Archive for the ‘iPhone’ Category

NFC and the iPhone 5 in General

September 13th, 2012 7 comments

Apple VP Phil Schiller on why the iPhone 5 doesn’t have NFC built in:

It’s not clear that NFC is the solution to any current problem, Schiller said. “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.”


Number one, since when does Apple wait to fulfill a need until everyone is doing it? With that kind of attitude, the iPhone would never have been created. Apple’s main distinction is that it creates products that do things people want to do but either didn’t know it or they weren’t available.

Second, not every customer is in America. Here in Japan, having NFC would mean I could make payments at most stores and use the iPhone as a train pass. At this time, I am still on the fence as to whether or not to get the new iPhone—an incrementally taller screen, LTE, and a slightly faster processor do not give me anything I need right now, but NFC would completely change the game for me.

Which brings us to the most likely reason Apple did not include NFC and why Schiller gave a BS answer: because Apple was not able to establish an NFC payment system where Apple gets to take a cut of each payment made. Making NFC available in Japan, for instance, would have meant simply making the chip available to be configured to other companies’ setups, which would be fantastic for users, but Apple would see nothing of all that cash flowing through its product.

And I think that is something Apple cannot bear—they have demonstrated in the past that if any transaction goes on within sight of an Apple product, it must either pay Apple or be denied a place in Apple’s domain.

Apple does not want to enable other companies to make money using their product; Apple wants to wait until it can figure out a way to commandeer the profits from NFC payments. Allowing such payments to go without Apple in the loop even for a short time would be a bad precedent.

This is one of the less satisfying aspects of being an Apple user. I am sure that when Apple does NFC, if it does, it’ll be great and either the same price as competitors or better—but Apple won’t allow it to happen at all until it can insinuate itself in the profit chain, and that means people like me have to wait without an obvious and current technology while Apple cuts deals.

Meanwhile, about the phone: As I mentioned above, nothing really knocks my socks off.

4“ screen instead of 3.5” screen? Meh. I use jailbreak apps to space the icons, have had five rows for some time already.

LTE? It’s not like I sit around waiting for downloads on my phone all the time. It works fast enough as-is. Not to mention I have no idea if Softbank will make new charges for LTE use. Now, if they kept the data fees the same but allowed tethering? That might interest me. Otherwise, meh.

The new camera? Sweet, and I would love the panorama feature. But get a new phone just for that? Meh.

Thinner, lighter? So small a change I would probably not even notice. Sexy, sure, but still, meh.

Faster CPU and graphics? Wouldn’t help much of anything I already do, wouldn’t make me do more than I already do. Meh.

Disappointing is Apple’s lockout of new iOS features on older phones—again a maddening move by Apple to push users to buy new products. Siri will still be denied to iPhone 4 users, as will 3D flyovers and turn-by-turn directions in the new Maps app. While that’s frustrating and more than a little annoying, I don’t see myself using Siri much, and can live without the maps features. They would be nice to have, but I don’t like being coerced like that.

I just checked Apple’s iOS page. Turns out they are denying the iPhone 4 with the panorama feature (bastards), as well as FaceTime over 3G (wouldn’t use it anyway).

However, almost all of these will be available on the iPad 3, which I do have.

Bottom line: I will check with SoftBank about my account status. If there are no changes in fees for LTE, and if SoftBank subsidizes the whole cost over two years, making the new iPhone essentially free, then I will probably get it because there is simply no downside to getting it. I don’t see Apple releasing NFC with the iPhone 5S or whatever the next one is called, so I don’t think I’d be shutting myself out of the next phone’s features much.

The only thing that would hold me back: soon after getting the iPhone 3G, I recall SoftBank changed their charge schedule to make the data plans cheaper—but demanded an extra year’s indenture to SoftBank in order to get it. I do not know if that has carried on to this day. If it has, I would avoid the iPhone 5 as a way to unshackle myself from SoftBank, just in case I might want to switch to KDDI. If that year does not apply and I am currently free anyway, then never mind, and iPhone 5 it is.

As for Sachi, we more or less decided that she doesn’t really use the data plan much, so staying with the iPhone 4 would mean we could save about $50 a month, which would be nice, and the iPhone 4 performs well enough.

I guess I’ll have to drop by the SoftBank office today, but don’t look forward to the lines…

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone 4: Apple’s Vista?

July 16th, 2012 2 comments

Exactly two years ago, a Microsoft executive claimed that Apple’s problems with the iPhone 4’s antenna issues would sink the iPhone, making it into “Apple’s Vista.”

“It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I’m okay with that,” said Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, in a keynote speech at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs through Thursday in Washington, D.C.

Earlier in his talk, Turner poked fun at the reception problems that have dogged Apple’s iPhone 4 since its June 24 launch. “One of the things I want to make sure you know today is that you’re going to be able to use a Windows Phone 7 and not have to worry about how you’re holding it to make a phone call,” Turner said, referring to the Microsoft mobile operating system set to debut on smartphones this fall.

So, how did that prediction turn out? Let’s see:


Hmm. I can’t remember, did Vista exceed all sales expectations and take off like a rocket? Ummm…… No, I don’t think so.

And Windows Phone 7? With its rock-solid reception that everybody is talking about? Oh yeah, they’re at 4%. Everybody ran with the story that WP7 would explode to 20% in three years. So far? They dropped a fraction since January. So, not quite so rocket-like quite yet. And the iPhone 5 is bound to dazzle.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Yaayy… Kind Of… Update: Yaayy!

June 27th, 2012 2 comments

The day the new Macbook Pros were released, by the time I woke up, the shipping time for the 15“ Retina Pro had already expanded to 2-3 weeks for new orders. I ordered on June 12, so today was the first day within that span–and right on schedule, the status of the order shifted from ”Processing order“ to Preparing for Shipment,” then later tonight, “Shipped.” I had hoped that Apple was just being conservative and would ship it earlier, but there it is.

Which means that my rMBP is now sitting in a warehouse in Shanghai, waiting to catch a plane (hopefully not a boat).

Apple’s original estimate for delivery was between June 30 and July 6; despite “shipping” on the 26th, the original target frame may still be true. When I ordered my iPad 3, it was shipped from Shanghai on March 10, but did not arrive until March 16. So I may yet be a week away from getting my hands on the new machine.

