Category Archives: windows phone

Cricinfo now Edge-only: does it matter?

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The concept’s not new, of course. I’ve covered it several times, most recently in the withdrawal of the LinkedIn WP8.1 application. The idea is that since 99% of the content on Cricinfo (or LinkedIn) is HTML5 text and tags, i.e. designed for web pages, why not show it all in a web browser? You do lose out in terms of notifications and you have to live with the Edge address bar, but otherwise the content is nigh on indistinguishable from what a dedicated application would present.

So, there’s no official app anymore, but here’s ESPN’s Cricinfo running in Edge on my Lumia 950:

Cricinfo screenshotCricinfo screenshot

Almost a Windows 10 application in web form? There are certainly navigation similarities. This is espncricinfo.com in Edge on Windows 10 Mobile…

Cricinfo screenshotCricinfo screenshot

As usual with making web sites easier to get to, you can ‘Pin this page to start’, as shown. You get the ESPN Cricinfo ‘favicon’ as your tile graphic, though don’t expect ‘live’ updates!

Not bad at all – performance is good and the ESPN site has hamburger menu navigation, so it’s almost like having a Windows 10 application.

Comments welcome? Am I settling for second best too easily? I do feel that in this case the heavy information-based content is well suited to browser (rather than app) delivery.

PS. If you do resurrect the old 8.1 Silverlight application, do let us know how well (or otherwise) it works!

Microsoft’s City Art Search gets data cleansing and new artwork

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Here’s the changelog for the new v3.0.9.4:

  • Minor UX polishing
  • Code optimisation and bug fixes
  • Data cleansing (i.e. cleaning up after itself)
  • Addition of new artwork to the database (now 8614 pieces of art)

Screenshot, City Art SearchScreenshot, City Art Search

All very ‘Windows Phone 8.1’, but this is a Silverlight app and proud. Here I’m looking at the closest listed gallery and starting to browse the works of art within it…

Screenshot, City Art SearchScreenshot, City Art Search

Switch to the HD versions of each piece and then zoom in and pan around to appreciate the artistry; there’s a control – and a menu item – for  the artist on Wikipedia for each piece, too.

As commented before, it’s a lot of work (and fairly manual) to both capture and then manipulate and enter details of all this art into the online system, but this is a very worthwhile initiative. And completely free to you, the user. So well done to all concerned.

You can grab City Art Search here in the Store.

Source / Credit: Store

How to: edit and share your Windows 10 phone snaps

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Another in my series of beginner-ish tutorials here on AAWP. Microsoft does a pretty good job at backing up and collecting photos taken at a particular event and on a particular day, on your Windows 10 Mobile-powered smartphone in Photos. Meaning that you can – in principle – just share these out, via OneDrive, to family and friends. But there are some tweaks you might like to note.

To demonstrate how it all works, I took my pensioner dad out to the seaside, at Watchet, in Somerset, UK, and the sun followed us for a splendid outing. My Lumia 950 XL was tasked with capturing the outing, steam railway, harbour, ice creams, and all:

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

When you head onto Windows 10 Photos, tap on ‘Albums’ and see what Microsoft’s algorithms have divined from your snaps. Here, an album called ‘Friday July 14th 2017’ has been automatically created and populated. Note that there’s an obscure server-side bug whereby the album title is sometimes popped up in a foreign language…(!); (right) Tap on the album’s hero image to see the album in full. Here showing nine thumbnails (from about 20 snapped on the day).

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

For quick sharing, just tap on the share control in the bottom toolbar and then past the explanatory pane (you’d just ‘copy link’ if you wanted to share from an application that wasn’t supported by the Windows 10 sharing mechanism (most are); (right) here I’ve opted to share via Outlook mail and so my test email here has a OneDrive URL that the recipient can tap/click on. Nice and simple. Note that sharing photos in this way doesn’t involve lengthy uploads, you’re just sharing a link to an online album, so it’s lightning quick and efficient.

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

But all this is only if you don’t want to change anything beyond Photos’/OneDrive’s auto-selection. The chances are that you’ll want to make a few changes if it was a special day. For example, as here, tap on the ‘Edit’ control on the album’s home view will pop up the title to be edited or overwritten, plus a control to change the ‘hero’/cover photo if needed. Here I’m content to just change the title, since the algorithms chose the perfect cover photo (maybe they spotted the station sign?)

