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Tag: mobile phone

SpareOne Emergency Mobile Phone at CES 2013

Posted by Andrew at 12:46 PM on January 17, 2013

SpareOne Emergency PhoneModern smartphones are expensive, relatively fragile and battery-hungry. Consequently, they’re pretty much useless in any tough emergency situation. Todd talks to Christian Scheder of SpareOne about their solution to the problem.

The SpareOne emergency phone is a mobile phone that runs off a standard AA battery rather than a rechargeable one more usually found in a mobile phone. While this gives 10 hours of use from a single battery, the benefit in an emergency is that the battery can simply be swapped for another. Further, Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries have a storage life of 15 years so this phone can be stored with batteries for up to 15 years, ready to go. The SpareOne is supplied in a waterproof bag that further protects the phone during storage and any wet emergencies.

The phone takes standard GSM SIMs for ordinary calls but the SpareOne can also call the emergency services even without a SIM card. If you are interested, the SpareOne is available now for $99 from the website.

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

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The Rise of the Smartphone

Posted by Andrew at 4:59 PM on September 23, 2012

Today I was relaxing in a cafe, taking it easy on Sunday. As I looked around the other tables, everyone else was either looking at a smartphone or else had one resting on the table. They weren’t students or young professionals either; these were mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

Brewing coffeeHere’s the tally of what I saw:

Getting away from “my phone is better than your phone”, what might this highly unscientific observation say about the mobile communications market, at least in the UK?

First, it’s diverse. While Nokia and Windows Phone is nowhere to be seen, the three other operating systems seem to be pretty much holding their own.

Second, Apple has iPhones and RIM has Blackberries. Is the Samsung Galaxy now the de facto Android brand? The popularity of HTC seems to have fallen dramatically with the rise of Samsung.

Third, no-one was actually using their phones to make phone calls. In all the time I watched, there wasn’t a single call made or received but there was plenty of reading, swiping, tapping and pecking. It always seems that the PDA was lost in the convergence with the mobile phone, but the reality is that the PDA won the battle and “voice calling” is one feature among many.

Fourth and finally, smartphones are now ubiquitous and cross-generational. There wasn’t single ordinary phone to be seen and the range of the users suggests that age is no longer a discriminating factor.

As I said, entirely unscientific but still an interesting snapshot in the evolution of the smartphone.

Coffee brewing photograph courtesy of BigStockPhoto.

A Facebook Mobile Phone?

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 8:30 PM on May 28, 2012

New rumors have been coming out in the last couple of days that Facebook is going to build their own mobile phone. That they have been headhunting Apple engineers who worked on the iPhone. During the initial interviews they are being asked specific questions that only would be asked by someone who was building a mobile phone. Like a lot of people I was confused about why Facebook a social media company would want to build a mobile phone, then I thought about the one thing that Facebook is known for and that is control. Currently, Facebook apps are limited by the platform they are on whether Android, iPhone, Rim or Windows Mobile. There are things they may want to do but they can’t because of the limitations the iOs puts on them.

Facebook on the web is built to be a walled garden, where a person could spend their whole time on line there. As an app on a mobile phone that they don’t control the walled garden has a gaping hole in it. If they build their own mobile phone, then they control the platform, the message and therefore the consumer. This would give them a captured audience they can market mobile ads too, something those who have invested in Facebook have been looking for.

The problem with this idea, is there is no indication that the consumer is calling for a Facebook phone. Facebook will have to persuade both the consumer to buy a Facebook phone and developers to develop on the Facebook platform. Developers who are already spread thin working on the iPhone, Android and the Window Mobile platform. Also do the carriers want another platform to deal with. I think most Facebook users would rather Facebook concentrate on improving the apps that already exist.

Phone Signal Boosting Garden Gnomes

Posted by Andrew at 12:01 AM on April 1, 2012

Gnomes 4uIndependent mobile retailer Phones 4u has today launched a range of garden gnomes which conceal high-tech mobile phone signal boosters to improve mobile phone coverage in otherwise poorly served areas. Branded as Gnomes 4u, there will be a range of gnomes in different poses plus celebrity gnomes based on famous people.

