The Future of Mobile Computing

Mobile devices, specifically large screen smartphones, have made significant inroads into the computing spaces traditionally held by full-sized desktop and laptop computers. This incursion can best be measured by personal usage shifts.

In my own case, I find myself making much less use of my laptop and desktop machines, with my large screen smartphone making up the majority of my usage. At this point, if it were possible I would shift all of my computing usage to my smartphone, but unfortunately I find that the lack of quality software, and not the hardware, is preventing me from making the full shift.

The high end smartphone hardware of today compares quite favorably to traditional desktop and laptop hardware. If I could only run desktop class software applications on my smartphone, I could pretty ditch my traditional machines to an even greater degree than I already have.

The large screen high end smartphone hardware is closer than ever to hitting a peak, where performance improvements are incremental. From my point of view, the only way my phone could be made even more useful would be the addition of genuine desktop class software applications that would allow me to do real work and truly take advantage of the heavy duty hardware that is built in to a very compact package.

The software we’ve had to this point is at best dumbed-down and lacks capability. Apps such as Garage Band and iMovie on iOS and most of their counterparts on Andriod in the Google Play Store are toy apps aimed at seemingly air headed casual users. For example, where is the ability to import from and export to wider varieties of audio and video file types?

I want a real video editor that would allow me to attach my phone to a large screen monitor, keyboard and mouse and do intense video editing. Ditto with a real sound editor that would run on my phone that would be similar to the depth of an application such as Adobe Audition.

Who will develop these more capable smartphone applications? That remains to be seen. At this point the only real differentiators for hardware platforms lies in better software applications.

I personally am willing to pay for desktop class applications that will run on mobile computing platforms. Unfortunately so far they don’t seem to exist.

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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Rapoo announces new tablet cases for Samsung and iPad at CES

rapoo-caseIf you listen to recent analyst reports then you’ll think tablets are falling out of favor. However, reality seems to state otherwise, as devices continue to be released and sell. And where these exist, so exists a market for accessories, in this case….well, cases. A good case can protect your tablet from harm and even make you more productive by providing a physical keyboard.

Rapoo, known for mouse and keyboard, is also in this market. And, at CES 2015 the company unveiled a line of new tablet cases that are just waiting for a buyer.

The company starts off with a new line for your Samsung gear (not the watch). “Rapoo’s Keyboard Cases for Samsung Tablets are compatible with the Samsung 8”, 8.4”, 10.1”, 10.5” and Tab Pro 12.2” models. The protective cases feature a unique multi-model case system in a convenient ultra-slim, lightweight design. The Keyboard Case is paired with the tablet in seconds by way of Bluetooth technology. The cases are available in black, gray, red or blue”.

This is followed by a set of iPad cases to protect your Apple investment. “Rapoo offers two variations of its Keyboard Cases for the iPad, both compatible with iPad mini 1, 2 and 3 and iPad Air. The first variation, the Keyboard Case, features the same design, functions and colors as the Samsung tablets, while also providing an auto on/off function to conserve battery. The second variation, the Keyboard Cover for iPad, is dressed with the sleek iOS aluminum housing. The Bluetooth keyboard cover boasts a 4.5 mm ultra-thin design and features special iPad keys”.

All of these new cases are expected to be available in the spring of this year, with prices ranging from $49.99 to $99.99. You can head to the Rapoo site to keep an eye one things.

Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens for Samsung Galaxy Review

Olloclip LogoFor the “point’n’shoot” photographer, smartphones and their built-in cameras have almost completely replaced the compact camera which has seen a huge drop in sales over the past few years. Despite the handiness of the smartphone camera and the myriad of post-processing effects beloved by Instagram, there are times where the problem is getting the right image in the first place. Smartphones with macro or wide-angle lenses aren’t common.

This is where Olloclip saw a gap in the market and via a Kickstarter campaign back in 2011, developed a selection of clip-on lenses for the iPhone and iPad, including macro, fisheye and wide-angle lenses. These have become fairly well-known and I’ve even seen a few people using Olloclips on their iPhone in real life. Not content with Apple owners having all the fun, Olloclip have launched a version of the 4-in-1 lens for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. Let’s take a look.

The 4-in-1 lens system for the Galaxy S4 consists of a mounting bracket that holds two macro lenses and two additional feature lenses that screw in on top of the macro lenses. One of the lenses is a fisheye and the other wide-angle. The bracket is well-made, with metal inserts to hold the screw-in lenses and the lenses are glass; by using different threads on the bracket, it’s not possible screw in the wrong lens. The bracket can be attached from the left or the right to get the correct lens in front of the phones camera. Take a look at the pictures of the Olloclip below to see how it all works.

