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So what's a Misfit Shine?

Wearable gadgets built to track our daily activities, keep tabs on our workouts and monitor our sleep levels are becoming more and more popular. However, you only have to take a look at the most popular devices on the market from the likes of Fitbit and Withings to see they're not exactly stylish. Although the Jawbone Up24 is the best-looking of the bunch, there's still something quite childlike about the slew of activity trackers available at the moment that could stop them from ever penetrating the mainstream consumer market. Well, until now.

The Misfit Shine Activity Monitor is a coin-sized sensor designed to track your activity levels, monitor your sleep and tell the time. However, its versatility when it comes to how you wear it, the low maintenance ways it operates and its super stylish looks really make it stand apart in a sea of shiny, plastic wristband clones.

What does it track?

As a basic activity tracker the Shine seems pretty accurate. However, it claims to be able to distinguish between different sports, yet there's no feature for telling it what you got up to at the gym, which is disappointing for gym bunnies and those into working out in more unusual ways.

In order to tag a sport you need to tap the Shine three times. I thought I was doing this while I was out running and it turns out the runs weren't logged properly - something you're unfortunately not aware of until you sync the device with the app later. Instead, the Shine just seemed to think I'd gone for a long walk and there was no convincing the app otherwise later.

You can log into the app in order to properly tag the activities you've taken part in, but even then the data doesn't seem wholly accurate. Presumably the Shine uses an algorithm to guess how the activity levels correlate with particular sports, which means you're presented with a guess rather than accurate tracking.

This wouldn't be such a problem if the Misfit Shine's app supported other third party services and trackers, like RunKeeper, but unfortunately it doesn't at the moment. This means the Misfit Shine is a bit of a letdown if you wanted to use it to accurately track your workouts regularly and paint a more holistic picture of your body and wellbeing.

The good thing about the Misfit Shine is it does give you a basic indication of how active you've been throughout the day. Tap the Shine twice (this doesn't always work, which is sometimes a bit of a pain) and it'll light up a portion of the way round depending on what you've been up to, this is a nice addition to give you a bit of an indication of how you're doing quickly and easily, but not too much info to bog you down while you're out and about. To me this suggests the Shine is built more for regular consumers who may workout now and again in mind rather than those who take their exercise too seriously.

When it comes to sleep the Misfit Shine can be worn around your wrist and it seems accurate, even if the app presents you with the most basic of data.

The Misfit Shine also tells the time after it's shown you how well you're doing throughout the day. I've seen other reviewers claim they're baffled by how to read it, but actually it's pretty simple once you've got the hang of it.

When it comes to battery life the Shine blows the competition out of the water because it comes with a tiny watch battery that doesn't need replacing for between four to six months. This does mean you'll need to go out and buy new ones when it's out of juice, but is a lot more user-friendly than plugging it in to charge every few days, like most of Shine's competitors.

How does it look and feel?

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Well this is where the Misfit Shine really is top of the class. It comes in a range of different colours, but we chose to review one in Topaz, which is an exotic way of saying light blue.

The Shine is just a little bigger than a pound coin, but it's made from a tough yet like aluminium, so doesn't feel too fragile. Hold it in your hand and it looks like a piece of sci-fi jewellery rather than a gadget, which is ideal for those who are a bit self-conscious at the thought of wearing a tracking device.

With the tiny disk-shaped Shine you get both a magnetic clasp - to wear the Shine on clothes and pockets - as well as a plastic sports strap - to tie the Shine to your wrist. You can also buy - at a fairly steep price - a number of different necklace designs and a leather strap, too, which for those who wear the Shine religiously would be worth the investment and add to its versatility.

The wristband and clasp really do work with anything, daywear, eveningwear, sportswear, the Misfit Wearables team has totally nailed the issues many seem to have with other wearables being too loud, too intrusive and too cheap-looking.

On the other hand, the Shine was sometimes TOO unnoticeable. That's right, I'm never happy. The thing is if it's so subtly clasped to your clothes you sometimes just forget it's there. You'll get changed and leave it on that thing, go to sleep and leave it over there. This is the problem with wearables, wear them too well and they become pretty obsolete.

How does the app work?

The Misfit Shine doesn't like to tell you detailed information throughout the day, but instead relies on an arbitrary points system. For example, I'm opening my Misfit Shine app now and I'm told I have 398 of 1000 points. Obviously I can roughly guess these points are to do with the fact I set a certain goal for how many steps I'd take today and the points are a way of motivating me to hit that goal, but in actual fact they're just a bit patronising. The reason people buy a product like this is because they want more visibility about their lives and being served up stats about points is just a little meh.

Of course you can see more information about the steps you've taken and the calories you've burned when you keep syncing up the Shine. And at the end of the day you're served up with a basic graph of your activity, steps taken and calories burned. BASIC being the key word here.

Sleeping is a similar story, you're fed some basic information about how much sleep you got, but it's not as in depth as other apps dedicated to sleep or even Jawbone's Up 24 dashboard.

But the main issue with the app is the Misfit Shine needs to sync up to it for it to tell you anything. Sometimes this process is simple and within seconds all of your information is on the app, sometimes this process is really annoying, takes forever and just refuses to work. You're actually urged to place the Shine onto your screen at first, which for the first time seemed kinda cool and like something from Star Trek, but after the fifth time it was just annoying and I longed for the seamless sync I experienced with the Jawbone Up24.

Should you buy one?

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There's no denying the Misfit Shine looks great and is easy to wear, so unless the idea of a restrictive, bright bracelet on your arm that looks like a kid's toy appeals to you, then it's the best-looking, most versatile and low maintenance tracker around.

Unfortunately, the workout and exercise tracking features won't be thorough or even accurate enough for those who want to use it for anything other than basic activity monitoring. The Shine is definitely built for more passive consumers who may workout now and again rather than those who take their exercise regime seriously.

So if you're looking for a basic activity tracker/cool space-like fashion accessory hybrid, then the Misfit Shine is for you. If you want to find out as much as possible about your body and workout regularly then opt for something else, the Misfit Shine will be too basic for you and leave you a little frustrated - looks aren't everything after all.

The great thing about Misfit Wearables is it's constantly updating its offering, as I'm writing this review news of an updated app, new necklace design and new navy and coral colours hit Techcrunch, so maybe some of the issues above can be ironed out over the next few months.

Find out more about the Shine from Misfit Wearables and head to the Apple store to buy one for £99.95.

As self-obsessed, vain and narcissistic millennials we have no excuses when it comes to producing sub-standard selfies.

Gone are the days of holding up a blurry camera phone and giving it your best cheesy grin, there are all kinds of different apps available now to crop out your laundry hanging in the background, blur out slight imperfections and even change the shape of your features if they've been bugging you.

It all sounds a little creepy, but as more and more people start snapping selfies (we're looking at you Obama and Prince Andrew) the less seriously we're all taking them. They're vain, they're annoying, they're probably heavily edited, but we just can't stop taking them and neither can anyone else.

Here at ShinyShiny we've been snapping selfies like crazy (all in the name of research, of course) to bring you our top ten favourite apps for getting the right angle, editing and tweaking them. Watch us talk you through our best four in the video above, or take notes from the list below if you're after heavy-duty editing.

Do you have a favourite app for selfie-editing? Let us know what it is in the comments below.

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CameraBag

CameraBag may not be the prettiest of applications, but it allows you to make a bunch of basic changes to your images and, most importantly, provides you with a huge bank of amazing filters.

The great thing about CameraBag is that each of its filters come with an intensity slider. This means you can customise each filter and only add it ever so slightly if you want more subtle effects.

This is good news for selfie-lovers, as some of the filters on their own would be too intense and make your skin look funny. On the other hand, a slight film over your face is just what your hungover eyes need.

Aviary

Aviary is a really comprehensive photo editing app. You can do everything from making basic tweaks, like cropping and brightness enhancing, through to adding filters and blurring out certain areas of your images.

It's a perfect one for selfies, because you can make the tone, brightness and saturation of your photos more flattering, remove blemishes, banish redeye and even whiten your smile.

Aviary is free, but you can pay extra to unlock more filters. There's actually a "portrait" set for £1.49 that would be worth the investment if you're looking for more filters than Instagram has to offer.

Selfie Cam

Selfie Cam claims to be the "ultimate" selfie app because it allows you to set a timer so you take your selfie at the right second and then add stickers and all kinds of crazy things to your photos. This app is much more about being silly and having fun rather than editing your face within an inch of your life, which makes it one of our favourites.

Facetune

If you're serious about selfie-editing then you really need to add Facetune to your bank of apps.

This powerful app, built especially for portrait editing, allows you to even out your skin tone, whiten your smile, reshape your face, remove dark circles, get rid of blemishes and even add more hair to your head.

Chances are your selfie will be completely unrecognisable after 15 minutes alone with Facetune, but it's actually quite fun to be given the power of a retoucher with just your mobile phone.

Front Flash

Front Flash is ideal for those situations when you've just got to take a selfie OMG it's too much, but the lighting is bad.

Now of course you can't take a selfie in complete darkness and expect this app to work it's magic, but it does make your photos a little bit better than a full-on flash, which can be really unflattering.

Instagram

We've added Instagram to the list because it's often cast aside as a photo editing app nowadays and just used as a way to share images.

Instagram actually has a bunch of great filters and its new contrast sliding feature means you have more control over the intensity of your selfies.

CamMe

CamMe is less about editing your selfies after you've taken them and more about perfecting your selfie technique to begin with.

