Sunday, November 17, 2019

Convergence means iPhone

Tomtom-iphone-app TOMTOM'S announcement of an iPhone navigation app and an in-car kit is proof if it were needed that convergence is alive and well. And everything seems to be converging on the iPhone, the world in your pocket. Manufacturers of gadgets of all descriptions, from pocket calculators to in-car navigators will be examining their marketing plans and asking themselves if people really want a dozen and one different bits of kit, every one with its own charger and accessories, when the iPhone can do everything just as well. 


In the past couple of years we've seen convergence come to television and video. More and more people are using computers such as the Mac Mini as a media server and the television is likely to become nothing more than a big monitor. There is a general tendency for fewer devices to do more things and to combine all these different facilities in one easy-to-use interface. 

So TomTom's iPhone plans will send a shiver through the boardrooms of rival navigator hardware companies; and we doubt it will do much to improve the sale of TomTom's own hardware. For occasional use, the iPhone makes eminent sense as a navigator.

Marcial: Apple shines, no matter who’s in charge

INTERESTING analysis of Apple with or without Steve Jobs on Yahoo Business today. The article, by Gene Marcial, argues that Apple now has a very strong presence, spearheaded by the MacBook, iPhone and iPod, and a solid management team that could withstand even the departure of Steve Jobs. The confirmation that he will return to work before the end of June is seen as icing on the cake. Analysts are now bullish on the prospects for Apple Inc and, of course, the continuation of the old 3G iPhone model at bargain prices will do nothing to dent sales. 

Apple tablet to be new MacBook

by Michael Evans

RENAMING the unibody aluminium MacBook as the MacBook Pro 13 is a logical and welcome step. Since the launch of the unibody machines it has been obvious that the 13-in model had more in common with the Pro range than with the old polycarbonate white or black MacBook. 

But I believe there is more to this can meets the eye and I am surprised none of the other industry watchers have made the connection. The current white MacBook is clearly coming to the end of its life and I believe it will be pensioned off some time in the next twelve months. 

This leaves the coast clear for the re-cycling of the MacBook name. What better moniker for the 10-in touch-screen not-a-netbook tablet that everyone agrees Apple are working on? 

iPhone 3.0 OS available June 17

THE NEW updated operating system for the iPhone will be available for download free from the morning of June 17. iPod Touch users will be asked to pay $9.99.

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.

Billion apps on target

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WE'RE INDEBTED to TechChrunch for news that the App Store will clock up one billion downloads sometime later today (April 22). The time target appears to be moving a bit, depending on the rates of download, but the best current estimate is that it will happen in the very early hours of the morning Pacific Time. That means it should happen early evening here in Greece. By any standards this is a wonderful success for Apple and just underlines the popularity of the iPhone throughout the world.

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. 

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.

iPhone wishlist

After several months with the iPhone 3G I am still amazed by the utility of this device. It does almost everything well and provides hours of entertainment. There are one of two shortcomings, however.  One is the lack of cut-and-paste. We have been waiting for this to be added in the last two software updates, but it seems to be low down on Apple's list. 

The second problem is the absence of multi-tasking (except in relation to phone and iPod functions). I seem to spend a lot of time waiting for my frequently-used applications (such as OmniFocus, Bloomberg, Splash Money) to load. Switching frequently between applications is a pain because the current application must close and the new one must open. Having been used to multi-tasking on my old Treo 750 (with Windows Mobile) I miss the advantage.  

However, by far the biggest improvement would be the addition of support for an external keyboard. This could take the form of a small, foldable device similar to those available for PDAs and many phones. Or a bluetooth link to the existing Apple bluetooth keyboard would be ideal. This lightweight aluminium keyboard is small and packable and would perfectly complement the iPhone 3G equipped with a simple prop stand.

Monkey Glands Extend iPhone Use

After two weeks with my new iPhone 3G I agree with other commentators about the limited battery life. A day out and about and I'm down to the last 10% of power. In fairness to Apple, the iPhone is just so handy and useful that I am using it for far longer than any previous phone or PDA. It's a fully-fledged computer, not just a phone. And my old Treo 750 wasn't much better on battery life if I'm being honest.

I am currently testing an auxilliary battery which plugs into the iPhone and can give up to two full charges. The small and neat Power Monkey, which looks nothing like a monkey, is proving to be a valuable addition to my portable arsenal. There are a number of similar devices such as the 3GJuice and the Kensington but on paper the Power monkey has the highest power capacity. It is British designed and you can see details at PowerTraveller UK.

Although the monkey is expensive at £65 it does come with an array of connectors for many mobile devices and a quality carry case. A bonus is a solar-panel charger so, in theory, you can have power wherever you go. I won't hold my breath for solar charging performance in Britain, but I am looking forward to trying out the device when I get back to Athens in October.