Tech Tuesday- Google Home

Today at 10am Google announced to the world the UK release dates for Home and Wifi. Both have been in the US since last year but finally both will be making there long awaited debut on the 6th April 2017.

What is Google Home, well its a Hands free smart speaker, much like Amazon Echo and dot which are currently available in the UK. The smart home sector is ever growing and Smart home speakers are seen as a central part of the eco system in that regard.

I managed to have some hands on time with the Home device today and I’m definitely a fan. On looks alone I prefer the Google Home vs the echo (even if it does look like an air freshener) plus the ability to purchase interchangeable speaker mesh which can be matched to the theme of the room is quite a nice touch. I happen to own an Amazon Echo and although not ugly it does look very much like a classic speaker and nothing else.

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Google are looking to highlight 3 keys areas for why consumers would want to purchase their device which are,

  1. Get answers from Google
  2. Enjoy your music
  3. Manage your everyday tasks

The device itself is powered by Google assistant and works very similar, to the one on the Google Pixel smartphone. You can ask it to play music sourced from subscribed providers ie Spotify or google play, as well as interactions with Cast enabled devices to showcase such things like Netflix and youtube on your TV. Managing things like shopping lists and reminders are also very simple and viewable later on your device via google keep should you need to action anything.

The device will retail at £129 in the UK which puts it £20 cheaper than the Amazon echo and in my opinion this will play a factor for consumers looking to buy a smart speaker.

I will be getting my hands on one come the 6th so once I have the device I will provide a head to head review of the echo vs the home so watch this space.

 

 

Film Friday – LIFE

If you’re a film maker wanting to make a sci-fi horror and you’re not Ridley Scott, then you have a problem, because every film in that genre will be compared to Alien….period.

Ok now thats out the way onto this weeks recommendation and if you haven’t guessed its a sci-fi, horror/thriller. So the basis of this surrounds 6 crew members who retrieve a space pod carrying mars samples. Within the samples is what seems like a single cell organism, hence the title LIFE.

Without giving away any spoilers, the excitement of discovering life quickly turns and takes a darker path with some genuine “jump” moments. Overall the film is not to long, the pace of the movie is very good and enough happens during to keep you engaged till the end. Life is a clever take on an already tried and tested blueprint and manages to avoid being….meh.

I throughly enjoyed this movie and I’m comfortable recommending this as a ‘one to watch’ so if you are a fan of sci-fi horror or just want a good movie to watch, go check it out.

Trailer below (PS the film is better than the trailer, too often its the opposite)

Two Days, Two OEM’s, Two new colours

The last couple days have been quite interesting with two mobile manufacturers announcing new colour variants to flagship devices both to launch this Friday 24th March 2017.

So the first update come from Apple and they have introduced a RED IP7 and IP7Plus and it looks pretty sweet. The device itself is identical to the current flagship the only difference is the new colour. Fo those that don’t know RED have worked with apple for close to 10 years and have previously produced RED exclusives, the most memorable being the RED Ipod touch. RED is a global AIDS charity and proceeds will go towards fighting the disease.

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The second update came from OnePlus today and they introduced a limited edition OnePlus 3T Midnight Black Edition which is easily my favourite colour choice (Matte black everything). On the site OnePlus says they will be very small quantities produced so no doubt this will be far harder to get your hands on compared to the Iphone. The 3T still remains my current favourite phone for below £500 and now it comes in a new sleek black finish….wow, impressive.

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Wearables……Is there still a market?

Let me start by saying I love watches, I have a small collection and I see the value In spending whatever the going rate is for the right timepiece. The idea of pairing tech along with a watch in theory is a match made in heaven, Ala 80/90’s sci-fi movies. The reality for me however is not so great.

Wearable’s, smart watches,hybrid, what ever you refer to them as, have hit a stagnant point, and I feel no real innovation has happened from the early devices that first launched to now despite there being numerous OEM wearable devices both from the tech world and more recently the timepiece industry itself. Devices can range from £20 all the way to £5k depending how deep your pockets are but fundamentally they all do the same thing.

The Moro 360 (series 1) was my first wearable( Actually the sonyericsson mbw series from 2006 was my very first smart watch) and still remains one of my all time favourites to this day from a design and function point of view. I have also owned a Gear (series 1), Gear Fit, Gear S2 and an Apple Watch, none of which reside on my arm anymore. My opinion of wearable’s is that they are still a companion product and they don’t really offer enough as a stand alone device to warrant consumers buying at scale.

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Today I use a Fit bit and the key reason for this is because fitness tracking along with notifications was the only real need I had for a wearable, hence why not just have a fitness tracker.  I really want to buy into the ethos of what a smart watch represents but I cant help think its just a take it or leave it product. Maybe the recent trend of hybrid wearable’s from key watch manufacturers will finally bridge the gap of smartwatch vs timepiece, only time will tell but certainly 2017 has already seen numerous announcements of products.

I’ve not given up on the Category yet but I’m still to be convinced that wearable’s have a sustainable place in the market, I will however take my time on the next purchase, and once I do I promise to update you all.

