Archive for May 2009

Review: Sony Ericsson W705 and PlayNow Plus

I got my hands on the Sony Ericsson W705 one day after it’s launch in Singapore. But I was busy enjoying the unlimited music (and busy other personal stuff), which explains why this blog entry was delayed until now.

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The W705 is like most sliding Sony Ericsson Walkman phone. Like most Sony Ericsson phones, it is using the standard proprietary user interface which everyone is familiar with by now. The buttons are pretty easy to press and responsive.

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The W705 comes with some motion sensor shortcuts for the music player. You can access them by pressing the Walkman button (located at the top of the phone) and shake/move/tilt the phone in certain direction to adjust volume, next/previous track and shuffle. It takes some practice to get the shortcuts right. But honestly, its not really practical to use those shortcut. Other passengers on the bus/train might think that you have mental illness or something. Besides, you can achieve most of these shortcuts with the volume control button without looking weird.

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The best part about the Sony Ericsson W705 is that it comes with PlayNow Plus, Sony Ericsson’s own unlimited music download (with DRM of cos). All W705 comes with free 12 months subscription to PlayNow Plus. There are currently more than 3.5 million songs available for download at PlayNow Plus, I counted. (Kidding kidding. So many how to count?) PlayNow Plus is currently only available on Sony Ericsson W705 although there are plans to make it available in future Sony Ericsson Walkman series phone.

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There are 2 ways that you can access PlayNow Plus, using your W705 or PC. There is no Mac support at the moment. Finding songs on PlayNow Plus is easy. There is also chart for the most downloaded songs and recommended songs/artist. There are some basic social networking features on PlayNow Plus. You can add friends and recommend songs and playlist for them to download. There is also a soulmate feature which matches you with other PlayNow Plus users who has similar music preference as you. Sad to say, the system couldn’t find any soulmate for me during my 1 1/2 week of reviewing. Maybe my music taste is a little outdated and unique.

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One thing to note is that when you download a song on your phone, it doesn’t automatically download on your PC (and vice versa). Instead, you can send a note to yourself from the PC to remind you to download the song in your PC. I find this weird because this will means that you’ll end up having to maintain 2 list of songs.

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For PC version, you are downloading the songs at 192 kpbs WMA Format. The songs’ bit rate on the mobile phone is rather interesting. You can choose between fast download or CD quality. For fast download, the format is eAAC+ at 24kbps. For CD quality, the format is AAC+ at 48kbps. Nope, there is no typo here. But before you make any conclusion, let me just say that the 48kbps format sound pretty decent on the W705. Somehow, the W705 made the 48kbps songs sound normal. The audiophile should be able to tell the difference though. The reason why Sony Ericsson chooses lower bit rate for mobile phone is because of the limited storage on the phone and to allow faster download. But its a pity they didn’t allow users the option to download at a higher bit rate.

After 12 months, you get to keep the top 200 songs that you listen to in MP3 format, 320 kbps and DRM FREE. Yes, you heard me correctly, DRM free.

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W705 and PlayNow Plus is currently exclusive to SingTel in Singapore. (They have a Passion Red version of W705 which looks very nice) All plans with W705 comes with free 200 mb bundled data. (Unlimited for first month) This might not be enough for those who download tons of songs every month. Luckily there is WIFI on this phone. Else you can always add extra data bundle to your phone plan.

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In short:
Unlimited songs on a Walkman phone

Likes:
Unlimited songs download for 1 year
Keep the top 200 songs DRM free after one year
Social networking features on PlayNow Plus

Dislikes:
No options to download song on higher bit rate
No Mac support for PlayNow Plus (Yet)

Many thanks to Audrey from Hill & Knowlton and Sony Ericsson for sending me the review unit one day after the official launch in Singapore. I hope you guys don’t get a shock when you see the amount of songs that I’ve downloaded on the review unit. :)

“Shut up and sit down” T-shirt

The Aware EOGM last Saturday inspired a design consultant (@bionic_creative on twitter) to come out with a series of T-Shirt with some infamous quotes from the meeting. T-shirts with quotes like “Shut up and sit down”, “Respect your elders”, “I’m on page 73” and “Where were you” are now available on sale for $29.90. 70% of the proceeding will go to Aware, which might need a little top up in their funds after Josie and Co spend $90,000 of the funds in less than 1 month.

Go check out the website, there are several interesting design. This is my favorite design. I understand that it’s also the most popular design currently.

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But too bad they are in white (Some design available in pink). Waiting for black version to come before ordering. This is so cool.

Update: Black Colour “Shut up and sit down” T-Shirt is now available at $34.90. Woohoo!!!

SMRT: What logic is this?

I was reading this news article and wondering, what kind of logic is this?

SMRT said train frequency will be reduced by 30 per cent once Singapore’s pandemic alert level hits red. This is because its service staff are divided into two teams to prevent the potential spread of the H1N1 virus.

