Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Beginnings...

Hey everyone reading this,

In case ya haven't noticed, this blog has kinda slowed down (read: stopped) in the past couple of weeks and that there has been no new posts nor twitter updates coming from me.

One of the reasons for the lack of content is that being the holiday season, gadget news tend to slow down during this period. As such, I've taken the opportunity to think about the next step in my attempts to eke a living out of being a tech-blogger and the most logical progression I could come up with was to create a full-fledged website.

Thus I present to you: TheDigitalKiwi

All of the old content from this blog can still be accessed on the new site and the only thing has changed is the URL, which will make navigating to the blog much easier as the address now ends in ".com".

Since making the transition to a full-on webpage, I've also decided to take a break and am now currently on a short hiatus in Singapore to recharge the batteries, but be sure to check in after the first or second week of 2010 to see the brand-spanking new DigitalKiwi as I bring to you reviews and news from the tech/gaming world.

Till then have a great summer and an awesome new year!

Benedict James Wee
The Digital Kiwi

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kindle Now Available In New Zealand.. As An iPhone App.

By Benedict Wee

Despite Amazon thinking us unworthy to ship their e-Readers to our shores, you can take comfort in the fact that their latest iPhone/iPod Touch application brings us the same functionalities as their physical device does.

Kindle for the iPhone allows you to:
  • Buy a Kindle book from your Mac, PC or iPhone using a web browser and wirelessly transfer the books to your iPhone
  • Read the beginning of any book for free before you buy
  • Download the Kindle books you already own for free - they are automatically backed up on
  • Adjust the text size and add bookmarks
  • Tap and hold on a word to create a note or a highlight. Whispersync will back up and synchronize annotations with your other Kindle devices
  • Read in portrait or landscape mode
  • Select alternate background and text colors to improve reading comfort in low light conditions
  • Tap on either side of the screen to flick pages
  • Pinch to zoom images in books
The app is free and you pay only for the books you download which cost around US$9.99/NZ$13.75 for New York Times Best Sellers and most new releases.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Google Phone Revealed.

By Benedict Wee

TechCrunch has once again gotten the scoop on the details about the "Super" Google Phone we reported on late last month and the details are pretty exciting.

The first juicy piece of news comes in the form of Twitter updates by Google employees who've just received the phones. One of them described the phone he was just given as "an iPhone on beautifying steroids" after explaining that the hardware is provided by HTC and is running Android 2.1 while another employee elaborated that the new Homescreen has visual enhancements like animated desktop wallpapers.

Other hardware details of the Google Phone include:
  • an OLED touchscreen
  • two mics (one to eliminate background noise)
  • runs a Snapdragon processor
  • no physical keyboard
  • come with a large 5MP camera on its back
As mentioned before, the phone's hardware will be provided by HTC but it will not carry the phone manufacturer's branding and will be known only as a Google-branded phone. Apparently, leaked shots of the HTC mobile code-named "Passion" that have been seen around the internet is the phone in question.

What sets this phone apart from the other Android phones in the market right now is the way Google plans on selling them. The Google Phone will not be tied to any carrier and will be sold unlocked, which means that we could potentially import them from the US if the frequency bands they use are the same as ours in New Zealand. If successful, this marketing strategy poses to upset the telcos which depend on handset exclusivity and subsidization to attract consumers to use their carriers. Bad news for them but really good news for us as the telcos here aren't very generous when it comes to mobile subsidiaries and their contract terms are one of the worst in the developed world's.

Of course most of the information given have yet to be confirmed by Google and thus should be treated as rumors. We won't have long to wait however as some have mentioned that Google was planning on launching the phone this holiday season but somehow it got delayed and will now be making a January appearance instead. And with their employees already using the phone as you read this post, you can be sure that an announcement is looming just over the horizon. Best start saving that Christmas money now.

More details of the Google Phone have been crept online. Here are the details complied according to their site they were taken from.

Engadget: The FCC has a filing for a "NEXUSONE" phone built by HTC. This should be the Google Phone we've been hearing about unless HTC was ambitious enough to come up with another mobile amidst all this Google hoo-ha. The tech sites have thus begun to call the mobile a combination of names which include the words "Google", "Nexus One" and "Phone". Feel free to come up with whatever name combo you want.

