Tag Archives: Android

Google Nexus 5 | Review | Technology

Google Nexus 5Mobile phones are a fleeting concept. After only a decade and a half, or so, they may have risen to be the most often carried device on the planet – even above a simple wrist watch – but their reign is wrought with dangers.

The rise of tablets (and even phablets) puts the humble mobile’s position under serious threat. To survive then, the cutting edge of smartphones must offer things you can’t do on any other device, or at least not as easily, and a lot more besides.

Enter the Nexus 5, Google’s third foray into the world of phones (admittedly through the proxy of LG, who make the device). With a five-inch screen and genuinely rectangular features, it’s not the most original nor compact of devices, vying for a share of an arena which is already overpopulated.

The Nexus 5 is, in fact, the fifth phone in its family – far from a certainty with Apple churning out two per year and all – and the design of the phones may not have moved miles in looks, but the technology LG have packed into the 5 is a force to be reckoned with.

Have a break…

Google Nexus 5The phone comes pre-loaded with the vanilla version of Android 4.4 Kitkat, a slick, clean interface which works very smoothly. The defaulting of the Hangouts App for SMS is slightly limiting, since any contacts without Google+ don’t integrate particularly easily.

Fortunately one of the biggest benefits of Android is that there are so many excellent quality third-party apps out there and Contact+ fills the void quickly, easily and cleanly, leaving no cause for concern.

Certain features such as lock screen widgets and other customisations are quite hidden away inside the options menu, but with some searching, tweaking and some choice downloads the experience crosses its ‘t’s and dots its ‘i’s effortlessly.

Please connect your charger

Google Nexus 5Battery life is the failing of countless modern devices, with bigger, higher definition screens draining them faster than ever. The Nexus 5 has a few features which it is worth sacrificing some battery for, such as Google Now, which offers up to the minute updates for whatever you search for and wherever you go.

Integration with all of the Google Apps is stronger in this model than any other Android device I have personally used, including Samsung’s Nexus 10 (though in really in every other respect both devices are excellently matched). Equally the apps themselves perform very well, especially the Nexus’ iteration of Google Chrome, which delivers the internet more quickly and easily than a handheld device should be able to muster.

In all then a device which isn’t the greatest phone ever, the camera is still a tad slow even after an update and a few ideas miss their mark. Most importantly though, this phone does what it was designed to – to showcase the potential of what Android can offer, which is an operating system more complete, versatile and featured than iOS7.

James Michael Parry

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Ten most anticipated titles of 2014 – Part 2 | Opinion | Entertainment

2014 ones to watch pt2That’s right, we ran out of space to fit in ten before – there’s just so much to talk about. In case you missed it, have a read of the first five things we are excited about this year, then take a look at another five below. After that you may go, or if you’re feeling really interactive you can leave a comment with what yours are.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 22 May

X-Men: Days of Future PastIs more always better? We aren’t so sure. It definitely made Spider-Man 3 messy and is history is threatening to repeat itself with the second remake (see part one). That said, it’s difficult to bet against the pedigree of the cast involved with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Promising new-ish talent in the form of Evan Peters as Quicksilver and rising star Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, while old guard like Hugh Jackman (born to be Wolverine) bring some gravitas to proceedings and knights of the realm Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart bringing up the rear.

Of course this time roles are doubled up, as both Michael Fassbender and McKellen take on the iconic role of Magneto and make uneasy alliance with James McAvoy and Stewart’s Professor X.

To say that this is an anticipated title would be an understatement. Original film series helmsman Bryan Singer is back and there’s some fantastic writers on board as well, with so many great characters, special effects and action sequences to come – what can go wrong? If the trailer is anything to go by we are in for a treat.

House of Cards: Series 2 – 14 February

The first of two multimedia TV choices on this list, both significant for different reasons. Last year House of Cards was Netflix’s first real foray into the world of original programming, and thanks to its success a handful of shows, both established and brand new, have followed suit. Now they have to do it again to prove that it’s not just a one-trick pony or a fluke – a second series is serious business.

