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Showing posts from September, 2015

LA iPad In Schools Fallout Continues, Lenovo, Apple And Pearson To Pay Millions

Pearson, Apple, Lenovo and the LAUSD are under investigation by the FBI as the repercussions of its horribly bungled iPad for schools program reverberate around the district. It appears that there is some question over the legitimacy of the tendering process, and with a contract worth $1.3bn that's something that needs careful scrutiny. The School District is facing allegations of corruption and mismanagement, which if proven, will inevitably lead to criminal prosecutions. At the moment there's no suggestion that Apple or Lenovo were involved in any wrongdoing. However both companies will be making some form of retribution to the School District. Lenovo in the form of $2.2m worth of laptops, Apple paying $4.5m in cash. Pearson will also be making a payment - around $6.5m. However, as the lead contractor with responsibility for delivering the software which made the project viable (questionably), Pearson's liability may not end there. The absence of course curriculum and l…

Pixel C Is Google's Surface, But Not For The Reasons You Think

Google launched its own tablet yesterday - the Pixel C. Unlike the Pixel it runs Android rather than Chrome and unlike Nexus devices it's designed and branded by Google. Some have seen the attachable keyboard and stand as being an admission that Google, like Apple, got things very wrong when it called out Microsoft's Surface. However this isn't Google's Surface because of how it works or looks. When Microsoft built the Surface and Surface Pro it wanted to present customers with the best possible way of experiencing Windows 8. There's no real argument that it succeeded in this goal, even if most people didn't really want a Windows 8 device. As a result Windows OEMs are now building machines which are closer to the Surface in both design and spirit. Google has a problem when it comes to tablets. There are lots of Android tablets being sold but they are generally smaller, low end tablets that aren't generating mind share, advert views or driving developers t…

Play Music Gets Family Plan, Microsoft Groove Lags Again

Google went wild with new announcements yesterday,  packing in new phones, tablets and Chromecasts.

There was an important service announcement too, with Play Music getting a family plan option which brings it in-line with Apple Music and ahead of Spotify.

The $14.99 plan allows up to six family members to connect to the service, with their own play histories and playlists.

Unsurprisingly this will be US only for starters, with the rest of the world seeing it at some unspecified time in the future.

The only mainstream streaming service now not offering a family option is Microsoft's Groove. Given how little Microsoft has put into marketing the service that's hardly surprising. Family music services are a real potential growth area. If you're paying for one music subscription why not add a little bit more and give the same service to your partner and children (or even your parents)? Families will have access to a variety of phones, tablets, PCs and consoles and being ab…

IPhone 6S First Look

Having been away for most of the last week today was my first chance to go hands on with the latest revision of the iPhone. Of course being an 'S' year the physical changes are minimal. Different metal (without my iPhone 6 to hand I couldn't tell the difference), thicker and heavier (apparently) and sporting a new screen and camera. 3D Touch is the most apparent change. Pressing on the screen a bit harder than normal does indeed pop up a menu, for most Apple apps only at the moment. Icons go fuzzy and there's a haptic 'click' which let's you know you've done something different.

For those apps that currently support it I couldn't really see it being a game changer. However I have no doubt that the clever iOS development community will come up with some brilliant uses for the technology.

The new camera doesn't really seem to be greatly different from the old. You might be able to crop closer from the larger image, but the power in the iPhon…

Tim Cook Dings Windows 10

At a event hosted by Tim Cook lined up a pretty hefty broadside at Windows 10. This was somewhat at odds with the main theme of his conversation, which spoke of Apple's improved relationship with Microsoft and how the two companies were better when they worked together. Cook claimed that trying to build one operating system to work across mobile and desktop was futile and would inevitably lead to a worse user experience. Bang go any hopes of an iPad Pro running OS X then. Cook probably isn't talking through his hat here. Microsoft has clearly struggled to translate Windows 10 to mobile thus far. Failed builds and releases, plus what promises to be an incomplete launch feature set don't speak to a seamless user experience from day one. Unlike the desktop build where Microsoft has been able to address its lack of features and sometimes unstable software by iterating through releases and updates very quickly, the mobile process promises to be less helpful. Carri…

