Apple and Android Are Finally Shouldering Their Way Into Cars

AppleApple and Android together sell 95 percent of the smartphones in the U.S., but for years they’d been largely locked out of the automobile. Now suddenly nearly every major automaker is preparing to share a ride with Apple Car Play, Android Auto or both.

These systems link your smartphone and car to manage calls, navigation, music and apps, using familiar Siri or Google voice commands and the cars’ touchscreen or physical controls.

It’s a revolution not only for drivers but for automakers, which are threatened with the loss of their traditional stranglehold on pricey, often optional navigation and infotainment systems. The market has spoken: Consumers expect their favorite smartphone environment and connected lives—contacts, music, social media, apps—to follow them wherever they go.

“With Apple and Android being the dominant, intuitive platforms people use every day, they’re not going to want to be closed off from those in the car,” said Steve Cannon, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz USA.

He says that’s especially true for Millennials, the age 18-to-34 demographic that will soon surpass the Baby Boomers as America’s largest living generation, according to Pew Research. “If you’re not keeping pace with connected cars and autonomous functions, you’re not going to connect with these younger buyers,” says Cannon. Mercedes’ fast-expanding lineup will begin rolling out Apple Car Play on select 2016 models.

The global rollout of Apple and Android has been slower than expected, with delays on early-adopter rides, including the Hyundai Sonata sedan and tech-laden Volvo XC90 SUV. But by year’s end about 1.5 million 2016 models from Hyundai, General Motors, Ford, Audi and others will ship with one or the other system, according to IHS Automotive. By 2020, up to 40 million cars will hit the road with Apple or Android.

Before long, automakers will be forced to support both systems. This fall General Motors will offer 28 different 2016 models from Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GM that are compatible with either system. Ford’s latest Sync 3 system also plays both sides of the connected street.

“You don’t want to go to market with just one, because you’ll alienate a good portion of consumers,” said Mark Boyadjis, senior analyst for infotainment and human-machine interface at IHS.

It isn’t as easy as it may seem. Automakers must smoothly integrate Apple and Android with existing hardware and largely Blackberry QNX operating systems, even as they roll out evolving generations of myriad car and truck models. It took Hyundai 18 months to engineer Apple Car Play into its latest Sonata, working to ensure that bugs were stamped out before cars went to customers. Audi’s smartly designed MMI infotainment unit doesn’t use the touchscreen for which Apple and Android are designed, so the company had to rework its rotary-and-touchpad console controls to work properly.

And it all has to work every time if you don’t want to face the wrath of Consumer Reports or J.D. Power and Associates. In high-profile consumer surveys in recent years, owner complaints over cumbersome or glitchy infotainment systems—such as Ford’s vexing Microsoft-based Sync and MyFord Touch units—have dinged the ratings of otherwise-acclaimed cars.

There’s been another reason for automaker caution, as first reported by Automotive News: Potential product liability. Automakers are accustomed to sharing consumer and regulatory liability with major suppliers; think airbags, tires and the like. But Apple and Android, in classic Silicon Valley style, would prefer to drop full liability in automakers’ laps, allowing them to blame carmakers for glitches and skate away with reputations and wallets intact.
Potential driver distraction is another major issue. To help keep drivers focused, the phone’s screen goes dark to keep drivers from sneaking a peek. Between simulations at its lab and actual driving on its devilish Milford Road Course in suburban Detroit, GM is evaluating the workloads and distractions of Apple and Android apps.

“We’re holding new apps to the same standards for distraction as our embedded systems,” says Dan Kinney, user experience director for GM’s global connected systems.

Yet if automakers are reluctant to let Apple and Android onboard, they’re no longer showing it, even if they end up sharing dashboard space; giving Google and Apple valuable access to drivers and data; or selling fewer of their own gizmos and gadgets.

“Some of our navigation or COMAND systems may come under pressure, but we don’t feel threatened,” Mercedes’ Cannon says. Our systems just won’t be entirely homegrown anymore. The other strategy would be to ignore it, but that would miss the mark with buyers.”

Even so, automakers haven’t given up on the battle. Those homegrown audiovisual systems environments have not only brought profits, they’ve also been a signature of the car, the brand and the design style. Think the sleek integration and eye-popping graphics of Audi’s MMI system, which just seem so, well, Audi.

Some automaking giants will continue to develop systems and flex market muscle to promote their own technology, Boyadjis says. Toyota is considering adopting Ford’s SmartDeviceLink, an open-source version of Ford’s AppLink system. Though every 2016 Ford car and truck will be compatible with Apple and Android, it continues to develop its own similar AppLink.

