Thursday, 30 December 2010

Apple TV - first impressions

I've had my Apple TV for 10 days now and overall I'm impressed. As a hardcore Apple fan the ability to access content from my MacBook Pro on the TV is great. Streaming music, viewing photos, YouTube on the TV, more movie choice, is all simple and a worthwhile addition to the usual TV experience.

Apple TV - Apple design at its best
The Apple TV device is beautifully designed and small enough to sit anywhere in your home TV setup. The slim, chrome remote works surprisingly well considering how few buttons it has. However the Remote app for the iPhone and iPad is an excellent enhancement, creating an even better user interface. The iPhone becomes a trackpad with a qwerty keypad for the Apple TV - brilliant!

The big omission from Apple TV in the UK is the ability to stream movies from a LoveFilm account. In the US your Netflix account is available via Apple TV, so no more streaming movies to your PC - they're on your TV. Apple needs to do a similar deal with LoveFilm in the UK. The big advantage of streaming movies via Netflix, rather than from iTunes, is that you can access as many as you want for a fixed monthly charge (LoveFilm does the same in the UK).

One point to note; the only cable in the box is a power cable. You'll need a HDMI cable to connect to your TV (as a minimum) and ideally an Optical Audio cable to connect to your surround sound system. I bought an Amazon Basics HDMI cable which works fine.

My verdict - for £99 Apple TV is good value and enhances my home TV lineup. However 2011 is the year for Apple to up the content stakes and allow access to more web content, as well as do a deal on movie streaming with LoveFilm.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

giffgaff Hot Bloggers Calendar for 2011

The guys at giffgaff have just released the 2011 Hot Bloggers calendar to raise money for charity. Each month features a top UK blogger from the worlds of food, photography, lifestyle, urban exploration, design, tech, women's lifestyle, music, fashion, history, London and nightlife. The calendar has been launched to acknowledge the contribution bloggers make to online content creation and the communities around them. giffgaff has built its business around the community concept and relies on bloggers and social media to get the message out.

You can order the calendar here at a cost of £5 with all proceeds going to the cancer charity chosen by giffgaff 's community. And while you're there have a look at the the other giffgaff merchandise for sale. Some intriguing ideas!

You can follow giffgaff on Twitter at @giffgaff

Monday, 13 December 2010

Boxee Box brings a more personalised TV experience

Last week the team at 33Digital gave me an overview of the Boxee Box. For £199.99 you get an IP TV device that delivers television over your broadband connection and wireless network. The hardware has a quirky design, being a cube with the corner chopped off! Connectivity to your TV is via the usual HDMI interface and the Box is controlled via a simple remote control, which rather neatly has a qwerty keypad on the back!

Boxee is seeking to tap into key themes in the developing television market; increasingly personalised content and community.

Boxee has started with a reasonable range of content which will grow over time. Currently there are 877 TV shows and 1215 movies available to watch in the UK with no additional charges. Not surprisingly the content available in the US is more extensive. There are also 142 apps which include Flickr, the BBC iPlayer, Wired and the Boxee Browser for web access. Anyone can write new apps and submit them to Boxee, however unlike Apple, apps are available to other Boxee users prior to approval via a unique URL.

Watch Later is a nice feature - it allows you to send online videos to your Boxee Box from any web browser, for later viewing.

The Boxee Box also allows wireless access to content stored on other PCs or storage devices on your network. So photos, music and movies can be played on the Boxee Box. When you create your Boxee account at you can add your Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz accounts so you can share your Boxee viewing experiences with your social media connected friends.

The Boxee Box is initially only available online and is sold by several UK online retailers.

I'm looking forward to comparing Boxee with Apple TV and sharing my thoughts here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

More innovation from giffgaff

One of my favourite giffgaff features is the option for customers to choose which calls and SMS bundle (in giffgaff parlance, goodybag) they want on a month by month basis. This also allows customers to choose the experimental option from giffgaff labs.

This month I picked the (bizarrely named) Hokey Cokey goodybag. For £5 I get 300 SMS and 60 minutes of calls, however the clever bit is for every minute of calls I receive I get an extra minute added to my call bundle. giffgaff are taking advantage of the fact that they get paid by the originating operator to deliver a mobile call to their customer, so they return some of that termination charge to their customer.

giffgaff recognises that many customers have several mobile numbers and want a customer's giffgaff number to become their main mobile number. Well, it worked for me!

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