Walker Porsche Case Could End The Supercar In America

The death of Paul Walker in a high-speed accident two years ago was a tragedy. Walker was a passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT driven by Roger Rodas that left the road and ploughed into a tree at 94mph according to police accident investigators. This occurred on a road with a 45mph speed limit with pedestrians present. Walker's daughter, Meadow is understandably looking for someone to blame for this accident. As the accident occurred in the US 'blame' also means 'sue'. Rodas was clearly driving with an unbelievable level of disregard for his own and his passengers safety, never mind other road users who may have been in the path of the accident. However suing Rodas clearly doesn't generate enough possible revenue for Meadow Walker (or more likely the ambulance chasers who are guiding her in this case) so Porsche is in the firing line, apparently for not providing safety equipment that could have prevented the accident or allowed Paul Walker to survive the crash…

Volkswagen, The Death Of Diesel And The Birth Of A New Player

Volkswagen did a very bad thing, using software to generate false results for emissions test. It will pay heavily for its crime, with the potential fine just for its US behaviour being estimated at $18bn. That's before the EU starts to investigate the wider implications of a system of cheats which allowed VW to game the EU system to claim much emissions for its diesel cars than could be achieved on the road. Independent research suggests that these cars emitted up to 40 times the claimed levels of NOx and particulates when not under test. With at least 11 million VW vehicles affected no wonder European cities are so full of smog. Who's to say that other manufacturers aren't pulling similar tricks? After all the nature of the standardized testing in Europe makes it fairly easy to detect when a vehicle is being tested and alter its responses accordingly.
There's a bigger story here that perhaps isn't getting the coverage that it should.
Diesel is a dirty fuel. It…

French Court Decision Heralds Censored Internet For All

Google suffered another defeat in its ongoing battle with the French Government this week, a decision that could eventually lead to a heavily censored internet for everyone, everywhere.

The conflict centres around the right to be forgotten, which is a thing in France. Google must censor its search results to reflect requests from French citizens to be excluded.

The latest decision means that Google must apply the filter globally or else face fines that could run into billions of dollars.

It is, as they say, the thin end of the wedge. Once Google starts filtering global results based on French requests the door is open for every other nation to demand the application of its own rules globally, no matter how absurd or restricted they might be.

Google's best defence now looks like the implementation of geo blocking to prevent results showing in France, no matter which Google property they originate from.

If that doesn't satisfy French regulators then globally we face a battle be…

Fake Xcode Download Opens Door To iOS Malware

Its all too easy to get blasé about security when you have both obscurity and popular opinion on your side. I've said time and time again that Apple's positioning of its products as being havens of computer security is both disingenuous and dangerous. Today's news that over three hundred apps in the App Store are compromised thanks to a vulnerability far outside of Apple's control shows why. Thanks to slow international internet links in China, developers download the Xcode package which is used to create iOS and OS X apps from unofficial local mirrors. Several of those mirrors have been hosting hacked versions of Xcode, which allow a hacker to extract information from your device when you install an app coded with one. The issue appears to be contained within China (although the 600m users of one of the compromised apps, WeChat might disagree with the use of 'contained') and Apple is busily removing vulnerable apps from the Chinese app store. Of course if App…

Wired Is First To Succumb To Apple Bait And Switch

Wired Magazine is currently running an article which contains only a link to Apple News. The actual content is exclusive the Apple Flipboard competitor until Tuesday 22nd of September. That's a prime example of what Apple's adblock / news service one-two will make of the internet in the future. You can only consume content through certain channels. Its analogous to cable and satellite TV channel packages, where exclusivity means that you can never get all of the programming. Right now its just Apple, but you can be sure that both Google and Facebook are working to lock content down in exactly the same way. Whilst Wired may only have allowed Apple a four day exclusive on this article its possible that in future the whole of the magazine's content could be locked away behind exactly this kind of barrier. To rub salt into the wounds - and show why it is that web users feel the need to install ad blockers in the first place - Wired is continuing to show ads on the page, one w…