Yargh. It can’t come too soon–I am experiencing too many issues with the current Macbook, it’s acting like a clunker more and more.

Update: The tracking moved, from “Overseas Reception of Package” (海外荷物受付) to “Shipped from Overseas Location” (海外発送). The good news is, when it took my iPad 6 days from “Reception” to arrival, moving to “Shipped from Overseas” took 3 days. This time, it took one day. At minimum, it should arrive here Monday.
Update 2: This delivery is booking along in comparison to the iPad! The iPad took 3 days from “Reception” to “Shipped,” and then two days before it got to Japan. This morning, the Retina Pro is already in Japan, just two days from reception. The thing could actually come today, possibly! Probably by tomorrow–which is great, as I’ll have the weekend to set it up.

In the meantime, my iPhone, after working for two weeks, suddenly crapped out again. I think it’s the cables or connectors for the new screen, which may yet be unsalvageable. I tried opening it up and reconnecting the contacts, to no avail. I will try testing the old screen again, and if I can’t make the new screen work, may yet splurge for one more new LCD screen / digitizer front panel.

Update on iPhone: I tried fixing the screen by opening up the back and then plugging things back in. Did it several times, and all that happened was that the touch screen stopped working too. I put it back together, and it still didn’t work. Then, hours later–the touchscreen came back, and the LCD started working again–but this time, the backlight crapped out. Hrrmmm.
Categories: iPhone Tags:

Repairing an iPhone

June 18th, 2012 2 comments

It works!

I will give a complete telling of the whole saga of the repair below; it’s rather long, and possibly boring to anyone too experienced or just not interested in stuff like this. However, if you have ever thought of iPhone DIY repair, this might be of interest to you.

A few weeks ago, I dropped the phone on the pavement, about the 20th or so time I had dropped it. Before, nothing happened except for, apparently, one time when a small crack appeared on the lower right corner, away from the screen. Didn’t even notice it until later.



This time, it was impossible not to notice; the screen was shattered. It still worked, but was hardly comfortable.

After checking things out, I discovered that you could order a new front panel for a surprisingly cheap price–about ¥3000 in Japan ($37), or $27 in the U.S. This includes not just the front glass, but the touchscreen mechanism and the LCD screen and backlight. I presume it’s the full retina display. Hard to believe it’s so cheap!

Of course, the hard part is the repair job. Places in Tokyo advertise repairs for around ¥10,000, or $126 (though some places advertise for less), but repairing it myself held a certain appeal. I knew it would be hard, perhaps frustrating, and I might end up with a bricked phone. However, it would be a great experience, and could help me become more adept at cheaper DIY repairs, as I have become with laptops and desktops.

So, I ordered the LCD replacement part, being careful to select an iPhone 4 part, and not an iPhone 4S screen. I also had to order a toolkit with the right drivers, a guitar pick, a good pair of tweezers, and a few plastic tools. That was cheap, but came separately.

From there, it was time for Nightmare With Amazon 3rd-Party Sellers. The tool kit, which had the slowest delivery time, got canceled one day after I ordered it, with no explanation. So the screen came and I had to wait two days for a re-ordered toolkit. Then, only after having disassembled the phone, I discovered that the LCD screen was also a botched order–more on that below.

Before I started the repair job, I did some serious prep work. I researched the job generally, and found two videos on the complete process. I watched the videos beforehand, taking notes of all steps, as well as all parts involved. I even numbered the screws (26 of them!). I prepared a piece of paper to lay down the parts on, carefully drawing labeled outlines for all parts, little circles for each screw. All were in order of assembly.


Taking it apart the first time took more than an hour. I was extremely nervous about bending wires too far, or pulling things out too hard. For this repair, you need to take the phone almost completely apart, as it disassembles from the back and everything must be removed to allow access to the screws holding the front screen in place. Let me detail the basic steps; skip the next paragraph if you’re not interested.


First, you remove the SIM card by using a small paper clip and pressing real hard in the hole; it just pops out. You remove the two screws at the bottom on either side of the connector port. Then, the back panel slides off with surprising ease. You remove a screw from the battery connector and remove the connector along with the tiny antenna shield. The battery comes out with a little difficulty as it is glued into place. Then a shield with 2 screws comes off from a ribbon connected to the motherboard, then the ribbon itself is detached. Detach the antenna cable, then remove a screw with a water sensor (a small sticker-like thing) from the motherboard, then remove two more screws at the bottom so as to remove the speaker/antenna assembly.


Then there are 5 screws (all different!) holding an EMI shield in place over 5 motherboard connectors; remove all that, then 3 more screws and the vibrator, then detach the rear camera. You can then detach the 5 remaining motherboard connectors (2 are for the LCD), and lift out the motherboard. Removing the screen requires that you unscrew 10 screws from the frame–3 on each side (with washers), and one each from every corner. Then you spend maybe 3-5 minutes carefully prying the screen from the frame which it is glued to, careful not to yank it out. The two LCD panel cables run through a small slot in the center frame, and need to be guided out carefully when the front panel is loose. I had to remove broken glass that had buried itself in the glue on the frame, but other than that, everything looked OK.




Whew! Like I said, that took more than an hour. When I was finished, I was more or less a nervous wreck. However, I had done it, and apparently had avoided destroying anything. So, I got the replacement LCD, threaded the two connectors through the frame, and got ready to snap it into place.

It didn’t fit. That’s when I discovered it was the part for the iPhone 4S, in which the top two corner screw brackets are placed slightly differently than for the iPhone 4.


Now, I had ordered the part for an iPhone 4, not 4S. I checked the order; even the image on the seller’s page showed an iPhone 4 part (although when I bought it, I didn’t know the difference). I also checked the invoice, which again said “iPhone 4.” The package said “iPhone 4.”


Obviously, this was their screwup. Disappointed, I covered up the parts sheet, bagged the major pieces, and got to dealing with Amazon.

A few days later, the new part arrived, and was in fact the right part. That evening, I set about putting it back together. In doing so, I hit some snags and made a few mistakes. First, three tiny pieces fell off which no tutorial had warned against, and as I did not see where they fell from, I had to search for detailed images of all the parts so I could identify what they were.

