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Showing posts from November 6, 2017

More Quality Control Issues Hit IPhone X

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Apple hasn't exactly faced a Note 8 style failure, but it does appear to be having some quality control issues with the iPhone X. 

First we had the issue with auto correct forgetting that "I" was a valid word in English (a problem which affected more than the iPhone X to be fair). Now there are two screen issues affecting the new flagship.

The first affects users in the Northern hemisphere currently, when moving from a warm climate to a colder one. This results in unresponsive or wildly inaccurate touch sensor performance. Apple is suggesting this will be fixed with a software update.

The second, less common problem results in a green line appearing at one side of the screen. No word yet on whether this is a hardware problem or can be fixed with new software.

Finally there's a third issue affecting GPS performance, which causes the reported location to drift away from the phone's actual location. This one will receive an update from Apple in order to resolve.

Has Appl…

Contrary To Apple Claims, Face ID Beaten By Mask And Make Up

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Apple claimed that Face ID was secure against impersonation with a mask when it launched the iPhone X. Turns out that despite working with Hollywood make-up artists, this may not be completely true.
Vietnamese security firm Bkav published the above video showing the technology being defeated by a mask, allowing the iPhone X to be unlocked wthout the users in frame.
Given that we now have questionable statements around siblings accessing phones and now masks, the accuracy of the technology must be called into question.
As well as being less convenient than a fingerprint sensor it may also be no more secure.

Satya Nadella Tells iPad User To Get A Real Computer

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Satya Nadella hasn't been Microsoft's most outspoken advocate since taking over the role of CEO from Steve Ballmer, at times he's been all to keen to bow down before competitors like Google and, especially, Apple.

Whilst in India promoting his book, Nadella struck a verbal blow against iPad, telling Tech Radar's Sahil Mohan Gupta to 'You need to get a real computer' on spotting the Apple tablet in use.

It's a very fair comment, which Microsoft under Nadella hasn't really made a big noise about, and as Apple brings more computer-like features to the iPad one that it will soon be too late to discuss.

He went on to take shots at both Google and Apple, calling one a middleman and the other a luxury goods maker. Although his most interesting one was that for Microsoft to win, Google and Apple don't have to fail. It's an interesting reworking of an old Steve Jobs quote from twenty years ago at MacWorld.

Steve Jobs was right, in that his intention as …

F1: Hugo Boss Heads To Formula E

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Hugo Boss has been in F1 for decades. It's most recent involvement being as a major sponsor of Mercedes as the team carried all before it on the easy to four season long white washes of its competitors.

The problem seems to be that the snore-fest of modern F1 hasn't been a big drawer for Hugo Boss's customers. Instead the forward looking Formula E crowd seem to be more like Boss's target market.

Now Boss's decision has some interesting timing, as we know that Mercedes will be entering Formula E for Season 6. It seems entirely likely that Boss will remain with Mercedes, just not in F1. 

Right now it's hard not to see Formula E as the future of top level motorsport. Its racing is better, the show happens in city centres and the noise levels mean that it's suitable as family entertainment. 

With manufacturers choosing to switch from other codes  to Formula E and sponsors now following, it seems like F1 is in danger of losing its 'King of motorsport' crown.

The iPhone 8 Is Selling So Badly They're Giving It Away

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Apple fans may be going wild fire the iPhone X, but they're apparently passing up the iPhone 8 in ever greater numbers.

According to a report on pocketnow, AT&T is giving away a free iPhone 8 with every iPhone X purchase. I'd guess that's not because the regular iPhone is selling so well.

It's not just Apple that is suffering weak sales as a result of the success of the iPhone 8. Samsung is reported to have dropped orders for the Note 8 and Galaxy S8 as a result of demand for Apple's flagship.

The difference is that for Apple this is actually a good thing. Apple's ARPU is going through the roof this quarter.

The iPhone X has launched an iPhone upgrade super cycle and it's now looking likely that Apple will surpass Samsung as number one smartphone vendor in the final quarter of the year.

Which further raises the question of stock market manipulation in the run up to the release of the device. Those stories of production issues really do seem to have bee…

Why Don't MacBooks Have Face ID?

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Apple is planning to do away with Touch ID  on the iPad and replace it with the sensor pack and gesture driven model of the iPhone X. That's probably a sensible move, given the iPad has more space and less of a requirement for minimal bezels. As long as Apple doesn't intend to replicate the Notch, it's a move that I'd support.
It does beggar the question of the MacBook Pro. Why go to all the trouble of implementing the ridiculous Touch Bar and embedded Touch ID, if Apple believes Face ID is a better solution and is going to roll it out across other devices?
A laptop or desktop is the perfect place to put Face ID. It's such a good idea that Microsoft did it more than two years ago with Windows Hello. That works so well on my Surface Pro that the thought of going back to  machine which requires you to take some action to login is just unthinkable.
Windows Hello sees me arrive at my desk and unlocks my Surface without me having to make any conscious effort. That'…

Facebook Wants Your Nudes, What Could Possibly Go Wrong With That?

