China based Meike wants a shot at your iPhone

It has become apparent these days that all people want is to add on lenses to iPhones. Why iPhones? Why not Android devices?

The problem lies with perception.

iPhones are premium items. Meaning people who buy them are either rich or have plenty of extra cash to double down on a seemingly average spec device.

So you have a add on lenses from a slew of manufacturers including Zeiss of Germany. And from China, you have another player who wants to jump in from Meike.

Now, Meike isn’t a global brand and they are selling an iPhone housing that takes advantage of external lenses. Zoom, wide angle and macro are the flavors you can doubld down on but beyond that, it isn’t much different than the rest of the offerings.

Sorry but there are no example photos to show from the site so you don’t know the sort of quality you are getting by buying this. At least Zeiss optical has proven images but for this add on lens from Meike, d’uh.

Meanwhile, LG and Huawei have jumped into the dual lens camera bandwagon. Would this be enough? Only time will tell.

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Is Rufus the Future of Wearables?

 

rufus

Yes you can strap a 4 inch iPhone onto your wrist and do the same thing but the apps would not be convenient.

This is why Rufus was invented. Now he Rufus Cuff isn’t a spectacular device. you could of course strap any 4 inch Android to your wrist and get it working the way you see below without any problem.

Rufus-Cuff-ico

The whole idea behind the Rufus Cuff was for the industrial workforce to stay in touch but only through WIFI. The industrial version also comes with a bar code scanner that is connected via bluetooth to the Cuff, though I am not sure if the extra step is worth the trouble since battery life is limited to one day of use. It would have been more useful if the device used eInk screens since we don’t need full color applications for industrial use.

Consumer Version is a Dud

The consumer version is basically the same. And there are no external storage offered via microSD. So this means you have to ante up to the 64GB storage if you want to stream music or movies.

The other downside is that it hasn’t got any cell reception. It is just WIFI enabled.

And to throw a spanner in the works, there is no heart rate monitor. So its usefulness as a health tracker is severely restricted.

GPS is only useful if you have downloaded stored maps and you can’t access online mapping unless you have a WIFI enabled mobile router from the likes of Huawei.

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In spite of all this, the Rufus is working in the right direction for a wearable device, with the Apple Watch looking more like an expensive toy than an accessory.

I am sure the Chinese will figure this one out and slap on a low power screen, calling and messaging option via a proper mobile network and add both a front and rear facing camera in a package that runs stock Android.

The Chinese have already done this with a slew of watches made in China that does all of the above but battery life is really the main challenge. The technology for the Rufus is already available and it is just a matter of shrinking the chip sets to make the whole package wearable.

Specifications

TI CORTEX A9 PROCESSOR

BLUETOOTH 4.0

3.2 INCH TFT CAPACITIVE TOUCHSCREEN

9-AXIS ACCEL/GYRO/COMPASS

SPEAKER

MICROPHONE

FRONT-FACING VIDEO CAMERA

VIBRATION ALERT

16/32/64GB STORAGE

1175 MAH BATTERY

LED ALERTS & FLASH

ANDROID KIT KAT

MULTIPLE LANGUAGE SUPPORT

WI-FI 802.11 B/G/N

LG Pocket Printer Review: A cheaper Alternative to Instax Mini?

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I rarely print my photos these days as everything is shared digitally but there will come a time when having a printed pictures will matter. So what’s the option if you are on the road traveling? Should you go to one of those print kiosk found in shopping malls or carry a portable printer?

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Canon makes a slew of portable printers capable of 4R or postcard size prints. But these are still pretty expensive and bulky to carry around. Your best bet if you want to go fully digital is the LG Zink inspired pocket printer….or if you want to go analogue, the Fujifilm SP-1.

Price wise, there is some difference. The SP-1 retails for US$145 while the LG PD239 goes for a little less at US$120. The real difference is in the cost of operation, with the Fuji instax mini film costing US$83 for a 100 sheets while the LG Pocket Printer’s Zink paper weighing in at US$57 for 120 sheets.

in terms of paper size both are just a tad smaller than the average business card aspect ratio, the Fuji Instax mini is larger but the printed area is really much smaller thanks largely to the format’s border. So with the LG, you not only get a larger printed area but a full bleed right to the edge as well.

Needless to say the winner is clearly the LG Zink formatted print.

