Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus go on sale in New Zealand

 

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.21.55 pm

Kiwis were the first in the world to get their hands on the new iPhone range when the 6S and 6S Plus went on sale on Friday.

Shoppers at Spark and Vodafone were greeted by media and passing rugby fans on their way to watch the All Blacks vs Namibia game which was on at about the same time.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.10.04 pm

OneNews report Matty MClean reported live from Spark. Meanwhile over at Vodafone, Aucklander Ryan Watkinson collected his new iPhone 6S as the clocked ticked 8 a.m., having been the first to pre-order the device.

This is only the second time since the launch of Apple’s iPhone in 2008 that New Zealand has been in the first wave of countries for the iPhone release.  The devices are now available in Vodafone’s 30+ stores in New Zealand, as well as Spark, 2Degrees, selected electronics retailers and Apple’s online store.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.11.40 pm

So, what can you expect from the new phones?

Despite having a similar look as last year’s range, a lot has changed.  The body is made of aerospace grade aluminium while the screen features new toughened glass.

Internally you also get a faster 64 bit desktop class A9 chip as well as faster wifi and LTE.

But what about the stuff you can see?

The 12 megapixel rear camera (up from 8MP in last years range) has better noise reduction for all scenes and it can now capture 4K video.

Another obvious feature which differentiates the S range from previous models is 3D touch.

3D Touch introduces an entirely new way to interact with iPhone and your content.   The phone  senses how deeply you press the display, and allows you to do all kinds of things more quickly and simply.

It gives you real-time feedback in the form of subtle taps from a Taptic Engine.

In addition to familiar Multi-Touch gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop, which let you preview all kinds of content and even act on it—without having to actually open it. For example, you can Peek at an email in your inbox with a light press. Then press a little deeper to Pop and see the full email.

 

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 4.07.51 pm

The big question is, are the changes to the phone enough to get you upgrade?  That will depend on your personal circumstances of course but Apple have certainly packed in the features this time around.

Their tag line, “the only thing that has changed is everything” may sound like hyperbole but it’s true that virtually every aspect of the devices have been tweaked and enhanced.

If you are an Apple fan and are still sitting on an iPhone 5S or below, then the improvements in hardware and software provide compelling reasons to upgrade.

Google

A Glass Act – the Sony Xperia Z2 Shines Bright.

The new Sony Xperia Z2 is a high end smartphone with almost as much glass fronting it as a modernist office block.

It’s a slab of super smart tech wrapped in a minimalist, buttoned-down, waterproof and dustproof housing.

The sheer glass panels on the front and back scream out several things including “quality”, “premium” and “expensive”.

Interestingly, the screen – the massive 5.2 inch screen – is not this phone’s main selling point.  Instead Sony describes the Z2 as the world’s best camera and camcorder in the body of a smartphone.  By saying that, they are drawing your attention to the 20.7 megapixel camera which can capture video in full 4k resolution, four times greater than the 1080p HD of the Xperia Z1.

The Z2 is looking to compete in the rarefied atmosphere at the high end market and it needs that imaging advantage to differentiate itself from the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8.

I’m not a fan of the term phablet (a cross between a phone and a tablet) but that may well be the best term to describe the Z2.  Its 5.2 inch screen is large for a phone and it is knocking on the door of tablet territory. Despite its size, it’s not actually that heavy, which is just as well because no one likes a phone that makes their suit pockets sag.

For my money, the standout feature is the HD IPS LCD screen.  Photos are awesomely sharp and detailed and the colours are eye popping.  It’s a big improvement on the previous TFT screen from the Xperia Z1.

The proposition: “The Xperia  Z2 combines the best of Sony’s waterproof design, display, sound, camera and camcorder experience and a growing ecosystem of companion products.”

The verdict: If you’re in the market for a high end phone with superior audio and video smarts, the Z2 demands your attention.
Hardware and Software Features:

  • Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) operating system.
  • 5.78 inch tall with a 5.2 inch display.
  • Water and dust resistant (ip78).
  • IPS LCD 1080 x 1920 resolution display.
  • Faster processor.
  • 16 GB built in storage.
  • Micro SD card slot.
  • NFC capable.
  • Magnetic recharging with optional extra charging stand.
  • Noise cancellation (with compatible headphones).

