LG Wireless Charger [Review / Promotional]

David Lumm is a professional programmer and all round geek with a passion for taking complex things and making them simple.

There’s nothing new about wireless charging. Although it might appear to be a new concept, it’s something that Nikola Tesla looked at in the early 20th century, back at the dawn of the electrical age; it drove him to poverty and perhaps a touch of insanity. He believed electricity should be free and wireless. We’re finally catching up – at least with the wireless part.

It’s been around in some forms for a few years, for instance electric toothbrushes. When we’re talking wireless, we’re not talking about a “wireless” kettle, where it physically connects to the base; there is no physical metal connection to make the circuit. This is ideal for a toothbrush, water and electricity don’t mix well, but obviously has other great applications.

My last three phones have had this capability to some extent, but I’ve never tried this with a phone. Looking back I had a Palm Pre2, which was ahead of it’s time in many ways. It had wireless charging built in, but I never tried it because I couldn’t justify the cost of the base; the battery life was great and I didn’t need to have it plugged in all the time, which brings me nicely to my next phone.

The Samsung S3 was a phone that did need to be plugged in all the time. If you wanted to make sure you had enough battery for those important selfie moments you had to keep the phone charged whenever you had the opportunity. The problem with the S3 is that it was technically capable, but it didn’t have all the hardware. You had to buy an additional case (which wasn’t available when the phone launched) and the base station. So despite how useful it might have been, the barrier was great enough to prevent me going down that road.

And so to my current phone, the LG G3. It’s a great phone, I’m very happy! It has all of the necessary hardware for wireless charging built in, all you need is the base station. Having got into the habit of constantly charging my phone, this is obviously a great solution. I can just put it on a base/stand and forget about it. And the cost? That doesn’t need to be a problem any more, because Mobile Fun are currently running a promotion!

The Official LG G3 Qi Wireless Charger is usually £59.99 but is available at half price (£29.99) with the code “HALFG3” whilst stocks last. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to give it a try!

LG Wireless Charger

Whilst the stand is Qi compatible, it is sold as an LG specific stand, with no guarantee that it will fit your other Qi-enabled devices. If you own a G3 and often leave your phone in one place, e.g. whilst sat at a desk, it’s a no-brainer.

The only potential problem that I found with it was using it with my case. With the case on it generally complains that it isn’t charging at full speed, although it still gets the job done pretty quickly. Taking the case off can solve this, but for me it’s not really worth it.

What I do love is that when it is fully charged it will simply stop asking the base for power, unlike the damage that can be done by leaving a phone constantly plugged in. Much more responsible!

If you have this phone, it’s definitely worth considering buying the stand for that sort of money. If you have other Qi devices it might still be worthwhile having a go, although I can’t guarantee that it will work. It’s a nice lightweight stand, it folds up small (hugely portable) and it looks great. What’s not to love?

Have you used wireless charging? Would you ever consider getting a base station specific to a brand or model? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

How thin can a case get?

I’m surprised there’s not a name for that fear you get when you first start using a new phone and you start using it without a case. I’m sure the Germans have a word for it, they manage to make a word for most things with their lego-block language.

If I end up in a situation where my new phone doesn’t have a case I’m on edge, so I was pretty glad to get the opportunity to test out the Spigen Ultra Fit case on my new LG G3. I’d heard great things about the Spigen cases from some of my friends, so I was excited to see what would arrive.

Spigen Ultrafit Case
The packaging was of good quality, hinting at what to expect of the product inside. I was quite impressed to find a screen protector in the package too. It’s a small thing, but it was a pleasant surprise – plus it was probably the easiest screen protector I’ve ever tried to fit.

The case is very sleek looking; It’s the thinnest case I think I’ve ever seen and is also extremely snug fitting. It’s like it’s barely there, it’s so thin. It fit’s the phone perfectly, everything that should be accessible is and of course it doesn’t make the phone hard (or perhaps harder) to fit in your pocket; and let’s be honest, with phone’s getting bigger it’s enough of a problem without a bulky case.

