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News, Views & Reviews on Android, Google and Tech From Thoroughly British Bloggers


chromecast offer

Good news for anyone that’s bought a Chromecast recently, Google’s got a special offer on. Set up your Chromecast and visit chromecast.com/offers by 31 January 2015 and you can get £15 of Google Play credit! Not bad eh? If you were lucky enough to get a Chromecast in a recent Amazon sale you’ll have got it for £18, so essentially have paid £3 for it with free films/music! Nice.

If you weren’t that lucky, don’t worry, there’s still offers on. I checked my (older) Chromecast yesterday and had 3 months of free Now TV, 90 days of Google Play Music Unlimited and the original X-Men film to download and keep! Nice.

To check it out simply logon to your home PC or laptop in your wifi connection (the same one as the Chromecast), download the Chromecast extension and follow this link https://cast.google.com/chromecast/offers/

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The Moto 360 is undeniably a lovely looking watch, but when it comes to watches I’m a big fan of metal straps. They just feel more substantial and a better quality. Alas, the Moto 360 didn’t offer a metal strap on release only the standard leather strap. Now that leather strap is nice enough, but it doesn’t meet my requirements.

Moto 360 Leather Strap

Motorola is eventually planning on releasing a metal strap for the Moto 360 and they’re going to be charging around £50 for it. That’s a lot of money for a strap when you’ve already paid £200 for the watch in the first place in my humble opinion.

I Google’d my way around the web and found a suitable short-term solution. It turns out that the fitting on the back of the Moto 360 won’t fit with any old strap, it’s quite narrow but it will work with the metal strap from the Pebble Steel. I found and purchased one from Mobile Fun and it was quickly delivered.

Pebble Steel Metal Strap

Fitting is remarkably easy. Of course the packaging and manual is designed for and aimed at the Pebble Steel watch, but it does contain extra pins and a removal tool that works perfectly for our task.

You could take it to a jeweler or watch shop, but it’s pretty easy to change yourself.

The first step is to ease the old strap off. Easy enough, turn the watch over and tease at the very edge of it with the tool supplied in the Pebble Steel box. A small flat head screwdriver will do equally as well if needs be.

Moto 360 Watch Strap Removal

Tease the corner and ease one end of the pin out. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how to do that, it’s pretty simple. Once that’s done it’ll pop out easily from the other side as well.

Now repeat the process on the other strap.

Moto 360 strap off

Strapless Moto 360

Then it’s basically repeating the process in the opposite fashion to install the new strap. Remember to check which way the clasp is going to face based on which you’d prefer (it’s a pinch clasp).

Moto 360 strap off

It’s a quick and easy job, just a little fiddly but well worth the effort.

Moto 360 metal strap

The final result is a much better looking watch with a bit of style and class without a massive outlay.

Moto 360 Metal Strap

You may well find that the Pebble Steel strap is a bit long for your use and it’s obviously not as easy to tighten as the leather strap. Not to worry, it’s easy enough to remove links and shorten the strap, you just need patience and a little sweat. This video explains how:

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After cracking the screen of my MotoG, an awesome phone with few limitations, I was reluctant to pay to fix it as the cost would have been the same as paying off the handset portion of my contract. I therefore had a decision to make. I really wanted something likely to bring lollipop quickly and narrowed it down to the One, or the Nexus 6. Sadly, neither were readily available.

The OnePlus One is by no means a new phone anymore. Since the initial announcement back in January 2014, the actual release and subsequent availability has not been straight forward. The enthusiasm and desire that greeted the phone was surely unpredictable by anyone, and as a result the first official Cyanogenmod phone is still only available to purchase if you have an invitation (with the exception of occasional limited time windows). The specifications are good though, and having rooted all my previous phones I was well aware of Cyanogenmod and knew I liked the software running on the One. £269 for th 64GB option? It will take some beating.

Coming from the MotoG, I was coming from a phone very close to a pure Nexus experience and was equally confident I would like the software running on the Nexus 6. Packing top end specifications it is clearly designed as an example of a great android experience. £549 for the 64GB option is a lot of money, but is similarly priced to high end, branded android phones. Sadly it hadn’t been released.

My criteria for a new phone is fairly simple. I like the larger screen of my old note. I want a better camera than the motoG. I want android updates faster than Samsung can provide. Both these phones should fit the bill.

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A quick look at the specs and there isn’t a great deal between them. The nexus has a larger and better resolution screen, but the slightly larger battery does not compensate and loses it some battery life over the One. The slightly higher spec on the processor, battery and screen size do not amount to £280 worth of added value.

As a result I decided to pursue the elusive OnePlus invitation. The difference in price can not be justified and even when in stock the Nexus would be hard to get. Harder even than a phone only available to those with an invitation it seems….

Decision made. Phone purchased and delivered. More to follow.

