Make your iPhone ‘stand out from the crowd’ with a Peelzone vinyl ‘Peel’

I can imagine this latest launch of gadgetry accessories will be a big hit with kids in the playground and perhaps the big kids in life. Peelzone has announced the launch of an array of funky, custom-made and personalised ‘Peels’ – that’s vinyl  accessories that can be adorned on tablets, handheld game consoles, mobile phones and other gadgets, with no other purpose than simply sprucing up its appearance, for those who didn’t know!

Kindle-Peel

It goes without saying that kids – geeky computer know-alls aside – are generally more impressed with the appearance of their gadgets rather than their internal functions. This said, Peelzone may be on to a winner here, as its fun, funky and custom-made Peels go several steps further than kids covering their iPhones and iPods in stickers in an attempt to stave off boredom in a biology class.

With Peelzone’s ‘Peels’ you can upload photos to an easy-to-use website, play around with them by adding graphics and texts, and then plaster them all over your favourite gadget. These glorified stickers are, Peelzone assure us, made from high-quality 3M material that can manage to stay free from bubbles and can be easily removed leaving no lasting residue or marks. Oh and there is a practical function – Peels offer protection for gadgets  against potential scratches.

So if you are intent in making your iPhone, tablet, mobile or games console ‘stand out from the crowd’, check out, http://peelzone.com/, create a Peel, starting from £9.99 for small devices and increasing to £17.99 for bigger ones, and personalise your fave gadget.

The Nokia C3: the budget buy for social butterflies

The wait is over… we now know that the Nokia C3 will be coming our way in June as an exclusive pay-as-you-go phone on the Vodafone network.

Targeted firmly at those who use their phone to access Facebook et al more than they actually speak to their friends, the C3 offers Multi IM, which enables you to log in to one service to chat via Messenger, Google Talk, Ovi Chat etc, while social networking sites are just a click away, with all your mates’ updates, tweets, pokes and more appearing on your home screen. It also uses conversational SMS so you keep track of the flow of your text messages.

Nokia-C3

The Blackberry-style device boasts a 2 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, and a full QWERTY keypad. This split screen/keyboard design should make it easy to use for emailing, messaging and typing updates.

And how much does it cost to keep in touch? Well, the price for the handset has yet to be revealed, but it sells for $90 in the US. And customers will be able to pay for one of Vodafone’s pay-as-you-go mobile internet deals, at £7.50 for 30 days, which is enough to read 5,000 emails, download 12 Google maps and read 4,000 BBC News stories – apparently.

Occasional users can take advantage of Vodafone’s daily pay-as-you-browse deal, which gives 25MB of mobile data for just 50p – that’ll get you a couple of YouTube clips, up to 90 BBC News stories and let you read and reply to 100 emails.

And I’m not a particularly girlie girl, but even I was pretty taken with the handset, which comes in hot pink – as well as a rather less Barbie slate grey. While there’s a host of more expensive phones that offer better cameras, 3G and so on, this looks set to be a cheap and cheerful way to keep in touch, holding particular appeal for the teenage market.

Sign up for updates on the Nokia C3 here

Spyro and Zylo join Sony Ericsson’s Walkman family

Using your mobile as an MP3 player is not a new idea, but one that Sony Ericsson have been successfully peddling for many years now. Their Walkman mobiles may not offer the glamour of Apple models, but they come at a considerably lower pricepoint and with a host of additional features, including one button access to social networking sites and the option of using your music as a background to your calls. The idea behind the new handsets is that music is no longer a purely personal experience, and the phones continue a one button linkup to various social networks to allow you to recommend tracks and videos to your friends.

Sony-Ericsson-Zylon-and-Spiro

Here’s the lowdown on the latest handsets

The Zylo

This is undoubtedly the Daddy of the pair, featuring a more comprehensive spec list and a rather stylish candybar slider. Interestingly (and great for audiophiles) it’s the only one of the pair to support the FLAC lossless codec which means it lets you enjoy a premium audio experience on compressed files. A nice feature about this handset is its ability to let you listen to tracks whilst taking phone calls (cleverly titled the Music Call), which adds to the sharing element of the phone, and enables you to integrate music into every aspect of your life. The handset also comes preloaded with sounds so the user can pretend they’re hanging out in the office or sitting in a restaurant- that is, if you like adding an element of subterfuge to your friendships.