Quality of Print

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Here is the trick. For some reason, the LG printer has a tendency to print images which are about one EV lower in brightness than what you see on your digital device. To get a brighter picture, you need to print the photo with a adjusted setting via the iOS or Android app. This is not a huge problem but it pays to know as every print wasted is going to cost you.

16444173791_df90ea1273_bThe LG Pocket Printer is a pretty simple in design and operation. There are no confusing buttons to play with as everything is Bluetooth enabled. If you have an NFC enabled device, it will work too.

The operation from editing to firmware updates are carried out via the mobile app.

Real World Appeal

This is where I have problems with the print size. It’s really doesn’t quite justify the appeal even if your photos look great. The business card sized print is probably a good way to share a business contact or print out pictures for your scrap book. Beyond that, I can really find a good enough reason to buy or use one.

16419934556_6611b3754f_bI think Zink has done a pretty good job with the printer and the quality of the print. The colors, clarity and sharpness is good for any physical sharing of photos but the practicality of the whole exercise remains to be seen.

You could of course create lots of small prints for decorative use on any wall or door. And if you want something better than that, I can’t think of anything.

The LG Pocket Printer has its own battery good enough for about an hour of use and you can charge it via any microUSB cable with a battery pack.

If you travel far, it is probably a good way to share your photos with the people around you who are not on the Internet or have no access to such technologies. To me, this doesn’t happen often enough to warrant having one.

Zink has partnered with the likes of Polaroid to come out with Android related camera+printer but the same problem will arise when you start using it. Because of its relatively small size, images of wide open vistas, architecture or anything taken with a wide angle view cannot be appreciated. The print size works best with subjects either close up of at medium distance. So if you do have an immediate use for such small prints, it makes good sense to get one but for everyone else, it will sit on the corner table gathering dust until someone digs it up again.

To Print or not to Print?

Nice to have but I can’t think of a reason to carry one with me all the time. How you wish to use this is really up to you. The personal printer with a format this small is ideal for scrapbook making. No problem with you sticking the print outs onto your Moleskine pads with double sided tape.

Beyond this, you could give away those prints to strangers who do selfies with you.

In the digital age, printing something just doesn’t make much sense. You can send a virtual postcard instead of snail mailing them like in the past and post your images to Facebook for sharing with the people in your network.

The quality of the Zink print is pretty good, but I have no idea if they would last a life time as the colors could fade. Only time will tell if this is going to be worth your investment.

Wireless Charging: The Power of Qi

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I bumped into Chris of Waltzcomm a company specializing in Qi Chargers who was kind enough to give me a run down on what he was offering. For the longest time, people have been talking about wireless charging for iOS and Android devices and not many know that there are third party suppliers in the market who can do just that, make your device charge wirelessly and this includes the iPhone!

What is Induction Charging

When you hear people talk about Qi charging, one has to recall a few years ago when there was a Smartphone product called the Palm Pre, where a touchstone was used to charge it wirelessly. Well it’s the same thing. Using magnetic waves to charge the battery, it was way ahead of its time. Since then, the whole Qi charging community went wild when Google announced that the Nexus could be charged wirelessly as well. Wow…what a brilliant idea…but who cares it was three years too late. The technology isn’t new. It’s been around since the 90s and was used to charge the first generation electric vehicles.

Today, no one  talks about wireless Qi charging because over the years, the benefits are far too few for those who are in a hurry. Some smartphones have built in connectors for Qi charging but Apple is slow to follow. What’s more, if you are willing to sacrifice the lighting port on your iPhone 5, you can have wireless charging as well but it will void your warranty if you decide to install one in your iPhone.

batterybank

Capacity: 7000 mA Battery Bank

So you need both a transmitter and a receiver to load up on battery juice and this isn’t going to be easy if your phone wasn’t made for it in the first place. Fortunately for iPhone users, the receiver can be housed in a protective cover jacket for your iPhone while it plugs into lightning port. This also means you can’t use the port for anything USB related until you remove it.

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Usage in the Real World

It took a while for me to write this review as there were some experiments I had to run. For instance, if your charging transmitter is not place directly (albeit partially) over the receiver in your device, charging of the device will be 50% slower. So it does affect your charging times even if you dump your device in a hurry to get a quick top up.

Now Qi chargers are 30% slower than USB charging. The efficiency is probably the biggest deal here and doesn’t work to your advantage when you are in a hurry.

