Tag Archives: review

Peak vs Elevate

Recently I’ve been pondering wether its possible to enhance your mental fitness. I mean its easy to improve your physical fitness – you can go to the gym, run, improve your diet etc – but when it comes to brain power is it really possible to see progress? Back in 2005 Nintendo certainly thought so with the introduction of Brain Age for the popular DS console. Brain Age had you solve simple math problems and complete basic tasks with the premise of making you smarter. Today however, there are several excellent options available for your smart device which make similar claims.
The three most popular brain training apps for mobile are Elevate, Peak and Luminosity. For me, Luminosity is way too expensive (£7.99/$11.99 per month) and as such I have opted to leave it out of this comparison. The two apps which really stood out for me as viable options were Elevate and Peak. Both apps offer a similar experience but they go about delivering it in a slightly different way. I subscribed to both premium services and have been using them frequently for about a month.
Elevate
Probably the most popular brain training app at the moment is Elevate. Although only launched in May 2014, at time of writing the app has been downloaded 5 million times. What makes Elevate great is its intuitive, bold design and slick execution. Recently Elevate hit the headlines when it was voted as Apples App of the year for 2014. New users to Elevate will first have to complete a quick diagnostics test which will tell the app the areas which need improving on etc. According to elevate the service focuses on your reading and writing skills, along with memory and focus. The app offers a customised service which adjusts appropriately to your performance over time.
Elevate comes with a pretty comprehensive free to use service but if you really want to reap the benefits you will want to subscribe to the premium service for £2.99/$4.99 a month or £31.99/$44.99 for the year. This will give you access to 8 exclusive premium games, unlimited access to all 25 games and also the ability to compare your performance to other Elevate users.
Peak
Peak brain training comes from the London based company Brainbow. It offers a very similar experience to Elevate and also comes with some very positive review. Peak also comes high in many app rankings and to date has been downloaded 2 million times. Like Elevate, Peak helps improve your language skills, but puts more of an emphasis on mental agility and problem solving. The service allows you to set your own training goals and like Elevate offers a customised service which adapts to you performance over time.
Sign up to Peaks pro subscription and gain access to the 6-game daily personal workouts, more comprehensive analytics and unlimited access to all games. The premium package will cost you £2.99/$4.99 a month or £24.99/$34.99 for a yearly subscription. There is also a pretty decent free version, although like its competitor you will need to subscribe to the premium service if your serious about seeing improvements.
Games and design
 
The structure of Elevate has improved recently and now comprises of three main sections: These ‘Training’, ‘Games’ and Elevate design‘Performance’. The ‘training’ tab gives you access to your daily training session and comprises of three specially selected games. The ‘games’ tab gives you access to all 25 games and allows you to practice them as much as you like, and the ‘performance’ tab gives you access to all you statistics and tracks your performance (more on this later).

Elevate games

The games are beautifully designed and incorporate bold colours, slick animations and great sound effects. Because the games
are so well designed and such fun to play you would hardly know you are working out at all. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into creating this type of experience. Some games are locked until you reach a certain level in associated games, and others are only available in the premium service. There is usually a goal in each game (like maintaining propulsion of a space rocket or navigating a boat across an ocean) and it all helps to make Elevate both interesting and engaging.

Peak designPeak also has a lovely design which is easily recognisable. The app basically comprises of two screens. The first screen is centred around your daily goal and workout, and the second contains all you performance stats and progress. You can move between the two screens by swiping with you finger. There is also an icon in the top left hand corner which takes you to the menu, and another in the top right which takes you to the games archive. The interface is very slick looking and fairly easy to use. The games themselves are also very fun to play and offer enough variety to keep you interested. Unlike Elevate though, the games feel more functional rather than recreational.
Peak gamesWhilst both apps are exceptionally designed and lovely to use, Elevate is possible slightly simpler to navigate due to is tab based design. That said, I think Peak’s home screen design is a little bit more interesting and dynamic, particularly when you get used to it. Whilst games on both are great, Elevate perhaps shines a little more due to its use of animations and sounds.
Performance analytics
 
