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Scoop and/or Steal

April 22nd, 2010 4 comments

Gizmodo has been slyly bending the truth concerning the legality of it’s acquisition of the “4G” iPhone, and could find itself in hot water over it. More information coming to light puts greater doubt on how legit the process was from start to finish.

First, there was the person who “found” the iPhone. He claims that he asked around and waited and waited for the owner to come back, but he never did. But he apparently did not say a thing to anyone who worked at the bar.

He claimed that the following day, after discovering that it was a prototype iPhone, he called “a lot of Apple numbers” but Apple displayed a lack of interest and he eventually was given a ticket number which was never followed up on.

I don’t buy it, and neither do a lot of people hearing this story. When you find a lost item and want to be honest about returning it, there are steps you take. Asking other patrons, hanging out for a while longer, and then making calls to a generic switchboard do not qualify, especially if your next step is to sell the item in question.

First thing, if you find a lost cell phone–any lost cell phone–you don’t just walk off with it. You give it to the people running the place where it was left. This is just a no-brainer–it’s the first place the person who lost it would look. If you suspect the staff would just steal it themselves, then give it to a manager. It’s actually less trouble than taking it home and trying to honestly return it after that. But if you feel it improper to give it to anyone at the bar, then you give the people at the bar your contact info so when the owner shows up, he can get in touch with you.

If you don’t mind invading the guy’s privacy, then you could check for his ID within the phone. The guy who found the iPhone said that he discovered the phone’s Facebook app and found the owner’s identity. From there, you would open contacts and get the owner’s contact info, and just call him up right there on the spot. The finder did none of that; he snooped, but did not use what he found to get in touch with the guy.

But the claim is that this guy was really drunk and was not sober enough to think straight until the next day, and by that time, the phone had been remote-wiped. Fine. The next step is clear. If you still think the bar is a nest of thieves and you don’t even feel like calling the manager and asking if the owner has been in touch–and the owner had been, frantically–then you either find the owner or turn it in to the police.

This guy claims he called Apple several times in different ways but got disinterest, just some support person giving him a ticket number. Bull. You call up Apple and say, “Hey, one of your employees, here’s his name, lost what looks like a next-generation iPhone prototype in a bar last night,” and I guarantee you’ll get interest. On the outside chance that you get a dumb support person who doesn’t, then you should realize that you need to talk to someone who is not a rank-and-file employee. Simple: ask for a supervisor, or even better, ask for a number of an executive. There’s no law against calling someone directly in administration. Again, I doubt that any of this was part of the “a lot of numbers” the guy called at Apple. They story simply doesn’t wash; I bet that were I to make an actual effort, I could have found an interested party within minutes.

But let’s assume the guy who “found” the iPhone was a complete idiot. Fine. Even idiots know that you return hopelessly lost items to the police. End of story. No excuses.

This all takes me back to a time when I was quasi-robbed myself. I was carrying a shodo (calligraphy) set with me at college, one I had picked up in Japan. The set itself was not too valuable, but inside I had a marble hanko which was given to me as a gift and had great sentimental value–worthless to anyone else. I had accidentally left it on the ground outside a classroom on the way to the parking lot. Just a few minutes later, I realized I had left it, ran back, and found it gone. After a week or two, with nothing turned in to lost & found or the campus police, I put an ad in the school newspaper offering a reward–and the “finder” immediately called to claim the money. He claimed that he found the case and wanted to “make sure no one would steal it,” but then didn’t get around to turning it in–but coincidentally just happened to be keeping a sharp eye out for anyone putting ads in the school newspaper offering a reward. Riiight.

Next, we have Gizmodo’s claims that when they bought it, they did not know that it was stolen. Also BS. They had to at least suspect it, else they would never fork over $5000 for it. No way they would pay five large for anything they figured was just a counterfeit iPhone. The fact that they paid as much for it as they did is direct evidence that they believed it was Apple’s property. They claim that it took them at least a week to convince themselves that this was the real thing. So, if I am good with tools and can make a semi-convincing mock-up of an iPhone, Gizmodo will pay me five grand for it before having strong confidence that it’s real? Yeah, right. Gizmodo’s claim of innocence in purchasing the phone doesn’t even come close to passing the smell test.

Then there’s the Rolex principle: if you are offered what you believe might be an authentic Rolex watch in a back alley for fifty bucks, you can’t claim you didn’t know it was stolen. Gizmodo at the very least suspected that this was an Apple prototype, which means that even if they had reason to believe that an Apple employee was selling it to them, it would still not be a legal sale. Furthermore, they did know the story behind how it came to them–hell, they published the story, in detail–and the story clearly shows that the property was not sold by its rightful owner. Case closed.

Even ignoring the illegality of the actual purchase, Gizmodo’s first honest step would have been to either simply hand it over to the police, knowing it was not legally acquired, or to actually contact Apple–they can clearly get someone high up in the organization on the phone–and explain what happened and arrange a meeting where things could be ironed out. They did not. They claimed that they always intended to return the phone if it turned out to be authentic; while this can be believed, the implications are not good for Gizmodo, as it only demonstrates that they indeed suspected the item was stolen when they bought it. Nor does it excuse the fact that they did not return it immediately when they did make that determination.

Instead, they photographed and videotaped the hell out of it, ran huge stories for their considerable profit, and then coyly teased Apple, forcing the company to issue a printed public statement of ownership before handing it over.

While I can’t fault their sense for a scoop, one may indeed fault their legal standing–as well as the guy who picked up the phone and later sold it. Turns out there are laws against selling things that don’t belong to you, as well as laws against buying them. The seller and people at Gizmodo face potential civil and criminal penalties for what they did. Not under the trade secrets law, which requires the owners of the secret to reasonably guard the secret–and losing it in a bar does not reach that standard.

This all could mean as much as a year in the slammer for some folks at Gizmodo, and Apple could claim they have lost millions and sue Gizmodo out of business–and they could win.

Next move, Apple.

Update: The Santa Clara police department is reportedly looking into the incident, trying to determine if a crime was committed. Starting to look not so good for Gizmodo and the guy who thought five thousand bucks would be worth it.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

The New iPhone

April 20th, 2010 5 comments

Iphone4

Wow. This doesn’t happen every day. We’ve known that iPhones are field-tested by individuals in everyday settings for months before they get announced, but we’ve never seen one “fall into the wrong hands” before. Apple is usually very careful about leaking any information before Jobs can unveil it onstage, and usually “leaked” photos–even legit ones–are fuzzy and fleeting.

However, unless Apple or someone else is pulling the most elaborate gag ever, or unless the object in question is a failed prototype of some sort, then we are seeing Apple’s next iPhone model very up-close and personal. Someone apparently left it behind at a bar in Redwood City, and it quickly made its way into the hands of the people at Gizmodo, who are showing it to the world. While the owner apparently wiped it remotely, they have not yet demanded it back. Asked, maybe. That’s the weird thing: when it comes to unreleased products, even with just images or hints of information, Apple legal usually sends sternly worded letters demanding that posts and photos be taken down. Well, Gizmodo has their hands on actual property which doesn’t belong to them, and Apple is supposedly just letting them keep it. (They claim that Apple is “very interested” in getting it back, but I would describe “very interested” as “making serious legal threats,” not just “reporting it missing.”) Which raises a lot of interesting questions, the least of which is, is this the real thing?