The show isn’t strictly original, since it’s a remake of a UK show, but I think given the differences between attitudes and political systems in the two countries it can stand alone with its head held high. Kevin Spacey nails the part of Frank Underwood expertly, so much so that he gained a number of award nominations, but, alas, only a (well-deserved) Golden Globe win for Spacey’s co-star Robin Wright. Netflix will want to improve on that this time around, to prove that they ‘count’ in the big leagues.

Since the scrabble up the political ladder was vicious and frantic at times in series one, viewers won’t want Frank’s journey to get too easy this time around. All the episodes drop in at once on Valentine’s Day, will they make enough impact to tear people away from their loved ones?

The Halo TV Series – TBA

HaloThe Xbox One announcement was undoubtedly a multimedia entertainment affair, rather than a reveal of ‘a games console’. Microsoft had their sights set on something greater, and still do. Filming a TV series though, takes time, and with collaborator Steven Spielberg working on other TV projects as producer his time is sure to be in high demand.

The potential of this show is what makes it such an exciting prospect though. The Halo 4: Forward  Unto Dawn web series demonstrated fantastic production values and, crucially, a compelling story which wasn’t over-reliant on the games – a very difficult balance to get right.

The expectation from series fans is high, and as one of Microsoft’s key exclusives, they will definitely want to take the time they need to get it right first time. Particularly considering all the flack they got in 2013 for various PR mis-steps.

The potential of the concept is huge though, and there’s a lot to play for. A massive captive audience and exclusive delivery platform just waiting to get going, while the interplay between the show and the game series itself, which is also keeping its audience hungry. MS have an opportunity to make a bold statement about what they can achieve in multimedia. It might not come this year in the end, but there is sure to be more revealed by the end of the year.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – March 28

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPoor Cap. Thanks to merely his name, his origin story wasn’t as well received in the UK as it was in his homeland. Luckily he has another chance with The Winter Soldier, and early forecasts are looking extremely promising.

The character established in the first film had a surprisingly deep arc compared to his fellow Avengers, and as such was short-changed by critics. In this instalment the trailer paints a very compelling picture.

Cap is still working with SHIELD, including Nick Fury and Black Widow, and is beginning to question the motives and methods of this highly destructive organisation. Not a gritty superhero story like The Dark Knight trilogy, but a very personal story which explores his character – albeit with some explosions thrown in for good measure.

Directing are little-known pair Anthony and Joe Russo, who are sure to bring their own spin to proceedings, while the rest of the crew are equally unknown to the Marvel film universe, meaning the film has that mixture of excitement and fear you often find with an unknown quantity.

The next Google Nexus tablet – TBA

Google Nexus 10 2 concept imageGoogle have been making strides over the past few months, buying up companies left and right and making progress with both software and concept hardware such as Google Glass, but since the release of the Google Nexus 7, things have been quiet in the tablet division.

The advertising for Google Play as the place to get your music, films and TV shows has seen a marked increase, giving the softest of indications that the next logical step on their tablet journey may be coming.

Another patent deal with Samsung done and dusted in the smartphones division means there’s a few more patents to play with and since there has been a lot of expectation for a more specced iPad or wearable tech. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), product launches from Google were conspicuous by their absence and after Apple’s shares took a tumble on the back of less-than-overwhelming sales performance – now is the time to strike.

The technology needed isn’t a million miles ahead of the excellent Google Nexus 10, produced by Samsung, with its screen in particular going down well and generally performance stacking up to the equivalent offering from Apple. To really turn heads though, they will need to go further. Does that mean a Nexus 11? Time, as ever, will tell, but there’s potential there for the taking.

The ones to watch: Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Division, The Fray – Helios, Rancid’s new album, Robocop, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, Steam Machines, Oculus Rift, Hannibal and Game of Thrones.
James Michael Parry

An internet monopoly?: Google’s products scrutinised | Feature | Cyberculture

Google logoGoogle’s recent I/O conference revealed a number of new strategies, consolidations and initiatives, but is the search giant’s vision exceeding its capability?

