Friday, August 31, 2012

NFC: Finding tags to experiment with

Most of you should already know what NFC is, those who don't: NFC stands for Near Field Communication and you can read more about it on Wikipedia ;)
A few weeks ago I started investigating if there are some (online) shops which offer cheap NFC tags – I was especially looking for cheap shipping. Unfortunately most of the shops out there are either situated somewhere in the US where shipping to Austria is really expensive or the shops are somewhere in Europe but still, shipping is not much cheaper.

Why did I look for such a store? Because I don't have any experience with NFC yet (only scanning stuff) and wanted to started experimenting with developing Android and BlackBerry 10 apps that are some kind of NFC enabled. This is also why I was looking for cheap samples and not a large number of tags that cost almost a hundred Euros.
What I found were a lot of stores but only one that offered free samples on their homepage: NFC NETSTORE. The nice thing about them is, that they are from Finland and after contacting them via email they immediately sent me free NFC tag samples. The support was really friendly and I can only recommend them and as soon as my first experiments are finished, I'm definitely going to buy some more tags from them :)

Now this entry is not really technical but I think it's a good start to begin experimenting with NFC tags. I hope I'm gonna get more out of NFC and will be able to start a small developer series about how to develop NFC enabled apps.
So stay tuned for more over the next couple of weeks.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thoughts: Samsung unpacked August 2012

As you probably already know, Samsung announced some great stuff at their Samsung unpacked event in Berlin yesterday. Here are some thought on what they revealed, which will be something I will start doing on this blog more often.

At first something about the whole show. At first I really liked it, because the magic tricks Topaz (was that his name?) showed us were really nice. But after that I really hated the way the announcer guided through the show – especially the way he pointed at the presentation screens and waved his magic wand. The announcements by JK Shin and all the other Samsung employees were much better.

Let's talk about the revealed devices. I'm not going to talk specifications because there are enough sites already presenting them. I'm just going to tell you what I think of them ;)
At first, the Galaxy Note 2: This device is a great update for the original Galaxy Note. Back when they announced the first Note, I didn't really realize what a great idea using a pen is. I remember some years back, when PDAs came with pens, because there was no other way of using touch displays. I don't think that using a pen as an interaction device for a mobile device is the way to go, but what Samsung did with it is great – especially for creative tasks. Drawing on a smartphone is nothing I like to do, because with your finger it's just horrible, so the pen should really give you an advantage.
I also really like the Air View feature: just hover the pen and quickly discover data. And of course, adding notes to the back of photos as well as quickly taking notes when on the phone.
All in all, a great device. Maybe a little bit too large for me, but great for creative people.

Next up was the Samsung Galaxy Camera. I was really excited when they announced this great device.  Nikon already announced an Android (2.3) powered camera, the Nikon Coolpix S800c a week ago, but when I read that it's battery only allows you to tak about 140 pictures, I was disappointed (it also doesn't look that great).
The Galaxy Camera, which is also based on Android (Jelly Bean!!!), on the other hand comes with an awesome 4.8-inch screen, some great software features (e.g. smart modes), 3G, 4G and WiFi connectivity and just looks great! And what's even better is, that according to Samsung the camera's battery can provide up to seven hours of battery life while connected. If that's true, and the price is going to be reasonable, I won't have to think about buying it twice!

And last but not least, the series of Samsung ATIV devices. The Samsung ATIV S look great (even though I never liked the Windows Phone buttons) and with the enhancements Windows Phone 8 received, it will be a great device. I especially like the design of the ATIV S, because it also features some metal instead of the plastic casing we're used to.
The Samsung ATIV smart PC (as well as the pro) also look great and even thought having a removable keyboard is nothing new (we know it from Asus' tablets), it's something great and maybe new for notebooks. I'm not satisfied with the memory (2 GB ram won't be enough) but at least they look great and if sold for a reasonable price, will be great to work with, as long as they didn't cheat when describing the battery life. Windows 8 also got much better so that won't be that much of a problem ;)
And of course, let's not forget the Samsung ATIV TAB, which runs on Windows RT. We already know Samsung tablets and this one also looks great. Windows RT should be quite alright and again, if the price is reasonable and Windows RT doesn't degrade battery life, it's going to be a great device

That's all about the unpacked event. All in all Samsung revealed some great devices and I can't wait testing them and of course developing apps that work great with them ;)
If you want to know more, just Google the products or watch the event on YouTube.

Update: And yes, the Samsung ATIV PCs really look similar to MacBooks (Air) but who cares. Our european courts don't support those unreasonable design patent claims certain companies try to make ;)
MacBooks (and therefor the new Samsung PCs) look great and it's time someone started the end of those ugly and too thick (Windows) laptops.

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Tested: Sony Xpera go

Some time ago no, I was really lucky and won the Sony Xpera go by participating in a sweepstake of Austria's national carrier A1. Unfortunately this carrier gives away sim locked devices so I was not really able to use it in the field, because I recently switched carrier (actually the carrier is a subsidiary but using that sim card doesn't work). I wanted to unlock it, but when browsing the forums, I read that A1 wants 150€ for sim unlocking any devices (even those you won!). So I had to test the device using WiFi only, which didn't allow me to test its full potential.

All in all, the device look quite alright. It's dust and water resistant and the Xperia go is still beautiful, or maybe because of that they invested a lot in making it beautiful. I was really excited when I put it under water because usually you can't to this ;)
Of course the screen is also especially durable but I guess when it falls on something pointy it'll still break, so I guess putting it in a pocket with your keychain is the only "wild" thing you can do without a screen protector.

Also the specifications are nice, 1GHz dual-core CPU, 5MP camera (unfortunately no front facing camera), 8GB internal storage and expandable via microSD cards and will all the components inside it's sill light enough (110 g). What bothered me a little (because I'm a user of high-end devices), is the screen resolution, which is only 480x320, but for a phone in this price range, it's quit alright.
It currently comes with Android 2.3 and a lot of app pre installed and even though I usually don't like customized Android version, Sony didn't change too much, so it still feels like Android. Sony also promised that there will be an update to Android 4.0 sometime after the initial release and I hope they will fullfil the promise soon enough!

All in all a great device which I can only recommend for people who like mid-range devices and like to have a durable phone.
Finally, here's a nice (german) video A1 created to test the durability of the Xperia go. Enjoy!

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