Monday, June 17, 2019

Genius of Apple: Only the language is different

Wherever you go in the world you will find the familiar Apple Store concept with very little variation in stock lines and,...

Apple’s iPhone locking policy

I'VE ALWAYS hated the locking of mobile phones to one carrier. Sure, in many countries, particularly the UK, locked phones supplied under a contract can be extremely cheap. And unlocking of the average phone is simple and costs peanuts; so there are some arguments in favour of locking.

But with the iPhone we have the worst of all worlds in many countries, including the USA and UK. The locked phone is supplied at a discount, as you would expect when signing a 12, 18 or even 24-month contract. Unlike other phones, though, the iPhone cannot be unlocked--unless it is jailbroken, which is not for everyone. More annoyingly, Apple have one chosen partner in every country. While I have been very happy with my O2 contract in Britain and with Vodafone in Greece, I would have liked a choice of carrier. Many would-be iPhone users are put off because they want to stay with their current supplier.Main_safari20081204

With the new iPhone expected mid-year (and the new 3.0 software certain for June) I've got to thinking about the iniquities of the exclusive deals that Apple have made throughout the world. Apple can claim with some justification that they have chosen partners that can provide reliable and universal 3G coverage, but I suspect the main reason for the system is the financial benefit that Apple gets from signing these exclusive deals. In my view it was wrong for a consumer-oriented company such as Apple to go down this route.

In several European countries, France and Greece to my knowledge, locking of phones is either illegal or not normal. So, for instance, I get an unlocked iPhone from Vodafone (official Apple partner) in Greece and I can use this anywhere in the world with a local SIM card. I routinely use my O2 SIM in this phone when I am in the UK. Meanwhile, I have a completely unused (but locked) iPhone which was supplied under the O2 contract. I paid £150 for this phone and this was a complete waste of money.

The fact that I have to have two separate contracts is also a scandal, but this time the finger points at the cellular phone networks rather than at Apple. Roaming charges are exorbitant and, in my case for instance, I could not rely entirely on roaming because I spend large chunks of the year abroad. Hence, I need two separate contracts. I pay a total of £80 combined ($116, €90) a month for my UK and Greek contracts which give me unlimited (fair usage) data downloads and an adequate number of voice minutes and SMS messages.  This is probably not expensive, but it would be nice to have only one number and fair roaming charges on one contract.

I foresee a time when the whole of Europe will be regarded as one area for cellular network purposes. It is geographically smaller than the United States, for instance, yet roaming charges are a fact of life for many Europeans. Those living close to borders--sometimes borders that run through the middle of a town--have to be very careful they don't inadvertently rack up data roaming charges of up to €10 per megabyte or a staggering €10,000 a gigabyte. Thankfully, the EU is doing something about this and caps will be placed on roaming charges. Not before time. 

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Ideal case for the iPhone

One of the attractions of getting a new toy such as the iPhone is exploring the range of accessories. Cases figure high on this list because, like most users, I want maximum protection with maximum ease of use. 

Some cases are just too bulky and yet offer little protection for the screen. Others, such as the rubberised condom style, need to be removed every time you dock the phone. Then there are the slim leather cases that offer style and feel-good factor but, again, offer little protection for the screen.

My Sena Ultra-slim Pouch is made from soft, high-quality leather and is of the slip-on type. It feels good and is a real quality item. The disadvantage is that you have to remove the phone for use, even to take a call--presenting the ever-present danger of dropping the naked phone. It also offers little real protection for the screen. 

My current case of choice is the Griffin Elan Form case which has a removable lower half to enable docking, plus a substantial clear-plastic screen cover that, surprisingly, doesn't make touch input difficult. The outer shell is covered in what I thought was a plastic leather-look but, according to the sales blurb, is actually a real leather coating. It looks good, whatever it is. 

I am also a fan of the Power Support Anti-Glare film for the screen. This is much better, in my opinion, than he crystal cover from the same manufacturer. The anti-glare has a slightly textured surface which does not attract finger marks but makes navigation and touch input more accurate and satisfying. What's more, this is one screen protector that is easy to apply. Getting rid of the air bubbles is easy on the iPhone because the hard glass screen can take more pressure from a credit card, the accepted implement for smoothing. This is one screen cover that actually improves the appearance while vastly improving the tactile feel and preventing smudges.

The anti-glare screen and the harder plastic screen insert of the Griffin case creates a very well-protected phone while input is only slightly impaired. For serious use, it is easy enough to slide off the bottom half of the case and remove the plastic cover. Incase make a similar two-part slider case but it does not have the hard plastic screen cover, thus leaving the phone more vulnerable.

iCloud Desktop: A synchronised workplace on all your computers

Apple’s new iCloud Desktop is a feature of MacOS Sierra that most of us are just beginning to get to grips with. Mike find it is a very useful addition that is worth turning on.

Apple Pay gathers pace in Britain, some high-value buying opportunities

I’m grateful to reader Keith for some background on the success of Apple Pay in the UK. He sent me a useful link to a City AM article which lists all known companies currently prepared to accept Apple Pay transactions. It is clear that the number is growing by the day. While NFC transactions in England (probably also in other parts of the UK) are to rise from the £20 limit to £30 during September, there is good news that certain retailers are prepared to accept higher-value business if the more secure Apple platform is used (as opposed to the normal swiped credit card which is susceptible to use by thieves until stopped). 

London Mac Users’ Group in session

THE MONTHLY meeting of the London Mac Users' Group this evening coincides nicely with the WWDC opening in San Francisco. Almost all LMUG members are now sitting in the basement meeting room of the Hobgoblin pub in Balcombe Street, Marylebone, with their MacBooks on the table in front of them. Thanks to the Group's free wifi, we are all getting a blow-by-blow update of Phil Schiller's conference-opening speech. With all the rumours that abound before an Apple conference we tend to think we know what is about to be announced. This time, however, there are a number of surprises coming up, including the upgraded MacBook Pro range and a clear September date for the release of Snow Leopard. This, incidentally will be launched at a very attractive price of $29 or $49 for the family pack.

MacBook Refresh: Hoping for the ideal travel computer

Three years on, Mike’s early MacBook is showing signs of processor limitations. Should it be replaced with a new, faster MacBook or an even faster, but heavier, MacBook Pro?

Macworld Insider, a snip at $40, all the news that’s fit to print

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