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I can't say I'm a huge fan of sports games; I've dabbled in the Fifa series and fought in the WWE, but it's never really caught my imagination enough to proclaim that I'm really a 'fan'. After recently purchasing an iPad Mini I was excited to see what apps I could download and one that seemed to have glowing reviews on the app store was Real Boxing.
Real Boxing truly does look the part on the app store. The fantastic graphics and realism stand out from the word go and even with the somewhat pricey £2.99 download price, I had to see what all the fuss was about and eagerly hit the download button.
The app, as you can imagine isn't for children and is rated a 12. It will take up 201MB of your memory which is about average for an iPad game. Although I've downloaded this onto my iPad, it's also available for the iPhone 4 and up, although is optimised for the iPhone 5 and is also playable on the 4th Generation iPod Touch and above. Through the magic of iCloud, upon downloading onto my iPad, as if by magic, this appeared on my iPhone 5 as well so I've been able to experience the best of both worlds.
What first strikes you like a right hook from Tyson are the stunning graphics on this app. Infact, calling it an app doesn't really do it justice, so from now on I will refer to this as a game because with console like graphics this game really does justify the £2.99 that you've spent. The vivid colours and shocking realism of the fighters really makes this game stand out amongst the crowd.
After a quick sequence, you're then greeted with the main menu, which is preset to the quick fight option. Two boxers will stand before you, their stats on show and if you so wish you're able to participate in a fight straight away. The menu is incredibly simple to navigate and on the top of the screen (landscape mode is enabled for this game) are all your other game play modes. These include a career and multiplayer, but lets start off with the basics first.
To participate in a 'Quick Fight' simply choose your boxer, your opponent and your stadium and you're away. At the bottom of the screen is an option which says 'controls' and you're able to select touch or motion. I would recommend using the touch controls until you're a lot more comfortable with the game. Hitting the fight button in the middle of the screen will load up the fight and you'll see the entrance and the stats of your boxer. What you're likely to do first (which is what I did) will be to try and move your boxer either towards or away from your opponent and you'll quickly realise that you're unable to do so. You see, this game has been simplified somewhat and evokes memories of old arcade games where your fighter would stand still while you control his fists. Actually, that's quite an accurate summary of this game, but before I put you off straight away, it's not quite that simple. Simply touch the screen to control your boxer, touch the right or left side of the screen for a jab with the corresponding fist, swipe left or right for a hook and swipe up for an uppercut. It all sounds pretty simple right?
This is where it starts to get complicated. Real Boxing lulls you into a false sense of security with the apparent simplicity of this game, however, there's much more to it than just going hell for leather on your opponent. This is a game of tactics and skill and you'll soon discover this after hitting the canvas 3 or 4 times! Your boxer won't simply stand there looking mean, he will fight back and when I say he'll fight back I mean it. There are no difficulty settings on this game so you quickly have to get used to how to maintain a lead over your opponent, especially as you're not able to move around the ring. Towards the bottom of the screen are two buttons, block and dodge. Hold the block button to block your opponents punches, however, this only works for two punches before your opponent breaks your block and goes in for the kill. Tap the dodge button and your fighter will duck and weave, again this is only effective if your fighter is attempting head shots, body shots will hit their targets so you really need to be clever about what avoidance tactic you take and when to get your shots in. Dodging shots can be both a blessing and a curse, once you've avoided a shot, slow motion will take hold and any shot you land on your opponent will cause 3 times as much damage as normal. This is all well and good, but is easily capitalised on by your opponent and they can reverse this easily and the referee will be counting before you even know what's happened.
At the top of your screen is your health bar, along with your opponents and below is your stamina. This will deplete very quickly and to regain it you need to stop punching and block for a few seconds. When your stamina bar has depleted your punches will have little to no affect and this, again is where the tactics game comes into play.
The boxers themselves look very good and very realistic. The only problem being, they all look exactly the same! They all have the same bodies and faces, the only thing that changes is the hair, tattoos and attire. You'd think that for a game that focuses so highly on its realism you'd be able to differentiate between boxers, but this is where Real Boxing lets itself down. It would seem that a lot of effort has gone into it, but was rushed right at the end and it shows in some of the finer details.
There are other modes of play like career and multiplayer. Career consists of 3 tiers all consisting of 9 fights. There's no real story behind it unfortunately and you may as well be in the 'Quick Fight' mode. You fight, fight again and fight again. Upon winning a fight you're awarded money depending on what tier you're currently fighting in and after every 5 fights you're able to use the gym to train your fighter.
This consists of three different exercises; hitting a punch bag, skipping and using a speed bag. Just when the game seems like it might get a little more intense, up pops a dance mat similar game where you touch the screen when the icons hit the centre. Each training bit lasts 30 seconds and will take your stats up a couple of levels (from 70% to 72%) this becomes a very tiresome activity and with such little rewards does seem rather pointless. With the money you win from fights you can also improve your stats, this is a little less tiresome, however, with the money you win, coupled with the training sessions every 5 fights it's difficult to really improve your fighter and before long you'll be in a higher tier with better fighters and your stats will be way below theirs. This is where you begin to feel a little cheated. Upon clicking on the store option you'll notice that you're able to purchase money from the App Store to be used to improve your fighter, this ranges from 69p to £10.99 and after already paying £2.99 to download the game, which is much more than normal apps you feel a bit let down by the further money grabbing opportunities.
As an experiment I made a purchase of 69p on my iPad and before using the money I opened up the game on my iPhone, assuming that with the devices connected to each other through iCloud the money would appear on my iPhone, but no, nothing. You have to pay separately for each device which I think is a further con. Using two different devices to play the same game isn't possible either. If my battery was low on my iPad I couldn't then pick up where I left off on my iPhone. I would have to start a brand new career which is rather disappointing considering what capabilities Apple have at the moment using iCloud and multitasking.
Multiplayer is a bit of a waste of time to be honest. It needs to match you up with someone playing the game at the same time as you using WiFi and is hit and miss at the best of times. It tells you your normal waiting time should be 20 seconds, however, you can easily sit and stare at the screen for several minutes without being paired with someone. When you are paired with someone though, it does give the game a bit of a longer lifespan and brings in a slightly more competitive edge.
You may think that after all the negatives I've listed that this game isn't really worth the download price, however, truth be told it is. The graphics are fantastic and so is the game play. The game of tactics really keeps you interested and even after you've completed the career mode you'll still keep coming back for more. The game is difficult, but once you've mastered it you'll find it challenging and entertaining.
Ok, I admit it, I'm gullible and a complete sucker for new technology, namely Apple technology. I've owned them all, in several different generations whether it be iPhones or iPods you name it, I've had it. The one thing that I have never owned, however, as it seemed to have passed me by at the time, is an iPad. You see, I've always been very sceptical about iPads, I thought they were oversized iPhones that fall short of doing what a laptop can do. That was until the iPad Mini was released late last year and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted it.
*** Availability ***
This is where you may encounter problems, and luckily this is the only area that you will encounter problems with the Mini as they're nigh on impossible to get your hands on. I bought mine just before Christmas and by some miracle they just happened to be in stock in the Apple store, however, before that I had searched high and low and no one within a 200 mile radius seemed to have them in stock and even now after Christmas they still seem to be in high demand so I wouldn't recommend a trip into town without a prior reservation first!
If you are lucky enough to track them down then you'll have several options to choose from. Most notably you have the black or white option (the white ones seem to be more popular, therefore may be difficult to track down). There are different memory capacities which vary in price too. The 16GB will set you back £269, 32GB is £349 and the big daddy of them all, the 64GB will cost you £429. To be honest the 16GB isn't even worth considering, because with the HD apps that you can purchase for the Mini, your memory will be eaten up in minutes.
*** Setting Up ***
With previous Apple products like the iPhone and iPod Touch, you've had to plug it into iTunes to set it up, however, none of that is needed nowadays as Apple continue to make our lives easier. All that's needed is a WiFi connection and this allows you to log into your Apple account (if you have one, if not then setting one up is easy) and you can select which apps, photos, documents, contacts etc you would like on your new device. This is downloaded from iCloud as if by magic. That's it, your new device is ready and equipped with everything you'll need.
*** Back To Basics ***
Everyone who's owned an iPhone or an iPod Touch before will need no introduction for using the Mini and to be honest even if you haven't used the above then you'll still need no introduction. The Mini is a joy to use right from the word go, with the larger screen coming to life with the incredible clarity and the ultra responsive touch screen. A stylus isn't needed but recommended for an even more user friendly experience.
The home screen isn't as squashed as it seems on an iPhone and Apple really have taken advantage of the bigger screen by spacing everything out more, instead of trying to cram even more onto the home screen. The home screen consists of everything you'd expect if you've had prior Apple experience (photos, FaceTime, App Store, iTunes etc) what I was surprised about was the messaging icon. If you have an iPhone you'll have no doubt noticed iMessage. This is a text messaging service that works through your internet instead of using up your allowance, much like Whatsapp and because it's online you can utilise it from your Mini too. iMessage only works with other Apple users but it's a fantastic little inclusion. When you receive an iMessage on your iPhone, if you're connected to WiFi it will appear on your iPad too as if by magic.
FaceTime is a joy on the iPad and it wasn't something that I had used much on my iPhone because the clarity seemed so low. On the iPad the clarity isn't exactly HD, but images aren't blurry or distorted. The only problem I have with FaceTime is the connection sometimes buffers which can be very irritating and you'll often have to restart the call to reconnect with the person you were talking to. However, for a free feature that works over WiFi it's a brilliant little add on and even more fantastic if you have friends or family abroad as you can connect with them with the press of a button. FaceTime, despite its faults has become an invaluable feature in my household.
*** Camera ***
The iPad houses a 5MP camera and an HD front facing camera. Now this might not seem a lot these days, however with the superb screen clarity of the Mini pictures really stand out and you wouldn't know that they're of such a low MP. Compared with the iPhone 5s 8MP camera you can tell the difference as the iPad shots do look slightly grainy, however, I doubt you'll be using your iPad for your family holiday shots so for messing around taking pictures I think it's of a perfectly acceptable quality.
The camera includes face detection which is very useful if you've got a lot of people in one shot. It helps to steady the camera so that even if your hand moves, giving it a high possibility of a blurry picture, the face detection will help keep it still for the best possible picture. Video recording utilises the same technology offering fantastic results.
*** WiFi or Cellular? ***
As I'm sure you've heard Apple are now selling cellular versions of the Mini and the generic iPad. This works like a normal mobile phone and uses 3G meaning that even without a WiFi connection you can still surf the web on your iPad. This all sounds very appealing, don't get me wrong, but this comes with a monthly subscription charge and the cheapest was £7.50 a month. Most people already have smartphones which they can use to surf the internet outside of the home and with the amount of places with free WiFi these days I don't think paying a monthly subscription is entirely worth it. Also, I'm not sure if I feel comfortable flashing a £349 bit of kit wherever I go, do you?
