Onavo: Fast and efficient mobile internet browsing

The Onavo app promises to make your mobile internet browsing faster and more efficient. Download a simple app, tap three times and your mobile becomes 70% quicker. Too good to be true? As our Orange 3G signal in London is incredibly poor, we took the app on a very personal test.

Onavo

And it worked. Phenomenally. For the first time ever, we were able to use the web out-and-about on Orange. We finally know what Steve Jobs was talking about when he said “it’s a phone, an iPod and an internet communicator”.

Onavo works by installing a new profile on your device that routes your incoming mobile traffic through their servers. Once there, the company goes compression wild and shrinks all the data to a much more manageable mobile size.

The process is completely automated, so no-one will be prying over the computers to view the data. The service ignores HTTPS (securer) data, so your bank information won’t end up bouncing around Onavo’s servers.

Onavo isn’t just limited to web data, but also other apps – so Google Maps or image-intensive apps will have compressed information. It doesn’t affect VoIP traffic, however, so don’t expect less data-intensive calls.

The process is very similar to what RIM do for Blackberries, compressing the data and creating a much faster online service.

The downside is that images are sometimes over-compressed, leaving pictures a blurry, square-y mess. Most of the time (and with Google Maps), you’ll be fine. For pictures that are very mono-colour, however, it can turn a face into a sandpit. It’ll also strip HTML data out of e-mails, so bolding and italics are victims of the smaller file sizes.

The app itself has an “on/off” switch for choosing when you want to service to run – and it automatically disables when you’re using a WiFi connection. It also tells you how much data you’ve saved so far, in what areas you use the most data (web, maps, other, adsheet), and what saving that is percentage-wise.

On maps, we’ve regularly saving 70% a day – perfect if you get lost abroad. Our total saving comes in at around 44%, with Shazam at an impressive 80%, Facebook at 46% and the web at 34%.

A comprehensive FAQ is available on the company’s website, although we can answer the most important question: yes, it’s awesome.
http://www.onavo.com/faq

Blackberry PlayBook: Don’t call it a BlackPad. Do call it an iPad contender.

Darlings of the corporate world, Research in Motion made their first foray into the tablet wars with the Blackberry PlayBook. Tech journalists the world over breathed a sigh of relief that the rumoured name “BlackPad” hadn’t been used. Even more surprising, after a slew of quite disappointing “me too” Android tablets (and the Blackberry Torch) was that it actually looks quite good.

Blackberry-Playbook

How so? Well for one thing it won’t be running a poorly modified phone or desktop OS like some of its more rushed rivals (you know who you are) and will instead be powered by Blackberry Tablet OS, which was developed by QNX, a bolt-on acquisition to the Research in Motion team. RIM were keen to mention the multimedia and gaming power this platform provided – amazing when you consider the no-nonsense attitude that drives their phone platform, although they were also keen to describe the PlayBook as “the first professional tablet.”

Fulltime iPad haters will find a lot to like. It handles Flash 10.1 so it will be interesting to see how its performance holds up for gaming and multimedia. Developers will also be able to create apps using Adobe Air.

At 7 inches it is smaller that the iPad, albeit with a pixel dense 1024 x 600 capacitive multitouch display. “Every device I own must have a camera! Does it have a camera?” you cry. Yes, yes it does – two in fact with a front facing 3 megapixel camera and a 5 mega pixel rear one, including video conferencing.

Other conspicuous iPad absentees such as multi-tasking, 1080p support or a built-in HDMI out are all present and correct in the PlayBook, courtesy of the Cortex A9 dual core 1GHz CPU, backed up with 1GB of RAM.

The PlayBook has a symbiotic relationship with its phone-based cousins so smooth synching of data is promised and apparently you can tether your phone’s data connection to the Playbook.

The only thing the PlayBook seems to lack is a firm launch date and any inkling of a price. I’ve played with most of the tablets on offer and I’m writing this on an iPad, but the Playbook (along with the Samsung Galaxy Tab) seems like a definite contender in the tablet wars.

Samsung Galaxy Tab review roundup

Samsung’s first tablet has received a rapturous welcome from the media following its unveiling this week. Largely, the reviewers are suggesting the Galaxy Tab could be a genuine rival for Apple’s iPad, but it’s yet to be seen if it will become the new “apple” of our eyes (sorry).

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab

First of all, let’s take a quick look at what the Galaxy Tab has to offer. Powered by Android Operating System 2.2, it features a 7” TFT-LCD display and weighs a mere 380g.  The Galaxy Tab supports the latest Adobe Flash Player 10.1, has 3G HSPA connectivity, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 3.0. A Cortex A8 1.0GHz application processor delivers high performance, while the Tab supports HD video content with several multimedia formats and has front and rear-facing cameras. Pretty impressive on paper then.

