Friday, 26 September 2014

5 Gadgets That Didn't Live Up To Their Hype

A lot of iPhone 6 owners have been complaining this week that their new gadgets are becoming ‘bendy’ when they’ve been in their pockets for a long period of time.

With a lot of hype revolving around the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, this news is surely going to have a negative effect on the sales of the device, which experts were predicting would go through the roof. With this news, we thought it’d be good to look at four other gadgets that might not have lived up to their full potential.

The Segway

The Segway was one of the most anticipated gadgets of its time (2001) and had been called the ‘new-age scooter’ and although there are still a number of celebrities spotted on these around their homes, very few ‘normal’ people can afford the $5,000 price tag. Not only was the Segway overpriced, but when the President George Bush fell off one in 2004, it was the end of the road.

Blackberry Playbook

Blackberry were living the high-life for a few years with their mobile phones aimed at the business market, but as the years rolled on, more people opted for the iPhone and less for the Blackberry. So, when Blackberry introduced the Playbook in 2011, they thought this could be their way back to the top … they were wrong. They released this tablet but a lot of its features only worked if you owned a Blackberry phone, so its market was limited.

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia are another company that have fallen by the wayside recently, and although they dominated the mobile phone market for a few years before Apple got involved, one of their nails in the coffin was the Nokia N-Gage. This half phone, half game controller was released in 2003 and cost $299 at the time. They even ended up releasing an N-Gage 2, but that didn’t do too well either.

Google Nexus Q

Google make the list too. Usually, they’re a company that get things right, but when they introduced the Nexus Q in 2012, it was a bit of a disaster. Despite looking like something out of Star Wars, it was overpriced ($299) and wasn’t all that useful. The idea was to make media consumption more social, but in theory all it could access was Google’s content.

Friday, 19 September 2014

iOS 8 - What's Changed?

Apple have been dominating the headlines over the last fortnight and this week has witnessed the new iOS 8 update, just days before the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are to be launched. 

If you have an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad Mini or iPod touch 5th generation or newer, you can download it today if you don’t already have it. If you have an iPhone 4 or older generation iPads or iPods, you will have to get an upgrade as it is not accessible for you - sorry. 

So, what’s new?

With news of Apple Pay surfacing during the WWDC last week, the new iOS 8 software has changed to allow app developers to get access to the five-digit login tool which could mean we will be saying ‘goodbye’ to pesky passcodes and accessing all sorts of apps with our fingerprints. 

As the iPhone still stands at the most used camera in the world, it’s no surprise that the camera app has improved allowing you to capture extended moments and be able to speed up video with the ‘time-lapse camera mode’.

Text messages and calls will be able to be answered and replied to on Macs and iPads and are not just restricted to the iPhones. iMessage was a great cross-compatible tool for chatting across iOS devices and Macs but now the experience has just got a whole lot more convenient. 

Interactive notifications are another convenience too and will mean users can respond to texts and calendar reminders from the lock screen.  There is no need to unlock your phone to reply to a friend and lie that you’re ‘on your way’ because now you can do it with just a few clicks. 

The keyboard has had an upgrade to, and Apple claim their new iOS 8 keyboard is the ‘smartest ever’. The Quicktype feature adds a highly-requested predictive texting capability and will automatically offer you choices based on the conversation. Simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ options can appear when a friend asks you a question. 

As well as these useful features, there are a whole host of new apps to make your iPhone, iPad or iPod turn into a usability genius too - too many to mention in fact. But, Apple is confident that this is the best update they have had, so let’s hope they’re right!

Friday, 12 September 2014

iPhone6 - Apple Thinks Bigger Is Better

All eyes have been on Apple this week as they unveil the new iPhones as well as welcoming the new Apple Watch to their ranks.

The Apple Watch is Apple’s first new product line since the introduction of the first iPad, and the passing of its co-founder Steve Jobs.

The Apple Watch will run apps, act as a health and fitness tracker and will be able to communicate with the iPhone. Although a number of rival smartwatches are already available on the market, experts have highlighted a number of sectors that Apple have entered late and have subsequently helped to change their direction.

So, even though Apple might be joining the smartwatch battle a bit later than expected, they are no means out of the race. The device, which is expected to launch in early 2015, is simple in its design which has opened up a big debate among tech experts, and 11 different watch faces will be on offer with the ability to change the straps.

That’s not all though as Apple also gave spectators a glimpse of their two new handsets. The Apple Watch may have been the most anticipated product of the day, but their new larger iPhones are likely to be their bigger earners.

The iPhone 6 has a screen that measures 4.7in and the iPhone 6 Plus will be fitted with a 5.5in screen. The main reason for the move towards a ‘bigger is better’ notion is to stop the likes of Samsung prizing away its customers. Since the market for ‘phablets’ has opened up, more companies are moving towards a larger screen.

Steve Jobs was very much behind the smaller screen and was known to say “no-one is going to buy a phone that they could not get a single hand around” but these days seem to be long-gone for Apple.

Another feature, new to the iPhone 6 models, is Apple Pay. This is Apple’s take on contactless paying and depends on an NFC (near field communication) chip and a NFC reader at the shop till. Although Apple has ensured users that this will be ‘secure’ because it worked without having to store credit card details or needing to share any details with the cashier.

The new iPhone 6 models will be available to buy on 19th September, so we won’t have to wait as long to get our hands on these.

Friday, 5 September 2014

You Could Be Taking The Wheel Of Technology

As you know, we’re not one to shy away from some new gadgets in the office (in fact, we love our Google Glasses) and this new piece of technology could make getting around the office very interesting.

The AirWheel is a new personal transport vehicle that helps one person get from A to B on a single wheel. The vehicle is half Segway and half unicycle and it has definitely got us interested.

It uses a gyroscope and attitude control stabilisation in order to stay upright on its single wheel and doesn’t use any other support. It’s clever but it is going to set you back quite a bit. Priced at £799, the AirWheel Q3 will be at the top of the range, but if you can’t afford that, the cheapest will be around £510.

If that hasn’t quite convinced you to replace your bicycle yet, then maybe the 800w motor and the 340 battery that will help you travel 24 miles of about-town, will help change your mind? On a good downhill slope the AirWheel can also reach speeds of around 16kph, so it’s no slouch.

Similar to the Segway, it has a platform for you to stand on, only the AirWheel is on two separate platforms either side of the one wheel. This can affect the stableness of it though, and as there are no handlebars you will have to make sure you keep moving or you could end up falling off.

Learning to ride a bike is something you did when you were a child but now it seems you will have to restart a similar learning curve with this piece of kit, but that will all be part of the excitement. One thing that will definitely take time getting used to is the way you turn a corner – you do this by leaning to one side – as this is much different to the Segway.

These models are fairly bulky, weighing up to 13kg. But, if you’re looking for a quicker way to get to work and would rather carry the AirWheel with you inside the office instead of leaving your bike locked outside, then we could be seeing a lot of these around city centres very soon.

Friday, 29 August 2014

3 Game-Changing Pieces of Technology

When it comes to technology, we are constantly looking for better and easier ways to improve performance at work, during sporting activities and in our spare time.

We have three examples of ways new technology is being created to improve performance:

The Polo Tech Shirt
As wearable technology continues to grow, polo shirt manufacturer Ralph Lauren has unveiled a shirt that takes your biometric readings and then delivers the data to your smartphone. The fibres woven into the shirt’s core will enable users to track distance travelled, the amount of calories burned, their movements, heart rate and stress rate, all in real time.

What’s more, the fabric has been specifically formulated to increase blood circulation and aid muscle recovery too. Exciting stuff, but we will have to wait till 2015 to see them modelled in tennis tournaments.

