Lost In Mobile

Shaun McGill

07412 655899

Lost In Mobile is the continuation of PDA-247 which, under various names, provided news, reviews and commentary on the mobile world for 10 years.

I have been writing about the mobile industry, mobile products, apps and everything else in between and beyond for more than 10 years, and currently write freelance for Imagine Publishing and also undertake one-off projects upon request.

I welcome your comments and thoughts and if you want to get in touch, please do so via the email address or phone number above.

Thanks for stopping by.

Shaun McGill

Cheers to Apple

I’ve always had good experiences with Apple service when needed. Last week I was on a trip to teach a course. During the week I noticed that the glass was rising off the base on one side. This is an iPhone 5 that is over two years old and off warranty for more than a year. When I returned home, I made an appointment at the local Apple Store at the Genius Bar.
I arrived early and did my usual look around the store to see if there was anything new on the accessories side. At my appointed time I was sitting at the “bar” with a specialist. They are quite cautious about one’s data and one’s privacy. He asked if I had a recent backup, to which I answered yes, about an hour ago. He then asked how old it was and if he could take the phone in the back to check it. When he returned he told me that the battery was swelling and that they’d give me a new/refurbished phone. He watched as I started up the new phone and began the setup. Once he realized that I knew what I was doing, he simply watched.
All told, about 10 minutes and I walked out with a new phone, the same as what I had before, a space grey 64GB iPhone. I reset it as a new iPhone when I got home and restored from my backup. Other than entering some passwords and giving apps permission to access calendar and contacts data, everything is back to what it was when I did my backup. Except that the battery is no longer swelling.
Your mileage may vary, but for me, good service when I need it is a big positive checkmark. Bob

The struggle

I am not sure I am "bored" with smartphones, but more that I have a device which does what I need, and so I am not so interested in what others might be doing. If my needs change, or I get bored of my current device, I might find I care a bit more, but perhaps my phone is just becoming the same as my car: as long as it is working, I am not too worried about it, and I certainly don't keep up with all the developments in the car industry.
Where I do struggle with smartphone articles and discussions at the moment is the tendency for them to turn into "Apple is so great and Android sucks", "No, Android is great and Apple sucks', "You are a fandroid", "A fanboy would say that, wouldn't they." It is hardly a new phenomenon, so perhaps I just seem more attuned to it over the last year or so, but more and more posts seem to have snide attacks stuck in to them, without relevance to the actual topic under discussion. Some sites are better than others, and LiM is generally pretty good, but it does make me think twice before reading through comments on a piece where finding interesting comments is like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Neil has likely summed up the mobile situation for many of us very well.

Bored?

I must admit that I've become a bit bored recently by smartphones. It's becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart and it's only the Note 3 and 4 and the Yota phone 2 that stand out as good options. Is it just me? Matthew

So, do you agree with Matthew? Are new phones becoming difficult to tell apart and has that bread some boredom into how you view the phone market these days?

I got a Medion Life P4502

Last year I handed over some of my hard earned cash for a phone to replace my aging Samsung Galaxy Ace to acquire a Motorola RAZR M. It had a good looking screen, average camera, robust but lightweight build, and a fairly reputable brand.

6 months later, it was returned to the store after suffering with intermittent WiFi connectivity issues and 2 weeks of email support, try this, do that, and then silence as I had fallen into the “too hard” basket.
 
It came back from the service centre with a replaced PCB. The WiFi issue fixed, but a couple of months later, I travelled interstate, and discovered that after I left the greater Sydney Metropolitan area, the GPS sub-system would not lock on and give position data to the Navigation software. It really only wanted to work in areas where I had 3G cellular data access, which is a big ask in regional Australia. Also, the 3.5mm ear-phone socket decided it wouldn’t work either.
 
I was losing faith in Motorola. And Samsung Phones hadn’t exactly thrilled me either. So I went looking for a budget replacement to tide me over for a while.
 
