THE SAMSUNG CORBY: For nimble-fingered tech savvies

Samsung CorbyTHE iPhone has certainly set the standard for new cellular descendants with newer mobile releases favoring the larger, full-touch screen. There is also a major focus on making cellphones exclusive social networking devices.

Samsung has followed suite with the release of a few touch-friendly iPhone clones – one of which is called the Samsung Corby. The device is specifically aimed at the youth market and it’s easy to see why; it takes a tech-savvy youth to get to grips with it. However, touch technology is amazingly intuitive and it shouldn’t take long for anyone to learn to use a Corby – provided you have thin and nimble fingers and thumbs.

Social features
On the plus side the Corby is certainly a very social phone. It is fully Facebook, Twitter and MySpace compatible and can be used to upload content to a variety of sites, such as YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. One is also able to receive updates and live feeds via Facebook, MySpace and Twitter through a simple pop-up SNS (Social Networking Service) notification feature.

With a Corby, users can upload photos and videos and view such content on these sites through a feature called Communities. However, community access is only granted after an extensive disclaimer is displayed, which includes the clause that any content uploaded may be accessed and used by third parties. Be warned that there is a risk of being spammed with adverts once your personal details are divulged.

The screen
The 2.8-inch QVGA screen is large and crystal clear – something that Samsung certainly gets right. I thought the screen would get smudgy after a few hours of fingering and was surprised to find that it didn’t leave a single fingerprint behind. Apart from three buttons found on the front, the phone is entirely operated with the screen using one’s fingers and thumbs.

This may pose a problem for some as the Corby does not favour users with fat fingers. You have to use your thumb to type / touch anything comfortably and I’m sure that the average thumb is not as small as most of the keys on the touch-screen. A better option is to use a stylus (a phone-poking pen with a thin, touchy tip). Yet the Corby comes with none.

What’s on the menu
The Corby has an elaborate menu – two and a half screens worth. These all have a function and purpose but Samsung could have easily gone for a minimalistic approach by combining some of these. For example, there are separate synonymous icons for “Google” and “Internet” as well as separate “stopwatch” and “timer” functions. I guarantee that consumers would agree that less is more and imagine that a lot of the Corby’s multiple functions would go unused.

Apart from the 27 pre-installed widgets an additional 75 are available for download from Samsung’s online Widgets Store (not unlike the iPhone App Store). The Corby makes use of quad band connectivity to download content and browse the web, which is no 3G experience but is still sufficiently fast.

Nonetheless the Corby is easy enough to navigate and it doesn’t take long for all the mysterious symbols to start making sense. There does, however, seem to be a slight misunderstanding between the scroll and the zoom functions – often confusing themselves with each other. What also lacks is an on-screen QWERTY keyboard – making message-making rather difficult.

Other features
The Corby has an impressive memory and can support up to 8GB of external storage. Battery life is said to be 9 hours of talk time and an incredible 730 hours of standby time. It has a camera yet this is a mere 2 megapixels and has no autofocus or flash. It does have a “smile shot” function which is becoming all the rage – i.e. the phone will only take a photo of a person when he/she is smiling.

There are two unique features belonging to the Corby, namely “one finger zoom” and “smart unlock.” As the name suggests, one finger zoom enables consumers to zoom in and out with one finger, while smart unlock is a feature which enables users to unlock the phone by drawing a letter on the screen. One can choose from 9 letters with which to secure their phone from teenaged trespassers.

The verdict
The S3650 Corby would definitely appeal to youngsters that are keen on technology and consider themselves as active social networkers. It is also a phone for those who like to personalise and customise and comes with extra covers slanged “fashion jackets”. The relatively low price of R1500 implies no fancy stuff, but the wide range of features and downloadable content is certainly relevant to the target audience. Tech-savvy and mobile-intuitive traits required.

