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Tag Archives: iphone

Droidax PortaCharge Gadget Charger – Review

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The ability to charge two gadgets at once helps the Droidax PortaCharge stand out from the crowd.

It seems the more powerful our smartphones, tablets and other gadgets become, the less likely they are to make it through the day without a recharge. This is where the Droidax PortaCharge can come to the rescue, as it’s a portable battery with connectors for recharging your various gadgets while you’re on the go.

You can charge up the PortaCharge’s built-in battery via its micro-USB port, either from a power point or a USB port on your computer (it’s faster to charge from a power point using the supplied AC adaptor). The PortaCharge contains a 5400 mAh battery, so it holds more juice than most portable chargers of this size.

Once the PortaCharge is fully charged you can slip it back in its carry case and drop it in your travel bag. Now when your smartphone needs a top up, you can use the supplied 10-in-1 USB adaptor to plug your phone into the PortaCharge. You should be able to recharge your smartphone at least three times before the PortaCharge needs a recharge. An LED readout on the front tells you the percentage of battery life remaining so you’ll have some warning when the PortaCharge is running low.

There are plenty of portable gadget chargers on the market, some of them specifically designed for gadgets such as iPhones, but the PortaCharge stands out for several reasons. Firstly the 10-in-1 adaptor is compatible with Apple gadgets as well as a wide range of other devices thanks to mini- and micro-USB. This is handy if you’re travelling and need to charge up a wide range of gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, MP3 players, handheld games consoles and Wi-Fi hotspots.

Regardless of whether you’re an Apple or Android fan, the PortaCharge should meet your needs. If your device isn’t compatible with the 10-in-1 connector, you can just throw the device’s USB cable in your bag and charge its straight from the USB port on the PortaCharge.

Another of the PortaCharge’s strengths is that it features two USB ports for charging two devices at once, once again handy if you’re trying to support a wide range of gadgets while you’re on the road. The second USB port offers 2 Amps rather than 1 Amp to support more power-hungry devices such as the iPad.

The PortaCharge only weighs 168 grams and its flat design means it could easily slip into a jacket pocket. Unfortunately the 10-in-1 USB adaptor is a little awkward, but thankfully you’re not wedded to it. The days when you’re only looking to charge one device, such as an iPhone, it might make sense to leave the 10-in-1 USB adaptor at home and just slip a retractable iPhone cable in your pocket.

The PortaCharge’s final strength is its pocket-friendly price tag. Considering that competing chargers tend to cost a lot more and do a lot less, the Droidax PortaCharge is pretty hard to beat.

The Droidax PortaCharge sells for $49.95 (with free shipping). For more details visit www.droidax.com


Set up a Wi-Fi hotspot on your Smartphone

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If you’ve got a fancy smartphone, it’s easy to share its internet access with your other gadgets.

Australia’s high-speed mobile broadband networks make it easy to stay in touch when you’re out and about. Telstra’s super-fast LTE network offers phenomenal data speeds of more than 40 Mbps in the inner cities, but so far we’ve only seen a handful of compatible devices. Thankfully you’ll also get decent speeds out of the HSDPA mobile broadband networks, particular using the new iPad Wi-Fi/4G which can’t connect to LTE in Australia but can hit almost 20 Mbps thanks to DC-HSDPA.

Fast internet access is great for a 3G/4G enabled smartphone or tablet, but it’s easy to share that mobile broadband access with your other gadgets such as notebooks, tablets, e-book readers and handheld games consoles. The trick is to dip into the menus and set up a Wi-Fi hotspot. Sometimes this can rely on your handset maker or network provider enabling the feature, so you should check with them if you’re unsure.

Before you start, it’s important to remember that creating a Wi-Fi hotspot chews through your monthly mobile broadband allowance. Keep a close eye on how much data you use. You’ll probably have a fixed mobile broadband allowance each month, but if you go over your limit the excess data charges can be hefty.

It’s also important to password-protect your Wi-Fi hotspot, so people nearby can’t “borrow” your internet access and leave you holding the bill.

Setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot on an iPhone is pretty easy. Under iOS5 you’ll find a Personal Hotspot setting on the main Settings page. You can tap on this and then toggle Personal Hotspot to “on”. You should also tap on Wi-Fi Password to create a password for your new wireless network.

Apple has added Personal Hotspot features to the new iPad Wi-Fi/4G models, but unfortunately it didn’t add Personal Hotspot to the earlier Wi-Fi/3G models with the latest firmware update.

Android users will find Wi-Fi hotspot features built in Android 2, 3 and 4 smartphones and tablets. The process can vary between devices, but generally you launch the Settings app and then select Wireless & Networks (sometimes followed by Tethering & Portable Hotspot). Here you can tap on Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot to turn in on. You’ll also want to dip into the Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot Settings to set the name of the network and set the password.