Simply place your phone wherever you like, show the camera your palm, make a fist when you're ready to be papped and pose. CamMe will then take a photo a few seconds later, providing you with a countdown.

The whole idea behind CamMe is you'll get a much more flattering selfie if your camera is just a little bit further away from you, which is totally true and also gets rid of that weird, unflattering, big arm thing you get when you hold your phone.

Photofy

Photofy isn't really about taking or editing selfies, but using this app you can add all kinds of things to your photos afterwards. You can choose from huge, themed stickers (we don't recommend you do that) or you can just use the app to add simple captions.

It beats other caption and text adding apps because there are so many more options to customise everything you've added to your selfie.

MoreBeaute

One of the most vain (and slightly troubling) apps on the list, MoreBeaute has one job and that's to make you more beautiful.

According to the developers behind MoreBeaute, more beautiful means dreamy blurred skin, lots of light and low saturation.

Frontback

Frontback is a little different to the other apps on the list. Sure it takes your selfie for you, but it also utilises the back camera in order to capture what you were looking at and where you were when you took your selfie.

Granted the trend to take a selfie AND your surroundings might not really catch on and isn't really Instagram-friendly given its final shape, but it is a pretty cool idea we'll be trying as we wander around London this weekend.

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So what's a Jawbone Up 24?

Jawbone is a company that creates all kinds of cool tech products. Earlier in the week, we wrote about its new bluetooth headset, the Era, and chances are you'll recognise its colourful little Jambox speakers too.

But Jawbone has also been one of the first companies to really get stuck in when it comes to wearables, and its first activity tracking device, the Jawbone Up, proved to be a success and just about held its own against competitors, like the Fitbit Flex and the Nike+ Fuelband.

The big problem with the Jawbone Up was that it didn't support wireless activity tracking. Without a screen on the device, this meant that to get any data about your day - from how you sleep, to how many steps you've taken - you had to plug the device in to your phone. Doesn't sound THAT irritating, right? Wrong. It really is if you plan on using the device everyday and meant it always came at the bottom of lists about which tracker you should buy despite all of its other great features.

Well Jawbone appears to have listened to these criticisms, and in the last month the new Jawbone Up 24 has been released globally. It's main difference? It wirelessly syncs data through to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Now this does mean you sacrifice some battery life, the original Up could last a whole ten days and the Up24 manages seven, but it's now ready to contend with a slew of other new gadgets to be the best fitness tracking device on the market.

So, we were really excited to put it to the test for a few weeks.

What does it track?

Sleep

The Up24 comes with sleep tracking, this means you wear it throughout the night and in the morning you're served up with data about how you slept, including the amount of sound sleep you got, the amount of light sleep you got, the time it took you to fall asleep and how many times you woke up throughout the night.

That sounds like a lot of information, but it's all presented within the Jawbone Up app in a basic bar chart - the high bars are when you slept well, the lower ones are when you were tossing and turning and the really low orange ones are when you were wide awake.

You can see some screenshots from my nights below:

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Daily activity

The Up24 also tracks your activity throughout the day, too. This data is presented in a similar way to your night time activity, you see a basic graph charting your day, the tall red bars are when you managed to walk or workout, the lower ones are your lower levels of activity and no bar at all is probably when you're sat at your desk, wasting away.

Again, here are some screenshots from my days:

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For both your sleep and your activity during the day, the Up24 prompts you to set yourself some targets, which works on the tried and tested idea that you're more likely to keep moving and work on self improvement if you have something to aim for.

Start off with the basic, suggested targets, which are 10,000 steps a day and 8 hours of sleep a night. You'll be told how far off your goals you are each day and can reset them if you find them a little too hard to stick to (or farrrr too easy!).

Goals & tips

The original Up tracked your sleep and daytime activity and allowed you to set goals too, but the Up24 aims to be more of a coach than just a passive tracker, as it presents you with reminders to hit your daily goals and tells you ways in which you could be more awesome.

How it does it all

If you're wondering how it manages to do all of this, the Up24 comes with a built-in motion sensor and teams the data it gathers from that up with its own algorithms in order to passively track and quantify your steps, distance, calories, active time, and idle time throughout the day and night.

Unfortunately the band can't distinguish between different kinds of activity. If you're doing something that isn't step-based, then you can use its only button to start and stop a timer, enabling you to then go and fill in the workout you did via the app later. This is great if you want to keep a strict eye on your fitness levels and calorie burn, but for me it was enough to just let the app track I've moved a lot, rather than tell it exactly what I've done.

How does it look and is it REALLY comfy?

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How it feels

When you're choosing an activity tracker, or any other kind of wearable, no one is ever going to judge you for being a little bit shallow and agonising over how it looks. You're going to be wearing this thing every second of every day. That doesn't mean you throw its features and tech specs out of the window, but it does mean the look and feel is just as important.

The Jawbone Up24 has a soft, non-latex rubber exterior. Jawbone shouts about the fact this material is medical-grade and hypoallergenic, which sounds like boring sales speak, but is actually pretty important given the Fitbit Force's recent recall. So we know the material is as comfy and kind to the skin as it can be and at only 20g - the Fitbit Force and Nike+ Fuelband are 30g - it's one of the lightest options too.

In all honesty, it feels awkward when you first put it on, especially during the first night. But after a day I got used to having it on my wrist and totally forgot it was there. There are some nights that I've not been able to sleep, so took it off thinking it was irritating me, but during the day it's not a problem at all.

How it looks

Now let's move onto the design, the Jawbone Up24 only comes in a bright orange/red or black, which is a little limiting considering the original Up came in a few more bright colours as well as a very subtle and very wearable grey.

Having said that, both the black and the red are very bold and they look great with my workout gear. It'd just be good to introduce a shade that's a little more subtle, flattering and wearable further down the line.

The band comes in small, medium and large sizes. I'm not a tiny person, but definitely needed the small. If you're not sure how big your wrist is, the packs the bands come in have size guides attached and if you're buying online you can print one out too.

Many other reviews have called the band "super stylish" and "beautiful", which seems a little OTT. But if you're comparing it to some of the other trackers that look like those bands you get at swimming pools to keep your locker keys safe, then it probably does win in the style stakes.

Look at the photos and you'll see I wear it with the silver ends facing upwards. At The Gadget Show earlier in the week someone told me this was the wrong way to wear it, but I don't really care because wear it the other way and it looks like I've got a lame kid's snap bracelet thing on. So I'd rather be wrong. But thanks for the advice random critical man!

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No screen

One thing you'll notice about the Up24 in comparison to other fitness trackers on the market - like the Garmin Vivofit, the Fitbit Force and Flex and the Nike+ Fuelband - is that there's no screen. At first I found this really appealing. I like the idea of passively tracking my day and only viewing stats as and when it suits me. However, the more I got into wearing the band and thinking about my movements and activity throughout the day, the more I kept looking at it, expecting it to give me something. ANYTHING! This was especially the case when I went for a run and wanted to see how I was doing without having to rely on another band or app to serve up data.

The only thing you get on the band itself is a button that you can press to switch between day and night mode or use to set alarms. There's also a cap that covers up a 2.5mm jack in order to charge the UP24. An adapter makes this work for USB, so you can plug it into your computer, but it feels a little clunky and annoying to have to carry something else around with you. But given the fact it only needs a charge once a week it's not a deal-breaker.

So how does the app work?

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The Jawbone Up app dashboard is as slick as ever with rich colours and an intuitive interface, but the great thing is you can do as much or as little as you want with it. As you can see from the screenshots above, it serves up your daily activity and sleep activity in the form of handy charts, as well as little goals and tips. This was enough for me, as I'm only interested in getting fitter and increasing my activity levels.

However, if you want to lose weight and watch your calories then you can then delve deeper into nutrition and the Up24 band and app will provide you with a more holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle. You can enter every little morsel you eat into the app, by taking a photo of it, scanning a barcode, searching for it in its extensive database or just adding in the details manually. The UP app then calculates calories burned based on your age, gender, height and weight, along with activity intensity and duration.

The app is also where you can track details about how your band is doing, including how many days worth of battery there is left, whether you want to take a power nap and whether you want to set up alerts to vibrate you out of being idle!

One of my favourite features of the app is also a Lifeline, which looks visually stunning, but also paints an accurate picture of how you're doing over the course of the weeks or months you've been wearing the band for. The Trends tab does a similar thing, but presents your data in a simpler bar chart, so you can identify trends and change or improve on them if they're not so great.

There's no web app yet, which doesn't bother me at all, but I know other people do prefer to access this kind of data on the web, so it'd be good if Jawbone introduced a web dashboard soon.

Should you buy one?

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The Jawbone Up24 isn't a perfect tracking device. Its charging functionality could be better, the colours might be a little jarring for some and its lack of a screen might put people off who a) need constant motivation or b) are really keen on tracking what's going on throughout the day without having to rely on other pieces of tech.

However, if you want an easy-to-use device that'll fit into your lifestyle because it looks good, feels comfy and allows you to passively track your activity, as well as get stuck in and smash goals if you're feeling enthusiastic, then the Jawbone Up24 is the best band on the market.

Everyone can benefit from using it, but it's best for those who want to get more active, sleep better or lose weight and like to see a range of different stats about their day and night activity.

More serious athletes and those in training may not find it comprehensive enough. Equally, those who are after a simpler gadget and are a little freaked out by the idea of logging and tracking EVERYTHING should try a souped up pedometer like the Fitbit Zip to start with instead.