Speaking of the WiFi though, Apple have been bragging that it's twice as fast as any other previous iPad model (apart from the brand new one, of course). This being said I am impressed with how quick it picks up my home WiFi and how quick I'm able to search the internet and use Facebook. I've not used any other iPad so I couldn't tell you if there was some huge difference in speed. All I can say is I think you'll be impressed at the speed of this model.
*** Battery Life ***
Battery lives on Apple products are always fantastic aren't they? I hope you sensed the sarcasm there, because with Apple it's always the battery lives that let the side down. The iPad Mini however, does go some way in repairing the damage that other products have created. I can leave my iPad on for days on end, connected to WiFi and the battery life will barely dwindle. Of course this is different from actually using it, but with regular use I can easily get 4 or 5 days out of this. Really impressive.
*** Apps ***
The apps that you can download for the iPad Mini really are fantastic. You pay a little bit more but you get the pleasure of HD and you really can tell the difference. Immersion is the only word to describe it. I've only used apps on an iPhone and iPod Touch previously but it takes no time at all to get used to the bigger screen and once I'm back on the iPhone I miss the big screen.
*** Summary ***
I really can't fault the iPad Mini, yes it has a few minor niggles but it's not enough to give it anything less than 5 stars and I can safely say that I'm addicted to mine. It's the perfect size to hold in one hand, but be careful with it because without a case it will easily slip out of your hands. The features are fantastic and Apple are definitely the most intuitive brand out there. One thing they've realised is that with such a small boarder, when you're holding it your thumb may be touching the screen. Apple realise this and instead of assuming it's a command, you're still able to control the iPad with your finger without the iPad having a mini breakdown. There you go... fantastic.
With iPhone apps becoming bigger and bigger, it's no surprise that people are latching onto the realisation that your iPhone can do pretty much everything - from helping you find your way home, to catching up on your favourite TV shows, the list of apps is truly endless and it would seem that there's something for everyone. The iPhone is no longer just a phone and if you're sick of using it to make calls and send texts then here's something that may be of interest to you...
Voxer is a walkie talkie app that more and more people are becoming aware of and it's through word of mouth that I head about this little gem. The app is currently free to download from the app store and takes up a miniscule 6.1MB of memory so you'll still have room for all your games and music.
Have you heard of Whatsapp? I'm sure you have as it's become one of the most successful messaging apps on the app store. Well, this is what Voxer is in essence, with the focus being on voice messages rather than text messages. Voxer essentially flips Whatsapp on its head - where Whatsapp is a text based app with a built in voice messenger, Voxer is the exact opposite.
Downloading and setting up Voxer is a doddle as all that's required is your name and email address. An email will be sent to you with a link and upon clicking on this link your account will then be activated. Voxer will ask you to enter your mobile number, this is the easiest way of connecting with your friends and family, but if you don't wish to enter your mobile number you don't have to as you can search for your friends by name which is a very simple process.
Once you've found people that you know, it's not a 'Facebook' case of adding them and waiting for them to accept, you're able to message them straight away. Messages appear just like text messages and Whatsapp. The layout is incredibly simple and is very easy to navigate so it's not something that will take you a while to get used to, this is something you can download and use straight away with no hassle. Upon downloading and setting up the app you will receive a message from Voxer giving you a quick (and I mean quick) tutorial, but as aforementioned this is so incredibly easy to use you won't need a 200 page manual.
Although you can send voice notes on Whatsapp (which is 69p to download by the way), not only is Voxer free, but it simplifies things significantly. As soon as you click on a contact you're able to send a voice message without having to change any settings or go into a different menu. You simply hold down the bar at the bottom, speak into it and release. This automatically sends the message to the recipient. This can be construed as a slight downside as you're not able to check that your message is ok before sending it unlike Whatsapp allows you to do, however, this can be overlooked when you look at how useful this app actually is.
The app uses your phones speakerphone function so there's no need to hold the phone up to your ear into order to speak or to listen to messages, however, if you want a bit more privacy this function is easily disabled at the top of the screen. Although I predominately use the speaker phone option, I've found that with both speaker on and off the voice clarity is excellent. Having said this, this will undoubtedly depend on what phone you're using this in conjunction with (I'm using an iPhone 4S) as this app is also available on the Android market. Volume on the app has never been an issue and I've found that I only need the volume at about 50% to be able to hear clearly exactly what's being said to me.
Jumping on the bandwagon of other messaging apps, Voxer allows you to send pictures over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection and you're also able to send your location to someone, which is a handy, if lesser used feature on my phone. One of the most brilliant features that I've found is that if sending a voice message is inappropriate, Voxer enables you to send a text message (still over 3G so it doesn't affect your text message allowance).
Like everything, Wi-Fi does provide a quicker connection, but even when out and about using 3G I still find that messages come through with no issues at all.
In the months that I've been using Voxer I've found that more and more people have begun discovering it (a bit like 50 Shades of Grey, but for the app world!) and unlike a lot of the free apps out there, this is genuinely helpful and has a purpose. It's quick and easy to use and as a free alternative to Whatsapp it's hard to fault.
Anyone who owns an iPhone will know that the moment your most precious possession falls from your hands your heart skips a beat and you hurriedly pick it up praying that the screen isn't cracked in that awful spider web pattern that destroys the aesthetics of the whole phone. Anyway, I digress, basically what I'm trying to say is that you don't want to step outside your front door with a beautiful iPhone unless you're fully protected - and I've got just the thing for you boys and girls...
May I introduce you to the Tech 21 T21-1247 Impact Band designed for the iPhone 4.
I first heard of Tech 21 on Dragon's Den, where the material D30 was introduced as a revolutionary material that can not only protect your gadgets but can be used in bullet proof vests for the army (now if that doesn't sum it all up I don't know what will!). The material, soft to the touch instantly hardens on impact to protect whatever you want it to. Upon hearing about this fantastic new discovery I quickly made my way to Amazon and purchased a iBand for my iPhone 3GS and upon buying the 4S I did exactly the same.
You may be scratching your heads and wondering why I purchased something that's made for the iPhone 4 for my 4S, but unfortunately as far as I was aware at the time there was no such product for the 4S and as there's so little difference in design I risked it and made my purchase for £16.99 and excitedly waited for it to arrive.
Upon arrival it comes packaged in a transparent box, which, yes you guessed it, is almost impossible to gain entry to. Upon finally gaining entry you'll notice actually how sturdy the case feels and it gives you that little bit extra peace of mind. This isn't actually a case though, this is called a band for a reason as it snugly (very snugly infact) fits around the edge of your iPhone, but cleverly the ridges that overlap both the front and the back of the iPhone are still very much protected. With the band being such a sturdy piece of material, it's actually rather difficult to get it around your iPhone. Once you do have it on it is a good sturdy fit, unfortunately this does come with its downsides. Although there are ridges for all the buttons and spaces for your headphones and charger, the buttons (which are covered completely) may as well be completely inaccessible as this is such a hard case it makes turning the volume up and down and an almighty task and even hurts your fingers at time because you have to push with such force. One thing that baffled me right from the start and still baffles me to this day (I've been using the band around 6 months now) is that occasionally I'll want to turn the volume down and with the force that I'm pressing it will actually do the opposite and put pressure on the volume up button which is rather infuriating.
Another problem I've encountered, which perhaps is even more annoying than the accessibility of the buttons is the fact that because this case fits so snugly around the sides of the phone it will get underneath your screen protector and push it up. I wouldn't mind but I have two screen protectors (back and front) and this has happened to both of them which has resulted in me getting rid of the front screen protector altogether and at £7.99 each for the screen protectors I wasn't best pleased.
Despite the fact that this is made for the iPhone 4, as aforementioned the design for the two phones is almost identical, the only difference being the silence switch on the top left has been moved very slightly so a fraction of the case covers the bottom part. Fortunately this doesn't affect the functionality at all.
So, I've gone over the negatives of this band, now for the positives... are there any? Well yes actually there are, if you value style over substance that is, and on this occasion I think I do. I've always liked the look of this band. It's a clear material with an orange strip running all the way around and I've had lots of people comment on it wondering if it's one of Apple's branded cases. The look of this case really does stand out and it doesn't add a lot of bulk to the phone at all despite how substantial the case feels in your hand it is practically weightless.
Despite all the negative press this case has received from yours truly I have actually always liked this case and continue to use it to this day. Through its faults I feel at ease when I have this case on and I feel like no damage will come to my beloved iPhone (I'm not being sarcastic, I really am this dramatic when it comes to my iPhone!). It's hard to say whether I could recommend this case or not, because it can be an infuriating thing, but then at the same time it looks good. I'll let you clever people make your minds up on this one...
Lets face it, Apple are everywhere from iPhones, to iPads and of course the original and possibly the product that started off the revolution - the iPod. Now the iPod has had dozens of incarnations (Touch, Nano, Classic) but what could be more simple than a little device (miniscule infact) without a screen that plays your songs at random and can keep you entertained for hours?
That's exactly what the Shuffle is, there have of course been lots of different Shuffles on the market over the years but it would seem that the Shuffle, more than other iPods is the model that has changed the least. It would seem that simplicity really is key here and even with top of the range models like the iPod Touch and the Nano, Apple continue to market the Shuffle as your basic run of the mill iPod... but is that necessarily a bad thing?
*** Availability ***
Well, no as it would turn out as there are always people out there who have wanted simplicity over something that enables you to fling birds at green pigs and gives you recipe ideas. The Shuffle retails at a very modest and obtainable £40 compared with the Apple juggernaut the Touch which can set you back around £300.
*** In The Box/ Set Up ***
The shuffle comes in a tiny box, only slightly bigger than the device itself but it comes with everything you could need. A pair of white signature Apple earphones (throw these away and go for anything by Dr Dre!), a UBS adapter and a little set up booklet, but to be honest unless you've never used an Apple product before (where have you been the last 10 years?) then you should be fine.
Setting up requires you to plug the USB into your computer/laptop, sync with iTunes and you're pretty much ready to go. All that's needed is the sync some songs and you're well on your way. Speaking of syncing, it's incredibly easy and is basically a drag/drop process. You can create as many play lists as you like, but beware that unlike the shuffles siblings, this isn't able to handle thousands and thousands of songs, as with a modest capacity of just 2GB this iPod will be able to give you a respectable 500.
*** Design ***
The design itself is Apple all over - stylish yet functioning. The iPod shuffle comes in several different colours and is made from a single piece of aluminium polished to a sleek finish and it really does look good compared to the previous rather ugly looking Shuffle models. What looks like a click wheel on the front is actually just buttons and as always, simplicity is the key here. There are volume up and down buttons, next song and previous song buttons (which also work as fast forward/rewind) and the play/pause button situated in the middle. All the buttons are easily pressed and I've never had any problems with them sticking.
On the top you have you usual headphone jack, on/off switch (which also works as a shuffle/continuous play feature) and the new feature which Apple enthusiasts have been foaming at the mouth about is the voice over feature.
There's a clip on the back, which can also be found in the latest iPod Nano which enables you to clip the Shuffle onto your clothing which is especially useful if you're using this at the gym or during any other form of exercise.