Your performance in Elevate is based on what has been coined ‘Elevate proficiency quotient’ (EPQ). This is based on you Elevavate statsperformance over time, how often you play and the variety of of games you play. It gives you a score ranging from 0 – 5000. Your EPQ is will give you an idea of how well you are performing in the five areas: Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening and math and for each category Elevate will tell you which is your best game. You also get a percentile ranking which compares you against Elevate users. This is pretty cool although I’m not sure my writing skills would actually put me at 96.8% against other users. The scores do seem a little exaggerated.
Peak on the other hand does things a little differently. Importantly it gives you a single score based on your overall Peak Performance. This is scored out of 1000. There is also a graph which shows your score over the past week. If you want more in-depth statistics then Peak also breaks things down in much more detail. A very cool function is the ability to compare your Peak score to people within your age group or profession. This is great as it gives you a feel of how well you compare to others. The information is displayed in a spider chart which includes Peak brain score, memory, problem solving, language, mental agility and focus. As if this wasn’t enough there is also a graph charting your performance in each category over the last month and a break down of how you perform in each category compared to your age group.
Peak statsThe app further breaks down your performance and gives you a Peak brain score for every game you have played. It even tells you which day of the week you have performed best.
Whilst both Elevate and Peak have excellent performance trackers, there is no bout that Peak’s is more comprehensive. I also much prefer having a single score to keep me motivated. I find this gives me a target to focus on and means I don’t have to get bogged down in statistics if I don’t want to.
The science 
According to the Elevate website ‘Elevates games are designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research’. Furthermore ‘Elevate’s brain training algorithms further focus the learning experience by drawing from research in memory studies to develop a personalised training program for each user’. 
Peak makes a similar claim ‘Designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, cognitive science and education, Peak makes brain training fun and rewarding. The scientific advisors involved with Peak includes Bruce Wexler, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist at Yale, and Amir Konigsberg, PhD from Princeton in cognitive psychology‘.
What this all means, I’m not really sure. Both claim to be based on scientific research but neither goes any way in explaining what this actually means to the end user. The subject of brain training is a slightly controversial subject at the minute. It has been suggested that there is actually little evidence to suggest that such activities actually have any positive impact on mental agility. That said, doing any sort of task repetitively will surely have some sort of benefit. If your interested you can take a look at this study which suggests mixed results concerning the effectiveness of computer based cognitive training.
From my point of view it is difficult to say wether I have personally seen results. Looking at my analytics from both apps, I seem to do well some days and then terribly bad on others. It is difficult to judge wether I have actually improved in any of the given areas or wether I have just become well practiced at particular tasks. I’m sure in the long term however I will start to see more positive results. That said, I’m not sue how all this transfers to the real world.
Final thoughts
 
Wether or not these brain training apps are actually having a positive effect, they are certainly fun to play and I can see that there must be some benefit to exercising my brain regularly. To which app is best is a difficult question to answer. Both are excellent and tailored for slightly different needs. Peak offers a more all over experience, but Elevate focuses more on language and math. Both are beautifully designed and offer a lot of variety to keep you engaged.
I would say that Elevate certainly has a more bold and dynamic design, but in my opinion Peak offers better analytics and progress tracking. It is very difficult to recommend one over the other but if I had to continue just one of my premium subscriptions it would probably be with Elevate.
If you have had any experience with Peak, Elevate or any other service then please let me know.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

So its official – the latest version of Microsoft’s popular operating system is official, and will be known as Windows 10. But what happened to Windows 9 I hear you say? Well nothing really, Microsoft just decided to leapfrog it. The new operating system offers a new design and a host of new features. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Windows 10.

Design

The new design and interface is where the majority of the changes can be seen. As windows 8 was criticised for being too different, Microsoft have rolled back the interface to something more reminiscent of Windows 7. Microsoft have done away with the annoying tile like meta-interface, and have replaced it with a more compromised traditional look. A big reason for this shift in design is attributed to an acknowledgement by Microsoft that not everybody loved the touch screen focus of Windows 7.
Tech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281
Windows 10 then, is much more reminiscent of Windows 7, and Microsoft have even made the big decision to re-introduce the popular ’start’ menu. This is one area where users will notice a more balanced user interface, with the inclusion of resizable tilesTech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281 which can be customised with your favourite apps, people and websites. Microsoft acknowledge that many users are still using Windows 7 and as such want to make the transition to Windows 10 as seamless as possible.
If you prefer the full touch experience then don’t panic, the charm bar is still available for simple gesture controls and you still have the option of running the touch mode which will display tiles in the familiar Windows 8 style.

Continuum

Like Apple and Google, Microsoft wants want to lock you into their own eco-system with multi platform functionality. Windows 10 has been designed to run cross platform and will offer a bespoke interface depending on the hardware. There will also be just one Windows store running across all platforms.

Windows_Product_Family_9-30-Event-741x416

Continuum means that the operating system will detect the hardware set up and offer the best user experience. This means that the user interface for a mouse and keyboard setup will differ to that of a touchscreen tablet. This is good news for all-in-one devices as the operating system will be able to detect when the keyboard has been removed and adjust the interface appropriately.

Multi tasking

Multi tasking capabilities have also been greatly improved with new features aimed at the power user. Importantly, Microsoft have introduced a new ‘task view’ button which will give an overview of open virtual desktops and apps and gives a simple way of switching between them. This is something which has been available in OSX for ages so should come as good news for Windows diehards.
Tech-Preview_Virtual-desktop-500x281
Virtual desktops are a means of being able to increase productivity by having access to multiple desktops for with different setups. This is a feature which will be recognisable if you already use multiple monitors. If however you only have one display, then virtual desktops are available to give give you similar functionality.