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

There, the title’s changed and in most cases will explain to viewers what the event was all about better than just the date! (right) I also wanted to crop at least one of my photos, this one has extra detail (hut/person) that I didn’t want in my shot. So, with the photo on-screen, use the ‘Edit’ control in the bottom toolbar…

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

…and then choose your editing app – in my case the default ‘Crop, Rotate…’ tool will do just fine, crop as needed and then tap on the tick control to save the result.

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

The edit appears in Photos as a totally new image – this is a workflow oddity that seems to have been a design decision by Nokia or Microsoft, I’d much rather have the original changed. But new users may well regret the edit and then be left with no original (other than online if they’re quick), so the software plays safe and makes a new JPG; (right) Whether as a result of editing a photo and needing to pick the new version or perhaps because you want extra photos included in the album, swipe up on the main Album editing view and you’ll see a ‘Add or remove photos’ control. Tapping this lets you tick the exact photos you want and remove those you don’t, as shown above.

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

An alternative to sharing the album via OneDrive is to use another Microsoft service, Sway. This allows cloud-hosted looping slideshows, effectively. Tap on ‘Tell your story with Sway’ to get started. Note that there’s no interaction needed at this stage – the photos you’ve already curated will be used and they get copied internally on Microsoft’s servers from OneDrive to Sway. See the status messages at the top of each screenshot above – you’ll be notified when the ‘sway’ is ready.

Screenshot, album sharing featureScreenshot, album sharing feature

Tapping ‘Open it now’ will let you check the sway’s contents, though note that the full effect can’t really be seen on the small phone screen. Sways are best on a large monitor, with ‘loop’ set and usually in some kind of presentation environment while explanations are going on. They’re… interesting, but shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement for normal, shared OneDrive albums.

Hopefully this feature will help others to more accurately assemble and share their Windows 10 Mobile-shot snaps, for friends and family to enjoy. Comments welcome – how do you share your photos and albums? What tricks have I missed?

Good deed for the month: help a family member unfreeze their OneDrive

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Yes, you’re an AAWP reader and you snaffled up the various Camera roll and Loyalty OneDrive bonuses in the past.  So you have, typically, 30GB of capacity on OneDrive. But spare a thought for friends and family members who didn’t know about the bonuses from 2014-2015 and who are now (July 2017) being bothered by scary notices on their OneDrive account, with their initial 15GB of space finally being ‘frozen’. How best to help them? 

I mention all this because my daughter was one of those hit by the freezing. Now, she’s a fairly easy case because 60% of the stuff she had on OneDrive was backed up photos and videos from an iPhone manoeuvre in 2014, so it wasn’t rocket science to zap most of these and get down below the 5GB limit. For other users it may be a harder activity – or they may, indeed, need more than 5GB and so sign up to one of Microsoft’s storage plans.

There’s a degree of urgency to all this, in that many accounts are already frozen, in that the one-time unfreezing (for management purposes) only lasts 30 days, and in that there’s a hard cut-off per user after which storage in frozen accounts can be deleted completely with possible file loss (local copies of files won’t be affected).

Anyway, in the interests of illustration, I wanted to walk through some of the procedure, here on my daughter’s account on a Windows 10 device:

Screengrab

Here’s the flagged up message that appeared on her screen this week, following a Windows notification. Essentially she had four months to do something about the over-quota situation before all online files got zapped. It sounds like a long time to you and I but ‘normobs’ usually dismiss all such notifications and put off sorting anything out! So their auto-uploads wouldn’t be happening and they’d be unaware.

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Clicking on ‘Unfreeze account’ unlocks it all for a month, for view and delete access only.

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It looks like there’s some kind of manual approval of this unfreezing per account – in our case it was only a few minutes though.

Screengrab

Confirmation in the OneDrive application, with a handy ‘Clean up your files’ option…

Screengrab

This isn’t quite as useful as it sounds, but it does start you off in a view showing the ‘Largest files in your OneDrive’, here showing some of my daughter’s backed up videos. Likely culprits indeed. So I set to work tagging and deleting them in batches. After checking that she had the originals somewhere else, of course!!

Screengrab

After 30 minutes deleting and some browsing and curation, I/we had managed to get the account down to just under 5GB, see the stat bottom left in the screenshot above. Obviously still critical, but the panic’s over, the account is permanently open again, and no doubt we’ll address what she’ll use OneDrive for in the future!

