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Showing posts from January 22, 2017

4K Xperia Incoming? How Many Phones Will Sony Announce At MWC?

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Last year's Xperia Z5 came with a range topper packing a 4K screen. Some of the time anyway. The Z5 Premium spent most of its time running at 1080p but could light up all its pixels individually to create a outstanding 4K experience for some applications - videos and photos primarily.
So the news that Sony is toying with another 4K screen for its 2017 flagship shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Especially given the current popularity of VR headsets.
Current QuadHD displays on hNew 4Kigh-end phones display noticeable pixelisation when viewed through the lenses of a VR headset. A 4K display would all but eliminate this. You would certainly expect Sony to be on the VR bandwagon, particularly given the early success of its PS4 headset.
In fact the rumour mill is suggesting that Sony will deliver five phones at MWC, this 4K flagship and a QuadHD version of the same (both powered by Snapdragon 835 CPUs); a pair of Helio P20 powered mid-rangers and another entry-level phone.
Tha…

Here's Why You Can Never Go iPad Only

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Ben Brooks is a big advocate of his iPad Pro only computing setup. Two iPads in fact.Two iPads and remote access to a Mac. Ah well, the concept is valid if flawed.
Anyway much of Ben's blog talks to the benefits of going iPad only. I'm far from convinced and for my money the advantages claimed offer virtually nothing over a similarly sized Windows tablet.
There is a huge downside though and this week it looks like Ben got bitten. Hard.
In this post Ben describes a lost day courtesy of the most simple of tasks. One that couldn't be achieved even with the fallback of a remote Mac Mini. I won't spoil the surprise.
Yes, an iPad does have some advantages in terms of speed and touch-first apps from a significant catalogue. But a Windows tablet is a Windows PC too and as a result will do anything you can do on a computer.
The iPad follows the 80:20 rule and eventually you're going to get caught out, as Ben did, and probably at the least convenient time. One day of extreme…

Readly, Runtastic,SmartThings, State Bank of India Say Farewell To Windows Mobile Users

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Big name apps continue to vacate the app store, with each one piling further pressure on those remaining. In the first three weeks of 2017 we've seen Minecraft and Runtastic abandon users with no further updates; and now Readly joins SmartThings and the State Bank of India in killing their apps completely.
If Microsoft has ambitions in the mobile space it's going to find that its empty app store is going to limit sales of even the most adventurous Surface Phone; and abandoned users are far from likely to forgive and forget this self inflicted immolation of the Windows Mobile platform.

LG Mobile Faceplants - Posts Dismal Q4 Results

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You'd almost think releasing an incendiary smartphone was a good business move. LG, handed a massive opportunity to drive its mobile business forward by Samsung's Note 7 disaster just posted its Q4 results, and it's hard to see how they could be any worse.
Mobile sales were down by 21% year on year, whilst losses grew by more than 650%. On their own a pretty dismal state of affairs, in concert with Samsung's earnings report yesterday it must be painful for the company's management.
Performance was so bad that the whole LG group was dragged into loss by the mobile division.
The modular G5 is being blamed for the awful performance, but I suspect the problem is more likely to be that the LG name has absolutely zero retail presence in smartphones. Which probably didn't matter when most of its phones had the Nexus brand to draw buyers in.
Without Google's direct support LG finds itself in a bad place. Across 2016 the mobile division managed to lose over $1bn. T…

Find My AirPod - Apple Addresses Most Common Concern

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There seem to be two types of AirPod owner - those whose ears conform to the Apple standard and for whom there is no danger of an AirPod falling from their ear except under extreme provocation; and everyone else, for whom AirPod loss is an every day worry.
For that latter group Apple has your backs, with iOS 10.3 sporting new Find My AirPod functionality, which will start a missing AirPod bleeping so that you can locate it by sound and, where appropriate will pulse Bluetooth beacons from all of your registered Apple devices in an attempt to locate it by proximity.
It won't guarantee that you can't lose your AirPod, but it is a clever way of helping you to retrieve one if you do misplace it.

