Tag Archives: Apple

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

Advertisements

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

13 for 2013: Our most anticipated films, music, gaming, technology and cyberculture | Entertainment | This Is Entertainment

The fun and games of 2012 is behind us, so it’s time to stop doing Gangnam Style, put down your ‘New’ iPad and think about all the exciting things which will clamour for both your attention and your wallet this year. Here are 13 things we are really looking forward to:

  1. Ingress (Available Now)

Screenshot_2013-01-03-07-50-32It might seem strange to start with something which you probably haven’t heard of, but its mysterious nature is what makes it interesting. Currently search giant Google is beta testing an augmented reality app, which calls for users to investigate the world around them using their phone as a scanner.

Using the software from the Google glasses demo released last year, the team have come up with a narrative based around CERN’s Higgs Boson experiment. To request an invite for the beta go to the Ingress website (but expect to wait a few weeks). Expect more on the site in the coming months as we delve deeper into the mystery.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. DmC: Devil May Cry (11 January)

dmcWhile the obvious candidate for the crown of ‘anticipated game of the year’ is Grand Theft Auto V, we decided to avoid tackling Rockstar’s media-teasing monstrosity and talk about some of the smaller hitters, beginning with DmC, a reboot of Devil May Cry.

Danté is back, now with a harcore-fan-outraging new look, and a more user-friendly play and combat style. Developers Ninja Theory haven’t held back in taking the series’ ingredients and throwing them in a blender to make a more dynamic and edgy game, not that it’s tricky to make a demon hunter who is half angel and half devil look edgy. What we’ve seen so far looks impressive, though the team have an uphill struggle to convincingly gain ground in the third person slash-’em-up arena.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (21 January)

Wolf's LawAfter a stunning debut album from the Welsh three-piece, they are due to strike back this year with their second album. The band perform amazingly well live, and their songs have that element of originality mixed with a few familiar pop tricks which make them compulsive listening.

Lead vocalist Ritzy’s voice is immediately striking and the synergy in the group is second to none. First single ‘The Ladder is Ours’ picks up where the first album left off and drives the band’s music forward. Expect some well received live performances on the back of this CD later in the year.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Bad Religion – True North (22 January)

True NorthHardcore punk rockers Bad Religion continue to churn out albums at an alarmingly consistent rate and this latest effort is looking to be no exception. First single, ‘Fuck You’, has all the uncompromising energy and attitude you could expect from a punk band who have been making music for over 30 years.

Title track ‘True North’ reveals more, and gives a sense of the overall tone of the album itself, somewhere between the blisteringly quick songs of early days with albums like Incomplete and the philosophy of The Process of Belief.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Windows Surface Pro (28 January TBC)

Windows Surface ProWe’ve already waxed lyrical about Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8, and what more could you want? Windows 8 in a handy portable package of course. The RT version of the Windows Surface tablet has been out for a few months and has sold “modestly”, but many IT enthusiasts are holding off for the full ‘Pro’ version, which runs standard windows programs as well as Windows‘ own tailor-made apps.

With boosted specs and plenty of positive reviews of the RT version already circulating, this could be the technology purchase of the year (well it’s less likely to be replaced in a few months like a new iPad might in any case).

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. New(ish) gaming IPs: Remember Me (May 2013) and South Park: The Stick of Truth (March 2013)

Remember MeDespite the Xbox 360 nearing the end of its life (see point 11), there are still new IPs coming to the console which look promising. South Park: The Stick of Truth, though not entirely new since it is based on the South Park cartoon series, is the first which cartoon creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been directly involved with throughout (reportedly because they were sick and tired of bad South Park games). The game riffs on the classic staples of turn-based RPGs and is sure to have plenty of the sort of laughs and cultural references the TV show is known for.