Birds are nice enough animals, but for workplaces including farms, landfills and airports, they can be a pain. Nico Nijenhuis has been working on building robot hawks in order to trick lingering birds into thinking they’re about to be prey. Nico is also working on remote controlled Falcons and Eagles too, which shows we have come a long way since using scarecrows.

These remote controlled birds of prey will be hopefully be seen within the aviation and waste management industries very shortly, under the name of Clear Flight Solutions.

For those people opting for a bicycle to get them to and from work, news of an electronic bike might be off interest. A prototype e-bike has been created and has a battery pack that is integrated into the frame.

The bike, Vanmoof 10 Electrified, is said to have a top speed of 18 mph and a range of around 37 miles depending on traffic, the rider’s cycling style and the weather conditions. What is a real game-changer for this bike though, is its ability to make light work of hills. Hills might not be all that interesting for people in London, but for those further afield that hate getting to work hot and bothered, this new e-bike could be a real winner.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Electric Cars Could Say Goodbye To Wires In 2017

Advancing technology in cars has been a hot topic of late and it doesn’t look like it’s going to die down any time soon.

We spoke recently about the in-car technology that Google and Apple are turning their attention too, but it is cars in general that are dominating the headlines; more specifically, electric cars.

According to Anthony Thompson, VP of Development and Marketing for Electric Vehicles at Qualcomm, we can expect to see the first wireless charging cars by the end of 2017. As a nation that thrive on convenience and that share a hatred for wires, this news is quite a relief.

If there was one major pain about electric cars it would be plugging them in after every journey. But with help of Qualcomm’s Halo technology, this pain should be eliminated. Hoorah!

Even though we will have to wait until 2017 to see this technology in action, it does already exist on the safety cars used during the new Formula E Championship – the world’s first entirely electrical racing series.
In 2015 though, we can expect to see this wireless car charging technology used on the race cars themselves.

So, how will they work?

The wireless charging pads will be bolted to the ground on a flat surface as well as to the bottom of the electric car. Once both the ground and the car is fitted with these pads, all the driver will need to do is drive over the charging pad, park it and leave the car to start charging.

Anthony Thompson did mention that the cars fitted with this wireless charging technology won’t come cheap though. He also said, “The first wirelessly charging electric cars will be premium vehicles, eventually filtering down to other, cheaper models.”

There have already been a number of worries about the efficiency of the wireless pads compared to the cars being plugged in but Thompson explains that only around 10% is lost through the whole wireless system. In fact, he believes that their highest power unit can allow users to get up to 95% efficiency from the wireless charging pads.

Roll on 2017!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Technology Influences Influx of New Words

This week, the online Oxford Dictionary has released its latest intake of words and there has been a huge influence from social media and the internet.

Any new words, phrases or senses are always added to the website once the editors are happy with the information they have gathered from independent evidence and are sure that these additions will be widespread.

Abbreviations that are regularly used on social media websites, like Twitter and Facebook are among the new words. One of those is YOLO – a popular abbreviation that stands for You Only Live Once.

Technology, understandably, has a strong influence on the English language with a large number of the new words being entered coming from gadgets or ‘tech-savvy’ people online. Some of these include geocache, octocopter, responsive, smartwatch and, as mentioned, tech-savvy.

But, what do some of them mean?

Smartwatch – This is something we have mentioned on a number of occasions on the blog and is a piece of technology we are a fan of. The smartwatch does exactly what it says on the tin and is a computerised wearable device that is enhanced beyond timekeeping.

Octocopter – This is a multirotor or multicopter with more than two rotors and looks like a small helicopter. This remote-controlled device is often used to carry cameras to improve video or imagery. There are a number of large brands that have started using similar devices, including Google and Microsoft.

Responsive – This one is for the web world and refers to a web design approach that is aimed at crafting sites to provide a convenient and optimal viewing experience. Responsive refers to a web site that is resized, reformatted and has an adapted navigation in order to suit a wide range of devices (i.e. mobile phones and tablets).

Tech-savvy – This can apply to a large group of people and means when someone is proficient in the use of technology, especially computers and other similar devices.

Words like tech-savvy, responsive and smartwatch are all terms we are very familiar with but words like YOLO and binge-watch (to watch a number of programmes in a box-set consecutively) are quite unusual.

What do you think about the new influx of words?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Google Invests In New Glasses

As we all know, Google has been busy at work trying to perfect Google Glass but the internet super-giant is now turning its attention to other types of glasses.

Google has recently awarded a group of UK-based technology projects with large sums of money to help them develop their projects in order to change the world. In fact, there were ten groups in total, four of them were awarded £500,000 and the runners-up were awarded £200,000 each to help them progress.

There were a lot of interesting ideas among the groups and one of those top earners was the RNIB smart glasses. These glasses also bagged the People’s Choice award too, which was not an accolade that was given to them by the judges’.

The RNIB smart glasses are a wearable device that will allow people with sight loss the ability to “see” their surroundings. So, although Google Glass is going to be a helpful tool for a number of people, these smart glasses will offer so much more value to the world.

According to the MD of RNIB Solutions, Neil Heslop, 90% of those people who are registered as blind still have some degree of vision. He said, “The glasses work in a way that means the depth of the camera assesses shape, size and the positioning of those objects nearby enhancing them to make them appear brighter.”

This wasn’t the only project that appealed to Google though. Another intriguing idea was a wearable device that belonged to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and is intelligent enough to hear mosquitoes. With the aim of attaching to a wristband, this device aims to detect a number of different types of mosquitoes and will hope to prevent certain diseases.

There was another wearable that came close and that idea was formed from Android game technology and wearables. The idea is to improve the mental health of young people, which is something that often gets overlooked. This project was created by We Are What We Do and is in fact a game that helps to strengthen the emotional resilience of younger people as well as manage their stress levels.

So, although many of us just know about Google’s aim to bring us Google Glass, they are actually investing time and money in a number of more important, world-changing ideas to help society too.
Good ol’ Google!

Friday, 1 August 2014

What Is Cortana And When's It In The UK

For iPhone owners that use Siri every day and those that are familiar with Google Now, this news might not be all that exciting, but for Microsoft fans, Cortana could be the next big thing.

Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to hands free, voice operated personal assistants and helps Microsoft owners to find relevant information from the internet and also carry out tasks including informing you of any reminders you’ve set or any alarms you have pending.

Cortana has been available in the United States for some time, but for people here in the UK, we have been waiting for a bit too long. But, Microsoft had given us some hope just two weeks ago when they told us it would be released within the next fortnight and, true to their word, they have made it available to those people who want it.

Although, don’t get too excited just yet because it’s not the full version. This is the developers’ version and has been released as a test, but everyone can apply to get it. This may not be the full version but there is no doubt that we can get a better understanding of what the final version will be like.

The main reason we do not have the full version yet is because Microsoft are still trying to ensure the software understands English accents. When the full version is released Microsoft hopes it will be complete with a full English accent, but for now it is just going through some teething problems. The software has already worked out that when we say, “What are the latest football scores” it knows not to bring up the NFL results – so it’s a start!

So, having this version is great for the time being but when is the full version going to be available?

Well, O2 have recently announced that the full version will be arriving in the 4th quarter of the year, according to ExpertReviews. So, it is likely that Microsoft phone and tablets owners will have access to the full version between October and December.

For now though, the developers’ version will have to do.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Best Apps To Download This Summer

When it comes to the summer months, we will spend less time sitting indoors and more time outside taking selfies on holiday to make our friends and relatives jealous.

But, as well as taking selfies, it is also fun to kill some time on a sunbed too, so here are some apps you should download for over the summer months.

This iPhone-only app will help you put some retro fun into your summer videos and means you can add funky filters to your crazy selfies and pictures of nearby landmarks. There is a limit of 15 seconds of footage but that is definitely a good thing – no one wants to be bored by a minute-long holiday slideshow.

