I Just Wanted To Give You My Money, T-Mobile…

T-mobile logoI’ve been in the market for a couple of smartphones. Specifically, one iPhone 6 Plus for myself and one iPhone 6 for my wife (and fellow GNC contributor) Jen. I was all set to purchase the new phones from T-Mobile earlier this week. But the utter failure of T-Mobile’s website lead me to buying from a competitor instead.

When I logged on to the T-Mobile site, I was immediately greeted with this message:

T-Mobile website browser warning

 

I was using the latest version of Safari on an iMac running the latest version of OS X. And yeah, I get it. Safari is often a bit of a thorn in the side of web developers. But, come on. It’s 2015. Macs are everywhere and many Mac users (including me) prefer to use Safari. Upon seeing this message, I knew I was in for trouble. But I carried on, anyway. I closed the browser warning message and clicked the “Shop” link at the top of the T-Mobile site.

From there, I selected a silver iPhone 6 Plus and continued on thru the rate-plan selection process, which went OK. Then, I went to add the second phone and that’s when the process started to fail. When the iPhone 6 screen loaded, it never gave me an option to buy the phone. I was stuck. I went back to my shopping cart to try and resume the process, and after much lag I was eventually given a “Processing Error” page that told me something had gone wrong, to wait a few minutes and try again.

So, I waited a few minutes and tried again with no luck. I waited a few more minutes and made another attempt. Still nothing. I’m not sure how many times I repeated this process before I started getting frustrated. I imagine at this point, most people would’ve given up. I guess I’m stricken with some sort of weird combination of patience and stubbornness. But, the thing is, I really wanted to buy these iPhones from T-Mobile.

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Booking.com Launches Booking Now App

Booking.com logoI was somewhat surprised to learn that 50% of travel bookings made within 48 hours of departure are booked on a mobile device. On reflection, it’s perhaps not that surprising, given that the spontaneous decision to travel is likely to be followed up immediately, rather than waiting to get home to get the laptop out.

It’s with this opportunity in mind that accommodation site Booking.com has launched Booking Now, an instant booking app that can get a place to stay in as little as two taps. After a successful launch in the US and Canada, the app is now available in the UK for iOS devices with an Android version to follow. The app’s built-in intelligence, along with GPS, helps it choose the best properties based on your preferences from over 600,000 properties in 70,000 destinations.

Booking Now - Booking.com UK imageWith the launch of Booking Now, we’re increasing our investment in mobile by leveraging our global scale, assets and partnerships to accommodate the growing number of customers who are booking reservations within two days or less of their stay,” said Darren Huston, Chief Executive Officer of Booking.com. “The new app puts users at the centre of the booking experience, drawing from our vast database of properties to meet their specific preferences at the very moment they need to book. Booking Now is designed to deliver a seamless mobile experience for spontaneous consumers, fitting perfectly into their multi-device, on-demand lifestyle.

Booking Now personalises real-time search results based on the traveller profile created by each user when they first start to use the app. The profile indicates specific accommodation preferences, such as budget and options like parking, included breakfast and wifi. Users are then presented with the most relevant accommodation available based on profile and location. The traveller can then modify their choice of accommodation to suit their itinerary and the places that they want to see. With Booking Now’s predictive analytics, the more frequently customers use the app, the more personalised their recommended matches become. Additionally, as user’s swipe through the app, they can pin their top hotel choice to the map so they can see where the hotel is relative to their location or other attractions.

The Booking Now app can be downloaded from the relevant app stores – iOS only for now with Android coming soon.

If only I had more time and more money to be spontaneous!

Monitor Tyre Pressures with FOBO Tire

Fobo LogoIn-car tyre pressure monitoring is a valuable safety tool, alerting the driver to a potential problem as soon as the pressure drops. Depending on the cost of the car, the alert can be a single red warning light on the dash through to wheel-by-wheel pressure levels. Usually the feature has to be installed by the manufacturer but Fobo Tire is an after-market solution that can be easily fitted to any vehicle, both cars and bikes. Jamie and Nick take to the road with Kevin Tan from Fobo.

Fobo Tire is Bluetooth-based tyre pressure monitoring system, consisting of four sensors that screw onto the tyre’s pressure valve, replacing the dust caps. The sensors transmit data via Bluetooth both to a small monitoring unit that can remain in the vehicle and also to the owner’s smartphone or tablet. The smartphone app works with both iOS and Android, and the app can track up to 19 cars (4 x 19 sensors), so it’s good for multi-car families or small business.

Fobo Tire costs $179 for four sensors and the in-car monitoring unit, and Fobo Bike is $79 for only two sensors. Available now from Fobo’s on-line store.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Massive Audio Dr Who Bluetooth Speakers

Massive Audio LogoTom Baker will always by my Doctor with his long scarf and robotic K-9 companion. I haven’t really followed the recent successful re-invention of Dr Who but the Tardis and the Daleks will forever be part of my childhood. For fans of the show, the folks at Massive Audio now have a range of Dr Who Bluetooth speakers. Jamie and Nick get Whovian with Jeremy Larsson from Massive Audio.

Officially licensed from the BBC, the range includes a Tardis and two Dalek models, which have sound effects and flashing lights for extra fun. There’s a ten hour rechargeable battery and the unit can act as a speakerphone with a noise cancelling microphone.

The Tardis and Dalek Sec are currently on pre-order for $119 and the Assault Dalek is $149. The initial stock run sold out so the next batch is expected in March.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the TechPodcast Network.

