However, there’s a glimmer of hope for us all as wholesale gas prices in the UK hit a record low today, which means that there’s increased pressure on our beloved energy firms to cut our household bills.
So what’s the latest drop in price all about? Well, Ukraine and Russia have signed a deal which will see Moscow resuming gas supplies over the winter, guaranteeing delivery to the EU. Seeing as Russia provides around a third of Europe’s gas, this is good news.
Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we’re having this time of year, British households are avoiding putting the heating on, which is also having an impact on bills.
Ofgem have said that they are chasing up Britain’s energy suppliers on why they had not passed the significant falls in wholesale costs on to customers this year.
With all these factors, we might just see some price drops in our bills, but don’t hold your breath.
In the latest in this season’s Battle of the Wrists, Microsoft Band, along with a related online service, Microsoft Health, will analyse the data from the band and other devices to help people with their fitness goals.
It’s fairly straightforward design is no great shakes, and it does all the basic things like Facebook and paying for coffee and that, but it also has sensors in the device will continuously track heart rate, sleep quality and calories burned.
Also, as a bonus, it will cost $199 (£125), which is a great deal cheaper than the Apple Watch due in the new year, which starts at $349 (£220).
Obviously the good will out as users will start to figure out which is the best and most reliable phones, especially if they take their exercise seriously.
However, according to a recent survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers found that about a third of respondents who purchased a wearable device more than a year ago now say they no longer use it or do so infrequently.
So a case of the Emperor’s new wristwatch all round, if the wearable market becomes a flash gadget arena for people with too much money.
They claim this G is better than all the other Gs, as it offers download speeds of up to 150MBps and averages of 90Mbps – five times faster than the average UK broadband connection.
However – as is always the way with EE – there’s a caveat: availability is quite limited in the UK, so it’s literally running before it can walk.
First up you will need a 4G+ compatible smartphone (EE only offers two: Samsung’s Galaxy Alpha and Galaxy Note 4). Whereas non-EE smartphones that are 4G+ compatible include Motorola’s Nexus 6, Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 and LG’s G3.
And when they say London, they don’t mean Lambeth or Crouch End or White City, they mean Shoreditch, Old Street, Westminster and Kensington.
They hope this will be expanded to the whole of Greater London by June 2015 and then on to Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham.
The new 4G+ connection brings the UK up to speed with the world’s most connected countries – including South Korea, Japan and the US – and places it ahead of most other European countries.
So, swings and roundabouts.
Ordering a takeaway is hard. You have to first navigate all the menus on JustEat or rifle through all those awful flyers and menus you got stuffed unceremoniously in your letter box and then actually speak to someone on the phone or hit buttons with your fingers.
It is too much like hard work.
Well, here’s good news for you slovens – you’ll be able to simply shout at your Xbox One and get pizza delivered to your door. Sadly, no-one has worked out a way of getting it in your mouth without you walking to the front door and paying someone, but its a start.
Inspired by the Xbox 360′s Pizza Hut app, which raked it in thanks to gaming stoners, the new Domino’s app allows you to utilise the voice-function on your console and simply bark orders at it until someone makes and delivers you a pizza.
The app is optimised for Kinect and as soon as you say “Domino’s, feed me!”, you’re on the way to being fed. You may or may not be aware that Domino’s recently updated their iOS and Android app to allow voice-controlled ordering.
How wonderfully lazy this is.
An advert for that Toyota Yaris Hybrid has been banned.
A whopping 74 viewers were so enraged by the advert, seemingly encouraging dangerous driving, that they felt moved to register a moan about it.
Created by Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad featured various drivers and passengers enjoying various tunes that were transmitted to their GPS, the edited version of the UK advert focussed on Bruno Mars’ song ‘Locked Out of Heaven’. If the were really driving dangerously, they’d surely be thrown into heaven?
Perhaps we could address some priorities here and suggest the complainants are whinging about the wrong element of the ad, and should focus their ire on Mr Mars.
Toyota defended the ad and told the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the car adhered to the speed limit and there were no shots of it travelling fast, competitively or in a daring manner.
They said they tried to portray that both the driver and passengers in the car were having a good time whilst driving, as it wanted to “dispel the myth that drivers cannot have fun whilst driving safely”.
They also denied that the female driver had her eyes closed at any point, which was another point singled out as a complaint. Again, priorities people.