The Jawbone Up24 is perfect for us because it's comfy, looks good, wirelessly syncs our data and lets us get as involved as we want depending on how pumped we feel each day.

Check out the Jawbone Up device compatibility list here.

The Jawbone Up24 is available from John Lewis for £124.95.

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The Shiny Shiny team were invited to The Gadget Show Live 2014 event at the Birmingham NEC yesterday and we went along armed with a camera and a tonne of questions ready to grill the top tech companies about their latest products.

Although there were no big launches, and many of the gadgets have been featured here on Shiny Shiny already, it was a great chance to have a hands-on with some of the latest tech that we've only seen in press shots up until now.

Throughout the day we saw so many gadgets, but here are our top picks, featuring health and fitness wearables, pet wearables, cool DIY gaming kits and the most beautiful headphones we've ever seen.

Fitbug Orb

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The Fitbug Orb, a tiny, disk-like fitness tracker, has been on the market for a few months, but The Gadget Show gave us a great chance to see how it compares to similar trackers on the market. We found that it's light, compact and most importantly can be worn with both a wrist strap and a belt clip. We're hoping to get our hands on a Fitbug Orb to review soon, so watch this space!

Technology Will Save Us DIY Gamer Kit

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Technology Will Save Us is a truly awesome company dedicated to empowering anyone to make their own tech. At The Gadget Show, the Technology Will Save Us team were showing off a number of their DIY kits, and we thought the DIY Gamer Kit was the most fun. The kit allows complete beginners to learn the basics of constructing and programming their own basic, mini games console.

Garmin Vivofit

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The Vivofit wrist band is Garmin's consumer-focused fitness tracking product (it also makes a lot of high-end trackers specifically for runners and athletes). The great thing about the Vivofit is it's an advanced tracker in a small and flexible band that actually feels really comfortable when you try it on. It's different to competitors like the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit Flex because it's got a huge LED screen. For some people this will look a little ugly and OTT, but for those who want to know how they're doing throughout the day and don't want to keep checking their smartphone, it's ideal.

Parrot Zik

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I rarely swoon over tech and care much more about how gadgets feel and work, but even I was blown away by how amazing Parrot's Zik headphones look. It's no surprise they look good considering they're designed by Philippe Starck, a French designer known for his interior and product design innovations.

But enough of how they look and onto the tech that's packed inside them. The Parrot team was keen to show off the device's new high performance noise-cancellation system, which promises to cancel out more than 99% of ambient noise.

Another great feature of the Zik headphones is that you can activate basic controls by swiping across the cup, you can slide your finger vertically to adjust the volume and horizontally to skip to the next track.

I put the headphones to the test - see my awkward selfie below - and not only do they look a little more subtle than I expected once they're on (they are bright white and shiny gold after all), but they're incredibly comfortable and the noise cancelling tech inside them meant my music had a lot of depth and clarity despite being in the middle of a crowded show floor.

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Fitbit Flex

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It's one of the top contenders in the fitness tracking space and the Fitbit Flex certainly didn't disappoint in the flesh. The gadget gets a huge thumbs-up from Shiny Shiny because it's flexible and feels comfortable on the wrist, has a very basic LED light functionality that tells you how you're doing throughout the day and of course syncs up to Fitbit's comprehensive dashboard.

For those looking for something a little more advanced, the Fitbit Force is a device with a larger screen that'll serve up even more information about your day.

Fitbark

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Sick of reading about wearables for your wrist? Well this one isn't for you, it's for your dog. Fitbark started its life out on Kickstarter, and after smashing its funding goal it's been developed into a compact wearable that straps onto your pet's collar. The idea is that really we're all aware of how much activity we've had during a day if we're paying attention to our movements, right? But a lot of the time we're not so sure what our dogs have been getting up to. The Fitbark solves that problem by tracking movements 24/7 and then serving up insights via an app.

iHealth Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker

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iHealth's activity tracking offering may not look as slick and well-designed as the likes of the Jawbone Up or Fibit Flex, but it's a much cheaper offering for those who can't splash the cash to get fit. It tracks your steps and activity throughout the day, as well as painting a pretty accurate picture of your sleep. It's another one that can be worn on a belt clip or on your wrist - this means the wrist straps look quite basic, but does give you the freedom to mix it up depending on where you prefer to keep the tracker or what you're going to be doing throughout the day.

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When many of our readers hear of the Jawbone brand they probably think of its small Jambox speaker or the Up and new UP 24 (expect a review of this one soon) fitness trackers. But Jawbone has ventured into the world of Bluetooth, hands-free headsets before and actually started out its life with a mission to shake up the voice-activated world of audio gadgets.

Today Jawbone takes one step further as it launches the new Era headset globally (it was available in the US earlier this year), which could well redefine the way we use and view headsets.

So what's the Era all about?

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Shiny Shiny were invited along to an exclusive preview of the Era before its launch today to find out more about the tiny device and whether it can actually make wearing a hands-free gadget cool, as well as details about what Jawbone has up its sleeve over the next year or so.

We were shown the Era in its four different colours, bronze, silver, black and red, and you can get an indication of how tiny this thing is in the snaps where I hold it in my hand - yep, it's about half the size of my thumb and 42% smaller than its predecessor.

The Era has been designed to sync up with your mobile phone, allowing you to make and take calls, listen to any kind of audio and use voice command services like Siri and Google Now, which all means more time doing things and less time faffing around with your phone.

The device is packing small MEMS microphones (micro-electro-mechanical systems) that haven't been used in a Jawbone headset before, as well as custom DSP algorithms (digital signal processing), which adjust the loudness and work to deliver the best audio possible based on your surroundings.

When it comes to its audio capabilities, Jawbone has also rebuilt its Noise Assassin technology with the addition of wide-band audio. This tech employs algorithms for detecting all different kinds of speech, enabling the Era to distinguish it from background noise, providing you (and not to mention those you're talking to) with a much better experience.

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It's designed to make life easier, so it's able to keep going for four hours and comes with an equally tiny charging device that houses a further six hours of talk time. You can also plug it into your computer to charge it up too.

Up until now these kinds of hands-free devices have had a bad rep and for many are synonymous with salesmen or pretentious banking guys. But with its tiny stature and attractive colours the Era actually looks very subtle, and dare I say it, pretty attractive for a headset.

But will any of us actually use it?

When we were shown the Era we were also shown a lot of different promo photos of how the Era could be used and there wasn't a dodgy-looking salesman in sight. So the question is, could regular people like me and you really start to us the Era on a daily basis?

Well, I've been trialling it for a week and I have to say I've put it to a lot of good use so far. I find it particularly handy when I'm marching to the office and want to listen to some music at the same time as staying tuned into the environment around me or catch up with friends and family by calling them and not having to worry about whether some London mugger is about to cycle past at high-speed and steal my phone.

It's also totally invaluable if you're cooking. I know, I know, how stereotypically female of me to bring up how useful it is in the kitchen. But I personally find cooking a little tedious on the best of days, so being able to mess around in the kitchen at the same time as make calls back home to my family is a godsend.

I'm not claiming I'm a hands-free headset convert, of course the novelty might wear off soon, but for now I definitely see the value in a small device that makes me less reliant on my phone, which gives me more freedom to do other things and makes me feel a little bit safer when I'm out and about.

Pros:

  • It makes me feel safer.
  • It gives me an opportunity to get other things done - productivity win!
  • It looks good (and for those who don't think it looks good, it at least looks tiny and very subtle).
  • The audio quality is pretty exceptional for something so small.
  • It can be charged with the on-the-go dock.

Cons:

  • It might just be a gimmick that I'll have forgotten about tomorrow.
  • Some people might think it looks absolutely ridiculous (I'm still none the wiser after a week though).
  • It's a little pricey at £109.


The Era is available from today for £109 in black, silver, bronze and red at Jawbone.com, Apple, Amazon and at Selfridges stores. You can get your hands on an Era for for £79, but that comes without the very handy charging case.

sleeveselfie.jpgYou can call it making a #sleeveface or even #vinyling, but with the popularity of the selfie sky-rocketing and the popularity of vinyl steadily rising amongst retro-lovers and hipsters, what better way to hijack a narcissistic trend with your favourite vinyl art than taking a #SleeveSelfie?

Here at ShinyShiny we want to see your best #SleeveSelfie and to give you an incentive to start posing with your vinyl we're giving away an awesome record player and £100 worth of vinyl albums to two of our lucky winners (more details to be announced soon). You can even share a few words about why that record changed your life.

The record player is the fabulous Teac LP-P1000 - which packs a turntable, CD recorder, AM/FM tuner and Bluetooth (for smartphones), and will record vinyl to CD and USB. It normally sells for around £350

More info here.

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Also up for grabs is £100 worth of your choice of vinyl albums.

Here's what you have to do:

1. Take a selfie, but cover up your face with your favourite sleeve. You can be as inventive as you like, dress up in the style of the cover art, recreate an iconic scene, or just hold up a record in front of your cat.

2. Tag your photo #SleeveSelfie and share it on Twitter or Instagram.

3. We'll keep an eye out for entries and feature them here on ShinyShiny.tv as well as at sleeveselfie.tumblr.com.

4. We'll then pick a #SleeveSelfie at random at 5pm on Friday 11th April 2014, as well as the most inventive #SleeveSelfie - either the cleverest pic or the smartest words will win a prize.

