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Can't decide which device from the Samsung Galaxy range to get? You could be forgiven, as there's an awful lot of different choices - as this diagram demonstrates.


(Click for bigger!)

The chart has been put together by designer Luke Wroblewski and shows just how fragmented the line-up has become. And this doesn't even account for the new S5. You can get the phone/phablet/tablet for you anywhere between 3.27" and 10.1". If you want a 9" tablet though... you might be out of luck!

Compare this to Apple's product line-up - where you've pretty much got a choice of four different sizes, maximum (iPhone 1-4S, 5-5S, iPad and iPad Mini).

What do you think of this? Does this suggest Samsung is getting too fragmented? Is it a good thing that Android can work in so many different sizes? Let us know in the comments.

The rumour mill is working at full power as we hear word about HTC's future plans now that their flagship HTC One M8 is available in the shops.


First off, everyone knows that the M8 is expensive, so there are rumours that HTC are working on a design with a plastic body to replace all of that expensive metal on the original version. Just like the iPhone 5C is an el-cheapo alternative to the flagship 5S.

Astonishingly, the reports estimate that it could cut the price from around £508 to £289. And here was me assuming that what goes on inside the phone is the expensive part. If true the move would make some sense too - given Samsung's recent launch of the Galaxy S5, which is similarly high-spec'd but is made of cheaper plastic.

But what if the M8 is just too big for you? Consistent with earlier rumours, Into Mobile reckon that the much talked about Mini version is on the way, suggesting there could be a May release in HTC's native Taiwan (and would presumably reach our shores soon after).

So if the M8 is just a little out of your price range... hold tight as that could all be fixed rather soon.

As the smartphone market matures and the devices become both ubiquitous and already packed with everything you might need, device manufacturers are beginning to ask: What do you get the smartphone that has everything? It turns out that the answer might be "more cameras".


Already this year we've seen the launch of the HTC One M8, which unusually sports two rear cameras. This means that when you take a photo your phone will be able to view it in 3D and figure out how far away everything is - enabling cool effects like the blurring of background elements to make the subject of your photo stand out. But it seems they aren't the only ones.

Rumours are abound that other companies are following their lead. First of, apparently both Huawei and Lenovo are working on phones that have the same sort of dual camera unit inside. The rumours seem pretty credible - as it is the President of Altek, the company that make the camera module, who has been talking about them. For Lenovo too it is particularly interesting - they're relatively new to the smartphone scene, having snapped up Motorola Mobility (who make the Moto X) from previous owners Google. Presumably they'll want to make a splash - to stand up to the powerhouse that is Samsung.

Perhaps more interesting are the rumours swirling around about Amazon's smartphone intentions. Whilst they haven't announced anything official just yet, it feels pretty much an open secret that they're working on a phone, given the success of the Kindle Fire and the recent announcement of Fire TV. They'd be silly not to make one.

Amazon are apparently considering adding extra cameras to their phone - but not for photography. Trusted Reviews reports that the company are working on a handset with 4 VGA (so, relatively low-quality) cameras on the front - mounted in each corner of the device - to enable gesture and eye-tracking. Apparently by knowing where you're looking, this could create a 3D-type effect on a 2D screen - which is a very interesting prospect indeed.

For an example of how this could work, check out this video that was hugely popular a few years ago - in which a then-bedroom coder called Johnny Lee reverse-engineered a Wii remote for eye tracking - and was able to have the images on screen appear 3D as he moved around them. (He's since got jobs with Microsoft and Google, if you're wondering).

So could more cameras be the future? Perhaps they're not just for selfies any more.

Samsung mobile's official Twitter account has dropped the biggest hint yet that a new iteration of the Galaxy Zoom is on the way - this time an S5 with a beefed up camera.


@SamsungMobile have urged followers to "Kapture the moment. April 29. Mark your calendars!", and seasoned Samsung-watchers have concluded that unless the company are branching out into Pokemon, this is a not-too-subtle reference to photography.

The phone that is expected to be unveiled is the Galaxy S5 Zoom, images of which have already leaked to the International Business Times:


Essentially think the S5, but with a proper digital camera lens slapped on top - spec is similar to the S5, but with the rear camera bumped up to 20.2 megapixels.

The only thing that isn't known now really is the naming - speculation is that the company may drop "Galaxy" from the name, or perhaps name is the "S5 K" (as in "Kapture"), or maybe go for "Galaxy K". Basically everyone is trying to figure out what the big "K" is for.