The Galaxy Tab could be “the iPad killer”, says The Sun; in typically staid style. The newspaper praises the Galaxy Tab’s “pin-sharp graphics” adding, “The Galaxy Tab’s trump card is the built-in phone, which the iPad lacks. It also has a camera, unlike the iPad.”

PC World’s business blog agrees that the Galaxy Tab could be “the first tablet worthy of challenging the Apple iPad”. The Tab “has most – if not all – of the features that many wanted to see on the Apple iPad, like front and rear-facing cameras, expandable memory through an SD memory card slot and a multitasking OS,” it says – but adds that due to the massive variety of Android smartphone hardware available, “some apps may not transition well to a tablet-sized display”, although this is also a problem shared by the iPad.

The Guardian commends the Tab’s unique e-reading application, “Reader’s Hub”, as well as the film and video “Media Hub”. “Allowing access to books, music and films is a major step forward as it ratchets up its competitive positioning against Apple,” it says. “Success will depend on pricing,” it adds.

The Huffington Post was also won over by the Tab.  “I was a little skeptical about the idea of a 7-inch tablet yet I found that there was enough screen real estate to happily browse the web,” said the reviewer, who praised the facility to make video calls via 3G rather than just WiFi. However, like PC World, the Huffington Post points out that the scale of some Android apps could pose problems on the Galaxy Tab display.

All in all, the majority of reviewers suggest the Galaxy Tab could have the edge over the iPad, particularly if it is competitively priced and issues with the size of apps can be ironed out.

A bite-sized smartphone – the Blackberry Pearl 3G

It seems everyone’s in the iPhone camp or the Blackberry camp in these halcyon days of smartphone wizardry, and anyone that resides out of the two camps can expect to be pitied, sniggered at behind closed doors and, ultimately, have sex less often. However, Blackberry’s new swanky new Pearl 3G seems to be their punt at grabbing these poor fools, these on-the-fence’ers and, while Blackberry purists might shrink from it and stick to their Bolds’ and their Curves’, it seems a good bet to these bloodshot eyes.

Blackberry-Pearl-3G

So come on, you shout. What’s the difference? What can they really do to change this mobile trailblazer? Well, it’s very simple. The pad. To those not in the know [snigger], Blackberry has a Qwerty keyboard. It’s amazing, game-changing; if your life is fairly vacuous and empty of love and creativity it may just change it. Once you have the Qwerty permanently at your fingertips, you realise the thought of pressing one,two,three times just to get to sodding F is a waste of time, of life; a commodity that Iggy Pop is paid a fat wedge to tell us is so precious. However, not everyone seems to think so as according to the press release ‘three quarters of the people in the global mobile phone network are still buying handsets with a traditional alphanumeric keypad.’ Introducing a keypad to try and tempt these luddites over to the Blackberry camp would therefore seem a fairly obvious move, if one that this Blackberry devotee sees as some antithetical to the point of the Blackberry in the first place. It’s all about taking your life, by extension your office, with you in the most natural way possible. Tapping three times to get that F is not natural. But then I’m not the target market.

It looks friendly, you can’t argue with that. Weighing in at only 3.3 ounces its never going to weigh you down and with its slimline, Nokia-esque shape its not as imposing as the traditional models. If the Curve is the Daddy Blackberry, this is the Teenage Daughter With An Older Boyfriend Blackberry. The phone’s industry promo also hints at this, kicking off with a long look through its abilities to store and play music. A pronounced move away from its traditional mobile office USP, its all a big attempt to make the Blackberry less staid, less serious, a little more (whisper it) iPhone. Even the dancing people in the promo is a blatant steal from those horribly chipper Apple ads.

It’s got all the normal features- 624 Mhz processor, 256MB Flash Memory, 3.2 Megapixel cameral, 360×400 sharp resolution, and its all presented in a slightly bigger, ostensibly more user-friendly desktop screen. Obviously it’ll synch with your social media, as well as Windows Media Player and iTunes. One major new feature that will be interesting to test is the new trackpad control, instead of the famous Blackberry trackerball. The trackerball is truly the gift and the curse; at first it makes scrolling and navigating the screen the smartphone control equivalent of Kerry Katona. Easy. But if that trackerball becomes wet or stuck! Woe betide your sorry, unconnected soul as you press, prod and spin that cruel vixen in the hope that it’ll come back to life and you’ll be able to make that vital Tweet. The trackpad will supposedly do away with this bane of the Blackberry user’s existence, though whether that’ll be at the expense of ease of movement will be the important thing.

All in all, the new Blackberry Pearl 3G seems like a win-win update. Longstanding Blackberry users will swerve it and stick with the models they like. Younger newbies will be sucked in by its unimposing looks, musical features and keypad. Either way, its clear them head bods know what they’re doing. Long live Blackberry.