Screengrab

Confirmation of the current state, also popped up when you click on the OneDrive icon (complete with red ‘!’) in the Windows taskbar…

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Of course, if any Windows users had been paying attention to AAWP over the last few years (and or if they’d also been using Windows Phone) then they’d have snaffled up the same bonuses as you and I! 

Hopefully this will prompt a few of you to check your own accounts or, more likely, to check your friends and family’s! Let’s help them to stay on top of their cloud drives and backups!

PS. OK, it’s a fair cop, I personally also have Office 365, which is the other Microsoft recommendation, and that comes with an extra 1TB on top of the bonuses above. But not every user will want to be forced down this path, especially if they’re happy with Office Online and Google Docs (etc.)

What’s in Steve’s must-have accessories toolkit?

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Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of smartphone accessories, maybe even hundreds. And I’ve reviewed a fair number formally here for AAS and AAWP. But, of this mass of plastic, metal and, often, lithium, which accessories really made the grade? Which ones do I personally carry around with me on any trip out of the house of more than a few hours? Here’s a glimpse into my standard kit.

Steve's 'kit'!

Shown above really is my kit, it’s the case I take more or less everywhere with me and the only difference is that:

  • I’ve tied it for the photo!
  • I’ve set the case code here to a dummy number to mask my real case unlock…
  • I also often take either my Surface Pro (and Backlit Type Cover) or my Macbook, depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing – and these fit in the top document pockets of the briefcase. And their chargers would go in the main body if I was gone for longer than a day, of course.

I’ve been asked numerous times what I really, truly use, so here it all is – I’ll start with the stuff in front of the case – which normally goes in my wallet or in the case or in its document flaps, as appropriate. Working left to right:

  • A short USB Type A to microUSB cable, Nokia-branded. Has never let me down, unlike many third party cables and adapters. Nokia knew how to build cables!
  • A Tronsmart USB Type A to Type C cable (mainly because I lost my Microsoft ones!)
  • An Olixar Wallet Ultra-slim stand – so slim I forget it’s there, yet saves the day at least once a week!
  • An Inateck Bluetooth keyboard – it’s SO slim and yet SO useable. And no, I don’t think you can buy them anymore, sadly.
  • A microUSB to USB Type A (female) adapter – for plugging in flash disks to phones ‘on the go’, though I can’t remember when I last actually did this!
  • A multi-way USB Type A to microUSB/Type C/Apple 30-pin adapter. Just an extra option, and again it’s small and light. Would be nice to have Apple Lightning on this too. I think this came with a power bank in the distant past!
  • OK look, it’s one of those lost Microsoft Type A to Type C cables after all – phew!

Now for the case contents, and I’ll try to work left to right again – you’ll work out what’s what!

  • The AUKEY SK-S1, the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever heard, bar none. It’s biggish, but when you hear the depth to the sound, it’s like having a hi-fi always with me.
  • A Choetech USB Type C to HDMI adpter cable – not cheap, but a one-wire way to connect to Continuum (etc) displays.
  • An old tin that’s the perfect size for tiny things. So it’s chock full of microSD cards, adapters, old SIMs, SIM tools, USB flash disks, and anything else that would otherwise get lost!
  • My Marshall Mode in-ear headphones. Stunning bass and general fidelity, three way media controls, sturdy clip. Again, not cheap (£40?), but you get what you pay for.
  • My Rolson Tradesman knife – cheap and yet very well made and simply to slot in new razor blades. Perfect for unboxing things?(!)
  • A white 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable. Because you never know when Bluetooth is going to let you down and it’s best to ‘jack in’!
  • Some emergency mundane things: rubber bands, a small notebook (for ideas?), paper clips, stapler, tissues, online banking access gadget.
  • The Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter – because you can’t always have cables trailing across living rooms and offices! Perfect for Continuum stuff as long as you don’t mind a little lag here and there…
  • An Integral SD card reader. Especially useful for getting photos onto – and off – awkward laptops.
  • A Tronsmart mains-to-dual USB Type A 36W fast charger – hasn’t let me down yet when there are multiple phones or tablets to charge
  • A cheap and nasty USB current meter – sometimes this seems invaluable, other times I’m not sure I believe its readings. But better than nothing. Shout out in the comments if you have something reliable that you can recommend.
  • The AUKEY USB Type C Hub – it’s a hard-wired Continuum dock that only weighs 50g – hit!