Remember Me is Capcom’s take on manipulating reality by changing people’s memory in the near future. The game features a protagonist called Nilin, a ‘memory hunter’ who has lost her own memory and is on a quest to get back what she’s lost, while forcing people to kill themselves through memory manipulation along the way. The game is being handled by newcomers Dontnod Entertainment, but reception to the game so far has been promising, so hopefully this won’t be a case of all shine and no substance like fellow near-future jaunt Syndicate was last year.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Star Trek into Darkness (17 May)

Star Trek into DarknessZachary Quinto and Chris Pine reprise their roles as Spock and Kirk as we go Star Trekking once again, this time with the help of Sherlock Holmes, well, Benedict Cumberbatch. Star Fleet is under direct attack this time around, and Cumberbatch, who plays an unknown character who may or may not be linked to classic Trek film The Wrath of Khan‘s Khan.

The first teaser trailer shows all the destruction and drama you have come to expect from J.J. Abrams’ reboot, and with the acting talent in the mix it would be difficult to not make this the cinematic spectacle of the year. At least unless a bunch of superheroes turn up…oh…

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Man Of Steel (14 June)

Man Of SteelZack Snyder directs the latest in a long line of Superman films, but this time, for the first time ever, Superman himself is British. Jersey-born Henry Cavill, who you may have seen in The Tudors TV series or 2007’s Stardust, dons the red boots in a familiar tale, retold.

Not much to get excited about you might think? But with Christopher Nolan on Producer duty, the studio must be keen for some of his success with The Dark Knight Trilogy to rub off on Man Of Steel.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Comic book films return (Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (4 Oct USA), Kick-Ass 2 (19 July), Thor: The Dark World (Nov 8), Iron Man 3 (26 April), The Wolverine (26 July))

Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Kick-Ass 2Superman isn’t the only superhero doing the rounds this year of course, there are a bunch of sequels on the way to astound and delight us all. Of these the most exciting is Kick-Ass 2, which sees Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Red Mist all return, with original actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Morentz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, for another round of crude and comic caped action.

This time Red Mist is seeking revenge, as teased at the close of the first film and Jim Carrey also makes an appearance as Colonel Stars and Stripes. With so many dark and ‘mature’ style superhero flicks flying around it’s good to have something like this as an antidote.

(No Kick-Ass 2 trailer just yet I’m afraid, but Iron Man is shaping up nicely too).

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. Reading Festival 2013 (23-25 August)

Reading Festival 2012With organisers Festival Republic kicking off the hype train early this year, we already know that Eminem will be one of this year’s Reading Festival headliners. Also in the mix are Alt-J, Deftones and Sub Focus.

The event always pulls in some of the greatest acts in the world for the year and the atmosphere is difficult to beat for a full weekend festival. Plus following the re-jig and re-brand last year things will be running even more smoothly, leaving more time for drinking and moshing than ever before.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. The next Xbox (Q4 TBC)

The next Xbox?The Xbox 360 has now been on shop shelves for seven years, with hardware older than that, and in some places it’s beginning to creak at the seams. The lack of big game release dates after May this year leans heavily towards a hardware reveal at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, after a decidedly by-the-numbers affair last year.

The gaming community are beginning to cry out and despite manufacturer Microsoft’s claims in 2010 that the console was only half way through it’s life cycle, the clock is ticking. The time makes sense for the company too, since they won’t want to risk falling behind rival Sony‘s next release, which is still unannounced.

At present no concrete news has come out about the next Xbox console, despite rumours being rife, but whatever happens it is likely to slot effortlessly into its parent company’s efforts with Windows 8. The question is, will they strike while the iron is hot?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December)

The Desolation of SmaugAfter the success which Peter Jackson had with the first instalment of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, we have our fingers firmly crossed he can keep up the momentum for a further two films. The subtitle for this year’s film, The Desolation of Smaug, would suggest this is the chapter in which Smaug is vanquished, but what does that leave for film three?

The multi Oscar-winning director is doing it for the love at this point, so it’s hard to see him making a misstep at this stage, but the real draw for this next film is the returning cast, all of whom shone in part one. How can you say no to more Gandalf?

