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Showing posts from May 25, 2018

Did Apple Miss A Trick By Leaving The Smart Connector Off The iPad 2018

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Apple's decision to add Pencil support to the new iPad (2018) was something of a surprise and probably did much to persuade existing customers to upgrade. After all we've all seen how quickly the Pencil has been adopted by developers and users since its introduction with the first iPad Pro.
What about the keyboard though? The Smart Connector, used on all iPad Pros to provide access to the Smart Keyboard, is missing from the entry-level iPad. So what, you might ask... it's a low price device, who's going to miss that?
The answer is Apple, which I believe is leaving money on the table by not adding the Smart Connector to the iPad.
The cost of adding the Smart Connector to the iPad is small - no more than a couple of dollars I'd guess. On the other hand the Smart Keyboard sells for $149 - and I'd imagine there's a pretty hefty profit tucked away in there.
Consumers buying the entry-level iPad are far more likely to add a keyboard to their purchase than the Pe…

Xiaomi's Mi 8 Is A Shameless iPhone X Lookalike

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Since Apple introduced the iPhone X, with its very different look, we've seen Android OEMs add their own notches and quasi full surface displays. None has so blatantly ripped off the new design in quite the manner that Xiaomi has achieved with the Mi 8.
What we have here is a phone which is going to sell exclusively on the fact that it could be mistaken for an iPhone X from even quite close range. That's going to be a big factor in its popularity in certain markets.
Now that's not to say there isn't a good phone lurking under that disguise - and for the expected price it looks like Xiaomi might just have served notice on the OnePlus 6. Xiaomi have added IR emitters and receivers on the front face, to enable a more secure face unlock feature. Its front facing camera is 20mp and it packs a dual rear camera array (which has been packaged to look exactly like the iPhone X camera). 
There's also an Explorer edition, high end phone, which adds an in display fingerprint …

Tesla Model 3 destroyed in Greek Highway Autopilot Crash

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Tesla and its Autopilot system have been getting some bad press recently, with a number of accidents, criticism from consumer groups and questions over the system's suitability for public consumption.
The latest accident happened on a highway in Greece, where a Model 3 being driven with Autopilot engaged swerved hard right into a lane divider, badly damaging the car.
So far, so standard. We've seen that Autopilot is far from being a perfect system in the past, and the company still markets it as a feature still in testing. Driver attention and readiness to take control are made quite clear to drivers all through the Autopilot process.
What's different is the Facebook post from the owner describing the accident. It is a frank assessment of Autopilot's capabilities and suitability for on-road testing from a Tesla fan and owner. Clearly the experience has opened the owner's eyes. Whilst admitting fault for the accident for being too trusting of the Autopilot system, …

Is It Time For Samsung To Abandon Google

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Samsung and Google are strange bedfellows. Samsung uses Android in some of its smart devices, but not in others. It has its own suite of apps which conflict with those provided by Google as part of Android and it even has its own Android app store. Then there are the products which compete with Google’s - the Gear VR headset, Gear smartwatches and Smart TVs. There’s Bixby, which competes directly with Google Assistant, and when it arrives on Samsung’s smart speakers, competing witth Google Home too. With Google’s recent moves to bring hardware and software together in devices across all categories, Samsung is going to face increased competition in the premium sector from a company which it relies on to provide its core software. Is it time for Samsung to divorce itself from Google? It can do so without ditching Android by using AOSP. The altenativw option, Tizen, just isn’t viable right now and probably never will be. Using AOSP means that Samsung won’t be able to install Google apps …

Greggs The Baker Tricks Foodies With Its Summer Menu

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Greggs might be famous for sausage rolls and sarnies, but apparently it has plenty of more exciting options to offer too. So it took its summer menu to a foodie fayre incognito and recorded foodies thoughts on its offerings.Some of the reactions to finding out the menu is from Greggs are priceless.