Certainly, phone-based systems offer huge advantages: One driver, one phone that you already own anyway. One WiFi connection or cellular plan, rather than a second system in the car. Don’t forget instant upgrades: It’s far easier to beam the latest update of Google Maps into your car than to upgrade an embedded navigation system over the air. Processors and WiFi networks advance at silicon-chip speed compared to the roughly five-to-seven-year product cycles of new car designs, cars that the average owner now hangs onto a new car for more than 10 years. Although upgrades of in-car software are becoming commonplace, including via WiFi connections, carmakers are experimenting with switchable plug-and-play hardware as well.

Yet the template is for cars to continue to offer both “built in” and “brought in” functions.

“There’s still room for both,” Kinney said, citing situations in which a driver’s phone dies, is lost, or where phone connectivity is poor or nonexistent. “If you have a restaurant date in your calendar, or a message to meet you at a bar, Google has a good idea you’re going there, and could just tee up the navigation system for a one-tap set up.”

All the built-in infotainment systems on offer, together with those that hitch a ride into the car on your smartphone, can be a bit distracting. So as drivers flirt with Siri, listen to texts and make restaurant reservations, it’s no surprise that other parts of the system are mitigating the problem by acting electronic safety watchdogs–collision mitigation, pedestrian-and-animal detection, adaptive steering systems and all the other robocar magic.

The Whistle Dog Monitor

dogIn June, I wrote about Sproutling, a smart anklet designed for infants, in the first part of a series looking at how wearable technology is making more and more inroads into daily life. In this article, we explore Whistle, the “Fitbit for dogs.”

In the United States alone, people will spend more than US $60 billion dollars on pets in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association. Given that pet owners spend so much money, a dog wearable should come as no surprise. Skeptics may be quick to dismiss spending nearly $100 on such a wearable, but up until now, unless you’re a dog whisperer, much of pet care has been guesswork, with issues mostly identified in hindsight.

For example, if Atlanta dog owner Diana Abrego had acted immediately on what Whistle was telling her, it might have saved her from a messy cleanup. Abrego was running errands one weekend last spring when an alert popped up on her smartphone: Her 3-month-old puppy, Sara, which she and her husband had adopted a month before from a shelter, had reached her “daily activity goal.”

Sara, a hound-and-retriever mix, was wearing Whistle, a round, metallic waterproof tag about the circumference of a silver dollar, on her collar. The Whistle tracks how much a dog plays, runs, and rests each day using a 3-axis accelerometer. Whistle’s algorithms have been designed to detect the difference between running, active playing, and resting. (The battery needs recharging about once a week.)
photo of collarscreen shot of smartphone app Photos: Whistle Labs (2) Internet of Dogs: Fitted to a collar [top], the Whistle tracks your pet’s activity and reports via a smartphone app.

That activity data is sent to a smartphone app via either a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. The app calculates how much exercise a dog should get each day, based on its breed, age, and size, and it also allows owners to track medication and log meals. In Abrego’s case, the alert indicated that Sara had reached her target of 60 minutes of activity for the day. In fact, the app showed that she had exceeded it by 30 minutes.

Sure enough, when Abrego returned home, it was clear how her puppy had gotten her exercise. “From the moment we left her until 5 minutes before we returned home, she had been running around nonstop,” Abrego recalls. The puppy had torn apart her pee pad and then urinated on top of the shredded bits. She had also ripped apart her bed. “It was a mess.”

Abrego laughs about the incident now, but it shows how a wearable device can remotely monitor the well-being of a dog and alert owners to problems. In another instance, an owner was able to intervene and take her dog to the veterinarian after the Whistle showed that her dog was unusually sluggish. It turned out the dog had been bitten by a snake. Whistle’s uses have also been extended to veterinary schools and pharmaceutical companies. In a partnership with North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the Whistle is helping researchers track canine epilepsy, monitoring dogs before, during, and after a seizure.

The accumulation of data on the dog’s daily routine offers better clues for understanding it, says Whistle Labs’ CEO, Ben Jacobs: “We’re using technology to provide a voice for these animals,” he says.

In January, the San Francisco startup also acquired Tagg, a wearable that uses cellular and GPS technology to track a dog’s whereabouts. Dog owners establish a “home base” for the dog, and if the dog wanders away, they’re alerted via a text message or e-mail and can use a map to pinpoint their dog’s location.