UAG Surface 3 Case Review

There isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to choosing a case for your tablet - unless you have an iPad of course. For Surface 3 buyers the Type Cover provides excellent protection for the screen, for the times when you're transporting it in your briefcase or another bag. What if you need something capable of standing up to a little more rough and tumble though? Enter the Urban Armor Gear Scout, which gives the Surface 3 military spec drop protection. The 'Frogskin' material makes the case grippy and imbues a degree of environmental protection (not too much though as all the ports are left exposed. Paired with the Type Cover this feels like it should protect your investment even in reasonably hazardous environments. The Surface 3 version of the UAG case sports some nice touches which show that the company spent a little more time on designing this case, rather than just changing the dimensions of an existing iPad case. For example there is a clip built into to t…

iOS Slide To Upgrade Bug: How Does This Happen?

In the first month after launch 90,000 different and unique device types were upgraded to Windows 10. At that sort of volume it's not surprising that there are a few problems along the way. Apple released the iOS 9 update last week. It has to test on three device types (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) with perhaps half a dozen iterations of each. So how does it manage to let a bug which renders devices unusable slip through to release? The Slide to Upgrade bug - as it has been christened - appears after iOS 9 has been installed and prevents the device from being used in any way, shape or form. The device proffers a screen asking the user to slide to upgrade after each reboot. The fix is to connect your device to a PC or Mac running iTunes, create a back up of the device (if you don't have a recent backup) and then restore said backup to the phone. Not complex or particularly time consuming but potentially frustrating for end users nevertheless. Is this symptomatic of a loss of q…

Microsoft Lumia 435 Review

As entry-level smartphones go the Lumia 435 is about as entry-level as you can go. How low? Well its currently available on PAYG in New Zealand for $69 - including a $19 credit, making the phone's real price $50 - or about £20 at today's exchange rates. For that price you get a 4" screen at WVGA, 2mp rear and 0.3mp front facing cameras, 8GB of storage and 1GB of memory. There's a micro-SD card slot for expanding that storage by up to 128GB, ensuring that you'll always have space for your media and files. The processor is a dual-core Snapdragon 200, a first in a Windows Phone. The absence of 4G is unsurprising, however HSPDA+ should keep things ticking along nicely and, as a bonus, will be much more battery friendly. The 435 will be one of the phones which receives Windows 10 Mobile first, likely to be sometime around the end of October. The promise of ongoing updates at this end of the smartphone market is something unique and, frankly, at this price if your only…

Apple's iOS Adblocker Platform Doesn't Work That Well Right Now

Contentious. That's a good word to describe the reception of iOS 9's ad blocking capabilities thus far. On one side you have the argument that content producers have a right to earn a living from their work, on the other that users are entitled to a level of control over what happens when they visit a website.
Personally I disagree with the concept of preventing ads from displaying, at the same time understanding why people feel that intrusive and data gobbling downloads are ruining their browsing experience and costing them money (on mobile devices anyway). Having upgraded my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 to iOS 9 and installed some content blockers to see how they work I found browser performance was not particularly improved. Side by side with my second iPhone 6 running iOS 8 there were negligible differences in load times. However, I didn't measure data so that might be the real differentiator here. I did compare the iOS ad blocker on my iPad with Internet Explorer's TPL…

Apple Is Coming, Car Makers Need To Be Ready

When Apple entered the mobile phone market in 2007 there was a general belief amongst the incumbent phone OEMs that the company would fail to rock the market.

We now know exactly how that went. Nokia, RIM, Motorola and Palm have either been consigned to history or are teetering on the brink.

Now the signs are that Apple are working on a car. Probably electric, possibly self driving. And car makers should be quaking in their boots.

Anyone who has any doubts about Apple's ability to disrupt the car market in the same way as they have the phone one need only look at the success that Tesla has had, both in terms of building a brand from scratch and then using it to sell cars in the premium market.

