ALCATEL launch “super-colourful affordable LTE” POP S3 smartphone

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In the words of Alcatel – “Make it faster keep it POP”. The POP S3 is the latest 4G phone from Alcatel trying to compete with the iPhone 5c and its colourful design. Weighing only 130g it is pretty light, users can also personalise their smartphone with the colourful battery covers. They are described as tough  and thick enough to not feel too cheap – you get three of them to start with.

Running on Android 4.3 the POP S3 has features such as One Finger Zoom which provides easy navigation while browsing. You can also share any content from your smartphone through Miracast Wi-Fi Display and it has an expandable memory good for those who like to take pictures and store everything on the phone.

The full screen camera with its video stabilisation allows you to record Full HD to a good level of sharpness. The screen has been a bit of a talking point for its poor quality, the of an IPS screen would have been preferable, but on the flip side the POP S3 may be one of the cheapest 4G phones out there.

The phone's FlipCover
The phone’s FlipCover

Describing the feel of the POP S3, Andrew Williams from Trusted Reviews said it was:

A bit like a low-rent take on the iPhone 5C. The plastic feels a bit cheaper and front-on the S3 looks like a conventional low-cost Android, but it still looks a fair bit better than many of the affordable Huawei budget phones we’ve reviewed over the past year

Another positive from the same reviewer was that the “POP S3 features a front notification LED light and an ambient light sensor despite the price.”

Meanwhile over at CNET they commented that the POP S3’s 800×480 pixel (WVGA) display was “fine, but you will find fonts and icons not as sharp. In relation to the camera, the reviewer fairly pointed out that while the phone packs a 5-megapixel camera:

“Don’t expect to take great pictures with it. It should be adequate for shooting in bright light, but I doubt it’d be your go-to camera for important shots.”

The POP S3 is available from EE stores nationwide.  For more information regarding ALCATEL ONETOUCH please visit www.facebook.com/alcatelonetouchuk.

Motorola Moto X review round-up

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Under Google’s brief stewardship of Motorola (May 2012 to January 2014), two handsets reached the market: the budget Moto G and the more premium Moto X. The Moto X is the second one to arrive in Britain (in the US, confusingly, the order was reversed) and now reviewers from this side of the Atlantic have also been able to put the mobile through its paces.

Featuring upper-end rather than top-end specs and several unique customisations, the Moto X finds Google and Motorola in experimental mood. While not quite in the same league in terms of power and display as Google’s own Nexus 5, the Moto X is nevertheless likely to turn a few heads. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with the do-it-yourself Moto Maker case design options available to US customers.

It’s certainly smaller than the Nexus 5, which may or may not appeal to you depending on the size of your hands. One of the headline features mentioned in most reviews is the always-listening voice control service that enables you to run searches, launch apps and access other features without touching the device: “The voice recognition software seems more accurate and responsive than that found on the Samsung Galaxy S4,” reports Carly Page in The Inquirer, “and we found that we seldom had to repeat ourselves, with the handset having no problem adjusting to a British accent.” The rumour is that the Moto X’s delayed arrival in the UK was due to Motorola being busy tweaking its accent recognition capabilities.

Page found the biggest problem with the Moto X was not the device itself but rather its competition:

“The Moto X definitely has some good things going for it, with its up-to-date Android 4.4 KitKat mobile operating system, smooth performance and vibrant screen, but we’d still find it hard to recommend the handset over alternative Android handsets available.”

TechRadar’s Alex Roth was more enthusiastic, describing the Moto X as “a truly standout Android phone” despite reservations about the camera:

“The Moto X is a good, good phone. In fact it’s a great phone. Is it one of the best Android phones out there? Well that depends. Yes, if you value a reasonable size and useful services over raw power, a massive HD screen and microSD support.”

Again, it’s only in comparison with other top-end Android smartphones such as the Nexus 5 and the Sony Xperia Z1 that the Moto X’s star begins to dim a little. Taken on its own, reviewers have found very little to complain about: it has the clean, uncluttered stock Android 4.4 installed, decent battery life and an appealingly designed shell.