At first I was a little worried how a case so thin could possibly protect my phone, I’m still not sure I’d want to be throwing the phone on the floor on purpose – it’s not that kind of case. The incredible thing, though, is that the thing that makes it both strong and thin is the fact that it is made of polycarbonate. This isn’t a rubber or silicone case that needs to be thick to be protective – the case will by it’s very nature absorb most of the force of a fall, all without totally ruining the aesthetic of the phone.

I’m generally a cheapskate, it has to be said. I’d usually go for the cheapest case I could possibly get and then hate how it totally changes the feel of the phone, but in this case I can really see that you get what you pay for. It’s £12.99, so about average for a case, and for that you get the best of both worlds in terms of protection and still using the phone the way it was designed to be used.

If you tend to drop your phone a lot, this might not be the case for you, otherwise I’d highly recommend.
Would you ever have a case so thin? Tell us in the comments.

The product for the review was supplied by MobileFun.co.uk who have range of accessories for the LG G3 and every other major current phone.

Veho Pebble Smartstick Mobile Phone Charger

You know what it’s like – you’re out and about and, for one reason or another, have been using your mobile phone more than normal. As the day wears on, you realise you’re getting through your battery at an amazing rate and will shortly run out of juice.

Veho Pebble Smartstick Mobile ChargerWhat do you do? I guess you could cut back on your mobile use (I’ve found myself turning the screen brightness down, switching bluetooth and WiFi off, and even turning Airplane Mode on in case I need to make a call later) or resign yourself to the knowledge that your precious device will soon be defunct… at least until you can get it back home for a charge.

I’ve tested portable chargers before, notably this handy solar charger, and Mobile Fun were good enough to send me another unit to test out; this time, a Veho Pebble Smartstick.

The Smartstick is basically a large rechargable battery with USB connectors for charging both it and your mobile devices. The Smartstick’s battery capacity is 2200 mAH (milliAmp-Hours). My iPhone 5S’ battery is apparently 1570 mAH, so the Smartstick should be able to charge it fully if we assume 100% energy transfer.

In reality, using the Smartstick to charge my phone from nearly empty took it from 5% battery to 93% battery overnight but I should add that my phone was still on at the time… so it’s using energy while charging. Still, that’s an impressive rate of charging and more than enough for a boost if you notice your phone is getting low. If you catch it earlier you should be able to get back to 100% easily.

It’s worth noting that the Smartstick doesn’t come with a lightning connector, so if you are going to use it with the latest Apple devices you’ll need to use your charging cable. It does, however, come with an adaptor for Apple 30-pin connections, Mini and Micro USB, and Sony Ericsson and Nokia connectors. There is a standard USB port, though, so if you have USB chargers for any other devices (I’ve used it to charge my FitBit Flex) it’ll work just fine.

Charging the Smartstick is a simple case of plugging it into the USB port on your computer, or into the mains with an adaptor (not provided). In a few hours the light on the Smartstick will turn blue and you’re good to go.

Overall I’m pretty impressed with the Veho Pebble Smartstick. It’s small enough to shove in your bag or pocket, and it’s a lifesaver if you need to boost your device’s battery while you’re out.

The Smartstick costs £16.99 from Mobile Fun at time of writing, and is available from their site.

Mobile data usage – how much is enough?

Man looking suspiciously at phoneDownloaded an HD movie lately? What about streaming music from Spotify? Perhaps, like many of us, you now download all your games and music rather than buying the physical copies. Home broadband is so widespread, affordable and fast we’re accustomed to grabbing as much as want without worrying about the quantity. Unlimited services are common and inexpensive, and even if you have a cap it’s likely to be so high that most people will never hit the monthly limit.

But when it comes to mobile broadband it’s a very different situation.