You can read our competition T&Cs below and if you have any further questions please contact me via email: becca@sutrodigital.com.

Happy #SleeveSelfie-ing!

Terms and Conditions

1. You can enter as many photos as you want.
2. All entries must be tweeted or shared on Instagram and contain the hash tag #SleeveSelfie.
3. The competition closes at 5pm on Friday 11th April 2014. No entries will be considered after then.
4. This competition is open to residents of the UK and Ireland.
5. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
6. There will be two winning entries. One will be picked at random, the other will be the one which is most original, visually appealing and in keeping with the #SleeveSelfie theme.
7. The winner will be notified within seven days of the closing date.
8. All prizes are non transferable and there are no cash alternatives.
9. All images submitted must be the work of the individual submitting them and must not have been published elsewhere.
10. Only include close-up photographs of people in your entry if they have consented to having their photograph taken. It is the entrant's responsibility to ensure they have permission to include the subject in their entry.
11. The copyright for the image remains with the entrant. However, by entering a photo into the competition, you give ShinyShiny permission to use your photos for other promotional purposes and include them in any other material, such as on ShinyShiny, in an iPad magazine and on the #SleeveSelfie Tumblr.
12. Submission of an entry will be taken to mean acceptance of these terms and conditions.

Image via Joydeeo's Instagram.

We all know that the beginning of the year really isn't the best time to address our bad habits. If anything a lack of alcohol/chocolate/curling up in bed in the foetal position in January is going to make us less likely to do good things than going cold turkey on everything that's nice about the world.

But it's nearly the end of March, the weather is ever-so-slightly better, the nights are ever-so-slightly lighter and your summer holiday is ever-so-slightly closer, all great reasons to start doing more things and improving yourself just a little bit.

We're setting you a challenge to pick just one of your bad habits and attempt to change it over the next few weeks. Don't have one? Then use LittleBit to cultivate something new and worthwhile instead. Let us know what you choose, which app is going to help you and how you're getting on in the comments below...

If too much caffeine is (literally) keeping you awake at night: Jawbone Up Coffee

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Jawbone is famous for its cool little Jambox speakers and Up fitness trackers, but recently it also launched a caffeine-tracking app, called Up Coffee. The app is designed to sync up with your fancy Up (or now Up 24) tracker, but you can still use it if there isn't an activity monitoring gizmo strapped to your arm, just input some basic details about yourself and then add your caffeine intake throughout the day (remembering that it's not just coffee that contains caffeine).

The app shows you your caffeine intake in an awesome, interactive little visualisation that looks like coffee beans filling up a jar (see the screenshot above). On a basic level you can view how wired you are with the beans - from sleep ready to wired - but you can also delve much deeper into your your stats too, monitoring your activity levels throughout the day and keeping a log of how you've done throughout the week.

Now admittedly Jawbone Up Coffee isn't designed to completely kick your coffee obsession, but it will present you with more information about how your body is reacting to that seemingly harmless cup of java throughout the day. Also, the little warnings are pretty hilarious, I just tried to input my second coffee of the day and got a warning that read "This dose of caffeine could make you jittery. Are you sure you want it?".

Jawbone Up Coffee is available for iOS devices for free.

If you can't stop eating the bad stuff: Noom Weight

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We've written about Noom a few times before because it always comes top if you're looking for a way to track your eating habits and activity levels throughout the day but don't want to pay a fortune for a Jawbone, Nike+ or Fitbit wearable.

On the surface Noom is a simple and intuitive calorie intake and activity level tracker, once you've inputted your details it'll tell you how many calories you've consumed and how many you have left. Its comprehensive database allows you to add everything you eat and there are even UK supermarket-specific meals too to make the whole process quicker and easier.

Granted you could use Noom to track all of the bad things you eat, which may just make you feel worse. But, the basic principle behind Noom is that tracking and visualising what you eat each day is the first step in understanding your body and making those all important changes. Unlike similar apps on the market Noom also serves up expert advice and motivational tips to ensure you've got a goal in mind and you stick to it.

You can pay extra to chat to a randomly selected group of other Noom users about your eating habits, which sounds weird and kinda daunting, but it's actually the 2014 equivalent of trotting down to your local Weight Watchers to chat recipes and hop on the scales.

Noom Weight is available for iOS and Android devices.

If you want to quit smoking for good: Smokio

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Smokio is the first smart, connected electronic cigarette and smartphone app combo. Yep, there's literally nothing that isn't "smart" and/or "connected" nowadays.

The Smokio e-cigarette contains a special chip that tracks how much you use it and what impact it's having on your body when you reach for an e-alternative rather than the real thing.

Everything you do with the Smokio e-cig is automatically synced up to a dedicated app on your smartphone using Bluetooth, so you can keep track of your usage, where you do it, when you do it and when your e-cig needs recharging.

Of course a certain level of willpower and motivation is needed to make the transition from normal cigarette to the fancy Smokio e-cigarette in the first place, but it's the stats about how your body is in a much better state and how much money you've saved in the long run that might really hit home for those who are on the verge of giving up for good.

As you'd expect the whole kit isn't cheap and starts at around $89 from the Smokio Store, but if you're committed to quitting it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a lifetime of actual cigarettes.

If you feel like a big couch potato: QuickFit's 7 Minute Workout

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According to research, we should stop feeling intimidated by lengthy workouts and people who are training to do their tenth marathon in our Twitter feeds, and instead treat our bodies to short blasts of high intensity exercise - 7 minutes of the sweaty stuff to be exact.

Sure it might just be the latest fad in a long line of fitness crazes, but the exercises included in the 7 Minute Workout all get different parts of the body moving and leave your heart pumping as if you've just come back from a pretty intense run.

There are a number of different apps on the market to introduce you to the 7 Minute Workout (not to mention some great YouTube videos), but our favourite is from Quick Fit.

The app takes you through all 12 exercises of the 7 Minute Workout giving you 30 seconds for each with a 10 second break in between. The voice commands are simple and ensure your form is spot on, but they're not at all patronising like some other workout apps on the market.

HD videos accompany each workout so you can check you're doing the exercises right. You can also try and keep up with the number of reps the little dude does each round too, but don't worry if you can't - it's much better to start off slow and ensure your form is perfect before you try and smash through 297385 reps in 30 seconds anyway.

There's a performance tracking section within the app that keeps track of your workouts and your progress and once you've done a fair few you can unlock a special workout dedicated just to your abs.

We know that even the smallest bit of exercise can seem too time-consuming and daunting for busy and tired people, but try and just commit to three sets of the 7 Minute Workout each week and we promise you'll sleep better and feel a bit fitter after just a few sessions.

7 Minute Workout - Quick Fit is available from iTunes for 69p.

If worrying takes over your day: iCouch CBT

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Now this is a really specific one, and it's ideal for those whose main habit is worrying.

To those who don't tend to over-think or worry too much this will seem like a strange addition alongside kicking caffeine or a stop smoking kind of habit, but to those prone to a bit of worry and anxiety throughout the day, it could have a really positive impact.

iCouch CBT is an app designed to help you deal with worries and it's based on basic CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) methods. We're in no way therapy experts here at Shiny Shiny, so do your reading if you'd like to know more, but iCouch CBT works on the premise that you need to work through your worries one step at a time to understand them, turn them into something more positive or just realise they're not worth the time and effort.

To some this may sound like a real challenge, but once you've added a worry into the iCouch CBT app it'll guide you through a process of working through it. For those battling with big anxiety problems and depression it may just be a drop in the ocean, but it's worth a shot and has certainly helped calm me down on more than one occasion in the past.

iCouch CBT is a little pricey for an app at £2.49, but well worth it. It's available for iOS devices from the iTunes app store here.

If you want to set new goals and start much better habits: LittleBit

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LittleBit wins hands down in the adorable app stakes with its small smiling face and friendly "Hiya" welcome every time you log-in. But it's not being included in this list because it's cute, but because it's a really simple and effective way to encourage you to hit your goals and cultivate good habits - one small step at a time.

All you have to do to get started with LittleBit is create a New Habit, which can be anything you want like go for a run or floss your teeth. LittleBit will then remind you to do it and encourage you to take a picture of it, earning you a "Bit". Once you get 21 "Bits" you can complete your habit and unlock a big photo reel of your achievements - but let your good intentions slide and you can start to lose "Bits"!

The beauty of LittleBit is that you can only focus on one habit at a time, which takes the pressure away and makes you more likely to keep on track and make just one small change gradually rather than being overwhelmed by about 39873485 ways you'd like to improve your life.

LittleBit is available for iOS devices.

If you're looking for a much healthier and worthwhile distraction: Duolingo

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Maybe you don't need a big app intervention to overcome your habit, but just a new distraction. There are literally thousands of apps and games that are much better for your health and wellbeing than downing cupcakes and coffees, but a personal favourite of ours here at Shiny Shiny is Duolingo. The intuitive language-learning app keeps you occupied, allows you to compete against yourself each day AND helps you learn a brand new language in the process. If you could train yourself to reach for Duolingo instead of that coffee cup/remote control/cigarette then you'll be in a much better (and multilingual) state, we promise.

Duolingo is available for free on iOS and Android devices.

We all know 3D printing is well and truly a "thing" now, but other than allowing arty types to make really lame-looking vases and firearm-wielding Americans to print guns, what can you actually do with your overpriced 3D printing equipment? Well, a hell of a lot it seems...