A small black rubber rectangle was the first to fall off. Eventually, I tagged it as a cushion between the speaker assembly and the bottom of the frame. That got super-glued back into place. Second came a small screw holder for part of the motherboard; that got carefully placed back, but stayed loose until the screw went in. And last, a small, grooved black rubber strip from somewhere, I could not figure out. I left it out, hoping it was not vital.

In addition to that, I could not fit the motherboard in right, and therefore the EMI panel did not fit on 100% correctly. It seemed to fit enough, so I foolishly (optimistically) left it as it was. I was prepared to open it back up and fix any or all of these issues if the phone did not work.

I put it all back together, it closed up OK, and I switched it on.

It worked!

I did notice a small glitch: the front panel was not flush with the frame, and you could see the LCD panel back-light leaking out. I decided to live with it. I used it enough to establish that all the functions were indeed operational, and happily plugged it in to charge overnight.

The next morning, I turned it on. The screen was black, and stayed that way.

Sometime during the night, the LCD part of the panel failed. In the morning, the backlight turned on, and the touchscreen worked, and I could operate the phone blindly. But no picture. Yargh.

So, I waited until I had time again, and then took the whole thing apart. It took much less time this time around, and I was much more confident and skilled at it. I discovered a few things I had done wrong. First, the small rubber part I could not identify was a cushion at the top of the motherboard–right where the LCD cables passed around it. Crap. That might have resulted in the cables getting fried.

Second, When I took the front panel off, a blue film came off the back of the LCD. I thought the screen was falling apart, but then realized that the blue film was there for protecting the part in shipment and should have been removed. I hadn’t done that because I thought it was part of the screen; the part came with no instructions, and none of the online tutorials mentioned it. The reason why is the bane of all such documentation: the people writing it assume that the people watching it know about such things, forgetting that people who get these tutorials get them because they don’t know these things.

So, crap again. If the unprotected cables were not the cause, then the added pressure on the LCD screen from the unremoved film may have been.

I re-assembled everything, making sure I made no mistakes this time. The front panel went on firmly, the motherboard went in right, the connectors all seemed to snap in, the EMI shield fit right this time, and the whole phone went back together perfectly. Again, it took a lot less time than before, but still more than an hour for the whole process.

After it was all back together, I turned it on.

The screen was still broken. However, this time there was a bonus: the touchscreen was now broken too.

I determined that the phone still worked; I could receive calls (just not answer them), and when plugged into a computer, iTunes showed the phone as normal.

I resolved that I had, one way or another, broken the screen. I spent the next day trying to decide whether to buy another LCD screen and risk another repair job.

I decided to do just that, but wanted one final test to make sure it was a problem with the LCD panel part, and not a broken motherboard connector. I opened the back panel and unplugged the battery. I removed the EMI shield protecting the LCD connectors. Then I unplugged the installed, new LCD without removing it, and instead plugged in my old, shattered front panel, hanging outside the whole shebang. I turned it on, and lo, the phone worked. That proved that any problem was with the LCD part only, and so a re-order would stand a fair chance of repairing it.


So I unplugged the ungainly old panel, plugged all the current parts back into place, and closed it up, so I could then go to my laptop and order a new LCD panel.

However, just for shits and giggles, I turned it on, to make triple-sure that the LCD was indeed broken.


The screen worked. LCD screen and touch panel both.

I was floored. My only guess is that somehow, the LCD connectors were not properly placed either of the previous two times–despite the fact that I swear they snapped into place both times, and were certainly secured by the EMI shield pressing down on them afterwards.

All night, I kept on turning it on again and again to make sure it was still working. I figured it could go any time. I still do.

Well, that was about a week ago. Hard to believe, it seems longer than that. But the phone still works. Not a problem since. So, for about three and a half thousand yen, and some frustration, I got a perfectly working phone again. And, in the bargain, I got a good deal of experience disassembling and re-assembling the phone.


All in all, it was worth it.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

The Parts Came…

June 6th, 2012 8 comments


…but I can’t do a damn thing till I get the tools. I ordered them and they should have arrived… except that the Amazon 3rd-party dealer, which Amazon not only lists but vaults to the highest spot and automatically presents above all other dealers, screwed me over. A day and a half after I ordered, they mysteriously canceled the order. No reason given, and they still advertise the part. I had to re-order, and am now delayed because of the first dealer.

Is it possible that they saw I gave a negative response to another dealer who screwed me over and canceled for that reason? As far as I can tell, I am now unable to even give an unfavorable rating to this dealer as there was no actual purchase.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Drop It Enough Times…

June 3rd, 2012 5 comments

I was taking Ponta for a walk, and dropped the phone. I’ve done it dozens of times since I got the phone. The worst that’s happened was a small crack in the lower right corner. Today, my luck ran out:



On the down side, the front glass is shattered. It feels like it could easily get worse; run my finger over the shattered area, it catches more than I like. I sure don’t want to have that loose in my pocket when I reach in for it.

On the up side, the phone still works, even the touch screen, and even in the shattered areas.



I was surprised at how little I was upset by this. It’s a great piece of equipment, and I was looking forward to using it well after I got a replacement–it certainly holds up far better than my old iPhone G3 after I got the 4.

I was figuring, hey, I’ll still keep it; the video camera will be worth it alone, and maybe I can use it for other things not requiring a screen. And then there’s the fact that the new iPhone is coming out soon, which means I won’t have to put up with a shattered screen for too long. Still, I figured I’d get a screen protector film to hold what’s left in place.

But then I thought, hmm, I wonder if they sell replacement kits. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to look, so I went online and was surprised to find out that relatively cheap glass replacement kits are available. In Japan, they go for ¥3880 ($50), but that would be worth it for me. The iPhone 5 (or whatever they end up calling it) may not be out until October. I could survive four months with a broken screen, but looking at it as $12.50 per month to replace it, not to mention keeping it around afterwards as an extra camera or whatever, it’d be worth it.

Alternately, there is ¥3200 ($41) solution with the front panel only. I wonder if the glass will feel better or the parts would be more reliable.

The replacement surgery is pretty damned involved from what I can see, but with the videos on the web, I should be able to do fine.

