On Friday I spoke to Jenny Kendall-Tobias on BBC Radio Guernsey about children carrying mobile phones in classrooms.
This followed an interview in the Daily Telegraph two weeks ago with Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture. He gave his views on the use of mobile phones in class by children and what he believed headteachers should be doing to tackle the issue.
“Technology makes being a parent much harder. And schools have a big role too. I enthusiastically support using technology for teaching. But we also need to teach children how to stay safe with technology. Why do young children need phones in schools?”
“There are a number of schools across the country that simply don’t allow them. I believe that very young children don’t need to have access to social media. While it is up to individual schools to decide rather than government, I admire headteachers who do not allow mobiles to be used during the school day. I encourage more schools to follow their lead. The evidence is that banning phones in schools works.”
“Studies have shown mobile phones can have a real impact on working memory and fluid intelligence, even if the phone is on a table or in a bag.”
Following this article, I was asked to appear on Jenny’s show to discuss my thoughts on children carrying mobile phones in classrooms.
You might be surprised to hear that I don’t think mobile devices have a place on the classroom. They are an enormous distraction and I think they pose a very real safeguarding issue within the school where they could be used inappropriately and there is also a very clear issue of peer pressure, with device cost stretching to £1000. There is also a problem with children carrying extremely valuable devices to and from school, which again exhibits a danger of theft.
If you feel differently, please let me know if the comments and of course you can listen in to the interview by click on the link above.
In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible.
Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing!
Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality.
Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry.
Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass. With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice.
The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part.
The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles.
The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications.
The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0. I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare.
With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket.
Moving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps.
However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.
This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though.
The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology.
There is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible.
Sony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+, S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models.
Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals.
The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance.
Although the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best.
I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.
On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.
A little over a month has passed since we arrived back from the Scotland and as promised, we have donated the remains of our Gadget Road Trip fund to British Red Cross.
This afternoon, I transferred the remaining balance of £42.32 from our Monzo Card to the British Red Cross charity and thus rendered the account empty.
I was personally extremely upset by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, which I know also affected Paul. The British Red Cross were on the ground there immediately after it happened and provided much need assistance to the poor families that had lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they owned in a matter of minutes. It is because of this, that I wanted to donate to this charity. Since Grenfell, other disasters have continued to affect the people of our planet and the British Red Cross have continued to provide much needed support for these people who have lost absolutely everything they own and still lack the basics of clean water, electricity and food. If you would like to continue to help them, you can also donate via this link
Thank you so much again to the following people and organisations for their kind donations of funds or services!
XSItems Ltd ACPlus Favorite Fried Chicken Free Reign Internet Coderus Gavin Dadd Patrick Lohan Jackie Robinson Ian Brown Olive Porter Sandra Grilli Callum McGilvery.
We wouldn’t have been able to feed ourselves during the trip and have something soft to sleep on. Thank you again.
Thanks also to Hillcroft Park in Ullswater for allowing us to stay at their lodgings for two nights (They will be featuring in the upcoming sitcom ‘Home from Home’ with Johnny Vegas, so keep an eye out!) and Far View Bed & Breakfast in Kilchoan (I won’t forget little Gracie exclaiming “My wellington boots fell over!!” as I took her and her dad on a little test drive).
I was sitting in my office in Martlesham on the 10th July 2017 chatting to a colleague about Tesla cars. The conversation had started after he noticed the framed artists sketch hanging on my wall.
I have driven a number of Tesla Model S cars in the past from the excitable P85+ to the ‘Insane’ P85D. They are very exciting cars to drive, not just because they are fully electric and pack extremely powerful single gear motors, but because you feel your are riding on the coattails of automotive history, participating in an irreversible shift change in motorvehicle technology. It’s very exciting!
The conversation moved on the the Model X and Model 3, Tesla’s entries in to the SUV and ‘affordable’ markets. The Model X has recently appeared in the UK, the Model 3 is two years away from being available. We continued to chat for the rest of lunch, but the seed was planted.
That evening I wrote an email to Tesla’s press office requesting the loan of a Model X for review. Nothing specific, simply available dates.
The next day I received a reply from Tesla, it’s explained that things were very busy with the Model X, but the 5th and 6th of October was available for a test drive, did that suit? I puzzled for a while, in the past I had been loaned vehicles for a little longer, to give me time to get to know the vehicle, two days seemed a bit short to get a proper review in place. So, I followed up with an email, requesting a little longer.
