Apple Watch Review Roundup – One Wearable To Rule Them All?

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It’s finally here. Well, almost. After months of speculation and anticipation the Apple Watch has become available in the UK for pre-order. Will it revolutionise another market? Will it change the way we live our lives? Will it turn us all into fitness gurus? Only time will tell. Always predestined to become the biggest selling smartwatch due to its hordes of loyal followers it almost seems like a nailed on success already. But for less dedicated Apple fans and those who have been sitting on the fence when it comes to a wearable investment, it’s probably worth finding out if it’s any good.

Let’s get a quick reminder of the specs. It’s available in two sizes and resolutions – 1.5” (272×340) and 1.7” (319×390), and has a whole range of different straps from colourful plastic to classic buckle – in total in fact there are 34 different combinations. It runs on Apple’s S1 chip, has 8GB of storage with 2GB for music and Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi built-in. There’s also IPX7 waterproofing, which is the fairly basic one that safeguards it against “short durations of immersion” at a depth of less than a metre.

The battery, which we’ll come back to later, is claimed to last 18 hours, or 3 hours talk time, 6.5 hours audio playback and 48 hours if you just check the time. Through inductive charging it claims to boost 80% in just an hour and a half, with a full charge taking an hour longer.

Of course many of these specs don’t mean a great deal at this stage – it’s all about real world use. And for this we go to a number of lucky journos who have already got their hands on this year’s most desirable gadget.

The Telegraph can kick things off by gushing over an area that seems in little doubt – the looks. It’s “a luxurious, even beautiful fashion accessory” and “from the clever magnetic strap to its understated design, it has attracted attention for all the right reasons.” The fashion test is declared “passed” here, the range of strap and face combinations makes for an interesting degree of personalisation and the face itself adds a whole new layer of control – it’s described as “almost infinitely customisable”.

When it comes to actual operation the Apple Watch is quite accurately described as a “filter for your phone”. This is both good and bad, as while notifications and alerts are now sent to the more accessible area of your wrist, having too many appearing can result in “an irritating blizzard of notifications that I quickly started to ignore altogether.” Core functions like making calls can be done through the watch, or if you don’t want to talk into your wrist and are wearing a hands-free set you can answer and reject calls from the wearable’s display. Text messages can be replied to with intelligent, contextually aware phrases, and a music app lets you control what’s playing on your phone – there’s no headphones port to listen directly via the watch but it can stream via Bluetooth if you have a compatible headset.

Interacting with all this is a mixed experience. There’s an initial learning curve for what seems like overly complicated controls that often require what seems like one button press too many.

“It takes two clicks of the crown to get the device to turn on then move from watchface to apps. It’s hard to see how to do it better, but it’s imperfect nonetheless”.

It also comments on the fact that the apps are generally easy to find, but rarely feel properly developed. Overall The Telegraph concludes that Apple fans should perhaps think twice about rushing out to buy, history does after all tell us that it takes a second or third generation device to iron out a lot of the creases.

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CNet has given the Apple Watch a full review, and awards it 3.5/5, which is hardly the stellar result many die-hards will have been hoping for. It also likes the design and construction and lauds the range of features, but the battery life has been given a test here and predictably doesn’t come out too well – just 5/10 for this sub-category in fact.

A thorough test of the features offers some examples of how it can be used:

“I’ve tracked walks and measured my heart rate, paid for lunch, listened to albums while exploring parks without my phone, chatted with family, kept up on email, looked for Uber cars, kept up on news, navigated on long car trips for Passover, controlled my Apple TV with it and followed baseball games while I was supposed to be watching my 2-year-old.”

But despite cramming so much functionality into its first generation device, “the Apple Watch still leaves plenty to be desired.” One fairly central reason is that it needs the iPhone to do just about anything – or rather it needs to be within 30 feet or so unless connecting over Wi-Fi. Then there’s the battery life – despite best efforts it still never lasted longer than a day, and “hit 50 percent or lower in battery capacity by around 2-3 p.m. pretty regularly.”

And finally it can be a little awkward to use – “there are so many features that I felt a little lost at times.” Knowing whether to swipe, click, touch or speak can be a dilemma, and issues with lost notifications, nested interfaces and managing the pairing process can be frustrating. On the plus side it has a positive mention for Siri, which seems to be a fair bit more useful on a watch as “a catch-all way to speak and do things in ways that can cut through the menus and swipes.”