The (normal) S5 went on sale in the UK last week - landing at Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone stores (amongst others). It is now available for around £570 SIM free, and on monthly contracts that cost upwards of £40.

We'll have more on the S5 Zoom (or whatever it will be called) when we hear it.

Carphone Warehouse have announced a bit of a coup. They're getting the Sony Xperia Z2 a full two weeks ahead of rivals - with it due in stores next week, rather than on May 1st like everywhere else.


The phone is set to be Sony's new flagship - taking the mantle from the successful Z1 released last year. It has a 5.2" screen - just nudging it into the phablet category, and runs the latest Android KitKat. Being a flagship phone, it also comes packed out: the screen is full 1080p HD, the camera is 20.7 megapixels and in what might be a first for a phone, it can shoot in 4K video. All you'll need to do is figure out what on earth you can actually watch 4K content on.

Following in that great Xperia tradition too, the phone will also be waterproof - which has led to this awesome promotion wheeze, which you can see at Gadget Show Live this weekend in Birmingham:


(Pic via @alice_jones1993)

Apparently the phone when preordered will also come with a pair of Sony noise-cancelling headphones and "over £80 worth of content" including Captain Phillips, Elysium, Django Unchained and "a selection of Playstation games". Carphone Warehouse also say that from May 13th, buyers will also be able to download the new Michael Jackson album, Xscape. We've no idea how he has recorded an album from beyond the grave either.

As you might expect, big phones don't come cheap - with tariffs for the phone starting at around £42/month.

Can AutoCast make Chromecast amazing?

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Whilst Chromecast has a hell of a lot of potential to be an incredible device in the future, at the moment the options are rather limited: only a handful of apps support Google's dongle... isn't there so much more it can do? This is where AutoCast can step in.

The brainchild of developer João Dias, AutoCast is essentially a platform built on a platform (arguably built on another platform - it is a plugin for Android's popular 'Tasker' app). Once installed on to your Android phone, you can customise it by installing different "screens", enabling all sorts of interesting functionality. Watch this video for a thorough demonstration:

As you can see - it can do a lot. What I like best is the integration with phone stuff - so throwing up notifications from your phone as an overlay on whatever you're watching. There's also voice-controlled YouTube casting and crucially, scope for plugging the app into whatever other apps you can figure out.

autocast.pngWhat's really interesting about AutoCast and Tasker is that they provide a (relatively) straightforward open platform on which interactions can be built - a bit like how the website can connect up your Google Calendar to your Facebook, or your Instagram to your toaster, AutoCast could make Chromecast display all sorts of useful information. For example - it'd be relatively easy to build a "dashboard" type display for all of the information you may need in a morning.

Perhaps the most useful immediate implementation though is the ability to Cast video that you've filmed yourself on your phone - rathe than having to upload it to YouTube first. Here's Dias explaining how to set it up in AutoCast.

If you're an Android user, why not give AutoCast a try and let us know what you think in the comments?

You wait for one Android tablet to come along... and a whole bunch of fairly similar devices come along at the same time. Samsung and South Korea have both officially announced new Android devices that both run KitKat, the latest version of the mobile operating system.


Samsung have announced the Galaxy Tab4 - what will be arguably their flagship tablet. It comes in three sizes: 10.1", 8" and 7" - all sporting a WXGA 16:10 screen and Samsung's clever multi-tasking functionality, which enables two apps to be run alongside each other simultaneously (you may remember it being the big boast during the Galaxy Note 3 advertising campaign).

All three variants are pretty much identical spec-wise - all run at 1280x800, meaning they can display full HD video and all have 16GB of storage that can be expanded by MicroSD up to 64GB. All are also powered by a 1.2ghz processor... which seems a little underpowered by my reckoning? (The forthcoming Galaxy S5, by comparison, has a 2.5ghz processor).

Still - at least they'll run Samsung's suite of apps, which includes some interesting sharing features - including the ability to apparently "share and play music and documents with friends in real time".

Meanwhile over at Lenovo, they've come up with four new consciously budget tablets - the "A series".


In almost a mirror of the Tab4, the four devices come in 7", 8" and 10.1" variations - with the A7-50 being positioned as a reading device, the A8 as an "entertainment" device and the A10 a "mobile home theatre system"... though chances are they're all going to be pretty much the same. Perhaps most interestingly, the fourth tablet they've announced - the A7-30 will have dual front-speakers, much like the HTC One - so could be of interest to music junkies.

