Archive for the ‘Mobile Computing’ Category

Talking about the iPhone and why we’re still saying it wrong (according to Apple)

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Apple’s legendary response to the issues with the iPhone 4 antenna was “you’re holding it wrong” (before it started to sell suitable bumper cases). As the iPhone X (iPhone Ten?) takes to the stage, it’s worth reminding yourself of Apple’s attempt to define everything about the iPhone. Here’s Phil Schiller after taking  to Twitter in 2016 to explain that we were saying it wrong as well:

Weighing in on a discussion of how to talk about two or more Apple devices, Phil Schiller said that it’s not a question that needs asking – because nobody should be referring to Apple devices in the plural anyway.

“One need never pluralise Apple product names,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ex[ample]: Mr Evans used two iPad Pro devices.”

…The strange rule joins other proscriptions from Apple, which also include the fact that the company tends never to use the word “the” in relation to its products. In Apple’s results this week, for instance, Tim Cook described how the company was seeing very high customer satisfaction rate “for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus”.

Just try those rules out on other functional objects you have. It’s perfect! And since that declaration we’ve all bowed to Apple’s will. Oh…

Why Do I Write What I Think About Technology?

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Tomorrow the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be released to the public. For some reason Apple has never offered me the hardware to review ahead of a public launch, so I’ll be very close to the front of the line. After the purchase I’ll start reviewing the handset online, with my first impressions at the end of the day and a more refined review a week or two later.

Thinking about how to review the device has sent me down an interesting mental path, partly because of the reaction to the existing coverage of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. How should a technology journalist report and review a new hardware release?

There is a school of thought that a reporter should be covering just the facts, reporting these fixed details to the reader, and leaving them to make their own mind up. The arguments presented by the company should be taken as ‘the one true answer’ and that the only arbiter of a success will be sales, rather than the analysis of a thousand web monkeys at their Macbeth inspired keyboards.

The other side of the argument is that the facts are nothing more than a starting point. The thinking from the manufacturer and the idyllic view presented should be challenged and questioned. Decisions made in the design process should be questioned, and through this questioning the strength of the device will become clearer to the reader.

Naturally the latter will always input some bias from the writer (or the video producer, podcaster, whoever) because their understanding around the decisions made will colour the article. I have my biases, as do others. Those who are familiar with my writing will know where I see technology going and how that impacts on a device.

For me, covering the technology scene has never been about repeating the corporate line, declaring everything new to be magical, and cheerleading the courageous decisions being made. The comfortable corporate facts are the starting point. I see my role as informing people of those facts, providing context, questioning decisions, conveying how I see this all fitting together in an entertaining way, and allowing my readers to see multiple angles to make educated decisions on a subject if they wish.

Facts are good, but facts are the starting point of a longer journey. That’s what I write about, and that’s how I cover my beat. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. But tens of thousands of people every day are happy to read my words, and for that I am thankful.

And with that said, on to the iPhone 7 review.

Choose Your Own iPhone 7 Review

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Right, time for some fun with the iPhone 7 – rather than write a single article, I’ve decided to review the launch of the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 plus in the form of a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure / Fighting Fantasy’ book.

Which means the summary text has to be… “You are the reviewers. Find all the flaws. Can you review Apple’s latest smartphone? Love it or hate it, you control the final outcome as you ‘Choose Your Own iPhone 7 Review’.”

Start your Apple adventure here.

Sony Wins The iPhone 7 Content War

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

I’m not sure if Sony’s decision to reveal the new PlayStation hardware today and force a head-to-head with Apple’s reveal of the iPhone 7 family is a suicidal marketing move or a tactical masterstroke, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

Although the iPhone is going to dominate the digital pages (and is likely to make the main evening news bulletins on television and radio around the world) there’s always going to be a hunger for the story that isn’t about Tim Cook showing off a new iPhone that looks and acts remarkably like last year’s iPhone. With the reveal of the PlayStation Slim, the PlayStation Neo, and details on a new DualShock controller and the PlayStation VR headset Sony has put together everything a technology reporter needs for a solid piece of counter-programming.

To take one practical example, I’ve written extensively about the iPhone 7 in the run up to today’s launch. I’ve got a number of angles that I want to explore after the launch, about the ebb and flow of Apple and its iPhones taking on Google and the Samsung Galaxy family, the slowing speed of progress, and the practicality of the iPhone design and the missing headphone jack.

But not today.

Every tech site has lined up iPhone coverage, every second stringer has an opinion hoping to strike it lucky today, every mainstream media publication will become an expert on all things Cupertino, and the fabric of online news will get gummed up. Today is the day to forget about the page views, to have some fun, and let others chase for a single gold medal. I picked up my medals last week and I know there’s a better chance of picking up more next week.