Your unborn child

You know what's the absolute worst? Knowing you're having a baby but having to wait a whole nine months to see whether it's going to be cute or not. Well fear not, because a number of companies (like Tecnologia Humana 3D) will now take your lame old ultrasound and turn it into a not-at-all-terrifying 3D replica of the baby growing inside you.

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Dinosaurs

Well not actual dinosaurs, but their skeletons. According to IBTimes, scientists in Berlin have been working to recreate fossils so they can use big, walking 3D printed skeletons to learn more about how dinosaurs lived and moved.

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Dead kings

It's not just dead jurassic creatures that are being 3D printed, but dead monarchs too. In May 2013, the remains of what many believed to be King Richard III was discovered. So those who found him decided the best thing to do would be to try and creepily recreate his face using 3D printing. Because: science.

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Image via The Guardian.

Sex toys

Makerlove makes 3D printed sex toys, a service which has given us a glimpse into the sexual desires of the public and terrified us to our very core. Case in point: This Justin Bieber-inspired dildo (there's also a Freud one too, just FYI).

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Pizza

Okay, so it's a particularly gross-looking printed pizza, but it's still a printed pizza nonetheless.

A skull

We've heard that 3D printing could have a huge, positive impact on medicine and this week Dutch doctors proved just how much the new technology could save lives when they printed out an actual skull that was successfully transplanted into a woman's head.

The video is below, but it's not for the squeamish. WE REPEAT: NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH.

Chocolate

The Chocabyte is a 3D printer that allows you to print any chocolate shape that you can imagine, all for only $99.

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There's not long to go now until Mother's Day here in the UK (it's Sunday the 30th of March you terrible human being), so we've collected together some last-minute gift ideas for those in a panic about what to buy.

We know that not all mums are the flower-loving kind, but these Ted Baker cases provide your iPhone with a decent level of protection, as well as looking all cute and floral.

We've been trialling the Susu case (on the right) for the past few weeks and it's got us a tonne of compliments and survived a fair few (OK twenty) falls onto concrete.

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Ted Baker iphone cases from Proporta from £24.95.

We know, we know, buying many mums a fitness tracking bracelet might seem like a not-so-subtle hint that they need to get into shape, but we couldn't resist adding the all new Jawbone Up24 tracking bracelet to the list.

For those into health and fitness it's a mid-range option that will track your activity levels, steps and sleep, as well as providing you with motivational goals and tips throughout the day.

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Jawbone Up 24 from Amazon, Apple and John Lewis from £125.

If your mum likes coffee but just sticks with an old machine or (shock horror) the instant stuff, then you can pick up a decent and multipurpose machine from John Lewis for under £100.

We like this one from Lavazza, which allows you to create all kinds of hot drinks at the touch of a button and comes in bright red.

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Lavazza A Modo Mio Favola Coffee Machine by AEG from John Lewis for £69.95.

If your mum isn't the type to stalk you online, then share what you've been up to with a personalised Instagram poster. Many companies allow you to create your own Instagrammable merchandise, but we like these simple (and fairly cheap) poster options from Firebox.

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Instagram Poster from Firebox for £19.99.

The second Jawbone product of the list, meet the Mini JAMBOX speaker. It's a pocket-sized, lightweight Bluetooth speaker that pairs with a range of devices and comes in a choice of bright colours.

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Jawbone Mini JAMBOX Speaker from the Apple store for £129.95.

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Lily Cole, the supermodel with the flame red hair, beautiful doll face and big brains, has been developing her social network, Impossible, for a few years now. It's all based on wishing, giving and sharing, which sounds amazing in practice, but are we all really that nice?

Impossible is a little like Instagram when it comes to looks and functionality, but instead of selfies, cat photos and blurry cake snaps it's about sharing your wishes, dreams and desires (but less in a having lots of sex and making millions way and more in a travelling to a different country and learning French kinda way).

People sign up and share their wishes with the rest of the magical, happy-clappy, positive little community of wish tellers and fulfillers. Others can respond to wishes, see popular and featured wishes and even like wishes with a little heart - see, just like Instagram.

If you're still not really getting it, then a random selection of current wishes include things like, "I wish I could find a beautiful bookstore in Toronto", "I wish someone from a foreign country could send me a package" and "I wish I could become a model no matter what my height." So as you can see, some lend themselves much more to community gifting and sharing than others...

The web version of the site over at Impossible.com has slowly been gaining traction, but this week the Impossible app for iOS has been topping the App Store charts, so that's bound to get a few more people interested. To be honest we're not sure whether it'll really catch on in this big bad world of ours, but we applaud Lily for trying to sprinkle a little bit of her magic and joy onto the masses.

You can download the Impossible app for iOS devices for free.


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Mainstream media tends to hark on about the benefits of meditation once every few years, usually at the same time a celebrity mentions how much it's changed their life during an interview - David Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand are just a handful of examples. But whether it's currently the flavour of the month according to Glamour and the Mail Online or not, people have been practicing different forms of meditation all over the globe for thousands of years.

Meditation itself is a very broad term and encapsulates a bunch of different practices and techniques, but the overall theme is that meditation induces a quiet state of thought, contemplation and mindfulness. Sometimes this becomes a deep, meditative state (this sometimes the case with transcendental meditation) and other times it just means taking a step back and observing the world around you, which is what mindfulness is all about.

Regardless of whether people meditate for hours each day in a trance-like state or just take a few minutes to breath deeply a few times a week, the benefits can be pretty life-changing. Meditation can give you a bit more peace of mind and perspective each day, but over time it can also help those battling with more serious disorders, like depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Although the constant beep and buzz of the technology around you might be the reason for some of your daily stresses, like most areas of your life there are some handy tools available on your phones to introduce you to meditation, help you to stay calm and collected and possibly even work to make deep, long term changes to the way you think, feel and live your life.

Today I've collected together just a few of my tried and tested apps for meditation, deep breathing and mindfulness on-the-go. Please add any of your suggestions in the comments below and I'll continue to update this list. Happy meditating :)

For getting started with meditation: Headspace

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Headspace is where I started my journey into the world of meditation. Last year, I watched Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace and official Buddhist monk, give a brilliant TED talk about the importance of taking ten minutes out of each day and it inspired me to try it out, just for a week.

Once you've downloaded Headspace you're given Andy's "Take 10" programme, which includes ten free days of ten minute meditative practices, all focused on becoming more mindful of your breath, the space around you, your body and your mood. That sounds like a lot to take in, but it's really simple and Andy's soothing voice guides you through every step.

However, it's the cute little animations at the beginning of your journey that are REALLY special, because they tell you what meditation is all about, how it could work for you (there are very few shoulds in the world of meditation) and how it might feel. Until I'd seen these animations I was pretty sceptical about the whole thing, imagining it was about quietening your thoughts and escaping from them into a safe little meditation haven, when really it's the exact opposite.

Check out the Headspace YouTube Channel for animations, explanations and interviews with the people behind the app.

TIP: Although we're recommending Headspace as a beginner's meditation tool, once you've completed your first ten days (you can go back and re-do them as many times as you please) you then have the option of paying for a subscription fee to get access to more. I'm a massive cheapskate and don't pay for any subscription fees, well until now. Once you've completed the first ten you're onto Headspace's Take 15, which is fifteen whole minutes of mindfulness each day to move you forward.

Headspace is available from the iTunes app store, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, check here for links and details. You can also access Headspace via the web too.

You could also try: Calm for getting used to meditation. It presents you with seven steps of calm to relax you and pairs all of its guided meditations with beautiful background music. We actually love this app, but prefer Andy from Headspace's voice and the simple nature of his app, which sounds a little silly, but plays a really important part in your meditative practice.

For meditation in different scenarios and on the move: Buddhify 2

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Headspace is definitely my favourite meditation app, but sometimes it isn't always easy to find time each day to sit in a quiet spot and meditate - even though you'll feel the benefits more if you do. Buddhify 2 presents you with a colourful wheel packed full of different scenarios, like trying to get to sleep, travelling and walking in a city. Tap on one and that segment opens, serving up three meditations for you to choose from, all usually of different lengths.

Just like Headspace, Buddhify 2 is focussed on mindfulness, but there are other helpful practices in there too, like gratitude and kindness towards others. When you're stressed out on your commute expressing anything other than disgust for that sweaty dude next to you may seem absolutely crazy, but the goal is to remove yourself from your own anxious little washing machine of thoughts - and it often works!

If you like to keep track of what you get up to, then Buddhify 2 saves your weekly stats, record streaks and the amount of content you've consumed overall. It also allows you to rate your mindfulness, concentration and balance on any given day.

Finally, if you fancy going it alone Buddhify 2 has a ten minute timer, allowing you to practice meditation without a guide. This may be daunting for newbies, but it's certainly something to aim for.

TIP: Headspace has a few different guided meditations for helping you drift off to sleep and sorting you out if you're awake in the night and just can't nod off. They're both really soothing and have always worked for me when I've had trouble sleeping.

Buddhify 2 is available from iTunes for £1.49, but trust us, it's totally worth it.

You could also try: Omvana is an app full to the brim with different kinds of meditation practices and tools from a range of experts. The reason we prefer Buddhify to Omvana? Well, it may sound strange but there's just TOO MUCH choice with Omvana. There are so many different guided meditations and background sounds to choose from and you have to pay for most of them. When you feel like you need a little calm the last thing you want to do is flick through hundreds of different choices, which is why we think it's probably better for those who have been practicing meditation a little longer.