Singapore is currently on alert level Orange, 1 level below red. Although there has been no confirmed case of H1N1 in Singapore yet, we might go from alert Orange to Red any moment when there is a confirmed case. Nobody can tell when that will happen.

But when we reach alert level red, life will be in chaos. Not only do we fear catching the virus in public places, we also have to deal with the reduced train frequency. Currently, train frequency is already not enough during peak hours. All the train are jam packed during peak hours. I cannot imagine what will happen if SMRT reduce the train frequency by 30 percent.

Packing more people inside a train and making them stand closer to each other will increase the chance of spreading the virus. It will also allow one carrier to spread the virus to more people since there are more people sharing the train with him/her. Shouldn’t the train frequency be increased instead so that lesser people will be affected should someone infected with H1N1 takes the train?

What the point of dividing staff into 2 teams? It’s not going to help. If the virus is spreading, what makes you think there isn’t a chance that both team will catch the virus at the same time? Instead of dividing the staff into 2 teams, why not gear your staff with face mask? If properly equipped, the chances of your staff catching the virus will be at minimum.

Which smart alex in SMRT come up with this stupid idea anyway? Doesn’t he/she knows that the train is already very packed during peak hours? We might end up like this if they reduce the train frequency by 30%. Is SMRT going to employ pushers?

Or is this a cover up? Reducing the train frequency by 30% is a good cost saving measure.

19th European Union Film Festival – Wolf (Varg)

I was invited to the European Union Film Festival’s Blogger Movie Night held at the Swedish Embassy Residence. The current EU Presidency is the Czech Republic. But since the Czech Republic doesn’t have an Embassy in Singapore, the incoming EU Presidency, Sweden, will represent the EU Presidency.

We were treated to some light refreshment like cheese and meatballs. YES, Swedish meatballs are the best. I love meatballs and always try to get some when I’m at Ikea. Oops, sorry, I digress. After the light refreshment and chat with some of the Swedish Embassy staff, we were given an exclusive movie preview to Wolf (or Varg in Swedish). Wolf is the Swedish film featured in the 19th EU film festival. We all know that Sweden is famous for their furniture, meatballs and Volvo. But we didn’t know that Sweden also produce good movies until that night.

Wolf (Varg) is a story about the indigenous people of northern Sweden, the Sami. A large part of the Sami culture involves the herding of reindeer. The story evolves mainly between Klemens, a Sami who likes the old ways, and his nephew Nejla. When a wolf appears in the region and attacked the reindeer, their Sami way of life comes under attack. Under the Swedish law, hunting and killing of wolf is a crime and offender can be jailed up to 4 years. This film shows the conflict between tradition and modern day society in Sweden.

I don’t remember ever watching a foreign film in my life. But I must say that I truly enjoyed this film. The film also showcase some beautiful landscape in Northern Sweden. So beautiful that I wanted to pack my back and stay there for a couple of months, until someone reminded me that there is no broadband there. Ok, I doubt I can survive couple of months there. Maybe a week or two.

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Wolf will be showing on 9th May 2009 at GV VivoCity.

Apart from Wolf, there are 18 other great films from different countries in the European Union that will be featured in the 19th Eurpoean Union Film Festival between 7 to 17 May 2009. Check out the EU Film Festival website for more details. Tickets can be purchased at GV Vivo box office or GV online website.

I heard that tickets for “A Road To Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad” (Austria) has already been sold out. Better book your tickets fast.

Many thanks to Melvin from 20Twenty, Swedish Embassy and EU Film Festival for the invite.

Dell Swarm

I was invited to Geek Terminal for a sneak preview of an interesting new concept by Dell which will be launched soon in Singapore.

Called the Dell Swarm, it is something like bulk purchase but instead of the consumer organising the bulk purchase, it is the company that organise the bulk purchase. Here is how it works. Every Tuesday, 2 Dell products will be up on the Dell Swarm website for 72 hours. As more people join the swarm and buy the product, the final selling price of the product goes lower. You can either help spread the words and get your friends to join the swarm or wait for some random stranger to join in. Either way, everyone will enjoy the same amount of discount at the end of the swarm. The swarm will end after 72 hours or when there are 15 buyers for the product.

There are several ways for you to spread the message and get your friends to join in the swarm and help you push the pricing of the product down. You can send message to your friends thru Facebook, twitter, emails etc etc.

Interesting concept I would say. Singapore is the first country in the world to have Dell Swarm. If the response is good, they will roll it out to the rest of the world.

The Dell Swarm is targetted to start tomorrow (5 May 2009, 12 midnight). Understand that the first 2 product on Dell Swarm is the Inspiron Mini 12 and Dell Studio 14. So if you are interested in buying these 2 product, why not check it out at Dell Swarm. (PS: The website not up yet at the time I’m writing this blog entry)

Many thanks to Tania and Patlaw from Ogilvy and Dell for the invite.

Update: It appears that we have given them too many good suggestions during the blogger’s preview. The launch date has been postpone till 12 May 2009 so that they can implement some of the suggestions that we brought up. But you can check out on the official how it works page to get ready for the swarm.