The Xperia Z2 is available in black and in white through Vodafone stores nationwide from Monday 19 May. RRP $1049 or $0 on Vodafone Red 129 – includes 2.5GB data, plus unlimited talk and TXT to standard New Zealand and Australia numbers.

Scroll down for photos and links to YouTube feature videos.

IMG_20140518_161837

The Z2 – requires adult sized hands to hold it, but just look at those lovely colours.

AR_EFFECT_20140515150106[1]

Fun effects: The AR effect allows you to superimpose scenes over your chosen victim/photo subject.

AR_EFFECT_20140518172323[1]

Youtube Clips Explaining the main features of the phone:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sl02KinSr8&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – Xperia Z2 Overview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYsuFWBIf3g&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgRGoKpUrIHsliuYQ9Yd9QdX – Waterproofing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbW-4Ui0z6U&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – 4k recording capabilities

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56HvMdYoc7c&list=PL7CrlqRu8QgSE1oB-nXvAXp8RYTX8sD2A – Creative effects with the Xperia Z2

Google

HD voice calls on a mobile? Not a problem says Vodafone

Vodafone New Zealand will today launch a new service that brings crystal clear HD voice calls to certain phones on their mobile network.

Vodafone HD Voice

High Definition (HD) Voice delivers crystal-clear voice quality and noticeably reduces background noise on calls made between customers using Vodafone’s network.

The technology is the smartphone equivalent of switching from Standard Definition to High Definition television.  According to their release, customers will notice a significant improvement in how their calls sound – at no extra cost.

Consumer Director, Matt Williams, says that while Vodafone’s pioneering 4G network continues to thrill data lovers, this technology innovation has been introduced for the voice fans.

“This feature is perfect for consumers who love a chat.  It takes mobile calling to a new level of quality and dramatically improves the overall experience.  The sound is so clear it’s as though you’re standing next to the person you’re calling – even if you’re hundreds of kilometres apart.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a sports match, on the train or in a crowd – you don’t need to raise your voice to be heard by the caller.”

Vodafone’s HD Voice technology is already being used by a small number of officers and staff at New Zealand Police – an organisation where accuracy and speed really counts.  The service helps make conversations easier to hear and cuts the time spent repeating or clarifying information.

“Voice technology has remained largely unchanged since mobile handsets were introduced in New Zealand in the 1980s,” Williams continues.  “The introduction of HD Voice makes it easier for callers to communicate clearly with each other, and provides another example of Vodafone network innovation.”

Over 250,000 customers on Vodafone’s network will have access to HD Voice calling – for free.  More customers will be able to enjoy this feature as the range of HD-capable devices increases.

Click here to hear the difference and for more information: www.vodafone.co.nz/hdvoice

HD Voice technology will be available to Vodafone customers from 7 November.

Why you should want a Blackberry Z10

Blackberry Z10 showing Twitter

I have been using the Blackberry Z10 smartphone for the past three weeks, and I have to admit, I’ve found it to be one classy little number.

Blackberry executives visited Auckland earlier this month (read my TVNZ.co.nz report here) to announce the arrival of the phone in New Zealand and deliver review units to the tech press. Overseas, the company has been buoyed by strong pre-sales of its new, and some say, make-or-break device.  The phone’s software has already been tweaked to version 10.1, meaning Kiwi’s will get the smoother, more up to date version when it launches here on Vodafone and Telecom this month.

Having spent some time with the smartphone I am tempted to put away my iPhone’s and Samsung’s and use it as my main communication device. That’s a big statement so let me explain what has attracted me to the Z10.

Firstly, it’s no slouch in the looks department.  It’s got a beautiful refined feel to it, from the solid side casing to the removable soft grip plastic back which, when detached, reveals a removable battery and slot for a micro SD card.  Physically it is relatively small and lightweight and it doesn’t try to do too much. It’s not a phablet by any means.

The 4.2 inch touch screen is bright and clear and once you get used to its peculiarities, the 10.1 OS is a revelation of simple programme navigation.

