Even though MobileFun’s advertising is currently focused on iPhone 5 cases, they nevertheless sent our reviewer Oliver W Leibenguth a sample of one of their styli. He has performed an accurate review – let’s see if the thing stacks up!

First we have to talk about the technical background behind all this:

In earlier days (the time before the first iPhone) all manufacturers used resistive Touchscreens in their PDAs and Smartphones. They offered a high resolution but had to be used with a stylus and lacked multitouch-capabilities.

Now we all use smartphones with capacitive Touchscreens: they offer multitouch capabilities and can be used with your fingers… or better said: they *have* to be used with your fingers. Stylus-Operation is, by design, not possible (Unless you own a Galaxy Note or a HTC Flyer that have that feature due to a modified digitizer and a special stylus). That means that you can’t do drawings or handwritten notes like you used to do – drawing and writing with your finger just doesn’t work right (unless you are a master with finger paint…)

But there are stylii available for capacitive Touchscreens: Most of them have big tips made out of a sponge-like material or rubber that simulate the user’s finger. The results are quite disillusioning: Ok, you’ve got a pen… that is exactly as inaccurate as your fingers are.

But now we’re looking at someting I’d like to call the „second generation of capacitive stylii“:
0 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

Actually, this looks like an ordinary ballpoint-pen with a protective cap.
1 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

But the tip looks totally different…
2 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

Dagi has built a stylus with a sharp tip that has a transparent disc attached to it. The disc has the diameter needed for the touchscreen to register its touch – and you can actually see, where and what you are drawing.
The disc itself is attached with a small spring that lets you tilt the pen in almost every possible angle without loosing contact to the touchscreen.
3a DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review
3b DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

I’m not an artist but with this pen I can draw and write almost as I would do with a regular ballpoint-pen on paper. There are some issues with certain apps that make use of multitouch-features that can lead to unwanted effects when you rest your hand on the touchscreen while using the pen.
4a DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review
4b DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

What‘s in the box?
5 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

- the stylus icon wink DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review
- a replacement tip
- 5 replacement glide-pads that reduce the friction of the disc (one is already attached)
- a (very) small piece of paper with instructions on how to replace the tip

The pen (30 EUR) is quite pricey compared to those with rubber tips, but if you need a stylus that actually works, this pen is worth every cent. Thanks to mobilefun UK for supplying the sample used in this review.

 

The C-Pen was provided to us cortesy of MobileFun. It is a stylus intended only for the Samsung Galaxy S3. Nevertheless, we tested it on both the Galaxy S2 and the WeTab.

The box opens onto the side. There is not much to see except for the blister packing:
samsung cpen review 1a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review samsung cpen review 1b Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review samsung cpen review 1c Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

The Stylus feels pretty comfortable in the hand. You can see the comparison pic below showing it next to some classic pens from Parker:
samsung cpen review 2a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

The most notable point of the stylus is the non retractable 3mm rubber tip on the front, used for writing on the capacitive screen.
samsung cpen review 3a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

We tested it on the Galaxy S2, where is works moderately well. the success we got was mainly on the tapping front, ie tapping the icons. But is is borderline impossible to use the same in the note taking application.

On the WePad, no different results were obtained. We tried to draw a line, and all that we got was a dashed line in place of a straight line. Of course, the Windows 8 text recognition failed to do anything with this entry.

We can not conclude its performance on the Galaxy S3. However, we can debunk one rumor: the C-Pen’s back does NOT include the special technology needed for the Galaxy Note!

We will update the review once we receive a Galaxy S3 in our labs. Until then, it is safe to conclude that the stylus works (as unreliable as) any other capacitive stylus – the price of 20 GBP is a bit high for what it offers.

 

It takes but one look at modern handheld computers to be amazed by what is possible – a few years ago, dual core CPUs were rare beasts even on the desktop. This ever-rising amount of computational power has, of course, taken its toll on the mobile industry – resource-effective development is less important.
embedded front Making Embedded Systems   the review embedded rev Making Embedded Systems   the review

The book starts out by looking at what makes an embedded system, and at how embedded systems are built and brought up. This is continued in chapter five, which takes a look.at efficient ways to structure your embedded system.

