Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Is Apple About To Bump The iPhone 5C's Internals

Apple surprised everyone with the iPhone 5C, twice. Firstly that its cheap iPhone wasn't cheap, which caused many to suggest it wouldn't sell. Then by selling it by the bucketload despite the higher price. The 5C was a pretty shrewd move from Apple, boosting the retained value in each sale by utilising the iPhone 5's internals but packing a new case. The 5C didn't have the stigma of being a 'cheap' iPhone. Instead it was seen as a fun iPhone. For customers the price of the 5C met the perceived value it offered them.

Those iPhone 5 internals are getting a bit dated now though, so it's no surprise to find a revised version is being planned. Dubbed 6C by rumour-mongers, the new phone is tipped to retain a 4" screen.

I'd guess the reason for this will be a jump to using internals from the iPhone 5S, which will disappear from the range when the next iPhone update is released later this year. A good indicator is that leaked rear shells have an oval hole for the flash, matching that of the 5S. That means the 6C will benefit from the better processor and camera of the 5S, as well as gaining TouchID. If it retains its price point it will look very good value indeed.

Semble Delivers Phone Based Payments To Kiwis

Semble, a Kiwi joint venture that brings together eftpos provider Paymark and mobile networks Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees; opened up its phone based contactless payment system to New Zealanders this afternoon, with the news that ASB and BNZ bank customers will now be able to use their phones as contactless payment cards wherever the Visa payWave or Master Card PayPass cards are accepted.

To join the service customers of the banks will have to own an approved Android phone (the list is long and appears to include pretty much anything modern with an NFC chip) and replace their current SIM with a Semble enabled secure one.

Then it's just a matter of adding a bank card and heading off to the shops.

ANZ and Westpac customers can't join in the fun, as the two banks are working on their own digital wallets. iPhone customers will have to wait for Apple Pay to arrive here - which isn't likely to be soon.

Given the huge number of contactless terminals in use around the country, it's likely that in one fell swoop Semble has enabled New Zealand to jump to the top of the phone payment charts. Now it's just a question of seeing what the uptake is like.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Nurburgring Fatality Highlights The Dangers Of Flying Cars

This weekend's Endurance Championship race at the Nordschleife - the historic circuit at the Nurburgring - was halted early after Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GT-R became airborne at the Flugplatz on the descent from Quiddelbacher Höhe, leaving the track and cartwheeling off the barriers over the safety fence and into the crowd.

Authorities confirmed that one spectator had died at the scene, whilst many more were injured. Mardenborough was uninjured and out of the wreck very quickly. The German police have impounded the remains of the Nissan, and no doubt will be looking for mechanical failure as a possible cause of the accident. The German racing authorities have banned high performance GT3 cars from the circuit indefinitely.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

F1: How Ferrari Pegged Mercedes Back In Malaysia

To say that Sebastian Vettel's first win for Ferrari, in only his second race with the team, was a shock would be something of an understatement. Mercedes utter domination in Melbourne two weeks previously promised nothing but more of the same in Malaysia. By the time the chequered flag dropped though, Mercedes were licking there wounds, having been beaten fair and square for the first time since the end of 2013.

How could this have happened?

Hey Siri, Can I Have Raise To Speak Back Please?

One of the new features that iOS 8 brought was the ability to invoke Siri by saying 'Hey Siri' whenever your device is plugged in. That's great, especially in-car, where it makes for completely hands free interaction.

However whilst Apple was giving with one hand, it took away with the other. Specifically it removed the Raise to Speak option, which whilst not 100% reliable, made Siri usable in crowded areas or where you'd prefer not to broadcast your instructions and responses to the wider world.

It seems that Raise to Speak has been removed to allow Lift to Speak in the Messages app. However there's no reason why this should be the case - it should be possible to offer users a choice between actions - or give priority to Lift to Speak when the Messages app is in the foreground.

Its one of the things I'd like to see restored in the next iOS update, Apple. Pretty please.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Apple Can't Do Updates: iOS 8.2 Problems With Car Integration

Apple's upgrades currently seem to have all the quality control of a ropey Russian import.

If you've upgraded your iPhone to iOS 8.2 and use it as a music source over USB in your car, you've probably discovered that it doesn't work properly any more. Some users are reporting that functionality is completely broken, others have lost autoplay and others have lost the use of steering wheel controls.

