Posts

Showing posts from September 4, 2016

Microsoft Tweaks Website To Better Promote All Windows 10 Mobile Devices

Image
Microsoft has made a small, but important tweak to its US website, replacing the Lumia brand with Windows phone (note the lower case ‘p’) across the home page and store page menu bars.On the face of it this could be taken as further evidence that Microsoft sees no future in its Lumia brand, and that may be the case, but it doesn’t appear to be the primary reason for this change. By widening the focus, Microsoft is able to showcase devices from third party OEMs – for example the HP Elite x3 sits front and centre of Microsoft’s product page at the moment.With Acer and Alcatel expected to bring further high end Windows 10 Mobile devices to market, as well as a broader range of OEMs providing low end and mid range handsets, it’s clear that Microsoft is at least paying lip service to its strategy of promoting devices from its partners.Whether that means that Lumia is dead, a Surface Phone is coming or Microsoft’s focus on mobile in the next major Windows 10 release will blow us all away is…

Apple Music Is Growing More Slowly Than Expected

Image
Apple began offering a discounted Apple Music subscription yesterday, and I speculated that this was either because the service was doing really well or really badly. Turns out its a bit of both. Today Apple announced subscriber numbers were up, hitting 17 million. That’s a run rate of just over one million a month since its launch last June. Not bad. However, as it had 15 million subscribers in June the run rate has actually fallen recently. Not good. Worse still, between Apple Music’s launch and today Spotify has actually grown by 19 million subscribers – about 12% faster than Apple Music.Having failed to win by competing on exclusives – which I believe music subscription buyers don’t like or want – and by playing on its radio stations and personalised content; it looks like Apple has fallen back to price as its key differentiator.However, with more than 60% of Spotify’s use 100 million listeners using the free, ad-supported service, I’d guess that’s not a battle Apple is in a posit…

Review: Monument Browser For Windows 10 Mobile

Image
MIcrosoft’s Edge browser received a powerful upgrade in Windows 10 Anniversary Update, bringing new features, extensions and a hefty performance improvement. I’ve been using it as my preferred desktop browser since the release and I haven’t missed Firefox in the slightest.On Windows 10 Mobile Edge didn’t receive quite the boost that it got on the desktop.Monument Browser, a universal app, fills in those gaps on mobile nicely. It offers ad blocking – always more important on a mobile where data is more likely to be metered – and, praise be, the option to disable Javascript.This latter addition is key. If you really want to see how fast the internet can be on any mobile, download a browser that allows you to disable Javascript and watch the web fly. With ads and Javascript disabled Monument is a slick, speedy browsing experience.Yes there are some web pages that won’t load properly or at all, but you can either switch to Edge to view them, or just abandon those sites altogether.The only…

Water Damage Isn’t Covered Under The iPhone 7 Warranty

Image
The iPhone 7 launch touted its IP67 water resistance rating as a feature. Might not be such a great feature though, as Apple will not cover water damage under the warranty. So if the phone is supposed to be waterproof and gets damaged because it isn’t as waterproof as it should be you’re out of luck?I’m not sure what my lawyer friends would make of this, but to me that sounds like something that could be challenged under the Sale of Goods act on the basis that a water resistant phone should, oh I don’t know… maybe, resist water?

Apple’s AirPods Leave A Robot’s Penis Hanging From Your Ears

Image
I accept that robots probably don’t have a need to procreate so I can’t tell you why one would have a penis, but the AirPods announced today by Apple manage to take the concept of in-ear Bluetooth and make it even more ridiculous.I’m not sure why Apple felt that it needed to add the extension piece of the microphone (and presumably battery) but both Motorola and Sony have managed to achieve total in ear solutions that support voice control well. There’s no reason why Apple couldn’t have managed this.My other concern with the AirPods will be how well they stay in your ear. My EarPods were constantly on the point of falling out, which is the reason why I no longer use them in favour of better fitting in-ear headphones.With the AirPods it seems incredibly unlikely that they’ll manage to stay in the ear given even the slightest amount of provocation. And at US$159 it’s a very expensive way of finding out that your ears don’t match those special Californian ears that Apple designs for.

