Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Android, apple, Battery (electricity), Compaq Portable, Handhelds, ios, iphone, PalmPilot, smartphone on September 15, 2013 |
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The latest iPhones are out, and the tech and business pundits have had their say. Some admire the new features, some are disappointed in how little the platform has changed. Was it reasonable for pundits to expect the very nature of the iPhone to change? Should Apple have reinvented the genre to prove their ability to innovate?
Smartphones have seemed to follow the same pattern of maturation as their mobile predecessor- the laptop. There were a few clumsy attempts at creating a mobile computer (like the Compaq Portable) before the form we now associate with the laptop was developed. Since that first laptop there has been a pattern of maturation- gradual improvements in internal and external technology- but the form has remained stable: a folding device sporting a screen on the upper half, and a keyboard in the lower half.
In the same vein, the smartphone had some rough predecessors. The Palm Pilot (and Personal Data Assistants in general) was essentially a crude smartphone without the phone. Then came the first Symbian phones, adding the phone to the PDA but still lacking the level of interoperability and input modern smartphones offer. The Blackberry attempted to improve on the model trading screen space for a hardware keyboard, only to be trumped by the the first iPhone in 2007.
Since the release of the first iPhone the form of successful smartphones (much like the laptop) hasn’t changed much. Sure, there have been models with unusual features- massive screens, hardware keyboards hidden in various places, special camera lenses, and so on. None have been able to alter the established form of the smartphone market.
History repeats itself. The laptop found its optimal form, leaving only incremental changes- improvements in processor power, capacity, battery life, screen quality, and so on. As expected, smartphones have done the same. Both Android and iOS based phones have better processors, improved screen resolution, and better battery life. Other incremental improvements have been added, like better (and more) cameras and improved cellular data speeds, but the form of the smartphone remains relatively the same.
The addition of a fingerprint scanner to the 5s is just another incremental improvement on an already perfected form. The smartphone has matured- we will likely see more technology and functionality added (especially now that the 64 bit threshold has been crossed), but the device has found its optimal factor. The next leap in innovation will likely be wearable devices. What shape they will take is yet to be seen, but the first pioneers are already with us.
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The new iPhones have been officially announced- the 5s, successor to the current 5, and the new ‘inexpensive’ iPhone 5c. Pundits have noted the plastic case shown in leaked photos for some time now, expecting the less expensive material to mean that Apple is finally going to challenge various Android handset makers where they gain the bulk of their market advantage- the entry level and overseas markets. Many non-US markets lack the provider-backed subsides that make premium phones affordable (but paid for by higher, contract-enforced service contract prices). Much like Anton Ego from Ratatouille, I’m craving a little perspective.
As it turns out, Apple is apparently happy to forfeit the entry level and non premium markets to competitors. The 5c is essentially the (now about to be discontinued) iPhone 5; breaking their previous strategy of keeping older generations of iPhones in production at a reduced price to consumers. The 5c IS the iPhone 5, with an improved camera and battery, exchanging the sleek aluminum chassis for an “unapologetically plastic” (Jony Ive‘s words) body. In subsidized markets the 5c starts at $99 with a two year contract- the same price and contract that previous older generations were sold for. The unsubsidized price still won’t appeal to many looking for an entry-level phone; the 16 gig model will set you back $549 without the contract. The more powerful, more enticing 5s is only $100 more, so those considering a new iPhone will have a choice: those looking to save some money will be able to buy something billed as a new phone rather than last year’s model, but those that want the latest and greatest will have the same price points as the past few generations of new iPhones.
I understand the strategy; while Apple has a minority share of many markets they make the lion’s share of profit. They have never competed in the cost conscious sectors of any market, so it stands to reason that they would avoid it with their flagship product. An inexpensive model would both deviate from their focus on profit margin and possibly tarnish their cultivated image as a creator of superior goods. BMW doesn’t make a bargain hatchback, and Riedel doesn’t make entry-level plastic drinking glasses.
