Retailers are stupid

Following Apple's announcement last month, both Wal-Mart and Best Buy confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that customers would not be able to use the system in their stores. Earlier this week, a leaked internal memo from Rite Aid revealed that the drug store chain was modifying or disabling its NFC readers, preventing access to Apple Pay (and other systems, like Google Wallet and wireless carrier-backed SoftCard, which also depend on the contact-less technology). A representative later confirmed the news to iMore. Today, CVS followed suit and shut out Apple Pay, according to reports. Both will support CurrentC on launch next year... More at The Verge.

So let me get this right. Physical retailers are struggling against the likes of Amazon because the online retailers are highly price competitive and they make shopping extremely easy. In response, some of them are blocking these new systems which increase security and make shopping in a retail store easier so that they can use their own payments system which offers no advantage to their customers at all, unless you consider their own promotions and coupons to be advantageous. I guess this is how cartels work.

The future of music is not great for artists

Sources familiar with the matter, and speaking to The Washington Journal, say iTunes sales have dropped off 13-14% world-wide. A contrast to that point is digital downloads in 2013, where global revenue was down a mere 2.1%.
Further contrasting this divide is overall music sales, which have held steady over the last year or so.
There is a saving grace for Apple, though. It’s something we all speculated they could/would do with iTunes, and quietly hope for.
They need Beats.
If these numbers are accurate, iTunes sales are outpacing the slow, downward spiral music sales have been experiencing the past few years. Streaming services are supplanting sales, and Apple owns a streaming service in Beats Music. Those sources, speaking with WSJ also note that Apple may be planning to fold Beats in with iTunes somehow... More at Slash Gear.

It makes sense that Apple will try a streaming alternative to traditional music sales, but the problem of minimal royalties for most artists has still not been addressed.

Who handles content moderation?

Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles “content moderation”—the removal of offensive material—for US social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been confronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet’s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content—to ensure that Grandma never has to see images like the one Baybayan just nuked... More at Wired.

That cannot be a nice job.

Vodafone Smart Tab 4G review

Android tablets come in all shapes and sizes and at all price points. When deciding which one to choose, the models available can cause confusion and because of the minor variations between each, price starts to play an important factor.

In response to this, Vodafone has released the Smart Tab 4G which boasts an 8" IPS WXGA (1280 x 800 pixels) display, Rear 5MP, Front Facing: 2MP cameras, Android KK 4.4, 1GB RAM /8GB ROM, microSD support up to 64GB and a decently sized 4060 mAh battery. The specifications are somewhat mid-range and the amount of RAM may be troubling to some power users, but the PAYG price of only £125 is interesting to say the least. You can buy the tablet on a monthly plan with prices staring at just £9 for the tablet, but it seems to me that the outright cost offers the most for your money.

The box the tablet is packaged within is highly unusual. At barely an inch high, it does not feel like a tablet at all, but it is nice to see a different take on what is usually a mundane part of the product.  Picking the tablet up revealed another surprised which is a well-built device that feels completely solid throughout; no creaks, no rattles and a sense that quality materials have been used throughout. The buttons are logically placed and nothing moves at all apart from the slots for the SIM and microSD cards. It is all obviously designed, but there is a feeling of a device that should cost much more than the asking price.

Turning it on revealed a slightly different level of completeness because the screen is acceptable rather than overwhelming. It works well for general usage, but if you are going to be working on zooming deeply into images, you may notice the pixels a little too much. Then again, if that's the work you want to do on a tablet you should be looking at a higher range anyway. What I did notice, however, was that there was no lagging or artefacts on display when playing games and scrolling through web pages so the performance side is good. Indeed, the overall performance is impressive with zero lag when browsing and the ability to open app after app without issue.

Performance is comparable to an iPad mini 2 when I used them side by side and it doesn't take a lot of research to compare the pricing of the two and to realise that this is more than should reasonably be expected.

The inclusion of two 5MP cameras is generous and a couple of sample shots are below which highlight what can be captured. As you may know, I am not a fan of taking photos with a tablet and put little time into trying to hold such a large device to capture a photo, but it seems as though millions of people disagree. And because of that tablet manufacturers are making real efforts in this area. Overall, the cameras are, once again, but than should be expected for the price, but they will not replace a standalone camera or most high-end phones.

As I played with the Smart Tab over the period of a week, it started to grow on me and I could quite easily compare it to my favourite Android phone, the Moto G. It is inexpensive, very well built and the design is considered. Battery performance is slightly above average and it does everything it needs to without causing any stress at all.

There is little attempt to build a product that stands out from the crowd, but care has obviously been put into creating something that is financially accessible to the majority and which will also fulfil their needs completely.

It would be easy for a geek like me to look down upon a budget tablet, but with time came the realisation that this is a decent product in all of the most important areas, and to top it all the price is fantastic.


Product: Vodafone Smart Tab 4G

More info / where to buy: Vodafone

Price: £125

Description: Watch movies and catch-up TV. Play games and listen to music wherever you go with the Smart Tab 4 4G. Check your email and social media, and choose from thousands of apps available from Google Play. A quad-core processor and 8GB memory (up to 64GB with expandable micro SD slot) means it's fast and powerful, with plenty of storage. So you can be sure there's always something on the Smart Tab 4 4G to keep everyone happy.