Apple already has the brand and it has capital to spare to support building both the engineering and manufacture parts of the business; and the infrastructure to support it.

For car makers imagine the nightmare scenario of an Apple electric car backed by an international network of propriet…

Can You Imagine A Switch To Android App In The iTunes Store

No, me neither. The thought of Apple allowing a competitor to publish such an app is laughable. Google is much more open and as a result Apple has been able to publish a 'Switch to iOS' app in the Play Store. That App is currently being hammered with one star reviews by Android fans, somewhat unsurprisingly. Something which John Gruber finds hilarious. No John, what's hilarious is that you're prepared to accept a situation where Apple can sensor its app store to prevent this sort of app. Or any other app it takes a dislike to. A not uncommon occurrence as it turns out.

Sonos Adds Groove Support

I have to say I'm not entirely sold on Wi-Fi based whole home streaming audio solutions like Sonos, or Airplay. It isn't something that really fits with the way that I consume music. That is, I'm generally in the same room where it's playing, so streaming via Bluetooth works a treat. The sound quality may be better on Wi-Fi streaming solutions but my hearing isn't acute enough to tell the difference. However, if your audio demands are greater and Sonos is your choice of home audio you've just picked up another choice of music service. Sonos and Microsoft have enabled Groove streaming through the media system. As a Groove subscriber I'm pleased that Microsoft appears to be putting more weight behind the service than it did with previous iterations (Xbox Music and Zune Music) even if it isn't something I'll personally get to benefit from.

Apple's Adblocker Will Hurt Apple-centric Sites Most

iOS adblocking has been a thing for a day now and I'll be interested to see how it has started to impact on web publishers ad revenue at this early stage. A good indicator is Nilay Patel's article on the front page of The Verge today, which portrays the future as a hell characterized by all out war between Apple, Google and Facebook. He's probably not far from the truth. Apple News and adblocking together demonstrate where Apple sees the future of content monetization. Not on the web, but in an app. An app controlled by Apple and with ads provided and managed by Apple. However that's for the future. Right now there are more pressing concerns for publishers - especially those which are Apple-centric. If the majority of your hits came from iOS devices up until two days ago you are particularly vulnerable to adblocking tools running in iOS 9. Sites which provide Apple news and commentary are almost certainly entirely in this category. Now I'm pretty sure that users w…

Amazon Announces New Tablets And A Change Of Focus

Amazon has released details of its refreshed Kindle Fire range and in doing so demonstrated that it understands how the tablet market has changed since the original Fire was launched. Whether its new direction is sufficient to win it back some relevance in the tablet market remains to be seen. The biggest news is a 7" tablet which will sell for just $50. That's going to make it an attractive purchase when compared to the no-name and rebranded imports that currently populate that price band. Also announced were $150 and $230 8" and 10" versions. These look to be pretty good value for the price and for the first time pack external storage which can be used for downloaded media storage. Amazon is advertising them as more durable than the iPad, but given the significant price difference between the two ranges I can't see anybody making a buying decision between the two. New services are what will be the bigger machine's unique selling points. The new Undergroun…

iOS 9 On The iPad Does Not A PC Make

One of the big messages coming out of Apple's big launch last week was that the iPad Pro was a professional class machine, ready to take on the duties that would normally be completed on a laptop. The bigger screen does make this easier - especially multi-tasking apps using iOS 9's new side by side feature, however otherwise the enhancements should apply just as much to the iPad Air 2.
I retrieved my iPad Air 2 from the desk drawer where it has sat untouched ever since I swapped to the Surface 3, charged it up and the updated it to iOS 8.4.1 in order to get the iOS 9 upgrade.
Frankly it wasn't worth the effort.
The iPad is a working replacement for a laptop only if your work involves a very specific set of tasks. For me I need something beyond what the iPad and its cut down applications can offer. My intention had been to bench the Surface 3 and use the iPad exclusively for a period of time to record my observations. After just one hour with the updated iPad it became cle…

