Review of Google Nexus 7

Google Nexus 7 is Google’s first attempt at introducing Android to the tablet market. Logically you would have thought that their main competitor would be the iPad, but oh no. Google labelled their official competitor as the Amazon Kindle Fire which has still not greeted British shores. The Google Nexus 7 is the result of a collaboration between Google and Asus – it worked.

Boasting a 1.2 Ghz quad-core CPU, 416 MHz Nvidia GeForce ULP with 12 cores, 1 GB DDR3 RAM and a battery capable of 9 hours of usage, this is a device for me. It clearly outperforms the unbranded tablets sold in abundance on eBay whilst at the same time keeping to a price tag starting at £159.

Making the decision to purchase Google’s first tablet didn’t take me long – it is a better version of the Amazon Kindle Fire.

This 7-inch tablet is a pleasure to use; it can be picked up with one hand and weighs just enough to feel well-built but not so heavy to be uncomfortable after long periods of use. As a Windows and Apple user the Google Nexus 7 introduced me to the Android UI for the first time and at this stage I must confess the Jelly Bean OS feels far superior to iOS. It is quick. So far the only lag I have experienced has been on content heavy web pages. In terms of everyday use this tablet just makes life easier. It is the first tablet computer I have owned and I can proudly profess to have fallen for the form factor.

That doesn’t mean to say it is the first tablet I have used. The iPad is a superb piece of design but I practically find the device clumsy to use. Its weight makes long reading sessions uncomfortable and attempting to type anything of great length is a frustrating experience. The screen on the iPad is its one redeeming feature but you would expect this from a price tag upwards from £400. Whilst Steve Jobs may not have approved of 7-inch tablets I personally find them far more convient to use.

The Google Nexus 7 has already served me well as an eBook reader, newspaper reader, portable video player and games console. It was designed for consumable content. Although, strangely, this is what refrained me from purchasing a tablet PC up until now.

As a heavy content creator tablet devices have never really interested me. Frequently I used to draw comparisons between netbooks and tablets, finding netbooks the desirable middle ground between consuming and creating content. Now that I have found an affordable tablet simply consuming content isn’t a problem.

There is a downside to the Google Nexus 7, the Google Play store. So far the majority of apps are still optimised for smartphones only. In fact the official Skype app flags the Google Nexus 7 as untested and unsupported! If Google’s new tablet proves to be popular then expect developers to pay more attention to optimising apps for tablets. At this stage the Google Play store is only a partial let down to an otherwise brilliant tablet.

Wallit is a new Social Network which allows Virtual Wall Collaboration

A new social networking app, Wallit, shot up in popularity yesterday after it was featured in the Apple’s Stores “New and Noteworthy” section. The application allows users to create virtual walls which are locked to specific locations using the iPhone’s GPS locator. These walls can then be viewed by anybody logged into the Wallit app and be used for social collaboration.

The latest version of Wallit introduces a character index system which means walls accumilate their own character points which indicates the popularity of the wall and the social networking influence of the users posting on it. This means that Wallit uses an algorythm in order to understand your influence across Facebook and Twitter then applies this to a rating on Wallit.

Even though the app only went live on the 6th March it already boasts over 700 virtual walls with users using each wall as collaborating points across home and business. Over 127 countries are now using Wallit which probably means the initial starting figure of 700 virtual walls will soon be blown out of the water!

The Apple Store is right – Wallit is a noteworthy social network for us to keep our eyes on. At this stage the app is far too new in order to be used for any serious business means. However, once the userbase as grown larger, it could easily become a useful network to use at:

Events
You could create a virtual wall for people to collaborate with during an event. May be a good way for people to meet each other and introduce promotions.

Shopping
If you are a shop you could introduce a virtual wall to the high street to attract users of Wallit into making purchases.

Business
Allow your co-worked to talk with each other using a virtual wall. Wallit could be particularly useful for those who work in larger business and wish to build relationships with the colleagues they share a floor with.

Advertising
Could Wallit eventually introduce an era of GPS targeted advertising? Wallit could cause push up messages advertising nearby offers. Not to say that this is a good use of Wallit – GPS advertising would be annoying.

Wallit is a very new social network at the moment but it is worthwhile trying it out. Will it stand the test of time? Download it and try it out.

Jonathan Ive gets a Knighthood

Products by Apple are often praised for their innovative designs and the real hero behind the scenes is designer Jonathan Ives. In the New Years Honours list it has been revealed that Jonathan Ives has finally been made a Knight Commander of the British Empire.

Sir Jonathan Ive revealed in an interview with Stephen Fry in 2010 that he decided to move to California due to the sceptic nature of the UK which may have held his product designs back. In Steve Jobs biography, written by Apple co-fonder Walter Isaacson, Ives was “hurt” by the credit Jobs received for product innovations which drew attention away from the design teams.

