Thursday, May 02, 2013

Spring/summer PSC meet up!

By popular demand, for anyone local to Berkshire, UK, I'm hosting another Phones Show Chat pub meet-up for smartphone enthusiasts on Wednesday 26th June 2013, from 7pm until whenever we call it a night. The venue is the usual The Lands End Pub, Park Lane, Charvil , Twyford, RG10 0UE. See below for a map. The Lands End is perfect for meets because there's no piped music, plenty of space, good food and drink, and plenty of parking. Oh, and it's also my local! 8-)

Use your sat nav to get to the general area. You can approach The Lands End from the East, but you have to go through the ford - not recommended if there's been a lot of rain. Usually about a foot or so deep, so 4x4's only! Approach via the arrowed directions if possible.

The idea is to swap phone tech stories, try out other people's favourite devices, down some decent beer and (maybe) do a few short pieces to camera for the show. If it turns out well, you might be a star(!) I'll bring along a dozen smartphones, plus prizes to give away.

If you want to come along, just confirm by emailing me at with the subject line "June Meet". Thanks!

As long as even half a dozen people make it, the event's a goer. Hopefully we'll have quite a few more than that!

The Lands End

.0118 934 0700

Friday, April 19, 2013

Batteries again. And cards. And backs. Samsung's way is the flexible way - more power to the S4

I've ranted in the past about the implicit dangers of 'sealed' batteries (as on the iPhones, HTC One range, and so on). In summary, batteries degrade over time and, a year down the road, do you really want to be struggling with a smartphone whose battery is at 70% original capacity and now won't last you beyond tea time? I thought not.

Having a replaceable battery means that you calmly source a new cell - or perhaps even upgrade, as I did with the Samsung Galaxy S III, to a larger capacity battery. The choice is yours when you've got access to this most vital component. Plus, of course, there's the road warrior option to own a spare battery and keep it in a pocket for evening power emergencies.

Such flexibility is lost with sealed devices. In fact, there's more at stake than just battery power - microSD expansion is something else which keeps getting forgotten by trendy manufacturers like Apple, HTC and LG. Your music collection won't fit on your phone? No room for those videos? Darn it, your maps won't fit on either. Sorry, you're out of luck.

Unless your phone has microSD expansion, in which case you just upgrade your card from a 16GB to a 32GB or even a 64GB, for no more than a few tens of pounds or dollars. Job done.

Samsung's sales have been setting world records over the last year, and the company's huge marketing push has been given most of the credit - the ads have ensured that everyone now knows the 'Galaxy' brand. I contend, though, that there's an intrinsic characteristic of Samsung smartphones that's not often spoken of in tech circles.

Samsung are the only major manufacturer* to stick, exclusively, to a flexible design, wherein the back of each phone comes off and you can change the battery or microSD at will. Heck, you can even change the back cover itself, for one of a different colour, or with integral leather flip, or one that's supersized and comes with a battery of much higher capacity.

      * Nokia comes close, with only a handful of 'sealed' designs to blot its copybook...

It all comes down to choice and flexibility, both of which are things that end users love.  This is at least one major reason why many people love Samsung Galaxy products, not TouchWiz or Samsung's bloatware (which I tend to work around as much as possible, see my video tutorial).

Yes, you can get cases and chargers for iPhones and HTC One devices. Whoopee Doo. You can already get an eye-watering number of Samsung Galaxy S4 accessories - and the S4 isn't even available yet. If the Galaxy S III is anything to go by, there will be replacement backs, batteries, wireless charging modifications, and much more.

I accept that the iPhone is prettier, the HTC One is better built and the Nexus 4 runs a purer version of Android. But for the end user who simply wants the most powerful, most flexible, most future proof smartphone, then the Galaxy S III - and now S4 - make the most sense, I contend.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Never heard of RHA headphones? Neither had I...

Please excuse the brevity of this post, but there's a very good reason. The kind folks at RHA, based in Scotland, sent me over a set of their MA350 in-ear headphones to review and, after some initial testing and photography, I foolishly lent them to my wife to 'try'. Who liked them a lot and lent them to a relative to 'try'. And I haven't been able to get them back since.

From which I can draw two conclusions:
  1. Never lend out stuff you really want back
  2. The RHA headphones made a very positive impression with each of us

Hey ho. I was very impressed by the build quality, from the aluminium speaker housing 'cones' to the anti-tangle material coating on the cable, while audio was clear and distortion free. If I had to be picky, it would be that there wasn't as much bass as with the same music tracks on my Monster in-ear headphones, though in fairness the RHA MA350 are only a third the price.

As a replacement for a generic 3-pole set of in-ear headphones, it's hard to beat the RHA set at the price, so they come with my recommendation. Now, please, I want them back....