Windows ‘snap assist’ has also been improved with a new user interface. This allows for apps to be snapped from multiple desktops and auto sized to fit either all or part of the display in a tiled format. This is a multi tasking feature which gives greater Tech-Preview_Three-program-snap-and-suggestions-500x281functionality by allowing multiple apps to be displayed besides each other in an expanded interface. A new improvement is the ability to now have up to 4 snapped apps running per desktop. Windows 10 also introduces a quirky little feature whereby it will recommend similar apps you may want to run besides them.

Windows Apps

Windows apps have also received an overhaul and are now capable of opening in the same format as desktop programs. These can be resized at will and moved around the desktop. This is a big improvement compared to Windows 7 apps which could only be opened in full screen mode. This is also good for cross platform functionality with the ability to adjust apps accordingly.

New search

Microsoft have gone and improved the search functionality with a search bar now present within the task bar and start menu. This is reminiscent of Apple’s Spotlight feature and will display results from both your computer and the internet.

Availability and price

Windows 10 is slated as being available to consumers by the end of 2015. There are still a lot of tweaks and improvements to be made and the OS will be available to business users first. Prices are still unknown but there have been previous rumours that it may be a free upgrade!

If you just can’t wait however then Microsoft are offering a beta program via the ‘Windows Insider Program’. Microsoft have pointed out however that this will give users access to a preview version of Windows 10 which will by no means be a final package. Therefore make sure you know what your doing and expect to encounter plenty of bugs and rough edges.

Is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest phone ever?

I’m not quite sure what Blackberry were thinking with their curious new smartphone, the Passport. The device is a strange looking little thing with a screen aspect not commonly used in todays smartphones. Furthermore, the Passport may just be the ugliest smartphone I have ever laid my eyes on. I’m just clueless as to what Blackberry were thinking.

The new device is based around a decent sized 4.5 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1440 x 1440. This equates to a brilliantly sharp 453 pixels per inch (PPI). When you compare this to the 326 PPI of the iPhone 6 you can understand just how sharp this is. The display is really very good and is one of the smartphones best features.

Actually, talking about the other specifications, these are also rather good. The device features a speedy Snapdragon 801 Quad Core processor clocked at 2.26GHZ and even has 3GB of RAM. Furthermore, in the optics department we have a 13MP snapper which features optical image stabilisation.

What has to let the device down then is the peculiar design. As already mentioned the screen aspect is rather unconventional with a ratio of 1:1, and the device itself is pretty huge. It definitely falls into the phablet category with a width of 3.5 inches. In comparison, this is wider than even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. From what we understand however the build quality is pretty good with a stainless steel rim running around the edges and a soft touch plastic battery cover on the back. Blackberry have also done away with their traditional 4 row keyboard and have opted for 3 rows. Its still full QWERTY but commentators are stating it feels rather squashed.

The Passport comes running Blackberry OS 10.3 with the Amazon App store pre-installed. Here lies a problem as you will not have access to the Google Play Store. Although the Amazon App store is now pretty comprehensive, you will still struggle to find some of your favourite games.

So whilst the Blackberry Passport has excellent specs and a great camera, the design is going to make it difficult to use. Can you imagine trying to squeeze this massive square into you pocket? It certainly isn’t going to be comfortable! Certainly not suitable for skinny jeans. The screen aspect is also going to make certain games and Apps feel awkward. That said, for business functionaltiy such as viewing and editing documents, it should be excellent. And it is indeed the business audience which Blackberry are targeting with this device.

With specs this good and a market leading display, I do wonder why Blackberry didn’t try to make a more universally appealing device. Although I appreciate that they have struggled to crack the domestic smartphone market and as such are clearly attempting to win back their traditional business customers.

So is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest smartphone on the planet? Possibly, although I imagine its rather like marmite – you either love it or you hate it!

Do I want one? Absolutely not…… actually I sort of love it.

Image from Trustedreviews.com

Deezer review

Deezer review

Music streaming is all the rage at the minute. With Apple acquiring Beats Music, and streaming becoming part of the UK music charts, we can be sure that this is the way music consumption is going. As less people begin paying for music downloads, streaming services such as Deezer are becoming far more popular. The concept of all you can eat music for a small monthly fee is actually rather exciting.

I have had been using Deezer for about a year now and as such I have had plenty of time to get to grips with the service and write this, hopefully, balanced Deezer review. I have also used both iOS and Android applications, though this review has been constructed using the iOS app. Both are ultimately the same however and differ little from the web version.

I am not an audio engineer or an expert in the field, so this Deezer review is concerned with my own experience of using the service.

I hope you find this informative.