Related Reviews:
Samsung S3500: Budget Bundle
Jet-setting with the Samsung Jet

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APPLE IPAD REVIEW: Hands-on, touch technology at its best

DIGITAL entertainment technology has a nasty habit of being released onto the market too soon — usually before it can be fully tested, optimised, fine-tuned and sold at a fair price. The Apple iPad, on the other hand, couldn’t have come soon enough, and is the perfect balance between a smartphone — such as the iPhone — and a netbook or MacBook. It is also one gadget being marketed at a very reasonable price.

Apple iPad iBook storeWe South Africans, however, may have to wait a little longer to get our eager hands on iPads and experience them for ourselves. Nonetheless, several bloggers and tech experts have been raving about the iPad since it’s unveiling on January 28; but not all of it has been positive.

Techsperts are arguing that the biggest downfall of the iPad is that it is trying to be the best at everything and failing to be the best at anything. It’s great if you already own a laptop and an iPhone, they say, but perhaps not so great as a stand-alone device.

I would argue differently, and propose that the iPad is perfect for people who own neither an iPhone nor a netbook — or any Apple product for that matter. For starters, you would only be paying for one gadget (it is the cheapest of the three), which is able to do what the netbook and iPhone can … even if not as well.

What is an Apple iPad?
The iPad is a tablet computer. It is a flat, magazine-sized device with a multi-touch screen that allows users to surf the web, watch video content, send emails and read online media and ebooks (electronic books), among other things.

The real technology lies in the high-resolution, multi-touch screen, which is essentially what the iPad is. It requires no input devices such as a keyboard and mouse; everything is performed with the touch or sweep of a finger. A virtual on-screen keyboard appears when wanting to type something such as an email.

The iPad really resembles a large iPhone, but does not have built-in phone capabilities. However, the iPad is not marketed as a phone and it is still possible to web chat and communicate using social media websites and services.

Apple iPad size and specs
The iPad is two centimetres thin and weighs just 0,7 kg. It features an accelerometre, compass, speaker, microphone, headphone jack, dock connector, 802.11n WiFi networking, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 16/32/64GB of storage, and Apple’s brand new, super-fast A4 1GHz processor.

That’s one tight package with a lot of talent. Some iPad models will also feature 3G connectivity to cellphone networks. Battery life is said to be 10 hours during active use and one month during standby.

What does the iPad do?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs punted the iPad’s capabilities as an electronic reader of books, newspapers and magazines. In this way, it operates in a similar manner to the Amazon Kindle; one is able to browse and download ebooks onto the device to be read on the screen. This saw the birth of the iBooks application, which users can use to find, purchase, and download e-books from the iBook Store using their iPads.

Users can also download podcasts and vidcasts or buy music, TV shows, movies and applications from the built-in iTunes Store and App Store. All applications that currently work on the iPhone will run in an iPhone-sized window or in a maximized view on the iPad. Apple’s latest iPad model — the SDK — will allow developers to further customise applications for the larger screen size.

Apple iPad Apps
The iPad comes with several built-in applications, such as Safari, Mail, iCal, Address Book, Google Maps, YouTube, Photos, and Music (to name a few). All these applications (which already existed in the iPhone) have been redesigned and optimised for the large multi-touch iPad screen. Data can also be synchronised with a Mac or PC via USB cable.

Apple iPad features and shortfalls
Jobs showed off various features of the iPad during the unveiling ceremony, which include browsing the web, checking email, working with spreadsheets and charts, playing videogames, listening to music and watching video. That’s a lot to ask for in just one device, yet it still lacks a couple of important capabilities.

Apple iPad - NY TimesSome critics predicted the iPad would become the best-selling electronics device of 2010, while others pointed to its shortfalls, complaining that it has no built-in camera, cannot multi-task, can’t be used as a phone and doesn’t support Adobe Flash.

The lack of Flash support is possibly the major shortfall, as many websites today incorporate Flash for rich media content. Several news websites make use of Flash video and banners, which simply cannot be viewed or accessed using an iPad.

Apple iPad Pros
The iPhone has been hailed as a revolutionary device. Since its release, a huge library of thousands of applications has been developed and made available to iPhone users – for nominal fees, of course.

