Category Archives: smartphone

Playbrush Brings Fun to Toothbrushing at Gadget Show Live



Playbrush LogoGood oral hygiene is important for everyone but getting children to brush their teeth can be a bedtime battle. Playbrush should help win the war, bringing fun into the bathroom. I get the toothpaste out with John to find out more about Playbrush and continue coverage of the British Inventors’ Project.

The Playbrush is small bulbous gadget that slips over the handle of a manual toothbrush and turns the toothbrush into a game controller. Communicating via Bluetooth, the toothbrusher plays a game “Utoothia” on their tablet or smartphone, encouraging correct brushing technique and duration. The Playbrush can be shared among a family with game apps supporting up to six people. It’s rechargeable and will last around four-to-six weeks on single charge, depending on use. The games are in both the Apple and Google app stores.

Playbrush with app

Originally a Kickstarter Project, the Playbrush launched back in November and is available now from the Playbrush store for GB£31 (says the store). There’s a bathroom kit for an extra £8 which is a vinyl pocket to hold the smartphone during brushing and keep it toothpaste free. It sticks to tiles or a mirror using suction cups.

I think this is neatly executed idea that’s very affordable, especially as it can be shared with more than one child, though I think Playbrush need a neutral colour that’s not blue or pink!


Smanos Launches K1 Smart Home at Gadget Show Live



Smanos LogoIn the last of my smart home interviews from Gadget Show Live, I look at one of the new entrants to the market, Smanos. The Dutch firm announced their new K1 Smart Hub at the show and while it’s a good-looking piece of kit, the K1 is coming into an increasingly crowded space. I chat with Rafael about Smanos and the difference it brings.

Coming from a security background, Smanos has brought its understanding of that space to the smart home. The first iteration of the K1 focusses on security: the starter kit includes a siren, door/window sensor, motion sensor and keypard with the Smart Hub. As might be expected, the devices use Z-Wave for communication and there’s an app for managing and controlling the system, so additional sensors can be added easily.

Smanos K1 Smart Hub

In order to set Smanos apart from the competition, the K1 has well designed sensors that wouldn’t look out of place in a bijoux pad. All white and chrome with surface detail, it’s clear that the sensors are part of a matched set, and not awkwardly thrown together to meet a functional need.

K1 Smart Home

In addition to the K1 Smart Hub (GB£249), Smanos launched the UFO panoramic Wi-Fi HD camera (£149) with a massive field of view, and a smart video doorbell (£159). Both of these look neat.


Cozify Brings Multiple Radios to the Smart Home at WTS



cozifyWhen it comes to wireless protocols for the smart home, there’s a plethora of standards from the well-known Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to the lesser known Z-Wave, Zigbee and ISM 433 MHz. Most smart home hubs only support a subset of these, typically Z-Wave and Zigbee, but Cozify‘s Hub is different, with hardware support for all five. Andrew finds out a little bit more from Cozify’s Tony.

While the Hub doesn’t yet take full advantage of all the radios, it’s integrated with devices from eight major smart home manufacturers, including Philips Hue, Osram Lightify, Belkin Wemo and Sonos. The integration seems to have be done at a lower level than many of the competitors, with the Cozify Hub able to communicate directly with the lights and sensors. For example, with Philips Hue, the Hue hub is not required.

As expected, there’s a smartphone app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Using the app, rules can be configured to carry out actions under pre-defined conditions, e.g. turn on the lights when it gets dark.

The Cozify Hub is available now for 249.00 € though there are bundles available which include a selection of smart devices, such as lights or sensors.

Cozify Hub


Applause Crowdsources Testing at WTS



Applause Mobile ViewGiven the many different models of smartphone handset, in-house testing of apps is rarely effective at achieving comprehensive test coverage. There’s always going to be some model of phone that disagrees with the app. Samir from Applause talks to Andrew about they can help with the problem.

Applause’s approach is to crowdsource app testing to ensure that mobile apps are tested on as many different phones and tablets as possible. Applause call this “in the wild” testing – apps are tested on many different devices with combinations of RAM and CPU by real users on every day smartphones and tablets. These aren’t pristine out-of-the-box latest generation devices or emulators. This real world testing greatly improves confidence that the app is going to work on as expected on full release.

Applause’s list of customers is impressive and includes Google, Netflix, Coca-Cola and Amazon.


Chipolo Tracker at Wearable Tech Show



ChipoloThe Bluetooth tracker tag market is busy at the moment with several players making a name for themselves. Into the fray steps Chipolo, another ex-Kickstarter project, with their colourful tags. Andrew asks Nika and Katja what makes Chipolo different?