Check out some recent products announced below…

Guess Connect

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Mont Blanc Summit

LG

Huawei

 

Film Friday – Kong: Skull Island

Yet another take on the legendary character King Kong. This version sits apart from the 2005 film (not a fan) and runs with the theme of a group of scientists exploring an uncharted island with the help of some military mercenaries. When the group land on this primal eden they are introduced to Kong, King of the island and from here the journey begins.

The film has some key cast members in Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L Jackson and they deliver an ok and good performance in that order (Samuel L Jackson is always good). I still believe the film fails to reach its full potential but never the less its still quite an entertaining watch if only for the cinematic effects and even though overall plot lets it down somewhat enough happens on screen to keep you engaged till the end.

So for those who love a good fantasy adventure movie this would be my current pick right now, fun for all the family to be had and worth the admission should you hit up the cinema.

My official rating is 3/5 so go check it out.

Official trailer

5 months later – Google Pixel

So I wanted to revisit googles first venture into mobile hardware arena and review how its held up 5 months later. Without giving to much away the Pixel XL 128gb still remains my daily driver so that may give you an indication of my overall summary.

Design

Although some launch reviews were less than kind about the looks of the Pixel device its never been offensive to me. Somewhat basic looking absolutely, but thats not a bad thing as its underwhelming looks enhance its strengths in other areas. I’ve  used mine with a case on and off during the 5 months and its held up pretty well (No drops) it has however chipped and scratched across the top and bottom of the device which is due to general wear and tear but nothing significant. I use a glass screen protector on mine so the screen is perfect, and for me the glass panel on the rear is also free from any major marks or damage.

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Performance

This is where the Pixel excels for me against all other android smartphones out there, as the experience is simply the best I have ever come across with android. 5 months in, running beta mode with 240 plus apps on my device and its just as buttery smooth as the day I brought it. To give you example of a typical days use, I use various social apps along with , Spotify, Youtube, Showbox, taking pics and video, casting to Google Chromecast along with using google maps, and these are but a few things. Never have I owned and android phone that has been such a pleasure to use on a daily basis, and although the odd random app shutdown may occur once ever 2 weeks that’s a small price to pay for the sheer joy of using this device. I’m currently running Nougat 7.1.2 as we speak for those curious.

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Camera

The Camera is another area that simply continues to blow me away and with the unlimited storage benefit that google photos provides, it makes for an attractive package. Many people say to me “why is it so good”, or “the Iphone and the S7 take great pictures also”, and that’s very true, but where the pixel outperforms the rest is the consistency and sheer simplicity of capturing the perfect moment. Double click the power key and press or hold the onscreen shutter button to capture your image. I say 9 out of 10 times you will not be disappointed and a large part of that is down to HDR+. Its worth me saying the overall viewfinder is basic, limited to just 4-5 options but should you feel the need to delve deeper you can download manual camera app which works pretty good with the pixel. In my opinion this remains the best camera on any smartphone to date, will be good to see what the 2017 flagships bring to the table in terms of imaging.

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Battery

Excluding when you first get a new phone, my usage is pretty stable as in, I get a days use which suits me perfectly as I charge overnight. My battery has had moments where it has dipped in performance in comparison to say the 1st couple months but on investigation that has been down to some rouge apps misbehaving. Overall my experience has been a positive one and the quick charge serves as a great backup should you need that extra juice boost in an emergency.

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Storage

47.26gb of 119gb used……255 apps, 200 of which I probably don’t need, my music is streamed via Spotify, my HDR images and 4k videos are stored in google photos, both of which I view and interact with seamlessly. What more is there to say, its just not a problem for me and in honesty I could of probably got away with the 32gb variant and skimmed on the amount of apps I hoard.

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Verdict

This time last year I had fell out of love with android due to the inconsistency as a package weather it be Samsung, HTC or LG and I was back in the IOS camp preaching iPhone. The google Pixel has not only restored my faith but its shown me what a well executed proposition of android offers. Some have described the Pixel as the iPhone of Android phones, and I understand where that statement is born from. Yes the experience may overshadow the looks of the device for some but the experience is just so dam good you don’t feel envious of strangers touting edge design handsets. For me this is still the best android phone to date, and arguably the best smartphone to date and my no1 recommendation still in 2017.