iOS 9 Arrives And The Pleading Has Begun

If you've been reading about the arrival of iOS 9 today you're probably already picking up on one of the big themes playing on publisher's minds.
Adblocking and white lists.
Almost every site I've visited today has slipped in a small, request to be white listed if you're planning on using adblocking on your iOS device.
Not really surprising seeing as most Web browsing comes from Apple's mobile OS and presumably most ad click through and page view income is dependent on those users seeing ads. For those sites not wanting to get involved in an escalating war of ad services against ad blockers their only hope is to ask for an exception to the blocker.
I wonder how many users will hear the content provider's pleas? And for those that do, how long before they get bored of the process and get blind to those requests?

iOS 9 Upgrade Problems A Result Of Apple's California-centric World View

As is usual whenever Apple pushes out an upgrade to its mobile operating system legions of device owners are taking to social media to complain about how they can't download the update. That's hardly surprising given that Apple is trying to deliver the update to the whole world of iThings in one go. The software was released for download at 10am PST on the sixteenth. Yet for some of the world's population it had been the 17th for several hours by then. Had Apple taken a global view and released the software to individual territories as they crossed into September 16th the load would have been spread much wider than flipping the switch globally at an arbitrary time. I can only assume that Apple's reasons are fixed around the belief that California is the centre of the world. It isn't. In contrast Microsoft managed to release Windows 10 to the world by switching on individual territories as they crossed into release day. Maybe that's something else that Apple ca…

Airdrop Vulnerability Identified, Fixed

Apple's proprietary solution for sending files between devices has a major vulnerability which can allow a hacker to gain control of your device by disguising malware as a legitimate iOS application. As the package is delivered via Airdrop its automatically delivered to your phone without any user interaction, although its only activated when your iOS device is reset. Two things here. First of all don't leave Airdrop wide open to anybody, restrict it to contacts only (swipe up on the home screen and tap the Airdrop panel to set this). Secondly, Apple has patched the vulnerability in iOS 9, which should be available to supported iOS device owners now. Once again the advantages of Apple's limited hardware selection and direct control of delivery systems mean that security is better controlled when compared to competing platforms.

The Alfa Romeo Giulia Really Is Going To Have It All

The Alfa Romeo Giulia has been wowing the crowds at the Frankfurt motor show this week, and for good reason. This is the first full production rear wheel drive Alfa Romeo since the 75. It looks fabulous, especially when compared to the bland teutonic designs that fill this segment. And now it turns out that the Giulia's mix of twin turbo V6 power and lightweight design produce a car that, in Quadrofoglio trim at least, is going to leave the traditional performance saloons from BMW, Mercedes and... and well everyone else really, eating dust. The  Giulia is reported to have lapped the Nurgburgring in 7:39. That's phenomenally fast. How fast? Quicker than the Lamborghin Murcielago, the Audi R8 V10, even the McLaren-Mercedes SLR. That's pretty radical for  four seat, four door saloon car. Nearest peer? The BMW M5, a whopping sixteen seconds slower around the 'Ring. Even so its unlikely that the Giulia will appear on the streets in anything like the numbers of its less cap…

Tim Cook, Meet Lumia Living Images

Of all the bizarre places you might expect Apple CEO Tim Cook to pop up, BuzzFeed is probably not one of them. Nevertheless in amongst his visit to the New York Apple Store - which was either Megalomaniac or Messianic, depending on whose report you read - Cook took some time to walk and talk with the site's Managing Editor John Paczkowski.

In the interview he demonstrated either a Jobs-like Reality Distortion Field or an ignorance of the market his number one product plays in.

“I think Live Photos is a medium that hasn’t existed before. It’s like discovering a new form.”

The quote is clearly wrong. Live Photos certainly has existed before. As Microsoft would no doubt be pointing out, were it not currently buddying up with Apple. Like Hey Siri and 3D Touch it isn't new or innovative, other than to the iOS platform.

So here's the launch of Lumia Living Images, from April 2014. Play spot the difference.

