Amazon to release 3D smartphone later this year

Amazon_smartphone1-e1341564632977Amazon is preparing to launch its first smartphone later this year according to a report by the Wall Street Journal published yesterday.

The report reveals the company’s intentions to take on Apple and Samsung with a smartphone that’s capable of displaying 3D imagery without the need for special glasses. The device will apparently achieve this by employing retina-tracking technology embedded in four front facing cameras that will make some images appear as holograms. 

Rumours of Amazon developing a smartphone to accompany its Kindle Fire range of tablets have been doing the rounds for a while but this report suggests that a release is imminent. The company is expected to announce the device as early as June with shipping to start in September, supposedly to coincide with the anticipated launch of a new iPhone.

The news comes just days after Amazon launched its Fire TV streaming box and games console.

Over to you…

Do you think Amazon will be able to take on Apple and Samsung with a 3D capable smartphone?

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The Ubuntu Edge: taking crowdfunding projects to new levels

In recent years, crowdfunding projects have brought us many cool gadgets that may not otherwise have made it to production. Until recently, the most successful of these had been the Pebble Watch, which secured $10.3 million in funding through its Kickstarter campaign and encouraged further interest and innovation in the smart watch market.

Ubuntu EdgeHowever, Pebble’s record has just been broken by an ambitious and exciting campaign on crowdfunding platform, Indigogo, from UK based company, Canonical, with their Ubuntu Edge smartphone.

The Ubuntu Edge is marketed as having “mobility of a smartphone and the power of a desktop on a single device”. It may look like any other smartphone on the market, but within it’s compact (4.5 inch screen) and sleek, “textured amorphous metal” casing is a device powerful enough to act as a PC, with fully integrated desktop OS, when connected to a monitor. That’s 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Sound too good to be true? Well, it may well be, as in order for the Ubuntu Edge to become a reality they need to raise a massive $32, 000, 000. And despite the fact that, with $11, 743, 541 (at time of writing), they have broken the record for the largest sum raised through a crowdfunding campaign, they are still a very long way off target, especially considering they only 45 hours left.

As it’s a fixed funding campaign, if they don’t reach their target, they will have to refund all investments, which is now looking increasingly likely. However, even if the Ubuntu Edge doesn’t make it into production, it has thrown down the gauntlet for similar developments, and it may only be a matter of time before we have smartphones which can double up as a desktop.

Over to you… 

If you had the funds, would you back the Ubuntu Edge smartphone?

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What’s the best current Android phone?

Google’s Android platform has provided the ailing, old school phone manufacturers with an operating system that is a true rival to the iPhone. Android really is the closest alternative to the iPhone – it’s easy to use, reliable, it gives you most of the benefits of an iPhone-style touchscreen phone but with the big bonus of a range of cracking looking devices with bigger displays or higher resolution cameras.

So what are the best options? Here’s a handful of suggestions:

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and X10 Mini Pro

The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, and it’s baby sister, the lovely dinky new Xperia Mini X10 Pro, offer two of the best options in the market.

With a great 8 megapixel camera, huge 4 inch touchscreen, and a slick, if a touch large, design, the Xperia X10 is one of the most popular Android phones to date.  With Twitter and Facebook built-in, swift access to internet and email via its very fast 3G connection and Timescape which merges all your contacts, networking, emails in one easy application it’s great for those you just have to be ‘connected’ at all times. The 1GB of memory and the battery life are impressive on paper and feedback I’ve heard suggest that it at least outlasts the iPhone.

The Xperia X10 Mini Pro is the smallest Android phone around.  It has many of the features of the X10 – Wi-Fi, GPS, headphone jack, MP3 player, a slide out QWERTY keyboard, FM Radio and a slightly reduced but still great 5 megapixel camera in a very compact and cute design.  Sony Ericsson are apparently targeting the female market but I’ve played with one and think it would pass the pub test for most blokes!

HTC Desire

The HTC Desire is arguably the main rival to the X10 or the Desire. The camera resolution is lower at 5 megapixels, but it does have auto focus and face detection so shouldn’t be too far off the results you get from the X10. The styling is undramatic but the size is a bit more practical.

The problematic processor of the HTC Hero has been resolved in the Desire, which makes using the Desire a lot less frustrating. The touchscreen is very responsive – almost too responsive at times.