Many of us post updates of pretty much anything that happens in our daily life, but we only say the things that make us look good. Secret is a social network that makes whatever you say anonymous so you can post statuses about anything and people will never know it’s you. Although trying to work out the point of it is difficult, it is all part of the fun that the things on there are people’s secrets.

This free app is for those people looking to get from A to B in a number of countries for as cheap as possible. So if you and your friends are looking to travel to one of the 38 different countries this app has maps for, you can get around for the smallest fare, which means you can save more money for food and less on the travel part.

This app costs 74p but it’s an investment worthwhile if your summer holiday consists of a road trip. This app is designed for Spotify premium subscribers, which is probably the only setback, but it allows you to listen to music that picks up how fast you’re driving and picks a song accordingly. Although, this could get a little boring if you end up stuck in loads of traffic.

If you’re not going anywhere on holiday though, these apps can still be useful for you when around the UK, so you don’t have to feel too left out.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Google And Apple Get Things Rolling

The technology giants are at it again, this time both showing an interest in in-car technology.

Google has, this week, proven exactly why it is serious about moving its technology into cars by adding a new recruit to their ranks. Former CEO, Alan Mulally, has been added to Google’s board of directors which means he brings a wealth of experience to the company and can help them make the necessary steps into the car market.

Alan Mulally left as CEO of Ford after an eight-year stint at the company in June. Before that he served as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, so he knows his stuff.

Apple have made a move into the car industry too and have set their sights on getting their CarPlay technology into Volkswagen cars by the year 2016. CarPlay was always going to be a slow rollout but we are already seeing more and more names on board.

Volkswagen was not one of those already mentioned in the list of car manufacturers but now there is a lot of talk of Apple changing that. Talks between VW and Apple are currently ongoing and if things go well there could be an announcement made at some point later this year.

Apparently though, if CarPlay is to make an appearance in new Volkswagen models we will have to wait until 2016 as it is a bit late notice for them to feature in next year’s cars. This delay is not wholly a bad thing though as Apple is continuing to update its CarPlay system so it can connect wirelessly instead of having to use the USB Lightening cable.

What both of these moves do mean though, is the race for the best in-car technology system is likely to become very interesting shortly.

Google has already made announcements about its commitment to the motor industry and its Open Automative Alliance includes Audi, Honda, Hyundai and General Motors.

Apple on the other hand, is getting to work on persuading other car manufactures besides Volkswagen, including Mercedes, Jaguar/Land Rover, Toyota and Volvo.

Friday, 11 July 2014

AI Could Match Human Intelligence in Next 30 Years

As you’re probably already fully-aware, we’re big fans of all things digital but in the next 30 years we could be relying on technology a lot more than we do today.

According to Murray Shanahan, professor of cognitive robots at Imperial College London, there is a “good chance that we can see AI matching human intelligence within the next thirty years”.

Murray is working on deep learning in Artificial Intelligence and had also suggested that the chances of us seeing human-level intelligence within AI within our lifetimes are better than 50/50.

This comes as no surprise really, when the likes of Google Now and Siri are becoming more and more intelligent every day. Google recently snapped up the British artificial intelligence company ‘DeepMind’ for £400 million, which has kept Shanahan on his toes and ensuring he keeps a close eye on what they are doing.

Google aren’t alone though, as Facebook and Yahoo are also two companies that have been working closely with AI experts. In fact, Facebook’s ‘DeepFace’ software has the ability to match faces almost as well as humans can.

Shanahan said that there has been a rapid growth and improvement in voice recognition which shows real movement in the progression of AI.

Although, he did mention that as far as learning to be adaptive like humans and animals, AI has a long way to come to be able to work on a human-level. The Imperial College London professor said that there are some missing pieces to this puzzle and that we are yet to come across what they are but once we find out what they are, the growth of AI will happen very quickly.

So Will Smith’s nightmare in the film iRobot of artificial intelligence may have finally subsided, which means there is a very strong chance that he will be able to come face to face with the real thing during his lifetime.

We already rely massively on technology, with many of us checking our phones hourly and using tablets, laptops and computers during working hours, but soon we could be using AI for everyday chores.

As Murray Shanahan suggests though, it is highly unlike to happen any time soon, but he feels a 30 years’ time-frame is a lot more achievable.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Wimbledon Turns Digital With Twitter

It’s that time of the year again when we can watch the world’s best tennis players appear at Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments.

Unfortunately, the defending champion, Andy Murray is already out of the tournament after getting knocked out earlier in the week. Although this isn’t the only major talking point of the tournament, in fact, this year is set to be the most social Wimbledon ever.

Organisers of Wimbledon are turning to Twitter to help bring fans closer to the action than ever before. Last year social media went into overdrive, especially during the final which saw Andy Murray win the tournament, but this year there is a huge focus on user-generated content.

Members of the public can tweet updates, photographs and votes which will appear on the big screens at Henman Hill (or Murray Mound). There will be a whole host of match-based questions posted throughout the tournament which will prompt the public to get involved.

That’s not all – the organisers are also working with video player Grabyo which will provide video replays of different moments in the games on Twitter. We are likely to see highlights from Centre Court as well as players celebrations, impressive rallies and crowd reactions.

Wimbledon’s adoption of Twitter started on June 23rd when Andy Murray first stepped out onto Centre Court in an attempt to retain his title and the social hashtag to use was #WelcomeBackAndy. Those who got involved were in with a chance of winning one of five digital images of Andy when he won Wimbledon last year, signed and inscribed with a message from him personally.

There is an ongoing competition people can still get involved with too, which gets people to take their best ‘selfies’ and post them to Twitter on a daily basis for a chance to win some prizes and goodies from the official Wimbledon shop.

Although Andy Murray is out, Wimbledon organisers are still optimistic this will be the most social tournament to date. So, if you want to get involved, make sure you tweet the handle @Wimbledon and use a relevant hashtag, or even send in your selfie from Henman Hill.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Google Glass Is Here - And We Have It!

Our MD Richard Eaton sporting our
very own Glass at Appware HQ

If you’ve been one of those people patiently waiting for Google Glass to come to the UK, then we have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is it’s here.

You can now get your hands (and ears and nose) on Google Glass, although it’s not as easy as popping to the shop to buy it – it’s much more complicated.

The bad news is you can only get your mitts on them if you’re over 18 and own a credit card. If you fit this
criteria you can then attempt to join Google’s UK Explorer Program, which will mean you can then get yourself a prototype headset if you stump up £1,000. Simple right?!

This price tag has already been met with a number of critics who have said Google Glass is overpriced and is reported in the US to give some people headaches, not forgetting making you look a bit strange too.

If the £1,000 price tag doesn’t faze you, then perhaps you want to make the Google Glass look a bit more stylish? If you do, then you can get some designer frames for it so you don’t look a complete “Glasshole” (a term coined to mean someone who wears Google Glass). This is also important for anyone who already wears prescription glasses as normal lenses can be fitted to these. If you don't already wear glasses then there are a variety of sunglass shades available too. Thankfully in the UK for your £1,000 you'll get these for "free" rather than having to stump up even more money.

So, if you’re desperate to get Google Glass you may have to think about selling a kidney to do so. Unfortunately that's the high price for being such an early adopter. This has always been the case with technology though, just take a look at the cost of the original camcorders compared to what they are now!

Here at Appware we decided that it's a price worth paying so are one of the first in the UK to have some. Our MD Richard Eaton wrote up his initial impressions on his personal microblog here if you'd like to read more about them. We're also happy to demonstrate the glasses and will be doing some presentations and talks around the country of Glass shortly. Just contact us if you'd like to know where and when or if you've got an event you'd like us to present at.

