Bluetooth keyboards have gone into and out of fashion over the years, but they're definitely in vogue at the moment, thanks to the use of tablets and 'phablet'-style large-screened smartphones, where a wireless full size keyboard can turn the device into a mini-laptop. Microsoft's new offering is ultra-premium and rather quirky, not least because of the early state of Windows 10 Mobile, but has a few unique features and is worth a look if the price doesn't put you off.
The search has been on for several years for a replacement for the (now no longer produced) Proporta Pocket Power, an all in one, no cables needed, truly credit card sized emergency charger - and, right up at the premium end of the market we now have a candidate, offering full 2A output and able to deliver around 700mAh at 5V in about 20 minutes. While only around a one third charge for today's smartphones, that this fits unobtrusively in your wallet in a card slot makes this a terrific (if slightly pricey) accessory to get you to the end of a long day. Coming in deluxe packaging, with extras, it's also just about the perfect gift for a smartphone owner, as I explore below.
You may remember that one of my core 'must haves' for any computing platform is a KeePass client, with all my private data kept these days in the Cloud but mirrored on every computing device I own. From passwords to social IDs to engine numbers to bank details, it's all there, standalone and perfectly encrypted. Yet the likes of '7Pass' on Windows Phone haven't really matured, so I've switched to MetroPass, offering full upload (if not sync) back to the Cloud.
Yes, yes, I know I just reviewed the equivalent product for the Lumia 640, but a) this is in black, b) it's Friday, and c) there's a chance to have a dig at Microsoft over Qi charging again... This is the black official back cover replacement and it's for the larger device, the Lumia 640 XL, transforming my 'consumer' white 640 XL phablet into a mean black business machine...
I have to admit that I gulped a little at the price (£20) for this, the official Microsoft 'cover' for the Lumia 640, but I take it all back. When handing it round friends and family, physically melded with the phone, the general reaction was incredibly positive, turning a non-descript budget (in this case, black) Lumia into something of a blue leather object of desire. Really. It's that nice.
For a mobile platform 'without a YouTube client' (i.e. an official app from Google), Windows Phone sure has plenty of YouTube clients provided by third parties. And now the free Perfect Tube joins the fray, from the same developer as Perfect Music, reviewed here. And, like the music player, it's something of a triumph in terms of UI but ultimately slightly let down by real world performance and implementation in places, on my test Lumia 930.
Even if you do the usual 3.7V/5V maths to calculate the actual power available at the voltage your smartphone needs it (i.e. the 5V level), you still end up with well over 15,000mAh of useable charge from this new 'Executive' power bank. Add in a unique backlit LED readout, triple output jacks and a torch function and you've got a really, really interesting mobile accessory.
I have to confess that I’m not entirely sure why everyone’s been so hard on Microsoft’s built-in Music player over the last couple of years. OK, so there’s the bizarre Xbox branding, but hey, that’s going and, err.. getting more bizarre (‘Groove’). But, on the whole, it works pretty well now, with both local and streamed music from OneDrive. Yet there’s an aftermarket cottage industry in replacement music players. Let's have a look at the commercial Core Player.
Being, traditionally, more of a fan of four wheel racing then two, I'd only given SBK15 (as in 'SuperBike 2015') a passing glance in the past. Turns out it's a terrific simulation and a great game that if anything, will inspire more people to watch and support the real thing. In fact, it's only by racing, wheel to wheel, right on the edge of a major accident all the time, that you start to appreciate the skill possessed by and the risks taken by the riders in the sport. SBK15 is a meaty game and can take a while to load - but trust me, it's worth the wait. And it works on all Windows Phones, regardless of RAM. Hit!
There's absolutely nothing new here, to be honest. It's a 3D rendered Scalextric-style racer, with Real Racing 3-style freemium mechanics, and from those two clues you can probably imagine the entire title without any help from me. However, that certainly doesn't do justice to the quality of the gameplay, the polish in the graphics, the fluidiity of the action, and so on. Nuts and bolts this may be, but Red Bull Racers is still a terrific game.