technology

Gear: The Mu folding plug USB charger by 3.1

Quite possibly the most useful bits of plastic I've ever owned!

Quite possibly the most useful bits of plastic I've ever owned!

My ex-boyfriend was really into gadgets. Not just any old tacky, gimmicky crap, but actual gadgets that had some sort of engineering and great design to them, with the overall result being something that was both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

It must be quite a few years ago now, but I remember him sending me a link to a concept video about a folding plug. The concept video itself was just something created as part of designer Min-Kyu Choi's studies at the time, but I thought (along with probably other people on the Internet) that it was the best thing since sliced bread at the time, probably because I had a MacBook Unibody at the time, with an awkward power brick and an equally awkward plug. Then there was my iPhone charger, and various other chargers for various other USB-chargeable devices. The video highlighted an inconvenient problem that I was quite keen to have remedied.

2009 has long faded away into the recesses of my mind, along with the Min-Kyu Choi's concept for something better. Until of course I happened to meet an acquaintance the other week who was showing me what he carried around in his bag in terms of gadgets. The folding plug he was carrying appeared to be quite familiar to me, and I was very excited to see it and had to buy one almost immediately.

Meet the Mu:

The Mu Tablet USB charger with an Eastern Collective braided USB cable

The Mu Tablet USB charger with an Eastern Collective braided USB cable

It seems we've coming a long, long way from that video from 2009. Developed by Matthew Judkins and Min-Kyu Choi (who founded Made in Mind), the duo have made the concept of a folding plug into a wonderful reality in the form of a USB charger. This is a great bit of design and engineering, and the product has already been developed to provide different options for different users. There are four different colours to choose from at the moment (black, white, pink and blue), and different power configurations in the form of the Mu Classic (1Amp single USB), the Mu Tablet (2.4Amp single USB), and the Mu Duo (2.4Amp dual USB).

The Mu Tablet and the Mu Duo with an iPhone 5S

The Mu Tablet and the Mu Duo with an iPhone 5S

I picked myself up the Mu Tablet and the Mu Duo. The Mu Tablet was purchased with the intention of using it for work or when I'm out and about and need a fast charge, whereas the Mu Duo was to save on having to use two plugs for USB-chargeable tech, like my pedometer and my phone when I'm in bed.

The build quality and finish of the Mu is pretty good. The plastic feels strong and doesn't have a cheap feel to it. It has a matt/silk finish on the front and back, and my only complaint with the finish is that it's not the same all over as the edges are glossy. The Mu is really small and light once folded – you can easily slip this into a pocket or a bag. The folding flat design not only serves to protect the pins, but it means the pins can't damage anything in your bag or poke holes anywhere.

Unlike an Apple iPhone USB charger, the Mu does not have an earthing pin, so your gadgets might feeling like they're buzzing a little. I don't personally like the buzz, but it's just a little thing and I'm not too bothered about it.

Packaging is pretty fuss free and widely recyclable. Instructions and technical specifications are printed both on the box and on a small Mu-sized leaflet included inside.

The fact that the Mu folds fully flat means that if you're planning on travelling with it, it's a great thing to have. Made in Mind will be releasing a travel system soon, which has currently reached its funding through crowdsourcing on Indiegogo.

Get your own Mu, and check out their great wesite, here: themu.co.uk

White iPhone by 3.1

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Eventually, the day came when I had to succumb to getting a new iPhone (or PAH-hone as we call it in our household for some bizarre reason). I've had an iPhone 4S for the last year and a bit. I think. I'm not sure. It needed replacing, having become all worn-out as 16GB devices do when you don't delete any pictures or messages off of it that seem to grow exponentially in mass, yet you still want the phone to function like it was new...

Anyway, here's a few pictures whilst I think of something to write in this insomnia-induced writer's block:

The LEGO Builder Case was an impulse buy whilst I sat in the O2 shop on Chiswick High Street freezing my tits off, but the more I thought about it after I brought it home, and having watched a few YouTube videos of people using the case, I thought I could always build something out of LEGO (like a nightstand or something) and then stick the phone to it like some sort of freak smartphone-meets-toy creation.

Anyway, onto the actual phone buying story; I'm sure there's a few of you out there (or perhaps one of you) somewhat disgusted and thinking, "Anne – why a white iPhone?" Well – stick a case on it and it doesn't really matter that much, son. I've had every single iPhone bar the iPhone 3 and 5, only to stick a case on the bastard things anyway, because driving trains and having such ill-fitting uniform trousers with ill-shaped pockets means that if the phone is in there without a case you can guarantee a disaster involving the phone and terra firma by the time you've done a Baker Street – Uxbridge and back.

Over the last however many months since the new iPhone 5S came out, I'd been popping in and out of O2 shops across the capital like a vagrant, wondering if they would have the new shiny phone in "Space Grey" (I cringe every time I have to say that) in its 32GB or 64GB form, but to no avail. The online shop wasn't that much more optimistic either, 3-4 weeks glaring at me in red for the 64GB, even as a loyal customer wanting to upgrade. In the end, I just couldn't be arsed to wait any longer, especially as my iPhone 4S was starting to play up. I'd sooner go to the shop, get the phone and know it was all working, activated to the network and ready to use from the get go (which it was, before I'd even paid for it and left the shop).

It was literally a case of me storming into the shop and going, "Look, I can't be arsed to take your card and call up every day for the next month."

I'd decided to stick with O2 on the principle that it was better the devil you know, and seeing as my contract had already run out in September 2012, if I was going to leave, I would've done so ages ago. They were doing some decent deals on the 4G tariffs, plus there was all this new O2 Refresh fuss (where the phone is no longer tied to the actual airtime). No doubt I'll probably attempt to smash the phone against my head in frustration during the next network outage.

The new phone weighs ever so slightly less than the old one. Apart from the colour, I can't really tell the difference, purely because I had iOS7 on the old phone, so it's not as if I had to learn anything new to be able to use the new phone. The camera is slightly better, the screen is bigger and seems brighter.

(If you wanted a review, this isn't the place to be. Just in case you hadn't worked that out already.)

I've just turned on Siri to avoid having an argument at 3AM when I'm either drunk or severely beyond being overtired. Whilst that hasn't happened yet, there's always room for potential bedlam and I'm too scared to turn on the fingerprint thingy in case the phone (or the government) starts going all weird on me, you know?