Showing posts from February 12, 2018

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Leaks Reveal All

Looks like Samsung are going to announcing a new flagship at MWC without any surprises left to unveil. 

A series of leaks have revealed an updated Galaxy S8, with the main improvements coming in the camera department and placement of the fingerprint sensor. 

The latter moves below the camera and will assuage criticism from those who say that's where it should have been in the first place. 

The camera looks to be the big deal on the S9 though. The main camera will feature a variable aperture, a smartphone first, whilst the bigger s9+ will also pack dual cameras as well. That rumoured f1.5 aperture promises to move photo quality on significantly.

That difference in camera units won't mark the only difference between the two versions, with the S9+ slated to pack more RAM and storage too. 

Which marks the is the first time that Samsung has offered a different experience on its flagship phones. 

The big question left to answer is around Samsung's ability to speed up Touchwiz to match…

Quick Off The Mark, Pad & Quill Has A HomePod Nappy In Leather For $20

This is Pad & Quill's HomePod coaster, a super quick response to the news of marked furniture which broke earlier in the week.
It's $20 for a 4" leather disc, available in brown or black. It's a particularly elegant way of preventing your HomePod marking your wooden furniture.
I imagine this will only be the first of a whole legion of similar products though, so you may want to wait and see what others have to offer before pressing the button on this one.

Furniture Marks May Be The Price You Pay For Great Audio - And Not Just With The HomePod

Ring-gate is the new first world problem, mainly affecting customers of Apple's HomePod. The silicon ring used to dampen vibration from the speaker and provide a stable platform for the device marks certain oil finished wooden furniture. It leaves a white ring.
This isn't just an issue with the HomePod - pictures of Sonos speakers leaving similar marks are already floating around the internet. It seems that the best method of isolating and stabilising the speaker is most likely to mark surfaces.
Apple's response is fairly standard fare, the marks will clean off and you should think about putting your speaker somewhere else. In other words, it isn't Apple's fault. 
In truth though, the defence that every other speaker of this ilk does the same thing is less than we should expect from Apple.
If Apple was aware of the issue before customers and the media started experiencing it then blithely shipping the HomePod wasn't a customer friendly move. At the very least …

Google's Chrome Adblocker Is All About Saving Online Ad Revenue

From today users of Google Chrome will have an adblocker built into their browser in a move which Google clearly sees as critical to saving the future of online advertising. Given that most of Google's revenue comes from this source you can understand its concern.
The Chrome adblock tool only allows ads which comply with the Coalition for Better Ads or CBA. Given that Google is a board member of the Coalition you can be pretty sure it has ad revenue very firmly front of mind right now.
Google delivers more ads on the web than any one else. So the growth of adblockers has been detrimental to its business. By building in an adblocker which allows approved ads to be delivered, Google is clearly hoping that users will no longer feel the need to deploy third party blockers which are much more aggressive.
The CBA defines the ads which are unacceptable, with pop-ups, auto-playing video and ads which play before or after content being specific targets. On mobile there's also a maximu…

F1: Haas Shows 2018 Car, Halo Not The Carbuncle Expected

Haas has revealed its challenger for the 2018 season.The Ferrari powered VF18 is the first of this season's racers to break cover.
The important thing here is the way the Halo device has been incorporated into the design of the car, with the colour scheme cleverly disguising the device. It may not work as well on other colour schemes - Ferrari in particular might struggle - but here, the black and white livery works very well.
Expect to see more cars feature black areas of colour around the cockpit to support better visuals as more cars are unveiled.

Losing Smartphone Leader Probably Not A Big Issue For HTC

Chialin Chang has left HTC, effective immediately. The President of the smartphone division leaves to start his own AI business. With the bulk of HTC's smartphone division having transitioned to Google's control and the company's focus for smartphones irrevocably changed as a result, losing the incumbent leader seems like an opportunity rather than a challenge.
HTC is no longer a mainstream competitor in the market, despite producing some of the most desirable phones of the Android era, and particularly in the last five years. However, the company has failed to excite customers. Its size and lack of budget for things like marketing, plus poor decisions in the way it spent what budget it had, doomed those ambitions.
So new HTC - the remainder of the smartphone company left from the Google sale - needs to develop a new strategy. Focused in profit. Inevitably that means competing in the premium market with Samsung, Apple and, eventually, Google.
It's more than a company …

iOS Can Once More Be Crashed Via Text Message

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but it is once again possible to crash an iOS device, although in this case things are further complicated by the bug preventing access to any messaging platform in iOS once triggered.

The bug was first uncovered by Italian blog Mobile World and confirmed by The Verge. It involves sending a text message with an Indian character to an iPhone user. This will either crash the application in question, if it is already open or, if iOS shows a notification, crash the whole device.

Given that this affects all messaging applications it would point very much to a weakness in the code Apple provides to developers for message handling. The good news is that this appears to be fixed in the current beta version of iOS 11.3. Still the question remains, why is Apple's Messaging API so vulnerable to injection attacks and why hasn't Apple been able to find and fix the root cause?

