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VDH’s iPad Alternatives

If tablets are not already all the rage, it’s certainly looking like they will be very soon. The iPad is currently on its third iteration, and leads the field admirably, with a razor sharp screen, instinctive functionality and a comprehensive app store, iPad sales outstrip competitors by some distance. 

However all of this comes at a price. The latest iPad ranges from £399 (16GB, wifi only) to £659 (64GB, wifi+4G), which pushes it out of the price range of the tablet curious and into the realm of the tech lover. 

So what alternatives are there? We’ve put together a list of our three favourite tablets that cost less than the iPad but still pack a punch. Let us know if you think we’ve missed any. 

Motorola Xoom 2 (10.1 inch screen, 16GB memory, wifi only, £359)

Running on the Android Honeycomb 3.2 operating system, the Motorola Xoom 2 is a marked improvement on its predecessor. Boasting stylish, tapered edges and a rubberized band around the back to help with grip, the Xoom 2 is a pleasure to use. 

The screen is protected by Gorilla glass, and the design means that the device is splash proof, meaning it can deal with spills and tumbles with ease. Clever little additions (a screen that recognizes the difference between a grip and a touch, meaning you can hold the tablet with your thumb on the screen and it will be ignored, for example) make the Xoom 2 fun to use. The screen is bright and responsive, and the HDMI port means you can play things on your HD TV. 

Let down slightly by the camera, and perhaps too close to iPad pricing to be a serious contender, the Xoom 2 is, nonetheless, a fine tablet.  

Kindle Fire (on sale soon from around £150 for 8GB, wifi only, 7 inch screen)

<Image courtesy of Engadget>

The Kindle Fire is taking America by storm. The reasonably priced 7 inch tablet runs on Android, but not as we know it. Amazon, the makers of the Kindle, have tailored the entire user experience to be geared towards the viewing of books, movies, games and other media – it’s not for work, it’s for fun. 

This is reinforced by the fact that the Fire has no cameras, microphone or geolocation facilities – Amazon say it’s not a device built for communication, it’s built purely for the consumption of media. 

The internal memory is perhaps too low, and Fire users are bound to Amazon for their apps, music and books, however for this price, you really can’t go wrong. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab (10.1 inch screen, wifi only, 16GB from around £270)

When the Samsung Galaxy Tab was released, it was roughly price matched with the iPad – and for a good reason, the Galaxy is a fantastic device that runs the iPad close in every department. 

A year or so on, the Galaxy Tab can be picked up from around £270. For that money, you get a lot of tablet. Lighter and thinner than the iPad 2, the Galaxy is a pleasure to use. Well built, great to look at, responsive screen and a browser that supports Flash means the Galaxy is the ideal alternative to the iPad, and the perfect tablet for those who’d prefer not to be tied into the Apple ecosystem. 

Top of the Apps 2

There are always new apps coming out but which ones are actually worth downloading?

Cut the Rope

IGN is a casual/news website which is a mecca for all games, and they have recently announced that Cut the Rope is the best game on iPhone, and this game deserves a mention. 

Cut the rope is a great puzzle game, easy to understand yet very difficult to master. With more than 55 million people who have played this game, and an average rating of 4.81 (out of 5!) this app is available for iPhone and Android. 

The object of every level is to manoeuvre a piece of candy into the mouth of a cartoon monster called ‘Om Nom.’ The candy hangs by one or two ropes which can be cut by the swipe of your finger. Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a game just for children but is challenging for adults too. Costing just £0.69p, this game will definitely keep you entertained for hours.


Our next app is the 4th most downloaded app of all time, and  a fantastic app for music lovers out there. 

Do you ever listen to music in the car and wonder who the singer is? This handy app identifies what song is playing, and you can also have a choice to buy the track. Once the song has been identified, its tagged, which means you can share these tags by text, email, Twitter or Facebook. Read track and album reviews, and lyrics. Available for iphone, Android and Blackberry with no limits, you can Shazaam as often as you like all for free.


If you and your friends want to have free real time messaging but are on different networks and have different phones, this could be the app for you.

WhatsApp is a cross-platform that replaces SMS allowing you to send free messages to your friends whenever you like.  All you need to use WhatsApp is a data or wifi connection - if this is covered in your monthly bill, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your friends. 

Using WhatsApp, you can use group chat to talk to more than one person at once, send images, video and audio messages. It’s available for Blackberry, Nokia, iPhone and as for the Android, it’s free for a year and after that it costs £0.69 a year. 

Our guide to uploading photos from your phone to computer

Many people now use their mobile phone as their camera too. If you have pictures on your phone, but aren’t sure how to upload them to your computer, look no further. Here is our easy step-by-step guide to uploading pictures from your mobile phone to a computer.

You may think “why would I need to upload photos to my computer when I have them all on my mobile?”  It is useful to transfer your pictures to your computer at regular intervals, otherwise your phone memory may become full. When the time comes for you to take a picture, you might not be able to do so, and nobody wants that to happen! Having too many photographs on your mobile may also unnecessarily slow it down. So when you upload pictures to your PC or Mac, you can clear your memory card on your mobile and have plenty of room to take many more pictures. This also gives you peace of mind, knowing that all of your pictures are saved in your computer, creating a backup if you ever lose or damage your phone. 

For iPhone users using a Mac 

Transferring photos from your iPhone to your computer is very much the same process to whether you have a PC or Mac.