Putting a Qi charger in your car too doesn’t make much sense. At a slower rate of charge, you won’t be topping up any juice if you happen to use your device for playing music or video at the same time or for that matter leaving it in charging mode for short drives. Half an hour driving isn’t going to help you juice up much.

The biggest benefit really is that it has an overcharge circuit and when you put it to charge mode during the night. When we sleep, 8 hours or more, there is a tendency that the normal USB chargers will charge it up quickly and recharge it several times over during the night.

The slower rate of charge for Qi chargers makes it ideal that this does not happen, plus the fact that it maintains a 95% charge during trickle mode. This mode only kicks in once the battery is fully charged at 100%, then it stops charging totally until the battery falls to 95%, before topping it up again to 100%.

Because of this cut off, there is no constant trickle charge to keep your device at 100%, ensuring a longer battery life. Waltzcomm has several rather creative solutions, including Qi battery packs, LED lamp with built in Qi Charger, Car Qi Charger and dual Qi chargers. The downside is that those are made only for smartphones and not tablets. According to Chris, tablets draw too much power and have much larger batteries making Qi chargers useless. So for now, it’s only good for iPhones and Galaxy devices. Please note that not all Galaxy devices support the wireless receiver module you need to plug into the back of your smart device. Only the S series and the Note series are currently supported. If you look it up online, there are third party Qi chargers selling for less than US$30 (including the transmitter and receiver) so you can get them cheaper but these products come without warranty. Waltzcomm offers a 12 month warranty for all products purchased from them.

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The Pen Stylus is Vogue again for Apple?

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I recently had to retire my original GN and take on the GN II, used of course, but with much hesitation. This is not my eulogy to a machine that has served me over the last 20 months but rather, a poetic farewell to a device that I long enjoyed. Now Samsung’s Galaxy Note series of Smartphones and Tablets are the envy of Apple users. That’s right. It is a sleeper hit as far as Apple is concern though Tim Cook has no idea why it should be the case.

As a drawing and sketching tool, it is hard to beat. What’s more there is pin point accuracy with the built-in stylus. What the Galaxy Note lacks is a good SVG editor, which you have to buy on the Google Play. But a more interesting note is that the folks at Adonit wants to convert your iPad into a Galaxy Note with bluetooth enabled Pen called the Jot Script. This gadget isn’t cheap, costing US$75 sans apps. There are some free apps on the Appstore which you can use but this really depends on you. Evernote also has an app that supports the Adonit pen.

For wanna be artist, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition is the one to kill for. Forget the Adonit imitation that works on the iPad and iPhone. It just will not cut it in the same way as the Samsung’s next big tablet with a stylus.

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A Question of Different Stylus

Remember those blunt head stylus you can buy for a song from your smartphone shop? Well, they are made that way because it is simply not possible to get it to work with a fine point. Apple has patented a new active stylus but has yet to announce a product release date, it might come once they have their new iPad line fully stocked up

jotscript

Adonit’s pixel point technology uses bluetooth, whereas the one from Samsung Galaxy Note is from Wacom’s own Bamboo Stylus technology. I have owned two Wacom tablets and love the way the feel in your hand but it wasn’t until the Galaxy Note that revolutionised the Wacom Tablet technology as you can draw directly onto the device display. Both types of Stylus are pressure sensitive.

The old Styli which you often find fashioned with a bulb like capacitive foam tip but you could never pin point your pen tip to a drawing. Pin point type stylus are rare as there is quite a fair bit of tech that goes on behind it. For example, Adonit has released a SDK that allows app developers to integrate its function.

Alternative Stylus from Adonit

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When I was using the iPad, I toyed with the idea of using this weird Stylus that has a flat head. It didn’t look like but it promised pin point accuracy for drawing and note taking. It didn’t take long for me to toss the idea as it would be easily damaged and the extra point heads given to you would be all used up.

active-stylus-patent

Apple’s new patent for a Stylus reflects its desire to bridge what Samsung has done so far with the Note series of Tablet and Smartphones but would that be too late to market? It could certainly satisfy the Apple fanboys who have longed for such a device if they didn’t already have an Adonit Stylus. That said, this alone isn’t going to change the user landscape much as it would take Apple another 18 months to get something like this to market.

Bloated Battery from Samsung, an original battery that has given up its life in less than 18 months. The left battery is a third party battery

Li-ion Bloated Batteries? WTF?