As for cats, Whistle Labs has contemplated developing a similar tracker—company cofounder Kevin Lloyd is actually a cat person—but it has not yet come up with a suitable design. Somehow it seems appropriate that felines may be the last resistors in our march toward an always connected, wearable world.

Why Every IT Professional Requires Wireless Network Hacking Instruction

Hackers appear to be getting more clever. It doesn’t matter how fast improvements happen to be made in existing technology, they appear to keep up. Most people cannot stay ahead of the game, and that’s why wireless hacking and also safety and security certifications are actually increasing in popularity. Each IT professional ought to get this valuable qualification to help consumers protect their gadgets. Quite a few businesses neglect to have precautionary features set up, while others already have put the procedures into place, however do not have an all around policy on security. Many companies do not encrypt vital details on their personal network system, plus some allow easy admission to documents on their gadgets. These are only some of the many problems one might confront whenever helping a client shield a network system from hackers. The course was designed to provide a person an extensive awareness of wireless security to help clients secure their own networks from just about any type of strike. It goes over the basic fundamentals and protocols regarding wi-fi security and safety, the best way to secure a variety of units like desktops and also bluetooth and covers mobile wireless network as well as wi-fi accessibility places. The pupil learns about hacking and also undertakes tests to guarantee these concepts are truly mastered. What quite a few don’t realize is there are best measures with regards to wireless network security and safety and the training course provides information about these kinds of procedures. What’s more, it discusses legal issues associated with this field, thus an individual is aware of precisely where they stand all the time. Numerous believe they understand just how to protect against hacking assaults, however to do this one should comprehend the basic principles of this type of intrusion. The program takes this significantly more in depth, however, and explains the targets to be able to hinder a hacking attack of this type and how to arrange and conduct an evaluation to ensure a network system has become secured. It is a extremely comprehensive study course and also one that each person may benefit from. To Discover more, simply click this amazing Website Link. Doing this enables someone to obtain Additional Info and discover the many IT certifications presented through this organization. Wireless Hacking and Security Online Training is just one which might be of great benefit. There are numerous other courses to select from, and virtually all IT professionals ought to see this website. It’s really a fantastic learning resource intended for any person working in the sector.

Enhance Your Options By Learning Completely New Skills

Organizations these days are always on the lookout for qualified systems experts. Like you are aware, the skill sets you get in this sector aren’t going to necessarily end up being distinctive to a certain company. Even though earlier generations stayed with the exact same firm for his or her complete working life, that is not really the way it is today. In reality, the majority of people do business with a number of companies over the course of their working life. Leaving one particular employer for the next not any longer is an issue because it is predicted for experts to change employment when there is a much better prospect around. In order to position yourself for the brand new work, you need to make certain you possess the more up-to-date abilities. Even though you may well not utilize the newest websites with your current job, learning them all is essential if you’d like to get presented brand new options. In this post, you will find further information about precisely why upgrading your abilities is really crucial. You will uncover there are a few quite easy methods for upgrading your talent and earning probably the most popular business qualifications. Oftentimes, it is possible to learn the knowledge you need to know if you take an fun study course over the internet. These types of classes are really cost effective and therefore are superb in getting ready industry experts just like you for the next element of their profession. You can find more information concerning these kind of education courses right here. Following using the program online and completing the certification test, you are going to own yet another credential to help you sell your services in such a aggressive job environment. Businesses are usually searching for folks who are committed to their own personal development due to the fact that means they’re going to be a priceless resource for the corporation wherever they do the job. When your cv is online, make sure you enhance it frequently to add your additional skills and qualifications so employers that are seeking somebody such as you will be able to speak to you for you to set up a job interview.This specific article source will explain more details on exactly how looking for instruction options can move forward your career and make certain you are delighted in any employment you decide to accept. With the capabilities almost all employers are seeking, you’ll have the capacity to choose your workplace as opposed to simply being saddled with the one which picked your skills.

Precisely How Professional Programs Are Transforming The Business World

If perhaps you’re an employer or a worker, you’ve probably seen a heightened curiosity about the development and usage of technology startups devoted to education. The good thing is that most of these organizations are actually here to help laborers and business employers enhance themselves and the exact techniques of which they’re in the position to provide consumers. You could click for more info so as to discover the main reasons why these particular companies are generally thriving and therefore are here to stay.

To begin with, these days, most people comprehend that they’re coping with an time of technological innovation. It appears just as if every person either incorporates a personal computer or touch screen phone in their possession. Aside from having the capacity to utilize such units, presently there has to be folks that have the ability to develop them and also develop for all of them, and that is certainly where a lot of technology staff members come in. Get More Information regarding the types of scientific advancements which are transpiring at the moment.

