Showing posts from July, 2014

What Is The Point of an OS Upgrade That Cripples Your Phone?

One of the figures that Apple is very keen on trotting out  whenever it gets the opportunity is the one that measures the number of phone users who have upgraded to the latest version of the OS. The pitch usually goes something like this: 99% of iPhones are running the latest version of iOS just seventeen minutes after it was released to the public, meanwhile the latest version of Android is only on three phones despite being available for three months. (I'm paraphrasing here)

However Harvard professor Sendhil Mullainathan has been doing some research using Google Trends that suggests that large numbers of users are immediately disenchanted with their iPhones post-upgrade. The search term 'iPhone slow' goes ballistic on Google immediately after the release of a new version of iOS. This NYTimes article has more details.

So the question is: does Apple deliberately sabotage performance of older devices in the way it codes its upgrades or is this just the result of trying to …

Facebook Makes Messenger Compulsory, Windows Phone Users Wince

One of my favourite things about Windows Phone is the way that third party services integrate into the core experience.

Most impressively the way that the default messaging client handled all communications within its slick, totally native design. The seamless ability to switch from one messaging platform to another within the same conversation without any inconvenience was a world away from what was available on iOS and Android.

Introduced in Windows Phone 7.5 it allowed you to continue a conversation whilst jumping between text message, Windows Live Messenger and Facebook Messenger.

It was a unique selling point and now it's gone.

Skype replaced Windows Live Messenger, now Facebook has killed access to its messaging platform outside of its Messenger application,

Messaging on WP8.1 is now the same tired, jump from app to app paradigm as everywhere else, and that's a shame.

WP8.1: Cortana Adds Foursquare For Dining Recommendations, Potentially Wider Use

Cortana has had a pretty good reception since arriving in the Windows Phone 8.1 Beta and Microsoft had just released a commercial 'demonstrating' how it outperforms Siri.

Whilst Microsoft plays to its strengths in the video, from my own personal experience Cortana is indeed a more capable personal assistant than Apple's version. Microsoft isn't resting on its laurels either, with Foursquare support being added today, enabling recommendations for what's good around you.

So far I've only seen recommendations for dining options, but potentially the power of Bing and the user data held by Foursquare could add up to some very detailed location notifications around different business types and services. Like asking Cortana to let you know when you're near a florist recommended by your Foursquare friends or just highly rated by visitors in general.

If Foursquare is able to strengthen its knowledge of users with better demographic data we could potentially go furt…

OneNote Parody Video - LMFAO

I know there are some of you out there that will hate this video, however as well as being a pretty funny parody of LMFAO it also makes for a pretty good advert for the combined talents of the Surface Pro and OneNote.

The Microsoft engineers who put this together obviously had a good time making it and if it focuses more on being funny than demonstrating the products I think we can forgive them that...

F1: Mercedes Hungary Team Orders Call A Big Mistake

In developing the fastest package fpr the 2014 season, Mercedes gave themselves the nicest problem a race team could have - ensuring that their drivers played nicely in the battle for the driver's and constructor's Wordl Titles.

Thus far the team seem to have done okay - barring the misadventures of Monaco qualifying and the few technical problems they have experienced, it's been clean sweep all season long.

In Hungary though, a combination of safety cars and weather contrived to cost them the race, but also to once more sow discord into the harmonious team environment.

And it was all their own fault.

At two-thirds distance Lewis Hamilton was told not to hold up team-mate Nico Rosberg - on the quicker option tyre - and he politely declined. We're told that the team made the call off it's own back and Rosberg didn't ask to be let by initially. Having then been told that Hamilton was going to let him through Rosberg was left fuming when he didn't.

This was a…

OnePlus One Review - Something Kind of Different

OnePlus has generated a fair bit of buzz with its new handset, for several different reasons. Having had a chance to try one hands-on I can tell you that the buzz is warranted. This is a great phone. For the price I'd even go as far as saying it's an amazing phone. Not perfect, but as close as you can get right now.

The first thing that you'll notice when picking up the OnePlus One is that despite having a 5.5" screen it feels neither heavy nor unwieldy. The materials feel more premium than any mid-range phone has a right to feel and the balance in the hand is excellent. There's no way this is a one-handed phone - but if you're after screen real-estate on this scale that shouldn't be a surprise to you.

