The Mobile Pulse

Covering the world of mobile technology.

The New for The Not-So-New

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ABC have launched a new service, aimed at educating older generations and the technologically illiterate: Technology Explained

This plain language blog/news-site, covers the current trends in technology in a well-written and easy to understand way. An area that is sorely lacking at the moment. Investigating other blogs and sites devoted to this niche area of tech news uncovered many lacklustre, poorly written, or worryingly incorrect articles. Almost all of them came across as cringingly patronising, too.

Mobile technology is a big chunk of what’s been covered so far. Conversational and easy to understand, articles on the site do away with the usual jargon and don’t waste time faffing on about typically irrelevant technical details. A bonus, is that the writing staff appear to have strung a coherent sentence together at some point in their past, too.

The more I read on the site, the more I began to realise that this isn’t a site just for the elderly or cave-dwellers. I know from experience, that it can often be exceedingly difficult to get even the most simple of questions answered through mainstream tech sites, without first reading through a couple of pages that appear to have been crafted as some kind of medicinal sleeping aid. Contrastingly, Technology Explained follows the format of: this is what it is; this is why you should care; this is what you need to know. That’s it.

Written by aphelion.

May 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Coverage

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Positivity Bias

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It hardly sounds like a bad thing, does it?

What I’m referring to, is the overwhelming amount of gushing, rave reviews that dominate every tech blog and news site that I’ve come across so far. Being an Apple sceptic, let’s take the Apple iPad 2 as an example:

I Googled “apple ipad 2 review” and opened every link on the first page.

Un-biased reporting at its finest.

All but one of the links I opened, were exceedingly positive in their comments on the device. Which, I might add, has seen the addition of more fun features, rather than addressing the most vocal criticisms of the first device’s capabilities. LIKE BEING ABLE TO USE FLASH, PERHAPS. But, I digress.

Admittedly, I wasn’t hopeful for a neutral stance from the site MacWorld, but with names on the list like CNet, PC World, and even the ABC; I was hoping for a view other than what you can see in the graphic above.

Thankfully, the reviewer for the Herald Sun, Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson, approached the device with something resembling impartiality.

However, the iPad 2’s main failings are not in its features but its omissions. Its screen resolution and storage space remain the same, users must buy an adapter to plug in a camera or USB stick, and it still won’t play Adobe Flash videos.

And before you think, “you’re only saying that because she’s talking about its failings,” stop. Before the afore-quoted paragraph, she highlights in a calm and journalistic manner, the new features of the device. But, unlike other articles, considers in equal depth, both their positive and negative aspects. Yes. There are cameras. Two whole cameras. But they’re both kind of rubbish at taking photos, an important aspect, I’ve been led to believe, of being a camera.

Now, it may be that Apple have made a device as good as most are toting it to be.

I thought this may have been the case, until I continued my research. Dell’s Aero, which CNet called the worst smartphone of 2010, and is the subject of more than a few forum-rants, still had very positive reviews on the first page of Google results.

The same can be said for other poorly consumer-reviewed lemons, like Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X10 and X10 Mini, as well as the fading memory of Motorola’s Hiptop Slide. Which, I’ve been told by innumerable customers at my work, is the worst phone they have ever owned in their lives, ever. The first result is a 4-and-a-bit-review.

I attempted to contact various sites and blogs that review mobile technology products for comment, with the intention on asking them whether or not they receive incentives to review a certain product positively. It has been more than two weeks, and I haven’t had so much as a reply.

Written by aphelion.

May 9, 2011 at 12:51 am

Posted in Coverage

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Windows Phone 7: The Future?

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Last year when Windows Phone 7 was officially launched to the public, many predicted that it was going to be simply too little too late for the software powerhouse. Breaking into a booming smartphone market dominated by Apple, Android and Blackberry was never going to be easy, and while they appear to have done a lot of things right, it still can’t perform some of the most standard smartphone tasks, like tethering.

CNET’s early review of the platform over various phones was overly positive, but reinforced this same view.

It’s absolutely mind-boggling that Windows Phone 7 is missing some very fundamental features, like copy/paste, third-party multitasking, and universal search. In the past, competitors like Apple were lambasted by the public for not having such features, so you’d think Microsoft would take precautions not to repeat such mistakes. We understand some sacrifices had to be made in order to meet the holiday release deadline and that they’ll eventually be added in a future update, but these are some pretty key and basic features that we would expect to be included out of the gate. Source.

