HandScape claim to be “Reinventing touch” and honestly, it’s not far from the truth. Their HandyCase puts a touch-sensitive panel on the back of a smartphone or tablet which lets the user work the device without fingers obscuring the display. LG has put buttons on the back of smartphones before but HandScape take it to the next level. Todd and Marlo see the possibilities with Tong Luo, founder and CEO.
Originally a Kickstarter project, the HandyCases for iPhone and iPad incorporate a touch-sensitive digitiser into a shell case. With multipoint capability, the touches, swipes and taps are transmitted via Bluetooth to the device which then reacts as if it had been tapped on the front display. This is genius. Imagine holding your smartphone in your hand and being able to scroll through your contact list by stroking the back of the phone with with one finger, and then double tapping to dial the number. Fantastic!
Cases are currently available for select Apple products with prices up to about US$150. It’s not 100% clear from the website what works now and what requires developer support so if you are thinking of buying you might want to confirm to avoid disappointment.
Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.
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Have you ever wanted to be able to draw decent-looking artwork for your website? One of the things I’ve had a fledgling lifelong desire to do is learn to draw. However, I never took the desire seriously. Somehow I’ve always been convinced that in order to be able to draw well you have to be born with some mysterious “drawing talent” which I somehow never had much of.
I recently purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which comes with a high resolution touchscreen and a precision stylus called the Microsoft Pen. I was drawn to the Surface Pro 3 strictly by the ability to run a full version of Windows 10 on an ultra-portable touchscreen tablet equipped with a powerful processor that doubles as a laptop running full Windows 10. The Microsoft Pen stylus was a curious extra packed in the box. The first couple of weeks I left the stylus in the box because initially I didn’t have any secure place to put it. Once I purchased a protective case from Amazon that has a loop to securely stick the stylus in, I finally dug the stylus out of the box. Only then did I start to play with it a bit, initially looking at it the same way I look at the stylus that came with my Note 4 – potentially useful on occasions, but parked in the holder the vast majority of the time.
Curious about how other people were using their Surface Pro’s, I watched a bunch of Surface Pro YouTube videos. I ended up running across a very detailed video by an artist named Riven Phoenix reviewing the drawing capabilities of his Surface Pro 3. As often happens when watching interesting videos on YouTube, I ended up watching some of his other videos, and I quickly discovered he is a veteran 20-year art teacher and has quite a few art training videos posted to YouTube. After following along with several of his videos, I was quickly convinced that his teaching methods could teach me the skill of drawing. I had always assumed that drawing was a mysterious ability you had to be born with, but in fact the ability to draw is a skill to be learned if one is able to supply the motivation and is provided with the proper instruction. Riven Phoenix teaches with the powerful approach of inventing concepts and then constructing sentences with those concepts.
After watching several of Riven Phoenix’s videos, I went to his website www.alienthink.com and ended up purchasing full access to all of his instructional videos. He gives free access to the first 19 videos of his 225 video course on how to draw the human figure. He currently has full access to his entire website priced at $45 dollars, which includes 77 hours’ worth of video lessons. The first free 19 videos posted to YouTube contain a lot of material and completely convinced me I CAN learn the skill of drawing whatever I want.
His teaching skills come across very well in the videos. He breaks the task of learning to draw realistic-looking human figures down in a very formulaic way so that virtually anyone motivated and following along with his instructions in the videos will successfully learn how to draw realistic-looking human figures.
I am absolutely convinced that anyone with the motivation can use these videos and begin to learn how to draw. To my complete surprise, I’m now finding myself spending an hour or more each day practicing with the videos. I had no idea that purchasing the Surface Pro 3 would end up leading me in this new and fun direction.
Though devices such as the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 3 have something called “palm rejection” that enables you to rest your hand against the screen as you draw or write with the stylus, there are products for sale called “digital artist gloves” that cover the part of the hand that naturally rests against the writing or drawing surface. They are designed to electrically insulate the part of the hand resting on the capacitive touchscreen. I ordered the Huion Artist Glove for Drawing Tablet priced at $17.99 on Amazon. I have yet to receive these and will write a future article once I’ve used them for a while.
With the popularity of the Surface Pro and Apple’s newly-released iPad Pro, here is an opportunity to learn the skill of drawing and put that new equipment to work.