In a made-up press release quote, Lenovo claim that Lenovo Vice-President Shao Tao said "Lenovo's latest A-series tablet family is designed to meet the demands of today's young, active users who are always on the go, and have lifestyle requirements that are as diverse as their own personalities". I'm embarrassed for him too.

Unfortunately we don't have Tab4 pricing yet, but the Lenovo series will start at £99.99 for the lowest-end 7" tablet (which only has 8GB of storage) up to £169.99 for the ten-incher.

It seems like just last week that HTC released the HTC One M8... because it was almost exactly this time last week they did it. But it seems they're not finished yet - with a miniature version heading for release in May.


According to, The HTC One M8 Mini will be released in May and whilst sporting a similar premium design to the larger phone, it will shrink down to a 4.5" screen and the speculation is that it could max out at 720p instead of 1080p.

The move would be consistent with HTC's past releases - they released a miniature version of the original HTC One shortly after the release of that phone too.

The other disappointment with the news is that the shrinking-ray will also remove the secondary camera on the back of the phone. Unusually, the M8 had two cameras - the second being used to aid depth perception and enabling a bunch of cool camera effects in which you can vary the focus of different parts of the image.

Still - if you have small hands, this phone could be for you. Expect it in May, if the rumours are correct.

We all knew it was coming, and we already know a lot about it - but in an interesting twist on the "officially announce it, and then wait a couple of weeks" we're used to with new phones, the HTC One (M8) - a refreshed version of HTC's flagship handset is apparently now available in six Carphone Warehouse stores... having been driven straight from the venue where they announced it.


The six stores are at Westfield Stratford, Westfield White City, Oxford Circus and Centre Point (down the bottom of Tottenham Court Road). By my reckoning, that makes the White City the closest store to the official launch at Kensington Olympia, and likely the first to get the handsets, if you can't wait an extra fifteen minutes this afternoon.

In a made-up quote in the press release, an unknown spokesperson claims to have said "Carphone Warehouse is proud to be one of the first to have the new HTC handset in our stores and offer the latest tech to customers as soon as it's announced." - because everyone knows that it is the best sort of 'proud' when you can achieve it using money alone.

The phone itself isn't going to be exactly revolutionary - but it is a nice incremental upgrade on last year's HTC One, sporting a quad-core 2.3ghz Snapdragon CPU, a 5 megapixel front-facing camera (for selfies), and an increase to a 5 inch screen. Perhaps the most intriguing feature is that there's two rear facing cameras. Speculation is that this is to take either 3D photos, or to enhance normal photos. I guess we'll find out in a few hours.

The phone will be available - from today at these stores - for £42/month with no upfront costs, or £549.95 if you go for a SIM free version.

With just a few weeks (or maybe a couple of days?) to go, Samsung have announced what accessories will be officially available to go with the Galaxy S5 at launch.

Much like the S4 before it, the official case is a windowed affair - enabling users to peak at all of the key on-screen information without having to crack open the phone and touch the screen. The cover has a "leather-look finish" and comes in 5 metallic covers: black, white, green, rose gold and pink. I guess, umm, "luxury brown" didn't catch on.




Perhaps more excitingly is the wireless charging option. All you have to do is pop a new backing plate on to the phone and set it down to on the charger unit to charge. Why the S5 couldn't have shipped with this built in is beyond me - but looks pretty cool nonetheless.



Less exciting there's also going to be a multi-device charging cable, which will no doubt be useful if plug sockets are at a premium. No pricing has been announced yet, but if past generations are anything to go by, expect all of the above accessories to be priced just north of what you'd consider a reasonable amount to pay.

According to the Korea Herald, Samsung could be pushing the Galaxy S5 out earlier than initially thought - releasing instead on March 27th (that's in two days time) rather than on April 11th, as everyone expected.


The reason for the possible change is an unusual one: their hands are being forced by the Korean telecoms regulator. Apparently South Korea's largest phone network, SK Telecom, was involved in an "illegal subsidy war" - and as punishment the government are forcing them to suspend business briefly.

This would certainly be problematic for Samsung, who are based in South Korea, who would ideally be looking for a massive marketing push when the phone is released in April. The rumour is to get around this trading ban, the release could be pushed up to two days time. Presumably the thought of being able to look out of the office window and see people in South Korea not being able to buy S5s has given this South Korea ruling extra significance to Samsung.