Things 3.6 Shows How Apple iPad Users Can Get Around The Absence Of A Mouse

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I've been complaining about the lack of mouse support on the iPad for a while now, primarily because it makes the keyboard / desk experience nonsensical. Having to reach up and hit the screen every time you want to do something for which there is no keyboard interaction is a complete pain.
Clearly Cultured Code, developer of the to-do app on steroids, Things, felt the same way. Without the option of adding mouse support, they've re-engineered their app's user interface to support keyboard navigation and, as you can see in the video above, they've done a pretty fine job. Other developers - of serious applications anyway - need to take note.
This doesn't remove the need for a mouse though, especially when using an external display. Without a mouse the iPad can only manage to mirror its screen. With mouse support it would be nice to see the iPad Pro at least, gain the ability to use an external display to extend its working space. 
Until Apple decides to make a mouse…

Americans Spend A Quarter Of Their Lives On The Web

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Kleiner Perkins and Mary Meeker released their Internet Trends report yesterday, and it documents the way that the internet - and smartphones in particular - have taken over American's lives.
Last year Americans spent six hours a day on the internet - that's 25% of their lives.
That doesn't need to be read as a negative though, being on the internet can mean many things, from working, communicating or gaming, for example. Being continually connected means so many changes to previous generations. We don't read newspapers any more, they are online resources. Shopping has moved online, as has research. Music now streams, rather than broadcasts. Those extra hours reflect a change of information type, not lost time necessarily.
The change over the last decade has been entirely drive by mobile usage - internet access through other devices has remained static, fallen slightly even. But the smartphone has driven overall usage through the roof.

Quebec Sets Itself Up As The Future Home Of Crypto Currency Miners

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Crypto mining farms eat electricity, something which is unsustainable when that energy is being created in CO2 generating power stations. That's without considering the impact on power supply at times of peak demand from every other customer.
Quebec's cheap electricity recently drew in a number of data centre scale miners, seemingly fleeing the new regulations applied by China which ban mining. With mining consuming up to a quarter of all power generation in Quebec, the local government applied the brakes, putting a hold on new applications for mining data centres.
That ban has now been lifted, according to Le Journal de Montreal, which says that a deal has been worked out which allows crypto-mining to continue, and even encourages miners to move their operations to Quebec.
Why is this important? It's because almost all of Quebec's energy generation is by renewables, specifically an extensive network of hydro-electric stations. To the point where Quebec has more elect…

Apple Will Become A Music Publisher - And Change The Music Industry Forever

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Reports in the music press today suggest the Apple Music has a new division responsible for publishing. The division is the first visible sign of change implemented by Oliver Schusser, who took over last month.

The suggestion is that the publishing division will be responsible for developing existing songwriters and easing the publishing process, it seems clear that the end game is for Apple Music to sign, develop and publish its own artists. In the process it will disrupt the current music industry model which sees those responsible for creating the work receive the smallest slice of the pie.

It seems inevitable that Spotify, Amazon and Google will also have to follow this path if they want to continue in the streaming business. Which spells curtains for the music industry at large. At the very least it will have to rewrite its contracts to offer at least an equivalent deal to Apple's; at worst a drain of artists to Apple will leave its cupboard bare of new work.

Which brings me…

Tesla Model 3 Gains Consumer Reports Recommendation After Over The Air Brake Fix

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When Consumer Reports declined to recommend the Model 3, Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk initially came out punching, suggesting bias and even flawed testing methods, despite CR's extensive history of unbiased and fact based testing. To their credit that response was quickly canned, and instead an over the air fix for the braking issues was promised.
That fix has now landed, and with it - following retests - comes Consumer Reports 'Recommended' award.
The OTA fix improved braking performance to match that originally claimed by Tesla, rather than the 'worst performing car ever' the original setup achieved. And it's incredibly impressive that Tesla was able to fix this with a software update.
But it isn't something we should be giving credit for.
A car is not a piece of software running on a computer, where an occasional crash causes frustration and possibly loss of some work, and a patch released after delivery is an acceptable mechanism for dealing with proble…