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“The Motorola Moto X’s slightly disappointing internal specifications are by and large balanced out by its close-to-untouched Android 4.4 KitKat operating system and useful software additions,” writes Alistair Stevenson at V3. “However, you can still get better value for money elsewhere.”

Praising the phone’s build quality, software and performance levels, Stevenson concludes by lamenting the delay in the Moto X’s launch in the UK, which has ultimately left it lagging behind the Nexus 5 in terms of specs and value for money. While it’s certainly a more powerful beast than the Moto G, the Moto X’s position has been weakened by the arrival of Google’s LG-manufactured flagship phone.

Finally, Samuel Gibbs in the Guardian has a lot of time for the active display notifications unique to the Moto X that appear even while the device is locked or in standby:

“When a notification comes in, only a small section of the screen lights up displaying an icon for what has just happened. A tap and hold gesture shows more at-a-glance information, allowing the user to assess whether it is worth turning unlocking the phone to access whatever just happened, be it a call, a text, an email or any other alert.”

This helps slow down battery drain and dismiss notifications more easily, without necessarily having to even open them up. Ultimately, Gibbs concludes that while the Moto X is “a terrific smartphone… the Nexus 5 is cheaper, and offers all the same features; it’s better value.”

The Moto X is available now SIM-free for £380 with 16GB of on-board storage. It offers a 4.7-inch 720p HD display (1,280 x 720 pixels), 10-megapixel and 2-megapixel cameras back and front, and 4G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The device is powered by a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and 2GB of RAM.

Samsung announces budget 7-inch Galaxy Tab 3 Lite

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In its never-ending quest to bring out gadgets to cover all possible screen sizes, price points and design styles, Samsung has announced a new, slimmer version of the Galaxy Tab 3 tablet. The new 7-inch slate is aimed squarely at the budget tablet shopper, putting it in competition with Tesco’s popular Hudl device, among others.

The original Galaxy Tab 3 is by no means a world-beater, but the Tab 3 Lite cuts the specs back even further: there’s a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU under the hood, 1GB of RAM and a display running at 1,024 x 600 pixels. The bezel is smaller than on the original Tab 3, though the 7-inch screen size is the same. You get a measly 8GB of internal storage (though you can pop in a memory card if you like). There’s a single 2-megapixel camera around the back, and the device comes with Android 4.2 Jellybean pre-installed (complete with Samsung’s usual collection of tweaks and add-ons). Black and white editions will be available to potential buyers.

Nothing to write home about then, but perhaps something cheap that might suit the kids (though there are enough tablets that fall into this bracket already). Engadget’s Jamie Rigg rightly points out that the new device doesn’t bring much to an already crowded market: “If Samsung hopes to sell these things en masse, anything but seriously cheap is going to put a stop to those plans,” he writes.

CNET’s Lance Whitney also reserved full judgement until the price is announced: “The full 8GB Galaxy Tab 3 retails for $200, so the Lite model will have to sell at a more appealing price to win over buyers,” Whitney says. His UK colleague Nick Hide wasn’t blown away by the specs on offer, describing the screen resolution as “abysmal” and the design “old fashioned looking”.

So what is the newly official Galaxy Tab 3 Lite up against? The Tesco Hudl is heavier, but has a much better display and a front-facing camera. It’s also faster, though a full comparison isn’t possible until Samsung lets us know just how much its latest piece of kit will cost. There’s also the Asus MemoPad HD, a similar bargain-basement 7-inch tablet that has a slightly better display and a slighter faster CPU. In terms of bang-for-buck, Google’s own Nexus 7 remains the best choice for Android slabs at this size — it’s not the cheapest option, though, which is why other companies have tried to muscle in.

It’s all down to the price as to whether this will be a budget option for users or a complete non-starter, then — some UK retailers have it listed for slightly less than the £119 Hudl, but stock hasn’t yet arrived so these prices may be estimates. If we hear officially from Samsung, we’ll update this post accordingly.

