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Apple launches the iPhone 5 and iOS 6

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

The new iPhone 5 brings a new size format and new socket as well as SIM card format but in return users get double the speed and compatibility with 4G in Australia.

New iPhone 5 features include:

  • longer and 18% thinner giving a 4″ 16:9 display instead of 3.4″ display but otherwise the same “Retina” display resolution as the 4S
  • legacy apps will appear letterboxed in the larger 1136 x 640 pixel display
  • metallic back
  • 4G LTE capability would work with Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile in Australia
  • faster A6 processor which approximately doubles speed of most functions
  • new dynamic low light mode that offers up to two f-stops better performance in low light for the camera
  • panorama sweep mode where users can sweep a scene while holding the camera vertically
  • better stabilisation of 1080p video
  • face detection of up to 10 people
  • front camera supports 720p for video calling on cellular networks
  • new “lightning” connector instead of 30-pin socket – makes all existing iPhone plug-ins incompatible unless you buy an adapter
  • new SIM card – a “macro-SIM” instead of “micro-SIM”
  • BUT NO Near Field Communication (NFC) chip, so no contactless payments
  • for most people the hastle of the changes will not be worth the upgrade from iPhone 4S unless they really want 4G in Australia

New iOS6 features:

  • Safari can now sync bookmarks and the actual webpages across iCloud and with Mac and iOS devices – “iCloud Tabs” but we still can’t have multiple browser apps open to better organise your workflow, just multiple tabs.
  • Siri has been improved and becomes available on the newer iPads – I have Siri turned off on my iPhone so am guessing I won’t be missing her calling international numbers accidentally!
  • more options for preventing messages and text notifications from disturbing you at night
  • turn on Do Not Disturb and you won’t be bothered by anyone — except can’t-miss contacts like your boss or your family
  • maps are no longer Google
  • new 3D map application – but 3D buildings is only available in US
  • turn-by-turn navigation and voice by Siri in the US but not here in Australia, and if it is, requires cellular data – you will be better off sticking with TomTom!
  • Passport app to store and display barcoded loyalty cards, movie tickets, virtual airline boarding passes (apparently Virgin Australia will support this)
  • photo streams can be shared with others as long as their iOS 6 device or Mountain Lion Mac are connected to iCloud (photos are downloaded to their device) or they use a computer to view the iCloud photostream
  • better integration with Facebook – single log in which becomes available to all apps needing it, plus sync FB calendar and friend’s birthdays onto the phone calendar
  • improved email – can designate certain people as “VIPs” and locate their emails more easily in the VIP inbox; swipe down to refresh a mailbox; easier photo attachments
  • FaceTime now works over cellular networks as video calls not just over WiFi and the internet
  • Guided Access for improved accessibility
  • Find My Phone improved with ability to immediately send it a 4 pin lock out and a message to contact a phone number if found which can be called from the iPhone while it is locked, plus while Lost it will keep track of where it has been not just the current location
  • NB. the original iPad is NOT compatible with iOS 6 – so guess that is the end of the updates for it!
  • see Apple’s What’s new and which features are available in which country

Apple iOS 5 for iPhone, iPad and iPods – why you should upgrade

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Upgrading to iOS 5 seems a no brainer – it is free, and generally upgrades without issue as long as you have a few hours up your sleave and don’t do it when it is first released when the servers are over-loaded.

BEFORE you upgrade, make sure you update iTunes to version 10.5 then backup your device to your computer using iTunes and doing the sync will transfer apps to the computer.

If you have encrypted your backup, make sure you know your password for the backup.

Make sure you know your AppleID email account and AppleID password.

 

No. 1 reason to upgrade: iCloud

My biggest beef with Apple until now has been that you MUST sync and backup your device to ONLY ONE computer and without physical access to THAT computer and user logon, you are NOT able to sync or backup your device.

iCloud potentially changes this – it essentially creates a copy of your device data, photos, apps, etc on an internet server BASED upon the AppleID account that you set it up with.

Perhaps just as importantly, you no longer need a computer to set up your new device – very handy if you buy one whilst on holidays after your last one was stolen.