I quickly received a reply from Tesla asking what my plans were? OK, good question, time to put on my thinking cap.
15 July 2017
My initial idea was driving from Lands End to John O’Groats, but after a little bit of Googling, I discovered that this had already been done in a Tesla and well documented on YouTube, there was nothing original to achieve in travelling down this this ‘road’.
But wait a minute! Was there? I live about 40 minutes from Ness Point, the most easterly point in the UK. Nestled in Lowestoft, Ness Point at first glance seemed a little unloved. Some thought and effort has been made to build a stone circle, with plaques showing distances to well known points in the UK. It’s quite nice, but the surroundings aren’t that impressive, but it seemed like the obvious starting point for a challenge and wasn’t too far from home.
Now to find the most westerly point of the UK.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse sits on the most westerly mainland point of the UK accessible by a short ferry ride at Corran and a two hour drive along single track roads across an extinct volcano. There even appeared to be a ‘rapid’ charge point a few miles away at Kichoan Pier, which would set a challenge outside of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network.
The plan was hatched, but it was just the beginning.
The Gadget Man - Episode 105 - Gadget Road Trip - On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk[ 34:29 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (1539)
As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!
I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.
Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
With the UK launch of the Nokia 3310, I talk to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about the nostalgia behind one of the most popular mobile phones of the last 20 years.
The original Nokia 3310 is without doubt an iconic mobile handset and in it’s original form which went on to sell 126,000,000 units.
Following the licensing of the ‘Nokia’ phone brand to HMD, four new phones, including three running Android, namely the Nokia 3, Nokia 4 and Nokia 5 are to be launched.
Alongside these modern smartphones see’s the reborn Nokia 3310.
The handset is described as ‘a modern classic reborn’, retaining the durability and insane standby time of the original. Available in four distinctive colours and with a price tag of £49, expect the 3310 to be popular again.
Don’t forget to listen in to the stream to find our more!
Lighter evenings are upon us at last! We can start to look forward to getting out in the fresh air again after hibernating over the winter months. As always when I start thinking of spending more time outside I begin looking for gadgets that I can take with me.
I’ve recently been sent the Edifier MP280 Portable Speaker something that is clearly marketed to outdoor enthusiasts.
I’ve always found Edifier really high quality and the MP280 checks that box, it feels solid and well made with special silicone material and metal. The speakers are wrapping around the cylindrical design and give 360 degree sound along with professional grade DSP chips to give exceptional sound quality.
The MP280 comes with Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, microSD and Aux sockets. There is the added bonus of a USB out port which means you can use the speaker to charge your phone or other USB device when you are out and about. The speaker can be charged using a standard micro USB socket and when fully charged, the lithium ion battery should give 10 hours of constant playback.
The on/off button is placed on top of the speaker along with the Bluetooth pairing button. When switched on, the speaker plays a pleasant tune to let you know it’s working and to demonstrate it’s lovely sound quality. On the side is the volume controls and also a button used play and pause music which can also be used to display the current battery charge status which when pressed for 2 seconds displays the battery status using 3 green LED’s.
At the bottom of the speaker is the power / status light and just above this is an NFC contact point. If you have an NFC (near field connection) compatible phone you simply tap your phone on this and it sorts out the connection for you.
As a smartphone user, I am constantly faced with battery anxiety, where I might struggle to the end of the day without having to plug my phone into a charger. The MP280 can remove this anxiety by doubling as an emergency recharge station to give your phone a boost and continue to play your music whilst charging it up again.
The speaker will operate up to 10 metres away from your phone using Bluetooth 4.0 technology and the really useful and it also doubles as a hands free device with it’s in built microphone!
If you fancy going for a hike with your friends or family, you can attach the speaker to your backpack using the inbuilt carabiner clip. Again this is feels high quality too.
There are no shortage of portable bluetooth speakers on the market at the moment and the MP280 certainly sits at the top end of this with a well made, high quality product ideal for your camping trips in the coming months.
Once again this week I was delighted to chat to James Hazell. Today we discussed the relaunch of the Nokia 3310, an iconic mobile handset in it’s original form which went on to sell 126,000,000 units.
In 2017, HMD the new licence holder of the Nokia phone brand will be launching 4 new phones, three of these phones are Android handsets, namely the Nokia 3, Nokia 4 and Nokia 5. Alongside these modern smartphones will be the reborn Nokia 3310. Make no mistake this is a brand new ‘feature’ phone, but there exists the spirit of the original 3310 which is held in such high regard.
