Posts tagged with ‘iPhone

It was only a matter of time: Why Mac users tend to ignore the advice of PC Pundits.

It’s being reported that over 600,000 Macs are now infected by the Flashback trojan, a “drive by” piece of Malware that doesn’t need administrator privileges or even a password prompt to successfully latch on.

The PC pundits couldn’t be more excited. Finally, they say, the inevitable has happened and smug Mac users are finding out what it’s like to be a PC user.

"It was only a matter of time."

Surprise and Delight

It’s been quite an ordeal, but a Kindle Fire finally made its way into my hands.

I’ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, now, and — it’s pretty much everything you’ve read in any of the reviews you’ve read. No more, no less.

Which is to say, a lot of people have already nailed its strengths (relatively few) and weaknesses (many).

The one caveat I’d add is that many of the weaknesses are rooted in software, and that’s the sort of thing that can be fixed, at least.

So, instead of rehashing what’s been said elsewhere, I’m going to touch on something that hasn’t been beaten to death, and that’s the idea of surprise and delight. 

The underlying premise of surprise and delight is that you run up against a problem, and as you’re doing what you think should happen, it actually happens, or it happens in a way you didn’t anticipate, and you think to yourself: “Wow, I can’t believe someone thought of that. Genius!”

iOS is filled with surprise and delight moments. Perhaps the best example is the ability to type a period with one continuous motion — without lifting your thumb — even though the period key isn’t on the “home” keyboard screen. Uninterrupted flow. One click where three might otherwise be necessary.

In my experience, Amazon’s devices don’t seem to contain many surprise and delight moments, if they contain any at all.

As has been discussed, there’s no dedicated hardware home button on the Kindle Fire.

Instead, each app has a touch-based home button. That’s fine, and I think it’s something I’ll eventually get used to and it’s something people who haven’t used an iOS device might not even need to get used to.

With that said, the home button is situated in the bottom-left of every app. This is a real problem when you’re holding the device one-handed with your right hand, because it’s nearly impossible to reach the home button while doing so.

There are any number of reasons why your free hand might not be available for button pressing, but the least tawdry (and most important) reason is that some people don’t have left hands.

The obvious solution, then, is to simply put the home button in the bottom-middle of every app. Boring, but perfectly acceptable.

The surprise and delight solution is that the Kindle Fire somehow knows which hand it’s being held by, and accommodates for that preference (or disability) by moving the home button to an accessible corner. 

Suddenly, the user thinks: “Holy shit, that’s genius, I can’t believe Amazon thought of that.”

Except, no one thinks that, because Amazon’s Kindle Fire isn’t filled with surprise and delight moments. 

That doesn’t mean Amazon won’t sell millions of Kindle Fires.

What it might mean is that people will buy them, but they may not find much of an urge to actually use them, once the novelty wears off. Or, they may not find much reason to ever buy another tablet device from Amazon. Or, maybe no one ever talks about the Kindle Fire in a way that makes other people excited to own one as well.

Surprise and delight is the stuff of fanboy devotion. It’s the foundation of customer loyalty. It’s why Apple can lag way behind Android in units sold but still dominate mobile browsing statistics.

You can hate me for being an iOS fanboy, or call me a shill, but whether you like it or not, Amazon, at least, wants me to be an Amazon fanboy — Bezos wants to command a loyal army of Amazon fanboys — and he’s not going to get that through sheer volume.

"Meh" doesn’t build loyalty, or sell services.

There’s only one way to design a smart phone!

2005 (Not a smart phone. Phones used to look like this, though, so I thought I’d set the stage.)

Moto ROKR

2007 (Apple’s first iPhone.)

1st Generation iPhone

2008 (Apple’s iPhone 3G.)

iPhone 3G

2010 (Apple’s iPhone 4.)

iPhone 4

So, to recap, it’s commonly argued that there’s only one way (or not many ways) to design a smart phone, given that you’re dealing with a device that is mostly screen. This argument is made to bolster the view that it’s absurd for Apple to sue manufacturers who copy the look and feel of the iPhone, due to its proven success, rather than innovating — because Android manufacturers simply don’t have a choice.

Yet…

The 1st generation iPhone (Only 2 Gs!) couldn’t be more different than the cell phones which had previously dominated the market.

The iPhone 3G made modest changes to the 1st generation iPhone, but looking at the two devices from behind, they’re distinctly different.