Optionally you can elect to use Photostream which sends all your photos taken with the device to iCloud Photostream folder as you take the photos – this might be handy if you take holiday snaps with your iPhone and it gets stolen before you get to back it up. The Photostream can be synchronised automatically across various devices.

There are a few issues with iCloud:

  • you only get 5Gb data storage for free – if your device stores more than this, as most do, you may have to pay for more storage, or, disable backup up and sync of part of your data (eg. your videos, music or photos) which defeats the purpose of iCloud.
  • if as a family, you share an AppleID for Apple Store for app purchases, you will need to ensure each family member creates their own AppleID for iCloud and iMessage and configure their devices in Settings to use these AppleIDs instead of the shared Apple Store AppleID – see here for details.
  • given the recent issues with overload of Apple servers when new upgrades are released, will Apple be able to ensure adequate upload/download speeds from their iCloud, particularly during peak activity periods? My experiences in download speed of iTunes updates taking a very long time does not give me confidence that this will work as seemlessly as they suggest.
  • using iCloud for documents seems problematic and of course they are only available for Apple devices, so most people would probably best using a service such as DropBox for their web-based document management rather than using iCloud.

No 2 reason: Notifications

The annoying behaviour of popup screens for notications has now been addressed and you can configure in Settings:Notifications the apps that appear in the Notification Centre which is a pull down screen accessed by downwards touch gesture.

No 3 reason: rapid camera access

The iPhone camera is not bad as a last resort for when you don’t have your camera with you or it is too inconvenient or not appropriate to use.

Until now, you had to unlock your iPhone, tap on the camera icon, wait for the AF to lock on your subject, then tap the screen to take the shot, all of which was time consuming and you may miss the magic moment, and tapping on the screen caused camera shake.

Now with iOS 5 you can double click the home button when the screen is still locked, and a camera icon will display, just tap it to open the camera,zoom using finger gestures (which also activates a zoom slider control), wait for AF to lock, then use the VOLUME button to take the photo in a similar way to a camera shutter release button.

Much nicer interface.

No 4 reason – improved Safari web browser

I have never been a fan of Safari on the iPad or iPhone with its many frustrations and limitations.

iOS 5 at least improves Safari on the iPad by adding tabbed pages (not available on iPhone though), and removes ads while giving better performance.

No 5 reason – improved email reader

Again, the iPad and iPhone email functionality has not been brilliant compared to Outlook, but it gets some improvements with iOS 5 including:

  • ability to format text with bold, italics, etc
  • ability to flag important messages
  • ability to add or delete mailboxes
  • search now also can search the body of emails
  • a free iCloud email account if you wish

No 6 reason – improved calendars

I was not impressed with the iOS 4 calendars and used a 3rd party app (Saisuke) to sync my Google calendars.

iOS 5 has improved the calendar functionality by adding:

  • ability to share calendars with family and friends via iCloud but only if they use iOS5 – so just use Google calendar and ignore the Apple proprietary nonsense
  • a few minor editing and reading improvements
  • I can’t see the improvements justifying me changing from Saisuke and Google

Other reasons – all the other little niceties or gimmicks

  • optional automatic sync/backup to PC over WiFi when device plugged in to power supply to recharge overnight
  • iMessage – send messages via internet to other iOS 5 users, and if not possible, default to SMS text service. You can do this now using 3rd party apps such as Skype, WhatsApp, etc and your target device does not need iOS 5 installed, just the app.
  • Newstand – just a folder to encourage you to spend more money on publication apps, but it may be useful to some.
  • Reminders – a To Do task list but perhaps not as useful as it is made out to be as the location services is not as flexible as one would like. There are 3rd party apps that do this better, but I am not a fan of such lists.
  • Twitter integration – for twits to make it easier to rapidly publish messages to the world without thinking of their ramifications.
  • dual thumb typing interface for iPad users – does anyone really like typing on these devices?
  • multitouch gestures for iPad2 only
  • AirPlay mirroring for streaming HDTV over WiFi to an Apple TV from iPad2 or iPhone 4S only
  • Siri voice commands – iPhone 4S only, and only really useful within the US it seems
  • Find Your Friends app – a double edged sword, may be great for travellers with internet access from their devices, or perhaps for meetings, but runs considerable risks of 3rd parties tracking you when you want your privacy – of course, you can disable it if you remember it is on. Requires iCloud account.