The Apple aficionados in unsubsidized markets aren’t completely out in the cold, however. Not only will the two new models be available (albeit at the higher, unsubsidized price), Apple has opted to keep the 4s in production as well. In the US it’ll be the ‘free’ model, with the lowest tier costing nothing with a two year contract. While not in the same price category as some of the cheaper Android handsets, it is more cost competitive than Apple’s newest smartphones.
Ultimately, what’s a consumer to think? I believe it’s a good, but understated, move on Apple’s part. The 5c provides some cost savings and offers value to those that don’t need the latest and greatest while not forcing them to opt for an older model. The 5s offers some groundbreaking improvements; the fingerprint sensor could be a huge boon considering that many authentication methods are so annoying that users (me included) forgo them. The new camera brings the iPhone back into competition with the higher level Android phones- while the megapixel count hasn’t gone up, the quality of the pictures and the overall utility of the camera has. There are aspects to the 5s that aren’t fully explored, like the new M7 chip and the iPhone’s new more powerful 64 bit operating system. While not earth shattering, the 5s follows the same growth pattern as all modern iPhones- an evolutionary improvement over the previous generation with some new technology added to sweeten the pot. The 3GS offered better cellular speed and video capture, the 4S had Siri. I think it’s safe to say that for the time being, the smartphone market has somewhat matured; I don’t expect any fantastic new technology to be introduced that would radically alter the market, even though those that complain that Apple can’t innovate anymore seem to expect as much.
I’m an iPhone 5 owner, and I’ll be sticking with my current handset. I love some of the improvements the 5s has, but it’s not enough to get me to pay the out-of-contract price for it. For those on the ‘S’ upgrade path, it’s a no-brainer; the 5S is light years better than the 4S and well worth the cost. Those that don’t want or need the extras that the 5s offers would be wise to save the $100 and opt for the 5c; it’s still a top tier handset.
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Posted in Advice, News, tagged Android, apple, Fingerprint recognition, Handhelds, ios, iphone, iphone 5, September 10th, smartphone, Smartphones on August 20, 2013 |
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That’s right- new iPhoneS, plural. Unless you’ve been completely isolated from Apple and tech punditry, it’s all but given that Apple will be announcing the release of not one but two new models of iPhones in their upcoming September 10th announcement: the iPhone 5s and 5c.
The 5s will be the upgrade to the 5, following established patterns (3G to 3GS, 4 to 4S) and other than the rumored fingerprint sensor in the home button it should be an incremental improvement over its predecessor- better camera, more powerful processor, and so on. The 5c is thought to be the long-rumored ‘bargain’ iPhone, sporting a plastic shell instead of aluminum (and likely to have less powerful and expensive components). It should allow Apple to better compete in the emerging lower cost and overseas markets, currently dominated by bargain-level Android handsets.
While an improvement to the iPhone 5 was a given, the 5c was just a rumor until recently. Our friends at MobileFun have all but confirmed it with the announcement of a series of cases specifically for the 5c. While the 5c may be less expensive, it will still be a significant investment and worthy of protection- unless you’re far braver than I you should seriously consider picking up a case for your device; it’s more than a means of personalization.
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Posted in News, tagged Android, apple, apple product, handset makers, handset market, ipad, iphone, ipod, market blackberry, Market share, mobile, Samsung, smartphone, technology on August 14, 2013 |
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While we wait for the big September 10th Apple product announcement (iPhone 5s definitely, iPhone 5c almost certainly, iPads likely, iPods maybe) lets take a look at the state of the smartphone market. There’s a lot of analysis out there; some pointing to Android having a stranglehold on the smartphone market, some claiming Apple has the lead, and indicators aplenty pointing to almost any outcome and trend you can think of. What the heck is going on?
