• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 10-12-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    This week Koodo finally joined the ranks of other Canadian carriers in offering its own "roam like home" service; for a daily charge of either $7 or $10 CAD you can access your data bucket in the USA or the rest of the world. And while its uninspired moniker, Easy Roam, isn't so impressive, the list of supported countries definitely is. Plus you can sign up for the service via SMS, like I did above.

    I know what you're thinking: I must really feel like an loser owning this dog of a dual SIM phone, right? I mean, what a waste of money that thing turned out to be! Yeah, not so much...

    Let's do some math on my upcoming winter vacation, to (big surprise) Hong Kong and Japan. We'll be going to Osaka first and spending 9 nights there. Using Easy Roam for those 9 nights would cost my girlfriend and I $90 each, or $180 for the both of us. With local taxes that comes to a total of $203.40 CAD. But if we rent a WiFi hotspot like we've done in the past, we would instead pay only $134 USD, or about $167 CAD, with no additional taxes (see option 3 here). More importantly, that hotspot rental comes with an extra 9 GB of LTE data to share between us.

    Granted, there is the hassle of carrying an extra gadget around and keeping it charged, and also staying within range of it—if we split up on separate shopping trips then only the person with the hotspot will be connected. However, the numbers don't lie: for two people in this scenario, renting a hotspot is definitely cheaper.

    When it comes to Hong Kong there's no contest. For $118 HKD—the equivalent of just $19 CAD—what I believe to be the world's best tourist SIM gives each of us 5 GB of LTE data over 8 days. Using Easy Roam for those same 8 days would cost more than 4 times as much!

    So why did I even bother activating Easy Roam at all? Convenience, mostly. I can think of at least two additional scenarios where it would come in very handy. The first is transiting through an airport or a layover where there's no free WiFi. It happens, sometimes. And Easy Roam would come in very handy at a destination where there's no good local SIM solution—like if we don't feel like buying a pair of BlackBerries just to use in Bermuda, for example.

    It's great that all six brands of Canada's Big Three carriers now offer a more affordable way of roaming internationally. Just know that they're not necessarily the best value when travelling abroad.

    Source: Mobile Syrup

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    by Published on 10-05-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Interested in one of the new Pixel phones? Make sure you know what you're getting into; in eliminating the 3.5mm audio jack Google has chosen to ape one of the iPhone's worst features, while providing only minimal protection from water damage. And, like Apple, they've once again taken the high road on pricing, asking $1,289 CAD for their most expensive model. But this is the same story as last year, and in late 2017 appears to be the cost of entry to join the fight in the war on smartphone bezels.

    The big differentiator in hardware for Google is again, like last year, going forward with a single rear-facing camera vs. Apple's dual-lens setup. The Pixel 2's camera tech does look promising, and I wouldn't fault anyone making a purchase for that feature alone. As for the fabled "pure Android experience" I'm pretty sure Google gave up on that when they introduced their Now Launcher back in 2013. The exclusive-to-Pixel Google Lens visual search only continues that trend—though it may be available more widely at a later date.

    Here's what I found weird about yesterday's event... Granted, I was unable to watch it live and had to settle instead for The Verge's 19-minute supercut after the fact. I was nonetheless surprised at how little overall time was spent on the phones. Your home, it seems, is the new frontier that Amazon, Apple and Google are all simultaneously trying to conquer. I'm personally not so thrilled at the prospect of having an always-listening device in the place where I sleep and sh**, but that's just me.

    As for the other gear, I think the Clips camera is an intriguing alternative to GoPro. But I don't have particularly high hopes for the automatic translation feature of the Pixel Buds. Raw technology is no match for the subtle nuance of language.

    What are your thoughts on yesterday's event?

    Links: The Verge (1) (2) (3)

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    by Published on 09-22-2017 06:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Way back in December of 2013 I bought a Google-branded inductive charger for my Nexus 4. The technology immediately won me over; there was no fast-charging technology to speak of at the time, and thus no drawbacks to dropping my phone on a charging mat beside my desktop computer. Having my phone always juiced up and ready to go was pretty great.

