Category Archives: smartphone

LG Tone Infinim Headset Updated for CES



LG logoLG Electronics (LG) will unveil the latest iteration of the LG Tone Infinim at CES 2016 this year. For those who haven’t seen the Tone Infinim before, this style of Bluetooth headset is in a contemporary design and is worn around the neck. It certainly looks very different from the usual style of in-ear headset while still being convenient to use.

Tone Infinum

As an upgraded successor of the popular HBS-900, the new Tone Infinim (HBS-910) inherits the previous model’s main strengths such as metallic body, wire retractable earbuds, long-lasting battery and Harmon/Kardon audio quality. With its upgraded Quad-Layer Speaker Technology, the new Tone Infinim delivers a great audio experience with better balance across all sound ranges and enhancing the frequency response ratio for richer bass and crisper high notes. Dealing with noisy environments such as crowded subways or city streets are an easy challenge for the new Tone Infinim with dual noise-cancelling microphones.

The original Tone Infinim set a new standard for wireless headset design,” said Chung Sue-hyun, Vice President of Innovative Personal Devices at LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “We delivered an audio solution that offered days of battery life, a comfortable fit that didn’t fall off the neck when unused and most importantly, fantastic sound. It’s no wonder the LG Tone Infinim series is the most copied design in this product category.

LG Tone Infinim Bluetooth Headset

The new Tone Infinim will be available in the United States from February with other parts of Asia and Europe to follow soon after. Pricing is not available at the moment.


The Future of the Smartphone, a Pocket Appliance



Apple MicrowaveThere’s an article that has been making the rounds the past couple of days or so stating that the smartphone will be a dead product category within five years. The premise of the article seems to be based on a consumer “study” that consists of interviewing a bunch of consumers and what is on their personal technological wish lists.

The smartphone as we know it isn’t going away any time soon. As an ultimate and matured convergence device, the vital functions smartphones are now being used for cannot and will not be replaced by some vague “machine learning” unspecified magic technology that will somehow suddenly appear and take over. At risk of being a stick in the mud, the real world doesn’t work that way. Forms can change, but basic needs that those forms fulfill remain stable.

For one small personal example, I frequently have to send business documents to my company. Back in the old days, this involved putting paperwork into pre-addressed, pre-paid postage company envelopes and dropping them into a mailbox, ultimately hoping they did not get lost in the mail. Later on, it evolved into companies that would overnight the paperwork back to the office. The next step in the evolution involved scanners hooked to computers with data connections. The final step in this evolution involves smartphones. I simply use a special dedicated smartphone app that takes a picture of each document, automatically corrects for the inevitable skewed image distortions, and turns the document photo into a black and white image that you would swear was scanned in a traditional scanner hooked to a computer. It packages these documents together, asks for a bit of additional identifying numbers, and then instantly sends the documents off to the company. I get an instant email receipt notification on the same smartphone letting me know the documents were successfully delivered to my company. This sort of functionality cannot and will not be replaced by some sort of pie-in-the-sky neural interface or voice-activated clothing. Let’s get real.

I recently purchased a new kitchen range that cost about the same amount as a high-end smartphone. Kitchen ranges have been around forever. They have had multiple doses of technology applied to their functions in an attempt to reinvent and reinvigorate the product category. Even with this injection of microprocessor technology, kitchen ranges are still appliances. Millions of people have to buy them, and they come in a wide variety of forms, from the low end to the high end, as fashionable and as expensive as you want. But they are still appliances. When was the last time you got excited by your microwave oven? Thought so.

Smartphones are rapidly in the process of turning into pocket appliances. They are extremely useful, and almost everyone you see has one and is constantly interacting with it. Nonetheless, it is turning into just an appliance.

Home appliances have varying lifespans that can kick out to 20 or 30 years depending on the quality of the item. As a pocket appliance, smartphones are under a lot more physical stress and need to be replaced much more frequently than refrigerators, cook stoves and washing machines.

It turns out that always having a high-quality internet-connected camera/computer in one’s pocket is incredibly useful. “Machine learning” isn’t going to replace that camera, nor will it replace the constant necessity to look up people, places and things and interact directly with them in real time during the day.