Driven: Mercedes A180, Decidedly Average At A Premium

When Mercedes introduced the first A-class back in 1997 it delivered one of the most technically innovative and ground-breaking designs on decades. The upright body shape and sandwich floor design created a roomy compartment with exceptional safety features. When it replaced the A-class in 2012 Mercedes stepped back from its innovative (and controversial) design to release the W176 A-class, a standard family hatchback that lacks any of the features that made its predecessor unique. In designing something conformist Mercedes is clearly seeking to see a better return on its investment than the original, which managed two million sales in its fifteen year lifespan. Externally the A180 is drab - and that's not just down to the gunmetal colour of the carI drove. It's a design which lacks any kind of flair, doesn't draw the eye in nor reward visual appraisal. In a class filled with interesting designs and topped by the eye-poppingly gorgeous Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the A-class i…

Another Android Vulnerability Surfaces

Google's mobile platform may well be the most popular on the planet, but if it keeps springing security holes its going to be very difficult to keep the ship afloat. The latest bug being reported by Ars Technica is a lockscreen vulnerability which allows anybody unauthorised access to any phone running Android 5.x I say any phone, but that's not quite true. Google released a patch last week which should have addressed the problem on Nexus devices. The rest of the Android community? They'll have to wait. Anecdotally it appears that Samsung has been pushing the patch to some devices in some regions - but presumably not ones locked by carriers. That leaves most Android users exposed, with no real idea of when this might get fixed by their OEM and carrier. Exposing once more the weakness of the Android platform. In a week when Apple will launch iOS 9 to all iOS devices from the last four years this sums up the differences between the two platforms perfectly. If you want an An…

Apple On-course For Another Record Breaking iPhone Launch

Whilst the iPhone didn't make too many headlines after Apple's Ask Siri event last week (not in comparison to everything else that was announced anyway) there's a reason why it forms the bulk of Apple's business: customers get enough of it.
That looks like its about to manifest itself in another record breaking launch, as the 6S looks to have beaten its predecessor's pre-order numbers and will almost certainly beat its first quarter sales numbers too.
How much of this is down to pent up demand for the new features in the 6S (a better camera being the only really noteworthy one) and how much is down to Apple's new finance package remains to be seen. If numbers are up in the US, but steady elsewhere, we'll know it's the latter.
More likely the general security and update failings of Android are pushing more and more customers away from Google's platform and onto Apple's. Recent security warnings, plus the poor performance from OEMs and networks i…

Burberry Launches Apple Music Channel

Brands have had their own channels on Spotify and YouTube for years, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that Apple Music will also offer them the same service.
First out of the gates is Burberry, which will offer playlists based around the fashion house's brand values.
This sort of deal is exactly the thing that demonstrates the point made by Eric Schmidt. Do you really want to abdicate selection of music to a clothing manufacturer? What possible connection can there be between a fashion label and the music you like?
It's likely that this will be the first of many such announcements from Apple, as more brands seek to bask in the reflected glory of Apple's success. I imagine that Apple will see these sorts of deals as wins in two ways: an income stream and a selling point for the service.
For listeners there is no downside. An channel which gives you a clue as to how brands would like you to see them could prove to be an interesting form of entertainment. A bit like buz…

Apple Music A Decade Out Of Date According To Eric Schmidt

The BBC has been running a series of articles on the Intelligent Machine, describing the changes in the world that have been - and are being - wrought by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The latest article is an interview with Alphabet (nee Google) chairman Eric Schmidt.
In article that mostly talks about turning the art of the possible into the actual and available Schmidt uses music services as an example of how machine learning delivers a better service to listeners, helping surface new artists that match their existing tastes.
There's a neat little barb dropped in there too.
"A decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite tastemakers to pick the hottest new music." Schmidt writes.
It's hard to argue with his sentiment. Do we want to be told what music we should be listening too or do we want to find new music we'll enjoy because it matches what we currently like? Personally I find the idea o…