Gizmodo is convinced that it is. They have photographed it from every angle and have dissected it and put it back together, and they believe it’s the genuine article. Check out the link; they go into depth about it. The big news: a high-res display (unknown resolution, pixels so small they could not discern them clearly); a front-facing camera for video conferencing; a larger camera on the back, with LED flash; a bigger battery; and a new, flat and hard-edged form.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

More Bad Form from Apple

April 11th, 2010 1 comment

It has been discovered that the iPhone 3G can indeed handle multitasking–Apple is simply denying it, and the most likely reason is to get people to buy a new iPhone. I figured that the limited RAM was the reason–but the idea that the 3G can do multitasking makes sense once you consider iAds. The 3G will be allowed to run that just fine, and it essentially employs a kind of multitasking, switching seamlessly between whatever app uses it and the ad software, which can include audio, video, interactive HTML5–even app downloads and other stuff. Apple isn’t going to turn off that feature in the 3G. Apple will not even allow limited multitasking equal to what iAds does. It could at least allow saving of app states, audio in the background (the iPod app already does it just fine, after all), and other stuff which probably won’t task the RAM too much, like GPS. But no. Want the multitasking? Buy a new iPhone.

Come on, Apple. Being dicks some of the time is expected, but you’re kind of pushing it lately. Keep this up and jailbreaking will become the norm, not the exception.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone OS 4: See? Multitasking.

April 9th, 2010 8 comments

A lot of people have pointed to the lack of multitasking on the iPad as a major reason they don’t like it. Frankly, now that multitasking has been announced, I don’t think most of those people will suddenly like the iPad. That complaint, along with “no Flash” and others, strike me all too often as justifications for a dislike based either on a knee-jerk aversion for Apple products, a lack of interest in the iPad for no discernible reason, or simply a desire for checklist-fulfilling feature sets without a real need for the features. While I think multitasking will be a very useful and cool feature, I really never saw it as a deal-breaker. It’s one of those things that you hear about and say, “yeah, that’s really important” without fully thinking through how things would work without it. Take Flash; how often would you really need it? On the iPhone, for instance, I never notice it’s even missing. If you’re hard-core into Flash gaming or depend heavily on Flash-based web sites, then OK. But I think the multitasking and Flash arguments are used mostly by people who really don’t need them.

That said… Multitasking! Apple’s implementation looks pretty danged good. Jobs said that Apple wouldn’t be the first with the feature, but they will be the best. Not having seen any other solutions, I can’t judge the accuracy of that, but having seen a demo video of the feature in action, I have to say it looks like Apple nailed it. It works pretty much invisibly–you open and close apps as normal. But instead of closing, they just go to the background; and app you opened previously can be called back by double-clicking the Home button, at which time the screen is shifted upward and an app switcher rolls in with a rubber-texture background. If there are more apps than can be displayed, you can scroll left or right.

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Wallpapers, by the way, are a missing feature Apple should have instituted long ago.

Memory and CPU issues are dealt with by not having 100% “true” multitasking–not all apps will be going full-power in the background. Many features will be allowed to continue unabated–audio streams, VoIP, Push and local notifications–and tasks in progress, like downloads or saves, will be allowed to complete. Otherwise, the app’s state will simply be stored in memory and will not run in any sense while it is in the “background.” Apps in multitasking mode can be “shut down” by calling up the app switcher and holding down on the app, which will acquire a “minus” badge and can then be closed.

Another cool feature, and one that many will clearly use, is the “folder” feature. Alas, it is not a file management tool which allows for cross-app document sharing (although photos and videos will now have that ability), but rather a way to consolidate icons which are otherwise crowding your screens. Drop one app’s icon into another, and both will combine into a “folder” icon, which acquires its own app-switcher-like rubber-backgrounded strip which will display all the apps within. If you have half a dozen unit-conversion apps, or several photo-related apps, or seven of your favorite games, but are tired of swiping through several screens to access some of them, just create folder icons which consolidate them. The folders are automatically named, but you can edit the name.

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One more often-asked-for feature is a unified InBox in Mail. Got it. Nice. Now, Apple, how about giving is the frickin’ ability to frickin’ batch-mark frickin’ emails as frickin’ “read”? That feature was not mentioned, is likely not included, but is so maddeningly needed, so obviously needed, and so clearly easy to implement, it is frustrating as hell that Apple continues to ignore it. But for some reason, Apple always has to leave its various implementations of its Mail app woefully incomplete in some way or another. I hope I’m wrong and the batch-mark-as-read feature is there, but I don’t expect it to be.

Other features begin to dwindle in relevance. A Game Center. Whee. iBooks for iPhone. Whee. More Enterprise features. Great, but not for the average user. And then iAds. I guess I’ll have to see what this looks like, but I fear that it will only increase the frequency and number of ads you encounter, which as far as I am concerned, is not a great thing; hopefully, most developers will make the ads unobtrusive as possible (Jobs mentioned being interrupted every three minutes as somehow reasonable), or else offer alternate paid versions of the apps.

So as far as I am concerned, Multitasking and Folders are the big two developments. Wallpapers and iBooks for iPhone are nice additions. And Multitasking won’t play on my iPhone 3G, giving me impetus to upgrade–though I am still going to wait it out until SoftBank (or whomever) comes up with a deal where I can get the new iPhone for cheap or free with a new contract.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

iPhone OS 4 Preview: Sooner Than Expected

April 6th, 2010 3 comments

Apple is not waiting: they will give everyone a sneak peek at the iPhone / iPad OS 4.0 this coming Thursday, just 3 days away.

Iphoneos4

This is earlier than most people expected; I think many expected that Apple would wait until the WWDC in June, and then release the OS with the next iteration of the iPhone, which usually comes around August. For Apple to suddenly announce this out of the blue could be related to the iPad, but might also signal an early release of the next version of the iPhone. And what most people expect to be the major feature of the OS is multitasking.

Should be interesting.

Categories: iPad, iPhone Tags:

No Copying

March 19th, 2010 Comments off

Remember how the iPhone originally didn’t have copy and paste? And remember how critics, in particular Windows supporters making fun of the “Apple Fanbois,” put down the iPhone for not having copy and paste?

Guess what the Windows Phone 7 OS won’t have?

Some people are not happy. And this is not coming from somebody who was OK with the feature missing from the iPhone; I commented on the iPhone’s lack before (2008: “[a] negative … makes no sense,” 2009: “This is a biggie … they needed this”).

Microsoft’s explanation of why they’re not including it: people don’t use copy and paste. Yeah, I thought that was an exaggeration myself. But Gizmodo has the goods, including a recording of a Microsoft guy telling them that:

Microsoft says leaving clipboard operations out was a conscious design decision based on user research showing that people don’t actually use copy and paste very often, and that instead 7 Series features a systemwide data detection service which recognizes things [l]ike phone numbers and addresses so you can take action on them. Third-party apps can hook into this service, so that an email address can be routed to the email client of your choice, but there’s no copy and paste functionality. We specifically asked about Office and OneNote, and we were told that Microsoft’s research shows that people mostly want to view and comment on documents, not move things around. We also specifically asked if copy and paste was coming later and were told no, although we’d guess that it’s at least being worked on for a future version.

