A guide to mobile phone networks

The United Kingdom has some of the most sophisticated mobile networks in the world.  The rapid advances made in technology over the past few decades has not only improved handset capabilities, but has led to greater developments for networks as well, meaning nationwide coverage in 2G and 3G, innovative service offerings and attractive pricing structures for customers.

Several mobile networks are active in the UK, of which the five major ones are Orange, O2, T-Mobile, 3 Mobile and Vodafone.  Although there are also other networks, they are generally owned by one of the five mentioned above.  Each network has a wide variety of offerings for their customers.  Since you are sure to find a package that suits your pocket, we have listed some of the fringe benefits offered by each network below.

  • Orange network

Orange Wednesdays – this long-running incentive for Orange customers offers two-for-one cinema tickets and pizza from Pizza Express on a Wednesday.

  • O2 network

O2 Priority – O2 customers can get tickets to events across the UK up to 48 hours before the tickets are released to the general public.

  • T-Mobile network

T-Mobile Night In – customers receive discounts on DVD and game rentals at Blockbusters.

  • 3 Mobile network

The One plan – this is considered one of the best for smartphone users, with its all-you-can-eat data plan.

  • Vodafone

Freebee Rewardz – Pay As You Go customers get points each time they top up.  These can be saved up or used for an instant reward.

Although these benefits are fun, remember that your choice of network should be based on what type of phone you have and how you want to use it.  Spend some time researching the various packages offered by the networks and you will find the right mix of pricing and service for you.

Mobile phone networks

Google Chromecast launches here in the UK

It has been much talked about and it is now here in the UK and at a mere £30 you can turn your standard TV into a smart TV. The Chromecast is a simple dongle that you plug into the HDMI port of your TV and then using WiFi it is possible to use a range of Android and iOS apps to use video and Audio on your TV.

Using your smartphone, tablet or laptop, set up a simple app, and then you can send your favourite online shows form BBC iPlayer, Netflix, you music and YouTube to your big screen. The device will work with Android tablets, smartphones, iPhone and iPad and you use these devices as a remote for your TV.

For our market here in the UK, probably the most useful of the apps is likely to be BBC iPlayer, but both the Google Play Movies as well as Netflix is supported. For podcasts the device will allow you to listen using the TV speakers or surround sound if you have it, making podcasting more realistic and not unlike radio.

The dongle has already been launched in America in July last year and has already sold over a million, at a price of £30 it is expected to be a big hit here in the UK.

Google Chromecast

Amazon to produce mobile games

We are not too sure how this will affect established games producers, but news is that Amazon are intending to develop their own brand of games console this year and if it follows the other ventures such as kindle the book reading device, together with selling and publishing for the device, it could be a serious threat to the likes of Nintendo.

It has already acquired one gaming company the Californian based Double Helix, and has felt the water with the game Air Patriots. There is evidence that Amazon is actively recruiting heavy weights within industry in both Seattle as well as Silicone Valley in a concerted effort to turn the small Amazon Games Studios into a major operator.

It is highly unlikely that competitors are going to take this lying down, with names such as Sony and Microsoft, together with Nintendo who have between them invested huge sums of money amounting to many billions of dollars to their successful consoles, systems and games. However it is known that the company which Amazon has acquired already makes games for some of the companies, most notable of which was probably Killer Instinct that is acknowledged as a huge success for the Xbox from Microsoft. Will the new venture be aimed at the mobile market, as already customers of existing games companies are shifting their habits to the mobile phone away from consoles?

amazon logo

Alcatel One Touch Hero review

Alcatel has found a new lease of life with their Android devices and has been improving its offering over the past few years. Their latest device, the Alcatel One Touch Hero looks like a promising offering and could well be a cheaper alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, so what do you get?

The Alcatel One Touch Hero features a 6 inch full HD screen, a 13 megapixel camera and comes complete with its own capacitive stylus. Powered by a quad-core 1.5Ghz Cortex-A7 processor and 2GB RAM the One Touch Hero isn’t a slouch, but is significantly slower than Samsung’s offer.

That isn’t such a big deal when you realise that the Alcatel One Touch Hero will be significantly less than the Galaxy Note 3 and boasts a range of the same features. Standard features include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, microSD card slot and 16GB of internal storage. There is also an option of a dual-SIM version for those who use the same device for business and pleasure.

The One Touch Hero runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) out of the box but can be upgraded to the latest version. Whether the Alcatel One Touch Hero will make a dent in the Phablet market remains to be seen; there is still a question mark over the build quality of Alcatel’s devices, but the low price point is bound to appeal to most users.

Do you walk into walls checking Facebook

It can pass away a few minutes of time when watching people on mobiles when in a shopping centre or at an airport, perhaps checking their emails, messages or on Facebook. How many do you see walk into a wall or pillar, then recover themselves and immediately apologise to the offending wall or pillar!

We feel sure that you may have done the same yourself, we have here, but nothing compares with the poor unfortunate soul who walked off a pier in Australia when checking her Facebook page. The woman a Taiwanese tourist in Melbourne fell from St Kilda’s pier into Port Phillip Bay, and was picked up by a police speedboat after they had been alerted by a witness to the event.

