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Showing posts from October 1, 2017

Google Wear Heading For A Sticky End

Google's big unveil of new products this week contained no mention of Android Wear. The smartwatch platform not being an area of hardware Google is pursuing right now. 

Then Google removed all third party Android Wear devices from is US store, suggesting that it's getting ready to abandon the platform entirely. 

Third party OEMs have been dropping like flies and the current king of Android phones,  Samsung, chooses to use its own platform for its excellent line of smartwatch. 

At the same time Apple is crushing the market for sales dominance. 

All these factors added together amount to a failed product for Google. And Google is a company with a low tolerance for failed products. It's likely that the company will pay lip service to Wear updates for a little while and then, once OEMs are no longer shipping product, quietly close the whole thing down.

iPhone 8 Already Discounted, Sales Must Be Bad

Spark NZ has introduced a near 10% discount on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, if you're buying it on the company's 24 month interest free payment plan. That this discount is being applied so soon after the new phone's release suggests that sales have not been what was expected. 
The price cut brings the difference between the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 down to just $6NZ per month. If you're thinking of getting an iPhone at the moment, the iPhone 8 is the one to get. 
It's also interesting that the Galaxy Note 8 is now being offered with a $300NZ discount, although as that's in lieu of the 256GB SD card that Spark has been offering since the launch of the new Note.
At least in NZ it's looking like customers are either holding out for the iPhone X, or just not interested in paying to dollar for a phone which doesn't deliver a significant upgrade compared to cheaper phones.

iOS 11 Broke The iPad For Me

The promise of iOS 11 was that it would bring the iPad closer to being a true computer. That's all well and good, but if the much vaunted App Store doesn't have the apps to do the minimum tasks you're looking to complete, then the chances of an iPad becoming your choice of computer.
The problem is down to the level of abandonware in the App Store and exacerbated by the 64-bit Appocalypse. 
For me two key apps have died following the release of Apple's new iOS update. The first was flagged as being a problem before I upgraded. Expecting an alternative to be available I upgraded anyway. Turns out none of the alternatives in the App Store work properly. 
The second app should work with iOS 11, but crashes - repeatably - every time I try to do a certain task. As that task is 80% of the reason why I need the app I'm stuck. Haring tried this on two iPhones and an iPad with identical issues, I'm pretty sure it's a compatibility issue. 
I could get by with the mob…

HP's Elite X3 To Become A Range Of (Android) Products

HP's Elite X3 comes closer to be the one device for all users than any other product available today. Yes others have released docks which allow phones to become desktops, but HP had the vision to release the Lapdock, which allowed the phone to replace a laptop too.
In theory, anyway.
With Microsoft managing to blow both Continuum and Windows Mobile, HP was left with a product which was great in theory but completely hamstrung by its reliance on Windows. No phone apps, no Continuum apps, a limited number of enterprise thin client tools... all prevented the X3 being the great phone it could have been.
Now Nick Laziridis has told The Register that the X3 is a dead parrot, with remaining stocks to be run down and priority given to enterprise customers. That should keep them going for a few years then, given that no enterprise IT manager worth their salt will be going anywhere near anything running Windows Mobile without a gun held to their head.
The development HP has put into the c…

Nokia 8 Hands On Quick Review

Spark NZ has added the Nokia 8 to its line up of phones for late 2017, and as a result I had the opportunity to spend some hands on time with the latest device from the reborn brand.
The new Nokia flagship disappointed me, offering less value than other devices in its price sector.
The Specs of the 8 look good - Snapdragon 835 CPU, QuadHD screen, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and  dual cameras. In the hand it doesn't feel quite so premium though. If the name on the back had been HTC I wouldn't have been surprised. In the same way that you either love or hate HTC's most recent line of flagships, I imagine the same will apply here.
The body feels wrong in the hand too, it really needs a case to improve its tactility. It's too thin at the edges, where the taper should really help be helping, but isn't.
The screen looks flat and lifeless compared to the Galaxy S8 and at 5.3" is quite small for the body size. The camera's produced quite dark, muddy images, havin…