It is not incorrect to say that the iPhone acted as a sort of testing ground for new applications, as it was the only device that could make first and proper use of them. It is also not incorrect to state that many of the applications were borderline useless and often left iPhone users who had purchased the applications feeling a little ripped off.

The iPad, on the other hand, had the advantage of determining which iPhone applications were most successful and popular, and the best ones have been incorporated, with considerable upgrades to them.

What I would argue is the strongest selling point of the iPad from a consumer perspective is that it is simple and easy to use. Microsoft Surface showed how quickly all types of people can get to grips with hi-end technology by using natural hand gestures to operate it.

The iPad has no right or wrong way of being held — whatever is on the screen will rotate and orientate itself to how you hold it. Clicking on links, playing video content, resizing and zooming in on images, using Google Maps, playing games … is all done intuitively, using your fingers. It is hands-on technology at its best.

Apple iPad Cons

“The iPad isn’t the transformational device so many Apple enthusiasts were hoping for. It won’t turn all the content industries upside down, it won’t be your primary computing device and it’s not even a bigger, better iPhone.” — Mashable.

Without Flash support the iPad is unfortunately not the best web browser, which is what Apple is claiming it to be. However, it is still highly capable and can do a lot more than just web-browsing. It is not meant to be used as your primary computing device and it will not replace your cellphone.

Battery life, however, may be an issue. There seems to be a major focus on making gadgets as small and lightweight as physically possible these days, which can hamper functionality. The Apple iPad is just two centimetres thick. Battery life is said to be 10 hours. I would much prefer a thicker device with a larger battery if that means I can use it for longer.

Yet the iPad’s ease-of-use appeal and links to Apple’s online music, book and applications stores will make it an entertainment gadget that appeals to a broader group of people than previous attempts to market tablet computers.

Apple iPad Prices & Release Dates
Apple has said that the basic iPad would be available worldwide in late March at a starting price of $499 (roughly R4 000). A 32GB version will cost $599 and a 64GB version will cost $699.

All iPads can access the Internet using WiFi, but Apple will also be selling versions of the iPad that connect to high-speed 3G wireless networks. These will cost an additional $130 (roughly R1 000). It is important to note that the 3G versions will also require an Internet data plan.

If sales speak any truth
Steve Jobs said that due to iPods, iPhones, and MacBooks, Apple is the largest mobile devices business in the world today - generating more revenue than Sony, Samsung & Nokia. Add the iPad to that list and Apple seems unstoppable.

PS: I'm hoping to get my paws on an Apple iPad when they are released and write a proper, full review. Until then, watch this space ...

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VAMPIRES: The new super, superheroes as seen in Twilight

HYPE over the Twilight movie has spread like a global cancer, resulting in teenagers worldwide dressing like vamps and pissing off the Goth kids. Needless to say I finally watched the film to see what all the fuss is about.

It seems that vampires are the new favourite among the superheroes. It’s easy to see why considering they have super strength, super speed, super olfactory senses, can see into the future and have super baseball skills. What's more, they are immortal for Buddha’s sake!

That’s more than Superman, Batman, Legolas and Hiro Nakamura put together! That’s just showing off. To top all this talent, they drive hot cars and have been blessed with good looks. They may as well fly! Deer murdering vegetarians.

Billy Burke

Billy Burke – the true hero of Twilight

The real hero of Twilight
The real hero of Twilight in my opinion is definitely bitching Bella’s dad with the cool tache – Billy Burke - who risks his mortal life every day as chief of police while simultaneously raising a confused teenage daughter. Big ups to Billy Burke! We like him.

I did also like the underlying war between the red skins, vampires and pale faces as foretold in the Native American scriptures. It would have been nice if they had explored that a little more ...

The whole immortality thing
I just have one question to pose to any Twilight fans regarding immortality. If Edward what’s-his-face has been 17 all his life, does that mean his foster ‘dad’ has been in his late 30s or 40s for his immortal duration on Earth? How did he age?

There seems to be a whole flaw regarding immortality and aging. The older vampires seem to have gotten a raw deal while others are forever young. The same goes for those elves in Lord of the Rings.