You can see that this phone is aimed at the executive market.  It feels like a Porsche compared to the Toyota that is Samsung’s Android lineup (at least up to the Galaxy S3 and Note 2 – I’ve yet to spend serious time with the S4).

What would Apple be in this game of car-brand analogies?  Probably a BMW with style plus performance.

But back to Blackberry.  What they have done is succeeded in creating a secure work phone that can easily switch over to become a cool entertainment device when the work day is done.  This can happen literally with the Balance setting that allows separation between work and personal modes.

But what about the apps?  Obviously a smartphone can only be as good as the programmes you run on it.  At the Auckland event the Blackberry team said there are now 120,000 apps available, including many hot favourites such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp.

Funnily enough, they poured scorn on other app stores, saying “how many flashlight apps do you need?”  Well with 176 results for “Flashlight” in the Blackberry World (app store) the answer must be “quite a few”.

Okay – to wrap this up here are my top likes and dislikes about the phone. If you run with just the likes, then you can see why I think you might want this phone.

Summary of Likes:

Look and feel of the handset; simple navigation; great message management; good screen; good selection of apps; swappable battery; micro SD slot; secure “work” mode distinct from the personal mode.

Minor Dislikes:

  • Do we still need a flashing red sparkle to notify us of when we’ve received a new message?  It’s 2013 – when do we not have new messages?
  • Mixed up contacts.  It’s all well and good to try and pull in contacts from multiple sources – Gmail, Linkedin and Twitter for example but the software didn’t seem up to managing the content.  Confusingly, it merged my own John Buckley contact details with some of the 6 other John Buckley’s I follow on Twitter (that’s another story…) without asking me.
  • Also, don’t be shocked when it overheats, because it does that very easily.  Open a selection of apps, run Bluetooth, tick the screen brightness up a bit and it become hot surprisingly fast.  An online search reveals this to be a common issue with Blackberry’s in general.
  • The 8mp camera is decent enough but the camera and imaging software is underpowered in comparison to the opposition.

Vodafone’s Data Angel Overseas comes to the rescue of smartphone toting travellers

This time last week I was preparing to travel to Australia on another work trip (number five for the year – good thing I like Australia).  As part of my preparation I decided to check out the wifi prices of the hotel I was booked into.  A review on TripAdvisor told me to expect to pay a lofty $30 a day for patchy wifi.

That price was high enough to make me look for an alternative to hotel wifi – a subject which appears to be making the news more and more often.  I headed over to Vodafone’s website to double check the cost of their data roaming to Australia and stumbled on a pleasant surprise.  They were rolling out a new service – Data Angel Overseas – which promised to abolish the hassle of paying for hotel wifi or having to hunt down a pre-paid sim for an Aussie network.

The premise is as follows – if you are on Vodafone account plan, they will txt you when you arrive in Australia. The txt contains a link to a non tariffed mobile site where you can choose a data bundle to add to your account.  The plans for Australia cost $15, $30 or $50 for 100mb, 250mb or 500mb respectively.  Other plans are available for other travel zones.

So, on Monday morning I had a crack at it.  Once I was off the plane in Melbourne I connected to the Vodafone network. Pretty shortly I received not one, but four txts from Vodafone, two of them encouraging me to buy a data pack.  I clicked on the link to choose a $30 bundle.  Things got a little hairy when the mobile site crashed near the end of the sign up process however after two or three attempts to get back into it I saw a message saying I had used 0% of my data allowance.  I took that as confirmation my order had gone through.

From there it was all plain sailing.  All of the web accessing features on my phone worked well and using the Galaxy S3 as a wifi hotspot I was able to get plenty of work done on my laptop and my tablet.

I found it to be a simple and effective solution but I would still prefer to have more data available in the plan for a lower price. I paid $30 for 250mb pack which expires after 30 days.  However I used 80% of my data pack inside of two days.  According to Vodafone, 250mb of data would cost me $125 in the past.  So. it’s a good start but I’d still like to see better pricing in future.

For all of the details including the terms and conditions, and how to apply the data pack to iPads and other smart devices, check out Vodafone’s site here.