The Gnomes 4u signal boosters are portable and improve the mobile signal, even in the most remote or challenging locations, indoors or outdoors. The gnomes’ bodies boost mobile signal via secret aerials disguised as typical gnome accessories such as fishing rods, rakes, spades and even an accordion. The effect of the gnomes is cumulative, so the more gnomes in the area, the greater the boosting effect.

Gnome Display

They can also boost home Wi-Fi and project it through what Phones 4u like to call “beardband” (groan), allowing people to work or browse in the garden during the warm summer months.

Scott Hooton, Chief Commercial Officer from Phones 4u comments, “Phones 4u is proud to be taking the first step in bringing this innovative mobile technology to the people of Britain. Mobile signal boosting kit can traditionally be quite unattractive and we wanted to create something more aesthetically pleasing and fun!”

Set to be the must-have outdoor accessory this summer, the Gnomes 4u collection will be available from selected Phones 4u stores across the UK from 1st April priced at £74.99. To see the exclusive celebrity range, visit the Phones 4u Facebook page You can also view a video trailer for the new product on YouTube.

Celebrity Gnomes

The Aging Technology Alliance

Posted by Andrew at 9:08 AM on February 22, 2012

Presto email-to-print serviceThe Aging Technology Alliance (AgeTek) trade association is a group of companies that have products and services to help older people maintain their quality of life and stay in their homes longer. The website is aimed at carers who need stuff to help them look after their Mom or Dad.

On show at the website are a wide range of gadgets, from easy-to-use TV remotes to big button mobile phones. One gadget I hadn’t seen before is the Presto, which prints out emails without a computer. Friends and relatives send an email to the Presto service and instead of the email arriving in an inbox, a printer-like device prints out the email in the person’s home. It only uses an ordinary analogue phone line, so there’s no need for broadband. That’s a good solution for older people in today’s world. I like it.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Vertix Raptor Helmet Communicator

Posted by Andrew at 8:38 AM on February 3, 2012

Vertex Raptor II Helmet Communicator

Veteran biker, Andy “Hog” McCaskey, checks out Vertix‘s Raptor helmet communicator. Let’s roll!

Vertix Raptor-i is a Bluetooth-based helmet communication system that brings together phone, intercom, radio and music player functions into a single unit. It’s perfect for any activity where wearing a helmet is the norm including motorcycling, motorport and skiing.

A microphone and speaker are fitted inside the helmet and Raptor unit goes on the outside. The unit’s controls are designed to be operated with gloves on and a remote control will be available in a few month’s time. Noise-cancellation and auto-gain control to ensure that voices can be heard clearly even at speed.

For the intercom function, two Raptor units can be paired together so that rider and pillion can talk or two riding buddies can chat between bikes.

The MSRP for the Vertix Raptor-i is $160 and it’s available now.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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AfterShokz Bone Conducting Headphones

Posted by Andrew at 12:19 PM on January 29, 2012

AfterShokz Headphones LogoBruce from AfterShokz shows off their bone-conducting headphones to Courtney at this year’s CES.

Previously the preserve of military specialists and bored long-distance swimmers, bone-conducting headphones transmit sound to the inner ear via the skull bones rather than down the ear canal. This method has several advantages over headphones and earbuds including much improved hygiene and comfort. They’re good for outdoor activities and cycling as not only do the headphones grip firmly, they allow outside sounds in so you hear that truck bearing down on you before it actually hits you.