Overall the design, as always with Apple is flawless and the only problem which is prevalent in Apple products is its vulnerability. This scratches incredibly easy and it's a good idea to invest in a case to prevent it from those disheartening scratches.
*** Sound Quality ***
The sound quality is fantastic, surprisingly fantastic infact for such a small and relatively cheap device. Of course, changing the earphones from Apples shoddy ones are a good idea and as aforementioned, any Dre Beats products are an excellent investment if you're a big music fan. You get crisp and clear sound quality with a rich bass and, not only does this exceed if you're a mainstream music fan, the sound quality also excels with other genres seemingly with ease.
*** Voice Over ***
This is a brilliant feature, if a little overdue on the Shuffle range, however it seems that Apple prefer to concentrate on their more worthy products (Touch, iPhone, iPad) before eventually getting down the list to their less worthy products.
The voice over feature works with a single button at the top next to the on/off switch. Pressing once will give you the artist and song name, held down will read you your play list menu and pressing twice will inform you of how much battery you have remaining.
As long as you have the song name and artist connected with the song you're listening to (on iTunes it will tell you exactly what's playing) then your little helper with have no trouble informing you of this. It's always clear and concise and works every time and is a great time saver.
*** Battery ***
Apple will tell you that this can cope with around 15 hours battery life and I would be inclined to agree with them. I'm actually quite impressed with the battery life of this little device, I mean sure it doesn't have a screen which sucks up battery life like a Dyson on speed, but at the same time this is only a very little device and it's always been something of a black sheep in Apples arsenal.
*** Overview ***
Overall this is a genuinely impressive device. Ok, so it's not as groundbreaking or as functional as the Touch, but as a secondary iPod for the gym this is a fantastic little device. With a sleek and shiny finish, brilliant sound quality coupled with a something that a monkey could figure out this is definitely worth an investment.
You could say I'm a bit of an Apple enthusiast; from the iPhone, to the iPod Nano, Touch and Shuffle, I've experienced them all and loved them equally - well, maybe not quite equally as the Daddy of them all is the iPhone, to be exact, the new iPhone 4S, which has been hailed as the best smartphone ever made and to be honest, it's rather hard to disagree.
*** Availability ***
Thought I best cut to the chased - these things aren't cheap, but then, would it have the same feeling if they were? Sim free (they aren't available on pay as you go yet) you're looking at anything upwards of £500, depending on what GB you're after. On a monthly contract with 02, anything under around £50 a month and you'll have to pay for the phone which on a 24 month contract works out at a massive amount of money...
... but is it worth it?
*** Setting Up ***
I've always found setting up Apple products to be surprisingly simple, given their reputation of producing some of the most technically sound products on the market. There are new sim cards for the 4S (and I believe the iPhone 4) which are called Micro Sims. These work in the same way that normal sim cards do and are inserted using the little fork type accessory that comes in the iPhone box. Inserting is easy and after turning it on and selecting the usual options (language, etc) all that is required is to plug the USB into your computer/laptop and sync with iTunes.
The great thing I've found as a previous iPhone user is that any apps I had on my old iPhone I've been able to add to my 4S through iTunes which saves you paying for them again.
In the box you'll find all the usual equipment - charger, USB, and a standard pair of Apple earphones (which should be upgraded as soon as possible if you want to get the best out of your music).
*** Home Sweet Home ***
The iPhones interface has no doubt led the way for other smartphones, but there's also no doubting that the iPhones is the most user friendly and intuitive, allowing you to move and delete apps as you please with little to no effort whatsoever.
The touch screen on the iPhone 4S is the best I've experienced on any touch screen. My previous phone was a Samsung Galaxy S and it doesn't even come close to the ingenuity of the iPhone. You're able to scroll through contact names or music within seconds just by flicking your finger up and down the screen and the iPhone is equally quick to react to the slightest touch.
*** Generic Features ***
I thought I best cover the boring bits before I get to the juicy stuff!
The iPhone 4 suffered terribly from reports of call cut outs and other reception issues, however, I've never encountered any problems with the 4S. Infact, if anything the sound clarity on a call is far superior to any phone I've ever used. Calls are always crisp and clear even when there's background noise and I've never had anyone tell me that they're having trouble hearing me during a call.
Making a call and storing contacts is also a doddle and when you've selected their name from your contacts list you're able to select whether you want to message them, send an email, call them or even contact them through FaceTime, using the iPhone not only a pleasure, but hugely time saving too.
Texting is also a pleasure with the iPhone. Thanks to the ingenious touch screen the iPhone picks up every letter and the predictive text is the best I've ever used, it rarely makes mistakes when it comes to what I'm attempting to say. You can text in either landscape or portrait, a lot of people claim that landscape makes it much quicker and easier, but I'm in the minority that likes to use the portrait view. My favourite texting feature has always been the grammar corrector. It inserts apostrophes where needed and starts off with capital letters and full stops. The iPhone really is ingenious even down to the nitty gritty bits.
Email combined with mobiles was something that I never really 'got' until the iPhone came along. It always used to be an uphill struggle to sync your email account with your phone and it's something that I used to give up on before I'd even finished. However, with the 4S you're in good hands. The iPhone requires only your email address and password and then... voila, as if like magic you have access to your email account. It doesn't have to be just one account either. You can sync multiple email accounts, so if you have a work and a home account this is the perfect solution.
*** Say Hello To Your New Best Friend ***
Siri is possibly the most talked about feature of the iPhone 4S. Whether Siri will really find a place in the market is still unknown but for now it seems to be wowing people across the globe. Siri is an automated voice in which you interact with. You can tell it to send a text to 'Steve' and it will compose a text before asking what you'd like to say and it will send it before you even have to lift a finger. It will also make calls for you and you can ask it questions like what the weather forecast is or what time it is in Australia. Siri recognises your voice brilliantly, it knows 90% of the things you say and it's great fun to play around with.
Only time will tell as to whether Siri will find a permanent place in people's everyday lives, but I for one would miss him if he were gone!
*** Say Cheese ***
The camera on the iPhone 4S has been boosted up to 8MP. The iPhone camera has always been something of a downfall, but the 4S has really hit the nail on the head, and with apps to heighten the camera's functionality even more the camera has finally become a force to be reckoned with.
*** iOS5 ***
One of my favourite things about iOS5 is the new notification bar at the top of the page. You can drag this down at any point and it will tell you what the weather is like in your area, any birthdays/reminders that are occurring during that day and will allow you to read and reply to text messages without even having to exit an app to do so.
With multitasking, even if you are required to exit an app, when you go back into it you won't be required to set it all back up as it will immediately pick up where you left off. So even when you're not using it, it just runs quietly in the background without disturbing you. If that's not sheer brilliance I don't know what is!
iOS5 brings improved battery life and this really shows. Even when you have apps running in the background iOS5 makes sure that your battery isn't being drained.
*** Battery Life ***
As I was saying, your battery life has now been improved. I used to get about a day if I was lucky out of my 3GS, but with my 4S I easily get and surpass a day. This way I can play all the apps I want and not have to worry about whether my phone will be out of battery before I make it home.
*** Safari ***
Not much has really changed with Apples mobile internet. Yes, it's still brilliant. It's fast, intuitive and a joy to use. You're able to have multiple pages open at once, zoom in and out on things and generally surf the net just like you would on your laptop.
*** Be Careful! ***
One of the downsides of the iPhone has always been the fear of breaking it. It's such a beautiful device that you'll feel the need to wrap it up in cotton wool to keep it safe. This, fortunately isn't necessary, but finding a good case and screen protector (Phonedevil) is essential. Phonedevil have even brought out back screen protectors for the iPhone 4 and 4S.
*** There's An App For That ***
Yes, there really is. From slinging birds at green pigs to tracking down your friends and even your Apple devices when they're lost, the list of apps really is endless and superb. I've found that Apple apps are a million times better than Android apps in every way possible.
*** iPod ***
The built in iPod is brilliant and just as good as an iPod touch. The sound quality is absolutely superb, better than my previous iPhone (the 3GS) and the sound quality for apps with or without headphones is absolutely sublime. Even with a 16GB iPhone 4S you're able to store a lot of music combined with apps. Although if you're a more hardcore user then I would certainly recommend the 32 or even 64GB models.
*** Stay Safe Out There ***
Even with apps like Find My iPhone, I'd always recommend putting a passcode on your iPhone to keep it secure if it's tampered with or stolen. With the Find My iPhone app you're even able to remotely wipe all of your information from your iPhone if you're 100% that it's been stolen.
*** Overview ***
To sum up, this is undoubtedly 'the' best phone I've ever come into contact with. The list of features is truly endless and it's a pleasure uncovering them all. With its user friendliness combined with its fantastic looks this is a phone that you definitely won't want to miss out on. This is 100% worth the price tag and I'd recommend it to anyone.
Taking care of your health doesn't just include eating healthily and taking lots of exercise; we all want a bright white smile that we can be proud of don't we? The claims of electric toothbrushes have always drawn me in, but it wasn't until a few months back that I got the urge to splurge and take the plunge into the weird and wonderful world of electric toothbrushes, after all wouldn't you rather spend on an electric toothbrush than spend quadruple the amount on painful dental treatment?
Prices vary dramatically depending on where you shop, I bought mine from Boots using a considerable amount of Boots points and a gift voucher so I ended up paying £15 for mine, but the actual cost was £49.99, whereas from Amazon this baby is available for only £28 so it definitely pays to shop around.
I bought this toothbrush because it doesn't claim to be something it's not. It doesn't claim to be the best thing since sliced bread and it doesn't claim to give you a Simon Cowell smile, it cleans your teeth to the best of its ability and that's all I wanted.
The toothbrush is packaged extremely well, too well some would say as it took me a while to get into it but once I was in I had a brief read of the instructions, which tells you more about how to brush your teeth and the benefits than how to use the toothbrush itself (it's really very simple). However, I did experience a few discrepancies with the instructions. The instructions don't just cover the 1000 model, they also cover 2000 and 3000 and unless you read the small print within the instructions you'll be thinking that your toothbrush is an all-singing, all-dancing machine when in actual fact, it's not. Which, even though I knew what I was getting when I bought it, I still felt a little disheartened when I realised that all the other aspects are for the other models and not my own. It almost seems like a way to taunt you that you didn't buy the higher specification!
Having said that, the toothbrush is very easy to use. You're recommended to charge it for 17 hours (!) before being able to use to its full potential. So I patiently left it overnight. Beware though that the plug for this will only fit shaving sockets, luckily I have one of these but leaving the light on for 17 hours didn't seem all that appealing so after scouring the internet, well, Amazon I found a bargain, an adapter for 79p without any delivery charges. During charging the brush will flash green and once it's finished it will switch off altogether so you'll know you're ready to roll!
You'll need to clip on the included brush head which is just as simple as it sounds, you clip it down and you're away. Just like a regular toothbrush you're recommended to replace the brush head every 3 months and this will involve buying replacement brush heads which you can buy packs of, for example a pack of 8 from Amazon will set you back £16.99, which is actually great value considering you only change them every 3 months. You can also purchase specialist brush heads such as Floss Action which are a little more expensive but give this toothbrush a little more depth and variety - think of apps for smartphones.