ITV, which broadcast the TV version of the advert, said no viewers had complained to its Viewer Services, and YouTube, which ran the ad online, agreed.
The ASA said that singing along with Bruno Mars is fine (sheesh) but it was concerned that viewers would believe that the closed eyed lady wasn’t paying attention to the onslaught of the road.
The ads must not appear again in their current form and Toyota was told to ensure its ads do not depict dangerous driving in future.
That’s them told.
Over the next few months, places such as libraries, museums, civic centres, transport hubs, sporting complexes and other buildings around the UK will begin to offer free Wi-Fi.
Now you literally have no escape from the bad rays of modernity. Some have already started doing it, and the plan is to get all of them up and running by March 2015.
According to the official Government website: “Millions of citizens, business men and women and visitors will be able to take advantage of free connectivity across the UK, which in turn will support our cities in becoming even more attractive places to live, do business, visit and invest in”.
Which sounds like the sort of speech you hear just before the population’s brains are harvested by killer robot overlords. Sadly the government nonsense bingo card fails to find ‘hard working’ in that statement. Perhaps it was the first draft.
It’s all part of the Government’s £150m SuperConnected Cities programme aimed at transforming the digital capability of UK cities, ensuring our cities boast world-class connectivity and are equipped to deal with the increasing demands of the digital age.
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey chipped in with: “The digital landscape of the UK is undergoing a period of tremendous improvement and is all part of the Government’s long term economic plan. For business, visitors and the UK public, accessing wifi in our cities is absolutely vital. These free hotspots will be instrumental in making UK cities even more appealing as places to not only do business, but to visit as well.”
You can get one of these smartwatches for £199.99 and there’s a whole bunch of designs available for those of you with vain wrists. As a sweetener, Motorola will also be offering up the Moto X smartphone with £60 off.
However, Motorola have said that purchases are limited to two watches per person while stocks last. Sadly for Motorola, the smartwatch went on sale and, while the grey design sold out, the black version was still available to buy like no-one is particularly arsed about them.
The 360 runs on Google’s Android Wear OS and features a round face that makes it appear similar to a regular wristwatch and on the face is a 1.5in circular display complete with a 320 x 290 pixel resolution that delivers 205ppi.
It can also contain 4GB of onboard storage, and 512MB of RAM with a wireless charging dock included to plug in the Moto 360. It is also water resistant, has Bluetooth connectivity, and will eventually have a choice of a metal or leather strap while supporting voice recognition, and contains a heart rate monitor and pedometer.
Your phone will need to run Google Android 4.3 or higher to work with your Moto 360, but if you take the company up on their Moto X offer, you’ll be in like Flynn.
They said that they’ve looked into the whole practice and researched it all, and their findings show that petrol and diesel costs are sometimes over 15p-per-litre more expensive than normal stations, which is unacceptable for drivers who are being had over a barrel (of oil).
RAC’s survey showed that motorist felt they were being “held to ransom” and one-in-four said that they refused to buy fuel at services. Two-thirds who took part in the survey said that they wanted a price cap and that the industry or Government needed to take action. Holding your breath is not advisable if you are waiting for the industry or parliament to sort this out.
The results of the investigation show that there’s “real concern” about drivers risking running on empty fuel tanks rather than filling up at motorway services.
The RAC’s fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s no wonder that motorists feel held to ransom with prices on the motorways inflated to such an extent. In some cases motorway petrol and diesel might even be 15p dearer than the cheapest forecourts, which would add as much as £8 to the price of a tank of an average family-sized vehicle.”
“We can see no reason why motorway fuel should be so much more expensive. In fact, arguably it is much easier from a delivery point of view than it is getting fuel to urban filling stations. We’re calling for motorway fuel retailers to be more reasonable with their pricing.”
We all want cheaper flights, and there’s nothing more annoying than booking a flight only to find it would have been significantly cheaper if we had only done something slightly differently, or booked slightly earlier/later. Now, new analysis of billions of flights has come up with a magic formula for getting the cheapest airfares- by telling you when to book and when to travel.
According to new global travel statistics from momondo, the most money can be saved by booking flights at least 53 days in advance of departure, when you can save 29% on flight costs on average. And if you leave it late, the most expensive tickets are sold three days before departure.
But while early booking as a cost-saving tool is not necessarily news, nor unexpected, momondo have also calculated the cheapest day and time to fly by analysing 7.5 billion airfares worldwide.
