Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Are ‘kill switches’ the answer to phone thefts?

For many people, one of the most disastrous things that could happen to them when they’re out and about is if they were to get their smartphone stolen. These days, the gadgets are so much more than just a way of keeping in touch with your mates – they’re your camera, your shopping cart, your entertainment centre and your social hub. So when somebody steals it, it can be a real disaster.

And its a problem that’s been getting worse in recent years. A new report by the Office of the New York State Attorney General, in partnership with the Mayor of London’s office, revealed that in the UK capital, smartphones are one of the biggest drivers of theft, with nearly half of robberies last year involving a handset. Despite a successful 2012 crackdown on mobile device theft, the Metropolitan Police still received over 100,000 reports of stolen smartphones in 2013.

So with this being such a big issue, it’s not wonder authorities have been keen to crack down in on. Last year, Mayor of London Boris Johnson joined up with a US-led initiative called Secure Our Smartphones (SOS) to push for new technology to be added to all smartphones in order to crack down on the issue – a so-called ‘kill switch’. And it seems as though their campaign is having an effect.

14092999

How does it work?

A kill switch is a feature on a phone that can shut down the device and prevent it from working when activated remotely – essentially turning an expensive piece of technology into a shiny black paperweight. There are two ways of achieving this – a ‘hard’ switch, with is favoured by legislators and groups like SOS, that renders a device permanently unusable, or a ‘soft’ switch that blocks unauthorised users, yet can be unlocked with the right code.

Soft switches might be less secure, but would mean that if a stolen phone is recovered, a user can pick it up and get on with their life without losing any of their data or having to get a new handset. However, these can come with their own sets of problems – such as an incident last month, when an enterprising hacker managed to break into Apple’s iCloud software and lock people’s phones by changing their Apple ID password, demanding a ransom in order to unlock them again.

Is it effective?

One company to embrace the idea of a kill switch in order to crack down on smartphone theft was Apple, which introduced an ‘Activation Lock’ feature last year as part of its iOS 7 update.

The New York State Attorney General’s report suggested this has had an immediate positive impact for owners of Apple devices. In London, it claimed iPhone thefts declined by 24 per cent in the six months after Activation Lock was added. And before you think this might be just down to a drop in crime overall, it also stated thefts of Samsung devices actually increased by three per cent over the same period. A similar story was also found in New York and San Francisco, where iPhone robberies fell by 19 per cent and 38 per cent respectively, while Samsung thefts also saw a rise.

SOS stated this is proof the technology works, but it wants to see it go further. At present, tools such as Activation Lock are opt-in, meaning users have to actually set it up in order for their phone to be locked.

“This configuration reduces participation and weakens the kill switch’s potential to deter crime. Given early signs that kill switches like Apple’s Activation Lock are effective, there is no excuse for letting unnecessary barriers impede widespread use,” the group said, calling for such features to be switched on by default.

What are the next steps?

Following the positive results seen in iPhone thefts, there have been calls for the technology to be made more widespread, and opinion is changing. Previously, one of the biggest voices opposed to the implementation of kill switches was the US trade association for mobile operators, the CTIA. It had stated this technology “isn’t the answer”, because of the potential for hackers to replicate the signal and remotely disable non-stolen phones, while ‘hard’ kill switches would still render a phone unusable even if a phone was later found.

However, it has since softened its stance and formally dropped its opposition to the technology earlier this year – paving the way for more phonemakers to implement kill switches in their devices. And this week, it was announced that both Google and Microsoft will incorporate kill switches in their next operating systems updates.

This means all three major phone platforms – iOS, Android and Windows Phone – will have such options available. And as these make up the vast majority of smartphones in use, it could be about to get a lot harder for phone thieves to make a profit.

5 of the best apps for following the World Cup

Finally. After what seems like an interminable amount of build-up and hype, the 2014 World Cup is officially underway, and sports fans across the world are settling down in front of their flat-screen TVs or staking a permanent claim to their favourite spot in the pub in order to watch the festival of football.

Even if team USA do end up on an early flight back, there’s still plenty of talent get excited about, with the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and Suarez all flaunting their stuff. But if you can’t get enough of your soccar fix during the games themselves, there are also a whole host of mobile apps available to make sure you’re always right up to date with the action, whether you’re on the couch, in the garden or taking a sneaky look in the office (we won’t judge, we’ve been playing World in Motion on a loop for about a week).

So to get you in the mood for the 31-day celebration of all things soccar, here’s our pick of the best iPhone and Android apps out there. And when that’s got you excited, why not show your support by creating a personalized phone case with your favorite country’s flag or logo?

