The Non Gamers Guide To Google Stadia

I don’t play many games. I tell myself that this is because I don’t have time, but really it’s because I have such an addictive personality that I’m scared I’ll lose myself in to it, and I’ve got things to do! I don’t have any console, but turns out I did have things I could use to play Google Stadia and I bet you do to.

What motivated all this was the fact there are some games that I want to play. You know those titles that everyone around you seem to be playing, and you just want to join in. The last title that did this to me was Red Dead Redemption 2 that I purchased a PS4 pro to play and before the month was out sat gathering dust, ending up being sold on a little later.

This time it’s Cyberpunk 2077. A title that I really didn’t want to have to buy hardware to run it, and really don’t want to pick up an old console to play it either. So, this is where Google Stadia comes in. The cloud streaming service that has been steadily improving over the last few months after poor release reviews, but might just be the place to play without having to splash too much cash on top of the line hardware.

What is it?

Googles solution to next-generation gaming is a streaming service that offers top of the line graphics without having to stump up the money for hardware. It’s a future that has been promised for some years now, and all of a sudden we have a few competing platforms that don’t work together.

What do you need?

Google Stadia requires very little to get you gaming. The most important of these things is a good internet connection. It doesn’t have to be the fastest in the world, but it needs to be reliable. In order to game wherever I wanted I’ve had to upgrade my router, but that shouldn’t be needed for most people. You will also need to check your data caps because you reusing upwards of 5GB per hour.

As far as hardware, you’ll first need a controller, any old one will do, I’ve been using a PS4 one I borrowed from a friend. As long as you can pair it with a mobile device you can get up and running in no time. One thing to bear in mind is that new Xbox controller don’t pair with all computers. You can stream stadia to ‘any device that runs chrome’. I’ve used my MacBook, iPad, iPhone and an ancient Chromebook all with good results. It also works flawlessly with mobile safari and also desktop Microsoft Edge.

You can splash for a Stadia specific controller if you like. Which I eventually did and picked one up for £35 from CEX, but they are available direct from Google. Opt for the Premier edition if you can afford it for £80, and you’ll get a Chromecast ultra too. This means you can play on your TV with ease but again you can pick these up cheeper at resellers.
Google Stadia Logo

What can you play?

Not every game is available on Stadia so don’t get too excited. There is a large range of games that are growing all the time like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Hitman 3 (soon). However, there are loads of games missing, so this won’t replace a home console completely — yet. One noticeable absence for me is FIFA 21, but it’s coming early this year.

If you sign up for a free stadia account you’ll get a copy of Destiny 2 and Bomberman online completely free. Opt for the Pro subscription, and you can choose from a whole range of games to play for free while your subscription is live.

How well does it work?

On its initial launch Google Stadia was littered with poor connection issues and huge lag. Thankfully, this is pretty much gone. Lag will depend on your internet connection first, which I have a pretty stable and fast one. There are some impossible to diagnose issues that sometimes crop up, usually ISP related and can be solved by rebooting your rooter.

The UI of webpages or native apps takes a little getting used to as well as working out the options you have available when signing up. Hopefully, as the service becomes more main steam things like this will improve.

Finding games and starting one from your library could use some work, but when it comes to playing, I have experienced very few issues in my super-fast internet bubble.
Stadia Cyberpunk Screenshot

What does it cost

There are quite a few moving parts here, and the website is more than a little confusing. Google of course push you towards signing up without much information. To play Cyberpunk 2077, which is all I set to do, it set me back the price of the game (£50). I borrowed a controller and used an iPad I already had.

There are two free games included with your account Destiny 2 and Bomberman Online, so you can start playing for free. Opt for a ‘Pro’ subscription for £8 a month, and you can claim any of a growing range of games. However, you can only play this while you have an active subscription. Outside the games a pro subscription allows you to stream in 4k, with HDR also available depending on the speed of your internet connection.

There is a free month trial with no purchase necessary to try out a few games and get the feel of the place. Allowing you to play all currently available pro games for a month without a charge. Google sell a Premier Edition controller and Chromecast Ultra for £80 which is the most versatile option, but you can pick these up for very little money in other places.

Games vary in price from a few pounds to large amounts depending on the package you wish to buy.

Sum Google Stadia up for me

If like me, you want to play the occasional game and don’t want to spend hundreds on hardware. Chances are you can get going with things you already have or for very minimal outlay. Unfortunately, not all games are available but there is a large library of releases.

The most important thing you will need is a fast, stable connection. If that sounds like you, Stadia is a great way to play almost anywhere.

Start The New Year Right With Fitness Totals

Since the launch of iOS14 we’ve seen an influx of widgets for your Home Screen. Apple having finally launched a viable way for you to not only customise the look of your phone, but also gain access to information you need at a glance. So being the health conscious individual I am, I wanted something to help me display the data I need at a glance right on my home-screen and here it is – Fitness Totals.

Managing your long terms fitness goals can be extremely difficult and many options out there seemed to be aimed at athletes rather than those that want to just get active, or shed a bit of the Christmas plump put on over the festive period. Instead of making you feel out of place, Fitness Totals places the emphasis on your weekly and monthly activity totals. Giving you the option to display walking/running, but also cycling, swimming, and wheelchair pushes/distance.

You can choose from a whole range of different widget options in both light and dark mode, as well as 14 different app icons. Meaning that you can tailor the experience to your taste and view the data you value, whenever you need it.

I have been testing the app through its beta period and finding it extremely useful for comparing those stats that really matter to me. Having taken up cycling this year, and particularly enjoying walks with my dog, it’s great to get all the data I value but not have to worry about starting workouts or feeding my information into another service. Fitness Totals plugs straight into Apple Health and uses on device processing, so your data never leaves your phone. You can send your fitness totals to others if you choose to. The sharing features are particularly useful for a bit of friendly competition and give you a bit of a push!

It doesn’t matter if you’re active like me or just thinking about a New Year’s resolution. You can download Fitness Totals from the App Store for just £2.99 and keep focused on your health.

The MagSafe Wallet on Each Size iPhone

Yeah, I’m that guy this year. I couldn’t decide which iPhone size I wanted, so I got them all. It’s a weird position to be in but also provides me with some deeper insights into the real differences. I am not talking about specs and all those kinds of figures that people get too caught up in, the real things that make a difference to actually using the device. One of the strangest ones I have had to think about this year is the MagSafe wallet — so here is how it fits with each size iPhone.

iPhone 12 Mini

The smallest of the bunch is, somewhat understandably, the worst one regarding the MagSafe wallet. The iPhone 12 Mini is the same width as the wallet and the magnet position mean it goes all the way to the bottom of the phone also.

