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Showing posts from January 31, 2015

Why A New, Smaller MacBook Air Could Further Hurt The iPad

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iPad sales have been trending down for a year, faster even than the reduction in the overall tablet market. As I've discussed before, there are a few reasons for this.

Firstly that the tablet market reached maturity very quickly, in fact since the iPad 2 it's fair to say all upgrades have been iterative.

Secondly, Apple's policy of delivering OS updates has extended the usable life of iPads far beyond expectations. In truth if you have an iPad 2, there's no real compelling reason to toss it in favour of a new one.

Thirdly, the iPhone 6 Plus has stolen the thunder of the iPad Mini, whilst the iPad Air has an issue with being close to the MacBook Air in terms of portability and battery life, but less so in functionality.

With a new MacBook Air rumoured for introduction next month, this could further reduce the reasons for buying an iPad. Leaks suggest that it is smaller and lighter than the existing MBA, but packs a larger screen and a new USB Type C connector.

If you&#…

Olympus Intros Interchangeable Lens Camera For Smartphones

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Sony's clip-on cameras have been moderately well received. Designed to work with your smartphone as a screen and controller, they can produce some impressive pictures - when the wireless connection is stable. However their speed and performance did cause some dissent when launched and opinion is strongly divided on the utility of such a device.

Olympus has now made good on its promise to bring a clip on camera to the table, and its has done so with the Air. A clip-on camera which can use standard Micro Four Thirds lenses. Its closely comparable with Sony's QX1, which takes the company's Alpha lenses. The Olympus uses the Panasonic 16mp sensor used in its other MFT cameras, whilst the Sony packs an APS-C 20mp sensor.

Given Sony and Olympus agreement to develop technology together, the arrival of this camera shouldn't be a great surprise.

Between them Sony and Olympus have the market to themselves - but is there really a market there? Although the Air has only been laun…

Where Will Apple Take Search In 2015

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Google's deal to be the default search engine choice on Apple's devices ends this year and, if recent information released by Statcounter is to be believed, Google's dominance of the search market is reliant on re-negotiating a new deal.

In December Firefox announced that Yahoo would be replacing Google as its default search engine. This week Statcounter released its report on search engine performance and they are enlightening. In January Yahoo posted its best market share performance in five years, narrowly beaten out for second place in the market by Bing. Its 10.9% market hardly threatens Google's dominate 74.8% position.

Until you look at Firefox based results only.

On Firefox Yahoo grabbed 28% of the market, compared to Google's 63%. Before the Firefox deal those numbers were 10% and 82% respectively. That's an incredible turnaround in fortunes in just two months.

If Yahoo or Bing were to secure default position in Safari across all of Apple's devic…

Apple Pegs Android In The US

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Apple's blockbuster performance in the final quarter of 2014 allowed iOS to match Android as the best selling mobile platform in the US over that period, the best result achieved by Apple since 2012.

The results come from Kantar Worldpanel's quarterly smartphone sales report and make for interesting reading. The iPhone 6's success skewed market share numbers worldwide, with Android market share numbers down just about everywhere.

Worldwide Android continues to dominate the market, however iOS performs exceptionally well in three markets, the US and Australia where it matches or slightly exceeds Android sales; and Japan, where the global position is reversed and Apple dominates the market.

Apple's huge growth in China - a better than 60% increase in revenues - hasn't made a huge difference to its overall position there, market share jumping from 19% to 21.5%. Mostly as a result of the incredible growth of the smartphone market there.

The first quarter of 2015 will …

Hopelessly Talking Crap, HTC Releases Bizarre Rap Video

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What on earth is going on at HTC? By the looks of this rap video probably a full scale, company-wide, breakdown of mental health.

Yes, this is a crude, and none too well executed, rap video 'singing' the praises of the HTC One M8. Featuring a little known rapper Doc G and HTC employee David Bruce it is the most cringeworthy piece of publicity material. Ever.

The lyrics throw some shade over Apple and Samsung, but the whole thing is a horrible piece which damages the company's public image.

I'd almost say that HTC got punk'd by Sacha Baron Cohen, because they look like the target behind a Borat-style prank. However it really seems as if they are serious about this.

Hide behind the couch when you watch this, it's that bad.


Sony MDR-NC31EM Noise Cancelling Headset Review

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Sony's Z2 and Z3 products are unique in the smartphone and tablet markets by virtue of the noise cancelling hardware built-in to the devices themselves. In some territories these devices came supplied with the NC headset required to take advantage of this feature. In others (including NZ) this wasn't the case.

The retail MDR-NC31EM headset appears to be identical to that supplied in the device bundle, differing only in its packaging for retail sale.

The headset is a black plastic affair, with large earpiece drivers and a good length of cable. Unlike other NC headsets there is no battery unit hanging halfway down the cable to drag and catch and generally annoy. The connector is a five pole 3.5mm headset jack, which enables the microphone and NC features when plugged into a support Xperia smartphone.

The cable arrangement for this headset is a short left hand cable with microphone in the left hand channel, with a longer right hand cable to allow it to be worn behind the neck. I…

Pono Player Proves Pretty Poor

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How about that Pono Player, Neil Young's Kickstarter-busting high resolution music player, that was going to change the world for audiophiles?

