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Showing posts from August 18, 2017

The Verge Is Wrong About The Xperia XZ Premium - Here's Why

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Writing in The Verge today Vlad Savov takes the hatchet to the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. It's a personal opinion, and if he doesn't like the phone that's a valid opinion. My problem is that the arguments used to support the opinion are wildly unfair to Sony's current flagship.
In the article Savov makes his case against the XZ Premium under a number of banners. I'll address them in the same way.
Display: apparently the absence of a bezel-free display is inconsistent with a premium phone today. So in a market where we hear so many complaints about phones being all the same Savov demands more identikit features. I've spent time with both the G6 and S8 and frankly the former's screen is flats and insipid compared to the XZ whilst the S8 screen is barely protected - no wonder so many have suffered damage. How premium will your phone look when is screen is a hot mess of cracks?
Those vast bezel Savov hates? I'll take them every time, especially for a screen t…

Sony Xperia XZ Premium Hits Record 750Mbps Downloads On Gigabit LTE

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Gigabit LTE is the stepping stone between 4G and 5G, promising near next gen mobile data speeds. The UK's EE network is one of a handful of carriers rolling this new technology out and Sony's Xperia XZ Premium is one of the first phones packing the hardware to take advantage of the extra speeds.
Getting the two together - at Wembley Stadium no less - resulted in a new all-time high for mobile data, with the Xperia hitting more than 750Mbps download speeds and 110Mbps uploads.That's a real world test too, not something theoretical in a lab with radio isolation.
Suddenly your wired broadband doesn't look so great.
That said, I can't see even 5G wireless LTE ever having the ability to replace cabled broadband - the latency and contention issues are just insurmountable at scale. That doesn't mean that faster mobile data isn't welcome, because it certainly is.
For the Xperia XZ Premium it's particularly important to have the fastest possible connection, bec…

HP Making The PC Business Work Pretty Well

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Today HP reported earnings from its financial third quarter, which closed on July 31st and the numbers are looking pretty good. This is the real HP, the PCs and printing division, shorn off from HPe, which is the old services and high end server hardware division.
HP brought in PC sales to the tune of $8.5bn - a jump of $1bn on the previous year. For context that's almost twice the revenue Apple earns from Mac sales, despite HP's main markets being consumer and enterprise, both sensitive to price.
Remarkably the printing division managed to add another $5bn to the top line. Not too terrible given the inexorable move away from printed output both in the home and business markets.
The bottom line saw a health $0.7bn profit recorded for the quarter, down slightly from the previous year due to the increased cost of components, according to CEO Dion Wiesler.
Interesting to note that HP's Personal Computer division operates at a margin of just 3.7%. Whilst the sheer volume of s…

Samsung Bixby Does What Cortana Can't

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Yes indeed, Samsung made a big splash with the Note 8 this morning, but expensive super phones aside, the important news was around the company's Bixby voice assistant.
Yesterday we found out that Bixby was going global, reaching 200 new countries; and today we now know that new integrations are coming too. Most importantly Spotify. Bixby will be the first phone voice assistant to support the world's most popular music streaming service. Finally we also found out that Samsung will be producing its own Bixby powered home speaker solution.
We shouldn't be surprised by what Samsung has achieved in such a short period of time with this technology.
We should be bemoaning Microsoft's continued slow pace of development for Cortana.

AccuWeather Mistake One Of Transparency, Not Sharing

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Popular iOS weather app AccuWeather has been caught sharing location data with third parties even after users deny it access to Location permissions.

There are two problems here. Firstly users misunderstanding the scope of the Location permission and, secondly, AccuWeather's lack of transparency of the sharing it has been doing.

AccuWeather includes an API from third-party monetisation service Reveal Mobile, which captures details of the WiFi router the user's device is connected to and then uses known information about router locations to pinpoint where a user is with a reasonably high degree of accuracy.

AccuWeather is a free app and this is an entirely valid way of earning an income from the app and weather service behind it. If you tell the user that's what you're planning to do, in plain and simple terms.

AccuWeather hasn't made that obvious to users and that's its crime here.

The iOS loation permission is an entirely different kettle of fish.

This allows or d…

New iPhone To Launch September 12th

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French Mac Apple website Mac4ever has pegged the launch of the next generation iPhone to September 12th, basing this on information allegedly provided to French carriers by Apple.