What makes this interesting for us here in the UK and the rest of the world is the potential impact on us. According to the Korea Herald an "inside source" suggested the worldwide release could also be affected. Presumably Samsung are going to want a big, glitzy, worldwide launch with a big promotional push - releasing only in Korea a week early would mean that this message gets blurred, and crucially, any negative reviews in that first week could taint the wider launch. So given the physical hardware is probably already sitting in distribution centres waiting to be put on the shelves, it would make sense to start selling early too.

So could we be playing with the Galaxy S5 in a couple of days? We'll keep you posted.

A good spot by Android Police. Apparently Google have just pushed out an update in the Google Play store that updates the default Android keyboard. What's cool about this is that apparently, it will use Google's intelligence to make better spelling suggestions.


Once installed, the new update won't just correct spelling errors and make suggestions based on an internal dictionary, but instead it will pick what words you were most likely going for based upon analysing all of the data you've inputted into Google's services. And when you think about it... that's a hell of a lot of text. Search, Gmail, Google Drive... everything will be taken into consideration.


The idea is that this will make typing quicker - if Google knows intuitively what you're going to say then that's less faffing about trying to use the precision cursor on a small screen.


Whilst there will no doubt be privacy concerns raised, there is one company that will be especially worried: Swiftkey have offered a nearly identical product for a number of years now - their keyboard digs into your emails (and other social media) to get a handle on what you like to write about. Given the ubiquity of Google services, this latest update could possibly end up sinking them.

Who'd have thought it - it turns out what people really wanted all along was Nokia to produce Android phones. According to GforGames, even though the Nokia X hasn't been released yet it has already reached a million pre-orders... in China.


The phone is significant because it is Nokia's first foray into Android, and the first non-Windows Phone since the company made the big switch a couple of years ago. To celebrate Nokia posted the above image to Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.

Even more remarkable, is that it reached the million mark in only four days. Impressive - and a further indication of China's growing significance.

Though the phone is aimed at emerging economies like China and India, and the spec on the phone is decidedly entry level (only 1ghz, 4GB of storage and a 3 megapixel camera), could it be significant that the phone has proved so popular?

Given the slow growth of Windows Phone, is this proof Nokia made the wrong move by sticking with the ailing platform? Given the calibre of Nokia's hardware, are we not all crying out inside for a Nokia Android handset?

Mobile killed the video star. So important is mobile technology and the phone industry now that TVs are no longer the kings of the living room, but a mere commodity that can be given away in pursuit of something bigger. In this case - Vodafone are offering the first 3000 Xperia Z2 buyers a free 32" Sony Bravia TV. Thousands of colourful bouncy balls not included.


The Z2 was unveiled by Sony a couple of weeks ago at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and looks set to be the Japanese giant's new flagship handset.

Whilst only really an incremental improvement on the previous Z1, there are some nice looking upgrades inside: the 5.2" phablet is powered by a 2.3ghz Qualcomm processor, and comes complete with a 20.7 megapixel camera. Like the previous models, it is also water and dust proof.

The camera is where the phone makes the biggest improvements: it can now shoot video in 4K - that's four times the resolution of HD, so it should capture every disgusting close-up nicely. Basically, the only way to ruin it would be to commit the crime of shooting video in portrait mode rather than landscape... but no one would admit to that, right?

Similarly, there's also a 'timeshift' mode enabling images to be captured at super high speed: 120 frames per second. Then you can scroll back through a pick out the segments of the video you want to run in super slow motion.

For stills too, there's a clever mode that lets you adjust the depth of field - blurring the background or the foreground as appropriate.

Apparently the phone is due for release on Vodafone in the UK on April 10th - and will be available for £47/month on the "Red 4G" plan, which also gives you free Sky Sports or Spotify (but still, £47? Ouch!).

5 takeaways from the Galaxy S5 reveal

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Yesterday at Mobile World Congress, Samsung lifted the lid on what's inside the Galaxy S5 - before promptly sealing it again to ensure the phone remains water and dust proof (one of its new features). Despite the hype, there doesn't appear to be any spectacular new innovations - but there's some nice indicators as to the direction in which the industry is going, as where Samsung lead, the other companies are sure to follow.


1) Health is the new battleground

All of the indications were there. Just last month there was news of Apple and Sony getting ready to fight it out on health - and now Samsung have announced the S5 will have a built in heart rate tracker and health monitoring app that will track steps taken and diet and so on.