    Around this time IKEA started selling a floor lamp with an inductive charging pad built-in, and at least one coffee shop near me had wireless charging embedded in its counters. As even the mighty Samsung got behind the nascent Qi charging standard, a future with less wires looked increasingly possible. People were even talking about inductive bowls that you could dump all of your electronics in to charge as you walked through the threshold of your home.

    And then fast charging happened. Wireless charging never really went away, of course, but for me it became harder and harder to justify a slow wireless charge over a wired one that could get my phone battery to 100% in about an hour.

    Cut to the present day, where the new iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X all support the Qi inductive charging standard. Again, inductive charging never went away, but with Apple supporting it I'd expect to see a lot more inductive chargers in coffee shops across North America. And soon.

    The new iPhones also support fast charging, but only through additional accessories—namely, a USB-C to Lightning cable and separate 29 watt brick. I honestly think that wireless charging is going to end up being the bigger deal, whether you're an iPhone user or not. I'd even go so far as to predict that next year will see a renewed interest in Qi-compatible Android phones.

    In the meantime, here's a question for iOS enthusiasts: which are you more excited about, wireless charging or fast wired charging?

    Links: IKEA, The Verge, Wikipedia

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    by Published on 08-28-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Last October I wrote about the egregious outright price of the Pixel XL in Canada—over $1,100 CAD for the 128 GB model. Midway through 2017 it seems that $1,000 USD is fast becoming the norm for a stretched display over a flagship phone. And if you happen to live in Australia and are a fan of the Galaxy Note series Samsung is expecting you to pony up $1,500 AUD for the latest version of that device.

    It's not just an Android problem, either... Apple is expected to début its 10th anniversary iPhone with a price tag in excess of $1,000 USD and, according to at least one survey, prospective buyers seem fine with that.

    I suppose an argument can be made that smartphone OEMs are merely passing on the R&D costs that make this product cycle's record-breaking screen-to-body ratios possible. But consider also that these same phones are in some ways downgrades from what came before. The Galaxy Note 8 has a smaller battery than the Note 7 (presumably so that it won't explode), Andy Rubin's high-priced Essential Phone has no waterproofing and neither it, the iPhone 8 or this year's Pixel series from Google will have a headphone jack.

    With these compromises in mind I have to ask: Are we actually getting a reasonable value from this year's near-bezel-less flagships?

    Links: 9to5Mac, reddit

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    by Published on 08-25-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Irony is, the bezels on this image are YUGE!

    Nevertheless, we should be grateful for a thoughtful redditor's recent contribution to r/Android, comparing the differences between 2017's "bezel-less" smartphones so far. There are some notable omissions... Xiaomi's Mi Mix kicked off this craze last year but was never intended for the North American market, so that's fine. But the Essential Phone should definitely be here. It's also odd that the as-yet unreleased iPhone 8 is present, but the similarly-leaked Pixel 2 XL is not.

    I think that the general idea here was to compare the bezels on specific phones and their forebears, specifically the Galaxy Note 8 vs. Note 7 and iPhone 8 vs. the 7 Plus. It also seems like the author is trying to decide between an LG V30 and G6. And for some reason the OnePlus 3 has been added to the comparison of bottom bezels and phone widths.

    To find out what other redditors are saying see the link directly below.

    Source: reddit

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    by Published on 08-15-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    A story published in yesterday's news round-up is worthy of a little more scrutiny... according to TechCrunch, sales of Snap, Inc.'s camera-equipped Spectacles are falling hard, and fast.

    In their first full sales quarter fewer than 64,000 Spectacles were sold. If that doesn't sound like much here's the really bad news: Q2 was even worse, with sales of only 41,500 units—a drop of roughly 35%. Snap recently started selling Spectacles through Amazon.com and Harrod's in the UK, but I don't foresee either of these entities reversing the company's fortunes anytime soon. Amazon, if anything, will just enable easier returns.

    One reason for the failure of this product has to be the obvious privacy issue; I just don't think our society is ready for people wearing cameras on their faces. It's reminiscent of my feelings about Google Glass—I was really excited about it's AR potential until I encountered someone wearing it in New York City; with the realization that I was probably being recorded I suddenly wasn't so interested anymore.