Wow. Did Apple ever say anything that stupid? I don’t recall anything like that–I believe Apple just didn’t say anything either way in their infuriating, cat-like take-it-or-leave-it attitude. But telling people they don’t use it is as arrogant as it is wrong: the point is not that people don’t use it every day, it’s that when they do use it, it is a huge convenience and saves a lot of trouble. Instead, Microsoft says that it’s sufficient that the phone smart-detects phone numbers and addresses and allows actions to be taken on those–something the iPhone

Oh yeah, and no multitasking for third-party apps, either. I think a few Windows fanboys have had choice words for the iPhone in regards to that as well.

Update: Microsoft, no doubt in response to the reactions everyone has been giving, is now saying that they “will continue to improve our feature set over time based on what we hear,” leaving the door open for copy-and-paste to be added. Interesting how the official line before the public reaction was that they simply were not going to have the feature. How did this really not occur to them in the planning stage? Did they completely miss the two-year firestorm of criticism over the iPhone’s similar lack?

Categories: Gadgets & Toys, iPhone Tags:

iPhone Piracy

March 2nd, 2010 Comments off

A new Gizmodo article breaks it down exceedingly well. Despite a report in January that laughingly claimed that 75% of all paid apps were pirated and that developers had lost nearly half a billion dollars due to the scourge, the new report, with much more believable evidence, shows what we pretty much expected: piracy is rare, and developers aren’t much concerned about it.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Windows Phone Series 7

February 17th, 2010 5 comments

Named only as awkwardly as Microsoft can name a thing, the new Windows Mobile OS is out, and making quite a bit of a fuss in the gadget community. What strikes me is that virtually everyone on the major tech sites is raving about this, saying it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread–and virtually no one is panning it. Looking at all the major sites, I can’t find a single person saying, “I don’t like this.” Which is immensely suspicious, because somebody always hates something new, and it’s not like there’s nothing to criticize about the new mobile OS. It’s almost as if people feel obligated to give the product raving reviews, either out of guilt (I don’t want to seem unfair after praising Apple’s products), relativism (this is great because it’s far better than WinMo 6.5!), or simply because it’s not by Apple.

The WPS7 (seriously, what will become the shorthand for this thing?) is based on the Zune, using its interface style and including the DAP within the new structure. Notably, Microsoft doesn’t want these to be called “Zune Phones,” for obvious reasons. Not that the Zune HD was bad–it was Microsoft’s first good version of the machine–but it was way too little, way too late, after having established a very bad image for the brand name. They have not banished the Zune name, but they are definitely burying it somewhat.

Microsoft definitely did a several things right with this OS. The design elements are very well done, taking the best from the Zune and adding more good stuff. The elemental colors are a Microsoft standard, but they are done with a classy, understated elegance which is hard to dislike. There are cool animated transitions that dazzle, at least at first. Microsoft seems to be adding Office functionality, but not much is out on that yet–if you can view and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on this, it’ll be a huge plus (albeit difficult on such a small device). But Microsoft’s smartest move is making the phone integrate seamlessly with social networking features, bound to be a big hit with the younger crowd–the one especially into the iPhone right now. And that’s a big giveaway–this is not aimed at Microsoft’s usual business crowd, this is a broadside directly aimed at the iPhone’s user base. Centering the OS around activities, defined under ‘hubs,’ Microsoft is trying to make this a user-centric, experience-based machine.

So, is it as good as everyone is raving? One very telling point is found in all the praise. There are several recurring themes that are common to the gush:

It’s not the piece of crap WinMo 6.5 was. This should be damning with faint praise–almost nobody liked the previous version of the OS. A blind chimp with Tourette’s could have designed a better OS for a touchscreen phone. But the improvement is commonly touted as a big deal, though usually with the added note that, “it’s not only not a piece of crap, it’s actually pretty good.”

It’s got great graphics. Fair enough–a lot of people loved the iPhone for similar reasons. The thing is, the same people now in love with the eye candy were the same ones dismissing it with the iPhone. The iPhone persevered because it functioned well in real use, something that only a few people issue caveats about concerning WPS7.

Praise for the same things the iPad was knocked for. Many are praising the WPS7 for borrowing an existing (Zune) style and functionality, something the iPad was criticized for. Nobody is saying, “Oh, it’s just a phone version of Zune” like they’re saying that the iPad is just “an oversized iPod Touch,” despite both going well beyond the original models in functionality. Similarly, people are avoiding criticism of WPS7 for things they gnash their teeth at where Apple’s products are concerned. No multitasking? We’ll mention it, but not whine about it like we’re doing with Apple’s gear. No Flash? Oh, who cares? In fact, nearly all potential points of criticism are muted, where they were highlighted not just with the iPad, but with the iPhone since it was first announced. Paucity of apps? Lack of an SDK? No details on major elements of the product? These were major complaints raised again and again after the iPhone was announced, and yet no one seems to mind or care much with WPS7. Why not? Then there’s the ecosystem: a major complaint about Apple mobile gear is that Apple controls it. Well, WPS7, with it’s hub-rather-than-app focus, seems designed even more to lock in control by Microsoft–but nobody’s getting on their high horse about it. Why not? Why fall all over Apple for all of these things, and then just a few weeks later have no objections when Microsoft comes out with a product with the exact same features? just about the only criticism I can find about WPS7 across more than one site is for the name. Even under the incredibly positive hype when the iPhone originally debuted, there was still far more focus on the negatives than Microsoft is getting now. Is this an IOKIYM deal?

Praise for nothing new. “You can see how many emails and phone messages are waiting right on the main screen!” Um… that’s been on the iPhone forever, dudes. “It’s minimalist!” Same deal. “It has a touch screen, multitouch no less!” Uhh…“It has cloud computing!” OK, maybe all of this belongs under the “It’s not the piece of crap that WinMo 6.5 was” category.

Unreserved Praise without hands-on. In contrast to people hating the iPad despite testimony that you need a hands-on to appreciate it, people are gushing about the WPS7 without really experiencing it. From Microsoft’s “Mojave” campaign, we know full well that Microsoft is very good at making their product look 100% better under strictly controlled conditions.

Finally, one should note what is absent from the praise: the OS’s functionality and ease-of-use. Everyone is talking about the appearance and the features, but no one seems to be talking about what it would be like to use it. Nobody is saying that it looks like it’s easy to use. Nobody is mentioning the smart design of the menus, or how simple it would be to navigate. All this despite the essential information on that being out there in full view. And I think the reason is because functionality seems to be the major flaw in this device. It’s designed to look cool, not to function well.

This is where the iPhone excelled: ease of use. Turn it on and there are the buttons. Flipping the screen to the next page is easy to learn. That’s it–the user takes over from there by adding the apps that they want and arranging them how they like. The iPhone is designed to be easy to understand, easy to use. It’s designed to simply function and then get out of your way. Lest we forget (and it looks like people have), that was the revolution that the iPhone brought: smartphones made simple.

