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Google Maps Now Has Real-time DublinBikes Station Updates

dublin bikes

I’m pretty sure this is a very common bugbear for shared bike commuters in Dublin. Either you go to take a bike from a service like JustEat’s DublinBikes or you try to return one only to find the station is either empty of jammers. As a result, you’re either left on your todd or have to park the bike on the street which costs you more money. Google Maps has just released an update which lets you see real-time availability at DublinBikes stations in Dublin.

What is DublinBikes?

I’ve previously talked about how ownership could very well be a thing of the past. We don’t buy CDs anymore because we have Spotify. We don’t really need cars anymore because in cities like Dublin we have GoCar. You don’t really need to own a bike either because of services like DublinBikes and Bleeper Bikes which let you borrow from a public pool of bikes for a small charge.

Why is this Update Important?

Like I said in my intro, I’ve been caught out a few times in the past when using DublinBikes. I’ve cycled to the office only to find there’s no space at a station to park. I’ve left the office only to find there’s no bike at the station. DublinBikes, to the best of my knowledge, never had an official app, nor was their website very good. This made finding real-time info on bike stations really hard to find when you’re in a hurry.

Google integrating DublinBikes real-time data into the Google Maps app finally makes this info accessible and useful. When planning your trip in Google Maps, you’ll now be able to see if there are bikes near you and if you’ll actually have somewhere to park at your destination.

Other Google Maps Features

In a city like Dublin, getting around can be complicated. Google Maps now does more than ever to try and keep the city moving. Real-time traffic data can keep you up to date on the best routes to get from A to B. You can use services like H̶a̶i̶l̶o̶,̶ ̶M̶y̶T̶a̶x̶i̶, Free Now and Uber within Google Maps and hail a taxi as part of your journey planning while also benefitting from a fare estimation.

Now, adding share bike functionality means we can continue to take big vehicles off of our incredibly congested roads. Something I’m quite passionate about as you might have spotted from my support for electric scooters.

You can check out this update in Google Maps right now and is available on both desktop and mobile.

Funfanickle: What is This About?

Have you ever heard of funfanickle? It does sound like the character from children’s book, but it’s not quite that.

Why am I talking about funfanickle?

Many believe Funfanickle is a coming together or two words. Funf, the german word for five, and a nickle, a type of European woodpecker.

Despite the close proximity to Europe possibilities, funfanickle is closely related to the United Kingdom and is all part of being a very worth cause. Before I end the mystery and disclose what funfanickle is all about, I’d like to have some fun with this and chat about five fun things funfanickle could have meant.

Funfanickle: 1964 Derby Winner

Raised by the famous horse breeder Mary Baker from Malahow House who also raised Arkle, Funfanickle was the 1964 Derby Winner who surprised everyone. The Derby was taking place in the United Kingdom for 6th time when Funfanickle, priced at 66/1 ran from the rear to take a surprise win.

More to follow…

Amazon Prime Day 2019: A Guide For Irish Shoppers

amazon prime day in ireland

The consumerism is strong with this one! Amazon has literally made up a new shopping season akin to Black Friday. Amazon Prime Day was created back in 2015 by the online shopping giant. It’s one of those simple but genius moves by a company as in the first year Amazon saw their sales grow by 60% above the daily average. While Amazon’s operational ethics are questionable and many opt-out from shopping with them for moral reasons if you do want to bag a bargain this Prime Day, here’s what you need to know.

When is Amazon Prime Day 2019?

Amazon Prime Day 2019 starts on Monday, July 15 and will run right the way through Tuesday, July 16. You might be feeling slightly put out by the fact it’s a 48 hour shopping event during the week. I have a few ideas as to why this might be. A lot of people will be using Amazon Prime for the first time during Prime Day and Amazon wants them to experience the speedy shipping that they offer. Offers also change throughout the day, so Amazon probably wants their best people on the job and in the office.

What is Amazon Prime?

Pretty much everyone can shop on Amazon. Our own research carried out in Ireland shows that 34% of people in Ireland shop on Amazon.co.uk.
Amazon Prime is a paid membership that gets you access to special offers and faster shipping. Next questions is usually around what this means for Irish shoppers. Largely, having an Amazon Prime Membership comes with some great benefits even when shopping in Ireland. I pay for a Prime Membership and I’m using it nearly every week. It’s still a bit of a mystery why Amazon doesn’t offer a website specifically for Ireland yet, so to get the most out of Prime you might need to route your orders through a service like Parcel Motel.
Anyway, if you’re thinking of bagging a good deal in this year’s Prime Day sale and you’re new to all of this, you can benefit from a free trial of Prime membership. This is a 30-day trial that won’t cost you a penny. Just sign up for free over on the Amazon.co.uk website and you’ll also be able to access Amazon Prime Music and Prime Video.

What Are the Best Prime Day Deals for 2019?

This is pretty hard to tell right now because we’re still a few days away from things kicking off. Amazon has teased with a few launch offers and hinted at what else might be getting reduced come Monday, July 15.

Amazon Echo Special Offer

amazon prime offer ireland
If you’ve yet to grab yourself an Amazon Echo, you’ll be able to bag one of these during the Prime Day sale for just €80. This is a first-generation Echo, but it’s still an incredible piece of kit with a cracking speaker. Amazon appears to be positioning this as one of their flagship offers for Prime Day 2019.

20% Off Amazon Own Brand

Amazon has also taken 20% off their own brand everyday essentials. This covers a wide range or products, but naturally, I’m most interested in electronics and accessories.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

This was Amazon’s top seller last year and it’s the one product I’m really after this year too. At little more than €22, the Fire TV Stick is great if you’re a Prime Video subscriber, but you can also install third party apps for additional streaming. Not that I’d be into that craic now at all.