Anyone here have experience with this? Any advice?

One other idea, though a bit of a long shot: take it to Softbank, see what they do. I figure a good chance they’ll say no can do, but you never know. A G3 I had got video issues, and they just replaced it on the spot–but that was not owner-incurred damage. On the other hand, they may have inventory to clear with a new phone expected soon, and maybe would like to create good customer relations, what with AU now selling the iPhone as well. Probably not. But hey, can’t hurt to try.

Whatever happens, it’s cool. I still have the new iPad for running apps. And, by the end of the year, I’ll have the new iPad, the new iPhone, and the new Macbook Pro. So, there’s something to look forward to.

Now all I gotta do is figure out a way to stop dropping the damned thing.

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Will the iPhone Succeed in Japan?

October 26th, 2011 5 comments

When the iPhone 4S was released, the iPhone was divided into eight different listings in Japan’s smartphone sales figures; no other phones were so divided. Despite this, the iPhone 4S dominated the top six spots, with the old iPhone 4 taking two of the following five spots for a total of 8 of the top 11 best-sellers.

How’s it doing in the second week? It now holds the top seven spots, and eight of the top ten.

In other words, every single variation (in capacity and carrier) of the 4S outsells the total number sold for any other smartphone–but even if you subtract all of those, the year-old iPhone 4 still tops the charts. Even just one of the the capacity versions (the 32GB) all by itself outsells the latest of any other brand.

Remember when the iPhone was supposed to fail spectacularly in Japan? From Businessweek, December 2007:

[C]onsumers here won’t be as starstruck by the iPhone’s high-tech gadgetry as users elsewhere. Japan’s 10 handset makers, which dominate the domestic market, already offer dozens of models typically costing several hundred dollars that send e-mail, browse the Internet, shoot photos and videos, and even pick up live TV broadcasts. Most come with a built-in global positioning system, and some even double as credit cards and commuter passes or safeguard personal data using fingerprint or face-recognition technology. … In its current form, the iPhone’s 3.5-inch touchscreen and its access to online applications such as YouTube and Google (GOOG) Maps are about all that set it apart from other handsets in Japan.

Ha. A few months later, when the iPhone was still seen as an unsure thing in Japan, I wrote about how these “features” in Japanese cell phones were virtually useless:

I tried using some of those feature-rich ones a few times when I passed a cell phone shop and had some time to look. It was painfully hard. I had a tough time understanding what the heck to do even when I got the salesperson to switch the phone to English (it took them a minute or two to figure even that out themselves). After ten minutes with a nice-looking phone, I decided that I did not want to use the damned thing, as attractive as all its touted features were. Not to mention that some of the “great” features are in fact dogs.

I pointed out that while the iPhone had no TV reception, digital wallet, or even the all-important hook to let little plastic toys dangle from a strap, the magic of the iPhone was in its ease of use–that, seeing as Japanese phones were impossible to figure out how to use, any one feature on the iPhone was worth ten on any other keitai. Not to mention that with the App Store, the iPhone had far greater potential to multiply its utility. I had a hard time understanding why so few people could see this, but it has always been true–many people pay attention to little else but the list of tech specs, and completely ignore the user experience. That’s why tablet computers failed before the iPad came along. That’s what Jobs was great at–making things a joy to use, instead of simply having a something with tech specs you could brag about but not really put to much use.

And yet, years later, many people still don’t get it–ergo the number of people believing that removable media, USB ports, or faster CPUs are all that a tablet needs to dethrone the iPad. Sadly, competitors seem to be unable to think independently–or, to think different–as is evidenced by the fact that virtually all iPhone and iPad competitors look virtually identical to the Apple products they seek to outclass.

They won’t be successful until they do what Jobs did: come up with something new and better.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2011, iPhone Tags:

Handicapping the iPhone

October 18th, 2011 1 comment

Sales of Smartphones have long been publicly ranked in Japan, listed at this site. From the start, however, they have, for whatever reason, put the iPhone at a disadvantage: they broke iPhone sales up by the amount of memory–e.g., the 16GB and 32GB versions have been listed separately. Artificially dividing it into two separate product listings has the effect of taking the iPhone down from 1st place more readily, and making it look like it is not selling as well. This helped the Galaxy S, for example, take “first place” in the rankings when the iPhone was still outselling it.

This is not done with other phones. The Galaxy S II, for example, comes in 16 GB and 32 GB models, but is listed as a single phone in the rankings.

Now that the iPhone 4S has come out, they have raised the bar for the iPhone even further: not only are they dividing rankings by capacity (three different models this time, 16, 32, and 64 GB), but they have added a new division: which carrier sells the iPhone. They list the Softbank iPhone 64 GB model separately from the Au iPhone 64 GB model. Since the iPhone 4 (two capacities) is still being sold, that means that iPhone sales are now broken up into eight separate listings.

Again, this is not done with other phones–the Aquos Phone, for example, is sold by multiple carriers, but is not broken up in this way.

Even with this marked disadvantage, the iPhone currently holds eight of the top eleven spots on the list, the 4S occupying all top six spots. In other words, the least popular version of the 4S (the 16GB version from Au) outsells all varieties of any other phone combined.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

App Store Gripe

December 19th, 2010 Comments off

I’m getting pretty tired of something which is becoming a standard practice on the iOS App Store: reeling you in with “free” apps that aren’t free. It used to be that you could tell the difference because if it was branded “Lite” or even “Free,” that would almost always mean that it was a demo version of some sort. You could count on the label letting you know what you were getting.

However, now that we have in-app purchases (a good thing, in general), we see more and more apps which are released crippled or limited in some fashion, and you have to make in-app purchases to get them to work. This would also not be a problem–if the apps were sufficiently labeled.

What we get instead is developers trying to pass off their apps as free when they are anything but. The app is listed as free and advertised as fully functional–until you get to the 16th paragraph of the app’s description where the developer makes an oblique reference to the app not being fully functional or completely free.

Obviously, the developers want to mislead you into downloading a “free” app, hoping you won’t notice the buried text indicating that it’s not. They want you to be invested enough in terms of time spent and anticipation and desire of the functionality that when you do come across the limitations that require you to pay, you’ll figure, “What the hell” and tap the button to pay.

