Tamagotchi is back and this time it’s social

BandaiTamagotchiFriends5Do you remember the 1990s? The decade of Generation X, Cool Britannia, raves, grunge, dressing down, Baywatch, roller blades and Tamagotchi.

Ah yes, Tamagotchi, the digital pet that first launched in Japan in 1996 and took Britain by storm the following year. Small enough to fit on a keyring, the Tamagotchi would ‘hatch’ on screen and required feeding and nurturing in order to keep it ‘alive’ and happy. It introduced a generation of children to the concept of keeping a pet without all the messy cleaning out of cages and burying of deceased gerbils at the bottom of the garden. Because of the attention it demanded it was also widely confiscated by a generation of school teachers.

Now 17 years and 80 million units on the Tamagotchi is set to be relaunched by Bandai Toys. Already predicted to be a best seller as Generation Xers revisit their childhood on their own offspring the new Tamagotchi Friends will go on sale on Boxing Day.

The latest incarnation of the toy has kept the look of the classic ’90s model but now has short range communication technology similar to the NFC feature found in smartphones. This enables Tamagotchi owners to ‘bump’ with other Tamagotchi Friends to send text messages, exchange gifts and even go on a date. ‘Bumping’ leads to more points and rewards being earned and a raised score on the best friend meter.

The new Tamagotchi also includes new characters, five games, a pause function, on-off sound and the ability to interact with a new Tamagotchi Friends website at www.tamagotchifriends.com.

Bandai Marketing Director, Darrell Jones, who worked on the original Tamagotchi launch says, “In the 90s, Tamagotchi paved the way for a digital age in toys so we are incredibly excited to be giving the hugely popular, classic toy a modern day update. The innovative features, including the new characters and the short range communication ‘bump’ feature, will entertain a whole new generation of Tamagotchi fans. We’re really looking forward to seeing Tamagotchi being welcomed into homes and playgrounds across the country, and once again becoming an important member
of everyone’s family.”

Announcing the launch of the latest Tamagotchi the Daily Mail is quick to point out that the original, “…led to pupils the world over being distracted in class as they frantically tried to keep their Tamagotchi’s alive. It was a big enough problem for teachers in some schools that the toys were banned.”

Wired wonders how much of the mechanics of the original will be carried though to the new version, “…pets back in the day could (and would) die, which resulted in news reports about sad children. You might also wake up one morning to discover your Tamagotchi had spent its waking moments producing vast quantities of dung — something that may clash with the cute aesthetic of Kiraritchi, the cute Tamagotchi Friends character who aspires to be a pop star. Will I be cleaning up her ‘downloads’? Will she contract a disease and die if I don’t? She would have with the originals, but that might stop parents spending money with the brand if they see their kids upset at the sight of a dead pop idol.”

Pocket Lint attributes the relaunch to the success of the Tamagotchi L.I.F.E. iPhone and Android app which saw some 2.5 million downloads within 90-days of its release in February this year.

If all this has you ready to shop like it’s 1997, Tamagotchi Friends are priced at £24.99 and will be available via high street retailers from 26 December or they can be pre-ordered now from Amazon and The Entertainer.

Keypad Watch: The Perfect Solution for Twitchy Fingers

Forget what you think you know about watches, the Keypad Watch by RED5 is a time piece with a difference. If the buzz surrounding iPhones, smart watches and the latest all-singing all-dancing tablet leaves you yearning for something a little more retro, the Keypad Watch adds a unique aura of geek chic to your wrist.

Keypad-Watch-LG

The watch consists of a funky retro keypad, available in either Amiga 500 white (i.e. keyboard white) or ZX Spectrum, a slick, black matte colour. To tell the time, simply hit any number of keys and the time will flash up in sequence. So if it was 8.30, the 0,8,3 and 0 keys would flash in sequence.

This handy little gadget can also remind you of the date in a pinch. Simply press the # key and you can find out today’s date using the same method of blinking keys. You can customize the watch to display the time according to the 12 or 24-hour clock.

With this device, makers RED5 have gone for quirk appeal over ease of use. If you know someone who can’t stand to be away from a keyboard for longer than it takes to say, look at the time, then this is the perfect solution. The watches come in one size, but you can easily adjust the strap length by cutting off links.