For calming down and breathing deeply: Pranayama Universal Breathing

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If you don't fancy listening to a guided meditation but want to calm down and have a bit of time for yourself, then try a breathing app instead.

I really like Pranayama Universal Breathing, a simple application that serves up a little wheel. Begin and the first third of the wheel is when you should inhale, and the other two thirds are when you should exhale. It sounds like something you should know how to do already, right? Nope. Wrong. Many people breathe short, shallow breaths or even hold their breath, causing them to become on edge and anxious.

Try mindfully breathing and even when you're in a super stressful situation you'll be surprised to see just how much it can calm you down.

TIP: The app has a number of different customisations and I recommend adding a little bit of music to your breathing practice too in order to concentrate on nothing else but you and your breath.

Pranayama Universal Breathing is available from iTunes for free.

You could also try: Breathing Zone has been built to calm you down and reduce your blood pressure, so it's a more science-based option for those who want to reduce stress but aren't keen on the idea of meditation.

Meditation for little people: Smiling Mind

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Yep, it's not just us grown ups who can benefit from meditation, but kids too. Smiling Mind is both a web and app-based meditation programme specially designed to give kids a sense of calm and clarity throughout their day.

The Smiling Mind interface is really simple, just hit play and your session will begin. Just like Headspace and Buddhify, Smiling Mind is focussed on mindfulness - paying attention to your mood, breath, body and the space around you.

We imagine it could be tough to get the youngest seven to eleven age group to engage with the app at times, but all of the guided meditations within have been developed by a team of psychologists specialising in therapy for kids and teens.

TIP: Although promoted as a mindfulness tool for kids, there's an adult section too. So if you haven't clicked with any of the other apps yet, give it a go.

Smiling Mind is available from iTunes for free.

Main image via http://psychedeliknights.tumblr.com/

The Tories are currently in the midst of a particularly LOL-worthy PR fail after MP Grant Shapps tweeted a condescending ad aimed at "hardworking people". Yes, it's real and some have said proves yet again that we can  rely on the Tories to march along blissfully unaware of how out of touch with us poor, drunk, debt-ridden simple folk they really are.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter's reaction was fierce, instantaneous and absolutely hilarious, spawning the #ToryBingo hash tag.

The tweets and memes that followed have been hilarious and here are just a few of our favourites. If you want to make your own then visit torybingo.com and feel free to add it in the comments below.

There were jokes about what poor people eat...

...and how they're forced to live.

Then the tables turned and digs started pouring in that questioned the hobbies of the rich...

...and even their favourite Sunday pastimes.

It's unconfirmed, but people may have also started making fun of the way Tories speak.

A poor person must have read a book at some point to draw this harrowing comparison.

This pretty much sums up the views of the nation....

...and this sums up the views of the Tories.

Karl Lagerfeld, famous for being a world-renowned fashion designer and expressing a creepy desire to marry his cat, has had iPads built into the walls of the changing rooms inside his new flagship store in London. The reason? To encourage people to take more changing room selfies, of course!

According to reports, the store will also have a whole pack of iPad Minis dotted throughout the store too, to capture all of your favourite designer shopping moments for eternity.

It seems a little intrusive, but you've got to agree that the Lagerfeld team is smart. So many people take selfies as they're trying on clothes, either to show off or get a verdict from their social media fans and followers, so why not provide them with a tool to encourage them to take more photos that's just as much part of the changing room experience as posing in the mirror?

The problem is selfies are inherently super personal. The very nature of a selfie means they're carefully constructed by the person taking them: the pose, the lighting, the timing, the situation. That's what makes them so appealing, for the first time ever people aren't ashamed to take a picture of their face and have complete control over how it looks.

Many argue that this makes them fake, just another way for us to feel the pressure of society and attempt to alter the way we look and pout at the camera and yada, yada, yada. But read this great article from Amy McCarthy on Bustle and you'll see that for many people it can be a really empowering form of self expression. On the other hand, for celebrities like James Franco, who wrote a piece about selfies in the NY Times, it's a way of connecting with his fans that he has complete control over whenever he please. And that's the whole point in a nutshell: selfies are about you and your face, so they can be about whatever YOU want them to be about.

However, if you start forcing people to get into selfie mode and dictating when they should and shouldn't feel like snapping a photo of themselves, then you're taking the self away from the selfie.

This doesn't mean to say many people won't jump at the chance to shout about the fact they're trying on expensive items in the Lagerfeld store, but does mean the big fashion brains need to tread very carefully if this is going to start becoming a trend. Fitting iPads into changing rooms and invading such a personal space could actually lead to many people feeling forced into being on camera all the time, which is how we felt before the "selfie revolution" when people would tag us in really unflattering photos on Facebook.

Whether Karl Lagerfeld's iPad selfie scheme is a win or fail remains to be seen, but brands need to be cautious when they're jumping on the back of such popular and personal trends.

ideal-home-show-big.jpgThis week the Shiny Shiny team were invited along to the Ideal Home Show at Earl's Court Exhibition Centre in London.

After hours getting lost in the maze of smart tech products, treehouses that looked like huge spiders and a sickeningly pink health and beauty section, we've managed to pick out just five things we learnt during the show.

Unlike big tech events there were no huge launches to shout about, but plenty of gadgets, exhibitions and accessories dedicated to making your life just a little bit easier.

1. Virgin Media wants to be the key to the connected home

Virgin Media put on a flashy show detailing all of the new products hitting the market that will bring us the smartest most connected homes imaginable. Of course the whole point was to prove how great Virgin's high speed broadband is, but that didn't stop us from being introduced to Jamie Oliver's HomeCooker that stirs itself and the team at WiFi Plug...

2. The WiFi Plug is a smart, simple and cheap way to control your home from your phone

As part of the Virgin Media demonstrator's performance about the connected home, the WiFi Plug played a key role because it's just such a simple but smart way of controlling what goes on inside your house. Simply purchase a WiFi Plug (or a dozen of them for even more control) and you can then decide when to turn it on and off remotely via a dedicated app and easy-to-use labelling system.

It sounds really basic but there are so many possibilities - controlling a fan from your bed, turning off the kid's TV after an hour, switching on a lamp at home while you're on holiday for a few hours to deter burglars... The list really is endless.

3. Tree houses are still really cool - even after you've grown up

quiet-mark-treehouse.jpgIf you visit the Ideal Home Show this year you'll see that The Quiet Treehouse is the star, towering above all over the exhibitors like some kind of giant, friendly spider. It's a pretty impressive structure in itself, but inside there's lots going on too. The treehouse has been made by a partnership between Quiet Mark and John Lewis to evolve our understanding of sound quality and development.

Sounds cryptic, right? Well Quiet Mark is a not-for-profit that aims to make the world a quieter, calmer place by reducing the noise of household tools and appliances and giving its universal symbol of approval for manufacturers who play by its quiet rules. John Lewis is getting involved because Quiet Mark will be deeming loads of the department store's electrical products as "ear-friendly" or something more technical.

The Quiet Treehouse itself was built specially to keep out the noise of the really busy trade show and achieved that in style, as the interior was kitted out with John Lewis furnishing and a tonne of amazing tech products.

4. Bose is still the boss when it comes to sound

bose-sound-link.jpgSeasoned Shiny Shiny readers may remember our encounter with the awesome Bose SoundLink Mobile Speaker back in 2011. Since then, the audio specialists have launched the SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III, an audio device that seamlessly pairs up with your phone via Bluetooth and lasts up to 14 hours on a single charge. We put the speaker to the test with the guys at Bose and were (kinda literally) blown away by the depth and clarity of the sound.

5. When your phone runs out of juice it really isn't the end of the world

Admittedly more of a gadget for on-the-go than in the home, Ye!!'s Energy Pocket has been around for a few months now. However, it's still a winner for fast recharging on-the-move as it's super light and pocket-friendly at 87g, packs enough power to charge your phone 1.5 times, and looks bright and colourful while it's at it.


crazy-computer-woman-1.jpgInstead of giving up chocolate or alcohol for Lent (assuming you want to take part in the archaic act of giving up luxuries for weeks on end all in the name of religion), why not try something a little different this year.

We all know what's good for us when it comes to giving up indulgences when we're out and about in the real life world, but what about our social media habits and online vices?

Here are our top suggestions filled with addictions to kick, habits to curb and expectations to lower in order to make you more awesome and (maybe) happier.

1. Mail Online's 'Sidebar of Shame'

Over the past few years it's become known universally as the 'Sidebar of Shame' and for those who aren't mainlining its hate-fuelled headlines 24/7, we're referring to Mail Online's brilliant blend of human tragedy and misogyny all presented in a handy, infinite column that will lead you straight down to the seventh and eighth levels of hell.

This spawn of hatred comprises of two main things: 1) standard sensationalist fodder and/or racist nonsense, like "foreign man microwaves 56 BRITISH cats" or "immigrants WILL eat your babies", and 2) the incessant belittling of women's bodies.

Somehow it's the most visited news site in the whole wide world, so as much as we bitch and moan and berate it, we're all still addicted to that weird mix of self-loathing and complete and utter despair we get after reading it.

What to try instead:

Us Vs Th3m is here to rescue you from wallowing in a pit filled with revulsion for the human race and photos of Kim Kardashian's boobs with its aptly named Sidebar of Awesome, complete with viral photos, awesome quizzes and just enough celebrity gossip to keep you away from the Sidebar of Shame.

If we really can't prise your fingers away from Mail Online, then at least ditch the SoS and take a look at the Science & Tech section of the site, which is bound to leave you feeling a little more enriched and enlightened.