Turn-by-Turn Voice GPS navigation for the iPhone and iPad

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

The iPhone and iPad come with a Google Maps app but this does not store maps on the phone and thus is almost useless if you have no internet connection, and does not currently have turn-by-turn voice navigation.

What one needs is a user friendly, reliable app which works even when there is no internet connection – ie. the maps are all inside the device and you just need to use the device’s GPS capabilities to make it work.

The Samsung Galaxy has this built in, but not so with the iPhone, but you can buy apps which will do this for you, and do it quite well – although as with all such devices, having the screen on will run your battery down (perhaps within 1 hour of use) unless you have it plugged into a car charger (you will need a 2 amp USB charger for the power hungry iPad).

Once you have bought the app for the iPhone, you can also download it for free on other iPhones/iPads on your same Apple iTunes account which does make it a very cheap option indeed.

A big difference compared to my older Nokia phone which took 15 minutes to initialise your GPS position, these devices use network information and A-GPS technology and you get almost instantaneous initialisation of your GPS position – very nice indeed!

The 2 main leaders in turn-by-turn voice GPS navigation for the iPhone are Tom Tom and Navigon – both have very good products, although their Australian price of $A89 is a bit pricey compared with $A59 for their US app, but with Tom Tom, you do get the option to buy those gimmicky voices such as Homer Simpson, Darth Vader, etc.

In Australia, I have discovered another option which seems to work very well, and is an Australian made app and very cheap at under $A20 – the MetroView.

I have been trying out the MetroView in metropolitan Melbourne and it has worked quite well thus far:

  • you can turn the display off and just listen to commands and this will consume battery at a slower rate – mine dropped 6% on the battery meter in 1 hour use.
  • currently there are 2 voices – both with Aussie accents – one male and one female.
  • the phone makes a noise when speed limit changes and it seemed quite accurate, including 40kph school zones, and alert you when you exceed speed limits.
  • it will make a camera click sound when approaching known speed camera or red light camera sites, although it seemed to find a lot more than actually were present.
  • unlike my old Nokia GPS, you don’t get the “take the 1st exit at the roundabout” but instead “turn left into xxx street at the roundabout” – it will take a bit of getting used to this change.
  • the estimated time of arrival is fairly good but it seems a bit optimistic even when traffic is light.
  • it did advise me to go through residential streets with 20kph speed humps all the way to make a short cut but mostly the routes were very sensible.
  • I would recommend it, and if you decide you don’t like it, well, you haven’t wasted too much money!

Android mobile smart phone considerations for Australians

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

As much as I like my Apple iPhone 4, there are a number of really annoying limitations:

  • no SD card expansion capability – optional SD card reader only allows import of photos.
  • requirement for iTunes sync to add music files – if you are away from your home computer with the dedicated iTunes, the only option is to buy songs from iTunes via the phone.
  • no Flash web support
  • doesn’t play saved flv YouTube videos (no support in iTunes or on the phone)
  • requires internet for GPS maps – this is perhaps the most annoying feature – if I get lost it is normally in places where there is no internet access!
  • no default voice navigation
  • annoying segregated file system structure
  • a Safari web browser which doesn’t let you save documents or images from the web
  • no FM radio
  • non-removable battery – when your battery konks out, you have to return the phone for a refurbished one
  • the 2 or more hrs it takes iTunes to download a new version of iTunes or iOS
  • the potential many hours to run a backup on iTunes if you have a faulty app

The iPhone 4 is 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm and has a single core chip – 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU and PowerVR GPU with 512Mb RAM and its beautiful 3.5″ Retina display. It has a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash that also captures video at 720p resolution.

I can’t see Apple addressing these issues any time soon, so it is now time to consider Android phones with v.2.3 Android Gingerbread installed, although perhaps we need to await v3.0 Honeycomb until the web browser is not so clunky, but at least it does do Flash, and it does multitask well.

