Category Archives: Mobile Devices

Ten years on and still going strong

Anyone who knows me will scoff when I say I’m not a fan of Apple, as if this was news but I do respect Cupertino’s impact on shaping technology as we know it today. The release of the original iPhone, 10 years ago, was an inventive leap forward as it combined a variety of different mobile functionality in a device that was easy to use and a eye catching. More importantly it changed the way people interact with the internet using applications that allowed people to complete a variety of task online rather than just the retrieval of information through a browser. Steve Jobs genius was however in the packaging not necessarily the concept as the iPhone has from it’s exception been an object attached with a certain status due in part to the existing main stream popularity of the iPod and the premium look of the device. In many ways this pathway to success hasn’t changed and persists in Apple’s latest announcements.

only-starter-iphone-jobs-pic-131004

iPhone 8 and 8 plus

The incremental update, the iPhone 8 and its big brother from the outside are not all that different from the iPhone 7 with the same albeit reinforced chassis. However, as with all such updates it comes with more power under the hood with a new six core A11 “Bionic” chip which are made up two low performance cores  and four high performance cores supposedly 25% and 75% respectably faster than the those in A10 chip. This is no where near enough to entice iPhone 7 owners to upgrade but those considering trading in an iPhone 6 or older to consider cashing in and is where the real value lies.

iPhone-8-and-iPhone-8-Plus

Beyond the additional power upgrade the iPhone 8 comes with the  fairly standard additional changes common to such an upgrade. An improved 12 MP camera with better IR filter and ‘deeper pixels’ to improve image quality with AR functionality. In terms of features the major change is the introduction of wireless charging and the addition of fast charging which give 50% charge in 30 minutes. No doubt these are welcomed by iPhone uses but nothing ground breaking as they have been in Android phones for years. I know one thing that definitely wasn’t welcomed by fans was the $50 USD increase in price from the iPhone 7 launch as it seems that handset just keep getting more expensive.

iPhone X

apple-officially-launches-the-iphone-x-517717-4

The big news was Apple’s release of an extra “premium” handset named to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their original innovation. The phone boasts a new look following the lead of other handset makers like Samsung and LG to implement a bezel less display. However, it lacks the curved sides of the Galaxy 8 and the notch at the top of the screen for the camera and additional senses gives it a somewhat unique appearance.  Interestingly Apple has also decided to go for a glass back to give the handset a premium feel, considering my own experience with the Galaxy 8 and it’s fragile finish I personally feel this is another example of design over functionality.

Of course there would be no point increasing the size of the screen without up grading the resolution with an OLED Super Retina display. The new panel brings a significant boast with 2436-by-1125-pixel resolution at 458 ppi however this is still well below the Quad HD and Super AMOLED 2960 by 1440 screen on the Galaxy 8 which boast a massive 570 ppi. Like the iPhone 8 the new handset is powered by the latest A11 ‘Bionic’ chip and of course the new charging capabilities. These impressive internals also drive the new facial recognition system which is the handsets main innovation as it takes the irises recognition of the Galaxy 8 and pushes it to the next level. The new technology is able to track facial features and use this not only to unlock your phone and authorise payments but also allow for the creation of ‘animojis’ (animated Emojis) based on your own expressions which I know is going to be a hit with kids at school.

Possibly Apple’s most courageous decision is the lose of the home button which is gone completely to allow for the new display. Interestingly they haven’t played it safe like Samsung who solved this dilemma on the Galaxy 8 through an on-screen home button. Instead Apple has chosen to change the way uses interact with the handset by creating a host of different swiping options to cover the functionality. Reading a run down of some of these commands and changes from Chris Smith at BGR it seems overly complicated. Apple may view the home button the same way as the headphone jack, no great lose, but since it does require people to relearn how to use the phone I’m sure it will be the source of criticism. I could be wrong but it reminds me a little of Microsoft’s decision to ditch the start menu with Windows 8 as users struggled to adjust and eventually the overwhelming criticism lead to the reintroduction of the familiar feature in Windows 10. However, Apple has a fanatically loyal fan base which has historically ignored many of the more recent little miss steps from the tech giant so it could amount to nothing.