Gadget geniuses RED5 launched in 2005 and have grown into15 physical shops, concessions at Hamleys and Selfridges and a thriving online store. Created by the team behind The Gadget Shop (remember those?), RED5 search far and wide to bring the most original and eye-catching gadgets into your life.

An excellent gift for those for whom timing is the key, the Keypad Watch is available now for £59.95 from RED5.co.uk.

Gadgets: Great Stocking Fillers for Under £15

Looking for stocking fillers, or struggling for inspiration for the office Secret Santa? Here’s a few ideas that shouldn’t leave you out of pocket…

Logitech-Joystick

Joystick for iPad

More gaming fun can be had on an iPad with this clever little add-on, which attaches with suction cups for easy setup and removal. The coiled spring provides force feedback that automatically returns it to the centre position and the joystick can be stored in the included carrying pouch.

Price: £12.99

From: www.logitech.com

Santa-Blanket

Santa Speaker Blanket
Have a laugh on Christmas morning with this Santa Speaker Blanket – from Sound Asleep, it features hidden speakers in the hood, which can be connected to iPods, TVs, radios and so on – the sound simply plays through the item without uncomfortable headphones or messy wires. No batteries required; powered from the connected device.

Price: £15

From: www.soundasleeppillow.co.uk

iPhone-c90-Case

Retro Cassette iPhone 4 Case

Lovers of retro style with covet the Retro Cassette Case. Just slip in your iPhone 4 to enjoy the mismatch of old vs. new technology.

Price: £12.99

From: Find-me-a-gift.co.uk

Doodle iPhone Case
For anyone arty, they’ll enjoy the opportunity to personalise their own iPhone cover with the Doodle Case. Don’t like the design or fancy a change? Just wipe it off and create a new design.

Price: £12.99 available mid Dec

From: www.pangadgets.com

Snowimals

Can’t guaranteed the children a white Christmas this year?  Not to worry, grab a Snowimal and keep the kids entertained creating their very own miniature snowmen. Made from malleable putty, the Snowimal comes with a range of accessories to make lots of different snowpeople.

Price: £6

From: www.RED5.co.uk

Koko

Headphonies

Actually – these blow our budget, but they’re so cute we wanted to include them somewhere. At only three inches high, these are the funkiest portable plug-in speakers around, which plug in to any Ipod, MP3 player, mobile phone, computer or computer game console. They come with a USB charging cable, connection cord and a key chain loop. Choose from characters include the yellow Smiley, Sumo and Ninja.

Price: £19.99

www.headphonies.co.uk

Message-Monster

Message Monster – Voice Recorder Fridge Magnet

This monster’s bark is worse than his bite. Press his left tooth to record a message, and his right tooth to hear it played back in either a high- or low -pitched voice.

Price: £9.99

From: www.find-me-a-gift.co.uk

Boom, shake, shake, shake the room with a revival of the 80s boombox from TDK

First it was the clothes with big shoulders, playsuits and animal prints, then Sony brought out an updated version of the Walkman, and now it’s the turn of the boombox – yes it’s true. The eighties seems to be achieving cool status, and the latest item to be brought into the 21st century is the boombox. Audio expert TDK is behind this latest move with its Life on Record range.

TDK

You remember, those huge ‘portable’ sound systems that cool dudes would carry round on their shoulders (sometimes if they were ultra cool, they would be skating at the same time). Now they’re back (the boomboxes, not the skating cool dudes) – but these three-speaker boxes of tricks have an added bonus up their sleeve, because you can dock your iPod into them. The three-speaker boombox has 2 x 10-watt plus 1 x 15-watt Class D biamplification, two 6-inch coaxial speakers, and an active subwoofer for the third speaker.

There is also a two-speaker boombox, and both versions have inputs for USB, 3.5mm and auxiliary ports for connections to an iPod, iPhone, smartphone or USB flash drive. If you like to make music rather than just listen to it, you can also plug in a guitar or microphone and mix with other music sources.

“In designing our new line of TDK Life on Record audio products, we focused on what people love about analogue products – the warmth of sound – and merged that with modern digital technology. The result is a unique line that combines premium sound quality with bold designs and crafted finishes,” said Steve Swenson, global brand manager for TDK Life on Record.

The range also includes the Life on Record Sound Cube, which is pretty portable at 17lb and has a handle on top.  Its cube design enables the two powerful 5 1/4-inch coaxial drivers to point the sound to fill a room.