Finally, The Verge has given it a particularly fancy looking, extensive review and awards it 7/10, calling it “easily the nicest smartwatch available” but goes on to cite issues with performance, notifications and price. It’s described as “kind of slow”, stuttering with notifications and struggling to pull data wirelessly, with apps that take a bit too long to load. Apple promises software updates to help address these issues. The display is terrific though, “easily the best smartwatch display on the market”, and the interface is nicely customisable with app icons that can be rearranged to make them easier to prioritise and access.

One feature that does seem to work well is the activity tracker. This is split into Activity and Workout, with the former being “beautiful, but extremely basic” and allows you to manage goals and calories during exercise and standing, which are displayed with three concentric rings and prompts for you to stand up or get a bit of fresh air if needed. Workout has a series of presets for cardio that again work nicely on the whole, though it’s noted that there’s no social element here for sharing data with friends and the heart rate monitor did struggle at times for accuracy.

Other features such as Digital Touch – the ability to send drawings, heartbeats and taps seems fairly gimmicky – in fact being described as:

“all remarkably small-time. It’s cute, but it’s a weird thing to hype as much as it’s been hyped, especially because it has such a deep network effect problem — it’s only useful if you know other people with Apple Watches.”

So what to make of the Apple Watch so far? Bloomberg seems to sum it up quite nicely in an article entitled “Apple Watch Review: You’ll Want One, but You Don’t Need One”, and this seems to be the general consensus.

apple-watch-black-back

Pricing starts at £299 for the small “Sport” version, which is built of anodized aluminium instead of stainless steel. The regular models cost between £479 and £949 with the price difference amazingly just based on the type of strap – and the most expensive isn’t studded with diamonds, it’s just a black stainless steel link bracelet. And let’s put a shout out to the 18-carat gold edition, which will cost you between £8,000 and £12,000.

If you’re still determined to splash the cash and can’t wait for the second or third generation, you’ll still have to wait a bit longer for the first. Apple’s initial shipping date for the Apple Watch was April 24th, though we’ve been hearing it has been delayed in some areas so you might want to find out more before you get too excited.

For more information visit Apple.

What the critics think of the new Apple Watch

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Apple had two big announcements at its Cupertino event – the new iPhone, of course, and somewhat surprisingly, the Apple Watch. It’s been finished at last. Well, it hasn’t been finished – it’s not going to be available until early 2015 at the earliest, but it did have prototypes on show and successfully worked an audience from foaming anticipation through to raucous applause and tearful whooping with a rather cool video showcasing its smooth lines.

It’s the Apple Watch, not the iWatch, and in coming to market now (soon) with what could be the next big thing, Apple has done what Apple does – wait for someone else to create, market and sell a product, watch carefully from the sidelines and then come in with something bigger, better, sleeker (and more expensive). It’s a strategy that has worked well in the past but allows little room for error, as seen in the Smartphone market where it has been overtaken in both technical innovation and platform share.

While the job of the iPhone6 is to play a serious game of catch-up in this well-established arena, the new Apple Watch is well poised to take advantage of a (relatively) slowly building interest in wearable tech. Could it be the device to start smartwatch fever by perfecting that awkward blend of functionality and comfort?

TIME magazine seems to think so – its writer says that:“having gotten to wear and play with the device, one thing is for certain: The Apple Watch is a beautifully designed piece of technology with enormous potential”, and goes so far to say that “In fact, I’d say it’s the most exciting gadget since the iPad, from Apple or any other company.”  This seems to be a lot to do with the design, which feels solid yet lightweight and fits on the wrist naturally. It looks “more like a piece of jewellery” than a typical smartwatch due to the curved, bezel-less screen, which establishes a slightly feminine quality. Other platitudes include it not feeling showy or intrusive to the point where you could even forget you’re wearing it.

TechCrunch delves into the features. NFC and Apple’s new “Secure Element” for storing payment information will allow you to use Apple Pay (currently only available in the US) to make purchases. Other quirks include “the new paired communication mode that Apple demoed, which allows one user to connect directly to another for real-time sharing of hand-drawn messages, customized animated smileys, heartbeats and more”, and “Taptic” feedback, that makes it feel like someone is gently tapping your wrist – far subtler than “the jarring notification vibration of Android Wear smartwatches”. The range of bands available also get a mention, with the sports band appearing as though it’d be comfortable during exercise and the link bracelet offering quick adjustments for size.