Bloated Battery from Samsung, an original battery that has given up its life in less than 18 months. The left battery is a third party battery

Bloated Battery from Samsung, an original battery that has given up its life in less than 18 months. The left battery is a third party battery

So you have heard that Yuasa, the li-ion battery maker for Boeing’s Dreamliner start to give problems, the whole fleet of plans had to be grounded.

You might think that such battery failure is rare but the truth is that it is more common than imagined because Li-ion batteries are one of the most volatile when used incorrectly. For mobile devices, it is the same as something has got to give when you have a power hungry device so here’s the deal. The battery in your Android and iPhone are never made to last more than 18 months. I got a brand new iPod Touch 5G which went kaput within four months of intense use. The end result was a brand new replacement.

My GN wasn’t so fortunate. After 14 months of use. It decided to die on me. This was the original GN battery from Samsung that gave way, to it goes to show that even if you buy branded, chances are that it will eventually fail.

Then my Blackberry Bold failed, battery was a third party product but a high capacity charged version. So that said, I am no stranger to battery failure.

Why Li-ions Fail

There are really just two reason. Over charging and excess HEAT. These are the two main culprits. So lets deal with the first one. Overcharging is very easy to do. This is when you leave the device running while charging at the same time. I know you can’t deal with the fact that your Facebook notifications goes unread during the hours you are fast asleep but heck, you are running down your battery at the same time.

What are Heat Problems

Remember the time I told you that my GN had battery problems because it was running the background apps over and over without stopping? That cause the device to run really hot, contributing to the overall overheating of the whole unit.

Viruses on Android  are also contributing factor when you suddenly find out that the battery you have is draining exceptionally quick after a full charge.

Bad apps, such as those found on both iOS and Android contribute to the demise of your  battery when the app goes OCD by checking and reconnecting for notification updates.

Proper Battery Maintenance

This new finding has also proven that Li-ion Batteries have Memory Effect. This means that the myth that your new Li-ion battery is immune to charge related problems is now busted. You need to maintain your battery to ensure a longer life.

1. Discharge your Battery completely ONCE a month

This is something many of you refuse to do. By discharging your battery completely once a month, you are allowing your battery gauge to recalibrate. Do not do this more than once a month as the recommended discharge recalibration is once every 30 charges. So if you happen to charge your device once a day, then remember to discharge you battery completely once every 30 days.

2. Stop  Running Hot

Never allow your device to run hot as this affects your battery performance. One of the key problems is bad apps and not properly closing games or other apps that stay awake. For example some online games will not allow your device to go into a sleep state. Once in stasis mode, even when the game is not actively running, the battery is consumed as the display is always on. Another problem is related to viruses on the Android platform. If you suspect you have downloaded a bug, just get a virus eradicator like the one from Avast, which will help you stamp out the rogue app that is causing this.

3. Getting a Full Charge versus Partial Charge

If you have charged up your device, then take it out of the charger. Never leave it running as a way to maintain a full charge state. There is this article on Li-ion batteries that you should read. And I quote it here.

Li-ion does not need to be fully charged, as is the case with lead acid, nor is it desirable to do so. In fact, it is better not to fully charge, because high voltages stresses the battery. Choosing a lower voltage threshold, or eliminating the saturation charge altogether, prolongs battery life but this reduces the runtime. Since the consumer market promotes maximum runtime, these chargers go for maximum capacity rather than extended service life.

Forget about what you read about the cut off charge in Li-ion batteries, that too is a myth. There is a trickle charge that makes sure the battery  stays on maximum capacity and this stresses the battery out. So leaving your battery in a charger is never good.

4. Turn Off the Device when Charging

This is to prevent the charger from sending out a trickle charge as a way to top off the battery’s optimum capacity. This might be a hinderance to iPhone or HTC owners who have no access to the battery to allow for some kind of swapping. This continuous charge to top off the capacity is what stresses the battery out. So if you are wondering why your battery isn’t giving you the hours you expect from it, well now you know.

5. Never charge at a higher Voltage

Some devices have built in detectors to monitor the correct voltage input before it allows the device to be charged. This is not a bad thing as some third party chargers promise higher voltage charges just to decrease the amount of charge time at the expense of your battery. If you have a device that doesn’t have such a circuit, then you are pretty much in trouble if you use a third party charger.

