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Technology

S6 wireless charging pad review

Having given a little bit of background to wireless charging technology, it’s now time for me to review Samsung’s wireless charging pad.

The Good

Galaxy S6 wireless charging
My Samsung Galaxy S6 wirelessly charging on the S6 Qi charging pad

So what’s good about Samsung’s wireless charging pad? It’s a wireless charging pad! It can wirelessly charge your phone!!!!! Providing it’s an S6 of course.

The proximity of the sensor is pretty good, you get the best (fastest) charge by putting the phone – without a case – centrally on the pad. That said, my phone charges perfectly well when it’s in its case, and you can lift it up about an inch in the air, and it will still charge – just a little slower.

The pad is reasonably small and very well designed. Being plastic, it doesn’t have the same quality feel to it that the S6 itself has, but it is still aesthetically pleasing, lighting up blue when your phone is charging, and green when it hits 100% – just like the LED on the S6 does.

The pad has a safety feature built in to stop overcharging, meaning that once your phone hits 100% charge (some people report this is closer to 90%, but for me it’s been 100%) then it stops emitting power.

When I’m at my desk, my phone sits next to me, so I’ve just got it resting on the pad now instead. I can still pick it up and use it as frequently as I like, without damaging the pad or the battery.

It couldn’t be simpler to use, it really is as easy and placing your phone on the pad and so long as its reasonably central, it will charge.

The Not-So-Good

My first S6 charging pad shock came when I realised it doesn’t come with any leads. ‘It’s wireless charging, why do you want leads?‘ you may be shouting, but unless it were battery powered (which it isn’t, because wireless charging is too inefficient to make a battery powered version effective) you need to plug the pad into a power source.

Wireless charging pad fully charged
The S6 on Samsung’s Qi charging pad, showing the green, fully charged lights

Samsung’s recommended retail price for the pad is £40 GBP (or a slightly cheaper $50 USD in the States) and yet that doesn’t include a mains plug, or a micro USB charger. The only other thing that comes in the box is a hefty multi-language instruction leaflet, reminding you not to throw the pad off a cliff, strike it with a hammer or take it for a swim. I’d rather they’d saved the paper personally.

Being wireless, the pad doesn’t charge as fast as a wired connection, and is nowhere near the speed of a fast charger. For some people this is a major gripe, but it doesn’t really bother me. I know that it’s going to charge slower, but it’s also going to be more convenient to use. If my phone’s nearly dead and I’m going out in an hour, I’ll turn it off, plug it into a fast charger and I know that by the time I go out, it’ll be pretty much fully charged. If however my phone is nearly dead, but I’m at my desk all day, I’ll leave it switched on and on the pad, knowing that if I need to use it at any point, I can simply lift it up, without having to fiddle with that annoying micro USB.

Something to be aware of is that you’ll probably need to plug the charging pad into a mains socket, rather than a USB port on your computer. I was hoping to power the pad from my PC, which the first time I used it seemed to work okay – it just charged a bit slower – however from then on it’s not managed to squeeze quite enough energy out of the USB port and down the wire into the pad. As a result the charger keeps disconnecting, meaning my phone keeps dinging and bonging to let me know that it’s charging, not-charging, charging, not-charging – you get the picture.

Is It Worth It?

So is Samsung’s wireless charging pad worth a purchase? Well that’s a tricky one to answer. If you have a phone which is wireless charging compatible, charging wirelessly is undoubtedly a useful feature. If money is no object for you, most certainly run out and get one – or get your butler to buy one for you online.

Had the pad included a mains power plug and a micro USB lead I would say yes. It is £40, but for that you get a ready to use wireless charging pad. The fact that for Samsung has chosen not to include a means to power the pad, means that I think this has to be more of an individual decision. I’m sitting on the fence on this one. A great product, it looks good and is convenient to use, but it’s under-accessorised and overpriced.

Finally, I must say a thanks to Mobile Fun who sent this S6 charger to us for review. We were discussing the review just after 5pm and the pad was delivered ready for the review by 11am the next day – that’s super fast delivery!

