Airvibes – Bluetooth Headphones Review

The Airwheel craze swept across the UK in 2015, with ridable technology becoming more popular than ever before. If you don’t think that riding along on a self-balancing unicycle makes you look flash enough on its own, then you need a pair of Airvibes! Airvibes are Bluetooth headphones designed for Airwheel users – although if you don’t have an Airwheel, they are still a pretty cool set of headphones to own.

No Wires

Airvibes plugged inAirvibes are Bluetooth headphones, meaning you can sync them with any Bluetooth compatible device, and ditch the awkward wires that run from your headphones to your phone. If you are a frequent (hi-tech) runner or cyclist you will know the problem I mean. Your smartphone is secured to your arm – as that way you can use a tracking app to keep a record of your run or cycle – and then you’ve got to run wires up your arm, under your cloths and up your neck in order to listen to your music. Airvibes only have one wire: the wire between the two earpieces. This makes connecting and disconnecting your headphones a much less stressful experience. I have been asked why they have the wire between the earpieces if they truly are wireless, to which I surmised that it would be really easy to loose one of your earpieces if they weren’t connected together.

Charge

So if these headphones don’t attach to your phone, then they must have a battery right, which probably has a pretty shoddy lifespan considering how small the earpieces are. Well Airvibes do run on battery power, yes, however the life span – considering they are both syncing via Bluetooth and playing music – is actually pretty impressive: around 5 hours. I’ve had my Airvibes over a week now, and use them regularly, however I’ve only charged them once; when I first opened the packet. Airwheel seem to be pretty good at making a little battery go a long way.

Airvibes headphone set

What you get in the Airvibes pack

Thankfully Airwheel realised that micro USB was the way to go in terms of charging, as pretty much every phone (Apple devices aside) sat-nav and digital camera you have ever owned connects and charges using this port. All your current chargers will therefore work with the Airvibes too; meaning it’s not a disaster if you lose the charging lead. That said I would expect the Airvibes to come with a means of charging, and a micro USB lead is included in the box, however it seems to be a growing trend that manufacturers expect you to own an abundant supply of USB wall-plugs, as like when I reviewed Samsung’s Wireless Charger, Airvibes don’t come with a wall-plug. Maybe we are expected to use our laptops USB ports as a means of powering devices. Or maybe because more goods are being sold globally, and the USB is a global port, whilst wall-plugs differ from country to country, it’s just easier for manufacturers to leave these out of product packages these days.

Ergonomics

I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well the Airvibes have been designed. They fit really rather well into your ears, without much effort, and a little rubber loop just above the earbud keep them from falling out.

Airwheel earpiece

The Airvibes control earpiece

The sound quality is what you’d expect from a standard set of headphones: good, but not exceptional. The rubber around the earbud does a surprisingly good job of soundproofing, blocking out enough background noise to mean you don’t need to have your music deafeningly loud to drown out what’s going on around you. If you are a frequent Airwheel rider, you’ll be pleased to know that this soundproofing does a good job of blocking out the annoying beeping noise the Airwheel makes when it gets near the speed limiter!

The Bluetooth works pretty well, if you’re staying in one place, you can walk away from your phone a little (assuming it’s not in your pocket) and you’ll still pick up a signal. When using Airvibes on an Airwheel, they work just as well. Occasionally I have noticed a slight drop out, especially when going fast, but it’s quite rare and only momentary.

Controls

Being Bluetooth, the headphones can not only play music from your device, but they can also be used to control your device too. The functions are relatively easy to learn, although a glance at the instruction manual would do you some good, as it may prevent you accidentally calling people in your address book, as I did when I first tried the Airvibes out! A built in microphone matched with the function buttons means that you can make and receive calls through the Airvibes; a useful add-on feature. Volume up and down, skip track, pause and play are the key functions available.

When out riding an Airwheel, I have found the buttons are all reasonably easy to use, all being accessible on the one earpiece. I have sometimes found it difficult to press the play/pause button, and this could do with being slightly raised, or recessed, just to make it that bit easier to find.

Airvibes Verdict

Airvibes are a decent little set of headphones. If you have been looking for a good pair of wireless headphones, I can highly recommend you try Airvibes. The sound quality is good, you can control your music and make phone calls on them with ease. They currently retail at around £30 GBP which I feel is a fair evaluation of what they are worth.

My Airvibes were from Airwheel.direct, the same place that I bought my Airwheel from. If you’d be interested in finding out more about Airvibes, or want to get yourself a set, head over to their website.