Over the years I’ve made use of most every personal computing device as it came along. I’ve have been through a long succession of desktop and laptop computers (both Windows and OS/X), along with expensive but rather limited use PDA type devices, and in more recent years smartphones and tablets (both iOS and Android).The capacitive glass touchscreen smartphone era was ushered in by the iPhone. Next came the capacitive glass touchscreen tablet, a device that ate into laptop usage. In the past couple of years larger screen smartphones have taken a bite out of both tablet and laptop usage.
Admit it, it’s happened to you. You are sitting there in front of your desktop or laptop computer with a keyboard and mouse, and you find yourself reaching up and touching the monitor screen trying to pinch and zoom. You are in good company — it’s happened to virtually everyone that’s gotten used to using a capacitive touchscreen phone or tablet.
When I first got an iPad, I realized pretty quickly it was quite good at being a media consumption device. Naturally over time, I found myself trying to figure out ways of doing more with it. It was a bit frustrating, because I almost wanted it to be more of a laptop with real productivity software (not limited “apps”) that I could use a mouse with (specifically forbidden by Apple for use on the iPad).
I have to admit to never using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Windows Vista had been such a frustrating experience that around 2006 I jumped over to Apple machines in a big way — three Mac Minis, two Macbooks, one original Apple TV, two iPod Classics, one iPod Touch 4th gen, and two iPads.
Microsoft has to be given credit for trying to blend the capacitive touchscreen interface with the traditional computer interface. Of course, their first attempt at it — Windows 8 and 8.1 — was badly bungled.
With Windows 10, Microsoft has really nailed the blending of the capacitive touchscreen experience with the traditional mouse interface.
Lately I’ve found myself getting excited by the idea of being able to have a high-performance tablet device that could also run real software applications — not just very limited “apps” — that could also function as a desktop class computer. Importantly, real productivity software demands the option of being able to use a mouse instead of fingers if need be. Editing audio or video, for example, demands the precision of a nimble pointing device that can’t be matched by fingers on capacitive glass obscuring the image.
All that being said, I’ve come full circle. I want a high performance tablet that has a great screen, fantastic performance, plenty of storage and a real computer operating system that when attached to a keyboard essentially turns into a high performance laptop computer.
One of the things that has driven me a bit insane about the world of Apple and OS/X (along with iOS) is their penchant for routinely taking valuable things away. I became fairly proficient with Final Cut Express, and Apple arbitrarily decided to stop developing it. For years I used a podcast recording application for OS/X called Ubercaster that pretty much stopped working with OS/X Lion, and the developer stopped developing it. My choice was to stop upgrading OS/X or stop using Ubercaster with no one piece of software that could directly replace it.
My Macbook Pro 17″ from 2007 still works, except the moust button is stuck in the “on” position, rendering it useless. I could get it fixed, but the machine is at least 8 years old and has a high-hour LCD — probably not worth spending any money on at all.
I am not very loyal when it comes to brands or technology. Though I started out with DOS and Windows and mostly moved over to OS/X about 9 years ago, I can easily move back to Windows.
Two days ago I purchased a Microsoft Surface 3 Pro tablet and keyboard with a 256 gigabyte SSD. So far, the experience has been great. The Microsoft keyboard offers a great typing experience. Unlike the cramped and compromised netbook sized keyboards, the optional Surface Pro 3 keyboard works as well as any laptop keybaord I’ve ever used.
To Microsoft’s credit, much vintage/legacy software works just fine on Windows 10. Adobe Audition 1.5, which is at least 10 years old at this point, loaded and functions on Windows 10.
I now have a 12″ high resolution tablet that offers incredible performance. It can turn completely on and off in seconds. I can use it either as a tablet or as a laptop. I have a capacitive touchscreen that I can pinch and zoom if I want, but I’ve also got a touchpad and mouse cursor, completely my choice — whatever I reach for without having to think about it.
I don’t know about anyone else, but the two-in-one experience — a tablet that can function as a high performance laptop — is the new next step in the ongoing story of my usage of computing devices.
Google’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)
Surface Pro 3 has seen widespread adoption, at least if Microsoft is to be believed. The tablet-laptop hybrid is heading into the business world, where it provides portability for those on the go. Now the company would like to expand on that market, announcing new plans to do just that.
Microsoft laments that it’s business channel has been a bit limited thus far, but now it’s time to change that with many new offerings.