When it comes to operation, Wired highlights the “digital crown”, a side-mounted dial used to control some of the functions. What’s interesting about this, it says, is the fact that “an analogue flourish blends a physical, and, in today’s Apple portfolio, unconventionally mechanical, interface into the otherwise high-tech digital proceedings.” Used to rotate through menus or options, or to return to the home screen at a push, it complements the touchscreen interface though early reports seem to indicate it offers little or no feedback response, spinning perhaps a little too freely. When it comes to the interface itself, it’s typically minimalist. For example, there are no words on-screen to help you recognise apps – “Logos for the applications each icon represents have had to be designed to communicate meaning without a helping hand from the alphabet.” The only potential issue with this, it suggests, is introducing a learning curve for techno-phobes. Other highlights here include the ability to use the screen as a viewfinder for an iPhone camera, an IR function for TV control and maps that vibrate left or right to tell you the way.

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Perhaps the biggest issue the Apple Watch will have to overcome is well described here – how “smart” is it really? The author suggests that for the high price of purchase:

I don’t want another screen to just see notifications on, or to pause a song, or to see whether the sun has got his hat on. I want it to be intelligent, decide certain things for me, disturb me only when it knows I’m likely to find a disturbance both convenient and necessary.

Alongside questions over battery life, an area that was deliberately side-stepped during the initial presentation, the fact that there’s no headphones port despite the ability to store media and no built-in WiFi (you’ll need to use a paired iPhone) it’s clear that this isn’t a feature-packed all-in-one, it is an accessory, and we’ve seen those already. Will comfort and looks be enough to convince people that a smartwatch is now a must-have? Sadly we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

The iPhone 6 rumour round up!

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With Apple’s iPhone 6 still some months away, we thought we’d trawl the deepest, darkest parts of the Internet to round up all the rumours regarding Apple’s next iPhone.

As with anything rumour-related you should take everything with a pinch of salt – but if even half of them come true the next iPhone should be something quite special.

Having increased the screen size of the last iPhone, Apple might be tempted to go even bigger. According to Business Insider there are “several” iPhone 6 prototypes doing the rounds at Cupertino, with one of them reportedly sporting a 4.8-inch screen. Apparently the new screen tech comes from Sharp and could see the screen resolution topping out at 1080p.

And to add even more fuel to the fire Got To Be Mobile reckon Apple might consider splitting the iPhone 6, like they did with the iPhone 5c and 5s, and satisfy consumers who want a large Phablet-style iPhone and those of us who still want a stunningly svelte iPhone.

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Alongside a decent bump in screen size, rumours have also suggested that the new iPhone 6 could be substantially thinner and lighter. It’s thought Apple might be reworking the LED backlight spec and opting for a 0.45t side-view type LED instead of the current 0.6t side-vide type LED – meaning a thinner, lighter iPhone. This all comes from LED Inside who have apparently sounded out sources close to Apple’s supply chain.

Elsewhere Apple could be planning to hide the external facing components using a new-fangled screen called polymer-dispersed liquid crystal, which has been unearthed by Patent Scope.

Basically: an electric current is used to change the opacity of the window – so while your iPhone 6 rests on the side not in use it will look like a wafer thin slice of uninterrupted beauty.

Potentially in the future, Apple could feasibly use the technology to hide various features – such a cameras, solar panels, fingerprint or Iris scanners – within the phone behind a changing PDCL window.

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The amount of screen protectors and cases on the market for mobile phones is truly staggering, which leads us nicely onto the next rumour: scratch proof screens.

It looks like a scratch-proof future could be upon us according to the clever bods over at 9 To 5 Mac, who reckon Apple has struck a deal to open and operate a manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona related to sapphire crystal components – could this mean better screen protection on the iPhone 6? We sure hope so.

Less likely but a whole lot more interesting is something called ‘A lens actuator module’ which has been uncovered in one of Apple’s many recent patent claims. In plain English, the new iPhone 6 could have a camera lens that can actually move independently of the camera – which would dramatically improve image stabilisation meaning blurry photos could be a thing of the past.

Another Apple patent uncovered at the time of the iPhone 5s rumour mill was for a wireless power utilisation. Again, in English, this means wireless charging and would be a big improvement over the current technology, which requires users to put their handsets on a pad in order to charge them, which if you ask us is just cheating really.

The new technique being developed by Apple could charge a larger amount of devices at the same time as it uses something called Near Field Magnetic Resonance (NFMR).