As Glass also run Apps then it won't be a surprise to hear that we're already experimenting. Watch this space to see our latest App developments for Glass which will no doubt be some of the first Glass Apps developed in the UK!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Facebook Tries To Conquer Snapchat

Facebook has showed its intention to conquer the social world again by launching a photo-messaging app.

Just one week after accidentally releasing the app on Apple’s App Store, it has now been officially launched in hope of becoming the next big thing in photo-sharing.

The app, known as Slingshot, differs from what is already out there slightly in that the only way you can ‘unlock’ the photo your friend has sent you, is by sending them one back, or ‘sling-it’ back.

Similar to Snapchat though, once the image has been viewed, it gets deleted. Another similarity is that you can also scribble or type all over the photos, something you can also do on Snapchat.

The creators of the app said this on their social media page: “Slingshot was built so that everybody is a creator and nobody feels like just a spectator.”

In 2012, Facebook purchased the photo-sharing network Instagram for a figure said to be around the £589 million mark, and today they are using their knowledge from this to create an app that they think will gain more users than its nearest competitor Snapchat.

Facebook had tried to create a similar app before called Poke, but this was abandoned recently and had been labelled by many as a ‘copy-cat app’. Facebook created Poke after being snubbed by Snapchat when they offered them $3 billion to buy the company. Slingshot has been given a number of different features that other apps don’t have to avoid being given the ‘copycat’ label again.

For Facebook users, it is simple to download the app and login using your normal logins but for those that do not have a Facebook account, you can sign up without having to create a new account.  All the new users will need is their mobile number so that they can connect with friends in their contact list, something that is also very similar to Snapchat.

It will be interesting to see how well Slingshot will do, given its similarities to Snapchat, and whether it will claim the crown of being the best instant photo-sharing app of today.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Gear Your Phone Up For The World Cup

Like it or not, the next month or so will be full of World Cup Facebook updates, office agendas including whose team is doing well in the sweepstake and a serious lack of cars on the roads in the evenings.

Yesterday started the biggest competition in the whole of football, the World Cup in Brazil. If you find yourself getting into the spirit much to your own dislike, you can join in the discussions and keep up-to-date with what’s going on through a selection of World Cup apps.

Regardless of where you are, you can get the latest action with the help of these apps:

1. FIFA Official App
When it comes to trustworthy information, this app has to be the winner. FIFA’s app covers every angle so you can follow your national team, see when their next game is and see who the opposition’s most dangerous player is with the team profiles.

2. World Soccer Finals
If you’re obsessed with football, this one might be for you. This app contains a whole host of information on live matches including line-ups, red and yellow cards, results and player information so you can see who’s playing well and who should be taken out of your dream team.

3. Squawka
This is an app for those people who like to go to the pub and share their opinions, and want to back it up with cold hard stats. This app is assisted by Opta, the fountain of football knowledge. If you and your mate disagree over who is the better player at the world cup, this app can compare the two and you can see who’s right. A pint to the one who wins!

4. BBC Sport
This app is already owned by a number of sports fans and for good reason too; it sends you updates when someone scores and allows you to read a full commentary if you can’t get to a TV (or just prefer not to listen to the commentary).

5. ITV Player
Perhaps you’re stuck at work and can’t get near a TV? Well, the ITV Player app lets you stream the match live so you can catch every minute of the action. Although, your boss might get a bit suspicious if you take 45 minutes to go for a wee.

The best part about all of these apps is they’re free, so you can keep up with all of the goals, cheers and crying without having to pay a penny.

Friday, 6 June 2014

5 Best Free Android Games

If you’re one of those people who gets fed up of hearing, “I’ve got an app for that”, now is your chance to shine as we go through the 5 best free android games available to download now.

The ‘free-to-play’ market has seen a drop over recent months due to a lot of gamers getting fed up with the in-app purchases but the world of mobile gaming is far from over, as these five games will prove.

1. The Simpsons Tapped Out
We all loved watching The Simpsons growing up, but now the loveable Springfield characters have their own mobile game and it is a lot better than you would have thought it to be. EA have created a brilliant game that will make your weekly train commutes feel like a doddle. The storyline is creative and long enough for you not to need to get a new game for a while.

2. Angry Birds Space
Angry Birds has arguably been one of the most successful gaming apps of all time, and there has been a whole host of apps to branch off from it, but Angry Birds Space is, in our opinion, one of the best. It introduces clever physics with puzzling levels to create an annoyingly addictive game, just like all of the other Angry Birds games.

3. Dots
Dots is possibly one of the simplest games you will ever play, but that’s what makes it brilliant. All you have to do is draw lines between the coloured dots, then once these are linked, they disappear and new ones drop in. But, be warned, once you download this free game you may get surprisingly addicted.

4. Stick Cricket
This quirky cricket game reduces cricket to its simplest form and all you really have to do is smash the ball as hard as you can every time it’s bowled at you. Once you get into a rhythm, you will feel like Freddy Flintoff, but at the start, you definitely won’t. Keep at it!

5. Plague Inc
The idea of this game might seem a bit on the crazy side, but it is a strategy game that cannot be put down. The idea of this game is to place a virus in a country and attempt to spread it across the whole globe by getting it in in the air, water or through human contact. The aim is to wipe out each country gradually, but it is not as easy as it sounds.

So, the next time you need to fill that 10 minute void in your day, turn to one of these great free apps.

Friday, 30 May 2014

5 Things To Know About Apple Buying Beats

It emerged this week that Apple have finally put an end to all the rumours,  capping off a month-long debate by purchasing Beats.

Apple made the purchase official yesterday with sources claiming the deal has cost around £1.79 billion, which means a very big payday indeed for Dr.Dre and Jimmy Lovine.

This blockbuster deal does mean a few changes though and five of the things you should know include:

1. iTunes and iTunes Radio will be staying
Many people were worried that Beats Music would be replacing the iTunes Store and/or iTunes Radio but for the time being, that’s not going to happen. Beats Music will continue to be a subscription service but iTunes will live as a free option.

2. Love them or Hate them, there’s going to be more of them
Beats headphones have been met with a mixed reaction over the years with people either loving them or calling them ‘overpriced’ or ‘overrated’, but one thing is for sure, they’re going to be in more Apple stores than ever before. Good news for some at least.

3. Dr.Dre and Jimmy Lovine will become Apple Employees
It is not entirely set in stone what these two will be doing at Apple, but we pretty sure it’s not going to be a ‘genius’ in one of their stores. But, according to the Wall Street Journal, Dr.Dre will be doing as much as possible to help Apple during his spare time, whatever that means.

4. This is Apple’s 27th purchase over the last 12 months
Apple has been busy added a string of companies to its cart over the last 12 months and Beats is up there with the biggest. In fact, this is the biggest buy Apple have ever made. A number of the other purchases are much smaller in stature and in price tag, but this does show us that Apple knows what it wants and knows it will pay what it can to make it happen.

5. Although it’s ‘Official’, it’s not a done deal
Although everything seems signed, sealed and delivered, the deal is far from done yet. There is a number of regulatory bodies that will have to pass the purchase before the deal can be finalised but the deal should be completed very soon.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Its Wristy Business

We’re not one to shy away from the wearable battle.  We’re back in the hunt to find the best wearable and Microsoft might be seeking their moment to strike.

After surrendering the smartphone race with just 5% market share in both the US and Western Europe, Microsoft could look to wearable’s as their future foothold in consumer tech.

Microsoft have produced an under par performance when it comes to their other markets, but will be likely to try and find a save from grace with a high-tech wearable device. With more people moving away from desktop PCs to smartphones and tablets, it could be a bold move.

