Digital Life: Why is no one else getting a bite of Apple's MP3 action?
One of life's great mysteries remains how Apple has been left to corner the MP3 player market. It's not that no challengers exist, but rather that all efforts have been, at best, half-hearted.
The iPhone faces myriad alternatives. But the iPod Touch stands practically alone, serving as a gateway drug for youngsters to grow up into iPhone users.
Samsung makes the Galaxy Player -- essentially an Android phone without the phone bit -- but when was the last time you saw an ad for it or found one in a shop? Probably never. Samsung has probably concluded it's better off flogging phones.
So it's not entirely clear why Sony has come up with the 16GB Walkman F805, a €250 touchscreen MP3 player that can run Android apps.
Sure, it's a good idea in theory. All the usual phone apps -- Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and hundreds of thousands of others -- operate normally when you're near a Wi-Fi connection. As befits the legacy Walkman heritage, the audio quality kicks ass, even if the process of loading songs can be cumbersome.
But there are many fine Android phones out there that do the same for less money -- the €150 Huawei Ascend G300 springs to mind -- while sounding not much worse.
Inevitable comparisons with the iPod Touch seem like kicking a man when he's down. The F805 has no camera, a lower-resolution screen and sports a weird charging port that's different even from Sony phones, Sony tablets and Sony's PS Vita.
If your choice of MP3 player hangs totally on the quality of its audio, the Walkman F805 deserves an audition. For all other purposes, look elsewhere.
Perhaps Apple's dominance of the MP3 market isn't such a mystery after all.
As sure as the launch of a new iPhone every autumn is the slew of protective cases that follow the updated design. Most serve to protect the mobile from the odd knock, but the new iPhone 5 ones from Cork-based Otterbox are built for real abuse.
No doubt Apple designer Jonny Ive would recoil in horror at what Otterbox does to his sleek aesthetics. But on the other hand, your iPhone stands a chance while being run over by a tank in these tough babies.
Choose from the €35 Commuter case or the even more rugged €50 Defender, which includes a belt clip and an apology for making your phone look so ugly (not really).
From the neutral's point of view, it's hard to get worked up about F1 these days. Maybe it's the blandness of the personalities, with even Michael Schumacher a shadow of his pugnacious self. Spectacular crashes are rare and breathtaking overtaking disappointingly uncommon
To describe F1 2012 as the most faithful recreation yet of Formula One is thus not to be unkind but to note you don't play it for the LOLs. Its incremental improvements over last year's version subtly change the handling for the better, emphasise better tyre management and make the AI opponents more aggressive.
True, the rewind button is a giant video-game cheat but then F1 itself is not above artificial enhancements such as KERS and DRS, both of which feature here too.
All prejudice aside, F1 2012 throws you into a bearpit of snarling 800bhp monsters where enjoyment is measured in hundredths of a second. And to me that's more exciting than the real thing.
Pokemon Black/White 2
It's new and it's not new. It's a sequel and a remake. But it's unmistakeably Pokemon -- turn-based battles, oodles of wackily named creatures and the urge to collect 'em all.
This finely honed formula will play well to enthusiasts but some jaded eyes may find it all too familiar.
Like most EA sports games this year, the big advance in NHL 13 lies in the physics -- chiefly, this translates FIFA-style into more realistic movement of your player. Tight turns or sudden stops won't come easily and depend on skilful use of the sticks.
That alone makes NHL 13 worth playing, even to owners of last year's instalment.