Corporations tend to be in dreadful demand for expert working people whom understand exactly what they’re carrying out and who may have the ability to keep up to date. Regrettably, as a consequence of exactly how quickly modern technology is actually developing, there’s often a absence of skilled people whom have got all of the expertise that’s wanted. Laborers are not simply required to have the exact capabilities meant for a situation, but they’re likewise expected to go on to fine-tune their particular skill sets in the future. A person may view publisher site here in an effort to find out about the many requirements organizations have as of late.

However, staff don’t need to panic about spending extended stays looking at textbooks and studying for examinations. These days, educational technology startups are gearing closer to making mastering pleasurable as well as practical. Rather than studying publications, staff members can play video games and take various small quizzes. Instead of investing hours sitting down facing a coach, college students will definitely have the ability to take classes at home or even at the office for the duration of their very own leisure time. You could check these guys out in order to determine more about the actual unique courses being made available.

These are only a number of the main reasons why several newer providers are actually centering on a distinctive kind of schooling. Again, the world of technology is growing quickly and it’s vital that people and companies are able to keep up to date. Certification firms are generally trying to create online courses which are convenient and compelling for all users.

Tunable Liquid Metal Antennas for Tuning in to Anything

tunableaTuning in is getting to be a complicated thing. The Internet of Things will need more microwave bands with shorter wavelengths. Cell phones are already need to link to GPS and Wi-Fi services on top of 4G and other cellular networks. And in the future they’ll likely also have to contend millimeter-wave bands for 5G services. All those need antennas of different lengths and shapes to accommodate the sometimes widely spread wavelength bands.

Monopole antennas, consisting of a single conducting rod, transmit maximum power when their length corresponds to half the wavelength of the RF signal, but for devices operating at different wavelengths this becomes a problem. “The present solution is to have a switchable filter bank along with switchable and/or multi-band antenna,” says Jacob Adams, an engineer at North Carolina State University. “These solutions take up a lot of space and a single widely tunable element has the potential to replace several of these fixed components.” He and colleagues describe in today’s issue of the Journal of Applied Physics just such an element: a liquid metal antenna that can continuously adapt to different wavelengths by changing its length inside a capillary.

Such antennas have been developed in the past but with little success because they rely on pneumatic pumps for controlling the length in the capillary, making integration into electronics difficult.

Instead of external pumps, the NC State researchers used a voltage to control the amount of liquid metal allowed to flow into a capillary. Michael Dickey, a chemical engineer at NC State, discovered that a voltage across the interface of a liquid metal, such as an alloy of gallium and indium, combined with an electrolyte could cause the liquid metal to spread or to contract, depending on whether the voltage is positive or negative. A positive voltage causes the formation of an oxide layer on the metal, lowering the surface tension and allowing it to flow easily, while a negative voltage removes this oxide layer, causing the metal to contract, resisting flow.
img Photo: Roy McBride Liquid antennas could cut down on the “antenna farms” found on naval ships and planes

The researchers used the electrochemical control of the fluidity of the liquid metal to coax it into and out of a capillary. Their setup resembled a fever thermometer, where the length of the mercury column in a capillary is controlled by the thermal expansion of the mercury in a reservoir connected to the capillary. But instead of temperature, the engineers used voltage. Tuning the voltage allowed them to control the length of the metal column in the capillary.

For centimeter-wavelengths, liquid metal antennas would remain separate elements in the circuitry, but for millimeter waves they could be integrated on microfluidic chips, says Adams. However even larger liquid metal antennas could be useful in defense communications and radar systems that use bands ranging from a few megahertz to tens of gigahertz, says Adams.

“While a single tunable element will probably never be able to cover this entire range, they could potentially cut down on the ‘antenna farms’ found on large defense platforms, such as on ships and planes,” says Adams.

Build an Early-Warning System for Your Bike

sepedaIn the summer months, I really enjoy riding a bike along some of the flatter roads and trails around my small Vermont town. But sharing some of those roads with cars can be a dicey proposition. There’s one dirt road in particular, where no matter how often I scan my mirror or sneak a look over my shoulder, it seems that sooner or later I get surprised by a car zipping by.

I’ve often imagined fitting an ultrasonic sensor to the bike to warn me of incoming traffic, but most of those have a range of less than 10 meters, which is worse than even my mediocre human senses. A lidar—similar to a radar system, but with laser pulses instead of radio waves—would have the longer range I need, but lidars have traditionally been too expensive for my biking needs.

