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Gadget Review: Lightspeed iHelicopter

I’m always intrigued by some of the displays and product demonstrations that I come across in indoor shopping malls. You know, the boomerangs, the magnetic bracelets and those pesky remote controlled helicopters. Well, the iHelicopter from Lightspeed fits right into this category of amazement, and I was privy to try one out this holiday season. The iHelicopter is an actual working machine that can fly throughout your house or possibly outdoors on a calm day all while being controlled from an iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile device.

Prior to takeoff, there are a few steps that need attention, and do note that they take a bit of time, so don’t think that your gift recipient will be flying right out of the box.  Namely, preparation comes in the form of charging not just the helicopter, but also the signal remote that attaches to your mobile device.  I needed to wait a good 30-40 minutes for each before I was flying. Granted, you could probably get by on a shorter charge, but I wanted the full 8+ minutes of fly time that was quoted on a full charge.

As the chopper was charging, I downloaded and installed the “Copter Controller” free app on my Droid X. When both the helicopter and the receiver were fully charged, I turned on the helicopter, attached the receiver to my phone, and opened the app. There were a few buttons on screen, and after experimenting a bit (the included instructions actually were helpful, but I wanted to see if I could figure it out without them), I saw flashing lights on my chopper and a blue light on my receiver. Taking these to be good signs, I went ahead and practiced a few takeoffs and landings as recommended by the manual. 

Soon, I was flying a helicopter in my basement, and save for the limited space, the experience was quite enjoyable. The machine proved to be rather durable, as I had multiple crash landings on a hard ceramic tile floor. However, this is certainly not a toy for a toddler, as the blades remain quite fragile and would certainly crumble if handled improperly. Still, if supervised by an adult, a young one could have some fun and a unique experience of flight with the iHelicopter.

Back to the mall, you always wonder whether it’s the skill of the salesperson that makes it look so easy to control a remote controlled helicopter. And you wonder whether it would be worth the money to purchase and try later on your own. For about $50 US, the iHelicopter is a reasonably priced device that can offer entertainment for a wide variety of ages. Perhaps paired with another helicopter or two, simulated missions or flight shows could be had in your basement or backyard.

Article Author: David Chan

David Chan is the Science/Technology and Gaming editor at Blogcritics. He enjoys gadgets, sports, and caring for his newborn son. During the day, he is the Technology Integration Specialist at Evanston Township High School. …

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Motorola Razr hands-on review

THE INQUIRER was one of the first to get its hands on the reincarnation of the Motorola Razr smartphone unveiled on Wednesday and we had a quick play on the device to see whether it lives up to the hype.

Naming it the ‘Razr’, a nod to its formerly hugely popular device of the same name, suggests that Motorola has high hopes for this phone.

Two of the main aspects of the smartphone touted by Motorola are the size and weight of the device, with the firm claiming the super slim design makes it the thinnest smartphone on the market.

Whether it is or not, it does feel very light and comfortable to hold, yet it’s far from petite, boasting a high-quality 4.3inch super AMOLED touchscreen.

It still feels sturdy and strong too, no doubt helped by the use of threaded Kevlar on the back of the phone and Gorilla Glass for the screen, making it ideally suited for busy people who don’t want a device that they have to treat as a precious, fragile toy.

Motorola has also added what it calls Splash Guard technology, which makes the phone water-repellent to low level liquid insults such as rain.

It features a top quality, razor sharp display – no pun intended – with images and web pages rendered clearly and crisply, making it an equal to many high-end Samsung devices and the Iphone 4S.

This will help to ensure that photos taken with the 8MP camera won’t let you down, while video is also high-quality, with HD 1080 capability. This is supported by a sizeable 16GB complement of internal storage and a microSD card slot to ramp up storage to a whopping 48GB.

Accessing and interacting with all this data will require a speedy processor and the dual-core 1.2GHz processor is certainly powerful enough, with the phone easily and seamlessly switching between its camera, applications and web pages.