Background

Deezer is a music streaming service which allows users to stream or download music for a small monthly fee. Similar services include the likes of Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play Music. Deezer was founded in 2006 by Daniel Marhely and initially launched in France in the guise of Blogmusik. Due to copyright infringements the company was actually shut down, but was relaunched in late 2007 as Deezer. The idea was that some of the revenue made by on site advertising would go towards paying copyright holders.

Although Deezer managed to sign up the four major record companies, they struggled to cope with rising costs. In 2009 the previously free service introduced a range of paid subscription options. Although uptake of the premium service was slow to start, telecommunications giant Orange soon  became a key shareholder and premium subscriptions surged.

Today, Deezer is one of the worlds most popular music streaming services and boasts a catalogue of about 30 million tracks. Deezer is available in 182 countries and this year became available in the US – historically a very difficult market to crack.

Presentation and navigation

Deezer menuDeezer is certainly a very pretty service to use, and the iOS app is very well presented and easy to navigate. The main menu can be accessed by the menu button at the top of the screen or quite simply by swiping the screen to the right. This is where you can select what you want to do. From here you can choose to access music recommendations, access music charts and radio channels, your own music library and synced music and playlists. There are also links to other apps and access to the apps settings.

A quick swipe to the left will hide the menu bar and reveal whichever feature it is that you are currently using. The app itself is very fluid and the graphics are very pleasing to the eye. The whole thing just feels really well designed and runs very smoothly. Its clear that a lot of though has gone into the design and the result is that it is simple to use and easy to navigate. You will rarely find yourself lost in the interface.

Features
Deezer is packed with cool features and one of my favourites is called ‘hear this’. Accessed from the top of the menu, Hear this presents itself as a music feed with a feature called ‘Flow’ at the top and music reccomendations beneath. ‘Flow’ basically takes all of your music content and music that you have streamed in the past, and stitches it all together in a non stop music feed.

Underneath ‘Flow’ are all of your music recommendations, based on your listening habits. This is easily one of my favourite featuresDeezer flow as it constantly recommends new artists, albums, tracks and radio channels which I may be interested in. This is particularly good because it recommends relevant content which fits within my music tastes, and it is an invaluable tool in discovering new and fantastic music. I have discovered so many news groups and bands through recommendations and I am not sure what I would do without it.

The ‘Explore’ feature gives access to Deezer recommendations. These are not personalised but rather generic recommendations. Also found here is the option to break down these recommendations regionally. So if your interested in seeing whats hot in South America for example then you have the option to do this.

IMG_0756Another feature gives access to Deezer charts. This shows what is currently popular on Deezer. This is broken down into Tracks, Albums, Artists and Playlists and is structured in the usual charts format. I find this very useful when looking for contemporary popular music and is perhaps one of my favourite features.

Deezer has a really great choice of radio channels. These are based around music genres (e.g pop, rock, hip hop etc) and Artists. For example if your into Maroon 5 the you can select this radio channel and listen to this particular group and other similar groups/artists. The genre feature is practically the same but plays music which belongs to that genre. Again this is a really fantastic feature, and one which I haven’t really used enough. This offers so mush variety and if your struggling with what to listen to at any given time then it is so useful to just default to a particular radio channel and let Deezer select the play list. Deezer Radio

Of course one of the main features of Deezer is the ability to just search for whatever you like. Wether you want the latest Ed Sheeran album or Arctic Monkeys single, you have so much choice with about 35 million tracks to choose from. There is a handy search icon to the top right of the interface where you can search to you hearts content. You always have the option to stream the track or download it. Either way you can add it to you library, but with a premium subscription you can download it to your device for offline use.

All your content is stored in your music library where you can choose to view all your music or just those albums or playlists which you have actually downloaded. Talking about playlists, you can either create your own or access them via the charts feature. One thing I don’t like about Playlists is the inability to search of them. It doesn’t really make sense to me because if you create your own, how have people supposed to be able to search for it? I actually emailed Deezer about this and they acknowledged the issues and said they would pass it on to the development team.

This is one area I feel where Spotify has an edge over Deezer. Playlists are a big deal nowadays and I would like to see more functionality within Deezer.

All in all, the features provided by Deezer are absolutely fantastic and you will struggle to get bored with it. There is so much content to discover, and the interface makes the process much less overwhelming.

Deezer does a lot with social media integration, and you can link in with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Once connected with friends you have the option to view their viewing habits and share music.

Sound quality

Sound quality is very good I am have rarely heard any deterioration in quality. I spend a good amount of time listening to Deezer via my car stereo and even at high volumes there are few issues with quality. Some of my tunes can become a little distorted but this tends to be older tracks which are not available with high quality audio.

The standard playback quality is pretty average, however premium subscribers get access to the much higher 320kbps which sounds great. Obviously this takes up more space if you choose to download, but sound quality is noticeably better.

If you live in the US then you are lucky as Deezer have just introduced ‘Deezer Elite’. This offers a stunning High Fidelity bitrate of 1411kpbs. This is true CD like quality. No word yet on when this will be rolled out to the rest of the world though.

