YouTube music is a big challenge for Apple and Spotify.

Earlier this week, YouTube launched its much awaited Music app, in the US. This is intended to cement the stronghold which the popular video streaming site has over the younger online age groups and to seriously enter the music streaming market. YouTube has been quietly, incredibly popular among younger audiences for consuming music, especially over the likes of Apple Music which is much more premium and Google Music which is too poorly promoted.

Youtube poses a huge challenge however, to music streaming’s biggest  platforms; Apple and Spotify. This is especially true while both suffer with some fairly major problems. Apple, firstly has failed to retain most of the free trial subscribers it got on board. While you can point to the figures of platform vs platform, per user, it’s a pretty bad result given this was a big launch, with the app being automatically added to every iPhone. Spotify has another problem, people are not signing up to premium as much they need to be. The result is that Spotify has to work much harder to sell as space to reach its younger audience who are seemingly unwilling to pay.

Music is an attempt, by Google to do two things. Firstly, to capitalise on the youth market which they have been incredibly successful in doing to date. Secondly, and more urgently it is to monetise YouTube. Famously loss making since its purchase, YouTube has been a long term investment for Google, and this is now coming into fruition with YouTube Red, of which music is a part.

But what makes YouTube music different? Well, it’s been growing a lot of channels over time, to the point at which many are now commercial businesses with loyal audiences. Those audiences it now feels would pay the monthly fee to be ad-free and get special content and features.  Google also has a lot of information about the people who use YouTube, that’s allowed them to create curated playlists through a mixture of human oversight and machine learning. It’s something that Apple struggle with because of their stance on user data collection, Spotify also have no way to gather this information.

Human and machine curation is an interesting approach, Google is using the raft of information about each user to get as much insight as possible, but much like Facebook M, a human go-between ads common sense and context to everything

YouTube music won’t allow you to create playlists like Spotify does though, it focuses in on core feature that the end user wants, the belief (and possibly correct assumption) is that the average person doesn’t want to create playlists, they want to consume content. YouTube allows you not just to listen to music, but to save video content offline to watch wherever you might not have connection. While it has the same 30million odd tracks that the other services have, it also has videos, concerts and a host of other content.

Most importantly, YouTube has done what Apple actually does best. It played the long game and now aims to enter an industry to disrupt it. It has the information, the data and the loyalty to just get away with is

YouTube Red, and YouTube Music are currently available in the US, and should be coming to Europe soon.

Vodafone Blue, is really a bit Blue…

Vodafone have recently released their new Vodafone Blue handset here in Ireland, specifically for all the Facebook nuts out there, as their own answer to HTC’s Facebook handset being run exclusively on O2. One landed on my desk a few weeks ago, so I decided to play around with it.

 

First impressions are a bit reminiscent of a BlackBerry from maybe 3 years ago, there’s a lot of buttons laid out across the handset with a sizable enough screen for the handset’s size in standard QWERTY, with the addition of the Facebook button along the bottom. The menu buttons along the top are a little more confusing, besides the standard call answer and drop buttons, there’s a touch-joystick in the middle which takes a little getting used to when you’re used to gesture based touch screens, there’s also two buttons to either side, which although are not labeled are menu option buttons.

Vodafone

Vodafone 555 Blue Facebook Phone

Running on a custom OS, it’s not too bad, and certainly has enough features for the basic end user. With Facebook instantly accessible and a mediocre camera for updates on the move. Other than that it’s almost indistinguishable from any other Nokia handset for example, while this isn’t exactly a bad thing, it’s not something to go shouting about. I can see where the market for the handset it, for young people who don’t have the finances or the inclination to get a full fledged smartphones but want to keep in touch and use the social benefits which one can give.

 

One major problem, which I had with the handset, was, typing. The buttons are far too small, and for some reason typing ‘c’ also gives me an ‘e’ which I still cannot understand, it might be a handset setting, but why such would exist is beyond understanding. The OS is also clunky, with a poor response from the joystick it was tedious finding my way around. Perhaps it might be easier if I hadn’t come from using an iPhone or Android, but it was a bit of a pain.