This irritates the hell out of me. I prefer to be told up-front: if I see a possibility that I would use the app, I will download the demo and try it out, and pay for the full version if I am satisfied–I have done so many times. But if they back-end the payment, hiding behind obscurity, it pisses me off and I will abandon the app on principle alone, not paying for something I might otherwise have bought were it presented straight up.

Now, you have to start developing a new sense as to what constitutes such a play at tricking you and wasting your time. Any app that seems like it should cost money probably does. A “free” app with a long description in the App Store usually has such a long description to hide the statement that it’s not free–let that be a red flag. The admission of guilt is never at the top, nor at the very end–it is usually about 60% to 80% of the way down–I just skip to that part and usually find the offending statement after a few moments. But it still ticks me off, like any attempt to defraud me. It insults me and makes me not want to download not only that app, but any app that developer makes.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

Startling Augmented Reality App

December 18th, 2010 1 comment

A company called Quest Visual has come out with a rather startling iOS app called Word Lens. This one is pretty amazing in that it not only translates printed material between English and Spanish just by processing a visual image, but when it does so, it replaces the original printed words on the sign with words in the other language, so naturally and seamlessly that on the iPhone it can look like the sign was printed in the other language. It somehow manages to scan and read the text, translate it to the other language, and re-create the graphic image of the letters–immediately, almost the moment the sign appears. And it seems to do a very good job of moving with the sign, making the text look natural. It even does a decent job of mimicking the font size and color, though not the exact font and thickness.


When I first saw this, I assumed it was a fake, a mock-up or a concept app–but everyone seems to be saying it’s for real, and can be downloaded now. It’s “free” as in demo–the basic app only reverses or erases words to show you how it can work, and dictionaires cost $5 a pop ($5 per language to language–meaning $10 if you want English to Spanish and Spanish to English). If I lived in a Spanish-speaking country, or planned a trip to one soon, I would definitely buy the dictionary. I am not excited about the prospect of a Japanese version, however–computerized Japanese-English translation systems are still pretty horrific, when they are not hysterically funny.

Here’s the company’s video showing how the app works. A big “however” after the video below…

And the “however”? Well, I downloaded the app, it’s real, and it works… however, not nearly as well as the demo in the video suggests. While I found that it potentially can read and understand the text immediately, it does not always do so. With some text, it comes up more or less immediately, but with other text, it grinds for quite a while, “getting” some text before other text–even when they are words next to each other in exactly the same style and size.

Here are a few examples:


The app immediately got the rather large and easy title for an old Contemporary Astronomy text I have.


This Intermediate Algebra text, however, caused it to hiccup. Notice that it both got and missed one word each in the title and the edition–and had too much trouble reading the script font with the author’s name.


This is my favorite. It got the title Galaxies just fine… but the text in the top left corners is “A SIERRA CLUB BOOK,” and therefore should be shown here as “A ARREIS BULC KOOB.” Instead, it reads “WON WOW EIGOOB,” which reads backwards: “NOW WOW BOOGIE.” I almost have to assume that’s an intentional easter-egg kind of text translation when it can’t figure anything out…

Clearly this should not be trusted 100% with translations. I can imagine using this as a translation aid going to a foreign country. “My nipples explode with delight!”

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Are You Ready for the SDF?

December 14th, 2010 Comments off

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces have been known in the past to be somewhat, erm, unconventional in their public outreach efforts, such as the infamous dancing-sailors “Seaman Ship” commercial. This time, they’ve come up with an iPhone app to teach you the correct Naval salute, using the phone to test angle, speed, etc. Also, they have this cute video with comic overtones to show how to do it. Nicely done.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone Tags:

Black Friday at the App Store

November 28th, 2010 Comments off

If you own an iPhone or an iPad, it’s still not too late: a lot of developers are discounting their apps for Black Friday. I’ve downloaded at least a dozen and a half apps, many of them just to try because they were free, and found a few good ones–and paid no more than a dollar apiece, even though some are usually $5 ~ $8. It looks like most of these discounts will be good for the weekend, but of course there are no guarantees.

IcondictOne very nice one: a Dictionary app, “English BigDict.” Apple neglected to include the Oxford Dictionary in the iPhone and iPad, and most dictionaries are online, requiring an Internet connection, and are kind of slow. This one–weighing in at 306 MB–resides on your iOS device. The interface is very nice, and it seems to have an excellent selection of words–220,000 “keywords and phrases,” whatever that means.

It is now going for free–for how long they don’t say.


Iconsketch-1Another good $8 app, this one discounted to $1, is Sketchbook Pro. I have only played around with it for a short time, but it seems like a very nice, powerful drawing app, the best I’ve tried out so far.

This one allows you to select from a wide variety of brushes, with a very nice color picker. The interface is not that hard to learn. More importantly, you can work with layers, allowing you to sketch at one layer and then draw in a background on a lower layer. The main drawback seems to be that it does not have the ability to smudge–at least not that I can find so far. If it really is missing, it’s a huge oversight… but as I mentioned, I am still figuring the app out. There are probably user tutorials on YouTube, and I should check them out when I have time.


IconsdkOne I got for the hell of it is SDK Tutorials HD, previously $5 (though often vacillating between $2 and $5), now $1. It seems to give a very quick rundown of how to make an iPhone app using the Apple Xcode app. I did not expect it to be comprehensive, and it seems to expect some prior understanding, but should be a good help when using a more extensive training book on Objective C and iPhone apps.

One big minus point to this app: the font size is way too small and hard to read. Legible enough for someone who doesn’t mind squinting a bit, but this developer definitely needs to make it easier to read in the next version.


Iconnfl Iconmnfl

For the iPhone–and for the iPad if you don’t mind a bit of the jaggies–two NFL game apps, NFL 2011 and Madden NFL 11. Both usually go for $5, both are on sale now for $1 each. NFL 2011 often drops to $3, but Madden’s just as often goes up to $8. When checking out reviews, each had its defenders and detractors. Each game seems to have a different interface and quality of graphics. I figured, what the hell, they’re just a buck apiece, and picked them both up. Again, I haven’t had enough time to really get used to them, but they look like they could be fun. Both have up-to-date rosters and, I am assuming, play out according to the actual players’ and teams’ real-life strengths and weaknesses.

