Tech Update: Sony smartphones, Tesla cars and email privacy

Lifestyle, Technology | Tue 3 Jan | Author – Business & Finance xperia xz
The Sony Xperia XZ

Bite-sized news, views and updates from the global tech industry, edited by Ruraidh Conlon O’Reilly.


XPERIA DELIRIA

Electronics giant Sony’s smartphone range is on the up, with a wide range of its Xperia Androids covering every corner of the market.

The flagship Xperia XZ has a professional-grade 23MP main camera and 4k video recording, an array of colours and is splashproof. The Xperia XA comes with a curved glass 5-inch display, 13MP camera and two days of battery power from a single charge – a welcome relief in this day and age.

The Xperia X also offers smart battery management for two days’ battery life, along with a 23MP camera with Sony’s Predictive Hybrid Autofocus and a Snapdragon 650 processor. Finally, the mid-range Xperia E5 is powerful, slim, light and feature-packed, including two-day battery and 200GB memory.

The Xperia XZ is available from eir exclusively in platinum colour, and from Carphone Warehouse in forest blue with a free pair of MDR10-rc headphones.

“We offer the smartest Android devices, helping you capture those special moments spontaneously and effortlessly in all conditions blur-free and in true colour,” said Ciaran Cleary, account director, Ireland, Sony Mobile.

“We are delighted to be partnering with eir and Carphone Warehouse on our latest flagship Xperia smartphone in exclusive colours. Following the pre‑order demand for the Xperia XZ, we expect it will be very popular as well as our personal gadget options of the stunning headphones.”

tesla-newTESLA PLUGS INTO IRELAND

Electric car pioneer Elon Musk’s groundbreaking Tesla cars are now available in Ireland, with the Model S and Model X officially on sale for delivery early next year via the Tesla website.

The luxury brand’s models can travel far over 500km on a single charge, and come with Autopilot function, high-performance – and, needless to say – a high pricetag.

Tesla’s official availability is accompanied by news that the company is setting up an Irish showroom, along with a network of ‘supercharger’ fast-charging stations, reported The Irish Times. The company is also gearing up for the impending US release of its more affordable Model 3, set to arrive in Europe in 2018.

EMAIL PRIVACY PITFALLS

protonmail-newWith the Garda commissioner and the taoiseach in hot water over their Gmail and Dropbox use, and a private email server having dented Hillary Clinton’s White House credibility, cybersecurity is near the top of the agenda in politics.

So it should be in business too, with cybercrime, hacking and industrial espionage among the risks that can damage a company’s intellectual property, reputation or balance sheet.

Sadly, mainstream encrypted services like WhatsApp or disappearing-act apps like Snapchat, which deletes its messages after ten seconds or so, are fun but not much use for serious businesses.

DIY-minded privacy-seekers will gravitate towards one of the many Gmail alternatives that have sprung up post-Edward Snowden, with ProtonMail perhaps leading the pack. Web, Android or iOS-accessible, it is based in privacy-friendly Switzerland and offers end-to-end encryption as well as a data centre hidden 1,000 metres below solid rock.

The same strategy goes for file storage, with a secure and encrypted server making a preferable option to Dropbox, which lost more than 68m users’ logins and passwords in a hack attack. Again, numerous providers such as Sync.com and pCloud present themselves as the more secure alternative to Dropbox – with prevention being better than cure.

FLATBED SCANNER NEARS RETIREMENT

hero-imageTaking a smartphone photo of a photo has long been a cheap and cheerful alternative to the cumbersome flatbed scanner – but quality has always suffered badly.

Google has just released a new app to bridge the gap. PhotoScan sits on the user’s smartphone and uses automatic edge detection, perspective correction and smart rotation: it takes a series of shots and stitches them all together to remove the glare and angle problems that blight the average photo-of-a-photo.

The result takes a few seconds and is a vast improvement – not archive-quality by any means, but enough to keep a scanner in retirement for most purposes.

Google PhotoScan is available for free on Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

colour-isolate-newNOW EAR THIS

Flare Audio’s Isolate earplugs are among the more successful of this year’s Kickstarter projects. Business & Finance was one of the 9,000 punters who took the plunge on a pair a few months ago, sold on claims that these space-age titanium-and-foam plugs will ‘switch off your ears’ and that the only sound you’ll hear penetrates via bone conduction, not the ears.

Bold words, but the project raised over half a million euros and an impressively packaged pair of titanium earplugs arrived in good time after the Kickstarter reached its goals. The Isolates live up to the hype: comfortable and easy to insert, they induce an almost eerie quiet not unlike being underwater.

The big difference is in the bass, with Flare Audio publishing data curves showing just how badly traditional foam earplugs perform in that frequency range. Aluminium is an improvement, and is used in the entry-level Isolates (£23). But titanium steals the show (£46) – pricey, but a worthwhile protection around heavy machinery or live music, a comfort during sleep or air travel.