Old Gadgets, New Tricks

BY Olly Mann

1st Jan 2015 Technology

Old Gadgets, New Tricks

Is old technology old hat? Olly Mann takes a look at the new gadgets making old gadgets seem relevant again.

The Vamp, £49.99


Bluetooth speakers and iPod docks are stylish, but frankly you may already have superior speakers from previous decades lying around your house, connected to old record players and hi-fi systems. Plug this brilliant little box of tricks into any speaker featuring the traditional red and black wires, and it becomes a Bluetooth-enabled, battery-powered, portable boombox, to which you can stream music from any smartphone or tablet. The sound may be mono, but the thrill of giving new life to dusty equipment is dynamic indeed.

Available from The Vamp

Samsung Galaxy Note 4, £599 (or on contract)

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Back in 2011, when Samsung launched their original Note “phablet” (half phone, half tablet), tech journalists laughed. At 5.3 inches, it was surely too large to ever hold up to your face to make a call? And a built-in stylus! What was the point of that? Sixty million sales later, with the trend for larger phones well established, the Note 4 is getting rather more respect. Which is as it should be: the metal chassis is classy, the audio crisp and the 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen is the most dazzling, pin-sharp phone display I’ve seen. The S-Pen, with which you handwrite notes on your screen, remains an acquired taste, but a neat trick.

Available from Samsung


Response Fake TV, £24.99


Winter is the peak time for burglaries in the UK, and thieves often set their sights on empty homes. Some people have taken to leaving their TVs switched on when they go out in an attempt to deter trespassers, but this is a drain on energy bills. This tube of flashing LED bulbs sucks up less power than a night-light, yet creates the same visual deterrent as a 27-inch TV. The series of unpredictable light and colour patterns it produces, viewed through closed curtains, mimic exactly those of a telly being viewed.


Apps of the month

Android app of the month

Scout, free


This sat-nav app, formerly known as Skobbler, claims to be the first free “premium” navigation app—though I suspect Google Maps may have something to say about that! Where it has the edge, though, is the public can volunteer updates, such as adding pedestrian trails. In theory that makes it more accurate than others, but also more vulnerable to pranksters or clumsy contributors. Of course, now it’s free, you can suck it and see.

Avaliable from Google Play


Apple app of the month

Vivino Wine Scanner, free


A sort of TripAdvisor for wine, this app allows you to take a snap of a wine and provides a history, average price and how it rates among fellow Vivino users. Invaluable advice if you’re assessing which wine to order in a restaurant, or are caught between two similarly priced bottles in the supermarket.

Available from iTunes

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Olly is a technology expert, LBC presenter and Answer Me This! podcaster.

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