And finally, in the case on the right, three power banks – hey, this is me, I like redundancy in this area. So that when a family member or friend needs a boost, I can hand over one of the smaller gadgets and know that my main charge store is untouched!

  • The Lumsing Glory P2 Plus – dual fast charging input, triple output, very good build, this can’t be beaten.
  • The ‘swiss army charging knife‘ – mine was made by EC, but branding varies according to where you get it. Old style microUSB input only, but rugged and great for handing out to a family member, and useful that it includes a torch too.
  • The AUKEY Halo Charger – simple, beautiful, Type C in and out, plus Type A.

    So that’s it. The small pockets at the bottom of the case ‘top’ have emergency medication, first aid stuff, biros, business cards, and so forth. And, when I’m at an event or conference, a few high energy snack bars!

    Comments welcome, of course. What do you carry your ‘kit’ around in, and do you have any special recommendations of your own?

Waze is STILL your best real-time navigator on Windows 10 Mobile in 2017

Windows 10 Maps, derived from the codebase for HERE Maps, back on Windows Phone 8.1, uses public traffic data, meaning – as I covered here – that its routing only really integrates traffic on major routes and even then not really in real time. I’d have hoped that Microsoft would have put more effort into building in other data sources, but it seems that most of the upgrades to Maps (UWP) have concentrated around places of interest and general research, with an emphasis perhaps on use on the desktop.

It turns out that really good real time traffic navigation depends on human beings, driving around with navigation applications on their phones in cars. Which is kind of a chicken and egg situation, in that Windows 10 Maps isn’t brilliant for real time navigation, plus only a fraction of the population (of any country) uses it, meaning that there’s just not critical mass of any kind to make the product any better in this regard.

In contrast, both Google Maps (on Android, though GMaps Pro hijacks quite a bit of its data on Windows Phone) and Waze (all platforms) have enough real world users in all countries that the automatic speed+position reporting from each phone back to the relevant servers enables pretty good real time navigation. Not perfect (I’ve been testing all these solutions intensively over the last week), but much better at adapting to a changing traffic environment when you’re on the road.

It’s Waze I’m looking at here, in part because I couldn’t believe that such an ‘old’ application still worked properly under Windows 10 Mobile (and Creators Update in particular, in 2017) – surely something would have broken in terms of server APIs in the intervening three plus years? Although Waze is less popular than it was back in 2013/2014, there are still quite a few people using it and you’ll see some of this represented in the real world example screenshots below. And the good news is that the old (Silverlight?) client for WP 8.1 still works well, with just the minor cosmetic point that some panes of information have their bottom chopped off by the (dismissable) virtual navigation contols of Windows 10 Mobile, and with the downside that voice instructions don’t seem to work anymore. (This latter might just be my installation or, more likely, Microsoft has changed the voice APIs since Waze was coded up for Windows Phone 8.1.)

Why use Waze, then? Because your position and speed are reported back to Waze’s servers as you drive, joining in the massed pool of data that Waze maintains and allowing real time navigation instructions to be sent back to your phone as needed. Obviously, you need to keep data ‘on’ for all this and a decent bandwidth is needed (far less than media streaming though, don’t worry), but the confidence that your wellbeing on the road is being looked after by someone else is impressive. Just as it’s always been for Waze, of course. Here’s their original video promo:

Some of the social (Facebook? Pah!) aspects leave me cold and weren’t tested here, but what impressive was how much did work. The gold standard for phone-based car navigation is still Google Maps on Android, I maintain, but Waze gets quite close in terms of traffic, and adds niceties like fuel stations and warnings for ad-hoc police speed traps.

Now Google owns Waze, which is distinctly interesting, though it seems to run it fairly hands-off, with just Waze-reported traffic incidents and roadworks filtering through to its core Maps products. I’d have thought that after all this time the real time traffic data would have been combined, but it seems that each system works well enough as it is…

In return, Waze gets access to Google’s Maps API for ‘Places’, and this also proves useful, as you’ll again see below.