There is no clear winner in the smart watch race and it is continuing to be more difficult to distinguish a front-runner. Samsung are standing tall with the Galaxy Gear, Nike are happy with the Gear Fit and Apple seem smug with their iWatch concepts, so Microsoft will definitely be interested in joining the battle.

In fact, Microsoft has already begun filing a patent that will allow a wearable device to display information and can be taken out of its strap and placed into a docking station. Microsoft’s tiling interface could fit perfectly on your wrist and rumours emerged that they will be looking to include a number of features like a clock app, maps and a notification centre.

After the recent $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia, this could prove to be hugely influential in the wearable they create. Nokia have already toyed with the idea of creating a wearable so with this exploration combined with Microsoft’s knowledge, we could expect a well-designed smart watch that comes in a number of vibrant colours by the end of 2015.

Although, it won’t be entirely plain sailing to the finish line as Motorola are looking to steal the show with their Moto 360, as are LG with their G watch and likewise Google with their own take on the wearables.

All we know is, being able to look at your wrist and telling the time could become a lot more technical. Hoorah!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Your Smartphone Could Get Even Smarter

At the moment, your phone knows where you are and the direction you’re facing, but it could soon know about context.

This means that not only will your smartphone know where you are, but it will also know what you’re doing, who you are with and what you are likely to do next. There’s a name for this too; contextual computing.

Contextual computing will mean that our smartphones and other mobile devices will become great personal assistants, even better than they are now.

This clever piece of technology will be able to anticipate our every need, so if we needed to find a hotel, for example, our next smartphones will already know what hotel to look for based on our previous picks. So, if we have been to 3 hotels in the past and each of them had a swimming pool, our mobile device will search for hotels that also have a swimming pool; that’s the context.

Kevin Curran, senior member at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) said, “Contextual computing is the ability for a device to be aware of its user’s surroundings as well as their views, interests and behaviours.”

Although contextual computing seems like something completely new to us, there are already a number of apps around that try to use different sensors in order to calculate some context but these are nowhere near as advanced. CallWho is an app that gathers information from your call history so when you get your phone out of your pocket, your daily phone conversations will appear top.

SickWeather is an app that monitors Facebook statuses about people’s illnesses and their GPS location so you know when you’re near someone with an illness who is likely to pass it on. Strange, but wise!

These apps give us an indication of what sort of technology we can expect to be in our next smartphones. We are told to forget our current devices though and focus more on the future devices as these will be the ones that will feature contextual computing.

So, we will have to wait just that little bit longer!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Could It Be The End For Tablets?

Just as we get an influx of tablets from all of the biggest names in technology including Google, Samsung and Apple, there is news surrounding a possible demise of the tablet.

The reason this news has surfaced is because Apple, the company that has dominated the tablet market for a while now, is now selling much fewer iPads, which could mean they may be making a six-inch phablet. This has therefore led to exaggerations that tablets are dead – far from the truth.

There have been rumours for months about Apple adding a bigger phone to its collection and these rumours won’t be going away any time soon. The phablet market is huge in Asia and Samsung have already begun preparations for releasing a seven-inch phablet there.

News of living in a post-iPad era are not quite accurate, but this could happen sooner than we thought. Although the iPad no longer dominates the market, it is still a high quality piece of technology, that is beautifully created and ahead of its time.

Apple has a knack at being adaptive and one example of this is the iPhone 5 turning into the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C in order to cater for consumer behaviour. So, don’t rule the iPad out, especially when there has been an increase of 25% in the number consumers that are 65 years old or older, which is a relatively new market.

It is not only the over 65’s that are into tablets, once people have a tablet, they are much less likely to trade it in unlike they would with their smartphone, which means people hold onto them much longer before replacing them.

But, the future could very well belong to the phablet – a smartphone with a big screen of between 5.6.9 inches. According to statistics, 25 million phablets were sold in China and South Korea alone, with sales doubling each quarter. In 2014, it is predicted that phablets will make up 25% of all smartphones sold, equating to 300 million, so claims that the future could belong to the phablet could be true.

Friday, 2 May 2014

What To Expect From Google IO 2014

Google has already had a very busy 2014 but the search engine giant has had an equally productive last 12 months, snapping up several companies.

Google has also unveiled a whole host of products over the last 12 months and has dropped subtle hints at tons more. So, it’s only fair that we look at some of the rumours for the Google IO Keynote that is scheduled to kick off on June 25.

With plenty of discussion revolving around intimidating-looking robots, smart watches and impressive home technology, it could be a very exciting occasion, although if you wanted to go to see the technology first-hand you have missed out on the registration date.  Fear not though, you can watch the Google IO through a live stream on both the 25th and 26th June.

So, what can we get our hopes up for?

It could be time for a Google watch. We’re unsure of whether we will see an official Google watch but we could get a sniff at smartwatches powered by Google’s Android Wear platform – close enough. These watches could come in the form of the LG G Watch and the Motorola Moto 360.

For people attending the event, they could get a glimpse at the latest Google Glass edition after plenty of beta versions sampled at a wild £892, that could boast some more apps and a new demo of the Android KitKat software. For us guys that aren’t fortunate enough to go down for the day, we may just have to read about how good it is.

We spoke about Apple CarPlay a few weeks ago and given that Google are still yet to unveil their infotainment system yet, the Keynote seems like the perfect opportunity to do so. With Google Maps continually updated and improving, this could be an impressive piece of software that could make driving an even better experience.

We could also get a look at the Project Era ‘LEGO’ type phone, a modular phone that consists of upgradable parts in the hope of helping to save its users money and reduce cell phone waste.  The most exciting about this is that it could to pave the way for customisable tablets, smartwatches and even laptops in the future, which could be incredible.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Apps You'll Install And Never Use Again!

It’s no secret that we love apps! We live and breathe them. But we’re not alone; you love them too.

If you have a tablet or smartphone you will have a whole host of apps that you rely on for even the most basic of functions, including an alarm for the morning or for your favourite social media platform so you can keep up with what your friends are eating for breakfast.

We also all enjoy downloading apps, using them once and never using them again and we will feature a few of those apps on the market that fit that bill.

Clear is a clever idea on the face of it – a list-making app – but once you create your shopping list or your times for dinner, the likeliness you will click back onto the app to use it again is fairly slim. A biro and a post-it note is much more convenient.

Word Lens is another app that has a clever and original idea, but will only get used the once. The app allows you to translate words on a sign from one language to another, impressive! But, unless you’re Christopher Columbus and can afford to travel more than once a year, then this app will be forgotten about by the time you book you’re next flight.

TV Show apps, like the X Factor where you decide whether you would put the contest through to the next round or not are high in popularity when the show is on, but, as soon as the program ends until next year, the app will just rot in the background.

People are mainly attracted to apps by their usefulness however, apps like the X Factor one are not overly useful to the user.  Clear, as previously mentioned, could be handy if you remembered to use it regularly, but having to find your app every time you want to add a new grocery to your shopping list can get a bit tedious. If you have to pay for the app and use it just the once, it will be a waste of money too.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to wireframe App concepts like a Pro

We're often asked how we go about taking an initial idea and ultimately making this into an App. In most cases the brief is more around a concept and the required functionality. We believe that no matter how complex an App's functionality is, the App should be simple to use. In the early stages of App development it's not often possible to write a detailed specification together for clients. This is especially true if the App hasn't been fully defined! What we've found is that a good first stage is to think about the different screens an App will contain. We then put together some simple wireframes of all these screens and how these link together. These wireframes are a great way to get across an App's functionality without the actual look and feel becoming a distraction.