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Gadgets Reviews Smartphones

Impact Shield – S6 screen protector review

On Monday I reviewed Tech21’s case for the Galaxy S6. Even the best cases leave the screen vulnerable to scratches and dirt, so to fully protect your phone, you need a good screen protector. Today I’m going to review Tech21’s Impact Shield screen protector for the Galaxy S6. Our thanks to Mobile Fun who provided the protector for this review.

Tech21 Impact Shield Screen Protector

Protection
Having use the Impact Shield screen protector for several years now, I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of the protection it gives. Whilst the screen protector itself does pick up scratches (which do very slowly fade with time) Tech21’s screen protector does a fantastic job of protecting the phone’s screen.

Over the course of 2 years, I replaced my screen protector twice, because it just collected too many scratches, however every time I pealed it off, the phone screen itself was fine. This newer version offers the same protection, just for the S6. The video below is made by Tech21 – it’s a drop test of a ball-bearing from six foot.

Application

Screen protector application widgetTech21 have added a useful widget to the pack to help you apply the screen protector. This widget (very snugly) slots over your phone, helping you to line up the screen protector to exactly where it needs to be.

Before you apply the screen protector you need to remove any dust from the screen. The microfibre cloth that comes in the packet is pretty bad, and just seemed to spread dust, rather than remove it. I ended up using a glasses cloth to give the screen a proper clean.

Once all the dust is off, you remove one layer of the screen protector, stick it to the phone and then use the cardboard provided (also not very useful) to remove any bubbles, before removing the upper layer. Then you’re done; screen protector applied!

Clarity and Use

There is no noticeable difference in the quality of the display once the screen protector has been applied. Some screen protectors make the screen look fuzzy or distorted, however Tech21’s does not. I have noticed that when using the screen with the protector applied, there is slightly more friction between my figure and the phone, meaning it doesn’t glide as smoothly across as it would otherwise. You do get used to it however.

Price

The Impact Shield screen protector currently costs £25, which is to the higher end of the price spectrum.

Rating

The Impact Shield does its job well: protects the screen without compromising on clarity or usability. The level of protection it provides is great, but I’m not sure the regular user would really need it very often. The self-heal feature is good to have, but it doesn’t work quite as well as you might hope or expect.

Four StarUltimately taking into account the competition and Impact Shield’s relative price and protection, I’m going to rate it a generous 4 stars.

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Gadgets Reviews Smartphones

FlexShock protection for the Galaxy S6

Two years ago I reviewed Tech21’s Impact Mesh case for the Galaxy S4 Mini. Tech21 are now using a new material called FlexShock, so having recently started using a Galaxy S6, I thought it would be appropriate to review Tech21’s latest Evo Check case for Samsung’s Galaxy S6.

Tech21 Evo Check Case

Protection
The main reason I use a case is to protect my device. Primarily from knocks and drops, but also from scratches, dirt and dust. The size of the S6 means that depending upon what you’re wearing, it wont always fit snugly in your pocket. This inevitably means that every so often it will fall out, at which point I will usually scrabble and scramble to try and catch it, but if I’m unsuccessful, I need to know the phone will be safe.

The S6, with its Gorilla Glass and aluminium casing, seems to be pretty resilient by itself. It would appear you can use an S6 to crack walnuts open with no ill effects, and this drop test video demonstrates the S6 (Edge) is a pretty tough cookie. WARNING: for S6 owners, this is a heart-in-mouth kind of video!

So how much protection does Tech21’s case provide? Well the answer is quite a lot. The case has a slight lip on the front meaning that even if dropped face down on a flat surface, neither the screen nor the home button would touch the ground – the case would absorb the impact.

My main concern when I first looked at the S6 was that the rear camera protrudes, meaning that it would be the first thing to contact during an impact. The case has a slightly raised rim around the camera, meaning that the camera is now recessed by about 0.5mm – giving it some much needed protection.

Tech21 have ditched the D3O which they had previously been famous for using, in favour of FlexShock. This new material they claim does the same job as D3O – absorbing the impact – whilst it can be moulded into better shock absorbing shapes and it can be dyed different colours. FlexShock seems just as hardy as D3O – but with added flexibility and customisation.