Apparently, the cheapest departure fares are typically found on a Tuesday and the most expensive on a Friday or Saturday. After all, who wants to fly anywhere on a Tuesday? The time of the day is also important, as the figures showed it is normally cheaper to fly in the evening, between the hours of 6pm and midnight.
Lasse Skole Hansen, momondo’s spokesperson states: “We would always advise travellers to remember these golden rules, to bag the cheapest ticket. In general, it pays to book flights two months in advance. We found these trends consistent across the board, so bargain hunters should consider flying at night and on a Tuesday, if they want to save money on their travels.”
However, we would always recommend using a flight comparison tool to make sure you get the best deal. Sites like skyscanner have been around for ages and allow you to compare flexible dates and similar airports to find the cheapest deals. Kayak is another similar site that allows you to find cheap flights, but then predicts whether it might be better to wait a few days before booking, as the price may fall, or whether you should buy now before the price goes up.
Loom bands, as we know, are trouble. Some of them are toxic. Some of them lumber dads with stupidly high phone bills. However, the main problem is that, once you’ve made a lovely thing with some loom bands, nobody wants them.
And so, to a little girl who has an original approach to the art of commerce while trying to sell her loom band creations.
Not only does she scream the street down in a bid to flog some, she also reveals a hilariously potty mouth when talking about them. Save this video – she might end up on The Apprentice or Dragon’s Den in a few years time.
It’s the second year running that the supermarket has topped this Global Brand Simplicity Index by Siegel+Gale, beating Google and fellow discount retailer Lidl for the spot.
Using feedback from over 12,000 consumers spread across eight countries, the index works out the perceived simplicity or complexity of brands’ products, services, interactions and communications in relation to their industry peers.
That’s globally, but who won the UK list? Lidl. Yep, the plucky budget supermarket that everyone likes to shade, knocked Amazon off the perch.
The report also revealed that the general decline in traditional supermarket brands’ simplicity scores was largely down to: complicated approaches to online shopping, overpriced premium ranges and decline in own brand quality.
So while all the big boy supermarkets – Sainsbury’s was the upmarket top ranking, coming in seventh, while Asda ranked ninth. Waitrose came in at 14, while Tesco ranked in at 24 – have been having well-documented palavers, Aldi and Lidl have been quietly doing their thing, and getting bigger as a result.
Aldi and Lidl, keeping things simple eh? Who would’ve ever guessed that such a thing would be attractive to a customer who wants cheap items rather than needlessly complicated reward systems?
For example, if you buy a Galaxy 4, you’ll find that you’re obliged to have ‘S Health’, ‘Story Album’, ‘Samsung Wallet’, ‘Samsung Link’, ‘Samsung Hub’, ‘WatchON’, ‘ChatON’, ‘Group Play’, ‘Galaxy Apps’, ‘Knox’, ‘My Galaxy’ and more.
That’s a lot of apps that you might not want, taking up space on your phone. Unless you’re the kind of person who can get under the hood of a phone, chances are, you’ll just put up with them.
However, that might be changing as Android Lollipop, Google’s latest mobile operating system, might be helping you lose the bloat.
If the apps are installed through Google Play (even if they’re done automatically when you first boot your phone or tablet up when you buy it), they’ll be on the data partition and you’ll be able to remove them. And this is according to Google Vice President of Engineering for Android and Nexus Dave Burke and Android team Group Product Manager Gabe Cohen.
That all said, there’s going to be a catch – you can just sense it. There’s no way phone manufacturers and the like are going to design all these crapps and let them wither on the vine.
We’ll find out when the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 come out, which will launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop soon. Hopefully, this will be the start of something genuinely useful for Android phone-havers.
We wouldn’t be doing our civic duty if we didn’t inform you of it, but if you’re one of those lazy people who can’t be bothered reading an article, then the solution we offer is to never, ever answer a phone call, just to be on the safe side.
For those who insist on answering phonecalls or, indeed, want to learn about doing some fraud for some extra beer money, here’s the low down.
This scam has been dubbed ‘number spoofing’, where ne’er-do-wells clone a telephone number of an organisation and basically impersonate them so that, on your caller ID, you’ll think it is all legit and above board. The people at Financial Fraud Action UK reckon that this has become a bit of a problem in recent weeks.
Of course, this type of scam has been knocking around for years, but it is on the increase and criminals are using it to steal your money. At the moment, according to FFA UK, the main targets are businesses, but personal banking customers are also finding themselves being contacted by these snide gits.