Well, here in the US Apple still reigns supreme in market share (source bgr.com). Even when all Android handset makers are combined (and they really shouldn’t be, but more on that later) Apple holds a solid portion of the field with just over 40% of the market. Samsung comes second with 24%, followed by various other Android manufacturers before we get to the dregs of the market: Blackberry with 3%, and Windows holding just under 4%. Worldwide the market is more heterogeneous with all Android manufacturers taking up close to a whopping 80% of the handset market, with Apple trailing at just under 14% (source Foxnews.com). Trends suggest that the gap will continue to widen barring a shift in consumer purchasing with Apple’s upcoming less expensive 5c model. So what the heck is going on? Apple depends heavily on iPhone sales for their profitability; do these trends mean that Apple is as doomed as pundits love to claim.
In short, no. One easy to overlook aspect of these analyses is that they focus almost entirely on market share- a valuable indicator, but hardly the only one. While Apple is losing market share (measured as a percentage of consumers buying the product in question) the market itself is growing and maturing. It’s easy to forget that the modern smartphone market is only a few years old- there are actually people out there with “dumb” feature phones that are still migrating to smartphones. The premium end of the consumer base has already matured- almost all of the purchasers that will opt for a high end smartphone have done so; new purchases are typically customers refreshing older or broken handsets (and the iPhone is the undisputed champion of customer loyalty). Those that have held off due to price are slowly migrating to the smartphone market thanks to falling prices- and Android by far dominates the less expensive smartphone category. The iPhone has only recently ventured into this category thanks to Apple keeping older models like the 4 and 4s in production (and offering a less expensive to manufacture 8 gigabyte version of the iPhone), but there is a veritable army of cheap to free Android devices to choose from.
Worldwide the market is further complicated by differing sales models. Here in the US most handsets are subsidized by the cell provider; prices are steeply discounted in exchange for a two year contract for service (in which the provider will more than recoup the subsidy). In many markets overseas providers do not subsidize handsets; and the unsubsidized price of premium smartphones is enough to make almost anyone do a double take. The most recent version of the iPhone will set you back a cool $699 for the entry level 16 gigabyte model; and high end Android phones aren’t much (if any) cheaper. Yet as mentioned before there’s a phalanx of less costly Android handsets that have flooded these cash and carry markets, making the iPhone a tough sell. Combine this with Apple’s focus on developing an interrelated ecosystem of premium devices (Macs, iPads, iPods, iTunes App and media stores, and the huge range of third party accessories) and you have a fantastic but pricey proposition for consumers that may be looking at the smartphone as their primary computing device. While Android’s lack of an ecosystem may be a drawback for some consumers, in this circumstance it’s an asset.
So even with the shrinking market share figures, Apple has increased sales thanks to a growing market. It’s hard to deem an organization doomed when they still capture the majority of the profit generated (57% in the first quarter of 2013 according to Techcrunch). If prognosticators are correct, Apple is currently in the process of a strategic shift to better compete with Android manufacturers (and more specifically Samsung, the only truly profitable manufacturer) in the entry level and unsubsidized markets. Ultimately, all of this market churn, competition, and strategy benefits the consumers. Competition drives innovation and lowers prices, leading to better and less expensive devices for all of us- regardless of what flavor handset you enjoy.
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Posted in News, tagged apple, dual core processors, Electronic Arts, games, gaming, ios, Mass production, mobile, Multi-core processor, pc gaming market, smartphone, technology, TUAW on July 25, 2013 |
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This in courtesy of TUAW (the Unofficial Apple Weblog): EA generated more revenue from Apple sales (primarily iOS titles) – approximately $90 million- than any other source, including consoles and PC gaming. Not too shabby from an organization that’s never been focused on gaming. With the upcoming release of iOS 7 (including bluetooth gaming control support) the sales figures for Apple-centric gaming (and the app development that profit brings) will undoubtedly be higher FY2014.