The WPS7 seems to be oblivious to the design philosophy.That stands out right away: both the iPhone and the WPS7 OS try to be cool, but the WPS7 OS tries to be cool for the sake of being cool, at the expense of functionality. That’s a big no-no. When Apple has cute animation features, it stays within the confines of functionality; for example, when you scroll to the end of a list on the iPhone, it goes a little beyond the end so it can “bump” against the bottom and spring back. That’s a cutesy animation, but it is also functional and stays within good design parameters. It’s a visual reminder that you’ve reached the end of something, and it doesn’t detract in any way. When you want to rearrange app icons, they shake. Again, cutesy, but functional–it tells you that you’re in layout mode. Look at almost every animation in any Mac OS, and you’ll find that it conforms to this basic philosophy: in some way, each animation dovetails with the function.

Looking at the WPS7 animations, I see something comepletely different: cutesy animations purely for the sake of looking cool. For example, sometimes you tap on something, like a name, and it moves in an arc to a new location on the screen. For what purpose other than to be snazzy? Not much. How does that inform you about what you’re doing? Not at all. Then there are the too-wide scrolling screens, with five or six times more content than can show on the phone at once, where you have to wipe back and forth several times to see what’s there. the number of panes is not standard for any area, so you’ll be constantly wondering how far it goes. Worse, there’s no index from which you can jump to the part you want, nor any indicator to see what all the parts are. Then there’s the thing about a sliver of the next area being visible at the edge–which to me feels like a design flaw, not a feature. It’s a counter-intuitive way of handling what is essentially a bad design idea: presenting too much information in too small a space.

Then how about navigation? The WPS7 seems to have a steep learning curve–you have remember what’s buried in the too-big panels and get accustomed to a non-linear fashion of moving around. It does not look like the simple, easy interface that makes the iPhone stand out. Again, that was it’s big point–before the iPhone, smartphones were a dizzying maze of functions that took forever to learn. Most users didn’t access even a small percentage of the features for that reason. The iPhone was a hit not just because it looked snazzy–that was a plus, not the main point. It was a hit because it made using your smartphone easy.

People seem to have bought into the criticism that the iPhone depends primarily on eye candy, and Microsoft seems to have completely forgotten the simplicity part of the equation. While people who hate the iPhone or love social networking may be willing to accept WPS7’s design flaws, it could be that many will not. Or perhaps I am overestimating the apparent complexity of the OS. But I still ask the same question: why aren’t the tech sites talking about this? Does Microsoft get a bye simply because they’re not sucking as bad as usual? Is it the Apple guilt syndrome?

One last note: everybody is oohing and ahhing the animations now. Will they still be smitten when they’ve had to use this interface for a month or more? Like the “blink” tag, animated GIFs, and Flash animations, such overstated cutesyness is initially fun or even impressive, but after using them for a while, they positively grate on you. I can see the WPS7 animations doing the same thing–especially since they are not in the least bit functional. Hopefully, Microsoft will give you the ability to turn them off if you prefer.

As I’m sure someone will point out, this review will be suspect coming from me. I have a long history of liking Apple and not liking Microsoft, and own Apple stock to boot. So by all means, take this with a grain of salt–but that means to question it rationally, not to dismiss it out of hand. While I have been described as a “mindless” Apple fanboy, I beg to differ–my enthusiasm for the iPad has been expressed in great depth on this site in very specific terms regarding the design, function, and potential of the product. Far from just, “Oooo, something new from Apple, it’s gotta be kewl!,” I looked at it with the same initial skepticism I did with the Apple TV, with pretty much every Apple mouse that’s come out, and with Apple Mail app. If the WPS7 phone is much better than I think, please explain in terms as specific as those expressed above.

To help get a better idea, you might want to see this live demo, under less-controlled circumstances but still without letting non-Microsoft hands touch the device. Even with a trained and practiced Microsoft rep handling it, note how much trouble he has. Not a good sign. Microsoft does, of course, have 10 or 11 months to work out the kinks (huge lead time, that). Also note how the guy ignores a few specific requests to show features.

Categories: Gadgets & Toys, iPhone Tags:

Brave New World

February 14th, 2010 2 comments

As people talk more and more about the ups and downs of the Apple ecosystem–the closed nature of the App Store on the iPhone and soon the iPad–one theme always comes about: Apple is being oppressive and controlling. This viewpoint, however, comes from the perspective of what we have had up until now, which is not entirely objective–nor is it without its own ups and downs. It helps to step back and take a look at the bigger picture, trying to understand the forest instead of noting vague shapes beyond the individual trees we’ve come to feel comfortable around.

Think of the current system and then the App Store ecosystem as societies. Our current setup is, to be frank, kind of like a Joss-Whedon style dystopian anarchy with overtones of corporate oligarchy. Competing major corporations (Microsoft, Apple, Google, etc.) offer the only real structure to what’s happening, and the denizens of this society often align themselves with these organizations. However, most of society is independent, trying to live freely on their own in the anarchy that exists outside the immediate corporate structures–but they can’t escape some level of corporate control as they depend on what the corporations produce. They grumble about the prices they have to pay to the oligarchy and they way things are run.

For that reason, many join the pirate culture, stealing from the corporations because they can, and because they feel they have paid enough already and are entitled to. But anarchy means that it’s not just the pirates stealing from the corporations–lawlessness abounds everywhere. Most people are beset by malware and scammer crime, and live amongst mountains of spam littering the streets lined with gaudy neon Flash billboards. They must hire anti-virus bodyguards and yet still watch their wallets and not fall prey to lures. Once in a while you may even be targeted by a professional hacker, god help you. Just as the anarchy allows you to be a pirate without much fear of punishment, the anarchy lets the element aimed at you work just as freely. Some avoid this by living closer to the oligarchy and paying full price for everything, others attempt to inhabit the Apple and Linux islands of relative stability. The Apple island has high rent, but it’s even easier to be a pirate and you’re safer from the anarchy pointed at you–but you get branded as an elitist snob who is a willing slave to Apple. The Linux island is sparsely populated and not well-supplied, but has more independence and is less stigmatized.

At some point, Apple declares that they’re forming a new state, the App Store Federation. It’s a territory pioneered by the iPhone contingent, soon to be joined by the iPad population, and who knows where it will expand to next. This new state has a rather structured form of government, introducing regular but not too excessive taxes–you’d be paying about the same most of the time in the anarchy anyway, unless you were really good at working the system just right. Apple is the government, and the OS is the constitution. They exert a certain amount of control, and they make the laws. It’s not a Democracy, it’s more like a benevolent dictatorship. But it’s clean, safe, and simple to live in. They’re not oppressive–they don’t arrest you or impose fines for misbehavior–but they do try to make you live the way they feel is best. You may not agree with what the government dictates, but most of the time it’s pretty good. There’s a certain amount of censorship to go along with it.

