Popcord Keyring Charging Cable

British Inventors ProjectOne of the few “tech” products at the British Inventors Project, the Popcord is a short USB charging cable which loops back on itself to hang on a keyring. As it’s on your keyring, you never leave it behind so any time your phone needs a charge, the Popcord is on hand.

Elegantly made from metal to complement the latest mobile devices, it’s available in six colours and two variants, one USB to micro-USB and the other USB to Lightning for Apple owners.

Popcord

It’s on pre-order at GB£29 or a little under US$42.50 and is expected to ship shortly.

Huawei Announces P8 and P8 Max Smartphones

Huawei LogoThis afternoon Huawei announced in London a pair of new Android smartphones; the expected P8 and the entirely unexpected P8 Max. The latter is a total whopper of a phone but more of this later.

I watched the show the on-line (in between streaming drop outs) to see CEO Huawei Consumer Business Group Richard Yu show off the P8 and its strengths. The presentation focussed on four areas – Design, Camera, Connectivity and Usability.

hw_424126The P8 looks good – it’s a metal unibody design with an almost frameless 5.2″ screen on the front, a rear camera that’s flush with the back  and only 6.4 mm thin.

The presentation spent a great deal of time over the camera. That’s because it’s very impressive. The specs say that it’s a 4 colour (RGBW) 13 MP camera with OIS but it’s the other features that stand-out.

Enhanced for low light conditions. Macro capability. Director mode controls three cameras to capture a scene from different angle. Built-in time-lapse photography. Dual tone camera flash with both a white and warm light. Fast face recognition. Scene detection.

Despite being a metal unibody, Huawei have done clever things with the antennas resulting in 50% fewer dropped calls and a 20% increase in call connection rate. Other tweaks include “Wi-Fi+” designed to provide best quality of experience based on history and hotspot connectivity. The P8 is three times faster at connecting to the network when powered on, say, after being on a flight.

The P8 can take two nano SIM cards. With one dedicated SIM slot, the other slot can take either an extra SIM or a microSD card up to 128 MB card.

The smartphone is powered by Kirin 930 64 bit octacore CPU, with four 2.0 GHz cores plus four 1.5 GHz cores. As you’d expect, the cores are allocated tasks appropriate to their speed.

Average battery life is expected to be 1.5 days or 1 day of heavy use. A new and unique feature is what Huawei called a “power firewall” which is design to stop excessive or abnormal requests from apps, thus improving the battery life by an extra 2.3 days of standby time.

Another unique is a new gesture called “knuckle sense technology”. It’s slightly bizarre but simply the P8 can tell the difference between touching the screen with a knuckle rather than a finger.This is then used to do special things like cutting out selections.

Voice+ gives a 58% volume increase for noisy environments and the phone achieves a 90% wind reduction even when using a single mic headset. There’s also a “Super hands-free” mode for conference calls. The press release also mentions a P8 variant with a rear eInk screen which will handy for reading ebooks.

All-in-all, it’s a very impressive package and shows how far Huawei has come. There are two versions of the P8; the standard device for €499 and the premium version for €599, which is competitively priced as long as they use a reasonable exchange rate.

Turning to the P8 Max, it’s a full fat version of the P8 with a whopping 6.8″ screen, 64 GB RAM and 4360 mAh battery (cf 5.2″, 16 GB, 2680 mAh). Huge!!!

Check out the features of the P8 in the video below. If you want to see the whole presentation, it’s here.

 

BASE Sends Photos to Pictures

British Inventors ProjectGNC’s Gadget Show Live coverage kicks off with two concept product ideas entered into the British Inventors’ Project. First up is Kristina Parkes’s BASE which “enables new forms of connection between distanced people, creating a tangible channel of communication through a system utilising flexible displays and remote app-based transmission.”

BASE Shelf

In plain English, you send photos from your smartphone using an app to Polaroid-style flexible displays in a friend’s or relative’s home. It’s a neat idea that builds on the impact of Instagram to keep family and friends together, and the display shelf concept shows BASE as attractive and functional. The video below demonstrates the concept well.

 

OnePlus’ OxygenOS Joins The Android Party

OnePlus LogoThe first release of OnePlusOxygenOS arrived today, bringing a choice of Android flavours to owners of the OnePlus One handset. As part of OnePlus’ long-term strategy, the current Cyanogen KitKat-based OS is being replaced by an in-house build based on Google’s Lollipop AOSP. OnePlus’ relationship with Cyanogen soured after the latter signed an exclusive deal with India’s Micromax for the subcontinent, but a Lollipop-based version of Cyanogen for the OnePlus One is still expected shortly.

Feedback from early adopters suggests that OxygenOS is close to vanilla Lollipop with a few customisations but not nearly as many as Cyanogen offers. Nexus meets OnePlus, as it were. A few known issues are present and installing the drop isn’t for the faint-hearted as the deployment is not an OTA update; flashing the ROM is required. OnePlus have produced a short video showing off the OS’ capabilities.

Early adopters have reported a few issues too, which leaves me in a quandary as a OnePlus One owner. I’m a big Nexus fan having owned the Nexus 4, 7, 9 and 10, and I think OxygenOS will suit me well. However, I moved away from the Nexus 4 after the first Lollipop release ruined the phone (sometimes calls connect but the caller can’t be heard) so I can’t afford another half-working phone. At this point, I’m going to hold off until there have been a few updates but I’m looking forward to a long-term future with OxygenOS.

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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iStabilizer Selfie Stick at CES

iStabilizer LogoThe OED named “selfie” as the word of the year for 2013 and since then it’s been embedded in the zeitgeist. In turn, the selfie stick became one of Time’s inventions of 2014 providing greater depth and spatial awareness for the inclusive snapper. In short, they’re great fun and you get more in the picture. Marlo talks with Noah Rasheta from iStabilizer about their new monopod aka selfie stick.

iStabilizer have a range of gadgets to mount, hold or otherwise position smartphones, tablets and action cams. The new version of their selfie stick makes life especially easy for selfie takers with a universal smartphone mount at one end and a Bluetooth button at the other end of the stick to press the shutter in the camera app. The stick works with both Apple and Android smartphones – there’s another button on the handle to switch between the different types. Overall, it couldn’t get any easier: put smartphone in mount, hold stick to get the best picture, smile and snap.

Interview by Marlo Anderson of The Tech Ranch 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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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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