Design

Galaxy S6 FlexShock caseI really like the metal and glass construct of the Galaxy S6, so for me it’s not about getting a snazzy case to conceal an ugly phone. The Evo Case is very minimalistic and whilst it does cover five sides of the phone (the top, both sides, the bottom and the back) it still gives the S6 a little room to showcase its looks. The beauty of FlexShock is that it can be styled in different colours. As such, I’ve gone for a smooth white, to match my white S6. It is obvious that I am using a case, and I have lost that plush glass feeling but as cases go, aesthetically the Evo Check does a pretty good job.

A good case has to give clean access to all the phone’s ports and sensors. The Evo Check case does this well, there is ample room around the speaker, power port, lower microphone and the headphone socket. On the top the infrared sensor and higher microphone are also able to operate without interference. The camera has plenty of room around it, as does the flash, and you can use the heart rate monitor without removing the phone from the case. You do have to remove the phone to get to the SIM-card socket, but who does that on a regular basis anyway?

White Tech21 S6 caseThe buttons (volume up/down and power) are covered, and to activate them you do need to press them firmly. I personally like this, as it gives the phone a quality feel and it prevents you from accidentally pressing them too. That said, (from watching endless YouTube reviews) I do know that some users would prefer the buttons to be uncovered, and dislike having to push them hard to get anything to happen.

Price

The Evo Check case is currently priced around £30, which is fairly mid-range (cheaper than many of Samsung’s own cases) considering (in terms of protection) it is a pretty high end product.

Rating

I’m a big fan of Tech21’s Evo Check case for the Galaxy S6. It covers the phone well, without obstructing any of the ports or sensors. It also looks great, even if it doesn’t feel as good as metal and glass.

Four and a Half StarThe protection it offers is hard to rival, especially amongst cases with a similar price tags, so I’m rating the Evo Case with FlexShock protection 4 and a half stars.

Our thanks to Mobile Fun – the mobile accessories experts – for providing the case for this review. If you want to find out more or buy one of your own, check out Tech21’s S6 case on their website.

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Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Tech21 Impact Mesh Case Review

This is the fifth article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

In the second article of this series I claimed I would be reviewing Tech21’s case next week. I changed my plans several times, however finally, today it is going to be reviewed!

I am going to rate this case against the same criteria that I rated the FlexiShield case, so it is easy to make a comparison.

Tech21 S4 Mini Case Review

Price

Tech21’s case currently costs around £25, which is about £15 more than the FlexiShield one. The FlexiShield case was very competitively priced, however I do feel that the Tech21 one is worth the extra expense.

Design

Like the FlexiShield case, the Tech21 case is also reasonably flexible. My S4 Mini fits perfectly into the case, and unlike the FlexiShield case, all the ports and sensors are pretty much perfectly aligned. Furthermore the depth of the case means that if it is resting on its back, the camera isn’t touching the ground.

I really like how this case has two buttons for volume, as one thing that annoyed me with the FlexiShield case was that it was all one button, so you were never sure which button  you were pressing!

D3O diagram
How D3O molecules react under pressure.

Unlike any other case on the market, the Tech21 Impact Mesh case has D3O embedded into the design. D3O is an ‘intelligent’ (or smart) material which is pliable and malleable, however when put under stress, the molecules interlock and it becomes rock solid – absorbing the impact.

The case certainly works, as I have dropped and banged my phone several times, yet it still works and there isn’t a scratch in sight! To see a D3O case put to the test check out this video.

I haven’t noticed my phone getting as hot in this case either, although it does appear to lack ventilation, like the FlexiShield alternative.

Aesthetically, I think my phone looks really good in the case. It is stylish and sleek, and I think it actually makes the phone look better.

Impact Mesh Vs Impact Maze

Tech21 make two very similar versions of this case for the S4 Mini, the Impact Mesh Case and the Impact Maze Case. The only real difference is that the Mesh has dots on the back and the Maze has lines. I personally prefer the dots, hence why I went for the Impact Mesh.

Protection

As mentioned above, Tech21’s case offers great protection thanks to the D3O. Like the FlexiShield, this case has a lip which means if you put the phone screen down, the screen doesn’t touch the ground.