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Marshall Electronics Targets Pro Portable Audio

Marshall Electronics LogoSmartphones, and in particular the iPhone, are beginning to replace the video camera for on-the-spot interviews especially when it’s a one person gig. While the video side of the recording is well covered by the iPhone, the audio isn’t, mainly because the camera has to be six feet away from the subject rather than the the six inches preferred by a microphone. Marshall Electronics have been thinking about this problem and Don gets a world exclusive on their newest product from Perry Golstein.

Marshall have been working on a set of portable accessories for the iPhone which connects pro gear for high quality audio recordings. Brand new is a battery-powered pocket-mixer with four audio inputs, headphone monitor and an analogue output. In addition, the mixer has a digital out over USB: connect the mixer to the iPhone via Apple’s camera connector and the audio can be recorded digitally. The mixer will be available later in the year with a target price of $249. Very neat.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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ONvocal Mix360 Combines Music, Voice and Ambient

ONvocal

Anyone who has worn earbuds or in-ear headphones will know that (a) they are very effective in blocking out external noise and (b) phone conversations sound a little strange if you use them with your smartphone to take a call. ONvocal have a solution to these problems….it’s a little unorthodox and pricey so Don finds out more from company president, Bob Spanner.

The Mix360 personal audio device combines microphones with signal processors to mix sound from three sources – music, phone call and environmental noise. The benefit in the first instance is that you can hear the world around you and avoid getting run over by buses plus when you are on a phone call, you hear your own voice, which makes it much more natural. The exact level of each audio source can be adjusted via complementary app. The interview video doesn’t really make it clear but the band is a neckband not a headband and is worn at collar level.

The Mix360 will be available in May with a price of $349 and can be pre-ordered at ONvocal’s shop.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Oort SmartHub Integrates With Bluetooth

Oort Logo

Smart homes and the Internet of Things are very much in vogue at CES this year with vendors offering a wide range of products, some of which hardly deserve the name “smart” and others that are genuinely innovative. In the latter camp, there is Oort which tries to “make your world smarter”. Don learns more from Radek Tadajewski, Wizard of Oort.

The difference between Oort and many of its competitors is that Oort has been designed to work openly with Bluetooth devices from the start. By using Bluetooth profiles as the integration mechanism, Oort can use any Bluetooth device that has the necessary profile. To get you started, there’s a $350 starter kit which includes the Oort hub, light bulbs, sockets and a tracker beacon though other devices can be added as needed. As you’d expect there’s a smartphone app for Android and iOS which communicates with the hub and the connected  devices. You can view the status of devices and sensors through the smartphone app, whether you are inside the house or sitting in the office, and you can turn devices on and off as needed.

There’s more in the interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Elliptic Labs Ultrasound Gesture Recognition

EllipticLabs logoAlthough initially with a stylus and more recently with fingers, the touch user interface goes back as far as the early days of mobile devices to the Apple Newton and Palm Organiser. Elliptic Labs want to add non-touch to the mobile user interface with ultrasound gesture recognition. Todd gets a demo from Laila Danielson, CEO.

Elliptic Labs use an ultrasonic speaker to create a sonic field around the mobile device. Moving a hand in front the device creates ultrasonic echoes which are picked up by microphones and the changes in the echo patterns are converted into gestures. For example, waving a hand from left to right scrolls a picture gallery. Moving a hand closer to the phone brings up additional information on a film or movie. It’s very impressive.

At the moment it’s a prototype device being shown to OEMs so expect the technology to appear on mobiles devices in the next year or two.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Schneider Optics Interchangeable Lenses

Schneider LogoDigital pictures and cameras on smartphones have changed the photography beyond recognition in the last twenty years and the quality of the imagery is such that innovative filmmakers are using iPhones to record footage. One restriction remains and that is the lens itself; there’s only one and it’s fixed in place. There’s no swapping in a macro lens, though Schneider Optics might have a solution. Todd finds out more from Don.

Schneider Optics iPro Lens systems provides a selection of high quality optical lenses for Apple iPhones and the Samsung Galaxy S4, including macro, wide-angle, super wide, tele and fisheye. The system works by fitting the smartphone itself into a case and then mounting the lens onto the case with a bayonet connector to ensure the best possible optical alignment. The smallest offset can lead to aberrations and a loss of picture quality, which the iPro Lens case and lens combination avoids.

The iPro Lens is available now for the Samsung Galaxy S4, iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus variant will be on sale shortly. Lenses cost from $39 to $99, the case is $31 and there are kits available too.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Corning Brings Fibre To Thunderbolt and USB3

Corning Logo

Corning are famous for their glass-based products, most notably Serengeti Drivers sunglasses and Gorilla Glass screens which protect the majority of mobile devices on the planet. Todd gets a hands-on demonstration of Corning’s latest products from Jon Pesansky and Gabriela Allen.

This year sees Gorilla Glass 4 come to market which roughly doubles the height a phone call fall without smashing its screen. Alternatively, the glass can be made thinner for the same level of survivability and a 0.4 mm thick piece of Gorilla Glass 4 is the same as a 0.55 mm of Gorilla Glass 3.

Partly as a result of the high data transfer rates, the maximum length of Thunderbolt and USB3 electrical cables is only a few metres. To address this, Corning have developed fibre versions of these cables which can run for tens of metres and put up with the abuse typically associated with plugging and unplugging cables. Mind you, they don’t come cheap with a 5.5 m Thunderbolt cable costing $179 and a 10m USB3 cable costing $109. Available now.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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