Growing Apples!

January 28th, 2015

With many of us in the Total office hotly anticipating the release of the Apple Watch this year, we look back to a pre-Beats, pre-pod and pre-internet date and review four developments I have personally found the most interesting during Apple’s nearly-40-year history.

With a reputation for innovation and cutting-edge trend appeal, it’s hard to believe that Apple started off producing hand-built systems in 1976, as ‘Apple Computer’. Both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were, in effect, college dropouts operating in a basement, but these ‘dropouts’ knew what the public wanted and knew how to build a computer. Co-founder and adult supervisor Ronald Wayne was also part of the company at this time.

Clearly their skills were far better utilised in the basement than could ever have been in college during this pre-tech era of opportunity. Their first computer, Apple I (pictured above, in casing), was hand-built by Wozniak, whilst Jobs elected the position of salesman, pitching the unique unit at $666 at the time. Wayne drew up the Apple I manual and also developed the first Apple logo. With potentially more to lose than Jobs and Wozniak, Ronald Wayne left Apple for fear of his assets being seized, selling his share for $800 in 1976.

During the first year, around 175 Apple I systems were sold. A tough pitch considering the unit didn’t come with a case, a power switch and transformer, keyboard or even a video display.

A year later, the Apple II looked more like a computer as we know it. All yours for $1,300 complete with a 16-colour screen, a whopping 48K RAM and a floppy drive. It was ready to use straight out of the box and described as user-friendly. The ‘hobbyist’ could purchase it as board-only, for just under $800. It is easy to see Apple’s trademark design even in this early model with the casing built of plastic – the first of its kind – built to pull apart very easily to enable expansion.

1993 saw Apple branch into portable devices, with the release of the Newton MessagePad100. Perhaps released a little too early for the general public, however rumour dictates that Apple’s Vice President at the time had made a bet with the press that, should the product not be released at MacWorld Boston, he would give up his wine cellar.

The personal organiser incorporated fax and email, along with task lists and appointments using the Newton Intelligence operating system, allowing the user to handwrite using a stylus (recognition, however, was a major problem), or use a keyboard. Despite improvements it didn’t really get the recognition it deserved at the time, however in hindsight and with the official product announcement incorporating “And wherever you go, the powerful, under-one-pound personal digital assistant goes too, tucked in your pocket or briefcase.”, Apple were clearly on to something.

It’s hard to believe that the first iPhone was only released in 2007 and is yet regarded as ‘vintage’. The ultra-stylish-at-the-time handset boasted a 2MP camera and the option of purchasing the 4GB, 8GB or 16GB versions. The ‘multi-touch interface’ (or ‘touchscreen’ as we now know and love it) allowed users to swipe and drag – although it wasn’t the first time this technology was deployed, the large touchscreen was unique and didn’t require a stylus and also featured an accelerometer.

Although none of these functions were unique to Apple, combining it in one highly stylised device created excitement. The original iPhone also brought about the ending of the physical keyboard era. The rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to the iPod, iCloud, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with the Apple Watch it is clear that despite the highs and lows of the Apple brand, they certainly know how survive the changes in the technology market; from fever-pitching product releases to firmly embracing the future of everything technology has to offer.

You can find out more about the Apple Watch via the official Apple Store.

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Private school set to release free iOS textbooks

January 22nd, 2015

Leading Private school, The Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge, will publish 12 digital textbooks which will be available for students to download.

The textbooks, which were created by teachers to cover all aspects of the IGCSE Biology course, will help 500,000 students in 160 different countries that all study the subject.

Each student at the private Cambridge school already has their own iPad and the online textbooks will be available free of charge from Apple’s iBook online store.

Principal of The Stephen Perse Foundation, Tricia Kelleher, says students and school are ‘hungry’ for online resources.

Alex Van Dijk, author of the books, has described making instant updates to the textbooks ‘invaluable’.

Reports suggest this is the first time in history a British school has offered free online resources that cover an entire exam syllabus.

The school already uses iTunes U to upload links and lesson notes and interactive resources alongside GCSE and A Level course materials to help students with their studying.

Do you think the trusty text book could soon become ‘old school’?

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Revisiting the ZX Spectrum

January 19th, 2015

In the words of IBM chairman Thomas Watson, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

As we approach an age where half the population is able to connect to the internet, it is hard to believe that ‘home computing’ has only been around since the 1980’s. Personal computers are now so central to our lives that they are as vital as white goods in terms of essential use, and their mobility means we tap into them in various locations every day.