D3O case for the S4 MiniAs you would expect, the case protects the phone from superficial dirt and smears, and is easy to wipe clean.

The D3O protects my phone from pretty much every angle.

Rating

The Tech21 Impact Mesh Case is stylish and offers my S4 Mini great protection, it is priced higher up the range than the FlexiShield, however, I feel the design quality justifies this.

Overall I rate Tech21’s Impact Mesh Case 4.5 star. Four and a Half Star

I would like to thank Mobile Fun who provided the case for this review.

Next Time

Next time I will be reviewing a car holder for the S4 Mini.

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Gadgets Reviews Series Smartphones

Reviewing Mobile Fun’s FlexiShield case for the S4 Mini

This is the second article in a series reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini.

In this article I will be looking at a FlexiShield case for the Galaxy S4 Mini.

Which Case?

If you browse Mobile Fun’s site, you will see they have a huge range of cases for the S4 Mini, (at the time of writing, they had around 80) so choosing the right case can be a challenge. Different cases have different purposes, so in order to get the right case for you, you need to decide what you want to use it for.

Here are some of the different functions you might want from a case:

  • Protection – probably number one for most people
  • Design – a stylish case can add to the phones aesthetic appeal
  • Storage – some wallet style cases also allow you to store credit cards in the cover
  • Functionality – the Samsung official case lets you access some functions through the window in the screen cover, whilst saving power by not keeping the whole screen on

I want a case which protects my phone and also looks good. Protection is my top priority, as I don’t want to damage my phone, although if I can make it look better in the process, that’s a bonus.

Mobile Fun’s FlexiShield Case Review

The first of the two cases I have chosen to review is Mobile Fun’s own brand FlexiShield case.

Mobile Fun: Galaxy S4 Mini FlexiShield CaseI am going to be honest, I didn’t have high expectations of the FlexiShield case, as I had looked at reviews of a similar case for the S4 Mini’s big brother, (the S4) and they weren’t very positive. This meant that when I received the case and discovered how great it was, I was pleasantly surprised! 🙂

Price

One of the reasons for my initial doubt was the price. The case currently costs less than £10, which is one of the cheapest S4 Mini cases on the market. Samsung’s Official case (which offers very little protection in comparison) costs around £18, so in terms of protection, the FlexiShield one is very competitively priced.

Design

S4 Mini FlexiShield Case chargingThe FlexiShield case is surprisingly durable, as you would expect from the name, the case is quite flexible, yet when it is fitted on the phone it is very strong. The case fits the phone perfectly, and leaves all the vital ports and sensors accessible. The top ports are all perfectly aligned, however access to the camera and bottom microphone, whilst still accessible is slightly off-centre, which looks a little untidy.

My phone is the white version, so I chose the ‘Frost White’ version of the case, and it looks great! The phone is still visible, as the case is semi-transparent.

The power and volume buttons are covered by the case, so all you have to do to access them is push on the side of the case. Similar cases have recesses where the buttons are, making them hard to press, however this is not an issue with the FlexiShield for the S4 Mini.

At times my phone does appear to be overheating when in the case, however this is usually only when it isn’t in a well ventilated area. The phone is fine when I have it in my pocket, just don’t go and wrap it in a blanket!

Sometimes when GPS and mobile data are on and the phone is trying to process something (like mapping) I do notice the back getting hot, so I usually remove it from the case.

Protection
Whilst the FlexiShield can’t offer the same protection that a D3O case can, it does offer a reasonably high level. When fitted on the phone, the case covers all of the back and sides and has a lip which is elevated over the top of the phone, meaning that no matter how the phone falls (proving it is falling onto a flat surface, not a spike or something!) the case will take the impact, not the device itself.

Mobile Fun's Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini FlexiShield CaseRather by accident, I tested the true protection of the case by throwing my phone about a meter across the room, where it came to land on the floor. The thud when it hit the ground wasn’t reassuring, however the case had absorbed the impact, meaning my phone was intact. I wouldn’t advise you thrown it at the floor, however if you do drop/throw it, the case will provide some protection.

The case does a great job of protecting the phone from marks and stains. It is really easy to clean with a damp cloth, and keeps your phone safe from harm.