Is this a sign that casual/mobile gaming is overtaking the more traditional console/PC gaming market? Time will tell, but mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have exponentially increased in processing and graphical power; far faster than the PC did during its developmental phase. Smartphones have only been in mass production for a handful of years, yet all marquee devices sport dual core processors (and quad core aren’t unheard of) that would blow the doors off of many full PC towers of just ten years ago. With the introduction of Retina displays by Apple (and the efforts of competitors to match or surpass this new graphical benchmark) it’s not unreasonable to think that given just a few year’s time tablets could easily match what consoles can today.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged accessories, apple, Battery charger, clever, crafts, Eastern Time Zone, funny, Handhelds, ios, iphone, Record producer, smartphone, TUAW on July 22, 2013 |
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A quick tip of the hat to TUAW (the Unofficial Apple Weblog) for a recent article bringing two great things (Etsey and iPhone accessories) together for one awful expose. Head on over for the most obnoxious iPhone accessories available on Etsey.
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This in from the good folks at Engadget: yet another use for the electronic Swiss Army knife known as the iPhone. I’ve seen some unexpected uses for the iPhone, from digital wallet via apps like Lemon Wallet (currently in testing, review pending) to finding the cheapest nearby gas via apps like Gasbuddy (one I’ve used recently to good effect, resulting in a savings of almost 10 cents per gallon thanks to a store by my workplace I wasn’t even aware of), to control and datamining of my home’s Nest thermostat (not inexpensive, but easily the best product in its category).
Now you can even use your iPhone as a means of egress, thanks to the Kevo from Kwikset. This clever product utilizes the Bluetooth signal of your iPhone 4s or later (or a special key fob for the smartphone-less) to enable you to lock or unlock your door via a simple touch. Need to grant access to someone else? Not a problem; just send an eKey to them so that their iPhone can allow them to unlock the Kevo as well. The free companion iOS app allows you to manage your keys (and key fobs) remotely, eliminating the need for the cliche traditional key hidden under the doormat or false rock.
The Kevo is battery powered, using 4 AA batteries that will have an estimated one year life before needing replacement (Kwikset ensures that the Kevo provides ample early warning of low battery power). In the worst case scenario of complete power failure happen the Kevo can still be operated as a traditional deadbolt lock with a physical key.
This intriguing device isn’t available yet, but you can sign up for product news and release date info at their site.
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Innovation comes in many guises, some of them more outlandish than others. The various iOS devices over the past few years have sparked a legion of accessories of all kinds to support and improve the use of those devices. The iFlask (courtesy of Mashable), while clever, doesn’t fit that description.
Smartphones of various makes have become ubiquitous; in the few short years since the release of the first iPhone they’ve become almost a requirement for many. I would find my daily life severely constrained without my handset- it provides communication, information, and entertainment no other single device could. The iFlask takes advantage of the commonness of today’s smartphones for the purpose of subterfuge; as the name suggests the “device” is in fact a drinking flask masquerading as a faux iPhone.
The iFlask is constructed of stainless steel and polycarbonate, and built to loosely resemble one of several smartphone profiles. At a glance one wouldn’t suspect it was a ruse, containing up to 5 ounces of whatever fluid one would like to conceal. The headphone jack is actually the opening for the flask, opened by a sliding switch. The makers of the iFlask even kindly provide a collapsable funnel to fill the container.
The iFlask began as a Kickstarter campaign, but even though it failed to reach its funding goal the makers have found a way to being manufacturing and are accepting preorders via their website. This curious product could serve in many somewhat illicit functions- sneaking alcohol into sporting or other group events where drinks are either prohibited or prohibitively expensive is the first that comes to mind. It would make for a clever gag gift as well. I’m just thankful it wasn’t around when I was younger; it could have been the origin of a great deal of trouble for me and some of my friends.