Built-in Wi-Fi hotspot support was introduced with Android 2.2. If you’re running an older Android device which can’t be upgraded, you’ll find tethering apps in Android Market (which recently changed its name to Google Play).

Some Windows Phone 7 smartphones can also create Wi-Fi hotspots after the Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” update. Under Settings select Internet Sharing, turn it on and then select Setup to configure the wireless network name and password. A few Windows Phone 7 devices such as the slick new Nokia Lumia 800 are still waiting for Wi-Fi hotspot features to be enabled.


The Problem with Ethical Gadgets

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There’s been a lot of discussion recently over whether Apple — currently sitting as the world’s most valuable company by stock valuation — should be doing more to ensure the basic human rights of the workers in the Chinese factories — largely controlled by a company called Foxconn, which is an external contractor to Apple — are upheld and, where possible, improved. So the logic goes, Apple makes a huge profit each year, and some of that money, so the argument goes, could go into better wages for the Foxconn employees who make Apple’s iPhone, iPads and iPods.

It’s certainly a noble argument — and a useful stick for those who don’t like Apple to beat them with — but it’s not the entire picture, which is, as such,  a more complex and nuanced situation than at first glance. First, there’s the commonly overlooked fact that while Apple is a major customer of Foxconn, it’s far from being its only customer; in the IT space, everyone from IBM to Dell to Sony to Microsoft use Foxconn’s factories for production purposes. However, it’s Apple that gets shoved into the “leadership” role in this case, even though it’s not set in stone at all that if Apple pulled out of Foxconn’s factories, the others would follow suit. It could well just lead to Apple’s products going up in price, while competitors continued to use Foxconn’s cheap labour.

For its part, Apple is adamant that it conducts regular inspections of factories, and while it’s open to saying that it has in some cases uncovered irregular working practices — and even ceased using some suppliers as a result — there’s also the allegation that Chinese factories have faked factory setups when inspections are taking place. That’s a hard one to judge either way, as is the issue of whether a Chinese factory worker is better off than a Chinese farm worker; the lines who queue up to get a job at Foxconn certainly suggest it could be an improvement. As with anything in China, given the strong level of government control, it’s hard to come to a definitive conclusion in any case.

None of this means that conditions for workers shouldn’t be improved, but there’s ultimately one way that this could be achieved, and that’s by consumers themselves making it a key purchasing criteria; if it becomes too expensive in terms of lost sales for a company to use labour with allegedly unethical roots, they won’t do so. That’s not just Apple, however; in order to change the way that technology is produced, especially given that the production of some key components involves incredibly harsh chemical processes, it would need to be something that was insisted upon by consumers (and businesses) at every level.


What does privacy mean for you online?

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There’s been a recent storm of protest regarding the revelation that Apple’s iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) store the location of accessed mobile phone towers and GPS signals for a twelve month period on the devices themselves, and then, when synchronised back to your PC, store them as part of the backup. The issue here is twofold; firstly, that the data collection’s been done with little notification to the end users. Secondly, that it’s trivially easy to use the synchronising computer to read all of this information; in short where you’ve been with your device over the last year.

The first point is largely one of interpretation; Apple maintains that there’s mention of location services in the lengthy end user licence agreement (EULA) that you click through whenever iTunes needs an update or you buy a new iOS device. You know the one; the one that virtually nobody stops and reads because it comprises dozens of pages of near incomprehensible legalese anyway? In any case, switching off location services isn’t quite enough; an iPhone or iPad will still get a rough read from nearby mobile phone towers if you’re using 3G data anyway.

The second one is something that is becoming all too common, and it’s something that many of us give away for free in any case. Apple’s lack of security regarding the database on your host PC is a worry all of its own, but plenty of other companies make money — and some make their entire income — from the kinds of personal information that devices and services ask us to reveal. If you’ve used FourSquare, or have a Facebook account, or use certain Google services, there’s an immense amount of data tracking going on. Facebook’s particularly notable, as its defaults for many services, including the “places” facility that indicates exactly where you are at a given point in time are to allow all sorts of data display and data mining, all in the name of delivering advertising to you. Google, likewise, does collect data from Android smartphone devices, but states it does so anonymously. Still, again, Google likes having data on preferences, and again it’s to do with delivering advertising.. for now.

Quite how this kind of thing hits you will obviously depend on your own personal preferences as well. Highly extroverted types may enjoy broadcasting every little detail of their lives, whether it’s location details via FourSquare or personal thoughts via Twitter, while those of a more introverted nature, or those with either a reason to stay somewhat incognito (for better or worse reasons, whatever they may be) will be naturally wary of any kind of data collection.