The cheapest mobile broadband packages offer just 1GB of data usage, while the maximum you can currently get on a contract deal is 15GB. But how much data does the average user require, and what can you do within the limit? Figuring this out can be challenge if you’re new to mobile data services, and it can be an expensive period of trial and error as you learn exactly how your mobile internet package will cope with a heavy diet of YouTube and online games.

Mobile broadband data: what do you need? 

How much data you’ll need for your mobile broadband service will come down to what you’ll be doing with the connection.

Web browsing and emailing would be considered light usage. Web sites generally do not consume much data, even those heavy with Flash and other fancy effects. Email too is usually lightweight, particularly if you access your email via the web. It can be more demanding if you use a desktop client such as Outlook or Thunderbird, but even then only emails with large attachments will have any significant impact.

If the majority of your online activities are centred around the web and email, and you don’t use it for more than a couple of hours per day, a basic 1 or 2GB mobile broadband package may be sufficient.

However, things become more complex when you factor in streaming video and audio. Services such as YouTube and iPlayer use a lot more bandwidth – you’d be lucky to get four hours of streaming cute cat videos off YouTube with a 1GB allowance.

If you plan on making use of any kind of streaming media – video or audio – you will need to budget for a larger data limit. If you watch embedded videos while browsing, like those shared by friends on Facebook for example, then consider upping your mobile broadband data package to around 5GB. This will give you more breathing room, and allow you to use it for a few hours of iPlayer or Spotify streaming on occasion.

As a rough guideline, YouTube videos use between 100 – 250MB per hour, while streaming an hour of audio can be anywhere from 60 – 200MB. But an hour of web browsing might not be more than 25MB, giving a generous 40 hours of web browsing per gigabyte.

To help illustrate the data requirements of different activities we’ve put together this handy infographic:

Mobile broadband usage calculator – An infographic by the team at Mobile Broadband Usage Calculator by BroadbandGenie

Another thing to consider is file downloads. The exact amount of data consumed will be dictated by the size of the files so this is easy to manage, but it means you’ll want to try to stick to small files rather than multi-gigabyte monsters.

This is particularly problematic for gamers who might need large patches or updates, though. If you do think you’ll be needing to grab large files on a regular basis in addition to everything else, then look for packages up to 15GB in size. Even then it will need to be carefully monitored.

Background activities and uploads

File downloads and streaming are simple to control – if you’re worried just don’t play that video, or only download large files using a fixed line connection.

But there are some things that many mobile broadband users overlook, and as a result find themselves running out of data much sooner than expected.

Many applications, as well as your computer’s operating system, will download in the background without alerting you first. Often these are important bits like critical patches or new definitions for anti-virus software, but as it occurs without warning you won’t find out until it’s too late.

To avoid this check the settings for your applications, particularly those left running all the time. Normally there will be an option to tell the software to download patches only when you give permission.

Another factor is uploading. Anything you send to the internet is treated by the network as data use same as a download (just, you know, in reverse), so don’t go wild uploading big files. One major culprit is photo uploads. A single image sent to Facebook might only be 1 or 2MB but if you’re doing that many times over the month it’ll take a big chunk out of your account. You can find the full guide to mobile broadband data usage over at Broadband Genie.

Author Bio: Matt Powell contributes this article on behalf of Broadband Genie, the mobile broadband consumer advice website.

White Nexus 4 coming soon.

This is a guest post by William Judd

When you look at the differences between two smartphones, it’s almost never black and white. But this time, it is.

The white Google Nexus 4 will be available exclusively from TalkTalk in the UK – at least as far as we know. That’s because while TalkTalk launched the preorder page a few days ago, it’s since disappeared from the web. A cached version was available through Google, but this has also now been removed.

Apart from the white colour, which hasn’t yet been photographed outside of crude fan mockups, the phone is expected to be otherwise the same as the black version on sale from Google and other retailers, with Android 4.2 backed with a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal space.

