Sunday, 28 August 2016

An Apple Snapchat Service Could Mean Curtains For… Snapchat


If Apple’s hardware business is on its way down, its services business is definitely on the way up, led by Apple Music, but with other services in tow. Now it’s being suggested that Apple is planning a photo sharing service in a similar vein to Snapchat, with a mix of Instagram’s photo feed.

That’s bad news for both services – more so for Snapchat, which is already playing in a busy marketplace and can ill afford the competition that an Apple entry will inevitably bring.

Instagram has the backing of Facebook and could probably weather the storm, but its social features, tied to users Facebook accounts seem like a much more difficult service for Apple to build. On the other hand taking users from Snapchat would be trivial, given that its whole service is little more than an add-on to iMessage or Facetime.

I imagine there will be a nervous few months ahead as Snapchat awaits Apple’s entry into its market. Almost inevitably to be followed by a (yet another) new messaging service from Google.

Putting Diesel Scandal Behind It, VW Aims To Revolutionise Electric Cars


With several billions of dollars of fines and compensation hanging over it, Volkswagen has revealed its plans for putting Diesel-gate behind it. Inevitably that involves truly emission free vehicles and electric versions of its current range feature heavily.

However VW wants to go a step further by building an electric car that condemns combustion engines to history. A Passat-sized vehicle with 300 mile range and a recharge time of just 15 minutes.

By dealing with both range anxiety and recharge delays in one fell swoop VW really would be creating a world changing vehicle. If it delivers this new car at the same price as an oil burning equivalent as it promised in an interview with Autocar it surely means the end of the internal combustion engine.

If it comes to fruition then we should see this revolutionary new VW in 2018.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Spotify Hitting Back Against ‘Unfriendly’ Artists


Artists who sign exclusive deals which cut Spotify out of their new music are finding that they are the target of retaliation from the company in the form of buried search results and being denied a place on featured playlists according to this report on Bloomberg.

It’s inevitable that there are going to be these sorts of manoeuvres when artists are trying to get the best return on their work, whilst services are trying to get access to the best music for their subscribers.

The rights and wrongs of exclusive deals and Spotify’s response to them really depend on which side of the fence you sit on. Given Spotify’s massive subscriber base, artists need to weigh the value of the exclusivity payment from Apple or Tidal against the long term impact of Spotify’s retaliations.

As a subscriber there’s inevitably going to be some fallout, as long as you don’t have a desperate need to have music the day it’s released it shouldn’t impact your choice of service.

For Spotify though it’s soon going to be decision time: get involved in bidding wars for exclusivity or risk impact on subscriber numbers.

Why I Bought A Lumia 950 Instead Of A Nexus 6P This Week

I think I can say without too much fear of contradiction that whatever happens to Window 10 Mobile in the future there's unlikely to ever be another Lumia device released to the market. Whether that's because Microsoft is ceding the smartphone space to its OEM partners or has just decided to go all in on the rumoured Surface Phone.

So it may sound crazy that I bought a new Lumia 950 this week. Doubly so when you learn that I had the option to get a 64GB Nexus 6P for the same price.

For the moment the Nexus 6P is the king of the Android world. The most powerful Nexus device and guaranteed to get timely updates. In fact the Android 7.0 release is available to download already. There seems no logical reason to get the Nexus over the Lumia, but it turns out there are many.

The Nexus has an okay camera, but the Lumia’s is arguably the best you can get on a phone right now. Not a clear, outright, no competitor comes close winner like previous Lumias, but at the front of the pack nonetheless. I take a lot of pictures with my smartphone (any parent will probably tell you the same thing) and an okay camera just isn't going to cut it for me.

Then there are the standards. Microsoft has supported the Miracast standard for a while now and most modern TVs can receive a Miracast stream. Google wants to push its Chromecast device for streaming and as a result the Nexus no longer supports Miracast. So for each TV in your home that you might want to stream to you'll need to fork out $70NZ for a Chromecast.

Not only does the Lumia 950 support Miracast, it supports Continuum over Miracast so you can stream videos and pictures whilst still using your phone. You can even use the Lumia / TV combo as an ad hoc PC if you need to.

The also Nexus lags in its new USB-C port. With only version 2.0 of the standard implemented it has limited utility. The Lumia supports USB-C 3.1 and as a result the port supports pretty much anything you want it to do, HDMI streaming, desktop dock, multi-port connectors, they'll all work.

With 64GB on board I probably wouldn't have run into any issues with the Nexus 6P... but given the way app and game install sizes have grown that may not be the case a short way into the future. The Lumia's micro-SD port supports up to 2TB cards when they become available, with 200GB being the current maximum. So I'm not going to be worrying about that any time soon.

Then of course there's the UI. Even in pure Google form, Android doesn't measure up to Windows 10. Widgets from every publisher clash with those from every other publisher and the resulting mess just can't offer the flexibility and information density of Windows Start screen.

All of these little things aside there's one bigger reason why the Lumia 950 was the right choice for me.

I've been on-board with Windows Phone from day one. For most of that time I've been on-board with Lumia too. From the very first Lumias - the 800 and 710, right through until the 950. Personally I've owned eight of them. My wife has owned four and my son's phone is a Lumia too. The death of the Lumia brand - if that is what it is - isn't something to go unmarked, even if only by the few.

When Microsoft said that the Lumia 950 was a phone for Windows Phone fans it narrowed the market, whilst being brutally honest about what it was offering. There's no question that for a huge majority of users Windows 10 Mobile isn't going to fit the bill. For me, maybe I'm still crazy after all these years, but Windows Mobile remains the one platform with features that I can't live without and can't be easily offered by iOS and Android.