The woman, who could not swim and was floating on her back naturally apologised, we believe to the police and not the pier or water, still had her mobile phone in her hand, she said “I was checking my Facebook page on the ‘phone and I’ve fallen in.”

In a typically Aussie humorous way the police said in a statement afterwards “there was no need for a lost property report because the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal”.

Do you take your phone on holiday?

Well if you do take your mobile with you  on your trip to one of the Mediterranean countries or to North America, you will be amongst the 90% that do, not put off in any way by the often very high charges imposed on us. This is from the results on a survey of around 2,162 people and those that did leave their mobiles at home two thirds said that it was a very difficult decision. A small percentage said the decision was because of the high charges although some admitted to “forgetting” to pack it.

From some earlier surveys that have taken place on the subject, it would appear that even when on holiday 90% admitted that they spent up to four hours a day on their Smartphones which begs the question, how did we live without our mobiles before? Much of the use of the mobile seems to be centred on sending pictures home to envious friends and work colleagues; a favourite appears to be self-portraits of them arriving at their destination.

For the holiday maker who wants to get away from it all, there is apparently a resort somewhere in the Caribbean which is 100% wire-free, no reception for mobiles either, that is a place to get away from the mobile, if you must!

4G to reach to reach one billion

As you can imagine this is the projected number and is not until 2017 and it will have to go some before the figure is anywhere near that.

It is rolling out slowly here and many people would argue that it would be nice to get 3G in a great number of areas and not just rural, but many cities too. In the USA already it is available to nine in ten of the population, it is claimed half in Europe, which we have to assume includes the UK and only one in ten in Asia. Although it reached the Uk late it is claimed that there is a 60% coverage now.

The mobile network operator EE has rolled out a total number of towns and cities covered by 4GEE to 131 and the company is claiming that it will hope for coverage of 98% of the UK population to be covered by the end of 2014 which is excellent if it can be achieved, but what about the remaining operators? Well according to Vodafone and Three, they are calso claiming that they will have 98% coverage by the end of 2015.

The average retail price of 4G Smartphones in developed markets such as the U.S. is around $450.

Smartphones – are safer than a credit card?

Well according to Peter Keenan who happens to be the CEO of Zapp it is or will be when he hopes to introduce the new system, which due to be launched in the summer 2014.  By this time the company is confident it will have enabled 40% of bank accounts and half of all merchants to use the Zapp infrastructure.

The new system claims it will enable consumers to make purchases in shops and restaurants using their smartphone, by turning their bank account into a form of electronic money wallet and that doing so will be more secure than using a credit card. Zapp is intended to be built into banks’ existing mobile apps and by doing so it will turn them into instant payment systems.

The security angle comes from the fact that when you pay by credit card you have to hand over the card to the merchant giving them the payment details, which of course is all that a crooked fraudster needs to make payments. By using the Zapp system, Peter Keenan claims that that customers using Zapp would hand over no information to the merchant, instead downloading an electronic ‘token’ which pushes the payment direct from their bank account. Even if a fraudster managed to get hold of this electronic token, all that would happen is that they would pay that particular bill and noting more.

LG unveils G Flex curved smartphone

Is it a gimmick or does it really make using the mobile phone a better experience, LG seem to think that the new curved smartphone that they have introduced is optimised for the average face, to deliver improved voice and sound quality. The South Korean manufacturer goes on to claim that the shape of the new phone actually increases the sound level by 3dB compared to a typically flat smartphone.

Well the curved shape does make it more comfortable to hold offering a good viewing angle ideal for watching videos or playing games, fitting into the users back pocket as well! The important bits of the phone are that it runs on a 2.26 GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2 and 2GB of memory; this can be extended to an impressive 32GB. To fit into the phone’s shape the battery is also curved and has enough power to last for a full day or more of use.

In common with the LG G2, the G Flex has buttons on the rear this means that it makes it less likely that the user will accidentally switch off the phone; also the volume can be adjusted with the index finger while talking, without any interruption to the conversation.

The launch of this phone follows on from Samsung introducing the Galaxy Round earlier which also has a curved screen. Both Samsung and LG’s curved phones are only available in the South Korean market as the companies seek to see if this type of phone will catch on with the public.

LG G2 Overview

The LG G2 is LG’s latest smartphone aimed at the high-end market. Expect it to rival the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5S, so what does the G2 offer?

The LG G2 features a huge 5.2 inch full HD (1080×1920 pixel) display, making it one of the best screen currently on the market. 4G compatibility is as standard, as is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC and an infrared port that can be used to control various devices around the house.

A 13 megapixel camera is mounted on the rear, as is the volume and power button, which is unusual for a mobile phone design. LG says that the placement of the buttons has come from extensive market research and are easily accessible while you’re using the device. Whether this will work in the real world though remains to be seen.

Running the latest version of the Android OS (4.2.2), the LG G2 also features a super-fast quad-core 2.26 GHz processor and 2GB of RAM, although the microSD card slot has been omitted meaning that if you need extra storage you’ll have to go for the 32GB version instead of the 16GB pushing up the price even further.

On the face of it, the LG G2 looks like a decent device that could make some decent headway into the cluttered high-end smartphone market, but as always the proof is in the pudding.
The LG G2 is available now on a range of contracts and tariffs.