Showing posts from June, 2010

Microsoft Bins The Kin!

Less than two months after going on sale Microsoft has killed the Kin - its social phone for the youth market - and announced that the team that developed it, the technology and concepts would be absorbed into the Windows Phone 7 team.

That's a spectacular failure of Palm Foleo proportions and further evidence that Microsoft's mobile devices division is seriously out of touch with the market. Windows Phone 7 looks good, but given that it has several features missing - shortcomings that have even been addressed by Apple with iOS4 and the iPhone 4 - its hard to see how Microsoft are going to get market traction with an all-new platform...

World Cup: Write The Future? I Don't Think So...

Nike's big play for bragging rights at this World Cup, its Write The Future ad, hasn't gone well. In fact it would be fair to say that its been a prophet of doom(that's if you're hoping a overly bearded Rooney is holed up in a caravan somewhere). For the record, six players feature, three failed to get past the group stage, two under-performed miserably as their teams exited in the first knockout round and the last didn't even get picked by his country... Write the future my arse!

World Cup: Then There Were Eight

We're coming to the end of another week of glorious (and abject) football in South Africa, as the tournament starts to lose its pretenders and make-weights. Of the four games in the next round Germany-Argentina stands out as the tie of the round (with respect to Brazil, Ghana, Spain, Paraguay, Holland and Uruguay). The German team is young and full of promise, whilst the Argentinian side is full of skill and very attack minded. Given the frailties that have been obvious in both sides defences thus far in the tournament it feels like a game with plenty of goals in it.
Of the teams that have been eliminated Italy, Portugal, England and France have the most serious problems to contend with. Each should have been expected to reach the last eight as a minimum performance, all have failed to deliver.
For France I suspect there will be major repercussions for the performance of its team on and off the pitch, the only saving grace being the arrival of Laurent Blanc as manager. Italy's p…

iPhone Antenna Issues

One of the things you can be sure I tested on the iPhone 4 was the antenna issue - I was pretty sure that it was real anyway as there have been reports from some reputable sources and Apple has acknowledged that there is an issue.

As a right handed person I tend to hold my phone in my left hand when using it, especially when talking. Sure enough when holding it normally I saw the signal drop away from three bars to two. A colleague who tried it also saw the same issue. Now that's not going to be a problem in areas of strong service, but where the signal is weak its going to be a different matter.

Those worried by this issue should be aware that signal meters on phones aren't exactly the most accurate things anyway and those bars dropping away may not be a real problem. In fact the suggestion that Apple has a software fix coming would indicate that they'll change the way the signal strength is displayed to stop this happening.

The more important question is whether the signal …

iPhone 4 First Impressions

Spent some time with the iPhone 4 this morning and I have to say that I've been left seriously underwhelmed. Now whilst you might not find that surprising, I was disappointed as I really thought that this was the phone that might tempt me back into the Apple fold.

The screen is good, but its not exactly amazing unless you're coming from the old iPhone in which case its a quantum leap forward. Coming from the Xperia its improvement in resolution and color presentation is less amazing, I'd say that the iPhone's screen is 10% better than the Xperia, 5% ahead of the Desire and nip and tuck with the Galaxy S.

Other than that and the nicer industrial design there's not a lot there that's new, unless you've been using an older iPhone for the last few years.

It is clear that Apple have corrected many of the flaws which made the earlier iPhone's untouchable for many people and, more importantly, caught up with Android on many fronts.

I can't wait for Google…

You're Holding It The Wrong Way

So say Apple and (tersely) Steve Jobs, in response to the reported problems of antenna problems and loss of wireless service with the new iPhone 4.
Its clear that Apple made a complete FUBAR with the antennas on its new phone - probably due to the fact that wireless performance and emission testing is pretty much never done with the device in a user's hand.
Fair enough, could happen to anybody. The real solution appears to be a case which stops the hand contacting the antenna. Apple has just such a thing coming - the Bumper case. What's interesting is that the Bumper is the least Apple-like product in the world, it looks tacky, covers one of the iPhone 4's nicest features and is going to cost a user money. All of which suggests that it was designed specifically to solve a particular problem...
This being the case I'm at a loss to see why Apple didn't come clean and say that there's a problem with the design and give every buyer a free Bumper with each iPhone…

Battery Life v Performance

Battery life is something that pretty much every smartphone user worries about - lasting a full day on a charge of moderate usage isn't a given for most of today's powerhouses. Just how much things have changed was brought home to me this week by being out of the office.
My work-supplied phone is the Palm Treo Pro - its a phone I've always liked pairing a decent keyboard with a touchscreen and most of the features that most business people need - push email, a decent browser and good phone performance.
I don't recall battery life being a particularly key factor in the decision to purchase Treo Pros, however having put it through its paces over the last few days I have to say I'm surprised - three days of light to moderate usage easily achieved on one charge. That's something I could only dream of with my Xperia.
Of course the trade-off is performance - the Treo runs a slow (but actually more than adequate) CPU, less memory, a screen half the size and less than hal…

iPhone Out The Door, But Not Cleanly

The iPhone 4 arrived in UK shops today and already there have been some stories of users having hardware problems.