 

Overall, the idea is good, but the handset feels like something, which would have been released to the low end of the Market maybe 5 years ago. You could do much worse than this handset, while I did have a lot of trouble with it, the OS felt simple enough and reliable. Perhaps Vodafone should leave Facebook phones to the guys over at HTC, but if you’re looking for a phone to give you on the go Facebook access, you may as well fork out, or wait until Christmas for an iPhone, or the excellent HTC Sensation, you’d get faster, more intuitive access with less hassle and a bettered camera.

 

The Vodafone Blue Facebook phone is currently not available in stores, but you can register your interest on their Facebook page.

The Nokia N8 that stole my heart.

Everyone remembers Nokia as the handset we all owned, it was the ultimate cool symbol before phones got smart and is still renowned for their solid build and durable nature. In fact, you’ll still see many people wandering around with the old 3210! But while we remember the 3210, Nokia has come on leaps and bounds, launching it’s new flagship smartphone the N8 earlier this year.

Nokia 3210

The Nokia 3210, one of the old reliables

I’ve had the chance to play around with the N8 and I have to say it’s an impressive phone. All that I knew and loved about Nokia came flooding back, the N8 really is a winner and I almost considered swapping my iPhone for it (almost).

Once you pick up the N8 you’re instantly surprised by just how light it feels, weighing less than the iPhone it’s almost featherlight. It is a bit more bulky though, thicker than the iPhone 4 and still again that bit bigger than the 3G. This is mostly from the camera lens on the back, but I’ll get to that soon. On the looks, it’s a real contender. Very sleek and smooth, it looks and feels durable, much more so than any HTC phone or the iPhone. You really do feel like you could chuck it at a wall and pick it up and go on texting.

The Nokia N8

The very solid, very sleek N8!

The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhone, and the difference between the retina display and the N8’s AMOLED capacitive touch screen is noticeable, the N8 display when viewing text heavy websites is not the easiest to read. The screen is responsive though, you can glide around withe relative ease, again it doesn’t feel as smooth as the iPhone but you get used to it and it does feel just as comfortable. You’ll also notice a small feedback vibration at each tap, it’s nice but gets a bit old fast and I haven’t figured out how to switch it off.

The camera is the most impressive piece of this hardware, 12 megapixel it’s truly a monster, the quality is perfect and unmistakeable. Streets ahead of the iPhone, it’s worth the little bit extra bulk on the back. Personally I’m trying to figure out how e camera quality can actually be so good when squeezed into such a light handset, it has some echoes of a Mary Poppins handbag.

The battery is also pretty strong, I’ve been messing around with this for a few days now all on one charge, and it hasn’t made a peep about running even 50% power. WiFi ANC 3G capable with two cameras, one front facing for video calls and 16GB storage natively with room for up to 32GB more using an SD card.

What probably let’s the phone down the most is the software. Sum Ian just never daunt onto the smartphone Market and just couldn’t make the leap over, hence the attempted jump onto Meego with the N9 and the Microsoft deal earlier in the year.

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9, big attempt to refine the N8 design

There’s a lot to like about Symbian ^3, multi-tasking out of the box, a lot of focus given to mobile data with social networks, news feeds and mail all being accessible from the home screen from the moment you switch it on. While it’s a nice operating system, it’s just not as smooth as iOS or Android. There’s a clunkiness you just can’t ignore, and it can feel a little exerting navigating your way around.

The main problem for Symbian is that whereas the other two major OS’s were build from the ground up with smartphones in mind, Symbian is very much an evolution of older systems and seems to be slightly stuck in the days of Nokia’s dominance of the phone Market, before smartphones arrived on the scene. So the whole navigation structure is rigged towards what used to work on button based handsets. Another major gripe I’ve had is a lack of Mac compatibility, which took me a while to work around.

