Wednesday 13 March 2019

March 2019 'gadget guru' technology for TRE Talk Radio Europe

Here's a brief reminder of the tech I chatted about in my TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' conversation this afternoon:

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Once upon a time, mobile phones that folded in half, with the display on the top part and the keypad on the bottom. Today, folding phones are back on the scene - but we’re now talking about a folding display.

So let’s start with the Samsung Galaxy Fold. This is a slightly chunky affair compared with conventional devices: from the side it looks a bit like two phones stacked on top of each other.

On the outside there’s a 4.6-inch display, which is the sort of sensible size you found on a smartphone a few years ago. But the phone unfolds, with a tablet-sized high-resolution 7.3-inch display inside.

Samsung has gone overboard with the cameras; there’s a selfie camera on one part of the outside and then three on the other: a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens, which is the same kind of set-up as the new S10 flagship phone. There are also two more cameras available if you need to take pictures when the device is unfolded.

Inside it runs the Android operating system, offering 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and 4,380mAh of battery power with the option of wireless charging. There’s even a choice of a 5G model if you want to be future-proof.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold is due to be available from the end of next month with a starting price of US$1,980, which is just over £1500 (€1750).

Huawei Mate X

Let’s move on to the second folding phone - and, surprisingly for the mobile phone industry, it’s a very different device.

The Huawei Mate X doesn’t have a big screen on the inside. Instead, it’s on the outside. So, when the phone’s folded, you get two screens to choose from, one just over 6½ inches from corner to corner and one just under.

Open it up and they become an 8-inch display which, like the Samsung, is better than 2K resolution.

Because there’s effectively only one screen, the Huawei phone is a few millimetres thinner than the Samsung. The other big difference is that Huawei’s phone has an edge containing the cameras, which means the same camera can either be used for selfies or for taking conventional photos, depending on how you’re holding it. You'll find three built-in cameras: a 40-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 16-megapixel ultra wide-angle lens and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens.

Like the Samsung, this also runs Android and can support 5G: it has slightly less RAM but still 512GB of storage, there’s a memory card slot and a slightly bigger battery but no wireless charging. Availability is expected in the summer at a price of around €2,299 (just under £2,000).

Slide smart curtain system

The creators of Slide call it “the world’s first retrofit smart curtain system”.

What does that mean? Well, at a basic level it offers a remote control - but it also connects your curtains to the internet, which means you can program them from your phone.

So instead of an alarm clock- or perhaps at the same time as the alarm on your phone – your curtains can open automatically in the morning. If you’re going on holiday, you can program your curtains to open and close, giving the impression someone’s at home. And you can control them via Google Home or Amazon Alexa.

There’s a little box that attaches to one end of your curtain track - assuming it's horizontal - and pulley that goes on the other end. The control box has a wire that attaches to the edge of the curtains and runs through the pulley. Apparently it should only take a few minutes to fit, it’s all hidden behind the curtain and works with curtain tracks that are up to six metres long.

Slide runs off mains power and connects to your internet via WiFi, with an app on your phone for programming. There’s also an optional remote control you can buy – and none of this stops you from drawing the curtains by hand.

Slide can currently be found on crowd-funding site Indiegogo, where you can pre-order two Slide devices at a discount for $449; that’s around £350/€400 plus shipping, with delivery expected in May.

Teplo connected teapot

Here’s another crowd-funded project: an internet-connected tea pot. Why would you want one? Well, you can ask the teapot to brew tea based on your emotional state. For example, if it senses you’re tired, it can brew your tea at a higher temperature so you get more caffeine out of it. Or if you’re stressed, it’ll produce a more calming cup of tea.

This is a nice-looking piece of kit; not unlike a cross between a water filter, a kettle and a coffee percolator. It stands about eight inches tall, connects to your internet by WiFi and runs off the mains: sadly it’s currently only available for the 110v supply used in the United States and Japan.

You add cold water to the kettle part, you put tea leaves in the tea infuser, you select the type of tea from the Teplo app on your phone at this point - and if you’re after a really personalised brew, you put your finger on the Teplo sensor.

Teplo then adjusts its tea brewing based on your heart rate and body temperature along with the room temperature, noise level and humidity level. It heats the water, swirls the tea leaves in the water for the right time and then takes the leaves out so the tea doesn’t spoil.

You’ll find Teplo on Kickstarter: it’s expected to be available from April next year if everything goes according to plan, with a price of $299 at the moment (around £225 / €265 plus shipping).

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