If you're one of those who slapped down their hard-earned to get this thing into production it looks like you've been had.

David Pogue has sliced and diced the Pono player's claims - in blind tests, to avoid any sense of bias. Ars Technica has reviewed the device and its conclusions are the same.

There is no discernible improvement in audio quality using the Pono and its high resolution audio files when compared with the same song in MP3 format played on the iPhone. In fact if you watch the David Pogue video you'll find that more often than not users preferred the audio from the iPhone.

This is why you never buy gadgets without trying them first.

The high resolution music files sold by Pono are compatible with other music players - like the recently introduced Sony Walkman moonshot. Hopefully we'll soon get a chance to …

Is Microsoft's Outlook App For iOS / Android Secure?

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Microsoft's recent launch of an Outlook.com app for competing mobile platforms looked like it might introduce some competition for email services, supporting Gmail retrieval in the same way that Gmail supports Outlook retrieval.

However IBM employee Rene Winkelmeyer has identified some security risks that using the app could introduce.

These aren't flaws per se, it looks very much like Microsoft took a decision to balance functionality against the risk profile and is happy with what's out there. If you just use the app to retrieve email from your Microsoft or Gmail accounts then you have no worries.

However businesses may want to take a different line, if they allow users to remotely access their exchange servers. Primarily the way that it connects an exchange server to various internet storage sites, positively encouraging users to breach data security policies that enterprises should have in place.

Given the glowing reviews the Outlook app has received, this is going to…

Microsoft Launches Another Android Lock-Screen, Think Nokia X

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Microsoft launched another Android Lockscreen app based around Bing Search, pulling images from the Google competitor and allowing searches from the lock screen.

Its a continuation of Microsoft's strategy of getting everything it has onto Android. But why?

The Android-powered Nokia X points the way. Although Microsoft has killed that particular product line, the idea lives on in Microsoft's Android strategy - make all of its services and platforms accessible from the devices running the most popular mobile OS.

This also makes some sense of rumours that Microsoft is investing in Cyanogen. Microsoft is giving the tools to build a Google-free Android ROM to the very users who like to hack their phones and do odd things with them. Its also the reason that a very capable version of Outlook.com arrived on Android recently.

Barring an Android store (which Microsoft could easily provide by transitioning it from the Nokia X) all of the components for building a Microsoft-centric, Goog…

Dropbox Came To Windows Phone, That's Not A Good Thing

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Dropbox finally released a client for Windows Phone 8.1. Whilst some are seeing this as a win for the platform, actually it only highlights the problems that a potential Windows Phone switcher might face should they abandon iOS or Android for one of Microsoft's mobiles.

If big name, highly visible solutions like Dropbox aren't available for Windows Phone, how many of those less well known apps are missing too. If it's taken this long to persuade Dropbox to develop for WP8 how long is it going to take WeMo, or my bank or, or, or...

In the same way that Google has to develop and refine its mobile strategy, Microsoft has to get the Windows 10 universal application solution spot on.

Because the market won't give it another chance.

How Many Apps Do You Actually Use

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Every day we get a new, impressive number relating to app store activity. A billion downloads here, a million available there, so many billion dollars paid out by one, so many by the others.

Looking at smartphone usage however, I wonder just how many of those apps are actually being used at all.

The number of apps I use daily on my phone is fifteen. Three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, G+), three messaging tools (SMS, Facebook Messenger and Gmail), Three ebook/magazine readers (Kindle, Zinio and Overdrive) and half a dozen tools (Chrome, Xbox Music, Banking, WeMo, Evernote and Camera). There are a few that run in the background like Trigger and IFTTT or photo back up tools like Onedrive and Flickr; and a handful more that I use less regularly (Flipboard, Pinterest, YouTube and Maps).

I find its very rare that I use anything else; or even seek out new software. When I do I find its either for a specific use case, or fails to meet my needs.

I'm not alone either, a number of re…

F1: Sauber Goes Back To The 70s, Drops Big Hint To Ikea

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This is the Sauber C34, the Swiss team's Ferrari powered challenger for 2015. Apart from hoping that it turns out to be a better effort than the dismal C33, the thing that stands out about the car are its colours. There's a definite flavour of the seventies in the colour choices, not to mention the large nod to Sweden, birthplace of driver Marcus Ericsson.

Even more pertinent is that the palette seems tailor made for Ikea - also Swedish. This is either the biggest come-on in F1 history or the team really likes flat pack furniture.

F1: Ferrari To Carry Alfa Romeo Badges For 2015 Season

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This is the new Ferrari SF15-T, the car that will carry the hopes of Italy in F1 this season. And that's an Alfa Romeo badge adorning its sidepod. What's going on? Well the imminent launch of the 159 replacement (after four years of waiting), the return of the brand to the United States, and FCA's stated intention to put Alfa Romeo properly into contention with BMW all probably had a part to play in the desire to raise Alfa Romeo's level of visibility, hence the logo.

It is of course an interesting reversal of history. Enzo Ferrari was team manager of the Alfa Romeo team and the Ferrari prancing horse emblem first adorned the flanks of Alfa Romeo Grand Prix cars, before Ferrari struck out on his own.