India Is Apple's Next Big Move, Manufacturing And Retail Announcements Imminent

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India is the world's second biggest smartphone market, and whilst the majority of the devices sold their are entry-level Android handsets from Chinese OEMs or Samsung; there's a massive appetite for the iPhone and Apple knows it.
It's currently negotiating heavily with the Indian Government to gain tax concessions which will allow it to assemble more iPhones in India, giving it an immediate toe hold in the market. A retail presence is also being mooted, as Apple looks to the next decade of iPhone growth being powered by the billion user strong Indian smartphone market.
Apple will need to have a lower priced iPhone to drive sales, which is why I'm expecting the current SE model (currently built in India in small numbers by Wistron) to remain on the books for a while yet. Apple can afford to play the long game here. As I've said many times in the past, the smartphone market tends towards Apple over time, especially once the influx of first time smartphone owners dri…

New Zealand Warns Apple For Misleading Consumers

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Apple has received a warning from the New Zealand Commerce Commission after it was found to be likely to be misleading consumers when discussing their rights under consumer law.

Customers are alleged to have been told that their warranty period of two years was the extent of their guarantee under consumer law, however under the current regulations there is no limit to the time at which a claim can be made for manufacturing faults.

Apple also directs purchasers of third-party products on its Apple NZ website to the manufacturer for any repairs when it is responsible for providing these repairs as the retailer.

This mirrors similar problems Apple has previously suffered with its interpretation of EU consumer law, when it was forced to provide customers in the EU with a two year warranty.

HP Now Offers A Direct Intel / ARM Comparison In Always Connected PCs

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HP's Envy x2 with ARM hasn't been out for long, but it already feels like it's obsolete. Pity those who invested on one. First, we have confirmation of newer Always Connected PCs powered by the new SnapDragon 845 CPU - an upgrade of the 835 in the Envy x2 ARM, and now we have a new version of the Envy x2 with an Intel processor and modem.
It's an opportunity to see how Microsoft's Windows on ARM investment has paid off.
The new Envy x2 Intel version has a low power Intel Core i5-Y CPU - what used to be badged Core m5. Otherwise specs on the ARM and Intel versions are the same.
This will make establishing the trade off in ARM v Intel decisions much easier to calibrate. The Intel version costs 15% more and should perform better whilst the ARM version should have an extended battery life.
I'm not sure the ARM version is going to win out in many buying decisions. We know Core m  powered laptops and hybrids can get pretty impressive battery life, to the point where…

Calvin And Hobbes, Karl Marx, The TV And The Smartphone

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Who doesn't love Calvin and Hobbes? If you're not old enough (or were old enough but just missed out for some reason) I strongly recommend getting down to your local or online bookshop and picking up an collection or two. This comic strip of a boy and his stuffed tiger turned out to have some incredibly incisive commentary on life.
Take the above header from a Sunday strip. When Marx made his observation in 1843, religion did indeed occupy a place in people's lives which was to be usurped by television. Bill Watterson captured that beautifully above.
What would that strip look like today? Indeed what would Marx observe in the strange master servant relationship we now have with our smartphones?
Astonishingly (to me anyway) this particular strip is more than thirty years old, and Calvin and Hobbes stopped enchanting us with their antics more than twenty years ago. There hasn't really been anything to compare since.

Tesla Model S In Autopilot Ploughs Into Police Car

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Laguna Beach PD has tweeted the above picture showing the aftermath of another failure of Tesla's Autopilot system. In this instance the Model S appears to have failed to see a parked Police SUV, hitting it at sufficient speed to half spin the car around - if the skid marks leading to the car are any indication anyway.
The PD's tweet confirmed that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the accident, although whether the driver was engaged remains up for debate. 
Yet more evidence, if any were needed, that Tesla owners are putting far too much faith in the Autopilot system and Tesla's controls on driver inattention are proving to be ineffective.
The police vehicle was unoccupied and the Tesla driver had 'minor' injuries.
With last week's consumer group attacks on Tesla and self-driving cars in general, this probably wasn't the best time for this particular incident to occur.

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…