Monday, 25 July 2016

Two Nokia Android Handsets Incoming Before Year End


Rumours are starting to build about the likelihood of Nokia releasing two premium handsets running Android 7.0, possibly before the end of this year. Given that Nokia CEO Rajiv Suhri has previously said that it was intending to do so, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise. However, now the rumours are talking about device specifics, alleging that the new handsets are at the prototype stage.

Two premium phones with 5.2” and 5.5” screens are the basis of the rumours, however the screen sizes don’t really make much sense. Either the 5.2” is too large or the 5.5” too small, as there’s insufficient differentiation between them to make sound business sense.

Whatever the truth of the phone hardware details, the Android 7.0 part of the rumour is a pretty much given. How far Nokia will go towards customising the install is a different matter. Its Z launcher is used on the N1 tablet, but that doesn’t necessarily transfer well onto a phone handset. Given its strong brand Nokia could decide to create a near stock experience in order to offer customers the benefit of rapid Android updates, something that would be a strong selling point, even if it means missing out on some of the software customisation of rivals like Samsung and Huawei.

It’s unlikely to take long for Nokia to start outselling Microsoft (aka. what’s left of the old Nokia phone division) but what will be interesting is seeing how ambitious Suhri is with his new phone strategy. If he has the intention, it’s likely Nokia could seriously shake up the Android marketplace by being the new, innovative kid on the block.

Lumia 950 Sales Performance Doesn’t Bode Well For HP’s Elite x3

adduplex windows

HP VP Michael Park is reported to be looking for Windows Phone enthusiasts to boost sales of the company’s new enterprise phone. The Elite x3 is undoubtedly an attractive and desirable Windows 10 device, but how successful is it likely to be in the consumer space?

In order to gauge this we can have a look at AdDuplex’s latest numbers on Windows smartphone usage. Notice anything interesting? That’s right, the Lumia 950 and 950XL are completely missing from the list of top Windows phones. In fact the only premium device on the list is the Nokia Lumia 920, one of Nokia’s second generation Windows Phones.

If you dig through the AdDuplex report you can actually establish exactly how well the 950 range has done in a year on the market. Windows 10 Mobiles make up 11.9% of of the Windows phone installed user base, and of those 11.9% the 950s combined are responsible for just 10% of usage. So around 1% total platform share.

Such poor performance from Microsoft’s high end handset doesn’t suggest that the x3 will find a ready market.

For HP to succeed with the Elite x3 it will need to find enterprise customers (and as I’ve previously discussed, that’s no easy task) and persuade consumers to choose the x3 over the similarly capable (if less premium) Lumia 950 in the smallest niche of the Windows phone market.

Much as I’d like to see the x3 achieve massive sales and help reverse the trend of collapsing Windows Mobile sales, my feeling is that Windows Mobile customers really want is a less asthmatic Lumia 650 with Continuum capabilities.

With one in three current owners rocking a 6xx series Lumia, it doesn’t seem to be a controversial connection to make.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

iPhone Suffers Stagefright-like Vulnerability


Android has continually been on the sharp end of Apple's attacks about weak security and the risks of malware, so Android fans might be feeling a touch of Schadenfreude about the news that Apple's platforms have been exposed to a bug similar to Stagefright which opens the platforms up to exploitation.

They shouldn't gloat though, because Apple's response neatly demonstrates the differences between iOS and Android, showing one area at least where Apple is miles a head of its competition.

Apple released an update that closes the vulnerability, and that update is immediately available to around 90% of all iOS device owners, by dint of their ability to run iOS 9.

For Google to push a security update out to 90% of Android owners would require an almost unheard of alignment of OEMs and carriers. In fact it would be unprecedented. with only a small proportion of Android owners on the last two Android versions Google would need to release an update that covered the last four major releases and find some way to get them onto customer's devices.

The current method of upgrading Android is unreliable and impacted by too many parties. It is some way off the standard set by Microsoft for Windows 10, never mind the gold standard set by Apple.