2. Buzzfeed's crack-like quizzes

We've already written about our unrelenting addiction to Buzzfeed's quizzes and the hold it has over our day not knowing which Benedict Cumberbatch we'd be or whether we'd embody Buffy or Faith in a vampiric showdown.

Although we don't think incessant quiz-taking is quite as damaging to our minds as the Sidebar of Shame, it might be time we admitted our issues and took a break from needing constant validation from Buzzfeed about who we are and what Modern Family character we'd be. Well, at least for the next few weeks until just after Lent when we'll spend 72 hours straight completing all of the quizzes we missed in a pool of cold sweat and shame.

What to try instead:

Buzzfeed gets a bad rep for being the go-to site for quizzes about gifs and lists about cats and quizzes about cats and lists about gifs, but in actual fact it's bursting with up-to-date entertainment and current affairs news, some of the best long form content we've read in a while over at BuzzReads and (our personal favourite at the moment) a DIY section that's bound to excite the most hardcore lifehacking fans.

3. Constantly checking your emails on your commute

Oh come on, we all know the routine. Try to check emails. Try to refresh. Refresh again. 3G doesn't work. Flight mode on. Flight mode off. No 3G. Refresh again. Some signal. Two emails arrive in your inbox. Open them. Nothing downloads. Try to read them. Can't. Get onto the tube. Sign into Wifi. Train arrives. Knocked off Wifi. Attempt to sign into Wifi again. Train moves away. Arrive at next station. Sign into Wifi. Train arrives. Knocked off Wifi. Attempt to sign into Wifi again. HEAD. WINDOW. ARGH. LIFE.

What to try instead:

To the incessant checker, the email worrier, the panicked social media addict this will seem like a crazy or even TERRIFYING suggestion. But let's all agree that it'd be far easier if we imposed some kind of constant-checking-while-commuting ban, right?

Instead of keeping an eye on things and playing a not even at all thrilling game of do-I-or-don't-I-have-wifi Russian Roulette with yourself every morning, try something else. Listen to music, download some podcasts (yes they still exist) or better yet you little zen urban commuters, try some meditation on-the-move. We love Buddhify, just download it and choose the travelling option for a range of mini meditations to calm you down and keep you on track for the rest of the day. Or at least to stop you going all angry, violent and Hunger Games on your fellow commuters.

4. Aimlessly pinning absolute nonsense

If you're not a Pinterest addict move on now, but if you are you'll know what I mean by aimless pinning. It's all very primal in the most absolutely useless way and follows a pattern a bit like this: "PRETTY THING, NICE. OHH SHINY. MUST PIN." Then repeat that about 986746 times over the next five hours and you've got aimless pinning. Pinning for the sake of it. Pinning for absolutely no reason other than your eyes have seen things they like.

What to try instead:

Of course there's nothing wrong with doing something because it feels good, but if more than two hours of your week are spent on Pinterest you may need to evaluate things a little - and by things I mean your relationship with other human beings as well as your social media habits.

Begin pinning with a goal in mind, maybe you want to get inspiration for a dress you need to buy soon or a room you plan on decorating (yes we're well aware these examples are achingly cliche). Once you're pinning a little more mindfully, follow the rules a bit more, label your boards with something that makes sense, not something that just makes you sound like a hipster, and tag each pin too. Sure it can look messy but it makes Pinterest more useful to you and everyone else who uses it.

5. The pursuit of the elusive (and soul destroying) "inbox zero"

Ahh inbox zero, a weird construct that manages to make someone bragging on Twitter feel great at the same time as it makes someone else feel completely and utterly worthless. Somehow getting rid of that little number and whittling all of your tasks and plans and commitments away makes you feel more accomplished, more human, more Spartan-like. But this Beyonce-style badassery lasts approximately ten minutes until you're inundated with more junk and again on the pursuit of inbox zero.

What to try instead:

Not giving a crap. Seriously. That little number next to your inbox does NOT correlate with how good a person you are. Not in the slightest. In fact clutter is OK and shows everyone you're normal. (Just take a look at Patrick Bateman's apartment in American Psycho if you don't believe us). The constant reaching to rid your life of distractions will end up driving you slowly insane or at the very least losing you a few Twitter friends who are sick and tired of your humble bragging.

6. Using Twitter to rant, debate and say anything meaningful

Yes, Twitter is great for some things (like shameless self promotion and selfies), but for others it's flawed because it's so restrictive. We'd like to argue (and we're sure many would disagree) that it doesn't really lend itself to a good debate. A debate with context. A debate with more than just acronyms and swears.

What to try instead:

Medium is fast-becoming a favourite among Twitter lovers for taking musings about life, work and the universe into a much more word-friendly environment. Sure you can stumble across the same problems you would elsewhere (like rambling and general nonsense), but Medium's super sparse and simple format means that, just like Twitter, it's all about the content, there's just more room to really make what you're saying shine. Sure it's not the best platform for debating, but you can certainly cram in a lot more and present your arguments in a better way when you're got something meaningful to say.

7. Your lame attitude towards your health and fitness

Yeah, that old chestnut. When you're busy and tired and stressed and drunk it can be hard to care about what you're putting into your body and how much you're moving it around. We all know that. But now there are so many apps, services and handy gadgets that'll do all (OK some) of the hard work for you. So instead of giving up something for Lent, just get rid of your lame and whiny "It's too hard" attitude.

What to try instead:

These days there are health and fitness gadgets to suit all budgets. If you're willing to part with more pennies you'll obviously get a better product and many on the market are so comprehensive they really will set you on the right track when it comes to improving your health and fitness (I'm still waiting on the one that'll knock the cookies out of my hand).

For basic step-tracking on a budget try Noom and Moves, for something a bit more substantial get a FitBit Zip, for the brand conscious a Nike+ FuelBand will sort you out and for those with cash we'd highly recommend a Jawbone UP24 - that's until a load more devices are launched later in the year.

Related: Will you ever get sick of Buzzfeed's quizzes? I got never, I need them to breathe!!

mwc-hola-big.jpgSo MWC is over for another year! And the world's mobile bigwigs have left the tapas bars and headed home. But what caught our eye at this year's exhibition? Here are ten things we learnt this week.

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1 By far the sexiest item at the show was the Samsung Gear Fit - With its curved AMOLED screen this is how I'd imagine that the iWatch will look. It also works with any Samsung Galaxy phone which potentially gives it a very wide reach. The jury is out though on how useful it will be. It is not as highly specified as the Galaxy Gear 2 or other fully specified smartwatches, so you can read messages but not respond to them. For fitness types the heart rate monitor and its accompanying software is handy, though annoyingly it doesn't measure your heart rate on a 24 hour basis. So Samsung have created a stunning design, but the rest of the Fit is a bit of a work in progress.

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2 The Sony Xperia Z2 has an amazing screen - Sony's next generation smartphone has a significant wow factor in the clarity and resolution of its screen. That camera looks very impressive too. More on it here.

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3 Nokia's X Series cheapo Android phones might do surprisingly well - Kudos to the company for doing that it perhaps should have done a year ago and launch Android phones. The new mobiles, the X, X+ (which both have a four inch screen) and XL (five inch screen) should appeal to the millions who still have a soft spot for the Nokia brand but can't afford larger and higher spec phones. The Windows style tile system makes it easy to use too, and that price, shame though about a relative iffy camera.

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4 Samsung's Galaxy Gear 2 watch has a great camera - The jury is also out on the new Samsung Galaxy Gear watch, but this time it works with any Galaxy phone - the original was Note 3 only - and the camera is actually rather good for a two mega pixel jobbie. I bet this fella fancies one.

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5 The cheesiest ad of the week winner is this... - Just what is he doing with his hand?

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6 Samsung are being a bit over protective of the S5 - Rather odd really as the phone didn't appear at the main show and was only available for viewing to the privileged few behind closed doors.

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7 Curved screens, you can keep them - LG seem to be fighting a losing battle in convincing punters and the industry of the merits of curved screens as featured on its G Flex six inch screen mobile. They might apparently be much better for viewing video with superb colour saturation, but no one seems too interested.

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8 Ford are doing some very clever things with the car dashboard - Its AppLinks platform is starting to roll out across Europe and there just huge potential to customise phone apps so that make getting information or entertainment easier for the driver. The voice controlled Spotify app works very well and Glympse could prove to be highly useful.

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9 The smartphone might just be about to hit an innovation buffer. We have now had innovative apps, bigger screens, ever higher quality cameras. However a lot of the secondary brands launches Huawei (whose seven inch phone/tablet hybrid the MediaPad X1 is pictured), Lenovo etc at MWC had a decidedly similar feel to them. And how much of leap is the Samsung Galaxy S5 on from the S4? Maybe smartphone tech is hitting an innovation wall.

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10 MWC is still The Olympics for petty criminals - All those phones and tablets, all those industry types on a bender down the Ramblas, and half of the best pickpockets from southern Europe. Barca's police must really hate MWC.

buzzfeed-quiz.jpgWe've got a theory here at Shiny Shiny that you can't scroll down through your Facebook News Feed over the past 24 hours and not see (at the very least) one quiz result from Buzzfeed, along the lines of "I got Harry Styles!! Which famous person should you get drunk with?".

GO ON, TEST OUT THE THEORY.

When you see these kinds of status updates out in the wild they're usually accompanied by a caption from one of your mates to convey [insert very melodramatic emotion here] about the result.