Listen in to the stream and find out what I think of the new handset and also what other tech could be making a comeback.
Gadget Man - Episode 90 - Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall part 2 - Can consumers expect Zero Failure in the 21st century technology arms race?[ 5:28 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (1948)
The human race’s relentless pursuit of technology has now surpassed the scale of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century, it has seemingly eclipsed the USA vs Russia arms race of the Cold War era, becoming itself a 21st Century Technology Arms Race, with commercial ideologies hand in hand with the our unquenchable thirst for better, brighter, faster and ‘always on’ technology and media.
The two super powers in todays ‘Tech Cold War’ are Apple and Samsung both locked in a unbreakable battle to outsmart each other in the multibillion dollar mobile device market.
On the left is Apple ($586 billion) , mega rich tech/lifestyle company with enormous pockets and a fanbase likened to a religious following, unable to do wrong in consumers eyes even beyond the infamous ‘Bend-gate’ and worse.
On the right in Samsung ($161 billion), super diversified tech company with mega deep reserves of cash and the ability to dodge any amount of bad press which would leave other smaller companies broke.
In between, the likes of LG, HTC, Huawei and others mop up the remaining market. Smaller R&D and marketing budgets and the lack of ability to manufacture it’s own components mean they can only look on in amazement and possible jealousy as the two tech Super Powers guide the market as they see fit.
Over time, Samsung and Apple have began aligning their products directly against each other. Initially Apple took the design lead , Samsung followed whilst taking design cues directly from it’s competitor. Apple struck gold with the iPhone and with a mega-hit on it’s hands, were happy to stick with tried and tested form size leaving Samsung to experiment with large screens, ultimately resulting in the almost silent success of the ‘phablet’ sized Galaxy Note range.
Under the command of Steve Jobs, Apple discounted this large screen device as a diversion, a mistake that took Apple a good few years to cotton on to, but finally resulted in the large screen iPhone 6 and 6 plus.
Make no mistake, these devices are absolutely crammed full of technology of every kind and even without riding on the back of Moore’s Law, the mind blowing miniaturisation that has taken place to enable such a vast amount of technology to be placed inside of these devices leaves the consumer standing back in awe and wonder,. So little room now remains inside the iPhone that Apple we forced to take the decision to remove the ageing headphone socket from its latest devices in order to make room for newer and better tech.
This race and the urgency that it is being run surely means that eventually something has to give, today the news of the 2nd recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 might give an indication that things are simply moving too fast and too precariously.
Smartphone technology is like a comic book filled with heroes and villains, the heroes are the big bright super hi-res screens, fingerprint readers, heart monitors, styluses and beautiful aluminium cases. The villain is the battery, manufactured using the inherently unstable Lithium Ion technology, prone to all manner of faults that can cause breakdowns in components and as reported recently, fire.
Li-ion is not a new technology, with pioneering work started in 1912, but it wasn’t until the mid 70’s that they became readily available for use in equipment that required high loads of power such as drills. Along with this miracle came instability, the cells were prone to ‘thermal runaway’ when charging with resulted in them bursting into flames.
Manufacturers began miniaturising the Li-ion battery and consequently they became higher density cells. The distance between anode and cathode ( + and – ) within the batteries separated by walls of 20-25µm (microns), less that half the width of a human hair!
In reality, Lithium-ion batteries have reached their theoretical energy density limit and this may give us some insight into the failures in the Note 7, that it was only a matter of time that the thirst for technology should exceed what could be delivered.
Back in the real world, Samsung have stopped production of the phone, informed shops to stop selling it and have advised owners to power off the device and return it until the fault can be located and fixed. It may be too late now for the Note 7, it’s reputation now damaged and we might not see the ‘line’ again.
So, should we as consumers expect Zero Failure on one hand and on the other demanding phone batteries that last for days when the only technology available to achieve this is unable to live up to the first demand?
It’s not an easy question to answer as we are used to failure as a race and the actual percentage of failure in Li-ion is very low. However with enormous quantities of devices being sold containing these batteries, the manufacturers now need manage the expectations of the consumer against their safety in the future.
I spoke briefly about this on BBC Radio Suffolk earlier today, to listen in to the stream click the play button at the top of the page.
What do you think of the Samsung battery issue, let me know by commenting below.