Whilst it doesn't seem especially unreasonable for Tim Cook to unveil the new iPhone on that date, it is a bit earlier than others are suggesting and, given Apple is likely to have constrained stock, you would expect a later announcement to allow more manufacturing time for the first batch of new handsets.

If the information is correct then the rumours and speculation around the new iPhone have just a couple of weeks more to run.

Given that we're still seeing conflicting reports of Touch ID presence and location, it seems like Apple has done a better than usual job of keeping the new iPhone undercover.

Samsung Unveils Note 8

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Samsung unveiled the Note 8 this morning and there were no surprises, this was the phone which has leaked repeatedly over the last few months.

The pricing matches that leaked by Carphone Warehouse yesterday and the specifications are very much Galaxy S8+ with the dial knocked up a little higher.

The only real differentiation comes from the dual camera setup and the S-pen.

The former may just be the best dual camera offering on the market today. The latter is basically the same as what was on the Note 7, with some small variations in software capability, especially around screen off note taking.

It seems that Samsung has delivered a phone for redemption, something which will wipe the bad taste of the Note 7 away and sales numbers aren't going to be hugely important to it. It's even offering large discounts to Note 7 customers to entice them back again.

It probably is the best smartphone on the market today, but by a much smaller margin than previous Notes achieved. I'm not su…

OEMs Need To Deliver Pure Android To Grow Outside China

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Chinese OEMs pack out the top five smartphone sales charts, with a constant battle between brands like Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi and Meizu to build global sales from home market success.
The biggest stumbling block to this seems to be the skins which these OEMs apply to Android, which causes two distinct problems.
Firstly, outside of China, there's little demand for an Android phone which works like an iPhone. The App drawer is an Android staple and removing it makes for a degraded user experience. All Chinese OEMs have this as a staple part of their skin and its a deal breaker. Especially when you add the visual styling choices which don't translate well.
Now some of these skins are better than others, Huawei in particular has come a long way and could be considered usable in a global context, but none of the others really deliver an experience which works in all markets.
Secondly, these customisations make it infinitely more difficult to deliver updates for these phones. Again, …

Samsung Might Just Have Priced The Note 8 Out Of The Market

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A slip on the Carphone Warehouse website has revealed the sim-free price of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - and it's a big number. In fact it's a few big numbers stood next to each other. £869 or around US$1000, NZ$1500. 
That's going to be a problem for Samsung. No matter how good the Note 8 turns out to be (and I'm expecting it to be very good indeed) it's going to struggle to make a value proposition against competition from all sides. 
First of all, and likely at the same price, will be the new iPhone. Apple fan or not, this is going to be the standout device of the year. Doesn't matter if it's better than the Note 8, it will be incredibly desirable and it will not only tempt iPhone owners to upgrade, it will undoubtedly draw buyers from the current Android crowd.
Buyers with a budget big enough to afford the Note 8 are far more likely to buy the new iPhone.
Secondly there's the competition from within the Samsung range. Specifically the S8 Plus. The a…

Sony Misled Customers Over Xperia Waterproofing

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A US court has ruled that Sony misled customers when advertising the suitability of Xperia smartphones for use under water.
From the original Xperia ZR - the first Xperia to claim waterproofing, through to the Z4 tablet, Sony raised unrealistic expectations of the ability of its devices to survive underwater.  What this ends up costing the company remains to be seen. As it's a class action lawsuit the standard practice is for the lawyers representing the class to do rather better than the customers who have been wronged. Once again personal anecdotal evidence is all but pointless, however I have used three different Xperia models to take pictures underwater and have had no issues. On the other hand, customers who relied on Sony's claims and ended up having to pay for repairs to water damaged phones should be offered some means of redress. 
That's likely to be reimbursement of repair costs in addition to the warranty extensions and partial refunds being talked about in th…

F1: One More Year For Räikkönen

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Ferrari have announced that Kimi Räikkönen's contract with the team has been extended for another year.

The decision to retain the 2007 World Champion is driven by some interesting challenges in the driver matket for 2018.

Ferrari's first choice is Max Verstappen, however the Dutch hot shoe is tied to Red Bull for another year. As is his team mate and second choice Daniel Riccardo.

Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel is out of contract with the Italian team at the end of this year and there are reports of a gap between the two parties on the terms of an extension.