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Posted in News, tagged apple, Bluetooth, Hyundai Genesis, ios, iphone, iPhone 4, ipod, IPod Classic, PanaVise, Samsung, Siri, smartphone on April 19, 2013 |
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I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a wide array of iOS accessories over the years I’ve been blogging. One category that I hadn’t seen much of was automotive-based solutions for the iPhone. I hadn’t had factory Bluetooth in a vehicle until I picked up the iPhone 4, but now the lack of it would be a dealbreaker when shopping for wheels. Tight integration with my handset was one of the factors that made me choose my current car: a 2013 Hyundai Genesis GT. I’ve been able to forgo my trusty iPod classic thanks to the Genesis’ ability to stream audio via Bluetooth from my iPhone (and this prompted me for the first time to upgrade from the 16 gig model as well).
Since my phone was now playing a larger role while commuting or pleasure driving, I needed a suitable place to store it. Keeping it a pocket was extremely problematic as I still needed to reach dig for it should I need to interact with it (remember kids, Siri is your friend when driving. Texting behind the wheel is bad news). I made do with a Belkin TuneDok I had left over from my iPod-listening days. While not designed for the iPhone it fit well enough if the phone had a case, but it was a poor solution overall. It took up one of the two cup holders (strategically placed behind the shift knob, making the position even less than optimal should I want to switch from automatic transmission to manual for more aggressive driving) and the position made it necessary to divert my gaze from the road at times, even though I rely on Siri for most interaction.
While there are many car-based iPhone stands and mounts, I was fortunate to come into contact with what could be one of the first manufacturer to enter the market- PanaVise. Amazingly they’ve been in the game as long as there have been cellular phones- all the way from 1990 when they released the PortaGrip for the ancient brick-style analog portable phones. The company began in 1954 as a tool and die manufacturer, spurred by the patenting of founder Otto Colbert’s split ball mount to allow the rotation and positioning of dies during the manufacturing process. The patent bred further innovation that created their business of mounts for multiple products and uses. Their long line of phone mounts has evolved over the years to the current model, the PortaGRIP 15504.
The PortaGRIP 15504 is a jack of all trades- while advertised as an iPhone mount, the adjustable dock will accommodate most current smartphones (even the huge phablet Samsung Galaxy Note II). The mount offers several points of articulation, permitting it to be configured for a wide range of positions and placements- perfect for my situation as my car has a steeply sloped windscreen and textured dash that would not permit me to affix a mount in the places typically shown by manufacturers or other reviewers. After some reflection I chose the upper right corner of the windscreen, with the articulation points adjusted to position the majority of the mechanism in line with the window’s border column. My iPhone was now kept in an easily accessible spot that didn’t require me to divert my gaze should I need to reach for it, and didn’t block any view of the road. The mount is held surprisingly firmly in place by a suction cup in the base, but can be disengaged for stowing or placing the mount in another vehicle.
The PortaGRIP 15504 holds your phone securely via adjustable rubberized grips below and on eitherside of the device. All surfaces that touch your phone sport the same rubberized coating to protect your device from scuffs or scratches (should you be one of those brave souls that choose not to have a case). A button on the left side activates the quick release mechanism for easy removal when you reach your destination. Having the PortaGRIP has been a boon; its made storing and interacting with my iPhone both practical and safer, and the prominent placement ensures I won’t forget my device when I sleepily arrive at work in the morning. Better still, even after a week of testing the PortaGRIP 15504 has held as firm as the first day of use- something I can’t say about other car mounts I’ve tested.
The PortaGRIP 15504 isn’t a work of art, my admiration for it comes from its utilitarian functionality. Regardless of what handset you prefer or where you decide is the optimal placement, it can serve you and your smartphone perfectly, and do so reliably thanks to its lifetime warranty. My only issue during testing was that my placement spot didn’t allow for recharging of my iPhone, but should I place it close enough to the power port in the center console the PortaGRIP would readily allow this as well whether you had the slim Lightning cable or the traditional 30 pin connector.
