Archive for February, 2013

BlackBerry 10 – with its stunning handset incarnations of Z10 and Q10 – has inevitably stolen the show from all other BlackBerrys out on the market. But with the high-end, eye-watering RRP of £479.99, these ‘next-gen’ handsets are for those willing to invest in a different breed of BlackBerry than RIM has brought to us before.

So what of those left behind in their impressive wake?

The last two generations (i.e. BlackBerry 6 & 7) – particularly the Curve series – quite established itself as a solid mid-range choice of handset, building on the legacy of the BlackBerry 5. The 8520 and 9300 (or Curve 3G, as is was better known) began the precedent on BlackBerry 5, and then 9300 upgraded to BlackBerry 6. Then came the BlackBerry 7 as of summer 2011, and this incarnation has been just as popular, with the 9320 and 9360 handsets.

 

Moving On Up…
The BlackBerry 7 generation is a great step up for those still holding onto their 8520 or 9300 Curves. The higher-spec BlackBerry Curve 9360 is probably the most popular to upgrade to – even despite a slightly higher price. But it’s been out on the market a while now, and the BlackBerry 10 handsets are impressive… Therefore some may – rather pointedly – question whether the Curve 9360 is now an irrelevant BlackBerry.

The answer has to be undoubtedly a resounding No. Its definitely not irrelevant. This is still a popular and high-quality BlackBerry, sitting comfortably in that nice mid-range, with easy usability, a great and simple OS, capable tech, great specs, and a good price to recommend itself.

For anyone looking to upgrade from a previous Curve handset, or for those who prefer the Qwerty keyboard and is already a BlackBerry fan (and doesn’t want the hefty price tag of a Bold or Q10) this is assuredly a solid choice to make.

 

A Curve Above The Rest:
The 9360 sits on the BlackBerry 7 OS (Operating System). This has essentially taken inspiration from its previous incarnation of BlackBerry 6 and has made it better – it’s arguably what BlackBerry 6 should have been in the first place. There’s double the RAM and on-board memory from previous Curves to support it – 512MB of each, and an 800MHz processor to power it – basically meaning its got a lot more internal memory and is much faster at working than the last generation. And you can add higher-storage microSD memory cards – with up to 32GB to store all your pictures, apps, videos, and anything else that takes your fancy.

The BlackBerry 7 OS itself is clean, smooth, fast and sharp, with fluid interaction – it’s a simple, clearly-easy system for the hardware to run. Those familiar with the BlackBerry 6 platform is going to feel right at home and happy with this incarnation of the Curve – as it essentially has the same UI (User Interface – i.e. the way it’s laid out) – but everything runs smoother, apps work better, and using FaceBook and Twitter is no longer a waiting game of loading times.

It comes with all the BlackBerry staples – BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry World App Store, Docs To Go, BlackBerry Maps, push email, BlackBerry calendar, is pre-loaded Twitter and FaceBook apps, and of course there’s the new BlackBerry Browser – which now has HTML5 support (and there’s so much more, too). Their performance is greatly improved from the last generation Curves, and the difference is immediately apparent thanks to better RAM space and higher processor speed.

There is now even the option of online web calls over BlackBerry Messenger with BBM Voice. As long as you’re attached to a wifi connection you can call your BBM contacts over the Internet for free.

 

Sleek & Sophisticated
The BlackBerry 7 OS is very user-friendly and is shown off well on the clear and bright HVGA (480×360 pixels) screen of the 9360. The sleek and slim handset is a new stylish twist on the previous Curve design, and even the keyboard buttons are redesigned to look and feel better – and they’re just as responsive and easy to use. The camera packs 5MP with a 4x zoom and flash, and is coupled by VGA (0.3MP) video recording. There’s also NFC (Near Field Communication) on board this version of BlackBerry – so you can tap other NFC devices or tags to share data, contact details, and so on.

The music player is one that certainly impresses, offering sounds that are clear and brings out the bass and treble well through headphones. The tone is sharp and clean and it allows depth of sound that probably won’t have been heard on other music players. This is especially more notably welcome if you’re upgrading from the BlackBerry 5 8520 Curve.

