Life & Technology - 2GB 23rd November, 2014

The mobile payment space is already a crowded arena, and Optus is the latest contestant to thrown down the gauntlet. Optus has introduced a new service called Cash by Optus that allows post-paid subscribers to use their phones as digital wallets. 

 

Rather than just making use of a phone’s inbuilt NFC, Optus is using an innovation known as an NFC SIM, a new kind of SIM that supports contactless payments. Because of this, its possible to make payments even when your phone is off, or even flat! Cash by Optus uses payWave technology, so you can only make purchases up to $100 at once, and can only store $500 in your Cash by Optus account. Cash By Optus only works with Android phones.

 

Skully is an innovative new start up making a product that could make riding a motorbike both smarter and safer – the AR1 – an "altered reality” helmet with built-in GPS, a wide-angle camera and headset. Dr. Marcus Weller, Skully's CEO and founder told me that the helmet's camera is  its most talked about feature, and essentially eliminates blind spots. The increase in safety the AR1 provides could even be enough to boost cycling's popularity! Read more about the Skully AR1 here

 

We saw Telstra announce 4GX, its new next-generation 4G network a couple of weeks ago, and now Vodafone and Optus have follow suit with some announcements of their own.

 

Optus has turned on 700Mhz test sites in ten new locations, including Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Nowra, Toowomba, Bendigo, Ballarat and Port Macquarie. It’s also been expanding in regional 4G coverage on the 2600Mhz spectrum, bringing Optus 4G to regional centres such as Orange, Cairns and Port Augusta for the first time.

 

Vodafone also had an announcement, its new network, 4G+, is now live in Melbourne. 4G+ is a different kind of next-gen network that has been designed for distance rather than speed – for example, 4G+ means you should get much better Vodafone 4G when you’re inside a building, elevator or carpark. 4G+ has been built using the 850Mhz spectrum, a frequency the vast majority of 4G smartphones already support, so Vodafone customers in Melbourne should notice the difference already.

 

I had a chat to Mike Lilly, Samsung Australia's Head of Home Appliances to learn a bit more about their plans for the connected home. Samsung has already got a few connected appliances out there, such as WiFi-enabled clothes dryers, but Mike said you'll be able to get smartphone-controlled versions of almost any Samsung appliance by the end of 2015. Exciting time!

 

iiNet has been offering mobile services to their own broadband customers for a while now, but they’re about to become a stand-alone provider. They’ll use the Optus network, but unlike some competitors, will offer both 3G and 4G services. iiNet’s chief executive, David Buckingham, said that the standalone service will launch on December 2.

 

It’s been a couple of months in the making, but Telstra has now switched on its first payphone WiFi hot spots. The telco is planning to launch 1000 hotspots before Christmas. During the trial period, these will provide free WiFi in popular locations such as Hyde Park, The Rocks and Bondi Beach.

 

I also sat down with Adrian Wood, a self-proclaimed white-hat hacker to talk about security, especially when it comes to the cloud. Adrian recommended that users use long, unique passwords for each website they use, and also advised the use of a password manager to help remember them all. Here's a link to our password manager roundup.

 

Wearables are one of the fastest growing segments in tech, and while the first few smartwatches looked pretty geeky they’re starting to get pretty fashionable too now.

 

We’ve seen the first two round smartwatches made, the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R released in Australia over the last couple of weeks, and we’ve now had a chance to go hands on with both of them. Firstly, I’ve got to say this, they both actually look like watches, which is a huge bonus. The G Watch R is a little more masculine and bulky, but has a perfectly circular face. The Moto 360 is a bit sleeker and slimmer, but as a compromise, its display has been called a flat tire.

 

Both run Android Wear, so they offer very similar functionality. We’ve got reviews of both on CyberShack.com.au (LG G Watch R here, Motorola Moto 360 here) but I think it's fair to say smartwatches are definitely starting to become more about form than function.