From NFL 2011:



From the Madden App:



So, keep checking the app store until Sunday or Monday, there should be some more deals waiting. For a powerful and very useful site to search for and keep up-to-date on apps, try, which not only allows you to search and sort by a lot of very helpful categories (alas, not by specific prices or price ranges except for free or paid), but also gives you a history of each app’s pricing. They also have a free app for that.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

Like I Said

November 11th, 2010 Comments off

…this is an excellent example of misleading reporting. It may be that when the total numbers are tallied after a few weeks and sales have leveled out, the Galaxy may still be outselling the iPhone. The point is, don’t jump the gun, and question whatever news stories you see.

And, right on cue, the new week’s sales rankings for smartphones in Japan are out–and the 16GB iPhone is now #1. The 32 GB iPhone is now #2.

The Galaxy S? Dropped to #5.

Like I said, jumping the gun with partial figures out of the full context is, to say the least, not a safe or accurate thing to do.

Again–as with the previous posting–I am not making any statement about the superiority or quality of either phone. I’m just saying, question stories that you see in the news. They’re not always accurate.

Update / Side Note: Samsung released the 7-inch Galaxy Tab along with the Galaxy S. The Tab was supposed to be the first serious tablet rival to the iPad, despite charging $600 for a 7“ tablet relative to Apple’s $630 for a 10” tablet. And it’s getting kinda panned in the press. The best reviews say it’s likable but still has “a ways to go,” while the less-generous reviews call it “unfit for humans.”

There’s always the next time.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone Tags:

Not Really Though

November 10th, 2010 5 comments

The big story in Japan’s smartphone world this week: the brand-new Android-driven Galaxy-S phone outsold the iPhone! The news is being trumpeted all over the place, especially on Android sites. The problem: it’s not true, or at it’s very best, it’s highly misleading.

It’s kind of like the story that you see pop up from time to time about how the Sony Walkman outsells the iPod–but then you read more carefully and see that it’s only an aberration caused by a refresh in the iPod line, which is marked by both depletion of iPod stock and customers holding off on buying an iPod until the new model is released. At which time the Walkman fades back into its normal spot.

The Galaxy S is currently being marketed extremely heavily in Japan. You see the ads everywhere, the ones with Darth Vader and Imperial Stormtroopers hawking the device. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen the commercial, which heavily advertises the ability to play Flash video (not only becoming less meaningful as so many sites transition to H264, but also a battery-drainer), and the touchscreen with pinch-and-zoom capabilities (wow, that’s new).

So one would expect that it sells well initially, but even that doesn’t propel it above the iPhone, primarily because the iPhone, in the rankings being referred to, is divided into two “products” by capacity (16 GB version and 32 GB version), whereas the Galaxy is rated as a single product. As the Chosun Ilbo points out, the two iPhones taken as a single product outrank the Galaxy S–despite the fact that the iPhone 4 has been out for 18 weeks (during which time it has occupied to top two spots on the chart) and the Galaxy S is experiencing debut-week numbers.

Not that it’s any big deal, but this is an excellent example of misleading reporting. It may be that when the total numbers are tallied after a few weeks and sales have leveled out, the Galaxy may still be outselling the iPhone. The point is, don’t jump the gun, and question whatever news stories you see.

Categories: Focus on Japan 2010, iPhone Tags:


October 30th, 2010 Comments off

Wonderful story out of Delaware about a scary situation–a 12-year-old girl was waiting in front of her school for a ride when she was accosted by a middle aged man in a white van who told her to get in. That might be the last anyone saw of her, except that she had an iPod Touch–and used its similarity in appearance to an iPhone to save herself. She held it up to her ear and told the perv that she was calling 911. He then fled the scene–and now police have a description of him and his vehicle and are hunting him down.

Way to go, young woman–way to go.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

A Final Word about the iPhone 4 Antenna Issue

July 18th, 2010 12 comments

When I was a college student, I remember a presentation given by a classmate. This person came from a wealthy family, and they were kind of tired of the assumption most people had about how snooty and self-important they were because of their wealth. The course was on language and its usage, and so this person centered on that aspect of it. They pointed out that a lot of the terms we think rich people use are in fact affectations from fiction. One example was the word chauffeur; wealthy people actually don’t use that term, they just say “driver,” and as it happened, her family didn’t have one. She had several examples of how language was used in general use to form a stereotype of that class of people. She wasn’t trying to say their life wasn’t posh, but rather that they weren’t as stuck up as people automatically assumed due to those stereotypes.

There’s a similar assumption made by people about Apple fans–that we think all Apple products are perfect, that Macs never crash, that Jobs can do no wrong. It’s a presumed conceit that kind of grates after a while. Apple fans know as well as, if not better than anyone else that Apple is prone to error and is a money-making company that often charges a premium–nor do we ever say differently. But because we do love most of the stuff Apple makes and–like any fan–we tend to say good things about the stuff we’re enthusiastic about. But when we do, the stereotype is applied and makes us a bit defensive and insecure–like we have to be careful about praising Apple gear when we think it’s good, just like a news agency nowadays has to be careful about saying anything good about a Democrat lest they be labeled “Liberal Media.”

If you read this blog, then you’ll know that I have my gripes about Apple, same as everyone else. I hate the mice Apple makes–never liked them, never use them. Their Mail app is subpar and since Eudora stopped being developed, there hasn’t been a fully decent email client for the OS. Lots of Apple apps seem needlessly bereft of features and options for the sake of simplicity (seriously, Jobs, just hide them where most people won’t see them and let the rest of us deal with the complexity). Macs and their apps indeed do crash, and my own pet peeve is memory management. I love Safari and can’t get that monkey off my back, but it’s use of RAM is terrible. And so on.

The iPhone is no exception. Every product has its flaws. Most phones have a weak spot in terms of reception. The iPhone 4’s is probably worse than most, considering its placement (other phones’ weak spots are usually in places less apt to be touched, like at the top of the device). But seriously, this particular flaw, while a flaw, just isn’t the huge deal it’s being made out to be. Seeing as how the iPhone 3G had similar issues that were eventually alleviated through software adjustments, I am pretty sure this one will also be improved upon to a certain degree, enough to make it livable even in the worst cases. But frankly, it’s something that probably only affects a few percent of users to a degree that would make it a deal-breaker. Probably 95% or more of us would never have noticed it at all without the media attention. I understand that the HTC Desire has battery life issues. But its fans love it anyway. Good for them. The few people who just can’t stand that will return the phone and get another. Same with the iPhone 4.