Re-signing Räikkönen makes sense in both these scenarios. If Vettel chooses to leave the team retains continuity and if he chooses to stay the length of Räikkönen's contract doesn't prevent a frenzied pursuit of either Red Bull driver for 2019.

As a side benefit fans get to see the most popular racer on the grid for at least another season. And something which pleases the fans is an increasingly rare thing in F1.

Will The iPad Replace The Mac? These Videos Say Yes

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Apple may have been a bit lost with its iPad product line-up in recent years but the imminent arrival of iOS 11 will change that. Far from the end game of supplanting the Mac as Apple's desktop offering, the new iPad OS (for that is what it has effectively become) is a decisive first step in making the iPad Apple's desktop offering.
Take a look at the above video. Then ask yourself when was the last time Apple did anything as exciting or compelling with Mac OS. I can't remember - and I'm pretty sure you can't.
And there are five more videos just as exciting as this.
No, iOS 11 won't transform the iPad into a desktop overnight and the Mac isn't going anywhere soon. But both things are going to happen. The world wants flexibility and the Mac can't be that platform.
The iPad, however, most certainly can.

Android Oreo May Well Be Sweet, But Will It Fix Android's Biggest Problems?

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Google has confirmed Android 8.0 will officially by Android Oreo, its second link up with a popular brand in the Android release naming game. Google promises the newest version of its mobile platform will be 'safer, smarter, more powerful & sweeter than ever' which sounds promising, but how many Android devices will ever see it?
The biggest downside of choosing to use Android remains the uncertainty around updates. Will you get them? When? How far behind the curve will you fall whilst waiting? Most importantly, how many vulnerabilities will be exposed which won't be patched whilst your waiting.
There was a reasonable path to avoid this mess whilst Google was still releasing Nexus phones. Now that it has gone to the high end with the Pixel, Android buyers looking for some security are at the mercy of OEMs and carriers.
Which isn't a great place to be.
So the question with Oreo remains, has Google done something to remove the delays and roadblocks which beset Androi…

Tesla Bonds Trading Down On Model 3 Production Concerns

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Tesla is the largest US Motor Company, if your metric is market capitalisation anyway. The company leveraged that fact to push a $1.8bn bond issue on to the markets last week. With a return of 5.3% Tesla looked to entice investors to provide the funds which would allow it to produce the Model 3 in sufficient volume to satisfy customer demand.
Those bonds are now trading below their sale price, suggesting money people are less than convinced that Tesla can manage the short-term and medium term challenges that a stacked order book and a company new to mass production present.
Moody's is rating the bonds as junk - an indication of the risk it sees in lending money to Tesla. With Tesla almost certainly going to need to issue more bonds in future, even if only to fund development of new models, this poor credit rating could prove to be a problem. Underwriters will be less likely to support future releases making it harder for res a to raise money - and more likely to fail.
Strong cust…

Do You Google With Anything But Google?

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The US Supreme Court is being asked to rule whether the word Google is still a valid trademark. Cybersquatters who lost domain names after Google sued them for trademark infringement will argue that the use of the word Google has passed into common language as a verb and is no longer an enforceable trademark.
Which would be the case if you said you were going to 'Google that' and then went off and used a generic search engine to find what you're looking for. 
But you don't, I don't and everyone else who says they'll 'Google it' doesn't either. We absolutely mean that we will open a webpage and use Google to find what we're looking for.
The case is a nonsense and should be thrown out accordingly.

Bing Is Far From Unloved, In Some Regions Anyway

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When Bing went down last week it appeared that nobody noticed. There was no outcry on Twitter, the news sites weren't reporting mass panic and the world carried on as if nothing had happened.
Perhaps Microsoft's Bing team were stung into action by tech sites reporting that nobody noticed the outage. What ever the reason, the Bing ads Twitter account tweeted the above image, pointing out that Bing is more popular than you would think.
Well yes and no.
I'm more than a little surprised that one in three searches in the US are completed with Bing. One in four in the UK and Taiwan; one in five in Hong Kong and France. On the flip side, just 4% of searches in Brazil and 7% in India are less surprising.
Globally almost one in ten searches are performed in Bing. Which leaves Google the lion's share. 
It doesn't seem likely that Microsoft can move that needle significantly without applying some external market forces. For example buying the default search spot on iOS or en…

Angry Man Just About Done With Apple

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Losing loyal customers is a bad thing for any business, even one the size of Apple. I'm pretty sure Apple has lost this guy's business.