Using the toothbrush for the first time can be a little strange if you're used to using a manual toothbrush, but bear with it because like L'Oreal say - it's worth it. The vibrating sensation can feel rather weird upon first use and you'll feel like your brain is shaking when brushing your upper teeth and front teeth but it's a feeling that you definitely get used to and not moving your hand as much is also something you'll learn to control after a few tries. You're recommended to cup each tooth from side to side for a few seconds each to really let the toothbrush do its job and don't worry, if you press too hard you'll know about it. There's a red strip situated on the front of the brush which will illuminate if you do brush too hard. The most useful feature though is the time indicator. As I didn't read the instructions too well I assumed that the brush was faulty, however, upon reading them thoroughly I clicked onto the fact that it was just the timer. According to dentists you should spend 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth, equalling 2 minutes in total, therefore after 30 seconds of the toothbrush being in use it will stutter a little to alert you to move onto the next section, a feature which is extremely useful and intuitive and after the entire 2 minutes it will stutter noticeably more to tell you to stop.
Of course beware that you'll need to have the brush in your mouth before you turn it on otherwise the very powerful rotation will leave you with toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror. Unlike the aforementioned smartphones, the charge on this actually does what it says it'll do. It states you'll get a week (7 days) of use for 2 minutes twice a day and that's exactly what you get. The toothbrush will begin to stutter and eventually shut off when it runs out of battery, but once you get used to the pattern of when to charge you'll rarely encounter this problem.
Cleaning is extremely simple. You're instructed that after brushing you need to remove the brush head and rinse thoroughly, not replacing until it's completely dried off, however, when I've been in a hurry I've simply rinsed it under water still attached and it's not done any harm.
When purchasing this you can register the product for a 1 year warranty online (all details in instruction manual) and even though I've had no issues with the reliability of this product whatsoever I still think it's wise to give yourself a little peace of mind when purchasing an expensive product like this.
You've all seen the adverts with the woman with a cheesy grin saying 'wow I can really feel the difference', and we all take it with a pinch of salt, adding the odd tut and swiftly changing the channel. Well I hate to say it, but the irritating woman is right, you really can feel the difference when using this in comparison to your run of the mill manual toothbrush. My teeth feel cleaner and my dentist has noticed a distinct difference. The whitening claims are a little unfounded though as I wouldn't say that they've made a huge amount of difference on that scale but on everything else I'd give this product a 10 out of 10.
Earphones; they're a necessary evil aren't they? I mean, the wires become tangled, they fall out of your ears and sometimes they don't work full stop, however, where would we be without them? Unless you're a 15 year old chav, listening to music through the speakers of your phone is just socially unacceptable, so a pair of earphones are a bare essential in the 21st century, but with the market flooded with so many different brands claiming to achieve all sorts of wonderful feats, it becomes a chore just finding a pair that's right for you. So hopefully I'll be able to help out with the search a little with my experience of the much hyped Beats By Dre earphones.
With hype, comes expense and of course with the Dr Dre name attached to it (if you haven't heard of him, Google him) then you can expect that price to skyrocket until it lands at a catastrophic £179. These headphones can be brought cheaper, but I decided to spend a little more on Littlewoods, my thinking being as there are a lot of fakes on the market (these are easily spotted if you know what you're looking for) and I wanted to know that I was getting the real thing for my money and I also had the option to take out care insurance, which for the price I paid I thought was necessary. After looking online I would be dubious about spending anything less than £80 for a pair of these headphones as the market is currently flooded with fakes.
As soon as these arrived by courier, it was obvious they weren't your standard pair of £9.99 earphones you'll get from Argos. The packaging alone screams quality. They come packaged in a large sturdy box which opens out to give more information on the headphones. The box itself slides out of the cardboard and opens up to reveal the earphones securely wrapped, you also get a bag of different ear buds to enable you to choose which ones are right for you, there's an instruction book, and when I say book, I mean book! It's all pretty simple stuff here, but the way it's presented to you shows the time and effort that's gone into these earphones and it makes you feel like you're getting exactly what you paid for. The packaging also showcases the Beats By Dre trademark colour scheme of black on red, which I thought was a nice touch.
My last pair of earphones were by Sennheiser and I couldn't fault them, they were known as noise isolating earphones and they worked extremely well. These Dre earphones don't have that name tag attached to them (they don't need to with everything else going for them) but don't doubt that they do isolate the noise fantastically well, given you're using the right ear buds for your ears. The Sennheiser also utilised volume control on the wiring, which Dre Beats also do, but I must say they do it with a lot more finesse. There's a little control pad which sits just below your neck when the earphones are in and the volume control works on a flip switch, pressing up turns the volume up, pressing down turns it down, simple enough I'm sure you'll agree. There's also a silver middle button which does a range of different things to varying degrees of success. Pressing it once pauses the songs, which I've had no problems with whatsoever. Pressing it twice will skip to the next song and this is where problems occur. You need to press twice in quick succession otherwise the earphones assume that you're just trying to pause the song and you'll be left wondering when the next song is going to start which will eventually lead to you taking your iPod out of your pocket and doing it manually, completely eliminating the need to use hands free controls in the first place. To be fair though this isn't a major issue and once you get used to pressing the button in quick succession you'll get it right 90% of the time. Pressing it three times will take you back to the previous song, or take you back to the start of the song you're listening to if it's been playing more than a few seconds. A handy little feature which again encounters the same issue that the skip feature does, although I tend not to use this feature all that much.
Beats by Dre also work as a hands free kit when plugged into your phone. The microphones is situated where the volume controls are, which as aforementioned lay just below your neck (the ideal place for this feature) and to answer a call you just press the pause button and the nifty little feature actually works extremely well with both parties able to hear each other very well. Of course if you're in a noisy atmosphere this does affect the quality of the conversion, but overall everything is crisp and clear.
The hands free feature isn't something that's utilised an awful lot in my case though as I use these earphones in conjunction with my iPod Touch 4th Generation. On the box it states that the product is suitable for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad, no mention of the iPod Nano or Classic or indeed any other phone/MP3 player. Well I can't profess to have used it with a Nano or Classic, however I have used it with my Samsung Galaxy S and it's worked perfectly well, so I would assume it'd work with most phones/MP3 players which utilise the standard headphone jack, although I would steer on the side of caution as where I bought these from (Littlewoods) they made it clear to me that the product is non-returnable unless faulty.
These come with a standard cable length, enabling the user to place their iPod into a pocket or even into a bag without any pull on the wire. There is a little clip included in the box which attaches to the wire and then clips onto clothing or a bag strap to stop them being pulled from your ears which can otherwise happen as these do seem slightly more weighty than your average pair of earphones. Since arriving I've changed the ear buds for a pair that slot into my ear canal and they're actually very comfortable and stay in place more than the standard buds do. I've been out walking when it's been very windy and these will remain in place and they're also perfectly suited to exercise. One of the best but most simple features regarding these earphones is that they're tangle free, due to the material used for the wiring even if they do become tangled they will easily slide back into place with minimal effort.
Of course the most important factor regarding a pair of earphones is the sound quality and these don't disappoint, they're definitely better than my former pair of Sennheisers but do they live up to the hype surrounding them? Maybe not. When advertised you see a clip of Dr Dre claiming that when you listen to music via earphones you don't really hear everything, however the Beats earphones allow you to hear everything. Well, to be honest I'm not hearing anything that I didn't hear before through previous earphones but I am hearing what I heard before at an elevated level. The bass on these is fantastic and even at a low volume the bass really shines through and impresses everytime. Everything heard is clear and crisp with these earphones and I really cannot fault the sound quality (even if there is a little bit of false advertising thrown in there). Sound doesn't escape from these earphones either which is a feature I always like to have if I'm listening to bit of Britney or Take That and I'd rather people around me weren't aware of it!
Last but not least has to be the styling of these. A few years back Apple came out with the white earphones which defined a generation, the white cable told people that you had an iPod and that you were automatically 'cool'. Nowadays the red cable of the Beats earphones is the new style icon in the music industry. You'll see them in music videos of the huge stars (Bad Meets Evil) and this of course has echoed down onto the high street, with these now being the must have musical accessory.
If you love music, you'll love Beats By Dre.
I love Apple products, always have and always will and even when I've got one, I'm always on the lookout for the next. That's why after owning a 6th Gen iPod Nano for about 4 months, I decided to sell it and buy the most recent 4th Gen iPod Touch. It was of course a little more on the pricey side but I don't regret it one bit...
Want to know why?
*** Availability ***
Well before I get to the interesting bits, let me just run through the formalities. There are several different versions of the iPod Touch that you can invest in, and of course several different memory capacities. I was interested in buying the 16GB, but it would seem (correct me if I'm wrong) that Apple have stopped making 16GB Touch's and decided to focus on 8GB, 32GB and 64GB. 8GB, personally wasn't big enough for my music collection and apps and 64GB was too big (and expensive), so, like Goldilocks herself I found myself with a 32GB which set me back a staggering £249.99. This was from Amazon and I can now see that the price has dropped by around £30, but still expensive in anyone's book. If Amazon isn't your thing then the Touch is available from a range of on and offline stores to suit you.
*** Setting Up ***
After previously owning an iPhone, I was already familiar with the setting up process for Apple branded products. The iPod Touch is so much simpler though. Simply plug it into your computer or your laptop using the provided USB and iTunes will automatically appear on the screen. All that's left for you do to is register the product (which is a lot easier that it sounds) and involves you entering your Apple ID (your email address and password you use to download songs/apps, if you don't already have one it takes 2 minutes to get one). So that was that, then all that's left to do is to sit back and enjoy your favourite new gadget.
*** Ease Of Use/Touch Screen ***
... and enjoy I did. Despite being used to the 'Apple way of thinking' the Touch is still incredibly easy to get the hang of and within 5 minutes you'll be whizzing around its features like its second nature. To start with, the touch screen is fantastic. The iPhone is quick, but the Touch I personally think is even quicker. I don't know about all the technical jargon, but word on the street (Amazon) is that this new generation iPod has a lightening fast processor which previous generations didn't. The touch screen is incredibly responsive and whether you're surfing the net or just scrolling through your list of music, it's an absolute pleasure to use.
What I love about Apple is that you expect their products to be extremely complicated given the complexity of them, however, they're quite the opposite and that really surprise people. Apple once again keep things simple with the Touch with the home screen showcasing everything you'd want it to, with all the essentials only a touch away. The clarity of the screen has to be mentioned too. I was an iPhone 3GS user and the 4th Gen touch knocks that out of the park. It seems to be on par with the iPhone 4, which has the highest resolution screen for a phone, ever and judging by the iPod Touch I completely agree. It's absolutely breathtaking, colours are sharper and more vibrant than I've seen on any music device before. All I can say is, well done Apple!
*** Music ***
This is why you bought it in the first place, right? So lets get down to business. I'd like to just say that it's fantastic in every way possible, but I know that you probably want a little more than that so here goes.