In chapters four and six, the book takes a high level look.at how an embedded system interacts with its surroundings. Topics like ports, polling, etc are covered – please be aware that electrical engineering is not taught here.

Chapter number 7 is a bit of an oddball, as it loks at ways to update the software of a system which has already been deployed. This sounds weird at firszt, but can be highly useful.

Finally, the last three chapters look at various methods for optimizing application code. The information in these is useful for all kinds of coding, and definitely good to know.
it should not be surprising that this is not an easy reading title. Nevertheless, the author has done her best – the book is well written.
Given the large range of topics covered,

In the end, Elecia White’s book makes for an interesting read. If you ever wondered about how code is written on the really small boxes, this is the place to go! The price of 34 USD is fine – sadly, electronics are not covered…

 

Before beginning this review, we must clarify that the definition for the small, medium and large phones has changed since the launch of the Galaxy Note. Those that were considered large are now medium.

We received an Overboard Waterproof case, courtesy of MobileFun iPad Accessories. Let us begin.

The case comes nicely packed and looks nice and shiny in the first go. Though Overboard has mentioned the case to be for small phones, We deem a device like the N8 not to fit the category. Rather, we term it as a medium sized device.

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

Upon opening, the contents of the package include the case, a hook, a lanyard. And No, the phone does not come inside the package wlEmoticon smilewithtongueout Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

The case is made up of waterproof material that feels soft yet strong. We had to open these locks to get a look inside the case.

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

The phone can be slid through once the locks are open. These locks act a sealing barrier once the phone is inside.

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

Once securely locked, nothing can enter or exit the case save light wlEmoticon smilewithtongueout Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

The case did not prove to be any hindrance while operating the phone. The phone responded as snappily as it did outside the case.

Overboard have made sure that the phone’s camera is not missed out. While the front has a larger transparent are to operate the phone to it’s fullest, the rear of the case makes sure that the camera is not covered.

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

A sample of the camera functioning inside the case

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

You can use the hook and and the lanyard to secure the phone while you are on the move.

 Review–Overboard Waterproof case for Medium sized devices

In my opinion, the case is one of the best in it’s class. It can keep you phone safe from water damage. We definitely recommend this case if you device is small to medium in size. But if you have a Galaxy Note, then this case is not a choice as the Note would not fit in.

 

The NY Times was right after all – its prognosis that Microsoft would limit the number of Windows Mobile devices became true when Windows Phone 7 hit the market. Of course, Acer is so large a manufacturer that it can press Microsoft into service – let’s look at the Allegro in some detail.

This review is based on a preliminary version of the device I got into my hands at DroidCon.nl. However, the rep told me that the device is largely ready – so the results can IMHO be taken at face value.

First of all: the Allegro will be available in two different colors: black and white:
acer allegro review 0 Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

It will also have a size-similar Android sibling which could be useful if you want to take a look at the size yourself:
acer allegro review 1 Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

Next up, two shots showing it next to the Samsung Galaxy SII:
acer allegro review 2a Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 2b Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

Outdoors, the white model can show its full beauty. On the front, the three sensor keys are visible. One can also see that the screen sadly gets washed out in the sun:
acer allegro review 3a Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 3b Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

Next up, the usual four-side views:
acer allegro review 4a Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 4b Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 4c Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 4d Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

Sadly, the back cover is of a similarily soft and flimsy type to the one we saw on the Galaxy SII and Galaxy Note, This, however, it but a minor niggle:
acer allegro review 5a Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size acer allegro review 5b Acer M310 / Acer Allegro preliminary review – physical, size

Cutting a long story short: the Acer Allegro is a small, well-built WP7 with no major weaknesses except for a relatively bad LCD screen. Tune in soon – next, we’ll look at a few system specs.

 

One thing is constant among most countries: public broadcast annoying everyone who owns a TV, extorting a tax for their usually very mediocre produce. But why is this so?
front Comparing Media Systems   the review back Comparing Media Systems   the review

This book, published by the University of Cambridge, starts by looking at the media landscape of the past, breaking it into three distinct models.