BGR, TechCrunch & Engadget: Photos of the Google Nexus One Phone have been tweeted, confirming that the hardware/design of the mobile is the early-on reported HTC Passion. A helpful equation of what the phone is like, tweeted by one of the employees goes:
"Google Phone = iPhone + a little extra screen and a scroll wheel. Great touch screen, and Android."

Engadget: Has gotten exclusive shots of the phone. Note the updated OS features like 3D elements to the app tray, more Homescreens (which can be navigated via the grid icon at the bottom), and a newly designed lock screen.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Google Powers Up Its Search Capabilities With Google Goggles

By Benedict Wee

One of the reasons why I prefer Android-run mobiles over the iPhone is because of the great software support Google gives to their mobile OS with useful apps like SMS Backup. And with today's surprise launch of Google Goggles it has made owning an Android smartphone just that bit more special.

Google Goggles is a visual search application that reads photographs of books, bar codes, art, products etc. and searches the web for information regarding the object you took a picture of. In addition to that amazing ability, it can scan printed text and numbers such as business cards, giving you an easier method to input contact details. They've also thrown in an augmented reality function to display information about surrounding businesses using the camera and GPS hardware built-into the phones for good measure.

How does that work? I don't know but I'm currently sticking to the: "my HTC Magic was magically made sentient" theory. Google Goggles is now available for all Android phones running firmware 1.6 and up.


Monday, December 7, 2009

HTC First Half-2010 Android Lineup Leaked, Looks Very Promising.

By Benedict Wee

Android and Me has gotten the scoop of HTC's newest mobiles, slated to be released in the first half of 2010.

The 5 android-powered smartphones, categorized into three categories -Design/Lifestyle, Performance and Social- come from a leaked brochure that was handed out in Vienna, Austria on October this year and though the specs and designs might be altered throughout the course of development, we at least have an idea of what HTC's got up their sleeves for the coming year.


Phone code-name: Legend
Expected release date: March 2010
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7227, 600MHz
Impressions: Looks like a slightly modified Hero. Not particularly interesting.

Phone code-name: Salsa
Expected release date: June 2010
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7225, 528MHz
Impressions: The first Android phone to run on a QWERTY/bar model similar to RIM's BlackBerry models and the Nokia E-series mobiles. Perhaps this phone is an attempt at getting converts from the people who use such form-factors.


Phone code-name: Tide
Expected release date: April 2010
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7225, 528MHz
Impressions: A traditional-looking phone which targets the tweenies who still use numeric keypads. The "social" category and the slower processor (which means a lower priced phone) also leads one to believe that the Tide's for the younger generation .

Phone code-name: Buzz
Expected release date: May 2010
Processor: Qualcomm MSM 7225, 528MHz
Impressions: Also with a slower processor, the phone might end up in the budget section of phones and replace the position the Tattoo currently holds.


Phone code-name: Bravo
Expected release date: April 2010
Processor: Qualcomm QSD 8250, 1GHz
Impressions: I guess the category says it all. This will be HTC's first 1GHz phone running Android and though its screen is smaller than the HD2, you can expect the Bravo to run the best video/music/games compared to the other HTC Android handsets as they've got DivX playback and Dolby-quality sound.

So there you have it. Looks like it's gonna be an exciting year for HTC (and Android). I've got my eyes on the Bravo as it looks much better than the Acer Liquid and has a more masculine-vibe than the Sony Xperia X10. Can any of the mobiles shown tempt you into trying out Google's mobiles OS?


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Google Announces Android Developer Contest 2 Winners.

By Benedict Wee

After three months of writing code, designing interfaces and judging from a panel as well as Android users all around the globe, Google has announced the overall winners for their Android Developer Contest 2 held at the end of August.

The top prize of US$250,000 was given to the SweetDreams app which allows you to preprogram your phone to change its settings automatically and optimizing the system to save battery life when you sleep.

Second place was taken by What the Doodle!?, a real-time online multiplayer game in the vein of Pictionary. That app won US$150,000.

The third prize of US$125,000 was awarded to WaveSecure, a security app that allows you track your lost phone, lock it remotely and backup/restore the phone's data.

Other prizes were also given out according to their categories and you can find the list here.


Creative Releases Concept Shots Of Zii Phone, All It Needs Is Manufacturers.

By Benedict Wee

Gizmodo's got the scoop on the Zii Phone by Singaporean tech company Creative as they display Zii hardware concept shots to hardware licensors in China today.

