Gizmos in my stocking [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The latest gizmos and tech-related products are what Malaysians of all ages seem to be asking for this festive season, reports the NST Tech team.
Tech this, tots
CHRISTMAS has come early for little Isabella Au. The soon-to-be big sister is unable to hide her excitement as her mother, Pearl Chin, digs into her handbag and takes out a device with a bright yellow and green cover for the photoshoot and interview in Kuala Lumpur.
Isabella grabs it from Pearl and quickly taps and swipes the screen. A big grin spreads across Isabella's face, as she concentrates on a musical application.
At 2 years 9 months, she is now the proud owner of her very own tablet.
Pearl says Isabella has been much in tune with gadgets and technology since the moment she was conscious of her surroundings, and both she and her husband encourage it.
"Exposure to technology is important these days as it is integral to life. Even very young children should have the opportunity to have contact with tech gadgets.
In Isabella's case, every time I switch on my tablet, she would sit up and want to have a go too. She learnt to handle a tablet by using mine," says Pearl, who works at Golden Screen Cinemas.
A few weeks ago, Samsung launched its Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Kids, designed specifically for children aged 3-9 and Pearl knew she had to get one for Isabella.
"It is fun and child-friendly. It has rich, interactive and educational content. What I really like is that the android tablet has enhanced parental controls. That means I can control the apps Isabella has access to through the Application Manager.
And I can manage the time she spends on the tablet using the Time Management feature. If she acts up and insists that she wants more time on the tablet, I can just tell her the battery has run out and that is why the screen is blank," she says with a firm smile.
Apart from the parental control feature, The Galaxy Tab 3 Kids features a 7.0-inch display, offering ideal portability and handling for children. The bright case it comes in has multiple stand options that makes it more comfortable for children to handle the device during use.
"The Graphic User Interface is very attractive for young children and the touch system as well as the C-pen makes navigation easy, even for children who have yet to learn to read like Isabella.
They can just freely explore the gadget without inhibitions. The pre-loaded applications are also cute and educational," says Pearl.
Suffice to say those were enough reasons for Isabella to own one before Christmas.
"With the new baby due to arrive anytime now, I saw no reason for Isabella to wait. And she absolutely loves it."
Isabella's favourite thing on the tablet is the camera function where she can take pictures with various effects and store them in the Photo Gallery. She always has a good laugh every time she looks through them later.
"She also loves the Toca Hair Salon 2 app where she can style the characters' haircuts. Now when she goes for her own haircut at the salon, she doesn't struggle anymore.
She sits quietly and watches the hairdresser with great interest!" says Pearl with a chuckle.
Isn't she worried that Isabella would outgrow the RM799 device too soon?
"It's money well-spent. And the tablet comes in two modes: Kid mode and the normal mode. Once she is tired of the Kid mode, we can always switch to the normal mode."
For now, Pearl and Isabella are looking forward to a fun-filled Christmas with family and friends as well as chill time with their own respective tablets. - Rozana Sani
Model update, please Santa
WHEN smartphones first appeared on the scene, Lydia Ho, creative director at Kurechii Studio, was not among those who queued for hours to get an iPhone. However, as her career progressed, she found herself surrounded by the various models of the iOS device.
"Smartphones didn't seem like a new toy that I needed to try. Besides, at that point there were many other phones to choose from, and I wanted to find one that suited me in terms of price, performance and operating system. I never really felt the desperate need to own one, until the mobile market for games starting booming," says Ho, who grew up with an early-adopter father who used one PDA after another.
A techie herself, Ho didn't immediately fall in love with early models of iPhone, at least not until she ended up working in an indie games development studio. "I was hoping to get an Android device first. Working at a newly established games development studio, it was important that I quickly get familiar with the interactions on a smartphone. By then, the iPhone 4 was just released, and I was lucky to have been spared a iPhone 3G by my studio. I guess it was a few months down the road then, that I felt 'converted' into an iOS device user," she recalls.