Model number one is dubbed the “Polarized Pluralist Model”, and describes the media systems seen in mediterranean states such as Italy. Next up is the “Democratic Corporatist Model”, which is prevalent in most of continental Europe. Finally, the US “liberal” model is introduced.

After this introduction, the book moves on to differentiating the models in dimensions such as political influence, government subsidies and amount of unionization of staff. Even though these chapters do get a bit repetitive, they contain loads of interesting anecdotes which give extra food for thought.

A final chapter “rounds off” the tome by looking at what the future will hold for the various European media systems discussed.

From a text point of view, the book is – like most universitarian literature – too long for my taste. Nevertheless, it remains readable even for non-native speakers and contains quite a few interesting tables:
in Comparing Media Systems   the review

This book is ideal for all those who ever had to deal with public broadcasting and/or wonder how the news gets to their doorstep (and live in Canada, the USA or Western Europe) – the price of 30$ is ok.

P.S. The introduction is available in PDF form for free…

 

In today’s mobile market, little is as important as a good user interface design. Unfortunately, most books on the topic tend to take one “way” and then ride it home – can Lukas Mathis’s book provide a broader overview of the GUI design field?
front Designed for Use   the review back Designed for Use   the review

Designed for Use is split up into three parts, which each are made up of chapters explaining techniques and ideas used to accomplish user interface design.

Part 1 starts out with the design of applications – topics covered here are not directly related to the layout of forms, but rather to things like deciding which features are needed and how they should be grouped.

Part 2 looks at the layout of the individual forms, and also covers “new-age” things like animation and the design of mobile user interfaces.

Finally, Part 3 looks at things to do after the first version of the app has been released. In this part of the book, expect coverage of concepts like dealing with customer requests, adding and removing features, and so on.

As with almost all O’Reilly-published books, a number of images are included to make the text easier to read and understand. Paper quality was high as always; a huge amount of web references makes “further reading” easy:
in Designed for Use   the review

In the end, it is hard not to like Designed for Use. The book presents a plethora of design methods which are sure to inspire everybody – the price of 30$ is more than justified.

 

Traditionally, programming books were built to emulate teaching courses. This made them well suited for people who wanted to learn the whole platform on a step by step basis, but made finding specific content difficult.
windows phone recipies front Windows Phone 7 Recipes   the review windows phone recipies back Windows Phone 7 Recipes   the review

Cookbooks like the one which is subject off this review take a different approach. They provide groups of recipies which provide worked solutions for.common problems faced by developers.

The authors courses to start their book by looking at the basics of Windows Phone Seven development. This group of record intensives the platform as whole, and also explains the xaml used for generating a basic page.

After that, Silverlight GUI programming is explained in considerable detail. The authors also cover Expression blend in some detail.

The chapters 5 and 6 look at sensors and the interpretation of touchscreen gestures. After rhat, the multimedia facilities of the OS are explained in a group of recipies, as is the isolated syorage subsystem.

The two final chapters look at networking and testing. Even though no Mango-specific features are treated, the book does a good gob at explaining the features.

Finally, a single recipe explains the MVVM pattern. Unit testing is handled in another.

Unfortunately, it looks like the editing process for this book was cut short for some reason. While the first three chapters were use well readable, later chapters were missing words and sometimes fealty unedited. However, the text remains understandable even for non native speakers.
windows phone recipies Windows Phone 7 Recipes   the review

In the end, thjs tome is ideal for all those who tend to be in the learning-by-doing camp. The multitude of recipies ensures that most of the features of WP7 get covered – the price of 28USD is justified.

 

A variety of books have been published on Windows Phone 7 – so far, I have not found one which is well-suited to beginners. Can APress’s Beginner’s book stack up?

Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development review front Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development   the review Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development review back Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development   the review

The book is divided into two large blocks: block one provides a rough overview of the platform, while the second block knocks out some topics for more detailed treatment.

The introduction of the actual development process takes place in the chapters two and three. The authors chose a relatively complex example which used Azure, but barely cover XAML – this leads to a lot of not so useful information floating round your head. Debugging and distributing also get covered in the first block.