Clearly the next generation of smartphones, and their inevitable accompanying smart watches will be touting this sort of monitoring as a key pillar of what they do - because pretty much every other smartphone function is now ubiquitous. For the less tech-savvy, why would you upgrade your old phone that can already play 1080p video and run Facebook and so on? Promising good health might just do the trick... and who knows, maybe all of this data might actually help us live longer?

2) Fingerprint scanning is here to stay

Anything Apple can do, Samsung can do... better? To keep pace with the iPhone 5S, the new Galaxy S5 (oh god, these product names are about to get confusing, aren't they?) has a built in finger print sensor in the home button - just like the iPhone.

Apparently in addition to unlocking the phone, it can also be used for making Paypal payments online, which seems like a useful addition.

Perhaps most importantly, now the two major players feature finger print scanners as standard, surely the likes of HTC and Motorola will now how to follow, lest they be left behind?

3) Bigger IS better after all

Again, no surprises but the creep towards larger screens continues. The S5 has a near identical AMOLED 5.1" screen compared to the 5" S4. Whilst not hugely significant it is another indication that everything is getting bigger - which tallies with the rumours that the next iPhone will have an even larger screen... with suggestions there could even be an iPhone phablet. Despite miniaturisation usually being a virtue in tech, it turns out people really do want massive screens.

4) Smartwatches will be where the innovation is


Let's face it - we all know that the iWatch is coming - probably in November. So to preempt Apple, Samsung have announced not one, but three new smartwatches to replace the (apparently terrible) Galaxy Gear. The Gear 2 has lost the 'Galaxy' name and instead runs on Samsung's own "Tizen" operating system rather than Android. It has 4GB of storage on board, and even has a built in camera. The Gear 2 Neo is much the same, but lacks the camera, and the Gear Fit has a smaller, curved screen, and obviously is aimed at the fitness market - they all feature heart rate monitors under the screen (just as the iWatch is rumoured to do so).

What's telling about this is that not only are we approaching a point where smartwatches come of age and will become a full product category in their own right - not just a gimmicky add-on. As smartwatches are so new, they will undoubtedly take a few generations to figure out what it should be, and what should come as standard (Should smartwatches have wifi as well as bluetooth? Should they have separate SIM cards? What health sensors should be included?).

Perhaps most importantly what Samsung have done with the Gear 2 isn't the hardware - but the software. Tizen is open source, and Samsung have released an official SDK, which will make app creation for their watches as easy for developers as creating apps for phones. This is important as it will be from the thousands of developers who make stuff that we truly learn what smartwatches are capable of, and what innovations will become standard. Remember - it wasn't Apple that invented something as simple as "pull down to refresh", but other developers - and this technique was then incorporated back into Apple's own apps. It is only now that the language and visual grammar of smartwatches will be developed.

5) We're still upgrading incrementally - no "game changers".

Ultimately, the S5 isn't too revolutionary - it's just a rectangle with a screen. (Umm, feel free to link me to this piece in a year's time when the S5 has caused peace in the Middle East and put a person on Mars). None of the upgrades are hugely revelatory like the original iPhone was, and they are merely incremental updates: a slightly bigger screen, a slightly faster processor, a new sensor, and so on... hey, I'm not complaining - I'll take what I can get... but wouldn't it be exciting if Samsung (or Apple, or HTC, or whoever) would come out with something truly new and spectacular?

So should we be excited about the Galaxy S5? Absolutely - but perhaps, like tennis, we should be concentrating on where it matters - in the wrist.

Has Nokia saved itself from irrelevance?

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We all knew it was coming, but it is nice to see it finally: over at the Mobile World Congress show in Spain, Nokia have lifted the lid on the "Nokia X" family of phones: the first Nokia handsets to run Android. Has Nokia just become relevant again?


If you read any review of a Nokia phone from the last couple of years ago, chances are it'll say "nice, solid hardware... if only there were some apps". In fact - that's exactly what I did when reviewing the Nokia 1520. This is because a couple of years ago the company decided to jump into bed with Microsoft and the lesser used Windows Phone operating system - rather than Android, which has now long been the standard for smartphones.

It's a great shame too, as Nokia is great at hardware. The 1520 phablet feels great to use, and dare I say it, the Windows Phone OS is a pleasant experience too - the tiles work nicely and it generally feels very slick. If only there was something to do on it.