The iPhone 4, on the other hand, is a complete rethinking of the look and feel of a touchscreen smart phone. It looks nothing at all like the iPhone which preceded it. In fact, Apple’s design change wasn’t merely cosmetic — the change was so radical that it’s new (revolutionary!) antenna system caused usability problems and a temporary media crisis. (Innovation and risk go hand in hand.)

Apple, at least, doesn’t seem to have any problem coming up with new, advanced designs for its touchscreen smart phones. In just over three years, we’ve seen two iPhone designs which are unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

Apparently, when people say “there’s only one way to design a smartphone” they mean:

"Whichever way Apple is doing it."

Shoddy.

Yesterday, I fired off a series of tweets about a Kara Swisher “All Things Digital” article concerning the iPhone location data debacle:

  1. There’s zero evidence that the stored iPhone location data is transferred to anyone, yet even All Things Digital is insinuating otherwise?
  2. Have I missed the reports that the iPhone “regularly transmits the location data back to Apple”? http://bit.ly/eioaoF
  3. I expect that kind if shoddy reporting from Gizmodo, but Kara Swisher is usually above it.

I say a lot of things on Twitter that I might not say (in the same way) to a person in a face-to-face encounter because, given my measly 198 followers, I don’t expect the things I say to get back to the people I say them about. 

Usually, that works out pretty well for me. Not this time. Kara Swisher responds:

  1. @brianericford we did not insinuate that. We were quoting a WSJ story on the subject explaining the controversy
  2. @brianericford I don’t expect such shoddy reading

Zing! In Swisher’s defense, I’d be pissed too — and I’m not even a pro — if someone were to compare the quality of my writing or reporting to Gizmodo. In this case, though, I don’t think I’m wrong, nor do I think my reading was shoddy. The portion of Swisher’s article that prompted my tweets:

That includes Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google smartphone kingpin Andy Rubin, both of whom are now dealing with the fallout over a series of reports that iOS and Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to both companies.

That’s not a quote from the WSJ story, that’s a description of a “fallout” that is happening “now” regarding transmitted location information. The current story surrounding Apple is a cache of historical location data, up to a year old, that is stored on a user’s iPhone and then synced to the user’s computer. The men who discovered the data went out of their way to say that they saw no evidence that the data was being transmitted (let alone regularly) to Apple, or anyone else.

It’s true, though, that Swisher mentions a WSJ article. That article says, in part:

Apple, meanwhile, says it “intermittently” collects location data, including GPS coordinates, of many iPhone users and nearby Wi-Fi networks and transmits that data to itself every 12 hours, according to a letter the company sent to U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) last year. Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.

This is news from last year, it’s information that Apple disclosed to a congressional inquiry and as such, it’s hard to believe that the “fallout” has anything to do with that issue. Even the WSJ article agrees:

Apple this week separately has come under fire after researchers found that iPhones store unencrypted databases containing location information sometimes stretching back several months.

When I say shoddy reporting, I mean that Swisher has taken an already confusing issue and made it more confusing by conflating a new (separate) issue with an old, disclosed issue and, by doing so, has insinuated that the historical information that is stored on an iPhone is being transmitted to Apple. At no point does Swisher clarify that she’s talking about two separate issues.

Apple has now responded via a press release.

My — perhaps shoddy — reading of Apple’s explanation:

As they stated last year, live location data is sent to Apple on a per-application basis if you opt-in. That data is anonymized and serves as a crowd-sourced cache of cell-tower and wifi hotspots. 

That cache then assists in quickly locating cell-tower and wifi hotspots for end-users whose iDevices are attempting to access a data network.

That recycled data is then stored in the cache which is at the center of this new issue. Apple apparently doesn’t transmit this cache of historical location data off of a user’s iPhone or computer, as initially reported but subsequently mis-reported.

Apple does admit that the data is being stored for too long, however. “Bug” fixes coming soon.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo posts an article which confirms that they’re the undisputed king of shoddy journalism. Kara: I’m truly sorry for the hyperbolic comparison.

An argument in favor of iPhone tracking

That explosion you heard yesterday was the internet finding out that iPhones are tracking our every move and — gasp! — storing historical data about our whereabouts over time. 

