Digital Life: Taking the pain out of Windows' phones
Apple's marketing spiel for the iPhone neatly summarises how it upended the mobile industry: "This changes everything." By ruthlessly controlling the experience from the software to the hardware, Apple bypassed the half-baked notions of competing smartphones.
Instead of a chaotic free-for-all where networks and phone makers squabbled over the look and feel, consistency and the customer came first with iPhone.
Many rivals are licking their wounds from the bloodbath that followed. Some, such as Nokia, have been slow to learn the lessons.
Others, such as Microsoft, bravely realised a complete reboot was in order.
Maybe you didn't even know you could buy Microsoft-branded phones.
Then you're one of the lucky ones who never felt the pain of using Windows Mobile, an antiquated mess that foolishly tried to recreate the computer on a touchscreen phone.
You can still buy Windows Mobile phones -- but you shouldn't because this week Microsoft unleashes Windows Phone 7, a ground-up rewrite of the software.
Just as importantly, Microsoft has strictly specified to its hardware partners how the phones should look and operate.
This means WP7 should work consistently and reliably whether you buy a phone from Samsung, HTC or LG, the three manufacturers on board for the Irish launch.
The phones will be available from Thursday and are expected to reach all networks before Christmas.
Watch out for a full review of Windows Phone 7 in the coming weeks.
Digital Life is acutely aware not everyone gives a toss about smartphones.
Let's not forget the huge market at the other end of the spectrum -- just don't call them "dumbphones".
There's a lot to be said for a phone that does talk and text well while taking account of the fact not everyone has the eyesight of a hawk or dainty fingers.
The Emporia Elegance phone may be aimed chiefly at the seniors market with its outsized keys and big bold lettering.
But its calm black and silver design wouldn't look out of place beside many a smartphone.
Sure, it's missing features many people would take for granted such as predictive texting, internet and a camera.
The side-mounted menu controls also feel oddly cramped in contrast to the front-mounted keypad
But Emporia compensates in other ways with thoughtful touches such as its built-in torch and alarm button.
The Emporia Elegance costs €100 on pre-pay from O2 and will be available from the end of the month.
They shoot, they score! The beautiful game just got prettier
Fantasy versus reality -- which one would you pick? That's the choice this year between the two big footie games.
After years in the wilderness as a basket case, PES makes something approaching a return to its glory days with football that puts a smile on your face. FIFA, on the other hand, continues its slow but assured mission to absorb every facet of the real world of soccer.
For sheer authenticity, FIFA wins hands down. Best animation, player likenesses, commentary, managerial modes, real-world stats -- you name it, FIFA has it. It even incorporates the Airtricity League.
On the pitch, every game feels like a derby match -- tightly contested, claustrophobic almost -- with precise control an absolute must.
So it's more realistic, yes, but is it more fun?
With the 2011 version, PES has rescued itself from its nosedive and made up some ground on FIFA, at last attempting to inject a bit more polish and character.
Crucially, it's a laugh to play. Players get more space and there's greater scope for outrageous passing moves that end in glorious goals. Sure, it's glitchy at times, and the overall fit and finish lags FIFA in every way.
But come next year's edition, PES might just reclaim its crown as the king of football games.
With a storyline by Alex Garland (The Beach), soundtrack by Nitin Sawhney and motion capture of Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, King Kong), Enslaved carries a serious weight of expectation.
But though all those contribute to Enslaved's success, it's the beautifully ruined post-apocalypse world that's the star.
On a journey to protect a woman seeking her family, the hero's mission mixes one part Uncharted to one part Ico.
It settles quickly into a comfortable groove of platforming mixed with repetitive combat but never outstays its welcome.
There's something wrong about a sport that stops every few minutes for a punch-up -- and pretty insipid punch-ups at that.
But NHL 2011 delivers a convincing facsimile of ice hockey -- which is to say a little bit dull and uninspiring.
Maybe that's why they need the fights?
Bits and bytes: HulloMail, B Flat and Gran Turismo 5
- Voicemail hasn't really evolved since mobiles became popular. Even the iPhone's nifty visual voicemail feature -- choose the order in which you listen to the messages -- never made it to these shores.
But the free HulloMail app (for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry) brings voicemails into the 21st century. Your voicemails work in the usual way but messages also can be received by email or on the web. You can pick from a list to listen to messages in whatever order you choose.
The only cost is whatever your network may charge if you call the voicemail number.
- Try the clever experiment at In B Flat if you fancy making some music yourself. At its heart is a large collection of videos of people playing an instrument (in B Flat obviously). But it's up to you to decide which ones play simultaneously and when they stop and start.
- The Gran Turismo saga took another twist last week when the much-delayed car sim was put back yet another few weeks. First announced in 2006, Gran Turismo 5 was scheduled to launch on November 5, but unspecified technical hitches have stalled it one more time.
Sony assures us it will still be out in time for Christmas.