    There's also the fashion angle, or in the case of Spectacles the lack thereof. Imagine if, like Android Wear, Snap put aside their single, in-house design and instead partnered with established eyewear brands like Ray-Ban or Oakley. This way, Snap users could use the technology with their own sunglass style. As an added bonus, there would be a sales channel for Snap already in place.

    Or maybe Spectacles are just a bad idea altogether. What do you think?

    Source: TechCrunch

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    by Published on 08-10-2017 06:45 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    OpenSignal has been very, er... "open" about sharing their data on network speeds around the world; they even have their own speed-testing app, called Meteor. But what about the app that people actually use?

    I've been using Ookla's Speedtest.net for years to test my broadband connection through my desktop browser; ditto for for the Android app. Perhaps because of OpenSignal, Ookla has just published a Global Speed Index of their own.

    The results have been gathered from more than 6,000 servers in 190 countries. The good news? Canada ranked highest in North America, with an average download speed of 35.19 Mbps. The bad news? We're 13th worldwide. The really bad news? High prices, no unlimited data plans, lack of compelling MVNOs... Shall I go on?

    The United States ranked 43rd overall, with an average download speed of 23.05 Mbps. Here are the countries in the top ten worldwide:

    1. Norway - 52.59 Mbps
    2. Netherlands - 46.94 Mbps
    3. Hungary - 46.24 Mbps
    4. Singapore - 45.99 Mbps
    5. Malta - 44.84 Mbps
    6. Australia - 44.64 Mbps
    7. United Arab Emirates - 43.98 Mbps
    8. South Korea - 42.09 Mbps
    9. Belgium - 37.81 Mbps
    10. Iceland - 36.84 Mbps

    Source: Speedtest via Mobile Syrup

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    by Published on 08-02-2017 08:30 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    Three years ago this month I road-tested my first smartwatch, the first Android Wear wearable from LG. I bought it on a whim, sight unseen, immediately after watching the webcast of the live keynote for the launch of Android Wear. On a similar whim some six months later I bought an original Pebble on clearance at my local Best Buy. I stuck with that through the launch of the Pebble Time in mid-2015, gave up for a while, came back to the superior Pebble Time Steel and remained a loyal Pebbler until the sale of assets to Fitbit last December. Then I returned to Android Wear, but only devices made by traditional watchmakers. And now, thanks to Gadgetbridge, I find myself reunited with my collection of Pebbles.

    I've never owned an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, but thanks to Howard I did get to spend a weekend with an original Galaxy Gear way back in the winter of 2013. All this is only to say that I know a thing or two about the device category. So here's what I think of it, three years on. ...
    by Published on 07-24-2017 06:45 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis



    This chart says it all, really. And according to Forrester Research (shared by Recode), the world's already-meager market share of tablets has actually started to decline. Why? Phablets, probably...

    There was a time when, for me, a 7 inch tablet was a great companion to a 5 inch phone with a small-ish battery—indeed, a pair of Nexus 5s and 7s were essential travel gear for the girlfriend and I in 2013 and 2014. But in the years since bigger phone batteries and screens have seen our tablets stay at home. I still use one around the house but it's definitely a luxury, and not something I plan on upgrading anytime soon.

    Forrester's research asserts that the (relative) popularity of tablets in developed markets is only because phone screens, in aggregate, are still on the small side here. That's expected to change, though, as larger screens become the norm.

    Unfortunately it looks like Steve Jobs' vision of the iPad as the world's dominant post-PC computer hasn't really come to pass.

    Source: Recode

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    by Published on 07-06-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    I'm hoping that this post will be of some use to anyone looking to purchase a OnePlus device, now or in the future. As an online-only retailer here in the Americas, there's currently no way to hold one of their products in your hands before you commit to buying it—unless, perhaps, you live near New York City and can attend one of their launch events. To put worried would-be buyers at ease, OnePlus offers a 15-day "no hassle" return, which I got to test on my recent OnePlus 5 order.

    The first step in the return process is to create a service request on the OnePlus support site. If you want a refund you're asked to include some details as to why, but this is optional if I remember correctly. Anyway, almost immediately I received an email confirmation of my service request, and a few hours later I got another email from a company called FutureTel, a Canadian authorized service centre for OnePlus. Their message included an RMA number and a FedEx mailer, so all I had to do was pack up my phone, attach the mailer to the box and drop it off for shipping.