New handsets are easy to set up (especially if you have a BlackBerry ID account already) and easy to use as soon as they come out of the box. All your BlackBerry apps and information can be transferred from a previous handset by linking it to BlackBerry Desktop on your PC/Mac (assuming you’ve backed-up the old handset onto the computer), or you can reinstall any – or all – your apps manually from BlackBerry World (with no extra cost for apps you paid for). Whether this is your first, second, or even third BlackBerry, this is a breeze to set up and use immediately – a dream phone of capable simplicity.

 

Because I’m Worth It:
No one in their right mind is going to put a Curve up against the Z10 or Q10, or even a Bold – but compare it to the last generation Curves and this will impress… And so will the price.

BlackBerrys are mainly made and bought to be pretty and functional. They’re fancy little personal assistants and this is definitely where they shine. But it also has all the things that other mobile phone entertainment units have – and the BlackBerry World app store has all the necessities, and this lovely handset has the capacity to use them well.

You get a smart design, easy and fluid OS, the famous Qwerty keyboard and trackpad, a beautiful and sleek handset of excellent and robust quality, and everything shown off on a bright, clear and customisable screen – on top of everything else you except from RIM’s famous little handsets.

Even better, you can get it in one of four different colours – black, purple, pink and white… So the only real question about this phone is… Which colour is your favourite to get it in?

 

***

Here Comes The Science! –

THE MAIN SPECS

 

  • BlackBerry OS 7
  • 512 MB RAM / 512MB Internal Memory
  • Up to 32GB Micro SD memory card
  • 800MHz processor
  • 5MP camera/ Flash / 4x Zoom
  • VGA (approx 0.3MP) Video recording
  • 480×360 HVGA Display Screen
  • Up to 5-7 hours talk time
  • Qwerty keyboard & Optical Trackpad
  • Wifi 802.11
  • Bluetooth
  • NFC
  • GPS & BlackBerry Maps

 

Full Specs at GSM Arena
http://www.gsmarena.com/blackberry_curve_9360-3722.php

BlackBerry UK – Official BlackBerry 9360 site
http://uk.blackberry.com/smartphones/blackberry-curve-9360.html

 

 

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Books + Tech… What’s not to like? They’re two of my favourite things.

But there are probably quite a few people who still balk at this idea of eReaders. Books are beautiful things after all – their smell, the texture, turning the pages… They are tied up into out psyche and history all the way back to the Papyrus. Books are beautiful things. Too beautiful in my opinion, I think… I’m always accused of having far, far too many! I’ve given more of them away (very reluctantly) than some people have ever owned.

I’ve been reliably informed my apartment is not, in fact, not a library. So I turned to eBooks to see if this was the answer to my storage issues.

At first, I had no interest in eReaders. As a lover of books, I was one of those who balked at the thought of using a machine to read. Books are beautiful creations and I am their Number One Fan. Even as a gadget-lover, I admittedly didn’t take to eReaders. I found the greyscale E Ink style of the original Kindle and other eReaders difficult to read. And as tech and gadgets go, the first generation of eReaders weren’t particularly impressive. They were slow to load, had no colour, seemed to have rather clunky operating systems, and were restricted to the rather limited online bookstore they were attached to.

But that was my first impression, a few years ago, when they first emerged. I now think eBooks are quite an essential piece of (albeit more simplistic) tech that makes books and reading even more accessible than ever before – and anything that does this must be an absolutely brilliant idea. The eReaders themselves have come a long way from the first Kindle, and now they have grown into their own genre of gadgetry, with some lovely specs to make them useful and a necessity.

 

eBooks and Tablets and Apps – Oh My!

The list of eReaders available is now significant – the Kindle has five incarnations alone, the Kobo and Nook each have four. Even Sony has an established eReader and eBookstore. That’s fourteen different eReaders just there alone. There are so many more if you check online. They all have a good amount of storage, with impressive battery-life (averages are quoted at six to eight weeks with limited use) – and really, what more is there to ask for? Which one you buy is down to personal taste and choice alone – what they offer in terms of tech is virtually the same when it comes to the E Ink editions.