The switch to Android is significant because it solves the major app problem in one swoop. The new handsets will be able to run Android apps - albeit with some trivial modifications made by the developers. Like how Amazon's Kindle Fire uses a spin-off version of Android devoid of all Google influence, Nokia's flavour of Android is similar: there's going to be a Nokia app store, and Nokia's own maps will be used instead of Google and so on.

Even more interesting is that Nokia have apparently said that the platform will be completely open - enabling the ability to install third party app stores through the Nokia app store... and it sounds like they'll be turning a blind-eye to anyone who wants to "side load" the usually restricted Google apps (Gmail, Google Calendar, etc) too. Whilst this could theoretically dent app store revenue (by totally controlling the Kindle platform, Amazon get a cut on every app sold), it could prove very attractive to anyone wanting a truly accessible phone.

The icing on the cake is that they've done quite a heavy mod on the standard Android look - customising it to resemble the Windows Phone operating system, complete with tiles.

The three handsets unveiled so far are definitely aimed at the lower end of the market. The Nokia X has a 4" screen with a 3 megapixel camera - and the Nokia X+ has "more memory and storage". The Nokia XL is to be slightly larger - with a 5" screen, 5MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. Annoyingly Nokia have been very vague in their press notes about putting precise numbers on the specs - though we do know that they will be powered by dual-core Snapdragon processors. The X will set you back €89, the X+ €99 and the XL €109 - so all should be sub-£100 in the UK.

If this sounds a little underpowered and cheap don't be surprised: Nokia are apparently positioning the Android line as a "gateway" that will entice users into the premium Lumia family, which run Windows Phone proper. Personally, I can't help but wonder if they're just hedging their bets?

The context for this move is interesting too: Don't forget that Microsoft are currently working to close a deal to buy Nokia's mobile division, so this seems like an almost counter-intuitive thing to do. Perhaps Nokia management has realised what a stinker Windows Phone is, and want to be able to make a convincing case for a full Android switch once the takeover is complete? If these phones prove successful, don't be surprised if Nokia (or Microsoft) decide to bite the bullet and make the Android switch on all of their devices. It'd be an embarrassing few days, but might just save Nokia from increasing irrelevance.

Lindy announce Android/PC mirroring cable

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Cable makers Lindy have unveiled an intriguing new product that enables you to plug your Android phone in to your PC and mirror the screen... and then use your keyboard and mouse to interact with your Android phone. Which could be perfect for getting the precision you need.


It's an interesting idea and one I've not seen executed in quite this way before. Whilst on the outside it looks just like a normal USB charging cable, it can do much more. The software is built directly into the lead, and simply plugging it into your Windows PC will start the installation process.

Once setup you'll get a window containing your phone or tablet's screen - and the viewing app not only allows you to use your keyboard and mouse to control the screen, but you can also copy and paste data between the two devices.


With regard to how it actually works, we're presuming that the cable contains a hidden USB memory stick in the elongated plug, which has the software on it - and the software itself must enable features similar to the Android Software Development Kit (SDK) used by people who make apps. Packaging it up and making it easy for consumers to use seems like a useful idea to us.

For the OS mirroring, you'll need Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above, or if you simply want to use a keyboard & mouse on your phone screen, you'll need Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) or higher. On the PC side it works with everything from Windows XP all the way up to Windows 8.

The Lindy Android OS Mirroring & KM Sharing Cable is available now for £39.98.

We're only a couple of weeks away from this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where it is expected that Samsung will finally spill the beans on what we can expect from their new flagship handset, the Galaxy S5.

So at the time of writing an hour ago they dropped the following massive hint at the sort of things we can expect:


So what does it all mean? The graphic is clearly showing off the thematic things we can expect from the phone - like, perhaps unsurprisingly, the focus on social media bang in the middle.

Perhaps most intriguingly is the mention of "fitness". Samsung have previous form in the area - making a Fitbit style fitness band, but what's intriguing is the wider context and the rumours of Apple making a big play in health related activities - specifically with the (seemingly inevitable) iWatch. Are Samsung planning to make the S5 a gadget with a focus on health monitoring and analytics and stuff?

Frankly - the meaning of the rest of the symbols is hard to read into. Speed? Is that... umm... 4G? Outdoors... so that means... GPS, right? Unless Samsung are cooking up an app that has fashion recommendations, "style" could mean pretty much anything.