Much like other tracker tags, the Chipolo tag is paired with a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth LE. The Chipolo item finder app keeps track of where and when the phone was last in touch with the tag. If you can’t find the tag, but it’s in range, the tag can ring to help you find it. The reverse is true too. Shake the tag and your phone will ring.

The Chipolo works as a remote camera shutter button too, so it’s easier to take group shots with everyone in the picture. Set the smartphone app, shake the Chipolo and snap the shot.

The Chipolo app is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and it’s good to see Windows being supported. On sale now, a single Chipolo tags costs 24.99 € (GB£19.99) though four tags is 89.99 €.

Chipolo


Cupris Smartphone Scopes at Wearable Tech Show



Cupris LogoThe smartphones in our pockets have cameras that could only have been dreamed of a few years ago, yet most only take a couple of selfies. So why not use these miracles of engineering to do more? Cupris‘ phone case converts the smartphone into a digital medical instrument. Helene tells Andrew more about their upcoming products.

The Cupris smartphone case mounts specialist medical lenses in front of the smartphone camera to take images and videos. The first device is an otoscope (right) for examining the eardrum and the second is an ophthalmoscope (left) for retinal imaging. The big benefit of digital imaging over the traditional scopes is that the pictures can be added to the patient record for review at a later date.

The otoscope will be available soon for less than GB£100.

Cupris Medical Imaging


Keep The Note 4?



Motorola Bag PhoneSince the mass adoption of the cell phone happened starting in the 1990’s, like everyone else I’ve gone through a long succession of cell phones. My very first cell phone was a Motorola bag phone. Remember those? Analog cell phones could sound surprisingly good. Of course, in fringe reception areas, the sound quality would often become quite crackly and was prone to dropped calls. Those bag phones could output up to three watts of power, so the reception could be decent depending on the area it was operating in.

The next phone I had was an early analog candy bar style phone with a nickel cadmium battery. It had a terrible standby time of only about 30 minutes. Reception was poor in part because output wattage was cut back to about ½ a watt.

After that, the next one was a more modern Nokia candy bar style phone with better battery life and was both digital and analog. Unfortunately, the digital sound in those days was pretty bad, and the analog reception suffered from vastly diminished ½ watt of power.

The next one was an updated version of the Nokia candy bar phone. It offered somewhat better performance, and a few more bells and whistles.

Cell phone number five was a folding LG camera phone that included a color LCD and was my first phone with an integrated 640 x 480 camera. The phone also had a USB port. I was able to figure out how to plug the phone into a computer and go through a very clunky process of transferring the photos from the phone’s built-in memory to the computer’s hard drive, a process that required some hacky third party software I downloaded from the Internet. Even after I replaced this phone I continued to use it for several years as an alarm clock, a function that worked quite well.

Next came my first smart phone. It was a Windows Mobile phone from HTC with a 3.5” pressure sensitive touchscreen with WiFi and 3G EVDO. It included a storable stylus and a slide-out keyboard, features I found of little practical use.

My second smartphone was another HTC phone running Windows Mobile, this time without the slide-out keyboard. It still had a 3.5” pressure-sensitive touchscreen, WiFi and 3G EVDO.

Smartphone number three was my first Android device, a Sprint Evo also manufactured by HTC. The HTC Evo  included a 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen and the 8 megapixel rear camera was able to record 720p 30fps video, though the video sound quality suffered compared with newer devices. The HTC Evo’s biggest problem was that it had awful battery life.

Smartphone number four was a Samsung Galaxy S3. It had a 4.8 inch touchscreen and was a better performer than the Evo while offering somewhat better battery life.

Smartphone number five was a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The Note 3 had a 5.7” 1080p touchscreen and offered great battery life. The Note 3 can record 4k video. The Note 3 has great stereo video sound. Many Note 3’s remain in use today.

The next, and my current smartphone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. I really like the Note 4. It has great battery life, fantastic performance and a Quad HD 5.7” touchscreen.

With cell phone number eleven, I find myself in a bit of a quandary regarding where do I go from the Note 4? Three of the Note 4 features I find extremely important, besides the 5.7” screen size, are the integrated Micro SD Card slot, the ability to do fast charging, and the user replaceable battery.

The fast charging feature is game-changing. If I have forgotten to plug the phone in or I find the battery is low, I can plug the phone in and quickly goose the battery. The Note 4 will charge from zero up to fifty percent in only thirty minutes which is incredibly handy. Even a quick 10 or 15 minute charge can be extremely useful in pushing the battery percentage back up to a higher level.