Of course the internet wasn’t around when home computing was first introduced, instead cassette games and lengthy programming manuals took its place to help us wile away the hours. We still had to book our holidays a travel agency and go into a bank to check our balance, how retro. It is important to stand back and acknowledge such a fast evolution.

ZX Spectrum was one of the forefathers of home computing – it was certainly the first small-sized computer actively marketed to the home user. Prior to this, computers were strictly a ‘business-only’ investment. The idea of having a computer in your house was inconceivable, not only due to the size and temperature controlled conditions work based computers were stored in – but what would we do with one at home anyway? Curiosity got the better of many.

Interestingly, ZX Spectrum inventor Sir Clive Sinclair was more interested in exploring the innovation of flat screen TV’s and electric cars back in the 70’s, but realised there was a growing interest in home computing which, if exploited, could be profitable enough to support his preferred, more expensive interests. So began the ZX production, with varied success due to the cheap parts used. The incidental home-gaming industry also began via ‘Space Intruders’, which could be typed into the computer from a book – or bought ‘pre-programmed’ on cassette (as sold by one entrepreneurial sole in the UK).

Reflecting on the current Raspberry Pi approach, Sinclair opted to tender to schools, offering the Spectrum for use in educational programmes – fully aware of how the Spectrum would be promoted and become ‘the norm’ for family use. With its now colour screen and whopping 32K memory, it successfully obtained the backing of schools.  Parents subsequently believed they were buying a ‘home computer’ purely for educational purposes. However, their children had other ideas – with gaming potential now being available at home as opposed to the arcade – many set about programming their own games.

Unlike the current market, crowded with mobiles, laptops, tablets and phablets, the Spectrum had little to compare with at the time. The American Atari had been released but at four times the cost, it wasn’t a viable option for most. The Spectrum was originally mail order only, and the factory where it was made closed for their annual break causing a huge backlog. It’s hard to imagine Apple or Samsung behaving like this today.

It is interesting to see the Spectrum back in the news at the moment, with the planned release of the ZX Spectrum Vega, complete with an SD slot. The new release will be manufactured in Nottinghamshire and scheduled for release in April. An initial run of 1,000 has already been financed by a crowdfunding campaign and Sir Clive Sinclair intends to donate the combined software royalties to Great Ormond Street Hospital. And the additional good news is that, this time around, games are stored on the device – no tape cassettes required.

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Samsung’s Tizen Powered smartphone hits the Indian market

January 16th, 2015

The Z1 is Samsung’s first budget smartphone to go on sale which is powered by its Tizen operating system.

The handset, which is currently only available in India, reportedly boosts a longer battery life and has faster loading speeds than budget rival phones.

Industry experts are saying that Samsung is becoming less dependent on Android following the move.

Other features of the Z1 include:

  • A 4inch screen
  • 480p resolution
  • A 3.1MP rear camera
  • A 0.3MP front-facing camera
  • 4GB of internal memory
  • A microSD slot

One feature of the Z1 which catches my attention is the functionality to support two SIM cards at once. This allows the user to switch between providers to find the best price when crossing states.

Interestingly, the firm are offering users three months of free access to Bollywood songs and movies in a bid to help make the device more appealing.

The phone costs roughly £60 is only available in India. Unfortunately, we’re not sure when it will be available in other countries.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

Open To Interpretation

January 15th, 2015

This week Google Translate took another step in its natural evolution by becoming the equivalent of a real-time universal language translator in addition to being able to translate written language.

Although the voice-translation mode recognises language, it is still in its infancy so more complex linguistics could still be a challenge. But, as is the norm in the mobile industry, the fast-paced updating will see devices being equipped to analyse more complex patterns as development progresses.

At the moment, the app is able to translate English to French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Portuguese. Previously, the app translated spoken or typed phrases, but not in real time, and the speech rhythm was a little off-beat. With these aspects vastly improved, an additional bonus is the ability to “tap the mic to get into voice translation mode, tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will automatically recognise which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation”.

In addition, the Word Lens feature of the app previously allowed users to take an in-app photograph of signs, menus or any other text and obtain a translation. The upgrade now lets users simply point their camera at text and the translation is overlaid on the screen – and is available in up to 36 languages. The good news for travellers abroad is that it works without Wi-Fi nor does it require a data connection.

It’s hard to believe that Google.com was only registered as a domain in 1997. By 2015 Google’s Translate alone serves more than 500 million to break the language barrier, along with hosting a portfolio of over 40 web tool products, apps and of course, Android.