The one gaining initial publicity is to do with the iPhone's display - high resolution it may be, free from discoloration it certainly ain't!

Users have been reporting that their phone's display is marred by yellow discoloured areas. Some have spots, others have bands. For those who are having problems there are uncomfirmed claims that the yellow is glue used to attach the screen to the touch layer which hasn't cured properly and should disappear when it has after a few days of use.

More worrying is the story that phone signal can be affected by the way the phone is held - almost certainly due to the antenna bands which frame the device. Plenty of video evidence out there, although there's no comment from Apple yet.

Given the news about Android's continued success now would be a really bad time to drop the ball at such a big product launch...

Google Activating 160,000 Androids Per Day

That's a pretty remarkable number and starts to suggest that despite some serious Jobs-ian frothing at the mouth, Apple's grip on the Smartphone market is being loosened.

In fact if you consider that 160,000 across a full year (even working on a five day week) that's almost 50 million Androids entering the market this year - enough to overtake Apple and Rim and even to start worrying Nokia's inflated position at number one.

Impressive achievement by Google and its partners I just don't see them shipping at that rate for much longer.

End of year sales numbers are going to be interesting reading though...

World Cup: England Expects

Tomorrow brings England's chance to prove their credibility as World Cup contenders, victory over Slovenia the required result.

To my mind there is no question that England will get this result, not least because of the mindset of their manager 'Don Fabio' as some of the press have christened him. This is a man who has one league titles by the bucketload as a manager and who is the true expression of the results-focused management style which characterises the success of the Italian national team.

Thus we can say that irrespective of the performances England have put themselves in a position to qualify - a simple victory assuring a place in the last sixteen. No surprise that Italy find themselves in a similar position.

For any team at the World Cup getting through the first round is the biggest hurdle, as France have proven, once into the knockout phase anything can happen and often does.

England expects and its unthinkable that England will fail to deliver.

World Cup: Shamed France Head Home

Runners-up last time out when Zinedine Zidane managed to tarnish his reputation with a physical assault on one of his opponents in the final; the French managed to go one better this time when the collective behaviour of their squad and the lack of effort or commitment from the players on the pitch has heaped disgrace and indignity on their nation. In 1966 the Italian team was pelted with tomatoes when returning home after their desperate performance, this French side deserves no less.

There is a certain responsibility that goes with the honour of being selected to play for your nation, whatever your nationality. This French squad were exposed as petulant, over-paid children who showed the badge of their country no respect. The French Football Federation should ensure that none of those responsible ever receive that honour again.

The World Cup is a time when we mark the achievements of those teams who achieve more than they have a right to do. At the same time we should berate those who…

Android App Review: Zeam

One of the interesting features that Google lifted from Windows Mobile is the ability to replace the default Android launcher with something original. Obviously something that OEMs have taken too because to date we have specific launchers from HTC, Dell, Samsung, LG and Sony-Ericsson.

It's not just an option for the manufacturers though, there are quite a few replacement launchers in the market, one of those being Zeam which is currently in beta and is free - for the moment at least.

Zeam isn't a huge departure from the standard Android launcher, implementing a few key usability changes which make it immeasurably more usable than the default option.

First change is the ability to pin applications to the launch bar, rather than the standard link for opening the app drawer. This works well and I find that keeping the dialer application here improves the X10 I'm using greatly. The app draw itself has a selection of animations when opening and closing and this is one of a number …

World Cup: Chickens Coming Home To Roost

They say what comes around for a around, well for the Brazilians its taken eight years but justice has finally been served for Rivaldo's criminal piece of play acting against Turkey in 2002.

Kaka's sending off was completely unwarranted and occurred as a result of some play acting in the account of one of the Ivory Coast players. Unfair on Kaka perhaps, but if the Brazilians lose to Portugal in their final game and in doing so lose top spot in their group there will be a part of me that rejoices in the spirit of karma...