"Despite my initial scepticism about the iPhone, it turned out to be highly useful, convenient, and most surprisingly, user friendly. I immediately got immersed with the apps that were available, especially the games! I actually use my iPhone for games and social apps, minus the calls and texts. I still keep my older phone with me for calls. People find it weird, but I enjoy the lack of fearing my phone would run out of battery due to overusage."
Today her love affair with the iOS device extends beyond the benefits offered by the hardware and software. For starters, in terms of the social apps and games mentioned, Ho finds the AppStore has a better selection. "Many developers prioritise the AppStore because of certain conveniences of the devices and OS, and it does pay off for consumers. I often find great games and apps on the AppStore that aren't available for Andriod devices," she says.
She uses her iPhone for both work and play. Apart from the current model she owns, she often used other models such as iPads belonging to her work studio for testing and research purposes. Yet her most memorable iPhone moment was seeing her own creation creating rippling within the iOS apps ecosystem.
"Of course, as a game developer, the recent release of our studio's mobile game, King's League: Odyssey, on the AppStore has been extremely memorable. Having been on the look out for great mobile games myself, it is really surreal to see our game make it to the Top 1 Paid App in the country after its release, and in the top 25 spots in other countries. In fact, iTunes even featured it on their front page under the Best New Games slot! Developing apps for a device on which I am also a consumer is pretty satisfying, and the positive response we've received through the game is more than surreal," she says enthusiastically.
That said, Ho has yet to truly appreciate King's League: Odyssey on the latest iPhone model. "Many recent games have been developed for the newer OS and models, and it's depressing to not be able to play games because you are using an older model. My older model actually can't even support King's League: Odyssey. Truth is we spent so much time perfecting the graphics, that took up a lot of space! Not to mention a few other games I've been dying to try out," says Ho who wants Santa to drop an iPhone 5s into her stocking.
She says both developers and consumers alike will need to catch up with technology or be left behind. "Our studio is working on a few more games to be released on the Appstore - so I'm really hoping to upgrade to an iPhone 5s as soon as I can!" - Siti Syameen Md Khailili
Future legacy of gaming
MEMORIES are priceless. They are one of the few things in life that grow with you and what they mean to someone depends on the journey they've been through. So gifts that can create these everlasting memories are equally priceless - of course, you would have to either buy or make them first.
For Nicholas Chee Wei Yip, 29, such a gift would be Sony's PlayStation 4 - not because it is the latest but because the PlayStation brand has held a warm spot in his heart since 1999.
A casual on-off MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role- playing game) gamer, his gaming experience didn't begin with the PlayStation. It did, however, greatly deepen his love for gaming, its potential and the realm of RPGs (roleplaying games).
"Before I had my first PlayStation (PS1) I had a Nintendo Game Boy. I also played games on my personal computer then but my introduction to the PS1 made my gaming experience a joy," he says.
"With the PC, you have to constantly upgrade it with better graphics card and such or you'll lose out on newer and better games because it could not support them. It was just too expensive over time.
"Then, when I was 14, friends introduced me to SquareEnix (then Squaresoft) Final Fantasy 8 which was gorgeously mesmerising. I caved in to peer pressure and begged my mum to get one for my brother and I. She said if I did well in my exams, I could have one for my birthday. Thankfully, I did well!
"The PS1 was perfect. The graphics and performance back then was unlike anything I had ever seen on any other gaming consoles available at the time and it lasted years before I needed to upgrade it onto the PlayStation 2 and later the PlayStation 3."
Chee, a 3D animator and editor at post-production house Play Pictures, admits it is more the games than the console that he was fond of.
Still, it was the platform in which he played on that gave him the opportunity to create those memories.
"Gaming is like reading a book that you actually have control over, like saving the world from imminent destruction in Game Art's Grandia as a young child thirsty for adventure. As cliche as it sounds, most gamers my age may remember saving the world from a meteor in Final Fantasy 7 or the infamous death of Aerith, a well- loved and integral character of the game."