Apparently the Twilight saga does get marginally better in the later episodes when the huffy-puffy teenagers get a bit more down and dirty. I reckon they should have just saved us from two hours of agony by getting Bella bitten nice and early so she would become a super-hero vampire and could elope with Edward what’s-his-face to live a happy blood-sucking life forever. No?

Anyway. Nuff said. Here’s something I think all non-fans of Twilight will enjoy:

Twilight - underworld for pussies

Vampires - the Difference
Twilight Google search

DraculaSparkling cartoon vampire

Some cool dude

Count Chocula

Twilight - How it should have ended

Ahhh... that was great. I feel much better now :)

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REVIEW: The Samsung S3500 Quad-band

Samsung S3500I’VE had the same brand of cellphone since I was 16, and that’s not because I’ve had the same phone since I was 16. On the contrary, I’ve been through about seven phones in the last eight years.

There was my first phone that drowned in a fishpond, another that committed suicide by jumping out of a six-storey window, a third phone that died in a freak electrical-induced accident, and a few others that were simply tossed aside because something sexier and more exciting had come to town.

But of all the phones I’ve had in my life, they’ve all had one thing in common — they all belonged to the same brand. My current phone is the same brand. I believe this is because of a fundamentally human thing — that we tend to resist change, especially in the technology department. There is something comforting about the familiar and we don’t want to have to faff about learning something new when we already have something old that works perfectly fine.

This brings me to the Samsung S3500, which was a pleasant introduction to Samsung mobile phones. This model seems to be marketed as a fairly up-to-date budget phone, because apparently we’re in some kind of merciless economic recession. It’s not a bad marketing strategy, although I would argue that what actually appeals to consumers the most is the idea of paying less for more.

And it’s not a bad bundle that you get for around R3 000 (prepaid).

It has one unique function called “fake call” which is a little strange. This function enables you to activate a bogus incoming call so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

It has EDGE connectivity capabilities, an embedded music player, FM radio, Bluetooth, a WAP browser and a camera, among other things. It also looks really slick and there is something very pleasing about a slider phone.

Let’s take a closer look (a full list of specs appear at the end of this post):

DISPLAY
The Samsung’s display, on the other hand, is great, with each of the main keys of the D-pad bringing up a different set of options. It is easy to navigate and all the functions are neatly displayed on the main menu. It has a nice selection of themes, the icons are large and the screen is bright. Top marks for presentation.

SOUND
One thing that cellphones today are really starting to perfect is the way they sound. Gone are the days of fake-sounding, mosquito-like noises emanating from phones as they ring. Most mobiles today sound so good that they make for great portable radios and MP3 players. The Samsung S3500 is both and they sound great.

KEYPAD
Until this year I had always been reluctant to get a phone on contract. The thought that yet another phone might drown or kill itself, leaving me with the responsibility of having to pay for it every month for two years, doesn’t really appeal to me.

However, one needs to consider that as long as you take good, vigilant care of your cellphone, having one on contract should be a lot cheaper in the long run. I am finally content with my current phone with the exception of its keypad, which is very similar to that of the Samsung S3500.

I find these newer, flat and hard keypads difficult to operate, especially when trying to type an SMS in a hurry. This does not bode well for someone who SMSes more than he/she phones.

My fondest memory of my very first phone was its spongy buttons, which almost massaged one’s fingers. With these flatter, more plastic-like keypads, such as that of the Samsung S3500, I find that I have to use my fingernail to type … if it hasn’t yet been chewed off from frustration.

GAMES
The Samsung S3500 has a large library of games, which tells me that this phone is really suited for the teenage market. The phone comes with seven free games with the option of downloading more. And these are not the standard, outdated games such as Snake, but classier, more challenging digitalised treats such as Harry Potter, Midnight Pool and Sudoku.

If mobile games are your thing, these should keep you entertained for hours.

INTERNET
As soon as I read “Quad-band” on the side of the Samsung S3500’s box I got rather excited as I expected to experience lightning-fast Internet speeds. However, if you have experienced ADSL Internet speeds, then connecting to the web using this phone (or most phones for that matter) is nothing special and can be painfully slow. To make matters worse, this particular model doesn’t have 3G capabilities, which can be a bummer.