This changed last year when startup PulsedLight, of Bend, Ore., announced Lidar-lite, a crowdfunded lidar detector less than half the size of a deck of cards, with a range of up to 40 meters and an accuracy of plus or minus 2.5 centimeters, all for US $89.
Frickin’ Lasers!
close up of lidarPaul Wallich board closeupPaul Wallich partsPaul Wallich indicator Photos: Paul Wallich (4) PulsedLight’s lidar [top] easily interfaces with an Arduino-compatible controller [second from top]. The controller is powered from a battery pack and wired to a row of LEDs [second from bottom]. The LEDs are attached to the bike’s handlebars [bottom] and display how close cars are to its rear.

When the package arrived, my first step was to make a set of labels for the lidar’s four signal wires, as for some reason PulsedLight ended up with a color-coding scheme consisting of black, black, black, and black. I plugged the little thing into an Arduino microcontroller, ran the example software provided online, and darned if I didn’t see a stream of distance measurements running back to my PC over the Arduino USB connection. Pretty quickly I moved on to attaching a board with four alphanumeric LED displays to the Arduino. Once I’d done the programming, I had myself a handy little pocket range finder. (FYI, the cavernous basement of the nearest maker space to me is about 45 meters long.)

The next step was to build something that could fit on the back of a bicycle and wouldn’t be shaken apart. That was a little more difficult, but luckily, in addition to putting manuals, data sheets, and sample Arduino code on the Web, the folks at PulsedLight also make available a 3-D model of the Lidar-lite’s case. An hour or so with Openscad, my 3-D design tool of choice, plus a few hours at the 3-D printer, yielded an outer shell. Into the shell I was able to fit the Lidar-lite, the microcontroller, and a little strip of Neopixel RGB LEDs that act as a warning display, with room for a uniform 6-millimeter layer of padding. (Of course, my first shell design didn’t fit on the back of the bike, but a few more iterations fixed that.) The bike mount built into the shell is tilted to point a few degrees upward and to the left, so that as the lidar beam diverges with distance it will be more likely to impinge upon approaching cars rather than just road surface and shrubbery.

One thing I hadn’t really considered when I first started designing the shell was power consumption issues. A USB port was fine for powering the breadboard system, but of course the real version needed to run off a battery. I have a bunch of nifty DC-DC converters that will make 5 volts from any power source that can provide 1 to 4 V. I also found a really nice Openscad library that let me incorporate a holder for two AA batteries into my shell design. But, in addition to the 27 milliamperes my microcontroller draws while running, the Lidar-lite module draws an average of 100 mA while in use (and this can spike to 200 mA). Plus, the warning LEDs can draw up to 500 mA. Unfortunately my DC-DC converters have a hard current limit of 200 mA.

So, after sketching out a few designs with two or three DC converters in parallel, I ditched the elegant, power-efficient AA battery approach for one using a two-cell rechargeable lithium battery that provides 7.4 V. A 7805-style linear voltage regulator gets the voltage down to 5 V, by throwing away roughly a third of the energy that goes through it. Conveniently enough though, the new lithium battery is almost exactly the same volume as a couple of AAs.

Does it work? I haven‘t been run over yet. But time will tell. The first time I saw the LED blips that indicated a sedan approaching from 35 meters behind me, I was very nearly too fascinated by the display to remember to get out of the way. I also need to fabricate a new case so that I can adjust the lidar angle (the current aim point misses cars that pull slightly to the left to pass me, which is probably not a safety problem but still unnerving). And while I’m at it, something that I don’t have to disassemble completely when I want to recharge the battery would be nice.

The range is a little shorter than I would like, especially around blind curves, and my code has a tendency toward false alarms that I could reduce at the cost of slightly slower response. But those shortcomings are probably a good thing, since I should be looking behind me on a regular basis anyway, rather than relying on a hacked-together gadget as a first line of safety.

Tool-Using Crows Overcome Their Lack of Pockets

Let’s say you’re clever enough to build and use tools, but your species hasn’t learned how to manufacture pants. So you can’t store your hard-won tools in your pocket, or in a belt or box. What to do? One species of crow is showing scientists how it answers that question—and how it changes its strategy based on how likely its tools are to go missing.

New Caledonian crows, native to islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean, are renowned tool makers and users. They prey on bugs that live inside branches and plants. To fish out their prey, the birds use sticks or leaves, which they may trim and tweak to fashion into hooks.

