It's no secret that the digital compact camera is suffering a slow death as more and more people use their mobile phones to take snaps. It's fair to say that many top end mobiles can take better photos than the compact cameras they're replacing.
The top end of digital compacts do continue to prosper though, offering a combination of bigger sensors, better lenses and faster auto-focus which entice enthusiasts and professionals alike. That's why we're excited that Sony has launched two new RX series cameras.
It's hard to know how Sony could improve on previous generations of RX cameras as they were already providing class leading photos. With that in mind, Sony has decided to focus on videography this time so that the new cameras' video skills match their photo skills.
Here's Sony's press release about the new RX100 IV and RX10 II:
It's also worth noting that Sony has improved on already one of the best cameras in the world by launching the new Alpha7R II. Here's their press release:
Yamaha were pioneers in creating the Soundbar long before they became a must have for many flat screen TV owners. Using that heritage, and dominance at the top end of the market, Yamaha have launched two new affordable soundbars.
The Yamaha YAS-105 hangs under your TV and connects via either optical , coaxial or 3.5mm jack inputs, as well as bluetooth.
If you have your TV on a stand, then the Yamaha SRT-700 soundbase may be of interest. It sits directly under the TV and connects the same way. Both new products use Yamaha's latest AirSurround Xtreme technology to provide virtual surround sound without the need for calibration. If you do need to tinker, than Android and iOS apps are available.
Both will be available shortly and the YAS-105 is £250 while the SRT-700 is £300. Both will offer a significant improvement in sound to almost any flat screen TV.
There's a lot of talk about smart homes and controlling your heating, but little mention of cooling. Given summer's (finally) coming, Tado have made a timely announcement about launching the first device to make any air conditioning smart.
Here's their press release:
Here's a video if you'd like to see more
There used to be a time when having a computer in you pocket was a euphemism for a mobile phone. These days you really can have pocket size desktop computers which fit in your pocket.
The Dell Inspiron Micro Desktop is the size of a burger box, and contains an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage , has dual band 802.11ac Wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI Socket, 3 USB (1 USB 3) sockets, ethernet socket, SD card reader and Windows 8.1!
All in all, it's a pretty good package for most day to day usage and can be connected to any modern TV/ Monitor. Carry around a nice portable keypad and you've got mobile computing all for just £199.
Car sharing is very popular in busy cities across the world. Many inhabitants don't bother owning a car if the public transport is good, but every now and again, you still need a car.
Ford has been dipping it's toes in the car sharing world over the first few months of this year, and now it's ready to roll out the next stage of it's beta programme in London. It's called GoDrive.
Here's the info: (by the way, there's some interesting news at the bottom )
Interested in a free ride? Sign up here and you'll get a £20 credit to get you going.
And here's a video about how it all works
What to do with an old handset? Most people, especially on this site, either sell their old handsets, or give them to someone they know. Google and the manufacturers have told us to do factory resets before doing so, to make sure that your personal information is wiped from the phone, and your details are secure. Turns out, that's not quite true.
Researchers at Cambridge University have written a paper showing how flawed factory reset is in wiping personal data from Android handsets using versions 2.3-4.3. (They didn't use any handsets later than 4.3). To make things worse, if you fully encrypted all the data, you may have in fact exposed yourself even more as the key to decrypt the data isn't deleted properly by the reset.
Researchers were able to recover SMS, emails, contacts, photos, videos, Facebook, Whatsapp, and even your personal Google token, which gives access to all your Google information. The flaw seems to be in the way flash drives in mobile handsets are designed to have a certain element of failure and errors. This does mean that other mobile devices may also be prone to such security, although it's unknown at present.
The best solution is to encrypt your phone when you first get it, and use an impossibly long password with letters, numbers and symbols to unlock your phone each time you use it. Most hackers will just give up as it could take years!
The researchers did make some recommendations to manufacturers, so lets hope they take up the advice.
We went along to London to hear about the latest developments from Doro, the phone that specialises in producing feature phones for senior citizens, and has also entered the smartphone arena. Now it has two new devices, including a phone designed exclusively for the blind.
Yesterday I met up with Doro to see what was new from the company that has specialised in building mobile phones for senior citizens for almost ten years, and has a heritage that goes back thirty more.
Doro specialises in feature phones for people aged 65 and above, but in recent years has also entered the smartphone arena with devices aimed at those wanting a bit more functionality, but still retaining an emphasis on simplicity and usability.