CAMERA
Considering that most modern phones today have five-megapixel cameras, the Samsung S3500’s two- mega pixel camera is a bit of a disappointment. It’s fine for taking photos (and even video) to view on the phone itself, but if you are wanting to preserve your mobile memories by printing out your pictures from your phone, this one really isn’t quite up to the task.

OTHER FEATURES
With the exception of 3G and GPS, there seems to be very little that the Samsung S3500 is missing when compared to other cellphones of 2009. It has a standard phonebook and messaging interface, the usual call log, a separate folder for all your downloaded or produced content, an organiser with a clock, alarm, calendar, calculator and converter, a voice recorder, timer, stopwatch and numbered buttons from one to nine.

FAKE CALL
There is, however, one unique function called “fake call”, which is a little strange. Many of Samsung’s more recent handsets include this feature, which enables you to activate a bogus incoming call, so you can free yourself from awkward conversations or dodgy situations by pretending to take a call.

For added authenticity, you can record your own fake voice “call” that plays back when you answer. Potentially useful perhaps, but don’t be caught using it!

Apart from that, the Samsung S3500 is nothing too special but is a decent upgrade if you currently have on older Samsung model. I think I’ll stick to my particular cellphone brand for now and simply avoid getting too close to fishponds, hanging around high-rise windows, and make an extra effort to stay away from electrical experiments.

SAMSUNG S3500 SPECS:

  • GPS: No
  • Java: Yes, MIDP 2,0
  • Games: 7 + downloadable
  • Bluetooth 2,0 + EDR and USB
  • Messaging: SMS, MMS, e-mail
  • Size: 100 mm x 48 mm x 14 mm
  • 2-megapixel camera (1600x1200 pixels)
  • FM radio with RDS and recording feature
  • MicroSD card support with up to 8GB support
  • 30MB of internal memory • Phonebook: 1 000 contacts
  • EDGE: Class 10; 236,8 kbps • Browser: WAP 2,0/xHTML, HTML
  • 2,2-inch TFT; QVGA resolution (240 x 320), 16 million colours
  • Quad-band GSM/EDGE connectivity (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • Standard Li-Ion 800mAh battery with talk time of up to 7,5 hours
  • Embedded music player supports MP3/AAC/AAC +/MIDIplayback
  • Video: Record 15 f/s QVGA video in MPEG4 and H.263 formats (playback in 25 f/s QVGA)

Related post: Jet-setting with the Samsung Jet

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Louis Theroux may not like Joburg, but Alex Parker paints a much better picture than the BBC (and reviews the Chrysler 300c Touring)

Alexander Parker

Denial "I am a lemon"IT’S been a long-standing suspicion, but I have until recently secretly deduced that I am in denial. Such a state of mind is often misunderstood. Being in denial has nothing to do with ignorance or stupidity. I am not, for example, in denial about the imminent end of the world due to climate change. I am unconvinced, and that’s something completely different.

No, denial is failure to acknowledge a difficult truth, a truth you know to be true, as a form of defence against it. And for years, in the darkest part of the night, I have quietly suspected that I might think Joburg is a complete and utter dump. That my professions of love for the place are just the channelling of my dreams.

After yet another insanely dangerous piece of driving by a taxi, we sighed and said, you know, this is a bad, lawless town, with bad drivers and worse traffic lights. What a hellhole, we said.

Let’s move to Durban, says the wife. Can’t. The work is here, says I. And it’s true. Of all my friends, very few are Joburg born and bred. Most are from somewhere else, here because that’s where the job is. Nobody is here for the views or the street cafes or the architecture or the opera or the restaurants. We’re here for the lucre, which in Joburg’s case is especially filthy - covered in dust from the mine dumps so conveniently placed whence the prevailing wind blows. The bitter winter doesn’t help, and neither do the informal settlements, with their simmering anger at government lies and corruption and grinding penury.