I’ve read at least one article, written by a total bonebag, positing that this is all a plot by the Obama administration.. Other reports are a bit less extreme, but as you can probably imagine, hyperbole saw its shadow and we can now expect another six weeks of absurd speculation.

The most level-headed take I’ve seen comes from Andy Ihnatko:

Finally, there’s “The ‘Ick’ Factor.” I don’t believe that Apple is up to anything nefarious here (again, I think it’s tracking the performance of the phone and not the movements of the user) but it makes the iPhone look very, very bad. That’s not to say that other phones don’t do even ickier things with user data…but this one’s big and public and easy to demonstrate on a nightly newscast.

In other words, at best, Apple’s got some ‘splainin to do. At worst, Steve Jobs is aiding and abetting a government invasion of your privacy. Ain’t nothin’ but a thang.

Still, it would seem that all of the caveats that make this seem “less bad” are countered by the fact that Apple didn’t tell anyone that this information was being logged. 

So, for the sake of avoiding the debate, we’ll just agree that Apple should have disclosed this and if it was a deliberate secret: Bad Apple!

Now that we know it’s there, the question becomes: Is there any reason a person (you or me) might actually want access to such information?

Virtually every objection I’ve seen to storing tracking data is that someone might get caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing, based on the existence of incriminating evidence that they weren’t able to wipe, because they didn’t know it existed. That’s true. If you cheat on your wife and say you were in place A but your iPhone puts you in place B (someone else’s vagina, perhaps) — that could lead to an awkward confrontation. Or, if you were “eating lasagna on fifth avenue” while your phone says you were “murdering your boss on 2nd street” — whoops.

But, isn’t the opposite just as true? I mean, presumably there are some people who could prove their innocence based on the existence of tracking data?

More importantly, something I keep reading is that very similar information is kept “secure” by cell companies and that law enforcement officers can subpoena that information and use it against you in a court of law.

If a corporation has access to (and controls information about) my whereabouts over time — and can be forced to hand it over to Joe Friday — I want to have my own local copy of that same information. The more detailed, the better.

Yes, I want to know that I have it, and I want to be sure it’s not being sent to anyone else, but I sure hope that we have the option of keeping this data once we find out why it exists in the first place. For those of us who are in the habit of being faithful to our wives and who only THINK about killing our bosses (kidding!) it seems like valuable data, and nothing to be nervous about. 

MG Siegler and Kara Swisher: Skirmish!

TechCrunch’s MG Siegler today posted a somewhat boring article regarding the recent Wall Street Journal scoop (speculation?) regarding the release of a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. 

Siegler insinuates that WSJ author Yukari Iwatani Kane was “fed” this story (and several others) by Apple execs. The idea, of course, is that Apple can control the message by handing “scoops” to favored journalists at outlets such as the WSJ:

Now, I of course don’t know for sure that Apple fed WSJ this story — but let’s look at the recent history. In January, as rumors were swirling about the iPad, the WSJ had a story suggesting the tablet computer could run around $1,000. At the time, I pointed out why this reeked of Apple setting expectations low so they could blow them out of the water. A few days later, a former Marketing Manager at Apple backed this up. The result? Steve Jobs on stage announcing the iPad would start at just $499. Boom.

Enter Kara Swisher:

No game. HE. [SIEGLER] MADE. IT. UP. I knew the particulars of several of those stories and it was pure shoe leather reporting by Kane on them and she published them when they were done and not on some fictional schedule to help Apple. 

I know it is super interesting to speculate otherwise, but it’s not the case and to smack around someone who does their job with fiction is the height of hackery.

BTW, I no longer work for the Journal, although we have the same owner (no, we don’t plit secretly together), but it’s simply unfair to a really good reporter.

Interesting.

Before reading Swisher’s comment, I didn’t even really think about Siegler’s claims. Now, though, it’s interesting to me when I consider this back-and-forth alongside the ongoing “turf wars” that are waged between professional bloggers and professional journalists.

It’s not surprising to me that tech bloggers, a group which tends to rely on anonymous sources and TMZ-styled reporting, would insinuate that mainstream journalists only get their stories by being handed privileged information on a silver platter.

The idea seems to be that journalists don’t ever have to do any real work.

Siegler never offers evidence of a cozy relationship between Apple and Kane, and Swisher seems to deny it.

