O2’s ‘TU Go’ App: Make Any Device Your Phone

TU-GO

O2 has launched a new app for iOS, Android and Windows 7 PCs that lets you text and call from multiple devices and computers using your existing mobile number. UK customers on pay monthly contracts simply plug their details into TU Go to sync texts, calls and voicemails across their tablets, mobiles and computers.

The new service can be seen as a response to the rise in free texting and VoIP apps, such as Whatsapp, Skype and and Facebook Messenger, now so prevalent on mobiles and tablets. However, texts and calls routed through TU Go are still deducted from a user’s monthly allowance, even if a Wi-Fi connection is being used. There’s no charge to use TU Go itself.

O2 has been keen to emphasis the portability TU Go now gives its customers. “Customers can now take their mobile number wherever they like, even away from their mobile,” said Sally Cowdry, Marketing and Consumer Director. “TU Go lets you take a call on a tablet and pick up text messages on a PC… we’re letting nothing stand between our customers and their number.”

As many of us constantly have our mobiles to hand in any case, the new app may seem of limited use — unless you’re in an area with no data coverage and a strong Wi-Fi signal, perhaps. However, being able to view a combined timeline of calls, texts and voicemails from a computer or tablet with no extra effort does have a certain appeal, and if one of your devices runs out of battery you can keep texting from another.

Installing the app doesn’t affect the operation of your mobile phone, which will still receive calls and texts in the same way (even if TU Go is installed on the same device). To run the mobile app, you’ll need an iOS 5.0+ or an Android 2.3.1+ device; O2 has suggested that apps for other platforms are on the way.

Traktor DJ iPad App Review: Near Perfect Digital DJing

NI-Traktor-iPad

DJ iPad apps have been around for years, and on whole they’ve always been a bit hit and miss, generally falling into two categories: a midi controller or a virtual deck setup – neither of which particularly works well on a small tablet touchscreen.

Well, those days are behind us as the company behind Traktor, Native Instruments, has released its first attempt at a DJ app. Their vision for Traktor DJ is all about using the iPad’s best feature: touch. They’ve come up with a system that uses pinches, swipes and taps to manipulate the music – a system that is a lot of fun to begin with, but has the necessary depth to keep you coming back for months to truly master it.

“We’ve taken our time to come to market,” says product designer Scott Hobbs. “We wanted to stop and think about this: how could we break down the digital DJing interface? We didn’t want to emulate the vinyl interface. There’s been too much skeuomorphism to date, so we really broke the interface apart and rebuilt everything from the ground up.”

When you fire up the app you’re greeted with a layout that is strikingly similar to their previous software, perfect for anyone who has used their DJ software before. Basically, you’ve got a 2-channel mixer and two virtual decks. Select one of the decks and you’re taken to your library of tracks, they are then arranged by song, album, tempo or key. Once you chosen a track you’re asked whether you want to load the mp3 into channel 1 or 2 – with either channel flashing if a track is already playing, a simple reminder so you don’t load the mp3 into the wrong channel and cut the music.

To mix two tracks of a similar tempo and key requires very little work, as the app relies on Native Instruments auto tempo detection whilst the iTunes integration turns your iPad into a virtual crate to dig through.

Traktor-DJ-FX

On top of the standard mixing functionality you’ve got full channel EQs, filters, and 8 effects to combine into your mixes. And this is where Traktor comes into its own, mixing two tracks together in the 21st century isn’t that hard or exciting, but where it become exciting is layering loops over tracks, adding your own effects and generally trying to combine as many of those at once. Obviously this doesn’t work out all the time, but give the app to some who is a dab hand at mixing and they’ll be able to do mixes that a DJ with CDJs and an expensive mixer wouldn’t be able replicate.

At the heart of the app is Traktor’s acclaimed sync engine that keeps tracks locked together so mixes hit hard and on time. Traktor DJ app also syncs up to Traktor Pro 2, allowing users to share track data, beat grids, BPM counts, and set cue points – making the app both a companion app for Pro users and all-in-one DJ solution for iPad owners who want to DJ at parties or at home.