But eBooks are not restricted to eReaders alone – in fact one of the best ways to get a great and varied eBook collection at the best prices is to get all the eBookstore apps on your tablet, or Smartphone. And unless you especially prefer the E Ink screen, there’s no need to get a separate eReader at all if you have already have a tablet. Most of the eBookstores have apps for iOS (iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch), Android, and BlackBerry – the most popular being Kindle and Kobo. Apple obviously adds its very own iBooks pre-installed to iOS devices too, to give Apple users that extra choice. They also even have apps for your PC/Mac.

Whatever your choice is, eBooks are a different – and arguably better – way of reading. Firstly, there’s the obvious – having about fifty different books in one tiny seven-inch device, less than half the thickness of just one small novel (a small 2GB device can actually hold over 1,000 books). No more heaving those hardbacks around or stuffing them into your suitcase instead of your shoes – that tablet or eReader has it all in the pocket of your bag. And best of all, you didn’t have to decide which books you were going to take… In fact, find a wifi connection, or use your 3G, and also get some more whist your on your way to wherever your going. Just in case you’re already bored of those fifty you’ve already got.

 

Your Books, Your Choice, Your Way

Having an eReader also means that you no longer have to hide that Harry Potter edition within the jacket of a copy of Odyssey – no more can you be judged by your choice of reading material on the train. You can buy whatever you want and read it in private – most probably the reason Fifty Shades of Grey had such a brilliant run.

Another positive aspect of using an eReader is the ability to manipulate the text. Anyone with difficulty reading small print, or even reading from a bright white screen, will soon appreciate having an eReader or manipulatable eBook app to read from. Fonts can be changed, page “texture” can be changed (in apps), and so can the brightness level itself. Classics are one of the most common genres to have the smallest prints, so getting them on an eReader would make them readable again to those suffering eyesight difficulties, as they can simply set the writing to be much bigger. These setting make books instantly more accessible to people, where they can read more comfortably, without having to resort to finding special edition “large print” books, allowing all books accessible to everyone.

If there are passages or words in these books you particularly wish to remember or share, you can bookmark them, select and highlight them, share them on Facebook/Twitter etc, or even check their meaning in the dictionary via in-app options. This also makes eReaders and eBook apps good study assistants, and these options are probably much more useful than scribbling in tiny margins on actual books. It’s so much tidier and more legible too!

One of the most ingenious ideas for an option setting is available from Kobo, which is the option of “Night Mode”. This turns the colours around, so the page is black and the letters are white – a darkened room remains dark, with no bleeding light, so you can happily read whilst anyone else in the same room can sleep undisturbed.

When it comes to eBook pricing, there’s not too big a gap between eBookstores – unless one has a specific sale you’re interested in. Kobo offers quite a few special email offers to their members, and iBooks often have either free or very low priced “Books of the Week”. Pop into a Starbucks and you can usually pick up a free iBooks download card for a free book (they’re usually on the counter where you pick up your coffee) – I’ve managed to get some interesting books this way I would never actually think to buy.

The biggest price difference – maybe surprisingly – is between eBooks and real books. Once you’re into paperback territory, it’s often much cheaper to buy popular books in actual shops, especially if they’re new releases. But this is the only area where eBooks are out-priced.

So, really, when you think about it… What’s not to like!

 

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Girls love headshots too… It’s not just boys. And by “headshots” I don’t mean those Photoshopped glammed-up pictures you get just before you go to your singing/acting/dancing/prancing/showing off auditions. I mean the ones where you put a bullet into an AI enemy brain and they stay down, a puff of mist emitting from their brains, just before getting Xbox Achievement for making 100 of them. They’re way more fun!

For some reason – known to stereotype alone – it’s assumed girls don’t like games. So I rather like the fact that I was actually introduced to gaming by two girls. Ironically I wasn’t even vaguely interested in games when I was young. It was my little sister who ended up with the latest PlayStation incarnation in her bedroom and all the games, and I played hers – but nothing caught my attention. Then came a rather awesome game called Eternal Darkness, on the Nintendo GameCube, shown to me by my girlfriend. She wanted to prove games weren’t all about bouncing Marios – and I realised games could be more than bits of floating pixel platforms for gorillas, hedgehogs and plumbers. I was introduced to a different style of game, where there was a real story, realistic characters, and looked pretty close to a movie you played the leading role in. I never really looked back.