Price

In the UK you basically get the option of the free ‘Discovery’ plan or for £9.99 a month you can subscribe to ‘Premium+’ which will give you high quality downloads and access to the offline mode. You also have the option to listen to Deezer via different sources i.e. you car stereo or HiFi.

Prices in the US range from $4.99 for the basic package and $9.99 for the premium option, though as mentioned there is a new ‘Elite’ option which starts at $14.99 a month but eventually goes up to a whopping $19.99.

My opinion is that for £9.99 in the UK for what is on offer, Deezer offers great value for money. I would be lost without it. Although it is a bit disappointing that it is much cheaper across the pond. This is pretty standard though where prices are concerned.

Conclusion

Deezer really is a fantastic service which offers some fantastic functionality. The music catalogue is absolutely massive and you will rarely not find what you are looking for. For me the playlist issue is a bit of a pain but certainly not a game changer. I just hope that they add the option to search for Playlists in the future as this is something which Spotify does better.

Since I have been subscribed to Deezer I have discovered so much new content and have found myself listening to things I wouldn’t ordinarily have. This is great as it has really broadened my listening habits. I Haven’t paid for a single track or album since I subscribed to Deezer so for me it represents fantastic value for money.

The interface is beautifully designed, simple to use and just feels so fluid. I love it and as such can thoroughly recommend Deezer to anyone who loves listening to music but finds high street prices too high.

iPhone 6 first impressions

The first thing that strikes me about the new iPhone 6 is just how cool it is. The build quality is excellent and the design just oozes class. What is particularly striking is how light the device is. At first I found it a little off putting but now I’m totally used to it and it feels great.The all metal frame of the iPhone 6 is immensely thin and I love what Apple have done with the power button. If you didn’t already know then this has been moved to the side. It makes it much easier to access, when you consider the new girth!

Build quality aside, the device is lightning fast. Apple tell us it is 25% faster than the 5S but only time will tell wether this is strictly true. What I can say is that I have experienced no lag whatsoever and iOS 8 feels buttery smooth. I love how a light double tap of the home button reduces the screen size for single handed use. It just works and its simple to initiate. The new speaker sounds much better than on the 5S and kicks out some really cool sounding beats. It also placed in such a way that landscape gaming does not result in your hand sitting over the speaker.

Speaking about the screen, this is really stunning. I have never been one for pixel counts and Apples less than full HD resolution is absolutely noting to worry about. The screen looks great and the curved edges just add to the slick experience. Light levels are very good and I have experienced no pixelation when zoomed in. Pixel resolution means little really if your a secure kind of guy and the iPhone 6 shows that its all about the motion of the ocean…if you know what I mean 😉

If your worried about the 6’s size then don’t. Its super thin and fits easily in the pocket. One slight pain is that the new camera lens protrudes from the chassis. This is a bit annoying but as soon as you get a case on it its irrelevant. The camera is amazing by the way and the new slow motion mode is really cool to play with. I don’t want to go into too much detail but the camera focuses really quick and picture quality is ace.

My fist impressions are really positive and there is no doubt the iPhone 6 is set to become one of the best handsets of all time. Stay tuned for a full review.

Please comment below and let me know how you are enjoying your you iPhone 6.

Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite preview

Apple’s new OS – OS X 10.10 Yosemite is the latest incarnation of the popular Mac Operating System. Announced at Apple’s 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference Keynote speech in June, the new OS brings with it plenty of visual enhancements and a new focus on what Apple is calling ‘continuity’. The OS is due to roll out later this year and like Mavericks will be completely free.

The new OS will include a host of new features:

Design Overhaul.

yosemite_macbook_air

Inspired very much by iOS 7, Yosemite has received a major visual overhaul. Like its mobile sister, Yosemite has gone for a much flatter design with simpler icons and a translucent theme giving toolbars and sidebars a transparent frosted glass effect, much similar to that of Microsoft’s ‘Aero’ as showcased by Windows Vista. This all makes for a much more refined and simple design. There has been a number of aesthetic improvements with improved fonts and tool bar optimisations.

Seamless experience.

Apple have been talking a lot about creating a seamless experience between Apple products. Apple emphasised this much at the Keynote Speech and Yosemite has been heavily optimised to sync seamlessly with you iOS devices. Apple have put a lot of effort into this ‘continuity’ and it really shows. Now all of your i-devices will automatically detect the presence of each other and enable some pretty powerful features. For example you will be notified on your iMac of incoming mobile phone calls and actually be able to answer them or cancel them from your computer. This feature also greatly enhances the messaging experience by allowing greater control over text messages and iMessages.You will now be able to manage all your messaging needs from you Mac.

Apple’s sharing service ‘iDrop’ has also seen an improvement which makes your Mac compatible with you i-device. Previously files could only be shared between i-devices.