You can also connect your Cube to your portable audio player. It has USB, 3.5 mm, and auxiliary ports, so you can use your iPod, iPhone, smartphone, USB flash drive, and even an external drive.

And for a real blast from the past, TDK has also launched a belt turntable so you can play your old 45s and LPs. Its “floating” design isolates the platter and needle from external vibrations, and integrated optical feedback circuit ensures consistent playback by continually monitoring the speed and automatically adjusting for any variation. The USB Belt-Drive Turntable also has an integrated pre-amp, USB output and software that lets you import and convert tracks to a PC in MP3 format.

Prices are as follows: 3 Speaker Boombox – £499; 2 Speaker Boombox – £399; Sound Cube – £299; USB Belt-Drive Turntable – £349; Belt-Drive Turntable – £299

For more details head to www.tdk-media.com

Panasonic Hi-Fi HC15 review

Uh-oh. A new Hi-Fi without an iPod dock? What were the engineers behind the Panasonic SC-HC15 thinking? That people could live with MP3 CDs and USB sticks filled with tunes as long as the system looks good enough? We tested that theory out.

Panasonic-Hi-Fi

Sound

First of all – it sounds good. Whatever voodoo that goes on in the name of the Aero Stream Port, it works well. You get a rich, robust bass from the 10W speakers when the volume is at normal levels – and it really pounds as your crank it higher.

The sound distorts a bit at very low-levels – although that can only be expected. You should probably stop worrying about your neighbours and crank it up, anyway.

Design

It’s also pretty beautiful. It’s piano-black finish and slender design (just 69mm thick) make it an ideal shelf-sitter. The thin profile and sleek design mean that it’s really unobtrusive – unlike bigger CD systems.

The front even mechanically slides open in a very-futuristic-for-1990 kind of way. The display is equally bachelor-tastic – a white on black.

Connectivity

The device plays normal CDs, MP3 CDs and USB sticks – so it’s not totally old tech. We’re not entirely sure who still uses MP3 CDs, but it’ll be great for the less-tech savvy generation.

Plug an iPhone into the USB dock and it won’t work, however – a big disappointment for today’s Apple generation. We still can’t get past the question – who downloads music onto USB sticks to play? If you do, please write in. Our thoughts are that a dock with a built-in mini-jack cable would have been more useful.

Conclusion

The HC15 sounds good, and its bachelor-friendly 90’s design is still in style. Unfortunately, the technology also feels a bit 1990’s. This means that today’s tapping and sliding iOS generation may find it a bit retro, in the “oh wait, this Sega Megadrive isn’t very good anymore” kind of way. Tech-heads should move on.

If you’re looking for a device for a less tech-aware consumer, the Panasonic sounds good, and is so simple, elegant and small, it won’t look out of place anywhere.

Logic 3’s i-Station TimeCube review

So it would seem that iPod docks have become so prevalent, that simply playing back sound from your iDevice is no longer enough, and more and more dual (or more) function devices are appearing. Previously we looked at the GEAR4 Halo, a £99 alarm dock that had a lovely bass-filled kick to it and a superb app to accompany your listening experience. We also had a look at the We also had a look at the Exspect TIME iPod dock, which was about half the price, and looked stunning – but lacked the same level of audio quality as the Halo.

Logic-3-i-Station-TimeCube

Well now there is a new kid on the block. Though given its cube-like design one might say there is a new block on the kind. Although one probably shouldn’t. Logic 3’s i-Station TimeCube is tiny and designed to fit snugly on a bedside table. The design harks back to the chunky plastic alarm clocks of a bygone era, as does the massive shiny LED that dominates the front of the device.

The big chunky buttons that adorn the device carry out a variety of functions, such as adjusting volume, tuning the FM radio, or hitting that all-important snooze button. The snooze button also dims the bright red screen, useful if you want to cut down on glare. The buttons give off a nice satisfying click, which is good when adjusting in low light conditions. Or when you are half-asleep. The LED has a slight odd viewing angle – if you move it to extreme positions to the side, or above your eye line it becomes hard to distinguish. But at conventional viewing angles things work fine.

Sound quality is respectable. Like the TIME you probably couldn’t rock a party just using this, but it is more that adequate for the average sized bedroom. And the 3.5 mm dock allows other PMPs to join in on the fun.
At only £39.99 from an online retailer near you the i-Station TimeCube is definitely decent value for money and would probably make a great christmas gift for at least one person you know.