TalkTalk’s deal isn’t particularly good, it has to be said. You do get a Nexus 7 and a Nexus 4 in white, but you have to get a £30 a month, 24 month contract with TalkTalk with 200 MB of data, 100 minutes and 250 texts. TalkTalk is the worst in the UK for customer satisfaction, so on top of the meagre plan you’ll have to deal with their shoddy customer service – overall, not brilliant.

I hope that we do see the white Nexus 4 from other providers (and Google themselves). Otherwise, a better course of action might be to grab a white Nexus 4 case instead – it’d certainly be a lot cheaper!

Planet of the apps [infographic]

Some interesting info on app use from the guys at MoneySupermarket.com. Click for the full-sized version and feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say!

Planet of the apps - infographic

Microsoft testing curved Windows Phone keyboard

This is a guest post by William Judd.

Curved keyboard showing on mobile phone screenAccording to a leaked Microsoft Research presentation found by blog WMPowerUser, Microsoft’s research team is working on a curved software keyboard that could added in Windows Phone 8. The curved keyboard, shown in the leaked image above, will be used for one-handed thumb typing and makes use of a similar technique as the popular Swype keyboard for Android.

Larger phones are doubtlessly coming for Windows Phone 8, now that 1280 x 720 and 1280 x 768 resolutions are officially supported. This keyboard could serve well on these larger models, obviating the need for Nokia Lumia 900 accessories like a Bluetooth keyboard.

Microsoft inadvertently revealed that they were working on a “one handed input and next gen soft keyboard” in a Research video last year, so this leak does make a lot of sense. Of course Microsoft have yet to release anything official about keyboard changes in Windows Phone 8, so we’ll have to wait for this leak to be confirmed. Windows Phone 8 is expected to launch this Autumn, so we won’t be kept waiting too long.

What’s new in IOS 6?

This is a guest post by William Judd

IOS 6 LogoLast week at the yearly WorldWide Developers Conference, Apple announced the latest version of their mobile operating system: iOS 6. The new version of the OS brings several new features to the table, notably ones that existed on Android for some time. As such, the update represents Apple’s continuing closing of the feature gap between iOS and Android, whilst maintaining the high level of usability that has been their trademark across all sections of their business. Let’s have a look at precisely what was announced.

Maps

Perhaps the biggest single update was to the Maps application. Instead of using Google’s Maps app on iOS, Apple is moving to their own solution, based on mapping data from OpenStreetMap. The maps are displayed using vectors instead of rasterised images, meaning each element is infinitely scaleable and should be a bit more bandwith-efficient as well. This should make it brilliant to use the iPad as an accessory for navigation, as the high resolution screen and new graphics should work perfectly together.

There are other changes in the mapping app. Apple has introduced turn-by-turn navigation into the app, a feature that Android has had for three years. There are also crowd-source navigation data via TomTom and 3D map viewing. However, Google Street View has been removed for obvious reasons.

PassBook

PassBook is a new app for iOS. It’s a mobile wallet that stores your merchant loyalty cards, boarding passes and tickets. It’s clever too, automatically updating the ticket with relevant information (like the gate number for a flight) and issuing alerts if you are close to a shop that you have gift card money to spend at. Should be brilliant, but a bit annoying if you’ve constantly got reminders going in your iPad headphones!

Siri

The world’s favourite virtual assistant has been upgraded again, with a whole bunch of new interests. You can now ask Siri questions about sports (including stats and results), nearby restaurants (using data from Yelp and with reservations by OpenTable), and films (including trailers and Rotten Tomatoes ratings and reviews). You can also ask Siri to open apps for you, a feature that many were surprised wasn’t available at launch.

Facebook Integration

Apple were rumoured to be including Facebook integration in an earlier version of iOS, but it never materialised and we got Twitter instead. This time around, Facebook is getting the full treatment, including pulling information from your Facebook friends into your phone contacts and making sharing to Facebook a lot easier.

