As ever, it was a busy week in the gadget world with the quietly brilliant team at HTC unleashing a slew of new European handsets at a London launch. Meanwhile, over at Nokia World the Finnish giant outlined its vision of the mobile telecommunications based future, with a number of new low- mid- and high-end handsets. We’ll be looking at both the Nokia and HTC releases in detail over the next week.
Twitter gave itself a brisk birdbath and launched a shiny new version of its web interface, modelled very much on the recent proliferation of desktop and phone-based apps – in particular the excellent Twitter for iPad app. Whilst the old Twitter interface was a curiously downbeat and simple affair, the new Twitter has a swanky 2 column layout and has much better photo, link and video sharing options built in. They’ve also attempted to shift the focus of the site to consumption – it’s a fantastic resource for people into news, music, film or comedy to dip into for real time content and the new layout emphasises this, reducing some of the pressure for you to “join in” as it were.
Hot on the heels of Apple’s revamp of its iPod range, Sony have released the s750 WALKMAN. Ultra thin – 7.2 mm to be exact, the s750 manages to squeeze a Digital Noise Cancelling system into the aluminium body. They claim this can cancel up to 98% of background noise and coupled with other Clear Audio technologies, should provide a decent listening experience. DRM-free music and video can be transferred via drag-and-drop and there is also some DoubleTwist-esque software that converts your DIVX and AVCHD files into s750-compatible files. Handy if you miss the video playback stripped from the new iPod nanos. With 50 hours of music playback or 10 hours of video, a built in karaoke mode, a lyrics app and something that automatically generates mood-based playlists, the s750 should be worth checking out when it lands in October.
If you’re learning to drive, you should probably take a gander at the new, feature-packed Theory Test iPhone app from the people behind LowPriceLessons.com. Using geolocation software, the app finds Approved Driving Instructors near you, shows you prices and reviews from other users and allows you to call them, direct from the app. As the name suggests, it also comes with Theory and Hazard Perception tests and even includes a multiplayer-social element where you can compete with friends. Not bad for £1.19 – especially when rival apps such as the £1.79 AA Theory Test application simply have theory tests and lack the instructor booking, multiplayer elements or Hazard Perception tests. Out now in the App store.
Apple have been hard at work and yesterday Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtleneck owner and Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched a totally revamped Apple iPod range, a new Apple TV and a music based social network, Ping.
Keen observers will have noticed Apple tacitly admitting 3 mistakes, as they restored buttons to the iPod shuffle, removed video from the iPod nano and switched to an all streaming model for the Apple TV. With convergence slowly killing off the PMP as a device category (no mention was even made of the iPod classic, the device which helped Apple rebuild their empire) it’s interesting to see what the market leader and more often then not, trend setter Apple had to say on the matter.
The new iPod shuffle has buttons (yay!), 15 hours of battery life and now works with Genius playlists. The iPod nano had a much more interesting makeover, removing the ho-hum video camera and playback facility and, most importantly the scroll wheel. The nano is now a small square of mulitouch glass and looks like a baby iPod Touch. Promising 24 hours of battery life the nano seems to run a version of iOS and has a similar homescreen – with icons for playlists and Nike+. It’s possible that apps could be developed for the platform in time – simple games and the like, although nothing was mentioned.
Apple’s flagship PMP the iPod Touch also received a major overhaul – although to even call it a PMP seems disingenuous as Apple were keen to point out it is a major player in the mobile gaming device market and the casual gaming ecosystem developing on App store is growing at an impressive pace. The Touch has been dramatically slimmed down and its new svelte form features the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, A4 chip, gyroscope, front and back facing cameras and 720p video recording. The camera isn’t quite as good as the iPhone 4’s but until we get some hands on time with it we won’t be able to compare.
iTunes was also revamped and now includes a socially driven musical recommendation engine- Ping. There are approximately 160 mn iTunes accounts floating around and the interface is light and Facebook-esque so it could work reasonably well. It reminded us of mflow – the Twitter-meets-iTunes service we looked at here. (Incidentally Twitter have finally updated their iOS client for the iPad and it’s pretty neat.)
Finally, Apple at long last revamped the Apple TV, shrinking it dramatically, painting it black and abandoning syncing for streaming. But did they make it useful? Well Netflix integration and iTunes streaming for TV shows and movies certainly goes a long way. It only streams in 720p, which makes streaming fast and bandwidth friendly, although I’m sure video enthusiasts will be furious. In the UK things are a little less clear. The USD99 US apple TV gets Netflix streaming and 99c HD TV shows. The UK version seems to lack the HD TV shows and nothing has been mentioned about Lovefilm or iPlayer integration. It is also GBP99. It’s not being released for about 4 weeks so hopefully there will be a little more clarity then.