Rating

Mobile Fun’s own brand case is very competitively priced for what it offers: durable, well designed protection for the S4 Mini.

UPDATE: Having reviewed Tech21’s Impact Shield case I am downgrading this case from 4 star to 3 star.

I rate Mobile Fun’s S4 Mini FlexiShield case three star.Three Star

Next Week

In the next post in the series I will be reviewing Tech21’s Impact Shield case for the S4 Mini. See you then. 🙂

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Gadgets Reviews

KitSound XDock Review

Following my review of the BlackBerry Curve Case at the end of last year, today I am going to review another product: a KitSound iPod Dock called the XDoc. As always, I will strive to remain impartial.

What is the XDock?

KitSound’s XDock is an iPod dock, radio, alarm clock and time display unit. All iPod docks are different, some focus on portability, others on sound quality, and others on multi-functionality – the KitSound dock is the later.

The XDock in its box
The KitSound XDock.

Sound Quality

Considering how small the KitSound XDock is, the speaker (one, on the rear of the unit) packs quite a punch. For casual listening to your tunes, the XDock has a perfectly adequate speaker. If you want to fill a large room with high quality sound, the XDock isn’t cut out for the job. For what I want it for though (waking me up and listening to music), it fits the bill 🙂

Portability

How portable is the XDock? Well it isn’t. If you put two AAA batteries in the base of the unit, were there a power cut, or were you to want to move the dock between rooms, then the batteries will keep your settings (i.e. the time and any alarms you have set) but they won’t keep it on. Without a mains power supply, you can’t play music or use the clock.

Clock and Alarms

The clock has a very clever feature. When you dock your iPod, after a few seconds the XDock synchronises the time it displays you with the time on your iPod. Handy if it starts to lose time, or you don’t want to try and set the clock manually, however if you have just come back of a holiday from Italy (moi), and you have forgotten to reset your iPod to the current time, it could be a little annoying if you have just spent 10 minutes trying to set the time! If you set your iPod to the right time (which is much easier than programming the XDock) then the time synchronising feature is very useful.

Unlike most iPod docks, the XDock also has an inbuilt alarm; in fact, it has two! You can choose to be woken up (assuming that’s that you would use the alarm for) to your favourite song, a buzzer, or the radio. I am not going to lie, at first programming the XDock was a little tricky, but all the instructions you need are in the handy User Manual.

XDock User Manual

The XDock User Manual is unlike most instruction manuals, in that it is short (short and sweet encourages more people to read it) and written in a casual, slightly humours way. An example of this can be seen in the section entitled ‘Common Sense…‘ where this list can be found (I have excluded some of the entries).

Please DON’T:

KitSound XDock in its protective box with its user manual

  • Give the X-Dock a drink of anything: it is not thirsty, it is full of clever electronics which are no good at swimming, they will all drown and die with puffs of smoke if you get them wet. So no dancing naked with it in the rain either please.
  • Drop the X-Dock: it won’t like you for it and your warranty will be invalid.
  • Hit it with a hammer / similar blunt object / run over it with your car / take it base jumping (or any other experience that would be considered traumatic for a little box that just wants to play your tunes and wake you up this list is not exhaustive).

If you get an XDock, my advice would be to read the instructions, as it is hard to use without reading them, and they are worth the read, as I am sure you can see!

Radio

Unlike most iPod docks, the XDock comes with built in FM radio, another handy feature. As I said earlier, you can choose what wakes you up, your favourite breakfast show, or your favourite tune. You can also choose what you listen to when using the XDock as a sound system – excluding the beeping sound that you can have as an alarm, that said, I am not sure anyone would want to listen to that 😉

Compatibility

To the best of my knowledge, the XDock is compatible with all iPod’s and iPhones with the standard, Apple iConnector. Any Apple devices with the new Lightning Connector are not compatible. Because of the nature of the slot where your music player/phone slots into the XDock, iPads won’t fit, so if you are looking for an iPad dock, this isn’t the device for you.

You can connect other audio devices to the XDock using the AUX-IN jack at the back of the dock. It is a standard 3.5mm audio jack socket, so the dock is potentially compatible with more devices than just iPods and iPhones.