Now, a proud owner of an original Xbox 360 for oh-so-many years, I have the magazines, visit the game-sites, and follow them on Twitter. I’m a Gold Member of Xbox Live and particularly attached to my Game store Reward card. I love single-player RPGs, preferring fantasy and open world games.  Skyrim, Oblivion, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, The Witcher – even the Albion-based Fable series – are now all huge favourites of mine. And yet, I’m a girl.

 

I suppose one reason it’s assumed boys prefer games is because they’re easier to please with more “typical” genres – guns and football pretty much hit all their spots head-on. I prefer good stories, good relationships/interaction, and very good reasons for those huge battle sequences; basically a more complicated story than Point ‘n’ Shoot. This story-based idea used to be more popular with the Point-and-Click PC games of old, though only two have ever really stood out even there (The Longest Journey and Dreamfall). Thankfully it’s now getting more common in console games. Perhaps it’s not that we’re adverse to shooting something’s head off (actually, I find it very cathartic to ram a Katana into somebody’s face when I’m having a bad day!) – it’s just that we like to be given a good reason to. Otherwise, why go to all that bother?

Improved quality in storytelling is surely a must to get us more interested. Girls seem to prefer becoming engrossed in a great story they can take the lead in – we are typically lovers of strong, interesting story-arcs. Too many games are based on testosterone-fuelled shoot-to-kill stats and hypersexuality of girls, which don’t tend to impress us – after all, we’re women not teenage boys. We need more than guns and boobs to keep us interested. Hiring more female writers would be a good answer – and it was inspiring to find the lead writer for the Tomb Raider reboot, giving Lara Croft a new voice, was Rhianna Pratchet. An accomplished games writer with a great writing heritage, she’s recreated Lara as a realistic young woman we could identify with. I somehow doubt a man could’ve managed it quite the same.

I expect one thing that is helping girls become more interested in games is character customisation, with male/female protagonist choices – because what woman prefers a man buffed up on steroids as their virtual avatar? Regardless of engrossing story, this makes a huge difference in how I connect with characters and immerse myself in games, especially RPGs. I enjoy identifying with the character and making them a part of myself… And I can hardly do that with Mr Buff-Muscles running about on-screen, grunting and yelling everywhere, can I?

 

Thankfully, with Social Networking, we now know there are lots of other girl-gamers out there. There’s apparently less than ever directly involved with making games and writing about them, though. But those that do fly the flag high and do a great job. With trail-blazing women such as Kiki Wolfkill – executive Producer of Halo 4 (http://www.bigissue.com/features/interviews/1680/kiki-wolfkill-gaming-viable-career-path-women) – and Jade Raymond – Head of Ubisoft Toronto and producer of the Assassin’s Creed franchise (http://www.computerandvideogames.com/343886/interviews/ubisofts-first-lady-jade-raymond-on-building-ubisoft-toronto/#) – standing in the limelight as beacons of “girl-power” in game production, there is great hope that the girl-pool in games is going to get bigger.

They’re inspirational and show there’s no real room for sexism in gaming – hopefully encouraging the next generation of female under-grads to consider choosing Programming and Gaming as their major choice when applying to UCAS.

 

 

Strong Female Characters in Games - No Naked Required

Strong Female Characters in Games – No Naked Required

I’ve noticed so many people commenting that iPhone 5 isn’t really any different from the other iPhones. OK, I can kind-of understand why… But it’s on a superficial level only.

Now, granted, it may not be a huge deviation from the iPhone 4S (although it is a much larger jump from the older iPhone handsets). It looks basically the same, except its been slightly elongated, and it feels about half the weight – another “criticism” I’ve heard (which I’ve been guilty of originally thinking myself) is that it feels so light it’s like a toy.

But still, it might just be worth your while taking another look at this little piece of loveliness.

 

Longer. Lighter. Faster: Better:

Longer, Shinier Screen:  This gives you 4 extra apps (or one extra line) on the screen of each page, but it also turns the iPhone into a “proper” widescreen handset, with a 16:9 ratio – just the same as your HD/3D flat screen at home. This means that you get to watch your TV shows and movies in the way they were meant to be seen – in Widescreen. Retina display and better colour definition, everything will look brighter and shinier than ever before – and it also has fingerprint-resistant coating, so there’s less smudging.