The absence of the home button isn’t going to be the only thing that frustrates Apple fans as no doubt the price tag won’t be greeted with many fist pumps. At $999 USD ($1579 AUD) for 64 GB and $1149 USD ($1829 AUD) for the 256 GB option the it is the most expensive iPhone by a significant margin. $300 USD more expensive than the iPhone 8 and $200 USD more expensive than the 8 plus. It begs the question whether the screen and Face ID is worth the pain to the hip pocket.

Final Thoughts

10 years on and Apple has released something a little bit different from the old incremental update and have shown that they are still willing to take risks. Yet it isn’t the ‘revolution’ and ‘future’ of technology that some would have you believe as it neither does anything meaningful beyond existing competitors and has no real capacity to change the way we live. To suggest otherwise is really just an insult to what Steve Jobs achieved with the original iPhone 10 years ago, a device that really change the world and pushed technology forward.

Fact Check: Surface Pro Review

via Review: Microsoft Surface Pro | Creative Bloq

Rob Carney presents a mostly positive review of the new Surface Pro making special mention of the devices new kick stand, improved pen and extra battery life. Regardless of his positivity his article put me off from the beginning as he poses the question whether the new Surface can rival the iPad Pro for creatives. This one statement suggests a limited understand of the needs of serious creative professionals as the Surface Pro allows for the use of the full Adobe suite compared to iOS apps, this is a point Carney makes but he does not take it to the logical conclusion that creatives who use an iPad Pro would likely need a second device compared to Surface owners. In addition, the implication that the Surface Pro needs to rival the iPad Pro seems to suggest that the iPad is the leader in this convertible category rather than the imitation. Since it was Apple which copied Microsoft in developing a larger tablet with a fold out keyboard and pen input to revitalize its declining tablet sales. In fact, the two devices in some ways shouldn’t even be considered in the same category as the Surface is a true 2 in 1, laptop replacement compared to the iPad which is still a tablet courtesy of iOS.

macbook-pro-and-microsoft-surface-book-are-giving-each-other-a-tough-competition

Regardless of this I may have been able to overlook this ridiculous statement if it had not been later followed by another serious of simplified and flawed comparison. His assertion when you look at it on face value has merit hat for the price of a Surface $2699 USD + another $159 USD for the keyboard and $99 USD for the pen you could buy both the $1899 USD touch bar 13-inch Macbook pro and the 12-inch iPad Pro at $799 + another $99 pencil and $169 for the keyboard stand. However, once you look deeper it is quickly clear that you are getting more for the price with a Surface Pro as it firstly comes with a four core i7 processor with significant advantages in clock speed and cache memory before even considering hyper threading when compare to the MacBook’s duel core i5. In addition, the Surface comes with 16Gb of RAM, 1TB SSD hard drive and a screen with 267 pixels per inch compared to the Macbook’s 8GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD hard drive and a Retina display with a pixel density of 227 per inch but this isn’t even the whole story as Apple does allow uses to customise the top end 13-inch Mac to bring it in line with the Surface specs of course this option increase the cost to $2709 USD which means your no longer getting that iPad. Considering that the fact that the Surface still has the clear advantage over the Mac through form factor it represents better value for money even with the $250 for accessories. On the other side if we wanted to bring the Surface Specs down to match the Mac for an i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and sacrificing a little on the hard drive at 256 GB it only costs $1299, a good $600 less than the Mac. My point in giving all these numbers is to emphasis that price is relative and isn’t the clean comparison that Carney suggests simply you get what you pay for.