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Facebook has a revolutionary idea for preventing revenge porn on its social network. It will get used to upload nude pictures of themselves.

Nope, can't see anything there that gives rise to concern. Hang on though...

Seriously, this is fundamentally stupid idea with no redeeming qualities. Unless you happen to be the 'lucky' Facebook employee who gets to scrutinise the nude photos.

Facebook's justification is that by cataloguing your nude photos that can prevent them being uploaded by someone else. No, they can't. Let's be honest, if someone had nude photos of you and they want to share them they will get around any machine learning algorithm which tries to match your photo with the one being uploaded.

The far bigger worry would be the security of the files held by Facebook. I mean let's face it, you would create, in one fell swoop, the most valuable hacker prize of all time. A treasure trove of ordinary people's nude photos. Ready for the sort of blackmai…

Fixing Tech Tax Cheats Shouldn't Be That Hard

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Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft. Between them they are guilty of robbing governments and citizens of the countries they operate in of billions of dollars in tax income. The use of tax loopholes and offshore subsidiaries to move taxable income to more generous jurisdictions may be legally allowable, but it is morally unacceptable and should be condemned whether you live the companies involved or hate them.

Fixing this seems relatively straightforward, whilst requiring an act of government shouldn't really be too controversial in any country losing out on tax income.

Apply a comparison between the company's declared profit margin globally and the margin locally. If the discrepancy is more than a couple of percentage points, tax should be based on the global margin as a proportion of revenue.

So if Apple UK sales are £20bn a year and it has a reported global margin of 38% Apple owes the UK tax on $7.6bn - or just over £1.5bn, rather than the £11m it actually paid. 

Multipl…

Microsoft Near Share Is A Flawed AirDrop Imitator

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Days after Google launched an early access programme for an app which adds AirDrop capabilities to Android, Microsoft added it's own version into the latest Windows 10 Insider build. 

Near Share uses Bluetooth to enable file sharing between devices in the absence of a network connection. It uses Bluetooth to find the receiving device and transfer the file. 

I'm not sure that WiFi Direct might not have been a better solution, but never mind that for now. 

Near Share is effectively a point to point Bluetooth network connection for file sharing. Exactly as the standard Bluetooth file share protocol is. So what has Microsoft added to the party here?

There's another roadblock too. Given that most PCs are connected to a network most of the time, there's no real use case here.

AirDrop is used mainly for phone to phone sharing and Microsoft doesn't have a phone platform to do this any more. 

Android users already have the far more useful Pushbullet and iOS will stick to native A…

Snap's Share Price Diving After Another Terrible Quarter

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I mentioned this recently, after news that Snap's Spectacles had been something of a flop, but Karma is a bitch. 

After a disastrous earnings report yesterday, Snap's share price fell through the floor in after hours trading. 22% of the company's value was wiped off in a matter of hours. 

Given the way Snap threw Windows Phone users under the bus, it's hard not to take pleasure in seeing the company struggle.

Twitter's 280 Character Change Is For Those Who Want It

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Twitter raised a storm amongst it's own users yesterday by announcing that it will roll it's upgraded 280 character message to all users. 

Cue hysterical outcry from the Twitterati. Ridiculous posts and end of the world warnings. 

It's all so unnecessary. If you don't want to post more than 140 characters, don't. It's really as simple as that. If you don't want to expend the extra effort to read the longer tweets, stop following those who post them. 

Some users will want the extra freedom to express themselves, others will welcome longer posts. Those are the users Twitter is racing out to here.

I, for one, am happy to see how this plays out once the hysteria has subsided. However, I'm expecting Twitter to still be the same old Twitter once users get used to the idea.

Google's Pixel 2 Outscores iPhone X As Best Smartphone Camera

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At this point I can't help but think that the quality of the top dozen or so smartphone cameras is so close that nobody who owns one is going to be dissatisfied with the images produced. Camera comparisons are so close now that only pixel peepers can really tell the difference between the output of adding contenders.
However, there has to be a class leader and it looks like this year that will be the Google Pixel 2, which outscored the iPhone X to claim number one spot in DxOMark's comprehensive testing.
Google's computational photography manages to bridge the gap in hardware specs to the iPhone X - remember this accounts for both the rear dual camera setup and fancy new front camera array - to produce photos which are measurably better.