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  1. The digital entertainment tipping point (TBC?)

The final point in our list is more speculation (speculation you say? On a blog? Outrageous!) around the subject of digital distribution. It might not be something to look forward to if you are keen on polishing the boxes on your CD shelf, but the digital revolution is happening right now. In music in particular the market is struggling to cope, as consumers begin to buy songs online through the likes of iTunes more and more.

The BBC recently reported that in 2012 CD sales fell by 11.2% overall, with sales of physical copies down 20% to 69.4million, compared to a rise or 14.8% for digital, bringing its total up to 30.5million. Surely the day we see digital in the majority isn’t far away?

In gaming and films too things are changing, as more people stream or watch films online, sometimes through games consoles, and various on demand services such as Netflix providing access to thousands of films without the bother of popping down to Blockbuster. Games on demand on Xbox remains uncompetitively priced, but avenues such as Valve’s Steam platform are proving more popular than ever before.

The interconnected nature of technology is making viewing entertainment easier every year and this year could be the time when we start to see the digital future really come into its own.

A Digital FutureJames Michael Parry

Windows 8 Review: Is it really worth upgrading? | Technology | This Is Entertainment

Look how colourful and right-angle-y it is...Fans of sweeping curves and a sleek, minimalist, colour scheme might think twice about Windows 8 – but that’s the point.

Apple has dominated the ‘cool’ factor in the computer industry for years, and Microsoft is well aware it can’t compete directly, so what it has done with 8 (and the Xbox 360 dashboard and Windows phones, lest we forget), is make a visual statement of its own.

Right angles are nothing new – think back to Windows 95 and remember the blockiness of edges – but to follow a design concept all the way through has taken courage on Microsoft’s part. The result is ‘Metro’, or what was referred to as ‘Metro’ until they decided to do away with a name altogether, a regimented yet customisable layout in bold colours.

Of course, appearances are always just the tip of the iceberg, and since consumers willing to give 8 a closer look are not likely to be convinced by style over substance, the OS needs to have the talk to accompany its fancy new trousers.

The functionality of how the system works changes from the outset, with an immediate link to your Windows Live ID or Hotmail login (though local logins are still available, if you can find them). From here the first thing desktop fans will notice is the missing start menu.

The multi-coloured and multi-tiled start screen stands proudly in its place, luckily still connected to that Windows key on your keyboard which you may be fond of. The first few hours spent with Windows 8 will most likely be spent getting to grips with where the start menu items you know and love have run off too.

At first the logic is frustrating, but soon you find yourself being able to combine the functionality of multiple programs with ease and the benefits of 8 start to shine. Menus are hidden on virtually on every side of the screen, with the most useful being the ‘Charms’ menu on the right, which gives you instant access to Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings, most of which adapt and change depending on what you can see on the main window.

Fancy pictures I know...A handy example of the functionality is that you can set a picture as your lock screen and in the same breath share it with your admirers online. Depending on how connected you are with your online world makes a massive difference to how helpful you will find many features of 8.

What 8 really gives you is a strong starting point. At present, the App Store is limited – particularly for third party sites and software, Facebook and Google are conspicuous by their near-absence. Also Microsoft’s own services are still struggling to pull together, in the long run the ‘live’ brand will cease to be and the consistency of the own-brand offerings will mean they all tie together seamlessly.

Admittedly, the first party apps on show so far, whose instant updates make up many of the almost uncomfortably transfixing ‘Live Tiles’, are impressive, and the system itself is quick and responsive.

That said, it’s clear that the interface was designed for touch input. Navigating around with the mouse can be clunky, occasionally needing pinpoint accuracy to make something appear and then not immediately sink into the background once more.

After the initial setting up, customising, and getting used to not having the one-stop-shop of a start menu, you quickly find things begin to make sense. The programs which you would have used on the desktop before are still there, but the Windows 8 interface mops up all the other bits and pieces which can take time like checking email, messaging, or stalking people on Facebook (now you can do Facebook, Twitter and others all from one screen).