Then I saw the advert for a reasonably looking budget phone from Aldi, the Medion P4502. Obviously, I dug around on the internet to look up the details about the phone. As it had been released in Aldi UK in December last year, there were a few reviews to read.
 
The specifications were reasonable for a budget device; 1.3GHz Quad-core CPU, 960×450px display, running KitKat, 1Gb of main memory, 8Gb of storage, WiFi-n, Bluetooth 4, and a 5 Mpx camera.
It wasn’t a threat to any flagship models, and the specifications verses price indicated a Chinese brand, rebadged to Aldi/Medion.
 
It was £79 in the UK, here it was AU$149.00. So I decided to “bite the bullet” and part with the cash, about half of what I paid for the Motorola, brought it home and plugged it into the charger.
 
After charging I proceeded with the setup, uninstalled the “Aldi” applications, stopped and disabled the Gmail application ( I don’t want to be pinged at all hours by ‘email received’ notifications on my phone or Pebble ), disabled the automatic updates option as I don’t want all the phone’s memory taken up with useless Google bloat ware, and installed all the useful stuff.
 
I hadn’t really been too concerned over who had manufactured the phone, but when I started collecting my software from Google Play, it revealed who it was. I apparently own a Lenovo P4502 Smartphone.
 
I have been using it solidly now for a week, no issues to report so far. It works as well as I had hoped that it would.

The supplied USB cable didn’t fit the phone very well, but I have no shortage of those so first one I tried fitted easily, so no problem there.

I was initially concerned over the battery life, but all the installation and setup is more intensive than normal use, and I have found that typically by mid-afternoon (after about 8 hours) the battery is only a third down. I have noticed no significant performance lags, the camera has proven to be quite responsive, although Macro shots take a bit of effort.
 
Knowing that Lenovo built this phone has increased my confidence in the device. I have had a lot of good experience with this manufacturer in the past, albeit, these were Laptops (IBM Thinkpad), and perhaps I may regain some hope for Motorola now that they are part of Lenovo now. David R Green

FCC continues to prohibit Wi-Fi blocking

The US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, has issued an enforcement advisory notice, stating that it is not going to change its position on rules prohibiting interference to permit hotels and the like from blocking third party Wi-Fi hotspots — such as users turning their phones into portable hotspots for their computers — on their premises.

The hotel industry, along with Marriott and Ryman, had argued that they should be entitled to make use of deauthentication functionality found in enterprise Wi-Fi products, such as those offered by Cisco, to forcibly disconnect users from their third party hotspots, to protect the security of their network from “rogue” access points, as well as to maintain the quality of the radio environment for users of the hotel’s own Wi-Fi service.

Cisco argued that sending deauthentication packets was not a prohibited act of interference, since (a) sending such a packet is “often sent in the ordinary course of setting up or taking apart a network” (Cisco’s filing, at page 11), and (b) it was not simply attempting to jam the channels used for Wi-Fi, but, rather, was using those channels to send particular messages to devices (page 13). This was, I thought, a clever argument. An analogy might be that of a remote control: is it “interference” for me to stand outside someone’s window, switching their TV off whenever they try to watch it, with a remote control?

In my view, such an approach should fail. The law on interference (if you are particularly bored, see Article 15 of the ITU’s Radio Regulations) exists, in its broadest guise, to ensure that maximal efficient use is made of the limited resource of radio spectrum, which has finite capacity. Whilst some frequencies are heavily controlled, by way of licensing — for example, the bands used to provide cellular mobile services — others are regulated in a more open manner, meaning that radio devices which meet certain requirements can be operated without need for an individual spectrum licence by either the device user or a service provider. Permitting one user of spectrum to engage in behaviour aimed solely at excluding another user’s use of more openly regulated spectrum is inconsistent with the overall approach of maximising efficient usage.

Similarly, if a hotel is not prohibited from disconnecting Wi-Fi hotspots which are not controlled by it, what is to stop someone else from forcibly deauthenticating anything connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi service? It would seem undesirable to me to permit me to walk along the street, randomly disconnecting people’s Wi-Fi connections.