Time for a demo, anyway – this is Waze (from 2013/2014 and still available in the Windows 10 Store) running on a Lumia 950 in July 2017 with production Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update (Redstone 2) installed:

ScreenshotScreenshot

The interface is still…. quirky – it never fitted in with WP8.1 either though, and anyway sat-nav apps are usually different in terms of UI. In this case, these are the two main easy-touch control panels – for application functions (mainly used while stationary) and navigation functions (mainly used while moving*)

 

* it goes without saying that the phone needs to be in a hands-free holder and that you should exercise usual care in terms of distracting yourself from the road 

ScreenshotScreenshot

Setting off driving then, with a destination planned (and note that the optional dark mode here works, though not in all forms and panes), Waze pops up useful warnings for the road ahead. Bear in mind that you’re still being optimally routed, whether you notice the warnings or confirm or deny their validity – the interaction is all optional.

 

What’s evident from the screens above is that the timecode for each item is important – ’20 mins ago’ for the traffic jam towards Henley sounds very believable (is the Regatta still on?), but ‘721.9 hours ago’ is a month and I’m pretty certain that these roadworks got cleared ages ago. How does Waze remove old incident reports? There’s definitely something fishy going on here!

ScreenshotScreenshot

Waze’s own place database is for towns and roads, principally, so it’s great to have a full Google Maps place search just a swipe away. Here I was looking for the ‘House of Flavours’ restaurant and the latter search picked it up. In either case, just tap on the control to confirm the location on the map.

ScreenshotScreenshot

Assuming this location is the one you want, just tap on ‘Go’ etc. (right) traffic, roadworks and police reports are available on the menu too, sorted by their distance from you. In this case, in late afternoon, I completely believe the traffic reports from around Reading. These have been helpfully tapped in (only two taps) by other Waze users – your general routing is still from the mass of all position/speed information that’s been auto-collected.

ScreenshotScreenshot

When travelling along a problem road (see the ’13mph’ tag above), the background of the route shows that’s a known problem, though local knowledge also tells me that the right hand lane travels twice as fast as the left, so….(!); (right) if I wanted to join in the Waze reporting fun then tapping on the right hand bottom control pops up the reporting menu and then ‘Traffic Jam’ here, just tap on the one you want – or just leave the screen up, a timer accepts a general report and the pane goes away. And, obviously, don’t start taking photos or typing in comments if you’re the driver!!

ScreenshotScreenshot

Oh dear, another report that’s irrelevant from 4.5 months ago! I wonder if Waze on other platforms has the same issues with out of date information? (right) There’s plenty of introductory help in Waze, from screens like this to an in-app explanatory video.

Overall, Waze is a now flawed experience (cropped off information, old data, no voice) in 2017, but an application that definitely still works and, in cases where traffic is a serious consideration (which is most of the time where I live), can still be a big time saver. Worth installing alongside both Windows 10 Maps and gMaps Pro and then use the best tool for the job, perhaps? (Or use Google Maps on Android, but that would be too much like throwing in the towel, so….!) 

I’d love Waze to come out with a proper Windows 10 UWP version of this, of course. I wonder whether they’re listening?

Comments?

PS. One final note on battery life and power requirements – Waze, like all sat-nav apps is using data, GPS and screen all at the same time, and so the power requirement is high. Best to have your phone plugged into a power source in your car while navigating! You can reduce the requirement a little by switching away from Waze and letting it work in the background (it does this to some degree), but given that there’s no voice (for me) under W10M then this foils the point of using the app in the first place!

ZEISS returns to Nokia

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Totally off-topic for AAS and AAWP in a sense, because the end products won’t be 100% relevant, but the news is very definitely of interest, with Carl Zeiss (later renamed just ZEISS) producing the award winning optics for every Nokia flagship from the early 2000s onwards, and ending with the last Microsoft Windows-running phones, the Lumia 950 range, at the end of 2015. And now ZEISS is back with ‘Nokia’ – not quite the same Nokia that had its Devices division bought up and then eventually gutted by Microsoft – but the Nokia name, even on Android OS, is notable and the presence of a ZEISS collaboration is a good sign that the company is back on track. 

From HMD:

Espoo, Finland/ Oberkochen, Germany, 6 July 2017 – HMD Global, the home of Nokia phones, and ZEISS today jointly announced the signing of an exclusive partnership that aims to set new imaging standards within the smartphone industry. This long-term agreement builds on the shared history and expertise between ZEISS and Nokia smartphones.