For these reasons there was never any question about which phone I was going to buy.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Time To Update Your iPhone


Apple released iOS 9.3.5 today, apparently in response to reports that the platform’s security had been compromised by a number of zero day vulnerabilities. An agency called the NSO – a supplier to governments apparently – has managed to daisy chain these vulnerabilities to create a relatively sophisticated attack vector able to take ownership of your iPhone and capture all communications undertaken on the device.

As the root of this attack was an SMS carrying a weblink to a site which utilised the weakness to install the covert surveillance app the lesson here is simple. Text messages from unknown contacts should always be treated as suspicious and links of dubious origin never clicked.

Stick to that advice and you’ll remove most of the risk of having your iPhone hacked.

Apple iPhone 6 Devices Have Touch Controller Problems

It appears that a poor design decision, compounded by the iPhone 6 'Bendgate' weakness, is leaving large numbers of Apple iPhone owners with a hefty repair bill. As iFixit's video above details, the problem is one which is becoming more of an issue as these devices get older.

The fault appears to have two direct causes and both relate to design decisions in the iPhone's manufacturing and quality control areas. It seems likely that Apple realised its mistake as both were rectified in the iPhone 6S range.

The touchscreen controller on iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is attached to the logic board using balls of solder, which breakdown over time. Torque applied to the main board (as a result of the weakness in the iPhones metal case) accelerates this degradation.

The net result is an iPhone with a faulty touchscreen. And an iPhone owner with an expensive repair bill as the problem can't be cured with a replacement screen and the whole logic board needs to be replaced. There's no certainty that replacement boards won't suffer from the same problem.

With Bendgate, Antennagate and now Touch Disease, Apple's untouchable reputation for quality is taking a beating. For any other company this would be the last straw for a departing customer base. For Apple it's just a blip.

For those customers who have been bitten by this problem though, I suspect that having paid heavily for Apple quality only for Apple to seriously under deliver, they'll think twice before going with Apple again in the future.

For Apple understanding the scale of the problem is important here. If numbers are as high as iFixit suggests some preemptive action to look after their customer's interests (and subsequently their own) would be a good long term move.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Microsoft Garage Releases 'Cache' - But Really Kills UWP Myth In The Process


Remember OneClip, the Microsoft Garage project that created a cross-device scrap book that linked your PC and smartphone together? It died before it ever reached a customer's device.

Now there's a new and not entirely unrelated app from the same team that does more or less the same thing - but only between a PC and an iPhone.

Now the fact that it doesn't work with Windows 10 Mobile is immaterial here: Edge already allows this cross device sharing through its Reading List component. Instead we have the disappointment of Microsoft once again failing to follow through on one of the strategies it's pushing at developers. In this case the development of Universal Apps

It seems to me that if the development of a Universal App is so little additional effort over the creation of a PC app that the Garage team should have built one whether it added any value or not. Firstly because it sends a message to developers, secondly as a fillip to existing Windows Mobile customers and finally because of the positive message it sends to the wider world.

Once again Microsoft's lukewarm backing of its own platform does it no favours for the future.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

FIFA Mobile Coming To Windows 10 Mobile


EA is currently running up the hype machines for the launch of FIFA 17 on consoles, however in amongst the talk of new features and game modes was the news that FIFA Mobile is also incoming.

The new game, with some new modes specifically crafted for game play on the move, is expected to arrive in the Autumn. More importantly, that’s in the Autumn for iOS, Android and Windows 10!

A concurrent release for such a high profile title would be a great fillip for loyal Windows users.

Whether this marks a new phase in EA’s engagement with Microsoft’s mobile platform remains to be seen. Let’s see whether EA follows through on this announcement and how good the product turns out to be.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

How Will Software Upgrade Availability Affect Your Next Smartphone Purchase?

Android Nougat arrived yesterday, the latest version of the best selling smartphone platform arriving at a time when its predecessor has only achieved a 15% adoption amongst Android owners.

With the news of the software's release came a slew of reports from manufacturers telling us which of their phones will get upgraded and which are being cut free from the mothership to die in the cold lonely depths of space.

These lists should be required reading for anybody thinking of buying a new phone any time soon.

This post was prompted by Sony's announcement that it will only be upgrading the new Xperia X models and the Z3+ and Z5. So the two year old flagship Z3 and the one year old mid-range M5 aren't worth investing in for Sony. Other OEMs have made similar announcements or are keeping quiet, but their past record on updates speaks volumes.

Can you imagine the uproar if Apple announced that neither the iPhone 6 nor iPhone SE would be getting iOS updates in the future? It would never happen. Even Windows 10 Mobile has a better record on updates - despite the platform being on life support.

Android OEMs are serving their customers poorly and whilst Google is unable to join up the dots on platform upgrades I would suggest you tread very warily before committing to buying any Android phone other than a Nexus, even at the cost of some missing functionality.

Microsoft Deals With Another Android OEM

Microsoft and Lenovo have announced a patent cross licensing deal which completes another phase of Microsoft's planned takeover of Android services. As a result Microsoft apps and services will be preloaded onto Lenovo and Motorola Android smartphones.

This was once an income stream for Microsoft, at one stage reporting over $1bn in annual income from licensing agreements with Android OEMs. 

However, at this point I suspect that it's no longer about the money for Microsoft and the company is willing to forego patent transgressions in exchange for an open-ended agreement to pre-install Office and OneDrive to infringing company's devices.