If you’re looking to download apps for your phone, the Ovi Store comes preloaded, and works very similar to the other app stores. The selection isn’t as wide, but it offers everything from apps to themes and ringtones for your phone, and it’s actually pretty easy to get around. There’s no Facebook or Twitter apps, but you can use MySocial, which is preloaded on the phone as a nice alternative.

Nokia Ovi store

The very handy, Nokia Ovi Store with over 1.7 million downloads daily

Overall the N8 is a winning handset. It looks good, feels good and is a joy to use. Mostly let down by the operating system which just doesn’t cut the mustard in the age of the iPhone. If Nokia want to keep ahead, they need to utilise their innovation in software, as it seems to be that the other handsets are using their ideas before they do. NFC Payments on phones are a good example, Nokia patented this ages ago, but there seems to be no plans to implement this on any handsets!

Software 5.5/10 – nice, but not wowed

Hardware 10/10 – solid, sleek and simple

Camera 10/10 – Stunning.

Overall 8.5/10 – great phone, pleasure to use.

What to Expect from the iPhone 5

It seems like just yesterday that we were all lining up outside stores for the iPhone 4, eagerly awaiting the newest of Apple’s smartphones. Now we’re beginning to speculate over the iPhone 5 which will apparently be the pinnacle of mobile technology.

It’s exected that the iPhone 5 will be released this summer, with a similar date to the iPhone 4, which means we in Ireland should be getting it sometime in early August.  It’s widely believed that there’s going to be a few big changes to the next generation of the world’s most famous handset and in Ireland, should be on all the main networks apart from HTC-tastic Meteor and Emobile.

So, some of the big changes which are being rumoured for the iPhone 5 are the new A5 chip, which is already being used in the iPad 2 so that one pretty much makes sense. Another bunch of changes being rumoured are a better camera, larger memory storage and in the long run the new iOS5 which could potentially be sometime around the iPhone 5 launch.

Some of the more interesting suggestions, which have been put forward, are that there will be two models brought out, one lower end which would be an iPhone Nano with a smaller screen and lower storage capacity and a larger screen version (possibly 5inches) to combat the growing popularity of the HTC Desire HD. This is all speculation, but does seem to fit into Apple looking to take on a more pro-active approach to combat the growth of Android. However, Apple still control one of the largest market shares and the largest app store so whether they really want to branch out beyond their niche is questionable.

Personally, I don’t think Apple will go for a lower-end model. It doesn’t fit in with Apple’s image, and they essentially control the niche market in which they inhabit. Is the iPhone 5 worth buying? Possibly. If you haven’t gotten the iPhone 4, you should definitely upgrade to the iPhone 5 and ditch your 3G/S but if you’re on the iPhone 4 I don’t really see any great advancements being made with the 5th generation.

 

9 Reasons not to buy an iPhone 5

9 Reasons not to buy the iPhone 5

iPhones in bars and TV’s go 3D…

It’s been an eventful week for technology world; We’ve seen Facebook ‘like’ the internet, secret space planes being launched, HP give more details on its Slate and least of all there’s some serious sacking going on in Apple all over a bar, $5,000, photos and some German beer.

Unless you’ve been on holidays on Mars for the past few days, and the roaming costs a fortune, then you’ll know that the iPhone 4G has been the centre of the biggest leak of the year. Gray Powell, a now infamous name in Cupertino and (former) Apple employee left the next iPhone in a bar, only to be picked up by someone who later sold the handset on to the popular tech website, Gizmodo.

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iPhone in the lead in Ireland’s smartphone market.

It’s official; the iPhone is Ireland’s most popular smart phone, beating the competition by a clear lead.

This week, DRG, a digital advertising agency announced that iPhone sales in Ireland had reached 250,000 handsets over the various models, and that iPhone internet browsers account for an increasing amount of web traffic in a recently released bunch of statistics for the Irish mobile market, one of the highest penetrated markets in the world (about two phones for every person in the country).

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