Apple Failed To Demonstrate A Good Reason For Removing The Headphone Jack From The iPhone 7

Image
What was the key message about the missing headphone jack in Apple’s iPhone 7 launch today? Was it that Lightning headphones have better audio quality than older analogue connected headphones? Not really, because that didn’t require the removal of the headphone jack to deliver.Was it that the future is wireless and the headphone jack is redundant now? Not really, because otherwise why provide the Lightning to analogue adapter in the box with the iPhone.Was it that the removal of the jack allowed Apple to fit a bigger battery and thus extend battery life? Partially I suppose, but Apple’s claimed improvements in battery life were in line with previous claims and didn’t amount to a significant improvement overall.Was it because, by removing the standard 3.5mm socket, Apple is able to better control what its users plug into their iPhones, ensuring that Apple either wholly or partially profits from each and every headphone sale? Could be.The removal of the iPhone’s headphone socket doesn’t…

iPhone 7: Something Old, Not Much New, Plenty Borrowed, Leaves Me Blue

Image
So the iPhone 7 arrived as predicted with pretty much every piece of information having been comprehensively leaked before arrival. Once you cut through the usual phone launch hyperbole and hubris, how good is the iPhone 7 compared to its predecessors and peers?
Something old: the design is almost universally carried over from the iPhone 6, other than some tweaks to antenna lines and the new cameras. It isn’t a design I particularly like and given that it will almost universally end up hidden in a case it isn’t a hugely important carry over.
Not much new: the removal of the headphone jack and the introduction of a new wireless chip to connect Apple’s new wireless headphones were barely innovative. The Lightning headset included with your iPhone now cannot be reused in your Mac and the wireless EarPods can’t connect to anything but the new iPhone for now. Presumably Apple plans to update the rest of its product range to support the same connectivity. Turns out the Earpods use Bluetoot…

Apple Discounts Music Subscription, If You Pay Upfront

Image
I’ve previously suggested that Apple’s iPhone launch event might include an update on the success of Apple Music, particularly as music and headphones are going to be a key item on the launch agenda. So news that Apple has discounted the price of an annual subscription to Apple Music, if you pay for it using an Apple gift card, is intriguing.For Apple to be discounting a product usually suggests that it isn’t doing well. Think Apple Watch. This is different though. With slow selling hardware Apple can trim profits to reduce inventory – a net benefit to its financials. Contracts with the music industry determine exactly what Apple can and can’t do with pricing. And of course there’s no inventory to shift either.So I think this discount is an attempt to boost subscriber numbers, maybe ahead of a good news announcement. How good? Well at least a closing of the gap to Spotify, the market leader. Is it possible that Apple has made so much progress that its within touching distance of Spoti…

It’s The First Anniversary Of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, How Will That Affect iPhone 7 Sales?

Image
Almost exactly one year ago Apple announced its iPhone Upgrade plan which allowed customers to buy an iPhone on a two year instalment plan and upgrade after one year. All those buyers who took advantage of the offer will be able to jump to a new iPhone 7 or 7S, probably sometime later this month.How will this affect Apple’s sales over the rest of 2016? I suspect they will skyrocket. In previous years Apple has only been able to count on sales to users reaching the end of their two year mobile plan, who were free to sign up to another subsidised iPhone  right after launch. This year as well as all those iPhone 6 users  who are itching for a new device it will also be able to sell another iPhone to all those users who are in the upgrade program. Not to mention Note 7 cross sales, over and above any switchers it normally picks up around this time of year.Potentially the second half of 2016 could see a complete turnaround when compared to the first half, where iPhone sales stuttered when …

Is Apple About To Break The Bluetooth Standard For Audio?

