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Showing posts from January 15, 2017

US-Bound Android One Phones Suggest Further Google Encroachment Into Marketplace

Last week we started to hear that Google's Android One initiative, launched as an emerging market platform nearly three years ago, may be about to reach the United States, probably at a higher price point than current Android One phones achieve.
Strange decision? Maybe not. If the rumours are true Google will benefit in two ways: better control of Android upgrades and the exclusion of more OEMs.
The first is a no-brainer. Android Nougat has rolled out to a limited number of devices from a limited number of handsets. Almost exclusively they have been higher end phones from premium OEMs. Phones in the Android One programme get their updates from Google. By creating a new tier of Android phones in the developed world, Google takes back the upgrade high ground from Apple.
The second benefit is more complex. Right now OEMs are pushing phones into the market that are under specified and perform poorly, hurting the Android brand. Those mid-range Android OEMs who currently sell almost ex…

Tesla Crash Rate Down 40% With Autopilot

As you're probably aware by now, Tesla has been cleared of blame for last year's fatal accident when a Model S in Auto Pilot mode under ran a truck and trailer, killing the driver. The investigation shows that the driver had at least seven seconds in which to take avoiding action but for whatever reason - inattention of some sort - did not do so.
That's great news for Tesla, especially as the NHTSA acknowledged that the company had provided sufficient warnings as to the capabilities of the system and the requirement for drivers to remain alert to the road ahead.
More importantly, not just for Tesla but for the whole automotive industry, was the finding that accidents involving Teslas were down 40% since the introduction of Auto Pilot. That doesn't mean necessarily mean there's a correlation between the two things, it is at least suggestive that increasing driver aids increases safety.

When distracted driving has been making headlines because of Apple's lawsuit…

Cause Or Effect? Minecraft Abandons Windows 10 Mobile

Microsoft utter abandonment of its mobile platform has seen all sorts of third-party developers packing up their development teams and abandoning Windows 10 Mobile. Generally the reason has been low-usage.
Understandable really. Customers have abandoned Windows Mobile, but only after Microsoft effectively killed the platform with a series of pessimistic communications which originated at all levels of the business, right up to CEO Satya Nadella.
Now one of Microsoft's own first-party developers has announced that it will no longer be supporting Windows phones. Mojang killed Minecraft for the platform, citing lack of usage.
Well, duh!
If anyone was buying a Windows phone before (and they mostly weren't) this should be enough of a red flag to change their minds.
Aside from parents looking to leverage the twin benefits of Microsoft Family access controls and a barren app store, in a phone that's suitable for younger kids, nobody should be putting their money down on a phone …

iPhones Don't Kill People, People Kill People

A California lawsuit is seeking to ban the sales of iPhones in the state, whilst another seeks damages following the death of a five year old girl in a car crash. The link between the two is Apple's 'failure' to implement a 2008 patent to prevent Facetime being used whilst driving.
It's an emotive subject and I feel for the parents of the girl, who was killed when a driver using Facetime ran into the back of their family car at 65mph. There are also the estimated 300+ other people killed by iPhone use in cars, and that's just in California.
The thing here is that its very hard to argue that Apple is responsible for any of this. Otherwise one would have to argue that every accident caused by inappropriate speed should be laid at the feet of car manufacturers. They certainly have the technology to ensure that speeding could be eliminated as a cause of road death.
It is the people who continue to use their phones whilst driving who are responsible and California, alo…

Sony Winning Nougat Upgrade Race On Xperia

Whilst most Android OEMs are only beginning to roll out Android 7 to recent flagship devices, Sony has been knocking the upgrade ball out of the park. Having already delivered Nougat to its most recent devices, the XZ and X Compact, as well as previous generation X and X Performance Xperias, yesterday Sony upped the ante by beginning to push the latest Android version tothe Xperia Z5 range.
That process is probably eased by the rate with which the Sony replaces its flagship devices. Even so, the Z5 launched in Septermber '15, giving Sony the widest Nougat deployment by handset models, if not by phones shipped.
With at least two new Xperias (XA and M5 replacements?) slated for launch at MWC, at the end of February, Sony seems to have renewed vigour around its smartphone business. As a brand that I hold in high regard that's good to see. Long may it continue.