“The wireless powered local computing environment includes at least a near field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power supply arranged to wirelessly provide power to any of a number of suitably configured devices,” reads the patent application.

Obviously it didn’t make it for the iPhone 5s – but just maybe it could happen the iPhone 6? Only time will tell.

 

iPhone 6 mock-up images courtesy of Martin Hajek and Steve Hemmerstoffer 

Apple unveil the new iPhone 5s and 5c

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Apple has unveiled its next generation iPhone line up, and as expected there are two successors to the iPhone 5 rather than just one. The cheaper, plastic-backed iPhone 5C combines the innards of the iPhone 5 with a choice of bright colours in a new case; the higher-end iPhone 5S, meanwhile, brings with it a major bump in power and camera capabilities, as well as a fingerprint sensor dubbed Touch ID. Apple is calling it “the most forward-thinking smartphone in the world”.

The iPhone 5c

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Let’s start, as Apple did, with the 5c model. Like the iPhone 5 it is designed to replace, it features an A6 processor and an 8-megapixel iSight camera, though the front-facing camera has received a slight upgrade. The sides and back of the phone are crafted out of a single hard-coated polycarbonate shell; this shell holds a steel frame that doubles as the 5c’s multi-band antenna.

iPhone 5c cases
iPhone 5c cases

You can opt to buy a soft matte case to complement the 5c’s glossy exterior, giving you even more colour combinations to work with. The mobile itself is available in blue, green, white, yellow and pink, and the cases are available in white, pink, yellow, blue, green and black. At 124.4mm x 59.2mm x 8.97mm it’s slighter higher, wider and thinner than the iPhone 5 (123.8mm x 58.6mm x 7.6mm). It’s also a touch heavier — 132g rather than 112g.

Choice of 5c colours
Choice of 5c colours

You can think of the 5c as an iPhone 5 with a number of minor tweaks, and while early speculation suggested the “c” in the new iPhone’s name stood for “cheap”, this hasn’t proved to be the case: the 16GB will set you back £469 SIM-free while the 32GB model costs £549 SIM-free. The official cases shown off at the Apple event are available for £25 apiece. Of course, mobile operators will set their own price levels when the phones are bundled with contracts.

The iPhone 5s

On then to the real star of Apple’s press conference, the iPhone 5s. Apple’s Phil Schiller emphasised three main points during his presentation: the phone’s powerful internal components, its upgraded camera and the fingerprint sensor named Touch ID.

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The 5s is powered by an all-new 64-bit A7 processor — the first 64-bit CPU to be seen in a consumer phone — and Apple is promising twice the speed and graphics performance of the iPhone 5. There’s also something completely new: the M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass built into the phone. Among other tricks, the M7 chip can tell when you’re walking, running or driving a car, and you can expect to see this functionality used by a wealth of health and fitness apps in the coming months and years. In terms of size and weight, the 5s matches the 5 exactly, and it looks almost identical too.

iPhone 5s cases
iPhone 5s cases

Much is being made of the new and improved camera built into the 5s. Like its predecessor it produces 8-megapixel snaps, but Apple has improved the lens and internal components for better sensitivity and improved low-light performance. There’s a larger aperture, a larger sensor and a two-tone LED flash capable of 1,000 varying combinations, so turning on your phone’s flash won’t distort the colours in the scene you’re shooting. There’s also an integrated burst mode that can take a series of photos and present you with the best one almost instantaneously. Video capabilities have been improved too, with the 5s capable of shooting HD 720p video at a slow-motion rate of 120 frames-per-second.

iPhone 5 Colours
iPhone 5s Colours

Finally, Apple introduced Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor technology built into the iPhone 5s’s Home button. You can use your unique fingerprint to unlock the phone and buy apps from iTunes — the company is promising this data will be encrypted and remain on your handset. It can recognise fingerprints from any angle and can distinguish between you trying to scan your finger and pressing the button as normal.

The 16GB iPhone 5s costs the same as the 32GB iPhone 5c — £549. You can get the 32GB model for £629 and the 64GB model for £709 (all SIM-free). Three colours are available — grey, gold and silver — and again there is an official line of cases on offer for £35 each — beige, black, blue, brown, yellow and red are the choices here. Apple claimed a battery life that’s slightly better than the iPhone 5 for both the 5c and 5s, so it would seem you might still be running out of juice after a full day of normal usage.