Five years from now, smartphones will still be around in very much the same forms they are today. It is likely we will be on average be keeping them longer. No longer a novelty, they are just a necessary appliance that will require periodic replacement.

Time to get those clothes out of the washer and put them in the dryer.


Wileyfox Swift Deal in UK



Wileyfox SwiftJust a quickie for UK readers. The Cyanogen-based Wileyfox Swift is on sale for 1 day at £99.99, which is £29 off for “grey Thursday”. That’s their idea, not mine.

I haven’t personally used the Swift but it’s been getting some good reviews and I liked Cyanogen OS when I had it on my OnePlus One. The Swift uses the Snapdragon 410, driving a 5″ HD screen, 16 GB RAM and dual SIMs. It’s a good package in a budget phone.

If you are interested, order directly from Amazon.


Motorola Offers in the UK



Motorola M LogoAs expected Motorola is getting in on the Black Friday and Cyber Monday action with discounts for purchasers in the UK. The best deals are on the older models but even the latest gear gets some love. If you are looking for a new handset, these are worth a look.

Here are the deals.

  • Moto Phones Moto X 2nd Gen 16GB @ £200 – saving £195
  • Moto X 2nd Gen 32GB @ £250 – saving £195
  • Moto X Play 16GB @ £219 – saving £60
  • Moto X Play 32GB @ £259 – saving £60
  • Nexus 6 32GB @ £250 – saving £229
  • Nexus 6 64GB @ £310 – saving £229
  • Moto E @ £69.99 – saving £39 and includes free postage

I’m a big fan of the Moto phones having reviewed both the first and second generation Moto Xs for GNC, and my wife currently has a Moto G, though sadly there are no deals on that model.

The offers begin at 1:00pm on Wednesday 25th November and run until 11.59pm on Monday 30th November, only while stocks last.

Visit www.motorola.co.uk for more information.


OnePlus X Smartphone



OnePlus LogoOnePlus are back in the limelight with a new phone, the OnePlus X. The first device in a new product line, the X isn’t an out-and-out powerhouse but focuses on high quality materials and great design.

The OnePlus X comes in two variants, the Onyx and the Ceramic. The Onyx consists of jet black glass with a darkened silver aluminum frame and a slightly curved screen. The Ceramic has the same design but is composed of zirconium dioxide ceramic that has been moulded and baked in a 25-day process. As the press release says, “It’s a material that very few have attempted to use in a consumer device and even less have mastered.”

OnePlus X

Specwise the OnePlus X is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.3 GHz processor with 3 GB RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU driving a 5″ 1080p AMOLED screen. There’s 16 GB of storage plus a microSD slot. Unlike the OnePlus 2, the X sticks with micro-USB rather than moving to USB C.

As usual with OnePlus, there’s an invite system to order the phone but in a change to the process, this will last for only a month before the X goes on general sale. Invites will be pushed out from 5 November (depending on region) and pricing appears to be US$249, GB£199 or 269€, but there’s an extra premium to pay for the limited edition Ceramic version.

Not sure if X is the letter or 10 in Roman numerals but either way it’s a sweet looking phone at a great price. With luck, GNC will get some hands-on time in the not-too-distant future.


Mpow iSnap X Bluetooth Selfie Stick Review



Mpow LogoOfficially this is the “Mpow iSnap X Bluetooth Self-Portrait Monopod” but everyone will recognise it as a selfie stick, not a self-portrait monopod. Personally, I like selfie sticks though I fully admit that there are some right idiots out there who shouldn’t be let anywhere near a knife and fork, never mind a three foot long pole with a small weight on the end. I’ve seen and used a couple of self sticks in my time, some of which were utter rubbish, but fortunately the Mpow iSnap X is the best I’ve used so far as it ticks all the boxes. Easy-to-use, well made, holds the smartphone securely and the remote trigger works. Let’s take a look in more detail.