What's most interesting - and is definitely me engaging in the wildest of speculation - is that the graphic is all very flat. I wonder if this is an indication that aesthetically the S5 will be going down a similar route to iOS7, and making everything flat and simple?

So I guess we'll just have to wait until February 24th - unless you'd like to post your thoughts below on what we should expect? And perhaps more importantly - what would you like to see?

Do Google know who their friends are?

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A few week ago I went along to the UK launch of the Motorola Moto X - the latest flagship phone from the company. To be honest, it was a relatively unremarkable piece of kit. Because all non-Apple smartphones all run Android these days, the experience of using any phone running it is always going to be pretty familiar. Yes, the phone had a fairly decent spec but ultimately, it was boring old Android.

Phone manufacturers know this, which is why the different companies will offer specific tweaks to the OS, to try to give themselves the advantage over the competition. Samsung are perhaps best known for this - they have their "S" suite of Samsung-specific apps, and fairly heavy customisation of the user interface. HTC have it too - they've got their special HTC Sense UI, which aims to bring a social media stream to the homescreen. And yes - Motorola had a couple of tricks up their sleeve too.

The Moto X had a nice camera app, that did away with on screen buttons and meant taking a photo was simply a case of tapping anywhere on the screen - and gesture-based swipes could be used to change different settings (like switch the flash on and off). Perhaps more interesting was Motorola's "Assist" app, which you could change the phone settings at the touch of a button, for changing circumstances, such as if you're driving or in a meeting. This means that when you're on the road, your phone can read out any incoming text messages, or in a meeting it will stay silent.

And then it hit me. Umm... aren't Motorola owned by Google? Why would Google have a bit of Google doing its own thing and making products that aren't 100% Google? Why is this phone not running 'vanilla' Android? And more to the point... why is Motorola still a brand, and why does Google also sell it's Nexus line of Android phones and despite owning Motorola outsource the manufacturing to LG?

The other day, my questions were answered when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91bn less than two years after buying them for $12.5bn. Did Lenovo, who are perhaps best known for producing boring business laptops for business people, just get the bargain of the century?

It's not all bad news for Google - they did use the acquisition to get hold of something important to them: various mobile patents that will stop them having to pay royalties on every phone sold. Despite selling the business to Lenovo, the patents are very much something they've held on to.

It seems Google must have been pretty desperate to get rid of Motorola though. As my experience above shows, they clearly never properly integrated it into the rest of Google and many people have speculated that they've learned an important lesson about being a platform holder: that you must be seen a neutral, and have the confidence of partner companies.

Unlike Apple, who make themselves all of the iPhones that run their iOS platform, Google's Android is reliant on the goodwill of the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG for it to be a success. Until Google bought Motorola, the division of responsibilities was pretty simple. Google said to them "we make the software, you make the hardware", and everyone won. By buying Motorola, suddenly the waters became muddied. If Google were going to make their own hardware under the auspices of Motorola then do they really need to worry about keeping the other companies happy? Why should Samsung continue to worry about keeping Google happy, if Google could just drop them and still have a tonne of phones that work on their platform?

Once Motorola has achieved a certain market share, what's to stop Google changing the rules on Android and allowing it only on Motorola phones? Then any Android users who want to keep pace with the latest technology, rather than going from say, a Samsung Galaxy S4 to a Galaxy S5, they could be forced to instead pick up a Moto X if they want to continue using the same apps and access the same Google Play purchases and so on.

This problem isn't a new one. One of the many speculated reasons for Nintendo's lacklustre support from third party games publishers since the days of the Nintendo 64 is because they're not just a hardware platform, but are a major software producer too. If you were, say, EA Games wanting to produce a game - would you really want to publish on a platform knowing that your game will be likely a 5th or 6th on the pecking order after the console owner has picked up likes of Mario and Zelda - when instead you could make your game for Xbox or Playstation (which have far weaker first party franchises - or at least, less first party franchises) and be the must have game on that system? Like Google, trying to have their fingers in both the hardware and software pies has caused them problems.

Now Google have offloaded Motorola, this should increase the confidence of the companies they rely on, and perhaps converse to what you might expect, actually make Android a stronger platform. The lesson is simple: make sure you know who your friends are... and don't upset them!

The iPad Air better be careful - there's a stalking horse on the horizon. Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" isn't just for reading books. This latest and largest incarnation shows that Amazon are serious about making waves in the tablet space - but is it any good? Read our review to find out.