Overall View

KitSounds iPod dock - the XDockI like the XDock, and it has been waking me up for a few days now. It is handy to know that if there is a power cut in the night, as long as it returns by the morning, my AAA batteries will ensure that I am still woken up on time.

It would be good if the XDock had a slightly better speaker system, maybe two speakers for stereo sound would be better, but the quality of the mono speaker can’t really be argued with. I would also like it more were it to be portable, but that would probably involve a lot more batteries, so in some ways it is a good thing.

For the price it was at the time I was sent it (just over £30 GBP) I would say it is worth the money. Alarm clock, iPod dock and radio all in one tidy little box. It depends what you want from your iPod dock as to whether you choose a KitSound XDock or not, but I am happy with it for me 🙂

Mobile Fun are the company who sent me the XDock, and they have asked if we would mention that they sell iPhone accessories, so you know where I got the iPod dock from!

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Reviews Smartphones

BlackBerry Curve 8900 Case Review

Today I am going to review a product I have been sent by Mobile Fun. I have reviewed products for Mobile Fun before, (remember my Pocket Boom Review?) and as in the past, this review is going to be completely impartial.

The product Mobile Fun sent me to review was a BlackBerry case – kind of handy really, since I own a BlackBerry! The case is for the BlackBerry Curve 8900, which amazingly is the BlackBerry I own – anyone would think we discussed this 😉

Packaging

BlackBerry Curve case in packaging
The unopened case

The first impressions you get of a product are usually formulated by how you view the packaging, so I thought I would spend a moment to talk about how the case arrived. The case was posted to me First Class in a standard padded envelope. It arrived in perfect condition, so no complaints from me there.

The package in which the case was held was more substantial than I had expected. I have had mobile phone cases come in the post which were simply inside a polythene bag, but this case came in a box! Pros of this are that it probably added an extra layer of protection – not that it really needed it though – and that it looks bright colourful and gives you a little information about the product. From an environmentalists perspective however, one could argue that it is an unnecessary use of packaging, which is probably going to end up in landfill. I shall be recycling what I can.

When I opened the box, the case had a BlackBerry sized piece of foam inside it, probably just to ensure it kept its structure during transit.

Look And Feel

Other than to protect your phone, the main function of a mobile phone case is (arguable) to look good. I really like the design of this particular case, I think it has a slightly more stylish design than the standard BlackBerry case, with neat stitching down the sides, and the middle of the case.

BlackBerry Curve 8900 CaseThe case displays the BlackBerry logo, like the standard BlackBerry case does, but unlike the standard BlackBerry case, it is mounted on a metal adornment. The adornment is a stylish touch, but could potentially scratch a surface (say a glass table) if you put it down, adornment side down. The case also had the word ‘BlackBerry’ written at the bottom on the reverse side.

The back of a BlackBerry Curve caseFunctionality

The case is made of real leather, so is very sturdy and flexible. One of the problems I found with the standard case was that it was made of vinyl, not real leather, so after continued use it started to look worn and split. I have been using this case for a few weeks now and it still looks pretty much the same as when it arrived. I would definitely recommend a leather case like this one over a vinyl one as it is more hard wearing.

The case feels very sturdy, and (although I haven’t tested it) I am sure it would protect my phone were I to drop it from a reasonable height. The structure feels rigid enough to keep the phone safe, but I am not going to try, just in case!

A BlackBerry Curve 8900 in its case
My BlackBerry in its new case

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 has a feature that it will turn the screen off and go into power save when inserted into the case. This feature works with the standard case, and with this particular case, thanks to the inbuilt ‘proximity-sensing technology’. From what I understand there is a magnetic chip in the case which when the phone senses it, it turns on power save – proximity-sensing technology does sound a little cooler though!

Overall I really like the case, I think it is a stylish, more hard wearing alternative to BlackBerry’s standard case for the Curve 8900. To find out more about this case, please check it out on Mobile Fun’s website.

As I said at the beginning of the article, this post is a review done for Mobile Fun, who have asked us to let you know that they sell phone cases – like the one in this review 🙂