Facebook And Apple Making Moves In Finance

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Both Apple and Facebook have made moves in peer to peer payments this week. Facebook extending its existing Messenger Pay to the UK, whilst Apple adding its Apple Pay Cash service to the latest iMessage beta.

Both serve almost exactly the same function. Sign in to use the service and then pay any other user of the service.

So far, so straightforward. However this is very much a Trojan horse move into finance. Apple holds more credit cards than any other company. Facebook holds that much information on you adding payment information isn't going to be an issue for most users.

In the longer term though, both companies have to be considering how much of the very lucrative banking market they can eat into with these sorts of tools. Banks are one of the few industries to rival the profits of tech giants like Apple.

Next stage disruptions are bound to follow. Add businesses - especially smaller ones - to the mix and Message based payment systems could eat into Payment Card Industry profi…

Apple Built Its Most Fragile iPhone Ever

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Now that the iPhone X is getting into more and more hands we're starting to see some different views on the new Apple flagship device.

One of those is around durability and it isn't good. The iPhone X had been called the least durable ever and it's not hard to see why.

In SquareTrade's various drop tests the iPhone X failed at every hurdle. It failed C|Net's drop test too. The former labelled the iPhone X

This fragility comes on top of the recently hiked repair prices and higher Apple Care fees.

Apple have also released its first full protection iPhone case for the X.

All of these things indicating the company knows just how easy it is to damage this phone.

If you do choose to pick up an iPhone X I strongly suggest you get some protection too. This is one device you really don't want to be dropping.

Google's Files Go App May Introduce AirDrop-like Capability For Android

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A new app from Google briefly appeared in the Play Store yesterday and it appears to contain a mechanism for transferring a file between local users without traversing the internet - in much the same way that AirDrop allows iPhone users to send files to each other.
Of course Android has had NFC file sharing since forever, however Files Go looks like it will allow you to transfer files from across the room without having to get up from your seat.
It's nice to see the functionality arrive on Android but it more useful if it also becomes something which is available on Chrome and ChromeBooks too.

iPhone X Claims DisplayMate's Best Smartphone Display Title

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For the first time in what seems like forever, the best smartphone display is not on a Samsung Galaxy phone, after the respected rating company marked the iPhone X ahead of the Galaxy Note 8. That's a win for Apple, as the iPhone's win come down mostly to more accurate colour calibration, whereas Samsung tends to prioritise colour 'pop' over accuracy for its own phones.

There are a couple of strange scoring decisions in the testing though. The Note 8 is scored down for contrast in ambient light, even though with automatic brightness enabled it matches the iPhone's performance exactly. Similarly, overall brightness are marked lower than the iPhone, even though with automatic brightness enabled the Note 8 surges past the iPhone, with peak output at 1,000 nits - about 50% brighter than the iPhone can achieve.

Still, a win is a win and Samsung now has something to prove when it releases the Galaxy S9 next year.

Google's Pixel 2 Ad Is All About The Yes

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Google's new ad for the Pixel 2 highlights a few features which make it a Google phone rather than 'just' and Android phone, but mostly calls out all of the things that Google Assistant can do. It's a well thought out spot which really places the Pixel 2 in a different space than Apple's ads which generally focus on photos or edge use cases.


Formula E: Countdown To Season Four - Part Two

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Formula E's fourth season sees some changes on the driver front - with many drivers joing the sport as endurance teams from the VW stable abandon the series.
First amongst those is three times Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer, who will be joining Techeetah for Season Four. Paired up with Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah have an impressive driver line-up. Having finished Season Three strongly either of Techeetah's drivers putting in a Championship challenge.
Another Le Mans winner joins Dragon Racing. Neel Jani will partner Jerome D'Ambrosio; whilst over at NIO Luca Filippi joins Mitch Evans. Venturi give Edoardo Moata will join Maro Engel. Those three teams are unlikely to be contenders for the title over the season, but all can challenge for race victories.
Renault e.Dams, Abt Schaeffler and Mahindra retain strong driver line-ups and should be in the battle for the Championship over the season; DS Virgin retains its all British pairing of Lynn and Byrd; and Nelson Piquet jumps s…

Apple Actively Avoiding Taxes

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Apple features heavily in the headlines today following the release of the Paradise Papers which, amongst other things, expose the lengths the company has gone to in order to minimise it's tax bill.

The company manages to turn hefty profits on its device sales, yet manages to pay very little in corporation tax on its take. Some of that is down to sweetheart deals with countries like Ireland, the rest down to knowing how to play the tax system to its advantage. 