Note 7 Fires And Executive Scandals Be Damned, Samsung Had A Stunning Holiday Season

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With the fallout from the exploding Note 7 very much still front of mind, the ongoing executive scandal that threatened to result in the arrest of heir apparent Jay Y Lee and of course the various ongoing patent battles with Apple; the final quarter of 2016 wasn't expected to be a great one for Samsung.
Turns out Samsung fans remain as loyal to Samsung as Apple fans do to Apple. Despite the problems the company has faced sales haven't fallen off as expected. The mobile division (IM) returned sales down just 5% year on year, but increased profitability by 12%, somehow managing to achieve that without the highest of its high-end devices. 
For the full year there was a slight increase in profitability in the Mobile division even allowing for a third quarter that was wiped out by the costs of the the Note 7 recall.
Across the company the story was much the same for Q4 - flat sales but increased profitability. The only outlier being the Consumer Electronics division, which saw sal…

Google Commits To Android Apps On All 2017 Chromebooks

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Consumers are going to have another reason to rethink what sort of computing they use on a daily basis after Google committed all 2017 Chromebooks to running Android apps.
With Chromebooks already taking large chunks of the education market around the world, Apple and Microsoft must be wary about the damage Google's partners could do with cheap, lightweight and sturdy machines that effectively run maintenance free and have access to both Chrome and Play app stores.
For Microsoft and Apple it's an announcement of note. Mac and PC sales are in decline and a Chromebook is capable of being much more of a PC replacement than an iPad - especially when it has access to the wealth of the Android app catalogue.
It won't just be cheap machines either, Google and Samsung have already demonstrated that there is a market for a premium Chromebook.
There will remain a core of use cases that are beyond the capability of a Chromebook, but this announcement suggests that Google has a prod…

Norwegian Government Seeks Android Replacement For Windows Phones

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Various sites are reporting on the end of the Windows phone era in Norway. The government there had leveraged the security and device management strengths of Windows Phone to move mobile services onto Microsoft's mobile platform.
Now the dearth of replacements for the last generation of Nokia handsets, which blended capability with affordability, has led Oslo to pursue Android for its replacement program.
Whilst the death of Windows phone as a viable product makes this unsurprising it also carries a risk for Microsoft. A move away from Windows on a phone is just one step removed from abandoning Windows elsewhere.

Samsung Confirms Galaxy S8 Delay Whilst Revealing Note 7 Inquest Results

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Samsung regained a lot of credibility with the openness of its Note 7 battery investigations, the results of which have been widely published and critiqued, so I won't do the same here.
Just as important was the message that the Galaxy S8 won't be revealed at MWC - breaking from tradition.
It's a positive sign that Samsung hasn't just placed the blame on battery manufacture but understands the root cause of the debacle - a rush to beat the iPhone 7 to market and the shortcuts in the review and testing of design decisions which resulted.
More than anything it remind me of the actions of British Leyland in the 70s. So caught up in the day to day need to respond to new competition from Europe and Japan, as well as the home grown competition from Ford and Vauxhall, that products were rushed to market, half-finished and with significant quality control issues.
At the start of the seventies the British motor industry dominated car sales across half the world, by the end of …

Surface Pro 4 Pen-free SKU Goes Global

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Just before the start of the Christmas buying season Microsoft introduced a new entry level Surface Pro 4 to the Australian and New Zealand markets. The 'unbundle' amounted to the entry level Intel Core m3 version of the SP4 minus the Surface Pen.
The new package was offered at a very good price in the run up to Christmas, usually retailing for 40% less than the regular SP4 m3. Even allowing for the need to buy a Surface Pen and/or Type Cover, that was still something of a bargain.
Anecdotally I heard from several retailers that interest in the SP4 had blown through the roof as a result.
Clearly that interest translated into a significant sales boost as Microsoft has now introduced the pen-free SP4 in more territories.

Why so successful? I suspect that a large number of Surface 3 and SP3 owners saw the opportunity of a cheap upgrade. Either selling on their older tablet or repurposing it as a static machine with a cheap keyboard, mouse and display.

