Big Smog Blog

Vote: The MTR's new West Island Line


Are you pleased about the opening of the West Island MTR Line at Kennedy Town, Sai Ying Pun and HKU?

See also

Photo essay: The MTR's new West Island line
An insight into the marvel of engineering going on beneath our city. Read more


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Apple launches iPhone 6 and Apple Watch


Apple iPhone 6 / 6 Plus

With an even greater amount of hype, this morning, Apple put pay to rumours and announced its latest version of the iPhone. Unlike last year’s 5S launch, this is a complete redesign and for the first time sees the phone coming in two sizes.

The iPhone 6 features a 4.7in screen – a big jump from the 4in screen of the 5S – with a 1334x750 pixel resolution, while a second model, to be known as the iPhone 6 Plus, features a 5.5in 1920x1080 pixel screen. Perhaps Apple’s biggest competition in Asia, Samsung’s Galaxy S5, offers a 5.1in 1920x1080 pixel screen, while Samsung’s new Note 4 phablet will offer a 5.7in display. The curved aluminium bodies of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are also thinner at just 6.9mm and 7.1mm respectively.

Inside, both new iPhones are almost identical and as you would expect of a new model, they do things faster and better. The iPhone 6 uses a new A8 processor chip with second-generation 64-bit architecture, and an M8 co-processor that takes care of motion. Among the many existing sensors there is now a barometer, allowing the phone to use changes in pressure to better track your altitude.

The camera has had a fairly serious overhaul despite the megapixel count remaining the same. The rear iSight camera has improved focusing thanks to the use of dedicated pixels on the sensor to focus, a technique recently employed in many high-end still and video cameras. Video users can now record at 60 frames per second in full 1080 HD, while slow motion of 240fps can be achieved at 720p. The iPhone 6 Plus also adds optical image stabilisation, while the 6 uses a digital version. For selfie fans the front ‘FaceTime’ camera also now features a wider f/2.2 aperture – for more light – and improved face detection.

For data both models features a faster 4G connection, with 20 LTE bands to cover most networks at up to 150Mbps, while wifi also sees an improvement in speed and coverage thanks to the use of 802.11ac (over the previous 802.11n).

The phone’s touch ID fingerprint recognition can now be used to approve purchases on iTunes and a range of physical payments made with the Near Field Communications (NFC) chip using the new Apple Pay system.

The contentious issue of battery life has also been addressed on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, with up to 14 hours talk and 10 days standby on the 6, and a huge 24 hours talk and 16 days standby from the iPhone 6 Plus.

Both models will come in a choice of silver, gold and space grey colours, and 16GB, 64GB and a larger 128GB capacity.

Preorders in Hong Kong start on Sep 12, with prices from $5,588 for the iPhone 6 and $6,388 for the iPhone 6 Plus;

Apple Watch

The time has finally come. Almost eclipsing the iPhone announcement made this morning is Apple’s first venture into wearable technology. This is not, as was expected, to be called the iWatch but rather it uses the Apple symbol in its name, giving technology journalists an eternal headache for future write ups.

Though not to be launched until early 2015, with an exact date still to be announced, Apple has filled in the details of one of its most prophesied products to date. 

The Apple Watch is not a single product, but rather a series of watches, in three collections, with a choice of two sizes, six finishes and six wristbands. The Apple Watch Sport range features strengthened Ion-X glass and colourful bands, while the Apple Watch Edition has 18-karat gold cases and more classic bands. The third range, simply known as Apple Watch, features stainless steel designs with a range of metal, leather and an advanced rubber sport band.   

The Apple Watch is designed to work closely with the iPhone but is far more than just a Bluetooth screen. The device has its own apps including Calendar, Maps, Music, Weather and the Activity and Workout apps. The watch contains sensors to detect your heart rate and an accelerometer to detect movement that can be linked to the GPS in your iPhone, for detailed reports on your fitness. When paired with your phone the watch can deliver messages, reminders, control iTunes and even give a live preview of your phones camera – ideal for group shots.

Near Field Communication features, too, allowing the device to be used for payments via Apple Pay. Operation has been optimised for the smaller screen size and in Apple style the traditional watch crown dial has been reworked as a clever digital control. By rotating the dial you can zoom and scroll, while a press returns you to the home screen. The Watch also responds to presses and taps, with various shortcuts, while it can make you respond with what it calls the Tapic Engine – essentially tapping you on the wrist to alert you.

At this time detail of the battery life – an issue that has sunk many smart watches – has yet to be confirmed. However, the charging uses a simple magnetic attachment to the underside.

The Apple Watch is expected to retail from around US$349 (around $2,700) in the US but local prices have not been confirmed.

For more on the iPhone and Apple Watch visit

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Vote for your favourite tree!


Image: LCSD

Trees are awesome. You could be forgiven for sometimes thinking there is a dearth of green in our highly urbanised city (minibuses don’t count). But, actually Hong Kong has hundreds of trees which are not only green, but also incredibly cool. Over 500 of them can be found on the government ‘Register of Old & Valuable Trees (OVT)’, which puts protection on trees that are especially large, historical or rare.