Samsung unveils faster, more powerful, Galaxy Camera 2

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With CES just around the corner, Samsung has announced the Galaxy Camera 2, a follow-up to its popular Galaxy Camera, which was the world’s first Android-powered digital camera to fuse smartphone functionality with a point-and-click camera.

As you’d expect with any yearly refresh, Samsung has improved up the spec list in several areas – so instead of 4GB onboard storage (upgradable to 64GB via SD) you now get 8GB of storage. RAM has doubled, too, meaning Android 4.3 Jelly Bean zips along at a fair old pace alongside the new 1.6GHz quad-core processor.

One area where Samsung hasn’t improved upon, though, is the 4.8-inch display, which is the same as the last model.  Oddly the Galaxy’s camera sensor is the same 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor that you’d find on the old 2012 model too – which on the face of is a bit disappointing.

Elsewhere Samsung has kept the cameras’ impressive 22x zoom, whilst the snapper’s chassis has shed a few millimeters and grams along the ways too. Battery life has also been upped, despite its lighter build, and now comes with a 2000mAh battery, which is a good jump from the original’s 1650mAh unit.

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Sharing is made even easier with the new model as there’s Wi-Fi and NFC. The new Tag & Go feature makes it easy to connect the Galaxy Camera 2 to NFC-enabled smartphone for easy sharing.

Where you’ll find the main bulk of improvements, though, is the shooting modes, where The Verge “found a ton of new smart scene modes” – 28 apparently – which should help users set up shots much more easily. The camera is also able to shoot 1920×1080 HD video and is capable of capturing slow-motion video at a sloth-like 120 frames per second.

Pocket-lint concluded that while some of the improvements to the new Galaxy Camera 2 are noteworthy, you’d probably be better served picking up the original, which apparently is “still available for £200 from Jessops” – whereas the new model will probably set you back double that.

We’ll have to wait until the camera is shown off at CES next week for details on the release date, or the price.

The best features in Android KitKat 4.4

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New versions of Android don’t arrive with the same kind of hullabaloo as they used to, nor it would seem the same numerical significance. After Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 and Jelly Bean 4.1-4.3, the newest kid on the block is KitKat 4.4 so called thanks to a strange deal struck between Google and Nestlé. KitKat 5.0 would’ve fitted in nicely with the Nexus 5, but it wasn’t to be.

With Google choosing to farm out the likes of Gmail and Google Maps as separate apps, partly to minimise the effects of Android fragmentation, there isn’t all that much left in the core code of Android itself in terms of integrated features. Nevertheless, KitKat does bring with it some notable changes that will interest all Android users, and which give some indication of where Google’s mobile operating system will be heading in the future.

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Google Now continues to improve.

First and foremost, there’s Google Now. Technically speaking, Google Now is part of the separate Google Search app, but the integration is tightened up in KitKat 4.4 so that your personalised cards can be reached by one swipe from the central home screen. The old way of accessing Google Now, where you press and hold on the Home button then drag upwards, is still available.

The home screen engine itself has been modified, so any blank home screens simply disappear. If all of your shortcuts are on the central screen, swiping right has no effect, as there’s no home screen to go to. Widgets, meanwhile, have been shunted to the home screen settings together with wallpaper, rather than appearing as an extension of the All Apps screen.

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Manage your home launchers.

If you’re a serious Android user then no doubt you’ve played around with alternative launcher programs, and KitKat 4.4 makes switching between them easier with a new Home entry in the Settings app. It only appears once you’ve installed at least one third-party launcher on your system, and is a much more straightforward way of changing from one to another.

In fact, as Ars Technica discovered, the Google Search app is now pretty much Android itself. The default launcher is an extension of Google Now, rather than the other way around. That means, somewhere down the line, you’ll be able to install a pure, unmodified version of Android on any device from HTC, Samsung or anyone else.

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The new Hangouts out.

Also of note is the new Hangouts app, designed to handle SMS text messages as well as instant messenger chats. Again, this is technically a separate app that’s now available for older devices too, but as the latest version debuted with KitKat 4.4, we’re including a mention of it here.