Starting with the physical aspects, folded up the iSnap X measures 187 mm (or 7½”)  long and extending the telescopic pole will take it to 723 mm (or 2’4½”). Including arms, that means the smartphone will be sitting a little over 1 metre or 3½ feet from the person holding the stick.

Mpow iSnap X

The handle is covered in a soft touch rubber coating which easy to grip and there’s a wrist lanyard for extra security. At the other end, the mount has sprung-loaded grips that hold phones 55 mm wide up to 85mm. The spring is good and strong, but the rubber coating will stop the grips marking the phone. The grips are angled inwards to ensure that any phone is held firmly and I tried a range of phones from the Nexus 4 through to the OnePlus 2 without any concerns as to loss.

The Mpow iSnap X feels reassuringly well made. The telescopic extension is tight, with little play once fully extended and it seems screwed into the handle rather than only using plastic clips. There’s an interlocking groove in the extension to ensure that the mount stays in the upright position. The thumb screw on the mount seems fairly solid but the position is held only by friction. Time will tell how well this holds up.

Mpow iSnap X with Phone

The iSnap X uses Bluetooth for remote control of the camera shutter. Pairing is straightforward: hold down the “M” button for three seconds and then choose the iSnap X from within the Bluetooth settings on the smartphone. Once done, pressing the blue “M” button on the handle simultaneously presses the shutter on the camera. I used both a Mpow iSnap X handleNexus 4 and OnePlus 2 to test and they worked fine with still pictures. Video was a little different, with a single click working on the OnePlus 2, but the Nexus 4 needed a double click. The instructions suggest holding down the button to take video; perhaps this works with Apple phones. YMMV, as they say but the compatibility list indicates Samsung, Motorola, Nexus and Apple phones should work. Windows Phone and Blackberry are apparently not.

Mpow iSnap X HandleIn the end of the handle, there’s a micro USB port for charging the iSnap X and a tangle-free (flat) USB to micro-USB cable is provided in the box. I’ve no idea how many photos between charges – I’ve had the stick for two weeks and haven’t had to recharge.

Overall, the Mpow iSnap X seems to be the ideal selfie stick. It’s well made and grips the phone with confidence, which is exactly what you want when sticking a £400 smartphone on the end of a 3ft stick. The iSnap X is available from Amazon.co.uk for GB£8.99 for the black version. It’s a bit more for the pink and blue versions but whatever the colour, it’s money well spent.

Thanks to Mpow and Patuoxun for the review iSnap X Self-portait Monopod.


Sengled Pulse Lamp and Speaker Review



redlogoThe Sengled Pulse is a pair of Bluetooth controlled LED lamps (or lights) with built-in stereo speakers. Who would have thought it? A single product bringing together two technological memes; functional convergence and the smart home. Let’s take a look and see what the Sengled Pulse offers on both these themes.

Sengled Pulse Box

Two things struck me as I opened the Sengled Pulse box. The first was the bright red colour of the lamp cases and the second was the size of them. These are big heavy bulbs and it’s going to restrict what fittings can be used with the lamps. The fitting options are further reduced by the direction of the light emitted from the lamps as there’s little sideways illumination. In short, a pendant fitting with a large shade is your basic option.

Sengled Pulse Lamps

The Sengled Pulse is installed just like any other lamp – screw it in! Both screw and bayonet bases are available, which will please UK readers, though in this instance, I was supplied with the screw base variant anyway. Once screwed in and turned on, the lamps are white and bright, and a little brighter than my current Philips Hue bulbs. The box says 600 lumens.

One lamp is designated as the Master and the other as the Satellite. To get them connected together, the easiest way is to power them up close to each other. Once they’ve paired, the Pulses can be moved apart. The other option is to use the Pulse app: more on this later.

Communication with a smartphone is via Bluetooth and the usual process applies for pairing the smartphone with the Sengled Pulse lamps. I was testing with a OnePlus 2 and had no problems.

