Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

Super-MagicstickWe’ve all been there…experienced that sinking feeling when the battery icon turns red…the warning message pops up…the device is about to die.

Smartphones have become indispensable accoutrements to modern life and battery drain a debilitating, front-of-the-mind anxiety.

Apps like Carat can help gauge where power is going but no matter how much you manage performance there are always times when a portable top-up can come in handy.

There are plenty of devices to choose from and the decision over which one to buy will come down to a trade-off between price, weight, size and performance.

For the past week I’ve been trying out a Super Magicstick 2800mAh supplied by Powerocks and it’s a good all-round compromise.

It’s about the size of a glue stick so small enough to pop in a pocket, comes in at 2.6oz so won’t weigh you down, and is claimed to be good for two full charges.

That might be possible by switching to airplane mode to ease power demand and give a quicker boost, but the penalty is paid in time off the grid. Real-world use suggests most people will use it for partial top-ups between mains outlets rather than for full charges.

Either way, it’s great to have on hand if you’re shooting video clips, taking lots of pictures or using mapping/navigation functionality.

For mojos (mobile journalists) a portable power supply that’s simple, versatile, light and inexpensive makes it an essential piece of kit.

The Magicstick comes with a micro-USB to USB connection cable and has a three-stage LED indicator to indicate the range of remaining available charge. The recommended retail price is $49.99 but a quick skim around Amazon reveals that they can be had for much less.

If you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who’s hard to buy for, or stocking filler for Christmas Day then this Powerocks portable charger might be just the thing.

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age of context

It’s hard not to get caught up in the breathless excitement of Robert Scoble and Shel Israel as they lift the veil on The Next Big Thing that’ll be transforming our lives.

As enthusiastic future-gazers their highly readable book steers us into a world where millions of sensors and interconnected devices work together to anticipate our every need.

It’s a world where a collision of five major forces combine in a technological big bang: mobile, social, big data, sensors and location.

All of them have been with us for a while and, in many cases, have overlapped and been transformative. The authors believe we’re now on a path to a much deeper convergence and one that will fuel an explosion of change in every aspect of life.

Self-driving cars, 3D city modeling, smart textiles, bionic suits, toothbrushes that detect tooth decay – the book is bursting at the seams with examples of where things are headed.

As technology optimists they paint a rosy picture, but they also acknowledge there are major obstacles to overcome.

To get the best from this data-rich world individuals are going to have to surrender a great deal more of their personal privacy – and that’s a problem. Ultimately, they posit, the benefits will outweigh the costs and people will come round.

But even if they do, big issues hang in the air: Who will own the data? Will it be possible to opt-out of collection? How else might the information be used? And by whom?

Like all transforming technology, potential abuses can be as profound as the benefits they bring. The prize in enhancements to many aspects of our lives is huge, but the surrender of personal privacy will give many people cause for concern.

The future may be bright, but it’s also scary, and Scoble and Israel do a good job in framing the boundaries around issues we’re going to have to face up to.

Age of Context

toozlaI’ve had only the briefest of acquaintances with Toozla, a Russian-based augmented reality outfit that is using location-triggered audio to pep up experiences for tourists, but I like the idea enough to flag it up here.

Unlike most AR apps that overlay text on a camera view, Toozla uses voiced information that is tethered to proximity to places of interest.

There are Wikipedia text entries in the mix too, along with weather from Wunderground and UGC voice notes that can be anchored to a place so others can hear about individual impressions and experiences.

Audio has many advantages over text in this kind of context, both in the amount of information it can convey and because it lets people concentrate on their surroundings rather than looking at a screen, though there’s also an overhead in file download size and the ability to skim content for relevance.

For commercial companies seeking to profit from the tourist trade there are opportunities to incorporate sales and promotion activity linked to location.

There are also sponsorships like that of the Wellcome Foundation’s for a Medical London tour, written and presented by historian Richard Barnett, last year for City Stories Walks

As Broadcastr, another player in this area, states:  “It’s like a museum tour of the entire world.”

The Beta-service, which has just followed up its iPhone release with an Android app, lets users record their own content, create playlists, follow their friends, and share on Facebook.

As ever, extracting value from the mix is the hard part; hearing voices is one thing, but a cacophony isn’t helpful. The winner here will be the service that makes best use of listener time while adding real value to the experience of place.

The BBC has a seam of authoritative, expertly produced, historical audio recordings but rights issues, commercial impact considerations and the enormity of digitizing, filtering, voicing and repackaging the material is likely to stymie progress any time soon and that’s a huge shame.

In a country like the UK, with such an extraordinary history, bringing the past to life is enriching for visitors and likely to be good business too.

GoPano My gadget of the week is the GoPano Micro 360-degree video lens for the iPhone 4.

Inventor Michael Rondinelli went to Kickstarter looking for $20,000 funding to get it into production and 1,600 backers have already pledged more than $90,000 with 30 days of the campaign still to go.

It’s just the job for kettled snappers needing eyes in the back of their head, and it would be a discrete way to capture events at Westminster Abbey for that wedding on the 29th – if you could lay hands on a pre-production model.

Samsung android smartphone i9000 Galaxy S

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As Verizon rolls out its first 4G handset in the US and the UK prepares for a spectrum auction in 2012, Giga Om’s Kevin Tofel wonders if we’ll need mobile versions of web sites in the future.

