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Showing posts from April, 2014

Peak iPad? Maybe, Maybe Not

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Apple's 'disappointing' sales numbers for the iPad have created a new internet meme - the concept of 'Peak iPad'. It's being trumpeted across the web in too many places to ignore. That's not the same as being correct or even likely, not that it's stopping anybody from saying it.

It's not impossible that we have reached peak iPad, it's just not very likely.

The iPad is part of a rapidly maturing tablet market, we've reached a point where there aren't any major updates to come. The next iPad will no doubt sport faster internals, a lighter, thinner body; and a fingerprint sensor a la iPhone. The desire to upgrade the iPad is much less compelling than that of a smartphone. The latter is by your side every minute of the day, it's the screen and device that is most used. As a result we want the most capable device to meet our needs. That's not the case for a tablet.

Without the drivers of contract renewals or rapid technology advances…

iPad v PC Sales - Cause and Effect?

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PC Sales have been in the doldrums for a couple of years, with the iPad taking credit for changing the market. There's certainly a correlation between the rise in tablet sales and the drop of PC sales, but is that assumption really valid?

PC sales are down in the enterprise and consumer markets, but is that due to the iPad? Or are other factors in play?

Three years has generally been the accepted replacement cycle for PCs. At this age a PC was so far behind the performance curve that the cost of replacing the PC was easily recovered in increased productivity achieved by the end user. As the PC slowed and technology raced forward, some businesses saw benefits from even shorter replacement cycles.

Vista (bizarrely) helped changed that by greatly improving the Windows registry. Many people don't understand the registry, but simply put, it's a database of system and application settings and configurations that is read into memory each time a PC boots. One of the big problems …

Thanks Google, But I'm Skipping KitKat

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The latest version of Android is making its way out to more and more devices. However changes made by Google in its implementation of core features of the OS mean that there's a nasty surprise waiting for those who upgrade.

This update particularly affects users who have devices with expandable storage, something that Google has been trying to steer Android users away from for a while.

Applications will now have restricted access to folders stored on the micro SD card - only being able to write to folders that were created by the app itself.

That's going to break a lot of applications and severely hamper the operation of others. Worse still, for Android owners who've bought devices with 16GB of memory it will restrict their  ability to shuffle stuff onto the card to free space up on the phone itself.

Google seems to have been spooked by the way that Apple and some news outlets have portrayed Android as insecure and reacted by locking things down. Unfortunately this affect…

Leave Our Bezels Alone

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Read any review of new tech today and very early on you'll find comments on the screen bezel. If it's not invisible - or as thin as a razor's edge you'll be reading plenty of negative comment.

This nonsense has got to stop.

Sure I understand that the ratio of display area to face plate size is an important metric in determining how good the device looks, but it seems device usability has gone completely out of the window.

And, horror of horrors, the worst offender is Apple.

The bezel around the screen serves an important purpose, it gives you somewhere to hold the device whilst using it. For a phone it's less of a problem, if you're holding the phone in one hand your fingers can reach around the device so don't generally need to rest on the front to get a good grip.

For a tablet however it's impossible to comfortably wrap your fingers around all but the smallest devices so the natural way of using one is to grip the device between your fingers and thum…

Siri v Cortana v Google Now - Digital Assistants Face Off

The guys over at Windows Phone Central faced Cortana against Siri and Google Now with interesting results. Overall from their video it looks like a win for Microsoft. This mirrors my own testing - a report to follow shortly - which showed that on a range of queries Cortana bested Siri and matched Google Now.

Windows Phone 8.1 First Look

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Courtesy of the Windows Phone developer program, the latest release of Microsoft's mobile OS is now hitting devices worldwide. Packing in a selection of updates with some new features and new ways of working the point version upgrade seems a little stingy.

The big recognition point will be Cortana, Microsoft's answer to both Google Now and Siri. Given that this is beta and very much pre-release the functionality and quality of recognition is fantastic. Having the Cortana live tile surfacing information that you tag as important in your notebook works as well as Google Now, even if the range of things reported on is quite limited at the moment. (To be fair that may be because I'm using a US service in New Zealand).

The second high profile change is the arrival of the action centre. This single place for accessing notifications doesn't stray far from the mould created by Google and copied by Apple: swipe down from the top of the screen to gain access to four (customisable)…

Magnify For Windows Phone Review

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Whilst it's often true that most apps arrive on iPhone first, with a minority arriving on Android before making the jump to the App Store, there are a handful of enlightened developers who release on Windows Phone first, and when they do the results are often impressive.

A perfect example is the Magnify app, a news reader app which is beautiful to look at and use.

The app is a similar take on news reading to Flipboard but done in a visually more pleasing way which plays to the strengths of Windows Phone.

Feeds are split into broad categories from which it's possible to drill down to individual feeds or a whole category. The way that
parallax scrolling is used for images in the feed lists is especially pleasing and executed brilliantly. You can select both categories and feeds that you want displayed by Magnify.

