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Showing posts from May 23, 2018

HTC Makes The Right Decision In Dropping The USB-C Headphone Adapter From U12+ Box

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Customers who buy the HTC U12+ won't be able to use standard headphones straight out of the box, as it has decided to forego the USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the standard package. It's the right thing to do, for more than one reason.
First of all HTC's USonic headphones are included in the box, and these are probably the best standard headphone offering of any phone on the market today, with adaptive audio shaping and active noise cancellation.
Users who choose not to use the included headphones will almost certainly opt for Bluetooth options instead. On my daily commute I see no third-party wired headphones being used. Only standard in box sets, or Bluetooth options instead.
Which leaves a smaller group of diehards who want to use their existing wired headphones. Some of those (probably most of them to be honest) will be upgrading from a previous HTC smartphone, so will have the USB-C DAC already. The remainder can fork out the $11.99 for the DAC if they choose to…

iOS 11.4 Arrives, Finally Brings Delayed AirPlay 2, Messages In iCloud

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Apple dropped iOS 11.4 today, and the big news is that, finally, AirPlay 2 has arrived. That's big news for HomePod owners, who will now be able to do things like multi-room streaming and use two HomePods to create a stereo pair. 
I'd imaging those feature alone will bump HomePod sales over the remainder of this quarter. To get the new capabilities HomePod owners will need to update the firmware on their HomePods as well as iOS devices.
There's also the much touted arrival of Messages in iCloud, which promises to improve synchronisation of messages between devices. It will be interesting to see how that works out. I've never experienced any delays or problems with Message synchronisation so far, but have found iCloud to be slow and buggy. Let's hope Apple hasn't broken the experience for some to fix it for others. 
Fortunately, it looks like the feature is opt in, so there's no need to  enable it just yet, as long as you aren't suffering for storage sp…

Tesla Model 3 Owners Set New Arbitrary Range Record, Kill Car In The Process

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If you come here often, you’ll know that Hypermiling electric cars is something which annoys me greatly. The arbitrary numbers achieved bear no relevance in day to day use and serve only to reinforce the idea that range is still an issue in everyday EV ownership.
In this case the test itself was to have negative consequences for the two Californian Tesla fans who ran their Model 3 around a closed loop circuit, at extremely low speeds and in rocketing temperatures for a day and a half. After running out of juice, the Model 3 refused to charge and has had to be shipped to a Tesla Service Centre to see if it can be fixed. Potentially the two could have damaged the battery pack by running it past its point of no return.

Tesla owners seem to be particularly prone to these sorts of number chasing exercises, however Tesla in particular, and the electric car industry as a whole, has reached the point where recharging is a minor inconvenience, not a life changing issue.

Every EV on the market …

F1: Monaco Once More An Excitement-light Paradise

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Daniel Ricciardo took a well earned victory on the streets of Monte Carlo yesterday, despite his Red Bull being 25% down on power as a result of a hybrid system failure. That Sebastien Vettel wasn’t able to pass the hobbling Red Bull was an indication of the turgid nature of the race. At stages the leaders were lapping nine seconds slower than in qualifiying. This wasn’t a demonstration of motorsport at its finest, rather an exercise in follow the leader, lapping way off the pace and generally staying well inside the comfort zone.Contrast the dour nature of the race with the thrill a minute Formula E race in Berlin last weekend and there’s no question which was the better spectacle.The two drivers behind Ricciardo are acknowledged to be the talents of their generation, yet neither looked remotely capable of taking the win. Whether that’s the fault of the regulations, the drivers, the cars or the tyres is immaterial. Monaco is the jewel in the F1 season crown, and this was a snoozefest…

Apple Knew The iPhone 6 Was Likely To Bend In Normal Use

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Internal documents uncovered as part of a class action law suit show that Apple was aware the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were prone to bending before they were released to market. That issue was the cause of two major problems for iPhone 6 series phones - Bendgate and Touch Disease.The former was the warping of the iPhone 6 body if left in the pocket whilst sitting down. The latter a problem with the Touch IC, which lost connection to the logic board as a result of this bending.Apple is currently facing a class action suit about this issue - the one which caused these documents to be released in fact. The problem, primarily, as the plaintiffs see it, is that Apple charged customers to fix problems which were result of a design defect.The number of impacted users is counted in the tens of thousands. Now let’s be honest, in a market where tens of millions of iPhone 6 models were sold, that’s an insignificant number. Perhaps Apple would have been best served giving those affected customers the …

Apple Star - The Long Awaited Surface Pro Response?