As for how it was handled during its development, it was most probably just another trade-off. A more elegant design means no easy swapping of batteries, for example–that’s a trade-off that the iPhone is famous for. Yes, it is a bummer we can’t swap out batteries, but it turns out most people live with it just fine, and those who can’t just get a different phone. Jobs was probably informed of the reception issue during development as well, and probably decided this was another trade-off: it will only affect a small number of people only in certain situations and can be gotten around in those cases with a different grip (if the problem crops up only occasionally) or by using a case (if you have the problem all the time). Just as with other trade-offs, most people will live with it just fine, and those who can’t will just get a different phone. Same as always.

Really, is there anything else to say about it than that?

Categories: iPhone Tags:

The iPhone 4 Is Dead Because We Say It Is

July 17th, 2010 8 comments

Okay, in my last post, I was trying to be as critical as possible about Jobs’ presentation about the iPhone 4, trying to see the worst-case scenario about Job’s claims. However, this guy at PC World is an excellent example of how ridiculously inflated this whole thing is–he says that Apple must “kill” the iPhone 4 ASAP and rush out a new model:

Jobs went to great lengths to defend the iPhone 4, arguing that the antenna glitch was overblown, and claiming that phones from other manufacturers suffer from the same problem. He also presented statistics to bolster his case: A measly 0.55 percent of iPhone users have contacted Apple support to report antenna or reception woes.

But none of that matters. The iPhone 4 is now tainted in the consumer’s eyes. It’s no longer a triumph of form and function, but rather a crippled device that requires protective headgear to work properly.

We could debate the merits of the iPhone 4’s antenna design all day, but that’s beside the point. Perception is reality here, and the public now views Apple’s latest offering as The Phone That Drops Calls. And no one can blame AT&T this time either.

Oh, please. Frankly, the whole issue is overblown, incredibly, way out of proportion. Look, I don’t fully accept Jobs’ numbers as proof that there’s no issue–the low return rates, for example, are in part due to the fact that the early adopters are heavily populated with Apple fans who are less apt to part with their sweet new device–but Jobs has a perfectly valid point in that several other phones have similar problems and nobody is even complaining about it, much less saying that the models are doomed to oblivion because of it.

Let’s be objective here: the iPhone 3G had similar reception issues. So did the 3GS. So does the Droid Eris. So does the Blackberry, and other phones as well. Why is it that with these other phones it is a non-issue but the iPhone 4 is supposedly radioactive and now a pariah? As the author says, “none of that matters.” The facts don’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. The media–him, for example–have spoken, they have judged the iPhone 4’s problems to be treated completely differently than other phones’ similar flaws, and have relegated it to the trash bin of consumer electronics.

The iPhone 4 antenna story is the result of a snowball effect, amplified by a media sector looking for a hot story to sell ads and Apple-hating crowd which live to puncture the inflated hype about Apple products. A few users note the antenna signal dropping when the phone is held a certain way. For a few days, most other people are like, “Really? I hadn’t noticed. Hey, how can I replicate that?” The story gets out, videos are produced, more people try to find the problem, and while most can’t, more than enough can make bars disappear and take more videos of that, causing more people to try it. Meanwhile, the media sees a story it can’t resist making a brouhaha about it. Rinse and repeat. As Andy Ihnakto wrote:

Yes: customers wailing and rending their garments in anguish and outrage en masse. It’s a demonstrable and repeatable problem, but mostly it’s being experienced by people who are actively trying to make it happen … folks like me, who write about technology and review new hardware.

How many people would have even noticed there was a problem at all without the media hype? Vanishingly few.

The PC World author’s rant is a classic example of the media creating a story and then reveling in it. The author himself dismisses the fact that there is high user satisfaction with the device, and instead insists that the product is now worthless only because people like him have said so and now everyone should believe it. Facts don’t matter, only what we tell you to believe.

When Steve Jobs does this, it’s called the “Reality Distortion Field” and is called out as bogus. What happens when the media does it?

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Jobs: There’s No “There” There

July 17th, 2010 Comments off

So Jobs had his mini-follow-up keynote explaining the antenna issue. His take: there’s no problem, but since we love you guys, if you really insist, here’s a free bumper and you can get your money back, okay? Just because it’s you.

Now, the numbers he gives seem convincing: only one more dropped call out of 100 than the 3GS, 1/3 the return rate compared to the 3GS, and only one-half of one percent of iPhone 4 users contacted AppleCare about the problem.

Sounds like there’s no problem. Should we believe him? Well, the numbers could be solid evidence–but they could also be cherry-picked and deceptive.

If we want to give Jobs zero leeway, one could certainly imagine some dissembling there. Compared with the 3GS, only one more call per hundred is dropped: is that a good rate or a bad one? If the 3GS drops 20 calls per hundred and the 4 drops 21, that’s both bad. But if drop rates are usually 1/2 of 1% and the iPhone 4 drops 1.5%, that’s 3 times worse. Also bad. What’s a “good” rate? We’ll probably hear opinions very soon. But as someone pointed out, that number probably doesn’t count calls that were attempted but never got through.

1/3 the return rate of the 3GS: within what time frame? He only said “early” returns, but I don’t think he specified that the numbers for the 3GS were for exactly the same number of days as we’ve seen for the iPhone 4. Also, why were people returning 3GS’s at that frequency? 6% sounds like a lot. And is it a fair comparison even if accurate?

Finally, the number of iPhone 4 users who contacted AppleCare about the reception issue: someone calculated that 0.55% is about 16,500 calls about that issue–not an insignificant number. Also, let’s not forget that if it’s a reception issue, people will probably call AT&T more often. And, he didn’t compare this number with iPhone 3GS numbers like he did the other two figures–why not?