Syncing your music with your iPod couldn't be easier, however, if you've got a lot of music to sync at once (like the first time you use it) you may need to leave it for a while as it becomes a lengthy process. I added almost 2000 songs at once to begin with and had to leave it alone for around 20 minutes, but wow was it worth it!
The sound quality is absolutely fantastic on this device, but then again this will be partly down to which headphones or earphones you use. I've used this device with both Sennheiser and Beats By Dre earphones and the sound quality is undeniably fantastic, even with the standard Apple earphones the sound quality is good. The device lets you raise the volume extremely loud, which although a nice feature isn't entirely necessary and I tend to have the volume lying half way most of the time.
Before you dash out to buy one... I'm not quite finished, as it's not just the sound quality which elevates this device. The way in which you listen to your music is brilliant too. Flicking through your music is incredibly easy and once you select a song to listen to the cover art for that song/album will appear on screen and tilting the device to the side allows you to flick through artists using their pictures instead of writing. It's not something I use a lot as I find the conventional method quicker but it's definitely an aesthetically pleasing little plus.
Like most iPods you can sort through your music with playlists (you can sync all of your playlists from iTunes) you can use albums, artists or just song titles and they're all in alphabetical order making it easy to search. If you have a lot of music on your device then scrolling through your music may not be the quickest way of finding something, therefore it may be easier to use the letters on the right hand side which take you to an individual letter, making finding a certain song a lot less time consuming.
*** There's An App For That ***
Yes, there certainly is and if there isn't, you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple are in the process of creating it. There are thousands of apps that you can download and play/use on your iPod the possibilities are endless (do I sound like a walking advertisement for Apple?). What's great is if you have or have ever had an iPhone you can easily transfer all your apps to your iPod Touch at no extra cost.
*** Say Cheese ***
A new feature for this iPod is two cameras meaning that you can utilise the FaceTime app which comes preinstalled on this iPod. FaceTime is basically just Skype, but a mobile version and works well, but is a lesser used feature on my iPod. The camera is superb though, it's HD and every shot comes out vibrant and crisp whether it's outdoors or indoors and of course these can be transferred to your computer for you to save.
*** It's A Safari Out There ***
Safari is the equivalent of Internet Explorer and it works absolutely brilliantly on the iPod Touch. You will of course need a Wi-Fi connection to surf the internet (which is just one more excuse as to why you should pop in for a drink at Wetherspoons!). Wi-Fi connectivity is a fantastic little inclusion with this iPod and it's very easy to use as I've had some traumatising experiences trying to connect to Wi-Fi with other devices over the years! It connects straight away and you're free to surf the net for as long as you wish.
*** Aesthetics ***
There's no denying that the Touch is a very attractive device, especially since it lost some weight a couple of years ago. The silver back makes it even more attractive and it doesn't clash with the black front. The back is very easily scratched though so I would suggest getting a case on it straight away and of course a screen protector for the screen. The layout of the iPod is good, if a little flawed. The on/off button at the top is on the slant, so if you're utilising a case it can be a little difficult to get to and the same goes for the volume keys on the left hand side, apart from that I don't have any complaints whatsoever.
*** Battery Life ***
The iPhone has a bad reputation for being a battery guzzler and a lot of people (including myself) have thought that the iPod Touch would continue that trend, however, it's the exact opposite. I use my iPod on a daily basis for around 2 hours a day mainly listening to music with a few apps thrown in for good measure and I can go around 5 to 6 days without having to charge the device and that, compared to the iPhone is absolutely superb.
*** Overview ***
To be honest, I've only just scratched the surface of what this device can do, as the list really is endless and unless you want to read 10,000 words of me babbling on then I think I'll bring this to a close now. All I can say is that there really are no negatives with this device whatsoever. I love it, absolutely love it and I'm sure you will too.
*** Farewell iPhone ***
I was an iPhone convert, I was all about the iPhone, the iPod, well basically anything with a lower case 'i' in front of it. Infact, when my 18 month contract came to its conclusion recently, I was certain that I wanted to sit it out and wait for the iPhone 5 to be released, however, I started to become more and more aware of the Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung's leading smart phone, recently voted phone of the year. So after a lot of deliberation and after being wowed by the salesman in the shop, I was hooked and decided to take out a new 24 month contract with T Mobile.
*** Availability ***
I managed to bag the phone free, however, I've found myself tied to a 24 month contract which I can upgrade after 18 months. For this I receive 900 minutes, unlimited texts (actually 3500) and unlimited internet (1GB) for £35 a month, so all in all it's actually a pretty good deal. Coupled with two months of free insurance, which afterwards costs £8 a month, I was rather happy when I walked out of the shop.
I would recommend a contract phone, although if you're not 100% sure how much you'll use it, it may be wise to go for pay as you go, in which case you'll need to pay for the phone outright which will set you back around the £400 mark.
*** First Impressions ***
The first thing you'll notice about the Galaxy S is the clarity of the screen. After owning an iPhone 3GS and thinking it was the best thing since sliced bread I now see why people have been raving about the Samsung alternative. The screen is Super Amoled, which is laymen terms means it has a brighter/more responsive screen that deflects sunlight and uses less power - what's not to like?
In the box you'll get all the usual kit - charger, USB, battery etc, however, I was surprised to find that there weren't any headphones included, which isn't much of an issue as I probably wouldn't have used them anyway, but for what they're charging me you'd think they could throw in a cheap pair of headphones.
Apple - 1
Samsung - 0
*** Setting Up ***
Setting up is simple, a lot more simple than the iPhone as it doesn't require to be set up via a laptop or computer. It's just the generic setting up process that we're all used to, but as it's a smartphone it eliminates some of the menial jobs (setting the time and date). If you want to use your phone in conjunction with your computer, you'll need to visit the Samsung Mobile website and download Kies, which is Samsung's alternative to iTunes and just as easy to use.
*** Touch Screen/Texting ***
Arguably the most important factor when considering a touch screen phone is the touch screen itself and I have to say there are no issues whatsoever. Everything is fantastically responsive and moves with the lightest touch. Scrolling is a doddle, simply drag your finger down the screen at your own speed and watch your phone do the rest of the work.
Texting will take a bit of time to get used to, the phone doesn't show much initiative when typing, unlike the iPhone that knew exactly what you were going to say before you did. I was disappointed to find that the predictive text was very mediocre and something you'd expect on a phone from 5 years ago. It doesn't add in apostrophes where they should be, that's left to you to go through the process of adding them in. I say this, but once you're used to the Samsung way of texting you will eventually find yourself typing away like a pro. I find it easier to type in landscape mode and flipping the phone on its side will put you in this view immediately.
*** Camera ***
With a 5MP camera under its belt, this phone isn't quite up to scratch with some smartphones which boast an 8 or even 10MP camera, but the Galaxy undoubtedly makes the most of what its got, with the fantastic screen quality elevating each picture. You wouldn't tell that pictures from this phone, were infact pictures from this phone, you'd assume they were taken on a digital camera with a high spec. It's the auto focus that really impressed me. Most cameras have facial recognition these days, but the Samsung takes it to another level, allowing you to decide where you want to focus, meaning you can tap anywhere on the screen and the camera will focus in on that point, ensuring that even if the phone is moved in the process of taking the picture, that focus point won't emerge blurry.
*** Internet ***
In a word - fantastic. Better than the iPhone you say? Yes! On every possible level. This is like using a laptop, it's fast, it's responsive and it has a much more professional and elegant feel to it, because of the screen size and clarity, in comparison with the iPhone where, although good, it feels decidedly more amateur. The internet browser (run by Google - go figure) makes full use of the 4inch screen, without an options bar at the bottom the screen looks so much bigger whilst browsing the internet. It's a good idea to download an anti virus app (free) which will scan everything you download and protect you from any nasties while using the internet on your phone.
*** Calling ***
Making a call is simple enough, but when it comes to the sound quality it leaves much to be desired. The sound quality is often muffled and hard to hear and this makes it rather difficult to make a call anywhere apart from in a quiet area. Don't get me wrong, with the volume turned up, you can hear enough to make a call outside, but still the clarity isn't great and I was rather disappointed. The positives do outweigh the negatives in regards to this phone, but surely being the most basic feature of a phone and given how far phones have come along, getting it right isn't too much to ask is it?
*** Brain Box ***
This phone is constantly thinking of me and my needs and while doing this, it knows that I don't want the majority of the screen clogged up with unread messages, missed calls, emails and app alerts (yes I'm very popular!), so it keeps them in a tidy little space at the top of the phone. This bar at the top hides away unnoticed a lot of the time, but when you need it, you can drag it down to see all your new notifications, which I think has to be my favourite aspect to this fantastic phone.
*** Music/Memory ***
This phone comes in various different memory capacities - I opted for the 8GB for the sheer fact that I knew that a memory card could be installed. This idea, although a good one seems a little dated to me, but nevertheless I bought an 8GB memory card to bump my capacity up to 16GB and I'm glad I did, which ties in nicely with my next point - the music player...
I wasn't expecting to use it much, as I already had an iPod Nano 6G which I loved, but the music player is actually fantastic and the sound quality definitely redeems the poor clarity of calls. The music player organises your songs into alphabetical order, by artist or by album and there's also a shuffle option. Playing music does drain the battery at a shockingly fast pace, but I like it so much that I actually sold my iPod Nano. There are (free) apps you can download which you can download music from (again, for free) which are directed automatically to your music player. This is all above board and utterly superb.
*** There's A World Out There... ***
I thought the Apple 'app' store couldn't beaten, I now know that it can. The Android Market Place (the app store alternative) is easy to use and best of all, the majority of apps are free, unlike the app store where the only decent ones you had to pay for. I've downloaded many of the 'paid for apps' from Apple that you can download for free from Android (Angry Birds, Whatsapp). What also surprised me was the speed in which the apps are downloaded. The apps from Apple could take minutes at a time, even when connected to WI-FI, but the Galaxy downloads apps in seconds and that's without a WI-FI connection.
*** Battery Life ***
This is a big thing for iPhone users as the battery is very poor indeed and I wish I could tell you that Samsung had upped the ante with their Galaxy, but unfortunately it's much the same. I find myself charging mine every night, but I am an avid texter, caller, internet user and music listener so if you don't use it as much as me you may get two to three days out of it.
*** Styling/Security ***
This is a very nice looking handset. I didn't think anything could surpass the iPhone in terms of styling, but I think we may have a front runner in the Galaxy. First of all it's noticeably bigger and it looks a little bit more modern than the iPhone. I must say that I was never really drawn to this phone, because I had only ever seen pictures of it, which make the phone look very dated and generic. You really need to see this phone up close to appreciate it. It's a gorgeous bit of kit.
I always like to protect my gadgets, whether it be with a case and screen protector (which I had thrown in free for buying the phone), or with pin codes and passwords. This phone enables a pin code to be put on the sim for when turning on and for the phone itself there's the option which is one of the best things about this phone. You can either set a passcode or password, or, and here comes the ingenious bit, you can draw a pattern to allow access instead. I, of course went for the pattern and it's an excellent way of gaining access to your phone without having to remember a code.
