Jul 29

phone and specs

Anyone who is farsighted will know all about the hassle involved in trying to read something up close and do other things at the same time. For example, you’re trying to cook from a recipe on your tablet. Or you’re on holiday in a city you don’t know well. You got your maps, itinerary, etc on your smartphone but you have to continually put on your glasses to see the smartphone display then take them off to see where you are. And on and off…  As someone who had perfect vision when I was younger, I find it all pretty frustrating.

I’d often thought there’s got to be some sort of lens I could put over the display so I could dispense with glasses. Well, there’s hope in sight (pardon the pun) for the longsighted and those with more serious vision problems. It seems that vision-correcting displays may become a reality in a few years time. This was one of the more interesting posts I read last week on Mashable. A collaboration between researchers at University of California, Berkeley , MIT and Microsoft has come up with an algorithm to alter an image based on a person’s glasses prescription together with a light filter in front of a display. The algorithm alters the light from each pixel in such a way that, when fed through the filter, it reaches the retina of the eye creating a sharp, high contrast image. Basically the image is adjusted to take into account the inability of the eye to focus on it. And I guess anyone with perfect vision will just see a blurred display on your phone so that may be a bonus.

So keep an eye out (sorry again) for vision-correcting displays coming to your smartphones and tablets.

Vision-Correcting Display Could Free Users From Their Glasses –  Mashable

Oct 7


broken smartphone

Everyone seems to be picking up tablets and new smartphones these days. PCs and laptops will still be around for some time to come, but for many just looking for content consumption devices, these pocket computers may be all you need. But everything’s shrinking. The PC was a nice open box with modular components and where fitting a replacement hard drive wasn’t too hard even for someone like me who isn’t a repair tech. Laptops are more compact but I’ve still managed to complete a screen replacement here. But now the ultracompact nature of smartphones and tablets makes them much harder to open up, service and repair. So what will happen in a couple of years when we have a broken screen or dud battery in our device? Do we repair or replace?

I came across a great article recently on Technibble about the mobile device repair industry. The author made the point that repair costs may be about one-quarter of the initial retail cost of the device or the cost of replacement at current market prices. Parts are easier to source for more expensive tablets. He also made the point that the owner of the device should check his insurance or device warranty to see if that covers them for a replacement. Age may also be an issue. The device may just be too old to repair. From my point of view, my Nexus 10 tablet is great and I can’t see me replacing it any time soon. I would happily pay for a repair when necessary if the price is right. The Nexus 4 may be a different case. It’s a 3G phone and I may be interested in upgrading to 4G when/if it fails in a couple of years.

So who can repair these devices? Well, I asked if traditional laptop/PC repair shops are able and willing to carry out repairs to mobile devices on the computertech subreddit on Reddit. As mentioned earlier, it seems that iPhones, iPads and branded devices can be repaired, though one commenter didn’t fancy repairing HTC devices. Some repairs like screen replacements can have a high profit margin for the experienced repair shop. One commenter made the point that the prices of parts are close to the same price as a new unit, so many people would rather spend a little more to get a new one.

As luck would have it, I’ve just listened to a Podnutz Daily podcast (tech repair tips and business tips for the tech repair industry), PND365, where among other things, Steve and Jose, two repair techs, talk for about 5 minutes on tablet and smartphone repair. If you just want to hear this section jump to 54:10 in the podcast. Here’s a summary. Repair techs can make good money repairing iPhones and iPads. These are high value items and people are inclined to repair them if possible. However, Jose says that after the 1st generation iPad, these tablets have become increasingly difficult to repair. Steve made the point that if a device is new to a repair tech, they may order two parts just in case they break the first during the repair – it’s a learning experience. The Samsung Galaxy S3 can be an expensive repair for screen replacements because very often when you remove the glass you break the screen so the glass, screen and digitizer may all have to be replaced.

So how do you know if your device is easily repairable? Well, iFixit publishes a smartphone repairability list and a tablet repairability list scoring how easy or hard they are to repair so you can check out your own device there. Apparently my Nexus 10 tablet is very hard to open. And if you are in the market to buy a new mobile device, you should also have a look into its future prospects for ease of repair on that site. They also have DIY device repair guides if you’re up for that challenge!

If you’re a device owner, what’s your experience with repairs? Was the price reasonable or was it cheaper just to buy a replacement? If you’re a repair tech, do you repair mobile devices or are you considering doing this in the future?

Update (4 Feb 2014): Lifehacker have a post today – The Most Common Smartphone Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Image credit: Robert Nelson

Sep 13


Apple have been amazing innovators during the last decade – the iPod, iPhone and now the iPad… and the competition have struggled to keep up. Only now do we have excellent alternatives to the iPhone. So how long will it take the tablet manufacturers to catch the iPad? Already, I’ve heard of journalists, politicians and councillors being equipped with this 1st generation game changing device. Have they jumped in too soon? What have the competition got in store?

