K100 Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone: One giant leap for handsfree calling

Here’s a fact you that, unless you are an employee of Plantronics or a serious moonlanding buff, you probably won’t know. Plantronics provided the headset that Neil Armstrong wore when he first stepped out of the Apollo 11 and onto the Moon in 1969, and relayed his infamous ‘one small step…’ quote.

Now, to matters of relevance; them at Plantronics have left the Moon behind and developed something for use purely in Earth-bound vehicles; the K100 Bluetooth In-Car Speakerphone. It’s an ingenious little thing that clips onto your cars visor rendering, we can only hope, the demise of deluded fools that think Bluetooth headsets give them an air of importance and style.

k100-in-situ

Once in place it is designed to sync your smartphones and in car systems in what is apparently- and even a cynic like yourself can’t find too much issue with the wording- a ‘robust advancement of mobile technology’. In essence it’s a two way microphone with inbuilt digital signal processing technology. This will keep outside noise out, yours and the person on the other end of the phones clear as a window, while the apparently high quality speaker will ensure everything is being broadcast at a volume that you won’t have to shush the missus to hear.

k100

What makes it really special, though, is the fact you can now make your phone and your radio the best of friends and transmit music, conversation, GPS and anything else that makes sounds through their phone and into the car stereo. In the age of the ever prevalent iPhone this sounds like a very good thing indeed, though whether or not I’d want to hear my Uncle Hamish’s voice blaring out of the stereo is another thing altogether.

Set-up is minimal, as is the controls; their are only 3 buttons, each large and eminently pressable for even the most pudgy thumbed among us. There’s also an impressive 17 hours of talk time and 15 hours of standby so you won’t need to be charging before every journey. All in all…pretty cosmic.

Logitech Z515 Wireless speakers review: Wireless boomboxes

iPod docks are all well and good, but what if you want your boom box to travel with you? Radio Rahim would be amazed at the array of iPod docks that we have today, although probably quite frustrated at the lack of a user-replaceable battery. He definitely wouldn’t be schlepping around town with an incredibly heavy boom box. He might however travel around town with the Logitech Z515 Wireless speaker.

Logitech-Z515

Designed for laptop audio – but also compatible with Bluetooth devices (more on that later) the Z515 is a small yet powerful unit. The Z515 is roughly the same length as an iPad and half the width, yet double the actual weight. It’s small enough to pop into a laptop bag without being a significant problem.

Logitech is convinced that people are not happy with laptop audio (something we will discuss again in the Lapdesk review, coming later this week) and has set about to make improving it as easy as possible. The Z515 comes with a little wireless USB dongle that makes set up incredibly easy – and enables transmission utilising 2.4 Ghz wireless technology.

The Z515 features dual two-inch drivers and a rechargeable battery that lasts for 10 hours. The sound quality is pretty decent and gets to reasonable volumes without distorting. The advertised range of about 15 metres seems accurate – it’s obviously a little less when you throw in interference from walls etc. There is also a nice little kick-stand built into the unit so it can stand independently.

You can also use the Z515 with an iPad, iPhone or any other Bluetooth device that lacks a USB port. You just have to hold both volume buttons down for about 5 seconds to set the device to discovery mode. Good luck trying to find that information in the manual however. There is a one little slip of paper in the box that mentions Bluetooth (specifically iPad) pairing, which simply refers you to a webpage … that isn’t there. 15 minutes on digging on the Logitech website and I was able to dig up … absolutely nothing. Fortunately the device only has 3 buttons so with a little trial and error I was able to pair it with a range of Bluetooth devices. There is a 3.5 mm, which seems terribly old-fashioned but it guaranteed to work with all devices.

The Logitech Z515 is yours to buy from £89.99.

Carphone Warehouse Christmas Preview: Jawbone Icon, HTC Wildfire and Samsung Galaxy

Latest Gadgets were invited to view the range of phones and accessories available from Carphone Warehouse. There is a definite trend towards phones which act as a social hub as most phones integrate networking sites.

Jawbone

The Nokia N8 is for the budding film-makers out there. The multimedia has a HD video recorder with a 3.2” HD Touchscreen. It has an impressive 12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. What makes this phone special is the ability to be linked up to a TV using the HDMI output.  The N8 has access to Web TV services providing channels like CNN and Paramount. In addition, it is also the first phone from Nokia to run Symbian^3, an update to the Symbian OS, which provides multi-touch, gesture support and faster response times. Nokia N8 will be available from 1st October with pricing to be announced.

We got to play with the HTC Wildfire. This phone is made for social networking. It comes with the Friendstream App which displays texts, emails, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr updates all in one place. You can post, tweet and upload without switching between apps. I found this so convenient to use. In addition, when a contact calls, their Facebook status, birthday will flash up along with their name and picture. It has 3.2” screen and a 5 megapixel camera. It is not quite as good as its big brother, HTC Desire due to the screen resolution but for a mid-range phone it is worth a consideration as it has some interesting features. It is currently available for free on a £20 a month contract.