Messaging has been a weakness of iOS since 2015. It looks like 2018 w…

Samsung Quietly Pulls S8 Oreo Update

Without a whisper of notification or hint of explanation, Samsung has pulled its Oreo update for Galaxy S8 phones. It's hardly unusual for manufacturers to have to stop deployment of an update when a serious bug is uncovered, still some information from the OEM would be nice.
HTC has done the same thing with the Oreo update for the HTC U10. Does this indicate a weakness amongst Android OEMs affecting testing of releases? Probably not. Rather just a different approach to shipping.
Apple, for example, will continue to offer an iOS update with no errors, with the expectation that it will issue a new release of the platform to resolve these issues. As long as the error is not significant, this is the right way to handle problems.
Android OEMs shipping firmware updates know that this is likely to be a one shot wonder for any particular handset. Once the upgrade is released there will be no future upgrade to fix any faults found so stopping, fixing and restarting make sense.

Skype Users Should Abandon Its Desktop App For UWP

Microsoft has been alerted to an issue with the Windows Skype desktop version which potentially allows priviliged access to the system via a weakness in the program's updater. 

Microsoft has said the weakness is too difficult to fix and it will deprecate the app in favour of a new client version instead. 

That's a pretty disappointing outcome which suggest two potential responses for end users. 

Firstly a switch to the UWP app for those using Windows 10 and secondly the deletion of the app for those who aren't. 

Microsoft should know better than this. It's a decision that will cost them users. 

If Tim Cook Wants To See The Death Of Cash, Apple Needs To Invest In Apple Pay As A Total Solution

Cash. It's dirty, insecure and easy to lose; and Tim Cook doesn't like it. In fact Cook is reported to have told Apple's annual shareholder meeting he hopes to outlive coins and bills as they get replaced with electronic forms of payment.
If Cook wants to see that in action he need only pop on a plane over to Auckland. Cash is all but extinct thanks to New Zealand's EFTPOS payments system, which allows merchants to take tiny payments thanks to its minimal fees.
In the last year I have used cash twice - to provide tooth fairy money for my children. Anywhere else, EFTPOS and, usually, Paywave using my phone.
New Zealand's card based culture has been built on solid foundations. All merchants are able to take card payments thanks to mobile terminals, bank account transfers are made through mobile phone apps, provided by the big four banks, meaning most payments are seamless and quick.
The result is that I, and many other Aucklanders, never even see cash day to day.

Uber Lost $4.5bn In 2017 Despite Rising Revenues

Until Uber completes its IPO and goes public - expected sometime next year - its financial reports will remain incomplete and open to interpretation. One thing which can definitely be confirmed from the information it is releasing is that it is losing money at a phenomenal rate. It lost $4.5bn across the full year.
That's 60% heavier than 2016 and, with 'only $6bn' in cash in the bank something which will make the incoming IPO all the more challenging for CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. He will need to deliver on his plan to be profitable before going public.
In Q4 Uber earned $11bn in revenue, however after paying out its drivers and taxes it was only left with $1bn of that. With operating expenses topping $1.7bn it's loss for the quarter ended up at $1.1bn (GAAP adjusted). Those operating expenses have doubled since the start of 2016.
With hefty investment from SoftBank, there's no chance that Uber won't make it through to profitability. But if it doesn't start r…

What's Happening At Sony Now?

Sony next flagship device, expected to be unveiled at MWC, may be in jeopardy after the company asked the FCC requested that all grants be removed for this device. The given reason is for a design change, but at this late stage that seems a little strange, to say the least.
I'm guessing one of two things has happened. Sony has found a major (read Note 7 scale) flaw in its new design, or it has decided to completely withdraw from the US and this is its mechanism for ensuring grey imports of its new phones cannot happen.
Given that there's no logical reason for Sony to depart the US - especially seeing as its most recent Xperias have, for the first time, gained fingerprint sensors for US-bound SKUs - and you have to assume that a flaw has been uncovered which will prevent it going on sale until a major redesign has occurred.
Does this have anything to do with the imminent departure of Kaz Hirai from the CEO role at Sony? Perhaps his replacement, Kenichiro Yoshida, intends to ta…

Nokia Creams The Competition - First Out The Door With Android Oreo 8.1

On the back of news of its sales success in 2017, Nokia made good on its promise of timely upgrades for its smartphones, with an update for the Nokia 8 to Oreo 8.1. 

That makes Nokia the first OEM, outside of Google, to ship the latest version of Android. More than that, most OEMs are only just getting Oreo 8.0 updates out, and almost nobody else is talking about 8.1.

This kind of update performance is bound to make Nokia phones more attractive at retail, as well as boosting customer loyalty.

HMD Global Killed It With 2017 Nokia Smartphones

How strong is the Nokia brand? How about strong enough to take the licencee HMD Global from nowhere to being the 11th biggest selling smartphone brand globally in just one year.

Nokia clearly retains significant customer loyalty, despite the troubled Windows Phone years and the damage Microsoft did to the brand during its brief stewardship. 

As an idea of how good last year was for Nokia, from a standing start it managed to outsell Google, Sony and HTC.

And this was achieved without delivering a particularly outstanding handset. 

It's unlikely sales are going to go anywhere but up. Which just goes to show just how well you can do if you take a global view of the smartphone market.