Effectiveness 9.1 / 10

Value for money 9.6 /10

Build Quality 8.9 / 10

Overall 27.6 / 30

Wunderlist Discover

Here is an excellent idea from Wunderlist which lets you add user-created lists to your workflow. I'm surprised this has not been implemented widely in similar solutions.

Since the launch of Public Lists, many of you asked for a central place where everyone could find them. Say hello to Discover, the home of the world’s lists. It’s a place that makes it super easy for others to discover Public Lists and add them to their own Wunderlist. To celebrate the arrival of Discover, we’re giving you, our awesome Public List creators, the chance to win an iPhone 6. You read it right, a brand new bigger than big iPhone 6! How to win Everyone has at least one list that’s worth sharing with the world. Whether it’s something to make, see or do, the simplest way to share...

Switch to Android

Google has put up a useful page for those of you considering the switch from iPhone to Android. The detail is not great, but it covers all of the main areas.

Google+ Photos is a great way to have all your pics - past and future - in one place, with unlimited private storage* and accessible from any internet connected device. There are always lots more choices on Google Play to find the photo app that works perfectly for you.

The lack of dedicated inputs

I do know that with my still-in-bed, internet catch up this morning, I grabbed my iPad to do "Draw Something", switched over to Facebook, then sighed and grabbed the MacBook Air when I saw a link I wanted to copy and repost as a comment. I still think the label as pure consumption machine is misguided, but they ain't great typers / copy-paste-ers, and the type of creation they facilitate is stuff that leverages the screen.
Besides the competition with laptops, their competition with traditional console and handhelds game systems is huge. In both cases, it's the lack of dedicated inputs that might be the Achilles Heel; touch screens open up new worlds of interaction but leave certain traditional but effecting things behind, and the app store was a wonder that the other systems try to emulate. (Plus consoles have kind of levelled off in terms of what they can do, I think it's so odd that I hear casual buyers more interested in their potential as media centres, when much cheaper devices do that streaming too... like how the included DVD player was a big mover for PS2). Kirk.

Some logical thoughts from Kirk regarding tablet usage.

A fad I tell you!

Apple's at odds with itself, though. On one end, it's trying to push people up to the iPad Air 2, and on the other, it's trying to compete with low cost Android tablets. This plan leaves nerdy consumers in the middle; people who would happily have upgraded to a new iPad mini now won't, making the update cycle problem worse.
While the iPad Air 2 looks like a great upgrade from the iPad 3 or 4, upgrading is not tempting, speaking as iPad Air owner. With TouchID being the only feature separating the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3, I don't see why any iPad mini 2 owners would upgrade this year, either... More at 512 Pixels.

I still maintain that tablets will not be commonplace within 5 years, but nobody agrees. Just maybe the recent trend is starting to back this up.

All of your music for $5 / month

If the jungle drums are to believed, Apple is about to go bargain basement with its Beats streaming service and drop the price (in the US at least) to $5 a month - undercutting every other music service out there.
It's so unlike Apple to compete on price that it's worth reviewing what potential benefits Apple could realise from such a land grab... More at Random Dumber Generator.

There is something about the current £9.99 / month music offerings that feels too expensive to me. I would pay that for Netflix, but not for music. However, £5 / month and I am all in.

iOS sharing to one email address?

I have a question which is not exactly important and which I believe is not currently possible. I often send web links to my email address to catch up on later, usually links that I will use on Lost In Mobile, but would like to avoid having to input my email address every single time. I do use a shortcut which helps a little, but it would be nice to find a sharing mechanism that allows me to simply click an icon in the sharing feature and have it send automatically.

I have tried Pinboard and various other services, but it is only in email that I am alerted to what I have sent to myself. I always forget about the other services I use. So, it what I want possible?

Not holding my breath for Apple Pay

Apple Pay has of course been launched in the US and this makes sense given the crazy payment situation over there. I remember well swiping my credit card this time last year and the bewilderment at not having to type in a PIN number. Nothing at all, just swipe the card and walk off. Anyone's card, it doesn't matter. So, a US launch makes sense.

My reason for doubting a quick European release is not because of payment methods, however, but because of iTunes Radio. It has been more than a year since the original launch and still nothing in so many countries? It could be down to licensing, but it can enhance the sense that Apple is truly an American company to outsiders.

Choose your hardware wisely

If you are thinking of buying an Apple computer, choose your hardware wisely. You won’t be able to upgrade at a later date.2 All of your computer’s repairs will be performed by an Apple Certified Macintosh Technician. Your computer will be either be glued shut, or screwed up tight. None of the hardware will be user serviceable anyway... More at Egg Freckles.

I really do not like that Apple is still selling the original iPad mini, a Mac mini with fixed RAM and 16GB iPhones. These devices lessen the overall experience and appear to be designed to increase the average selling price at the expense of user satisfaction. It just isn't the Apple way.