It’s odd in some ways, though, that the device has Android 2.3 Gingerbread as its operating system (OS), and not Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Perhaps Google purposefully allowed Samsung to be first to market with the latest version of Android to keep it sweet.

Motorola has confirmed that it will be rolling out an OS update to the phone in the first quarter of 2012, though, so those keen to get the update won’t have to wait too long if they plump for the Razr.

One notable hardware inclusion on the device is an HDMI port, a feature lacking from many high-end devices such as the Iphone 4S. This will allow users to stream photos and videos to larger screens through a single cable with no loss of image quality, ideal for sharing photos.

Overall then, Motorola has produced a strong piece of kit with its revived Razr smartphone, and one that’s worthy of the name. It could be just the phone the firm needs to turn heads in the UK market, where its Milestone devices failed to excite consumers, unlike in the US.

Whether it’s enough to compete with Apple or Samsung will remain to be seen, and its launch at the same time as Samsung releases a major product and as the Iphone 4S flies off the shelves could hurt its immediate prospects.

It is, however, a very strong offering and could well be the springboard to even bigger and brighter things as Google is starting to provide its not inconsiderable support and assistance. µ

Samsung Galaxy Nexus takes aim at the Iphone 4S

AS PREDICTED Samsung and Google have announced the latest Nexus smartphone running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and, we must say, it looks quite tasty.

The name is slightly different than we expected, with the phone being called the Galaxy Nexus rather than the Nexus Prime and therefore using Samsung’s branding. It looks similar to the Nexus S with a few nice changes.

One of the main things is a larger, higher resolution screen. It’s now 4.65in instead of 4in and has a mouth-watering 720×1280 resolution. This is up from 480×800 and gives a pixel density of 316 dpi, only 10 short of the that on Apple’s Iphone 4 and Iphone 4S. Once again the screen is Super AMOLED and curved.

The phone is slimmer than before at 8.94mm compared to the 10.88mm of the Nexus S. It’s nice to see the handset getting thinner, unlike the Iphone 4S which is no thinner or lighter than its predecessor. The Galaxy Nexus is a little heavier than the Nexus S, 11g to be precise, but it is a larger handset so the weight gain is understandable.

Samsung has upgraded the hardware with a new processor, camera, internal memory and battery. The processor is a 1.2GHz dual-core chip to match that of the Galaxy S II and is a little faster than the 1GHz chip found in the Nexus S.

It’s a bit of a surprise and a disappointment that the camera remains at 5MP. This means it falls short of those on rival phones such as the Iphone 4S and HTC Sensation. However, it has been improved and can now record video in HD 1080p and has a neat trick up its sleeve where it can take a panoramic shot with one movement of the phone.

There is the option of 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. This is not as much as the largest Iphone 4S, at 64GB, and you can’t expand this since the handset doesn’t have a microSD card slot. As we would expect the battery has been upgraded to 1750mAh to cope with the larger and higher resolution screen.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) will come pre-loaded on the Galaxy Nexus and this will be the first handset it comes on. The operating system has been optimised for high definition displays with things like a new font and the elimination of hardware buttons.

Some new and neat features that ICS offers are facial recognition to unlock phones, the ability to share data through near field communications (NFC) with Android Beam, updated notifications, improved multitasking, a better keyboard, resizable widgets and tighter integration with Google+.

Apps such as the browser and Gmail client have been improved and overall the latest version of Android looks brilliant. It has arrived just in time after Apple released IOS 5 last week.

We saw Apple make a big hoohaw about Siri, its voice controlled personal assistant for the Iphone 4S. Well there has been no such focus on this side of things with ICS. Google does say that the voice control is better, though, with the ability to dictate large amounts of text via an ‘open microphone’.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone will be out next month and, for a while at least, it will be the flagship Android device. Unfortunately we don’t know how much it will cost and this will be a key element to its success. We like the look of the phone and can’t wait to get our hands on it. Hopefully it will retail for less than the equivalent Iphone 4S model, which is pretty pricey. µ