Jim Smith, who knows a thing or two about mobile, pokes around in the controversial consolidated.db database on the iPhone and comes up with this:
“I’m pretty certain that consolidated.db is used to seed the assisted GPS used for iOS location servers. If you open the map, or check in via FourSquare, it will look to see if the cell you’re in is one it knows about. If it is, then that greatly reduces the need to look for satellites. This also explains why it doesn’t store the older (or less accurate?) locations. My guess is that the algorithm says something like: have I been here before? If yes, is my accuracy better than last time? If yes, replace the old entry with a new one.”
Which answers the question that’s been bugging me, which is why that database wasn’t purged regularly. For this purpose, it’s important to keep it on your phone, where it can be queried fast.
Image by Getty Images via @daylife
The Sage Gruber’s contortions to position Apple’s subscription pricing scam as “good for consumers” are getting so wild that he’ll be a high-level yoga master before you know it:
“Why not allow developers and publishers to set their own prices for in-app subscriptions? One reason: Apple wants its customers to get the best price — and, to know that they’re getting the best price whenever they buy a subscription through an app. It’s a confidence in the brand thing: with Apple’s rules, users know they’re getting the best price, they know they’ll be able to unsubscribe easily, and they know their privacy is protected… So the same-price rule is good for the user, and good for Apple”
John’s being obtuse here. How would a publisher offering a lower price than that offered through Apple’s store be bad for customers? It wouldn’t – it would be bad for Apple. Customers could choose to vote with their wallets – take the lower price on offer elsewhere, or take the convenience and privacy advantages of using in-app purchasing.
By the same logic, any large retailer could use its position in the market to force suppliers not to allow anyone to undercut it, and claim that it was simply ensuring “its customers got the best price”. I’m sure Wal-Mart would love its customers to “know that they’re getting the best price” by contractually obliging people not to sell their products for less elsewhere. Nothing to do with hobbling the competition, oh no sir.
As I’ve said before, Apple’s subscription offering is a mess. It offers publishers little value compared to what developers get, and it’s not good for consumers because it effectively stifles competition. No amount of juggling semantics by talking about “Apple’s customers” – like they own them – will change that.
Mathew Ingram, writing for GigaOm:
“Call it a deal with the devil or whatever you want, but Apple is the one that came up with devices that are so appealing, and a content-distribution model that is so effective, that it has sold 10 billion apps in less than three years, and created a whole generation of users who look to it for content such as newspapers, magazines, e-books and games. Putting your eggs in Apple’s basket is a great way to get them to market — but just remember who owns the basket, and who you have to pay for carrying it, and who controls the route to your customer. Meanwhile, over in the corner stands Google, waving frantically.”
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.
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.
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.
Patents are hard to understand. If any government wants to reduce the costs of running a business quickly and easily, it should revamp the system of patents to make them easy for people who aren’t lawyers to read, and harder to actually get in the first place.
So it’s no surprise that there’s been a massive amount of misreading of Apple’s patent application on “Systems and methods for accessing travel services using a portable electronic device”. What’s made it easier to misread is Apple’s – frankly stupid – use of FutureTap‘s interface for its excellent Where To? application in the descriptive part of the patent. FutureTap, understandably, are miffed because it looks like Apple is trying to steal their ideas.
And the coverage on the back of it follows suit. John Brownlee at Cult of Mac titled his “Apple submits software patent for other developer’s app, including title and design“. Om Malik at GigaOm (probably my favourite tech site) was so astounded by what he thinks Apple is doing he had to preface his post title with “Not a joke“. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.