The relationship between Apple and design has often infuriated me due to Apple’s poor relationship with Adobe which became public after Steve Jobs made it clear that Adobe’s Flash would never feature on Apple’s mobile products (iPhone & iPad). The only solace which can be found is when in 2009 Adobe revealed that they would discontinue mobile flash and instead focus on HTML5. Over the last couple of years it has become clear that HTML5 has become the predecessor for Adobe’s Flash – our CPU’s can rest in peace.

This is not the first time that Sir Jonathan Ive has been recognised for his design innovations. In 2005 he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). To know just how effective Ive has been all one has to do is avert their gaze to Samsung, a company who has clearly copied many of Ive’s designs (look at the Samsung Galaxy range and Samsung Galaxy Tab).

On a personal note I believe Ive’s Knighthood is well deserved. This is a man who understands that our technological devices should be beautiful, are close everyday companions and other technology companies should take his innovations as an example.

Apple ignore onslaught of angry iPhone 4S Owners over “invalid sim” error

Thousands of iPhone 4S owners are experiencing “invalid sim” errors. Users report that after a few hours of their devices being switched on an error message appears showing “invalid sim” which results in the phone dropping their phone signal. The only temporary fix is to switch the iPhone 4S off and on again.

Over 71,000 people have viewed the ‘Sim Card Failure No Sim with iPhone 4S Anyone Else?’ topic on the Apple forum. Posts date from 15th October 2011 with many begging Apple for a response but none has been given to date.

It is not uncommon for mobile operators to have faulty sim cards but it strikes unusual that all these “invalid sim” errors are coming from iPhone 4S users who have the latest version of iOS installed.

Already this evening I have experienced this error on my iPhone 4S five times. Vodafone have indicated that it may be a faulty sim card but my research shows that this issue clearly lies with Apple’s latest iOS update. As an Apple customer, a consumer who has parted with a generous amount of money for their mobile device I expect a response and a fix for this error.

Apple… are you going to ignore me too?

Could the internet be heading towards a decentralised future?

A social internet revolution is happening right now but it’s not the usual diet of Facebook or Twitter. This revolution is concerned with an internet user’s privacy rights.

On the 26th October the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was introduced to the House of Representatives in America as a bill to, “promote prosperity, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by combating the theft of U.S. property, and for other purposes.” In essence the bill will give the right to copyright holders and the government to remove domain names featuring copyrighted material or counterfeit goods. Just how is this achieved? Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have an obligation to government to track a user’s progress online. It then seems rather ironic that the ‘free world’ America should be having these debates after the European Court of Justice ruled that copyright owners are unable to force ISPs to filter out content. The ruling also means national authorities are not allowed to adopt measures which require ISP general monitoring.

Thousands of informed users are protesting against SOPA. What if SOPA becomes law? How would transparency on the internet survive? The answer is one word, decentralisation.

In 2003 the YaCy search engine project was founded. It is a search engine which is decentralised (often entitled distributed search) and relies purely upon users indexing web content. User’s searches are not logged and results are all returned equally. It has been said that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is killing Google, Yahoo and Bing results – YaCy is immune. For the moment the project exists purely for the technologically minded (as they tend to be the innovators) but with the threat of SOPA, saturation of corporate communication online and invasion of privacy then such decentralised projects could be for a growth spurt.

Snapshot of the YaCy P2P Network

Traditional social networking platforms really only started in the early 2000s but community based online projects can be tracked to the 1990s with the introduction of bulletin boards. To misquote Clay Shirky, “Where collaboration exists so does productivity”. Collaboration could be likened to users creating Linux to avoid the two goliaths Apple and Microsoft. Collaboration killed Microsoft Encyclopaedia Britannica to make way for Wikipedia. Collaboration resulted in projects such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. Yet these companies have become corporate monsters, a single entity bound by the laws of the lands they operate within.

The social internet revolution has begun.

 

Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011): A Loss the World will Feel

Late Wednesday evening (UK) marked the end of an era as the news of Steve Jobs’ death was announced. The initial shock of this man’s early death at a mere 56 years of age was quickly superseded by the knowledge that he had been ill for some time. The news of his stepping down as Apple CEO last August was a clue of his condition but does not excuse the shock felt across the globe of his loss.

I have never met Steve Jobs, neither could I be described as a passionate Apple supporter but his death left a mark in my mind. Clearly less severe than the grief his family, friends and colleagues felt of his passing, nevertheless saddening. His impact upon the technology industry is irrefutable; his impact upon the world is remarkable. It was clear from the unveiling of the Apple Macintosh in 1984 that computing would never be the same.

Apple products have always been built for human beings. Stephen Fry regularly comments that Apple recognised people sit in front of computers for much of their working lives. This experience shouldn’t be grey, dull and overly technical but instead a pleasure. It must be partly due to this recognition that Apple don’t deal in sales but instead in infatuation.