Image
We know that Apple is about to ditch the headphone jack on the new iPhone 7, it’s been leaked and reposted by so many different sources it’s hard to believe they could all be mistaken. The assumption has been that Apple would replace them with a set of Lightning Earpods in the box and Bluetooth headphones as an optional upsell, or possibly as an in the box bonus for high end iPhone buyers.In the last 24 hours however there are new whispers that suggest Apple is about to break the wireless headphone model by ditching Bluetooth for its new headphones (almost universally leaked as ‘Airpods’.This is an intriguing rumour which raises many questions. Will the new iPhone support both Bluetooth A2DP and AVCRP protocols for music playback and control or will Apple kill them in favour of its own proprietary protocol. If it’s the latter it would allow Apple to control sales of all headphones for the iPhone, wired or wireless, by virtue of its ‘Made for iPhone’ certification initiative. A nice li…

Review: Mozo Black Golf Flip Case For Lumia 950

Image
I hate cases for phones in general, they always seem to get in the way and make a phone more awkward in the hand. There are exceptions, for example the iPhone 6 / 6S is awful in the hand without the addition of a case of some sort – I use the Apple brown leather cover which manages to improve the tactile sensation without adding too much bulk; whilst the impossibly slippy S6 wears a polycarbonate Incipio cover. So much for building phones out of premium materials.So how about the Lumia 950? Universally panned for its cheap build at launch, despite the phone being all about the new technology Microsoft had squeezed inside, the functional chassis and removable rear cover allowed Microsoft to offer a much better case and over option than most competing phones. At launch a partnership with Finnish case maker Mozo promised the ability to change the feel of your phone to make it suit almost anybody’s taste.The premise of each cover is the same, it replaces the back case of your 950, includi…

Apple Upping Component Orders As A Result Of Note 7 Recall

Image
Samsung’s Note 7 problems are inevitably going to take the shine off its performance this quarter and in future quarters too. There’s the immediate problem of recalling and refurbishing 2.5 million Note 7 devices that made it out into to the wild. Then there are the large number of loan devices that will get used for a short period of time by those customers who choose to stick with the Note 7 and wait for a replacement device. More painful though will be the damage to Samsung’s standing in the marketplace. The S7 and Note 7 had finally placed Samsung as a true premium device manufacturer, able to stand toe to toe with Apple in all aspects of the smartphone experience.The battery fire issue will undoubtedly tarnish that reputation and Apple is looking to benefit as a result. Component orders for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are reported to have been increased in anticipation of greater demand as buyers shun Samsung devices for the safe haven that Apple offers.Given the efforts that Samsung…

New Chrome Build Improves Battery Performance, Still Lags Behind Microsoft’s Edge

Image
Microsoft’s video demonstrating the superior battery performance of a Surface Book running the Edge browser against similar machines running Chrome, Opera and Firefox brought an immediate response from Opera. Google’s Chrome team had no response and now we know why. They were working to fix the battery consumption issues that they were well aware of.Today’s new release of Chrome brings a significant improvement in battery performance in Google’s own tests, however based on the two comparatives, it would appear that Chrome still lags behind Edge in outright power consumption performance.With NetMarketShare’s latest report showing that battery life concerns aren’t putting people off using Chrome – its market share rose above 50% in the latest set of figures – it is perhaps as well that Google is making the effort to improve Chrome’s performance in this area.After all even the smallest improvement, when aggregated across three quarters of a billion PCs adds up to a significant reduction …

Lenovo’s Yoga Book May Be Intriguing, But Is It Appealing?