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9to5Mac has a report on a new class of device from Apple, codenamed Star. Rumoured to tie a clamshell design, touchscreen, LTE, GPS and water resistance together with an ARM processor to bring the hybrid Mac / iPad to reality at last.
Biggest question is whether this will be the first ARM powdered Mac or the first iPad to go beyond the standard tablet offering.
Based on the rumours of limited new functionality in iOS 12, I'm going to guess that this will be a Mac rather than an iOS device, as adding new form factors suggests a bigger change to iOS.
If Pegatron have only been producing test devices for Apple since February, then a release this year seems highly unlikely.

Bottled Water Companies Pay Nothing For The Water You Buy

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Do you buy bottled water? Chances are you helping massive corporations rack up limitless profits on a resource which costs them nothing and should be costing you next to nothing as well. Its a problem which New Zealand shares with the US, and many other countries around the world.
That's not to mention the environmental impact of the bottling, shipping and processing the product. 
The answer is to not buy bottled water - there's no good outcome that comes from that purchase. Buy a reusable bottle and get your water from the tap. You'll be infinitely richer and make a positive impact on the environment in the process.

Today’s Least Surprising News: Steam Link iOS App Rejected By App Store

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At this point I’m surprised Steam even bothered going to the trouble of building an iOS version of its Link app. After all Apple is pretty clear about protecting its revenue stream and anything which allows software to be used that hasn’t passed through the App Store just has to be a candidate for the ban hammer.So it has transpired. Apple rejected the app for failing to follow App Store Guidelines. That catch-all term basically tells us that Apple won’t approve anything which might siphon some of the gravy from its App Store gravy train.Best hope Steam has of getting Link to work is to recast it as a web app which will run in Mobile Safari. Otherwise customers are either going to have to switch to Android or go without game streaming. 

Uber Software Failed To Stop After Seeing Pedestrian In Fatal Accident

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A six second period of time in which a self driving Uber Volvo failed to take any avoiding action was the majority cause of its fatal collision with a pedestrian earlier this year. That’s the conclusion of the preliminary report from the NHTSA.There are intricacies to this information too. Uber had disabled Volvo’s automatic braking system, which would have slowed the car before impact. Presumably that was because Uber’s own system was supposed to handle that action.The news isn’t unexpected, the company’s self driving system requires intervention at around every 13km, which makes this sort of situation inevitable during testing. Of course at that point the expectation is that the test driver moves from a passive to active role and takes control.In the accident in question the test driver was looking at the iPad in the car reporting the decisions being made by the car. The delay in recognising the danger was a significant factor in the accident. Crucially that wasn’t the driver’s issu…

Jury Reinstates Copyright Infringement Award - Samsung v Apple Battle Finally Over, Maybe

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In what might finally be the end of the courtroom drama which seems to have dragged on forever, a jury in the US has decided that Samsung owes Apple $539m in damages for copyright infringement relating to the original iPhone and Samsung Galaxy.The size of the award has been fluctuating all over the place as Samsung has chipped away at the $1bn it was originally found to owe.Whilst it’s less than Apple asked for - it was seeking $2.5bn - it’s also more than Samsung was expecting. Which may lead to another appeal, meaning that there’s no guarantee that this is over after all.

Amazon Echo Sent Audio Recording To Contact Without Customer's Knowledge

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An Amazon customer got the surprise of her life when one of her contacts called her to say he had received a voice message from her which turned out to be a conversation about floor coverings she had with her husband. The conversation had been captured and shared by her Amazon Echo. What on the face of it might seem to be an Orwellian nightmare turns out to be something much more innocent - an unfortunate set of coincidences in the couple's conversation which led Alexa to send their conversation as a voice message.Now it might seem unlikely that Alexa would hear the set of instructions necessary to do this as part of a normal conversation, however if you consider the billions of minutes of conversation and instructions Alexa must interpret it actually looks like something which was bound to happen eventually. Amazon has said that it will work to ensure this doesn't happen again, but chances are there are other coincidences waiting to happen.Will that stop me using Alexa? No. S…