Indeed, Doro has been bucking the trend on the decline in feature phone sales, with the company increasing its sales faster than the decline being experienced by others.
However, with less and less room on mobile phone retailer shop floors for non-smartphones, Doro is now seeking out new markets for its most simple devices, targeting ordinary retailers that can now sell a SIM-free box without worrying about SIM cards or contracts, and make some profit in the process.
Chris Millington, Managing Director of Doro UK & Ireland explained that this would open up the market far wider than the normal phone retailers. Chris also revealed that an increasing number of under 65s are now buying Doro phones too, primarily because of their simplicity, call quality and battery life.
Primo by Doro
The new Primo range comprises three handsets, all in new retail-friendly packaging (usually phone boxes aren't even seen until you buy a phone in a shop). These are the Primo 215, Primo 305, and Primo 401.
The Primo 215 is the entry-level model, but comes complete with a docking cradle that's absent from the others. It has a 1.7-inch 160x128 pixel colour display, Bluetooth, 1,000mAh battery, and the obligatory large buttons and an assistant/SOS calling button. The phone itself measures 110x51x13mm, and weighs 83g.
The Primo 305 offers a more traditional candy bar look, with a larger 2-inch colour display (176x220 pixels), VGA (0.3MP) camera, 800mAh battery, and a memory card slot for saving photos. The 305 measures 109x46x18mm, and weighs 78g.
Finally, there's the 'flagship' clamshell, the Primo 401. With a 2-inch colour display matching the 305, the phone also has an 800mAh battery, but no camera or card slot, but is lighter at 74g and measuring 91x46x19mm.
Prices are to be confirmed, but all three phones should be very affordable even if they won't be at the absolute bottom end of the market, which is an area of the market that Doro has no interest in competing with because it reduces quality and reduces the scope for investment in future devices.
The Primo 215 is also tri-band GSM (900/1800/1900MHz), while the other two are dual-band (900/1800MHz).
It's perhaps easy to dismiss these phones as uninteresting and unexciting, compared to the more common news on new smartphones with QHD displays, 4K video recording and octo-core processors, but Doro has repeatedly demonstrated that there's still a market for simple phones, with good battery life and call quality combined with an clear menu layouts and buttons.
Doro 820 Mini Claria
The next announcement from Doro was rather more significant, and is a smartphone aimed at the blind.
The Doro 820 Mini Claria is an enhanced version of the Doro 820 mini smartphone (see below), which comes with a unique software build to give blind and visually-impaired users voice guidance for every function of the phone, combined with a special cover that makes it easy to find reference points for navigating menus and entering numbers or text.
The software developed in partnership with Claria, a company specialising in solutions for the blind and partially sighted, sits above an otherwise ordinary Android phone, with everything on the display being read out, including things like the time, navigation, or reading out web pages, emails and text messages.
In addition, the phone can be controlled by voice, and the camera used to tell the owner what colour something is, or to read text aloud that is captured by the camera and converted to text using the OCR function.
I recorded a short video demonstrating some of the features, which gives a good idea of what can be done.
My initial thoughts of the cover was that it was too thick and hindered my ability to press on the display, but this is intentional and done under the advice of the RNIB. This is to make sure there's no chance of sweeping a finger over the touch-sensitive display and selecting things accidentally.
Sighted users would obviously seek to bypass the cover (and the cover can in fact be removed) but the phone isn't designed for people with good vision - and it was pointed out that as I'm obviously used to a certain way of using a smartphone, it's only natural that I would find things different, confusing and difficult - unlike a blind user.
The phone is more expensive than the standard model, but is VAT exempt for those who are registered blind, and it also has a high level of customer support that Doro pointed out will last far more than just a few weeks or months after purchase.
I grew up with my parents telling me that watching TV and films rotted my brain, so we were particularly excited to hear scientists claim that watching 3D films can actually make you smarter!
The research was conducted under strict testing conditions. Over 100 participants undertook six well-established tests of cognitive function. Half of the group then watched half an hour of Disney’s “Big Hero 6” in 3D. The other half viewed the same clip in a 2D format. Both groups then performed the same standardised tests to establish improvement in processing.
Here's their press release:
What's also interesting is that apparently there's a 7% increase in emotive engagement, so it might not all be marketing hype that says 3D films draw you in.
Here's a video about the tests:
If you’d like to take part in your own 3D experiment, the RealD 3D lab will be at Comicon this weekend at London Excel from Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th May.