The Hardware

When you first pick up a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" the first thing to do is find the "on" button. Unlike most other tablets, the switches for on/off and volume controls are on the back of the unit, and not the edges - which actually makes a lot of sense ergonomically.

The device itself certainly feels fairly solid - and is pleasant to hold. Nor is it too heavy. Under the hood things are looking good too: it's got a nice-and-powerful 2.2ghz Snapdragon processor inside, along with 2GB of RAM - with storage options available as either 16, 32 or 64GB. The display appears crisp - which is no surprise when it runs at 2560x1600 - with a pixel density of 339ppi - even better than the iPad. Amazon are serious about this device taking on the Apple behemoth. The rear camera is a decent 8 megapixels - and the front camera is even 720p HD, which will be nice for Skype and the like.

The Software

Once you've powered on the HDX for the first time, and the screen has lit up, you're greeted with a tablet that is already configured for your Amazon account - brilliant. Then it is just a simple case of connecting to your Wifi, and you're away. If you're already a Kindle user, it'll load up all of your book purchases right there in the middle of the screen.


If you've used an Android device before, a lot will be familiar... but it will be eerily different. It's Android, but not as you know it. The big difference is that there's nothing Google to be found: no apps for YouTube, Gmail, Google Calendar and everything else - though you can still access them through the built in web browser. If you're a big user of Google's services, this will come as a bit of a shock. I was certainly left wondering how do people function without Google hardwired into their devices?

The lack of Google influence is interesting - and shows a completely different direction for Android. One nice innovation is that right in the middle of the screen is a coverflow-style list of what you've looked at on the device most recently, to make skipping back easily. So you can easily jump right back into that book, or back to those photos.

The device is, of course, great for reading. All of your books are there and Amazon's Kindle app does the job very well indeed - with coloured highlighting, social sharing and all of that sort of thing taken care of. Now it's just a case of sitting down and reading that worthy tome you've been meaning to tackle... rather than checking your tweets again... and maybe playing a bit of Candy Crush. Ahem.

What's clear with the Kindle Fire is that you're constantly plugged into Amazon 'app'. Being the retail experts your expect them to be, there are no built-in parts of the device that are not bolted on to the store. Along the menu at the top are the different types of content you may want to access: Books, Videos, Games, Apps and so on - and clicking one not only takes you to the stuff you have on your device, but also prominently features links to the store. Even the lock screen is an advert. What's clear is that this device is all about consuming content.

Crucially, the app store seems well stocked - Google excepted. It seems that most of the major apps also have a presence on the store now: from Facebook, to Spotify, Sonos and Duolingo, to name four I find essential. Even Amazon's arch-rival in video (don't forget they own LoveFilm), Netflix, puts in an appearance.


Perhaps this latest Kindle Fire is best known for its innovative help function. The "Mayday" button will connect you directly with a helper in one of Amazon's call centres, complete with video chat - so you can see them and they can see you. The Amazon agent can even take direct control of your tablet - and either do stuff for you, or draw on the screen the show you what to do.

I tried this out - and within seconds was connected to the poor bloke manning the Mayday station (I like to imagine an alarm goes off at Amazon HQ), before disappointing him by telling him that I didn't really need any help, but was just seeing how it worked. Kindly though he showed me how he can draw on the screen. It wasn't quite as slick as the TV adverts for this feature you might have seen (the video lagged a bit) but it certainly worked. Could it be a must-have feature for technology of the future? Whilst people in some corners have criticised the idea because the goal should be to build software that is easy to use, not an elaborate help system for when it fails... but I'm fairly certain that anyone reading who is under the age of 40 will appreciate anything that might stop them being their family's de-facto tech support.

The Verdict

So is the Kindle Fire HDX worth it? The 8.9" version is clearly gunning for the iPad Air and the basic 16GB Air costs £70 more than the basic Kindle Fire model. It is certainly a hugely accomplished Android tablet - it is both fast, feature packed and it feels like a premium product. The lack of Google apps is annoying if you're a Google power user - but you can probably get by.

Perhaps this is the only thing that gives it a flash of unprofessionalism: search for YouTube or Gmail in the app store and you're hit with the same problem Windows Phone devices have. Nothing "proper" turns up, and instead you're left with a bunch of knock-off third-party apps to provide an ersatz Google experience.

But if you can live with this, the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" is a very good choice for an Android tablet. If you're a big user of Amazon's services - with a LoveFilm subscription and a busy Kindle library, then you can't really go wrong.

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