5 of the best apps for following the World Cup

FIFA official app
The game’s governing body might not inspire much confidence at the moment but when it comes to making a decent mobile app, it turns out Fifa is surprisingly competent. The tournament’s official app offers a simple-to-use, clear design with comprehensive details on all the teams, players and matches, as well as a live blog offering up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening, and you’ll find exclusive text, photo and video coverage.

Onefootball Brasil
If you want the most knowledgeable, up-to-date info, Onefootball Brasil offers notifications for your favorite team and minute-by-minute commentary for every game, for those unfortunate occasions when poor planning means you can’t be in front of the TV. It also provides videos from press conferences and interviews, as well as pre and post match news coverage and a dedicated stats centre and leaderboards for goal scorers, yellow cards and much more – perfect for resolving any arguments about who the tournament’s top performers are.

BBC Sport
As you’d expect, the international broadcaster is going all out in Brazil and is promising 24/7 coverage of the World Cup – all of which will be available on its mobile app. Whether you need to know the latest fixtures, keep up-to-date with team news or learn the latest goings-on from team USA, it’ll all be at your fingertips. What’s more, you can also listen to BBC Radio 5 Live as you browse, so you never have to miss a minute of the action. Why not team it with the separate BBC iPlayer app for live TV coverage on your cell?

FIFA 14
If you think you can do better the next time Wayne Rooney inevitably belts a shot into row Z, now you can prove it – virtually, at least – with the mobile version of EA Sports’ official Fifa 14 game. Sure, it doesn’t have all the intricacies of the console versions – but then you aren’t paying $40 for it either, and it’s just been updated with all the World Cup teams, players and kits. With intuitive touch controls, some of the best graphics on mobile and enough depth to keep you playing long after all the real teams have packed up and gone home, this could be the perfect way to keep getting your soccar fix.

Panini Online Sticker Album
For those of us who’ve got fond memories of gathering on the schoolyard before the bell goes to swap stickers and bemoaning the fact you’ve got four copies of the Algerian goalkeeper, but don’t want to be fiddling around with real stickers, the online version of the iconic Panini football sticker album is a must have. The app lets you open new packs of stickers every day, add them to your collection and trade them with other users to complete your album. With over 2.4 million users, you’ve surely got more options available than if it’s just you and a couple of mates. Can you fill the book before the final on July 13th?

The perfect selfie – how not to look like an idiot

If you haven’t heard, sharing photos on social networking is now apparently very much the in thing. But forget carefully composed landscapes and worrying about apertures and focus – now all you need to do to be the next David Bailey is stretch out your arm as far as you can reach, pull a silly face and hope you don’t end up with someone gurning behind you when you click the shutter.

Yes, like it or not, the selfie will undoubtedly go down as one of the biggest trends of the last few years. In fact, it’s become such a phenomenon the Oxford English Dictionary even named it their word of the year in 2013, with everyone from pop stars to presidents getting in on the trend.

Getting the perfect selfie can be the holy grail for many people – but it’s not as easy as it sounds. A bad one can not only make you look like an idiot in front of your friends, as tools like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter let your most embarrassing images wing their way around the world in seconds. So looking good needs some serious thought.

#selfie

Choose the right spot

Unless you’re Paris Hilton, no-one’s really that interested in a selfie where 95 per cent of the photo is taken up by your face, so a good backdrop is essential.

A recent survey by Suggestme found London is the most popular location for selfies among both tourists and locals, while the most commonly-snapped landmarks around the world include Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower and the Colosseum. Nice, but a bit obvious – so something a bit more creative could help you stand out from the crowd.

Oh, and it should also go without saying, but sombre occasions like funerals are definitely out – something Barack Obama and David Cameron should have remembered before their grinning selfie at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service hit front pages around the world.

Show off your best features

The trickiest part of any selfie -as with anything else in life – is making sure you look your best. But it’s sometimes not easy to tell how it’ll turn out when your screen’s held at arms length away from you, so what can you do to avoid creating a cautionary tale to be shared by others for all eternity?

It can’t be emphasised enough that the ‘duckface’ look is a big no – really, it can’t, no matter who you are. Not only has it been done to death by everyone, huge pouting lips have yet to make anyone look good.

You also need to think about the angle of your photo – a downward shot, or one where you tilt your head back, can give the impression of a double-chin – definitely unflattering. Keep the camera as level as possible makes sense, while also make sure you’re not staring directly down the lens like a serial killer’s arrest photo – a slight turn of the head is the most natural look.