*** Overview ***
To sum up I really cannot fault this phone in any major way. Yes the sound quality could be better and texting could be a little bit more intuitive, but really these are minor flaws that you eventually learn to live with and in return you get a fantastic handset, with ingenious little features, which I believe are unique to Samsung phones. The tool bar alone is a fantastic inclusion and the music player just tops it off nicely.
Well done Samsung.
Rihanna - what can be said about this 23 year old Barbadian that hasn't already been said? Through her undeniable talent, unique sense of style and turbulent personal life, Rihanna has undoubtedly become one of the biggest names on the planet. Since her debut way back in 2005, the young Rihanna has massed up sales of 45 million singles and with the release of album number 5, that trend doesn't seem to be slowing.
What's My Name
Cheers (Drink To That)
Only Girl (In The World)
California King Bed
Love The Way You Lie (Part 2)
The album kicks off in a big way, with S&M. This is pure and cheesy electro pop and I defy anyone not to like this after a couple of listens. Yes it's repetitive, yes it's auto-tuned beyond recognition, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the catchiest tracks on the album and the most club friendly. A lot of it isn't exactly what you could call 'radio friendly', with the title suggesting most of this already, but nonetheless it's a different and undoubtedly more grown up Rihanna from her days of singing about umbrellas and breaking dishes. Thing is though, despite the songs undeniable catchiness, I fear that Rihanna finds herself making a living from her reputation these days, with anything she releases a sure fire hit.
That said, Loud is definitely a step away from the dark and arguably superior Rated R. She's been down the teenage pop princess route, she's been a sultry R&B diva and now it would seem she wants to conquer the early 20s clubbers market. What strikes me though is that Rihanna strives to change her route through each album, which shows that she's not satisfied just accomplishing one genre, this girl is set for world domination (think Lady Gaga without the male anatomy!). Rihanna is frequently compared to Beyonce, however Beyonce has, even since her Destiny's Child days been set in her own comfort zone and stuck to that (to her credit), whereas it would seem either Rihanna does indeed want to take over the world, or she hasn't quite found her niche yet, either way audiences seem to lap it up.
Some artists are multitalented - they sing, they dance, they write, they act and they even like to release a fragrance or two in the process. Rihanna, albeit extremely talented, has no input into this, or any other albums whatsoever. It would seem that Rihanna is almost just the 'pretty face' chosen to sing someone else's songs. Rihanna of course does every song justice and despite her slightly nasally tone her voice is entirely infectious, it is a little disappointing that you're not getting to know the real girl. Production wise everything flows relatively well, although there's a definite change in pace around half way through, where the album shifts, not just in genre, but also in quality, the first half being far superior to the latter and it's a shame they couldn't mix things up a little to make the wavering quality a little less prevalent.
Single wise, the first two are the best on the album, without doubt, with S&M coming a close third. Only Girl In The World, was our first introduction to Rihanna's Loud era and what an introduction. From the moment this song starts it grabs you and although the trance sound isn't one that Rihanna is particularly familiar with she pulls it off with an enormous amount of confidence and style, enough to rocket it to number one in the UK late last year. What's My Name takes Rihanna back to her R&B roots for an infectious duet with fairly new rapper, Drake, who compliments the song to perfection. This is my favourite song from the album and despite being several months since its release, still sounds fresh on every listen.
Speaking of duets, there are a couple here, not only is newcomer Drake featured here, but one of my favourite new artists Nicki Minaj features too. Rihanna also features on Nicki Minaj's album and in my opinion it's a far superior song to Rihanna's Raining Men. Rihanna could almost be accused of rapping and when Nicki Minaj eventually comes in she blows Rihanna out of the water. The song itself is bland at best, it's affable enough, but nowhere one of the stand out tracks. The highlight is Nicki Minaj's rap, which is disappointing considering that this is a Rihanna track. Final duet comes in the form of the king of hip hop himself (despite what Lil Wayne claims) Eminem. Love The Way You Lie, featured on Eminem's Recovery album was the standout for many reasons and was definitely his best track for years. Similar to the sizzling duet between Jay Z and Alicia Keys, Empire State Of Mind, Love The Way You Lie has been remixed to feature Rihanna on lead vocals, with Eminem contributing a verse near the end. Unfortunately with Eminem taking a backseat this song is bland, it was his heartfelt and emotional lyrics and tone that made this song work - Rihanna simply sounds bored. It does perk up when Eminem pops in towards the end, but unfortunately it isn't enough to rescue this sinking ship and I doubt it will have the huge impact that Alicia Key's remix had.
Another of my favourite tracks on the album is Fading, which, although isn't one that'll be noticed straight away because it's really just a mid-tempo R&B number and doesn't have the finesse that What's My Name or S&M possess. However, this song harbours something special for me and reflects back to the old Rihanna and her Good Girl Gone Bad era. Ballad wise, we have California King Bed (ridiculous name I know), unfortunately the song is rather 'meh' and definitely not the Rihanna we know and love. This girl can do an R&B ballad (Unfaithful, Take A Bow), but sadly this just doesn't reflect her previous work.
The worst track on the album is Man Down. What were they thinking including this? It's a reggae inspired number where Rihanna sings in a ridiculously irritating accent about shooting a man dead in Central Station. Appropriate! Skin and Complicated are only vaguely better unfortunately.
Overall this is a highly unbalanced album that doesn't reflect Rihanna's real abilities and with the only really good songs already having been released as singles it'll be interesting as to what she chooses next. Rihanna can and has done much, much better.
A disappointing effort.
We all love music don't we? But without a good set of earphones or headphones to listen to it on, it can be a little like attempting to mow the lawn with a pair of scissors - you just don't get the desired affect unless you shell out for the real thing. After being blinded for years by Apple's attractive, yet fundamentally useless branded earphones, I finally saw the light when I invested in a pair of Sennheiser earphones, the CX 500 to be exact and believe me when I say this - they're the real deal!
So, after hearing so much about Sennheiser earphones, I decided to invest in a pair. I didn't want the bog standard £14.99 pair, nor did I fancy shelling out £70 for a top of the range set. I wanted something midrange with a good reputation and the CX 500 seemed like just the thing.
I paid £26.99 for my CX 500s and I don't regret a single penny. I purchased them from Amazon from an independent seller and including delivery it came to an even £30. Once delivered the earphones come in an attractive, yet almost impossible to get into package that I was forced to dismantle with a pair of scissors, but once in I was immediately impressed by the style of the Sennheisers. They come with an eye-catching carry case, branded with the company logo and an abundance of extra ear buds to suit any user. There's a clip included, which I never bothered with at first, but after experiencing the chord being pulled while walking with the earphones in, I swiftly decided the clip was necessary to give the chord some much needed leeway.
The earphones, aren't just your bog standard earphones, oh no - if I may elaborate, these earphones are actually noise isolating canal earphones with volume control, bit of a mouthful but well worth it. It's not just a fancy name tag used to entice unsuspecting members of the public either, Sennheiser are actually true to their word. Once inserted into the ear canal, these earphones really are noise isolating. If you're out and about they really do drown out the traffic noise and any other annoyances which disrupt your musical enjoyment. With the music on (at a certain volume) you'll be hard pressed to hear anything other than what you're listening to, and with the music off any noise around you will be significantly reduced, so even if you're just looking for a little peace and quiet, these could certainly come to your rescue. The extra ear buds come in handy as different people will require different sizes. The earphones come packaged with a standard size, however, if you do feel the need to change them it comes at no great difficultly. Unfortunately, with a lack of instructions included in the packaging I had to figure out how to do this for myself, but it is incredibly simple. The ear buds simply lift off the end to enable another set to be fitted, these are simply pushed down and slotted into place below the ridge of the buds - simples.
The noise isolating element wasn't the only thing that attracted me to these earphones. I specially wanted earphones with built in volume controls. Being the owner of a 6th generation iPod Nano it can be a little difficult to find the volume controls when you need them, so the inbuilt volume controls on the Sennheiser earphones are a Godsend. For these to work to their full potential, the volume on your music device needs to be at its highest, this enables the earphones to cover the full volume spectrum (if the device volume is only at 50% the earphones will only be turned up to 50%). Full volume enables the earphones to be turned up to a higher volume than your music device will actually allow, and although I rarely make use of this feature (the earphones are extremely effective at only 50% volume) it's still a handy feature to have if the necessary does occur. The volume control is situated about half way down the chord and is a simple slider, but the slightest touch makes a big difference, so if you don't fancy losing your hearing make sure you're gentle with it!
The ear buds sit perfectly in my ear canal and are extremely comfortable, so much so that you'll barely notice them there. They rarely fall out unless they become tangled or are pulled down by your clothing, but, as aforementioned, the included clip will eliminate this problem. I've found them to suit exercise perfectly too and although the over-the-ear style seems to suit a lot of fitness freaks these days, I've found the CX 500s to be perfectly adequate for the job and even during strenuous exercise (running at fast pace) they stay perfectly in place, which is probably what impressed me the most with this pair.
The chord is perfectly suitable for any regular user. I tend to have my iPod in my trouser pocket while it's in use and there's still excess wire, but not so much that you find yourself tucking it into your pocket. A lot of people like to wrap one earphone round their neck and this is what I found myself doing with my Apple earphones, however, the Sennheisers don't allow for this, nor is it an issue. These earphones simply go into your ears and lead directly down, allowing for the cable to be placed under clothes and into a pocket if necessary and I've never been faced with any issues regarding this.
I seem to have forgotten something - oh yes, the sound quality, which, by the way is superb. This is by far the best set of earphones I've ever used. They offer a rich bass and are perfect for any sort of music. I never find myself struggling to hear anything, either lyrics or music and I have never experienced any distortion. The volume levels are fantastic, ranging from barely there to, if listened to for more than 30 seconds your head will explode. The noise isolation doesn't just apply to you the listener though. Have you ever been on a train or a public place where someone is playing their music so loud you're able to make out the artist, song title and every word they're singing? Well I have and it's very annoying (especially if we don't share the same musical tastes). These earphones have eliminated that problem altogether. Unless you have the earphones at 100% volume, which is so loud there is no need for anyone to utilise this, then anybody on the outside will never be able to hear what you're listening to, which is not only nice for the people around you, but if you happen to have embarrassing taste in music (myself excluded of course!) then this saves you from any strange looks from onlookers. So any Goths with a passion for Girls Aloud - these are definitely for you!
Have a passion for music? These are definitely worth investing in.
Jessica Cornish, or Jessie J as you may know her, has recently experienced an unprecedented rise to fame within only the last 6 months and with a number one single and a number two album under her belt already, the future is looking bright for the 22 year old Londoner.
Jessie is another in a long line of stars who first found fame writing songs for other people (Party In The USA for Miley Cyrus being her biggest success, but best to ignore that blip!) and her YouTube videos had already garnered her a considerable fan base, so after releasing her debut single Do It Like A Dude and winning the Critics Choice Award (previously won by Ellie Goulding and Adele) Jessie J looked set to make a huge impact on the UK music scene... and hasn't she just?