At the current upgrade price of £25 from Microsoft it’s difficult to say no. Make full use of the compatibility program on offer, which automatically determined if programs will need to be re-installed, to minimise fuss, and perform a full back up – just in case.

The infrastructure which Microsoft has put in place is one which strives on its simplicity, and provides a platform to build on with more of a lean towards user-friendly operation than ever before. Once more big names get on board with apps of their own it will undoubtedly be a far more flexible experience, but right now is the perfect time to give it a try and get used to it before you have too many complicated new toys to play about with.

James Michael Parry

And now for a nonsensical trailer…

Cyberculture: Is 2011 the beginning of the end for the PC?

Computers have long been a part of everyday life, fulfilling every need from satisfying boredom to delivering the latest shiny products straight to your letterbox, but following the move by number one PC developer Hewlett Packard (HP) to focus on the corporate sector and with Apple on the rise, is the end in sight for the likes of the desktop computer?

One of the biggest challenges to PC’s dominance is the overwhelming success of Apple’siPad and iPad 2, which reported a profit of $7.6billion in the last quarter, more than double from the same time last year and the same as the entire year’s profit for supermarket giant Tesco, with iPad sales up +183% thanks to the launch of the iPad 2. (source: BBC)

The biggest change is the diversification of technology though, with consumers able to do what they used to only be able to accomplish on a computer on any number of devices, many smaller, more portable and more convenient.

PC tried to hit back at the latter with the ‘netbook’ style laptop, a smaller version of the standard laptop designed for increased convenience, but thanks to the iPad having the ‘cool’ factor it continues to dominate.

Consumers valuing portability has shown over the past few years as desktops have increasingly given way to laptops, particularly since the price of laptops has dropped significantly. When the format was first pushed out, you couldn’t find a laptop for under £1000, whereas now you can get an entry-level laptop for £300, around the same price as the lowest grade iPad.

Smartphones are a whole other arena, with many glued to them 24/7. iPhone leads in this arena of course, with the respectable, business-friendly Blackberry and the open-source Android masses not far behind.

iPhone might be the must-have, but the real ingenuity comes through the user-generated Android Marketplace, clearly out to increase the standard and amount of applications available rather than just making profit.

How these devices interlink is another attractive feature, since the days of linked accounts and automatic remembering of passwords mean that a Facebook account can take you a long way across the internet.

The likes of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ cement the day-to-day nature of technology in people’s lives, and this is no longer something you need a PC to access.

There are still areas where only a full PC will do though, such as writing or editing document, where the limited screen space on a phone or tablet make it tricky, or graphic design – although this practice has largely been annexed by Mac. Even for reading websites you often find yourself longing for a computer when reading on a mobile, to avoid the constant need to zoom in and out.

But what next? An announcement of an iPad 3 seems inevitable, but will the familiarity and ease of use be enough to keep PCs in the running as we draw ever-closer to the Back to the Future benchmark set for 2015.

Technological development seems unlikely to move the goalposts at this stage, with computers at a level where almost all standard specifications are more than adequate for the average PC user. Speed will be the thing which will attract people, instant booting up and powering down for example, as well as better connectivity with devices, which might be improved by USB 3.0, 10 times faster than the current USB and allowing for transfers of 5.0Gigabits per second, meaning transferring your music collection to an external hard drive could take seconds rather than hours.

The inclusive, caring-sharing way of taking the technology forward seems the only way to go, with Apple’s stubbornness to cooperate or share with other businesses only allowable because of their market dominance. This Davids and Goliath setup is less than ideal, but it does mean companies will continue to do their best to overcome Apple and encourage competition in areas it can effect. Fingers crossed the giant doesn’t move to crush them, since a marketplace monopoly won’t do any favours for the industry, or its consumers.

James Michael Parry

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14490709

Technology: Does the shiny new HTC Desire S beat Apple’s iPhone?