Another major hurdle for WP7 is their app-store situation. With Apple reporting 350,000 and Android 150,000 apps respectively, all Microsoft had to say for itself was that it was after “quality over quantity.” Source. The company has gotten to such a point of desperation, that it has been reported they’ve lifted a moonlighting ban on their programmers, so they can create and retain revenue from WP7 apps. And out of the 3,400 employees who have signed up to Microsoft’s moonlighting deal, only 840 of their apps have been published. Top-tier stuff there.

Instead, Nokia will team up with Microsoft in a “deep partnership” in which each company has a stake in the other’s success. With the software giant’s Windows 7 operating system, Nokia’s hardware expertise and both companies’ suites of programs and applications, the duo will attempt to take on Apple and Google in offering a complete package of hardware, software and third-party applications. Source.

That’s right, mobile giant Nokia and WP7 are soon to be inseparable. Nokia’s new CEO had to take drastic measures to correct the once-dominant company’s nose-diving market share. And rather than using the platforms everyone already knows, Nokia opted to try and create something that would have it’s own unique identity.

Unfortunately not everyone is so confident, with financial market reports indicating a near-collapse in Nokia’s share price in the days following the announcement.

Most recently, the blogs and techrags have been ablaze with frustration, confusion and a general sense of “what the?” This is due to the continual and unjustified delay of the highly-anticipated update to the WP7 platform, with Microsoft issuing an apology, but not an explanation. This is such as source of aggravation for users of the platform, as it would address many of the grievances above.

Written by aphelion.

April 4, 2011 at 1:44 am

Posted in Mobile Phones, Software, Windows Phone

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In Defence of Smartphones

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Being a smart-phone user, and a fan of the technology behind them, I often find myself trying to sell their merits to friends and anyone that will listen. But, more often than not, I run into the argument that you don’t actually need them. And to be honest, it’s a difficult claim to retort.

So this got me thinking, and I went on a trawl around the internet; looking for some evidence that would help to move smartphones from more of an indulgence to a necessity.

I stumbled across an article discussing the development of both a back-end application and smartphone app that work together in emergency situations to keep effected people updated on evacuation procedure, the location of shelters, first aid centres and everything else you could need in such a situation. It also allows emergency services personnel to track the movement of people using the app, which allows for quicker response times and a more co-ordinated response effort.

The CiviGuard technology in action.

While the application suite is still very much in its infancy, it’s already being hailed as part of the future role that technology will play in disaster recovery efforts.

The "Tiny Flashlight+LED" application for Android OS.

After the utter devastation of the Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster, the developer of the “Tiny Flashlight+LED” application for Android reported to the Phandroid site that in the first few hours after the quake struck, there were in excess of 50,000 downloads of the application. “Tiny Flashlight+LED” allows users to utilise both their screen and camera flash as a torch–     something that would prove invaluable in power outages, and even help those trapped under rubble.

 

 

You heard correctly. You can use your HTC as a bullet shield (don’t try it, genius). The incredible story of John Garber is not the first time I’ve heard of a bullet being stopped by a conveniently placed mobile phone. So if you’re the paranoid type, utilise your top pocket.

 

The battery of Mr. Garber's HTC Droid Incredible, after blocking the stray bullet.

 

As well as the articles and technologies I’ve referred to above, there are a whole host of other potentially life-saving uses for smartphones that I couldn’t discuss without getting long-winded.

Some the best/most interesting I came across:

Smartphone Helps Man Survive Haiti Earthquake

Blackberry Stops Man Falling to His Death

Life-saving Smartphone Apps

I will from now on be referring to this post in any future argument.

Written by aphelion.

March 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

Where are you?: The Foursquare and geo-tagging debate.

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If you’re reading this, it’s probably a safe assumption to make that you own a mobile phone. A significant number of you, maybe even most of you, own a phone with internet capability. And you’ve probably used it at some point.

You may or may not have heard of this little thing called Forsquare, a geo-tagging social network that grew a modest 3400% LAST YEAR. And now boasts membership of more than six-million users worldwide. Even in the shining beacon of freedom, North Korea. Oh, and SPACE.