Humans have sometimes noticed these birds trapping their tools under one foot while they munch on a bug, or stashing tools in convenient holes. It makes sense—after going to the trouble to MacGyver a fishing hook out of a plant, you wouldn’t want to lose it either. And when the birds do lose their tools, they can look distinctly peeved. Watch the bird at the beginning of this video drop its stick and fly off in a huff:

Biologists at the University of St. Andrews set out to see whether crows have a system for storing their tools. Graduate student Barbara Klump and her colleagues observed wild New Caledonian crows, capturing video of five birds using tools. They also tested nine other crows in the lab after trapping them outdoors.

Since New Caledonian crows hunt for food under a wide range of conditions, the scientists thought the birds might have a range of strategies for keeping their tools safe. When birds were higher up, would they be more careful not to drop a stick? What if their prey were especially difficult to grapple with?

In the lab, the researchers gave birds a branch lined with baited holes. A plant stem, which the birds could use as a tool, was conspicuously wedged into a nearby log. The researchers tested each bird with both a branch on the ground and one propped 1.3 meters high. They also gave birds both easy and difficult-to-handle prey (a plain cube of juicy meat versus one with a feather stuck through it).

The birds videotaped foraging in the wild always kept their tools safe. Their preferred method was to trap a stick under one foot, but occasionally they put a stick into the hole they’d just pulled a bug from.

In the lab, birds were also careful with their tools. And their stick-stashing methods depended on the circumstances. Birds were more likely to store their tools when they were on an elevated branch. On the ground, where dropping a tool wouldn’t be a big deal, they were less cautious. On a high branch, they were more likely to stow tools in a hole, rather than underfoot. They also used holes more often when they were handling difficult prey, setting their tools aside to focus on getting the feather out of the meat.

“I was surprised by the fact that the crows are in general so good at looking after their tools,” Klump says. She was also impressed by the strength of the effect she found. Even though the “high” branch in the lab was less than a meter and a half off the ground, the birds on this branch were significantly more careful not to lose their sticks.

Klump says a crow may spend several minutes manufacturing one tool. “Given that they could get a rough tool in a few seconds, they do spend quite some time to modify it,” she says. Once the animals have perfected their tools, it seems they really don’t want to lose them.

Crows in the wild can lose their sticks not only to gravity, but to thieves as well, Klump notes. While putting a stick into a hole seems like the better method for preventing drops, storing it underfoot may keep it safer from other birds.

“There is still a lot to explore about crow tool use,” Klump says. For example, she’s curious whether crows are more careful with tools that they’ve made themselves, compared to tools that are provided for them. Researchers also don’t know much about how crows manage their tools in the long term, over hours or even days.

We pants-wearing animals “are just beginning to understand things a bit better,” Klump says, while the crows seem to know just what they’re doing.

Choetech Dual-USB Car Charger C0046 review: The fastest car phone charger you’ll find

Not all car phone chargers are created equal, and Choetech’s Dual USB Car Charger is one of the better examples of its breed. Find out more in our Choetech C0046 review. Also see: Best power banks 2015.

Choetech’s Dual USB Car Charger is a similar deal to the Tronsmart USB Rapid Car Charger we reviewed last month, a pound more expensive at £12.99 from Amazon, but with the same Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 and auto-detect dual-USB setup and 30W max output. Oh, but that one was black and round; this one is white and square.

The Choetech slots neatly into your car’s cigarette lighter slot, and is no larger than it needs to be. It has two USB outputs: the first has a blue line around it and glows green in use, and is a Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0-certified output; the second is a standard fast-charging USB output with auto-detect techology, allowing it to recognise your device and provide the optimum amount of power. Also see: How to improve smartphone battery life.

If you have a Qualcomm Quick Charge-compatible device – for example, the LG G4 and G Flex 2, HTC One M8, One M9 and Desire Eye, Nexus 6, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge, Sony Xperia Z3- and Z4-series phones and tablets, Asus Zenfone 2 and the new Motorola Moto X – the Choetech can reduce charging time by up to 75 percent. We plugged in our Samsung Galaxy S6 and found that in just over 20 minutes the battery went from 56 percent to 82 percent. Not bad going.

The Choetech remained cool during use, and the supplied 1.2m USB cable meant we were able to charge our phone while it was mounted on the dashboard.

Such chargers are essential if you are planning to use your smartphone as a satnav during a long journey, not only preventing its battery from draining before you reach your destination but topping it up in the process.