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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.

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by Helen Cripps

Energy saving even has its week! And it starts today. So here’s 5 energy-saving tips to get you started…

Get solar panels finance free! And yes they will work in the not so sunny UK. You can save 22% (around £130) on your electricity bills. Solar solutions are tailored to the individual, so it’s worth looking into what might work for you.

Get plenty of  insulation in your home.  You’ve paid for that heat, so keep it in! Insulation comes in all forms, loft, floor, cavity wall, doors, windows, you name it.

Get a smart-meter.  This will ensure your reading is accurate and pass that information directly to the supplier. And you don’t have to faff with taking the reading yourself.

Switch to a cheaper energy supplier.  It takes no time at all to browse a table of results and check you are with the best supplier for your postcode and usage. And if you decide to switch, it only takes on average 17 minutes.

Consider a new boiler. It might seem drastic, but it could save you £168 per year, and there are a number of different payment plans. We’ve weighed up the pros and cons in our boiler guide.

After more tips and advice? Check out these 5 useful links…

Guide to draught-proofing: More ideas on how to stop heat escaping.
Ursula’s eco-renovation: Ursula tells us all about her new solar panels and other eco-renovations.
Energy-saving products: Browse a few gadgets and monitors to help you along your way.
Central heating systems: A comprehensive guide to all the different central heating systems available.
Boiler problems : Just a little checklist to help you make sure your boiler is working efficiently and not using more gas than it should be.

Instead of just stating the obvious, ‘use less’, we’ve tried to cover some of the more functional changes you can make in the form of  energy-saving solutions. Happy saving!

The Big Six energy companies are ripping us off and making billions in profits. It’s time to fight back, says Andy Atkins, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth

 A lightning bolt of anger has shot through the British public over the last few days – and it’s not because of some kind of freak weather event. Families up and down the land are up in arms over soaring energy bills – now averaging an eye-watering £1300 a year – and the Government’s recent energy summit, where the Prime Minister summoned the Big Six energy companies with barely a slap on the wrist for hiking prices, will do nothing to sooth them.

The public is angry with good reason: the Big Six energy companies – household names like British Gas, EDF and E.ON – are ripping us all off and making billions in profit. It’s an issue that truly affects us all, as they supply 99 per cent of households in the UK. So when they hike prices – to the tune of an average 12 per cent this year alone – there’s barely a soul in the land who isn’t affected. With profits soaring at the same time, and bosses picking up pay packets of over £1 million a year, it’s enough to send a shock of rage through any system.

It’s a nightmare scenario – and one, without the Government acting, shows no signs of ending any time soon. Our energy bills are rocketing because our energy system is broken– it’s as simple as that. The Big Six energy companies are keeping us hooked on expensive imported gas, and it suits them pretty nicely to keep it that way – after all, any increases in the price they can just pass onto their customers: us.

Recent Friends of the Earth research shows that every household in the UK faces extra costs of £300 a year by 2020 if the big energy companies invest in a new fleet of gas and coal-fired power stations and ditch plans to help us save energy and harness power from the wind, waves and sun. Yet this is exactly the route that will bring a better deal for consumers in the long-run.

Enough is enough. The Government needs to act to tackle the Big Six energy companies. That’s why Friends of the Earth has launched its Final Demand campaign for energy we can all afford. We need a public inquiry into the Big Six’s power and urgent action to stop the Government killing off our clean British energy providers. The time for talking shops is over. Come on, Prime Minister: act.

Join Friends of the Earth’s Final Demand campaign at foe.co.uk/finaldemand 

Image by rutty via flickr

All the debates about energy getting confusing? Here’s a bitesize breakdown to help you out…

by Maya Robert

It seems every day there’s a new story about our gas and electricity bills. From the recent Energy Summit to the longstanding battle about the cost of heating our homes, energy costs are hitting headlines on an almost daily basis. But what’s really going on and, more importantly, how will it affect our energy prices?

Green Deal

Almost a year in the making, you should be well acquainted with the Green Deal by now. It’s hitting the news now, because the Energy Act has just become law, which means it will be launched in year’s time. The Green Deal is one to watch, because  it means energy suppliers will give you a low-cost loan to pay for energy-saving measures.

Energy suppliers will be able to loan you money to help you pay for energy-efficiency solutions. So if finance was holding you back from getting your home insulated, then the opportunity awaits. The ‘magic rule’ of the Green Deal? Your repayments will always be less than how amount you save on your energy bills, so it won’t leave you out of pocket.

The Energy Summit

Prime minister David Cameron and energy secretary Chris Huhne called a meeting with energy suppliers and consumer regulators such as Ofgem and Consumer Focus to try and do something about rising energy prices.

The result? Not what we might have hoped for. Energy suppliers agreed to send letters to their customers reminding them that they should make sure they’re on the cheapest tariff and to advise their most vulnerable customers to consider having their home insulated. Ovo boss Stephen Fitzpatrick, called the outcomes a ‘really big wasted opportunity’, which left customers wondering if the industry will really change as promised.

Inflation

The rate of inflation in the UK has been steadily rising and it now stands at 5.2%, due in large part to rising energy bills. It’s no surprise when you consider that the ‘Big Six’ major energy companies have introduced two price rises in less than 12 months and the household energy bills went up by £224 in that period. Rising inflation is increasingly behind politicians debating how they can force these costs down, or at least keep them stable.

Energy company profits

Recent figures from Ofgem suggest that energy suppliers are making £125 in profit per customer in the UK, up from £15 earlier this year (although this has been heavily disputed by some suppliers). Sound enormous? Ofgem thinks so, and has heavily criticised the energy companies.

As part of its  investigation, it wants to see more transparency around profits and wholesale gas prices and a reduction of the monopoly of six energy suppliers on the market. Will this help? Time will only tell, but with suppliers already disputing Ofgem’s figures, it looks like we have a long way to go.