• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 09-24-2015 06:53 AM
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    Anyone remember Digg? That place where one could read and rank user submitted news before reddit? Well, apparently they're still around, and this week they've set the wayback machine to 2007, rounding up some notable thoughts about the diminutive device that would forever change the face of mobile computing—the original iPhone.

    Remember that the smartphones were very different back then. In North America BlackBerry was the predominant power user's device, while Nokia had a commanding lead of the market worldwide. It was against this backdrop that Apple slowly but surely assimilated smartphone design into the slabs of mostly screen that we use today. ...
    by Published on 09-23-2015 07:55 AM
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    2. Devices,
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    Yesterday I proclaimed that Google's Nexus line of phones and tablets will always have the widest selection of available custom ROMs, thanks to their easily unlockable bootloaders and lineage as reference devices for app developers. I feel compelled to support that claim, so let's take a look at what's available for the current Nexus 6 phone and Nexus 9 tablet some 10 months after their release. ...
    by Published on 09-17-2015 07:36 AM
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    I generally try to avoid "insider baseball"—that is, news about lawsuits and financials and such that don't have a direct or immediate impact on the end user. But this end user has come across two stories about Apple's record-breaking profits that I feel compelled to comment on, if only to debunk them.

    The first is a video by the newly-rebranded YouTube channel Coldfusion, which centres around the $619.77 USD profit that Apple makes on each and every iPhone 6. For the 6 Plus the per-unit profit is even higher, at $711.75 USD. These numbers were reported by Business Insider around this time last year.

    If you've eleven minutes to spare, here is that video: ...
    by Published on 09-14-2015 06:58 AM
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    I continue to be impressed by the front page editorials over on the XDA Forums. Their latest missive, posted last Friday, is all about Motorola, and how things seem to be taking a turn for the worse under their new owners. You might not think so looking at their current product portfolio; the only reason I don't recommend the Moto X Play to friends is because it's not available unlocked here in Canada.

    I think XDA has done an excellent job of contrasting Moto's successes as a Google company with their current predicament as a Lenovo joint. See if you agree. ...
    by Published on 09-10-2015 07:30 AM
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    So the new iPhones have force touch. Apple is branding it "3D Touch", presumably to differentiate it as an improvement over the force touch trackpad introduced on their new MacBook last spring. The difference? It's faster.

    Surprisingly, though, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus aren't the first smartphone on the market to offer multi-level haptic feedback. That title, if you can believe it, goes to Huawei, and their Mate S announced at IFA in Berlin last week.

    Even more surprising is that the Android platform has supported force touch since version 2.0 Eclair, circa 2009! ...
    by Published on 09-08-2015 07:15 AM
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    Never mind the iPhone 6S, set to be announced tomorrow; rumours are already circulating about its successor, the iPhone 7—specifically, how thin it's going to be. There isn't an exact number, but MacRumors is reporting a range of 6-6.5mm, compared to the current iPhone 6/6 Plus at 6.9/7.1mm.

    Here's the top-rated comment on that post:

    I guess that means the camera will stick out even more and battery life will be less than it could be. Both perfectly acceptable trade-offs though as we have all been begging them for thinner phones after all.
    I'm going to assume that last part is sarcastic—that is, that nobody has been begging for thinner phones. Am I right? ...
    by Published on 09-07-2015 02:02 PM
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    Consumers have been spend less money on computers and more on their mobile phones. This has given companies like Acer, which is a big name in computers, a challenging time. While they’ve had some mobile phone offerings, they haven’t gained much traction in the market. As such, it’s been awhile since I’ve tried one.

    Here’s their latest offering; the Acer Liquid Jade Z. At $269.99 CAN unlocked, it’s a high-entry/low-midrange phone. Spec-wise you get a 5” HD display, quad-core 64 bit processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB storage, 13 megapixel camera with LTE so on that front, it's promising. Let’s check it out: ...
    by Published on 08-28-2015 06:45 AM
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    Hey, I'm not the one who's going there... You think I'm crazy or something?

    I've quickly come to learn on these forums that it's a fool's game to tell mobile users their business—especially when it comes to their OS of choice. I don't think it would surprise anyone to say that the smartphone market has matured to a point where those invested in either of the two leading platforms, Android and iOS, will see any compelling reason to switch.