My final criticism of Carney’s review is he states that the Surface Pro  doesn’t have enough flexibility in its ports (there’s only one USB, a MicroSD slot and a Mini DisplayPort” in comparison to top of the range Macbook Pro which is a bit ridiculous considering the Macbook doesn’t have any flexibility. The newest Macbook Pro famously only comes with 3 Thunder bolt USB C ports which granted are the newest technology but it means that users need dongles for everything, even connecting you iPhone to your Laptop. In addition, it is unwise for people to play down the importance of a SD card slots since as it is the primary method of data storage for photographers and I believe it has been a gross oversite of Macs for some time to fail to include one. Still using my own Surface Pro 1 at home I have found the use of MicroSD’s has replaced my use of USB storage devices as I can easily transfer data from my desktop PC which has memory card slot to my Surface and then using an adapter which normally comes with the SD card insert it back into my Nikon D3200 but I guess I can always spend another $49 dollars on an adapter I only need if I brought a Mac which is more expensive than a USB hub for $30 that I could easily add to my surface if I needed more than one port. Granted the newest surface should have included a USB C connection since it is the future but it is hardly the deal breaker that Carney suggests it is since as at least for now nearly all accessories still require a normal USB port, even devices that have adapted USB C like my Galaxy 8 still use the old connection on the other end of the cord. This isn’t even considering an iPad which does not give consumers any form of USB connections to remain thin regardless of the fact that it has hampered its ability to become a Laptop replacement or an SD card slot since it would provide an option for people to expand the memory without paying more on the purchase price. Either Apple device Carney wants to compare the Surface to it is clearly a bad joke to suggest that they offer more port flexibility for the price.

Perhaps what is off putting is that from the opening it seems like another Apple fan is trying to seem un biased by writing a mostly positive review of a competitor’s product but ultimately it falls flat through his laughable attempts to dodge simple facts.

 

Review: Legacy of the Beast

Iron Maiden’s well publicised RPG now available on the Apps Store and Google Play has been well promoted by the band during their latest world tour supporting “The Book of Souls”. The game draws inspiration from all the bands previous albums and combines the music and artwork that fans have come to love with the tried formula of a turn based RPG. As you might expect the gameplay isn’t anything unique for mobile RPGs with a simple levelling system and well throughout skill trees combined with a plethora of in app purchases. This was never going to be the draw of “Legacy of the Beast” as it has been a game designed for hard-core fans who would recognise every reference from the bands back catalogue.

The game is well conceived to take advantage of Maiden’s mascot Eddie as you must play through a series of worlds from the Ailing Kingdom (The Wicker Man), The Kingdom of the Sands (Powerslave) and The Underworld (Number of the Beast) in order to recover the pieces of Eddie’s soul. Playing through each world unlocks another portion of Eddie’s soul and an aspect of the mascot to add to your playable characters which are interchangeable during play to capitalise on  their unique abilities.

legacy-of-the-beast-iron-maiden-game-5

Beyond the inspiration for each world it’s not surprising that the developers have managed to squeeze in as many references to the bands body of work wherever possible. The newest album features strongly in the games mechanics as the book of souls which you collect early in the tutorial phrase allows you to utilise soul shards in order to summon creatures to help Eddie as he fight his way an army of cultist. However, the others are all their somewhere in different ways like the equitable items called talismans (The Final Frontier) the ever present guide called “The Clairvoyant” (Seventh Son of the Seventh Son) or a line of dialogue.

The result is a real blast for any Maiden fan as you can’t help prove your knowledge of the band by picking up all the little nodes to individual tracks. A soundtrack of some of the bands greatest hits is just the icing on the cake but is the element that obviously has pulled everything else together.

MWC A Windows rebirth

Samsung and LG may have captured the attention of most the tech world at the start of MWC but they weren’t on their own. The HP Elite X3 made more than a few people take notice thanks to its high-end specs and the decision to embrace Microsoft’s unpopular mobile OS. It was undoubtedly a headline act of a successful show for the boys at Redmond with more phone makers jumping on board the 2 in 1 train, some specialised heavy-duty devices and even a nice shiny reward.

HP Elite X3

The stats on HP’s first foray into the phone market for two years match anything offered by Android manufacturing. A snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM, expandable memory, 16 megapixel camera, 2HD 5.96 inch display and water resistance maintains the same standard set by Samsung and LG. Yet the Elite also packs in a massive 4150mAh battery which even outpaces the G5 with the additional modal and an iris scanner for windows hello.