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As a previous owner of the Sony SmartWatch 2 I had a list of apps that I used (and needed) to get the watch running the way I wanted and doing what I wanted. The difference with the Moto 360 is the Android Wear interface. That generally means that the Moto 360 does what you want (and need) it to without much extra effort. What does that mean? You get notifications, updates, turn-by-turn directions and much more out-of-the-box and on your wrist.

The best features of the Moto 360 are exactly that – notifications without having to take your phone out of your pocket and now the ability to reply using your voice with the same logic. I love being able to talk to my wrist. Especially when driving or needing to do something quickly where I don’t have to faff around typing and going into apps – ‘OK Google, remind me when I get to work to arrange that meeting’ or ‘OK Google remind me when I get home to put the bins out’ or ‘OK Google call my wife’.

Good times.

But what makes the 360 even better? Well, a few things:

1. Facer

The Moto 360 has a number of watch faces as standard and Motorola has even allowed for customisation of those faces from the Motorola Connect app, but Facer goes that step further and allows you to gain access to a wealth of watch faces from the community. And there’s so many faces to browse and choose from, so there’s always some variety from day-to-day which is great. If you get bored you can always change your face quickly and easily from your phone. Much cheaper than buying a new watch.

Moto 360 watch faces

2. Google Keep

It might sound daft, but Google Keep is probably my most favourite app. It’s replaced the shopping list app that I used to have for my SmartWatch 2 and allows for easy access to notes and lists when I’m out and about – without the need to get my phone out. This is ideal when you’re going grocery shopping and need a good shopping list so you don’t miss anything. Tick things off as you go and it’s easy shopping!

3. Wear Mini Launcher

Another great app – this one kind of  an oddity for any Android Wear device as it brings the app buttons you’d expect to see on a mobile to your watch and that’s not something you’d necessarily think you’d need on your watch, but it’s great for launch things like Google Keep right on your wrist. Simply swipe it in from the side and scroll through your apps.

At the moment other apps are mostly gimmicks really – camera apps, calculators, calendars, etc. Really the default Android Wear interface is enough to do everything you need with controls for music apps (like Spotify and Google Play Music) as well as for Netflix. And you can do all the other good things like set timers, reminds and send text messages all with simple voice commands.

Let me know if you think I’ve missed any awesome ones.

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After owning a Sony SmartWatch 2, I’d been lusting after a Moto 360 as soon as it made a hint of appearing on the market. I made some unsubtle hints to my wife and she kindly purchased one for my birthday (yes, she spoils me but it’s a too way street, don’t worry).

Anyway, I was happy with the watch (I’ll do a review at some point no doubt) but then a little after two weeks of ownership disaster struck. Stumbling around in the dark I managed to catch the watch (by the strap) on a door handle. There was a nasty tug at my wrist and an unnerving feeling of dismay that started in my wrist and ended in my gut. I turned the light on and there lay my Moto 360 on the floor, face down with both straps on one side of the watch.

The force of catching the Motorola 360 on the door handle had pulled hard on the back of the watch and torn the pin out of the hole. The pin had bent, but much worse than that part of the plastic backing had snapped off.

Damaged Moto 360

In this rather poor photo you can get an idea of the damage. I’ve highlighted the small triangle of plastic which snapped off the back on one side. The result is an unusable watch as the pin would no longer stay in place. A miserable sight indeed. I wondered how I’d fix it. Perhaps some Sugru, maybe  try and glue the old bit back on?

Would it still be covered by warranty? Or would Motorola make me pay to get it fixed? Should I even bother trying?

I had seen a Kickstarter for SteelConnect – perhaps a possible solution, so I contacted them to see if they could help. Alas their only real solution was to use their hook adapter and wear it as a pocket watch – which defeats the point of a smartwatch really.

So we sent it to Motorola and what felt like a long while later they sent it back. In fact they’d sent a completely new watch, with strap, box and all. Not a single question or query about the issue. Which was nice.

So the end result of my experience? Not overly impressed with the build quality but thoroughly impressed with the customer support from Motorola.

So happy to have the 360 back on my wrist where it belongs.

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Just recently, the wonder that is ‘If this, then that’ made its way to Android. It’s been around on the web for a while and had an iOS app too, but as usual, developers neglected the passionate audience that is Android users, until now.

ifttt banner

For those that don’t know, IFTTT (as it’s more conveniently known) is basically a dumbed down (aka user-friendly) version of Tasker. Tasker being that wonderful app that you can setup to automate your life – setting up various ‘triggers’ to get your phone to carry out Tasks. Well, this app does that but in a really user-friendly way. There’s not as much possibility with it (to be honest) but it is still very flexible and has some rather nice possibilities.

Here’s a quick video I made for your viewing pleasure:

Neat eh?