“We are expanding our channel and will go from having a few hundred partners selling and servicing Surface to a few thousand globally in the coming months”.
Microsoft claims it’s excited to welcome new hardware integrators to the world of Surface, anxiously expecting to grow its market share. “Interested partners should go to the Microsoft Partner Network Device Partner Portal and contact an Authorized Device Distributor to learn how to become a partner”, the company’s Brian Hall claims.
As for Hub that was recently announced, that will be delayed. “We started taking pre-orders on July 1 and we’ve seen strong demand out of the gate. Based on the early interest we see, we’re tuning our manufacturing process to prepare for production at broader scale. To do this, we are adjusting our product roll-out schedule to ensure we deliver a great customer experience and set our partners up for success. We will not start shipping on September 1 now. We’ll have more details on our updated shipment schedule in early August. In the meantime, we will continue to take pre-orders”.
Computex 2015 is in full swing in Taipei and new product announcements are coming fast and furious. One of those products is a new tablet by Asus called the ZenPad S 8.0. This 8-inch ZenPad boasts some impressive features. Including:
Intel 64-bit Atom Z3580 processor
4GB of RAM
PowerVR 6430 GPU
3.4 times the browser performance of some competitors and 2.2 times the GPU performance
Optional stylus (this is where the ZenPad gets the “S” in its name)
Metallic finish with “diamond cut edges”
6mm (0.25 inches) thick
Weighs 298 grams (10.5 ounces)
Screen is a 2K (2,048×1,536-pixel) IPS panel, offering 324 pixels per inch
This new ZenPad could be seen as a strong competitor to Apple’s iPad Mini, as the two devices are pretty similar in terms of overall size and spec. Also, the ZenPad comes with many of Asus’s proprietary enhancements, including TruVivid and Tru2Life (known collectively as VisualMaster), both of which are designed to increase screen clarity, contrast and brightness. The TruVivid technology actually alters the traditional screen manufacturing process to eliminate the “air gap” between the touch panel and the LCD ZenPad models, increasing optical transparency.
ZenPad S 8.0 also comes with optional accessories like the Clutch “fashion” cover as well as a Power Cover that offers an additional 15 hours of battery life.
ZenPad tablets will offer both 4G LTE and Wi-Fi only versions. Availability of these will differ from region to region. Full pricing and release dates haven’t yet been announced.
It’s rare that products sent for review offer any great surprises: usually gadgets arriving on my desk meet my expectations in terms of build, functionality and price. However, occasionally a device delivers more than expected and I’m pleased to say that this is one such occasion. The Divoom Airbeat-10 punches well above its weight with loudness and clarity that belies its diminutive size. Sorry if this ruined the review but let’s take a look anyway.
The Divoom Airbeat-10 is portable Bluetooth speaker with speakerphone. It’s splashproof and comes with a suction cup and bike mount, though Airboot is just as happy to sit on the table or hang from a hook. A USB to micro-USB cable is included for charging and a 3.5 mm stereo lead comes in the box for devices without Bluetooth.
The Airbeat-10 is about 9 cm along the sides and around 4.5 cm tall. Covered in a soft touch rubber, it’s available in four colours; black, white, red and blue. An LED on the top lights up to show Bluetooth and charging activity, on the side there are four buttons for power, phone functions and volume up/down, along with a covered port for USB charging and 3.5 mm aux in. On the back of the Airbeat is a standard camera screw mount which is used for the suction cup and bike attachment but can be used with other camera accessories such as a GorillaPod. The Airbeat 10 weighs in at 155 g, meaning that it’s not hollow plastic.
Pairing is straightforward. Turn the Airbeat-10 on, search from the Bluetooth settings on the phone or tablet and pair up. Easy-peasy and time to make some noise.
And this is where the Airbeat-10 delivered well beyond my expectation – it produced rich and surprisingly loud sound for such a small device. Certainly it’s not audiophile hi-fi and it’s not stereo but for a pocket-sized portable device the Airbeat-10 is very good indeed. Music comes across well through the range with little of the tinniness normally associated with small lightweight devices and good amount of lower end bass.
I had the Airbeat on my desk for the review period and it was great to have it handy for a quick listen for both music and podcasts. It’s portability and wireless connectivity meant that I could move it round my desk as I needed space. Battery life is a claimed six hours and that seems about right – I found that I needed to charge the Airbeat-10 once or twice a week depending on usage.