Meaning no margin for error, but a nice neat look and a perfect fit — in theory. In reality this means it’s the hardest to get on fully, and it’s also the easiest to move off the edge of the phone. The small size of the iPhone 12 Mini also means that it is the hardest to get off when you need to get a card out. Mainly because the only option you have is pushing it down from the top not side to side.

iPhone 12 Pro

The best compromise in the sizes of iPhones is arguably the best size to use the MagSafe wallet with. When fitting the wallet you have some room around the phone to position the wallet securely if you don’t get it right straight away. Also some space on the back of the phone to remove the wallet easier when you need to get a card out.

It lacks the neatness of the iPhone 12 Mini, but doesn’t look too bad at all. I have also found that when using the MagSafe wallet on the back of your iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12, the phone is easier to hold. I feel much more comfortable using my phone out the house without a case when the wallet is attached enabling a bit more grip.

iPhone 12 Pro Max

If you’ve read this far, you’re interested in what the MagSafe wallet is like with the biggest iPhone ever! The iPhone 12 Pro Max is humongous so there is no getting around that the wallet looks, well a bit weird!

There is quite a bit of room around the wallet, given the expansive slab of glass. It also moves around quite a bit when you are trying to use the phone, due to needing significant hand gymnastics. Quite often the MagSafe Wallet will move from side to side, and occasionally making me a little nervous!

The positive is that there is plenty of room for you to move the wallet to the correct position if you get it wrong. However, I would love to see a bigger version for the Pro Max simply so it doesn’t look so lost on the back of the phone.

MagSafe, especially the wallet, feels a little like version one so I am sure we will see revisions on future phones. Stronger magnets and better connections are a must as well as different sized accessories. However, the MagSafe wallet is a great addition to my fairly minimal lifestyle, so I’m pretty happy so far.

5 Of My Favourite iOS Apps

A few times a year these kinds of posts start to appear. Around the time of installing new iOS updates, or getting a new phone, users start to think about what’s on their phone, and new people start to look for apps to use. Here are some of my favourite apps that are my first installs on any new phone.

Pocketcasts

I go backwards and forwards on podcast apps, but one that remains my favourite is Pocketcasts. It works brilliantly across platforms, so I can still use it when testing Android devices, but also has a great macOS app and web player.

You’ll have to upgrade to get all the features, but that’s only £9.99 a year and includes a brilliant watchOS app that streams podcasts even better than the stock app. Oh, and it looks awesome too!

Todoist

Another staple of my daily usage is my task manager of choice, sure I have used others briefly, but it’s been on my device for years now. There are other apps that look prettier and perhaps have more in-depth customisation but to put it simply I can’t find any other app that can get your tasks from your brain into a plan quicker and easier. Todoist is also cross-platform and works petty much anywhere which is a huge bonus.

Dark Noise

Now for something completely different, an app that provides most of my background sound. Dark Noise is the app I turn to when working, it not only provides the best ambient sounds around but is also the best designed app I think I have ever seen! The developer Charlie is all kinds of awesome too.

Headspace

When I am not listening to podcasts, or ambient noise I spend at least 20 minutes every day meditating. Headspace is a popular choice for those wanting to work on their mindfulness, and for good reason as its packed full of features. You can get 10 days free to try it out too!

Pocket

Every year, when my subscription comes to an end, I try and find something better to use as a read it later service. Each year I fail. There are cheaper options, there are newer services but I simply can’t find anything better that captures all the text from articles and also surfaces posts about interesting topics. At £35 per year it’s not cheap, but you can use it completely free with a few customisations removed and also a few ads in your article feed.

Honourable mention to 1Password, Hey email, Reeder 5 and Strava. If I have missed something, don’t be shy let me know and recommend me your favourite apps.

Pixel 5 Review

It’s been three years since I used a Pixel device. Not since the first version was I even motivated to pick one up and try it out. They all excelled in specific areas, but always suffered from some frankly jaw-dropping issues or hardware omissions — and when they somewhat sorted it all out with the Pixel 4 they wanted to charge premium prices and not deliver on the premium part.

Something changed with the Pixel 5. Amid a pandemic Google began to focus on what they could do to bring a device together, and perhaps what their customers wanted. So instead of weird and wonderful new developments they absolutely promise to develop, they took half a step back. Creating a device that leans on tried and tested hardware, not the bleeding edge. Just reliable specs, done well and priced at a point that Google felt it can complete.

At £599 in the UK (yay for no mmWave) it is a steal of a smartphone. Googles very own Android version, on hardware chosen to run it at peak optimisations — or at least thats what we are led to believe.



Mid-tear Performance

Despite there being loads of progress in this middle-top section (between £400-£800) the Pixel has an advantage that it is Googles flagship. So, it gets more development attention than many phones at this price point. While some companies cut things out to save costs and also not overshadow their top-tier handsets, Google can put in as much as they can for the price point they want to hit. While augments can be made that the Pixel 5 doesn’t have the bleeding edge of everything like other flagships, when you look at a phone such as the Note 20 Ultra, the Pixel 5 is half the price.

In actual use these supposed cuts are mostly nowhere to be found. The Snapdragon 765G provides more than enough power for every situation. Sure it isn’t as powerful as the 865, but who actually uses the power that these chips possess? I would challenge anyone that uses this phone to find any stutter or lag, or any situations where the thought of having a more powerful processor ever crops up. Even whilst gaming and editing images the phone never misses a beat — I am sure you could find lag somewhere that is caused directly by the processor but I have never seen it.

Usability

In fact, this ‘cut’ leads to battery life that is truly unbelievable. Let me say that again because it has never happened on a Google phone before — the battery life is insanely good. In fact, I can’t kill it! 8 hours screen on time is achievable, and some of my more leisurely days this week I got almost two days of use. Something helped by Googles option for a more reserved battery life processor, and no doubt software optimisations, squeezed every minute possible out of the 4080mAh battery.

Use it a lot I did because it is such a delight to use. The build quality feel, the ergonomic design and this hardware combination make a hard to resist package. Whilst the screen is a long way off the highest resolution on the market, its 6inch 1080 × 2340 (432 ppi) is one you won’t find major issues with, but it is very dim and the auto-brightness terribly slow.

Some slowdown or issues you may usually find in mid range hardware is smoothed out by the 90hz. Colours are natural and very pleasing to the eye, while text is sharp and the screen is all around absolutely fine to use. As we find with many of the choices made when building the Pixel 5, many words are written about the lack or this and that — but when you actually use it the phone, you realise what really matters.

