Archive for the 'iPhone' Category

iPhone5 Preview

[link] Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Mmmm… 50mm macro lens!

That “Apple Tax”

[link] Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Horse sense from Jean-Louis Gassée

Following last week’s verdict against Samsung, the kommentariat have raised the specter of an egregious new Apple Tax, one that Apple will levy on other smartphone makers who will have no choice but to pass the burden on to you. The idea is this: Samsung’s loss means it will now have to compete against Apple with its dominant hand — a lower price tag — tied behind its back. This will allow Apple to exact higher prices for its iPhones (and iPads) and thus inflict even more pain and suffering on consumers.

There seems to be a moral aspect, here, as if Apple should be held to a higher standard. Last year, Apple and Nokia settled an IP “misunderstanding” that also resulted in a “Tax”…but it was Nokia that played the T-Man role: Apple paid Nokia more than $600M plus an estimated $11.50 per iPhone sold. Where were the handwringers who now accuse Apple of abusing the patent system when the Nokia settlement took place? Where was the outrage against the “evil”, if hapless, Finnish company? (Amusingly, observers speculate that Nokia has made more money from these IP arrangements than from selling its own Lumia smartphones.)

Patent absurdity exposed at last

[link] Sunday, July 1st, 2012

This morning’s Observer column about Richard Posner’s landmark ruling.

What brings Posner to mind this Sunday morning, however, is not his views on obesity but on intellectual property. You may have noticed that in the last few years the world’s biggest technology companies have become lavish patrons of the legal profession. Apple, Google, Samsung, HTC, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, Amazon and others have being suing one another in courts around the globe, alleging that they are infringing one another’s patents. The resulting bonanza for lawyers has long passed the point of insanity, but up to now the world’s courts seem powerless to make the litigants see sense. As a result, judges find themselves allocated the role of pawns in what are effectively business negotiations between global companies.

Until now. What happened is that Posner, in an unusual move, got himself assigned to a lower court to hear a case in which Apple was suing Google (which had purchased Motorola in order to get its hands on the phone company’s patent portfolio) over alleged infringement of Apple’s smartphone patents. Posner listened to the lawyers and then threw out the case. But what was really dramatic was the way he eviscerated the legal submissions. At one point, for example, Apple claimed that Google was infringing one of its patents on the process of unlocking a phone by swiping the screen. “Apple’s argument that a tap is a zero-length swipe,” said Posner, “is silly. It’s like saying that a point is a zero-length line.”

The real cost of the smartphone revolution

[link] Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

This morning’s Observer column.

For many years, the most assiduous provider of data about the ongoing revolution has been Mary Meeker, an industry analyst who once worked for Morgan Stanley, the investment bank that acted as lead underwriter for the Netscape IPO in August 1995 (and thereby triggered the first internet boom). She began making an annual conference presentation, “The Internet Report”, which acquired legendary status in the industry because it distilled from the froth some elements of reality.

Ms Meeker is now a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms, but she has not abandoned her old habits. Last week she presented her latest annual report – now labelled “Internet Trends” – at the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital conference in California.

It’s a whopping 112-slide presentation, which bears serious contemplation. Buried within it are some startling numbers…

The dominance of Apple’s iOS

[link] Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Source: Business Insider

The new Digital Divide

[link] Friday, January 6th, 2012

From today’s NYTimes.

The world’s congested mobile airwaves are being divided in a lopsided manner, with 1 percent of consumers generating half of all traffic. The top 10 percent of users, meanwhile, are consuming 90 percent of wireless bandwidth.

Arieso, a company in Newbury, England, that advises mobile operators in Europe, the United States and Africa, documented the statistical gap when it tracked 1.1 million customers of a European mobile operator during a 24-hour period in November.

The gap between extreme users and the rest of the population is widening, according to Arieso. In 2009, the top 3 percent of heavy users generated 40 percent of network traffic. Now, Arieso said, these users pump out 70 percent of the traffic.

Michael Flanagan, the chief technology officer at Arieso, said the study did not produce a more precise profile of extreme users. But the group, he said, was probably diverse, with a mix of business users gaining access to the Internet over a 3G network while traveling, and individuals with generous or unlimited mobile data packages watching videos, the main cause of the excess traffic.

Interesting data. At the moment, only about 13 per cent of the world’s 6.1 billion cellphones are smartphones, according to Ericsson, the leading maker of mobile network equipment, but the rate exceeds 30 percent in larger markets like the United States, Germany and Britain. My (informal) guess, based purely on observing those around me in the street and on trains, is that the proportion of smartphones is much higher than that in the UK.

The increasing penetration of smartphones is a one-way street — and, as Jonathan Zittrain, Tim Wu and others have pointed out — the destination it’s heading towards is not necessarily an attractive one in terms of freedom and innovation.