Watch your surroundings

Even if you’ve found the perfect spot to get your snap, it can still be ruined by that idiot in the background who thinks photobombing is still cool, so make sure you know what and who around you could pose a problem.

Also, there’s a fine line between an exciting shot and getting too close, as this unfortunate chap found out to his cost when he tried to take a selfie with a train, and was taught a swift lesson in safety by the conductor.

And if you are taking the snap in your bedroom or bathroom mirror to show off your stylish new phone case, make sure the room is presentable. No-one wants to see your dirty laundry or a mirror smeared with toothpaste.

The right tools for the job

One of the biggest problems with selfies is that because they’re often taken with the phone’s lower-resolution front-facing camera, they can often end up being very poor-quality. However, some of the latest models – such as the HTC One – have recognised this problem and started to equip their phones with more powerful front cameras.

But if you don’t have this yet, there are still a few things you can do. Turning your gadget around to use the bigger rear camera might mean you don’t get to see exactly what you’re shooting, but with a bit of luck, the results will turn out better.

Also, remember to switch the flash off, as at close range, all it will do is white out your face so you look like you’re remaking The Blair Witch Project. A bit of fiddling about with lighting settings and filters can also transform a boring snap into one worthy of sharing, so don’t assume leaving your phone in its default settings is the way to go.

5 of the best music streaming apps

The big news from the tech world this week is that Apple is in advanced talks to buy Dr Dre-backed headphone maker Beats in a deal said to be worth up to $3.2 billion (£1.89 billion). This may seem like a lot for some headphones – no matter how cool they are – but what’s perhaps more interesting to Apple is the firm’s online streaming service, Beats Music.

While not yet available in the UK, it’s one of the latest entrants to an increasingly-crowded market – and one Apple has yet to really break into, despite having what you’d think would be the perfect launch platform in iTunes. So some analysts have suggested getting its hands on Beats’ technology is the main driver for the deal.

And it may need all the help it can get, as there’s a bewildering array of options out there for the keen music lover who wants to listen on the move. Whether you’re a fan of Beethoven, the Beatles or Beyonce, it’s easier than ever to find your favourite tracks. But how do you know which is the right one for you?

That’s why we’ve put together some of our top suggestions for music streaming on your mobile.

Spotify
The daddy of the sector, Spotify has been doing on-demand streaming longer than almost anyone, and has plenty of time to refine the concept. It’s got the biggest subscriber base, which means it can offer a huge library of more than 20 million tracks, an easy-to-use interface and strong social features. For £10 a month, you get unlimited access across all your devices – and this covers pretty much anything you can name, from your PC and smartphone to your car.

Google Play Music All Access
Ignore the mouthful of a name, Google’s entry into the streaming space offers all the refinement you’d expect from the web giant. It loses out slightly to Spotify on library size – a paltry 18 million – but it makes up for this by giving you the option to upload up to 20,000 of your own tracks, so you can listen to them anywhere. This locker is free, but for full access, including personalised recommendations and radio, it’ll also ask for £10 a month.

Deezer
For sheer size, France-based Deezer is hard to beat, with more than 30 million tracks available for streaming. It has the usual array of personalised radio stations and recommendations – and is currently offering its unlimited mobile app for just £4.99 a month – that’s 50 per cent off its normal price. For UK customers it also has special offers if you have an EE 4G contract.

Rdio
Perhaps Spotify’s closest rival in terms of library size, price and capabilities, Rdio suffers slightly from a lower bitrate for its tracks. But it more than makes up for this with a clean user interface, great options for sharing an account with family members and strong integration with social media, so you can always share you new favourite with your Facebook friends.

Last.fm
A little different from the services about, Last.fm won’t let you choose a specific track to play, but its personalised radio capabilities are sceond to none. As well as letting you choose stations by genre or artist, the software’s algorithm – known as ‘Scrobbler’ – learns your tastes in music from what you listen to on services such as iTunes and Spotify to build a full – and uncannily accurate – picture of your ideal playlist. Like Spotify, its had a few years to perfect its service, while a recent deal with its rival means users also have access to Spotify’s library as well.

Of course, you’ll want the best experience when listening to your favourite tracks on the go, so once you’ve made your decision about which service – or services – to plump for, don’t forget to check out our range of headphones to make sure you can enjoy it at the best quality.

Helping your kids get the most out of tablets

Many of us will have seen that infamous YouTube video of a one-year-old baby swiping her chubby little fingers across the cover of a magazine in a vain attempt to ‘unlock’ it like an iPad, and will either have been appalled or amazed, or maybe even both.