What a screen it is though. A 1080p IPS panel, the colours are excellent and screen elements are as sharp as anything at this resolution. I'd say that the panel on the HTC One M8 is a hair better, but that's about all that's in it.

The screen ha…

RIP James Garner 1966 F1 World Champion!

You might remember James Garner as Maverick or perhaps Jim Rockford, but for me it will always be his role as Pete Aron in John Frankenheimer's 1996 Grand Prix film that will stand-out.

If you have an interest in cars and haven't seen it then seek out the DVD  it's the best tenner you'll ever spend...

iPad Sales Down - Not Surprising Really

Apple's financial report made pretty good reading if you're a shareholder, employee or loyal customer. Overall sales grew by more than 5% and profit by nearly 12% compared with this time last year. That's pretty impressive for a quarter with no new hardware releases.

However, there was one downside, a 9% drop in iPad sales, which has been picked up on and offered as evidence of Apple being in trouble at a number of sites.

That's very far from the truth. Here's why.

The iPad is an exceedingly popular tablet, to the point where even after a year of being outsold by Android tablets it's still the most popular tablet in use today.

It's getting a bit long in the tooth though. Since the iPad 3 replaced the iPad 2 there hasn't really been a compelling reason to upgrade if you have an older iPad. Similarly with the iPad Mini, the arrival of a Retina Display didn't really give existing users a driver to update.

Unlike smartphones, there's no contract dr…

Comparing Apple and Microsoft As Communicators

Last week both Apple and Microsoft had big announcements to make about the future of their companies, for Microsoft it was a round of layoffs on an unprecedented scale. For Apple it was a new partnership with IBM which should see it make further strides into the enterprise.

Apple's announcement has huge implications for the way the business is run, a new opportunity to present iOS as a truly capable business device, being pushed to large enterprise customers by IBM, a company those customers know and trust.

In contrast Microsoft announced changes that will affect the livelihood of thousands of its employees, will change some of it's product lines and kill off others.

How were those messages communicated to staff? Well here's Satya Nadella's widely circulated message to Microsoft and here (courtesy of 9to5 Mac) Tim Cook's private one to Apple's staff.

Once you've read the two memos it's easy to understand the differences between the two companies. Nadel…

Nokia Bears Brunt of Microsoft Job Cuts

When Microsoft announced it was going to buy Nokia it talked about bringing efficiencies to the new business.

This week the announcement that 14% of Microsoft employees were being made redundant hit those former Nokia employees hardest with 12,500 expected to lose their jobs one the final toll has been taken.

That's going to be hard on a company that has already been through radical restructuring prior to the merger being announced.

For Microsoft as a whole it doesn't paint a great picture - worst case expectations were for 6,000 job cuts across the whole business. With three times as many Microsofties now facing redundancy it beggars two questions: Was Microsoft really this badly overstaffed pre-merger? And what products will die as a result of this change?

One thing we do know, Nokia's X range of Android AOSP phones won't be around much longer, as Microsoft focuses on Windows Phone. Which should also end those rumours of Microsoft adopting Android apps on its mobile…

F1: German GP Promises To Get All FRICed UP

The 2014 F1 season potentially descends further into farce this at this weekend's German Grand Prix, after the FIA declared that the trick suspensions currently being used by at least seven of F1's teams were illegal. These FRIC suspensions (Front Rear Inter Connected) must either be removed from the cars using them or face the threat of appeals for technical non-compliance and ultimately disqualification.
The FIA have offered to allow the continued use of FRIC suspensions if all of the teams unanimously agree to them remaining. With some teams at a distinct disadvantage from not having the technology that doesn't seem to be a very likely scenario.
Will this shake up the grid? At least some of the teams believe that Mercedes FRIC is responsible for an element of its advantage. Perhaps the loss of the system will reduce the advantage that Rosberg and Hamilton have at every race, however I doubt that it will be enough for other teams to prevent the domination of the Silver …

Developer Income Matters

We are close to the point where Google's Play Store will be distributing more money to developers than the iTunes Store - quite a landmark point, when its was estimated that Apple paid out up to five times as much as Google just a couple of years ago.

The growth in income for the Play Store has been driven by two things - the growth of the Freemium sales model, which entices users into apps and then sells them additional features (or in the case of games more lives, bonuses or weapons necessary to progress in the game); and the growth of Android phones in South America and similar developing markets, where this model undoubtedly works better.