Fairphone, A Case of Responsible Innovation?

fairphone

Fairphone, Responsible Innovation?

This week I want to carry on my investigation into Responsible innovation with an example. I think it might express the idea easily, which has been one of its problems. So meet the Fairphone.

I have seen Fairphone described as a responsible innovation, so let’s take a look at its credentials. Anyone who has ever looked into manufacturing practices of our favourite modern technology will know that there is a dark side to its use, from illegal mining, child labour, poor safety records, it is all there. And this seems to be what Fairphone are trying to counteract.

I take the following from the website:

Mining

We want to integrate materials in our supply chain that support local economies, not armed militias. We’re starting with conflict-free minerals from the DRC to stimulate alternative solutions.

Sounds like it might address some of the problems noted above.

Design

We’re using design to change the relationship between people and their phones. We’re focusing on longevity and repairability to extend the phone’s usable life and give buyers more control over their products.

With all due respect to a certain company that makes phones that you cannot even change the battery on, I can feel someone turning in his grave!

Manufacturing

Factory workers deserve safe conditions, fair wages and worker representation. We work closely with manufacturers that want to invest in employee wellbeing.

Sounds more than reasonable given the bad press that many manufacturers have had in recent years.

Life Cycle

We’re addressing the full lifespan of mobile phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. We believe that our responsibility doesn’t end with sales.

Given how many are in circulation this must be a priority, and the problem of e-waste is well known.

Here is the publicity blurb:

A smartphone with social values

This quality smartphone lets us open up processes and start a conversation about what is truly fair. From conflict-free minerals to fair factory wages, we’re making improvements one step at a time. Your purchase supports better ways of doing business that aim to inspire the entire industry.

And for those of you who also care about other things:

Introducing the Fairphone 2

5-inch Full HD display with Gorilla® Glass 3

Android​​™​ 5.1 (​Lollipop)

32 GB internal storage​

Expandable storage via MicroSD slot​

Dual SIM

4G LTE/3G/2G

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801 platform,​ 2GB RAM​

It looks like a serious piece of kit to me, and if all of the above is true, how could you say no?

The roadmap on the website goes into greater detail, I can certainly recommend a look. You can get a cost breakdown, as well as a financial statement (the project is financially independent). Now I should note that am not paid for this post, neither have I approached the manufacturer, I have never asked for anything from them and am fully independent myself, but I must say that it certainly looks like a fine project to me. They are now taking orders for Fairphone 2, and I am sorely tempted, I would be a hypocrite not to be!

529 Euros. Does that sound reasonable? It is out of my price range I am afraid, but more to the point does it explain what Responsible Innovation might be?

Impact Shield – S6 screen protector review

On Monday I reviewed Tech21’s case for the Galaxy S6. Even the best cases leave the screen vulnerable to scratches and dirt, so to fully protect your phone, you need a good screen protector. Today I’m going to review Tech21’s Impact Shield screen protector for the Galaxy S6. Our thanks to Mobile Fun who provided the protector for this review.

Tech21 Impact Shield Screen Protector

Protection
Having use the Impact Shield screen protector for several years now, I’ve got a pretty good knowledge of the protection it gives. Whilst the screen protector itself does pick up scratches (which do very slowly fade with time) Tech21’s screen protector does a fantastic job of protecting the phone’s screen.

Over the course of 2 years, I replaced my screen protector twice, because it just collected too many scratches, however every time I pealed it off, the phone screen itself was fine. This newer version offers the same protection, just for the S6. The video below is made by Tech21 – it’s a drop test of a ball-bearing from six foot.

Application

Screen protector application widgetTech21 have added a useful widget to the pack to help you apply the screen protector. This widget (very snugly) slots over your phone, helping you to line up the screen protector to exactly where it needs to be.

Before you apply the screen protector you need to remove any dust from the screen. The microfibre cloth that comes in the packet is pretty bad, and just seemed to spread dust, rather than remove it. I ended up using a glasses cloth to give the screen a proper clean.

Once all the dust is off, you remove one layer of the screen protector, stick it to the phone and then use the cardboard provided (also not very useful) to remove any bubbles, before removing the upper layer. Then you’re done; screen protector applied!

Clarity and Use

There is no noticeable difference in the quality of the display once the screen protector has been applied. Some screen protectors make the screen look fuzzy or distorted, however Tech21’s does not. I have noticed that when using the screen with the protector applied, there is slightly more friction between my figure and the phone, meaning it doesn’t glide as smoothly across as it would otherwise. You do get used to it however.