I recently experienced a suddenly failing battery in my Note 4. I was able to buy a high-quality replacement battery via Amazon and I’m back in business. If I had a phone such as the Note 5 with a non-user-replaceable battery, I would be forced to make an inconvenient trip to my phone provider.

I am inclined to simply keep the Note 4 that I have indefinitely. After all, it has everything that I demand. There’s nothing to be gained by switching to the Note 5 or later, and the user-replaceable battery to be lost.


Keep In Touch with GoTenna at CES



goTenna LogoThere are still parts of the country where there is no mobile (cell) phone coverage. There are those who would say this is a good thing, especially when it comes to wildness areas and places of outstanding beauty. However, there are times when it’s good to be able to get in touch with others when out hiking or skiing, especially if people get separated. Aylee talks about the great outdoors with Jorge Perdoma, co-founder of goTenna, about their solution to this problem.

goTenna is a small radio transceiver that pairs with smartphones to provide point-to-point communication when there’s no cell tower in range. It’s a bit like converting your phone into a walkie-talkie but with modern features like text and GPS. The goTenna app on the smartphone works with the goTenna itself to handle all the communication and the transceiver doesn’t need to be in the hand at all – it can be stashed in the outer pocket of a backpack. Range is anywhere from a mile to a couple of miles depending on the environment.

The goTenna has been shipping for a few months and it’s US$200 for a pair of units from goTenna.

Aylee Nielsen is a video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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TPN Crew Picks at 2016 CES



iklip_av_main_image_20151229Jamie Davis is joined by Daniel J. Lewis and Michael Day. They discuss their personal picks from 2016 CES.

Michael talks about a spoon that is designed to automatically compensate for involuntary movements, allowing people with Parkinson’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy to feed themselves.

Daniel talks about the IK Multimedia iKlip A/V, a sophisticated mounting device that allows a smartphone to be used as a light-weight, single hand-held video recorder with a wireless lav microphone and real-time audio monitoring. It should be available in the second quarter of 2016 and should be priced around $100 or under.

Nick Demayo’s pick was the GymWatch Sensor, a Bluetooth-enabled device that you can clip on your arm that is able to detect range of motion, speed, etc. to ensure you are exercising properly and can report data back to an app on your mobile device. The app can graphically display your range of motion on your mobile device and also tell you verbally if you need to speed up, slow down, etc. to ensure maximum exercise impact. The GymWatch Sensor sells for $149 and $289 depending on model.

Jack and Michael like Dog and Bone Bluetooth LockSmart, a Bluetooth-enabled padlock that sells for $89.95.

Jamie found a ThinOPTICS flat smartphone-shaped pod that sticks to the back of your phone case that stores flat built-in reading glasses. Through the use of FlexGrip technology, the ThinOPTICS teading glasses securely stick to the bridge of your nose without arms and stores flat in the back of the phone case when not in use. The ThinOPTICS pod sells for $24.95. Or choose a phone case version to fit your phone for $38.95.

Jamie Davis is the host of Health Tech Weekly at HTWeekly.com. He is a nurse, paramedic and health journalist.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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Choetech USB-C Power Adaptors



Choetech LogoChoetech USB C chargersAs USB-C becomes more prevalent, it’s unsurprising to see non-OEM vendors start to produce power adaptors for this new standard. On review here are two Choetech USB-C power adaptors designed for the UK power sockets. No, I don’t know how to pronounce Choetech and their marketing rep was non-committal too, so I will leave that as a linguistic exercise for the reader.

First up the Choetech 3A Rapid Wall Charger that has a single USB-C port. Available in black, the TC0001 provides 3A at 5V from a reasonably compact unit though it protrudes around 4.8 cm from the socket. In use, the adaptor appeared to recharge my phone at the expected rate. Here’s an unboxing video for the charger and a USB-C cable.

Next is the Choetech 39W USB-C Power Adaptor. Again designed for UK sockets, this has two USB-A sockets top and bottom, and a USB-C port in the middle. There’s a small blue LED at the very top too. The TC0013 is bigger than the TC0001, extending about 5.4 cm from the socket which is unsurprising given the larger power output. The USB-C will provide 3A and the two USB-C powers will charge at 2.4A each. At full pelt, the charger did get warm but not so hot as to cause concern. Both the TC0001 and the TC0013 are CE marked which gives some level of safety reassurance.

The Choetech USB-C Fast Charger is available from Amazon for £13.99 and the 3 port Power Adaptor is £15.99. Both are worth considering if you are looking for a USB-C charger but I think I would go for the 3 port charger for that extra flexibility.

Thanks to Choetech for the supply of the review units.