There is no XL version this year, meaning that the Pixel 5 sits somewhere between the two, and with slim bezels and all metal build. In my opinion, this phone is the best feeling smartphone this year. The design may put some off as boring or utilitarian, but in a world on folding smartphones and weird innovations, Goole have carved out a simple but pleasing ‘candy bar’ smartphone that is both functional and still notably a Pixel.



The Sage colour I have is the only colour you should consider, the black version just doesn’t have the same appeal as the mottled green matte resin Google have covered the back in. This covering over the Aluminium body provides some rigidity to the design, meaning that wireless coils can be covered up, and the device always feel welcoming.

The design only broken by a slightly recessed fingerprint sensor, one that is fast and reliable and secure. It is a little strange to go back to rear mounted sensors after using more modern biometric options, but after a few moments it becomes smooth and natural, and you begin to wonder why things ever changed. Face unlock is fine, but this phone was designed in a pandemic, so you can understand the switch.

Camera

Since the very first version, Google put all its marketing and development into the Pixel Camera. It took top marks on DxOMarkMobile then, and has ranked very highly since then. The Pixel 5 continues this successful trend of doing more with less, and takes some truly amazing pictures. Its focus on black magic level image processing has led it to be lauded above many much more expensive phones and while it is still an extremely great camera, this year the sensor has really started to show its age.

Google definitely has its reasons, it couldn’t find another sensor to work very well with its processing algorithms, there is no avoiding the fact that newer more modern sensors are frankly much better. The 12MP IMX363 which first appeared on the Pixel 3, and is not far removed from the one on the Pixel 2, is now a long way behind larger higher quality sensors. While Google bridged the gaps with software in days past, the competition now takes as good, if not better shots.

With that said, the Camera is a delight to use — capturing images quickly and easily and achieving photos to be proud of in almost any situation. It punches well above it weight at only £599, and the edition of an ultra-wide lens makes it much more versatile.

The Pixel 5, as with those that have gone before it, excels in low light, and makes a mean portrait, but most of this is post-processing, so what you see in the preview window might not actually what the image turns out as. It also could be different again when you look at the photo on Google Photos later. Frankly that is usually a great thing, if a little baffling at first, and Google makes it easier to edit or revert changes made. Introducing a process of being able to change the angle of the light in portrait shots. Something that I feel only Google would do, and is amazing to play with, but ultimately, one of those features no-one uses.

Software

Which brings us to a larger discussion about Google and Pixel version of Android. It’s a version that crops up nowhere else. A few that get close, but no-one does it as well. The Pixel always stays true to a Google vision of their OS, pushing features to it first, or sometimes exclusively to the Pixel Line.

This is one huge reason why the Pixel doesn’t need the top of the range processor because Android on the Pixel is nearly always fast and smooth. You get updates first, with Android 11 on board a long time before some are every shipping Android 10 to handsets. Google have also promised this for three years from release, so users will always be up to date — but what happens when Android isn’t optimised for this processor is anyone’s guess.

There are loads of software delights that you sometimes stubble on such as the power menu now highlighting compatible smart home gadgets and Google Pay cards. Unfortunately, my version does not feature the Google Assistant On Hold feature as it is US only, but does have live transcribe for any audio just a tap away at any point.

Google want Android to be as useful as possible while collecting data it can use to sell you things and companies adverts. We are all well are of that, and Android on the Pixel is the best possible version of that. You forgive the little quirks and the pestering for maps reviews because the OS is straightforward and a delight to use. Surfacing information, sending you notifications when you need them and being all around a great experience. There is nothing getting in the way on a Pixel, no third-party layers of options, not OEM themes. Just you and Google, and I like that.

Conclusion

It’s easy to sum up a Pixel device. Good software, great camera and some compromises somewhere — but with the Pixel 5 they have found their hardware mojo. By actually stepping back and building a device for the current circumstances, they have made ultimately a better phone. No gimmicks, nothing new to learn, just tried and tested hardware all wrapped up in hardware that delivers.

I feel like my review is about a thousand words too short, but because we know what we are getting with Googles best the words have already been written. The Pixel 5 does open up a more interesting topic around the demand for keeping up to a specification race no-one needs, but when you pick up the device and use it all of that falls away.

You can point at this spec and that spec, but when you combine these things together in a Google package the Pixel 5 punches well above its weight. Although the camera shows its age, it’s still a delight to use and its software smarts sorts out shooting errors anyway. This is easily the best Pixel ever — and I wouldn’t recommend you buy anything else unless the few ‘cuts’ are things you simply can’t do without.



iPhone 12 Pro Thoughts

After using as many phones as I have over the last 12 months you begin to see things a little differently to just swopping your sim out once a year. While it’s easy to get complacent and just move to the next phone, I simply can’t do that and have to give each phone at least a couple of weeks try whatever my initial feelings are. Some I love and then fall away from quickly like the Galaxy Fold 2, some I love all the way through like the Note 20 Ultra, and some leave me perplexed from the very start.

Unfortunately my beloved iPhone does that to me this year, so I feel compelled to share some initial thoughts on the iPhone 12 Pro — but this is far from a review.

Design

There are no words I can say to sum up this design change that do anything other that tell you how much I hate it! I love the look of the square sides and am all for bringing the design in line with the iPad Pro because that also looks great. However, there is a reason every other thing you hold is as curved as possible, your hand doesn’t like it any other way.

I love the iPhone 5 design, its boxes neatness is one I still keep around in the form of an SE, and sometimes just look at it and appreciate it. Times have changed though, phones no longer feature 4-inch displays and weigh 113g. They contain 6.1” screens and are built of premium materials weighing 182g and frankly it hurts a little.

Granted it is early days, and things sometimes take a little getting used to but I really don’t like it at all. The boxy design looks great but functions terribly to a point where I don’t think I want to use it any longer. I can’t get behind a design that makes the phone feel much thinker than the iPhone 11 Pro, when in fact it isn’t!

Usability

Outside of this the iPhone 12 Pro retains everything else that is great about an iPhone. Featuring the same matt back that the iPhone 11 had, meaning that going caseless doesn’t mean you need a polishing rag with you at all times — at least not for the back. The Pacific Blue version I have has a polished band around the sides that is one of the hardest things to keep clean I have ever come across! The white iPhones have struggled with this issue much longer, but unfortunately, there is more surface area on the sides now, or they are easier to see, whatever the reason it’s a fingerprint magnet.