I suspect the truth lay someone in the middle: The Journal likely has access to Apple and ears in the right places because of the way it operates and because of its cachet in the industry, but this is probably rooted in the sort of “shoe leather reporting” that Swisher mentions in her comment. Boring stuff like making calls, asking questions, waiting for responses, etc. You know: Journalism.

It’s really the difference between having respect, and not having it and bloggers are really touchy about the fact that they often don’t have it. Though, they do their best to make believe they don’t want or need it.

Still, none of that is the same thing as sitting around and waiting for Steve Jobs (or someone acting on Jobs’s behalf) to call in with a scoop, and that’s really what Siegler seems to believe is happening. 

Yet, why would Kane continue to report scoops from a source that, according to Siegler, purposefully fed her false information regarding the price of the as-of-then unreleased iPad?

Doesn’t make much sense. In the end, this really starts to feel like the complaints/accusations of someone who is upset that a hard worker has been given opportunities.

Epic Citadel iPad/iPhone Game Demo Thoughts

So, the big news at today’s music event, of course, was a demo of a game from Epic Studios called “Epic Citadel”. Unless you’re into iPods, I guess. Then, there was that stuff.

Anyone who’s in to mobile gaming, though, is bound to have been impressed by a short demo of a game powered by the Unreal Engine, featuring a medieval town, and a pretty gnarly fight scene.

Indeed, the demo (sans the fighting) is now available for download via the iTunes Store, and it’s…impressive. Really impressive. It’s the sort of thing that you’ll show people because it’s super cool. 

I took this screenshot while wandering about town…:

Stunning. 

You can walk down there, walk along the river. 

For now, that’s it.

But, I wonder: Will the world ever be larger than this? Or, as is often the case, is this gorgeous backdrop going to be a limited setting for people to meet up and stage one-off duels and then post bragging rights about how you knocked “willow” on his ass with a slash from your mage-wand? The game was demoed as part of the Game Center discussion, so it sounds like it’ll be social, and my fear is that it’s not going to turn into the epic, deep, explore-a-massive-world-while-questing-style game that I think many are envisioning.

Great visuals and a small town won’t end the debate about whether the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch is a valid contender to the PSP or Nintendo DS.

Give us immersive. Give us epic.

Here’s hoping…

So which Android device out-sold iPhone?

Maybe a more accurate, if admittedly awkward, headline would have been “All Android devices combined on all carriers in the US sold more than the iPhone on AT&T during the period where Apple constrained supply right before iPhone 4 launch”.

I see this argument typed out all over the internet, and I simply don’t get it. It’s so pathetic.

Even assuming all of that hemming and hawing is true, at some point, the Android PLATFORM is going to outsell the iOS PLATFORM.

In the meantime, clinging to technicalities is just going to make a lot of bloggers look incredibly stupid in a few months, when the inevitable market shift occurs. At some point, they won’t even have technicalities to fall back on.

All this bullshit about “meaningful comparisons can only be made once Apple begins to sell on multiple carries” is utter nonsense. Why would that be? While it may be true that things will change once there’s a Verizon iPhone, or a Sprint iPhone, the fact of the matter is, Apple doesn’t get a pass simply because they’re not negotiating deals to see the iPhone on multiple carriers, faster.

I can understand thinking the iPhone is better than any Android phone. I can understand the argument that there are a lot of Android phones which don’t even compare favorably to the best Android phones, let alone the iPhone, but denying reality is just stupid.

Even with an iPhone on Verizon, the all-out blitz of Android on EVERYTHING is going to win the war.

Deal with it.

Dear Jesus Diaz: A serious answer to your question.

Perhaps it’s a rhetorical question, but you ask:

Why the Hell Did Apple Pull Camera+ From the App Store?

More specifically:

Apple has pulled Camera+ from the App Store. Its only sin: Allow iPhone customers to press the volume button to take photos. But why are they taking away a feature that everyone has been demanding since the JesusPhone was introduced?

I’ve stripped the link, but in your article “everyone has been demanding” links to evidence that “everyone has been demanding” this feature, except it really just leads to an article in which you (as an aside) talk about how it’d be nice to have a hardware button for taking pictures. I’m not sure everyone is really demanding this, are they?

You’re still really fond of calling the iPhone the “Jesus Phone” but it just occurred to me that you seem to think that the iPhone somehow belongs to you, that it should conform to what you (representing everyone) want out of a phone. I’m not sure Jesus Phone means what you think it means.