Samsung Galaxy Europa was on show and got our hands on it. It is the only Android handset which comes with Music Anywhere preloaded. It provides access to your music from anywhere in the world.  It also includes Swype, allowing you to write a message by swiping your finger across the screen. Swype is responsive and fast to use. The Galaxy Europa has a 2.8” Touchscreen and 2 megapixel camera. Like the HTC it integrates social networking with convenient access to Facebook and Twitter. It runs Android 2.1 and is currently available from free on a £10 a month contract or £149.95 in PAYG.

Carphone Warehouse also had some accessories on show. We had a chance to try out the high-end bluetooth headset, Jawbone Icon. It comes in 6 styles to suit you. It is the only headset which shows the battery status on an iPhone screen. The audio voice can be customized online to one of 6 voices.  Icon can be customised with apps so that use your voice to text and email while you drive to keep your hands free. You can also connect to two phones at the same time. Available from £69.99 from Carphone Warehouse. Happy calling!

Sony Ericsson LiveView: Keeping you constantly in the loop

People carry phones. People wear watches. What if, thought Sony Ericsson, people’s watches could interact with their mobile phones? And so was born the LiveView.

The LiveView is a small (3.5 x 3.5x 1.1cm) touchscreen device that slips on the wrist and mirrors the activities of your Android mobile phone. If you get a text message, you can read it. If someone’s calling you, it’ll say who. If you use Twitter, Facebook or RSS, updates will be piped to the wrist-ware.

liveview

The idea is that in our always-on and communication-saturated world, you’ll be able to instantly receive all your updates, but only have to bother with your phone when you need to reply.

While removing a phone from a pocket isn’t an enormous task, just think how many times a day a Facebook-tag steals your attention from something you were engrossed in.

As well as keeping you updated, the LiveView also keeps you in control. For music playback, it works as a remote to stop the music, change the track or adjust the volume level. Perfect for plugging your phone into a stereo and controlling the sounds from your sofa.

It’s also got a “find your phone” option, as well as a calendar reminder and, like any good wrist-device, the date and time.
The most interesting feature, however, is the full Android support.Third-parties will be able to develop for the device. It could be used as a remote for a SNES emulator, or an instant-update button for Facebook places. Even a panic button, dialling 999 when pressed. The possibilities are limited only by the small screen and limited number of buttons.
Full Android support also means that it is not restricted to Sony Ericsson mobiles, either. Any smartphone running Android 2.0 or above can benefit from the LiveView.

The device has a 10m Bluetooth range, a battery-life of around four days per charge and boasts a 1.3″ OLED display (128 x 128). It also comes with a clip for taking it off the wrist-strap and wearing it elsewhere (although where else you’d want it, we’re not too sure). It’ll be available from Q4 2010.

Although a unique idea, if they’d only made it work as a Bluetooth headset we’d be sold. Oh, and if it looked nicer. Brushed steel, anyone?

Solar Sound 2 review: Solar powered portable stereo

With it looking increasingly likely that there will be actual sunshine this summer, more and more people will be heading outdoors for picnics, barbecues and general frolics. Devotec’s Solar Sound is a nifty little gadget for outdoor weather music.

Solar-Sound-2

In the box you get the unit, a 3.5 mm retractable stereo audio cable, mains plug that also works with USB and a little carry case.The unit itself is a medium-sized brick that connects via either Bluetooth or an analogue audio cable, making it ideal for mp3 players, tablets or laptops with awful built-in speakers.

Analogue playback is obviously straightforward. Just plug in the supplied stereo audio cable and press play for 5 – 20 hours. In testing this worked out to about 18 hours indoors, but your milage may vary.

Bluetooth is obviously a little trickier. Battery life goes down to 5 – 10 hours, which is still pretty good and playback has a range of 10 meters. I could stand reasonably far from the device and still get a signal and it works through walls as well. Line of site is obviously best.

Bluetooth support extends to all the acronyms you’d expect – Bluetooth 2.0 EDR with HFP, HSP, A2DP and AVRCP profiles so it’s pretty extensive. I tested the Solar Sound with a variety of laptops, tablets and phones and pairing was quick and painless. Bluetooth playback gives you access to the nifty music controls at the front of unit enabling you to skip ahead, rewind or pause. You can also use the audio output port, which enables you to playback Bluetooth devices on a regular hi-fi.

There is also a mic built into the device that enables a Bluetooth paired phone to be used as a speakerphone. You can start and stop calls from one of the buttons on the device and music is automatically paused. Whilst not the best conference-calling device I’ve ever used, the integrated speaker is however handy for dealing with incoming calls on a smartphone and is well suited to lazing around outside.

The most amazing aspect of the Solar Sound is the solar panel that stretches across the top of the unit. If you leave the unit in direct sunlight the battery will slowly recharge. 12-24 hours of full sunshine is stated in the manual although I lacked the weather to test this. During music playback, the solar panel can technically power the unit, either supplementing battery power or replacing it all together is the music is not playing full blast. Theoretically infinite playback is possible and in practice you can eeek sounds out of the unit after the battery is long gone, harnessing the power of the sun – which is pretty amazing for long sessions in the park.

The Solar Sound 2 is £69.99 from here