Well, here’s a quick round-up of the tablet devices which are with us now or should hit the shelves in the coming months. It’s not a comprehensive list as some of the major players haven’t announced details yet. And if you’re reading this post a year or two down the line, have a giggle at our 1st generation devices and marvel at how quickly technology moves on!

10-inch+ screen

Kno: two 14.1 inch touchscreens connected by a hinge (digital textbook); shipping for the holiday season 2010; Price: TBA

Pioneer DreamBook ePad L11: 11.6 inch; Windows and Android OS; 2GB RAM; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; 1.3MP camera; 6GB, 32GB and 64GB hard drives; to be released September 2010; $640

MSI WindPad 100: 10-inch; Windows 7 OS; 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; webcam; available late 2010; $499

MSI WindPad 110: 10-inch; Android 2.1 OS; 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; webcam; available late 2010; $399

Mouse LuvPad AD100: 10-inch; Android 2.2; 512MB RAM; 8GB flash memory; Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi+3G configurations; $470-530

Archos 101: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2; 8GB ($300) and 16GB ($350) versions; expected late-September 2010

Archos 9: 8.9 inch; Windows 7 Starter OS; 1GB RAM; 60GB storage; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; 1.3MP web camera; $400; available now

Hannspree: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2; 512MB RAM; 16GB; to be released in November 2010; probably around $500

Viewsonic ViewPad 100: 10 inch; Windows 7 and Android 1.6 OS; 1GB memory; 16GB storage; 1.3MP camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; to be released about October 2010; expected to be about £549

Toshiba Folio 100: 10.1 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 16GB storage; 1.3MP webchat camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; about £330; to be released in Europe in next couple of months; no plans as yet for a US release

7-inch screen

Samsung Galaxy Tab: 7-inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB RAM; 16GB and 32GB versions; full phone capability; dual cameras (3MP and 1.3MP); connectivity: 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; Available in Europe from mid-September 2010; $500-$1000? Price point may be $200-$300 with US carriers

Archos 70: 7 inch; Android OS; 8GB ($300) and 16GB ($350) versions; expected about mid-October 2010; $275

Elocity A7: 7 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB RAM; 4GB flash memory; 1.3MP camera; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; shipping possibly beginning of November 2010; $370

RAmos W9: 7 inch; Android OS; no word on pricing or availability yet

Viewsonic ViewPad 7: 7 inch; Android 2.2 OS; 512MB memory?; Wi-Fi, 3G and Bluetooth connectivity; full phone capability; dual cameras; released about October 2010; expected to be about £350

Huawei S7: 7 inch; Android 2.1; 256MB RAM; Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity; 2MP camera; available now; £299

The much hyped $35 Indian tablet should arrive in January 2011. Dimensions 8.9×7-inch; Android OS; 2GB RAM; Connectivity: USB and Wi-Fi. However it’s recently been revealed that this is just the subsidized Chinese Hivision SpeedPad

5-inch (and less) screen

Dell Streak: 5 inch; Android 1.6 OS; 16GB memory; 5MP camera; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 3G connectivity; Price: TBA; but is it a big smart phone rather than a small tablet?

Archos 32: 3.2 inch; Android 2.1; 8GB storage; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity; camera; now shipping for $150

Why are tablets the new ‘must have’ gadget?

Well for some, there’s the cool factor. But from the functionality point of view, of course the screen is bigger than on a smartphone and this has benefits not least making the device easier to view making it a good e-reader and ideal for content consumption. A tablet is easier to pass round among friends and share stuff, say photos, compared with a netbook. But a 10 inch tablet is not as good as a smartphone on a crowded commute when you don’t have a seat. It’s obviously more portable than a laptop but I suspect that data entry, touch typing, screen size and storage capacity will keep laptops around for some time to come.

As you can see, many of the planned new devices will be running the Android OS. However, a recent post on Techcrunch foresees a major shakedown in the five or more upcoming tablet platforms as they compete for market share. And Google has said recently that Android Froyo isn’t optimized for tablets and that the next versions will be optimized for the form factor. So perhaps we’re better off waiting until next year before we take the plunge.

I predict that the coming wave of tablets will put an end to the netbook market, so we’ll soon be choosing from smartphones, tablets and laptops for our mobile companions. I’ve got a feeling it’ll also hit the iPod Touch market to some extent. I for one was on the verge of buying my first Apple product – the new iPod Touch 4, but now I wonder if I should just wait a while and take a look at the 5-inch or 7-inch tablet offerings. The larger screen size would be nice but of course the larger form factor is not quite so ‘pocket’ friendly. Any thoughts?

This is my first post on tablets. I’ll probably post regularly on this topic when more are released.

Latest tablet news

For the latest in tablet news, have a look at:

Best tablet Review

Touch Tablet PC

Android and Me

Google Docs: Android Tablets – Holiday 2010: Great round-up of the latest Android tablets, constantly updated

Sign up with Lazyfeed and follow the topic ‘tablets’.

Further reading

To iPad or Not to iPad: That is the Tech Question – PC World

A Big Tablet Can Never Beat a Smaller Smartphone

Samsung Galaxy Tab vs Apple iPad: tablet showdown

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