Google needs to address this problem before d security lapse causes global, widespread chaos. Rebuilding its update plans under stress might prove to be a challenge it isn't up to and the fallout could prove to be extreme.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Incoming UWA Apps Are A Small Consolation For Windows Phone Users

For those users left behind in the migration from Windows Phone 8.1 to Windows 10 Mobile (clost to nine in ten of Windows smartphone users) the quick fire removal of apps from their devices is just another of way of getting screwed over for their support of the Windows platform.

This week alone we've found out that the Amazon app will die in August and the Skype app will go in October. That the latter is a Microsoft app is just an awesome way of rubbing salt into the wound.

Winbeta is reporting that Microsoft Employee, Kurt Shintaku, has tweeted a rather patronising message suggesting that those complaining about the dropouts are slow on the uptake and that the reason these apps are disappearing is because they are coming back as UWA apps.

Not helping those user Microsoft left behind. Especially as there seems no logical reason to remove the Windows Phone compatible app, even if only whilst the new apps are in development.

Actually, I'd say that the point is completely moot. For those fifty million or so Windows Phone users who were still loyal by the launch of Windows 10 Mobile, I'd say four in every five have already decided to never buy any phone bearing the Microsoft logo or running Windows ever again.

If Windows 10 Mobile is to scale the heights again it will only be by winning over a whole new user base. 

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next...

The events of the last few weeks, on both sides of the Atlantic, across Europe, the hate, the bloodshed, politically and in the streets, bring to mind the sentiment  of this sublime Manic Street Preachers track.

If you have a vote get out and use it, add your voice to the protests against the politics of fear, racism, misogyny and terrorism. 

Because otherwise, it really could be your children next.

Spotify Is Going To Sell Your Playlist Data... So What?

You've probably heard by now that Spotify is going to sell your information to its advertisers in order to allow them to target ads you receive. Outraged? You really shouldn't be.

The information that Spotify holds about you is limited to your age and gender; and what music you listen too. It might be enough for advertisers to decide whether you should hear their ad or not (personally I'd say its a very broad brush approach to targeting ads) but it's hardly the sort of information you'd give your life to keep private.

Seriously, nobody really cares if you have a secret stash of Kylie playlists or you enjoy a private moment or two with Harry Styles and One Direction. If you're using the Spotify free service it's a small price to pay to keep the music flowing.

If your objections to sharing this data are very strong, then invest the $10 a month to get subscription and rid yourself of that worry.

No story here, so move along now.

Twitter Troll Problem Needs Hard And Fast Rules To Address


The harassment of Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones, the banning of accused troll Milo Yiannopoulos and the argument with Wikileaks over cyber feudalism (whatever that might be), all in it hasn’t been a good week for Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey.

Dorsey has taken more than a little criticism  for the Yiannopoulos ban, not least because of the apparent lack of consistency with previous trolling of Twitter users (celebrity or otherwise) and a complete lack of transparency about the rules by which these decisions are made.

It does appear that the decision to ban Yiannopoulos was arbitrarily taken based on the amount of press coverage the incident was creating. Not that it was wrong or unwarranted, but that isn’t the only issue here.

Twitter has a problem with behaviour amongst a significant minority of its users and Twitter doesn’t seem capable of managing it.

Right now it should be possible for every Twitter user to enjoy the service without fear of the ugly, coordinated attack that Leslie Jones faced. To achieve that Twitter needs to establish a code of conduct and enforce it.

Behave nicely or go elsewhere.

Every post should have a ‘report this post’ link embedded, which allows a post to be reviewed by a human being and appropriate action to be taken. A lifetime ban being the ultimate sanction. Each sanction should be clearly tied to a  breach of code of conduct and the reason for the level of punishment given. The sanction should be open to challenge from both parties.

For Twitter, justice must be done and be seen to be done. Because weeks like this week are exactly the reason why it’s failing to grow its userbase. A friendly, welcoming and safe environment is far from the public perception of the service. Dorsey needs to address that failing. Now.

Apple Watch Sales Crash, Nobody Wants A Smartwatch

idc smart watch tracker

In the realms of unsurprising news this probably ranks up there with the best of them, but IDC’s wearable device tracking is telling us no-one wants smartwatches. Even if they do come from Apple.