There are two types of handheld technology these days: that made by Apple, and that made by a company Apple is putting out of business. With iPads, iPhones, iTouches (sp?) as well as the device which launched Apple into the mainstream consumer electronics market – the iPod.

Now I’m not a fan of Apple (a fact which I’ve made very clear in this previous post in particular), but there’s no denying its dominance on the phone market. The question is, can HTC’s latest effort – the Desire S – compete, particularly with a new iPhone already in the works.

As far as iPhone 5 rumours go, this article from TechRadar is a very good place to start. The gist of it is that there are tentative rumours of its arrival in July, but no concrete details have been announced. There are likely upgrades such as better graphics (1080p even?), better proccessor – reportedly the one in the iPad 2 – and longer battery life.

All of these things are speculation of course, but with the masses due an upgrade on their contracts in June and July, HTC has only a few months to make the most of its advantage.

HTC Desire SSo, to the phone. The technical advantages over the original Desire include a front facing camera, a beefier processor and HD video. The real icing on the cake is the latest version of HTC Sense, which links all your contacts from countless different places together, so unless people have random nicknames on their Facebook profile, you will find their phone, email, Facebook and Twitter all knitted together in one entry. It makes you realise just how many people you are connected to, and an even bigger surprise is how many people have their mobile numbers on their profile and they don’t even realise.

Sense makes an easy task of porting everything from you’re old phone though, no matter what make and model, and also keeps you up to date with everything effortlessly – just keep an eye on how much updating you want to avoid those pesky data charges though.

The phone’s design is slimmer than the Desire, but not as giant (and iPhone-like) as the Desire HD. The weight is enough so that you know it’s there and aren’t left checking your pockets every 30 seconds and the latest version of Android (2.3 – Gingerbread) makes it run like a dream.

One thing you should be careful of is messing around with the battery compartment. The phone is very robust, for the most part a single piece of material, but the drawback is that to keep the design solid the battery compartment is incredibly difficult to get off, so don’t plan on changing SIM, battery or Micro SD very often – though the phone does support a cool 32GB (not) removable storage.

The biggest gripe for me is the fact that during phone calls the speaker is reasonable, but as soon as there’s a fair amount of background noise it becomes very difficult to hear, though often you’re distracted by the fact that as you call someone you are greeted with their Facebook profile picture and latest update, which you spend your time reading instead of listening to the other person pick up. Otherwise there are the usual issues which come with all smartphones such as limited battery life – though the Desire S manages to comfortably make a day with backlight and WiFi on, I wouldn’t push it.

The phone comes pre-loaded with some fancy apps, and the integration of Twitter and Facebook through Sense is seamless, though you do find a few things repeated due to the battle between hardware and software, such as their being both an HTC and Android calendar available.

The home screen, of which there are seven, can be populated with all manner of widgets, shortcuts and feeds, and pinching the screen displays them all in an easy to navigate radial pattern, which actually feels like it’s breaking the fourth wall the first time you see it.

Internet browsing is simple and the Adobe Flash and PDF support is very welcome, putting all out-of-date PC browsers to shame (looking at you internet explorer), and the general interface is very quick, I haven’t noticed any hanging or slowdown so far and I’ve fiddled with most of the features at the same time.

Out in sunlight the phone struggles with glare somewhat, due to the lack of a AMOLED screen, which the original sported, but are you really ever going to be in full sun for that long in England?

A nifty tool, hidden on the micro SD shipped with the phone, is HTC Sync, which does exactly what you might expect – though if you (sensibly) have your contacts on Google in any case it mostly helps with photos and the like.

In summary then the HTC Desire S is a worthwhile upgrade and certainly the best phone HTC have brought out to date. The ingenuity of HTC sense is what will push the device into must-have status, but whether that will be enough to challenge Apple’s dominance on the market is anyone’s guess.

The bottom line this is a fantastic phone and unless you’re head-over-heels in love with Apple you’d be foolish not to choose it over an iPhone 4, once the iPhone 5 comes out however, the tables may turn once again.

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