    In broad strokes iOS is supposed to offer a superior user experience, and Android unparalleled freedom. Whether or not you agree with this will likely depend on which OS you use and your opinion of the other. And if rabid fanboyism is clouding your judgement, YouTube user ColdfusTion has a pair of videos that will make you see the light. The first traces the history and development of each platform, and the second takes a refreshingly objective look at their major differences.

    The total running time for both is a hair over twenty minutes, perfect for a leisurely weekend viewing and discussion. Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 08-27-2015 07:10 AM
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    As Android vulnerabilities go, this one's pretty bad. In fact, it's probably the worst security scare that the platform has ever seen—despite being only a theoretical vector for attack. At least for now.

    "Stagefright" gets its name from libstagefright, an engine deep within the Android OS used to decode videos in MMS messages. What makes it so potentially scary is that it can be executed remotely on almost any Android device; it requires only the user's phone number and grants the attacker root access and the ability to run arbitrary code.

    So what can you do to protect yourself? ...
    by Published on 08-26-2015 07:32 AM
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    I've written about China's powerful and peculiar smartphone market a number of times now. 2014 may or may not have been the year of the Chinese Android smartphone; Lenovo's acquisition of Motorola Mobility was certainly big news, and the OnePlus One easily took the crown as most polarizing device of the year.

    And yet here we are in mid-2015, and the invasion of Chinese smartphones—the ones made by Chinese companies, not just manufactured in China—doesn't seem to have started yet. There are a few available options for purchase (dragon2knight would probably know more about them than me) but the bigger companies like Xiaomi and Meizu have yet to make inroads into Western markets.

    Today I've cobbled together some links to help us figure this out. ...
    by Published on 08-24-2015 03:29 PM
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    Among flagships, Motorola’s X line has always been a bit hard to understand. The first one costs slightly less than competing flagships but it gave up some specs compared to them. Ditto for the second gen X.

    Now, we’re on the 3rd generation and Motorola has mixed things up. The X lineup now bifurcates into the Moto X Pure and the Moto X Play. The Pure is a true flagship with the request flagship specs and price tag. However, the Play is the more interesting model. It trades some big specs for a more a palatable price tag.

    We’re now in the “Good enough” era of smartphones where flagship ownership is no longer mandatory to have a good experience.

    It mixes some flagship-ish features which some midrange ones to bring the price tag down to $400. Throw a large 3630mAh battery into the pot and we have something very unique. Let’s check it out. ...
    by Published on 08-24-2015 01:19 PM
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    With school just around the corner, many of you are thinking of picking up a decent phone on a budget. No doubt the original Moto G will probably come up quite frequently. The problem is that the original Moto G came out 2 years ago and its successor, the 2014 didn’t get people quite as excited partly because it lacked LTE, partly because it was priced too high and partly because it didn’t gain much traction with carriers (probably because of the LTE issue).

    Anyways, they’re back with their newest G, the 2015 Moto G. The addition of LTE is a no brainer but now they’ve changed the game with the addition of water resistance for under $200. Hmmm….
    ...
    by Published on 08-21-2015 07:20 AM
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    Mission accomplished.

    When it comes to our smartphones, the most personal of personal computers, everyone has their favourite feature. And for the enthusiasts among us I suspect that every user also has their own personal line in the sand, that one thing they've come to depend on and refuse to do without.

    For me it's NFC.

    It might be because I'm still holding on to the foolish notion that Canada will somehow get its mobile payments act together, having seen contactless payments work so seamlessly in Hong Kong and Japan. But even without a working Google Wallet app I still find NFC to be extremely useful. Thanks to Android Beam I can share an app, photo or web page with almost any other Android user just by tapping our phones together. Even in 2015 it still feels like the stuff of science fiction, and its one of those increasingly rare tricks that the iPhone can't do.

    Up until a few weeks ago I was hunkering down for a long wait on a pair of OnePlus 2 invites—until I heard that NFC would not be included. On my OnePlus One I had made do for the better part of a year without wireless charging or an OIS camera. But no NFC? No deal. ...
    by Published on 08-18-2015 07:20 AM
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    Yup, I got to try out Samsung's keyboard case at the briefing Howard brought me along to yesterday, the one that will instantly transform your 2015 Galaxy Note 5 into a 2005 Nokia E61. I have to admit that it's a clever (if hideously ugly) accessory—when not in use it snaps onto the other side of a companion backplate behind the phone—but it's something I would expect to find at Pacific Mall more than from the biggest smartphone manufacturer on the planet.