The update will be available via Android and iOS this week.

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

No Battery? No problem

January 14th, 2015

Israeli start-up Storedot has stunned the mobile industry by showing off a charger which is capable of fully charging a mobile device in a matter of seconds.

Storedot has already raised £32.1m in funding and is certainly an exciting addition to the technology industry. Samsung and Roman Abramovich’s private asset management company are among those who have reportedly backed the concept.

The charger is still under development and consumers will have to wait a few years before this product is available to purchase.

One current issue with the device is it charges of 40 amps of electricity – this means it could burn out most current smartphones as they are not suited for that amount of power.

However, Doron Myersdorf, the company’s chief executive, has said he has meetings with phone-makers from the US, South Korea, China and Japan to discuss licensing and buying exclusive rights to the tech.

A video of the charger in use can be found on the BBC technology page.

When further developments are made, you can be sure to find the latest updates on our blog – so stay tuned.

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

A Brief History of the App

January 13th, 2015

Every now and then we like to delve into the past and think back to how it all started. We’ve done it with the search engine and with Apple, and today it is all about the app. Which is still mostly about Apple.

Apps have been around for less than ten years in various guises. The biggest change is of course in the way that apps are delivered. Where we once used a CD-ROM – or devices simply came with Snake and Tetris whether we wanted them or not – we can now download whatever we want, from whichever app store suits our device(s). Actual apps aside, in reality it was themechanism of delivery which changed the playing field.

Apple can take the credit for the first online app store,which was launched one year after the iPhone, in 2008. Although the store only held around 500 apps at the time, over 10 million users downloaded them during the first weekend. In the same year, BlackBerry announced their intention to release an app store; the very next day Android launched theirs, although offering just 50 apps to begin with. Five months later and Android boasted 2,300 apps available for download.

Somewhat oddly released on April Fools Day 2009, BlackBerry App World went live and three months later held 2,000 apps and was live in 10 European countries. The race for who held and sold the most was well and truly underway by the end of 2009, with 100,000 apps for Apple, 20,000 apps for Android, 3,500 apps available in BlackBerry App World and 3,200 in Nokia’s Ovi Store. When it came to number of downloads, Apple beat Android hands down in April 2009 when its 1 billionth app was downloaded.

2010 saw late contender Windows Phone Marketplace join the race, launching in tandem with the Windows Phone 7. At this stage, Apple remained market leader. After three years, in 2011 Apple celebrated over 10 billion apps downloaded, alongside its 500,000th app release. Yes, they went from 500 to 500,000 apps in just three years!

When you consider that Apple takes 30% of all revenue generated via apps, and at the last count (September 2014) it was estimated that Apple has released over 1.3 million apps, the delivery method of apps alone has become a quantifiable business venture. However, by 2012 the gap between Android and Apple was closing rapidly.

Come 2014 and Android is marginally ahead of Apple when it comes to number of apps with nearly 1.4million (taking into account the quarterly removal of some apps from the marketplace). Windows, Nokia and BlackBerry are further down the food chain but still a viable option to those who prefer their devices. BlackBerry now offers users the opportunity to use Android and BlackBerry apps, opening their devices up to a new group of consumers.

And the most popular types of apps? According to a Statista report, gaming remains the most popular download type with 32% (as of June 2014) of time spent playing games on Android and iOS devices. The remainder is split between social networking, YouTube, news and browser apps amongst others.

Of course, there will always be an argument over quality versus quantity, free versus paid for, but the key thing to contemplate perhaps, is the world that the mechanism of delivery has opened up to us, regardless which platform is utilised.

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

This week in tech: SmartEyeglass Attach, Sensoria, Smart Spider Dress

January 12th, 2015

Last week we looked at Belty (the world’s first ‘smart belt’), Trilby (a handy speakerphone and notice board), a Smarter Coffee maker to make your lie in last a little longer, alongside smart-jewellery via Swarovski and Misfit.

This week, with CES still featuring the weird and wonderful in wearable technology headlines, we spotted a few other innovations of interest. Will these become the every day products of the future?

Sony’s SmartEyeglass Attach prototype was revealed at CES, following several improvements since its initial reveal in September 2014.

The Google Glass competitor clips onto an existing pair of glasses and features a high-res OLED display and a miniaturised control board with capabilities on par with smartphones, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  The demo shown at CES showed running routes, cycling speeds, maps and sports related stats overlaid onto the screen.

Much like Google Glass, it will be down to developers to make the most of the device before it can become truly mainstream. Release date is still to be announced.