    And here's where we get to the only issues with my return experience. While these FutureTel people were inspecting my phone I received two separate and cryptic emails from OnePlus that read like this:

    Hello Friend,

    This is to inform you that your RMA has now been cancelled.
    This was immediately followed by a FutureTel email with a new RMA number and, somewhat distressingly, another mailing label. I contacted someone from OnePlus through their support chat portal, and was told that this was merely a procedural hiccup, and that FutureTel was still in the process of inspecting my device.

    The process wrapped up yesterday, with separate notices from OnePlus and PayPal that my refund had been issued; when all was said and done the entire return process took about 8 days. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a no-stress return, but "no-hassle" seems fair. I have heard that U.S. returns are subject to a 10% restocking fee if there's nothing wrong with the phone (ie. if the user just doesn't like it), so keep that in mind if you're planning to order.

    As for the OnePlus 5 itself, I don't think I can recommend it. The manufacturing defects that I experienced with mine, along with the reports I've read about the upside-down screen and even upside-down audio (?) makes me think that OnePlus cut too many corners in the making of what ended up being their most expensive device yet.

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    by Published on 06-29-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis



    Ten years ago today the first-generation iPhone went on sale in the USA, changing smartphones forever. However... As this post will end up being the 3,390th front page entry on these forums, the undying Nokia fanboy within me must insist on observing this auspicious number with an excerpt from a fantastic book about the Finnish phone-maker, and how it all went wrong for them.

    Nokia had little to worry about in the summer of 2007; their N95 was a triumph, and their roster of Eseries and Nseries smartphones was deep. Anecdotally, yours truly imported an E61i in July of that year, and stuck with S60 until switching to Android in late 2010. That's where we pick up the story, with Stephen Elop newly-installed as Nokia's CEO, and the growing realization that Symbian, Nokia's smartphone OS, is doomed. Something had to be done, and soon...

    Elop knew his decision couldn’t be based solely upon trends in market share. Android devices were stealing huge chunks of the market, but they were not taking commensurate shares of profits. At the end of 2010 Apple had less than 4 per cent of the total market, but by one estimate the company claimed an astonishing 44 per cent of all mobile phone manufacturers’ operating profit. Samsung’s sales were increasing, but they had a relatively low 10 per cent gross operating margin. Here was the lesson: going to Android could potentially help sales, but there was no evidence it would help profit.

    But there was an even more serious problem with Android, and that was Samsung. Executives carefully studied the dominant manufacturer in the Android ecosystem and didn’t like what they saw. Nokia had become swollen and lethargic while Samsung was lean and agile. Over the past several years Samsung had to compete in the Android market with speed, price and efficiency as Nokia’s similar qualities slowly decomposed. To compete in the Android ecosystem a manufacturer needed to be good. Now the South Koreans could take a product from an idea in a developer’s head to the hands of a consumer faster, cheaper and more efficiently than the Finns. That great efficiency advantage Nokia had created after the mid-1990s crisis had lasted almost exactly a decade as they had expected, but now it was gone.

    “It was impossible for Nokia to choose Android,” one insider says. “Samsung led the Android market so Nokia would be a follower. We were still thinking big, like about regaining a 40 per cent market share.”

    “We were scared of Samsung,” another former executive confirms. “We couldn’t compete directly against them in the Android ecosystem.”
    The infamous Burning Platform Memo would be published a few months later.

    Nokia's fear of Samsung, however justified it may have been, demonstrates that they had already lost the fight. They ended 2010 with a 37.6% share of the worldwide smartphone market, but as we all know, that wouldn't last long.

    Source: The Decline and Fall of Nokia

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    by Published on 06-27-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    Here's a fan render of the forthcoming Galaxy Note 8 from Samsung. Evan Blass reports in VentureBeat that it will be the Korean conglomerate's first dual-camera smartphone, with a Snapdragon 835 processor (or Exynos equivalent), a generous 6 GB of RAM and a 6.3 inch AMOLED edge-to-edge screen, at an 18.5:9 aspect ratio.

    It will also retail for a thousand Euros. So in that regard, it will share the same problem as other 2017 flagships: they're all just too expensive.