Quick Review: Xiaomi Mi Mix

Xiaomi's newest flagship device manages to break many conventions, as well as potentially trailing the look of future smartphones from more familiar names like Apple and Samsung.
Despite packing decent late-2016 specifications, the Mi Mix is all about its screen and bezels. Or more accurately, its screen and missing bezels, because the 6.4" 1080p+ screen runs from edge to edge and right to the top edge. Including, uniquely, right into the rounded corners.
On first sight the Mix is jaw-dropping. Its Ceramic build is pretty impressive before you even turn the screen on. Once you do however... everyone who saw me using it stopped to comment. In fact the most common reaction was to whip out their iPhone Plus (usually) and marvel at the disparity in screen size and quality for such a similarly sized device.
Get past the wonder of the screen and things aren't always as impressive. Performance-wise, the Snapdragon 821 and 4GB RAM keeps things humming along nicely. However you&…

Why Can't HTC Hit The Smartphone Mark?

HTC used to be everyone's favourite smartphone brand, in fact it isn't so long ago that the company came from nowhere to outsell the iPhone.
However, HTC has been in a death spiral for a number of years now, as it has struggled to hit the mark with a compelling device, burnt money on weak and confusing advertising campaigns and even managed to blow the opportunity presented by partnering with Google to deliver the Nexus 9 tablet.
It's difficult to remember a time when HTC last delivered a compelling device. Its unibody One flagship has been through four iterations without ever making a good argument for itself. The previous One X suffered from terrible overheating issues and was wildly outperformed by the Galaxy S3.
Perhaps the last HTC phones which could be considered class leading were the Desire and Desire HD.
Why is HTC on such a run of poor form? I suspect it isn't the devices. After all its flagships have been on the end of plenty of awards and they may have had…

Apple Will Make Serious Moves Into TV In 2017

Apple TV has been a hobby for far too long. With other hardware streams proving difficult to maintain and an expectation that Apple will look to more lucrative service based revenue streams in the future, Apple's play for the living room has to be its big bet for 2017.
Apple TV has slowly been growing into a device with broader appeal as features have been added to its armoury. In fact its probably fair to say that it is one short leap away from the explosive growth that characterised the early years of other iOS devices: compelling, exclusive content.
Netflix and Amazon have both shown that they understand what's going to drive revenue growth and subscriber numbers and both are pushing hard with their own content creation efforts. Amazon's Grand Tour is a particularly high profile example of this. Apple can't rely on piecemeal offerings of other provider's content to compete.
What strikes me as interesting is that Apple didn't take on Clarkson / May / Hammond…

How Android Updates Really Work For Buyers

Android has one perceived weak spot when compared to iOS or Windows 10 Mobile: system updates. Whilst Apple manages to pump out new iOS versions to at least the last four generations of iPhone and Microsoft delivers new Windows 10 updates on an almost monthly basis, Android buyers face a more uncertain future.

Or do they?
Comparing like for like devices is illuminating. For example Sony delivered two major updates to its Xperia Z3 range, taking them from KitKat to Marshmallow via Lollipop. A similar story is true for the HTC One M8, LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5, which follow the same path of upgrades. Interestingly the Nexus 5 won't be receiving the Nougat update either, giving the lie to the Nexus promise of better upgradeability.
The iPhone 6 - a phone of a similar vintage - has already received the latest version of iOS and will undoubtedly be receiving iOS 11 and 12 too.
A solid point for Apple then?
Not in the big picture. You'll probably be to busy juggling the storage o…

AirPods: Practically Magic? More Like Witchcraft If You Ask Me

So this is the first of Apple's ad spots for its AirPods - totally wire-free headphones. Yes they connect to your iPhone when you open the charging case and pause music when you pop one out of your ear. Practically magic? Probably not.
Frankly the most amazing thing about this spot is the suggestion that dancer Lil Buck has made use of some dark magical forces to keep these attached to his ears.

The Apple App Store Monopoly

A US Appeals court has given iPhone customers leave to sue over the App Store monopoly, potentially opening a path to third party App Stores on iOS. In the same week that Apple announced 60% growth in App Store revenue and confirmed $20bn was paid to developers in 2016, its a bad time for this news to break. The Appeals Court overturned an earlier ruling and reopens the question of Apple's app sales policy.
Apple's argument has always been that customers don't deal with Apple, they deal with individual developers. However the Appeals Court based its decision on customers paying Apple for the apps. It can hardly deny any interest in the transaction with this being the case. Even Apple's secondary argument that developers paid for space in the App Store (via the premium it pays to Apple on each sale) was rendered moot once Apple began demanding payment for subscriptions, as well as dictating how much apps and content could be sold for outside of the App Store.
Apple fan…