Traktor-Freeze-Slice

One feature that’s exclusive to Traktor’s DJ App is a “freeze and slice” a feature that allows you manipulate waveforms with gestures like swipes and pinches, allowing you to slice a track into playable parts and remix it on the fly. If you grab the waveform with two fingers you can set a loop, widen your fingers and the loop with increase in size, and you can punch out with a quick two-finger tap.

Another clever addition is the notification centre, this allows you read up on the all functionality of the app, but it also suggests techniques and features you haven’t used yet – giving the app the ability to actually teach you.

Traktor-DJ-EQ

Elsewhere, you can add up to eight cue points to any track, allowing you jump to the breakdown or main drive from anywhere within the track without it ever stopping or going out time.

Another feature that we were really impressed with is the ability to record mixes from within the app that can then be downloaded and shared to friends or fans.

If you’re a bedroom DJ looking to have a bit fun on long journeys, or a professional DJ who want to prepare their sets before the getting to the club – Traktor DJ is a must. It strikes that perfect balance between a professional tool and a fun app that lets anyone have a go at DJing. This desire for mainstream and professional appeal is reflected in Traktor DJ’s price: £13.99 –matching Djay, which is probably the most high-profile iPad DJing app to date. But quite frankly DJay pales in comparison to Native Instruments’ first attempt at an all-in-one DJ app in both scope and functionality.

AirStash A02: Stream Theatre

AirStash-O2-on

I’ve just purchased an iPad mini. And in a dramatic break with tradition I didn’t max out on storage space as I have with pretty much every other Apple device I’ve purchased since my first foray into Mac Life in 2003 (with a PowerBook that still boots and gets online). This isn’t a break with my core values. Fortunately I don’t have any. It’s just … the world has changed since I first started investing in portably computing. Once you had your 20/60/100 Gb hard drive and that was it. Now things are different. My music is on Spotify, my movies are on Netflix and all my documents spend their time shuffling between iCloud and DropBox. I just don’t need masses off on-device storage. But what if I suddenly discover I need to carry 8 Gb of very important documents at short notice. Well then I have AirStash.

AirStash – or Maxell’s new and improved AirStash A02 is a clever bit of portable storage masquerading as the world’s chubbiest USB key. Their are already a few WiFi hard drives on the market (indeed the original AirStash was released in 2011) but AirStash brings a few new tricks to the game.

AirStash-O2

As you’d expect AirStash creates an ad hoc WiFi network between itself and any WiFi device. There’s an app (Android and iOS) but you can also access AirStash through a browser. And it’s a USB key that you can plug into a regular computer. And it’s an SD card reader so you just plug data from your cameras. And it’s a … well you get the idea. It’s a pretty versatile device.

It ships with a 16GB SDHD card, and is expandable up to 2TB using SDXC cards. AirStash works with RAW files from most cameras which is pretty nifty if you’re doing some proper photography on the road. You can also stream media to up to eight devices simultaneously so it’s pretty cool for group outings – kids in the back of the car each watching a movie on one of their iDevices rather than quietly contemplating just how damn lucky they are.

AirStash-Road-Trip

The built in rechargeable lithium polymer battery gets 7 Hours operation from a single charge. I couldn’t work out how to form a bridge network using AirStash – so I couldn’t watch a movie and get online at the same time. Then again … I’m watching a movie so there’s no great need to be online but I can imagine for video editing work or some such it would be slightly more useful. However this is coming in an app update.

The AirStash A02 is out now for £95.

ION All-Star Dance: Wireless iPad Dance Mat

Apple haven’t been to CES for a long, long time yet still manage to dominate the show – much like Goddot in Stoppard’s classic play. The success of the iOS ecosystem has created many, many weird and wonderful peripherals that help you work, rest and play with you iOS device (and if you were wondering there is a Mars Bar app on the iPhone but I have no idea what it does).

ION what to bring DDR levels of Nerdy Joy to your iPad with All Star Dance, a lighted and wireless dance mat for the iPad. You might rememeber ION from the All-Star Guitar a fun, giant guitar controller.

All-Star-Dance

All-Star Dance connects wirelessly via Bluetooth technology and promises hours of dancing fun. There were no specifics on battery life but I’ve never seen a dancing mat-led party go on for longer than 3 hours so they’re definitely good for at least one outing. ION have promised many great dance games as well as a library of over 500 ION Arcade compatible games although I couldn’t find any on the App story when I had a cursory glance.