In an age where a third of the UK population now own a tablet, it’s hardly surprising that our youngsters are becoming exposed to them in such a way. But while some accept this as inevitable and think it’s important for children to become technologically literate, others recoil in horror at the thought that the iPad could replace books, toys or actual face-to-face communication.

Members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers raised concerns during a conference in Manchester recently. They suggested that the use of tablets is hindering the development of key skills in infants and young children.

“I’ve spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks,” said Colin Kinney, a teacher from Northern Ireland.

Of course common sense will tell us that it’s not a good idea to plonk a pre-school child in front of an iPad and leave them there all day, but is the use of tablets by children really as bad as it’s made out to be, or might there be some benefits?

Jordy Kaufman, director of the BabyLab at Swinbourne University in Melbourne, Australia reckons there are. Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, he said it all depends on how the tablet is being used, as there is a growing market for learning apps that can be every bit as educational as traditional toys.

Speaking to the same publication, Rosie Flewitt from the Institute of Education at the University of London said she believes children banned from using tablets could grow up lacking some of the important IT skills that their peers have acquired through appropriate, supervised use of the gadgets.

So, how can you make sure your kids are reaping the benefits of tablet use without falling victim to iPad ‘addiction’ or missing out on the acquisition of important physical, mental and social skills because their little eyes are permanently glued to a screen?

Used appropriately, tablets can be a great learning tool for children

 

Educational content

Instead of letting your kids play Angry Birds or mess about with OldBooth, make sure that when they do use a tablet they are interacting with educational content and are supervised in doing so.

There is, as Mr Kaufman pointed out, a huge array of apps designed for kids that are both fun and educational, so instead of letting your children loose with an iPad, do a little research to find out which apps will be of most benefit to them and download them onto the tablet yourself.

Appsplayground.com has listed a number of applications it reckons are cool enough for kids, but have plenty of educational content to keep parents happy. There’s Endless Reader and Justin’s World for literacy, Toca Lab and Brains My Body for science and Moose Math and Mystery Math Museum for mathematics.

There are also apps that teach kids the basics of computer programming, apps that encourage their creativity and even apps designed specifically for toddlers to help them learn colours, shapes or animal sounds, for example.

Children’s tablets

Older children, particularly those in secondary school, can obviously benefit from using a real tablet, but if your children are a lot younger and are begging to play with yours, you can compromise by getting them their own children’s tablet.

There are a number of gadgets on the market that mimic the look and feel of a real tablet and work in a similar way using a touch screen – the feature that appears to draw kids to tablets in the first place as it makes them so easy to use.

There’s the LeapFrog LeapPad and the Vtech Innotab 3S for example, both of which let little ones write, draw, take pictures and play educational games, and also feature kid-safe web browsing with easy-to-use parental controls.

And if you don’t want to buy a separate tablet for your children, you can use a child-friendly interface instead which turns your own device onto one your kids can use safely. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3, for example, can be turned into a kiddie tablet stuffed with learning games as well as a handy Time Manager feature that lets parents set their own limits on usage.

Strike a balance

Sometimes tired and busy parents are guilty of giving an iPad to a child to keep them occupied instead of spending time on the activities that are most important to a little one’s development. This is especially true for very young children who get bored easily and need constant entertainment.

But using an iPad as a babysitter when you don’t have the time or the energy to play with your children can lead to the kind of problems highlighted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Place limits on the time your children spend using tablets, even if they are playing educational games or using the internet as a learning tool. Encourage them to read books, play board games and get outside as well, because balance is key.

And crucially, supervise your children when they are using a tablet, especially if they are very young. Using the gadget together can boost its educational value, as you can discuss the activities, concepts and information your child is exposed to and enhance their learning through human interaction.

Safety and security

If a child is using an iPad they will be able to access the internet, so it’s just as important to protect them from inappropriate content as it would be if they were using a PC or laptop.

A survey carried out by communications regulator Ofcom last year showed that almost half of parents feel their children know more about the internet than they do, which suggests mums and dads need to swot up a little bit if they want to keep their kids completely safe when using tablets.

Again, supervision is key, but if you can’t be there every time your son or daughter picks up an iPad, make sure you take advantage of the many security features and programs that are available in order to limit what they can do and see via the gadget.

5 of the best iOS fashion apps

Let’s face it, keeping up with the latest comings and goings in the fashion world can be exhausting. But it has to be done, because no-one wants to get caught out being the last person still clinging to last year’s styles.