    This troubling trend first came to my attention with the Google Pixel late last year, and has continued with the Galaxy S8/S8 Plus and Andy Rubin's Essential Phone. Even OnePlus is hopping on-board—the deluxe $539 USD OnePlus 5 is only a bargain when you compare it to everything else at the high end of the market.

    It also doesn't help that most people in North America are still getting their hardware financed or subsidized by their carrier. I have a friend with a teenage daughter who's been begging for more data, but when I told him about a decent prepaid offer he couldn't take it, because she's locked into a contract until the end of the year. In other words, she (more likely her dad) is trading years of affordable service for a one-time discount on an overpriced phone.

    This "kill the bezel" trend is at least part of the problem, enough so that it's interfering with what I still believe is the inevitable commoditization of smartphone hardware. Maybe it's time to stop chasing specs and start putting value above all else.

    Sources: BGR, VentureBeat

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    by Published on 06-23-2017 07:15 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis



    Taking a break from the OnePlus hype, here's something completely different: a post mortem by a developer for Ubuntu Phone listing their reasons for why that platform failed. Of course you could argue that it was doomed from the start; if BlackBerry and Windows Phone couldn't compete against Android and iOS, what chance could a smartphone version of Ubuntu possibly have?

    It turns out that Canonical, Inc. only ever wanted 1% of the mobile market, and obviously failed to even capture that. Here are some explanations:

    1. It didn’t target a profitable niche.

    It started with the promise of a super-phone but the reality ended up being a couple of cheap handsets and tablets from a Spanish OEM. Pretty hard for Linux nerds to get excited about that.

    2. Bad user experience and skewed priorities.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: nobody really cares about plugging their smartphone into a desktop monitor and keyboard.

    3. The devices were too hard to get.

    I can attest to this. I once inquired about Ubuntu Phone at Sincere House, the mall in Hong Kong devoted entirely to mobile phones. No one there had the slightest idea what I was talking about.

    4. Focusing on irrelevant tech.

    See #2 above.

    5. Life as an app developer was too hard.

    Ubuntu Phone had its own SDK, with no abilities to cross-compile from Android, iOS, Windows, even X11. Oh, and apparently it also broke frequently when updated, sometimes for weeks on end.

    If you're a desktop Linux user like myself, or just want some dirt on the smartphone OS that never was, you can read the full story below.

    Source: LIEBERBIBER

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    by Published on 06-16-2017 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    For mobile users in Canada the biggest news story of the week, perhaps the year, is a new decision by Canada's Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to free users from carrier locks on their devices starting December 1st, 2017. Even better, effective this date new users who are unhappy with their carrier will be able to return their hardware and walk away at no cost, so long as they've used less than half of the data bucket on their monthly plan.

    It's not hard to see what the CRTC is trying to do here, to force Canada's Big Three carriers to compete more honestly on the strength of their networks, and hopefully price. I don't actually think that the price thing is going to play out like the CRTC wants it to; if recent history has taught us anything we know that carriers will always find a way to make up for lost revenue at the expense of their customers. In other words, come December 1st plan prices will almost certainly go up.

    And while it's probably out of the question for the CRTC to regulate plan prices, they could perhaps regulate data overages.

    Currently our Wireless Code mandates that carriers notify a customers when their data overages reach $100, and the customer must give their express consent to go over that limit. The unfortunate fact about that is data overages have gotten so expensive in this country that it's way too easy to reach the $100 threshold. I'll use two currently desirable Big Three plans as examples.

    If you hadn't heard, Public Mobile is once again offering a promotion on their 90 day prepaid plan that effectively gives you 4 GB of data per month for $40. Since it's a prepaid plan you won't be dinged for extra data; you have to purchase it yourself in increments of 200 MB or 1 GB. But that extra 1 GB will cost you a whopping $30. On a $40 / 4 GB plan that just doesn't make sense.

    Or take Koodo's Québec-only limited time offer of 6 GB for $49, available to anyone anywhere in Canada who's willing to jump through a few extra hoops. If you go over that 6 GB data allotment Koodo will charge you $5 per additional 100 MB, or an even more egregious $50 per GB!