Battery life seems to be OK, sitting here on Wi-Fi 90% of the time, but is noticeably worse in current usage. It’s never going to run out on me given my more limited usage, but I am using it much more in this ‘getting to know you’ phase of my testing. Those venturing out and even more so when using 5G may have an issue on their hands, but we will see how this goes. I have noticed it getting hot a few times, so this may just be things settling down and syncing from the cloud still. I can’t see an issue with 6+hours of screen on time though.

Camera

Unfortunately due to being isolated, I haven’t had much chance to really try the camera out other than wandering around my house and snapping a few shots. In good light it is great, as was the iPhone 11 Pro, so this comes as little surprise. Images retain loads of detail, great dynamic range and the new HDR processing is a big leap forward.

In terms of the camera as a whole, this isn’t a huge improvement, but you are hardly going to get this given that last years iPhone 11 Pro is easily the best smartphone camera on the market. Others do well, with the Note 20 a delight to use, but the iPhone just gets it right so often with little work. The biggest improvement is in the fine detail captured, deep fusion works on all cameras this year and you can really see this at work.

The post-processing at work on the iPhone 12 Pro seems to take it easier than ever before. I don’t see nearly as much grain from iOS trying to lighten things up too much, and it keeps shadows much darker. I much prefer the look of the more natural colours in iOS photos, and I am glad to say nothing changes in this years phone — no weird skin smoothing either.

It is impossible for me to say for sure at this stage, but portrait shots seem much easier to shoot than ever before, no doubt helped by the LIDAR sensor. Night mode portraits are great unless there is too much backlight, but only work with the wide sense and not the usual 2x.

Conclusion

I am conflicted. I have bought the new iPhone every year since the iPhone 6 and used them all the way through. Not because better phones don’t exist, but because iPhone suits me much better than anything else. I am not a ‘power user’ which is a euphemism for use your phone far too much, so I do not need top of the line everything. For the last few months I have been using an iPhone SE as my ‘home’ phone and it is one of the best phones I have ever bought.

Undoubtably the iPhone 12 Pro is much better than anything else available, but I just don’t enjoy using it. The camera is indeed great, but it was great last year too. I am so disappointed by the feel of the phone in my hand that I am considering returning it pretty much straight away. The only thing stopping me is my desire to give the phone real usage, and my thoughts may change…perhaps.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra Review

When I sit down and think about doing a review, I want to answer the questions I would have about using a device. I think about the unique things that make this phone worth while, and the things I need answering in order to buy one. When it comes to the Galaxy Note line of handsets it is becoming harder and harder to differentiate them past a stylus – but there’s actually a lot to look at in my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review.

I realise that I am doing these two phones in the wrong order. Before the Galaxy Z Fold 2 came the Note 20 Ultra. But given how different the Fold is to use, arguably the better device sat in the side lines and waited its turn. I always give these phone a good use, I’m not one of these people the spends a day with a second sim in a phone and moves on, I’ve been using the Note 20 Ultra as my only phone for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m impressed.

The new Note 20 line up, although confusing, is one of the most interesting advances in this line for quite a while. This line topping Ultra model packs all the top of the line specs you’d expect and also expands on new technology first seen in the Galaxy S20 Ultra. This phone has been taken to a point where it is almost perfect on paper in every way, and although paper doesn’t always tell the tale of a smartphone, the premium nature of the Note 20 Ultra is apparent straight away.

Topping the scales at a mere 208 grams, it is surprisingly light for a device sporting a 6.9inch screen. Although it doesn’t feel light in any way, it is only 50g heavier than an iPhone SE that is a small portion of the size. Every inch of the phone feels premium and well made, with the matte backed Mystic Bronze version I have only adding to the appeal of such a premium smartphone experience. Its boxy, thin, glass and metal design carries on the same signature features as the phones before it but takes a step up in quality and finish.

Camera

Unfortunately we can’t go much further into talking about handling the phone without talking about that huge camera bump. It is ridiculous whichever way you look at it, a design choice that should be inexcusable. Not being afraid of the camera bump is one thing, but not designing it into the back of your phone is another. It makes the device slightly top heavy when holding, wobble when on a table, and also affects some stand up wireless chargers – so be fair warned the design choice does affect more than it looking a bit ugly.

With all that said I would live with the monstrous bump to get the camera it has inside it. The three camera set up is a delight to use, and gets some amazing results. I have never been the biggest fan of Samsung cameras, but this time I am blown away by the improvements. It might be the new 108mp main camera, it could be the assisted laser focus that removes much of the focus hunting plaguing the S20 Ultra. Or it could be Samsung’s improved processing of images. All of these things combine to make a camera that for once is a genuine competitor to iPhone shooters.

Not because phones before it got bad results, but because you no longer have to work for it. I have very little need to go into pro mode unless I want a specific look from my images, I can confidently point and shoot and get great results almost all of the time. Unless you play about with the setting the main camera takes snaps with the 108mp camera and then uses “nona-binning, pixel binning by a factor of nine” meaning your images retain loads of detail but don’t take up a huge amount of room on you phone. Making them much easier to share with people and social media.

You can opt to take images at the full resolution with a few taps, but there are very few reasons to do so. The main sensor is flanked by two 12mp sensors, one f2.2 ultra wide and one f3.0 telephoto. Each one giving the excellent results we expect from Samsung cameras, I particularly enjoy shooting with the ultra wide due to its 120 degree field of view.

Sure there are some instances in low light that grain creeps in, and sometimes it has a tendency to over expose, but 99/100 you are going to get a shot you are happy with. One word of warning though, the zoom can be a little fiddly and sometimes takes a few moments to realise which lens it should be using. In fact in anything other than good light, a zoomed photo will be using a cropped in version taken on the main camera lens and not the telephoto at all – but you will get great results regardless.

With regards the the 50x zoom, it’s usable but wont come in handy very often, whereas the 10x and even in some situations the 20x still gives out nice results and keeps plenty of detail in the shot.

Screen

As with every large screened phone, the in-camera experience allows for many more controls to be packed onto the screen, and still leave a large view finder. The 6.9″ edge Quad HD+ Dynamic screen is capable of 3088×1440 (496ppi) and 120hz refresh rate — but not at the same time.

This is frustrating to say the least, however I opted for the higher refresh rate of the two choices and suffer no ill effects. The screen is still pin sharp at FHD, vibrant and colour rich to make images and text really stand out.

Can we spare a moment to talk about these curved screens that Samsung keep insisting on producing. I am not sure they have ever been a good idea, and although the software does an ok job of rejecting unintended touches, it makes the phone much harder to grip onto. I simply have to use a case when using the Note 20 Ultra outside for fear of dropping it. Leading it to invariably shatter into a million pieces given its almost entirely glass construction.