In the 2G world the argument against desktop versions was that they took an age to load, but with speeds ramping up, usability improving, tablets becoming more widespread and budgets under pressure that’s a position that’s going to be increasingly challenged.

Tofel answers his own question by saying the mobile-friendly web isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, partly because “it will take years of additional smartphone adoption and network expansion before we see a decline in mobile sites.”

The other argument, which he doesn’t advance, is that mobile browsing and desktop browsing are not the same thing; location, “nowness” and context become much more important for smartphone users than for those engaged in desktop browsing.

HTML5 may make it easier to port content to multiple platforms and devices but the companies who succeed will understand the difference been static consumption, portability and mobility. There is no one-size-fits-all solution

scratch test

It’s a long way from the sticky-backed plastic of Blue Peter, but a protective film used to protect helicopter rotor blades in the worst desert conditions is now making its way to a mobile or tablet screen near you.

It goes under the trade name of Invisible Shield and for anyone going into hostile environments it might be worth the $35 price tag.

You can read about the military application here or simply watch someone take keys, screws and a Drexel drill to the front of an iPhone4 here

Gunnar Garfors, CEO of Norges Mobil-TV, a JV b...

Image via Wikipedia

Digital radio and mobile TV will start to appear in some Android tablets from the summer following a partnership between device manufacturer Enspert and the International DMB Advancement Group (IDAG).

Enspert is the second largest tablet maker in South Korea and the deal involves four new models harnessing DAB, DAB+ and DMB under the brand name, Identity.

IDAG chief Gunnar Garfors said the inclusion of TV and radio would “open the way for innovative combinations between broadcasting and the internet, giving the best of both worlds”. He estimated the additional chips would add $10-15 to the unit cost.

The four tablets are in the 7-9 inch range and will initially be sold in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa and Vietnam.

Snaptu home screen on cell phone

Image via Wikipedia

The burgeoning growth of Facebook has been given another boost by the social network’s acquisition of mobile start-up Snaptu for an undisclosed sum.

No big deal, you may think, but as Paul Butler points out at ReadWriteWeb, the people accessing Facebook via their mobiles are twice as active as those who engage via PCs.

It was Israeli outfit Snaptu who earlier this year built a feature-phone app for Facebook, extending social network access to thousands more devices and into markets where smartphones are less prevalent.

If you add to that purchase, the acquisition of group messaging company Beluga and a location-based advertising start-up, Rel8tion, it’s plain to see Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to capitalize on the mobile space.

The other big beast in that battle is the subject of David Carr’s excellent New York Times piece – The Evolving Mission of Google

Despite its insistence that it is not a media company, Carr makes a good case that it is and why it’s more than a matter of semantics.

The gravitational pull of Google and Facebook has already had a huge impact on the way news is distributed and they’re both attracting vast sums of advertising cash that would otherwise have gone to the traditional newspaper and magazine businesses.

At the same time, Google acknowledges that it depends on high-quality content and has “a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem”.

For newspapers and magazines struggling to make money from the link economy that assertion might ring hollow, especially if the ledgers show their days in the eco-system might be numbered.

Planets Google and Facebook have pulled money from their grasp on the traditional web and now it’s slipping through their fingers in the mobile world too.

According to the folks at Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop, Google’s algorithm has “had more impact on the shape of the web than anything or anyone since Tim Berners-Lee” and this infographic attempts to show how.

The casualties of this shift in fortunes will be replaced, of course, hopefully by something better, but as we’ve seen with recent natural disasters the consequences will be traumatic and restoration will take a long time to effect.

First 4 digits of a credit card

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a bad few days for the mobile money business with the rumour mill in full spate that iPhone 5 won’t be packing an NFC “wave and pay” chip when it launches In June. Well, in truth, we don’t even know if iPhone 5 will roll out then, despite all the supposed leaks from sources, industry insiders and those close to the discussions.

More substantial – and damaging – was the open letter from the boss of Verifone attacking mobile payments rival Square over what he said were serious security flaws with the mobile card reading system.

Square’s CEO Jack Dorsey hit back at the allegations saying they were neither fair nor accurate and ignored protections that come with credit cards.

Whatever the merits of their respective cases the spat sows doubt about the security of mobile payments and makes the job of rolling out the mobile wallet that much harder.

One of the few significant announcements from Austin was the launch this summer by CNN of a service that will let viewers move seamlessly between mobile, computer and internet-connected TV when watching video.

If, for example, you started watching something on your smartphone and switched to the TV, tablet or computer screen the video would pick up from where you left off on the mobile.

The integration also allows video to be stacked and ported around, so a queue build on a connected TV would also be available on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Bandwidth, as ever, is the Achilles Heel of roaming, but streams are encoded at variable bit-rates to cope if conditions are less than optimal.

CNN has also forged a couple of partnerships to bolster its iReport citizen journalism initiative. Links with Apple mean that it’ll be straightforward to upload direct from iMovie to iReport and a tie-in with Gowalla brings the marginally appealing bounty of badges for contributors.

Most significant of all is a move to integrate iReport and CNN journalists’ work in a Twitter-type content chronology with overlays on maps.