Image
Lenovo managed to grad plenty of headlines and column inches with its IFA star product, the Yoga Book, a device that can’t make up its mind whether it wants to be a tablet or a laptop. And not just because it’s available in either Android or Windows 10 flavours.The Yoga Book eschews the traditional keyboard for a flat, touch sensitive surface and a stylus and whilst it can create a soft keyboard on that surface it’s still a big step away from what has become the hybrid norm.It’s a wild idea that some are comparing to Microsoft’s Courier – but whilst that device was innovative in the way it proposed a touch and stylus future, the Yoga Book seems to me to be struggling to justify its own existence.It doesn’t feel likely that many buyers will be tempted by the chance to put a piece of paper on the ‘keyboard’ and write on it to have the text appear on screen as well. Especially as so many hybrids already do onscreen inking so well.On the other hand I can see users being put off the device…

Samsung's Note 7 Recall Doesn't Put Safety First

Image
Samsung has suspended sales of the Galaxy Note 7 whilst it replaces stock with devices without the faulty battery pack responsible for a number of fires. It looks like the company is doing its best to reduce the risk to consumers but there are several weaknesses in the way that has actioned the recall that fails to protect consumers. Firstly it hasn't made the recall official, which would ensure that unsold handsets from all outlets have been recovered. Particularly relevant in countries where there is a large gray-market for imported handsets. There will be a level of temptation for smaller retail operations to either continue selling those devices or to hold onto to them to sell once the hoo-ha has died down, rather than to re-export them back to their point of origin to have them replaced. Meaning that potentially dangerous hardware continues to find its way into consumer's hands. Then there are reports of retailers (including Amazon) issuing refunds but not asking for hand…

Windows 10 Mobile Set To Drop Below 2006 Sales Levels

Image
Ten years ago the smartphone market was tiny compared to what we have today, globally just 64m devices were sold, against the more than one billion that will find new owners even in today’s tightening sales climate. With the smartphone being a device barely recognised outside of certain enterprise and geeky communities it was little wonder that the devices that were selling wouldn’t really count as smartphones today.In the consumer market Nokia’s Symbian handsets had a clear lead, whilst in enterprise RIM’s upgraded pager dominated the market. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile managed a reasonable 8.95m sales, for 14% of the market. On the basis of its sales in the first half of 2016, Microsoft is going to fail to ship that many Windows 10 Mobiles even with the massive increase in overall market size.Sales for the year to date of all Windows Mobiles (not just Microsoft branded devices) are just over 4m, with the trend being decidedly down. Which will come as no surprise to anybody at Microso…

Everybody Wants To Try The Lumia 950 Iris Scanner

Image
I’m not sure whether it’s because advertising for the Galaxy Note 7 has raised the profile of iris scanners, or because seeing the technology in action in real life is a compelling demonstration that the future has arrived today, but right now the iris scanner on my Lumia 950 is the hottest thing in technology.Everyone who sees it in action wants to have a go (despite me explaining that they won’t be able to log in with it) and then everyone wants to see me unlock the phone again once they’ve failed just to see the magic happen.Now I can guarantee you that even at its best unlock time is longer than a fingerprint scanner, but reliability is amazing. In all kinds of ight, with glasses or without, unlock works. I’m not sure if that’s because I have run the recognition training feature a couple of extra times or because Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update has improved the algorithms behind the recognition.Whatever the case, I’ve quickly come to appreciate the iris scanner as the ideal s…

Why Apple Needs To Update The MacBook Air

Image
When Apple launched the 12" MacBook a year and a half ago many took it as a sign that the MacBook Air was reaching the end of its shelf life and would disappear from Apple's product catalogue in the not too distant future.
Those same people are expressing surprise over rumours of an incoming MBA update, and they're wrong to, because it betrays a misunderstanding of the way that Tim Cook's Apple does business.
The MacBook Air is far and away the cheapest Apple laptop available today. Yes the iPad Pro is a cheaper option, but outside of Apple and a handful of tech bloggers with wildly divergent use cases, there is no one who really believes that an iPad Pro can substitute for a real computer.
As the cheapest Apple laptop on the market there are some compromises - a lower resolution screen for example - yet it's still a significantly more expensive machine than directly comparable Windows laptops.
Which entirely explains its presence on Apple's roster. A machine…