Olloclip with Lenses

Olloclip with Lenses Removed

Samsung with Olloclip

In use, the Olloclip is straightforward – clip on the bracket with the lens you want to use in front of the camera and then start taking pictures using your favourite camera app. Simples!

To test out the Olloclip 4-in-1, I used a Samsung Galaxy S4 borrowed from a colleague and got snapping. Here are a few macro pictures that I took of a coin and the detail is impressive.

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

And here are a few photos of a local landmark using the normal S4 camera, the wide-angle lens and the fisheye lens. I’m no Ansel Adams, that’s for sure.

Native S4 Camera

Olloclip Wide-Angle

Olloclip Fisheye

I was impressed with the Olloclip and with more interesting subject matter, I could have a lot of fun. I particularly liked the macro capabilities and the fisheye was fun too; I was quite surprised at the width of the field of view. Overall, the 4-in-1 was easy to use, clipping on and off in seconds, and significantly increased the photographic possibilities of the Galaxy S4. . On the downside, you do have to remember to bring the Olloclip with you, and the on/off and volume buttons are obstructed by the bracket when in use. The other problem can be with Samsung cases, which often replace the smartphone’s back. If you have one of these cases, you’ll find that the Olloclip won’t clip on and you’ll need to revert to the original case.

The Olloclip 4-in-1 for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 is available direct from the website or through other on-line retailers. Priced at a penny under US$70 or GB£60, it’s more than an impulse purchase but if you are photographer or want to get more from your camera, it’s worth forking out for. Hopefully enough Galaxy owners will purchase to persuade Olloclip to look at other popular Android smartphones as well.

Thanks to Olloclip for the review 4-in-1 lens and to Jacinta for the loan of the Galaxy S4.

The Gadget Show Live

Gadget Show LiveThe Gadget Show Live is the UK’s closest thing to CES, but that’s like comparing a boxing match to invading Iraq. Where CES takes over most of Las Vegas, the Gadget Show occupies a couple of halls at the NEC outside Birmingham. Nevertheless I popped over for a day to see the latest and greatest tech on show to us Brits and it was fun. I was there for GNC two years ago and this year the show was definitely bigger with a bit more variety. 3D TV was the thing in 2012, but 2014 is electric vehicles, 4K / UHD TVs and multi-rotor aerial vehicles. That’s not to say there weren’t other niche products and I’ve captured a few in audio interviews that I’ll post over the next few days.

Samsung were demonstrating their curved Ultra HD TVs and all I can say is, “Wow!” The screens were totally amazing – almost more real than real – and the detail was incredible. Even the flat, non-curved, versions were pretty stunning. Although the curved versions still have crazy prices, I can’t help but wonder if flat 4K resolution TVs will only be on-sale for a few short years before curved ones become mainstream.

Curved Samsung Screen

Volkswagen brought along the XL 1, a diesel plug-in hybrid, which surprisingly is not a concept car: it’s for sale if you have a fat enough wallet at somewhere in the region of £100,000. At a more realistic level, VW had a bunch of demonstrator e-up! electric cars, which at a little under £20,000 are much more affordable, though the equivalent petrol version costs closer to £8,000. I took a test drive in one and can report that it’s exactly like driving an automatic car, only quieter and with plenty of low speed torque. Top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 100 miles make it a perfect second car for the well off.

XL1 Front

 

XL1 Side

 

XL1 Rear

Sony’s been touting the waterproof features of the Xperia Z2 devices and they put their money where their mouth is at Gadget Show Live with a water-filled tank. Not content to simply leave the smartphone in the bottom, a team of scuba and free divers showed that the Z2 was usable under water to take photos. Outstanding.

Xperia Z2 Underwater

Finally, when I was at the show in 2012, Parrot were showing off the AR.Drone and pretty much had the airspace to themselves. Quadricopters were everywhere this year with DJI‘s mulitrotor devices (below) down to Hubsan’s tiny copters that fit in your hand. The future is three-dimensional but not quite in the way the TV manufacturers were hoping.

Multirotor Aerial Vehicle

There was plenty more and I’ll be putting the interviews out over the next few days – expect content from Sony, Canon, Optoma, Toca Boca, TP-Link, DJI and others.