The AfterShokz headphones are available now in three different models, Sport ($59.95), Mobile ($69.95) and Game ($69.95). The Mobile model has an in-line microphone and jack for use with mobile phones. The Game version also has an in-line mic but connects via USB.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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Wi-Ex zBoost Signal Boosters for Cell Phones

Posted by Andrew at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2012

zBoost by Wi-Ex logo

zBoost by Wi-Ex is a range of signal extenders that will improve cell and mobile phone coverage in weak areas. Todd and Don discuss zBoost’s latest products from Sharon Cuppett, VP of Wi-Ex (and they get a mention on Wi-Ex’s blog)

Wi-Ex launched two new products at CES, the first being the zBoost 4G-V, a signal booster for 4G frequencies on Verizon, the largest mobile carrier with over 100 million subscribers. A whole 4G product line is under development, including dual- and tri-band boosters. Available in Q2 2012 for around $220.

The second is an in-car booster, the zBoost zForce, which comprises a cradle for the phone and a magnetised antenna for the outside of the vehicle. Powered from the cigarette adaptor, the zForce can boost coverage by about 10x, eliminating dead spots and increasing range in rural areas. Retailing at only $99, it will be available shortly.

(You’ll have to watch the Blue Microphone interview to realise this, but in this video Sharon borrows Don’s phone to demonstrate the zForce and then walks off with the phone at the end of the interview!)

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor, for the TechPodcast Network.

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Mobile Telcos – Phone Company or ISP?

Posted by Andrew at 1:42 AM on November 3, 2011

Three LogoIf you ever needed evidence that mobile telcos (MNOs) are moving their business focus from telephones to data, then look no further than a recent post on Three’s blog. Phil Sheppard, the company’s Director of Network Strategy, revealed that 97% of the traffic flowing through Three‘s network was data. Only 3% was voice.

Also staggering was the growth in smartphone data use which grew 427% in 14 months. Yes, over 400% in slightly more than a year. It’s clear that in the last year, lots of people have upgraded to smartphones and are now actively using them online. There’s probably a combination of reasons for the explosion but the wider choice of handset models at a range of price points will be the main reason.

Three has always paid attention to data, being the first mobile company to offer 3G in the UK back in 2003, but with figures like this, it would be a fair assumption that every mobile telco is now shifting more data than voice traffic and that means these companies are more like mobile ISPs (Internet Service Providers) than phone companies. Whenever you hear an announcement by one of these companies, think about it in these terms.

How To Hack Mobile Phone Voicemail

Posted by Andrew at 2:44 PM on July 11, 2011

As the fall-out from the News of the World scandal continues, many sources continue to inaccurately refer to “mobile phone hacking”. The truth (as far as is known) was that it was the voicemail of the mobile phone that was hacked rather than the phone itself. There are two ways to do this – the first is to simply guess the PIN of the voicemail and the second is to use Caller ID spoofing.

In the mid-2000s, most mobile phone voicemail systems were poorly protected as they typically came with a default PIN which was often easily guessed and only varied  according to the mobile phone company. Most users didn’t bother to change the PIN. Say the phone was on Orange, then the default PIN was 1234. If it was Vodafone, then 0000.  Typically, the villain then makes two simultaneous calls to the victim. One will be picked up, the other will go to voicemail.   By then pressing “*” or “#” while listening to the voicemail prompts, the individual can gain access to the voicemail system using the default PIN. Computeractive has article covering this scenario and how, in theory, it would be harder (but not impossible) to take this approach today.

As for Caller ID spoofing, this technique makes a call look like it’s coming from a different number than it actually is. It can be used legally to make someone calling from a mobile to actually appear to be coming from a company office, so that the person’s mobile number is not divulged. However, in some instances it has been used to gain access to voicemail boxes as many voicemail systems do not ask for further identification if the system recognises the inbound Caller ID as one of its own. PC Mag and c|net have short articles on how this is done and worryingly, this is still a threat. The Wall Street Journal covered the problem in 2010 before the current scandal broke.

It would appear that the best protection to both these attacks is (a) to change your PIN on your voicemail and (b) require your PIN even when calling from your own mobile phone. That way, even if your Caller ID is spoofed, the caller can’t get in without knowing your PIN.