    Three years ago the standard data overage charge was a mere $10 per GB; what else but a Big Three cash grab can explain the skyrocketing rates? We need an intervention to stop this madness, and I'm hoping that the CRTC is up for the task...

    Links: CRTC (1) (2)

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    by Published on 06-15-2017 07:45 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps



    This isn't going to end well...

    I've nothing but respect for XDA recognized developer topjohnwu, but brazenly tweeting Google to boast that you've thwarted their tampering detection for Android is kinda dumb. I mean, it's fantastic that he was able to do it, just dumb to brag about it.

    I first wrote about topjohnwu's Magisk last month, and have been relying on it ever since. It's killer feature, Magisk Hide, does what no other Android rooting solution has been able to: hide root from SafetyNet-enabled apps. So Android Pay now works with root; ditto for other banking apps, Netflix, Nintendo games, and so on.

    The first hurdle for Magisk came two weeks ago, when the Magisk Manager app was pulled from the Play Store, not a huge deal because the flashable zip file—which includes the Magisk Manager apk—remains on XDA. Now a SafetyNet update seems to have broken Magisk Hide, but the issue is easily solved by updating to a beta version of Magisk. The sole developer of this incredible effort took to XDA to assure users:

    I personally think there really is no effective method to prevent magiskhide to work, unless there exist some ways that's beyond my knowledge; they add more checks, and I hide more. Since Magisk is running as root but the SafetyNet checks are not, we are more privileged than the detection method, and as a result we have MUCH more control over what the SN process can see.
    I don't doubt any of this, but I really hope that topjohnwu's Twitter braggadocio doesn't draw the ire of Google and end up ruining Magisk for everyone.

    Sources: @topjohnwu on Twitter, XDA (1) (2)

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    by Published on 06-12-2017 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps



    Here's another bombshell from WWDC last week: iOS 11 brings with it a brand new file format for storing photos. It's called the High Efficiency Image Format and uses the unwieldy suffix you see above. It's a new standard developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and is used in video compression as well.

    I found a helpful side-by-side visual comparison of HEIF and other file formats on this Nokia Github page. While I'm not seeing the claimed 50% smaller file sizes for still images, HEIF does very well against animated GIFs. So there's an obvious benefit here for Apple's proprietary Live Photos.

    But here is also where HEIF gets a bit contentious. The HEIF image format is also part of a new video codec called HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) which will compete against another video codec called AV1. Whereas HEVC support requires licensing from no less than four patent pools, AV1 will be royalty free. Perhaps because of this AV1 already has broad support from companies including Adobe, Amazon, AMD, ARM, Broadcom, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix and Nvidia.

    How you feel about open standards versus user experience will very likely influence your opinions on HEIF. But hopefully our apps, browsers and desktop streaming boxes will be able to support both.

    Sources: JPEGmini Blog, Nokia Tech Github, XDA

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    by Published on 06-09-2017 07:45 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis



    Smartphone OEMs are winning the battle against smartphone bezels, it seems. With the Mi Mix leading the charge, LG and Samsung turned a regional skirmish into a global campaign. Even the inventor of Android himself has joined the fight, reclaiming almost all of the top bezel for his Essential Phone.

    Later this year Apple will, with their 10th anniversary release, attempt the impossible—to put a fingerprint scanner underneath the screen of the iPhone 8. What you see above is only a fan render; note the presence of a headphone jack. #Courage. Anyway, Samsung wasn't able to accomplish this feat on their Galaxy flagships this year, and according to SamMobile they've have given up on it for the forthcoming Note 8 as well. But, as 9to5Mac reports, Apple has already filed patents for a Touch ID-enabled screen, and appears to be proceeding full steam ahead.

    Here are two reasons why I think this is a bad idea.

    The screen of your smartphone is simultaneously its most important and vulnerable component. If your screen cracks to the point where it is non-responsive there won't be any alternative way to authenticate yourself. It's possible that your 2017 flagship might also have an iris scanner, and it's also possible that your screen will be damaged to the point where that sub-screen technology won't work properly, either.