The Gadget Show Live is on until 13th April 2014.

KineMaster Pro Video Editor

For several years I have had feet planted firmly in the two dominant mobile device camps — Android and iOS. I have a 64 gigabyte iPad Air, but I also have an original Nexus 7 as well as my third Android phone, a Galaxy Note 3. The Galaxy Note 3 is an incredible piece of hardware. It has an awesome 1080p 5.7″ display, excellent battery life, and a 2.3 gigahertz quad core processor. The Galaxy Note 3 is the most powerful computing device I have ever owned, including more powerful than every Apple or Windows computer I currently have.

In the past iOS has had a distinct advantage in the form of more sophisticated apps. However, that is rapidly changing.

I usually end up finding ways of pushing my hardware to its limits. I used to do video the conventional way by recording it on a separate device such as a Sony HD camcorder. I would have to go through the arduous task of capturing it to the computer, editing it in a video editor, rendering the file out and finally uploading it to a service such as YouTube.

Now with the Galaxy Note 3 I have a device that is capable of recording excellent video, but it also has a touchscreen that is large enough to edit on.

Up until recently, there were no good Android video editing apps available.

That has all changed with the release of an Android video editing app called KineMaster Pro. There is a free watermarked version which I tried out initially. I quickly determined that KineMaster Pro was worth the $2.99 price tag so I bought it. KineMaster Pro offers themes, along with the ability to easily add background music. It also offers different variable-length scene transitions. It’s possible to export the final rendered result in 1080p, 720p or 360p. It gives a very accurate countdown timer once the rendering process is started. On the Galaxy Note 3, a 13.5 minute long video will render to 720p resolution in about 8 minutes to a 621 megabyte file.

The seller is adding in extra themes that can be applied from within the app.

At one time, even a short video represented several hours’ worth of work to go from initial recording to the final rendered file. If the process can be fully handled on one device, video production actually becomes quick, painless and fun.

Messy Apple Divorce

I have a older friend that just upgraded from an iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The iPhone 5 was his second iPhone and he liked it well enough until the 7.1 update, which made certain interface elements too small. The incoming call screen contact photos were reduced from being large and easily recognizable to a tiny little hard-to-see thumbnail sized bubble. Also the 7.1 update caused a couple of his fitness apps to no longer function properly — opening one of them would make it necessary to reboot the phone every time it was run.

So, after seeing my Note 3, he decided it was time to move up to a bigger screen and the much better battery life offered by the Note 3.

AT&T ported his phone number over to the new device. All seemed well, until his relatives (a son and a couple of grand kids) that still had iPhones using iMessages could not text his new phone. It seems that there is a well-known problem that happens when a phone number is ported away from an iPhone where iMessages has been used for texting with other iPhones.

Doing a Google search for the problem reveals that there are plenty of people experiencing this problem. If you have an iPhone and used iMessages for texting and port the number to a non-iPhone, regardless of whether it’s another smartphone or even a flip phone, iMessages will capture any text messages sent from any other iPhone where iMessages is still in use.

There are a few work-arounds and perhaps a definitive fix. The other people with iPhones with iMessages enabled can go into their settings and disable iMessages and use regular texting, and their texts to the ported number will go through to the non-Apple phone. Another suggestion is for the user that has ported their number to the non-Apple device log in to their Apple account and remove the old device from their list of Apple devices.

The third way, which may be the definitive solution, is to text “help” to 48369. This generates a reply from Apple, to which you reply “stop.” According to someone who spent time on the phone with Apple support this is supposed to take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to resolve the issue.

As people move away from iPhones that use iMessages to larger-screened smartphones because of diminished ability to read tiny print, this is likely to become a more widespread issue, which is useful to be aware of even if you are a die-hard iPhone fan and have no intention of switching.

Samsung gives a virtual tour of its booth at CES

If you couldn’t make it out to Las Vegas this week for CES, then you’re probably following the news of all the products being shown off. You also probably found it hard to miss the Samsung show this week, thanks to the Michael Bay meltdown that took place on the stage.

However, if you’ve tired of watching that Samsung video, then the electronics maker has another one for you to watch. This time there are no embarrassing teleprompter errors involved.

The company has put together a virtual tour of its booth at the Consumer Electronics Show. The five minute video can be seen below if you’d like a taste of what it’s like to be there.