Over the past five years we've tried various tools to wireframe App screens and workflow with varying success. This has ranged from off the shelf online tools to designing Photoshop frameworks ourselves. What we've found in this time is that software was either too simple (and not flexible enough) or too complex (took too long to use). We'd just about given up looking until we came across some software called WireframeSketcher. This software fits the bill perfectly for putting together App screens (and website pages too) very very quickly. This can then get across to a client the functionality of an App without days of specialist graphic design work that would often then have to be changed or reworked. Using this software you can sketch out the framework and all screens of an averagely sized App in an hour or so which is fantastic.

So how does it work? When you first create a project you say which type of project it is. This can be mobile or web and there are even some examples to get you started. If you're creating a mobile wireframe then you can choose iOS, Android, or Windows Phone so nobody should feel left out. Whichever you choose you have a full set of standard drag and drop components you can use (e.g. containers, image placeholders, maps etc). You also have a full set of platform specific components so an Android App will have the correct default keyboard, dialog boxes, buttons etc. Building your screens is just a case of using these components and resizing them accordingly and adjusting text etc to suit your App. One thing we've found to be the biggest challenge with putting wireframes together with other software is tabbars. Not with WireframeSketcher! You can very quickly create and adjust a tabbar including text and custom icons with just a few clicks. Once you've got one of your screens built then you'll most likely want to build the other screens of your App based on this (so you don't have to redraw tabbars etc). You can clone existing screens to create a new one and then just modify that to suit. This is especially useful if you're showing screens with slight difference such as one with a dialog box and one without. Once you've got all your screens built then WireframSketcher allows you to export these out as PDF or images. We tend to print these out at A4 to discuss with clients and also use the images within documents to put together workflow and App Map documents.

If you're looking for a wireframing tool yourself then I'd highly recommend you take a look at WireframeSketcher. They even have a free trial too so you've nothing to lose.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Up, Up And Away

Amazon and Google are not only trying to pave the way for our future technology when it comes to mobile devices, they are also introducing other technologies of the future.

Drones, which once used to be a figment of our imagination and science fiction, are now getting closer to reality in the public domain. The military have used drones for some time now for high-tech missions and have used them to great success.

There has been a growing debate about robot technology and whether we should feel a bit uneasy at human-less vehicles but they will soon be here, and we’re sure they’ll be here to stay.

Amazon and Google have released news that they have bought out drone makers Titan Aerospace, which means they are looking to invest a lot of time and money into making high-tech drones for the public.

Amazon already has big plans for the drones as they plan to make them fully automated, GPS equipped and unmanned so they can deliver small packages from the warehouse to the home within 30 minutes. This incredible move would mean the ‘human’ would not be needed – clever if it works.

Google also has plans for the drones, only their reasoning is a bit more profound. They have explained that the drones could help bring internet access to millions of people, as well as being able to help solve other problems. Google say these will include things like disaster relief and damage to the environment (e.g.  deforestation), which could be revolutionary.

Unmanned aircraft is an incredible piece of technology and the likes of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky all use them to some degree to help with the filming of their programs and commercials. So, it is clear to see the benefits and versatility of this kind of technology.

Companies, like Google and Amazon, are always looking at new directions for technology and we think, especially in Google’s case, we should be welcoming this kind of technology with open-arms.

But, what do you think? Should we be welcoming unmanned technology or should we reconsider relying on them?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Live An 'Appy Life

Over recent weeks we have taken a look at what’s coming in the future of the tech world but this week we’re going to look at what we can use right now; apps.

Apps have revolutionised the way we go about our day-to-day lives and those mentioned below are no different. The term ‘I’ve got an app for that’ was coined by iPhone users but now there are quality apps for all sorts of mobile devices, so we can all enjoy the ‘appy life.

In fact, we will start with an app for the Windows Phone 8. The app is called Divvy Up and makes light work of deciding who owes what to the waiter. The mathematician at the end of the table no longer has to start drawing notes on a napkin and can simply tap some digits into this clever bill-splitting app and everyone can see how much they owe, to the penny.

Any.Do is the next app, and this one is useful for those trying to plan their life. This smart little app can sync with the cloud, has text prediction and comes with sharing capabilities making it top of the tree when it comes to organisation. The best thing? It’s available on iOS and Android.

If you’re not quite as organised as you’d like to be, then Hassle Me could be well worth a look. This app does exactly what it says on the tin; it hassles you until you get the task done. With handy notifications, it can send you a pop up telling you that you have an outstanding to-do on your list. Clever and annoying; it’s brilliant!

If it’s quick conversation you’re after and you own a Blackberry then BBM is a must. This app has been around for years and the newest version still consists of the older concepts that made it great; like the PIN system when you want to add someone and ease of use for when you need to talk to someone quickly. It’s packed with loads of other features this time and has a very noticeable BB10 influence too, so it looks and feels very sharp.

Regardless of your phone, you can have an app for that!

Friday, 4 April 2014

What Can We Expect From iOS 8

Apple’s iOS 7 software has only recently been launched but like every good technology geek, we’re itching to know what’s in store for iOS 8. 

Well, we have some good news, some rumours have surfaced about what might be included in Apple’s newest software.  Enough information has been dropped over recent weeks for us to get some sort of idea what we can expect. 

There is no definitive release date for iOS 8 but like most new versions of the iOS software, Apple could announce the launch at their Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The date for this is June 2, so we will have to see if Apple are going to break a trend here or not. 

Although it is likely that the release date will be announced here, we will have to wait a little longer to have it on our iPhones and tablets. 

One of the features Apple look to be working on is health and fitness capabilities, following in the footsteps of their rivals, Samsung.  A number of sources suggest we could see a ‘Healthbook’, similar to Passbook, but instead it will monitor steps walked, distanced travelled, calories burned and overall weight loss. 

Another thing Apple will no doubt look at is their maps. Apple Maps have had some criticism for a while now and Apple could pick the game up this time around to keep up at least with Google’s offering. 

According to more rumour-led sources, we can expect to see directions for trains, subways and buses to be incorporated into the Maps. 

Siri could be something else Apple turn their attention to. An iOS update is not the same without an update to Siri and the software could be able to interface with third party apps once iOS 8 is released. This means some of our apps could be compatible with Siri without Apple’s help. 

We could also see something similar to what can be found on OS X; Preview and TextEdit. On Mac versions, these two help to edit PDF’s, images and text files, whereas we expect these to help you open documents that you have stored in your iCloud. 

Some possible new features in store that could make the iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 a very interesting prospect indeed. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

Apple & Microsoft collide - And it's Brilliant!!!

We’re often found blogging about all sorts here at Appware, from the latest in technology through to the continual battles involving the big names in the gadget world, and this news covers both bases.

Microsoft have taken a step that many gadget-lovers have been waiting for, arguably since the first release of Apple’s iPad in 2010 – the introduction of their Office suite onto the iPad. This is pretty big news and a move that could benefit both parties.

This means that all of those hard-working professionals that tend to opt for a tablet that is a bit better for work productivity, can now enjoy an Apple product for work and play. But, why has the move taken this long to happen we wonder?

Well, after the release of the iPad, the iPad 2 followed with what felt like indecent haste and soon after that the generation of tablets just exploded. This also bought along with it the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) revolution within businesses.

So, Microsoft being Microsoft tried to compete with Apple every stretch of the way to challenge their iOS software and they came up with the Surface.  Although the Surface has been fairly successful and is extremely good at being a work-savvy tablet, it hasn’t been anywhere near as popular as Microsoft had expected it to be – hence this new move.

Another reason behind the move is PC sales are nose diving, especially with such high performing tablets available on the market today. Microsoft even created Windows 8 in order to help revive PC’s, but unfortunately that hasn’t helped the situation either.

With these things in mind, the move by Microsoft may not have come at a bad time at all, in fact, it could be perfect timing. Microsoft showed that it didn’t really have the skill to create the tablets to compete with Apple, but like the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” and that is exactly what they have done.