The numbers are impressive but what makes the Elite x3 standout is the Continuum feature of Windows 10. This allows the phone to act as a desktop PC with mouse and keyboard support with the help of the HP Desk Dock which also provides USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports. Microsoft’s own Lumia 950 and 950xl have shown of this versatility before but HP have taken it a step further with Mobile Extender which turns the phone into a laptop. Using the power of Windows 10 HP have created a phone which could conceivably replace your computer, at least in a casual sense. Unsurprisingly the Elite x3 is aimed at enterprise but hopefully we will see a commercial release as it appears to be the high-end flagship that Windows Mobile has been screaming but is it enough. Check out the hands on from Techradar from the show floor and make up your own mind.

Huawei Matebook

The other major Windows 10 hardware announcement was a portable 2 in 1 Surface inspired PC from this notable phone manufacturer. Huawei is not the first to jump from the unprofitable and bleak pack of Android tablets as Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab Pro S last month at CES. If anything was obvious at MWC it’s that the future of tablets is the PC and consumers will see more competition between phone makers and traditional OEM’s.

As you might expect the MateBook is a 12 inch tablet with detachable keyboard and stylus in keeping with the Surface formula. Users have a choice of Intel processors up to the m7 and 4 or 8 GB of RAM with a whole day of battery life. This makes it slightly less expensive option compared to the Surface Pro but the MateBook doesn’t offer the same performance as the more expensive Pro 4 configurations and is probably more suited to casual PC uses. Looking at the price breakdown in this Gizmodo review it seems that Huawei may have got ahead of themselves as the Matebook doesn’t come in too much below the entry-level Surfaces but we will just have to wait and see.

Best of the rest

These two announcements may have stolen the spotlight for any other windows announcements but they weren’t the only things on offer. Vaio showed off the 5.5 inch Phone Biz handset hat also supports desktop like functionality through Continuum but with a snapdragon 617 processor and 3 GB of RAM it’s more of a mid range option. Unlikely to be seen in western markets the Phone Biz is a well put together and sleek device joining the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL and Acer Jade Primo announced at CES showing support for Microsoft’s mobile platform. The guys from Redmond weren’t to be left out announcing the budget Lumia 650 which has a more premium look than other Lumia handset but with low end specs is only meant to be an affordable option.

Similarly the MateBook was not the only windows 10 tablet announced at MWC with Alcatel adding to its Windows lineup with the Plus 10, a 10 inch tablet with 4G LTE keyboard. These Surface like combinations are starting flood the market but the Alcatel is a little unusual as it has 4G connectivity built into the keyboard alongside extra battery life rather than the tablet itself. Personally this seems a little odd as the ideal time to rely on 4G would be when using the device as a tablet without the keyboard. Even so if priced right LTE connectivity is a rarity on windows tablets and it might bring strong interest. Another unusual device obviously designed for a niche market is the Panasonic Tough Pad FZ-F1 which is a 4.7 inch phone like tablet meant for heavy-duty environments. It’s a device created with a single focus in mind to replace the bulky hand help PDA used by postal workers and the like. A more mainstream announcement was the raft of yoga transformers from Lenovo which is using so many different numbers to distinguish the line it’s starting to have an identity crisis.

The icing on the cake

The highlight of Microsoft’s MWC may have been more symbolic as the Surface Pro went back to back winning the award for best mobile tablet and beating out all its fiercest rivals including the iPad Pro. It’s more than this victory however as it is clear that the slate has changed the consumer perception of what a tablet should be since everyone is coping the formula. Microsoft will be hoping that this success might be able to filter into mobile with new exciting hardware in the Elite X3 to get consumers interested. Who knows? Maybe the boys at Redmond might give us another surprise at Build which is now only about a month away.

Here’s hoping,
Jono

MWC Launch of the Flagships

Day one of Mobile World Congress was all about the newest flagships from LG and Samsung. The last couple of weeks have been full of speculation but now it’s official let’s check the special that matter.

Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

160219192209-samsung-galaxy-split-780x439
The big predictions all came true with Samsung announcing the return of expandable memory through microSD support, water resistance and microUSB charger. In addition Samsung has listened to consumers and sacrificed weight for better battery life with a 3000mAh powering the 5.1 inch S7 and a 3600mAh in the 5.5inch edge.  This is a large improvement from the 2550mAh in the S6 and miles ahead of the 1750mAh in the iPhone 6s and will hopefully translate to better life. Unsurprising the rest of the internals have been upgraded with a 2.3ghz 64 bit octa-core processor and 4GB  of RAM which translates to a 30% improvement on its predecessor.

The key to a good phone isn’t just the hardware and Samsung hasn’t forgotten  to upgrade it’s version of Android bringing Marshmallow out of the box.  It also comes with a new always on feature like the LG G4 which allows uses to check the time without waking the phone and therefore saving battery life.  The other major change is the duel pixel technology which allows the camera to operate better in low light conditions and focuses faster to get the most out of the camera.  The edge also brings with it a few new features in the ‘tasks edge’  to pin specific tasks and ‘edge panel’ for widgets. Over the next few days at MWC every one will be putting these through their paces so check back for a hands on.

LG G5

f67731be64afef548ab3f694a44db850
I have never really paid much attention to LG as a phone maker since it took them a little while to move passed cheap Android phones. The main point of difference with the S7 is that the G5 is a modular phone with the ability to swap out components.  These modules can be used to added extra battery life, physical camera buttons and an amp with 32 bit audio output.

The internals are comparable to the S7 with a 5.3 inch display,  4 GB of RAM, a 2800mAh battery upgradeable to 3000mAh,  microSD support and a 64 bit Snapdragon 820 processor. Beside the module upgrade slot the other point of difference is the inclusion of a double rear camera with a 16mp and a 8mp ‘wide angle’ which captures 135 degrees compared to 75 for the main shooter.  Based on the early first impressions it sounds like this is something uses will have to get use but should hopefully decrease the appearance of the selfie stick.  Not having used an LG before I’m not sure how their particular flavour of Android compares to the TouchWiz UI found on Samsung phones but for many this may be the deciding factor.

Not to be Forgotten

desire-825

Desire 825

 

Some what overshadowed by the other announcements HTC revealed four new handsets including the One X9 with an octal-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 3000mAh battery which makes it a decent middle to top range handset but nothing to get excited about. The Desire 825 and Desire 630 share the same date snapdragon 400 and 2GB of RAM but the larger Desire 825 has a slightly bigger battery to power the 5.5 inch screen. HTC’s final device the Desire 530 is obviously aimed at the budget market with a snapdragon 210 and only 1.5 GB of RAM it’s hardly a device to really get much attention.

sony_xperia_x_colori

Not to be left out Sony announced a whole new Xperia line of handsets. The midrange XA offers an edge to edge slightly curved display which is left out from its more powerful siblings but gives it a unique selling point. An upgrade to the flagship the Xperia X packs a snapdragon 610 processor and 3 GB of RAM alongside a 23 megapixel camera, an upgrade to that found on the Z5. Finally, the X Performance is equipped to fight with the big boys as it pairs the same impressive camera with a snapdragon 820 and includes water and dust resistance. Although it has created a little confusion with Sony’s existing line up of Xperia phones the X line up gained plenty of admires at MWC and seems to have faired better than HTC less inspiring announcements.

Stay tune for more from MWC including a wrap of the other major phone announcements,  tablets and virtual reality.

Cheers
Jono

Windows tablets rose 11%

http://www.appy-geek.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=3&articleid=57674357&source=wordpress

I thought this was the perfect follow up to my last post about the tech worlds presentation of iPad Pro sales and market share. The main difference here is that the comparison isn’t based on hardware but software. This takes into account all of Apple’s hardware devices since they run iOS and recognises that Microsoft’s priority is Windows of which the Surface line is only one flagship device. It’s a comparison that is seen in the mobile market with iPhones (iOS) compared with all Andriod devices rather than just Samsung.

Personally I feel this is a more realistic measure of trends in the market place since it recognises both companies different strategies. Don’t just believe my opinion however read the article on slashgear and give it some serious thought. Especially since numbers can be used to say just about anything.