After that, the first detailled topic covered is the accelerometer. It is followed by two chapters looking at application bars and the web browser control.

Themes, Localization and integrating your app into the OS get covered too. Other topics include the Isolated Storage system, media and the GPS service. Finally, a few short chapters on reactive extensions and security were included, leading to the following TOC:

  1. Introducing Windows Phone 7 and the Windows Phone Platform
  2. Building Windows Phone 7 Applications
  3. Using Cloud Services As Data Stores
  4. Catching and Debugging Errors
  5. Packaging, Publishing, and Managing Applications
  6. Working with the Accelerometer
  7. Application Bar
  8. WebBrowser Control
  9. Working with Controls and Themes
  10. Integrating Applications with the Windows Phone OS
  11. Creating Trial Applications
  12. Internationalization
  13. Isolated Storage
  14. Using Location Services
  15. Media
  16. Working with the Camera and Photos
  17. Push Notifications
  18. Reactive Extensions for .NET
  19. Security

In general, APress’s books have been excellently edited. Unfortunately, this book was not too satisfying – some code blocks are missing, and some sentences are unclear. Nevertheles, the book contains an ample amount of images and remains understandable even for non-native speakers.
Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development review ebook Beginning Windows Phone 7 Development   the review

Cutting a long story short: if you want to buy but one book on WP7, take the sister book on Recipies. If you, on the other hand, are looking for a more classic tutorial type of tome, buying this one will serve you well. The price of 24$ is ok.

 

The UK retailer MobileFun is well known for selling all kinds of brand and self-sourced products at competitive prices. Their recent introduction of the StuckBuddy left more than one individual scratching his head…what’s the fuzz all about?

First of all, the usual. MobileFun’s products ship in a padded envelope from the UK:
stuckbuddy 1 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

The blister of the StuckBuddy got a nice beating during the mailing.
stuckbuddy 2 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

Nevertheless, the contents were a-OK:
stuckbuddy 3 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

The whole idea of the device is that you stick it onto the back of a phone or tablet – like our unfortunate Samsung Wave:
stuckbuddy 4 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

Then, the whole thing is turned around for a cradle-like effect:
stuckbuddy 5 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

In my tests, the sticking effect worked well on devices which had a ‘flat’ area on the back where the StuckBuddy can attach. The Samsung Wave is a bad example – if its removable battery cover is partially under the suction cup, the sticking effect ends after approximately two minutes…

This device clearly plays in the useless, but so adorable category. It obviously won’t replace a kick stand or cradle, but hey – its better than nothing. Given the price of 5 GBP (and the money back guarantee), I don’t know much more to write here…

 

Traditionally, creating a 3D game for a mobile device required the developer to write a full engine of his own. Microsoft’s XNA originally was intended for the XBOX, but was mobilized with Windows Phone 7. Can the PackT book stack up?
front 3D Graphics with XNA Game Studio 4 – the review back 3D Graphics with XNA Game Studio 4 – the review

As usual for PackT, the book is organized in a “workshop-style” fashion. This means that the book should be read from A to Z, following the steps of the developer on your workstation.

The first chapter starts out with a look at the process of 3D rendering in XNA. Do not expect any mathematical explanations of the rendering process anywhere in the book – but do expect your spaceship model flying across the screen after Chapter 1.

After that, the author dedicates multiple chapters to shaders. He starts out with an introduction to HLSL, and goes on to show various shader applications ranging from coloring to shadows and terrain effects.

The chapters six and seven look at techniques like billboards and terrain generation. Reading these chapters will allow you to understand how a 3D game is implemented if you see it in action – definitely a worthwhile read. The final chapters of the book look at various effects like post processors, and at animation of models using the XNA framework.

Unfortunately, Windows Phone 7 is not mentioned in the book. As it supports but a subset of the full XNA standard, developers should expect some “porting effort” when trying to mobilize the algorithms shown here.

