Wednesday, 30 January 2013

All you need to know about BlackBerry 10

So the worlds worst kept secret is to be unveiled soon as the - you guessed it - BlackBerry 10.

After a few years in freefall, RIM are hoping that the move from 'traditional' BlackBerry - i.e removal of the QUERTY keyboard and roll-ball - will change the fortunes of the company. The BlackBerry Z10 is certainly a good effort at doing so. The phone is simply beautiful and follows as similar look to the Sony Xperia series. If you are a fan of old-school BlackBerry however, don't worry - you haven't been forgotten about. RIM will be releasing a traditional phone (the BlackBerry Q10) soon after the launch that will also run BlackBerry 10 on a smaller screen.

Features and Spec

A few of notable features (BlackBerry Z10):

BlackBerry 'Hub' - where EVERYTHING feeds in to. Be it email, texts or social media - they'll all be here. Simple, but problematic in my view as I like to keep everything separate.

Active tiles - RIM have devised an equivalent to Windows Live Tiles and Android widgets with an intriguing combination of the two. 4 tiles can fit on each screen and these are flicked between easily. They give you a snapshot of the app at that moment.

Peek mode - Another nice feature which allows a peak at your home screen without unlocking your device. It is like running your finger over steamed glass which returns to translucent when your finger leaves that area.

Work and personal - RIM have put two modes on the 10 and have gone further than Android's 'scenes'. 'Work' mode can be accessed, controlled etc by the office if you want - however - when you switch to 'personal' your information is encrypted so the office cannot see what you''re doing. Clever eh!

Time shift camera - RIM have made a lot of noise over the camera on the Z10 particularly. With an 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera it is competitive but not spectacular, however, they've got a trick up their sleeves. The 'time shift' feature allows the photographer to rewind areas of the photo to correct a smile, or open someones eyes etc. This is a really great addition.

The overall spec matches up well against the competition. The 4.2" screen is a good size in today's market. There is plenty of power behind it with 2GB memory and a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. All this fits in nicely with 16GB of storage.

The problem

The problem for RIM is that the company has fallen too far behind, and their image has been tarnished badly. The people who still buy BlackBerry do it because it is cheap. With the BlackBerry Z10 SIM-free price being leaked at £479, it is cheaper than the iPhone 5 (then again, what isn't!!), but more importantly it is more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy SIII. Given the option, will consumers stick with the cheaper, highly-regarded Android flagship phone, or experiment with a new BlackBerry? I think the former.
      Apple and Android have moved so far ahead, it is impossible to see the BlackBerry 10 dragging RIM back into contention - despite the product actually being quite impressive. RIM will be looking to follow a similar recovery line to Nokia but the path is even more treacherous. Nokia have the might of Microsoft with them, plus a far larger share of the market which gives them a bit of staying power. The question lingering over RIM is can they last that long? I doubt it.

As regular readers will know, I like an underdog - especially when the product is a high-quality product. I do like the BlackBerry 10 - it has some innovative and interesting features, but, I can only liken it to flogging a dead horse - even if the horse is good quality meat...

Thanks for reading, all debate is welcomed. Will you consider buying with BlackBerry 10? Give me a follow in the top right if you want!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Google Now - making life convenient

I first heard about Google Now a couple of months ago and to be honest - I didn't really give it much thought. Not because it wasn't a good idea, just it wasn't particularly exciting - I didn't think. Anyway, a week ago I woke up to a notification on my HTC One X telling me that my train from home to work was running on time and should take 123 minutes.

Intrigued I clicked on it and found myself in 'Google Now'.

Google uses the information about what you've searched, viewed and even what's in your emails to compile this information. Scary? That depends where you stand in the data privacy debate as the privacy police will have a field day over Google Now but personally I don't care. As always with these debates - no-one single person is looking through your information in the knowledge that you are being watched. It is simply a computer that scans for words, phrases etc and makes assumptions based on that.
      I see the product as useful and time-saving. It makes my life more convenient. Instead of me having to search for the weather - I get told what it'll be, and what I should consider taking before I've even woken up. I will be told if my train is delayed, and even if I'm near a popular photo hotspot. I now get notifications about Newcastle games - when I should leave and what route would be best to take - alongside scores and results.

Obviously there are still some teething problems. Google has made the software sensitive and therefore if I searched for Arsenal information, I would then pick up Arsenal related notifications for example. Options to set up more preferences would be well received. But for a early version it really is extraordinary.
Either way, Google Now is exciting. The best thing about it - it will only get better. More features will be added, and the current ones will be improved. Now Google, go for it. 

If you can't see 'Google Now' on the menu - don't panic. It's under the 'Google' icon:

Thanks for reading. Keen to hear any thoughts - in agreement or contrary. If you want - just give me a quick follow in the top right.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Chromebooks - Is the world ready for them?

First of all - Happy New Year and I hope you all had a great Christmas break. The delay in this blog can be partly attributed to a busy Christmas period, and partly to a misplacement of my HTC One X.... (just for note, the customer service was excellent once again).

I thought I would blog about a product that has been heavily advertised and promoted over Christmas - the Chromebook. If you haven't heard of it yet, a Chromebook is a laptop with no desktop. It is a browser that relies almost solely on Google's never-ending list of services. Scary right?

My first experience of Chromebooks was a few years back on my Asus eePC 901 notebook. It seemed a logical OS given how light it is and how little power it requires. However, it wasn't long before I became frustrated with its limitations. The Chromebook has changed a lot since then, for the better, but it still doesn't compete on the same level as a laptop in my eyes.

Firstly, you need internet to properly function with it. Seems obvious but it really holds you up, especially on the commute etc. What happens if you want to watch a film? You can't.
     Secondly, the lack of a hard-drive concerns me. I do actually prefer to store on clouds than the desktop, but the lack of the option doesn't sit comfortably. The other problem with this is simply the functionality and accessibility of files just isn't as good.
    Lastly, whilst Google's services really are extraordinary - they aren't quite good enough to better all of their rivals just yet. The biggest problem for me is Google docs. Whilst it is very impressive, it never takes preference over Microsoft Office in my eyes. I find it slow, and it also feels that bit limited compared to its offline rival. Again, Google Drive is effective and functional but my preference is with Dropbox, which I am slightly addicted to. Until these Google services are market leaders, I will always feel the need for a desktop.

Now, Google have the right idea. Given time this will be a brilliant piece of equipment which will make our lives extraordinarily simple - but not yet.  When we reach 'WiFi everywhere' - which will happen - this will be brilliant. However, the world isn't ready for it just yet and I just hope that this attempt to force the market doesn't delay its adoption. 
The widely promoted Samsung Chromebook looks great, and has a very attractive price at $249 - BUT you shouldn't look to buy one unless you are looking to install a new OS in my opinion. Google have jumped the gun with the Chromebook and, if you want a laptop for anything more than browsing I would avoid it. To be honest, if you're looking to buy a laptop for just browsing - what are you doing? Just buy the Nexus 7 tablet!

I'd love to hear any thoughts on this. It would be good to hear from anyone who has used/uses a Chromebook, especially on a daily basis. Everyone functions with technology in a different way and perhaps my experience says more about me than about the Chromebook.