Anyway, I told you I’d answer your question, so I will:

Camera+ was removed from the app store because Apple already rejected it once for including a disallowed feature, and the developers decided it would be clever to sneak that feature in through the back door. (It’s worth noting that this wasn’t an arbitrary rejection: This is a documented no-no and Tap Tap Tap was well aware of the likelihood of rejection and the ramifications of their hack.)

Apple didn’t allow camera+ (with the hardware hack) in through the front door, so they certainly weren’t going to allow it in through the back door, right?

Right. Jesus, Diaz: Pull your head out of your ass and stop being so dense.

Apple argues that allowing the volume buttons to be repurposed as shutter release buttons could cause consumer confusion and you argue that this is a “stupid” argument.

Perhaps.

On the other hand, if Apple allows the camera+ developers to make changes, suddenly, other developers will want to make changes as well. At some point, the volume buttons stop working as they’re supposed to, because every app has a different implementation, and then—what if music is running in the background? How do I change the volume? What sort of extra effort must Apple put forth to ensure that apps don’t interfere with the core functionality of their device or that bugs don’t cause the volume buttons to simply stop working?

What if I’m at work, attempting to watch a youtube video, and everyone in the office finds out I’m watching the first ever wheelchair backflip, because I can’t get the volume to go down? Who do you think is going to get the support calls? The developers? Apple?

(That is a rhetorical question.)

Granted, this probably isn’t going to be an issue if camera+ is the only app that makes these changes, but what if hundreds or thousands of apps (or dozens of installed apps) all make slight modifications to how the iPhone hardware works?

You also lodge the following complaint:

Like with the flashlight/tethering application, Apple pulled the Camera+ app minutes after learning about this—despite the fact that Apple’s own apps have disabled features that can be enabled in the same way.

Do they? I’m not aware of any of the core Apple iOS apps that allow this, but let’s just assume you’re correct: You fuck your wife, right? Great! So…when do I get to fuck your wife?

Let me know.

mrgan:

Yay! The Incident is finally out. 50,000 meters, 500 coins, 26 million pixels, and a bitchin’ soundtrack - all for two bucks. Click the thing with the thing!

So, I’ve been playing on my iPad and it’s really fun. First, it’s interesting to play a game that’s been teased throughout the development process. Beyond that, it’s just a really fun, simple concept.
A couple thoughts:
I’ve only played on my iPad, thus far. It’s a universal build, though, so I’ll probably put it on my iPhone too. I have a feeling it’s going to play a bit easier on the iPhone, because whenever I come back to the game, it takes some time to get used to watching for the visual cues at the top of the iPad screen while also controlling the action at the bottom. It’s a bit like the time it takes to acclimate to reading subtitles while watching a foreign film. Or, to compare to another game, it’s like watching the oncoming obstacles on the right side of the screen in Canabalt even though your runner is over on the left. 
As I was playing I thought: Boy, it would be neat if you could obtain a helmet that would act as a temporary shield and seconds later, a helmet floated up from the bottom of the screen. THE GAME CAN READ YOUR MIND!
Great game, great price, and I applaud the decision to offer it as a universal build. 

mrgan:

Yay! The Incident is finally out. 50,000 meters, 500 coins, 26 million pixels, and a bitchin’ soundtrack - all for two bucks. Click the thing with the thing!

So, I’ve been playing on my iPad and it’s really fun. First, it’s interesting to play a game that’s been teased throughout the development process. Beyond that, it’s just a really fun, simple concept.

A couple thoughts:

I’ve only played on my iPad, thus far. It’s a universal build, though, so I’ll probably put it on my iPhone too. I have a feeling it’s going to play a bit easier on the iPhone, because whenever I come back to the game, it takes some time to get used to watching for the visual cues at the top of the iPad screen while also controlling the action at the bottom. It’s a bit like the time it takes to acclimate to reading subtitles while watching a foreign film. Or, to compare to another game, it’s like watching the oncoming obstacles on the right side of the screen in Canabalt even though your runner is over on the left. 

As I was playing I thought: Boy, it would be neat if you could obtain a helmet that would act as a temporary shield and seconds later, a helmet floated up from the bottom of the screen. THE GAME CAN READ YOUR MIND!

Great game, great price, and I applaud the decision to offer it as a universal build.