BBC

But then I watched Louis Theroux’s less-than-brilliant forray into Diepsloot and Hillbrow on BBC Knowledge and, as you do, I shouted at the TV. Who the bloody hell does he think he is, coming to my town and bad-mouthing it, jetting in, spending a couple of days in the roughest parts of town and writing off the whole damn place to drug lords and shack dwellers. The bloody cheek of it.

Then I remembered the day there was service delivery riots in townships across the country. News.bbc.co.uk’s global lead was something to do with South Africa’s townships being in flames. I remember checking local news sites. The riots weren’t even mentioned.

That’s when it struck me. The BBC has decided that they will use increased interest in SA because of the world cup as an opportunity to spread a little alarmism. They have form. All the polar bears are dead, remember?

It’s going to get worse. The BBC is going to make it look as though everyone in Joburg is either dead or about to get killed. The message is clear. Come to sunny Joburg and get murdered and then, probably, eaten.

Well to hell with the BBC. It’s a great town, this, the heart of an economy that feeds millions. And sure it’s rough. It’s a frontier town, on the front line of the war against poverty, a town that works despite it all. A town of diverse millions united in their strivings to make life better. Do not get in a Joburger’s way. We’re making money here. Clear the road! Of course it attracts millions of people, most of whom are impossibly poor. They come for a better life, like immigrants the world over. Such fortitude should be celebrated like it is in America.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Bollocks to the BBC. Of course they don’t like it here. The coffee’s terrible and the traffic’s a disaster and everybody’s a capitalist — even the communists.

What the BBC fails to understand is that people who live in Joburg, the rich and poor, face the kind of adversity that Londoners cannot dream of. And when Joburgers triumph it’s an indication of their unique character. They are strong, kind, a bit rough, very honest and endlessly welcoming. Of course Louis Theroux didn’t like it...

He’d probably also hate the Chrysler 300c Touring, because it’s Johannesburg on wheels. Firstly, it’s enormous. It’s got a serious automotive case of spread. That it’s a station-wagon gives it extra bulk, added weight and even more presence and poise. With it’s huge chrome grill, massive wheels and tiny windows, this car looks more like a tank. It’s the blingiest car ever made.

This car's a fast, pimped-out daddy wagon the size of a house that’ll hit 100km/h in just seven seconds.

This car's a fast, pimped-out daddy wagon the size of a house that’ll hit 100km/h in just seven seconds.

Under the hood (for surely a car like this cannot have a bonnet) resides a very large piece of American metal - a 5.7-litre V8 lump that sounds biblical and belches power. The result is a very large car that’s very fast, a pimped-out daddy wagon the size of a house that’ll hit 100km/h in just seven seconds. That’s GTi territory.

Don’t expect too much in the corners, but then don’t expect it to be terrible either. It’s a big, wallowy old thing but unless you’re tying to set a lap time it’ll do just fine.

Anyway, the seats are too slippy and comfortable for that kind of tomfoolery. The interior is okay. It feels a bit dated and plasticky, like any Dodge, Jeep or Chrysler, but it does everything it’s supposed to do. You do get a brilliant stereo so you can wind down the window and blast some Kwaito. The car comes with an onboard hard drive for 20 Gigs of the stuff in fact.

Operating the touchscreen is a breeze, too,
so accessing Mandoza should be easy.

The best bit, of course, is the practicality. It has a vast boot. I mean it’s cavernous. The space in the rear is excellent. It really is a proper family car. Think of it as a car for kwaito stars, Kaiser Chiefs footballers and Soweto mafioso who also happen to have two kids. Take the kids to school. Lay down a track. Rough up an informant. Get some dog food. Go home. Brilliant.

It’s a car that does so much. It might be a bit shouty and flash. It might irritate a certain kind of person. It might be too fast and too big and it might not be the most sophisticated thing ever made, but that doesn’t mean, against my better judgment, that I absolutely love it. The damn thing has soul, just like mad, bad, wonderful Johannesburg.

- Alex Parker writes a weekly motoring column for the Weekend Witness
and has published a book called "25 Cars to Drive Before You Die"

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