Pick your favourite OVT as part of The Development Bureau’s ‘Our Favourite Old and Valuable Trees (OVTs)’ contest. All you have to do is visit, and cast a vote for your favourite Hong Kong tree, before September 12. Twenty lucky voters will win a $1,000 gift coupon and certificate.

If you need any inspiration, check out our list of top ten coolest HK trees hereGabriele Bettinazz 

Old and Valuable Trees Contest, until Fri Sep

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Park to the future – a glimpse of West Kowloon's new park


The West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) has unveiled a concept design for the future park at West Kowloon, which would function as a green open space to promote cultural activities in the city.

Highlights of the rather swish looking designs include the Arts Pavilion, which will be located in the north-east area of the park, close to M+ and Artist Square, with views out to the Victoria Harbour. Freespace, a black box and outdoor stage, will be located in the centre of the park and be able to hold up to 900 people. For outdoor festivals, The Lawn will provide a flexible space in the western area of the park, capable of accommodating over 10,000 standing visitors. Designers plan to build another event space in the southern segments of the park near the waterfront that will hold up to 5,000 standing visitors.

Click for a larger image

“Working alongside WKCDA we hope to create a new kind of public space for Hong Kong – one devoted to the promotion and enjoyment of arts and culture, where daily life seamlessly integrates with cultural activity,” said a spokesman for the design team, led by Dennis Lau and Ng Chun Man Architects & Engineers.

In the past two years, the site has welcomed over 660,000 visitors to events such as Clockenflap, West Kowloon Bamboo Theatre, Mobile M+: Inflation!, Blohk Party and Fresspace Fest. The completion date of the park is still yet to be confirmed. For more see Jeannie Nam

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Run For Your Lives


For all those The Walking Dead fans or for anybody who fancies being chased down by bloodthirsty zombies – you’re in luck. First launched in the US back in 2011, the race Run For Your Lives, has since spread to European and Asian cities and is finally arriving in Hong Kong on Thursday October 2. Groups in this race are separated by survivors and zombies.

Participants who choose to be survivors are given three flags, representing “lives” and they must make their way through a zombie-infested obstacle course. Those who choose to be zombies are transformed by professional makeup artists, and scattered throughout the course with the aim of taking as many lives as they can. During and after the race is the Apocalypse Party, offering live music, games, food, and a dance party to finish off the adrenaline-packed event. Tickets range from $369-$659 depending on the zone (Outbreak, Advanced, Terminal, or Deluxe), you choose. Jessie Yeung

Run For Your Lives, Thu Oct 2, 9am-9pm, West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, West Kowloon Cultural District;

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Ryze Trampoline Park


Ryze Trampoline Park opened on the 18th of July, and features 8,000 sq. feet of trampolines, which can accommodate up to 100 people at one time. “It’s this generation’s physical recreation choice. It plays well with social media, where you can come and take pictures of yourself, post them and you can come with friends and do it. But it’s also a good workout. This generation, you have to offer them an extreme physical experience, because otherwise you’re competing with video games and media. Things like arcades, miniature golf, rollerskating—those were last generation,” Case Lawrence, owner of Ryze as well as fourteen other trampoline parks says. There will be a multitude of activities for you to engage in, including parkour classes and dodgeball tournaments.The park will be open 9am to 9pm on weekdays, and 9am to midnight on weekends. Prices are $150 a person, but there will be a $10 reduction if you check-in on Facebook, so be sure to do that. Jayson Albano

Ryze Trampoline Park, 321 Java Road, 3/F, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong, 2337 8191,

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Ride-sharing app Uber officially launches in Hong Kong


Hailing itself as everyone’s private driver, Uber helps connect users to private chauffeurs within minutes of pressing a button on their free smartphone app. Whether it be a luxurious Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan or an SUV for a family outing, CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick promises on delivering high quality experiences with the fastest response time from local chauffeur companies. Nick Chan speaks to Sam Gellman, General Manager for Hong Kong, on Uber’s success story and expansion plans in Asia.

For those uninitiated, what is Uber and who are your target customers?
Uber is everyone’s private driver. Before we came to Hong Kong, chauffeurs only dealt with high profile clients, celebrities and hotel guests. With Uber, we make use of unutilised gaps in their bookings and make the service available to a much wider audience. All you have to do is download our app, tap the button to indicate your location and, within minutes you’ll have a luxury car driven to your doorstep. Upon arrival, you simply walk out the door, with your credit card billed through our app. It’s a straightforward experience – the beauty is in the simplicity.

Where did the idea behind Uber originate?
The story goes with our two co-founders, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, on their way out of a technology conference in Paris. There were no cars available and they desperately wanted a service where, at the push of a button, a car would instantly arrive – which is the basic premise for Uber. This idea stuck with them and they decided to buy 10 Mercedes Benz sedans and a garage for their friends and family in San Francisco. Word of mouth spread and people began asking what this amazing service was. Four years later, Uber is now on a global platform with over 140 cities represented around the world.