And The Rest

The iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s will come with iOS7 already installed, and the operating system was shown off again at the iPhone launch event. If you’re not familiar with its new features, they include improved search, better notifications, a more comprehensive Siri app, enhanced multi-tasking as well as a radical new look and much more besides. The software will be pushed out to consumers on the 18th of September. What’s more, anyone buying a new iOS7 device will get the iWork suite of apps (that’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote) as well as iPhoto and iMovie free of charge.

There was also mention of the iTunes Festival, now in its seventh year. Featuring the likes of Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, the event will cover 30 nights of live music in London and will again be live-streamed to more than 100 countries.

Both iPhones can be pre-ordered on the 13th of September and officially go on sale in the UK a week later on the 20th. It will be some time before we know how well Apple’s latest hardware performs against the likes of Samsung, Nokia and the rest of the industry. Are you planning to get in line for a 5c or a 5s? Or does the latest iPhone leave you cold? Let us know in the comments.

Top 5 Wearable Technology

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Although it is too early to tell whether wearable technology is here to stay or yet another passing fad, hardware manufacturers and software developers are pursuing this latest opportunity in an attempt to attract new customers and generate valuable revenue.

However, even with an increasing amount of time and money spent on exploring wearable technology, numerous critics, commentators and even consumers remain sceptical about its real-world application.

Nonetheless, for interested parties there are a fair few devices already on the market and even more on the way. So here are five wearable technology products that you can buy today or eagerly anticipate in the future.

1.     Google Glass

One of the most talked about product innovations in recent years has also been one of the most ridiculed. Even so, Google Glass has sparked significant interest among industry professionals and technology fans worldwide. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past six months, here is a quick recap.

Google Glass features an optical head-mounted display which projects smartphone-like information right in front of the user’s eyes. Rather than inputting information physically, interaction with Glass is made via natural language voice commands. It is Google’s mission to create a mass-market ubiquitous computer.

Connecting to the Internet via the user’s smartphone, Google Glass can take pictures, record videos, search online content, receive point-by-point directions, translate dialogue into another language and send voice messages. Although the design might not be to everyone’s liking, the display is meant to be an unobtrusive object in the individual’s eye line.

Widespread availability isn’t expected until 2014 though.

Sony-eWatch

2.     Sony SmartWatch

For those who want to obtain some wearable technology today, you might consider the more subtle and indistinct Sony SmartWatch. Available from just £79, this interactive hands-free device won’t break the bank either.

Combing a sleek and crisp design with everyday functionality, Sony’s SmartWatch will certainly be of interest to a fashion conscious on-the-go market. However it’s admirable merits don’t end there.

Compatible with most Android smartphones, users can read text messages and emails, browse Twitter feeds or view Facebook messages, and receive calendar notifications thanks to a gentle vibration. What’s more, music players and fitness apps are available from the Google Play store.

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3.     Nike+ FuelBand

Nike and Apple have been collaborating together for quite some time, dating back to running shoes made in conjunction with the iPod Nano in 2006. Today, the Nike+ FuelBand is an iPhone connected bracelet that aims to assist fitness freaks with their calorie burning targets.

The band’s accelerometer tracks daily movements and exercise routines like running, football or even dancing. Progress is displayed on the FuelBand’s LED display, which lights up red, yellow or green depending on how well the user is doing. Additional information can be viewed on the connected iOS device, with data about activity patterns displayed in the form of graphs.

If personal achievements weren’t enough, the user can even share their progress on Facebook or Twitter with an optional photo or tagged location. While the Nike+ FuelBand is undoubtedly an impressive motivational tool, its £129 price point is sure to put off even the most dedicated individual.

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4.     Pebble E-Paper Watch

Another connected smartwatch but available to iPhone users as well, Pebble has been financed via the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter. The Pebble features a 1.26-inch 144×168 pixel black and white ultra low power memory LCD screen with backlight, vibrating motor, magnetometer, ambient light sensors and a three-axis accelerometer.

Much like Sony’s offering, the Pebble displays email, text messages, calendar alerts and social media notifications as well as weather forecasts and incoming caller IDs. However, customisable apps for cycling, running and golf in addition to a range of watch faces increases the device’s functionality.

Perhaps the most clever innovation is a modified USB-cable that attaches to the watch magnetically and charges the device, so as not to compromise water resistance.

iWatch

5.     Apple iWatch

Ok, so we know there has been no official word from Apple about the possibility of an iWatch, but a wearable technology product from the Cupertino-based company is looking more and more likely.