As you can see, there’s plenty of external app and website integration, actions built straight into Android (e.g. camera actions, SMS, wifi location etc) and thus there’s plenty of oppourtunity to do some really cool stuff.

Here’s some of my IFTTT Recipes that you might find useful:

Browse more, there’s loads of awesome ones out there – https://ifttt.com/recipes

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App100 slots

What’s it about?

The premise is a simple one. It is a slot machine simulator. It is styled after a particular type of machine that can be seen in penny arcades around UK seaside holiday resorts, but is not the sort of machine you see in your local pub.

Visuals

The game looks OK. It is bright and colourful, but nothing amazing. There is no complication to it, and perhaps more time could have been spent drawing a variety of machines to add to the longevity.

Audio

As the only gameplay option is to hit a button, I’d have hoped for that one action to produce some variety of sound, but it doesn’t and very soon becomes repetitive – I wanted to mute the game pretty quickly. More gameplay options would have given the chance for more sound options.

Screenshot_2014-04-06-12-50-26

Gameplay

This game is described as “free, addictive and by far the most advanced and realistic slot machine for your android device.” If that’s true, I have no interest in playing this style of machine. Whilst it looks alright, there is no variety in sight or sound. There is no game play other than hitting a single button repeatedly and hope. I did play it for a while just to see if any more machines or game modes unlocked but I found nothing. There is not even the pretence of any skill being needed and I shall be uninstalling as soon as I finish writing.

 

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Moto G. Hand’s On.

Moto G. Hand’s On.


Posted By on Apr 5, 2014 in Android

The decision to go Moto

MotoGI have been a fan of Android phones since owning the original and awesome G1. Since then I have owned several, but never a nexus and for the last year I have been promising myself I would change that and buy whatever nexus is available come upgrade time. However when that time arrived I was torn. Nexus 5 looks good, but I was also tempted by the z1 and the z1 ultra. When Adrian suggested I wait until the MotoX arrived I looked at it and again was tempted, but in all honesty there is no way I was going to wait for anything…

However thanks to that suggestion I also contemplated the Moto G. It is clearly a budget phone, one look at the specs  tells us that there are some clear areas where costs have been cut. Less ram, a slower processor, smaller camera, fewer built in sensors and some features are missing – but does that matter? I looked at the list and decided that for the extra £17 a month the z1 would cost, the extra features were not worth it and by choosing the Moto I would get android upgrades much faster even if not as fast as if I went nexus. Add in the 14 day returns policy on the phone and what did I have to lose?

Well that was back in January and I have now had a few months to try the phone out. First emotion was disappointment that the box did not come with a charger. I had one knocking around from all my other phones, so I guess you could argue it was not needed – but imagine I was coming from an iPhone? I would not have been happy. Other than that though, it is a nice looking phone. It is smaller than I was used to, and with no memory slot for expansion there are limitations from the off but I knew that before I bought it. It did not have KitKat out of the box, but that was available within a couple of weeks so I did not get chance to miss it much.

Screen

The phone is inexpensive and therefore the screen is one of the main parts that has been trimmed back. It is not that big by today’s standards and the resolution is lower than many. It is bright and the colour depth is good, and to be honest it looks as clear as any at a usable distance. You have to get pretty close to be able to see the pixels and at that distance I can barely force my eyes to focus on them.
IMG_20140330_170639244

Camera

This is another area that is often cut in budget phones. Despite the low cost, the camera is not excellent but is surprisingly good. At 5 megapixels and with a flash, the camera is more than capable of recording your family moments. The controls are slightly different than most android phones. Simply tap anywhere on screen to take the photo instead of having to find a button. The autofocus let’s it down occasionally, but if you take a second to define the focal point by dragging an icon around the screen you can negate this. The burst function (simply hold your finger on the screen to take multiple shots) is very helpful when producing “auto awesome” photos from animations to the selecting of best smiles. Utilising the great features of Google+ photos really help boost the camera’s output.

Battery Life

I was very dubious of the battery life of the Moto G, 2070mAh does not sound a lot – however it became very quickly apparent that it is actually rather good. With a single over night charge, it is more than capable of lasting the following day with moderate use which for me includes leaving syncing enabled, some web use, some Ingress, emailing and navigation during commutes. At the end of my day the phone is usually still showing 30-40% charged. Not too shabby.

 Overall

All in all, this is a great little phone. I have not yet missed the extra flexibility that I achieved through rooting and installing custom ROMs, although being on the latest version of android helps with that. At a little over £100, it is not so expensive that I couldn’t afford to buy out my contract should a decent nexus or other alternative come out in the next 12 months but as things stand I can not see me needing to. If you must have a super powerful phone that is cutting edge and full of all the bloating apps that Samsung fans seem to crave then this is not for you. If you are looking to save some money or just for a decent phone that can see you through to the next nexus then you could do much worse than this, and I highly recommend this great little phone.

 

 

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