Prime Day Launches

This is a more unusual one this year. For Prime Day 2019, Amazon Prime members will be able to buy brand new products from the Prime Launches range. This is a really impressive range of products too. I’ve had a chance to test out some of the items on show like the:

That’s just three of the products on show, all from the Anker range of companies. I’ve tried out all of these products and absolutely loved them. Is there a better time than Prime Day to buy yourself a robotic vacuum?

Popular Last Year

We can also take a hint from last year as to what’ll sell well this year. As always, even beyond the first-generation Echo being on special offer, all other Echo products are fair game. If you were to ask me what the one product I’m thinking about buying this year is, I’d have to say the Amazon Fire TV stick. This was also the top product worldwide last year, but this year, keep an eye out for bundle deals. You might even spot a bargain that includes the impressive new Echo Show.

fire stick prime day
In the UK and Ireland, an electric Bosch drill topped the product listings, but from around the rest of the world, there was a lot of different products in demand from water filters to cans of Coca-Cola.

Did you Know you Can Share Your Prime Membership?

This I just learned about. You can add one other adult and up to four kids to your Prime membership. This means if you can’t watch the offers changing, someone else will be able to look for themselves and grab their own favourite deals on Prime. You can also share digital content around the household too.
If you’re a Prime member, read more about how to create an Amazon Household.

Will Amazon Deliver to Ireland?

Delivery to Ireland can be straight forward or quite complicated, depending on what you’re buying. For most products, you’ll get Prime member benefits like free and fast delivery without any hassle. But then, from time to time, you’ll find a seller that won’t ship to the Republic of Ireland. Hell, sometimes they won’t even deliver to Northern Ireland despite the fact that’s in the United Kingdom.
The problem is often related to lithium-ion batteries in electronics not being permitted in the hold of cargo aeroplanes. As a result, the old Parcel Motel trick won’t work either because the virtual UK address they give you is located in Northern Ireland. The workaround here is to use An Post’s AddressPal service instead. Back when this service launched, the big benefit of using this service was their virtual US addresses. They now also offer virtual UK addresses and theirs is based on mainland UK. So if needs be, that should get you nearly everything that you want delivered to your local post office.
That should be nearly everything you need to know about surviving Prime Day in Ireland. While Amazon Ireland might never happen officially, we can still cash in on some bargains this Prime Day. Have a question I’ve not answered? Pop it in the comments below and we’ll come back to you.

Check PriceSpy.ie

My final tip is one that actually stands 365 days a year. You should always check PriceSpy.ie before you make a gadget purchase. PriceSpy basically scans popular websites for a wide range of products and lets you compare prices. So that great deal you’ve spotted on Amazon for Prime Day, take a second and check it’s not cheaper in D.I.D. I always check the site before I buy to make sure I’m getting the best deal for myself!

Channing Tatum’s Weird Rant: What is The Pattern App All About?

the-pattern-app

It’s happening again. Something gets said on Twitter by a celebrity and now the world is scrambling to find out what The Pattern App is. Is it evil? Is it a scam? Is it the must-see trend for July 2019? Well, fear not. I’ve installed the app so you don’t have to. Unless of course, you want to.

Why Are People Talking About The Pattern App?

Channing Tatum is the reason I’ve heard about The Pattern App. It’s one of those Tweets that just grew legs and seems to be blowing up online since it was posted. In just a couple of hours, this video has been seen nearly half a million times.

Tatum appeals to his followers for someone to explain how The Pattern App works. His reaction kind of echoes everyone once something new like this blows up online.

I don’t know if I’m late to this or if I’m early to this

Tatum explains that the app asks for your birthday and time of birth, before wondering how the hell someone should know that. Then he just asks, “how the hell do you know what you know about me Pattern?”.

Tatum lets us know that he’s currently in therapy and that the app was able to use very similar language to what he and his therapist were discussing. Naturally, this leaves the 21 Jump Street actor wondering if the phone is spying on him.

What the jaysus has left poor auld Channing like this? Is the app creepy? Or is Channing just being paid a fortune for a cryptic video to drive a rake of app downloads?

I Downloaded The Pattern App

Ok, so I downloaded the app. First thing’s first. Sorry Android users. This is an iOS-only thing. I have my trusty iPhone 7 on standby for just such an eventuality.

I’ve started the app and it just came up saying “it’s very nice to meet you”. The app continues to explain that The Pattern gives insight into the person you are and the relationships that you have. How you ask? Well, it’s all based on when you came into this world.

That’s where the app onboarding begins.

What Information Does The Pattern Need?

The app states that the info you provide is critical for it to work and that it has to be accurate. My biggest fear here is that the app is just harvesting my data for untoward use by someone halfway around the world. But this is Goosed.ie. I take these risks so you don’t have to.

First up is my first and last name, then it’s my date of birth and then it gets a little weird.

The next thing the app looks for is the time of day you were born at. The app claims it needs to be down to the minute and not an estimation. If you know, great. If you don’t you have the option to text someone. You can also skip this and remove some of the insights that The Pattern App provides.

A quick text to the mother and I’m ready to go again.

Of course, gender is an important factor here. You can choose between male, female or non-binary.

Next up, the app wants to know where I was born. Once you start typing, the app will suggest the best match.

Finally, you pick how you’d like to log into The Pattern. I’m going to go with an email address so I can block any spam easily should this go pear-shaped – one of my favourite Gmail tricks that one.

Once you create a password, a unique password never used before for security reasons, I  decided not to add any other login methods. Mainly, this was because I was starting to get really suspicious about this app.

A quick selfie later and the app confirms some details before getting started on my Pattern.

The app is currently running the facts.

Results from The Pattern App

As I start this paragraph, The Pattern App is still running the numbers. A part of me wonders if this is going to be the moment AI blows my mind completely, or if instead, this is the moment I realise I’ve spent a half an hour looking at the equivalent of a Facebook app telling me when I’m going to die.

I’m going along with the people saying Channing Tatum is making money here somehow. The app itself is absolute nonsense. Don’t waste your time. It’s all astrology and the app just talks shite about vague things that will likely do more harm than good.