Different Feel: It’s lighter, but that’s not a bad thing – it’s actually quite a brilliant thing. This comes from a rather fabulous idea – to create the body out of perfectly-proportioned aluminium… That’s the same stuff that makes the MacBook Air and new MacBook Pro the lightest laptops around – so no wonder it feels as light as a feather. It also makes it rather difficult to damage – a great plus if you’re as klutzy as I am. And it makes it even easier to entertain yourself, which is definitely also a very good thing!

Faster Surfing: The iPhone 5 is 4G ready. 4G simply means “4th Generation” of mobile network, and will obviously still support 3G. 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is basically mobile Internet joining the ranks of home broadband – up to around 100mbps. This is newly being rolled out in the UK, with EE (the Orange/T-Mobile merged company, Everyone Everywhere) being the first provider. Over the next 18 months/2 years this should become as standard as 3G is now, allowing us all to live online and rely on our mobile networks much more than we can now. With this handset Apple is ensuring they, and their customers, are fully prepared for when your choice of network is ready to offer the better 4G option with a data package to suit. As always with Apple, they ensure they are instigating and remain ahead of the future, not just playing catchup.

 

The Hardware:

I Have The Power: The piece-de-resistance of their new catalogue of Cool New Stuff is quite probably their new processor chip. The A6 (as its called) is up to twice as fast as the A5 that sits in the iPhone 4S and is probably the best thing to happen to the iPhone. This is the new engine of the machine that powers its brain (if you like) and therefore you can play games, go through websites, launch and use apps [etc] twice as fast. If your older iPhone doesn’t work as well with the new iOS 6 system and its newly-updated apps, its probably because they’re now built to be used by this processor. The chip itself is also smaller – on of the main reasons the iPhone 5 is thinner – and it requires less battery power to use.

Controversial Charging: The one major change emitting scowling-faces from previous Apple-owners is the new Lightning Adapter. But this change is a really good thing. It’s now a tiny, magnetised, harder-to-break charging wire, and there’s no “right way round” for it to go – you can stick it any way you care to. It might make it incompatible with your current iPod docks, but this docking-system is nearly a decade old and Apple are quite clearly telling us it’s time to move on. They’re now strongly dictating that the way-forward for mobile music is AirPlay – using wifi and Bluetooth to stream music from any device into your speaker system. If you want to stick to using your dock, it’s currently about £25 to buy an adapter for the dock to fit your new iPhone 5 onto it.

 

Because I’m  Worth It:

Buying an Apple product is buying into a lifestyle – and it’s a futuristic one. Apple works hard to create the future norms, not trail helplessly after them. The iPhone 5 showed us what the next step for phones was to be, setting the president that all other phone manufacturers had to raise the bar to match. It re-designed the iPhone experience in small, but effective, ways – allowing it to be a better phone and entertainment system.

In getting any iPhone you’re brought into a great tech world to play in. With iPhone 5 you’re getting a better version of that experience and, thanks to its A6 chip, you get to do everything even faster and more efficiently. Apple seem to be simply perfecting their handset design even further, to make the Apple experience an even more enjoyable one.

It’s a cool gadget, on the most popular multi-media mobile platform (iOS), with all the mod-cons and cool tech you need – and the awesome apps and games to go with it. It might do everything iPhone 4S does… But it does them so much better. It also has so more to offer. This is definitely a phone for the future, and it’ll set you up all ready for when that future turns up… Which is round about now!

With Apple, you get what you pay for, and they are most definitely worth it.

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 – Here Comes The Science! –  

THE KEY SPECS

  • iOS 6 system
  • A6 Single-Core Processor
  • 4G ready
  • 8MP camera with Flash and 1080p (HD) video recording
  • Up to 8 hours of talk time and/or internet time on 3G
  • 720p iSight front-facing camera (with the lens now made from Sapphire crystal – so that’s one tough cookie to scratch)
  • Retina HD Display with 16:9 Ratio
  • Wifi 802.11 (dual band wifi, capable of running on up to 150mbps of wifi signal – good news if you’re in a fibre-optic area of broadband)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 (faster and better than the previous kind)
  • GPS

 

 

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

Apple - Think Different

Apple – Think Different