Office for iPad seems like a clever move and a move that will ensure Microsoft still have a leg in the race for the best tablet on the market. But, what do you think? Good move for Microsoft or not?

Friday, 21 March 2014

More Wearable Tech Than You Can Shake A Stick At

We’re fans of all types of technology, as we’re sure many of you know, so when we saw this array of technology, we couldn’t help ourselves but write about it.

We have featured wearable technology on more than one occasion but it’s always good to check in with the latest crazy ideas companies come up with. vrAse is one of these crazy ideas and is a 3D experience on your head. Crazy as it may sound, you simply slide your smartphone into the front of this ‘goggle-like’ headset and watch your favourite movies, music videos and games all hands-free. You might not look like the coolest kid on the block but you’ll feel like it.

Another interesting wearable is one for businesses and professionals who tend to scan a lot of barcodes - the BarcodEye. Very similar in appearance to Google glass, this clever piece of kit is looking to replace the standard scanners found in many supermarkets with a pair of specs that do the work for you. Although, apparently this is still in the early stages of development so we could be waiting a while until we see the finished product.

You’ve heard of Dre Beats headphones and other extremely expensive headgear but The Intelligent Headset looks to live up to its name by claiming to be the first headset with 3D audio. We’re not entirely sure how this will work but apparently we will be able to hear sounds differently dependent on how we are positioned. It sounds strange but thanks to the headset’s location-aware technology it picks up on sounds around you and gets louder when it hears louder noises. What’s more, you can even use the headphones for movement during a game too, so when you move left so does the character or object, and vice versa.

With the first day of spring just a couple of days ago, we thought it’d be quite apt to feature the Sunfriend. We probably shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves by saying that it could be a sunny year here in the UK, but we hope it is so we can wear this piece of Intel that lets us know how much sun we’re getting and when we have had enough. Toasty!

A lot of stuff to get excited about this year and not just in the smartphone or tablet world either. Wearables are on the up and we’re all for it!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Going Beyond 3D

Technology has come a long way in a short space of time and we can never be sure what lies around the corner. This last 12 months alone we have seen the rise of the 4K TV, the smart watch and a whole host of impressive smartphones and tablets.

Technology just never seizes to amaze us and The Immersive Technology Alliance aim to do it again. They have plans to rebrand the former Stereoscopic 3D Gaming Alliance, which will form a new virtual reality technology.

The Immersive Technology Alliance (ITA) is a new supergroup created by the biggest and smallest companies around the globe that specialise in gaming, who have all come together to improve ‘augmented reality, virtual reality, stereoscopic 3D and everything in between’, according to their official website.

This group is made up of companies likes Electronic Arts (EA) who are known for their influence in the gaming industry, so it is a real forward-thinking group that want to continue improving the industry and the technology on offer.

ITA plan to meet at the annual Game Developers Conference next week (March 18th) in San Francisco. Although it seems like it is all about gaming, it’s not. In fact, the ITA is a not-for-profit and it also aims to be a ‘non-proprietary representative’ for the whole VR industry, which also includes a number of film makers as well as game studios.

With such a vast blend of big names and interesting skills, we could be looking forward to an interesting future for gaming. Gaming, similar to other forms of technology, has grown tremendously over the last couple of years, with the likes of Sony and Microsoft creating high-spec consoles. But, the ITA aim to go beyond playing games with a hand-held controller, they want gamers to experience their gaming as if it were real life.

Exciting stuff, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, the Game Developers Conference next Tuesday is only the launch of this supergroup, so we will have to wait some time before we can enjoy playing real-life simulator-type technology in our living rooms. Still, the future of gaming looks bright!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Apple Vs Google.....Again

Apple and Google are two giants in the technology world, and they’re at it again, only this time it is to be crowned king of cars.

Apple has unveiled plans to launch its rebranded in-car iOS functionality Apple CarPlay, an operating technology you can use in your car to rival the equivalent version from Google, the Android Projected Mode.

The two techno-giants will battle it out once again to see who can turn their hand away from smartphones and tablets, to in-car operating systems.

One of the main battles, that Google may have already won, is the field of mapping and navigation which is not going to prove hugely important in this fight.  Google maps, as we all know, is miles ahead of Apple maps with its broader track record in automotive tech, including driverless cars. That’s not all, with the promise of Google Glass also having an effect on in-car technology, Google is putting forward a very strong case for people to favour it over Apple’s CarPlay.

Although Google may boast this advantage, the two largely do the same thing, namely sync a mobile device with the car’s integrated infotainment system. This will enable drivers to control features, functionality and the on-screen interface.

One function that will be very appealing to phone users and car owners is the ability to upgrade the in-car technology every time you replace your handset, which is a much cheaper option than having to replace the car. Another great aspect is that all of your necessary data, i.e. contacts and music, will be transferred across so drivers will not need to go through a draining process of adding them manually.

These all-singing, all-dancing in-car systems will have to overcome some issues though, namely which automotive manufactures they will team-up with and the obvious concern of driver distraction. Another difficulty is the ups and downs of mobile internet – if a smartphone drops its signal whilst you are walking the streets of London, it is not such a huge problem, but if you’re driving from Brighton to Leeds and the signal drops, you could have a problem.

Let’s not let these technicalities overshadow the possibilities that these two impressive technologies bring and just lets appreciate that the driving experience just got a whole lot smarter.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Did You 'Ear' Apple's Plans

First, Apple bought us the iPod, then the iPad, and more recently plans have been shared about the iWatch, but Apple have also outlined plans for an EarPod.

Just when you think you’ve seen or heard it all, the bigwigs at Apple dropped another technological bomb. The EarPod is a clever little fitness tracker system fitted inside a pair of sports earphones so you can track a number of statistics during a workout.

Apple confirmed the patent application was granted last week and has discussed how skin-sensing technology will be able to monitor heart rate, perspiration levels and even body temperature. This isn’t all though, the device could feature a volume control that is controlled by a tilt of the head. We’re also led to believe there will be accelerometers that will assist with the activity tracking, which will send data to an iOS device – cool huh?

The filing for this idea was actually submitted in 2008, so it has taken some time to get to this point, but we are still unsure of when we will actually be seeing the product available to buy. In fact, we can’t even be sure Apple has started producing it yet.

The iWatch is expected to be released sometime this year and there is a lot of speculation surrounding this product and whether it will feature some kind of fitness-focussed tracking. It could well be that this is not the case anymore given the news about the EarPod and the focus on that being a sole-fitness device but with the iWatch likely to be released first, this is not off the cards.

Either way, 2014 could be a brilliant year for Apple to jump on board the wellness trackers bandwagon, given the popularity of them and how useful they are already proving to be for people who own them already.

This could be a very busy year for Apple, and a year that could bring a great deal of excitement to budding technology enthusiasts … and gym fanatics too.

Friday, 21 February 2014

What To Expect From MWC 2014

It’s that time of the year again (well, it will be come Monday) and the Mobile World Congress is back.

MWC 2014 kicks off on the 4th February in Barcelona and is hosted by none other than Mark Zuckerberg, where we get a chance to see what smartphones are coming in the year ahead.

This annual mobile technology event, where virtually every mobile phone company will share their latest models for the following spring/summer contract renewal market, is likely to be jam packed with some interesting technology.

So what can we expect? Well, Samsung have been dropping subtle hints for some time now that they could be giving us a glimpse of the Galaxy S5. They have sent out invites in advance of the event covered with little number 5’s, we’re no rocket scientists but it’s pretty nailed on we’ll get to see that.

What we’re unsure of though is whether they will show us one variant or two.  Rumours are saying we could see one encompassing a metal frame with a high-resolution screen and the other a polycarbonate version that follows the traditional 1080p display.  Other rumours are dropping hints at Samsung bringing the Galaxy Gear sequel to the event too – exciting stuff!