A wide range of services

Google Apps
There are some big names and brands in their own right under Google’s umbrella, including YouTube.

The number of plates Google have spinning is bafflingly vast, offering over 30 products through their main site and numerous first-party apps through their own android operating system for smartphones and tablets.

‘Search’, where it all began, is currently the top ranked site for traffic in the world (according to rankings.com), followed by YouTube, which Google bought back in 2006 for $1.65billion, and is a topic of popular news almost daily.

The rise and rise of Google

The company’s philosophy states its mission is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Reading that out of context you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the motto of Wikipedia (which, coincidentally, is more related to the fact that the site is to provide information and not argue value judgements), but Google’s approach is far more widespread thanks to its targeted approach to every other internet-driven product on the market.

Though Google has created many of its biggest success stories, such as ‘Maps’ and ‘Gmail’, other products were acquired through the 2000s, such as Picasa and YouTube. Arguably only YouTube truly holds its own against the might of its parent company to have its own identity, partly because of how the business is run (as a subsidiary company), but most interactions surfers have with Google are with ‘Google’ prefixed products.

New-look Maps

Google Maps Beta
The new interface makes it quicker to find your house than ever before.

A redesign of the ‘Maps’ product was the most impressive innovation to be announced this year, using a vector-based interface to shrink loading times and improve accuracy.

Playing around on the beta version, the new interface is slick and effective, offering more transport options than before. Loading is undeniably snappier and the simplicity of the presentation helps things not look cluttered even in built up areas.

There are bugs to be ironed out, but it seems like a solid step forward which offers consumers what they had before quicker and more into the package as well.

One for all and all for plus

The company insists that ‘it’s best to do one thing really well’ and despite the diversification that is still true – search is clearly the strongest part of any one of their products, whether it’s tracking down a two-year-old email or picking out a restaurant you half remember from 2008.

Convergence is happening in all forms of media and the real drive for Google this year seems to be to unite their products, most likely under the banner of Google +.

The social media sharing platform has been steadily growing momentum through the past few years, and a recent tune up to the Hangouts feature has made the technology far more accessible (though not necessarily more popular).

The consistency and familiarity is something which will solve a lot of the companies brand loyalty in the long run, but the short and harsh truth is that change is hard for most people.

With nothing to compel them to switch, most users will continue with the messaging app they are familiar with, whether that is Facebook Messenger, iMessage or a third-party compiler like What’s App.

The writing’s on the cloud

Can the futuristic technology really deliver?
Can the futuristic technology really deliver?

The long-term gain may prove to be enough, but there needs to be imagination-capturing innovations such as the company’s fancy, though slightly unbelievable, ‘Glass’ product to keep people coming back to them for more than just ‘googling’ something.

In a way the company is a victim of its own success, being so synonymous with internet searching makes it difficult to really make its mark in other areas. This is despite the infrastructure of many other aspects of the business, such as Google Docs or Blogger, being more than up to their respective tasks.

Plus (pun not intended), there is scope within the ‘Labs’ area of development, but overall the company would do well to not spread their net too thinly and find holes starting to develop.

The power of brand

The operating system reportedly has a staggering 75% market share, thanks to its incorporation in a number of different brand's devices.
The operating system reportedly has a staggering 75% market share, thanks to its incorporation in a number of different brand’s devices.

Android is where the opportunity lies over the next few days, ironically because it has its own brand separate to Google, so consumers can feel more of a brand affinity than with the plain, cold image of a multi-national.

In-roads are being made in areas such as business, where the company is powering more and more companies from behind the scenes, but the ‘cool’ factor is still something which is clearly owned by the likes of Apple.

In short – Google is here to stay, but what it means to ‘google’ something might need to diversify to let the brand continue to make progress overall, rather than just in the more flexible, innovative and smaller-scale aspects of the business.