The text messaging integration is very much a work in progress. The old Web chat Hangouts and the new SMS threads are kept in separate conversations, even when they relate to the same contact. What’s more, your text messages aren’t archived to Gmail like Hangout chats are, which would’ve been a nice touch. There’s definitely room for improvement in the future.

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The phone dialler app gets a refresh.

The Phone app has been given a facelift in KitKat 4.4, and will now automatically show frequently called contacts so you can get at them more easily. There’s also a new Caller ID feature: if an unknown number rings you, Android KitKat 4.4 scans nearby businesses on Google Maps to see if it can identify who it is. The same technology is coming to personal numbers in 2014, if you agree to link your Google+ profile to your mobile number, though there is the choice to opt-out.

The Camera and Gallery apps are still part of Android, and both get a couple of new features in KitKat 4.4. The headline change in terms of the camera is the new HDR+ mode, which takes a succession of images very quickly, then combines the best lighting, colour and saturation from each one. In most situations, it returns better-looking photos in return for a few milliseconds’ extra lag.

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Camera and gallery improvements.

As for the Gallery, it seems certain to be subsumed into the Photos app in the very near future. Nevertheless, for now it includes new editing features that enable you to apply filters and borders, straighten and crop images, and make adjustments to brightness, colour and saturation. It’s a welcome improvement, if you like playing around with images on your phone, and it’s non-destructive too — all of your edits can be undone with one tap.

Apart from a few stylish design tweaks, that’s about it. Other changes ushered in with KitKat 4.4 include a full-screen “Immersive Mode” that works more naturally (for your games and ebooks), the “OK Google” voice shortcut introduced by with the Moto X (though you’ll need to switch from “UK English” to “US English” to use it right now) and the ability to record screen activity as a video (a third-party app is required to do the recording right now, but the capability is there). There’s also improved file handling capabilities available to all apps, with Google Drive integration built in, and native cloud printing support.

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Better file handling is now available.

Android 4.4 KitKat continues three trends that have been building for some time: more personalisation, tighter integration with Google’s other products, and a move away from integrated apps to separate ones that can be updated independently. It’s undoubtedly the best and most attractive version of Android yet, designed as much to counter the alternative Android versions as iOS.

Review roundup: Google Nexus 5 smartphone

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Following weeks and weeks of leaks, rumours and speculation the Nexus 5 has finally arrived as the new reference Android smartphone. Can the Google and LG collaboration really provide a proper flagship device at a fraction of the price? Take a look at the whirl of excitement the Google Nexus 5 has created and decide for yourself whether the anticipated handset really is worth the hype.

Rating the Nexus 5 an impressive ‘9 out of 10’, it’s worth reading ZDNet’s review of the smartphone. ZDNet’s writer had been living with the Nexus 5 for over a week and after initial disappointment and an immediate reaction to return the device, further evaluation meant the ZDNet Nexus 5 inspector deemed the smartphone as “outstanding value.” The focal point, writes ZDNet is the Nexus 5’s “latest and greatest” Android operating system, the Android KitKat 4.4.

In hardware terms, ZDNet isn’t as quite and complementary, finding the lightness of the device causing a worrying feeling that something’s missing, like the battery for instance. The camera also isn’t deemed as a plus point in this review, being slow to focus, although the photos included in the review seem to be pretty decent. Despite some slight disappointment with the weight and camera, the contributor is impressed with the Nexus 5’s immersive mode, which is great for reading in Google Books. Other stand-out features for ZDNet include the overall look of the design, the new OK Google voice control functionality, the Quickoffice integration, the integrated pedometer functionality and the pure application launch area. But what I think really drives this review to score an impressive ‘9 out of 10’, is the price. The 16GB model is priced at $349 and the 32GB model is $399, “fantastic prices” that provide “outstanding value.”

Engagdet is never one to mince its words, particularly when it gets to try out a highly anticipated new device. Indecisively titled “The Best Phone $350 Can Buy,” Engadget’s praise once again falls at the Nexus 5’s price. It has to be said that Engagdet was a fan of the Nexus 4, citing it as “gorgeous and powerful”. So impressed is Engadget by the “serenity of a pure Android experience and all the trimmings,” that this contributor finds that with this device it’s clear Google is trying to give the high-end, $600-plus Android flagships a run for their money.