Like all good ideas the PortaGRIP comes in many flavors. The universal phone bracket can be had with numerous mount bases, from several versions of the suction cup with various arm lengths and points of articulation to pedestal mounts, air conditioning vent clips, to a twelve inch floor fixed flexible shaft. For those that like the form of the PortaGRIP but don’t care for my mount positioning they have a model specifically for sloped windscreens. They even offer vehicle-specific in-dash models that do not impinge instruments, vents, or airbag deployment. Need a mount for a different device? No worries, Panavise has you covered there as well- regardless of the device or where you need to place it. The PanaVise 15504 is available online through Smartphone Experts (online or toll free 888-599-8998), or directly from PanaVise customer service: email@example.com or toll free at 800-759-7535.
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The proliferation of iOS devices has allowed me to reduce my reliance on the first version of the family- the iPhone. While both the iPhone and the iPad can accomplish a majority of the same tasks, I find some just easier or more enjoyable on one or the other. For a good portion of my iOS adventure I’ve had both devices on hand; I carried my iPad with me to work every day and used it regularly at home for video, reading, and web surfing at home. One thing that both devices have in common is outstanding battery life; both have always lasted at least a full day on a charge no matter what I threw at them.
Then one day I deviated outside my normal routine. While waiting for a connecting flight on a business trip I noticed that the battery on my iPhone was dwindling far faster than it would during a typical workday. Hours of Angry Birds, Chuzzle, podcasts, and music while trapped in transit tend to eat away at even the iPhone’s impressive battery, leaving me to scramble for an available outlet to provide a few more precious minutes of charge (not to mention digging in my carry on bag for the charging cable and plug). While I’ve always enjoyed getting multiple uses out of my accessories as well as my devices (as in my CM4 card case) my issues with battery life left me rethinking my choice in cases. Should I have picked a different iPhone 5 case? Would a battery case have been a better option?
Thanks to my friends at MobileFun, I have a third choice: the PowerSkin PoP’n. While most manufacturers have attempted to augment the iPhone’s battery by including a backup inside a case, the PowerSkin is acts as a portable external recharge pack. The device attaches to the back of your iPhone (and is compatible with most existing cases) via rows of small suction cups, and uses a thick but flexible Lightning cable to add more life to your handset. The device is rated by the manufacturer to add an extra 70% of useful life to your iPhone, but in my entirely unscientific testing it seemed to double my charge during heavy use. While the focus of the accessory is additional power for your device sans recharging via an outlet or USB slot, the innate value of the PowerSkin comes from its flexibility afforded over the standard battery case. It is preferable over a run of the mill recharge pack because of its close form integration to the phone. When deployed it does add significant thickness to the phone, but surprisingly little additional weight- 86 grams according to PowerSkin, allowing you to use your iPhone normally.
Unlike battery cases, the PowerSkin isn’t a permanent fixture to your handset. Use it when you need it, then stow it away when it isn’t- and keep the case that suits your needs (or none at all if you’re one of those brave souls). Not having to handle the extra mass of a battery backup was welcome as my routine doesn’t require the additional juice, but it was a welcome addition when I did. It remained firmly in place during my testing even when using my iPhone for conversations and video, yet was easy to remove and stow in my iPad messenger bag. I don’t have a Lightning-equipped iPad, but I wouldn’t think the PowerSkin would be a viable option as they tend to require more current (1 amp and 5 watts for the iPhone versus 2.1 amps and 10 watts for the full sized iPad). The PowerSkin provides a series of LEDs on its back to show the amount of charge it has to offer, and is itself recharged by an included micro USB cable. For those with an older model iPhone (or an older iPod model) there is a standard 30 pin version as well.
The PowerSkin PoP’n is available now from MobileFun ($63.99) and MobileFun UK (£49.99). If your iPhone needs a boost but you’d rather not sacrifice your favorite case (or don’t need that boost all the time) consider the PowerSkin- I think you’ll be happy you did.
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