I struggled with the arguments made that this was a security issue, as the hotspots in question were not being attached to the hotel’s network. It is desirable to allow network operators to control their networks, and, in Europe at least, there are positive obligations on network operators to ensure the security of their networks, and, had this been an issue as to whether a hotel is permitted to disconnect Wi-Fi hotspots which users connected to the hotel network, I suspect that the opposition might have been rather more limited. But it was not such a case.

To many — me included — this felt like nothing more than an attempt by a hotel industry to ensure a revenue stream for itself, by giving itself the technical armaments to block guests from using their own personal hotspots, and, instead, require them to buy hotel-provided Internet access services. With the increase in Skype, FaceTime and other over the top communications services, I would be surprised if hotel phone call revenues had not dropped significantly, but what might be seen as an attempt to sure this up by forcing guests to buy Wi-Fi seems untoward. 

Had all the hotel industry submissions made it clear that, wherever such deauthentication systems were to be used, guests would be provided with equivalent-quality Wi-Fi access for free, I suspect that some would be placated, but, personally, I would have remained sceptical, as I am not persuaded that it should be the hotel’s right to choose which connectivity options I should have.

Of course, the FCC’s announcement does not mean that hotels cannot prohibit third party Wi-Fi devices in their contracts, and seeking to recover damages from any guests who operate their own hotspot in breach of contract, subject to rules on reasonableness of contractual terms and general competition law. Whether any hotel chain fancies going down this route, which would need to be far more in-your-face than passive-aggressive blocking system, it remains to be seen. But would you frequent such a hotel?

(You can view all the filings on the FCC website, and some make for interesting reading.) Neil Brown.

 

You

I won't have time to write much over the next couple of weeks so if any of you wish to have a thought, review or article published on LIM, feel free to send content to shaun (at) mailstm.co.uk. As ever, your input would be greatly appreciated.

These times are over!

Personally I am only using Apple products since nearly 10 years. The reason I switched over was "it just worked". These times are over!
There is no issue with the hardware they are building, still high class, but the software does not follow anymore these standards. There are no big issues, but hundreds of small ones that get in my way. This has probably started with iCloud, which still does not "just" work, annoying calendar winter/summer time bugs, which are still not fixed after x new iOS releases, and has just ended in messy iOS (8) and OS X (10.10.x) releases.
It is incomprehensible for me, how they can sit on millions of dollars in cash and "just" dont fix these things.
In the last couple of months I have tested other mobile devices running Android and Windows. Android is not for me. Point. But I started really liking Windows and see that they have come along way and started doing things right. If Windows 10 delivers on it's promises I am switching back to the Windows world, as I am no longer willing to pay a premium price for unexceptional products. Henk.

For me, Mac OS X is still streets ahead of Windows, but I am experiencing more than a few problems with iOS 8 and iCloud. The recent one is trying to watch a web video in landscape in iOS Safari- it crashes every time.

Windows 10 will be free

Microsoft has announced that its next operating system will be offered as a free upgrade to owners of devices running Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Phone.
The announcement marks a change in strategy to its previous policy of charging for major updates.
The offer, which is limited to the OS's first year of release, may aid its adoption.
That could help avoid a repeat of the relatively slow uptake of Windows 8.
The event at the firm's Redmond headquarters spent much of its two-hour duration focused on new capabilities gained by introducing the firm's virtual assistant Cortana to PCs.

I could make the obvious joke of needing to be paid to try it, let alone get it for free, but I am hoping that 10 will be decent. 7 was OK so maybe the pattern will follow. I am, however, not convinced that the same OS on all devices will work as well as the theory might suggest.

Unsold Google Glass Units To Be Donated To Assholes In Africa

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA—Following the company’s announcement that it would discontinue public sales of the wearable technology, Google officials confirmed Monday that all unsold units of Google Glass would be donated to underprivileged assholes in Africa. “We are committed to positively impacting the lives of poverty-stricken smug pricks by distributing the surplus inventory of Google Glass to self-important fucks throughout sub-Saharan Africa,”

Something like Google Glass will do well one day. As it stands, it was ahead of its time and way beyond what most people would consider reasonable to wear on their faces.