The factory applied screen protector is frankly garbage. It has already started to gather dust around the top of my screen, and retains prints like it’s trying to collect them all. It should be one of the first things you replace if you don’t want to be polishing your phone all the time. Thankfully the Mystic Bronze version at least fends them off on the back, but if you opt for Mystic Black version it can get very annoying very quickly.

It is finished in Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass Victus, so should stand up to most things, but remove the screen protector at your own risk.

Finger Print Sensor

A criticism of the finger print sensors speed and accuracy posed by most reviews thankfully has been unproven in most cases. Although after a couple of weeks of use it is for some reason much slower, requiring me to record my prints again to improve results. The under screen sensor is a little strange to get used to, I am never quite sure where to place my finger on the screen, and I would much prefer one on the back with a tactile place to highlight where to put it. With that said it is light years easier than putting in on the side of the phone, and I combine this with face unlock to mean that the device is usually unlocked before I realise it.

Thankfully the Note 20 Ultra doesn’t blow past the lock screen once authenticated like phones of old, making interacting with the device much easier and very rarely needing to see the home screen if receiving a notification.

Battery Life

This is not something I usually have to call out specifically in a modern phone review. Usually a few passing remarks are enough to pitch this in the realms of all day battery life. However this version of the Note 20 I have, the UK Exynos version, is frankly rubbish.

In the first few days of usage I struggled to get 4 hours screen on time. Opting to leave everything as is out of the box and opting for 120hz refresh rate, and reaching for the charger a long time before I should be doing. When really digging into the setting and putting apps to sleep when you don’t need them etc 4 hours is achievable, but I frankly refuse to have to start turning off location, Bluetooth etc just to get good battery life.

Samsungs insistence to use their own processors in phones is inhibiting the experience for users, and when the Snapdragon version can see more than 90minute more SOT than this version it is frankly unacceptable. The experience of your device shouldn’t be limited by where you live, and I hope this is addressed very quickly. Galaxy Notes are usually known for their battery life, but this falls well short of the mark currently — bordering on completely unacceptable.

I have watched countless hours of videos claiming to have a set up that will improve my battery life, I have contacted Samsung who refuse to admit there is an issue. The fact remains the battery life is shockingly bad given the 4500 mAh capacity. Supporting fast charging of 25w and wireless of 15w is no replacement for battery life optimisations done in production.

Software

I can almost copy and paste my experience with Samsung from any other phone I have used from them in the last couple of years. The Note 20 Ultra features Android 10 and has Samsungs One UI 2.5 on top of this to add in additional features. I might be looked at a bit funny for saying this, but I really like ONEUI now it has matured a little. Of all the skins Samsung have done the best job in redefining what Android feels like, but also retain its charm and underlying features.

The tie with Microsoft again runs very deep with OneUI, and features almost every Google service matched, by not only a Samsung version, but also now a Microsoft version. A promised update later in the year with further attempt to solidify that partnership with task and note syncing between the two companies. Something that those tied into Office 365 will look at very seriously.

Unfortunately, for Samsung, some things still fall short and get frustrating in parts. The Software is still bloated with advert and notifications to use new features. You’re never quite sure if to update the app in Samsung Store or Google Play, and weirdness continues throughout the OS. The most frustrating of all is syncing a Microsoft 365 calendar to the stock Samsung app just gets you stuck in an endless loop. You must install the Samsung email to enable sync, yet are encouraged to use Outlook.



I am almost at the stage where I wish Samsung would just ditch Android and produce their own OS. They are stuck in this three-way pull between themselves, Google and Microsoft, leaving the end user slightly confused at what to use. Yet outside of this almost expected weirdness the OS is light, fast, and a pleasure to use.

Muti-taking

One of the biggest improvements made to the new devices is the ability to multitask more easily. Much like the Galaxy Fold 2, you can create app pairing stored in the side bar for easy opening of your most used pairings. Although only limited to top and bottom split, using the phone in landscape does allow for quite a lot of information to be displayed thanks to that big screen, so comes in more useful than you might think.

Of course option exist for floating windows, pinned notes on the screen and all manor of options to get things done. What this really shows is the sheer ability of both the OS and the underlying hardware to multitask with minimal effort. You can have 2 or 3 pretty intensive apps open at a time and never see the Note 20 Ultra miss a beat.

I would love to see drag and drop implemented into more apps, and Samsung work more closely with the Office team to allow for dragging over documents into email for example. I get the feeling this may be coming in future version, as Microsoft are already onboard with integrating services and also allowing for S Pen usage in more apps.

S Pen

It could be said that this is one of the major selling points of owning a Note series phone. When in practice I am never sure how many people use it sparingly and only for very few functions. Most long term users talk about never taking it out after the first month, so usefulness is clearly subjective.

How many people are writing notes on their screen, colouring in or annotating Pdf document remains to be seen. I do do all of those things, but my most used interaction with the S Pen is to allow another interaction element to exist.

Not only does the S Pen allow for much more accurate interaction with apps — Samsung have reduced latency from 45ms down to 9ms — it also allows for different options when in use. I can scrub through video with my finger but trim the start and end points with the S Pen. I can draw on an image while selecting elements with my finger, and any number of app interactions. I am already well onboard with a stylus as a separate interaction element, but the Note 20 proves to me that Samsung got this dead right by sticking with the included S Pen.

The real beauty is, if you don’t want to use it, you never have to pop it out of the bottom of the device ever again. I mean who actually uses it to take photos or wave it around like some kind of magic spell to go backwards on a web page.



Conclusion

I have used every version of the note line to date, bar the exploding one and the weird one that never launched in the UK. Some are great, some mediocre. The Note 20 Ultra hits every mark you want it to, bar battery life, it is a premium smartphone that feels like it’s worth very penny of the £1200 you pay for it. Those that use it will feel like they are using the best phone on the market, it seemingly does everything, has a huge gorgeous screen and packs a top of the line camera.

It’s hard to find downsides to the Galaxy Note Ultra — but then I shouldn’t be able to for this price. No words seem to quite get anywhere to summing it up other than, it’s great. When all phones are now the size of the Note line it’s hard to find a major differentiator other than an S Pen. If Samsung phones are your thing, you are getting a more refined version of the S20 in the Note 20 — one you wont be disappointed with.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G Review

About 10 months ago, I was invited down by Samsung KX to have a few hours hands on with their first folding phone. Mere months after it had been recalled due to major issues with the device, it was back with a bang, and already picking up quite a following. The appeal of having a tablet folded up in your pocket had a much larger pull than the £1500 price tag, as was the exciting move forward in technology that Samsung had been teasing for years.