Opinions appear to be divided in all directions, as the service continues to grow in popularity. One irate blogger’s comments, admittedly captures my initial opinion accurately, asking “WHO THE %*$& CARES WHERE YOU ARE?” [Here]

My opinion first began to change, much in the same way I began to grow fond of Twitter. An article spoke of China’s Tian’anmen Paranoia Police blocking use of the service nation-wide, on the anniversary of the 1989 massacre. This was due to a substantial number of users “checking-in” at Tian’anmen Square, and leaving messages that left the Chinese government a little red in the face. This may signal the beginnings of future activist and humanitarian uses for the service, which may well have already begun to happen, considering the tumultuous state of the world at the moment.

Of course, there’s the downside. Foursquare gives users the option to share their check-ins via other social networks, and for anyone with a substantial Twitter following, this means telling people you don’t know, where you are, or, when you aren’t home.

"France" hey? Plenty of time to steal myself a speaker!

Thus, the site PleaseRobMe was born. It aggregates public tweets posted from services such as Foursqaure, in aid of  “[raising] some awareness on this issue and have people think about how they use services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Google Buzz, etc.” says the site, in a rationale regarding itself, quoted from here. The only real-life manifestations of this danger I could find reference to, was a story of a woman who got called by a stalker at a restaurant and invited on a bike ride, and another woman whose house was burgled in the 10 minutes she was out shopping. Both checked-in away from home, on Foursquare.

But, as always in life, especially digital life, common sense will do you ceaseless good. And at least one other blogger agrees with me there.

Written by aphelion.

March 27, 2011 at 1:28 am

2011: Sony Ericsson Rising Again?

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You may not have heard much from the once renowned mobile-powerhouse Sony Ericsson in a while. And for those of you that have, you’ll know that there hasn’t been much to miss.

2010 saw what for the company?

A smattering of plain-Jane candybar phones and the glitchy, almost immediately outdated and generally lacklustre X10 and X10 mini.

With a 2010 as poor as that, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to find it laughable that Sony Ericsson announced “their goal is to become the number 1 Android manufacturer in the world.” And while it’s true that both HTC and Samsung’s first-quarter announcements left a lot to be desired, with recent sales records to go on, they’ll hardly be shaking in their boots.

But. And this is a big but. Sony Ericsson’s latest batch of upcoming-releases show that they’re not going to repeat the same mistakes twice. While the X10 family lacked many of the standard smartphone features, and lagged horribly behind when it came to OS updates, the new Xperia series appear to be the polar opposite this time around.

All packing Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), 512mb RAM, expandable storage (via MicroSD) up to 32gb and high-res, scratch resistant touch screens ranging from 3.7 to 4.2 inches. Included in this generation of releases, there is even a full-QWERTY business-focused model.

But, without a doubt the most exciting news in the world of mobile technology (for those of you free of Apple fanaticism, that is) is the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play.

Believe your eyes, that right there is the fabled “PlayStation phone” that’s been touring the rumour mill for so long now. A fully-featured Android smartphone, with access to exclusive 3D games through the Android app-store. Packaged for release with the ‘Play is an as-of-yet-unconfirmed “Playstation classic,” and I’m voting Crash Bandicoot.

Early reviews of the device are overwhelmingly positive, both in terms of actual phone functionality and usability, and the all-important gaming performance.

With 50 exclusive titles confirmed for the device on launch, Sony Ericsson have already covered one of the major hurdles facing the launch of any gaming device. Title variety. And with a number of high-profile mobile gaming developers already on-board to work with the Xperia Play, things are only set to improve.

With an expected release date as early as March this year, for certain lucky countries, I’m predicting it won’t be long until this multi-purpose, 175gram dynamo takes over the smartphone market. At the very least in the gaming-heavy young male market.

Sony Ericsson are back, and back in a big way.

Written by aphelion.

March 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm

But on the other hand…

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Apple have just released their highly anticipated iPad 2, and in the opening weekend they’ve sold nearly 1 million of the new tablet PC.

Here’s 5 reasons for, and 5 against Apple’s newest technospawn (the 5 against seem a little stronger, to be honest)

5 Reasons Not to Buy an Apple iPad 2

5 Reasons to Buy an Apple iPad 2

 

All I can say is this: WAIT FOR AN ANDROID TAB. DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE.

Written by aphelion.

March 18, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Apple, iPad

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