Jono

Iron Maiden is getting its own RPG, coming to Android this summer

http://www.appy-geek.com/Web/ArticleWeb.aspx?regionid=3&articleid=56069988&source=wordpress

I saw this on my daily tech feeds and thought it was the perfect combination, gaming, tech and Iron Maiden. The uniqueness of Maiden’s catalog should make this intresting since each album either has a setting in a different culture, explores a supernatural entity or embraces science fiction. In addition the bands mascot, Eddie, provides a central character for gaming to utalise rather than band members. It’s not the first time Maiden has expanded into gaming either with 1999’s Ed Hunter, a rail shooter for PC. This experiment  complemented the bands greatest hits using the album covers as inspiration for each level much like ‘Legacy of the Beast’ plans to but hopefully as this is marketed as an RPG we can expect a little more from gameplay than Ed Hunter.

Normally I don’t use my phone for gaming but for this will make an exception since its going to have a killer soundtrack.

Up the Irons
Jono

Microsoft brings the Thunder part 1

Microsoft’s long awaited Windows 10 devices launch did not fail to impress. The software giant rolled out a raft of devices from phones to wearables as expected with predictable specs but managed to still give us a few surprises.  In every way possible the team nailed this recent set of announcements in order to maintain the positive coverage from the tech world which is always ready to label the company irrelevant.  So lets break it down …

Microsoft Band 2

The companies first wearable had a very limited availability, limited to the US and UK but from all reports the performance was never really the issue. Made as a fitness tracker and not a watch the band was always designed to be warn with the screen facing in for more natural experience while working out. To achieve this the original hardware squeezed 10 sense s into a clumsy design which people never felt very comfortable wearing. Obviously satisfied by the performance of version 1 the new and improved Band 2 seems like it has received a little more love with a rounded and premium design with a streamlined metal body, curved display and flexible straps. In addition the team has some how managed to include a new elevation sensor to help those who train at different altitudes. Finally, the Band 2 retains the best part of the original device as it is cross – compatible with iOS and Android and is therefore not necessarily tied to the fate of Windows Mobile. The Band has to date been the only wearable that has really caught my attention as it aims to serve a specific purpose but provides more functionality then other fitness trackers like Fitbit. At the same time it doesn’t try to become a fashion accessory,  personally I’m sticking with my Armani to give me that added flare. Now that they have refined the design I’m definitely still keen if it lands in Oz soon.

New and improved the Band 2

HoloLens

By now we are pretty used to Microsoft showing off mind blowing HoloLens demos but lets face it, we shouldn’t complain. This time the show focused on Multi-reality gaming with Project X-Ray where your entire house can become your new battle ground. Personally this is where the untethered nature of HoloLens really has an advantage over virtual reality headsets as you can more easily move into different rooms and interact unrestricted with the experience.  The gameplay itself is pretty straight forward but is definitely cool,  robots burst through the walls and hide behind your couch before you blast them in to holographic pieces. It really has me thinking about the possibilities, a police raid in your own house or a personalised hostage situation. More importantly, Microsoft finally gave us some release details with the developer kit available in the first quarter next year for $3000. It’s not cheap but since Google Glass was $1500 and that was nowhere near the level of HoloLens so I won’t be surprised if developers jump on board.

Lumia 950 and 950XL

Unsurprisingly the specs for these new Lumia Flagships like the new design for the Microsoft Band 2 had already spread all over the Internet but it always helps to get things confirmed. The 950 has an hexacore snapdragon 808 processor, and a 5.2 WQHD OLED display while the XL comes with an octacore processor, 5.7 display and liquid cooling. In addition both phones have a 20 megapixel PureView camera with optical stabilization,  USB – C connections, 3 GB of Ram, wireless charging, Windows Hello facial recognition, duel adaptive antennas and 32 GB expandable memory. None of these specs seem ground-breaking on their own but as International Business Times points out they still slightly edge out the competition from Apple and Samsung. Even so some other media reports are disappointed expecting a killer feature and a ‘premium’ Surface like design rather then the continued use of polycarbonate.