Another new sync feature is the inclusion of a cool little ‘Handoff’ button. In essence this allows you, for example, to compile a spreadsheet on your iMac and by simply pressing the handoff button, have the whole project instantly transferred to you i-device so that you can continue working on it on the move. This works with many apps including Safari and Mail.

Much improved notification centre.

os-x-yosemite-notification-centre_0

Apple have put a lot of effort into overhauling the notification centre. Firstly, a brand new ‘today’ feature has been added which is almost identical to what you will seen on your with your i-device. This displays daily information such as appointments and reminders.

Secondly Apple have now included the use of widgets into the notification centre. This will link in with stock apps such as Calendar and weather, but apparently there is scope for supporting many third party apps as well.

Spotlight.

The spotlight search has been vastly improved and also benefits from the new transparency theme. Launch spotlight and you will be greeted with a large window will will pull together relevant search results from sources which now includes Wikipedia, Maps and others. This also links in with the iTunes store displaying relevant movies and books etc.

Another cool feature is the ability to search for contacts and be able to message or ring them through Spotlight. Highlighting the relevant contact number will give a number of options to contact said person.

Safari.

safari

Like many of the other visual improvements, Safari has also received a good amount of polish. The toolbar has been much improved with favourites being incorporated into the URL bar along with the search feature which includes spotlight. For those of us who have dozens of tabs open at once, multiple tab support is also much improved. There is now the ability to scroll over tabs and the new super cool ‘tab view’ gives you a snapshot of all the tabs you have open, over all of you i-devices and in one place.

Other improvements include an enhanced ability to share content via mail, the ability to open up a separate window for private browsing and optimisations which give improved power efficiency. Apparently this means you can get an extra 2 hours endurance when watching Netflix!

Better Mail.

The male app has also seen some pretty nifty improvements. Sending larger attachments up to 5GB is now a breeze with the new ‘Mail Drop’ feature. Basically large attachments are uploaded to iCloud, in essence freeing up the email client. There is also a feature to annotate mail attachments within the app through a feature called ‘Markup’. The Mail app is even intelligent enough to detect what it is your drawing and convert it into a nifty rendered drawing.

 

OS X Yosemite brings with it a host of new and exciting features making for a pretty impressive, and valid upgrade to your Mac. The OS is stated to be released in the summer but developers will be able to take part in the beta from June 2. For the rest of us Apple has promised to allow the first million subscribers access to the beta. You can sign up for this with your Apple ID via Appleseed.

I for one am dead excited by the new seamless functionality between Yosemite and iOS8 and cant wait to get my hands on another iPhone. Apple are certainly very good at getting consumers to buy into their products and it will certainly be beneficial owning several Apple devices.

Dam you Apple, why do you make me want to buy all your products!!!

What I love and hate about Samsung’s GS5

What I love and hate about Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 has been one of the biggest smartphone releases of the year. Its easy to see what people love about the device, but what about its flaws? Having owned the phone since release I can honestly say I have tested it to the max. Read on to discover what I love and hate about the device:

The things I hate:

Whilst the S5 is by no means an ugly device, it does leave a lot to be desired. Samsung never seem to listen to consumer feedback and even after 5 incarnations of the Galaxy smartphone Samsung has shown no signs of incorporating metal into its designs.

The micro USB port on the bottom is just stupid. I feel like a surgeon trying to get it plugged in to charge on a night. With the lights off its impossible. After a few beers…well I’m sure you get my point! Its by no means an easy task.

The screen always wakes up in my pocket. Ill be walking down the street when ill hear the touch tone key pad in my pocket. Or it will start dialling random numbers from my pocket. Perhaps the unlock button is too sensitive or just in the wrong place? It also regularly restarts itself because of the unlock button being depressed in the pocket. I have never had another phone cause so many issues from the pocket.

The external speaker is not very promising. Compared to the HTC One the S5’s speaker is a bit pants. Audio output via the headphones is also not as good as it could be and I’m always finding the volume doesn’t go loud enough.

I have found a number of software glitches. The whole voice activation has just stopped working all together. It started as an intermittent fault but now doesn’t work at all – even though it is enabled in the settings. Another problem is that sometimes apps don’t shut down properly and get stuck in the notification bar or on the lock screen. It means having to restart the device. The camera app is also a bit strange in that you cannot access the ‘mode’ option sometimes. I have no idea what causes this. Im not too concerned about this glitches however as I’m sure they will be resolved with future updates.

The finger print reader is s**t. There I said it. Its nowhere near as intuitive as that of the iPhone 5S as it requires two hand operation. It also rarely recognises my finger print unless I scan it exactly right – there is a sweet spot which is really difficult to master. The backup password option is also a bit frustrating as you are presented with the full qwerty keypad and have to use both letters and numbers as part of your password. On the iPhone you are just presented with a number pad. I wish you had this option with the Galaxy. The whole experience just lacks polish and is a little frustrating.