Despite really liking the phone, it wasn’t ready for me to splash my own cash on it, there were far too many compromises with handset for me to bear. Fast-forward to now as the second version goes on sale, with many of the first versions issues fixed — but with a hefty price increase. Has Samsung done enough to justify the £1800 ($2000) price tag?



Premium Feel

There are lots of people that get annoyed when you talk about the price of the Galaxy Z Fold 2 in reviews. They think that this shouldn’t be brought into it as there is nothing that lives up to the Folds usability. While this true, it is impossible to escape the £1800 price tag and the expectations it brings with it. You expect a premium smartphone with top of the line specs — and that is exactly what you get from the handset. In the hand it feels nothing short of magical, the weight (282g) is impossible to describe as anything else but heavy, but in the hand it is balanced perfectly.

Especially folded, the unit sinks into your hand with a reassuring heft. Samsung have done some great engineering to get all the technology in this size package, but you feel the weight every time you use it. There are no creaks or cracks from this Uber Smartphone, so the engineering needs some special appreciation when compared to others on the market.

Samsung have developed the hinge much further forward when compared to last years unit, and taken over much of the function from the Z Flip. Four CAM hinges allow the phone to be oped to whichever angle you wish, and provides more resistance to opening to allow more usability. Combined with a sweeper system to remove dust from the hinge should mean that this unit resists the issues plaguing the first attempt, and certainly those still using the Z Flip support this claim.

This re-engineered hinge further adds to the premium feel for the Galaxy Z Fold 2, where every part of the hardware feels thought through and designed to exude a certain type of extravagant image. As Flossy Carter says, you are going to see lots of images of these on tables surrounded by glasses of Cristal. There is a certain exuberance to the Galaxy Fold 2, and lots of flexing going on simply because it delivers on it premium price tag.

Screens

Perhaps the number one complaint against the first version of the Galaxy Fold was the tiny cover screen. While perfectly useful for notification triaging, on a device so futuristic it felt out of place. So, understandably this is the first thing that is immediately obvious when using the Fold 2. The cover screen now fills almost the entirety of the front of the phone minus a small hole punch camera cut out.

At 6.2” (2260×816 – 386ppi – 60hz ) the cover screen is now more usable, and even if a bit narrow to type on, is perfect for quick tasks or responding to notifications. Enabling swiping on the keyboard makes interacting with the keyboard at bit easier, but this is not to say it is impossible. The tall, narrow screen is perfectly suited to scrolling through emails or social media. Using the cover screen grows on you more than the last version ever did, and I found myself interacting with it much more than I thought I would.

However, why have a huge screen and not use it, open up the fold and the beauty of the screen is a wonder to behold. Samsung have done away with the huge notch from the first version as well as boosting the size and refresh rate (2208×1768 – 373ppi – 120hz). Dubbed the ‘Infinity Flex’ display, it goes closer to the edge now, encompassing the whole of the device, bar Samsungs signature hold punch.

Apps in use on the cover screen carry over to the inside screen (bar a little bit of weirdness from some), to give you something truly immersive. When using the inner screen it feels like you are moving pixels around the screen. The adaptive display varies refresh rate from 11zh all the way up to 120hz, meaning that no matter that you are doing you will get great battery life and also a smooth scrolling experience. The Jelly scroll that the original fold suffered from is not completely removed but almost impossible to spot.



It’s hard to find a downside to this gorgeous display, games look great, reading is brilliant and videos immersive. When open the device feels balanced and perfectly poised in your hand for media consumption, and many users will see little reason to use anything else for all of their needs. The inner display is truly why you would buy the Galaxy fold, and this version truly delivers.

Of course there is one, the screen has a crease in the middle that is hard to avoid. Much like any other foldable, you can feel it in usage, you can see it in some instances but not every one. The great thing is that it does not take away anything when you are using the device, it doesn’t stick out and in fact soon fades into the background like a notched screen, or the camera hole punch.

Usability

So, you want to actually use the thing right? Well all of that reassuring weight we have spoken about, it’s also going to affect it in your pocket and in your hand. There is no getting away from this phone/tablet hybrid being heavy. I found myself struggling to hold it up when open, and resorted to using both hands most of the time — but that’s the point right.

In this heavy package you get two screens, and battery life that will get you loads of screen onetime if you use the larger screen most of the time — and considerably more if you use the outer screen more. Even in the first week of me using the Fold 2 and playing with it what felt like constantly, I would still be at more than 25% when going to bed. You should comfortably be able to get 6hours of screen on time and still have battery left over, which is amazing results considering battery life should also get better as the OS analyses my usage and improves things. If the next model slims things down, I would hope that battery life stays as good as it is because an increase in weight is worth it.

You can’t expect a Galaxy fold to be as light as a regular phone can you, this is simply the trade off with wanting and using one of these devices. While something like the Z flip balances the reassuring weight without feeling clumsy, the Z Fold feels a little unwieldy when out and about. Bending the phone slightly helps to fit it better in your hand, but obviously adds a little distortion to the screen.

Flex Mode

Expanding on the special mode introduced with the Z Flip, the Z Fold 2 allows apps to take advantage of a partially folded state. As an example Youtube in Flex mode shows a video on the top half of the screen, allowing you to interact with the comments on the bottom half. Google Duo also supports this as does the native camera app.

The limited nature of this and the lack of visual clues means you may spend a bit of time experimenting to find out what does and doesn’t support it — and often this is more no than yes. I am yet to find any reason to use it outside of novelty, especially given the lack of people actually using Google Duo. I wouldn’t go out of my way to encourage others to use it, just so I can flex my phone.

More often that not, a partial flexed form is used simply to enable me to set my phone down and still watch a video, or prop it up to keep an eye on the time. As app developers update apps we might see some more innovative use of flex mode, but given the lack of support so far I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tablet Mode

Which leads me into another issue with app support, and the lack of tablet layout from apps. It could be the weird aspect ratio, it could be Android apps as a whole, but many apps make little use of the bigger screen.

Apps like Outlook are a delight to use, and offer different layouts and view options, but most just put more content on the screen with no options to increase text size or improve readability. Samsung does offers options in settings to choose between blowing the app up or trying to force more content. Combined with further options in Samsungs own Goodlock app, you can tune most things to work, but it takes a considerable amount of work.