The Airbeat-10 is splashproof as well and with the suction mount, it’s ideal for use in the shower. I whacked it onto the tiles with the sucker, started the radio app before stepping in and listened to the morning news in the shower without getting my smartphone wet. Excellent.
There are three minor issues that I found with the Airbeat. First, when using it as a speakerphone, the microphone on the side needed to be pointing at the speaker otherwise the caller on the other end of the line didn’t hear too well. The second was that sometimes “silence detection” seemed to be overly aggressive and between music tracks or between people talking in podcasts, the Airbeat would go silent (presumably to save power) but then there would be a small pop as the sound restarted and the first half-second of speech or music would be lost. Adjusting the volume upwards on the smartphone or tablet usually helped. Finally, the soft touch rubber coating was a bit of a fluff magnet!
These niggles aside, I was impressed by the Divoom Airbeat-10. Although small, the quality of the sound and volume is better than anything I’ve heard at this size, and the portability and wireless connectivity make it the perfect casual speaker whether in the office, in the shower or out-and-about. At this time of year, I’d recommend it to the music Festival crowd and later in the year I’d be suggesting it as a great stocking-filler.
The Divoom Airbeat-10 is available from retailers worldwide with an RRP of £29.99 in the UK.
Back in March at MWC, French firm Archos announced “Archos Fusion”, an Android storage technology that seamlessly joins a smartphone or tablet’s internal memory with an inserted memory card. The merger of the two memories is invisible to apps and other services, with Archos Fusion automatically managing and moving files around. Apps tend to stay on the internal memory and media gets moved to the external card.
The clear advantage here is that there’s loads more space made available to the user with almost zero effort. Another advantage is a reversibility of the process: the fusion of internal storage with the external storage card is seamless and the user can return to the original separated settings at any time.
GNC covered the announcement at the time, but the good news is that Archos are delivering on the promise and a free OTA is expected very shortly for owners of the Archos 101 Oxygen tablet, along with the 50 Oxygen Plus, 50 Diamond and 52 Platinum smartphones.
By pure coincidence I have an Archos 52 Platinum smartphone on review at the moment so I’ll be reporting back on the OTA and the Archos Fusion technology, which looks really clever and a huge benefit.
Archos Fusion will be available on the new 62 Xenon and 59 Xenon out of the box.
The Moto X and new G4 smartphones have shown that there’s a market for personalisation using natural materials; a synthesis of the traditional with technology. Where glass, metal and plastic pervade, there’s an opportunity for the natural in wood and leather. Into this space step Toast, specialising in natural material covers for smartphones, tablets and small laptops. Built on the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Portland-based firm provides after-market products that look custom-crafted.
Using hardwood from North America, bamboo from Asia and leather from America cattle, Toast’s covers are crafted to perfectly match the device’s openings and cut-outs. With wooden backs, designs and decorations can be cut into the surface using a laser. There’s a selection of designs available to order but Toast is happy to take custom orders as well.
Prices very depending on phone model and material, but expect to pay from $24-$34 for a wooden back and around $45 for a leather one. For more information, listen to my interview with Danielle and Matias from Toast at Gadget Show Live.
While tablets are overall a relatively new technology, they’ve evolved a lot since the first iPad was released in 2010. And now Archos is continuing that evolution with its new Magnus tablets, including the company’s innovative “Fusion Storage” technology.
Fusion Storage optimizes data storage by fusing internal memory with external micro SD card memory. Once activated, Fusion Storage automatically migrates data from the micro SD card and optimizes memory balance, resulting in an increase in install space for apps and games, as well as more storage for media and large files. Fusion Storage will be available on all new ARCHOS tablets and smartphones, including the new Magnus tablets, and through Over-The-Air updates on select models.
Along with this new storage technology, the Archos 101 Magnus Plus and 94 Magnus feature powerful Cortex A17 quad-core processors capable of running apps and games smoothly while remaining energy efficient and maintaining longer battery life.
These new Archos tablets will hit the market next month. The 101 Magnus Plus 128 GB and the 94 Magnus 256 GB are expected to retail at $349.00. Archos will also be launching the 101 Magnus, the first tablet with 64 GB of internal storage for $179.