Microsoft Launches Mobile Browser For The 5%

Edge, Microsoft's newest web browser, has been something of a disappointment, managing to capture just 5% of the desktop browser market, despite being the default choice on close to 30% of all PCs - those running Windows 10.
That doesn't seem to be a caused by poor performance or reliability, which is top notch incidentally, rather I'd guess it's  the result of lingering resentment held over from Internet Explorer and the bad name Microsoft's previous browser acquired.
Now, for those 5% of users (or at least those who don't use a Windows phone) Microsoft has released a version of Edge for iOS and Android.
It's Edge in name only. Like all iOS browsers this is just a reskin of Safari. On Android it's also a reskin, this time of Chromium. There's no reason why Microsoft couldn't build a version of the Edge rendering engine on Android, certainly it would make for a more interesting option for users, however I think Microsoft has completed the minim…

Where Is Google Going With The Pixelbook?

The other big announcement from Google this morning was the Pixelbook, a Chromebook designed to be a competitor for a true laptop, like a MacBook or Surface Laptop. The Pixelbook packs some reasonably competitive specs and is as small and light as its main competition.
The problem for Chromebook has always been its perception as a browser built into hardware. This time around Google has that weakness covered. Android app access is now out of beta and owners will be able to use apps from the Play Store. Meaning that the Pixelbook finally becomes the Android laptop as well as the Chromebook that you actually wanted in the first place.
Google has added a full 360 degree hinge for the Pixelbook, meaning that you can flip the screen around to create tablet mode. This partners with a new stylus which sets a new bar for responsiveness - 10ms, faster than Apple and Microsoft. The stylus is also angle aware, matching both its competitors.
The last trick on the Pixelbook is Google Assistant. A…

Samsung's Galaxy S8 Looks Like A Winning Choice After Recent Launches

The Google Pixel 2, iPhone 8 and iPhone X; even stalemate Galaxy Note have all reached the market in the last few weeks and as a result one thing has become obvious, the Galaxy S8 is a remarkable smartphone which manages to remain at the top of the smartphone field several months after launch.

The S8 falls behind in only one very specific area - its camera lacks the second lens that some of its rivals sport. 

In all other respects though, this is a class leading device, which makes its rivals look over priced, poorly thought out or just plain.

The iPhone X has a claim to be as exciting in many areas, but it lacks Samsung's elegant design and even if the curved edges of the S8's screen are fragile, there's little evidence the iPhone will be more robust.

Those locked to the iPhone and its ecosystem should choose the X, despite its painful design choices, lack of headphone jack and missing fingerprint sensor, it is the best of iOS. Those who need the S-pen need to get the Note an…

How Long Does Samsung Have To Switch Mobile Platforms?

Google's event today was less about launching new Pixel smartphones and more about launching Google as a serious hardware competitor.

After years of battling Apple using Samsung as its proxy, Google came out from behind the curtain and signalled its intent to be as big in hardware as it is in services.

So where does that leave Samsung? Being almost wholly reliant on Android, now a product of a serious competitor that's where.  Samsung risks going from the primary Android vendor to a company offering a second class solution, if Google chooses to keep innovations in house. 

What can Samsung do at this point? There are no other platforms from which it could hope to create a future product line anything like as successful as its Android one. It's in house platforms have seen limited growth,  even in emerging markets and a partnership with a third party to develop a new platform is done for,  based on other third platform efforts.

Samsung has one serious option. Fork Android and ta…

Which Microsoft Product Is Next For The Chop?

For the best part of a year I've been predicting the death of MIcrosoft's Groove Music streaming service. It has been woefully mismanaged and despite being one of the oldest (and most rebranded) services its almost zero public recognition meant that it was on the highway to nowhere.

That the service was pretty good, almost ubiquitous across platforms and priced competitively meant nothing when Microsoft was making zero effort to compete.

Satya Nadella's reign at the helm of Microsoft has seen the axe fall on a number of Steve Balmer era products. I don't think the blood-letting is finished either. The question is, where does the axe fall next?

There have been a couple of consistent patterns indicating the imminent death of a Microsoft product. Firstly, a consumer focus; second, poor media assessment of Microsoft's efforts and third, losing money on the operation.

Neither of the likeliest candidates seems to fit the pattern well.

Xbox is consumer facing and it has been o…

Google Clips - Google Brings Big Brother To Everywhere?