    There's another, potentially even bigger issue. Since your cracked screen now has an embedded proprietary fingerprint scanner you will likely have no other option than to get it fixed at an authorized repair center. Replacing a smartphone screen isn't especially difficult if you have the proper parts and tools; third-party repair shops have been doing brisk business with butter-fingered users for years. But Apple especially has been fighting right to repair legislation across the USA, and a Touch ID-enabled screen would give them an unfair advantage in winning that war as well.

    Links: 9to5Mac, SamMobile

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    by Published on 06-08-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    OpenSignal has published their semi-annual "state of LTE" report, with data from more than half a million devices across some 75 countries. The graph above is likely the one that you'll be most interested in, ranking average 4G download speeds by country. The top 10 are as follows:

    Singapore: 45.62 Mbps
    South Korea: 43.46 Mbps
    Hungary: 42.61 Mbps
    Norway: 41.36 Mbps
    Netherlands: 38.36 Mbps
    Luxembourg: 35.44 Mbps
    Croatia: 35.19 Mbps
    New Zealand: 34.91 Mbps
    Bulgaria: 34.07 Mbps
    Australia: 33.76 Mbps

    And if you were wondering what speeds were like closer to home:

    Canada (13th): 30.58 Mbps
    USA (59th): 14.99 Mbps

    For further insights see the link directly below. And if you disagree with the data you can make it more accurate for their next report by downloading the OpenSignal app for Android or iOS.

    Source: OpenSignal

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    by Published on 06-07-2017 07:00 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis



    The International Data Corporation (IDC) has published some stats for wearable sales in the first quarter of this year, which I caught on Liliputing. The big story? Fitbit has been overtaken in sales and market share by both Apple and Xiaomi. This doesn't necessarily mean that Fitbit has fallen out of favour with its user base, but might indicate that the market for fitness trackers is at the saturation point.

    According to the numbers Apple and Samsung have both shown impressive year over year growth, at 64.1 and 90.8% respectively. Xiaomi's dominant market share certainly caught me by surprise, until I realized that their cheap and cheerful Mi Band 2 is available through Amazon Prime in Canada and the USA. Also of interest is the complete absence of any specific device running Android Wear. A breakdown of market share by wearable OS would have been instructive here.

    To put wearable shipments in perspective, IDC reports that Samsung shipped 79.2 million phones in the same quarter as Apple's 3.6 million smartwatches and Xiaomi's 3.6 million fitness trackers. In other words, the addressable market for these things is still pretty small.

    Links: IDC (1) (2), Liliputing, Mi Band 2 on Amazon (1) (2)

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    by Published on 06-05-2017 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers



    So the Computex trade show just wrapped up in Taipei, Taiwan, and if you believe Engadget the age of the embedded SIM is upon us. The world's four biggest PC vendors—Lenovo, HP, Dell and ASUS—have all pledged to build Windows machines (presumably laptops) with eSIM support. It's a bit odd if you think about it; while an embedded SIM makes sense in a tight space like a smartwatch a laptop would has plenty of room for a traditional SIM card. But apparently Intel is developing an eSIM that provides a persistent gigabit data connection over LTE.

    So are eSIMs inevitable for smartphones as well? I sure hope not. My problem with embedded SIMs is that they force the user to cede control of their data connection to someone else.

    For the last decade or so every mobile phone I've owned has been free of carrier locks—meaning that right out of the box I could insert my SIM card of choice, and as long as my carrier's bands were supported I'd be good to go. As an added bonus I've also been able to remove said SIM card and gift or sell my hardware to someone else when I'm done with it, so that they can do the same.

    With an eSIM the user has to select and/or change their carrier through software, which doesn't sound like a big deal but is nonetheless an additional barrier between you and your connection. A software interface gives a third party the power to block a carrier or even a specific plan from your electronic property. At best an eSIM provides multiple, competing interests a means to make your device worse. Don't believe me? Look no further than the Apple SIM; when it launched in 2014 AT&T used it to lock users to that network, while Verizon banned it altogether. That dream of having carriers competing to give you a data connection didn't exactly pan out.

    It might be a minor inconvenience having to deal with APNs, SIM card trays and ejector tools, but I'm still a big fan of physical SIMs. In fact, I'd take dual-SIM support over an eSIM any day of the week.

    Links: Engadget
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