If You're Putting Dual Cameras On A Phone, Make Them Interesting

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Which smartphone takes the best pictures? That's the Microsoft Lumia 950. If you exclude dead platforms it's either the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel.
All those dual camera phones seem to fall a bit short. 
Of the dual camera phones on the market, it's the iPhone 7 Plus and LG G6 which receive the most positive reviews.
Why? Probably because they try to do something a little different with the lenses available to them. The iPhone offers a 2x zoom, whilst the LG  takes wide angle modes.
Those faux-bokeh effects, or using mono information to enhance picture contrast just don't stand out. Making better photos is okay - but these are smartphone cameras and sometimes it amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. 
Doing something different however, is always worth it. Cameras are one of the few differentiating features of phones that almost slavishly follow the same design. So do something interesting with them, please.

First Positive News From Diesel Emissions Scandal: VW To Launch Electric Microbus

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With the fallout from its emissions test defeat devices still very real, Volkswagen has been on an environmental hiding to nothing. Still, things had to get better eventually, and it looks like that time will be 2022.
That's when Volkswagen will turn its ID.Buzz concept into a production reality, with a Microbus and a Kombi version to suit passenger and commercial customers.
Just as the modern Beetle riffed on the original air-cooled cult car to become a success, so the Microbus, with its own cult hero ancestor, should be similarly popular.
Having given itself five years to get the ID.Buzz into production, Volkswagen has to deliver an EV with ground-breaking range and technical capability if it is to have any credibility at all. I have no doubts that it will achieve this. Completely.

F1: Honda Draws Another Blank - No Toro Rosso Deal

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Honda would like to add another team to its roster, in the hope that it will benefit from the feedback from running its engine in two different cars. The only problem seems to be that nobody wants to be that second team.
In truth, nobody wants to be the first team either. Right now McLaren would take any other engine offered to them for 2018, if it could solve the many financial problems which would result. For example buying out of its Honda contract, paying Fernando Alonso's salary and paying for the alternative engines themselves.
Having failed to make good on its deal with Sauber, which was announced and then hurriedly withdrawn by the team, Honda looked to be in good shape to pull together a deal with Toro Russo. Now that deal has died too.
I suspect it was Honda who killed that deal, probably realising that if Toro Rossi bought their way out of their Renault contract, it would release a space in Renault's supply for McLaren, who would then be free to abandon Honda.
Hond…

Long-term Health Problems From An iPad Desk Setup - Don't Do This

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Look, this is a slick looking setup, but unless you want to store up significant health problems for your future, I'd really suggest you avoid anything like it. If you're really intent on using your iPad as a desktop computer you need to get the Lightning to HDMI dongle and mirror your iPad screen onto an external monitor.
You need to have the top of your monitor level with your eye line and it needs to be far enough away to be able to scan the screen without tilting your head. At the same time you should be able to use your keyboard with your arms at your side and elbows at around 90°.
The need to touch the screen on the iPad means it can't be positioned in a way which keeps your head in the right position - or vice versa. With the main display in the right place the iPad can be placed much closer to the user to allow touch screen interaction without huge arms movements being required.
Using this setup for any length of time will cause you serious neck and back problems…

Handwriting For Fun And Profit

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Great video demonstrating the skill and care that goes into annotating architectural drawings. If this doesn't persuade you to do something about your handwriting, nothing will.

I Replaced My iPad With A Surface Pro And It Totally Rocks

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We seem to hear a lot about how an iPad can replace a PC and become your only computing device these days. The truth is that for most PC users and most use cases this is emphatically not true. I'm rather more interested in the opposite journey. Can you PC replace your tablet and become your only computing device by approaching the problem from the other direction?
So when I updated to the new Surface Pro 2017 I parked my iPad Air 2 and my Galaxy Tab S2; and set out to discover if a Windows 10 tablet was a viable option.
I've now had the new Surface Pro for two months and it has been  my only computing device for almost all of that time. All the tasks that used to happen on one of my tablets now get completed here. There isn't a single one that I've found in any way troubling to either find an appropriate Windows software package or use the browser to complete.
As has been said before, tablet users do very few things with their tablets. It's a second screen when wa…