The things I love:

The device is very quick and responsive. Touchwiz is very smooth for once and switching between the home screens is glitch free. The device is ample powered and really eats through all the latest apps and games. The processor is clocked slightly higher than on the HTC One M8 which gives it a bit of an advantage. Im not sure why Samsung didn’t opt for 3GB RAM but it matters little as 2GB is just fine. Everything runs smoothly and the device is a pleasure to use.

The screen is easily the best I have ever seen. I was very impressed by that of the HTC One M8 but the S5’s Super Amoled HD display wins hands down for me. The colours really pop and contrast is excellent. Viewing angles are also very good and sunlight legibility is amongst the best I have seen. The screen really is stunning and has to be seen to be believed. Having owned an iPhone 5S for a number of months I find the S5’s screen really refreshing. I no longer have to squint to see things and browsing the internet is great. watching videos and playing games is also a really great experience on the S5 with the screen really bringing everything to life.

Battery life is excellent. I can use the device all day quite intensively and if I have less the 30% battery life when I go to sleep then its a bad day! there is also a battery saving mode if you need it. I use the built in pedometer all the time and as such I would have expected this to effect battery life. It doesn’t however. Smartphones rarely last more than a day on a full charge but I am really impressed with the S5’s endurance.

The camera is incredible. The device takes really quick and hassle free images. The 16MP snapper takes stunning images and also supports 4K video capture. Close ups look great and the ability to set the focal point is very cool. This is one area where the S5 trumps the HTC One M8. If you want a good camera then the S5 may be the phone for you!
Generally speaking the Galaxy S5 is a great smartphone with many strengths. I previously owned the HTC One M8 but of the two devices I do prefer the S5. The user experience is really nice and everything just seems to work as it should. Im sure the software issues mentioned above will get resolved with future updates and perhaps the finger print scanner experience will evolve a bit. I just wish Samsung would put a little more effort into the design. People are getting used to quality looking devices nowadays and Samsung just don’t seem to get it. The recent announcement that Samsung’s head of design has been relocated may prove to be a good move, indicating that the company may finally be upping its game and reconsidering its design philosophy.

Samsung Galaxy S5

iPhone 5S review

The iPhone 5s has been one one the most hotly anticipated smartphones of the year, setting new sales records for Apple and causing the usual controversy. If you were lucky enough to have gotten one at release then changes are you stood outside a shop for hours or just got incredibly lucky. I ordered my 32GB gold 5s at midnight on release and I still had to wait about 2 weeks for delivery. What follows is my hands on user review. This is an honest owner review and contains my own impressions and opinions. I am not an Apple fan boy and what follows is an impartial account of how I have found the device. I hope you find it useful.

Build and design

As usual the IPhone 5s is a beauty to look at and hold. Apple have been making the best quality smartphones for years and the 5s does not disappoint. The device is basically built around a top quality aluminium and glass chassis and comes in 2 new colours: champaign gold and space grey. Aesthetically the 5s is exactly the same as the 5. The device is also incredibly light weighing in at only 112g. What I like about the 5s is the way it feels and the way it fits in the hand. There is no finer quality smartphone on the market, although the HTC One comes incredibly close! Like the iPhone 5, the 5s features two speakers on the bottom edge with the lightning connector wedged between them. The headphone jack is situated just to the left. The volume rockers are situated on the left side edge with the vibrate switch above it and on the top edge is the power/lock button. The setup of the buttons and switches is pretty good with everything accessible through one handed use. My only gripe is that if you use the device in the landscape aspect your hand covers up the speakers. This is particularly irritating when playing games. I would suggest using headphones to overcome this. Another issue is with the device chipping and scratching, particularly around the edges. I have not experienced this myself due to using a case but I understand other people are experiencing this issue. All in all however the iPhone 5s has a stunning design and the new colours are a nice addition.

Hardware and performance

The iphone 5s is built around Apple’s new A7 processor. This is the worlds first smartphone processor to feature a 64bit architecture. Don’t get too excited though as the 5s only has 1GB of RAM meaning it cannot fully utilise this technology. More on this here: http://techtimemachine.co.uk/2013/09/17/apple-a7-and-64bit/. That’s not to say that the A7 isn’t lightning fast. It is. It absolutely blazes through tasks and applications like nothing else and IOS 7 is buttery smooth. Benchmark results seem to suggest that the A7 is one of the fastest mobile processors out there (if not the fastest) and gives Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 a run for its money. Although the A7 processor cannot fully utilise the 64BIT architecture it certainly brings with it a performance boost. The A7 is clocked at 1.3ghz with a PowerVR G6430 GPU in tow and 1ghz of RAM in support. This makes for a very smooth user experience and yet again Apple shows that a gig or RAM is plenty.