New Microsoft Hardware Incoming

Microsoft has started sending out invites for a Windows 10 hardware event on October 6th, where its expected to unveil the next version of its Surface Pro, new Lumias, the Surface Hub and possibly the Hololens. Its also likely that we'll get confirmations of shipping dates for Windows 10 Mobile and Xbox versions. The date is a couple of weeks earlier the rumours suggested, as well as missing the symbolically interesting 10th October date, suggested by @evleaks. It's going to be a big event for Microsoft, given that the future of its hardware strategy has been in question ever since it wrote off its investment in Nokia. The leaks around the new Lumias and Surface suggest that Microsoft have got a story to tell next month. Let's see how they manage to build media interest in the run up to, during and after the announcements.

Microsoft's New Strategy Is A Defense Against 'Good Enough'

Android tablets, the iPad, Chromebooks and the new iPad Pro represent a significant challenge to PC sales and Microsoft's embracing of these platforms represents a strategically sound defense against what could prove to be death by 'good enough'.
None of the devices I've listed above are particularly brilliant on their own, currently you need to pair them with a 'real' computer to cover the whole range of functions that form the current computing landscape.
For consumers this may not be the case for much longer. There comes a point where these cut down machines become good enough that we no longer worry about the missing functionality.
For old Microsoft this would prove to be an enormous problems. By focusing on delivering Microsoft services everywhere it becomes less so. The partnership with Cyanogen, the acquisition of Android and iOS apps, appearing on stage to talk up the capability of the iPad Pro, all of this demonstrates that Microsoft now has a desire…

Rob Rhinehart's Smartphone Takedown

After his last controversial post on outsourcing his life, Soylent developer Rob Rhinehart is back with an altogether more grounded piece on the problems of smartphones in modern life and how he has got around them.
The starting point, as ever, is how notifications were causing his smartphone to take over his life. There's a key piece of learning here, for anyone who uses a smartphone. Manage your notifications, before they take over your life. The point when you know you've failed? The day you have to strap on a smartwatch.
There are very few time-sensitive methods of communication that we need notifications for. One is text messaging - still the only universally supported way of getting a message almost instantly to a third party without having to know what phone or service they are using. You can safely enable text message alerts, on some platforms you can even enable them on a per contact basis. So when your phone beeps you know its someone you want to take notice of.
If …

Apple May Have Chosen The Wrong OS For Its Big iPad

Now that the dust has settled down and we've got over the fact that Apple was undertaking a brief stint as the world's biggest Microsoft cover band, there's an opportunity to review what Apple did with the new iPad Pro.
First of all it validated the efforts of Microsoft and Samsung in bringing the stylus back into the mainstream. Apple may call its stylus a pencil, but it's a stylus all the same. Albeit a clever one.
The keyboard cover showed that Apple's design bods don't always get things right. It's ugly and clumsy when compared to the Surfaces Type Cover. The quick availability of third party keyboard covers suggests Apple was aware that it had issues with its design.
All those comments not withstanding, viewed as a whole the iPad Pro stands up as a product. It will take sales from the top of the tablet market and from the bottom end of the Macbook market. It fits a niche for Apple owners who want more than an iPad but already have a laptop.
In that re…

Sony Backtracks On Xperia Water Resistance Message

Since the arrival of the Xperia Z Sony has made plenty of noise about the environmental protection it has built into it's phones and tablets. It appears that the company is now rather less sure about water resistance in particular and is now advising against using its devices underwater.
Given that a large part of its message has been that the Xperia Z series is a great underwater camera, and that cleaning your device under a running tap is something you can do without worry, this new advice is less than welcome.
I've used both the Z1 and Z3 Compact as underwater cameras without any problems. (That's also true of the Samsung Galaxy S5 by the way) However Sony has clearly found that there has been an unacceptable level of failure due to water ingress and is now seeking to reduce its liability.
Given the big budget advertising campaigns that heralded water-proofing, Song should remain liable for water ingress issues until it has shown that it has made a significant effort …