Samsung Smart Home comes to CES 2014

blue-samsung-logoHome automation has become one of the fastest growing fields in technology, and 2013 saw such innovations as the Philips Hue lighting system, which my colleague Andrew has recently been playing with. Now Samsung is getting in on the game, announcing it will be showing off its new Smart Home technology at this year’s Consumer Electronics show.

“The Samsung Smart Home brand and product logo will debut at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, and the service will be commercially rolled out across Samsung devices and appliances in the first half of 2014. Pursuing its vision for a connected world, Samsung will also collaborate with third-party partners to make the Smart Home service extendible to their products and services, building the foundation for a rapidly-growing ecosystem of connected home services”.

The new technology is designed to bring together your TV with appliances and mobile devices. The plan is for the user to be able control all of this from a single app.

Samsung Smart Home will initially provide three main service features enabling users to connect with their devices from anywhere, anytime: Device Control, Home View and Smart Customer Service.

Samsung Reveals New Cameras for CES

Ahead of Samsung’s CES event on Monday, the Korean company has announced two new cameras to get the show on the road, the NX30 and the Galaxy Camera 2.

Aimed at the prosumer, the NX30 compact system camera extends Samsung’s NX range, though my guess is that it will replace the current NX20 model. The heart of the camera is a 20.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and combined with Samsung’s NX AF System II, should provide fast and accurate auto-focussing. The shutter speed can be cranked up (down?) to 1/8000 sec and in continuous shooting mode takes 9 frames per second. NX30 has a 3″ Super AMOLED touch screen for a viewfinder which can swivel out and rotate so that it stays in view from difficult angles. Hopefully the AMOLED screen won’t wash out in bright sunlight.

There’s also Remote Viewfinder Pro function that lets the photographer control several functions of the NX30 from a smartphone, including zoom, shutter speed, aperture and taking the photograph. That’s neat and as you might expect in this day and age, the NX30 has advanced sharing capabilities and can transfer images using both wifi and NFC to smartphones and beyond.

Samsung NX30

The NX30 continues the evolution of our award-winning NX series of cameras, bringing with it new and improved features such as a better imaging processor and our advanced SMART Camera offering. Not only does this camera deliver the performance users demand, it is also easy-to-use so that moments are never missed,” said Myoung Sup Han, Executive VP and Head of the Imaging Business Team at Samsung Electronics. “The NX30 allows photographers to shoot with confidence, providing a seamless ability to capture moments and share them immediately, delivering exceptionally beautiful photographs while creating an unmatched photo-sharing experience.

The NX range also saw the introduction of a new premium S Lens, the 16-50 mm F2 – 2.8 S ED OIS and a zoom lens, the 16-50 mm F3.5-5.6 Power Zoom. Both have a focal length of 16 – 50 mm (equivalent to 24.6-77 mm in 35 mm format) but I’m not an expert in photography so I’ll point you in the direction of the press release if you want to know more.

Moving onto the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2, this is an update of the previous Android-powered Galaxy Camera. As you might expect, the focus (sorry) is on the ease of picture-taking followed by easy uploading and sharing of the photos. The camera itself has a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with a 21x optical zoom and is paired with a 1.6 GHz quad-core processor and 2 GB of RAM. As with the NX30, the Galaxy Camera 2 has wifi and NFC transfer capabilities and 50 GB of cloud storage is provided via the pre-loaded Dropbox app.

For Instagram generation, the Camera 2 comes with Smart Mode, which lets photographers choose from 28 different pre-set modes all designed to address different shooting scenarios and for those unsure which mode they want to select, the Smart Mode Suggest analyses the scene at hand and then recommends the best Smart Mode for a perfect shot. New Smart Mode “Selfie Alarm” takes five consecutive, high resolution images so that narcissists hipsters can select their best view and share immediately on their favourite social media site.

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

From the press shots, it looks like it will be available in both black and white finishes as per the current model. More info on the Galaxy Camera 2 in the press release.

“Consumers love the GALAXY Camera, and this next-generation version was designed to improve on the successful predecessor, with upgraded and new features that will enhance the photography experience,” said Myoung Sup Han, “The result is a more powerful and portable device which continues to embrace the public’s passion for the social features of smartphones, yet also provides superior image control and quality. We are dedicated to making it easier for more people to achieve great results and with the GALAXY Camera 2’s host of creative features, anyone can capture stand out images.

If you want to know more and you are at CES, you’ll find Samsung at booth #12004 in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. Pricing was not announced but I imagine it will be inline with the current models.