From smart eyewear to Sensoria’s smart socks constructed with conductive fibres and reportedly still feel like ‘normal socks’. Using the corresponding app, smart sock wearers are able to measure their gait through the sensors on the bottom and the magnetic Bluetooth cuff which attaches to the top of the sock.

Runners can plan their workout and then find out whether they are reaching their desired goal, all whilst the app ensures you keep good form by alerting the runner if they are running incorrectly and risking injury. This is an interesting wearable and one of the first which looks and feels like every day clothing – could this be the future of every day wearables?

Taking wearables to the extreme is the Smart Spider Dress, a collaboration between Intel and designer Anouk Wipprecht.

Much like a concept car at a motor show, this dress is likely to remain somewhat science fiction. It is, however of interest when you realise that, beautiful as it is, it reacts to biometrics based on programmed social norms with the ‘spider legs’ adapting ‘to suit the user’s emotions and desires’.

It also senses up to 23 feet around the wearers body and reacts to movement and breathing, including running which changes the wearable into ‘attack mode’. To add to the interest, the dress was also produced via a 3D printer. Could this be the future of body armour?

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

LG set to release its second curved smartphone

January 8th, 2015

Technology company LG recently displayed its second curved smartphone, the LG G Flex 2, at the Consumer Electronics Show 2015.

Reviewers say the device is easier to use than its predecessor thanks to its smaller size which is half an inch smaller than the LG G Flex.

The G Flex 2 also has an improved ‘self-healing’ back which can reportedly remove scratches in under 10 seconds. This video however shows otherwise.

The device features an OLED 5.5inch display screen and has the ability to display HD images – something its predecessor could not do.

The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and also includes:

  • 2GB of RAM
  • A 13 MP camera
  • A 2.1 MP front-facing camera
  • Either 16GB or 32GB of storage depending on user preference
  • A microSD slot

LG are yet to confirm a release date and price for the device.

Not only does the handset have improved features, it’s also 20% curvier than the previous model. But will it be more successful?

Jamie Sansom is Marketing Assistant at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Total Ltd is a business that brings together and unifies all the component parts. For up to the minute business telecommunications news, please view the Total Ltd blog

This Week in Tech: Belty, Trilby, Smarter Coffee and Swarovski Shine

January 6th, 2015

Inspired by the technological joy that is the Las Vegas CES event, we’re kick-starting 2015 with a look at some of the most unusual and unique smart devices we’ve spotted so far.

Belty is the world’s first ‘smart belt’, currently at prototype stage. The belt contains various sensors and automatically adjusts itself depending on how much you’ve eaten and exercised.

Using the corresponding app, its wearer can keep track of waist size (known to be a good indicator of overall health) and make any necessary changes as suggested by the app. The belt expands and contracts via hidden motors based on how well you adhere to those changes. Terrifying.

Trilby is described as a ‘speakerphone-cum-digital notice board’. It’s magnetic so that you can stick it on your fridge and take calls via the device without using your mobile phone. In addition to this, Trilby allows you to stream music on it via the Bluetooth speaker function or connect it to Wi-Fi to play digital radio directly.

You can also leave a digital post-it note on it and even use it as a private line by calling its corresponding app from your mobile device. The battery lasts around a month and then it’s a simple USB recharge. Where do we sign up?

The Smarter Coffee maker has arrived. This Wi-Fi connected coffee machine has a correlating app which allows its owner to not only select the strength of coffee required from their smartphone – but also the number of cups required.

Imagine lying in bed on a Sunday morning, after a particularly late Saturday night, and simply pressing a button to brew a fresh cup of coffee whilst you languish in your lie-in. It can also be programmed, via the app, to make your regular morning cup of coffee at a preset time and keeps it warm for 20 minutes after brewing. The Smarter Coffee unit will be available to pre-order from February this year. Convenient or lazy? You decide.

The Swarovski Shine series is the latest in stylish smart wear to grab attention by pairing with smart tech company Misfit. The giant crystal is the focal point of the collection and an activity and sleep tracking device in one.

Choose from up to 9 pieces, including a band with up to 50 metres water resistance, and sync with the corresponding Misfit app to display calories burned, distance walked and sleep quality.  The standard silver versions will be available initially; the purple version is set to be released later this year and, thanks to its ‘energy crystal’, won’t need charging as it is in effect solar powered.

Would you find any of these innovations of use?

Catherine Grayson is a Marketing Executive at Total Ltd – a business to business service provider, delivering genuine solutions across all core telecommunication services, based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.