What would I miss on the iPhone4?

  • security of knowing that if stolen, all data will be automatically deleted on failed PIN access
  • potential ability for Apple to locate my lost iPhone
  • many places such as some hotels are now geared for iPhone and have iPhone docking stations to charge your phone or use them as a music device
  • compatibility on any network including NextG, Vodafone’s new 850 3G service, and Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 networks (but this is available on the Galaxy II)

As a traveler, my preference is to buy phones unlocked so one can buy a pre-paid SIM in another country and get cheaper data and phone rates while there.

Living in Australia in 2011 creates a couple of other uncertainties and considerations including:

  • Telstra’s wonderful 3G mobile and data services (NextG) runs on HSPA+ on 850MHz. Most current Android phones are not compatible! Thus a phone that is not compatible using a Telstra SIM card will use Telstra’s 3G 2100Mhz GSM network but this will cease in Jan 2011 – you have been warned! See the links on this Telstra web page for list of compatible NextG phones.
  • Phones which are NextG compatible are usually not compatible with Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 data service and vice versa – if you need both, then you need to consider a Samsung Galaxy II i9100
  • Vodafone are rolling out a 850MHz 3G service thus most existing phones will not be compatible.
  • Telstra will be bringing out a 4G data service for CBD’s by end of 2011 which will run on Long Term Evolution (LTE) on its 1800MHz band, and none of the current phone will be compatible. Presumably the iPhone 5 will have this capability.
  • Samsung is yet to release a v.2.3 Gingerbread upgrade for its Galaxy S phones to Australia – Europe is being rolled out this month.

High end dual-core Android phones:

These phones are faster, and more powerful with their dual chips but much more expensive than 2010 technology single chip phones.

Retail price unlocked is ~A849-899.

HTC Sensation:

  • 126.1×65.4×11.3mm, 148g aluminium premium look body
  • 1.2GHz dual core CPU, 768MB RAM
  • 4.3″ 540×960 pixels LCD display better than the HTC Desire but no where as good as the iPhone 4 or Samasung Galaxy S’s AMOLED display except perhaps outdoors in the sun.
  • Sense UI v 3.0
  • “the most visually pleasing, powerful Android smartphone around” but only 1Gb internal memory, and is not compatible with Telstra NextG
  • 8-megapixel camera which captures video at 1080p and also boasts touch-focus, image stabilisation, face-detection & instant capture.
  • dual LED flash

HTC EVO 3D:

  • 126 x 65 x 12.1 mm, 170g.
  • 1.2GHz, Adreno 220 GPU and 1GB RAM
  • 4.3-inch 3D Super-LCD screen
  • 5-Megapixel dual lens 3D camera with auto-focus and dual-LED flash, 1080p video
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG unless you get the Telstra version?
  • NB. a HTC EVO 4G model is the world’s first mobile phone able to take advantage of Sprint’s 4G/WiMAX network in certain cities of the US.

Samsung Galaxy S II i9100:

  • 125.3 mm x 66.1 mm x 8.5 mm;116g;
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 proccessor, Mali-400MP GPU, Orion chipset. 1Gb RAM; 16Gb internal storage + up to 32Gb micro SD card;
  • 4.3″ Super AMOLED Plus screen
  • ‘TouchWiz’ v 4.0 significantly improves the user interface over the Galaxy S
  • Swype text input
  • one of the few Android smartphones compatible with both NextG and Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900.
  • 8mp camera, 1080 video, GPS tagging, smile capture,
  • front camera
  • FM radio
  • in addition to USB tethering, it has wi-fi hot spot function so your computer, iPad, etc can access internet via your phone’s internet connection via wi-fi.

Single chip Android phones:

These are 2010 technology and certainly adequate for most people, and give similar performance and functionality as an iPhone 4.

Where possible, these should be upgraded to Android v2.3 to address some issues including security, but also to give better performance and features.

These are generally ~$A450-700 new unlocked without a contract.