Happily however, this is the age of the smartphone, and the always-connected tech world isn’t just for keeping up to date with your friends’ coolest Instagram photos and playing a couple of levels of Candy Crush Saga on the bus.

So if you thought the only way you could make a fashion statement with your phone was by fitting it with a smart designer case, think again. There are a ton of apps out there dedicated to keeping fashionistas in the loop on the latest happenings. In fact, at times, it can feel a bit like an overstocked store, where you have no idea where to even start.

So that’s why we’ve picked out five of the most essential fashion apps for iOS that you have to have on your iPhone or iPad.

5 of the best iOS fashion apps

Pose

OK, so you’ve got an important date tonight and no clue what to wear. Or maybe you’re in a store changing room with two dresses and only enough cash for one. So what are you to do? This is where Pose comes in. The app lets you see what top bloggers and celebrities are wearing right now, while you can also get advice based on your location (perfect when the weather isn’t doing what you want it to) or help you identify what goes with what to create the perfect outfit.

Style.com

Always the first port of call for any wannabe designer or fashion editor, Style.com is the number one resource for up-to-the-minute news, reviews and the latest catwalk images. And the app is a great way to get all the trend pieces, interviews and coverage of the latest must-be-seen-at events in your pocket. Its extensive archive offers details from shows going back ten years and access to the site’s entire library of videos.

Shopstyle

If you’re the kind of person who knows what they want when they head into a store – not just a top, but the exact design, colour and more, browsing online can often be a frustrating process, punctuated by frequent mutterings of ‘no, that’s not it either. But all of this hassle can go away with Shopstyle. Essentially Google for fashion, this has millions of products from all the top brands to help you keep up the hottest trends and snag a bargain in the latest sales.

Whisp

These days, it seems like there are a billion messaging apps out there, each looking to fill their own distinctive niche., And guess what – fashion is no different. Whisp lets you chat with your friends, but it also lets you shop together with your BFF online, letting you browse your favourite brands, stores, and styles together –  all in one place. It lets you drag and drop millions of products into the messaging box, so you can instantly get your friend’s opinion.

ASAP54

Have you ever seen someone when you’re out and about and immediately thought ‘where did you get that coat?’, but didn’t want to ask them? Well if you’ve frustrated yourself into insanity trying to find it on Google by typing in the description, ASAP54 could be the app for you. Working like Shazam for fashion, it lets you take snap of an outfit (or a photo you’ve found online, if you prefer) and then use advanced image recognition technology to find it and similar items available to buy near you.

These five are just some of the many great apps out there that help make keeping up with the fashion world, and ensuring you’ve got a wardrobe fit for any occasion, as easy as possible. And when you’re done picking out those must-have items, don’t forget to accessorise your look with one of our great range of iPhone covers.

BlackBerry blues…

With the huge variety of devices that are available on the market it can be easy to be a bit overwhelmed by them all. For those of you who are familiar with the two Ronnies you might like this comedy skit, in which Ronnie Corbett goes in to a shop because he’s having some issues with his BlackBerry and Apple.

 

Click here to watch the video.

Charge your smartphone at festivals using the power of music…

If you’re at Glastonbury this weekend or heading off to any other festivals this summer you could find this interesting. Orange have unveiled a t-shirt that can be used to charge smartphones by harnessing the power of sound and it’s being trialed at Glasto. In the future this could mean that you may never be caught short with a flat battery whilst watching your favourite band. Click here to read the article.

The power of radio…

There are so many different ways of generating and harvesting energy these days, from nuclear power plants right down to wind farms and the use of solar panels. One of the latest ways on the market is through the use of radio waves and company Renesas Electronics Corp have taken full advantage of this to produce wireless baby sensors that don’t require a battery.

 

Click here to read more.

 

Thank you to Hiran for today’s contribution to the blog.

And the winner is…

We’d like to say a big thank you to The Times for awarding our TurboCharger 5000 4 out of 5 stars in this weeks edition of In Gear  (05/06/11). The TurboCharger came out on top and was named “Best for portability”.

 

USB TurboCharger 5000 – External Battery Pack & Emergency charger for iPad , iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Nokia, HTC, MP3, PDA and more..

The Proporta USB TurboCharger 5000 is a compact, high powered rechargeable battery which charges from any standard USB port and stores an impressive 5000 mAh, allowing you to charge and recharge most leading mobile devices – including your Apple iPad, iPhone 4/3G S/3G, Apple iPod, BlackBerry, most digital cameras, your HTC, Nintendo DS Lite, GPS navigation device, Sony Ericsson, Nokia and lots of other gadgets.