Conclusion

So those are the big changes coming in iOS 6. There are a host of other tweaks, changes and additions that you can read about elsewhere – Apple’s official iOS 6 page is a great place to start. Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know what you think of the new OS in the comments below!

Five weird iPhone cases

This is a guest post by William Judd.

Today we’ll be looking at five of the weirdest iPhone 4S cases I’ve ever seen – including some which are a bit creepy, some that look a bit appetizing, and others that just don’t make any sense. Let’s get right into it!

5. Retro Phone Case
Retro handset iPhone caseIt’s quite common for those who prefer older styles tend to choose a phone case that reflects this – perhaps a wooden case, or maybe a nice handmade iPhone 4S leather case. These are good choices because they use classic designs to wrap a modern invention, but there are also tackier solutions – cases that look like cameras or cassettes. These are a bit suspect, but at least they’re well made. Finally, we have this retro phone case: a traditional handset glued to the back of an iPhone case. That’s just weird.

4. Breakfast Food Cases
Breakfast food iPhone casesFrom a badly designed weird case to a rather nicely constructed one, we have these breakfast food cases from Japan. There’s a choice of noodles, hash browns, rice or – my favourite – bacon and eggs. Each case is distressingly realistically well made and could easily pass for what they’re imitating if they were face down resting on your desk.

3. Giant Ear Case
Giant ear iPhone caseFood cases are cool, but I’ve heard of something better: this case that’ll really give you an earful. This lobe-ly case is just a giant silicone ear that’s quite amusing to bring out in public. Thanks to the massive size of the case, this should make your iPhone a lot harder to lose – and I guess that’s a good thing? Of all the cases on the list, this is the one I’d actually love to have.

2. Chocolate Bar Case
Chocolate bar iPhone caseThis is the only one on this list that I’ve actually seen in real life – as my girlfriend has it. She picked it up in Japan, where cute (and sometimes weird) phone cases are definitely the norm. Unlike some the other items on this list, the chocolate bar case looks quite realistic; something that came back to bite me when I noticed it early one morning. I can safely report that it does not taste like chocolate.

1. Creepy Hand Case
Creepy hand iPhone caseOur ‘winner’ this time is this creepy hand case from a Japanese manufacturer (indeed, the same firm behind the breakfast food cases earlier). Available in your choice of little kid or woman varieties, both cases feature a disembodied hand that affixes to the rear of the case. This means you can hold hands while on the phone, or even use it to hold pencils. It’s weird as hell, and for that reason it takes home the top spot.

Conclusion
And there we have it – five of the weirdest iPhone cases I’ve ever seen. Would you actually use any of these, or are they just too weird? Let me know in the comments down below!

Say goodbye to cable-hunting with the OneCable

The OneCable - three cables in oneWhile the EU would like to see MicroUSB as the standard cable for mobile devices, there’s still a good variation in chargers between different manufacturers. Apple, of course, have their own socket, and just by looking around the room I can see that my Kindle uses MicroUSB while my portable speakers use MiniUSB. This gets really annoying in the car, where I would rather just keep my iPhone cable plugged in. My wife, on the other hand, needs a MicroUSB cable to charge her Blackberry.

What we need is one cable that will charge the majority of devices, and that’s exactly what the OneCable does. This extendable USB cable comes with three fittings: Apple, MicroUSB and MiniUSB. They all fit into each other, and a clever hinge system means the ones that aren’t in use stay attached to the cable… so you don’t lose them down the side of the seat (you know, where all those fluffy sweeties end up).

There’s not really too much you can say about a cable, is there, except that it works… and I do love the spring-loaded extension reel which keeps it tidy when you don’t need it at full length (70cm). It’s already reduced my stress levels in the car, as I’m not hunting around for another cable and wondering how it ended up in the back pocket of the passenger seat any more.

It’s a cable… but I’m impressed.

A free sample of the OneCable was provided for this review. The sample was provided by Mobile Fun, who sell all manner of mobile gadgets and iPhone accessories.