Google Nexus One

HTC built the hardware for the Nexus One and it’s very similar to the Desire, and the basic spec is the same but it uses touch sensitive buttons instead of physical buttons. It also lacks HTC’s Sense user interface. On the plus side it includes Google’s Car Sat Nav App and a suite of smaller products bundled into a Car Home App designed for use whilst driving.

It includes many of the features of the usual Android phones – syncing of contacts, Wi-Fi, bluetooth, a 3.7 AMOLED touchscreen. It also has Active Noise Cancellation, so making calls with the Nexus One is very clear, and also makes voice activation a lot less frustrating.

Dell Streak

Ok, so the Dell Streak is starting to move into another genre, but maybe it represents where the phones and manufacturers of the above are heading. As Dell describe it, the Streak is a hybrid device that lives in the space between a smartphone and other larger tablets or netbooks that you might be using right now.

So how does it rate compared to the other phones we’ve featured. Well first off its 5 inch screen is certainly larger than anything we’ve seen. It runs Android 1.6 and will be upgrading to 2.2 shortly. It has a 5 megapixel camera and when the planned 2.2 update happens, it will also run flash videos, which its closest competitor the iPad may never do. Otherwise the spec is fairly close to the other Androids, for example, Wi-Fi, 512mb internal memory with micro SD card, touchscreen – only the radio is missing and the talk and standby time is to be confirmed.

Summary

So it’s horses for courses.  The Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 stands out mainly for it’s high resolution camera whilst the Xperia Mini X10 Pro is the smallest Android phone around and has a QWERTY keyboard for the text and email addicts amongst you.  The Dell Streak is more of an iPad rival and it has a very large screen for a mobile phone.  The HTC Desire is a good iPhone imitator whilst the Nexus One has a little bit extra for drivers who fancy a bit of Sat Nav in their life – some of the Sat Nav iPhone Apps cost £50 or more!

What would I buy?  An iPhone 4 of course! 😉

Have you got an Android phone or do you think there’s a better alternative out there? Let me know by adding a comment below!

What’s new in iPhone 4?

As widely predicted the Apple iPhone 4 has today been announced by Steve Jobs. It’s a totally new iPhone featuring some really big improvements along with some very cool new features. I’ll cut straight to the important stuff and tell you about the big new features that have been revealed so far.

iPhone 4 in black and whiteSexy, slim, glass and steel design

The iPhone 4 has a brand new design. It’s the slimmest smartphone in the world at only 9.3mm thick.  I haven’t checked this so don’t castrate me if Apple’s statement is a little fanciful – they are famed for making up their own definition for what constitutes a ‘smartphone’ in the past.  iPhone - Glass and stainless steel

Gone is the scratchy, slightly cheap and crack prone plastic.  The iPhone 4 has a super slick looking glass front and back with stainless steel around the edges.  They’ve even created a new grade of stainless steel just for this product!

Rather cleverly the stainless steel edges are used as the antenna.  Genius design.  The ‘aluminosilcate’ glass is “chemically strengthened to be 30 times harder than plastic”.

The design looks amazing in the photos and I can’t wait to get one in my grubby mitts. I may pitch my tent on Regent St tomorrow (for full disclosure I must admit to not owning a tent…).

New ‘Retina’ super high resolution displayiPhone 4 - Retina display

The iPhone 4 will have the highest resolution display ever built into a mobile phone.  Their new ‘Retina display’ shows 326 pixels per inch, which is so dense that the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels (when held at a normal distance).  The display has four times the resolution of an iPhone 3GS. It features IPS technology which according to Jobs is “quite a bit better than OLED”.

The display is likely to set a new benchmark in mobile and I think it will come into it’s own when you see it in the flesh. The only downside is the display is no larger than the iPhone 3GS at 3.5 inches.  I would have preferred to see it grow a little but I guess the trade off would be a bigger product that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

New 5 megapixel camera and HD video capture

The iPhone 4’s camera is a big improvement.  Not only is it a 5 megapixel camera but it records HD video too. The HD video captures 720p at 30 frames per second – HD TV quality video recording in your mobile phone.  Sweet.

The camera has finally got an LED flash and the new camera technology is claimed to work extremely well in low light thanks to it’s ‘backside illuminated sensor’. I hope this lives up to the hype. There’s also a front facing camera for self-portraits and the new FaceTime video calling feature.

