Archives for the month of: October, 2011

By Deborah Burley

If the autumn has taken your spark and the thought of staying indoors throughout the winter is getting you down, then why not try something new to keep you entertained? How about a touch of magic?!

In the uSwitch office we like to think of alternative ways to entertain ourselves and with our latest energy-efficient products we haven’t had to look too hard. There’s a certain charm about them that’s made us turn all Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. Be dazzled by our ‘magical’ energy efficient products and use them to convince oblivious onlookers that you are actually a very skilled magician…

Top five ‘magical’ products…

Danlers wall switch

With a click of a finger, a clap of your hands or a glide into the room the lights will come on – as if by magic, (and there’s no need to tell your audience that it’s actually the motion sensors in the switch that does this…)

POWERplus Dragonfly

 This solar powered light can be used in the house or garden. Simply command the light to turn on, turn it upside down and ‘hey presto’ – the beautiful candle- like glow and flicker begins.

energyEGG standby saver

Ask your appliances to turn off when you leave the room, and they will! The energyEGG uses new technology to sense when you’ve left the room then switches off the wasted electricity being used through appliances like your television or radio – a trick sure to impress!

H2O radio shower

With no batteries, solar or dynamo needed, this must-have radio will work it’s magic in drowning out the sound of anyone singing in the shower.  Just add water to power- voila!

H2O water powered retro analogue clock

For your final trick, shock your friends as you fill your clock up with water and…it begins to work! You can see the water working inside the clock, adding to the appeal of this trendy retro clock.


Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

Only 5% of people think a university education is worth the fees according to the results of our latest poll.

Students who graduated this year left with an average debt of arounf £21,000, and university t to go up to a massive £9,000 a year. It ‘s hardly surprising that some people are beginning to wonder if going to university will give you enough of an advantage in the working world for it to be worth the debt.

What do you think? Is university worth the money?  Should young people and their parents be getting into debt to pay for a degree? Are there alternatives to university that will help young people get a job?

The Queen

Image by SouthEastern Star via Flickr

According to a blog post by David Blair at the FT, rising energy prices and a pay-freeze mean the Queen is coming close to sinking below the fuel poverty line.

Fuel poverty is when a household spends over 10% of its income on its energy bills, and royal accounts show that the Queen’s gas and electricity bill was a hefty £2.2 million last year, which is 6.9% of the monarchy’s income from the government.

So another gas and electricity price rise like the ones we’ve seen in recent months could push the Queen into fuel poverty.

After hearing that, you’re probably thinking one of two things:

  1. Energy really is too expensive if even the Royals are close to fuel poverty.
  2. There’s something wrong with the way fuel poverty is calculated if one of the richest families in the country is close to being classed as fuel poor.

Recently, Professor John Hills from the London School of Economics has looked at how we define fuel poverty. He has proposed a new definition, which would designate people as being in fuel poverty if their income is puts them below the overall poverty line when you deduct the cost of keeping their home acceptably warm.

This new definition would mean the Queen couldn’t be classified as fuel poor, because while her energy bills are high, her income is too.

What do you think of the new definition? Is it fairer?

Mobile phone expert Ernest Doku tells us why the iPhone 4S is worth the hype.

The Apple iPhone 4S may not be the iPhone 5, but then the Californian company now with the honour of being the biggest business on the planet never promised it to be.

Rumour, hype and hyperbole whipped us in a frenzy, and whilst the reality of the iPhone 4S might look familiar, the new features and functions under the bonnet are anything but…

First things first, the iPhone 4S is a dramatically different smartphone underneath the overly familiar shell.

Updates include a new A5 dual-core processor (currently starring in the Apple iPad 2), a camera sporting an 8-megapixel lens – also with the ability to film video in 1080p – and an ‘intelligent assistant’ in the form of voice-driven application Siri, all making for an improved handset in the arena that Apple currently shines brightest – user features and functions.

The marvel is what they’ve managed to contain in the same package. An improved battery life, touting 8 hours of 3G talktime and 40 as a mobile music player immediately impresses.

The ability to download data at 4G speeds (as long as the network supports it) is another string in its next-generation bow.

An all-new pair of antennas (hopefully less error-prone!) enables the iPhone 4S to act as a ‘world phone’, operating on both GSM and CDMA networks – perhaps a bullet-point more for those on the other side of the pond, but still impressive.

Consumers are all about the user experience, and the iPhone 4S continues the intuitive touchscreen experience Apple’s devices have become famous for, replete with a bevy of flourishes in the new iOS 5 software.

iOS 5 upgrades include a notification centre which is home to the latest events on your device, free texts to iPod, iPad and other iPhone users with iMessage (more than a shade of BlackBerry Messenger) and the ability to finally put an end to the iPhone’s constant need to connect to a computer with wireless updates as well as data storage on the new web-based iCloud service.

Perhaps some of these innovative ideas were cribbed from the competition, but the enduring march of the Android phones helped Apple realise the iPhone was far from operating in a vacuum and needed to step up in a few key areas, something they have more than done.

Much time during the announcement was spent explaining the improvements in image fidelity from the camera’s new 8-megapixel lens, as well as the graphical grunt and ‘7x’ improved gaming experiences that the A5 chip will deliver, proving to many that hardware leaps ahead had indeed been taken.

As stale as the ‘evolution, not revolution’ line might be – aside from the gear change from the 3GS to 4 – that seems to have been the mantra that Apple has stuck to for the iPhone since the original device back in 2007.

So maybe we shouldn’t be too disappointed with another ‘S’ model…and Siri truly has the potential to change the way we use all technology, not just mobiles.