I’m not angry Channing, I’m disappointed.

 

Go Outside And Play: Six Things To See In Ireland

go outside and play carl mullan

Over the past few years, I’ve spent a handful of weekends touring Ireland. It’s really not enough because every single time I do take the time, I say “it’s the most amazing country to explore”. Do I though? Do I f…. That’s why RTÉ’s new mini docuseries really peaked my interest. I’ve watched Go Outside and Play on RTÉ player. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Go Outside and Play About?

Go Outside and Play is all about finding Ireland’s peak Instagram spots. Those places that you just need to visit and pop a selfie at. The best part is that these locations are unlikely to have been popped into your Google Maps any time recently. They’re somewhat off the beaten track with even popular places like Glendalough hiding some of its most spectacular views from most people.

In this series, host, online-content creator and 2FM DJ Carl Mullan, visits some of Ireland’s most Instagrammable locations. These six places to see in Ireland include:

  • Coumshingaun Lake, Co. Waterford
  • Sliabh Liag, Co.Donegal
  • Three Castle Head, Co. Cork
  • The Spinc, Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
  • Gougane Barra Forest Park, Co. Cork
  • Cuilcagh Mountain Boardwalk, Co. Fermanagh

Each location gets a five minute episode jam-packed with handheld YouTube-creator style video and some of the most beautiful drone footage of areas possibly seeing a drone for the first time. Go Outside and Play is bite-sized chunks about what you should do next weekend.

Most importantly, it’s an enjoyable watch too. Carl has been creating content online for the past few years and can turn anything into a gas story. From his car frequently breaking down to his ongoing attempts to land a Berocca in a glass of water from across the kitchen.

If you follow Carl on Instagram, you’ll get what I’m on about.

Watching Go Outside and Play, you’ll laugh at Carl being gas, but also discover some hidden gems from around the country that you usually stumble upon.

Away from this specific series, Go Outside and Play symbolises an exciting direction for RTÉ to head in.

Could This Be The Future of RTÉ?

Carl is someone who just gets creating content for modern audiences. It was watching a Casey Neistat video just last year that he decided he needed to grab a camera and start telling stories. Actually, it was this video:

So from watching that video, within 12 months, Carl was using all the skills he’d honed from just going and creating videos to create video for RTÉ Player.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This is my excited/nervous face. Now before I start, this is a probably come across as a totally obnoxious/self congratulatory post but tomorrow is a big day and I’m SO DAMN EXCITED – so please bear with me. First some context… So just over a year ago I watched a video on Youtube by @caseyneistat. It’s called ‘Do What You Can’t’ and basically it’s a video about how lucky we are to live in an age where you can come up with an idea, shoot it on your phone, and share it with the world with the click of a button. I had always enjoyed making videos as a kid, but had only really dabbled in it and had been saying to myself for years “I should really try make more videos”. There’s lots of inspiring videos online, but this one in particular inspired me to the point where I decided there and then that 2018 was the year where I’d really make this my focus. A few weeks later and I was clicking upload on my first vlog for YouTube. It kicked off a year of creating stuff for my own Youtube channel and @rte2fm as well. Some of it was good, some not so much, but looking back it was a year where I got to upskill massively in ideation, shooting, editing, and presenting on camera….and really enjoy myself in the process. So fast forward to tomorrow and why it’s a big deal. By pure coincidence, 1 year to the day since I uploaded my first video to YouTube, I’m starting a 2 week shoot on my first ever commissioned series for the @rteplayer. In short, I’m travelling around some of the most incredible spots in Ireland you might not realise are right on your doorstep, and will be shooting/presenting it along with a super talented Cameraman @garrcleary. From watching a 4 minute video on Youtube to shooting my own series for RTE in the space of a year. Absolutely mental! I am so unbelievably excited. GO ONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN. #Rteplayer #creator #caseyneistat #dowhatyoucant #gooutsideandplay

A post shared by Carl Mullan (@carlmullan) on

It’s totally the Casey Neistat style too. Handheld cameras with secondary cameras and drones for cutaway and context. Without going too deep into it, it’s everything that you need to tell a great story.

I find this really interested. We’ve moved away from traditional TV content and instead moved towards blogger content, for want of a better title. Carl and a few lads armed with little more than DSLRs, a GoPro and a drone were able to shoot a video that would leave Failte Ireland feeling proud. All shot on a shoestring compared to more traditional travel shows.

This is a proof of concept by RTÉ. A test. That you can take someone who is really passionate about creating quality content, armed with consumer products and let them loose on the world to entertain the masses.

In parts, it’s slightly rough around the edges. You know that when that GoPro in episode one falls off the car, that was a genuine balls up. But it gets left in because life isn’t a perfect take. The episodes take on a level of authenticity because of it, an authenticity that often gets left on the cutting room floor.

Go Outside and Play: The Verdict

First of all, you’ve nearly spent longer reading this than you would have watching the whole series. I meant it when I said bite-sized. The whole lot is thirty minutes, but it’s thirty minutes where you’ll have a laugh and likely plan your next trip. I also didn’t spot any ads on this, a small thing that makes a difference for me.

this show will inspire you to either travel or shoot

It’s also an exciting indicator from RTÉ as to where they go next. The gag in the final episode about one of the attractions rolling out the red carpet because they heard RTÉ was coming but would be surprised to see it’s not the Nationwide team is so on the money. Content creation doesn’t need a heap of expensive tech and a massive crew. It needs some personality, a story and a camera with a decent mic. The rest is up to you. It embodies everything I love about things like the Dublin Smartphone Film Festival. Content creation is uber accessible these days. No matter what happens, this show will inspire you to either travel or shoot.

Watch all six episodes of Go Outside and Play, now on RTÉ Player.