To get started, you will need your iPhone, a USB cable (one should come with your phone) and a computer to plug it into. To transfer your images to Mac, plug your iPhone into your Mac, launch Preview, and from the file menu navigate down and select ‘import from iPhone.’ Select all,  or individually select the photos you want to transfer and click ‘import.’ Once these have been imported you can look at your photos by going to /Pictures/folder, and the pictures copied from Iphone should be there. You can then arrange into albums as you see fit!

For iPhone users using a PC

One of the first things to do after purchasing your iPhone is to register using iTunes. Once you have done that, your iphone will automatically be ‘synced’ with your PC. This means every time you sync, content is mirrored between your iPhone and computer to reflect new, updated or deleted content and in this case, photos. Make sure you have installed the latest version of iTunes so that everything is up to date. Open iTunes and connect your iPhone to a computer using the USB that came with your mobile when you bought it. Navigate to ‘apply’, in the lower right hand corner of the iTunes window to sync.  Once this is done, your photos should be saved, and you can browse them in your iTunes photo library.

For Android users

You need is a USB cable, computer and of course your mobile. Connect your mobile to your PC or Mac with the USB cable. You need to use the one that came with your mobile. You will see the ‘USB connected’ notification at top of computer screen. Click on this, then click on Mount. You can then transfer photos by just copying and pasting, and make your own folder and paste the photos into there. 

You can even download an app called Photo Transfer App which easily allows you to transfer photos to computer. 

For Blackberry users

Start by making sure BlackBerry Desktop Manager is installed on your PC. If it isn’t, you can download it from BlackBerry’s website. Next, connect your BlackBerry to your PC using the USB cable that came with your phone. BlackBerry Desktop Manager should launch automatically, but if not, click Start and select program from the list. Once software has launched, select Media Manager from the list of options. From the My Devices selection, click the Picture folder and then select the images you want to transfer to your PC. Now, either select My Media or the tab with a folder icon on it, and then drag these images into the window opposite. They will be now transferred to your PC.

Autumn apps to keep you occupied

Although we hate to admit it, the nights are slowly drawing in. There are some benefits though - cold, dark and miserable evenings offer the perfect excuse to spend plenty of time guiltlessly snuggled up on the sofa, phone in hand, keeping yourself entertained with the latest in mobile fun! But what to choose? Fear not, as it’s time to count down our favourite apps of the month. This month our choices are certain to keep your spirits up and ensure the Autumn transition is as painless as possible. 

 BBC News Android

Take a look at the BBC News app, now available for the Android market as well. This smart app will keep you up to date with all the latest world news -  and its simple design means that using it is a dream.  This app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android. 

Calling movie buffs - this next app will have you searching for that obscure 80s B-list film late into the night. If you’ve used IMDB (Internet Movie Database) online, then this app puts its functionality into the palm of your hand. You can also search for film showing times on the move, perfect for those last minute decisions. IMDB is available for the iPad/iPhone, Android and Windows phone

Travel to work? Regular commuters will be all too aware of how boring these daily trips can be. Step forward Bubble Blast. In this puzzle game you have to pop multicoloured bubbles in order to set off a chain reaction. It’s not quite rocket science, but it’s suitably perplexing to make long journeys fun! Bubble Blast 2 is available for the Android only. 

Our top 5 apps to make your life easier

It’s hard to remember a time before the existence of mobile phones, before we couldn’t go a day without checking our email or the train times on our mobiles. Now with the ever-growing presence of smartphones tailored to peoples every need and price plan, we really have no reason to consider a pre-smartphone era.

Here at Virgin Digital Help we have been busy researching, downloading, sampling, discussing and bickering about some of our favourite free utility apps available on the app market right now, ones that we now consider to be a daily necessity.

So without further ado please find as follows a list of our favourite apps to make your life easier. Better yet they’re free so there really is no excuse not to download them now.

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Android tips and tricks

It can be a little bit baffling when you first buy a fancy new smartphone. We want to be on hand to help with any questions you may have and offer some insider knowledge too.

This week, our focus is Android - find some of our top tips for getting the most out of your handset below!

Knowing a few simple tricks from the outset can help you use your handset more efficiently - it’s easy when you know how! The following tips focus on the homescreen, (the central menu you see when you first unlock your phone).  

When you long press the homescreen, there are a wealth of options that will help make your Android experience more enjoyable. Here are some we use:

  • Display your favourite things on the homescreen by tapping “widget”, and choosing from popular options such as the calculator. You can change anything:  the calendar, the clock and the weather - meaning you won’t get caught in the rain again*.
  •  Add your most used apps to the homescreen using the ‘App’ button, and then ‘Add app shortcut’. This will make your favourite apps easy to access - be that Twitter or Angry Birds!
  • Keep things organised. Tap folder>new folder and you can create folders for different projects that you’re working on. When your new folder is created, long press on the Folder bar and it gives you the option to rename.
  • Sometimes Android will automatically sync data, which isn’t very useful if you have a limited data allowance. To solve this, go to Menu>Settings>Accounts & Sync and then deselect the ‘background data’ and ‘auto-sync’ data until you require them.

Finally, a tip for pros: when you tap on the ‘All Apps’ bar from the homescreen, Android
have helpfully separated those you use most frequently with the Star icon, and those you have downloaded with the Arrow icon, meaning you can get to your apps a lot more quickly.

We hope you’ve found these tips useful, and we’ll be keeping you updated with other great things to make your Android life that little bit easier.

*Sadly we can’t guarantee this part, but we really hope you don’t!