A pretty ambitious project, the Zii Phone -called the Trinity- hopes to run dual mobile operating systems (Google's Android and Creative's own Plszama platform), full 1080p HD video playback over HDMI, OpenGL 2.0 (the one the iPhone 3GS uses) for better graphics rendering and a 1GHz processor, which would make it the 3rd Android phone we currently know of that will run at that speed. The other two being the Acer Liquid A1 and Sony Ericcson's Xperia X10.

The pictures taken of the Trinity make the mobile seem a tad bland design-wise right now as it looks a whole lot like Creative's Android multimedia player: the Zii Egg. But like the Egg, Creative is hoping for hardware manufacturers to adopt the concept of the Zii Phone and put their own personal touch to their product.

Their approach to marketing the Zii-brand is confusing as I wonder why they don't just manufacture the gadgets themselves and cut out the middle man like they've done with the rest of Creative's products. The Zii Egg has been in stuck in developer hands for awhile now and there's no sign of a consumer version on the horizon and looking for a manufacturer would just take up loads of time, causing them (and us) to miss out on buying what seems to be very a promising line of next-generation gadgets.

On the bright side however is that at least Android's penetration seems to be gaining a lot of momentum and more developers are willing to give Google's OS a shot. Could 2010 be the year they beat the iPhone/iPod Touch?


Monday, November 30, 2009

New iPhone Now Being Tested

By Benedict Wee

Those of you who're considering getting the iPhone 3GS this Christmas might have to think twice now that rumors of Apple's next iPhone is currently being tested in San Francisco where the company is located.

A list provided by app analytics company PinchMedia to iPhone developer Pandav (creators of the iBART app, a transportation guide for the San Francisco train system) show an identification number for an iPhone assigned by Apple that has been utilizing their application.

The number "iPhone3,1" does not match up with any iPhones currently being sold or shipped and if you compare it to last year's news in October where an "iPhone2,1" identification string was spotted around the same area and it turned out to be the iPhone 3GS, you can probably conclude that "iPhone3,1" is Apple's next iPhone.

If you can, I'd advise holding out the next 6-7 months for the next-gen iPhone which is rumored to run a multi-core processor that could out-perform the 1GHz phones already announced by the other mobile manufacturers. If not, then be prepared for some buyer's remorse when Apple introduces the iPhone 4G in June/July 2010.


Ivy The Kiwi?: The First Proper Game For Windows Phones?

By Benedict Wee

Windows Mobile 6.5 is far from the revolutionary mobile operating system we've come to expect, especially when compared to Google's Android or the iPhone, but that isn't stopping Japanese mobile game developer PROPE from creating a stunningly beautiful puzzle-platformer starring our very own mascot.

In Ivy the Kiwi? you help a lost kiwi chick find her way home by drawing vines along its path to help it climb out of holes, avoid predators and in certain cases, launch into breakable walls. There are 50 stages in total to complete with an online ranking board to compare high scores.

Perhaps this might be the game that will help Windows Phones get a foothold in the mobile OS wars but nothing is standing in the way of the game coming to the other smartphones in the market and to handhelds like the DSi and PSP via downloadable content.

Ivy the Kiwi? gets released in December on the Windows Marketplace but there's currently no exact date nor price for the game.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Latest Final Fantasy XIII Trailer Mocks You For Not Being Able To Get It Till Next Year

By Benedict Wee

Square Enix's latest Final Fantasy XIII trailer once again shows you why the company is famous for its JRPGs, with tones of action for the guys and drama for the ladies. The last bit is especially exciting with all the characters teaming up with their summons in battle.

This is purportedly the last Japanese trailer we'll see before the Japanese version of the game is released in Japan on the 17th next month. Us english-speaking folks won't be getting the game till March next year but I guess we can wait for them to do the voice overs for the trailers to tide us over in the meantime.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creative Launches Nex-Gen Vado Pocket Camcorder.

By Benedict Wee

The current Vados have decent enough specs to compete in the pocket camcorder market right now but Creative's newly announced 3rd generation model might prove to be one of the better portable video-recording gadgets this holiday season.