The All-Star Dance experience is not unlike having a padded touchscreen under your feet. Dancers follow the lighted pads to learn the next steps and watch the iPad’s screen for fun tips and easy-to-follow instructions. There’s an included stand to hold the iPad at the perfect viewing height and the entire system folds up in seconds if you have the sudden urge to take this show on the road.

“This is the world’s first controller for mobile dance apps. People will never be bored in a waiting room again! But seriously, we’re really excited to give our customers yet another way to have fun and interact with their music.”

Wendy Fortin, ION Product Manager.

Pricing and avaliablity TBC but for more information, visit Ion Audio.

A look at Digital Theatre’s iOS app

Digital-Theatre

I love a good theatrical experience and in this month I’ve had my mind blown by Fueza Bruta and the Master and Margarita (both of which are amazing artistically and technically and come highly recommended). But with so many amazing productions it can be hard to keep up – or find time to see them all. Digital Theatre realise this and have resolved to bring the best of British Theatre straight to your iPad.

Filming theatre is a tricky business – I’ve seen some amazing stage shows look flat and lifeless on screen. It’s why something magical like improv is hard to capture on TV. Digital theatre however “do it right” and manage to capture live performance authentically onscreen in high definition from multiple camera angles.

The iPad app is a great and productions look amazing. You can see trailers and all sorts of additional information about the shows on offer. You can push content to a big screen via AirPlay – and the app is also available on certain Samsung SmartTVs.The Digital Theatre iPad app also gives access to The Journal, a daily arts blog with content sourced from artists and practitioners around the world.

One minor frustration is the inability to purchase things in the app. You can view pre-purchased downloads and rentals easily but if you press the BUY button you are directed to the website to load up your cart from there. I’m guessing this is to circumvent Apple’s in-app purchasing charges – but who knows. It certainly was a mild head-scratcher – but is the only quibble.

The catalogue is limited at present – what is there is high quality and from a reasonably broad enough pool to please most people including four critically acclaimed productions from Shakespeare’s Globe’s 2010 season, part of Digital Theatre Collections launched in October 2012. I hope the platform will grow in time and hopefully embrace some more experimental works as it develops.

“We developed our iPad app as a direct response to feedback from our audience and we’re delighted to bring Digital Theatre productions to a device with the convenience and ubiquity of the iPad. Our apps for iPad and Samsung Smart TV form the start of a multi-platform strategy that will allow audiences to enjoy Digital Theatre productions where and when they are.”
Digital Theatre Co-Founder and CEO Robert Delamere

The Digital Theatre app is available now in the Apple App Store as a free download and downloadable shows are £8-10 and less to rent.

YPlan: Do something different tonight

“What are you up to tonight?”
That can be a difficult question at any time of year, but trapped in the hinterland between Christmas and New Year it can be especially difficult to answer. There are those of us that run their social lives with military precision, carefully co-ordinating between engagements, gigs, performances and so forth. If you prefer to embrace chaos, or simply want to revitalise your free time then there’s a great new app that wants to help you hang out – YPlan.

yPlan
yPlan

YPlan is a social iPhone app that benefits from attention to detail and laser-like focus. Firing it up reveals a series of last-minute London offers. Already some of your faces are wrinkling in total disinterest. “iPhone“ and “London” are already two self-interested groupings and the overlap between the two is potentially unbearable. However the app is interesting beyond its immediate target group.

YPlan’s curators work with a range of event organisers. Apparently very few events sell out so there are always a number of interesting last minute ticket deals available. YPlan are able to use their highly marketable target demographic – iPhone users in London – to wangle a number of discounts. The app is very much a curated list – rather than “something for everyone” there are 7/8 events given the special YPlan stamp of approval. They tend to focus on the cool and unusual – you don’t need to be told that Les Mis is playing in town – but you might not know about the pop up screening of Elf, independent production of Much Ado About Nothing or Rickshaw Racing Derby. You can book simply and easily from within the app with two taps and easily choose various events to share or favourite. Best of all there are no hidden charges.