Check out this hands-on video:

So what are the trimmings of the Nexus 5, Engadget’s so impressed by? The solidity of the phone’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and polycarbonate plastic on the back is one mentionable feature, though Engagdet does admit the Nexus 5 might not be ugly but certainly isn’t striking. Overall, Engadget loves the high-res display, the enhancements brought by Android KitKat and the general performance, but again, the real praise lies within the price.

“A phone like the Nexus 5 would get our blessing even at a higher price, but the fact that you can buy it for as low as $350 makes it that much sweeter,” concludes Engagdet.

The only feature deemed being a giveaway of the cost cuts, according to this review, is the device’s battery life with a runtime that is not as long as other flagship phones with larger batteries.

Deviating from the general praiseworthy consensus of the Nexus 5 is Wired’s evaluation. It has to be said Wired does tend to strive to controversially go against the run of play, citing smartphones as being boring. After spending a week with the Nexus 5 said:

“It’s clear this isn’t just another boring smartphone. It may be the most boring phone of the year.”

“It’s the vanilla soy milk latte of handsets.” (A typically trying-to-be-controversial-and-trendy Wired statement).

Despite describing the Nexus 5 as looking like a “big old slab of grass” even Wired has to admit it’s very fast, has a sensitive touchscreen, a pretty great battery life, a gorgeous screen, fantastic photo processing, loaded with Google brains, and is a great price.

Except having a slightly flawed camera, a degree of mixed opinions about the aesthetical merits and some debate about its battery, the Nexus 5 generally gets a big thumbs’ up. The majority of the praise is spawned by its price as what remain crystal clear in the Nexus 5 reviews is that we all can’t resist a bargain.

Kindle Fire HDX coming to the UK, but is it any good?

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Rumours of an Amazon-branded phone continue to swirl around the tech world, but in the meantime the company is focusing on its Android tablet line with its new Kindle Fire HDX range. The competition is fiercer than ever: cut-price slabs from Tesco and Argos are now fighting it out with Google’s better-than-ever second-generation Nexus 7, so Amazon can’t afford to stand still.

Pre-ordering has just gone live for the new range in the UK. There are three key models: the top-of-the-range 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX, the smaller 7″ Kindle Fire HDX and the budget 7″ Kindle Fire. Each one comes with the option of 4G connectivity (supplied by Vodafone), a selection of storage options and the choice of Amazon’s ‘special offers’ embedded advertising.

With so many configurations to pick from, there’s a price to suit every wallet size: the cheapest 7″ Kindle Fire HD will set you back £119 with 8GB of storage, no 4G and special offers enabled, while the most expensive 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX costs £489 with 64GB of space, 4G connectivity and the ads switched off. For comparison purposes you can pick up a new Wi-Fi-only 16GB Nexus 7 for £199, while a Wi-Fi-only 16GB iPad mini is priced at £269. Apple is expected to refresh its iPad line at an event next week (22nd October).

The new HDX range of tablets come with 7″ or 8.9″ screens and the option of 4G connectivity provided by Vodafone.

The entry-level 7″ Fire HD brings with it a 1280×800 pixel display and a dual-core 1.5GHz processor. Upgrade to a 7″ Fire HDX and you get a 1920×1200 pixel resolution screen with a 2.2GHz quad-core CPU powering everything behind the scenes. The same processor is featured in the top-of-the-range 8.9″ Fire HDX, but the screen display is upped to 2560×1600 pixels. As on earlier Kindle Fire tablets, the slabs are running a heavily customised, Amazon-branded version of Android.

Also of note is the new ‘Mayday’ feature that comes as part of the support package when you buy any HDX model. Via one button press you can connect live to an Amazon support representative who will guide you through any problems you’re having with your tablet, free of charge. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and Amazon is aiming for a response time of 15 seconds or less for each call.