But beyond those experiences were the life lessons and insight he gained while gaming which helped shape his views on the challenges he faced growing up and at work.
"In Grandia, you control Justin who, during the course of the game, matures from a brash kid to a responsible and level-headed person where his journey teaches him - and you the gamer - what it feels like to take on the world with an open but focused mind.
"The beauty of the world brought to life by excellent presentation and inspiring writings create one of the many little life lessons from games which you can't learn or experience anywhere else - a combination of both creativity and, of moral choices and deeds."
"My brother and I also learnt to settle our differences through brawling games like SNK Playmore's King of Fighters and Hudson Soft's (now under Konami) Bloody Roar if that counts," he says laughing.
Good times, a legacy which Chee believes will manifest onto Sony's latest PS the PlayStation 4, endowing future gamers with the same magical experience he had as a child.
"What better gift could I have asked for - gaming related. I cherish the memories I have experienced with all my PlayStations. I believe the PlayStation 4 will deliver those moments as well," he says.
"The PS4 will eventually inherit the continuity of game titles from its predecessors - like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts sequels which he has said to have been waiting for nearly a decade - as it is the eventual evolution of Sony's gaming system, which can only mean the experience will be more immersive in upcoming games." - Nicholas Leong
Top five gadgets in demand
WE are so in love with tech and this is reflected in our choice of gifts this holiday season. The top five gadgets in high demand are smart-mobile phones, phablets, tablets, laptops and flat panel TVs.
The demand for digital devices surged to over RM1.4 billion worth of sales for October 2013, of which 87 per cent came from the top five gadgets mentioned above. For the holiday season, sales for these items started months earlier.
According to GfK Malaysia managing director Selina Chin, mobile handsets registered 939,000 sales volume for October, spurred by continuous new product launches. However, sales value has been on a steady decline from May due to price erosion as average selling price fell from RM894 in May to as low as RM749 in July.
"With launches of new products in September and October, in particular those with bigger screens, also known as phablets (screen- size between 5.6 inches and 6.9-inches), the average selling price rose slightly to RM845 in October," she says.
Sales of phablets more than doubled from August to September, surging from 3.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent of the total mobile handset sales volume.
"A rise in demand is expected for the holiday season as consumers are gradually getting used to mobile devices with larger screen sizes but which does not compromise on mobility," she adds.
Tablets, meanwhile, continues to gain growing share of the consumer ringgit, collecting RM1.1 billion in sales so far this year.
Chin says smaller-sized models are gaining popularity here.The monthly sales of 8-inch or smaller media tablets have been increasing since the beginning of the year.
With the rising demand for smaller-sized tablets which are also cheaper than those with bigger screens, the average selling price for tablets fell from RM1,439 in January 2013 to RM1,095 in October.
There has also been a rise in demand for tablets with phone functionality, driven by consumers favouring the convergence of both product groups.
The portable PC market is valued at over RM1.5 billion from January to October 2013. Ultra-thin notebooks have been gaining traction and are worth RM286 million so far this year, indicating that lightness is a crucial factor for consumers choosing laptops. Another segment which is growing in demand is the 15-inch laptops which reported 10 per cent increase in sales from last year.
"This shows that aside from weight, users are also inclined to go for bigger screen sizes. These two segments are expected to continue to grow, especially in December when prices become more affordable," says Chin.
About 900,000 units of flat panel TVs have already been sold in the first 10 months of the year. The most common screen sizes are the 32-, 40- and 42-inch which altogether command a market share of 61 per cent in October 2013.
There is an apparent shift in demand from the smaller screen sizes to the 42-inch and above models lately with two in every five TV sets sold in October belonging in the latter category.
"Demand for the larger screen sized TV is likely to continue growing for the rest of the year as the demand for such TV sizes and interest in more technologically advanced TV technologies continue to stimulate the market growth," says Chin. - Izwan Ismail
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