Apple support forums are directing users to this page on car stereo integration, but it isn't helpful for those users who have lost functionality as a result of the upgrade.

It's also impossible to downgrade back to iOS 8.1.3, as Apple has stopped signing the necessary files. So unfortunately iPhone users are stuck until Apple releases a fix.

Apple really does seem to be struggling with quality control at the moment, with the number of upgrades being released with fundamental issues being far out of sync with the number devices supported.

Neither Google nor Microsoft would get the free pass that Apple seems to get when shonky updates get released.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Amazon Springs The Cloud Trap: Unlimited Storage For $5

As the number of devices we use grows finding a simple, effective way of maintaining documents across all devices has become more and more important. The rise of cloud services in the last five years has been the answer to this problem, even if could services have proven to be less than reliable, not always secure and somewhat expensive at scale.

Whilst the first two problems are probably never going to be resolved completely, the third has been less of a challenge, if you're prepared to be flexible.

With so many providers offering free storage in attempt to persuade you to invest in more cloud space, it has always been possible to keep all your data in the cloud by being flexible. Flickr offers 1TB of space for photos, Microsoft and Google offer 15GB free each, Apple gives you 5GB and Box and Dropbox offer you up to 50GB if you time your sign-up right. That's without considering a number of smaller services who offer more to make up for their lack of name recognition, or OEMs who frequently offer a bundled storage freebie to tempt you to buy.

Be careful about what you put where and you'll never pay a cent for putting your files up in the cloud.

If that sounds like a lot of effort to save a few bucks Amazon might just have the answer for you. For $60 a year Amazon Cloud Drive now gets you unlimited storage. Its a great price that promises to change the way that clouds work forever. Install the Cloud Storage client on your PC or Android phone and you really are off and running. iOS users will only be able to backup photos and videos for now, no word on whether a full client is coming.

Free cloud storage is useful, but by reducing effort and increasing peace of mind, I'd say that Amazon has an offering that is easily worth the $60 it's asking for the service.

Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson And Going Out With A Bang

So Jeremy Clarkson leaves Top Gear with a bang - and on that bombshell the show is all but finished. Or is it?

I'm a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson, and have been since his days writing for the long defunct Performance Car magazine. Yes, he's controversial and I certainly don't agree with everything he says or does, but he's entertaining and surely that's the whole point for an entertainer. That he divides opinion between the fans and the haters is only to be expected, everyone does this to some degree or other, however it's fair to say that Clarkson polarises opinion more than most: there's no sitting on the fence with this guy.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

An iPad Was The Only Choice For UK Government

There's been more than a little kickback over the announcement that British MPs are to be provided with iPads to support their duties in the House of Parliament. Ignoring the past misdemeanours of MPs caught on camera playing games or doing other inappropriate activities when the should be partaking in the mechanics of government, this was an announcement that was both overdue and based on unchallengeable logic.

The iPad may not be as flexible as some Android and Windows tablets, and screens and capacity may also be good to average rather than ground-breaking, but for a deployment of this nature the iPad remains the only sensible choice.

Monday, 23 March 2015

The £50 Windows Tablet

Thinking about buying a small screened tablet, but struggling to fund it? Neowin has found an offer that might just make your day.

For £50 - if you use the coupon detailed on Neowin's page you can get yourself the HP Stream 7 tablet, which has pretty reasonable specs and is certainly better value than any Android tablet even close to this price point. The offer is on the Microsoft UK store page and - believe it or not - includes a year-long subscription to Office 365. That makes the net price of the tablet less than zero.

The problem is that a 7" tablet isn't very much bigger than common phones today, and the extra investment in funding an 8" tablet is well worth it - if you can run to the extra pennies of course.

Windows 8 is surprisingly good on these smaller tablets - and whilst Android has more tablet friendly apps, Android tablets at this price point are usually woefully underpowered and lag. The Atom processor in the Stream 7 shouldn't have any problems with Windows 8, although having just 1GB of RAM may limit your ability to multitask. The version on sale here is the Signature edition, which means no bloatware comes installed, so performance should still be brisk.

Still with Office 365 (and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage) you can't really go wrong with a tablet for less than the price of a round of drinks.