Even though Apple recently registered the iWatch trademark in Japan, Mexico, Russian, Taiwan and Turkey, the maker of the iPhone and iPad is already facing difficulties in the US, UK, parts of Europe and China, as other companies have already claimed the name.

Despite this potential setback, sources familiar with the matter have said that around 100 product designers are working on a smart wristwatch. Like other products on the market, it is likely to display notifications, alerts and messages from a user’s iOS device.

With Apple looking to increase its consumer base and rekindle some lost magic after the passing of co-founder Steve Jobs, CEO Tim Cook recently admitted that wearable technology was “profoundly interesting” and was “ripe for us to get excited about.”

iWatch Image courtesy of Fuse Chicken

Top 5 Gadget Flops

Creating a new piece of technology requires years of research, painstaking development, numerous product designs and a great deal of testing. Vast teams of engineers with boundless experience work tirelessly to produce the latest gadget that aims to revolutionise the way we go about our daily lives. However, not every product is a success, with even the most esteemed tech aficionados getting it wrong. So for your viewing pleasure, here is a run-down of the five most futile and fruitless gadgets ever:

Apple-Newton

1. Apple Newton MessagePad

A vision of the future? Ahead of its time? Or just a terrible product? Apple’s Newton MessagePad has been heralded by some as the initial inspiration for the iPad, however this early tablet variant ultimately failed to secure any notable success.

The Newton received a great deal of ridicule for its handwriting recognition feature. The technology had to learn the user’s handwriting over a long period of time and struggled to detect common dictionary words. An episode of The Simpsons even made light of this infamous shortcoming.

Too big to be carried around in the user’s pocket but lacking the computing power for serious work, the Newton struggled to find a niche in the market. Apple’s ambitious promises and optimistic marketing campaign couldn’t attract consumers either.

Sony-MiniDisc

2. Sony MiniDisc

In theory, the MiniDisc player had the potential to be magnificent – a compact data storage device with the ability to play high quality audio. Unfortunately for Sony, its arrival came too late to make an impact on the CD market and then suffered from the emergence of MP3 players towards the end of the nineties.

Despite popularity in Japan, a high price point meant MiniDisc players were out of reach for a vital teenage market. What’s more, the major record labels did not give support to a format introduced by music industry rivals Sony.

Virtual-Boy

3. Nintendo Virtual Boy

Promoted as the first video game console capable of producing 3D graphics, the Nintendo Virtual Boy promised a virtual reality experience. However in the real world, the head-mounted display delivered basic depth-of-field imaging and in some cases, nauseating side effects.

The monochromatic display and awkward ergonomic design left gamers with dizziness and headaches. It’s hefty price tag left consumers feeling sick to the stomach as well.

Some critics praised the consoles novelty, while others felt the Virtual Boy was a gimmick without much substance.

Nokia-NGage

4. Nokia N-Gage

A mobile phone lacking coherent design for day-to-day use combined with a portable games console devoid of any immersive visual stimulation, the Nokia N-Gage was doomed from the start. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ seems most appropriate here.

Humorously described as a ‘taco’ by several commentators, Nokia’s poor design also required users to remove the battery to insert a game. The keyboard layout was difficult for entering text and even worse when it came to interacting with a poor selection of content.

Sony-BetaMax

5. Sony Betamax

One of the greatest consumer electronics companies of our time, yet Sony manages another product flop with its ill-fated Betamax video cassette player. Once again, Sony was the victim of its own success, as it chose not to license the technology to other manufacturers, believing it could conquer the market alone.

Even though the format was released a year earlier than JVC’s VHS alternative, the longer recording times of its rival saw Beta lose an established film studio and home video market share.

Logitech Bluetooth Mac Keyboard and Trackpad: Peripheral visionaries

I’m not sure what Logitech’s company slogan is but I’m pretty sure it should be “peripheral visionaries”. They’ve been churning out useful computing add-ons since 1981 and are still hard at it with the newly released Bluetooth Easy Switch Keyboard and Rechargeable Trackpad.

Logitech-Bluetooth-Easy-Switch-Keyboard-

The Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard reflects the changing face of modern computing in that it is designed for both OS X and iOS devices. The name reflects its ability to flip between typing on a Mac or an iPad at the touch of a button – handy if you’re at your laptop and then want to reply to a text on your phone (one that isn’t synced up to the iMessage cloud). allowing you to switch between typing on your Mac to your iPad or iPhone at the touch of a button. The keyboard is fitted with back lighting that automatically adjusts to the brightness of the room and the proximity of your hands.