I have noticed that my ASUS transformer and iPod Touch won’t charge with just ANY USB charger, meaning they have built in a monitoring circuit to ensure you only use a charger that conforms to the device battery. By charging at a higher voltage, chances are you are damaging your battery by stressing it out. This is what happens when your battery gets bloated like the one in the picture.

Conclusion

All Li-ion batteries have a shelf life. Most of them won’t last more than 400 to 500 cycles of charging, which is good for about a year’s use. Taking into account that you need to charge your battery once a day, that’s 365 times in a year. By taking the correct precautions, you could extend your battery life a bit more than that. For those who are stuck on devices that won’t allow you to swap batteries, fret not. Take out an insurance cover that gives you free maintenance should your device ever break down due to battery related problems. Not all insurance covers are the same as some don’t cover the battery so please remember to read between the lines.

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DOSS: Asimom Bluetooth Speakers for your Mobile Device

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It sounds silly but that’s what you learn to expect from the Chinese who have made this nifty speaker called the Asimom. DOSS stands for Dream of Smart Sound and it is not a wordplay on the fashion label “BOSS” which many believe to be another trusted Chinese method of ripping off brand labels to decorate their wares. However I would testify that this is not the case and it just stems from the written fact that Chinese have very little understanding on brand name conventions.

The speaker’s performance is very similar to my JBL OnTime 200P but with far less output. The Asimom only throws out 1.5 watts of sound while the JBL gives out 6 watts x 2. Yes, the Asimom is a mono speaker and that kinda sucks but heck, this thing cost only US$50 bucks compared to the JBL’s US$199 price tag. What I am more concerned with is the sound quality which unfortunately doesn’t get any better with a JBL. What’s more, the JBL can’t be used as a Bluetooth speaker. Both speakers are poor with bass output (notice the Frequency response of between : 65HZ-20KHZ). For good bass output, you need to have the lower frequencies touching 10KHZ.

The one I have is a import model from China but it does come with an English voice notification alongside it’s Mandarin counterpart. When you switch it on, a male voice tells you that it’s ready to connect. You will also be notified by this same voice once pairing is completed.

Before you write off the DOSS speakers, allow me to state that this is probably one of the better value for money gadgets you can add to your arsenal of toys.

  • 1 DOSS Asimom Bluetooth Speaker
  • Model: Doss DS-1168
  • Material: Metal
  • Power: 1.5W
  • Frequency: 65HZ-20KHZ
  • THD: <0.5%
  • S/N: ≥86DB
  • Separating Degree: ≥55dB
  • Bluetooth compatibility: Bluetooth V2.1+EDR Version
  • Body battery: 3.7V 500mA
  • Base battery: 3.7V 1020mA
  • USB charge voltage: DC 5V 500mA
  • Compatibility: iPhone, iPad, tablet PC, notebook or any device with Bluetooth connection
  • Product weight: 350 g
  • Package weight: 491 g
  • Multifunctional charger with speaker and microphone functions
  • Portable and ergonomic design
  • The base part can be used as an emergency charger for mobile electronic equipment
  • Intelligent voice prompt for answering calls with humanised design

I would like to digress into the intelligent voice prompts. I am sure you’d be quite affected by the male voice speaking in Chinese then in broken English (a probable direct translation from google translate). I found it annoying. Each time it runs low on power the prompt comes out.

Then there is the voice prompt that tells you it is activated. Also damn annoying. And no, I haven’t found a way to turn it off, nor do I think it is possible.

There is also a button for answering mobile phone calls should you be streaming Bluetooth audio to the speaker. That said, I won’t be going wild over this feature.

USB Charging

There are no plugs, just a USB charging cable and an AUX stereo cable. If Bluetooth is not your thing, you can still go the wired route.

The USB base that is used to charge the speaker can also be adapted to charge any USB device but DC charging is only at 5V at 500mA. This ia not very useful if you are charging a tablet or iPad that needs a minimum of 10V.

Conclusion

DOSS is great for voice audio or for that matter, any music audio that features human voices. Streaming Internet talk radio into the speaker is first rate. Music wise, you’d best left the dance numbers out of the equation since it doesn’t quite give you the strong bass frequencies.

But the decision to buy or not to buy lies with the price and at 50 bucks, its good value for money. You can of course put this in your car and have that pair automatically with your smartphone. The in-car charging adapter needed for this can easily be purchased so it is not a big deal when it comes to car use.

Yea, I do recommend this if you are in the market for a cheap Bluetooth speaker that is mono rather than stereo.