Basically, fraudsters are posing as bank staff or police officers and ask you for your personal and financial details. They usually tell you that fraudulent activity has been detected on your account, which is a bit rich seeing as the scam ends up with fraudulent activity all up in your business.
If the scam artists don’t get your details, they’ll try and get you to send money to another account for ’safe-keeping’. Frankly, if you’re going to fall for that, then you need to start worrying. Remember though – no organisation, including your bank, will ever, ever ask for your password and PIN number in whole. Anyone doing so is absolutely trying it on with you.
Craig Jones, spokesperson for FFA UK, said: “Number spoofing is becoming increasingly common and it’s not difficult for the criminals to fake a caller ID. So if a number appears on your phone’s caller ID display, you shouldn’t assume you know where the call is being made from.”
“Remember that if a caller is trying to draw your attention to the number on your phone display, it’s very unlikely the call is genuine as there is no legitimate reason to point it out.”
Things have moved on a bit since the days of snake oil. After all, we now have the ASA to look after us. And that is what the ASA have done today, stepping in to stop ‘weight loss’ clothes from being marketed as such without sufficient evidence to support their claims.
Clothing manufacturer Zaggora, whose clothes promise to help you “slim in style”, have been rapped by the regulator as they have no actual proof that the exercise get up they are flogging burns any more calories than someone wearing any other type of clothing.
Alongside claiming discounts of up to 70% which could not be substantiated (as the items in question have apparently been on sale permanently since 2013), the ASA took issue with the claims made in a number of Zaggora adverts that their clothing could burn more calories, thereby helping with weight loss. When pressed, Zaggora presented findings of a study comparing the calories burned both wearing Zaggora clothing and not wearing it.
However, the ASA were not so easily fobbed off, and felt that Zaggora’s study of nine, slim and fit young women was not statistically significant, nor representative, nor appropriate for the intended target market. The ASA stopped short of suggesting Zaggora had simply made up the results, but did point out that the study had not been ‘peer-reviewed’ and questioned the methodology and research controls used.
Overall the ASA “considered that the claims in the ads such as, “burn more”, “Weight Loss Hotpants”, “Slim in style”, “hotpants that burn calories for you”, “burn more fat”, and “burn more calories”, were likely to be interpreted by consumers as sustained weight loss claims, and would therefore need to be substantiated by evidence showing an effect over time,” before finding that the adverts were therefore misleading owing to the “issues” with the evidence.
However, the ASA ruling may yet prove to be snake oil itself. Despite the ruling published today, and an edict that Zaggora must not make similarly unsubstantiated claims in future, Zaggora’s email marketing sent out this very afternoon includes the words “trim your waist” and how their ‘technology’ “helps you burn more calories”. It could be that, since the ruling, Zaggora has, in fact, got robust, defensible evidence of their weight loss claims, or it could be that Zaggora are blatantly flaunting the ASA’s direct order.
Unfortunately, if this is the case, it seems all the ASA can do is publish Zaggora’s name on a list of persistent offenders, leaving them free to claim all sorts to unsuspecting podgy folks who don’t necessarily read the ASA website as a matter of course. Unless they read marvellous sites like Bitterwallet instead…
Halal Test, which launched in France this week by French start-up Capital Biotech, uses immunochromatography, which is the same technology used for pregnancy tests, to detect traces of pork in food, cosmetics and medicines.
The portable test, which costs €6.90 each or €125 for a pack of 25, had already attracted considerable interest from several companies in the UK and further afield.
Halal Test is currently available only in France through traditional retail channels or online, but the makers of the kits reckon the UK is a very interesting market to develop further.
The test is packaged with a small tube into which a food sample is mixed with warm water. A test strip is then inserted into the tube, and after a few minutes reveals whether any pork traces are present by displaying two lines for a positive result and one for a negative result.
It can also sniff out alcohol in food products too, like a proper party pooper. The company is also developing a test that can detect how an animal was killed too. It’s all glamour, basically.
Capital Biotech said: “There are similar tests which use similar technology, but they are much more complicated to use, and require a special liquid extraction buffer usually containing ethanol. We concentrated our research efforts to simplify the use of these tests and get rid of the liquid extraction buffer, which makes them easy to use by anyone and anywhere.”
Imagine that – going to a restaurant and pulling out a mini laboratory and making the rest of your family wait for your findings while their food goes cold.