Big White Room (live)
Casualty Of Love
Who's Laughing Now
Do It Like A Dude
Mamma Knows Best
I Need This
Who You Are
As aforementioned, debut single Do It Like A Dude made a big impact on the charts, peaking at number two. The song, originally written by Jessie for Rihanna is a nasty R&B number, that wouldn't have looked out of place on Christina Aguilera's 'Stripped' album during her 'Dirrty' days. The song, with its coarse lyrics and sexual innuendo had people hooked from the very beginning. This songs stomping beat hits you like a freight train and once you're caught in its clutches, much like a Black Widow, it won't let you go. This song come with a massive dose of attitude, perfectly suited to today's music scene and, although you may not like it, you've definitely heard of it. Second single, and Jessie's first number one, Price Tag takes audiences down a completely different, and much more mellow route than Do It Like A Dude. Not as instantly appealing, Price Tag shows Jessie's ability to produce a much more 'real' sound about something largely prevalent in today's society - money. The song features rapper B.O.B who's voice blends with the music like a cocktail on a summers day. For me, Price Tag doesn't have the long term appeal of Do It Like A Dude, but it's a catchy number all the same and one that is bound to win Jessie more fans, for the people who weren't keen on her 'Marmite' first single.
Rumoured as the third single from the album, Casualty Of Love, once again gives listeners a different side to Jessie; we've gone from downright raunchy (Do It Like A Dude), to a mellowed R&B sound (Price Tag), right down to a ballad. It would seem that Jessie J is doing her best to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible, judging by the three lead singles and on their merits alone she's definitely achieving this. Casualty Of Love is a mild-mannered, mid-tempo number in which we see a softer side to Jessie's persona that suits her vocal range down to the ground. There are a couple of 'ballad' numbers on the album, some better than others. Big White Room being the first, the listener is treated to the live version. I'm never too keen on live versions as it is, although the sound quality of this one is very good and fortunately the audience don't drown out the song. To me the only way to sum up the song is - dull. After several listens it isn't one that I've been able to latch onto. This is Jessie and a guitar, which, although her vocals shine, just isn't enough for me to enjoy it and this is the one song that I will skip passed. The last of the three 'ballads' is the title track Who You Are and before I even go into details about this song, let me just say... wow! Who You Are is utterly sublime and along with Adele's 'Someone Like You' is undoubtedly my favourite song of the year so far. This song appeared on the Step Up 3D soundtrack. The lyrics are equally transcendent "don't lose who you are/in the blur of the stars/seeing is deceiving/dreaming is believing". This song has an emotional subtlety that I would never have expected from Jessie J after hearing her first two singles. This is without doubt and without exception the best song on this album and is one that will remain on my iPod playlist for a long time to come.
There are a couple of affable R&B/pop numbers in amongst the pack, Rainbow and Who's Laughing Now being my personal favourites, with the latter sounding like it could have been sung by Billie Piper in the late 90s, the cheese factor up to an undeniable 100% here, but with Jessie's bravado it works and it works damn well. Unfortunately a lot of the songs seem to be filler. Don't get me wrong, I like them, but with the exception of a few songs there's nothing really stand out about a lot of them. Stand Up and Nobody's Perfect, blend in with the overall tone of this album, with L.O.V.E adding a quirky take on the modern love song, with the occasional profanity thrown in for good measure.
Quirky definitely seems to be key here. Although Jessie seems to be experimenting with different styles, it's that eccentric R&B edge that defines this album and to be honest I wouldn't have it any other way. Jessie knows where she wants to be and knows where her strengths lie. She's co-written all the tracks on this album and it's clear for everyone to see that she's a fantastic song writer, with the majority of the songs on the album very personal to her, but with that mischievous edge on the side that tells you not to take her too seriously. She's worked with a select few producers, who have produced the album to give it a coherent feeling. Even with the mix in genres the album flows seamlessly from track to track and that's what really stands out here.
Justin Timberlake recently described Jessie J as having the best voice in the world right now and for all the doubters, download 'Mamma Knows Best' and sit revelling in disbelieve as this girl can sing. Her vocal range is incrediblyeand Jessie J's voice and style is unique on every level. Mamma Knows Best gives us yet another side to Jessie that I wasn't expecting and this song blew me away. This is a blues/jazz number and although it's not the type of music that you'd expect or associate with Miss J, it works supremely well. Jessie's vocals seem capable of fitting any genre and this is something that the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna could only dream of.
Jessie, not only has the vocals to set her apart from the rest, she seems to have something that a lot of artists lack these days (Leona Lewis take note), she has a personality. She's an average girl, with average looks and a huge talent and if anyone has seen her YouTube videos before she 'made it' or interviews post stardom, there seems to be no difference. She's down to Earth, with a unique sense of style (Lady Gaga, but with a brain) and I simply can't fault her.
She's definitely a 'Marmite' kind of artist, but I love her and I'm not afraid to say it.
The iPod has changed several times over the years, from the Classic, the Shuffle and the Touch, but none more so recently than the iPod Nano, which has changed so dramatically since its first incarnation you'd barely recognise it. Infact, people have often mistaken it for an iPod Shuffle, but don't be fooled people, this is no Shuffle. It's much, much more than that...
The only iPods I've ever owned have been Nanos, although I have had experience with the Touch, being an iPhone user, I found it decidedly pointless to invest in a Touch, when it houses everything that an iPhone does, with a little less finesse. No, the Nano is definitely for me, its slim, sleek looks have me hooked everytime. The 6th incarnation of the Nano wasn't something I was immediately taken with though and it took me some time to come around to the idea of the much more compact Nano, but once I did, I was once again putty in Apple's hands.
*** Availability ***
The Nano is widely available in electric stores and online stores alike, the cheapest I managed to find it though was from Amazon, where for around £120 (depending on what colour you buy), you can pick up an 8GB, or for £150, (again, depending on colour), you can bag yourself the 16GB and with a lot of music to play, I went for the 16GB.
*** Setting Up ***
In the box (the box is as small as the iPod by the way), you'll find a pair of earphones (the dreaded Apple branded earphones), a USB cable and a little manual. The manual, to be fair, isn't actually much of a manual, it's more an advertisement as to what this iPod can do (why you'd need to advertise to someone who's already bought the product is beyond me, but hey ho), if you want something a little more comprehensive, you'll need to visit the Apple website.
Anyone who's ever owned an iPod will be pretty familiar with the setting up process as it has changed very little over the years. If, however, you're not familiar, it is incredibly simple and will require you to download iTunes (if you haven't already got it) and then you'll need to register your iPod using your name, address, phone number and email address. It really is that simple and from here on you're able to download and sync all your favourite music to your new beloved iPod and away you go.
*** Touch Screen ***
The biggest change concerning the Nano is of course the addition of a touch screen - come on, it was bound to happen eventually. Given the fantastic touch screen on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the Nano had a lot to live up to here and luckily it lives up to expectations. Everything is situated on the screen the way apps are on the iPhone and iPod Touch, with just 4 to a page. To reach the others, you'll need to swipe your finger across the screen. The screen is just as responsive as the iPhone and I was very impressed by it.
There is a downside to it though. It can make scrolling through your music collection a rather strenuous task, due to the size of the screen there's not much room for you to swipe your finger, so you never really get that far down the list and if you have a considerable number of songs of your iPod this can become a very tiring task. Of course, on the right hand side you've got the letters to which you can choose the first letter, in which to bypass the infuriating scrolling.
With only three buttons on the touch (hold, volume up/down), everything else is left to your touch. To go back you have to swipe your finger to the right, but of course you need to swipe in the right place. The lack of Apple's distinctive and legendary 'click-wheel' really makes a difference here, of course technology was bound to find something more 'up-to-date', but does style over substance always have to be the case? The click-wheel was fantastic for many reasons, one of them being that you didn't necessarily have to look at the iPod to know exactly what you were doing. I was able to flick through songs and adjust the volume with the iPod safely in my pocket, however, I am now forced to remove it and press the hold button to reactivate the touch screen before I am able to do such activities. Yes this can be a pain, but it's not the end of the world and you do adjust to it pretty quickly.
*** Functionality ***
Despite the downsides of the touch screen, the Nano does function well and as some people would say "it does exactly what it says on the tin". The hold button, just like on the iPhone is there to turn the phone, on/off, reactivate the screen and of course deactivate the screen. What I personally don't like is the fact that if you leave the screen untouched for a certain period of time (I'm unsure how long), it will automatically lock. This wouldn't be a problem if there was somewhere in the settings menu that you could go to alter this but there isn't and it becomes a pain having to press the hold button every single time you want to change a song. The touch screen works from the heat on your fingers, so leaving it in your pocket or your bag really isn't going to do anything untoward. The iPhone has the option to change this, so it's a shame the Nano doesn't.
That said, the buttons aren't stiff to press and the device is so small that it's really not difficult to reach around and press them. What did surprise me though, was the fact that you're unable to adjust the volume using the touch screen. When I bought the iPod, knowing full well that there were manual volume controls on the top of the device, I still (wrongly) assumed that you'd be able to adjust the volume using the touch screen too. This, however, isn't the case. Also, due to the size of the screen, Apple have had to condense what information is shown on it and whilst playing a song this has been stripped to the bare minimum. Of course in the background you'll see the album/single artwork and on top will be the artists name, song name and album name followed by the rewind, play/pause and fast-forward button - that's it! What disappointed me was that there was no time indication, you don't know how long the song lasts for or how long it has remaining. Fortunately if you press the little information key on the bottom of the screen this will take you to the list of songs that you have by that particular artist and it will display how long each song lasts, however, there's still no sign of the duration remaining, which, for me was a little disappointing, especially after owning a 3rd Generation iPod which proudly displayed this feature.
The clip on the back is a useful feature and can be clipped onto any item of clothing to keep the iPod safe and secure, this is an excellent addition if you're a fitness freak as it saves you worrying about it slipping out of your pocket during a workout. The clip, however, does seem a little flimsy and gives the impression that if you push it back too far even by a millimetre then it could completely snap off, so be gentle with it!
*** Screen Clarity ***
In a word excellent. I've never seen such a brilliant screen on such a small and compact device. Unfortunately, there's no video capability here, which personally doesn't bother me, but could be a downside for some. There's still a photo viewer though, which is a nice little inclusion as you're able to create slideshows of your snaps, but on a device this small it does seem a little redundant, no matter how excellent the screen is.
On the plus side the tiny screen is brilliantly crisp and although the writing is small (people with bad eyesight beware!) nothing ever becomes blurry and that is definitely to Apples credit.
*** Watch... Out ***
You may have seen it advertised, as it seems to have become one of the biggest selling points to the new iPod Nano - the clock. The analogue clock interface takes up the entire screen and is crystal clear in either black or white. So good infact that there have been straps designed so that you can wear this iPod as a watch (a very expensive watch, but a watch all the same), this strap gives room for the headphones to be plugged into, to enable the user to also listen to music and this opens up a range of future possibilities for the Nano.