Why There Is No 32GB iPhone 6S

Apple has come under fire for continuing to offer it's entry-level iPhone with just 16GB of storage. Its an invalid criticism for two very important reasons, only one of which is directly related to Apple's bottom line.
First of all lets talk about the obvious one: Apple knows that consumers will upgrade to the 64GB version which is infinitely more profitable thanks to Apple's ability to purchase storage at steep discounts. The base model doesn't have enough storage to be a viable choice for consumers. And the more websites ding Apple for that choice the more they reinforce the message that you need to upgrade. Apple shareholders can start smiling about now.
So far, so straightforward. What about the second reason?
That's the enterprise. The iPhone has proven to be a popular pick for enterprise customers. Providing employees with an iPhone is seen as a perk as well as a business tool. For Apple it's a business it wants to encourage. And because enterprise cust…

Kiwis Get Surface 3 Bonus

The New Zealand Microsoft Store has a belter of a deal for consumers interested in a new Surface 3: for a limited time each sale will include a Type Cover and Surface Pen as a free bundle.
That's a $250 freebie.
Given that the Surface 3 is a great value package anyway, coming with a one year Office 365 subscription, this new offer makes for a compelling argument in the retail environment.

Did Anyone Notice the New iPhones?

As is traditional Apple used its September event to launch an updated iPhone. For the first time ever no-one seems to have noticed.
Yes it has helped that this is the 's' release, meaning no new design to rave about, b at the hey note was so heavy with announcements that the iPhone didn't really get noticed. A pretty dangerous game to play with your number one product.
In fact the iPhone news that is generating the most headlines is the new iPhone upgrade purchasing plan. The other product launches were made to seem both more important and more exciting in every aspect of the keynote.
Much of that must be down to the anemic nature of the updates. features that have been found on other platforms for years. Hey Siri, Living Images, OIS for video, 4K recording? The only interesting thing is how long the iPhone has lagged beyond the competition.
In a normal year Apple would have gone overboard selling these ideas as new, unique and special. And the internet would have picked…

iPad Pro Or MacBook - Which Would You Choose?

Apple has never been afraid to cannibalise sales of its on products when moving into new markets. The iPad Pro continues this trend by competing directly with the only recently launched MacBook. With the addition of the (horrible, horrible) keyboardcover to the iPad Pro the two devices are close enough in price to compete directly.
Interesting choice.
The MacBook runs OS X and has impressive expandability by virtue of its future-proofed USB Type C port. That means full applications, expandability and true computing power.
The iPad Pro means iOS, a much more limited choice of applications and very limited expandability.
It all hinges on the Pencil. Does your normal workflow require the use of stylus to a degree that you would forego the MacBook's superior form factor to get it?
For enterprise customers who offer Apple products as a user choice it will be interesting to see what the take-up is.
My view is that the iPad Pro loses out in this comparison for the same reason it loses …

iPad Pro Keyboard Cover Is An Eyesore

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, apparently. I'd not want to discuss aesthetic sensibilities with the owner of the eye that found this an attractive solution.
The image was tweeted by engadget editor @aaronissocial and gives a clear indication that someone at Apple has lost the plot.
Fortunately third parties will be bringing keyboards to the party so you'll be able to select something rather less gruesome, if the iPad Pro turns out to be your bag.

iPhone Subscription Was Apple's Big Win

There might have been a whole heap of announcements in Tim Cook's keynote speech earlier, but the biggest and most important seems to be getting little discussion.
Apple launched a monthly payment service that lets you get a new iPhone every year.
Why is this so important? It's because the iPhone accounts for two-thirds of Apple's top and bottom lines. Which makes anything that means more iPhone sales a very big deal indeed.
The iPhone subscription doesn't just mean more iPhone sales, it potentially means twice as many iPhone sales. Current iPhone upgrade cycles are driven by carrier contracts and subsidies and run two years. Now Apple is able to cut carriers and their contracts out of the deal and reap the benefits directly via an annual upgrade cycle.
Currently customers don't see the true price of the iPhone they buy because it's hidden in their monthly carrier payment. In future customers won't see the true price of the iPhone they buy because it will…