Get Your Notifications Under Control

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This ad for the Mighty Spotify player might exaggerate the issue with notifications somewhat, but it's clear that many people really struggle with the relationship with their phones. Recent moves by Google, and new apps, designed to reduce the amount of time you interact with your phone, show that it's a problem which is causing enough noise to require a fix. 
If you find that your phone is dominating your life, rather than being a tool of communication there are some simple steps you can take to take control back. 
The reason why phones are such an issue for many users is notifications. The rush we get when the phone beeps and we're in demand can become all consuming, a drug which can't be self administered. Instead we need others to feed our addictions. When that notification sound isn't interrupting our lives we are conditioned to reach for it and act like it has. 
So stopping notifications is the first step in reclaiming your life. 
Step one is to go into your…

Android Phones And Tablets Shipped With Malware Pre-installed

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Manufacturers shipping Android phones and tablets without certification from Google have been infected with a malware called Cosiloon, a form of adware that runs services in the background potentially allowing the capture of privileged data from the device.

The affected manaufacturers include ZTE, Archos, Blaupunkt and Haier. Many of the devices will have been sold in emerging markets, but Archos, who identified the infection, reported that users in 90 countries are affected. The UK, Italy and Germany are high on the list of countries with infected devices.

The report, including the list of affected devices can be found here.

For these low cost devices, which hit their price points through several shortcuts or compromises, it seems that its a case of buyer beware', more than ever before. Sticking to known brands and Google certified devices is a sensible policy going forward, if it wasn't before.

In the meantime, Avast details a method for disabling the malware on your phone,…

Essential Is Done, Up For Sale And Next Phone Cancelled

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Andy Rubin's smartphone company Essential had a rough introduction to life - a partially applauded but mostly decried first phone which introduced the world to the concept of the notch and suffered from poor camera quality despite numerous updates.

Nothing like as poor as the sales though, which failed to break 150,000 last year. And after a reported investment of $100m in development, that's a particularly hard fail.

Now Bloomberg is reporting that the company if up for sale and development if future smartphones has been stopped. I'm not sure what value there is in the company to be honest. It's hardly a brand which has set the world alight, despite associations with Rubin (the founder of Android) and plenty of column inches, in the tech media anyway.

Unless there's a hefty patent portfolio hiding in the remains somewhere, I suspect Essential won't attract many interested buyers.

Microsoft Using Battery Life To Push Edge Once More

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Microsoft would really like you to start using its Edge browser. It isn't having much success with that, with just over 10% of Windows 10 users choosing to do so, according to NetMarketShare's most recent stats.
So for the second time they took three Surface Books, installed Firefox and Chrome on two of them and completed a battery rundown test by playing a video in each browser.
No surprise as to which browser comes out on top. It's far from a real world test though which is why I don't think we'll see a change in browser usage numbers any time soon.

iOS Developers Asking Apple To Allow Free Trials - Makes Perfect Sense

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The newly formed iOS Developers Union is asking Apple to allow free trials of apps in the App Store. It's a request which makes perfect sense, for any number of reasons.
At the moment developers wanting to offer a trial version of their app have to create two versions, Lite and Pro for arguments sake. Which leaves them in a bit of a difficult situation. How do you make the free version capable enough to properly demonstrate the product, whilst also not making it so capable it disincentives an upgrade to the Pro version? Not all developers will be able to get that level right.
The lack of a free version also hampers developers who want to charge more for their app than the couple of dollars which seems to be the popular price point for apps. If you've built an app which is of a desktop quality (especially for the iPad) being able to charge a desktop price is going to be critical to making the process worthwhile. Without a free trial though customers are going to shy away from …

HTC U12+ Aces DxOMark Tests, Camera Provides 'Knockout Results'

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DxOMark has passed its verdict on the new HTC U12+'s cameras and the results are pretty impressive. Aside from the triple camera array of the Huawei P20 Pro, the U12+ scores the highest rating ever.
With cameras remaining the big focus of OEMs seeking to differentiate in a saturated and mature smartphone market, a good DxOMark score is a prerequisite for having any hope of decent sales. HTC has hit the minimum level it needed to in order to retain market credibility and also justify the additional cost of the U12+ over phones like the OnePlus 6, which are cheaper, but which have much weaker cameras.
For the majority of buyers however, smartphone photography has reached a point where any mid-range or above camera can take the sort of quality photo they desire. There are very few who have the eye or the desire to do any more than take snaps.
Still, good to see HTC maintaining its strong reputation for photography.