Muti-Tasking Master

All these words can be ignored if you want the biggest screen possible on a smartphone to do your ‘stuff’. If you need a device to work on the go, consume loads of media, or just want to blow everything up as large as possible you’ll put up with all the downsides.

Samsung have put in a great deal of work to make the Fold 2 take advantage of the large inner screen and make it as useful as possible. It is a delight to use two apps side by side when multi taking. Having email and calendar up on the screen while talking on the phone, or simply watching YouTube while texting is quite frankly a transformative experience. Sure you can do that on a tablet, but you can’t then fold it up and put it in your pocket. If being productive on the go is your bag, then this needs to be your phone.

I am on the fence about how usable Flex mode is, but the amazing app pairing done by OneUI is something that you may struggle to live without. Other phones such as the Note20 Ultra do this as well, but nowhere near on the same level.

Software

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 runs on Android 10 and has Samsungs One UI 2.5 on top of this to add in additional features. It comes bundled with the expected Google services but also several Microsoft ones baked in, such as syncing your photos to OneDrive. There is very little to say about Android nowadays, as it functions exactly as expected and is intuitive to use. The tie with Microsoft is due to get stronger with improvements to note and reminders syncing with MS products as they take aim at productivity customers.

Unfortunately, for Samsung, they seem to never really get services 100% correct. Photo sync only works with a Microsoft account, not a Microsoft 365 account which is frankly bizarre. A Microsoft 365 calendar does not sync to the stock calendar unless you instal the Samsung email app, yet you are encouraged to use Outlook.

Samsung does provide, in my opinion, the best extension or ‘skin’ on Android around today. Samsung’s design and user experience are often a delight to use. They have really thought about a modern design that doesn’t deviate too far from stock Android design, but offers something uniquely Samsung. Of course that is a subject view point, but since OneUI was introduced the design and implementation of their software has improved dramatically.

I just wish Samsung didn’t feel the need to fill their apps full of adverts, or useless information at every turn. Even the default weather app has news articles and rubbish crammed in it for no good reason. I know it takes very little to change these apps to others, I just don’t expect to see these kinds of things in default apps on an £1800 phone. Some users have already reported adverts and the usual shady tactics by Samsung, something that needs to be fixed if they want to be taken seriously.

Changes to your life

When you adopt the Fold 2 it changes the way you use your phone. Both in a positive and a negative way. The large screen allows you to do things that you simply can’t any other phone, it provides something that only the Z Fold can provide. It is in essence a folding tablet, and there are adjustments you will have to make to the way you use it.

Taking out the Fold 2 and walking around gives you a level of anxiety that nothing else has given me. The slippery body and high price tag make me nervous every time my phone makes a noise. There are already reports of some dropages, and it seems to hold up pretty well, but the lack of cases and expected large repair bills leave me worried, and I am not the only one. Due to longevity worries on the UTG screen and no IP rating, users are worried even about cleaning the device correctly.

The inner screen still has a tendency to scratch easily, and you’ll need to take some extra care. You won’t be using this at the beach, or throwing it into the bottom of a bag, but if long-time users of other foldable phones are anything to go by it should hold up ok. It is just another thing you need to think about when choosing a device like this.

I have to treat this phone with an extra amount of care, and in some instances change the way I use it. Which is what a foldable device dictates, you are carrying around a huge screen in your pocket and as such you’ll be opening it as much as possible to really take advantage. The screen draws you in and makes many tasks much easier, such as typing out a long email on the split keyboard.

Camera

If there is anything I can point the finger at that is simply not good enough it is the camera. There is nothing inherently wrong with the shooter, but at this super flagship price point it is simply not good enough.

You can get some good shots from it, but be prepared to work for them and chuck 30-40% of them in the bin. In good light you are going to be happy with almost everything you take, despite not holding the most amount of detail they could, shots are bright and as with all Samsung images retain a vibrant saturation. In any other situation they are grainy, washed out and suffer from some kind of strange skin smoothing effort despite the option being switched off.

When trying to discus this with others that have the phone you are told to use Pro mode and do this and that, or simply blamed for the results. While it great that these options exist for you to have control over the image you take, I don’t feel you should have to do this is take a good shot. Undoubtedly the Galaxy Z Fold 2 gets the job done but when great cameras like the iPhone 11, Pixel 4 and OnePlus 8 take images with zero input, this camera falls well short of what I expect.

There are other things you get with this phones camera that no one else provides. The huge screen is the best view finder possible, even if it does feel like you’re one of those people that takes pictures with a tablet. As well as the software ‘flex mode’ allowing you to set the phone down half flexed to stabilise your image, or simply view images you have snapped in the bottom half. Bear in mind though you have to place the phone down on its screen to do this.

Conclusion

While I would stop short of recommending this phone to others because of cost and the ways in which you need to change the way you use your phone, for a certain type of user this is going to be invaluable. It provides something to no other device on the market can provide, not just in the way it works, but the way it makes you feel. You feel as though you are using a little slice of the future and getting something out of your phone that no-one else does.

I can somewhat forgive the camera because I am getting a folding device that immerses me into whatever I want to do. You can play games, multi-task and consume media on this like no other device can and that speaks volumes. I love the Galaxy Z Fold 2 because it has that little something about it, it’s not the best at everything but it provides something unique and does it brilliantly.

If you really want a folding tablet, then look no further than this model. It fixes all the issues from the first one and puts them in a premium package that feels worth very bit of the price you are paying. But let’s be clear, to buy the Galaxy Z Fold 2 you need to really want a folding tablet because you will pay for it. Both in the high price tag and also in the caveats of having such a large device.

It comes down to do the advantages of having such a large screen to use, out weigh the downsides of carrying it around on your pocket all the time. For me, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 feels like wearing your winter coat all year because it is cold half the time, but for others this is going to be a game changer.

Wahoo Element Bolt Review

I know exactly what you’re thinking. What exactly is this thing and how can I use this with my iPad? Well, this is something completely different, something I use for my new love cycling, but it’s still a gadget and well worth a review. So here are my thoughts on the Wahoo Element Bolt from my relatively new to cycling point of view.

There are loads of opinions out there already about what bit of kit to get to display your cycling info. Wahoo Element Bolt reviews are mainly written by almost professional cyclists, so I hoping my opinions and thoughts fit in somewhere for those of us not putting out unbelievable times. Indeed technology like this isn’t new, but its leaps and bounds above what was capable only a few years ago. From my novice experience of riding, this is my first computer since those cheap little boxes that you had to attach a magnet to your spokes, but when considering upping your game and spending a bit more time in the saddle there are only two things to consider.