The Vado HD one ups its previous predecessor with the follow improvements:
  • Better quality video in low light or brightly lit conditions
  • Manual exposure adjustments
  • External stereo microphone support for better audio recording
  • Headphone output for private listening
  • Motion Detection Mode - camera only records when motion is detected
  • Out-of-the box Mac and PC compatibility
  • Still Photo Capture Mode
The slight downside of the next-gen model is that its internal storage space has gone down to 4GB from its previous 8GB, but Creative was sensible enough to sell it at a lower price of US$180/NZ$248, which is a good deal.

The Vado HD will be in retail stores in the US come mid-December so here's hoping that it'll be available to us somewhere around the Christmas period.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Tablet Running Android. Available Soon.

By Benedict Wee

Lining up in the queue of unknown China companies producing Android tablets, Camangi's WebStation offers a 7-inch screen, WiFi enabled, GPS built-in, glass touchscreen device running Android 1.5 (Cupcake) for a pretty steep price of US$400/NZ$553. Judging from the videos below it doesn't come with Google services either so that's a dealbreaker for me.

If you are thinking about getting the WebStation, Camangi's offering an early bird discount on their website if you sign up and leave your email address.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Google Introduces Chrome OS.

By Benedict Wee

With their fingers in so many pies Google has, on more than one occasion, threatened the status quo of the internet companies with their web-based applications, and now they're taking it one step further by challenging the two major giants in the industry -Microsoft and Apple- with the announcement of their own operating system.

Chrome OS (not to be confused with Chrome the web browser) is the amalgamation of Google's services that relies entirely on the internet to run, which makes sense as most of us out there spend almost all of our computer time on the web anyways.

With Chrome OS you'll be able to carry out everyday tasks like read news, create/edit documents, listen to music and watch videos, just like what you'd normally do with a Windows or Mac computer. And it's super fast, taking only seconds to load from the time you turn on your computer.

The downside to the OS is that being only a web-based application, it won't support hard drives as all your stuff (i.e. music, movies, documents) will be stored on the internet. On the other hand, you could say that the files will be easily accessible from any computer, though you would need to have access to the web in order to retrieve them.

Though it won't possess the same functionality of Windows 7 or Snow Leopard, and businesses would need to rely on these two operating systems to run their 3rd party programs, Chrome OS will appeal to the majority of people who use computers for web-only reasons and if you think about it, that number is big enough for Microsoft and Apple to take Google's new baby seriously.

Chrome OS is expected to hit netbooks (and maybe tablets) next year.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rumor: Google Phone Coming Soon, Might Be VoIP Only.

By Benedict Wee

TechCrunch has it on good sources that senior Android guys over at Google are currently carrying and testing a "super" Android phone that might be unveiled as early as next year.

The stand-alone Google-made device is said to been planned quite some time ago when the Android OS was being adopted by the major phone manufacturers (HTC, Motorola, Samsung etc.) and that though the phone's hardware might be produced by one of the mobile companies, it will only have Google branding. Just like what the iPhone is to Apple.

In addition to that rumor, the Google phone is said to only use data for all forms of communication. That means calls are made through VoIP using their Google Voice service, which has already gained a high amount of adopters in the US because of their unlimited calls and voice forwarding services.

If this rumor proves to be true, we will soon see a new age of mobile communications which will free us from the expensive calls/data/text plans the telcos have pinned us under. Already in first world countries like the US and UK, most telcos provide contracts with unlimited data at a low monthly cost which is poised to drop even further without the need for calls or texts.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Facebook Arrives To The PlayStation 3 Too.

By Benedict Wee

Taking a leaf from Microsoft's book, Sony's next PlayStation 3 update (firmware 3.10) will come with Facebook integration.

Starting this thursday, PS3 owners will be able to assign their PlayStation Network (PSN) IDs to their Facebook accounts which will send status updates of PSN purchases and Trophies earned in games played. Unfortunately, writing your own status update from the console isn't possible yet but on the bright side the service is free, unlike the Xbox 360 which requires a Gold membership account in order to use its social networking features.

The update also brings a better photo browsing interface to the Cross Media Bar (XMB), an improved PSN Friends List and the ability to choose a color for your PSN ID.

Check out the video below to learn more about the new update.


Facebook And Twitter To Arrive On Xbox 360s Today.

By Benedict Wee

Microsoft's second major update of the year for the Xbox 360 should hit dashboards all around New Zealand as you read this post.