Price

The Impact Shield screen protector currently costs £25, which is to the higher end of the price spectrum.

Rating

The Impact Shield does its job well: protects the screen without compromising on clarity or usability. The level of protection it provides is great, but I’m not sure the regular user would really need it very often. The self-heal feature is good to have, but it doesn’t work quite as well as you might hope or expect.

Four StarUltimately taking into account the competition and Impact Shield’s relative price and protection, I’m going to rate it a generous 4 stars.

FlexShock protection for the Galaxy S6

Two years ago I reviewed Tech21’s Impact Mesh case for the Galaxy S4 Mini. Tech21 are now using a new material called FlexShock, so having recently started using a Galaxy S6, I thought it would be appropriate to review Tech21’s latest Evo Check case for Samsung’s Galaxy S6.

Tech21 Evo Check Case

Protection
The main reason I use a case is to protect my device. Primarily from knocks and drops, but also from scratches, dirt and dust. The size of the S6 means that depending upon what you’re wearing, it wont always fit snugly in your pocket. This inevitably means that every so often it will fall out, at which point I will usually scrabble and scramble to try and catch it, but if I’m unsuccessful, I need to know the phone will be safe.

The S6, with its Gorilla Glass and aluminium casing, seems to be pretty resilient by itself. It would appear you can use an S6 to crack walnuts open with no ill effects, and this drop test video demonstrates the S6 (Edge) is a pretty tough cookie. WARNING: for S6 owners, this is a heart-in-mouth kind of video!

So how much protection does Tech21’s case provide? Well the answer is quite a lot. The case has a slight lip on the front meaning that even if dropped face down on a flat surface, neither the screen nor the home button would touch the ground – the case would absorb the impact.

My main concern when I first looked at the S6 was that the rear camera protrudes, meaning that it would be the first thing to contact during an impact. The case has a slightly raised rim around the camera, meaning that the camera is now recessed by about 0.5mm – giving it some much needed protection.

Tech21 have ditched the D3O which they had previously been famous for using, in favour of FlexShock. This new material they claim does the same job as D3O – absorbing the impact – whilst it can be moulded into better shock absorbing shapes and it can be dyed different colours. FlexShock seems just as hardy as D3O – but with added flexibility and customisation.

Design

Galaxy S6 FlexShock caseI really like the metal and glass construct of the Galaxy S6, so for me it’s not about getting a snazzy case to conceal an ugly phone. The Evo Case is very minimalistic and whilst it does cover five sides of the phone (the top, both sides, the bottom and the back) it still gives the S6 a little room to showcase its looks. The beauty of FlexShock is that it can be styled in different colours. As such, I’ve gone for a smooth white, to match my white S6. It is obvious that I am using a case, and I have lost that plush glass feeling but as cases go, aesthetically the Evo Check does a pretty good job.

A good case has to give clean access to all the phone’s ports and sensors. The Evo Check case does this well, there is ample room around the speaker, power port, lower microphone and the headphone socket. On the top the infrared sensor and higher microphone are also able to operate without interference. The camera has plenty of room around it, as does the flash, and you can use the heart rate monitor without removing the phone from the case. You do have to remove the phone to get to the SIM-card socket, but who does that on a regular basis anyway?

White Tech21 S6 caseThe buttons (volume up/down and power) are covered, and to activate them you do need to press them firmly. I personally like this, as it gives the phone a quality feel and it prevents you from accidentally pressing them too. That said, (from watching endless YouTube reviews) I do know that some users would prefer the buttons to be uncovered, and dislike having to push them hard to get anything to happen.

Price

The Evo Check case is currently priced around £30, which is fairly mid-range (cheaper than many of Samsung’s own cases) considering (in terms of protection) it is a pretty high end product.

Rating

I’m a big fan of Tech21’s Evo Check case for the Galaxy S6. It covers the phone well, without obstructing any of the ports or sensors. It also looks great, even if it doesn’t feel as good as metal and glass.

Four and a Half StarThe protection it offers is hard to rival, especially amongst cases with a similar price tags, so I’m rating the Evo Case with FlexShock protection 4 and a half stars.

Our thanks to Mobile Fun – the mobile accessories experts – for providing the case for this review. If you want to find out more or buy one of your own, check out Tech21’s S6 case on their website.