So what’s the solution? There isn’t a simple way these days to fall off the radar of everybody all the time (and only the most introverted would want to), but it’s certainly worth thinking about how you use online services, not to mention mobile broadband services, and what that data usage says about you. If you’re uncomfortable with that data being available to others — not necessarily broadcast public, but undeniably recorded — then careful consideration of your technology usage would seem wise.


Smartphones Head To Head

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If you’re in the market for a new phone, you’ve got two choices. Buy outright, or pick up a phone on a plan. If you buy a smartphone outright, you’re typically looking at between $500-$1000 out of pocket; there are models that are both cheaper and more expensive than that, but it’s a fair average across the most popular models. That’s why contracts make a fair amount of sense. Not only do you shift the handset cost over a longer term (and potentially gain the ability to write it off against tax rather simply under certain business circumstances — but check with your accountant!), you also get the most generously provisioned rates for calls and data compared to most pre-paid plans on a handset you own yourself.

The problem is, most smartphone contracts cost pretty much the same irrespective of the model of phone you choose. Entry level points are now down around twenty dollars, but those are typically last year’s handsets being rushed out the door while they’ve still got stock. Between fifty to seventy dollars a month can get you the handset of your choice, including cutting edge models. It’s easy enough to test the physical layout of a phone by simply gripping it, but what about on the software side? With so many choices, which smartphone operating system do you go for? Here’s a brief rundown of the most prominent smartphone platforms and their pluses and minuses.

Apple iOS

Representative Handset: iPhone 4

Pluses: The largest applications marketplace for any smartphone, hands-down, which gives iOS a lot more flexibility in what can be done with it, especially in the realm of entertainment applications. The fixed hardware platform — basically just the nearly-obsolete iPhone 3G, 3GS and iPhone 4 — also means that all apps run optimally across handsets. iOS upgrades are regular and not subject to the approval of the carriers, meaning they’re usually a little faster than on competing platforms.
Minuses: Apple controls the iOS environment with an iron glove, which some folk plain don’t like; certain applications will never be approved for iOS as a result. There’s also no such thing as a “live” iOS application displaying twitter feeds, weather or the like. Everything is icon-based using push.

Android

Representative Handset: HTC Desire HD

Pluses: Google’s “open” smartphone OS is being rapidly picked up by just about every handset maker out there (excluding Apple and Nokia). That gives you a huge choice of handsets and price points, as well as a wide variety of features. Google’s tailored Android applications for its core search and gmail utilities are incredibly slick, and the applications market is growing rapidly. Applications can act as live widgets displaying up-to-date information constantly.
Minuses: The variety of handsets can make some applications behave in unusual ways, especially as application development isn’t a rigidly controlled as it is with Apple or Microsoft. Operating System software upgrades must be carrier approved before you can get them, which can lead to long delays in getting the latest version of Android for your smartphone — if it ever appears at all.

Blackberry OS

Representative Handset: Blackberry Torch

Pluses: Blackberry has long been the smartphone of choice for the business crowd, and its core competencies have remained the strength and speed of its email client, which simply blows the competition away. If you need email quickly (and want, on most Blackberry models, an excellent physical keyboard), the Blackberry is the one to get.
Minuses: Operating system upgrades are once again at the mercy of operators, and some handsets will get stuck over time. The excellent email service is part of a specific paid service, which (depending on the carrier) might not be the most cost-efficient way to get your email. The application library, like the devices themselves are largely productivity oriented, although this has changed slowly as more consumers have taken up the Blackberry brand.

Windows Phone 7

Representative Handset: Samsung Omnia 7

Pluses: Windows Phone 7’s “tiles” arrangement is amongst the simplest smartphone visual layouts of any smartphone platform, making it very easy to pick up and use. Xbox Live integration is built in for the gaming crowd, and the application market, while still quite small, is growing rapidly.
Minuses: There’s a relative dearth of available handset choices, although that’s likely to change with Nokia recently making the shock declaration that it would start building smartphones utilising Windows Phone 7. As yet for the existing models from HTC, LG and Samsung the full operating system upgrade path is quite unclear; even the patches to date have had a rocky history. At the time of writing, Cut & Paste functionality still wasn’t present, despite being promised as “coming soon” when it launched.

For any of these platforms it’s certainly well worth having a test run in a mobile phone shop to see not only which one may suit your needs, but also your style of smartphone use. Some users will prefer the full touchscreen setup of the iPhone or most Android models, while other users may favour the keyboards found on most Blackberry models.


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