With a joint ambition to advance the quality of the total imaging experience on smartphones spanning the entire ecosystem from software, services, through to screen quality, and optic design, the partnership will see ZEISS and HMD Global co-develop standard-defining imaging capabilities and will bring the ZEISS brand back to Nokia smartphones. This pledge to constantly improve consumers’ imaging experience is a reflection of the shared values between both businesses – a single minded commitment to quality, true craftsmanship and a desire to improve real life experience.

The relationship between ZEISS and Nokia phones began more than a decade ago, and is founded on a shared passion for innovation and always delivering the best for the consumer. The past collaboration saw ZEISS and Nokia phones driving technology innovations such as the world’s first multi-megapixel mobile phone and many more standard-setting devices, from the Nokia Nseries to those featuring Nokia PureView technologies. This renewed relationship is a long-term commitment to build on that technology innovation over the years to come.

ZEISS

Will we ever again see mighty imaging flagships from Nokia that are as ground-breaking as the Nokia N93, N95, N86 (shown below), N8, 808 and Lumia 1020? Somehow I doubt it, the competition is largely ‘catching up’, but the ZEISS agreement is certainly welcome.

PS. I’ve yet to even touch a Nokia-branded Android smartphone, but the ‘6’ looks good and it’s due out in the UK early next month.

N86 with variable aperture

Source / Credit: HMD

Volterman: the trackable, thief-proof, smart wallet that charges your phone?

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You know me, I can’t resist gadgets, powerbanks, adapters. And I’ve spotted this ‘Smart Wallet’ concept over on Indiegogo – it’s already funded, so will definitely happen now. Essentially it’s a range of wallets with a wireless (and wired) power bank built in, with GPS tracking (should it get lost), and with a camera to snap whoever opens it when it’s ‘lost’. Is it pricey? Heck, yes, but it’s also unique and perfect for that Christmas 2017 present, surely?

From the Indiegogo listing:

Volterman® is the World’s most powerful smart wallet with 5 smart functions: •

  • Built-in Powerbank (from 2,000 to 5,000 mAh) 
  • Distance Alarm 
  • Global GPS Tracking 
  • Worldwide WiFi Hotspot 
  • Thief Detection Camera

With all the tech inside, Volterman® is slim and lightweight made from premium quality materials.

I have some questions, not least about the standby drain of the integral gadgets. It’s also claimed that the power bank can wirelessly charge from your phone, but that would assume that your phone also had Qi coils and support for this?

There are several variants, with different sizes and capabilities:

  • Volterman CardHolder
  • Volterman BiFold
  • Volterman Travel

More over at the full Indiegogo introduction page.

Naturally, there’s a promo video too, deliberately cheesy and fun(!):

I’m looking forward to reviewing at least one of these variants in due course.

Source / Credit: Indiegogo

Libby UWP, by OverDrive, your online window to a real library

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If you have a modern local library then did you know that, in addition to paper books and physical CDs, it also has ebooks and audio books? If your library is modern enough then there’s a good chance you can enjoy access to all of these via Libby, by OverDrive, a new UWP app for Windows 10.

From the Store description:

Meet Libby. Did you know your local library has thousands of ebooks and audiobooks? You can borrow them, instantly, for free, using just the device in your hand.

  1. Fish out your library card
  2. Open the Libby app
  3. Find your local library
  4. Search, sample, borrow, enjoy

It takes just a few taps to find and borrow a book. Libby has a ground-breaking built-in ebook reader, and a beautiful audiobook player. If you prefer, you can send books to your Kindle for reading.

  • Sign in to multiple libraries, with one or more library cards
  • Download books and audiobooks for offline reading, or stream them to save space
  • Sample any book with a tap — nothing to download or delete
  • Try a zoomable graphic novel, or a picture book with readalong audio
  • All your holds and loans are consolidated on a single shelf
  • Tag titles as read, loved, hated, wishlist, schoolbook, beach-reading, whatever you like
  • Your loans, holds, reading positions, bookmarks and notes are synchronized automatically across all your devices
  • Keep track of your reading history in the Activity tab

I did my best to try this out, but my local libraries in Berkshire UK don’t seem to be part of this system yet – or maybe my card is too old! Either way, a selection of my – and promo – screenshots here, showing roughly how it all works:

Screenshot, LibbyScreenshot, Libby

Colourful opening introductory screens..

Screenshot, LibbyScreenshot, Libby

Once signed in via your OverDrive-compatible card, you’re off and browsing both ebooks and audio books…

Screenshot, LibbyScreenshot, Libby

Loans work just as for physical media, with the library only allowed to lend out so many copies of anything at once, for copyright reasons.