Google's clips is a camera which records seven second long silent movies, based on an AI which decides when something interesting is happening in its field of view. Google wants you to set this camera and then forget it, allowing it to capture the sort of things that don't normally get captured - or in some cases can't be captured by a normal camera.

Sounds more than a little creepy, but in a society where CCTV is taken for granted this is probably much more acceptable than a similar product might have been a decade ago for example.

Google's seems to be targeting several groups with this product. Parents, who can use it to capture candid moments of their children's lives, displaying personality traits which might be hidden when they are put in front of a regular camera. Pet owners who want to know what goes on when their furry friends are home alone; and social butterflies, looking to capture the wonderfulness of their lives.

For parents I'd suggest that recording…

Google Announces Lightly Improved Pixel 2 And Pixel XL 2

Amongst a raft of announcements today Google's revised Pixels were both the most and least interesting products, for different reasons.

The new Pixel 2 is a rather insipid makeover of the original, gaining slightly upgraded internals and HTC's squeeze feature, although it missed out on wireless charging - set to be this year's must have after Apple 'invented' it on the iPhone 8 and X - and loses its headphone jack.

Now Google is likely to get a free pass on this as Apple has already taken most of the pain, but let me state my position here. Removing the headphone jack is user unfriendly and a retrograde step which every 'follow Apple' OEM needs to be called out on. It's not acceptable, from a usability, compatibility or environmental point of view. And I speak as someone who has been using Bluetooth headphones for years.

The XL 2 is the more interesting phone, manufactured by LG and packing a 6" bezel less display. From the front it has the look of th…

Irish Taxpayers To Be Hit For Apple Sweetheart Tax Deal

Last year the European Union judged Apple's sweetheart tax deal with the Irish Government to be illegal and ordered Ireland to collect €15bn of back taxes from the world's largest company by January 3rd.
The Irish Government has apparently decided to take no action as it awaits the outcome of an appeal on the matter. As a result action has been taken in the European Court of Justice and the country is likely to receive hefty fines as a result.
Which means Irish taxpayers are going to take a double hit on the deal - the fine itself, plus missing out on taxation thanks to the alleged 0.005% tax rate incurred by Apple. That money is expected to sit in escrow (once the Irish Government actually recovers it) making no positive contribution to the Irish economy for at least five years, as the case moves through the various appeals processes before reaching a final decision. 
Amazon is also being chased for a nearly €300m tax shortfall for its Luxembourg operations.
With many Europe…

Nissan Leaf Nismo: Sounds Wrong, Looks Right

This is the Nissan Leaf with attitude, Nismo tweaked and looking remarkable aggressive. An electric hot hatch if you like.
I'm not sure the concept is sound - after all tweaking the Leaf for performance by definition hurts range and range is really more important for electric cars right now.
The inherent responsiveness of the electric powered car means that real world performance (that is, in the city, where an electric car is at home) is as good as required anyway.
Looks pretty good though.

Every Yahoo User Was Exposed In 2013 Security BreachY

Oath, the division of Verizon which now owns what used to be Yahoo, has announced that every Yahoo account was affected in its 2013 security breach.
That's 3 billion accounts.
What's interesting is that this information was only discovered post acquisition as a result of forensic investigation into the incident.
Raising two questions. Firstly why wasn't this completed under Yahoo's stewardship and secondly, why would Verizon proceed with this purchase without an understanding of its exposure from this breach?
Yahoo wasn't just a company name, apparently it was a way of working too.

Will You Trust Microsoft To Deliver A Mixed Reality Platform Whch Sticks?

Microsoft's Mixed Reality event yesterday hasn't been widely reported, other than a few mentions for Samsung's new headset. Partially this seems to be because there's been very little 'mixed' in the Mixed Reality offering.  But part of me can't help but wonder if Microsoft's trademark inability to get new ideas from interesting concept to marketable product is tempering the reception of the platform.
Microsoft has a clear problem with selling to consumers - the Band, Windows Phone, Groove Music, even the Xbox One early issues - it doesn't matter whether it's Microsoft working alone or with partners it doesn't seem like Microsoft can build a good relationship with consumers. The exception is of course Xbox, where Microsoft has built itself a solid market share - despite itself at times.
So with Windows Mixed Reality headsets arriving on the market the question has to be, do you trust Microsoft to stick with their platform or will it die the …

Was Apple True To Itself With This Year's iPhones?