World Cup: It's Not Won In The First Round

English pride took a battering in Friday as the team failed to spark against an Algerian side that should have been brushed aside on the basis of FIFA's ranking tables.

Football has always been more than just statistics and despite not playing well England picked up another point which leaves qualification in their own hands.

On the basis of press and public reaction you'd think this was the worst English World Cup performance ever. I suspect that after a comfortable win against Slovenia in Wednesday all we'll hear will be pundits and hacks telling us how they said there was nothing to worry about all along.

There's a history of teams building momentum through a World Cup, something Italy are past masters of: in 1982 they won the competition after starting with three very poor draws and only just scraping through the group stage. The beaten finalists that year, Germany, only came through their group after losing to outsiders Algeria...

As the Dutch often prove the finals a…

Dell Streak: Falling Between Two Stools

Had a chance to spend some time with the Dell Streak this weekend and although its clearly greater than the sum of its parts there are still shortcomings that need addressing to make it a potential bestseller.

Biggest problem that I can see is that it ploughs its own furrow in the tablet market which only serves to expose its smartphone roots. At the moment tablet buyers can either down the iPad root, with its dedicated app choice which effectively hides its own failing as a large screen iPod Touch; or choose to go full Windows tablet and give up some degree of usability in exchange for full desktop application compatibility.

The Streak has neither the customised applications of the iPad nor the ability to run desktop apps of Windows devices and therefore has to rely on applications originally written for smartphones. As such it becomes of no more utility than a smartphone and one that is just too big to use as a phone to boot.

That's not to say that the combination of big screen, de…

You Paid How Much?

What's a second-hand iPhone worth do you think? Couple of hundred pounds for a 3G and maybe fifty quid more for a 3GS?

Not even close.

In fact a second-hand iPhone 3GS, unlocked from a network fetches up to £700 on eBay! That despite the fact that you can buy one direct from Apple, unlocked and brand new, for £419.

I dread to think what the combined IQ of some of these eBay purchasers is, but I'm guessing its not going to trouble three figures...

HTC Issues Cease & Desist To Shipped-Roms

Not sure how much of this is HTC driven and how much is Microsoft, however shipped-roms, a site holding a collection of flashable images for HTC phones going way back into history, has been issued a takedown notice by HTC.

Given how much of HTC's growth has been as a direct result of the hacking community gradually shipping away at shortcomings in original device ROM that's disappointing. Especially as I'm sure plenty of those modifications have 'inspired' later changes to the factory output.

Ultimately the fact that at least some of the ROMs contain Microsoft Windows Mobile code meant that an effort like this was always doomed, its a shame to see the develop community that did much of the work in pushing smartphones forward so shabby treated.

For now the only saving grace is that xda-developers, the daddy of hacking sites for smartphones has escaped any similar action...

iPhone Looks Excellent Value SIM-free

Despite my misgivings around Apple's business approach the iPhone 4 looks a hugely attractive proposition bought SIM-free from the Apple store. £499 for the 16GB version and £100 more for the 32GB.

Now to see just how good the willpower is...

World Cup: Do You love the Vuvezala?

A plastic horn that drones out a steady B flat, the vuvuzela has been the main talking point of the championships so far.

Apparently the world doesn't like them. Can't see why not - adds a very local feel to the World Cup which I guess is the main reason why we visit all these different continents.

It may take away some of the drama of crowd reaction, but the compensation is the very African flavour of the championship.

The Argentinian ticker tape, the Mexican Wave and now the African vuvuzela. These are the things that make a World Cup. What I need is a filter to silence all the moaning vuvuzela-haters...

Is This The End Of Mobile Data As We Know It?

O2's announcement of the end of its unlimited data tariff for smartphones isn't the significant change that many users are painting it as - in fact its impact will be limited.

It's implications are rather more interesting though. O2 were the only company offering completely uncapped data plans on its mobile network. Even T-Mobile, whose Web n Walk tariff practically invented the concept specify a 3GB cap for its internet browsers. Orange and Vodafone have always been more restrictive about the amount of 'free' data that their tariffs include. All that has happened has been a realignment to bring O2 down to the 500MB limit to match its main rivals. 500MB is unlikely to effect many O2, customers with the company claiming 97% use less data than this at the moment. All the same its worth keeping it in mind.

T-Mobile, being T-Mobile (for a little while longer anyway) offer its customers a better deal - 3GB fair use policy with bandwidth throttling above that limit.