The latest update brings Facebook and Twitter to the console, but is only accessible if you have an Xbox LIVE gold account. In addition to a paid subscription, I suggest you invest in a cheap USB keyboard should you choose to utilize the new features as the thumb-stick and button input method is a tedious endeavor when you want to update your status. Don't bother getting the official Chatpad either cause it's way too expensive.

Windows Marketplace Now Available For Windows Mobile 6 Phones.

By Benedict Wee

While we have yet to see smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.5 over here in New Zealand, those who've been clamoring for the Windows Marketplace can now install it to their Windows Mobile 6.x phones by directing their phone browser to

According to the announcement on the Windows Blog, roughly 90% of the applications available on the Windows Marketplace is optimized for older Windows Mobile 6 phones, which is a pretty decent number of apps. So rejoice Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 users, you've now got an application that consolidates a list of other applications to download from.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

English Version Of Final Fantasy XIII Hits March 2010.

By Benedict Wee

Square Enix has just announced on their official Final Fantasy XIII site that the English translation of the game will be available for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on the 9th of March next year.

The highly anticipated game features a new battle system, a "dramatic story" focused on the emotions of the characters (I don't know what that means) and will have Leona Lewis singing the official soundtrack -My Hands- of the game.

Check out the announcement trailer below which features never before seen footage of the game.

Final Fantasy XIII Official Site link.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Return Of Vodafone's Crazy Circus (Updated)

By Benedict Wee

Here we go again. A lively debate on the prices of the services and mobiles Vodafone NZ offers sprung up on Twitter and yours truly (as well as a couple of others) joined in to grill the telco about their high prices. Below are the exchanges that me and Paul have made and what I got out of the conversation.

The debate was already raging between other tweets when I logged on but I decided to only enter when Vodafone NZ made this remark:
I responded with:
Vodafone responded:
along with:
This basically meant that they don't care for PrePay users as much as they do for those who are On Account (attached to contracts). And if you're not happy about their plans: switch telcos cause you're not their target group.

I replied:

By now I know they were just bullshitting the whole situation. $29 for the Vodafone 541 is On Account and they were comparing it to a PrePay price in the UK.


First, Vodafone wanted to compare population size, which I did. After losing that battle they wanted to compare geographical size and challenged me to prove their phones were expensive:

which I did:
Again, after losing this battle they then decided to change tactics and go for their previous rediculous strategy of comparing PrePay with On Account:

Once again, they reiterated that they didn't care for PrePay customers as much. So I played their game and compared their On Account plans:

Vodafone NZ was trying to slip a quick one by comparing iPhones as Vodafone UK doesn't sell them and thus, there could be no fair comparisons. I chose the HTC Magic instead cause it was the same Vodafone branded smartphone offered in both regions.

Sensing that this battle was lost also, Vodafone attempted to change their stance with:

I responded:
The HTC Magic in the UK was free on a 24 month plan less than 6 months after it was launched. This is just them trying to coverup that fact that their phones are being sold cheaper in their overseas branches.

Even if you do not have a timeline for when the UK dropped their prices, take a look at any of Vodafone NZ's phones. None of them are free with contracts. Their attempts at justifying high prices are terribly weak and transparent.

The debate continued with them replying with the "UK is not NZ" argument they've tried to use before and after asking why is the same telco not offering a relatively similar price on their mobiles they replied that both Vodafone branches are completely separate entities that order different amounts of handsets so they're priced differently.

Vodafone stopped replying after my last message, guess they decided not to incriminate themselves anymore.

As you can see from the long exchange above, they claim that their phones are not ordered in bulk along with the head Vodafone branch for distribution throughout the world but instead, are made after the initial order which is why their phones are expensive.

Makes sense? I don't think so. Yes the phones are made by batches but they're still the same ol phones and saying that they have to pay more because of a smaller order is silly. If you owned a multinational corporation and made a product, wouldn't you order them in one big bulk and distribute them according to the market size? How do they explain that parallel importers (who are much smaller than the telcos) managed to bring in HTC Magics and sell them for $400 lesser than what Vodafone NZ asks for on PrePay?

Everything about what Vodafone NZ has said reeks of PR spinning, and a bad one at that. Proclaiming that they don't care for PrePay customers as much as they do for those On Account is a terrible statement to make considering most remain on prepaid plans do so because of the lack of value when you take up a monthly contract. I still stand by the theory that they're just exploiting the New Zealand market as they've got a strong hold over us which comes about from the lack of competition. It's about time we stand up to their tyranny and greed.