The society is nice, modern, bright. and relatively clean. As with the Apple island in the anarchic oligarchy, the rent is high. However, food, clothing, and entertainment are pretty cheap–mostly cheaper than you paid for before. It’s harder to be a pirate, but there’s also a police force to keep you safe. While there’s still quite a lot of spam litter and some scam artists lurking around, government regulation keeps Flash ads from making things seedy and the police force keeps most of the crime under control. You feel safer walking the streets. It’s a more comfortable life, but those who enjoyed the freedom under the anarchy feel chafed by the level of control exercised here. That’s the trade-off. If you don’t like that level of control by the government, you can always go back to the anarchy–but you lose the benefits of living here. There are some in the anarchy who try to replicate the Ecosystem without having the control, but they tend to be expensive themselves, and as copycats trying to get a quick buck, they tend not to be as stable, with shaky foundations and only superficial wealth. Google is making the best go of it, but is a bit disorganized and split between their Chrome and Android personalities.

But people often want the best of both worlds–they want the nice, clean, safe, and modern lifestyle the Apple ecosystem provides, but they also want the free-wheeling, independent, live-as-you-like and do-what-you-want lifestyle the anarchy afforded. So a splinter group formed the Jailbreak community, setting up in the foothills just outside the Apple ecosystem, living off the controlled lifestyle but at the same time sticking it to the man–who discourages the practice and tries to cut off their supplies from time to time, but otherwise just kind of lets them be. Most people commute, living partly in the Apple Ecosystem and partly out, so the control isn’t so bad even for those whom it chafes. But people can foresee a time when they may have to choose permanent residency, and are wary about what that would be like.

Apple is experimenting with a new computing culture, and computing society is reacting to it, forming new communities around it. The other major corporations are looking on warily, knowing their most of their business is still safe at the moment, but also aware that this could grow into something bigger later on. If enough people are drawn to the Apple ecosystem, it could become the new paradigm, replacing the old anarchic oligarchy with something new. Google is trying to set up its own ecosystem, but they’re less organized. Microsoft, meanwhile, just wants to maintain their current dominance in the oligarchy, but is willing to change systems if they see that things are moving that way–they’re used to watching Apple’s lead and moving in if there’s profit to be had.

Expect Apple to eventually bring the Ecosystem culture from the mobile community to computing at large–either by bringing it to laptop and desktop computers, or by having mobile devices become primary computing machines. I doubt very much that they’ll want to stop with the iPad–this system is too good for them, if they can make it work.

Where would you like to live in this world?

Categories: Computers and the Internet, iPad, iPhone Tags:

These Guys Should Work for the RIAA

January 15th, 2010 3 comments

Wow… a week without blogging? What’s up with me?

Just wanted to comment on the recent report that Apple and iPhone developers have been robbed of $450 million due to piracy. Really? Part of what that number is based upon is the estimation that fully 75% of all purchased apps are pirated.

That’s where I get off the train. Three out of four? Doesn’t quite jibe with what I observe amongst fellow iPhone users, but then I am not hip deep in the pirating community–I only know one person who jailbroke their iPhone and I know a lot more than 10 iPhone users. Even so, I find the 75% piracy rate a wee bit unbelievable. The figure comes from a report on 24/7 Wall St.:

While it is difficult to get a firm grasp on exact piracy rates, some developers have put features in their software that prompts it to “phone home” when the phone has been cracked. Developer testimonials put the figure much higher than many analyst [sic] would expect. Developers Neptune Interactive Inc and Smells Like Donkey Inc have reported piracy rates has [sic] high as 90% for their game $1.99 Tap-Fu, and claim that it was available in a pirated version within 40 minutes of its release on the App Store. Web Scout Inc. reports a 75% piracy rate for its $0.99 iCombat game. The developer of the $4.99 art program, Layers, reports a piracy rate of 75%, and Fish Labs reports 95% for its $7 Rally Master Pro 3D. Piracy rates almost certainly increase with the cost of an application. TomTom’s US & Canada GPS product for the iPhone, which retails for $79.99, ranks second in handheld application downloads on piratebay.com, a file-sharing torrent. The top 100 downloads listed at piratebay.com is littered with expensive TomTom and Garmin GPS products. A conservative estimate of the average piracy rate is that for every paid application developed and sold at the App Store 3 more are pirated.

It doesn’t take much to begin to see the biggest flaw in their reasoning: just because a few among the tens of thousands of paid apps are popular among the community that pirates, that does not mean that every single paid app has a similar piracy rate.

First of all, companies that add phone-home-when-cracked features in their apps are, naturally, ones which are much more likely to have the apps pirated, thus skewing the numbers. Next, one would expect that a company with a very low piracy rate might not want to publish those results for fear of seeming unappealing (“Nobody wants to steal our crap!”); similarly, it’s the developers who get pirated the most who will make the most noise. So, right off the bat, the estimates are slanted.

They then add more blind guesses atop more blind guesses: they estimate the number of paid apps, the average cost of a paid app, and the percentage of pirates who would have paid the full price if they hadn’t pirated–that on top of guesses as to how many iPhones are jailbroken, and how many jailbreakers pirate apps. By the time we come out the other end, the estimate is so iffy that it’s pretty hard to take seriously, even if the authors didn’t have so many typos and awkward phrases in their published writing.

TUAW does a handy calculation which helps knock down the estimate: if the numbers presented are accurate, then every iPhone/iPod Touch software pirate has an average of 510 pirated apps on their device.

Oops.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

#11 ~ 20

November 30th, 2009 Comments off

For the first time in a very long time, the iPhone has fallen completely off the top 10 seller’s list in Japan for cell phones. For this week, the three available models rank #11, #17, and #20.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone Market Share: Come Again, Ballmer?

October 12th, 2009 3 comments

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, April 30, 2007:

There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

And now? A recent news story about global smartphone market share:

The latest smart-phone numbers from Canalys show that Apple’s gaining share like a bat out of hell.

The company has gone from 2% global share to 14% share in a year.

And Apple is just beginning to make deals in China. In the U.S., the iPhone’s market share has rocketed from 7% to 23%, nearly a quarter of the entire market. Microsoft’s smartphone market share shrank globally from 14% to 9%, most of that being eaten up by Apple. Looks like Ballmer’s not getting the 80% he thought he’d get.

Here in Japan (where everyone is supposed to hate the iPhone), I don’t know what the numbers are, but the iPhone is definitely taking off. You can see them everywhere now–more and more, I keep seeing people tapping away at them. Not so much in school, where students are married to cheap plans which allow for low-cost cross-carrier calls, but among the general population, it’s evidently very popular. The iPhone has consistently been in the top 10 in smartphone sales, and the 32GB 3GS has held on to the #2 spot since September, with its 16GB sister unit bring up the rear between #9 and #5. As much as people claim this is only because SoftBank offers the 8GB 3G for free, both of Apple’s top-selling models are not free–the free unit held the #14 spot for the last two months. In short, the iPhone don’t need no free deal to make it big.

Meanwhile, Microsoft got a hell of a black eye this week when it revealed that it failed to back up data on its Sidekick cloud network. When the servers failed last week, the data went bye-bye. That means that many of the million or so people depending on Microsoft just lost all their contact, calendar, and photo data, permanently. Microsoft has been running the service for about a year now–presumably enough time that they can’t blame someone else for the failure.


For full disclosure: I own Apple stock, and not Microsoft stock, fortunately.