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Tap the Mayday button and tech support can guide you through any problems with your tablet.

The units have been out in the US for several weeks and early reviews have been very positive. CNET’s Eric Franklin describes the new Kindle Fire HDX as “a performance monster” that offers “incredible value for its price”. The Verge’s David Pierce is equally enthusiastic:

The Kindle Fire HDX does its primary job brilliantly — with a great display and fast internals it’s the best way ever to consume all of Amazon’s content, from books to movies to music to banana slicers. It’s also a much more broadly capable device, finally able to replace your computer in places and not just complement it.

However, he did bemoan Amazon’s Android customisations and the lack of full access to the Google Play Store. Elsewhere, Ars Technica’s Jason Inofuentes also emphasised that Amazon’s existing customers will get the most out of the company’s new hardware:

The Amazon Kindle HDX is a powerful, capable device with one of the best displays we’ve ever seen. Amazon has produced a top-tier device whose only condition is adoption of its services. If you’re a longtime Amazon Video and MP3 customer, that’s great news.

Engadget’s Brian Heater was impressed too, calling the new HDX tablet “a compelling proposition” that offers “plenty of user-friendly features and specs that match the Nexus 7 blow for blow”. If you’re tempted to get your pre-order in straight away, your brand new Amazon tablet will land on your doormat on the 13th of November.

Tesco enter tablet market with launch of “Hudl”

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Tesco’s continued push to capture some of the burgeoning digital entertainment market has seen the supermarket giant launch its own budget Android tablet called Hudl. Presumably pronounced Huddle, the 7-inch tablet retails for just £119 – but despite the credit crunch price tag it actually has a lot going for it.

At the forefront of the tablet is full access to Tesco’s range of digital services from Blinkbox to Tesco’s banking, and more. These Tesco-only apps can be accessed via tiny a T logo that is placed in the bottom left of the task bar. Apart from that minimal change the tablet is pretty much running a stock version of Android 4.2.2.

Hardware specs are impressive for the price, too, there’s 7-inch display, with a resolution of 1440×900. That works out as 243 ppi which Is some way off the new Nexus 7 – but it isn’t actually that far behind Apple’s iPad with Retina Display which manages 264 ppi, but cost 4 times as much.

The tablet comes with Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2, paired with a quad-core Rokchip 1.5GHz processor. According to early hands-on reports, PC Advisor noted the tablet was a bit “laggy” whilst surfing the web but commended its speed considering the price.

Storage-wise there’s 16GB of internal storage – though only 12 is available to the user. Thankfully Tesco hasn’t short-changed on expandable storage, as there’s a micro-SD slot meaning storage can be upped to a healthy 48GB quite simply.

Elsewhere, you’ll find two cameras – one on the rear and one on the front. The rear camera is a flash-free 3-megapixel camera and the front snapper comes in at 2-megapixels, perfectly adequate for video calls and the like.

On the face of it, Tesco’s Hudl ticks all the boxes for a great family tablet. Despite the low price-point there are even some clever touches like the inclusion of a mini-HDMI port, dual Wi-Fi antenna, GPS and Bluetooth 4.0.

Basically it has everything that you’d expect find on a modern tablet – minus the brand name – which considering this is Tesco’s first stab at a tablet is quite an impressive feat.

With Tesco’s offering its own digital services and products, Hudl is clearly aimed at consumers who might be considering the more expensive Nexus 7 or Amazon’s Kindle. Compared to the Nexus 7, Google’s effort wins hands-down on the spec sheet, but up against Amazon’s effort you’re getting a cheaper tablet and, crucially, it has full access to the Google’s range of services including millions of apps – something Amazon’s Kindle HD doesn’t offer with the Amazon’s walled-garden approach to Android.

Tesco has announced it’ll also double the value of ClubCard vouchers that are put towards a Hudl purchase, meaning customers can pick one up for free if they have enough points for a £60 voucher, which is incredible value for money all thing considered.

Tesco’s Hudlu will go on sale at 1,000 Tesco stores from September 30, costing £119, and it comes in pink, blue, purple and black.