Apple under Steve Jobs was a company which sought to build better products because building better products made customer's lives better. You can see that clearly in Steve Jobs' presentation of the first iPhone. It wasn't a device which customers had been clamouring for (certainly not in their hundreds of millions) and it answered a problem which most of them didn't know they even had: communications.
Today, the expectation is that Apple's newest iPhones will make more sale in a single quarter than the whole smartphone market of 2007, the year when it launched.
The iPad was a similar product. Microsoft had tried and failed with at least three different iterations of Windows for tablets so when the iPad arrived and delivered a new user experience which changed the way people lived their lives and answered a question they hadn't even asked, this was an example of Apple leading not because it wanted to build something better than what Microsoft had done before, b…

If You Want The Full Stack, Apple Is The Only Game In Town

Ecosystems. They are the key to making the most of computing and communication platforms. If you want the best experience from your favourite piece of hardware then the best thing you can do is buy into the ecosystem which surrounds it.
Right now Apple is the only complete ecosystem in the game and whilst Google tries desperately to build something which can compete, Microsoft is tearing its own to pieces. Samsung and Amazon are only able to offer pieces of the stack, whilst Huawei isn't even in the game.
If you're embedded in Apple's ecosystem you are able to experience the best - or close to the best - offering at every level, with one notable exception.
Your iPhone works seamlessly with your iPad and Mac to deliver continuous service, whether that be the handoff of productivity from one device to the next, or the use of one device in the place of another. That you can do it whilst listening to music from an Apple Music service on Apple headphones whilst wearing an Appl…

No Surprise As Microsoft Finally Kills Groove Music

Music streaming was the business Microsoft could have been a market leader in, instead today it has again been dumped out of a market it had the chance to dominate. Its Zune streaming service was an early move in the market, launching just after the unsuccessful Zune player. It was a good looking and reliable service which worked well with Windows Phones and on Windows desktops; as well as the Xbox 360 console.
Despite this enormous head start, a re-branding to Xbox Music and a potential captive market to help grow the service Microsoft did little marketing or development to gain users for the service. Only when the service was rebranded to Groove Music as part of the Windows 10 launch did we really see any effort to persuade customers to take up a subscription.
By then it was too little and too late. Spotify had taken market leadership and Apple Music signed up more customers in its first month than Microsoft did in its whole music streaming adventure.
The news today that Groove is…

Nissan Wants To Persuade You To Drink And Drive

Water, not alcohol, obviously. The video above is trailing an innovation from Nissan which adds sweat sensing technology to the steering wheel, to work out when you are dehydrated and likely to make driving errors. The company says dehydration has the same effect on driver response as alcohol.
The video offers an insight into how technology can improve the performance of the driver.
However the biggest take away for me is that the Juke, once an edgy, opinion splitting car design, now looks quite bland and normal. Not sure whether its the combination of wheels and colour or just some poor photography, but the design would appear to be aging quite quickly.

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Owns The Nurburgring

Alfa Romeo re-entered the SUV market this year with the launch of the Stelvio. Of course being Alfa Romeo it's not just any SUV. And the top spec Stelvio Quadrofoglio riffs on the Giulia Quadrofoglio - the fastest four door, four seat car around the Nurburgring, by packing the same V6 twin turbo engine and four wheel drive system.
The result is pretty impressive too. The Stelvio Quadrofoglio set a new SUV record for the Nurburgring, eclipsing the previous record holder by a whopping eight seconds, completing the Nordschleife in 7:51.7.
To set some markers around that time, its faster than the Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren-Mercedes SLR and Aston Martin Vantage V12.
Impressive stuff from a family machine that never needs to be this fast.
Not so sure about the wacky paint job though.