    Samsung is clearly not holding back in the goofy accessories department. But when it comes to devices it's an entirely different story. Especially for the Canadian market. ...
    by Published on 08-13-2015 07:49 AM
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    It's Note 5 reveal day! Woo?

    I have to say that I was a bit surprised at the apparent lack of interest to the leaked press images and specs for Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 (and S6 Edge Plus). Were I a Note user myself I suppose I'd be none too pleased at the prospect of a non-removable battery. Howard seems to be even more dismissive of the Note line; according to him a phablet-sized iPhone has made the Note altogether irrelevant.

    But I can still vividly remember being in Hong Kong (in 2012, I think) and seeing Notes and Note 2s everywhere—the super-sized phone was easy to spot in the hands of kids, moms, dads, grandparents... Everyone seemed to have one. I suspect that for a lot of users Samsung is Android, and for a good couple of years there the Galaxy Note was king among Android phones, if only for its size.

    Truth is, I've always admired the Note series—I've just never used one as my daily driver. Here's why. ...
    by Published on 08-06-2015 07:28 AM
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    What we're looking at here is the back of a prototype Nexus 6, clearly showing an onboard fingerprint sensor below the camera. The sensor was scrapped before launch, perhaps because it would have added to the already-outrageous retail price. But I digress...

    Cut to present day, where there is mounting evidence that fingerprint scanning will indeed be a thing for Nexus in 2015. Other devices already have it—notably the Samsung Galaxy S6—but if Google is indeed adding it to their Nexus line it most likely means wider support for biometric security within Google apps.

    Is this a good or bad thing? I'm honestly not sure. ...
    by Published on 08-05-2015 07:23 AM
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    "For our tech-savvy UGO Wallet users, unfortunately we don't support rooted phones..."

    Riiight, because a user with root access can do all sorts of nefarious things. It's like, someone with admin access on their computer or something...!

    Don't believe they hype, dear reader; mobile payments remain a hot mess in Cana-duh, and UGO Wallet does nothing to change that.

    UGO Wallet's raison-d'être isn't a bad one—lighten your wallet by loading all your loyalty cards onto your phone. When it comes time to use them the app will generate a bar code that can be scanned at the register. Easy. And great for UGO, as they're presumably collecting your spending habits and selling them to third parties.

    Yesterday Bloomberg Business ran a feature on UGO, trumpeting their 50,000-strong user base under the looming shadow of Apple Pay. iPhone users seem quite taken with it; it's currently boasting a 4.5-star average rating on the AppStore. Over on BlackBerry World there's no shortage of praise in the reviews there.

    On Android they've attempted to add mobile payment functionality, and have failed miserably. ...
    by Published on 07-31-2015 07:26 AM
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    So upstart smartphone-maker OnePlus has just shunned Android Police, one of if not the most trusted Android blogs worldwide.

    Around 8pm Eastern Time last night their editorial team got a direct call from the company, informing them that they would have no access to review units, no invites for giveaways and no further communication. It's most likely the result of an angry rant posted on AP earlier that afternoon, calling out OnePlus's marketing as lies.

    All the sources will be posted below. But if you'll indulge me, I'll highlight what I think are the important bits first. ...
    by Published on 07-17-2015 07:05 AM
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    So today I leave on my summer vacation. I'll be posting Your Daily News Round-up later this afternoon, but after that you won't hear from me on these pages again until Tuesday, July 28th—possibly later than that if jet lag gets the better of me.

    I did want to leave you all with something cool to check out while I'm away, a link that I've been saving for just such an occasion. XDA has managed to pull off something fairly spectacular, a worldwide atlas of their users.

    They've collected anecdotal data from literally everywhere on the planet—North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Asia, Australia, New Zealand... It's very much worth having a look at what people are paying for their mobile phones and service in different parts of the world.

    And to get you started, I've copied and pasted the table of contents for your convenience! ...
    by Published on 07-13-2015 06:48 AM
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    Over the weekend Crain's Chicago Business posted a very cool audiovisual tribute to Motorola, the Windy City's hometown tech hero. I can't recall ever seeing anything like this online; you should definitely check it out.

    Fitting for a famous mobile phone maker, the tribute is 100% responsive, and renders perfectly on a phone or tablet. In case you need further enticement to see it for yourself, here are a few fun facts about Moto that you may or may not have known. ...
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