James Michael Parry

Technology: Apple-free MP3 players

Say no to iPodsBeing an MP3 player these days isn’t easy, without a shiny apple logo on your back most people don’t notice you, but there’s still a few impressive choices around for those willing to take the time to look.

The times of a countless range of brands and models is gone – you can thank Apple for narrowing the market – but the brands to look out for are Creative, Phillips and the grandfather of mobile music – Sony.

Sony E SeriesThe Walkman was first released back in 1979 as a handy tape player, before it became a ‘Discman’ in 1984, and now the brand continues to keep a hold on the market with A, S, E and W series. The E series, which comes in 4, 8 and 16GB models (take a look), is probably the most comparable to Apple’s shiny iPod range, but on top of that it boasts kareoke and easy-peasy drag and drop music organisation. It might not be packed with features but it does the job reliably, none of this style-over-substance nonsense.

Philips MuseFrom Phillips comes the Muse MP4 player, complete with FullSound – a fancy bit of tech which decompresses MP3s and ‘enriches and enhances’ the sound. Also it contains Songbird, a useful music player which you can also get on your computer to organise and transfer music.

The real champion of the flock though is Creative, who have embraced Bluetooth technology in everything they are producing, making them the most adaptable units around.

Creative Zen Touch 2Sure there might be one or two iPod compatible docking stations on the market, but Creative reinforces the sublime Zen Touch 2 with speakers and home entertainment surround sound systems all free from troublesome wires. Plus you can get a USB Bluetooth adapter to make anything compatible with the system and so you can stream your music across your room or even through your entire house.

The Touch 2 itself has WiFi and the Google Android operating system, meaning you can download lots of shiny and useful apps. There is even a version available with GPS so you can use it as a sat nav system. The inclusion of a MicroSD card slot means you can beef up the storage capacity as high as you like, though you need to be a bit careful when you insert or remove the card since like all technology if you don’t use it properly – it complains.

The music interface is easy to use and simple, again not stylish to the extreme like Apple. MP3 players like this are functional items, not fashion accessories, and with the Touch 2, Creative have created one of the most versatile pieces of handheld technology around.

So, there are plenty of alternatives to Apple, the only decision you need to make now is which path to righteousness will you choose?

 

James Michael Parry

Smartphones: App-tacular Ubrain for Android and iPhone

Some people’s lives are ruled by music – I am one such sufferer – and with Spotify and Last.fm around you would have thought we had enough music-related apps about, but, of course, you were wrong.

The idea behind Ubrain – other than having a name that sounds like a type of yo-yo – is that it creates sound to control you. The most blatant brain-washing idea (no pun intended…) since Simon Cowell’s plan to put on a 24 hour X-Factor marathon is achieved through binaural waves.

If you don’t know what they are then don’t worry, though you are a little behind the times since they discovered them back in 1839, but the science is that binaural beats are based on broadcasting 2 different frequencies, one in each ear, resulting in a median 3rd beat. This 3rd beat becomes an attraction to your brain and encourages cerebral activity to stick to this virtual beat and carry the brain to this frequency.

Basically, it convinces your brain it is happy if you are feeling a bit down by combining sounds, and although the effect is only temporary, it could be enough to give you a bit of confidence before you take that final exam, or wake you up in time to get to work.

Apparently it does have genuine scientific basis, according to clinical psychologist Brigitte Forgeot, who said: “I’m looking forward to its release, and hope it will turn out to be a product which can be adapted for use in therapeutic treatments. Being able to combine music you enjoy with binaural sound waves is a very definite plus, which leaves room for a lot of creative freedom and different uses of this process.”

There’s also endorsement from Grammy nominated DJ Paul van Dyk: “That music effects your mood is something we all know – that binaural beats can boost these effects and increase your energy level, help to focus, or calm you down to relax was something I experienced using the Ubrain App.” Check out more here:

The app is now available on Android market and for iPod, iPad and iPhone on iTunes, but before you part with £3.49 check out these fancy YouTube videos:

The power of Ubrain

How it all works….

James Michael Parry

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