The Zylo is 3G enabled and boats quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE for world-wide accessibility. It features a 2.6 inch screen and a 3.2 megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom, which is a little bit of a letdown as their more premium music phones such as the W995 and the Satio have 8.1 and 12.1 megapixels respectively. However, it does let you geotag snaps, which you can then upload to YouTube, Facebook or Twitter all of which are integrated into the homepage of the handset for easy access. As with all Sony Ericsson phones there are certain features you can expect, and this doesn’t disappoint, featuring Track ID (a Sony Ericsson version of Shazam which lets you identify music that’s playing on the radio by using the internal mic), WalkMate (an internal pedometer) and Shake Control which lets you alter the volume and switch songs with a deft flick of the wrist.
It boasts a 240×320 QVGA screen and features USB 2.0 connectivity as well as Bluetooth, and you get the option to purchase a snap on speaker stand for easier ways to share your tunes. There’s 260 MB of internal memory, but you’ll really want to invest in a microSD card (up to 16GB) to really make use of the phone facilities.

It will be available in three colours, Black, Silver and Pink, from Autumn 2010

The Sony Ericsson Spiro

Not to be confused with the beloved purple dragon (Spyro, for those not in the know) this handset bears few similarities. Fire breathing qualities? Zilch, but it does however have some stake in the cuteness department, as it will be available in a selection of colours. At 90g, it’s 25g lighter than its big brother and is a trimmed down version of the Zylo. This handset has a 2.2 inch QVGA screen, but features so little onboard memory, that forking out for a microSD card is mandatory- but it can handle up to 16GB which is a fair amount of tunes.

The Spiro features many of the same Walkman benefits as the Zylo, with enabled networking applications, TrackID and access to the PlayNow store, but has a 2 megapixel camera and lacks the FLAC codec. It doe however double up as torch (handy when hiking late at night) and features a micro USB connector which makes charging simpler and more efficient.

The handset also features a 3.5mm jack, which means you can use it with your own headphones (hurrah!) and it will be available in Contrast Black, Sunset Pink, Spring Green and Stealth Black. I’m not sure the difference between those two types of black- possibly one will be gloss and the other matte?

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a mid ranged mobile with music functionality, these babies could make you very happy come Autumn.

HTC Smart – a wallet friendly smartphone

A few years ago the “boom” sector of the mobile phone industry was touted as the low-end market. Companies such as Nokia poured development and marketing resources into cheap, simple handsets for markets ­­­such as India and Africa. “Less” was going to be the next big growth opportunity. The launch of iPhone changed all that. Not the first smartphone, or even necessarily the best (especially in its original incarnation) the iPhone shifted the mobile phone industry’s focus back on the high end and prompted the multi-touch screen, app store gold rush we are in the middle of right now. However, this is shift in focus has left a gap in the market for low to mid-end consumers for an affordable smartphone – a gap HTC are hoping to fill with the HTC Smart – an affordable and easy to use smartphone.

I’ve never found smartphones hard to use, but then again I work for a gadget blog and have installed Linux on my old 3G iPod so I may not be the best judge. I do however find them expensive, so was interest to see what the HTC would offer. Unfortunately pricing data was not available at this moment in time. Running Qualcomm’s Brew Mobile Platform and launching in the UK, Ireland and Germany in April 2010 the HTC Smart will focus on widgets, browsing and connectivity.

“More and more people are craving advanced mobile phone experiences with email, web browsing and social networking but the cost and complexity often represent a significant obstacle for many. The HTC Smart introduces this functionality in an intuitive phone that is affordable,” said Peter Chou, chief executive officer, HTC Corporation. “With the HTC Smart, HTC and Telefónica share a similar vision for bringing easy-to-use, affordable smartphone experience to the masses.”

The HTC smart runs what it calls “widgets” which look and sound like what the rest of us call apps that allows access to contacts, photos music etc. HTC Friend Stream seems like a mobile version of Brizzly, and allows you to integrate social networking streams like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook into one simple flow of updates, images and links. Other than that standard smartphone features like Internet, music and email are all thrown in. It may not be the most exciting smartphone on the market, but with a solid feature set and (hopefully) competitive pricing it doesn’t have to be.

Lumigon’s T1 & S1 Android-powered phones

What is the tech-head’s paradox? I hear you cry. Well, it’s a gadget that does everything. For, like Alexander weeping that there are no more lands to conquer, if one has something that does everything, one does not need any more gadgets. Lumigon may not have quite smashed this paradigm, but they have made a brave effort.

Made with some fine craftsmanship from materials such as steel, aluminium and scratch-free glass, the S1 and T1 models also come packed with a remarkable range of helpful features. It can be used as a universal remote control allowing you to control various appliances in your house, an FM receiver and transmitter, an HDMI desk station enabling you to use the phone as a source for HDTV or regular television so you can see pictures or movies. It can be used as a browser device with Lumigon’s new bluetooth keyboard.

The main difference between the T1 and S1 is that the T1 has a keyboard that can be exposed by sliding the screen up and the S1 is touch-screen. Later this year we can expect the E1, which impassioned Lumigon founder Lars Graveson describes as, “the most beautiful phone I have ever seen during my entire 10 year career in mobile business.” And Mr Gravesen should probably stay securely sealed in his office, less he should stumble upon some variety of nature or a pretty girl and collapse under a gush of poetic fervour.