I have been playing Dead Trigger 2 recently and this looks stunning on the 5s. Shadow and lighting effects look amazing and reflective water effects can be overwhelmingly good for a pocket device. I have experienced no lag in gaming and the iPhone 5s is a real powerhouse in this department. IOS 7 is also incredibly smooth and looks great on the 5s. I’m a massive fan of this update and couldn’t imagine going back to IOS 6. The sooner people get used to IOS 7 the better. It’s the best update yet. One of the things that really attracts me to i-devices is the way things look. Apps and icons always look great and this is where IOS possibly has an edge on Android. Everything always works smoothly and it is simple to use. IOS 7 just enhances this experience and cleans everything up.

The main hardware difference between the 5 and the 5s is the introduction of Touch ID. This is Apple’s home brewed finger print scanner and is capable of remembering up to 5 prints. My experience with this has been mixed. When it works its spot on. Its dead quick and hassle free. However I tend to suffer with pretty dry skin on my fingers and as such Touch ID often can’t read my prints. This can be a bit frustrating when I have to revert to using the password. It is however often a great experience and really comes into its own when purchasing apps.

Screen

Apple have always been at the forefront of screen technology. Who remembers the first time they laid their eyes on retina display? Of course when I say apple I actually mean LG and subsequently Sharp. Apple moved away from LG with the 5 and 5s and partnered up with Sharp. Clearly Apple thought the screen was good enough to incorporate it in the 5s and as such it has not been changed. The experience is still one which is top notch, however this is no longer the best display out there. The display supports a resolution of 640 x 1136 which works out at 326 pixels per inch (ppi). This isn’t bad by any means but for a 4 inch display it could be better. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for example sports a huge 5.7 inch Super AMOLED HD display which manages a ppi of 386! So not only is it much bigger but it has a sharper resolution. The Note 3 is probably the best screen on the market right now and it really does overshadow the one found in the iPhone 5s. That’s not to say that the iPhones display is bad. It is still really sharp and I haven’t noticed any pixelation, even when zoomed in. It also produces great colours, sunlight legibility is great and and viewing angles are also very good. A similar display can be found in the HTC One but I feel the iPhone does it better justice. One thing I do dislike is the size. 4 inches is just not not good enough by today’s standards. I feel that this strains my eyes and just isn’t big enough for an immersive gaming/multimedia experience. Granted this display keeps the size down but I feel it could be made bigger without effecting the size of the device too much, if at all. There is plenty of unused space on the front of the device and I reckon the iPhone 6 will utilise this and make for at true edge to edge viewing experience. I also find it very difficult to type on the keyboard and accuracy could be improved. Sometimes it just does register me touching it.

Camera

Apple have opted to stick with an 8MP snapper but this is by no means the same as the one found on the iPhone 5. Like HTC, Apple have decided to increase the size of the sensor. This is now 15 % larger and the aperture has also been enlarged and said to allow an extra 25 % light in. Again like the HTC One this allows in more light and makes for better low light performance. The camera interface has been given a make over with IOS 7 and whilst basic it is functional. I’m not going to bog you down with science but my experience wight the camera so far has been pretty positive. The 5s takes some great pics and certainly performs better than the HTC One. Low light performance is good but I find the sensor becomes a little overloaded in strong light. Video quality is also very good and the slow motion feature has been very fun to use. My experience of the camera and video has been very positive and performance is very good. It’s exactly what you would expect on a high end device. I would like to see a 13MP snapper on the next iPhone however.

Conclusion

Over all I have been very impressed with my iPhone 5s. It is very powerful and everything comes together fantastically on IOS 7. One thing I have been a little disappointed with is the battery life. On standby this is pretty good but when you start using the device for multimedia and web browsing etc it really starts to eat through the battery. I often struggle to make it to the end of the day. I have noticed a bit of an improvement after the latest update but it is still not fantastic. Another issue for me, and perhaps my main gripe, is the size. It does feel to small for me. I know for some people this will be a positive thing but for me I just feel as though I need something larger. It feels a bit like the iPhone 5s is strapped into a straight jacket. It’s capable of so much but with that tiny display it just can’t reach its potential. The iPad Air is where we will really see what the hardware is capable but with the iPhone 5s it all just feels a bit restricted. It’s like using a nuclear reactor to power your garden shed. It’s capable of much much more but but not in its current setup. That’s not to say that the 5s isn’t a great device because it really is. It’s amongst the best you can get. It’s just not THE best. Android is easily as good as IOS nowadays and Apple no longer offer the most intuitive and revolutionary hardware innovations. There is plenty of competition to Apple and if they are not careful they will lose that edge that they have had for so long. In this age bigger is better. As such let’s hope the next iPhone takes notice and does something about that tiny screen!

If you have any experience with the 5s please let me know how you have got on.

20131028-154249.jpg

20131028-154319.jpg

20131028-154348.jpg

20131028-154409.jpg