F1: Sebastian Vettel Ran Over A Black Cat, Smashed A Mirror And Opened His Umbrella Indoors

Sebastien Vettel's title challenge was pretty much settled last weekend in Singapore, however Lady Luck wasn't finished with the Ferrari driver yet. Having lost a probable pole position and almost certain race win due to an engine problem, leaving him at the back of the grid, Vettel produced a typical brilliant and gutsy drive to finish fourth.
On the slowing down lap Vettel's car was caught on camera sat on three wheels, with the fourth on the sidepod of the Ferrari.
It appears that during the post race in lap Vettel had gone past Lance Stroll only for the rookie Canadian to turn into him, destroying the Ferrari's rear suspension. The video certainly shows the Ferrari taking a constant line through the corner before being hit by the Williams.
As the incident happened after the race had finished it won't affect Vettel's fourth place, which doesn't mean it won't have consequences.
The damage to the rear suspension and violent impact to the rear drivesha…

This Is Not A Smartphone - Huawei Mate 10 Teaser

Huawei's teaser video for the Mate 10 launch is now playing around the web and it focuses heavily on AI, the same message which was stressed when the new Kirin 970 processor was announced last month.
The Kirin 960 proved to be a mighty processor in the last generation of Huawei mobiles, and the 970 should be nothing less. The AI features suggest some form of awareness, pulling together data from sensors on the phone, as well as cameras to create some new form of smart assistant features.
Together with the leak of a desktop experience, the Mate 10 is certainly looking like being a top contendor when it launches in a couple of weeks.

Acquiring HTC Won't Give Google The Apple-like Integration It Craves

Google's acquisition of HTC's smartphone team, its launch last year of the Pixel and it's overall onward strategy are all being read as an attempt to mimic Apple's ownership of the whole smartphone stack - platform, hardware and software.
It is, by any standards, an attempt to grab profit at something approaching the rates that Apple achieves, because Google's return from its smartphone efforts is infinitesimal when compared to the amounts Apple achieves on much lower sales.
When all's said and done, it turns out that hardware is the place to be to make money on smartphones.
So Google needs to get into the hardware game and build itself into a mirror of its rival. Not least because it's costing Google upwards of $3bn a year to maintain its position as default search provider on iOS.
If Google can persuade those high-value, those high net worth and those big spending users, who gravitate to the iPhone, to switch to a Google Pixel it makes more money on hard…

Huawei To Debut Continuum-like Feature In Mate 10

French website FrAndroid is reporting that the incoming Huawei Mate 10 will have a Continuum-like desktop mode, with a first party dock to compete with Samsung's DeX.
The Mate 10 is already looking like a challenger for the smartphone throne, at least from the spec sheets and images which have been leaked over the last few weeks. The addition of this desktop mode, which will utilise USB-C and Display Port, only increases the anticipation for this new flagship.
With Huawei having taken second place in the smartphone market, according to some market watchers anyway, the expectation was that the new iPhone 8 and X would see Apple blow past and back into second place. With the lukewarm reception for the iPhone 8 and the expected supply constraints of the iPhone X that can no longer taken for read.
And if the Mate 10 proves to be as exciting as the leaks promise and Huawei is able to keep pricing close to that of the Mate 9 launch price, it's entirely possible that we could see an…

Prompt And Universal Oreo Updates Promise To Place Nokia As The Real Android Market Leader

There's a buzz around the web after two HMD Global executives promised that all shipping Nokia phones will see the Oreo upgrade before the end of this year. That's all Nokia phones and at all price points.
It's a unique position for an Android OEM to take, although it's made somewhat easier by the relative youth of the new company. If it's able to continue to maintain its impressive record of security and platform upgrades over the next two or three years it will set itself up as the go-to Android OEM.
For now, if you're considering an Android phone anywhere outside of the premium market niche, Nokia should be the first name on your list - if you hope to maintain a reasonable level of security protection.

It's Time To Admit Microsoft Has Left The Smartphone Market For Good

Ever since the Lumia range was given its death sentence, nearly two years ago, Windows phone fans have been pinning their hopes on a Surface Phone. A device combining the advanced design and thinking from the Surface hybrid line with the best of the Lumia smartphone. 
The hope has always been that a brilliant new piece of hardware would finally provide the impetus for Windows to break the iOS / Android duopoly. It was always a dream based on hopes rather than any tangible evidence that Microsoft's intentions lay in that direction.
This week's news that Bill Gates has abandoned Windows phones for Android is probably the final nail in the coffin for this pipe dream.
Allowing a high-profile Microsoftie like Gates to reveal in his change of platform sends a very deliberate message in an unsubtle way. If even Gates has abandoned Windows Mobile there is no possibility of a return from the grave.
Microsoft's future in mobile relies on one of two things. Firstly, taking its HoloL…