Having been two years in development, the T1 and S1 are handsome phones, though, and this is likely to be their biggest selling point. A great deal is going to be made of it being Scandinavian, possibly phrases like “ergonomic design” will be tossed around. The design is stylish enough to stand up for itself, though. Their two tone visage possesses the kind of retro charm that may last till mid-way through the decade if not beyond, before we get bored of minimalism once again and grapple for a phone covered in giant pink flowers and its own detachable satellite dish.

Spec-wise, the phones run on Google’s latest operating system, Android 2.1 and Lumigon’s own P-GUI software implementation for added user-friendliness. For speed freaks, it contains Freescale’s i.MX51 processor, usually reserved for applications requiring an advanced HMI.

In an already over-crowded phone market, it will be interesting to see whether Lumigon’s creations will be able to make themselves heard over the super-brands like Nokia, Blackberry and iPhone. The S1 and T1 are sufficiently smart and crammed with enough impressive hardware to put their competition to shame, but the question remains is the phone market open enough to accommodate a new brand?

Sony Ericsson launch Xperia 10 successor: Vivaz

Those of you inspired by the Golden Globes and imminent Oscars will be pleased to learn that the Sony Ericsson Vivaz could help you take your first steps to stardom. The handset allows you to produce and broadcast HD video content from your phone, making it a big temptation for any budding film-makers out there.

Thanks to the dedicated video key, it’s easy to capture spontaneous moments for your hard-hitting documentary or (perhaps more likely) to film your mates messing around in the pub on a Friday night.

There is a continuous auto-focus feature – normally only found on camcorders – to ensure that the picture quality stays pin sharp.  So there’s no chance of missing any detail and every probability that your creative abilities will be clear to all once you’ve used the phone to upload the films onto YouTube and Picasa via WiFi. And if that isn’t enough, the phone also gives you easy access to Facebook and Twitter to guarantee that your work will be seen by your closest fans and dedicated followers.

If you prefer photographic fun to video glory, rest assured that your pictures will be just as impressive – the camera is a stonking 8.1 megapixel with 4x digital zoom, image stabiliser and face and smile detection.  The handset also has a media player and an open platform, so you can download your choice of applications through PlayNow and the Symbian Developer Community.  There’s also a good range of preloaded apps, including GoogleMaps and QuickOffice.

The Vivaz is the second in Sony Ericsson’s family of entertainment phones, following the Xperia X10 that was out at the end of last year.  These new phones are all being designed with what they are calling a ‘human curvature’, which basically means they have sexy round edges and fit comfortably into the palm of your hand.  This is intended to make it easier to use the touchscreen one-handed.

In a nutshell, this primary purpose of this phone is entertainment and it promises to cover all needs well.  However, it also features enough practical features to use it as a smartphone.  Available in four colours – Moon Silver, Cosmic Black, Galaxy Blue and Venus Ruby – it should be available in the first quarter of this year so keep your eyes peeled for more details… and start writing that script now.

Motorola Droid (aka Milestone) reaches UK

The uninformed remain disappointed as Google Android’s latest champion, the Verizon Droid, has yet to make its way to the UK. At least, not under its usual guise.

The latest phone to show off Google Android’s features, the Droid is currently making waves in the UK as the rebranded Motorola Milestone; as the Milestone and Droid are technically the same phone, the change of name is extremely confusing. This is a lost opportunity to cash in on the original’s success.

Sold exclusively in the UK through eXpansys, the sales outlet reported that all stocks of the Milestone were sold out within 3 hours of launch, on December 10th. This draws parallels with the US, where the Droid is estimated to have sold over one-million units in the two months since launch.

Whilst no single phone will be able to challenge the dominance of the iPhone, Google Android as a platform is gaining more and more supporters. The number of Android handsets has ballooned from the poorly executed G1 to over 20 different mobile phones.

The Milestone is leading the charge for the second generation of phones, utilising Motorola’s MOTONAV in place of the US version’s Google Maps. The phone condenses a huge list of features into its slim-line frame, most impressively a full sized qwerty keyboard which slides down from behind the high resolution 3.7 inch screen. Featuring a  5MP, 5 times digital zoom camera and impressive turn by turn GPS, the Milestone makes a formidable claim for the iPhone’s crown.

A £35 18 month T-mobile 18 contract will secure you the phone, but for those looking to choose another carrier, a wallet breaking £400 can buy an unlocked version of the handset.

The future of the Milestone is uncertain. However, as long as the phone remains with such a low visibility distributor, it’s chances of widespread adoption look slim. If the reviews are true, the Droid is a fantastic phone that is waiting for industry approval. We hope the UK realises this, and soon.