MacKeeper: one to avoid

Literally every time I work in the computer store, we'll get a customer whose Mac is plagued with problems they don't understand: Their Mac is acting slow. It crashes. And more. And in more cases than not, we find that they've installed a program called MacKeeper. Removing MacKeeper fixes the problem. So what is MacKeeper and why should you avoid it? Read on for details
MacKeeper was originally developed by a company called Zeobit and was sold a couple of years ago to another firm called Kromtech. The software purports to be a suite of more than a dozen individual utilities that are actually supposed to improve the performance and stability of your Mac — antivirus software, optimization software, junk removal tools and more.
MacKeeper uses scare ads that appear as "pop-under" ads on web sites, telling people to clean their Macs. The pop-under business is the first thing I really don't like about MacKeeper. Quite frankly, I think it's a real bottom-feeder technique and a really low-class way to do business, and it tells me that they're not concerned with what people think of them.

So now you know.

Apple is continually in beta

I recently listened to this episode of The Talk Show in which John Gruber and Marco Arment discuss the state of Apple software. Most of what they said rang true to me and there was a moment when they discussed the yearly upgrade cycle we now experience in iOS and Max OS X.

The nail was hit when they discussed Apple being continually in beta and how this affects users, and my recent experience is markedly different now than it was only 3 year's ago.

Marco mentioned the need to reboot his Mac and that rang true. My iMac ran without ever being turned off for the first 2 years of its life. I now reboot it every 2 days and have done ever since I installed Yosemite. Mavericks caused some problems, but nothing that can be compared to the spinning balls and random loss of drive names in Finder, the slowness after extended periods of use and other oddities that make no sense at all.

They talked about Apple TV and in particular AirPlay. Another chord struck as AirPlay has become incredibly difficult to use over the past few months for me. It sometimes does not connect to the Apple TV at all, other times it takes forever to start a stream and Apple TV often fails to see our iPhones and iPads as remote controls. 

iCloud I am not even going to mention because I will boil over, but needless to say I still do not trust it in any way.

What surprised me most was that apparently so many other people are struggling with the same problems which is both comforting and dispiriting, and I wonder if the yearly upgrade cycle is the cause?

Why do we need a new iOS and Mac OS X every single year? I get that it is good for marketing and that the Apple execs can enthuse greatly about what the new versions offer, but I would prefer to see the engineers and programmers stay in the same place and add a single new feature every few months. We are not children, we do not need a completely new experience every year. We just want stability, ease of use and the way Apple software used to be. It is, however, a sad fact that the industry as it is will not stand for that because something new is always needed.

Don't get me wrong, it is not a disaster and is still a million times better than Windows, and somewhat less flakey than Android for me, but we are coming from the high ground and Apple is gradually sliding down the hill thanks to the perceived requirement to change everything every 12 months. 

The best phone camera?

The iPhone’s lead as the smartphone to beat has rarely been defined by just one thing. At one point, the biggest advantage was the simplicity and speed of its interface; at another, it was down to the diversity and quality of available apps; and most recently, the iPhone has distinguished itself with the quality of its 8-megapixel camera. Today, the combination of all these things — simple and fast operation, strong optics and image processing, and a wide app ecosystem — is helping people create the best possible images with the least possible hassle.

I'm not sure I completely agree that the iPhone 6 camera is the best available, but it is by far the easiest I have used on any phone. I must also say that there is a noticeable gap between camera performance on the 6 and 6 Plus. The Plus camera has been a revelation to me.

Apple Watch application

Users will also be able to enable a subtle red dot that appears atop the Apple Watch’s clock face whenever a new notification is received on your iPhone.

That single line from an in-depth look at the Apple Watch companion app (source link in title) stood out to me. Is Apple letting this be a watch with the extra features able to be as subtle as you need? That would get around my immediate annoyance with Android Wear which is either too invasive or feature disabled.