Categories: Corporate World, Gadgets & Toys, iPhone Tags:

iPhone Doing Fine in Japan

July 25th, 2009 1 comment

It was pointed out that, in Japan, the iPhone 3GS ranked #1 and #2 (32 GB and 16 GB) almost a month ago because it was the week of the phone’s debut. Even for that, taking the top two spots in a country where the phone was supposed to fail miserably, debut week or not, was a pretty good showing.

Well, now it’s three weeks later. How is the iPhone doing? In week #2, the 32 GB dropped to #2, and the 16GB dropped to #9, seeming to confirm that the iPhone’s popularity was an artifact of the publicized release.

But then, in week #3, the 16GB iPhone stabilized at #9–and the 32 GB iPhone popped back up to #1. In such a competitive marketplace, a debut fad should not act that way. The iPhone is not just #1 as a blip. After 3 weeks, both versions of the phone rate in the top 10. Sharp is the only other maker with more than one handset in the top ten (they have 3, at nos. 2, 5, and 6); the rest of the top ten include single placements from Panasonic, NEC, Sony Ericsson, Casio, and Fujitsu.

Remember, the iPhone was supposed to fail utterly because Japan’s market is saturated with highly advanced smartphones. So, why is the iPhone still #1 after 3 weeks?

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone in Japan

June 26th, 2009 3 comments

If you have an iPhone 3G in Japan and are interested in upgrading to the 3G, then bad news: SoftBank is not offering you any special deals. If you have the 3G, then that means you still have at least one year left on your contract-with-subsidy, and you can receive subsidy for only one phone at a time. Getting the new iPhone now would mean paying full price, or about 65,000 yen. That would be spread over 24 months, and maybe (maybe, I’m not sure) a discount would apply in the last 12 of those months, reducing the cost some, but it would still be pretty expensive. So I’m waiting for the next model.

Another tip: if you got your 3G in Japan before the price drops a few months ago, you should go to SoftBank and get your contract adjusted. When the subsidized price for the 8GB 3G fell to 0 yen (and the 16GB version’s price was cut in half), they also lowered the cost for the data plan, from ¥5,985 to ¥4,410 ($62 to $46), but don’t be fooled into thinking that the new price applies to you; if you signed up before that price was instituted, then you’re still paying it. You have to go to SoftBank and apply for the new price plan. And while they’re at it, they demand that your contract be extended to two years after the change. If you’re intending to get the next iPhone after your first two years are up anyway, then there’s no problem with that, and it won’t affect your ability to get the next iPhone’s subsidy–the contract extension and the subsidy discount are not linked. Or so they told me, and I was pretty specific in the questioning.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

Find My iPhone Works: Story from Chicago

June 23rd, 2009 1 comment

Here’s a story of a guy who lost his iPhone while visiting Chicago, and tried to use the new Find My iPhone feature–and it worked. In this case, he left his phone at a restaurant, where a dishonest person walked off with it, fairly clearly intending to keep it for himself. The owner had just activated the “Find My iPhone” feature, and though it showed no activity in the first day after it went missing, it eventually started working, showing the phone’s general location.

Despite multiple messages to the phone, there was no attempt to return it. The owner asked for the phone’s return, and even offered a $50 reward. When he went to the neighborhood where the phone’s GPS showed it was located, he noticed it was a Spanish-speaking community and even drafted a message in Spanish. He could see that the messages were getting through and showing on the phone.

So they instead attempted to track the thief. Initially, the phone simply showed as being in a large area that contained many large buildings. They messaged that they were in the thief’s neighborhood, naming streets. The culprit perhaps panicked, leaving his building (where GPS could not function accurately) and going on to the street (where GPS works much better). The owner could see the movement, and even better, the increased GPS reception narrowed the phone’s location. Eventually, they tracked the phone down to a bus stop and found the guy, who gave back the phone. Score one for the iPhone!

One thing about this story reminded me of a personal experience which is still a particular peeve with me today: people who steal stuff and then claim they intended to return it. That’s what happened in this story. However, such claims are usually not only false, but remarkably transparent lies. What, the guy found the iPhone on another customer’s table and didn’t think it was a good idea to give it to the restaurant manager? Or to look up the phone number of the person or one of his contacts and call them to make sure the phone got back to its owner? Bull. The guy was a thief, or else the world’s worst and laziest “good” Samaritan.

The same thing happened to me in college, except with a calligraphy set. The set was not too valuable, but contained a large, square marble hanko (“chop” or seal) which held great sentimental value to me.

I had been walking to the parking lot and for some reason had stopped, put the case down, did something else, and then walked away. The walkway was out in the open alongside a building and was unpopulated at the time. When I arrived at the parking lot, I realized I had left the case, and in a small panic, ran back for it–and it was gone. The walkway was again empty, though I had passed a few people on the way back from the parking lot–I didn’t focus on them at the time, but I did pass someone.

About ten days went by, no returns to Lost & Found. So I published a reward for it in the school paper. Soon after, the “finder” called me to claim the reward. When I met him to get the case back, he lamely asserted that he had fully intended to bring the case to the college Lost & Found but “hadn’t gotten around to it.” He said that he had picked it up to “make sure no one would steal it” (ha!), but didn’t immediately return it to Lost & Found because he was on his way to the parking lot to leave school. Which means that, if true, he was one of the people I passed on the way back. He found a lost item, then saw someone scrambling back to that spot, and didn’t think to shout out, “hey, missing something?” And then he failed to return or report the item for ten days, but “just happened” to be scouring the school paper for rewards a few weeks later and noticed my ad.

The kicker: he actually complained that I was paying by check instead of cash, as if I could not be trusted.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone 3.0 on a 3G: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

June 20th, 2009 1 comment

I downloaded the upgrade and am now running it. So far, so good; nice feature improvements, some desired features are lacking, and though there are no bugs to report, there is one very ugly development for Americans living abroad. But first, the Good and the Bad.

The Good:

Copy and Paste. If rushing it would have resulted in a less usable interface, then perhaps it was worth the wait. Just double-tap, then expand. Or just press down for a second then release, and get the option to select a word or select everything visible. Very nicely executed.

Push. Now, when I make a change in, say, Calendar, it automatically syncs just that data, right away, and it shows up on my iPhone within a minute. Just as promised… a year ago. Better late than never!

App Store: preview pics of apps no longer require a separate screen to load; just swipe right or left right inside the app description.

Search: very nice and nicely done–though I am not in the habit of using it, and don’t immediately foresee doing so. But it’s nice to know that it’s there.

Pagescreens

One way which the search feature can change the way you use your iPhone: to launch apps. Instead of swiping through screen after screen, just do a search and after typing the first few letters, you’ll probably have your app. This actually meshes with another new feature:

Limitless Apps. Even though the number of app screens is increased to 11 from 9, you can have more apps if you want: just keep adding them. When you max out your screens, the new apps will (reportedly) still load–they just won’t be visible. But you can still access them via Search. I haven’t tested this yet, but can think of a few potential problems: for example, what if you fill up and then some, and then you want to add an app which will reside on one of your screens? Unless the overflow apps appear on a screen, pushing visible apps into the invisible section, I don’t see how that could be achieved, short of trashing enough apps to make the last invisible one visible. It could also be problematic if you can’t remember the name of an app, or even that it exists on your iPhone. True, you can always check via iTunes, but it’s a messy situation to be in.