Screenshot, LibbyScreenshot, Libby

The included ebook and audio book players look very decent – pity I can’t try them out personally without moving counties and libraries!

You can grab this for free here in the Store.

PS. This seems unrelated to the original Libby for Windows Phone!

Source / Credit: Store

10 years of iPhone? Most of its ‘innovations’ came in with Nokia and others

I guess I shouldn’t get too worked up about people rewriting tech history – but as one of the writers behind All About Symbian (and now AAWP) I just can’t help myself put the record straight. Tech journalists (mainly American) have been falling over themselves to praise the iPhone as the point where the modern smartphone was born, but they’re only right in one small sense.

And even that small sense is highly debatable. Think of the iPhone of 2007 and then today’s phones and there’s a clear sense of continuity of a full-screen experience with capacitive touch. Yet smartphones had been all-screen for years in the Windows Mobile world, with devices like the O2 XDA launching in 2002, a full five years before the iPhone, and based on the existing Windows Mobile PDAs of the previous few years. Even though the iPhone was absolutely to be credited for bringing capacitive touch to the mainstream phone world, it wasn’t the first – the LG Prada had a capacitive touchscreen six months previously.

N95 and iPhone

Nokia N95 and the original iPhone, for comparison. Outstanding functions and capabilities versus outstanding ease of use?

All other functions were represented in existing smartphones. Over in the Symbian world (the dominant smartphone platform from 2000 to 2009, a full decade), the Nokia smartphones – in particular the Nseries – had pioneered the inclusion of a GPS receiver, had introduced the use of accelerometers, with the N95 being the obvious model to point to, being launched at the tail end of 2006, the year before the iPhone’s release.

Then there are good cameras, with some of the Sony Ericsson ‘feature phones’ (culminating in the K850i from summer 2007) containing high megapixel units along with Xenon flash, though again it was Nokia that brought high megapixel imagery to the smartphone world with the N95 and N95 8GB, plus the N82 (again with Xenon flash).

In terms of features, remember that all the early Nokia Series 80, Sony Ericsson UIQ and Nokia Series 60 (S60) smartphones from 2002 to 2006 had full operating systems, with vibrant third party application scenes, full file systems, copy and paste(!) and full web browsers (based on the same Webkit code as the iPhone).

N95

With hardware media controls, landscape UI, full file and office editing, advanced imaging functions, and an onboard application store – the Nokia N95 pretending it’s a laptop (well, almost), and many months before the original, limited iPhone was even available….

Which doesn’t leave much for the iPhone to have ‘innovated’ with. Today’s iPhone ranges do include all of the above (great camera, GPS, sensors, applications, even – cough – copy and paste!), but it has taken most of the celebrated decade for the iPhone to have really caught up with the rest of the industry in terms of raw technology.

Steve Jobs said at the iPhone’s launch that it had ‘Software that’s at least five years ahead of what’s on any other phone‘ – which is accurate in that the iPhone is rightly responsible for smartphone UIs that are intuitive enough not to need to ship a paper manual with each phone (remember those?!), but this quote is often mis-remembered as Apple saying that the iPhone itself was five years ahead. Jobs said ‘Software’, not hardware. And even then the original iPhone lacked third party applications and basic editing functions, so what Steve Jobs really meant was ‘a UI that’s five years ahead’.

Web comparisons!

Perhaps showing that screen size was about to become king – identical web browsing on the N95 and original iPhone, but the latter has a faster and more optimised chipset, but moreover a much bigger screen. The iPhone stayed at 3.5″ or 4″ for years, but made the move to a more competitive 4.7″ and 5.5″ in 2014. Meanwhile, Nokia topped out at 6″ with their Lumia 1520, back in 2013…

Take the iPhone’s basic UI concepts (multi-touch zoom, rubber banding, predictive keyboard) and then add them to everything that Nokia, Sony Ericsson and LG (among others) had been using in phone hardware previously – and then, and only then do you get the smartphone as we’ve known it for the last five years. Apple was very important in the phone story, I agree (not least, making smartphones ‘cool’ to the mainstream and not just the prerogative of geeks and enthusiasts). But so were all the other manufacturers, regardless of what happened to them or where they are now (for a multitude of mis-management or political reasons that we don’t need to repeat here).

Credit where credit’s due.