FaceTime video calling

iPhone 4 will feature the brand new FaceTime video calling feature.  You can video call other iPhone 4 users (over WiFi only for now) using the aforementioned front facing camera, switch to share something you can see with the main camera and flip between landscape and portrait mode mid-call.  I’m not sure how this will work for the person on the other end… will they need to change to modes at the same time?iPhone 4 - Facetime video calling

Now, this is the only feature I’m not sold on.  Video calling has been available for years via 3G – Vodafone’s 3G launch in 2004 seemed to be built around it – but it hasn’t ever caught on.  I also have video conferencing available via Skype on my laptop but I’m quite happy to stick with IM and occasional voice calls – I’m not bothered about using the power of the interweb to watch my mates pick their nose 200 miles away.

Maybe it would be different if I had kids? Perhaps Apple will do it properly and bring video calling to the mainstream? However given that both parties need an iPhone 4 and WiFi I suspect this will only be used by a small minority on rare occasions, at least for a couple of years as the base grows.

iMovie for iPhone

To make the most of the new HD video capture Apple are releasing an iMovie App (for the princely sum of $5) that will let you create movies with your video clips, photos and music which you can then email directly to your friends.iPhone 4 - iMovie App

It looks very cool and easy to use.  Ideal for shooting, editing and sharing mini-movies on the fly.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to upload straight to You Tube and Facebook too – perfect for embarrassing your friends before you leave the club or showing off your snowboard skills whilst still on the slope.

The $5 charge – which I assume will end up at £3.99 in the UK – is a little bit of a surprise.  Maybe this is the start of Apple charging for more of it’s coolest new features?

Gyro and Accelerometer

It took me three attempts to spell it correctly but the iPhone will be the first phone to have a built-in three-axis gyroscope as well as the accelerometer of old.  This enables lots of technical sounding cool things such as capturing angular velocity (presumably the precise speed and angle you’ve dropped your beloved iPhone 4?)  but in real speak it means you will be able to have an even more awesome gaming experience because it will be loads more accurate to your every move.

Multi-tasking and more talk timeiPhone 4 - A4 Processor

iPhone 4 will feature the Apple A4 processor which will support multi-tasking.  It will also help the iPhone 4 to give you 40% more talk-time than the 3GS – fixing the biggest issue I have with my iPhone.

Better call quality

The iPhone 4 has a second microphone which works with the main mic to suppress background noise and improve your call quality.

Verdict

This is the biggest iPhone upgrade yet.  It’s a totally new phone with a stunning new look, some great new features and improvements that tackle it’s previous weaknesses around the camera and battery life.

I can’t bloody wait until it launches!  :)  Now how much will it cost to cancel my O2 contract early….

Let everyone know your first impressions by leaving a comment below!

iPhone swine flu App’s a sign of the paranoia to come?

swineflutrackerWho’d have thought swine flu would be a driver of innovative iPhone App mash-ups?  There’s nothing quite like paranoia (and the possibility of making a few quid) to drive rapid innovation.

A number of swine flu apps have launched on the iPhone App store in recent weeks that allow you to keep track of the breaking pig flu news, and even to track the location of the latest swine sickness cases on a map.  Handy for some I guess, but do services like this pour petrol on to the raging bonfire of paranoia?

At what point is too much information (or the ropey coding of a bedroom developer looking to make a quick buck) more dangerous than the original threat?  For example, imagine if some hokey code in a swine flu App incorrectly suggested a sudden, massive outbreak of swine flu cases in central London which triggered a mass panic where real injuries were caused by people scrambling to escape the area of their Google Map that’s covered in the green pins of ‘doom’.  The way the media operates today – report/retweet first, check facts later – could mean that other news sources initially report the alleged new outbreaks as fact rather than risk missing a new story, thus seemingly corroborating the original App and spinning the paranoia forward.

This example is a little extreme, but it serves to illustrate how the innovative technology that products like the iPhone enable can exponentially increase the immediacy of an individual’s access to information, but that the impact on society as a whole is largely unknown and unconsidered.   As the ability to share information becomes faster and more sophisticated our phones (and their Apps) seem destined to make society even more reactionary and paranoid.

Cool Apps are great, but if ‘information is power’ who ensures the information is shared reliably and responsibly from developer through to end-user?