Essential Sold 90,000 Phones in 2017

Despite the big launch hype, the Essential PH1 - brainchild of Andy Rubin, the brain behind both the Danger Hiptop and Android - sold fewer than 90,000 phones in 2017 according to a tweet from IDC Research Director Francisco Jeronimo.
Aside from the disaster with the camera, which surely impacted sales, Essential has been hampered by its reliance on just one market. And when that market is currently enduring a war of attrition between Apple and Samsung, there's probably not going to much left over for the little guys. I'm talking about the US, of course.
Of course the rest of the world is much more independent in its choice of smartphones and I have no doubt the PH1 would be doing an awful lot better with sales in the rest of the world. If only they'd been given the chance.
Once again the US-centric view of the world impacts a smartphone's sales performance.

Android P Will Support All The Weird And Wonderful Devices Incoming

Foldable phones, screens with notches and foldable displays. All the things which are either available from Android OEMs or are imminent.

Google has apparently been hard at work to ensure that all of these features are properly supported in Android P. That's important because more and more OEMs are pushing the envelope in order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the competition.

The important thing to note here though is that, just because Google is adding support to Android for these feature, it doesn't necessarily mean it will be bringing them to its own devices. In much the same way that Pixels don't support pressure sensitive displays, despite it already being an Android supported feature.

As ever, it's about allowing as many different variations of Android phone as customers want.

Android P is likely to get its big unveil at Google I/O in May.

Google AMP Stories To Create A Two-tier Web

Google has introduced a new format for AMP pages called Stories. AMP Stories will be designed to create an in-browser, visual article format - Snapchat Stories, but for articles which publishers choose to make available for mobile users specifically.
Interesting thing about this concept is that it takes publishers back to the days of having to publish different versions of their sites on desktop and mobile. The very thing AMP is supposed to counter.
Whether that means Google will be providing some mechanism for publishers to convert articles on the fly remains to be seen. For now the concept relies on publishers manually creating Stories - and users wanting to consume them. In the short term at least.
I tried the Wired AMP Stories page and found them to be clunkier than reading a normal story in web page, and the need to tap to move between pages rather than swipe wasn't great or smooth. News Republic or Flipboard's experience is so much better.
Given several such apps alread…

Google Sold Less Than Four Million Pixels In 2017

Last year was the first full year for Google as a manufacturer of smartphones, even if HTC mostly made the actual devices. Given that these were premium devices,  with no low or mid rangers to back them up,  sales numbers were never going to be high,  but did they meet Google's expectations?

Four million sales is probably an accurate reflection of Google's ambition for year one. The Pixel was only available in a limited selection of markets and never saw the sorts of discounts which drive sales spikes. 

As a proportion of the overall smartphone market it reflects limited penetration. However, of the smaller premium sector it's a sizeable grab for a first year. And by positioning itself as the Apple of Android,  with control of hardware and software,  Google is only going to grow it's market share in this key sector.

Whether that is at the expense of Apple, Samsung or one of the other premium Android OEMs, Google probably doesn't care. 

Xiaomi's Deleted Poll Says A Lot About The Future Of Android

What's the best thing about using an Android phone? The choice of device, the flexibility, the ability to customise?

Possibly any of these, but I'm pretty sure nobody instantly thought 'OEM skins'. 

That's because these tend to either get in the way of the experience Google intends for its devices or hit performance, sometimes substantially.

There are very few OEM skins which receive universal praise, and those that do are mostly rooted in the 'close to stock' camp. 

So Xiaomi's Twitter poll which asked whether users preferred its MIUI skin or Android One seems to have been a mistake right from the start. 

Did the company expect their own skin to get rejected in favour of stock? If they did, then why delete the poll?

Android users tolerate UI customisation, rather than embrace it. And now, thanks to Xiaomi, all OEMs have received that message.

Whether they take it on board when planning new releases is an entirely different matter.

Microsoft Surface Pro At Five, Game Changer

When Microsoft launched the original Surface and Surface Pro they were mocked mercilessly, yet in just five years the hybrid has changed the face of computing, perhaps forever.

The premise behind both Surfaces was to compete with Apple's, still new and fresh, iPad. To that end they offered varying degrees of flexibility between being a laptop and a tablet. The Pro was very much focused on being a laptop first. 

Looking back now, the Surface Pro seems an unlikely hit. It was heavy, had marginal battery life and didn't really work in portrait mode.

The thing is though, I had one and it was far and away the best machine available for my needs at the time. Windows 8 was a perfect fit, bringing flexibility to the software which more than matched that of the hardware.

The killer component was the Surface Pen. Using Wacom EMR technology it never needed a battery, yet still managed to offer a fantastic writing experience. Paired with OneNote it was the ultimate device for note takers…

Google Brings Better Office Integration To Drive

Predator one day, prey the next. Microsoft faces another step up in competition from Google Drive as the latter integrates better compatibility features into its suite. 

The obvious intention here is to reduce the friction which might prevent potential customers from switching from Office 365 to Drive apps.

The greater interoperability between users of Google's suite and Office makes Google a viable option for small and medium businesses looking for some competition for their office suite business.