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Top5 Tuesday- Android Apps/March 2017

So I thought I would share my top 5 apps/games on my android device right now, this is outside of the standard social apps I tend to use everyday. Lets get straight into it…

SHOWBOX

This has been a firm favourite for many years and it just keeps getting better. For anyone who watches a lot of TV or movies this is the go to app that I would recommend. The Interface is clean, with clear Movies/TV shows sections along with News, Trailers, favourites, Downloads and Updates. You can choose to stream from the app or download to then consume later. The best thing is that content normally hits here first before general public viewing in the UK so well worth downloading if you wish to keep up to date. (DOWNLOAD)

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ALLCAST

This ties in nicely with the above as one of the things you cant do as standard is cast Showbox content to your ChromeCast/Android TV, but buy downloading this app you can cast any content on your smartphone/Tablet to your big screen. Very simple app, no frills but very effective. (DOWNLOAD)

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B/R TEAM STREAM

I’m a big sports fan so this app satisfies my need to keep up to date perfectly. You can select your favourite sports and you will be updated with news surrounding your selection. One of the great things about this app is that it tends to pull updates from various sources which saves you having 3-4 go to apps, you can find all you need in this one. Easy to use interface with trending section much like twitter, you can choose to create an account or use as a guest, go check it out. (DOWNLOAD)

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PRISMA

I love a good photo, and even more than that I love a good filter. Now having tried literally hundreds of different filter apps over the years Prisma has to be my favourite. The filter choice is very different compared to Instagram filters for example, they are themed around art styles and each time you use it the app will analyse the image then generate it with the filter applied. The app has changed a bit over the last 12 months and it looks to be going of the direction of being more social with the ability to share images much like Instagram which is not a feature I use personally but its definitely still l worth checking out. (DOWNLOAD)

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TV SHOWTIME

Common theme I know, But hey I watch a lot of TV. So this is how I keep up to date and organised with TV shows I’m into. Select your favourite shows and the app will prompt you when a new episode is out. There is a social aspect should you wish to discuss episodes and shows plus you can also discover new programs as well as new shows set to pilot. I recommended this app to many friends and they have never looked back. (DOWNLOAD)

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So there you have it my top 5 Android apps that I use daily and recommend. I will also provide an ios top 5 at some point so be sure to check that out when it lands.

 

Film Friday (erm Sunday) – Live By Night

Yeah I know, well and truly late but Zelda…….its just so good!

Anyway, this weeks recommendation is the only film I’ve watched this week so by default gets picked. The Film is ‘Live By Night’ and stars Ben Affleck as lead actor and the theme is your typical Mobster style Gangster movie.

I will quickly mention that I use to hate Ben Affleck, with a passion but in the last few years I’ve started to respect him more for his roles (Also check out ‘the Accountant‘). Ben plays a character called joe who is in the middle of 2 rival  families, throw in a complex love interest, and things begin to get complicated with dangerous outcomes.

The pace of the film starts slow, but definitely picks up towards the 2nd half of the movie. I will tell you now, this is no classic, its a million miles away from your ‘Godfather trilogy’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Scarface’, ‘Casino’ to name but a few, so don’t go in thinking it will sit in the same league.

This is what I would call a ‘sofa movie’ you wouldn’t probably want to spend cash money to watch at the box office, but you wont be disappointed if you watched it for free as I did (God love you Kodi).

My official rating would be 3/5

Check out the trailer below

4 months later – Daydream View

The Google Daydream is the 2nd VR headset that Ive personally owned, the 1st being the Samsung Gear VR, and of the two it still remains the best. The only problem is that my Daydream View has pretty much sat in a drawer for the best part of 3 of those 4 months and for me there lies the problem.

The design of the Daydream is still one of favourites, utilising minimal plastic where needed and then the bulk of the unit being material which makes for a lightweight comfortable fit. The unit itself is actually quite future proof as the only real component is a NFC chip which sits in the front lid to enable connection to mobile device, a far more logical solution to that of Samsung’s Gear VR which is already on Version 2 due to the micro usb to usb-C shift.

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Another key USP is the remote which provide a more connected experience when playing games, one example being that the remote becomes a wand when playing ‘Fantastic beast and where to find them’. The remote itself has 3 man buttons on the top, one which doubles as a touchpad and volume buttons on the side. like I said as a unit in comparison to similar devices on the market at that price point (£59.99) it remains the best option in my view.

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So……Back to the problem, although the Daydream is good, its just ok in the grand scheme of things. When you  first experience it you are blown away and love exploring and trying new things but that quickly fades and attention levels drop fast, in some cases even after 24hrs use. Average consumer VR is cool, but its a fad, when compared to high end Oculus Rift set up or HTC Vive there is simply no comparison in quality or price, with the later products ranging from £700-£1500.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to VR and I truly believe it will be the next big evolution of the internet as we know it, but for now we don’t have easy access to that incredibly immersive high quality experience, meaning we are forced to use sub par alternatives until the better products become more cost effective. IMG_1231.JPG

TV Show Tuesday – Bates Motel

For those who like dark thrillers with a hint of mystery, Bates Motel should satisfy the appetite. Well into the 5th and final season this show is based on the 1960 movie Psycho.

The story is basically set around young Norman Bates and his mother, and follows their relationship as it skims around the edge of unnatural. Add to this the fragile state of Norman’s mentality with some delicate plots surrounded by secrets and lies, it provides enough elements to keep you coming back following the first watch.

Ive really enjoyed watching the show over the last few years and its a shame its coming to an end, but it definitely gets my approval and recommendation to anyone that hasn’t yet checked it out.

My Rating 4/5

 

Check out the Season 1 trailer below: