit up and take notice.

What’s different and/or missing

Screen size. Gone is the Hero’s 3.2 inch screen. Instead, the Tattoo uses a smaller 2.8 inch display. It’s considerably lower resolution too. Down from 320 x 480 (HVGA) to a more feature phone-like 240 x 320 (QVGA) resolution. The most noticeable difference is that web pages and lists require more scrolling because of the reduction in vertical screen real estate. Images also look less sharp. The upside – and this shouldn’t be underestimated for some users – is that the device is smaller and more pocketable. In other words, it feels more like a phone! As a result, it’s a little more comfortable to hold too and that bit easier to operate one handed.

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I'm really liking 3's MiFi, mobile broadband turned WiFi hotspot

mifi-3I’ll admit that when I first heard about 3UK’s MiFi offering and similar devices from other mobile networks, I didn’t really see the appeal.

The tiny gadget – about the size of a typical candy bar phone – uses its own built-in 3G modem to create a mobile broadband-powered WiFi hotspot, which, optionally, several devices can connect to. In my experience, however, mobile broadband isn’t the quickest (not helped by the fact that I sit in front of a fiber-optic connected laptop most of the day), so it’s not something that I’d instinctively want to share. But…

Now that I’ve actually used the MiFi, I totally get it.

It’s not just about sharing a single 3G connection with others – though at times this could be a life saver – but the flexibility the MiFi offers through the ability to add mobile broadband to devices that aren’t compatible with a USB 3G dongle but that do have support for WiFi.

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SugarSync comes to Android phones (it's very good)


SugarSync is my backup to the Cloud and sync service of choice (see How I replaced Apple’s MobileMe at half the price) and today the company added Android to its range of supported mobile phones. SugarSync was previously only available on iPhone, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry.

As readers will know, I recently jumped on the Google Phone bandwagon with the purchase of a HTC Magic (also also known as the T-Mobile myTouch in the USA) and so it’s pretty good timing to see SugarSync pushed out for Android shortly thereafter, although I’m still waiting for a S60 (Nokia) compatible version.

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Review: HTC Magic (Google Ion, T-Mobile myTouch 3G)

htc-magic-bothIt goes by many names. The HTC Magic on Vodafone here in the UK, Google Ion, when handed out as a freebie at the search giant’s developer conference, and the myTouch 3G on T-Mobile in the states. But, whichever way you slice it, the second Android-powered Google phone, manufactured by HTC, is an improvement over the original T-Mobile G1 in almost every way.

Where the original G1 is clunky, in part due to its death-trap of a slide-out keyboard – OK I exaggerate but only slightly – the HTC Magic is relatively slim with subtle curves and a much reduced “chin”, which is a universal complaint of the G1.

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More hands-on impressions of the Nokia N97 [full review]

n97-smallHaving only had around 10 minutes hands-on time with Nokia’s new flagship mobile phone, the N97, at a recent press event in London in which my initial impressions were largely positive, I was really keen to source a loan unit for some quality time with the device. Thanks to Nokia’s PR reps in the UK, I did just that, taking delivery of an N97 on Friday. There is of course a world of difference between living with a phone for any meaningful length of time and having a quick play at a press event or trade show. And after 3 days of ‘real world’ use, I’ll offer up the first mea culpa: the keyboard isn’t nearly as good as I’d first reported (see below). Read on for a more in-depth review of the Nokia N97…

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Hands-on: LG Arena KM900 touch screen phone


LG Arena KM900 web browser

I’ve had just over a week to test out LG’s latest flagship phone – the LG Arena KM900 – a device that I first set eyes on at last month’s The Gadget Show Live. The touch screen phone has a lot going for it, but like many post-iPhone offerings, doesn’t quite live up to the promise based on technical specs alone and at times has the potential to frustrate. 

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Hands-on review: Flip Mino HD "point and shoot" camcorder

Flip Mino HD

Flip Mino HD

Flip’s (Pure Digital in the US) Mino HD is the follow up to the popular Mino “point and shoot” camcorder – a product category that the company practically invented – this time upgrading the video quality to High Definition or 720p MP4 to be precise. From the industrial design alone, however, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

The Mino HD shares the exact casing as its standard definition relation, weighing in at just 94 grams and not much bigger than a typical candy bar cell phone. The device also features the same iconic flip out USB connector – hence the ‘Flip’ name – which makes it convenient to transfer clips shot on the Mino HD to a PC as well as providing the sole means for charging the non-removable battery.

In place of a view finder is a tiny 1.5 inch LCD screen (made smaller yet by the 4:3 aspect ratio despite the Mino HD shooting in 16:9), which, thankfully, is bright enough to be seen in the sun. Just below the screen is a large red record button surrounded by six touch sensitive controls (play/delete/up/down/left/right), and down the right hand side is the power button. On the left is a TV-out (no HDMI just composite), and on the rear is a standard tripod mount.

The Mino HD has 4GB of built-in flash memory – enough for about an hour of video – and Flip quotes the battery life as 2 hours between charging, more than enough to match the camcorder’s storage capacity.

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