YPlan’s focus makes it fun; the random nature of events presented gives a lovely “rolling the die” feeling and the app is beautifully designed in a way more apps should take note of. Nothing needs explaining, it can easily navigated and you never have to go too deep into the menu system to get what you want. It even tells me how long it takes to walk where I want to go.

Even if you don’t live in London (more cities are promised) it’s worth checking out YPlan for a glimpse at the future of going out. Out now on the App Store.

The “Wind in the Willows” App Review

The Wind in the Willows is one of those timeless classics that has survived generations – and now it is being brought to today’s children via an app for iPad and iPhone.

One of the things we all remember about the book is the beautiful illustrations – they have been drawn by many different artists over the years, including Ernst Shepherd and Arthur Rackham. But for the new apps they have been beautifully redrawn by by world renowned muralist Steve Dooley.

Wind-in-the-Willows

He found inspiration in what Kenneth Grahame said to the original illustrator back in 1908. “I love these little people,” he said, “so please be kind to them,”

“It’s a message which I took very much to heart, myself,” says Steve. “These characters were loved into existence.”

In order to bring the drawings to life technical magic was needed in the form of Bobby Gilbert who would spend hours researching the minutiae of each and every page.

“I spent a long time researching bumblebee flight to get them as beautiful and captivating as Steve’s drawings,” says Bobby.

“We fell under the spell of the book – its characters, its humour, the wonderful eccentric lyricism of the words. It absorbed us; we had to do justice to it.”

The apps feature 190 interactive pages, where the user can drive Toad’s car, crash it into cliffs, conjure up butterflies, throw stones off a bridge to sink Toad’s boat and much more.

It’s quite magical, and for anyone who wants to bring the magic of a favourite childhood book to their own children, while reliving a familiar tale themselves, this is the ideal way to do it. A real treat to enjoy together – and something to while away a few hours on a cold and wet wintry afternoon.

For more information and links to the App Store, where the app is available to buy for $6.99, head to www.TheWindInTheWillowsApp.com .

Sphero: Roll with IT

Sphero-indoors

Among Michael Bay’s many crimes, first and foremost in my mind is “making robots boring”. Even when I learned as a child that robots existed and mostly put together cars, there was still a fascination with them until Bay managed to make “giant robots fighting” into an epic three-part snoozefest. If only someone could make robots fun again.

Enter Sphero, a delighful app-powered robot for nerds, kids and normal folk (but mostly nerds). Sphero is a robotic ball gaming system that crams a ridiculous amount of technology into one of the simplest toys we have – the ball.

At first glance Sphero is simply a ball and the urge to bounce is hard to resist. Although obviously Sphero is bringing a lot more to the table. How much more? Well that’s actually one of the many interesting things about the device. Sphero is app-controlled and is more of a platform than a singular experience. There are a number of Sphero-related apps in the app store and a small community of nerds tweaking and building more all the time. So there are a whole host of things you could find yourself doing with it. It’s more than just a ball.

Sphero-iPhone

It is also a ball however and one of the simple pleasures of Sphero is hooking it up to your iPhone/Android via Bluetooth and using the accelerometer or on-screen controls to manipulate Sphero across the floor. It took me a while to “master” the control system but it’s pretty enjoyable zipping along between the discarded USB keys and iPhone cases that litter my floor. He also swims although I didn’t fancy running a bath to test this out.

Sphero-Colour

You can also make Sphero change colour and controlling a robotic glowing ball of light darting about my carpet is not how I envisaged spending my evenings.

The open-ended nature of Sphero means it can be played with in various ways. There’s a macro app that enables you to create little subroutines and execute them on the spot. If you’re a bit more hardcore you can download the SDK and make a full blown app. One of the more interesting uses I found was using it as a controller to navigate an R-Type style shooter that was similar to playing with a Wii. I also tried out a fun little augmented reality app that utilised my iPad’s camera. Everyone I showed Sphero too was amazed but a little disappointed that you couldn’t have an onboard camera rolling around – even though I have no idea how this would work in practice.

Sphero-Park

Sphero was fun to play with in short burst and I really got into making little subroutines for it to interact with. It’s somewhere between toy and enthusiasts hobby kit although the price – £99.99 – should warn you that this is a lot more involved than your average app-cessory.

Sphero has just hit these shores and is available from stores such as MenKind and online from Amazon Firebox and Goshpero.com