What has become very clear is that if customers are going to buy a smartwatch then they’ll be Apple customers and they’ll most likely be buying an Apple Watch. It has a level of market leadership that is only a distant memory for Apple in other sectors. However catching a big share of a disappearing market isn’t necessarily good news, Apple’s sales were down 55% year on year. Where Apple Watch made up two in three wearable sales this time last year, now they account for every other sale.

That sales collapse actually dragged the market down, because excluding Apple, wearable sales were up around 25%.

My guess is that the market is expecting a new smartwatch to be unveiled soon, and as a result customers are holding off purchases. Those customers who want a smartwatch, anyway. It still looks to me like there is no pent up demand for smart watches and no use case that creates a consumer desire.

About the only valid use case I have seen is as an add-on to Apple Pay. Given the issues with finding places to pay with your phone anyway having to pull your phone out to pay seems a minor irritation.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Microsoft Continues Windows Mobile's Death By A Thousand Cuts

You can tell us how important your mobile platform is until you are blue in the face Microsoft, but when every action you take tells us a different story you may as well save your breath.

Windows Phone may not have built up a billion user strong customer base like other platforms, but there are still tens of millions of users out there making do with their orphaned phones. Those that have been denied a Windows 10 Mobile upgrade mostly.

Now those users have yet another reason to never buy a Windows powered smartphone in the future Microsoft has thrown them under the bus with its latest upgrade to Skype. Almost 90% of Windows smartphone users will lose the ability to run Skype come October. 

That's a lot of bodies for Microsoft to bury.

There are good technical reasons for Microsoft killing off the older, peer-based version of Skype, however failing to deliver an updated version of the app for legacy Windows Phone devices just reinforces the message that Microsoft have been sending out to third-party developers: it's not worth developing for Windows smartphones because nobody is using them.

Only this time the message is backed up by one to existing customers which says "don't buy Windows Mobiles, because Microsoft will abandon you without a second thought". 

Elon Musk’s Tesla Bus Idea Is Part Genius, Part Crazy, Mostly Desirable

electric bus

Buses are great. They provide high density transport, excellent resource usage, can be deployed into urban and rural environments with little or no infrastructure costs and service the needs of those in the community who choose to ignore cars for environmental, costs or social reasons.

Where buses fall down is their route based inflexibility, that they are as hampered by poor traffic conditions as another other vehicle and that during off-peak periods when they run infrequently and lightly loaded they are neither convenient nor especially resource efficient.

Elon Musk’s Master Plan, Part Deux, published on the tesla blog today covers not just cars and solar panels, but includes heavy transport like buses too. That’s great. A proliferation of electric buses removes a major source for particulate emissions from our environment.

I’m less convinced about the idea of removing driver’s from buses. There’s little financial benefit from doing so and the inherent passenger safety and inclusiveness that bus drivers bring to the bus journey far outweighs any financial saving. Not to mention the importance of employment in a society that is so keen to get rid of workers it hasn’t really considered the effects of removing their ability to be consumers.

The idea of reducing the size of buses is suspect too. In fact Elon Musk is actually describing a self-driving car when he talks about a smaller bus with no central walkway and a seat at each entranceway.

I suspect that we he is really plans in his blog post is a slightly larger Tesla Model X with no driver and an Uber like service that amounts to little more than expensive car pooling. That’s not really a master plan that benefits anyone but Tesla.

On the other hand an electric bus service modelled on high speed, high density bus-only highway lanes, with semi-automation to allow vehicles to run in close proximity, would allow hugely efficient mass transit in even the busiest of cities. Now add in something approximating to Elon Musk’s plan for a feeder service of smaller vehicles running to connection hubs on the trunk route and you have a real world changing opportunity.

In cities like Auckland, where dedicated bus routes are already running alongside motorways, inductive charging, overhead power cables or fast charging stations could be used to reduce the requirement for buses to store power on-board, allowing them to be lighter and thus more efficient.

Moving towards a more integrated, more flexible and more people orientated transit system can only be a good thing. Making this independent of fossil fuels even more so. Designing something around the financial desires of an automotive company probably isn’t.

Still, two out of three isn’t bad.

Electric Bus Image: AEMoreira042281 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,