For example, a normal person can go from "OMG HARRY IS MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE. HAVE MY BABIES." to "I CAN'T BELIEVE I GOT JOFFREY?! WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY SOUL? :(:(:(" in just a matter of minutes.

On the surface many of the quizzes seem, well, pretty ridiculous, containing super scientific questions such as "Pick a talking food" and "Pick a cat in a hat". (FYI we chose the little frog dude.)

But, if you can see a link to a Buzzfeed quiz and NOT click it, then you're a stronger person than I'll ever be. Because whether it's Which Modern Family Character are you? (I'm totally Phil Dunphy) or What should you eat for lunch? (pasta) or Which classic author is your soulmate? (I got Anton Chekov <3), I just can't stop doing them and from what I can tell, neither can anyone else. In fact I'm pretty sure I lost sleep wondering which Joss Whedon heroine I'd be (I got up at 3am to find out to my surprise that I'm in fact Faith) when I didn't complete the quiz earlier that day.

pick a cat in a hat.jpgSo why is everyone from the whole team in my office to my aunt who didn't know what Buzzfeed was a mere two months ago now addicted to the stuff?

Well, Buzzfeed's unique brand of quiz crack ticks plenty of boxes.

Firstly, they're simple. The not-at-all-taxing multiple choice questions, big colourful boxes and LOL-worthy imagery lower the can-I-afford-to-do-this? time barrier down to: HELL YES.

Many of them also deal in little golden nuggets of pop culture that (although we'd never openly admit in front of other humans) we care a helluva lot about, like which Amy Poehler we're most like and which Empire Records character we'd be.

They also give us an identity. Yeah, pretty deep for a post containing a photo of cats dressed up like creatures, right? But many of these quizzes speak to our personality and give us something to show off and comment on. Ohhh, you got Daenerys on the Game of Thrones character quiz? Well that must mean you're a totally gorgeous powerful queen badass!!! Right? (I got Joffrey, I'll just leave that there).

So the answer to whether we'll ever get sick of them? Well we should really have tired of them already, because I've clocked up about 50. However, given their huge popularity throughout my work and networking circles, friend and family circles and people I-just-keep-on-Facebook-to-stalk-that-I-actually-hate circles, I don't see the Buzzfeed quiz demise happening anytime soon and wouldn't really know how to make any of my super important life decisions without them.

So far we've been focusing on the newest wearable devices and smartwatches from the big names at Mobile World Congress, but let's not forget about the stars of the show: the mobile phones.

Here's our rundown of the best smartphones and tablets that have been unveiled this week:

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Huawei wants you to be better at taking selfies
The Ascend G6 is a 4.5" phone with a 960X540 pixel resolution, a 1.2GHZ processor and, oh yeah, a front-facing 5 MP camera built to totally make your selfies look better.

The handset is due to launch here in the UK at some point during April and although there's no word on exact pricing details just yet, we expect it'd have to be a lower-end smartphone given it's geared up to a young, selfie-loving audience.

Sony launches the camera king of all Xperias
The Xperia Z2 is Sony's latest version of its flagship phone and packs a 20.7 MP camera complete with new image sensing technology and 4K video capturing capabilities, which basically means all of your photos and videos will look awesome.

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Samsung launches its latest flagship Galaxy handset
The Galaxy S5 has landed and although there's no big headline feature to shout about, it's packing all kinds of interesting bits and pieces, like a finger print scanner, heart rate monitor, advanced camera tools, a water and dust resistant exterior and the clever ability to make downloads faster by combining regular signal coverage with Wi-Fi power. Its release date is set for the 11th of April.

Nokia announces a wave of Android smartphones just called X
Shortly after being sold to Microsoft, Nokia has announced the launch of a range of Android smartphones, being referred to collectively as Nokia X. The devices may be running on Android but have some Microsoft services, like Skype and OneDrive.

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Sony unveils a flashy, show-off tablet
Sony has a lot to shout about when it comes to its latest tablet, the Z2. Not only is it the slimmest device on the market at 6.4mm, but it's also the only waterproof one. Not content with these impressive feats, Sony also claims its tablet is the world's most powerful as well, as its packing a Snapdragon 801 processor with 2.3GHZ quad-core Krait CPU and an Adreno 330GPU.

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Huawei shows off its tablet phone hybrid
Although the term 'phablet' is becoming overused and a little annoying, the Huawei MediaPad X1 is, undoubtedly, a phablet.

The Android device is being officially labelled a smartphone, but with a huge 7" screen and a SIM card slot we can't be so sure it knows what it wants to be. The X1 also boasts a full HD display, a beautiful edge-to-edge screen, a 1.6GHZ quadcore processor, a 13 MP camera and an interesting metal body. No details on cost or availability from Huawei just yet.

LG unveils the G Pro 2
MWC has been packed full of smartphone giants (or is that tablet dwarves?), but the LG G Pro 2 is a great-looking device that at 5.9" could just be on the right side of stupidly big. Many have already commented that the plastic exterior makes the device feel a little bit too, well, plastic, despite the fact the price is likely to be high when further details are revealed later in the year.

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Lenovo reveals another super bendy Yoga tablet
Lenovo unveiled the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ at MWC this year, the latest version of its flexible tablet laptop hybrid but this time with a full HD screen.

HTC launches a mid-range flagship device
The HTC Desire 816 comes equipped with some impressive specs for what has been officially called the company's mid-range flagship device, such as a 5.5" screen, a 1.6GHZ quad-core Snapdragon processor and 1.5GB of RAM.

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Mozilla will make smartphones cheaper than ever for the developing world
Mozilla's Firefox OS is planning on leaving the developed markets to Android and iOS after announcing a partnership with Chinese chip company Speadtrum Communications, which means smartphones as cheap as £15 could be available to those in the developing world. A number of phone manufacturers, like Indonesia-based Polytron, ZTE and Huawei, have already started developing products.

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This year, Mobile World Congress was always going to have a big focus on wearable gadgets that hook up to our phones, track our activity and vibrate every time anything remotely interesting happens.

Here's our rundown of the top wearable gadgets that we're most excited about getting our hands on:

Samsung unveils Galaxy Fit, 'world's first' curved wearable. The Samsung Galaxy Fit looks a lot like a Nike+ FuelBand, but as well as tracking steps with a built-in pedometer and monitoring heart rate and sleep it also notifies the wearer of notifications on their smartphone - presumably Samsung wanted to find that sweet spot between a fitness tracking wearable and a smartwatch. The device stands out because it also touts a mini curved display with a 1.84" 432X128 Super AMOLED display.

Samsung announces pair of Gear smartwatches, the Gear 2 and the lighter Gear Neo 2. Both devices come packed with a pedometer, heart rate sensor and more tools to measure stress levels, sleep and activity throughout the day. The watches are running on Tizen OS rather than Android, a move which many believe is to set Samsung apart from Google and make it less reliable on the online giant.

Creoir re-invents the smart watch with the Ibis, which has a custom user Android interface as well as a touch screen display. It's also compatible with iOS devices too. also on board is Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer, e-compass and an ambient light sensor and USB connectivity.

Sony SmartBand and Lifelog app will track all of your life. The SmartBand teams up with Sony's upcoming Lifelog app, as well as any phone via Bluetooth or NFC and just like the Nike+ FuelBand and the FitBit Force and Flex, the wearable is designed to live on your wrist 24/7. However, the SWR10 can notify you of incoming calls, tweets and messages, keep a track of places you've been, what you've been listening to and the games you've been addicted to, as well as all of the fitness and health stuff you'd expect too.

Huawei unveils its wearable Talk Band device, which looks like the 24/7 durable, comfortable and (kinda) waterproof bands from FitBit, Nike and more recently Sony rather than the more traditional watch-style that we've seen from Samsung. The Talk Band promises to connect your smartphone up to your wrist and handily works with both iOS and Android devices. Its stand-out features include a 1.4" bendable OLED display, fitness tracking functions and a pop-out earpiece for taking calls.

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It has been rumoured for quite a while and now it has been confirmed, Nokia doesn't just make Windows phones, it is also manufactures Android ones too. But in typical Nokia style there's a twist or two.

At MWC 2014 it unveiled the Nokia X, X+ and Xl smartphones, but as CEO Stephen Elop insisted these aren't just bog standard Android mobiles. He said that: "The Nokia X is built on Android open source software. We have differentiated and added our own experience." And that means keeping the company's Windows style tiles, inspite of the fact that the engine running the handsets is Android.

The phones aren't that high spec either, but are designed to fit somewhere in between the company's budget Asha mobiles and its Windows Lumia top-enders. The X sports a 4-inch IPS capacitive display, 1GHZ Qualcomm Snapdragon dual core processor, 512MB RAM & 4GB eMMC, a 1500mAh battery.3MP camera, dual SIM cards, expandable storage via a MicroSD card. Not surprisingly it still comes loaded with lots of Microsoft goodies including Maps, MixRadio, Skype and OneDrive.

The X+ also has a 4in screen and similar spec but with more RAM, while the XL boasts a 5inch screen. The handsets also come preloaded with Skype and other Microsoft friendly fair, including Maps and MixRadio, Skype and OneDrive.

The prices are as you'd expect very competitive with the Nokia X out now for 89 Euros, the Nokia X+ available in Q2 for 99 Euros and Nokia Xl coming soon at 109 Euros.
I guess these phones are aimed at emerging markets, but they could also build up a significant following among cash-strapped Britons too.

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