Jobs also showed 3 other phones with bar-drops caused by “death grips,” and “we could have gone on and on” about more phones. Okay, but it’s a good bet that those were the three worst-performing phones, that the signal strength was set just right to cause a maximum apparent loss, and the grip exactly right for greatest effect. And the “on and on” was, what–90% of all phones? Or 2%?

I want to defend Apple, but when someone is selling something, and their pitch has openings like that, there’s usually a reason why.

Nevertheless, it could be exactly as Jobs portrays it: not a big deal, but getting blown way out of proportion by media hype–so Apple has to do something.

So, everybody gets a free case. Whee! I already have a couple, using one most of the time. But hey, I’ll take it. Apple can’t make enough of their “bumpers,” so they’ll contract out for a few different designs and then everybody gets to choose. Apple can afford it. And if that isn’t enough for you, you can just return the phone for a full refund, no restocking fee.

So, has Jobs stopped the whole panic thing? Who knows? Probably the media will get tired of covering it anyway and people will still buy the phone except for those who have huge difficulties. In the end, however, what Jobs said won’t make too much of a difference in real life: if your phone is not performing well enough, you’ll return it. If it’s OK for you, or the case is something you can live with, then you’ll keep it.

My guess: there is an issue, but it depends on a number of factors, including the variances in parts quality and construction, user handling, reception strength, and probably voodoo figures into it somehow–but in the end, maybe only 1 in 20 or 30 users will even notice anything, and probably only 1 in 20 or 30 of them will have any real problems with it. Not to downplay it, but it’s only partly a phone, and even with its problems, it’s still a pretty good one. Even CU thinks so.

So a few will be unhappy and return theirs, the Apple haters will add this to the standard list o things to carp on, and tons of people will sign up for the free cases and just keep on going like they were. Meanwhile, life goes on.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone 4: “Apple’s Vista”?

July 15th, 2010 Comments off

Wow. Pretty interesting quote:

“It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I’m okay with that,” said Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, in a keynote speech at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which runs through Thursday in Washington, D.C.

First of all, this is the first time I can recall a Microsoft official publicly admitting that Vista sucked. I am pretty sure they never did that before. Nice to have it officially confirmed by Microsoft itself. However, Turner might be jumping the gun a wee bit. Apple definitely has something it wants to say, as it has announced a press conference to be held this Friday, just a day or two off. And I doubt it’s to say that the iPhone 4 has unresolvable problems. It’s possible they could be announcing a recall or admitting to something bad, but Apple press conferences usually aren’t about that. Apple tends to deal with bad news more quietly, though I don’t think they’ve ever had a product get this much bad press before.

Nor does it seem likely that Apple will just make another smoke-blowing announcement like the one where they said that the problem is due to how the bars are calculated–Apple corrects that in iOS 4.1, but it has no effect on the reception loss, nor did anyone really buy that as the core cause of the problem. As I commented in an earlier post, if it was just a matter of how bars are displayed and not reception loss, then calls would never be dropped. I doubt Apple would actually hold a press conference, especially at this point with so many seeing the reception issue as a big deal, to make another flimsy excuse.

However, there is something significant that might help predict what’s coming: people have reported that signal loss issues are primarily experienced by people who got their iPhones the first day of release (see comment #2 for this post). The idea is that the reception issue was either a bad initial batch or was an issue that Apple fixed very quickly. Gizmodo is reporting that Apple is somehow involved in a “silent recall,” as people with reception issues returned their iPhones for whatever reason and got a new one in return and found the reception issue didn’t exist with the replacement device. This is not universally accepted, but it could explain a lot.

Some report that the switch involves physical differences between the iPhone as originally released and the one being delivered now, possibly including a new, faint coating along the metallic edge, giving the metal more of a matte finish.

Whatever the case, one thing seems clear: the reception issues are not universal. Most iPhone 4 users simply cannot replicate the signal drop at all. Of those who can, some say that it only happens in certain areas, others say they have to try hard to get it to happen, and others report that despite the drop in bars they don’t get dropped calls or have problems with data rates. Of the remainder, many use cases, and some simply adapt by holding the phone a certain way. So despite the huge publicity about the whole thing, the fact is that few iPhone 4 users really have any real-world difficulties due to this issue. It is telling that CU, which has made the loudest splash by “not recommending” the iPhone 4, also did not notice the issue in their initial review. Of the people who now say they notice the issue, how many would have seen it without the huge media hype around it?

And there still remains the remote possibility of Apple somehow devising a software fix; some have mentioned that the issue could be resolved by the way the iPhone switches frequencies to find the strongest signals.

So, what will Apple announce Friday? My guess is that it will identify the problem as some sort of limited glitch with only certain batches, probably identifying it as nothing wrong with their design but instead some mistake by a parts maker, like a bad batch of antenna parts which lacked a specified coating or whatnot. While they will not call it a recall, they will instead probably announce that anyone with a bad iPhone can submit theirs for an exchange if they are suffering any issues–which is kind of what they have been doing anyway already.

Ironically, even though CU hit Apple for the reception issue and said it could not recommend the phone, it nevertheless gave the iPhone 4 the highest rating of all cell phones currently out there–even counting in the down-checks for reception loss. Not to mention that the iPhone 4, in the United States, despite all the bad press, still has a wait time if you order it, of 3 weeks.

I don’t recall Vista ever having those issues.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPad Video Cable Works with iPhone 4

July 7th, 2010 Comments off

Mc552When I got my iPad, I bought Apple’s $29 video adaptor, the one that goes from the Dock Connector to VGA. When you attach it to an iPhone 3G or 3GS, the phone immediately tells you that the cable won’t work with that device, even if it’s not connected to anything. But with the iPhone 4, it does work.

Of what use is that? Well, the only video adaptor previously available cost $49 and only worked with RCA cables–low-res. So the new adaptor is 40% cheaper and presents much better video.

Many might still not want one, however, as the iPad and iPhone 4 are limited in their video output: neither will display a direct screen mirror, but instead will only show up on the attached monitor if apps which specifically allow video output are used. Right now, that is mostly any video on iPod/Videos apps, or on YouTube (also Keynote on the iPad). But other apps may add this ability, allowing for much wider use–and many may find it sufficient to be able to output videos alone. We’ll see if the future brings more apps that can take advantage of this.

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