A great missing feature would be to have the ordering controlled within iTunes–have the app icons the same size as your iPhone (instead of the big ones displayed in the Applications section) with ‘virtual’ iPhone screens, then allow for re-ordering there instead of on the iPhone. That could be much faster and easier than what is currently done.

What’s new but not widely spoken of:

Strange that nobody seems to have noticed this: Mail finally has the option to not load remote images. When you get a spam email, it often has images which were not sent as attachments; instead, they instruct your Mail app to go to the spammer’s web site, grab the image from there, and then place it seamlessly into the email. Usually you don’t even notice that it’s happening. So, what’s bad about that? What’s bad is that (a) it has no utility for you, as you download the image either way, (b) it is never or almost never used by people you know, and far more importantly (c) the spammers use this as a way to spy on you: when your Mail app comes for the image, they identify you from the request and now know you read their email. It’s like you just sent a loud message to the spammers, saying “Here is my name and email address, I am reading your crap, send me lots more!” With the ability to not load remote images, you cut off that nuisance and don’t have to worry about accidentally viewing spam and inadvertently alerting the spammers to your activities.

Remote-Images

I have not seen anyone mention this on the web, though it seems like a significant feature for the Mail app, which itself has otherwise seen the least improvement where improvement is needed.

The Not-Quite-So-Good:

Find My iPhone. The first piece of bad news is, this only works if you pay for Mobile Me–fine for me, but probably many people failed to notice that little caveat.

Actually, this feature is terrific if you lose your iPhone for real, but that’s pretty rare. As insurance, it works great. But I think that a lot of people expected this to be more than just that. As a phone locator when you misplaced your iPhone, it’s rather useless; since GPS doesn’t work indoors–where your phone is likely to be if misplaced–you can’t really find it on the map. Instead, it just shows you the last place you took a GPS reading, and after a few minutes of trying to update, it’ll probably fail to show the current location. Lame, really, when it should be able to use cell-tower triangulation to locate the phone even if GPS isn’t an option. Find My iPhone on Mobile Me will update your location if you activate the iPhone and find yourself on Google Maps, for example, but that’s worthless if you’ve actually lost your iPhone.

Worse, the notification sound that you can send from Mobile Me has a stupid flaw: it will ring if you are in silent mode, but even with the ringer turned on, it will not ring if the ringer volume is turned down to zero. It’ll buzz, but no sound. Oops. Frankly speaking, it’s far easier simply to call your iPhone to see if you can make it make noise and thereby locate it.

While Find My iPhone will do wonders for you if you actually lose your phone, outside of that rare situation, it’s not very useful at all. I’m pretty sure that most people, hearing of this feature, have higher expectations; if you do, then don’t.

Speed hits: Just after installing 3.0, I noticed some areas where the phone lagged. A few apps slowed down significantly, and screen swipes were sometimes jerky. But that may just be initial shake-down slowness, at times, things seem just as fast as ever, if not faster.

What’s Missing (a.k.a. The Bad):

Among the missing are a slew of much-needed improvements in Mail, with two features missing rather glaringly: first, the ability to quickly mark emails as “read” (as opposed to “unread”). Alternately, to simply mark all emails as read. In order to clear your Mail app’s badge count (showing the number of unread emails), you have to go in and display each and every single email in order to have all of them marked as “read.” You should be able to batch-mark them just like you can batch-delete them. This was a no-brainer, and should have been easy to implement.

Second, the ability to bundle accounts, or view all accounts simultaneously. I monitor about 10 accounts, maybe 5 or 6 with frequent traffic. To move between accounts, I have to go out from the Inbox in to mailboxes, then out to the list of accounts, then into the list of mailboxes for the other account, than into the Inbox of the other account. Sometimes four or five times. Not a very convenient system. You should have the option of either bundling selected accounts, or just having all the accounts in one place. Another no-brainer.

A third detail missing from Mail which is not quite as important is the ability to choose the sound you want to play when you get a new email. Same goes for other sounds–sent mail (the airplane swoosh), new voicemail, or calendar alerts. These should be customizable.

Add to that the fact that turning the ringer volume down silences everything, even when “silent” mode does not. You should be able to choose which sounds get through and which don’t. I usually have my sound turned all the way down because apps I use sometimes have annoying sound effects that I can’t turn off; but this has the effect of silencing everything on the phone. You should have separate sound options for apps, the telephone ringer, and various alerts.

The Ugly:

JpitsClamping down on geo-purchasing. Yes, you can switch iTunes Store accounts directly on the iPhone now. But that comes at a price. Apple seems to have caught on to the fact that some people living abroad use their U.S. credit card accounts to access the U.S. iTunes Store. With the upgrade to iPhone 3.0 software, Apple forces you to sign an agreement to only purchase apps–even free ones–in the app store of the country where you are actually located. And they check, immediately, where you are, and enforce it. Which means that if you travel overseas, they’ll see you and switch off your ability to buy apps. For me, it means that unless I’m traveling in the U.S., I no longer have access to the U.S. app store. If you try to even so much as update an app bought in the U.S. app store, you are brought back to the iTunes license agreement, again and again, every time you try to update the app, in a loop that allows you to do nothing but waste time.

I am guessing that this was aimed at media downloads–TV shows and movies–but it now affects everything, and as such, is a huge pain in the ass. It also means that access to various apps is now cut off, and I am forbidden to use them. AOL Radio, for example, is not available in the Japan App Store, and after I synced my iPhone to the Japan Store, as predicted, it would not allow me to use that app anymore. Now I am restricted from using a whole class of apps I used to be able to use freely. Thank you, Apple.

Slightly more annoying is that I am now locked into the Japanese pricing structure–and Japan is always more expensive. Apps that cost 99 cents now cost $1.20. Songs that cost 99 cents now cost $1.57. And that’s if they’re available, which is now fracked up and dependent upon bizarre choices of what media the content owners think Japanese people want to buy, and all kinds of stupid convoluted DRM-related licensing agreements.

This last point is a pretty big down point to the upgrade for those living overseas–not a deal-killer by far, but a black mark for sure.

One late addition: on at least one app I had bought from the U.S. store, when I tried to upgrade, I got the message about “this app is only purchasable from the U.S. store.” Not only did it no longer try to make me agree to the license agreement yet again, but a few minutes later, when I decided that I wanted a screen shot of that message, I tried to upgrade the same app–and it worked. Hmm. Maybe it will be possible to maintain the U.S.-store apps I already own. This area will have to be explored.