When did Uber launch its operation in Asia?
We officially began in January 2013 and we’re currently in 25 cities around Asia.

Did you encounter anything surprising while expanding in Hong Kong?
What’s amazed me about launching in Hong Kong is how quick the growth has been. In all our time internationally, we’ve never had a city that has embraced Uber as quickly as Hong Kong. I think there are several reasons behind this phenomenon. It’s a fashionable city that wants a lot of choices – whether it be restaurants, clothes or hotels. For me, transportation is no different. If transportation were a restaurant, you could either go to Café de Coral or you could have your own private chef. Essentially, Uber is filling this niche for those willing to spend a little more on luxury and convenience.

Do you feel there is any competition with local taxi drivers?
I certainly don’t feel that way given our service is around 70% higher than that of a normal taxi fare. As I said earlier, we’re providing an option in this market. If you’re a family of five wanting to go to Ocean Park for example, taxis are out of the question. Uber is simply offering this family, and many others, the option to rent out different kinds of vehicles.

What are some of the challenges that face Uber when starting up in a city?
Primarily it’s the doubt that comes with Uber and the challenges that arise from government groups. There will always be a voice saying their city doesn’t require Uber, despite a relatively positive user response ever since our launch. It’s one of those things that needs getting used to. Once people realise it’s just another option, they’ll come to the conclusion that Uber isn’t actually competing with current transportation options.

How does Uber promote itself?
The best thing about Uber is that riders themselves do the PR for us. [Laughs] Word of mouth through social media such as Facebook and Twitter has really helped propel our service to those looking for something new and exciting. Once a person has a great experience, they instantly tell their friends about it. We also provide an incentive that gives out $50 credit every time you get your friends to join Uber. In doing so, we get genuine reviews from customers who help do the storytelling for us. Ultimately, having a product that people want to grow for you is our key to success.

Technology is an important aspect to Uber. Do you feel it’s important for business start-ups nowadays to embrace social media?
Technology is finding its way to more and more industries and it’s impossible to neglect social media as a means of reaching out. The whole point of Uber is connectivity and social media is a convenient way for both the provider and user to bridge connections and get meaningful feedback.

Where do you see Uber in the next five years?
Our goal is to ensure that we have maximum citywide coverage in every city we’re situated in. In Hong Kong for example, we primarily serve Hong Kong Island and parts of Kowloon for the time being, but we hope to cover every district in the near future so that more users can connect with us. Of course, we also hope to situate ourselves in every major city around the world with China and India being our main priority. 

For more details visit or download the app, available for free on the Apple App Store or Google Play.

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Music on the Tram! World Music Day June 21



Keep your ears out tomorrow (June 21) for a tram that's making a bit more noise than 'ding ding'. To celebrate World Music Day, Hong Kong Tramways and Alliance Française de Hong Kong have jointly launched 'Music on the Tram' - a roving concert that you can hop on and off from. And it's free!

The 'Music on the Tram', er, tram, has been transformed into a moving auditorium running between Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay from 10am to 10pm on June 21. More than 20 local bands and groups are playing, including Jing WongLil' Ashes and New Youth Barber Shop.  

Hop on the tram to enjoy the performances for free. The tram is only stopping at Western Market Terminus and Causeway Bay Terminus.

Music on the Tram, Sat Jun 21, 10am-10pm. Free. Find out more at

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Batman 75th Anniversary Exhibition in Times Square



No, you're not seeing things -- Batman really is looking down on you from the clock in the middle of Times Square. Until July 20, Times Square hosts an exhibition dedicated to one of the most iconic and downright badass superheroes of all time. The Batman 75th anniversary exhibition features three of batman's favourite vehicles, including The Batpod and The Tumbler, as well as figures of Batman and Robin scaling the wall towards the atrium. Check out how Batman has changed over time with a display of classic comic covers. If you want to blag a vintage Batman colouring book and sticker set, swing by on the Saturdays or Sundays and collect stamps of Batman and the villains hidden around Times Square.  

Batman 75th Anniversary, 2/F and Open Piazza, Times Square, 1 Matheson St, Causeway Bay; 10am-10pm. Free.


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Very Ferry Pier at Wan Chai Ferry Pier, June 21 & 22


Ever wish the creative community could lay more claim to HK's public spaces? That's exactly what Very Hong Kong, the creative community event organisation, is hoping to achieve with its Very Ferry Pier on June 21 and 22 at Wan Chai Ferry Pier.

Very Hong Kong’s previous events have included Very Big Screen on the Green – open air screenings of classic movies in Tamar, and the citywide Very Hong Kong Festival at the end of last year.    

Next weekend’s event sees local artists and musicians coming together to celebrate and re-explore our city’s public areas. You’ll find urban sketches, live street music performances, an enormous ‘Under The Sea’ communal wall drawing, pop up short film screenings, experimental public art performances, Chinese ink painting and a host of creative workshops, including a Lego one!

June 21 & 22, Very Ferry Pier, Wan Chai Star Ferry Pier, Wan Chai; Midday-6pm. Free.  

Find out more about Very Hong Kong at

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