*** Music/Sound Quality ***
Yes, I've finally got to it, the main selling point of the iPod is of course the music and the undeniably excellent sound quality. First off, if you opt for the more expensive, but undoubtedly more practical 16GB, you'll have the capacity to store around 4000 songs (depending on how much memory each song uses of course), whereas on the 8GB, you'll have the capacity for just 2000, still a lot obviously, but if you regularly add to your music collection I would definitely recommend the 16GB.
Almost as iconic as the iPod themselves are of course Apple's trademark brand of earphones which are included in the box. I used to be a massive fan of these earphones, but I've now seen the light and traded them in for a better brand and I couldn't be more happy with them. If you want premium sound quality, you need a premium pair of ear/headphones - simples.
The sound quality emitted from the iPod is undeniably fantastic, with every genre excelling themselves here. The bass is deep and rich, however, it never overshadows the rest of the music, which other, cheaper MP3 players can tend to do. This is a first class music device and it shows.
*** Security ***
This is an expensive device, so of course you want to know that it's protected to its maximum don't you? Unfortunately, there's no app, like the iPhone or the iPod Touch has which can locate your iPod if you lose it, therefore it's important that you take the utmost care of it. On my old 3rd Generation iPod there was a 4 digit passcode that you could set which would prevent any unauthorised access. It wouldn't prevent the device from being stolen, but it would give you a little peace of mind. The new 6th Generation unfortunately doesn't have this option, to which I was somewhat disappointed about.
The iPod is made from a very shiny material and easily slips out of your hands so I would recommend buying a silicone case to keep it safe and free from scratches, which can so easily happen to iPods. A screen protector is also a vital piece of kit where this iPod is concerned.
*** Fitness ***
In recent times, the iPod seems to have taken a swerve into the fitness industry and the new Nano is no exception. With a built in pedometer you can set yourself targets by inputting your weight, which can then tell you how many calories you've burned and how many steps you've taken in any given time period. You can set yourself goals for how many steps you wish to achieve in a day or a month and it's a really useful way of motivating you to walk more. The pedometer needs to be placed in a trouser pocket or clipped to your legs in some way and it is extremely effective at picking up on every step.
*** FM Radio ***
Unlike my previous iPod, you get a built in FM radio, which, although isn't one of the most utilised features on my iPod, may be a very handy accessory for some people. The earphones or headphones serve as the aerial and I've had a pretty respectable reception wherever I've taken this (including up on the moors). What sets this apart from your average radio, is the fact that you can pause it. Just like Sky +, you can pause a live broadcast and then come back to it when you're ready, giving you the opportunity to fast forward the bits you're not interested in, which has to be one of the best features included on this iPod. Another nifty little feature is the tag option. How many times have you listened to a song on the radio and racked your brains trying to figure out what it is? With the iPod Nano this is sorted for you, as the iPod will cleverly figure out what song is playing and will display it to you under what radio station you're listening to. Not only that, but you can choose to tag a song, which you can then instantly download from iTunes when you plug your iPod into your laptop/computer. Fancy eh?
*** Battery Life ***
Apple really confuse me sometimes; you see, the battery life on my iPhone is pitiful, I get a day, maybe a day and a half at a push out of it, however, the iPod has always been a different story in my book. My old iPod gave me fantastic battery life and the new Nano is no different. I use my iPod for around 2 hours a day and I can easily go around 10 days without charging it. I simply can't fault it.
*** Overview ***
Apple may seem to have taken two steps forward and one step back here, what with the lack of video playback and a camera, however, it seems in going back to basics (focusing solely on being a music player with a few added extras) Apple have created one of the best iPods out there. With sound quality that Mark Ronson would be proud of, this iPod is definitely one to add to your wish lists. The positives far outweigh the negatives and I have no qualms recommending this to you.
The gym - nobody likes it do they? Exercising consciously in front of a group of sculpted men and women, the dreaded personal trainers, however, if you want to get or stay fit, what other options do you have? Home gyms cost thousands, workout DVDs end up in charity shops and running outside during the summer months is all well and good, but during the winter when it's minus 5, it's just not so appealing is it?
To that end, the gym always sounds like a good idea, and with so many gyms to choose from, it can be an important (and expensive) choice. After all, you don't just want a place with all the up to date equipment that does everything imaginable, first and foremost you need a place that you feel comfortable in, and Winners 2000 could be just the place.
Winners 2000 currently only have three locations in the UK, in Newton Abbot, Paignton and Torquay, all situated in Devon and having visited all three sites frequently for some time now, I feel obliged to give you a first hand view of what this gym has to offer.
*** Signing Up ***
Ok, so you've reached the first hurdle, you've plucked up the courage to join the gym and now all that's required is to register. This is incredibly simple and there are two methods - online or onsite. The online method takes around 5 minutes and will simply require all your generic information (name, address, phone number etc), before taking your bank details to set up the direct debit. This is the downside to the online registration - you need to put in your bank details immediately in order to complete the sign up process. This definitely isn't a good idea if you've never visited the gym before, as, although you do have a 7 day cooling off period where you're able to cancel the direct debit, as soon as you step foot in the gym, inside the 7 days or not, this right is void. Therefore it's wise to take a trip there, have a look around the gym, with or without a trainer before choosing to sign up online if you so wish. If you're not so technically minded, you may wish to sign up the old fashioned way, good old face to face, you'll simply have to give the instructor your details before he or she gives you a medical form to fill out (with the online process, you'll be given the form as soon as you visit the gym), this isn't a long and drawn out process, but it is of course a vital step in your registration.
Immediately after, you'll be presented with your Winners 2000 membership card, which will allow you access to the gym by swiping it upon entering, this will require having your picture taken, but your picture will not appear on the card. You will also be assigned a personal trainer, who will take you through an induction, this, however will not be immediate and you will have to book an appointment with them, they're very personable and have no qualms about giving you their mobile number for you to text or ring them about appointments.
That's all well and good you may be thinking, but you haven't told me the most important thing - the price. Ah yes, almost forgot about that one. The direct debit will set you back £29 a month for 24 months (you are contractually obliged to pay for the 24 months) and if the money does not come out of your account for whatever reason you'll be charged an administration fee of £25. The money will be debited from your account on the first day of every month and when your 24 months are up, Winners will continue to charge you unless you notify them that you no longer wish to continue. If you'd prefer to pay up front, then you'll be charged £245 for 12 months which is a significant saving if you work it out, however, if you're not 100% sure you'll make full use of the gym then I'd opt for the direct debit. The £29 a month gives you access to the gym whenever you like, for however long you like, with no restrictions. This also includes a number of classes. There are other memberships available, such as students, schools and 2 week holiday passes.
*** Rules ***
There are certain rules that Winners request their clients to observe and these must be strictly adhered to, such as putting equipment back where you found it, wiping benches after use with provided paper towels and spray and of course personal hygiene. The other rules really just follow the lines of common sense and decency (respecting others, no foul language etc).
*** Induction ***
So, you've signed up and you've booked your induction (every member must have an induction with a trainer), inductions last around 45 minutes to hour and will consist of being shown around the gym, being shown the correct techniques for equipment and they will create a workout/nutritional plan if you so wish.
*** Personal Trainers ***
There are numerous personal trainers available and when you sign up, you will be automatically assigned to one, however, you can change if there are any problems. Gender isn't an issue here, as they often match females with males and males with females, however, if you'd like somebody of the same sex, you've only to ask. All staff are friendly and highly motivated, always scattered around the gym actively helping people. They're not pushy, however, they will assess whether they think you want the help first, although if you're doing something incorrectly that could possibly end up in injury then they will approach no matter what.
Apart from a bit of help time to time, you can of course book sessions with your trainer, however, these are very expensive and you may want to stick to the routine given to you in your induction for a little while, before deciding that a trainer is necessary. 3 sessions with your trainer will set you back £59, whereas 5 sessions will cost you an impressive £89, so make sure it's what you really need before diving in as these sessions are only an hour each. Sessions are helpful though and although they may not be a permanent fixture during your workouts, they may aid your motivation when you join and thus can be very helpful.
*** Changing Rooms ***
Changing rooms vary depending on gender, I know that the men have a communal shower area (don't ask how, I just do!), whereas the females are treated to three separate shower cubicles. There's of course a lock on the door with a decent size space to change/dry and two hooks to hang your belongings up on. The walk in showers definitely are not cramped and the showers themselves are of a high quality and very powerful. There's soap provided in a dispenser which can be used on both hair and body, but it really doesn't lather enough for me, therefore I tend to bring my own shampoo/conditioner and shower gel.
There are numerous lockers and you'll always find space to leave your things, the only downside being that you'll need to either provide your own padlock (these are standard sizes and can be picked up from places such as Homebase or B&Q for around 99p), otherwise you'll be forced to purchase one from behind the desk which will set you back £5. Fortunately the Newton Abbot site is situated opposite Homebase, so if you do forget you won't be out of pocket after being forced to purchase another one. There are two types of lockers, big and small, the big ones are longer, but are a little limited width wise, so if you tend to bring a sports bag it may need to be pushed in somewhat before you can close the door.
The big downside to the changing rooms is the heat, infact, after a strenuous workout the heat from the changing rooms can make you feel dizzy and on the verge of passing out so I recommend a cold shower to sort that out. Besides that, the changing rooms are a decent size and always hygienic, so it's a thumbs up in this area.
*** Facilities ***
Starting off with a negative, the gym doesn't have a pool, which may be a downside for some, however, what it lacks in water it makes up for in everything else. The main gym floor is surprisingly spacious, you may not think it from the outside, but it's a very large space and there's never a feeling of claustrophobia. All equipment is modern, but most importantly easy to use and of course if you are stuck there are trainers scattered all over the place willing to help you. There's music in the background, loud enough for you to hear, but quiet enough to be drowned out by headphones if you so wish and there are numerous TV screens on the right side of the floor situated above the treadmills and the bikes.
All the equipment is pretty generic, you're unlikely to find anything here that you won't find in any other gym, but it's definitely of a high standard and a lot better than some other gyms offer and there's undoubtedly more of a range than some other gyms can boast of. During the day is the best time to visit as it is very rarely busy, although they do offer special days where schools visit and other types of classes, but after coming for a while you'll become aware of the best times to come and even then, the gym can never be described as overcrowded. There's air conditioning on at all times, but this is very subtle and once you start to train you will become hot very quickly. There are windows looking out onto an outside training area, however, only staff are permitted to open these. There's a water fountain situated near the men's changing rooms, with a tap to fill your water bottle and a nozzle to allow you to drink straight from it. There aren't, however, any cups provided, so you're always advised to bring your own water bottles for convenience. Separate to the main floor there's a room to the side, where all the classes take place, of which there are a range of, with something to suit everyone.
There's a sauna and a steam room situated just outside both the male and female changing rooms and these are free to all members. They're relatively small, but are very welcoming and are very rarely crowded, so it's always a good idea to make use of them while they're there. There's also a sunbed situated near the exit, however, this isn't free and is very popular with members so I recommend finding a separate sunbed facility that will offer a cheaper service.
*** Overview ***
Overall it's very hard to fault this gym as everything is of an unusually high standard. Staff are highly trained and very friendly, the facilities are well kept and spacious and membership prices are extremely competitive in comparison with other gyms.