So if …

WC: France Condemned Harshly

First of the contenders to play in South Africa, France have had few positive reviews after their goal-less draw with Uraguay, not least from the British press who always delight in our near neighbour's discomfort.

Shows how much the hacks know, doesn't it?

The World Cup isn't won in the first round and the only goal should be passage, especially in a tournament likely to be dominated by heat and altitude concerns.

In this philosophy the French have become more like the Italians, a good model to copy: in the last ten World Cups Italy have made the final four times and the semis twice more.

Domenech will be looking to match the steady start that saw them through the first round in Germany four years ago before unleashing his team for a charge to the final.

Its worth remembering, though, that no European team has won the World Cup outside of Europe, so slow start or not the French, Italians, English, et al have a weight of history to overcome as well as their opposition...

Phones4U Wave Advert... What?

Have you seen the Phones4U advert for the Samsung Wave?

Who on earth gave that campaign the green light, what were they smoking at the time and what on earth will happen to them when Samsung catch up with them?

Review: SPB TV For Windows Mobile

Its not often that something gets cheaper and better at the same time, but this is what SPB have achieved with the new version of their IP TV viewer.

Having tried an earlier version of the software some time ago and found it to be worthy if in need of more work to be value for money I was not surprised to see that a new version of the program announced last week - after all SPB have a good reputation for continually improving their products, Mobile Shell being a good example.

I was surprised to see that TV was going to be a free application though and pleasantly surprised to see the way that this has been achieved.

Opening the program presents a horizontal line of channels which can be dragged left or right with the chosen channel's details being displayed in a window above. A quick tap and the channel starts to buffer. Here's where the payoff for the applications begins... Whilst the channel is buffering an advert is displayed. If you want advertising in an application this is h…

iPhone 4 Arrives, Much As Predicted

So Apple went ahead and launched pretty much everything that had been predicted for its new iPhone, even if the name seemed a little... obvious.

It's a nice looking device, but once again Apple has launched stuff that it is claiming to be innovative when in reality others have been doing them for ages.

Front facing camera and video calling? That's at least four years old on smartphones, starting with the HTC Universal. Maybe America has lacked video calling but the rest of the world? We've been there and done that thank you very much.

How about that Retinal Display, with its above 300dpi resolution that makes things look sharper and smoother on-screen? Step forward the Xperia X1, sporting 311dpi nearly 18 months ago.

On device video editing; 720p video?

To be fair Apple are the first to put everything in one device but realistically its not the quantum leap forward that Apple are portraying it as. Sure its light years ahead of the3GS, but compared to the competition not so mu…

Dell Streak Barely A Tablet

Dell's Streak went on sale at O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores yesterday to an overwhelmingly positive reception.

All very well, but as tablets go its a pretty underwhelming device, packing a fairly standard Android 1.6 smartphone into an oversized frame with a 5" screen.

In fact I can't see any reason for choosing the Streak over the Xperia X10, which at the cost of 1" of screen diagonal trades you a more pocketable device with a far superior camera and a higher screen resolution. What's the point of having a bigger screen if you're going to put fewer pixels on it?

As it stands I think the Streak is a poor choice for most users and, if truth be told, the choice were between this and an iPad I'd not be bothering with a tablet at all. Let's hope the next wave of Android tablets are a little better thought out...

Could iPhone 4 Finally End Tethering?

Those two million iPhone users who went out and bought iPads over the last two months didn't really have a great out of the box experience, even if some of them don't realise it.

Why? Primarily because of iTunes. At some stage this slice of 'magic' needed to be tethered to a desktop in order to sync, backup and in some cases register.

Its a major iPhone/iPad failing and doesn't affect devices running Android or Windows Mobile. In fact my Windows Mobile and Android phones have never been synchronised with a desktop PC both linking to cloud services.

With the new version of the iPhone just a week away is it too much to hope that Apple's raggy old desktop sync will have gone the way of the dodo and some form of MobileMe/Cloud sync will have taken its place?

T-Mobile Roaming Data Plan Pretty Good Value

Mobile data roaming doesn't exactly have a good reputation with tales of users running up bills in the tens of thousands of pounds after failing to understand the implications of data costs abroad.

The EU stepped in last year to enforce fairer charges and as a result mobile data is significantly more affordable when roaming across the union.

T-Mobile's roaming internet booster is a sign of how things have improved, with 30 days and 50MB of data costing just £10... A far cry from the days of £7.50 per MB that used to be the norm.

So the message this summer is if you need mobile data you won't need a re-mortgage, a good reason for the EU if ever there was one!