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?