Tracking All The Things

Do you want to track everything with your phone, and if not, do you buy a Garmin or a Wahoo? The more established Garmin has plenty of fans, but the real attraction for me was the huge battery life leap from the Wahoo, and the relatively cheep price. Yes this thing is going to set you back around £190, but it gives you an all singing all dancing cycle computer that should last you years.

The normal metrics are on board. Screens can be customised to show you speed, time, distance, power, heart rate, elevation and many more. So purists can see this live, review it later and export all the information their heart desires. That wasn’t why I bought this though. I am pretty sure that’s not why anyone would spend this kind of money on a training aid, because it can be done cheaper. Really the beauty of the Wahoo Element Bolt is its integrations with tools that make your cycling better.

It offers turn by turn navigation, live tracking links to share with friends, route planning and wireless connection to a whole range of other products. This little black box has very quickly become one of my favourite things. Not because it gives me power output and speed information, because it lets me plan my route ahead of time and tells me where to go.

It has taken me from doing the same old routes to exploring more and finding my way around with confidence. I knew my local back roads very little considering I have lived here for more than 10 years, but using the companion app or online services live Strava, I can plot out a ride and complete it with much less stress. I am sure all the analytics displayed are important to those more deeply into cycling, but that’s just not me at the moment.

Smart Connection

Initial setup of the Wahoo Element Bolt requires very little user input, but it does require a smartphone to set it up on first boot. After using it for signing in and setting up, you will also need the companion app connected if you want to customise anything. This wont be an issue for almost anyone but unfortunately as with all companion apps, it is terribly designed. Thankfully the Element app is very easy to use and understand. Here you can also connect your Wahoo Element Bolt to other services such as Strava, Komoot and even Apple Health on iOS.

You can also connect the Wahoo Element to other Bluetooth and WiFi extras such as heart rate monitors, power sensors and loads of other options. If like me you have the Shimano DI2 with wireless you can even set up the two buttons on the shifters to change pages on the Wahoo. You can connect it to just about anything and any service imaginable.



Using Apple Health to triage all of your rides is a great tool, and counts towards your daily move goal as long as you sync through Strava. For some reason I couldn’t get the Wahoo Element app to give Apple Health any calorie information, yet Strava does after a bit of setup. Unless you need to change the screens of the unit or check for an update reliance on the smartphone app is minimal if you use other services such as Strava. Allowing customisation through the app is a clever decision and removes the need for a touchscreen on the unit meaning interaction is done by good old trusty buttons.

This is great if you live somewhere like the UK and need to wear gloves often. The three buttons on the front and two on the side allow for changing pages of information or zooming in and out of the displayed navigation map. The screen is bright and easy to read whatever the weather. Despite being criticised as only being black and white I think this is the right decision for ease of use.

If you are the type of rider that takes your phone out with you so you stay connected, the Wahoo Element Bolt will also flash up messages and phone calls if you wish. Meaning you will still be contactable when out and about. The screen will show a preview of any messages, with customisable sound and LED alerts to something that needs your attention.

The strip of LEDs across the top can also be customised to alert you to different kinds of things. From Strava sections, to navigation alerts or your training metrics you want to highlight. This unit really does have it all for beginners to elite athletes.

Better By Design

Wahoo have made several design choices when producing the Element Bolt that all play together to build a complete package. Decisions such as the black and white screen don’t detract from the unit in anyway, save battery life and increase the visibility when out cycling. Something that may seem like a ‘con’ when compared to much of the Garmin range is actually the right decision.

This rings even more true when you consider that battery life is absolutely insane. I have never used an alternative, however Wahoo claim it is up to 300% better than the Garmin 520 and even a 3 hour ride while navigating clips the battery by only 40%. Given the size of the Wahoo Element Bolt, that is pretty amazing battery life.

Wahoo have also thought about the Aerodynamics of the unit when designing. Claiming 50% less drag than competitors, with a sleek and all in one deign that clips safe and secure to its holder with zero fuss. I’m not looking to shave seconds off my ride here, but I appreciate something well designed and doesn’t look like you’ve attached a huge tablet to your handlebars. The Wahoo Element Bolt will pretty much go unnoticed when you don’t need it, but provide everything when you do.



Conclusion

With all of this packed into hardware that Wahoo claims has 50 percent less drag than a Garmin Edge 520, and triple the battery life there isn’t a lot not to love. If your buying this to shave off a few seconds in a time trial, its got you covered. If indeed your training had reached it peak and you need another push forward, this will help. However if you need something to help you get out and about a bit more and help you along the way as an enthusiast then the Wahoo Element Bolt is pretty perfect too.

Charty: Plot Data Directly From Shortcuts

If you’ve followed me for a while, you will already know my love of iOS automation. I am not Chris Lawley level of obsessed, but anything to make my daily life easier and I am all in! Shortcuts (and before that Workflow) is by far my favourite app for doing this, but the real beauty of Shortcuts is all the apps it plugs into. Almost everything on your home-screen can be automated, and a whole lot more. New app Charty is aiming to remove the hassle of creating graphs and charts, and launches today.

This is one of those apps that at first you dismiss, but when actually looking around the app you realise just how helpful it can be. That’s because developer Rodrigo Araújo has thought about almost every aspect of the app. Building on the success of his first app ChartStat he aims to make it easy for everyone to visualise any kind of data.

There are 27 examples already included in the app ready to be imported into Shortcuts. These powerful Shortcuts can plot data you probably already have on your phone but don’t really look at that often. Displaying them in any of the available 5 different types – bar, line, scatter, pie and donut.

From there it is amazingly easy to create powerful algorithms that process and create your visualisations from inside Shortcuts. The really great things is that now you can begin to not only collect and store data using Shortcuts, but also combine it with utilities such as DataJar to build really powerful tools.

I have been using this quite a bit to plot out my heart rate changes over time, and my distance cycled due to my attempt to get fitter. The graphs in Apple Health are very restrictive so I am over the moon this app makes it easy for me to compare and highlight fitness issues. The graphs are amazingly customisable so I see exactly what I am exporting. I can then send these wherever I like to save and refer back to later.

In my limited use the app has already proved really helpful. Everyone should give it a go just for the amazing alternative icons. With that said I expect to see Matt Birchler really putting this to work over the next few weeks — he loves a graph!

Charty is available now for free with 4 Shortcut actions available — New Chart, Add Series To Chart, Delete Chart and Get Information From All Chart. You can upgrade the app for a one off payment of $4.99 to get extra shortcuts actions as well as a whole load of extras, but if you purchase this within the first month of release it will only be $2.99.