Once you have opened a story scrolling is undertaken by the outside box flip. If you want to keep the story it can be shared to Twitter, Instapaper, Pocket or OneNote.…

Mozilla's Real Problem: Mobile Irrelevance

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Mozilla has had an interesting couple of weeks in the spotlight thanks to its decision to appoint Brendan Eich as its CEO and then fail to deal with the backlash in any kind of way. I'm not going to cover the relative merits of that argument - it's far too nuanced and very specific to California in a way that makes it impossible to understand from the other side of the world.

As it picks up the pieces of the last few weeks the truth is that however damaging they have been, the real problem is that, at it's heart, Mozilla is a dying business failing to compete in the one market sector where growth is a given: mobile.

Mozilla's income - and very existence - is almost 100% dependent upon the payment it receives from Google for making their search engine the default choice in the browser. In return Google gets two things - search activity (and from that its own income stream) and a weapon in its war with Microsoft. Google cannot countenance a world where Internet Explorer…

Kenu Airframe Portable Car Mount Review

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Finding a secure, semi-permanent mount to hold your smartphone in your car without damaging either the car or the phone can be a bit of a trial. Finding one that doesn't look decidedly low rent or block your view by sticking to your windscreen is even harder.

The Kenu Airframe promises to be the solution to all your woes - being discrete, well-designed and functional; as well as attaching to 'any' air vent.

The Airframe arrives in a dinky little box with a small instruction leaflet and the mount itself. It's smaller than I expected it to be - about an inch high and two wide, made of black and grey plastic.

Attaching the Airframe to your air vent is straightforward - twist the rubberised grip on the back to the right orientation, push it onto the air vent vane and you're done.

Mounting the phone is easy too, put the right hand side against the arm of the Airframe, give it a gentle push towards the right, locate the left hand side of the phone and release. To remove…

F1: Bahrain Result Sounds Warning Bells

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Bahrain's first night race ended up being a great way to celebrate both the tenth race and tenth anniversary of the Grand Prix in the Emirate. A battle between the Mercedes drivers which was tense but never dirty, a close finish behind for the podium places and more evidence that Pastor Maldonado shouldn't be on the grid.

The race was the third clean sweep for Mercedes - pole position, fastest lap and race win. It was a second straight one-two for the team - only Hamilton's mechanical failure in Australia preventing the team taking a clean sweep there too.

The gap between Mercedes and the other teams is a serious concern though.

In Malaysia Hamilton's fastest race lap was one second quicker than Alonso - the quickest of the also-rans, but Hamilton was cruising for most of the race. In Bahrain it was a different and rather worrying story.

Due to Maldonado's brain-fade, which put Gutierrez's Sauber into a barrel roll the safety car was required, meaning that the…

Mixed News In Latest HTC Financial Report

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HTC has endured a torrid couple of years during which it has managed to fall from the top of the smartphone tree to an obscure also-ran. That despite producing 2013's phone of the year in the flagship HTC One. The first quarter of 2014 didn't produce much good news for the company either as it posted another loss and failed to meet even it's own pessimistic guidance.

On the plus side, sales and revenue were up - breaking a 28 month losing streak that stretches back to before the launch of the One X. As these figures pre-date the general availability of the new One M8 there are small crumbs of comfort to be taken by the company and fans of its devices.

With a new line of mid-range devices alongside its flagship targeting further improved sales the company is aiming to break back into profit in the second quarter of the year.

To do so it has got some work to do it re-establishing its smartphone credentials. The new One M8 isn't a huge upgrade on the previous model and i…

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - New Zealand's First Viable Electric Vehicle

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I can't say that the Mitsubishi Outlander has ever held much appeal for me, until this week that is. The new Outlander PHEV makes a bold statement about the future of motoring worldwide and a specific one about motoring in New Zealand.

The PHEV is a plug-in hybrid vehicle, which takes all the best bits of previous hybrids, matches them with a family friendly SUV body and cranks out some quite amazing economy figures. That despite providing the space and 4WD off-road capability of the regular Outlander.

The Outlander sports two electric motors and a two-litre petrol engine. It appears to be the same disappointing unit that powers current Lancers - poor NVH performance being it's most obvious problem.

However for most city dwelling drivers that may not prove to be a problem as the PHEV will run for 50km or more solely on the battery pack and electric motors. That's well inside the average daily commute for around 95% of drivers. Go beyond that and the petrol engine will cut…

Windows Phone 8.1: Too Little, Too Late?

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At Build today Microsoft made Windows Phone 8.1 official, showing off new features and capabilities. Most of which were excellent news for existing WP8 owners (who will all get an upgrade) and future Windows Phone buyers.

There were some headline grabbing new features too - not least Cortana, which looks to be a pretty impressive mash-up of Siri and Google Now. It looks pretty smart, with capabilities beyond Apple or Google's products. Good as it looks however, it's a case of Microsoft playing catch-up, and that's never a good place to be. Siri has some key advantages, based on what we saw in the demo at least. Not least because it's possible to launch Siri but holding down the iPhone's home key whether the phone is on or off.

The Word Flow keyboard extension was nice to see, even if it got mostly missed in all the noise about Cortana. Microsoft have jumped ahead of Apple and drawn level with Google in the text entry stakes.

Skype will be gaining some new features…