The real-aluminium designed is very mac friendly, not only aesthetically but also with all the OSX keys you rely on including Command, Brightness and Mission Control.There’s also a USB recharge cable, so you can use your keyboard while building a full charge, which will give you 10 days of power.
RRP: £89.99

Logitech-Rechargeable-Trackpad

All computing OSes have great things about them, but one of my favourite things about recent additions to OSX is the commitment to multitouch gestures. Touchscreen phones and tablets brought lots of pinching, swiping and sweeping gestures into my computing life and OSX brings them to real computing. I have a Magic Mouse and a Magic Trackpad but the mouse rarely gets used as the trackpad is such a fun way to interact with software.

The Logitech Rechargeable Trackpad for Mac is a smooth glass-touch surface trackpad that allows you to click, scroll, swipe, zoom and more, even while it’s charging. The ability to recharge is a boon as I’m constantly replacing my Magic Trackpad’s batteries and this can last a month when fully charged.
RRP: £59.99

So Apple have been busy: Skinny iMacs, Retina MacBooks and the fun-sized iPad Mini

There was a great article in Ars Technica about the problem’s Apple have been having with their once legendary secrecy, with their every expanding supply chain creating holes in their airtight veil of mystery. I know the feeling. There was a genuine excitement to Apple launches of yesteryear, where new products would be a genuine surprise and the big reveal of “one more thing” could send bloggers into a flurry.

However the before and after from last night’s “a little more to show you event” is pretty much identical. I had the same complaint after last month’s iPhone 5 announcement. Nevertheless, whilst Apple might be slipping in terms of security, their engineering game is still pretty tight.

iMac
I’m writing this on what is now the old 27″ iMac and boy does it look chunky. Once (about 14 hours ago) it was a svelte dream-machine and the cornerstone of my home office, it has now been rudely superseded by the ridiculously thin new iMacs, which are 80% thinner than the flabby beast before me. The screen is also directly bonded to the underlying IPS panel, with less bezel and less glare, as well as less weight (I had to carry an old iMac through Stratford in the middle of the London Olympics so I can appreciate this the most). There’s also a cool new Fusion Drive that combines solid state and spinning hard drive technology, monitoring usage to make sure your resources are appropriately managed.

Mac Mini
I have a hard-working Mac Mini stowed under my TV, working it’s little socks off as a media server, with SickBeard, SABnzb and Plex all playing nicely together to deliver a futuristic viewing experience. Last night’s update crams the baby Mac with 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge i5 with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, or a 2.3GHz quad-core Ivy Bridge i7 with 4GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. Faster ram, more CPU and more storage are all welcome additions and now Mac Minis are packing Ivy Bridge there is the welcome addition of USB3.0 and Thunderbolt. Pricing remains remarkably cheap for a Mac.

MacBook
The 15″ Retina MacBook Pro was an instant object of desire when it was unveiled in June and now those of us with slightly smaller backpacks can join the Retina party. The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro also gets some Ivy Bridge love and an all-around spec bump, with its connectivity options (USB3, thunderbolt etc), brought well and truly into the modern age.

iPad
Have a “new” iPad? Not anymore as the iPad 3 has been upgraded 6 months in with a faster A6X processor, annoying (yet ultimately useful) Lightening port, and an upgraded LTE chip that should be compatible with more networks.

iPad mini
Of course the star of the show was the iPad mini, Apple’s take on the mini tablet. Apple aren’t the first company to enter this space, but to be fair, they are never the first company to enter pretty much any arena, instead carefully biding their time, before swooping in. If only people had saved their “just a big iPhone” snipes for the iPad Mini it might have been more apropos. Using a 7.9 inch display the iPad Mini is cleverly sized so that existing iPad apps can run without stretching and so that the there is a little bit more room on the screen than it’s 7″ Android competitors. It’s obviously smaller and lighter than the regular iPad and should be able to be comfortably held with one hand. The internals feature slightly older tech – the chipset matches the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 – and there’s an HD camera on the front for FaceTime and a 5 MP camera on the back for God knows what. Apple are promising the same 10 hour battery life found on full-sized iPads.

You’ll be hearing far more about all these devices over the coming months.