Huawei P30 Review: Huawei’s Own David Takes on Goliath

HUAWEI-P30-REVIEW

What is a daily rider? Well, my current daily rider is the Huawei P30 Pro. In the world of tech reviews, quite a few phones come across my desk. The daily rider is the one that gets my sim. The one I actually use day today. It’s the phone I’ve put all my faith in. When Huawei sent me out the P30, the little sister of the P30 Pro, I said screw it and popped my sim in for two weeks. How would I fair using the cheaper Huawei option after using their flagship for months? This is my Huawei P30 review.

Huawei P30 Camera

Considering the Huawei P30 Pro boasts the best camera system on the market according to DxO Mark, there’s no point in starting anywhere other than this phone’s snapper. The P30 opts for a slightly different camera setup to its bigger brother. Removing the “Time of Flight” lens, the P30 should lose out some quality when it comes to bokeh style portrait shots. However, thanks to some really clever use of software, the gap here is tiny. In reality, the P30 and P30 Pro cameras are really tough to separate. 

p30 camera setup

In terms of hardware, you get the same 40MP wide lens and 8MP telephoto lens on both phones. The P30 does have a 16MP Ultra-wide angle lens versus the P30 Pro’s 20MP Ultra-wide angle lens, but in practice, I couldn’t spot a quality difference between the two cameras. Let’s not forget, by the time you share most of your shots on your favourite social media platform, the images will be so compressed into equality.

Both phones also share identical 32MP front-facing cameras which are truly stunning.

There is one area the P30 simply can’t match the P30 Pro; zoom. The P30 Pro maxes out at 10x optical zoom and 50x digital hybrid while the P30’s Leica lens tops out at 5x optical zoom and 30x digital hybrid. 

It’s easy for me to dissect these two stunning Leica cameras on paper, but I want to cut out the nonsense. Both of these cameras are stunning. Perhaps the P30 Pro is beyond stunning, but the P30 will, as we discussed on The Goosed Podcast, will also leave you eager to go for a walk, phone in hand, to snap some photos. There were even some shots I convinced myself were better on the P30 altogether. You also get some of the new standards in smartphone photography, including optical image stabilisation for video shooting, 960fps super slo-mo and low light photography through Huawei’s incredible night mode.

But what about benchmarking against Samsung? Well, the good news is that there’ll be a Samsung Galaxy S10 on my desk really soon to review and I’ll be comparing with Huawei’s flagship range.

Huawei P30 Design

For me, this is where things get really interesting. I haven’t used a smaller smartphone in ages. Yet, in a short space of time, I got to take a run with the Google Pixel 3a and the Huawei P30. What surprised me was now how little the smaller screens annoyed me but even how much I liked having a smaller phone. I accept these are just small by modern standards, but even so, it’s nice to have a little tip of the hat to the smaller phone days.

huawei p30 breathing crystal

The Huawei P30 feels incredibly comfortable in the hand. It’s a little chunkier on the sides perhaps in some way thanks to the fact Huawei has decided to include a 3.5mm headphone jack, something that doesn’t feature on the P30 Pro. On the subject of sound, both phones still seem to carry through Huawei’s slightly underwhelming speakers for listening to music, but the P30 does bring back an earpiece, overcoming one of the pain points I had with the P30 Pro.

The small notch at the top like all notches, in reality, is practically unnoticeable. More noticeable is the ridge surrounding the camera which does affect the phone when left on a flat surface. I also noticed that whatever material this phone is made from, it will slip of nearly any surface you leave it on, so be careful.

p30 notch

But I can’t finish the design section without talking about colour. When Huawei announced that one of the colours would be called Breathing Crystal, I know I laughed. Notions. But then I got my hands on this P30 in Breathing Crystal. First of all, I personally love it. Secondly, so does bloody everyone else. So many people that I didn’t even know stopped me to ask about the colour. It is stunning and it’s nice to see something as common as a smartphone can finally turn heads again.

Huawei P30 Hardware

There’s a significant price difference between these two Huawei phones and the hardware section is perhaps where this is most noticeable. Naturally, the P30 has the slightly smaller battery at 3650 mAh, though like its bigger brother, it’s the software and smart battery assistance that makes this phone purr for hours, hours longer than most. While you also get to keep Huawei’s whopper fast charging, you do have to sacrifice wireless charging.

I don’t feel like this is a deal-breaker, but I really do like having wireless charging. If you have wireless buds that need charging, this also means you can’t use your P30 like Samsung S10 and S10 Plus users can, of course also alongside P30 Pro and Mate 20 Pro users. Wireless charging likely fell victim to the logistics of fitting bits and pieces in to the phone and as a result, the extra space means you do get a proper 3.5mm headphone jack.

Maintained is the in-screen fingerprint sensor, a feature widely becoming commonplace on smartphones.

There are two further important call-outs. Once again, there’s no Gorilla Glass, so I would recommend picking up a screen protector of some sort. Also, quite surprisingly, the P30 is only IP53 rated versus the P30 Pro’s IP68. This means getting caught in a shower with the P30 shouldn’t be a problem, just don’t bring your phone into the shower with you.

Other P30 Specs

The model I reviewed had 6GB RAM and 128GB memory. Loads on both fronts there, delivering a lightning-fast phone that doesn’t swallow up battery for sport. The phone will likely ship with Huawei’s EMUi 9.0 but is updatable to EMUi 9.1 out of the box. Also, despite current goings-on in the world of international trade, Huawei has committed to ensuring people buying these phones will continue to receive updates while also being able to access Google and Facebook apps.

Huawei P30: The Verdict

I was shocked by how much I enjoyed using the Huawei P30. I was sure the smaller phone would annoy me. I was sure the slightly lesser specs would leave me feeling that I had an inferior phone in my hand. But no. The Huawei P30 feels like a smaller version of the P30 Pro. A smaller version that does cut some corners but doesn’t skimp on quality anywhere. While you’ll save a fair whack by buying a P30 over the P30 Pro, you’re unlikely to be left wanting for much.

For example, the Huawei P30 Pro is €179 on Three’s 24 month, €60 per month plan. Right now, the P30 is free on the same plan with Three giving you a saving of €179. 