From next week we are going to see the beginnings of the iPhone 4S hysteria as loyal Apple fans queue outside of Apple stores around the world hoping to be the first owners of the new iPhone. Apple creates technology which we not only use for its functions but also for the experience. iMacs, iPhones and iPads all become part of ourselves and have eradicated the idea of target audiences. Pleasure and business are one – Apple makes technology for humans.

Until recently other technology companies have recognised this. Microsoft released their Windows Phone 7 which is indistinguishable from Windows Phone 6.5 and below. Samsung tailors their devices to copy Apple, Android has made the effort to compete against the iPhone by being original. It is my entire belief that Steve Jobs was not only involved created beautiful products but was the much needed catalyst for the technology industry.

His last creation, the iPad, wasn’t revolutionary in terms of form factor. Tablet PCs have been around since the 80s. However the iPad was the first tablet computer which was a pleasure to use due to its in-depth design. It sparked the tablet PC wars after much cynicism in the industry whether the tablet PC was ever going to become mainstream.

To think that this man passed away at the tender age of 56 and was clearly still in his creative prime. Whilst his death is a personal tragedy, it is also a technological tragedy as many creations and visions have too gone to the grave. One hopes Apple can still maintain its unique stance in the industry but there is no doubt his passing will impact the company.

I could continue on writing about Steve Jobs, praising his efforts at Apple, Pixar and NeXT but many better tributes and obituaries have already been made to cover these incredible times in his career.

So today I am going to finish this blog post in the understanding the world has not only lost a pioneering man but also a catalyst whom pushed the world to new technological heights. The world will feel his loss

iPhone 4S… that’s it?

For over a year various iPhone 5 rumours have circled the globe and this evening (UK time) I finally thought the iPhone 5 would be announced, at least a re-designed iPhone 4S. Instead relatively minor adjustments were made; notably (barely) an 8MP camera, HD resolution video recording and a dual-core A5 processor. Statistically this still places the iPhone 4S behind some competitor devices.

From reports so far it seems clear the disappointment was felt amongst journalists in the room of the press conference. Usually iPhone announcements are expected in September but the delay had built a hype which was ultimately not worthy of the end product.

7.34pm: Price: 16, 32, 64 … “it’s not the best phones in our lineup” … hope rises … “we also have the other phones, the iPhone 4 and 3GS.” GAAAH.” – Charles Arthur & Josh Halliday (Guardian)

The way Apple primarily manages its Public Relations is through a series of strategic leaks to the media. Where do you think the rumours come from? As Mashable have commented, in the past Apple have made sure to manage expectations through leaks to ensure hype doesn’t kill a device’s launch. Such PR move was clearly not made ahead of today’s conference.

The hype was killed from the outset. The conference began with a rather tedious (occasionally questionable) list of statistics, updates of new shops and their new iCloud service and concluded with no announcement of an iPhone 5. Ultimately this resulted in a drop of Apple shares by more of 4.25%.

In fact the two biggest pieces of news from today’s press conference was the iPhone 3GS will be free on contract and the iPhone 4 will significantly drop in price. This alone may provide affordable options for many less fortunate to replace their Android devices for older Apple technology.

Yes, the iPhone 4S is an improvement but I personally can’t help but wonder what Apple has been doing for the last year and ½. Trying to justify the cost of the iPhone 4S against competitors will be a tricky call, particularly as I am due an upgrade this month.

Ultimately I am left with this sense of “That’s it?”.

For those interested Rory Cellan-Jones has posted a video of the iPhone 4S. Try to spot the difference.

Review of Windows Phone 7

[UPDATED 05/11/2010: Seems signal strength can be displayed by clicking on the top of the phone at any time. Also Facebook sync can be made to only add information to existing contacts. Clever stuff. Have made a note to own a phone for longer before reviewing next time!]

Within this article I have written about Windows Phone 7’s features, compared it against the iPhone and have listed points of needed improvement.

Pros
–          Lucid and Quick OS
–          Well Designed Email Facilities
–          Microsoft Office Applications
–          Very good web browser
–          Xbox Live

Cons
–          Some bugs (fixes are quickly arriving)
–          Facebook synchronisation has a flaw
–          Signal strength bar only on lock screen

As of tomorrow I will have owned Windows Phone 7 (WP7) for a week. During this time I have pushed the phone to the limits asking it to carry out all the tasks which would have otherwise been the duty of my iPhone 3GS (running iOS4). Although I am an intern for Microsoft this review will be open and honest about how I feel about Microsoft’s latest mobile OS. For your information I am using the HTC 7 Mozart. However I have also used the Samsung Omnia 7 and HTC 7 HD. This isn’t really a review of the HTC 7 Mozart but instead the actual OS.