If I really must file some copy, I’m not going near the news from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Thanks, Sony.

Project Ara and the dream of a modular pocket computer

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

Google’s Project Ara is no more.

The failure of Ara shouldn’t be seen as the inability to make a modular smartphone where users can replace parts (after all, Fairphone seem to be doing rather well with Fairphone 2… I just wish the team would hurry up and get Sailfish running on the Dutch handset). Ara’s cancellation feels like the realisation of Android’s commercial nature.

Modular smartphones are not going to be as efficient as custom-built sealed units. The software cannot be tightly optimised around specific hardware, the modular components require connectors to a central spine, they’ll need to be larger to allow removal and handling, and it’s far harder to achieve economies of scale with, say, multiple camera modules.

Further to that, modular smartphone designed and marketed by Google would be at odds with Android’s place in the market. Android survives on being the ‘power’ mobile operating system that delivers faster and faster phones every year. Manufacturers push each other to make bigger numbers. Ara does not fit in with that vision, and as Google rationalises its internal business divisions, the conflict between Ara and Android was likely brought into focus.

If for some reasons Ara was a runaway success, Google would have taken its little skunkworks project and used it to damage the partners that offer far more Android activations and Google-account using consumers. Ara didn’t fail because of hardware (even though modularity is complex), Ara failed because it was the wrong business model for Android in general and Google specifically.

It’s now left to smaller companies like Fairphone and Puzzlephone to push the functionality and practicality of a modular smartphone. The gadget lover in me hopes they succeed.

Apple, the iPhone 7, and assuming Taniyama-Shimura

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

There’s an Apple event next week, but anyone who follows tech news online knows that already. They have also read what Apple is announcing, even though Apple has confirmed absolutely nothing about the event. And the great thing about the tech reporting industry is that everyone is cool with that.

I find it curious that this attitude follows one of the great ‘I hope this is right’ moments of 20th century mathematics. In 1955, a presentation by Yutaka Taniyama and Goro Shimura proposed that every elliptic curve had a modular form. Every mathematician was confident that the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture was correct, even though nobody could prove it. Acres of mathematical theory were built on a foundation that started with the words ‘Assuming Taniyama-Shimura…’, and every accepted that they were trusting a hunch.

For the record, it was eventually proved and is now known as the Modularity theorem.

If everyone believes something, then (a) of course it is true and (b) if it turns out to be wrong then everyone is wrong and nobody suffers any disadvantage. Taniyama-Shimura was a get out of jail card to speculate on something that you don’t have confirmation of is probably true and you want to go ahead and do it anyway.

The same issue crops up when I write about the smartphone industry in general, and Apple in particular. We all know what’s coming, it’s not confirmed, and if we’re wrong, we’re all wrong together and it doesn’t matter.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why my iPhone 7 coverage over the last few months is littered with  phrase ‘assuming Taniyama-Shimura’.

Apple Can Respond When It Wants To

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Early last week a design flaw with the iPhone 6 was published by iFixit and picked up by the media. To my eyes the removal of underfill in the IC board construction along with placing chips along a stressful point in the iPhone cause was causing chips to come loose from the main logic board.

Apple did not explain what was happening.

Then three zero-day exploits of iOS came to light that would allow an iPhone to be jailbroken and have malware installed came to the world’s attention. A n update to iOS was rolled out with the notes that it was about security.

Apple did not explain what was happening.

Now the European Commission has suggested to the Irish tax authorities that it might have worked out Apple’s tax bill incorrectly because it believed it was short 13 billion Euros.

Apple came out all guns blazing.

Good to see that there are some circumstances when Apple will provide comment.

On Apple, security, the FBI, and positioning

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Bruce Schneier writes in the Washington Post on the case for Apple to stand firm against the FBI demand it cracks open the protection on an iPhone 5C:

The policy implications are complicated. The FBI wants to set a precedent that tech companies will assist law enforcement in breaking their users’ security, and the technology community is afraid that the precedent will limit what sorts of security features it can offer customers. The FBI sees this as a privacy vs. security debate, while the tech community sees it as a security vs. surveillance debate.

Privacy versus security, plus security versus surveillance. That can be reduced to privacy versus surveillance. Which is what this all boils down to. Should your phone and what is stored in your phone be private, or should it be under the threat of surveillance? There’s no middle ground here, you can have one or the other, but not both.

Choose one.

Kickstarter lessons from the failed Zano drone project

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Crowdsourcing is still a ‘big thing’ that many people are relying on. Which means when crowd funding goes wrong it can have a big impact. For those of you following the funding merry-go-round the name of Zano will be familiar. If you haven’t heard, it was a semi-autonomous drone that you would control from your smartphone and it would follow you, avoid obstacles, and record HD video.

