Category Archives: iPhone

WiFi tethering and the iPhone: Battery life?

John Brownlee at CoM:

“It seems likely, then, that as soon as the Verizon iPhone comes out, Apple will pump an official iOS update for all devices down the pipeline, bringing the Hotspot app to all devices, including iPads. Naturally, the carriers probably have some control over how a subscriber can use that Hotspot app on their existing plans, but it seems pretty likely that all iPhone owners will be able to tether their devices to their 3G connection via WiFi soon enough.”

Phone companies do have ways of spotting people tethering, the easiest being massive spikes in data usage. But some Android users have had tethering built-in for a while (notably on the stock Nexus One), and I’ve yet to hear of anyone having problems.

What I’ve found using tethering occasionally on my Nexus One, though, is that it reduces the battery life massively: an hour of use, and it’s gone. By comparison, a dedicated device like the 3 MiFi 2 gives me several hours, easily.

Given that Apple focuses hard on battery life, and making sure that no app drains the battery too much, it will be interesting to see what its done to stop WiFi sharing killing your battery in record time.

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I don’t really see why this is worth a story

Brian X. Chen, for Wired:

“The company recently approved an iPhone camera app that carries a special feature: the ability to snap a photo by pressing the physical Volume button rather than tapping the touchscreen. Oddly enough, about four months ago Apple banned a top-selling iPhone app for including the same “volume-snap” functionality.”

Just as sometimes apps will not get approval when they should, so sometimes apps will get approval when they shouldn’t. The App Store process is done by humans, and humans make mistakes – in both directions.

Google is the carriers’ best-friend

Doc Searles has got a new iPhone, and muses on a few points:

“I still see this as a phase, and not a bad one. Apple and Google have together cracked open the unholy death grip that phone makers and carriers have long had on the mobile world. At some point those two halves will come completely apart.”

It seems to me that, by accident or design, Google has done precisely the opposite: Handing incumbent phone makers and carriers a tool that lets them stay in the game. Android has basically saved LG, Samsung, HTC et al from either years of development of their own OS or millions in fees to Microsoft to license Windows Phone.

It’s also handed the carriers the ability to “tailor their customer experience” (read: “install a load of useless crapware and lock their the phones tightly”), and control what applications exist on a new phones – in some cases, to lock down what you can install on your phone.

That’s the truth of “open” and Android. Android is about creating an open environment for carriers and mobile phone makers, not for end-users.

Not saying that this is bad, in the sense that Android’s existence increases consumer choice (which is always good). A world where there was only one smartphone OS wouldn’t be healthy, even if it was iOS.

But I don’t think Google deserves any credit for breaking that “unholy death grip” – that wasn’t their intention, and it’s not really in their business interests.

Just how bad is Flash on Android?

Pretty bad. In fact, if you’re thinking video, utterly unusable.

Kevin Tofel of GigaOm and JKOnTheRun is someone who isn’t a dyed in the wool iPhone or Apple fan. In fact, he replaced his iPhone with a Nexus One in January (a process that I’ve recently gone through, more of which anon). And that’s why this video over on NewTeeVee of his experience with Flash video should be required watching for anyone who thinks Flash on mobile is a reality, today.

What does this demonstrate? Simply that the idea that Apple could simply magically put Flash on the iPad (which runs a processor in the same class as the Nexus One) is fantasy. Ignoring the broader reasons for Apple wanting to keep Flash off its platform, it’s clear that Flash is simply too processor-intensive to work properly on mobile-class processors as currently specified.

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The myth of “programming is the only creativity”

One of the often-used memes concerning Apple’s approach to iOS is that it’s for “passive consumers”, people who aren’t creative. In an interesting post on Google App Inventor, O’Reilly’s Mike Loukides dredges this one up again – and I think Mike is committing a classic geek error.

Mike contrasts the approach of App Inventor, which is designed to encourage simple programs for Android, to the higher barrier of entry for development on iPhone, and concludes that it’s a cultural difference:

“But Google has taken another direction altogether: the user’s experience isn’t going to be perfect, but the user’s experience will be the experience he or she wants. If you want to do something, you can build it yourself; you can put it on your own phone without going through a long approval process; you don’t have to learn an arcane programming language. This is computing for the masses. It’s computing that enables people to be creative, not just passive consumers.” [My emphasis]

Here’s Mike’s first error: Conflating “creativity” with programming, and “passivity” with, well, everything else. Mike isn’t the first to do this – I think my friend Cory Doctorow is responsible for the meme, as I pointed out in an earlier post. I’d argue, in fact, that the history of computing teaches us the exact opposite: the less people are required to learn programming in order to be creative with computers, the more creative work you get.