Sengled Pulse Brightness Sengled Pulse Volume Sengled Pulse Adding

Once paired, the smartphone can control both the brightness of light and loudness of sound through the Pulse app, available from the Apple App Store and the Google Play. Music or other audio plays directly from apps via Bluetooth. The Pulse app is straightforward with two tabs, one for lights and one for sounds. The app handles device management too and a clever pairing feature uses the smartphone’s camera to scan QR codes on the sides of the Pulse lamps. Up to eight Pulse lamps can be joined together.Sengled Pulse QR Code

The app is a bit short on “smart home” features. For example, there’s no way to set the lights to come on at a pre-determined time or to automatically turn on when a Bluetooth connection is made. I was hoping for more.

The speakers in the Pulse lamps are “JBL by Harman” which means that they ought to sound half decent and they do. Music is clear with perhaps a little too much treble at times but given the size of the lamps, there’s never going to be much power behind them. Big powerful songs like Frozen’s Let It Go or Adele’s Skyfall lose their impact. Without damning with faint praise, the Pulse’s sound better than you’d expect speakers-in-lamps to sound and they’re fine for casual music and radio listening.

Ultimately, the Sengled Pulse is a neat solution which compromises the sound to fit everything into the lamp shell, but if convergence is your thing (or you want cool looking red LED lamps), the Pulse is available from Sengled’s online shop for €129 (which is about GB£100) or US$149. It’s available from other online and real-world stores too.

Thanks to Sengled for the review Pulse.


OnePlus 2 Book Case Comparison Review



OnePlus LogoChoosing the perfect case for your smartphone is a very personal journey and my preference is for the book-style flip case where the cover is on the long edge of the phone. Even then, there’s choices to be made regarding features and material.

As a new OnePlus 2 owner, I’ve bought three cases to find the personal favourite.

In the video below, I review the three cases.

What’s your favourite?


OnePlus 2 Open Sale



OnePlus LogoIf you’ve been thinking about a OnePlus 2 but you’ve been put off by the invite queue, there’s an opportunity to grab the new phone in a series of open sales on Monday 12 October. Spread across four timezones, each sale will be open for only an hour.

OnePlus Open Sale

Asia: 12:00-13:00 HKT
Inda: 12:00-1:00 pm IST (via amazon.in)
Europe: 12:00-13:00 CEST
North America: 12:00-1:00 pm PDT​

I’m currently rocking a OnePlus 2, which I bought with my own money, and I like it. The phone itself is beautifully made, the camera is great and the fingerprint scanner works well. While there have been issues with OxygenOS, OnePlus’ Android fork, the company has regularly rolled out updates (three since launch) which have steadily eliminated problems. Set your alarms for 12 noon!


Android 6 Marshmallow – Meh!



Marshmallow LogoGoogle’s new motto might be “Do the Right Thing” but after loading Marshmallow on my Nexus 9 tablet last night I’m wondering if Google did anything at all. With a 700MB download I was expecting something new and fresh from Google but I can’t tell the difference between the previous version Lollipop and Marshmallow.

Both Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Lollipop (5.0) introduced a new look at the same time as the upgrade but with Marshmallow (6.0) the only difference I can see is that the app drawer scrolls vertically instead of paging horizontally. It’s still Material Design and that scrolling comes as part of the launcher, not the OS itself.

Google has improved the volume controls and Google on Tap is interesting but it’s not a killer feature and needs work. Too often it picks up on the wrong thing. I’m sure it’ll get better over time but right now it’s uninspiring.

Overall, Marshmallow is to Lollipop what Jelly Bean and KitKat were to Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s not enough to Marshmallow to justify a full version number upgrade and there would be no beef if Marshmallow was 5.2 rather than 6.0. It’s a fine incremental update though labelling it as 6.0 sets unrealistic expectations as to what it delivers. Meh!

If you’ve got Marshmallow on your Nexus, what do you think?

For reference, here are the Android versions with monikers and year of release. It’s come a long way in five years.
2.2 Froyo (2010)
2.3 Gingerbread (2011)
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011)
4.1, 4.2 & 4.3 Jelly Bean (2012-2013)
4.4 KitKat (2013)
5.0 & 5.1 Lollipop (2014-2015)
6.0 Marshmallow (2015)