Windows Phone 7 is an intuitive and creative OS. The menu comprises of a series of tiles, known as hubs, which lead to each section of the mobile “Orange”, “People”, “Mail”, Messaging”, “Zune”, “Xbox”, etc. Each hub provides you a glance of what is happening within each section. Within a couple of minutes of picking up the mobile it was clear to see what each section includes.

Once you are handed WP7 it is very quick to get started and you will find yourself ready within a few minutes. Synchronising with Facebook is a feature shared by other mobile OS but I believe it has a flaw. At first glance syncing your Facebook contacts with WP7 is great but hardly any of my 400+ contacts actually provide their mobile numbers. This leaves my mobile with a hefty address book but barely any numbers to call or txt with. Apart from this synchronising is very useful for starting your social media activities and for viewing photo albums within WP7’s “Pictures” folder. Other account link-ups include hooking up to Windows Live, Google Mail… and so on.

I have never used such a good email client; even better than Blackberry. Setting up accounts takes a couple of minutes in the “settings” menu and once done a mail hub will appear on the main menu. Opening this will reveal all my emails, along with a section where I can view my Outlook folder. For those who deal with hundreds of emails each day you will know folders and rules are vital for organisation.

Using Microsoft Office is simple. If somebody emails me an Office document then I can open it with Word, Powerpoint or Excel. These aren’t just readers but instead the real deal. I can edit documents and send them back easily. This makes WP7 ideal for those of you who need to quickly turn around documents.

For Xbox enthusiasts you will know that Xbox Live is integrated into WP7. You can sign in with your Live account (or set one up from the mobile) and enjoy single or multiplayer games which earn you points and achievements. You can even edit your avatar using Xbox Live Extras. Games are slightly on the pricy side at just over £5 but there are plenty of free applications to try out as well.

Just like the iPhone has iTunes, WP7 boasts Zune. From the Zune store I can purchase music or using the Zune pass download an unlimited amount of music and stream music wherever I may be. Using Zune on WP7 is a breath of fresh air and features an interface I prefer against Apple’s iPod Touch.

Compared Against the iPhone 3GS (iOS4)

Apple has pushed forward applications on their devices. This has sparked conversations of the “applification of the web”. The huge amount of applications on my iPhone actually requires more key pressed and finger brushes compared to WP7. Opening Facebook on my iPhone involves opening my social media folder and then selecting the application. For WP7 it is only one click on “People”. For those who are about to say ‘Well, don’t use folders then’… I need to. Without folders I would need to brush sideways to access more applications.

The iPhone is an application mess. Using less applications means I can’t complete all the tasks I need to or requires me to ditch my mobile games. WP7 automatically places games into Xbox Live and allows me to place my applications onto the main menu or sub menu (found by pressing left from the main).  The previews from the tiles on the main menup means I don’t even need to select an app. I can just view the latest status of @Panda_Eyed’s Facebook status by unlocking WP7 and viewing her tile. No key press needed.

I know I said this is a review of Windows Phone 7 and not the HTC 7 Mozart but I just had to compare camera quality.

This picture was taken with the iPhone 3GS.

This picture was taken with the HTC 7 Mozart.

Issues with Windows Phone 7

This is perhaps the easiest section to write because cons are much easier to see than gratifications.

  • In the evening of the first day of owning the mobile I plugged it into charge at night whilst still switched on. In the morning the green light on my HTC 7 Mozart was showing a green light which indicated a full charge. I unplugged and unlocked the mobile… to find it completely unresponsive. I held the top button in as if to switch on and still nothing. Eventually I had to remove the battery which resolved the problems. After a quick Bing Search it appeared other users have had the same issues. I have not encountered this problem since.
  • There have also been a small number of crashes. The Twitter application occasionally crashes on start-up, the market place has crashed and Zune used to stutter some music tracks. I must stress that I expected these issues to happen due to WP7 being a shiny new OS. Over this week updates have been sent to my mobile which are gradually resolving problems (especially glad that Zune is healthy again).
  • Microsoft, please place the signal strength bar on the main menu. It might not look as pretty but when travelling (which I often do) it is currently impossible to know how strength has changed. The only way I can view signal strength at the moment is by unlocking the mobile. This is a hassle and a pointless key press. Change it.

Conclusion

On the whole my experience of Windows Phone 7 has been impressive. Bugs are to be expected in a new OS release but considering the quick release of updates this isn’t something consumers should be worried about. Using Windows Phone 7 is a fresh new mobile experience which everyone should try.

So yes, I do plan to purchase one after my iPhone contract has expired.

  • What is your experience of Windows Phone 7?
  • Are you thinking of purchasing Windows Phone 7?
  • Would you like to know anything about Windows Phone 7?