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RedLaser iPhone app gets bought by eBay, goes free

RedLaser, the barcode and price comparison app that sat at the top of the best-seller list for a while, has been bought by eBay and is now free. What’s more, eBay is going to integrate the technology into its other apps:

“eBay plans to integrate RedLaser’s barcode-scanning technology into its leading iPhone applications, including its eBay Marketplace, eBay Selling, StubHub and Shopping.com applications, providing more than 10 million users with access to product information for fast and easy selling and comparison shopping. The technology is designed to help consumers find great deals online for virtually any product with a barcode, and for eBay sellers to quickly create listings by accessing pricing trends and product details for millions of items in eBay’s catalog. “

Smart move from eBay. Not only is RedLaser itself a really nice app, the technology behind it will be a good match for eBay’s core business.

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Marketing Week Live goes all iPhone AR crazy

I’m pretty skeptical about augmented reality applications in general, but there are some occasions when I think they’re actually quite useful. Events, for example, are a particular case where AR makes sense. The location is relatively small, but there’s usually a large amount of information surrounding particular areas within the event – seminars, press releases, and so on.

Add in an audience which actually needs to get to grips with the technology of communications, and it’s obvious why next week’s Marketing Week Live 2010 has an AR iPhone app associated with it. And judging from the pictures I’ve seen of it, it looks pretty good.

There’s the usual AR features: hold the phone up, and the app layers useful information on top of it (I’m hoping this information includes the location of bars and toilets, which are the kinds of things that journalists are always after). Perhaps more useful, though, is the image recognition function: point the app at the logo of a company on a stand, and it will recognise the company and list information that’s relevant, including the option to book a meeting with them if they’re taking meetings.

The app was put together by Yuza Mobile, and it looks like a nice piece of work, balancing out the obvious need for an app that’s a bit of a showcase for marketers of what AR can do with stuff that’s useful for people attending the show.

I’m going to be along at the show at some point (and if you’re going to be there, give me a shout) so I’ll probably be running around taking pictures of people pointing their iPhones at logos and swearing about the data connections being swamped. But kudos to MWL2010 for creating something that looks both interesting from a technology perspective and actually useful to its audience.

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Who owns the platform? Adobe? Google?

Kevin Tofel on the announcement of Android support for Flash:

The key word in Adobe’s press release today being “expected,” which appears three times. Platforms other than Android are expected to integrate and work with Flash Player. All of the latest Android handsets are expected to see Froyo, which is required for Flash Player 10.1. The production version of Flash is expected to be available as a final production release for Froyo devices. Translation: Adobe hasn’t delivered anything to most handsets today and the fate of Flash Player is increasingly out of Adobe’s hands.

Kevin is spot on in highlighting Adobe’s use of the word “expect”, but I disagree with his last sentence. The fate of Flash Player isn’t out of Adobe’s hands: in fact, the fate of a platform which relies on Flash as a development environment is out of the hands of the platform’s creator.

Why Apple doesn’t want Flash on iOS

If you want to know why Apple wants Flash kept away from iOS, you should ask Palm:

Adobe hasn’t given any signs that it’s close to porting Flash to webOS, Palm said in an AT&T online app development seminar on Thursday. When asked about the multiple delays, a representative said that Palm didn’t ‘know what the hold-up is’ with getting it ready. Adobe itself hasn’t commented on the state of the webOS version or of other platforms.

Would Adobe keep Flash updated for iPhone? Yes – as long as it wanted to. And the moment that it didn’t want to, or had other priorities, or simply hit some problems, Apple would have the millstone of an old development platform around its neck.

Apple has been in that position before, and it wont allow itself to go there again.

UPDATE: According to what I’m going to call “informed sources”, Electronista’s report doesn’t represent what was actually said at the event. In fact, what was said was that Palm “had no update” to make – which means that it didn’t have anything to announce at that time, not that it didn’t know what the situation was, which is what Electronista is implying.

In the comments to the story, Palm’s Chuq Von Rospach posted this:

Adobe and Palm continue to work together to bring Flash Player 10.1 to WebOS as quickly as possible. At present, the integration work between the Player and WebOS is undergoing extensive testing to ensure we deliver a high quality implementation.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the point I’m making here is wrong. Having a third party who has significant levels of control over your platform is exactly what Apple is seeking to avoid with its effective ban on Flash.

Why you should take reports of an iPhone on Verizon with a pinch of salt

Remember this report about how the iPad was a cert for Verizon?:

“The tablet will be supported by multiple [mobile] carriers,” said Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech, citing unnamed sources he said were close to the situation. “Verizon and others,” he continued. “Definitely Verizon. I’ve been told that’s a certainty.”

As I said at the time, there is more chance that Apple will expand to another US carrier which uses GSM than it will build hardware tailored to a single US network.