US Consumer Groups Call Tesla Autopilot Marketing Deceptive, Wants Government Action On Driverless Cars

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Autopilot is turning out to be the best and worst feature of Tesla's cars - for Tesla anyway. Another day brings more calls for action about the way the company markets the enhanced cruise control systems.
This time the protagonists are The Center For Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog.
The former makes valid and fact laden statements about the way Tesla has introduced and promoted the technology, right down to the name itself. It claims that drivers are abdicating the responsibility for control of their cars to the system under the misguided understanding that the system can really drive the car for them. It can't, even if in normal circumstances its a more reliable driver than many who hold licenses.
It asks for the FTC to intervene before more deaths occur.
Consumer Watchdog on the other hand, reports on the results of its survey on driverless cars in the US. It's headline findings were that 74% of those polled would not ride in a driverless car, and 93% were concerned …

Mini PC - Going Where Others Have Failed Before, With Crowdfunding Money

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This is the Mini PC, a pocket sized Windows 10 device running an Atom x7 CPU and packing a 128GB SSD and 8GB of RAM. It also dual boots to Android 5.1, if you're looking for a more mobile friendly experience. It has already achieved over $1m of funding on Indiegogo and buyers are presumably looking forward to getting their hands on the device shortly.
Even aside from the notorious problems with crowdfunded companies and their failure to deliver products, this seems to be a bad idea. 
You see we've been here before, with a product called the OQO. For its time this was an amazing piece of technology which probably came closest to being a viable Windows tablet in the pre-iPad days.
That it failed, despite a strong community of committed users, says much about the prospects for the Mini PC. It's 5" screen is smaller than most smartphones out there. Running full Windows 10 is going to be extremely challenging at that size and, given the scaling issues of legacy Win32 apps…

Apple Lets You See What Data It Has Of Yours - But Are You Even Slightly Concerned?

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Straw poll, of the five biggest companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) in the technology game right now, how many hold data about you? All of them. How many of those give you cause for concern, lest they choose to share that data inappropriately? 
If you're anything like me the answer to the second question is only four. The exception being Apple. I feel pretty confident that Apple holds no information on me which it might choose to share with third-parties in order to generate a revenue stream.
You can find out exactly what data Apple has on you here. There's a better than even chance that it's all benign. Well, except for those with embarrassing music tastes (you know who you are) or dodgy bookmarks.
Facebook has already shown itself to be a poor guardian of data, Amazon and Google use information to target advertising on an aggregated and personal level, whilst Microsoft uses it 'to improve your Windows experience'.
Other than Facebook - for who…

Vivo Apex To Get Launch At 2018 World Cup

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Vivo is being strongly tipped to formally launch the all screen, in display finger print scanner toting, Apex at the World Cup in Russia next month. The Apex offers a 95% screen to body ratio, enabled by a pop-up camera. The Apex is likely to support mid range internals when announced and, if BBK's brand management policies are maintained,  there's a good chance that a high end version will launch with a OnePlus version.

Sony Pushing Koov Robotics To Educators

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Sony has had its building block kit for robotics in education available for a while now, but its facing stiff competition in the form of Lego Mindstorms and Vex IQ. The Sony offering uses a similar Scratch based programming to the others, so the real differentiator here is the ease of build and the complexity which can be achieved by older children.Sony is pushing Koov at younger kids in the video released today, which suggests it is prepared to cede the older students to Lego and Vex. That might turn out to be a mistake, as most schools will probably look to leverage equipment across multiple year groups to deliver the greatest return.

HTC U12+ Announced - A Stunning Phone For HTC Fans

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HTC announced its heavily leaked new flagship today, and its a major update to the U11, taking its predecessor’s strongest points and building on them. HTC rejected this year’s worst bandwagon - the iPhone aping notch, but added a 6” 18:9 display to the new U12+. The display is SuperLCD6, packing a wide QuadHD Resolution and supporting HDR10 and DCI-P3 for excellent colour reproduction.Other updates of note include a return to dual cameras for the company which first introduced them. The U12+ gets 12mp and 16mp cameras setup for standard and 2x zoom. Around the front it sports a pair of 8mp sensors. Both camera arrays support portrait photography and both rear cameras have OIS and EIS.The U11 was already a great video camera, for the U12+ HTC has added 4K recording at 60fps to the mix. The four microphone array still enables high quality audio recording and directional audio. Around the back the rear camera array supports AR Stickers, a way of animating selfies which is different from…