As the NYT report puts it:

The more powerful phones are rapidly replacing the simpler, less voracious devices in many countries, raising traffic levels and pressure on operators to keep pace. In countries like Sweden and Finland, smartphones now account for more than half of all mobile phones … About 35 percent of Finns also use mobile laptop modems and dongles, or modems in a USB stick; one operator, Elisa, offers unlimited data plans for as little as 5 euros, or $6.40, a month.

As a result, Finns consume on average 1 gigabyte of wireless data a month over an operator’s network, almost 10 times the European average. As more consumers buy smartphones, the level of mobile data consumption and congestion will rise in other countries.

Technology: a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating photographic art

[link] Sunday, December 4th, 2011

The Observer asked me to write the introduction to a feature about digital cameras. This is how it begins…

The strange thing about photography is that although it’s been revolutionised by digital technology, at heart it’s the same medium that entranced Louis Daguerre, Eugène Atget and André Kertész, to name just three of its early masters. And although it’s become much easier to take photographs that are technically flawless (in terms of exposure and focus), it’s just as difficult to capture aesthetically satisfying images as it was in the age of film and chemicals. It turns out that technology is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for creating art.

Still, the technology is pretty impressive…

In the piece I pointed out that the iPhone is now the most popular camera among Flickr users (which highlights how distinctions between hitherto different types of device (phone/camera; MP3 player/phone; etc.) are becoming blurred. This morning I noticed that the Guardian had an interesting feature in which a professional photographer compared the images produced by an iPhone 4S and his top-of-the-range Canon DSLR. The phone turns in a very creditable performance.

A useful ArsTechnica piece comes to similar conclusions:

For snapshot purposes, the iPhone 4S is comparable to the 8MP Canon 20D when it comes to image quality. But that comparison is a little unfair—you can easily achieve better results with newer DSLRs in terms of exposure, noise, and megapixel count. What you can’t do with any DSLR, though, is (again) slip it into your pants pocket. Lenses that have as bright an aperture as the iPhone 4S’s f/2.4 will also either be limited to a single focal length or generally be much larger and heavier than the lightweight kit lenses that many users have.

Thanks to @4b5 on Twitter for the link.

So does SIRI have a moral agenda?

[link] Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Interesting blog post by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Siri can help you secure movie tickets, plan your schedule, and order Chinese food, but when it comes to reproductive health care and services, Siri is clueless.

According to numerous news sources, when asked to find an abortion clinic Siri either draws a blank, or worse refers women to pregnancy crisis centers. As we’ve blogged about in the past, pregnancy crisis centers, which often bill themselves as resources for abortion care, do not provide or refer for abortion and are notorious for providing false and misleading information about abortion. Further, if you’d like to avoid getting pregnant, Siri isn’t much use either. When asked where one can find birth control, apparently Siri comes up blank.

The ACLU put Siri to the test in our Washington D.C. office. When a staffer told Siri she needed an abortion, the iPhone assistant referred her to First Choice Women’s Abortion Info and Pregnancy Center and Human Life Pregnancy-Abortion Information Center. Both are pregnancy crisis centers that do not provide abortion services, and the second center is located miles and miles away in Pennsylvania.

It’s not just that Siri is squeamish about sex. The National Post reports that if you ask Siri where you can have sex, or where to get a blow job, “she” can refer you to a local escort service.

Although it isn’t clear that Apple is intentionally trying to promote an anti-choice agenda, it is distressing that Siri can point you to Viagra, but not the Pill, or help you find an escort, but not an abortion clinic.

Apple’s response, according to CNET:

Apple … is still working out the kinks in the beta service and the problem should be fixed soon.

“Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. “These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone, it simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better and we will in the coming weeks.”

Although I’m as partial to conspiracy theories as the next mug, somehow I don’t think SIRI’s apparent moral censoriousness is a feature rather than a bug. But it does remind one of the dangers of subcontracting one’s moral judgements to software — as parents, schools and libraries do when they use filtering systems created by software companies whose ideological or moral stances are obscure, to say the least.

The iPhone 4S comprehensively reviewed

[link] Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

An astonishingly thorough review by Anand Lai Shimpl and Brian Klug.

What’s significant about the new iPhone

[link] Sunday, October 9th, 2011

This morning’s Observer column.

Tuesday would be – so the hype machine assured us – iPhone 5 day. But Tuesday came and went and it turned out to be only iPhone 4S day, and the assembled chorus drawn from the Apple-obsessed region of the blogosphere and the “analysts” of Wall Street howled their frustration. Which made one wonder what these people expected – an iPhone 5 that did teleportation? It also made one wonder if anyone on Wall Street has ever heard of the sigmoid function, the universal s-shaped learning curve that shows a progression from small beginnings and accelerates rapidly before creeping slowly towards its maximum point.

The point is that the iPhone has been through the acceleration phase and is now at the point where it can only get incrementally better. What CEO Tim Cook and his colleagues announced on Tuesday represented an implicit acknowledgment of that reality: they announced an incrementally improved product…