Side note: Did you know that you can sync your iPhone without backing up? I didn’t. It takes my iPhone about 20-30 minutes to Sync because it has to spend most of that time backing up every little scrap of data. There have been times I have had to leave within a few minutes but I want to sync something, like a single song, onto the iPhone. No luck, pal–if you don’t have 20-30 minutes free, you’re screwed. Unless, of course, you happen to know that the little “x” in the iTunes status window will kill the backup but continue with the Sync. Now, usually, Apple is smart when it comes to design, but this is stupid; the natural assumption is that if you click the “x” then it will stop the entire process, backup and sync. I am guessing that most people miss this and needlessly sit there waiting for a backup of everything on their iPhone despite the fact that it just backed up the exact same data an hour ago. Apple should have a note on the screen saying, “Click the ‘x’ to skip backup and continue with syncing” or some such. Either that or settings and/or controls to achieve the same effect.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

The iPhone Killer Killer

June 9th, 2009 Comments off

Palm just released the Pre a few days ago. The lines were less than spectacular, which Palm played down, but there was that tension–will the next-gen iPhone one-up the Pre?

The answer seems to be, you bet. The new iPhone 3GS has 2x the memory, about 50,000 more apps, longer battery life, much faster web browsing, a video camera (the Pre doesn’t have one), an internal compass, and a snappier OS. The Pre can run more than one app at a time and has GPS navigation free as opposed to having to buy an app (so you spend $10 more, big deal), and it has an LED flash. Both for the same price. Ouch for the Pre.

The Pre has a physical keyboard, and for those who need one, that’s a clincher. But Apple’s soft keyboard, frankly, works beautifully for me–I can type almost normal speed on it–and it has the flexibility to go landscape mode and to change languages, something a physical keyboard can’t do.

Add a $99 iPhone 3G which comes close to beating the Pre, and Apple catches the lower-end market at the same time.

The Pre has been hyped for months as a serious contender, and now Apple has sucked all the air out of the Pre’s debut.

Me, I’m wondering what extra costs Softbank will ask for upgrading the phone after only half my previous contract is up….

Categories: iPhone Tags:

iPhone 3.0 Coming Sooner Than Expected?

May 23rd, 2009 Comments off

I think that the general expectation for the next version of the iPhone was for the early June WWDC to reveal the model, and the release would be sometime in July. However, signs are mounting that the new iPhone will be released in early June instead. Various reports tell of the iPhone being EOL’ed–End-of-Lifed, which means that supplies are drying up and no restocking is expected. This is usually a strong signal that a new version is coming within just a few weeks, not a few months.

AT&T now officially denies it, but representatives told customers that the 16GB model was no longer available and that refurbished iPhones were instead being offered. Despite the official denial in the U.S., Vodafone in Australia is telling staffers that the model is EOL’ed. At the same time, is Austria (not Australia), an ad appeared with a placeholder item for a 32GB iPhone, indicating the next version.

Categories: iPhone Tags:

1-Seg: Not So Hot. Next iPhone: Maybe Very Hot

March 26th, 2009 3 comments

The other day, Japan was playing Korea in the World Baseball Classic, and that apparently was a huge thing. Students all over my school were watching the game on their cell phones using the “1-Seg” TV-tuning feature.

You might think that this is a good example of why the iPhone isn’t doing better in Japan, but I didn’t get that impression. When I asked these students if they usually used the feature, I got the reply, “this is the first time I’ve used it.” Indeed, I never see them using this–and then today the student lounge had about 15 cell phones playing the game.

But then I saw the reason why:

1-Seg-01

I noted that most people were watching more than one cell phone at a time, together. Didn’t make sense until I saw the reception: it was horrible. The picture was constantly stopping and breaking up. And really, who wants a telescoping antenna like that on your cell phone?

1-Seg-02

Ironically, the people at China Unicom, the mobile provider that is claiming it got the iPhone contract there, is aggressively advertising the next iPhone as having a TV Tuner–at least, something called “UNITV,” which might be a broader technology interconnecting cell phones, PCs, and TVs–not sure about that.

Other leaked 3rd-Gen iPhone features: E-wallet, video conferencing, and PC tethering (i.e., using your iPhone as a modem to channel an Internet connection to your PC).

Sounds cool. Could even be true–SoftBank let loose with iPhone 3G news well before Apple announced it, and turned out to be on the money. Should be interesting to see how this develops.

Categories: Gadgets & Toys, iPhone Tags:

iPhone 3.0

March 18th, 2009 1 comment

Sorry I have not blogged recently; Monday and Tuesday were crazy busy. Monday I started work early and finished late; Tuesday I started earlier, finished a bit earlier, but then Sachi and I went straight off to our first anniversary dinner. More on that later. This morning we’re prepping to run off to Shanghai for an extended weekend.

Before getting more busy, I wanted to blog on the most recent announcement from Apple–a big one, the news of the iPhone 3.0 upgrade due out this summer. Maybe it was Palm breathing down their necks with the Pre, maybe it was just a backlog of technical issues that got resolved, but finally Apple has done most of what people have been clamoring for on the iPhone. They claim a hundred new features, though as is usual with these big claims you will likely only use a small fraction of all of those.

  • Ip3-Cap02Systemwide Cut, Copy and Paste: This is a biggie. I still don’t see why Apple could not have had this from the start, but they needed this. If they had come out with a third generation without cut, copy and paste, the iPhone might have suffered from it. Apple’s solution looks simple and elegant: double-tap to select a word, use end-handles with a new magnifier to extend the selection, and tap on the cut, copy, or paste buttons.
  • Systemwide Push Notification: Again, Apple needed this, and hopefully it will work right this time. Should provide a new level to what apps can do, even if Apple was unable to provide the ability for apps to run in the background (something they will eventually need to offer). The ability to have sounds and screen messages (hopefully also when the phone is asleep) will make a big difference, especially if Apple allows this to work with its email app; Sachi, for instance, very much misses her phone making an audible alert when a new email arrives.
  • Systemwide Search: Another long-needed feature. Now you can also search Mail–though I am not yet clear as to whether or not you will be able to search only the few hundred messages currently residing on the phone–or iff more messages can be stored and searched locally.
  • Landscape Keyboard: I don’t need this as much as others, but it makes complete sense, and again seems strange that Apple didn’t do it sooner.
  • Stereo Bluetooth: I presume that this means that Bluetooth headphones will not only be stereo, but that you can listen to music over Bluetooth headsets as well. This always struck me as a bizarre omission on Apple’s part. I’ve long desired a good wireless headset–but not just for phone calls–and this will probably get a set made that I’ll be interested in buying.
  • Developer Pron: A thousand new APIs–the ability to embed maps, use shaking, in-app email and voice chat, use notifications, and especially to purchase more stuff from within applications (possibly along with a premium store which would help avoid slumming with all those free apps) all are pretty clearly aimed at enticing developers who have grown disenchanted with Apple. A lot of these will be good for the end user as well (Apple has struck a good balance between helping developers and keeping performance good for users), but most of this is most useful for the software writers.

There’s a lot more–peer-to-peer connectivity, the ability to plug in more hardware, turn-by-turn navigation… Needless to say, this will be a pretty huge update, bigger than 2.0 was. For the time being, this is all I can post on. Gotta go pack now.

You can view Apple’s event via hi-quality streaming here.

Postscript: I understand that most of the new features will also work on 1st-gen iPhones (unless limited by hardware, like lack of GPS or not-adavanced-enough Bluetooth) as well as 3Gs–and, of course, whatever new version is coming this summer.

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