Average revenue per user will still favour developers who publish in the App Store, but realistically the figure developers are most interested in is going to be the total income generated, and in that respect the Play Store is going to creep ahead - especially now that Google are tracking more than one billion live Android phones in current…

Android Apps On Windows Phone Would Be A Death Sentence

Windows Phone may be getting the ability to run Android apps, if rumours on several sites are to be believed. Given that Microsoft already has a range of phones running AOSP and access to a Microsoft/Android ecosystem that doesn't appear to be a great stretch.
However the arrival of Android apps on Windows Phone will mark the end for the platform. Developers will have no incentive to create for the platform and buyers will have no reason to choose one over an Android alternative. 
Satya Nadella's recent 'employee' email didn't make it sound like Windows Phone was on it's deathbed, however in an interview with The Verge Nadella was asked a specific question about whether Microsoft could win in the Smartphone market. His response? Talk about the Surface Pro 3. If I was on the Windows Phone team I wouldn't be taking that as a huge vote of confidence.
If Windows Phone disappears - whether that be a slow death or a quick one - I'm not entirely sure that cur…

Sharp Intake A Breath: Barcelona Runway Near-Miss

I guess that these must happen quite regularly, given the number of flights and low levels of separation between landing and departing airports, but to see two aircraft ina near miss incident, caught on camera is an eye-opener.

The video below, captured at Barcelona-El Prat airport shows an Aerolineas Argentinas A340 cross a runway where a Russian UTair 767 is in the process of landing. The Russian pilot realises what's happening in time and aborts his landing, however the margin between escape and disaster looks worryingly small.

What the cause of the incident was isn't clear - did the airport controller give the Argentinian pilot permission to cross or did he misunderstand an instruction to hold? Either way this came close to a repeat of the world's worst air disaster - the 1977 Tenerife accident, where an aircraft on take-off hit another on the runway at a cost of 583 lives.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Battery Kit Is A Winner

As each generation of smartphone replaces the last so the scramble for those precious few extra minutes of battery life. The more that our phones do, the less they do it for.

There have been workarounds. Sony introduced stamina mode to its Xperia range, effectively reducing functionality in order to eke out those extra hours of life. Which is all well and good. However there is a better solution, one that has been around for a while and is currently only available from Samsung amongst the larger OEMs.

The removable, replaceable battery.

Sure you can use external battery packs to recharge a device on the go, but it's hardly an elegant solution.

Samsung has a much cleverer and altogether more integrated system, which makes for a slick way of doubling (or tripling, if that's what you desire) battery life.

The Galaxy S5 has a pretty good battery stamina as standard. It even has a more extreme version of Sony's Stamina mode to really push the limits of regular battery usage.


Smartphone Photography Rocks

As a rule smartphones make great cameras for those moments that you wouldn't otherwise capture, because you wouldn't be carrying a normal compact camera. Generally the sort of pictures captured are a record of life, for storage away on a drive (cloud or local) and remembering who, where, what and how we lived our lives and grew up.

There's a new generation of phones though, that are capable of much more.

This shot was taken with an Xperia Z1, which sports a 20mp camera and some software trickery which allows it to capture a photograph that would have once been the domain of professional photographers with serious camera equipment.

It's the sort of photograph that I could never have dreamt of taking, yet was able to capture on the spur of the moment, using a piece of technology that fits in my pocket.

Isn't technology wonderful?

F1: Bernie Threatens Italian Grand Prix, Small Teams

Bernie Ecclestone may be approaching a million years old but that hasn't stunted his desire to rip every penny from Formula One and scoop up profits everywhere, from everyone involved in the sport.

Under attack this time is the historic circuit of Monza - home of the Italian Grand Prix.

Bernie has been complaining that the deal agreed with the circuit to run the Italian Grand Prix until 2016 didn't make enough money for him, so the Italian Grand Prix was unlikely to feature in the calendar after the current deal expires.

That's not to say that Bernie doesn't want an Italian Grand Prix, just that he's begun the process of negotiating the price upwards for the Italian organisers at a very early stage of the negotiations.

The problem for them is that F1 in Italy is on a downward spiral - the sport has been damaged by the 'circus tricks' which have been introduced to artificially spice up the racing. Ferrari aren't doing well and Italy itself is suffering …