Why such a good deal on the…

Oppo Spreading Its Wings With NZ Expansion

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Oppo may be the most popular smartphone you've never heard of. Outside of Asia it has next to no market presence, with a small Australian operation selling phones through JB Hifi, and very little else. For a top five smartphone OEM that's a ridiculously localised market
Now Oppo is crossing The Ditch and will launch its smartphones in New Zealand, which is a more interesting move than the introduction to a market just 4.5m strong would suggest.
New Zealand is a notoriously good bellwether for other markets around the world and has been used as a test bed for all sorts of products. Manufacturers are able to get an indication of the success or failure of their design or recipe decisions here.
For Oppo a successful launch in New Zealand could be the harbinger of a more global expansion, similar to Huawei's rapid growth in the last three years.
For now Oppo's phones a well-priced well specified Android phones that blatantly rip off Apple's hardware designs and softwar…

macOS Sierra Is Three Months Old And DisplayLink Support Is Still Broken

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Now I might be a bit of an edge case here, but I use DisplayLink docks for connectivity across my various offices and work locations, allowing me to go from portable to full triple display, desktop keyboard / mouse and wired connectivity with the plug of one cable.
DisplayLink has pretty much universal support, with drivers available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android. So whatever device you are using you can go from mobile to desktop easily.
Up until September anyway, because the macOS Sierra update broke DisplayLink functionality, with screen corruption and performance issues.
Three months down the road and there's still no fix available. Not the end of the world, as my MBA is third choice machine after my two Windows 10 PCs, but still frustrating for those days when the MBA's form factor would work best for me.
More and more I'm finding that 'It Just Works' is a slogan that exists just to contrast how badly it doesn't just work. For a company like Apple th…

TAG Heuer Connected Smartwatch Trebles Expected Sales, Gets Second Generation As Reward

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Speaking to Swiss news journal NZZ, Jean-Claude Biver, Head of LVMH (the company which owns Swiss Watch brands TAG-Heuer, Zenith and Hublöt) made some interesting comments about the TAG-Heuer Connected Smartwatch and future plans for the company in that area.
First off sales. Expected at 20,000 annually, Biver said 56,000 had found owners and the first production run was all but exhausted. A new version of 2017 is slated for May. Biver is looking at 150,000 sales for 2017 as a whole.
At $1,500 per piece that makes the smartwatch a $85m business already, with the 2017 sales target potentially netting a quarter of a billion dollars. Not a bad return on a product only slightly functionally differentiated from the rest of the Android Wear crowd.
Later this year TAG's new Intel approved production facilities will allow it to comply with the standards for branding the Connected 'Swiss Made'. Not really a big selling point for what is essentially a mini-computer on your wrist, b…

Stream Of Apps Leaving Windows Mobile Becoming A Flood

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At this point it's becoming easier to comment on the days when third-parties aren't informing their users that Windows phone is a dead platform they will no longer support.
Today's report comes from French Windows site The Windose which relates the news that the French arm of HSBC bank will be killing its Windows phone app and encouraging customers to switch to iOS or Android.
Given that at the last reckoning Microsoft was still managing to pull 3-4% of the French mobile market, 18 months after Satya Nadella gave the Windows Mobile platform the kiss of death, that's a brutal announcement. Not least for those new users who find themselves cut off from mobile banking services.
I'll reiterate my previous advice once more. Unless you are buying a phone for a youngster who you need to keep tabs on (and thus can benefit from Microsoft's Family service) there is no logical reason for buying a Windows phone at the moment or for the foreseeable future.

Noreve Leather Rear Cover For Sony Xperia XZ Review

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As regulars will know, I haven't been a big fan of cases on my smartphones in the past. However after dropping and lightly damaging by Galaxy S6 I've been a little more willing to compromise.
Reviewing the cases available for the Xperia XZ I found the Noreve Leather Rear cover, which looked like an appealing option. Having had it installed on the XZ for a few days I find myself conflicted, with much to like about the case and one glaring issue which will probably prevent me from keeping it on the phone permanently.
The Noreve case covers the rear and sides of the Xperia XZ, with the sides standing a little proud of the face of the phone, to provide some screen protection when placed face down on a flat surface. On the right hand side it is cut away to allow access to the power button, volume control and camera button. The bottom and top of the XZ are left open, although the way the case wraps around at the ends does provide some protection.

It's made of genuine and hand f…