Ultimately, if you want the big flash flagship with the best of the best spec, the P30 Pro is arguably the best phone on the market today. If you want a smaller phone. If you want a headphone jack. If you want a slightly cheaper phone. The Huawei P30 just might tick all the right boxes for you.

 

 

Smoke Clears: Huawei’s U.S. Exile Set To End

I don’t want to say it, but I told you so slash I called it.

Speaking on The Goosed Podcast, I predicted this whole saga between the U.S. and China which saw Huawei get caught in the crossfire of an international trade war, seems to be drawing to a close.

Speaking at the G20, U.S. president Donald Trump said U.S. can sell goods to Huawei once again. The move will bring an end to a month of uncertainty following Trump’s previous ban on the same.

While nothing has legally changed again yet this is great news for Huawei who has been rocked in global markets with losses over the next two years predicted to amount to $30 billion.

Huawei Ireland this week moved to restore some consumer confidence, guaranteeing existing devices, like this year’s P30 Pro flagship, would continue to receive Android operating system updates and maintain access to key apps like Facebook, YouTube and the Google Play Store.

Now we just have to hope everything gets resolved legally so we can move on and enjoy one of the best phones on the market again. Be sure to give us as follow as our P30 review is due going to drop any day now!

Google Pixel 3a Review: Google’s Great Camera Without A Huge Pricetag

Last year, after many years of waiting, the Google Pixel 3 stomped onto the Irish market as a Vodafone exclusive. 2018 was an incredible year for smartphones with the bar being set incredibly high. Still, Google’s first phone to officially launch in Ireland was a stunner. Now, Google wants to bring something new but familiar to the table. This is my Google Pixel 3a review. A review of a mobile phone that brings more to the table than any other phone at a similar price point.

Where Did The Google Pixel 3a Come From?

To be totally honest, the Pixel 3a and 3a XL came right out of left field. Was this always on the roadmap? I’m not so sure. I get the feeling that Google had excess parts and wanted to build another phone. Actually, that’s very unlikely. Regardless, the Pixel 3a is an absolute stroke of genius. From the Pixel 3, Google takes the best feature – the camera – and trims the fat, making a lean mid-range mobile phone. That’s a mobile phone which leaves the other mid-range phones in its wake.

Google takes the best feature – the camera – and trims the fat, making a lean mid-range mobile phone

Yet Another Great Camera In A Pixel

Google has made quite the name for themselves when it comes to cameras. Last year, they were up against stiff opposition in Huawei’s P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro. They all stood toe-to-toe with each other. In the end, there were features on the Pixel cameras which made them stand out and some features on the Huawei range which put them a hair ahead. All in all, the cameras were practically inseparable, visible in the DxO scores:

  • Huawei P20 Pro: 109
  • Huawei Mate 20 Pro: 109
  • Google Pixel 3: 101

Here’s how the Pixel 3a compares to the Huawei P30 Pro.

You can see from these shots that there really isn’t much in it. In fact, the Pixel 3 edged selfies for me, especially outdoors and especially if you wanted to take a wide-angle selfie.

The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL will take photos that rival those from it’s bigger Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL brother. “Rival” might not even be strong enough. Put it this way, you’d be unlikely to spot the difference between Google’s flagships and these new mid-range value drivers.

Both the Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL pack in the same tech. Your primary single-lens camera on the rear is a 12.2MP shooter capable of shooting 4K video at 30fps or 1080p video at 120fps. Swing the phone around and you have what is probably one of the best selfie cameras on the market. Unfortunately, you do give up wide-angle at this price point, but I genuinely feel like the Pixel 3a still takes lusher selfies than my beloved Huawei P30 Pro. Hurts me to say it.

There are my words on Pixel 3a’s selfies, now for some specs. The phone’s front-facing camera brings an 8MP camera with an 84-degree field of view to the table. When you link all of this hardware with Google Photos, one of the best photo management tools out there, you end up with a dream lineup for content creators. Overlay that with the price you’d have forked out for the Pixel 3a and you’re left with the best pound-for-pound smartphone camera on the market right now.

I’ll chat about the slightly slow processor in a while, but portrait mode facing in both directions remains impressive on the Pixel 3a, competing with the likes of Huawei, Samsung Galaxy S10+, and even both the iPhone XS and iPhone Xr despite the phone costing a fraction of their RRPs.

Night Mode

The Pixel’s ace in the hole is Night Mode. A late release for the bigger brothers of the Pixel 3a, you get this feature right out of the box. It’s bizarre that phones can see things in the dark that we have no idea about. The technology is mind-blowing. Once again, let me remind you that the price is also mind-blowing.

pixel 3a night mode

This was shot in my bathroom, in the absolute pitch black. With my bare eyes, I couldn’t even see the plant, but the Pixel 3a was able to see it and shoot it.

It’s not the best shot ever and it’s a bit blurry, but still – if you saw the darkness that I was in shooting this you’d be stunned.

Where Does Google Trim The Fat

Cool, so the pictures that you shoot with these new mid-range Pixel phones are whopper, but where is Google cutting the corners?

Display

I tested out the Google Pixel 3a which comes with a 5.6-inch OLED panel display. Nothing here to knock your socks off, but there is something worthy of mention. If you find flagship smartphones to be far too big these days, the Pixel 3a could very well be your dream phone. It’s a nice size to pop into your pocket without being too small to enjoy using.

There’s also a full on ‘forehead’ and ‘chin’ for at the top and bottom of the display. This cuts the costs for sure and might even be something we see on this year’s Pixel 4 range.

google pixel 3a ireland

Wireless Charging

A feature that’s not for everyone, but it has to be called out because of another cool feature on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The Google Pixel 3a and Google Pixel 3a XL give up wireless charging. This means you also cannot use these new Pixel phones with the wireless charging stand. That also means these new phones can’t double up as screened Google Homes. You can still enjoy everything that Google Assistant has to offer including the squeeze to ask functionality.