Although Apple tops today's headlines it isn't the only offender in the tech world.

In fact between the top tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon manage to strip countries of desperately needed tax income.

Apple's cash reserves are larger than most countries - greater than the UK and Canada combined. Nearly ten times the size of New Zealand's. It's peers aren't far behind.

In the Capitalist, consumerist society which we live there's no question that Apple is doing exactly what any …

F1: Lando Norris To Be McLaren Reserve In 2018

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British F3 driver Lando Norris will make the step up to F1 next year, filling McLaren's test and reserve driver role. The 17-year old has just secured the 2017 European F3 Championship, adding to an impressive trophy cabinet that also includes the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award, two national and two other European titles.
It seems an absolute certainty that Norris will step up to a full time race seat in 2019, whether as a result of Fernando Alonso moving on or as a replacement for Stoffel Vandoorne.

Apple Autocorrects The "I" Out Of iOS

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There's certainly some humour in the news that some iOS devices updated to iOS 11.1 are autocorrecting "I" to a random character. I mean, how are owners of these devices going to be able to tell all their friends 'I have bought a new iPhone'?
Seriously though, given the limited number of devices Apple has to test these updates on, and that they are all Apple manufactured devices, how the heck does something like this slip through testing? Does such a failing imply that the robustness of Apple's testing of updates is somewhat lacking?
You would hope not, and whilst Apple does screw up this sort of thing more often than you would expect or hope for, it generally does a reasonable job of keeping bugs in check.
I just think that given the scope of devices iOS runs on, it should be possible to eliminate bugs from updates.
In the meantime I've adopted a self-defence mechanism for my iOS devices. Wait one week before deploying major update releases and at least…

No HTC U11+ For US Buyers - Signs Of An Agreement With Google

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Looks like the first casualty of the HTC - Google deal will be restricted access to HTC handsets in future. The HTC U11+ - a phone that continues the company's comeback - won't be sold in the US.
Especially galling for US customers who have doubled down on missing out on this handset. Once when Google chose to pass on it and took an LG phone for the Pixel 2 XL (that didn't work out so well for Google either, to be fair) and now with HTC not selling the handset under its own name.
It's hard to believe that as recently as 2011 HTC was the biggest smartphone vendor in the US. Now it seems that its future lies in competing with Chinese brands in emerging markets, as well as targeting European and  Australasian customers.
Interestingly, HTC will be bringing the U11 Life to the US, a decidedly mid-range handset which ships with Android One in other parts of the world. The Life looks a good deal for its $349.

New Samsung Ad Burns Apple For iPhone Failings

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The latest ad from Samsung burns Apple for the failings of the iPhone, over ten years. A decade where the two have become the battling giants of the smartphone market.
There's a few peaches in here and Samsung didn't even get heavily into all of the iPhone's many weaknesses over the years.
The closing walk past the queue outside the Apple Store is especially funny.

Android One: Quick Updates Vs OEM Features

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Google has recast Android One as the answer to its problems of keeping Android up to date. The general perception that Android phones lag behind Android on updates is pretty accurate and despite promises of slicker upgrade processes and helping OEMs to bring timely updates to handsets, Google has struggled with execution. At the time of writing only Sony has delivered an Oreo update to its handsets - and then only for the XZ Premium.
All those companies which have set their flags on timely updates - Nokia, Blackberry, HTC - have failed to get one handset updated to Oreo 8.0 even as Google has announced 8.1.
What's the answer? According to Google that would be Android One. A pure Android experience with updates controlled by Google itself. After years of being a product for emerging markets only, Google is expanding the reach of Android One. For the first time Android One handsets are available in the US and Europe.
For every Android One handset there's a OEM skinned version w…

A Phone For A Grand? Not For Me

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For US and UK buyers an iPhone X amounts to a nice round number. At $999 or £999 it amounts to a whole heap of pain for your wallet.

Is it worth it? I'm sure there are plenty who would argue it is. I'm not one of those. After spending time with the iPhone X I know it's not a phone for me, but even if it was I don't believe it justifies that price.

Those who justify that price do so by recognising the amount of time we spend on our smart phones. But is the iPhone X really better than any other high end smartphone? Does it do enough to justify the price difference?

The best feature of the iPhone X, in my view anyway, is is front facing camera. It's generally better than other front facing shooters in a very specific area: portrait mode. That sets it apart from other phones I have tried, although I'm told the Pixel 2 will outdo it when it arrives.

In all other respects it's a slightly improved iPhone 8 Plus, packing questionably useful unlock technology and a scre…