Nokia are another company we are interested in seeing. After partnering with Microsoft and having a couple of successful months since releasing the Lumia 1520 and Lumia 2520 tablet, we could end up seeing a few more tricks from the sleeves of Nokia. One smartphone heavily tipped to feature is the Nokia Normandy and this is the big news to come out of Nokia according all of the people in the know.

The third company we are hoping to see is HTC. HTC used to be a banker during the MWC but it turned its back on the event in 2013, so we hope they will change this in 2014. We’re not entirely sure what they will unveil at the event but we just hope they turn up and bring some interesting gadgets.

So, some interesting technology is expected to come out of the Mobile World Congress 2014 and we can’t wait.

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Rise And Fall Of Flappy Bird

It’s simple, it’s frantically annoying to play and everyone has been talking about it; it’s Flappy Bird.

The most successful game of 2014 so far came, it conquered and now it’s gone again, because its creator couldn’t handle the popularity.

The short-lived success of Flappy Bird was clearly underestimated by Vietnamese creator, Dong Nguyen, after making him around £30,000 a day through advertising. During its short life span it managed to collect over 50 million downloads which all became a bit too much for Dong, who said via his Twitter page: “I can’t take it anymore!”

This deceptively difficult app that involved trying to manoeuvre a small pixelated bird through pipes using a retro style, one-button tap control exploded out of app stores similar to Temple Run, Candy Crush Saga and Doodle Jump thanks to social media spreading it around like wildfire. In fact, #FlappyBird was trending on Twitter with people sharing images of how far they managed to travel and there were hundreds of YouTuber’s venting their anger at how difficult it was to get past a certain level.

Although this app was taken down by its creator there have been some rumours about another version hitting the app stores, which we’re sure is music to many Flappy Bird-addicts’ ears. The original version is no longer available to download from any app store but if you really want to get your hands on a copy, there are hundreds of listings on eBay that are selling for thousands of pounds because they are fitted with the game.

With apps like this one being such a short-lived success and with similar success from Candy Crush, Temple Run and so on, it seems that apps are no longer built for longevity but purely for a quick craze. What does this mean for future gaming apps?

Who knows which app will explode onto our smartphones and tablets next but hopefully its life will last longer than a quick flap of Flappy Bird’s wings. Our bet is the next phenomenon will be something simple, easy to use and highly addictive, what about you?

Friday, 7 February 2014

Facebook turns 10!

The social network super-giant turned ten years old on Tuesday and celebrated the occasion by celebrating its user members.

Facebook introduce the Look Back feature which allows users to share a video, with friends, of their life during their time on the social network. This video compiles about 15 of your most popular images through the years as well as the statuses that gathered the most likes and important life events, to create a montage from the date you joined.

The small team behind this Look Back feature spent months crafting the videos for the ten year anniversary. This cool feature is just one of many things Facebook has bought its members over its ten year period and we will have a look at some of those features.

Here’s a list of some of the things Facebook has accomplished during its ten-year rein:

Started as a semi-private network for Harvard students only and has grown into a publicly-traded company.
It changed names from ‘The Facebook’ to just Facebook.
Allowed it’s users to share photos with friends and family.
Introduced ‘The Wall’ – a place for people to post updates and images to their own profile.
Added the ‘Like’ button which meant people could put a ‘thumbs-up’ symbol to things they enjoyed.
Made poking someone seem acceptable by adding a ‘poke’ function.
Bought Instagram.
Added the Look Back feature to celebrate its tenth birthday.

There is no denying Facebook has had an impressive life story and it seems quite apt that they decided to give its members a gift to celebrate the occasion. Facebook may have been going strong for ten years but it hasn’t been without its controversy.  Questions about just who exactly invented the social network have been expressed publicly and was even turned into a film.

A lot can happen over ten years and Facebook has arguably become the most popular social network available on the internet with over 800 million users signed up to its ranks. Although it is celebrating its tenth year anniversary this week, we can’t help but think it will be around for a lot longer.

Happy Birthday Facebook!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Driving The Future of Technology

Driverless cars have been at the forefront of the media recently and could well be one of the top revolutionary technologies to be launched on the world in a very long time.

We love apps, gadgets and computers, but driverless cars is exciting stuff and something we should all be interested in.  They could be hitting our roads very soon and their key benefits include:

  • Massively reduced emissions
  • An increase in productivity and could boost the economy
  • End the trouble of congestion in a world that seems to get busier
  • Help the disabled and elderly to become more mobile
  • It could save around a million lives every single year

The car changed the world some 100 years ago with its introduction and the driverless car could do the same again. These benefits could solve a lot of the problems we face on our roads over the coming years, which is an extremely exciting prospect. People who enjoy the experience of driving may disagree with those that just see a car as a way to get from A to B though.

Although this sounds extremely simple, it is a lot more complex than this, which is partly why the idea hasn’t been produced at any point prior to this. There are problems facing the driverless car which will take some ironing out, including the sudden dart out of an animal in front of the moving vehicle for example. Most human drivers would react in such a way as too try and swerve around the animal, whereas the driverless car may not as it's interest is in keeping the driver safe. Grim as it may sound, technology is never perfect and people will need to understand that.

Anyway, this is a small speed bump and should not stand in the way of an idea that is absolutely incredible and one that could completely revolutionise the car market and the environment. This invention could very well be up there with the transformative technology for the next 50 years. All we know is that this is something we will be keeping a close eye on for the next few years.

We would love to know your thoughts and opinions though. Do you think driverless technology is a good idea or not? Leave your comments below.

Friday, 24 January 2014

30 Years of The Mac

This week we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original Apple Macintosh - the piece of kit that kick-started the revolution of the PC.

January 24th 1984 is where it all began for the Mac with its 9-inch display, 128k of RAM and 8MHz 68k all-in-one processor. Who knew that this would open the floodgates of technology, three decades of them.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced this Mac to the world which also boasted two revolutionary applications in the MacPaint and the MacWrite word processor.

A year later the Mac came fitted with two exclusive apps courtesy of Microsoft – Word and Excel. A couple of other milestones were achieved in the next couple of years too, with the Mac getting a major upgrade in 1986, called the Macintosh Plus. This model then had to make way for the Macintosh llx, which possessed a CD-ROM drive – one of the first at the time.

In 1989 though, the first Mac laptop was born which was another forward step for Apple. The following year Apple introduced its fastest computer to date, which resulted in the company claiming 20% of the computing market. For the next few years the Mac was to become faster, stronger and even more popular, selling its 10 millionth unit in 1993.

At this time, Microsoft was also climbing in popularity and power with the company claiming Windows was being used by over 25 million people. After the introduction of the PowerPC chips in 1994 and Apple licencing its OS in 1995, Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1996 after having left over 10 years earlier. He brought with him, his NeXT step operating system which helped Apple to become the company we know it as today.

1998 made way for a new era of Mac; the iMac. Apple had persuaded Bill Gates to buy $150 million worth of shares in the company the previous year, which made more people take the company seriously. The iMac had ditched the floppy disk drive and opted for easy internet hook up and USB which really took the world by storm.

If we take a leap to 2004 when the year was dominated by the iPod, the Mac had a complete revamp with floating LCD screens and hemispherical base which is how we recognise it today. The UK’s first Apple store opened in London. This was arguably the turning point in the future of Apple Mac’s, bringing a series of introductions including the MacBook, the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro and the Mac Mini to name but a few.

The Mac Pro was released just last year and 2014 looks set to bring a number of revolutionary pieces of equipment and gadgets, including the iWatch, better Apple TV, the iPhone 6, the iPad Air 2, a cheaper iMac and a brand new MacBook Pro.

An impressive journey and one that we salute; 30 years and counting for the Mac.