The battery itself in the Pixel 3a doesn’t disappoint. The phone’s 3000 mAh battery easily lasted me a day and might even get most people through two. In the box you’ll also get a 18W fast charger.

Water Resistance

After so long with phone’s having an IP68 rating, the Pixel 3a comes with no IP rating at all. That means no music in the shower, but also you should be careful if this is in your pocket during a downpour. Just something to bear in mind if you have become used to waterproof flagship phones.

That Processor Though

This is once again more for those of you who might be attracted to the price and size of this semi-flagship. These new Pixel phones have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 processor on board. I didn’t notice this too much, except in the moment after you’ve taken a picture. You can visibly see the phone processing the images in front of you.

There was no massive issue as a result of this, but with prolonged use, I always wonder if a phone like this would end up getting clogged. Non-expandable 64GB memory says hello.

But there’s more…

That’s how Google trimmed the fat, but there’s one big plus with the Pixel 3a that I’m sure many will adore. It’s only got a bloody headphone jack.

the inclusion of the headphone jack kinda sums up the beauty of this phone

I think the inclusion of the headphone jack kinda sums up the beauty of this phone. It’s everything modern smartphones aren’t.

  • When every smartphone went expensive, Google has brought out this affordable option.
  • When every smartphone went big, Google brought out this neat and tidy option.
  • When every smartphone went wireless, Google brought out an option with a headphone jack.

Is the Google Pixel 3a Worth Buying?

The Google Pixel 3a is not a flagship smartphone, but it’s a bloody brilliant smartphone nonetheless. What Google has achieved here is simply fantastic. No longer do consumers have to make the take a lesser camera because of a limited budget.

The Pixel 3 will set you back €899 right now, direct from Google. The Google Pixel 3a is just €399, also directly from Google. Both are also available from Vodafone.

That price tag is mind-boggling. While I appreciate there are corners cut, when I switched over to this mid-range Pixel 3a for a week, not once was I left feeling like I was using a cheap phone. But for a trip to Metallica where I knew waterproofing would be essential, I wouldn’t have been in any hurry to take my SIM card back out of the Pixel 3a at all.

Google Stadia Ready

If you happen to be a headphone nerd who needs and audio jack, with tiny hands and a love for both photography and gaming, the Google Pixel 3a should be at the very top of your list. Don’t forget, Google Stadia launches in Ireland in November and will be compatible with the Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3XL, Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. It’ll be interesting to see how the processor and battery hold up, but these new Pixels are on the release list.

 

Skyroam Solis 4G Hotspot: WiFi Wherever You Go

There’s nothing worse than when you go abroad and have to pay through the nose for internet access. Sure the change in the EU regulations around roaming has made a huge difference. But what if your job means that you need more and what’s the craic when you have to go a bit further abroad? That’s where the Skyroam Solis and the Solis WiFi App comes in. It’s a simple premise. When you’re abroad, pay a single flat fee for 24 hours access and get WiFi in 100+ countries.

WiFi on the go?

Image result for skyroam solis

Ah yes, the tinternet, one thing we can’t live without in the modern world, and yet surprisingly it can be such a hassle wherever you go. If you’re like me and you work remotely or travel pretty much all the time, then searching for quality internet access gets old fast.

Sure you can roam but good luck with that. If you end up outside of the EU, you can also buy a local prepaid sim. If your phone isn’t unlocked or you not sure how much data you use, then neither of these are great, to be honest.

Having worked in a phone shop for more years than I would care to admit, this time of the year was always rife with holidaymakers coming back from far-flung destination with outrageous bills. I can’t stress this enough, do not roam outside of the EU it will cost you your first born. Between myself, Martin and Dean we could tell you some horror stories, who knows we might even chat about it in an upcoming podcast.

As we said you can also buy a local sim but before you do, make sure your phone is either sim-free or unlocked. Another problem you are likely to bump into is the fact that data limits in a lot of countries are very low when it comes to pre-paid solutions (believe it or not in the US the vast majority of people are bill pay, wonder why). Then again if you are travelling with a family or just use a load of data yourself again, good luck with that. A lot of countries don’t legally allow visitors to purchase a local sim and, though there are ways around this, researching them is a huge hassle.

We could just say use your holiday to switch off completely, enjoy your break from the day to day and reset. But sure then how else would you post that perfect Insta beach shot.

This is where a product like the Skyroam Solis comes into its own. It’s a 4G LTE mobile WiFi gadget that automatically works off local mobile towers, with no SIM needed. Up to five devices can share WiFi on one Skyroam Solis. Good idea or a family holiday or the business person on the go.

The Design

Image result for skyroam solis

The Skyroam Solis will fit in the palm of your hand and the orange puck-like design is very minimalistic with a total of three buttons. The main Wi-fi button, battery indicator and the power button. The only other thing is the LED that flashes to let you know that it’s on or charging.

On the back, there is the USB-C port to charge the box and or charge your stuff using the inbuilt power bank. Charging the Solis takes about 8 hours but you do get 14-20 hours of use which is quite decent. I like that the Skyroam is so simple, once you have it on you can drop it back in your bag and do the rest on your phone. Whether that’s registering, activating your plan or just checking things like battery life and usage, it’s all done through the app so you won’t have to pull the thing out every 20 mins.

The user interface has its share of glitches and quirks. It’s optimized for smartphones, so if you open the page on a laptop it’ll give you a mobile-shaped screen in the middle of your browser tab. The main Status dashboard is simple enough. The centre of the screen displays either how much time is left on your current day pass, or a button to activate your next session. Below that is your location, how strong your current signal is, how many devices are connected to the hotspot, and your battery life.

How does it work?

Without getting too techical it uses virtual Sim tech to connect you to a nearby service tower. Doesn’t matter the networks as it will connect with over 300 providers. So basically as long as there is a mobile signal in the area you’re good, it won’t work on a plane or boat but then again that would be pushing our luck for now.