Samsung Galaxy S:

  • 122.4 x 64.2 x 9.9 mm, 119 g, lighter, plastic build than the HTC
  • stunning 4″ 480 x 800 pixel Super AMOLED display
  • 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU with PowerVR GPU (Hummingbird chipset), 512MB RAM
  • 8GB or 16GB internal memory models with microUSB card option for extra 32Gb
  • ‘TouchWiz’ user interface not as good as the HTC Sense UI – great for social networking, customisation, navigation and widgets but lacks the same overall level of quality that is found on HTC’s Sense UI.
  • Swype, a slide-to-type, on-screen keyboard system.
  • 5-megapixel camera with 720p movie capture, touch-focus, auto-focus and smile detection
  • no secondary camera for video calls.
  • no LED flash so indoor photos in dark rooms are not possible
  • there are various versions of the Galaxy S but none work on all Australian networks:
    • i9000 – the normal OEM version and has a smooth, iPhone 3GS-like shape, two soft-touch buttons and one physical home button, no NextG; 8Gb version $A499; 16Gb version $A549;
    • i9000M or i9000 NextG – compatible with NextG but excludes Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 band. 16Gb with secondary camera. Vibrant written on the box! Retails $A599 unlocked.
    • Captivate i897 – similar to i9000M but more square, 4 soft touch buttons only, no front camera, AT&T branding.
    • Fascinate T959D – similar to Captivate; retails at ~$A649 unlocked.
    • Vibrant T959 – i9000 shape but with the 4 soft-touch buttons; No NextG; No regional 3G 900 band; 16Gb, front camera;
    • SL i9003 – SuperLCD screen not AMOLED. Vodafone/Optus regional 3G 900 band but no NextG; 4Gb,  front camera;  ~$389 unlocked.

Google/Samsung Nexus S:

  • marketed by Google but manufactured by Samsung
  • similar to the Galaxy S but:
    • 123.9 x 63 x 10.9mm (129g) with softer profile than the more angular, smaller but marginally thicker Galaxy S
    • 16Gb internal memory but no micro SD card support
    • “Contour Display” (curved glass) 235ppi display but not much different to Galaxy S 233ppi display
    • support for Google’s SIP voice-over-IP technology which may free one from Skype eventually.
    • no FM radio
    • Near Field Communication (NFC) technology which allows you to read information off of everyday objects like stickers and posters that are embedded with NFC chip
    • no need to rely on Samsungs KIES PC sync/updating software?
  • various versions:
    • i9020 – original OEM Super AMOLED version; 3G 900 band but not NextG;
    • i9020T – as for i9020 but front camera;
    • i9020TA – NextG compatible; no regional Vodafone/Optus 3G 900 band; SLCD screen not the Samsung AMOLED screen.
    • i9023T – SLCD screen; 3G 900 band but not NextG;

HTC Desire:

  • 115×59.8×11.6mm, 130g
  • 480×800 pixels display but no where as good as the iPhone 4 or Samasung Galaxy S’s AMOLED display.
  • Sense UI v2?
  • 1GHz Scorpion CPU, 768MB RAM
  • its LED flash apparently overexposes faces in photographs
  • no secondary camera for video calls, Skype, etc.
  • minimal internal memory 1.1Gb.
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG unless you get the NextG compatible version eg HTC Desire HD for NextG of which there are 2 versions – A9192 Telus and the AT&T branded 4Gb memory version, the Inspire 4G.
  • NB. the HTC Desire Z adds a pop open physical keyboard which may suit many people,and there is a NextG compatible version.

HTC Incredible S:

  • 120 x 64 x 11.7 mm, 135.5g
  • 4-inch Sony-made S-LCD capacitive touchscreen at 480 x 800
  • HTC Sense 3.0 user interface
  • Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon chipset and featuring an Adreno 205 GPU. 768Mb RAM
  • microSD card to 32Gb.
  • 8-megapixel camera and 720p video, with autofocus, dual LED flash, touch focus, geo-tagging and image stabilisation.
  • better camera than the Desire S
  • not compatible with Telstra NextG?
  • minimal internal memory 1.1Gb