Firstly, I see the duel antenna as a welcome addition if it successfully works to improve signal quality as I have always felt that it is a annoying weakness of modern smartphones that it was easier to have a conversation with someone over a phone call 15 years ago. Personally the killer feature of these phones comes from the software as Continuum allows both handsets to connect with a keyboard and mouse through the dock and drive a desktop experience through Windows 10, but every other phone on the market can do this right?. Technically this means that with the right app you can edit, print or easily manipulate photos and documents without syncing your devices.  Now you can be “productive like a Boss where ever you are”, at least that’s the idea. Unfortunately,  most people probably only want to use their phone as a phone so I don’t know how much traction it will get in the consumer market but it is definitely great for the enterprise sector.

I find the second criticism ridiculous and largely perpetrated by those people who have never used a Lumia device beyond a review unit, having owned a HTC Mozart, Lumia 610, Lumia 920 and a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge I still consider the polycarbonate 920 my favourite. Mainly because of the solid build quality as regardless of how many times I dropped it over the 3 or so years with out any form of case the 920 still works fine if only  for the aging specs. Meanwhile the HTC lasted just over a year before a fall from a coffee table shattered the screen and made it unusable similarly one fall from a car door has left my Galaxy 6 edge with clear blemish to it’s stunning screen. This is not to mention the fact that my Galaxy like most other phones is kept neatly covered by a case so I can preserve the “premium” design, something I never even considered with my Lumia. Now don’t get me wrong the Galaxy S6 is a fantastic phone and I don’t have any regrets but I’m using it to make a point that the Lumia Line has a well know track record for taking a beating which I think is more important. After all if your buying a phone for the looks you probably don’t know anything about performance and are too concerned with your own status unfortunately this probably includes a good portion of the mobile marketplace.  Sorry for the rant but every time I hear or read comments about premium materials and beautiful shiny designs I can’t help getting angry at people’s stupidity as I am a very practical person.

Admittedly apps still remain a problem for Microsoft’s mobile strategy and it’s not TV surprising that they find themselves at something of a cross roads.  Both realising the importance of getting  their services onto other ecosystems while trying to use the universal capacity of Windows 10 to breath some life into their own platform. The word out of Microsoft is that they aren’t expecting much from the new handsets but it allows them to create a bundle for enterprise customers interested in the surface line. We shall have to wait and see over the next couple of months but they will continue to make little progress if they can’t get Google, carriers and OEM’s on board in order to encourage developers. Hopefully the new tools to port Android and iOS apps to Windows will help as I think consumer’s will benefit from increased competition if Microsoft can start gaining even a little bit of traction in mobile.

I always seem to go into way too much detail, but stay tuned for part 2 as I look at the Surface announcements from Microsoft’s event.

Till then,

Jono

Apple’s going Pro

August was definitely dominated by Microsoft with the increasing downloads of Windows 10 and GamesCom providing plenty of tech news to talk about. September has always been Apple’s time to shine and they did not disappoint their die hard loyal fans. The mid cycle update to the iPhone, a new iPad with some accessories and finally an improved version of Apple TV gives us a lot to cover.

iPhone 6s

It’s Apple’s long established custom to provide a one year update on thier current handset and keep the existing body. This year the iPhone 6 and 6+ get the S treatment with the addition of new features and upgraded spec. Most notably is the new 3D touch technology which reacts to the pressure being applied by the user. Internaly it comes with an A9 processor, 2GB of RAM and a 12 mega-pixal camera which should all give users an overall improved performance. On top of these updates to the existing specs is the introduction of a new rose gold handset. I doubt any of these changes will intice existing iPhone 6 users to upgrade prematually but I’m sure Apple will stiĺl experience good sales as more iPhone 5 user decide to take the plunge.

iPad Pro

A larger screen iPad has been rumoured for a while so Apple’s announcement suprised nobody. It’s clearly built to impress with a 12.9 inch screen, 2732 x 2048 resolution and four built in speakers. It also has a clear performance boost over the existing iPad Air with a A9X processor and 4GB of RAM in order to capatilise on iOS9’s new side by side multi-tasking. Beyond the tablet itself Apple have shown off a couple of key new accessories in the Apple Pencil and attachable keyboard. On paper it looks like a powerful device for those poeple who like using iOS but it is still unknown whether it’s the device that will reinvigurate Apple’s tablet sales.