Also because of this, technically, Skyroam gives you unlimited data. Pick your package, pay the money and off you pop.

How the battery life?

According to the team they say 14-20 hours, which by my tests are pretty close. My travel bag consists of my Samsung Galaxy Watch, or the Armani smartwatch, the Mac, Bluetooth headphones, a phone or 3 and to be fair whatever I’m mucking around with at the time, so trust me the poor box got put through its paces.

The power bank within the device itself is 6000mAh and comes as standard with the USB-C to charge most of the latest device, of course until Apple drops the lightning and move over themselves. Heads up though, the Skyroam Solis used the same battery as the charger so you will reduce the battery life if you’re running the Wi-Fi and charging simultaneously.

How do you use it?

The Skyroam Solis is honestly super easy to get up and running. I love opening new toys and I love it even more when set up is stupidly easy. Who needs the instruction manual when the Skyroam itself it literally covered in its own instructions! Watch:

Once you’ve it unboxed, and played with it’s easy to get your package sorted:

  1. To get WiFi, press and hold Power On (the side button).
  2. Connect your Skyroam Solis
  3. On your phone or connected device visit the Skyroam site, register and pick your package.
  4. Press the WiFi button on the top of the unit to start using WiFi.

How much does this orange disk cost?

There are a few ways to use Skyroam. A daily pass, their new monthly data subscription, or the new 1 GB GoData plan.

The box itself costs €150. If you don’t want a plan you can also pay-as-you-go plans with daily 24-hour WiFi access for occasional connectivity for €8 per day or you can get a monthly plan for frequent fliers for €80 per month.

Alternatively, you can also do daily rental of the product for €7.95 per day, so you get the device and the data. Which is grand if you only need it on a once off basis. This can be ordered online or if you are going Stateside, some of the top airports will have kiosks.

The app

This is only a recent addition, the Solis Wi-Fi app. With this users can connect their hotspot and WiFi account, just by scanning the QR code on the bottom of their Skyroam hotspot device. They can also monitor their data usage, check on connection speeds, and buy more data with just a tap. I gave it a shot just to check how much data I was using watching Netflix and it was pretty much exactly what I expected.

This isn’t the first Solis and as with any product, the first generation isn’t always perfect. I’ve been told from themselves that this app was created directly as a result of customer feedback. They have tried to simplify registration and streamline WiFi start-up each time a customer powers on their hotspot, so they can connect faster. Inside the app itself, users can do the following:

  • Manage their service and package
  • View status of things like battery, signal strength etc
  • Offline access to troubleshooting and coverage lists
  • Step-by-step guide

Who would the Skyroam be useful for?

To be honest, having played around with it for a few weeks now, it’s a very niche market.

Ok so here’s the list:

  1. People going out of the EU with a locked phone
  2. Regular travellers who need something better than crap hotel Wi-Fi
  3. Families going abroad so a parent isn’t trying to hotspot their phone for the small people
  4. Business travellers who need Wi-Fi to work
  5. Prepay customers who only have limited amounts of data
  6. Anyone still afraid of being charged mad money by going over roaming limits

That’s really it if you fall in any of those categories the Skyroam Solis could be just what you need. Otherwise, your phone will do just fine.

The Goosed Verdict

The Skyroam Solis is a pretty cool little device. The battery life is good, it’s well built and it’s reliable. I may have dropped the thing in a stream and low and behold it still works! I honestly can’t say much bad about it. It’s also significantly cheaper than racking up a huge roaming bill. For those that travel a lot, I can see the value. So on that basis, I would recommend it.

Realistically it depends on what you do and where you go. Right now if you travel mainly in Europe you already get free roaming, within reason. For most this is enough, there’s no need to purchase another device and pay a daily charge for internet.

It won’t be long until mobile providers start offering inclusive international roaming as part of their plans as standard. Put simply this will mean the offer of unlimited international data won’t be as enticing as it used to be. Until then we have the Skyroam Solis.

The main announcements from E3 2019

That’s it E3, the worlds biggest gaming show, is over for another year. The 3-day expo came to a close with some of the world’s biggest publishers and console manufacturers showing the titles that will be coming out later in 2019 and beyond. Some games are announced for the very first time during the show, and many are available to go hands-on with. There has been a lot of focus on the next gen of gaming after the announcement of the Google Stadia. So what did we get at this year’s event?

Xbox Project Scarlet

As we expected, Microsoft announced their latest console at E3 2019. Dubbed the Xbox Project Scarlett, the next-gen console news was announced with all the pomp and ceremony we have come to expect from the US giants. After Keanu Reeves made an appearance, we finally got a look at the hardware and the preview for Halo Infinite.

 

Microsoft unsurprisingly has dubbed this the future of gaming, a title Google is also hoping to claim with their Stadia “console”.

Anyway Project Scarlett is built around some solid hardware, including a new Navi graphics architecture and a Zen 2 CPU. The console aims to eliminate or at least minimize loading times to get you into the game as soon as possible. Just to put this into context, Microsoft has been claiming Project Scarlett is four times more powerful than the current most powerful console on the planet, the Xbox One X, four times better performance than the current generation in terms of load times, and the most significant generational leap in Microsoft’s console history. Big claims, indeed.

At the moment we haven’t any base pricing to work off but here’s hoping Microsoft learn from the past and lead with a price comparable to their main competition, Sony’s PS5. We expect to see this hit the shelves in time for Christmas 2020, the same time we hope to see Sony’s latest console.

Sony the no show

Speaking of Sony, this is the big one. Sony confirmed in late 2018 that it would not attend E3 2019 because it was looking for other “inventive opportunities” to connect with its community.

“PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019,”

Since this announcement, they have released a series of State of Play videos with trailers, release dates, and the like. To be honest with the news coming leaking out that a PS5 is on the way it’s no surprise they decided to give it a miss this year. The main downside with their lack of attendance meant smaller games weren’t given a chance to flourish at the Sony booth. A partnership with Sony means smaller indie titles were likely unable to afford a space on the floor. Games like these were sorely missed, and we eagerly await the next State of Play for more news. With its focus also now turned to its next-generation console, a lack of new games is one of the main reasons why Sony decided to skip E3. Here’s a rumoured image that we found on the internet, which means it’s probably miles away, but it’s a beautiful looking joypad all the same.

Image result for ps 5

Nintendo

Sadly we didn’t get a new cheaper or upgraded Switch 2 at E3 2019 and to be fair they did say they wouldn’t be releasing any hardware this year. Still, we hoped they might have cheekily given us a little teaser to excite us. It wasn’t to be, but we did get a major surprise or two.

Most interestingly for Nintendo fans was the teaser trailer for the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Right now we don’t know a whole lot about it, but it’s going to be good. Other games to get a lot of airtime in Nintendo Direct broadcast included the likes of Luigi’s Mansion 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remaster.

There was also the showcasing of Pokemon Sword and Shield, the two upcoming Switch titles. It looks to be a serious upgrade to previous title’s,  the open world plain and roaming Pokemon visible more openly (unlike in our day where you spent hours wandering through random patches of grass) coupled with a brand new environment is contributing to the excitement around Game Freak’s Switch title. Also, the starter Pokemon are super cute; one’s an electric corgi….just saying.

Square Enix

The guys at Square Enix were always going to be busy at E3 with a lot of focus on the Final Fantasy lineup. We had the Final Fantasy VII remake, and they also revealed a 20th anniversary remaster of Final Fantasy VIII. This is alongside the remaster of the Final Fantasy Chronicles, so yeah lots of upgrading here.

It wasn’t just remaking the old stuff for Square Enix. They also unveiled two eagerly awaited titles such in Outriders, a new co-op shooter developed by People Can Fly, and Marvel’s Avengers created by Tomb Raider’s Crystal Dynamics. It looks fantastic to be fair

Complete E3 2019 games list

Nintendo
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2 (new game and trailer)
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3 (new trailer and release window)
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons (new trailer, but delayed)
  • Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield (new release date)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (new release date)
  • Super Mario Maker 2 (new trailer)
  • Astral Chain (new trailer)
  • Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (new trailer)
  • Cadence of Hyrule ~ Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2 (coming to North America via Nintendo)
  • No More Heroes 3 (announced for a 2020 release date window)
  • Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
  • Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6
Microsoft
  • Halo Infinite (release window, coming to Xbox Project Scarlett)
  • Gears 5
  • Blair Witch
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga (Xbox One and PC)
  • Bleeding Edge
  • Battletoads
  • Age of Empire II: Definitive Edition (PC)
  • Wasteland 3
  • Microsoft Flight Simulator (PC first, Xbox One later)
  • Minecraft Dungeons
  • Spiritfarer (coming to Xbox Game Pass)
  • 12 Minutes (Xbox One and PC)
  • Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions Expansion
  • Crossfire X
  • Gears Pop!
Take-Two Interactive/2K Games
  • Borderlands 3
  • The Outer Worlds
Electronic Arts and EA Sports
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • Apex Legends Season 2 (PC)
  • Battlefield 5: Chapter 4 (PC, Xbox One, PS4)
  • The Sims 4 Island Living (PC)
  • FIFA 20 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC)
  • FIFA 20 Legacy Edition (Nintendo Switch)
  • Madden 20 (PS4, Xbox One, and PC)
CD Projekt Red
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Complete Edition
Konami
  • Contra Rogue Corps (Xbox One PS4, PC and Switch)
  • Contra Anniversary Collection
Bethesda
  • Deathloop (Platforms unknown) (Trailer)
  • Doom Eternal (Xbox One PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch)
  • The Elder Scrolls: Blades (debuting on Nintendo Switch; iOS, Android updates)
  • Fallout 76: Nuclear Winter (Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC sneak peek)
  • Ghostwire: Tokyo (Platforms unknown)
  • Wolfenstein: Youngblood (PS4, Xbox One and PC)
  • Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (VR)
  • Commander Keen (iOS and Android)
Square Enix
  • Final Fantasy 7 Remake (PS4)
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (PS4, Nintendo Switch and mobile)
  • Final Fantasy 8 Remastered
  • Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers (PC)
  • Circuit Superstars (Square Enix Collective, developer Original Fire)
  • War of the Visions: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
  • Romancing Saga 3
  • Scarlett Grace
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2
  • The Last Remnant Remastered (coming to Nintendo Switch)
  • Trials of Mana: Collection of Mana (coming to Switch)
Ubisoft
  • Ghost Recon Breakpoint (Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC)
  • The Division 2 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC)
  • For Honor (Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC)
  • Watch Dogs Legion (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Stadia) (game play available)
  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (game update)
  • Roller Champions (PC download available now, other platforms unknown)
  • Gods & Monsters (Xbox One,PlayStation 4, PC, Stadia and Switch)
Sega
  • Panzer Dragoon: Remake (Nintendo Switch)
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 (Xbox One)
  • SEGA Genesis mini console coming September 2019 with mini games like Mega Man:The Wily Wars, Earthworm Jim, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2, Ecco the Dolphin and 35 more classic games.
Namco Bandai
  • Tales of Arise
  • Dragonball Z: Kakarot
  • Code Vein
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
  • RAD
Various
  • Elden Ring (via FromSoftware)
  • Dying Light 2 (from Techland)
  • Way to the Woods (Team 17)
  • Dauntless (coming to Nintendo Switch via Phoenix Labs)
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics (En Masse Entertainment)
  • Dead by Daylight (coming to Nintendo Switch via Koch Media)
  • New Super Lucky’s Tale (coming to Nintendo Switch via Playful Corp.)
  • Empire of Sin (John Romero multi-console game)
  • Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Playtonic)
  • Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin (via Edelweiss and XSEED Games)
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