PackT produces its books in a JIT fashion. Thus, the picture quality is a bit less than what one can expect from offset printing – but the difference is in no way significant.
in 3D Graphics with XNA Game Studio 4 – the review

In the end, Rahul Sood’s book is ideally suited for developers who want to create a 3D game, and are not interested in the mathematical processes of 3D rendering. For them, this book and about 30 hours of time is all it takes for a decent-looking XNA game. The price of 40$ is ok…

 

Capacitive screens have brought us all kinds of funny input tools for use in winter: in Korea, some users even resorted to sausages in order to keep in touch with their friends without freezing their hands. MobileFun now plans to help out with its Dot Gloves – can they stack up?

MobileFun’s products ship in well-padded envelopes from the UK. I haven’t had any issues with them so far, as the contents have always arrived safely so far:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

The gloves themselves ship in a small plastic bags. Mine were marked as Large – a size I almost never need with actual gloves:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

Nevertheless, the fit of the wool gloves was relatively tight:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

Finally, a look at the actual product. The gray tips on top of the three fingers are the active areas. You must use these to touch the screen – the black areas do not conduct:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

We performed tests on a variety of devices with a capacitive screen, and had no issue with any of them. The devices remain usable with your hands in the gloves – and this is all you need.

Given the price of 18 UK pounds, there is not much one can expect from the gloves. They will obviously not verse your leather gloves in terms of looks and workmanship, and they will probably also do a bad job at impressing possible mating partners. Nevertheless, they serve their purpose perfectly – if you are willing to trade wearing slightly weird-looking wool gloves for more work time (and have small hands), they are perfect.

Expect to see them on Austrian roads next year…

 

Our loaner of the Omnia 7 was provided to us by Hutchison Austria. Big thanks to them!
With apologies for the somewhat large delay, it’s time to continue our review of the Samsung Omnia 7 by looking at its build quality.

Looking at the front of the device, one immediately sees the huge SuperAMOLED screen:
samsung omnia 7 front Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

This being a Windows Phone 7, the three buttons are around. Two of them were realized as soft buttons, the home button feels very solid:
samsung omnia 7 buttons Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

The back is made of a metal not dissimilar to the one used on the Wave and Wave II:
samsung omnia 7 camera Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

Taking off the rear cover reveals the battery:
samsung omnia 7 battery Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

A headphone jack and a MicroUSB port can be found at the top. Amusingly, the MicroUSB slot is under a little door:
omnia 7 headphones 2 Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical
omnia 7 headphones Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

A tray is at the bottom:
omnia 7 bottom Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

Looking at the sides, one sees the usual array of buttons. Their physical feel is excellent:
omnia 7 side Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical
omnia 7 sside 2 Samsung Omnia 7 review – physical

In the end, the Omnia 7 is excellently built, feels VERY solid and is a delight to use. This leaves us with one important issue: the screen. Tune in soon to find out more on that…

 

Before the PlayBook tablet by Research in Motion, ActionScript was a language mainly used by Flash designers for adding a bit of “brains” to their animations. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry tablet changed that – ActionScript now is interesting for classic programmers, too. Can O’Reilly’s classic satisfy the needs of this clientele?
front Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review back Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review

The first chapters are best described as Programming for Dummies – not only do they show the syntax of AS, they also explain the concepts behind the idioms in painstaking detail. Seasoned IT vets will have issues not falling asleep here…

Part 2 focuses onh all things graphics: topics like pixel graphics, vector graphics and motion are explained in considerable detail. This treatise is very interesting, and contains many examples. However, it suffers from two weaknesses: first of all, it is focused on people programming games or graphic demos. The second and more significant weakness is the dependency on Flash CS – if you use Flash Builder, many of the examples can not be used.

Text, Sound and video get one chapter each. The same is valid for file IO and XML processing.

Our review is based on the second edition of the book. As usual for O’Reilly, it is well-written and contains loads of images. This time, the book is printed in color:
in Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review

All in all, the book provides a great overview of the possibilities of ActionScript. Unfortunately, it is not perfectly suited for PlayBook developers – it does not explain the QNX controls or the Flash Builder IDE. However, developers who need to create a PlayBook app ASAP should invest the 32$ the book costs at Amazon’s – there is no better way to get up to speed with ActionScript quickly…

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