Unusally it hasn’t been all positive media for Apple’s latest tablet as most tech analysts and arm chair enthusiasts like myself have been quick to recognise the similarities with Microsoft’s Surface Pro.  Many have even been bringing up Steve Jobs comment about inculding a stylus
which really has no relevence any more due to the developments of digitizers and the rest of the tech industry. In addition the promotion of Microsoft Office for iOS has got some attention, an inclusion that really shows both tech companies changing mentality. Firstly, Microsoft recognised that they can’t ignore iOS users and the value of tieing them to their services while Apple seems to have admited that thier own iWorks suite has trouble competing with Office in the professional market place.

So will the iPad Pro make an impact on the tablet landscape? Personally I’m not sure Apple have addressed the right aspects of the iPad to attract thier target audience. Since many of the drawbacks of iOS still remain as while it now allows multi-tasking it cannot run desktop applications. In addition the small 32GB internal storage on the base model will likely frustrate some users and may be a key limitation for those reluctant to invest more money. Finally, I think the iPad Pro could easily impact Apple’s other product lines as customers are unlikely to purchase a Pro and a smaller iPad, while others might decide to give up thier MacBook.  Obviously, this does not take into account new customers so we will just have to wait and see.

Apple TV

The much awaited update to Apple’s side project has delivered a few key developments and makes Apple competitive in the living room space. Most notably is the new TVos which has an easy to use interface and connects to the apps store to allow users to download anything from different streaming services or games. This new operating system also brings Siri into your living room and importantly she comes with the ability to search content across applications. Apple’s personal assistant can be accessed from the new remote which also includes a touch pad for navigation and a Wii like motion tracker that when combined with the improved internal specs makes the new set top box capable of breaking in as a low cost gaming option.

These improvement makes the Apple TV a legitimate option compared to competitors but it isn’t necessarily a game changer with similar features already available. Despite this the added functionality of AirPlay and Apple’s legion of devoted fans combined with a sensible price tag means that I believe sales will show strong growth.

Overall Apple didn’t really announce anything new but rather refreshed and reinvigorated existing products. Of course the iPhone 6S and 6S+ will the usual landslide but the others are a bit harder to predict so we’ll check back in the next couple of months.

Cheers
Jono

The low cost handset

I recently got to have a play with a new Lumia 640 XL and couldn’t help but think about how far low cost handsets have come over the last few years. Only recently did a cheap phone mean that you were restricted to a low cost Andriod phone that lacked a decent screen or camera and an out of date OS among other limitations. However, as I updated a few apps for my father in law I couldn’t help but be impressed at what you can get these days for a couple of hundred Australian dollars.

The 5.7″ HD display looked reasonable crisp and seemed a good size in my hand. No longer having physical buttons on the front took some getting use to but didn’t cause any real issues. While Windows phone 8 was responsive and fluid more so then it had been on my aging lumia 920. Despite not getting to really put it through it’s paces or check out any benchmarks it is clear that the 640 XL would satisfy the average person’s needs. Possibly the biggest advantage is that Microsoft somehow managed to fit a 13 megapixal rear facing camera without breaking the bank which is easly better then anything else you’ll find at this price point. A common criticism remains the polycarbonate body but while some view this as cheap it often becomes pratical as I’m still not really sold on the “premium” feel argument about metal since most people like myself wrap thier iPhones or Galaxy S6 in a plastic cover. One of the things I liked about the Lumia 920 was for 2 and a half years I didn’t need a case and I feel the 640 XL would be the same.

At anywhere between $240 and $400 outright depending on your shopping skills and prefered currency the 640 XL is good value. In Aus you can even pick it up on plans under $50 with a $5 device charge. It’s clear to me why such products are gaining some traction in emerging markets. The only thing holding these new budget Lumia’s back is still the same story, the app gap. Hopefully, Windows 10 with it’s universal apps and iOS conversion tools can deliver the remedy at last.