It was a spectacular failure, burning through funds, promises, and delivery goals.

Kickstarter commissioned Mark Harris to write an investigative report into the failure. It’s chock full of lessons for people running crowd funding projects, and those who support projects on these sites:

Kickstarter tasked me, a freelance reporter, to find out why a highly funded crowdfunding campaign for a palm-sized drone flamed out in order to give backers the full story, and provide lessons for itself and others. My report follows. Kickstarter had an advance look, but wasn’t allowed to make changes.

Fascinating reading.

Ninety-nine-one is everywhere in technology

Monday, December 14th, 2015

I’ve always been aware of the 90/9/1 split in terms of creating online content (ninety percent of people consume content, nine percent will interact with content, and one percent will create content) but I’ve never looked to see how it carries over into other areas of the geekerati’s world.

Thankfully Charles Arthur has.

What do operating systems, browsers and search engines all have in common? It seems to be a ratio of 90:9:1 between the key players. One player dominates; then others get a minimal share.

Take mobile OSs: This week the Mozilla Foundation pulled the plug on Firefox OS – the mobile OS which could have replaced native apps with HTML-based apps – a final death throe in the mobile OS wars. There are now three main platforms – Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – for which worldwide shipments are currently running in a ratio of about 85:14:1 respectively.

Now look at desktop OS sales: the ratio stands in the most recent quarter at about 91:8:1 between Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OSX, and “self-build” machines which probably get Linux.

Hedy Lamarr And The Google Doodle

Monday, November 9th, 2015

On Hedy Lamarr’s 101st birthday, she makes it to the Google Doodle.

Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on 9 November 1914 in Vienna, Austria, Ms Lemarr got her first leading role aged just 17, in a German film called Geld Auf Der Strase. A subsequent German film, Exstase, brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers, and she soon signed a contract with MGM.

Once in Hollywood, she officially changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and starred in her first Hollywood film, Algiers (1938), opposite Charles Boyer. She continued to land parts opposite the most popular and talented actors of the day, including Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.

However, Ms Lamarr was not just a pretty face. In addition to her film accomplishments, she patented an idea called the “Secret Communication System” in 1942, which later became pivotal to both secure military communications and mobile phone technology.

And that Google Doodle is everywhere …except in the UK, which for some reason is really annoying me.

The PS Vita’s First Death

Monday, October 26th, 2015

I think it’s been a good run for the PS Vita, and it’s ability to offer third-party titles and act as a remote station for the PS4 means it still have a lot of utility (and a great back catalogue), but Sony’s SVP Massyasu Ito confirms that there are no first-party titles in production for the portable console.

Ito told the Japanese gaming website 4Gamer (translated by DualShockers) that “first-party studios have no titles in development for PS Vita,” confirming what many have suspected and feared for a while now.

According to the senior vice president, Sony Computer Entertainment’s game plan now is “to focus on PS4,” as it is “a new platform.”

That said, because of the third-party apps (and the popularity of MInecraft on the PS Vita) the Vita is still for sale, and is getting the non-update update of ‘new colours’ in the run up to Christmas.


The dark side of ‘Free To Play’ games

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Eil Hodapp edits an interview with a producer behind many of the well-known ‘free to play’ mobile games on just how much you give up for a free download to play games like Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, and pretty much anything with an in-app purchase.

Even users who don’t really use Facebook or fill it with “fake” data actually tell us a lot. You might not use Facebook, but your connections give you away. If you play with friends, or you have a significant other who plays, we can see the same IP address, and learn who you are playing with. When we don’t know information, we try to gather it in a game.

Have you played a game with different country flags? We use those to not only appeal to your nationalistic pride, but to figure out where you are (or where you identify). Your IP address says you are in America, but you buy virtual items featuring the flag of another country, we can start to figure out if you are on vacation, or immigrated. Perhaps English is not your first language.

We use all of this to send you personalized Push Notifications, and show you store specials and items we think you will want.

Read it all on Touch Arcade.

How do you say Xiaomi?

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

Over to the BBC Pronunciation Unit:

…we recommend to our broadcasters:

SHOW mee (-sh as in ship, -ow as in now, -ee as in street, note first syllable stress)

This reflects the pronunciation used by the VP of Xiaomi Global, the Brazilian Hugo Barra, who said shortly after taking up his position in August 2013: “Think of ‘show me’, and then pronounce the first word as if it was ‘shower.'”

Women + Tablets + Stock Photographers = LOL

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Have you ever noticed that all stock pictures of women with tablets show the women laughing at the content?

On The Media has.